This Sunday we will celebrate the spirit of uniting and being united that we share with our denomination, the United Church of Christ. This Friday and Saturday the Vermont Conference of the UCC will be having its 222nd Annual Meeting at Lake Morey, which means the Conference was there to welcome this congregation in 1810 when it formed. Its history and our history are bound up together–the Conference and Association have played crucial roles at important times in the life of our congregation (such as during pastoral searches, like now), and the reverse is also true.
In fact in the past year the Bradford Congregational Church has contributed leadership to the UCC in two important ways. Being a uniting and united church depends on having healthy communication and building beloved community within the congregation, and the work we have done and workshops we have held on those topics have helped many churches in the Vermont Conference and beyond. We have also become one of the UCC’s Open and Affirming congregations, formally stating what this congregation has always aspired to be, a church that unites all people without exception.
We will celebrate with a special litany recounting the history of the national UCC and with a special hymn, “United and Uniting,” written to the tune of “We Plow the Fields and Scatter.” We will hear beautiful passages about unity, Psalm 133 and Galatians 3:23-29, as well as the story of Jesus and the disciples on the walk to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). We will sing “We Would Be Building” set to the beloved tune Finlandia as well as the fun and uplifting “God, We Thank You for Our People.” (Both it and the prayer of confession were written by the great contemporary hymnodist and seminary professor of worship, Ruth Duck.)
The choir will be singing “Where Charity and Love Prevail” and the Bach anthem, “Christians, shout for joy and gladness.” J. S. Bach will be the source of all the music organist John Atwood plays. John playing Bach on this organ is such a gift! Tolstoy said that the defining quality of true art is that it unites us and makes us aware of being one. You have the opportunity to experience that and reflect on it this Sunday.
Here is one of the pieces John will play: