This Sunday and next we will be looking at how central freedom is to life in the Holy Spirit and the Way of Christ. There are all kinds of ways in which we are not free, and the scriptures consistently call us to liberate ourselves and everyone else. God wants and needs us to be free to follow the Spirit where it leads, which is often in a direction that we could not foresee and which goes against our limited rational and self-oriented perspective. God wants and needs our love to be unshackled so we can love as unconditionally and universally as the heart of Christ, loving God with everything we are and loving our neighbor as our very own self. God wants and needs us to be free from things like fear and the tyranny of shoulds and unnecessary rules as well as from oppressive governments and social norms and unjust law–free to love and free to use our gifts to serve in ways that give our lives ultimate meaning and purpose. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, June 26, 2016, Freedom & Spirit, Part One
We will be worshipping this Sunday after the worst mass shooting in American history. By the grace of God the scriptures in the world wide lectionary for this week remind us that Christ gives us the way out of violence and hatred and fear. Christ heals us of the demonic madness that divides us (Luke 8:26-39) and he brings us together as one (Galatians 3:26-28). He leads us to the God of Psalm 46: “God makes wars cease to the end of the earth; God breaks the bow, and shatters the spear and burns the shields with fire. ‘Be still and know that I am God!'” Christ leads us to the sheer silence, the still, small voice, the calm beyond the hurricane, earthquake and fire of our world. (I Kings 19:1-15) Christ opens us to the Holy Spirit, the greatest force in the universe, the force of Christlike love that has overcome empires and time and again has revealed hope where there seemed to be no hope. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, June 19, 2016
This Fourth Sunday after Pentecost we will celebrate the good news that the scriptures teach: we experience an increase in our capacity to love and serve when we have suffered and been healed or when we have done wrong and been forgiven. Paul put it this way: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:19b-20) This is great news for anyone who has ever suffered or struggled or been lost and turned to God. We will celebrate it with joy!
Jesus said that his purpose in life was to increase our joy, and make our joy complete. This will be a Sunday of pure, all out, wall to wall joy! We have been advertising three of those joys: hosting the West Newbury Congregational Church, UCC in a joint service starting at 11:00 AM; bringing back the wildly popular old time church music of Bruce and Caleb Freeberg; and sharing a potluck lunch after the service.
There will be other joys as well: the warm, loving presence of the Rev. Cindy Batten as she co-leads worship; the voices of some of West Newbury’s lay leaders as well as ours; a dramatic reading/skit for the Children’s Time with actors from West Newbury and Bradford; reading the covenants of both congregations together; and taking communion, which is never more joyful than when we share it with people from outside our congregation.
The Freebergs will lead us singing Go Down, Moses, and Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, and Welcome Table, and I’ll Fly Away, as well as joining in on the chorus of Just a Closer Walk with Thee. In addition, they will play Celtic airs and reels before the service starts, Oh Glory, How Happy I Am as the Offertory and Farewell to Erin as the Postlude. We will be hearing some beautiful scripture passages: I Kings 17:8-24; Psalm 30; Galatians 1:11-24 and Luke 7:11-17. The sermon will borrow its title from the Psalm, “Taking Off Sackcloth and Clothing with Joy.”
Please feel free to invite guests. The more, the more joyous! Thank you!
What Children Gain by Being Part of a Church
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
Bradford Congregational Church, UCC, Bradford, Vermont
Here is a partial, random list of benefits that children gain (and therefore their families and communities and the world gain) by their growing up as part of a church. Please feel free to share this list with others. Please add to this list by sending suggestions of other benefits to firstname.lastname@example.org. Children gain in church:
- appreciation for the beauty, power and joy of singing and music;
- practice public speaking and performing;
- spiritual literacy, scriptural familiarity and an introduction to ethical, moral and religious values and virtues;
- the knowledge of why and how to pray;
- the experience of what faith communities and worship services are like, so wherever they go in life they will be able to walk into a house of worship with comfort and confidence;
- the knowledge that anytime in their lives when they need comfort, guidance, strength, inspiration, community, a way to serve or a new life, church is a place to turn;
- the desire to give their children all the gifts that church gave them when they were children;
- a group of peers who share qualities like kindness, fairness, respect, compassion and service;
- the feeling of being an important part of a multigenerational community where they are loved and respected and affirmed;
- a sense of belonging to a greater whole—including all other people of faith and all God’s creation;
- the love of a beautiful, spirit-filled church building, and the knowledge of how to be stewards of it and share it with others;
- the good feeling of working together leading and serving the community in Christ-like ways;
- awareness of the Biblical commitment to take care of those in need and to work for justice and peace.
Below are a few photos taken on Children’s Sunday, May 22, 2016.
We are bringing back the tradition of Children’s Sunday this week. The children will be a part of the entire service, helping lead it and being celebrated in it.
We have an extraordinary Board of Christian Education at the moment–not only has it done amazing work this year and created a loving, light-filled space and program for the children, but also every one of the four either grew up in the church or had ancestors who did or both, and now they are bringing their own children here. It is quite moving! While in generations past this might have been the norm, today it is rare to find a church with a Christian Ed team with roots this deep. It is also rare to find a church that has as many children as we do–16 are listed in the bulletin! I know of much larger churches with far fewer children today. We have an abundance to celebrate!
We will hear two gospel passages about children, Matthew 18:1-5 and Mark 10:13-16, and we will sing In the Bulb There Is a Flower (Hymn of Promise) and All Things Bright and Beautiful, and the children will sing Jesus Loves Me. We will present Bibles to children in 3rd Grade and older, and bedtime Bible story books to the younger school age children.
Please plan to stay for special refreshments, and go out of your way to tell the children and their parents how much you appreciate them! Thank you!
Anything is possible! That is what Pentecost tells us. We have the greatest force in the universe within and among us, a power that can transform our lives in unimaginable ways if we open to it and work with it. That force gave birth to the first church, changing the weak disciples who had denied and deserted Jesus into miracle-working, empire-defying leaders. The same Holy Spirit wants to work through our lives and our church today, transforming us so that we can help transform the world around us.
The Pentecost service is full of music and words that remind us that anything is possible. They convey some of the joy and enthusiastic energy that has filled the church whenever it has opened wide to the Spirit’s power. We will hear the story of the first Pentecost from Acts 2, and hear Jesus promise the Holy Spirit to all his followers in John 14:8-17. We will read responsively from the beautiful Psalm of creation, #104. Our hymns will include two classic favorites, I Sing the Mighty Power of God and Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise, as well as the melodic and moving more recent favorite hymn, Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, May 15, 2016, Pentecost!
We will be celebrating Ascension Sunday on May 8th, the Seventh Sunday of Easter. The Ascension is one of the wilder miracle stories about Jesus, like his birth and resurrection, and like them it is full of symbolic meaning and joy and the greatest of hopes. The ten days between the Ascension (May 5th this year) and Pentecost are a Little Advent. Jesus said to wait and watch and pray with the expectation that the Holy Spirit that filled him would come and fill us and lead us out to do the same works that he did and more. These ten days are all about that waiting.
This Sunday will be full of excited anticipation, knowing that next Sunday is Pentecost when the disciples’ waiting was fulfilled, and knowing also that Christ and the Holy Spirit will come again for us in our lives over and over just when we need them, with just what we need. We will celebrate how we wait with hope, faith and love, and with joy. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, May 8, 2016
This Sunday’s service will take the motto of the United Church of Christ as its theme: “That They May All Be One.” This weekend was the Annual Meeting of the Vermont Conference of the UCC, always an inspiring and uplifting gathering of churches from all over the state. Worshipping together, singing and praying and laughing and crying, we really do feel that we are one, with a unity that spans all our diversity. We will hear the scripture passage from which our motto came, which is the final prayer of Jesus for his followers, John 17:20-26. We will also hear the passage in the first letter of John that names God’s love as the source of our unity (I John 4:16b-21), and Psalm 133 that begins, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.”
We will sing These Things Shall Be, and Lord, We Thank Thee for Our Brothers (set to the Austrian Hymn tune), and the beloved communion spiritual that unites churches all over America, Let Us Break Bread Together. The choir will sing We Limit Not the Truth of God and the favorite anthem, God So Loved the World. John will play organ pieces by F. Couperin, F. Peters and C. Couperin .
The Fifth Sunday of Easter lectionary texts are about how God’s love embraces all people and all the universe, and how we are called to love one another and all creation as God and Christ love us. We will hear from Kathy Kidder of West Newbury about the Help Kids India project and from Storme Odell about the Church World Service Kits project, both of which are ways that this congregation has shown the love of Christ to people in great need around the world.
We will remember Christ’s prayer “that they may all be one,” which is the motto of our denomination, The United Church of Christ. We will reflect more on this on May 1st, next Sunday, after the Annual Meeting of the Vermont Conference of the UCC.
The lectionary scripture texts for this Sunday are Psalm 148, Acts 11:1-18 and John 13:31-35. We will sing O How Glorious, Full of Wonder, and the stirring pre-Civil War anti-slavery hymn, Men, Whose Boast It Is, and I Sing the Mighty Power of God.