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jallen

Ash Wednesday

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This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the day in the Christian year when we confront death. It is a time to be reminded of our own mortality, and just how fragile life is. The point is not to be morbid. The point is to be honest. To tell the truth. We are made from dust, and to dust we will return.

It is a powerful and humbling reminder that we all need. I invite you to come –either in the morning of the evening– to receive the mark of ashes or if you prefer a blessing with words. I invite you to begin the solemn season of Lent with a reminder of just how badly we need to the Good News of Easter. 

Trust me, it will make the lilies smell sweeter and the ringing bells of Easter morning that much more of a relief.

The Gift in Grieving

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On Sunday we are talking about grief. Some of you might remember that the Strawberry Festival last year, I offered a sermon topic as an item in the silent auction. Carol Bowen was the high bidder and she has asked me to preach about grief and loss.

Sometimes people rush grief. They think that confidence in God’s promises means that death is no longer an occasion for sadness. Yet grieving is as natural to us as breathing. It is part of how God made us. And there are gifts to be had in grieving well. Our emotions witness to depth of our love for what was lost. Our hearts break open and we remember how fragile we are. We are reminded quickly just how much we rely on one another, and on God.

I hope you will join us on Sunday as we seek to uncover as much as we can about this great mystery.

 

Introducing Katherine Pater

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I am excited to introduce you to Rev. Katherine Pater, our new Sunday School Coordinator! She will be joining us for her first day on Sunday, and you will have a chance to meet her in worship.

Katherine is an ordained Presbyterian pastor who was born and raised in Wisconsin. After graduating from Harvard Divinity School in 2012, she served with a grassroots ecumenical mission in rural El Salvador. She is currently a student farmer at The Farm School in Athol, MA, where she is learning to repair tractors, plant kale, and improve the global food system. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her dog, Gus.

Katherine believes that the stories of scripture and the practices of our faith have the power to inspire young people to make their community and their world a better place. I am impressed with her passion for sharing the stories of our faith and I know that our children will benefit from her teaching and her example.

Matthew Lewellyn will be continuing is strong leadership of our growing youth program. I am excited to have both of them as a part of our team at the church. I also want to thank Meg Matthews who stepped forward to coordinate our Sunday School programs during this moment of transition, I know that we are all grateful for her leadership.

There are few things more important to me than forming our children into people of conscience, with a love of their neighbors, and a sense of God’s love for them. With Katherine joining our ministry team, I have every confidence that our wonderful programs will continue to do that faithful work very well.

Pageants

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This Sunday is our pageant. It is always a gift to see and hear the story told to us by children. Sure the costumes are cute, and photo-ops abound, but more than that there is something powerful about seeing the best story we know passed along to another generation.

Here is what happens on Christmas.

The God of heaven and earth comes to make a home here, to live like one of us. So great is God’s love for you and me that God needed to come touch the world with human hands and love it with a human heart.

A love larger than we could ever imagine, becomes as small as a child. A power beyond what we could ever understand becomes as vulnerable as an infant.

So this Sunday, come, sit, sing, and wonder at it all along with us.

Waiting

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Advent is a season of waiting. It is a season in which we train our souls to long for God, in which we practice feeling hopeful, and learn to be patient.

And it is not just about waiting for the presents, or the parties, or the time with family and friends.

It is about that bigger waiting. That deeper longing. The one that won’t be satisfied no matter how perfect this year’s celebrations may be. It is about looking out for signs that God’s most-powerful love might break into this world in something as unexpected as a infant.

Each step we take toward Christmas through this Advent season, we pray will point us, and push us, just a little closer to God, a little closer to what we really want, a little closer to what we are all watching, and waiting, and hoping for.

Give Thanks

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“Give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Most of us are, at this moment, preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving. And if you are, you know firsthand that it is no Norman Rockwell painting. It is not soft-focus, or gentle.
It’s traffic. And last minute trips to the grocery store. It’s stress. It’s the anticipation of family fights. It is the temptations of addiction. It is the grief of an empty chair at the table.

So don’t try to make it perfect. Life is not perfect. What we celebrate on Thanksgiving is the God who insistently brings glimmers of beauty into our imperfect world. What we celebrate is the God who provides for us what we need to live, and to know joy, in spite of the hard things.

My prayer for you is a the perfect Thanksgiving torn from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens. My prayer for you is that in the midst of the chaos, there come moments of beauty, glimpses of grace, and a feeling of gratitude.

My prayer for you is that you give thanks to the real God of real life, who brings us each good things, and whose loving presence endures, no matter what.

A Place for Love

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There is something simple that bears repeating as often as we can. 

You are a beloved child of God.

This church is a place where you are loved. Whether you are black, white, hispanic, undocumented, gay, transgender, democrat, republican, independent. Grieving or joyful. Full of faith or doubt. Full of hope or despair. Here we insist that everyone of you is a beloved and beautiful child of God. Loved, and worthy of love, no matter what.

We don’t do it perfectly. But we strive, every day, to show God’s love as best we can. Sometimes we love in big ways. More often it’s the little ways. Little acts of care and kindness which, taken together, are our way of bringing heaven to earth. We were doing that yesterday. We are doing that today. We will be doing that tomorrow too.

I think of each thing we do at this church as having a place in that greater call. Piece by piece, by joining together in worship, fellowship, study, and prayer, by giving generously to the organizations and causes that need our support, by teaching our children well, by caring for one another through the ups and downs of life, through all of it, we are weaving together these little acts of love into something much bigger, and much more beautiful, than any one of us could do alone.

All the Saints

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Sunday is All Saints Sunday. It is a day when we celebrate all those who have died in the past year, and remember all those faithful people from all times and all places who, by the example they set in life, taught us what it means to be a Christian.

In worship, we will take time to remember those people whose lives, and whose love, made us who we are today. So please come so that we can remember together the great cloud of witnesses that is cheering us on as we continue to do the hard and holy work of bringing God’s love to the world!

We will also be beginning our Stewardship Campaign in the coming days. As we celebrate and remember those who built this church for us, we will also renew our commitment to continue building this ministry for the sake of those who are yet to come. So be on the lookout for contact from the Stewardship Committee with an invitation to prayerfully consider your pledge for the coming year.

Youth Retreat

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By: Matt Lewellyn
This past weekend Meg Matthews and I had the honor of spending time with seven amazing young people from our congregation. Olivia Kelly, Hannah Solomon, Aidan Braithwaite, Jeremie Carpenter, Sam Coover, Alyssa Foster, and Emmett Kibbee (pictured from left to right) spent the weekend in Centerville, MA at the Craigville Retreat Center exploring who they are as children of God, disciples of Jesus, and the calling these identities have on their lives.
Through feasting on smores around a campfire, meditative walks on the beach, rich discussion of God’s lavish love for creation, and much too late caffeine intake these youth drew closer to one another and to the Holy. Before leaving the Cape they expressed an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for this time and the need to carry the practice of rest and retreat into their busy schedules. As I left with them, I meditated on the same thought. May we lift up these youth and all of the youth of our church in prayer and conversation as we continue to seek God’s face in all things.

Loving the Law

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Our Protestant tradition has long emphasized God’s graciousness over rule following as the key to salvation. And our Congregational tradition has long emphasized our collective conscious as the key to discerning God’s desire for our lives and for the world.

This is all well and good, but there is still a place for rules! Or, as scripture calls it, God’s law. But if God is gracious and forgiving, and our collective conscious is our best compass, that what role do rules like “keep the Sabbath” have for us in our lives today?

We’ll see if we can’t figure it out in worship on Sunday.

Also, on Sunday morning we will begin a new Adult Education group: Let Your Life Speak. We will meet in the Parlor before worship at 8:45 to begin learning about the Examen, a simple practice of regular prayer and reflection about where you have been each day, and where God has been for you. I hope that many of you can plan to join us for this opportunity. Our conversations are always enriched by the unique perspectives we each bring to our faith.

Please also hold our Senior High Youth group in prayer this weekend as a group of 10, along with their leaders Matt Lewellyn and Meg Matthews will be heading on a retreat to Cape Cod. We hope, and expect, that this time will be nourishing, faith-filled, and fun!