Spring Preaching Themes

Given the rise in acceptable intolerance, it seems fitting to explore what some leading voices outside the Christian faith might offer us on our journey of hope and grace.  Throughout the spring, we’ll be exploring voices from other paths.  The list is by no means exhaustive.  It is not meant to be a primer on other religions.  Rather, we’ll explore the writings of a few folks that seem pertinent to our time and our walk.

April 8

If You Want to Know God, Sharpen Your Sense of the Human (Winton Boyd preaching)

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was Jew, a rabbi, an early civil rights advocate, and a believer not in theology but ‘depth theology.’  Rabbi Heschel was born in Warsaw to a long line of Hasidic Rabbis, he studied philosophy in Germany. Expelled back to Warsaw, he escaped just weeks before the Nazi invasion and settled in the United States.  His writings contributed greatly to the spiritual renewal of Judaism. But he was passionately interfaith, once called the ‘apostle to the gentiles.’ He raised prophetic challenge to the social issues of his day, including marching with MLK, and protesting Vietnam.  

Heschel calls us to balance ultimate questions with awe in our lives.  It is in the intersection of meaningful questions and awe that we experience God.  The beginning of wisdom is the awe of God.  

“Prayer begins where our power ends.”

April 15

God Out of the Box (Ken Pennings preaching)
“The reality of God is hidden behind a fiction of God” (“The Future of God,” by Deepak Chopra, pg. 74). With the help of Deepak Chopra and Marcus Borg (“Convictions: How I learned What Matters Most”)), might we move beyond human words and ideas about God into the Reality of God Godself?

April 22

Prophetic Faith in a Time of Climate Change (Earth Day) (Winton Boyd preaching)

We will use the words of  Rabbi Heschel again.  He focused on the issues of his day – the plight of Soviet Jews, echoes of the Holocaust, Civil Rights, Vietnam.  His words, however, still ring true for our time.

“The prophet is (one) who feels fiercely.” 

“To us of this generation who have walked through the ruins of aborted dreams and desecreated ideals, the question is:  How does the road sign read: Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. Or: To despair is to betray; at the end (God’s) mercy will prevail.”  

“A Jew is asked to take a leap of action rather than a leap of thought. He is asked to do more than he understands in order to understand more than he does.”

“To speak about God and remain silent on (Climate Change) is blasphemous… God is filled with compassion, concern and pathos, whereas the tragedy of human beings is their indifference and impartiality; the root of sin is callousness.”

April 29

Different Ways to Pray (Winton Boyd preaching)

Naomi Shihab Nye was raised raised by Missouri Synod Lutheran mother and Palestinian father, writes with a global view – about joy and suffering, immigrants, opening ourselves to the wider world.   We will explore the Sacred through some of her poetry, including “Kindness” and “Gate A-4”

May 6

Learning to Play a New Game (Tammy Martens preaching)

The beginning of reconciliation comes from the generosity of The Forgiving Victim. We are invited to accept a new identity from the Forgiving Victim and be drawn into this new way of being human–by living out the Gospel of reconciliation. As we move into the possibility of being forgiven, we no longer need to define ourselves over and against others.

May 13

Jesus and Buddha As Brothers (Winton Boyd preaching)

We will use some of the wisdom of Buddhist teacher and master, Thich Nhat Hanh.  

May 20

The Inner Music of Prayer (Pentecost) (Winton Boyd preaching)

On Pentecost, we’ll return to Rabbi Heschel.  

“There is a story about someone who gazes through a window at people jumping and moving and thinks they are mad.  From the outside prayer and religious observance are difficult to understand. Only when the inner music is perceived can the religious expression begin to have meaning.”   

How do we nurture our own ‘inner music of prayer?’  What are the ways we get back in touch with the deep streams of knowing and being within us?  If we haven’t ever listened to them, how do we develop that practice?


Holy Week and Easter Schedule

As we come to the end of our Lenten season, we’ll be offering several services for Holy Week and Easter

Sunday, March 25 at 10 a.m.              

Palm/Passion Sunday: A Mother’s Lament (John 19: 25b-27, Luke 23:49)

We’ll hear from the experiences of 4 mothers in our congregation and how mothering has impacted their faith and spirituality.  Music from Tru Gumption, sharing by Claire Bjork, Tammy Boyd,  Elizabeth Strasma and Barbara Stretchberry.   

Friday, March 30 at 7 p.m. 

Good Friday Worship. 

This service recounts some of Jesus’ last words.  It will feature readings and music.  We share this service with the Madison Mennonite Congregation.    ORUCC Choir will sing. 

Sunday, April 1 at 6:30 a.m.

Sunrise Service on the church lawn

We’ll share in a shortened version of an ancient Easter vigil as the sun rises.  The service includes a holy fire, a renewal of our baptismal vows, and communion.  Breakfast to follow inside. 

Sunday, April 1 at 10 a.m. 

Easter Worship in the Sanctuary

With music and flowers, we’ll celebrate the resurrection.  We’ll conclude our Lenten season exploring the voices of women with a look at how John’s gospel lifts up the experience of the women who remained faithful to Jesus.  Service is followed by an Easter Egg Hunt for young children outside.  ORUCC Choir singing, Winton Boyd preaching. 




God Is Still Speaking through our Compassion, Action, Praying and Giving

These videos were used recently in our annual Stewardship Campaign.  Watch and listen as members share the ways God is Still Speaking in their lives.  Thanks to Paul Hedges, filmmaker and Jarrett Gersten, interviewer.

Watch Video Number #1 – God Is Still Speaking through our Compassion, featuring Ree Hale and Kathy Borkowski talking about the spirituality of knitting prayer shawls for others on behalf of this congregation.

Watch Video Number #2 – featuring Ruth Ann Berkholtz and Cherie Olsen talking about how they’ve grown through their experiences as Pastoral Partners.  

Watch Video #3 – featuring Marv Beatty and Baxter Richardson talking about their work with the Southwest Partnership and the Job Shop.  

Watch Video #4 – featuring Matthew Westfox talking about his work with the sanctuary movement and Margaret Jankowski discussing her Sewing Machine Project. 

Watch Video #5 – featuring Kristin Muckian and Lucy Heimer share how God speaks through them at work. 



A Personal History of Slavery – An interview with Marjorie Irwin

by Dianne Stevens

We’ve all learned of our country’s legacy of slavery, but it seldom touches us in a personal way.

Most of you know Marjorie Irwin, the lovely African American woman who accompanies my daughter, Heather, to church. Like many people, Marjorie did not know much about her ancestors before her grandparents. We decided to look on the internet and see what we could find. With a little search we were able to trace several ancestors back to the time of slavery.

And then, Voila! We discovered one had been interviewed in the 1930’s WPA project of recording slave narratives. This project hired writers to interview people who had been born into slavery and record their stories.

Marjorie’s ancestor was Amanda Tellis who “belonged” to the Pugh family of Grove Hill, Alabama. Her main responsibility was to care for Maria, a Pugh child. Amanda recalled that many times when she was promised a whipping for not doing things as she should, “Miss Maria would save her from the whipping by throwing herself back from the table and screaming for them not to touch Amanda, her nurse.”

Amanda was 11 years old when the “Surrender” came. “Amanda was told to pretend she had a chill, and go to her mother’s cabin. …When she reached the cabin, her mother, brothers and sisters each had a pillow slip filled with clothes and she was given hers and they ran away to Mt. Vernon, Alabama. “

Amanda Pugh was Marjorie’s great great grandmother. Thank you, Marjorie, for sharing this first hand relationship to slavery

A WORD A DAY – 2017 Lenten Devotional


Our focus for the season of Lent this year at Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ will be the gospel of Mark. We’ll be offering home groups to read and discuss the gospel; we’ll be focusing on it throughout worship services; we’ll be offering a one-person drama called According to Mark; and we are offering this devotional for use at home. Almost 20 different writers have contributed to this booklet. After being randomly assigned a text from the gospel, we invited them to write about one word or short phrase in the text or inspired by the text. We have a reflection for each day of Lent. On the Sundays (which are technically not part of Lent), we’ve listed the text that from which the day’s sermon will be preached.

Rather than asking for a scholarly discussion of the gospel, we were looking for a heartfelt response to the teachings, actions and life of Jesus. We invite you to read each day’s verse twice, read the reflection, but also notice the word(s) that speak to you. How does it challenge or comfort you? What are you curious about? How does it help you reflect on your faith? Maybe you could carry the word with you all day; maybe you could read it with others in your life. We hope the short length of each day’s offering will make this a useful and versatile guide for your walk of faith through the season. Unless otherwise noted, the Scripture version used in the New International Version. (Winton Boyd and Kim Kaspar)

A WORD A DAY Lenten Devotional