Search Committee

We have begun the process of searching for a new settled pastor. The search committee will soon be reaching out to the congregation for input on this important and exciting process! Your search committee is (L-R): Marcia Tomlinson, Bridget Peters, Sue Eastman, Charlotte Welch, Kathy Munson, and Rob Taylor.IMG_5742

Upcoming Service Notes, February 7, 2016, Transfiguration!

Transfiguration Sunday is one of the great bursts of light of the church year.  It is always full of wonder and joy.  We read the story of the miraculous vision that the disciples had on the mountaintop where they saw Jesus as a being of light and we sing some of our favorite hymns.  We will have all that usual delight this Sunday–we will sing Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise and In the Bulb There Is a Flower, and Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee, and we will read one of the most beautiful Psalms, #139, that affirms that even the darkness is as light with God, and we will hear the Transfiguration Story in Luke (9:28-43a).

What makes this year even more joyous is the transfiguration that is taking place in our church.  Take a few minutes next time you are in the vestry to look closely at the changes taking place.  Start in the corner just to the right inside the door, and see the “Growing in Love!” bulletin boards with photographs of our church family and the beloved words of our Covenant, Identity and Aspiration Statement and Communication Guidelines.  Then step in a little farther and see the new Board of Mission and Social Action bulletin boards about helping Syrian refugees (and sign up to help!).  Then walk across to the children’s corner to see the changes that have transfigured it and transformed our children’s experience of it.   Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, February 7, 2016, Transfiguration!

Sermon, January 17, 2016

The Spirit of God Is Upon Me    
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
January 17, 2016   Second Sunday after Epiphany,
Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday
Isaiah 49; I Corinthians 12; Luke 4:14-21

Last Sunday we celebrated the baptism of Christ when God called Jesus beloved and sent the Holy Spirit down in the form of a dove. The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for forty days where he was tempted, tried and transformed into the purest expression of God’s love that anyone had ever seen.

Today’s passage took place just after Jesus emerged from the wilderness “filled with the power of the Spirit.” He went back to his home synagogue and chose to read Isaiah where it says, “The Spirit of God is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” The story goes on after today’s passage to say that all his neighbors were amazed by his gracious words.

The Holy Spirit had sent Jesus into a difficult place in the wilderness, but that was nothing compared to what it did next. Continue reading Sermon, January 17, 2016

Upcoming Service Notes, January 17, 2016, Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday

What do we experience within our church that makes it different from everywhere else? What do we do differently as members of the church that shows we are followers of Christ?  If the church is the Body of Christ, then what would people know about Christ if all they had to go on was observing our congregation?

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did many earth-shaking things in his short life. One of them was to challenge the church to live up to its calling. We honor his life by asking questions like those above and by considering how he and the Christians he led answered them in word and deed.

This Sunday we will hear some of King’s stirring words (“We as Christians have a mandate to be nonconformists”), and also the words of the prophet Isaiah (“I will give you as a light to the nations”) and Jesus in the book of Luke (“The Spirit of God is upon me”).  We will sing Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, January 17, 2016, Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday

Books of Daily Readings for Lent

Here are two books to consider as daily companions through the journey of Lent, which begins on  Ash Wednesday (February 10, 2016)

The first is not only the best Lenten book I have ever seen, but one of the best books on the spiritual life.  I have read and reread it for almost 20 Lents now, and get more out of it every time.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It is A Season for the Spirit: Readings for the Days of Lent by Martin L. Smith.  Smith is an Episcopal priest and the former American head of the Anglican monastic order the Society of St. John the Divine, or the Cowley Fathers, based in Cambridge, MA.  To see the Amazon description of the book, click here.  (As always, we urge you to support your local bookstore!)

The second book is Heart, Soul, Mind, Strength, a new collection of writings by the UCC’s “stillspeaking writer’s group” which includes many gifted pastors and writers in the UCC.  To see the UCC Resources description and order it, click here.

Sermon, January 10, 2016

You Are Mine…I Will Be With You…I Love You
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
January 10, 2016   First Sunday after Epiphany, Baptism of Christ,
Dedication of the Pastoral Search Committee
Isaiah 43:1-7; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

This congregation’s Identity and Aspiration Statement
describes very specifically what we feel
God is calling us to be and do.
Today’s passage in Isaiah is also an Identity Statement,
a more general one that applies to all God’s creation.
It includes us. It includes you.
Listen to what God is saying to you:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you!”
That means you have nothing to be afraid of,
nothing to worry about, you do not have to carry
the burden of past faults and flaws,
you can let go of concerns about your future,
because God redeems you, God returns you
to mercy and grace each time you stray.
“I have called you by name,” God says.
“You are mine.” That is your identity.

The voice of God thundered over the River Jordan
saying, “You are my child, the Beloved;
with you I am well pleased.” Isaiah allows us
to hear God saying that to each one of us.
God says, “You—you!—are my beloved child;
with you I am well pleased.” Can you rest into that love?
Continue reading Sermon, January 10, 2016

Upcoming Service Notes, January 10, 2016, Search Committee Dedication

This First Sunday after Epiphany and Baptism of Christ Sunday will also include a service of Dedication of the Pastoral Search Committee. Associate Conference Minister Pam Lucas will be with us and the Search Committee will meet for the first time after worship.

The Epiphany Season is full of light and hope and excitement. Epiphany directs us to look for the manifestation of God present in Jesus Christ, in our lives and in the world. The launching of this Search Committee comes after a long journey like the Magi following the star to Bethlehem. A year ago the congregation was nowhere near ready to do this. We still have a long journey ahead, but we have much to celebrate in reaching this moment of light, hope and excitement that sometimes felt as if it might never arrive.

We will celebrate with a special litany written by Rev. Pam Lucas and read by five members of the church, and with one of the most affirming and uplifting messages from God through the prophet Isaiah, and with the story of the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. It was the beginning of his ministry, just as this is the beginning of the Search Committee’s. For Jesus it began with gifts from God of love and the Spirit, and we will pray and reflect and do all we can to give the Search Committee those same gifts.

Music is one of the most powerful ways to convey the feeling of love or the power of the Spirit’s presence, and the hymns and choral and organ pieces are designed to do that. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, January 10, 2016, Search Committee Dedication

Sermon, January 3, 2016

We Observed His Star at Its Rising    
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
January 3, 2016   Second Sunday after Christmas, Epiphany Sunday
Isaiah 60:1-6; Matthew 2:1-12

The Wise Men were Magi, priests of Zoroastrianism in ancient Persia. Zoroastrians sought wisdom and truth to help the world progress toward its perfection. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that the Magi studied stars and dreams to guide them.

That may or may not have been true for Zoroastrian priests, but it certainly is true in the Christian story about the Wise Men. Dreams, visions and signs play a huge role in the life of Jesus and the early church. Christian wisdom involves guidance from a higher power that speaks in ways that analytic reasoning cannot comprehend, requiring intuitive interpretation.

To be wise in Christianity is to know things in our spiritual heart, or literally our gut. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit that guides us to all truth wells up like rivers of living water flowing from the believer’s belly. (John 7:38 KJV)

Jesus talked about those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. For those who have the eyes and ears of wisdom, the world is full of burning bushes like the one Moses saw and heard. God speaks through nature and through the written word and music and works of art, and through our experiences every day.
Continue reading Sermon, January 3, 2016