Category Archives: Church News

Sermon May 6, 2018

“Receiving the Holy Spirit”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Acts 10: 44-48
May 6, 2018

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.” – Acts 10:44i

I have a colleague I greatly admire. She serves a United Church of Christ congregation. I would never have guessed that Sally (not her real name) spoke in tongues.

Well, that fascinated me. Continue reading Sermon May 6, 2018

Sermon April 22, 2018

“When is Enough Enough”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
1 John 3: 16-24
April 22, 2018

  How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” – 1 John 3:17i

We’ve been set-up. I mean, really, John. Look at the verse right before the one that is serving as our text. 1 John 16 says “…we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” Well, maybe we should but we don’t. Clearly, we are hypocrites and I can’t tell you how often I have heard how those outside the church are turned off by our hypocrisy. We’ve been set-up. Continue reading Sermon April 22, 2018

Potluck … it’s what we do


Our Potluck Heritage

Back in 1592* new words showed up for the first time in our language. One of them was “potluck.” Some others were “townsfolk” and “vitality.” All three point to our heritage of shared meals.

It’s hard to trace the potluck back to a specific source, but it’s fair to say the term was used in the Middle Ages to describe an impromptu meal served to unexpected guests or travelers … it wasn’t until the late 19th and early 20th century in America that the idea of a meal where everyone brings a prepared dish to share took hold.” (Julie Brown-Micko in Food Service News, Nov. 2015)

Our records from the 18th and 19th centuries do not mention church suppers. We do know that in its earliest years our members would gather in worship on Sunday morning for several hours, break for dinner and then return for another several hours. The majority of members lived in the Village, within walking distance. We don’t know what members from outlying areas did during the dinner break time, though.

What we do know is that in Bradford, as in towns and villages up and down the river valley, there was a tradition on Town Meeting Day to recess for a community meal. And during winters in the 19th century a tradition, called Kitchen Dances, grew for families to gather for a shared meal and fiddle music with friends.

In the 20th century our church saw the birth of large suppers as a way to raise funds. The Women’s Fellowship hosted the Chicken Pie Supper every Fall to raise funds for their mission work. And our Game Supper continues to after more than 60 years to raise funds for the care and maintenance of the church building. Youth Groups and Scouts also host Spaghetti Suppers to help fund their activities. In recent years the Help-India dinners have successfully helped fund schools in India. Men’s groups held breakfasts and Father-Son banquets.

When our membership was at its largest, the potluck tradition gave way to individual church club gatherings because there just wasn’t space enough for church-wide meals. Potluck suppers were a mainstay of a group of our church’s mothers who would gather over hot dishes they each brought to share while working together. The choir members and their families would gather each Spring for a potluck supper gathering. When ministers came there were potluck suppers to welcome them, and when they left we held farewell potluck suppers.

In the latter years of the 20th century the joy of potluck suppers was rekindled as membership rolls made them possible again. Several times a year there would be a potluck meal right after church.

In the 21st century this potluck supper revival is re-growing in popularity not only as a way to “break bread together” but as a way to serve our community. Every 4th Thursday we host the potluck community supper … with little organization … yet it thrives in large part because church members enjoy bringing their dishes and community members enjoy the fellowship.

*more 1592 words added to our language: admiring, aftertaste, amazement, apprenticeship, barricade, canary, carnivorous, cashier, chairman, clerical, confinement, conflicting, elaborate, footrace, fuse, guaranty, holler, hurry, jovial, laboratory, lazybones, milkweed, wonder, old-fashioned, relentless, remorseful, seafaring, self-sufficient, silver-tongued, statesman, switch, tariff, ten-penny, theory, thrill, topiary, towering, unheard-of, weak-minded, whip-stitch, zounds


Potluck Brunch April 22nd

HB703This Sunday right after our worship service, your Diaconate is hosting a Potluck Brunch in the vestry and YOU are invited!

This will be a real potluck … don’t let on what you intend to bring, be it hot dish or salad or dessert. That’s the fun of it! Only when we gather to break bread together will we know if anyone brought bread to break! Our potlucks are always smile creators.

The Diaconate will provide all dishes and utensils, set up and clean up.  See you this Sunday!


Sermon April 15, 2018

“The Disappearing Christ”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 24: 13-49
April 15, 2018

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.” – Luke 24:31i

This is what we know. Two men are traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus – about 7 miles or a 2½-hour walk. Jesus joins them but the two men do not recognize Him. They continue talking about what transpired in Jerusalem over the last few days and they are specific regarding the details. They thought Jesus was the promised Messiah only to have their hopes crushed by His crucifixion. We know Jesus reframed the situation and told them the Messiah had to endure all this pain and shame. We know that it was getting late. They arrived at where they were staying. The stranger appeared to be journeying on. They beseeched Him to stay with them because it was growing dark. Continue reading Sermon April 15, 2018

Sermon April 8, 2018

“Seeing the Wounds of Jesus”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 20: 19-31
April 8, 2018

” …  Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” – John 20:28i

Something happened on the way to this sermon. I changed my mind. I was going to preach a sermon no one needed to hear. So I decided to preach one I needed to hear. Continue reading Sermon April 8, 2018

The Introit … then and now

(Our original church community worshiped in a small meeting house built in 1793 by a special town meeting vote. That first one was the town church and was supported by the taxpayers for the next 17 years. That co-mingled church and state existence will be the subject of another Back Story in the future.)

introitThe Introit … then and now

In 1810 a small Bradford group banded together and organized the Calvinistic Congregational Church of Christ. The name would change a couple of times but we have always carried the title of Congregational Church.

That first name, however, indicated the theological seriousness with which the society took its faith. The showy “high church” traditions were not what they wanted. John Calvin, a great conservative theologian, maintained that only what is found in the Word of God may be introduced into the worship of God.

The Introit now sung by our choir every Sunday to start our worship service would not have been a part of the worship in our original Calvinistic Congregational Church. Such a song would have been considered “Lutheran” because Lutherans believed that what is not strictly forbidden in the Word of God may be allowed in the worship of God.

*A careful yet very important distinction to our church’s theologically-conservative founders*

“Introit” comes from the Latin Introitus meaning entrance and was the musical introduction to the liturgical (scripted) celebration of the Catholic Mass and was retained by the Lutherans after the protestant reformation sparked by the priest Martin Luther.

Introits were also retained by the Anglicans and were common in the time of Elizabeth I. Our Puritan ancestors (called Separatists in England) dropped the Introit and any rituals not explicitly defined as pure and genuine and permitted.

It would take another 100 years before our faith family relaxed enough to let in the beauty and spiritualism of the ancient Introit.


Sermon April 1, 2018 Easter

“Why Go Home”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 20: 1-18
April 1, 2018

Then the disciples returned to their homes. – John 20:10i

What a strange thing to do. Jesus has risen from the dead. Peter and the other disciple come to believe that Jesus lives. Instead of running back to tell the other disciples, they “returned to their homes.” They have come to an existential awakening. The world has been turned upside down and the defeat of Jesus and their cause has become the greatest victory in history. They go home? Continue reading Sermon April 1, 2018 Easter

When Easter Wasn’t Our Thing

Due to our Puritan roots, New England-based Congregational churches have traditionally been much more reserved in their Easter traditions and expressions than other more liturgically based denominations. For them Easter was the joyous culmination of a series of elaborate rituals and observances: Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Passion Week, Grand Processions, and Great Vigils. And here’s why Bradford Congregational Church didn’t always celebrate in kind. Continue reading When Easter Wasn’t Our Thing