Archive for Pastoral Columns

Sanctuary Discussion Schedule and Materials

In our last newsletter, I introduced the fact that a mission team had been formed to guide us in a process to explore becoming a sanctuary church.  You can read that article here.

The educational and conversational process is now firming up.  What we are sharing below is a tentative schedule for topics to be discussed.  While the order may change, the topics that will be covered will remain the same.  We are drawing on local resources to help us – both legal and those more in touch with the situation in Madison and Wisconsin with undocumented residents.

Because these are big topics, the sessions will begin at 8:45 a.m. on the following Sundays.  As a sister congregation, Madison Mennonite will be hosting similar conversations and will invite their members to our sessions. If our presenters give us permission, we will record these sessions as well.  Please note that the last session is primarily a conversation to process how to move forward.  The only action that would require a congregational vote would be the decision to become a full Sanctuary church, which would include offering our space to shelter someone if it’s needed.  Please consult our weekly email for updated information on these sessions.

Beginning Sunday, written material we be available in the Crossroads for you to read if you’d like.  By that time, we’ll also post the same material on the church website.  The mission team members are Ron Adams (Madison Mennonite) Marv Beatty, Susan Cary, LuAnn Greiner, Paul Hedges, Ruthanne Landsness, Winton Boyd).
Tentative Schedule: (Sunday mornings 8:45-9:50)
April 30 –
Legal Issues involved

  • Issues for sheltering churches
  • Legal realities for undocumented in our community

May 14 – What’s happening in Madison currently

  • Needs of undocumented in our city
  • Developing a Rapid Response Network for churches who want to be a Support Church.
  • Learning about the congregational network developing in Madison.

May 21 – Logistics of Being a Sanctuary Shelter  

  • Who would we be asked to shelter; nuts and bolts of sheltering; real time decision making
  • Ecumenical support

June 4 – Open Conversation
Structured session for feedback, concerns, affirmations.  After this conversation, the Mission Team would decide which motion to recommend to a congregational meeting. Such a congregational meeting would be called by the Leadership Team on or before June 8.

June 18 – Congregational meeting and vote if needed.

 

Materials that may help you understand some of the issues

Informational Handout

Frequently Asked Questions from the ACLU

 

 

What can Zen Buddhism teach us about the art of effective activism – by Tammy Martens

I found an article in the Huffington Post (February 17, 2017) that I have returned to so many times in the past few weeks. The article is called “What can Zen Buddhism teach us about the art of effective activism in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency?”

Here are some ideas that were shared:

“Nonviolence is not a set of techniques that you can learn with your intellect. Nonviolent action arises from the compassion, lucidity and understanding you have within” (Thich Nhat Hanh). Drawing from his own experience in seeking an end to the Vietnam War, Nhat Hanh writes that activists must learn to look after themselves if they are to be effective: “If we don’t maintain a balance between our work and the nourishment we need, we won’t be very successful. The practice of walking meditation, mindful breathing, allowing our body and mind to rest, and getting in touch with the refreshing and healing elements inside and around us is crucial for our survival.”

Sister Peace (Buddhist nun living at Plum Village monastery in France), who previously worked in the office of the mayor of Washington, says action must be inspired by a deep-rooted sense of love. “If we can be strong in ourselves, then we could offer a resistance that is nonviolent,” she said. “But that means that we ourselves are at a place where we can have that recognition and we can offer that to another. And that is a great, great source of love and having the other feel they’re being recognized and listened to and embraced.”

Phap Dung (Buddhist monk) points to the Buddhist teaching of interdependence: that people we perceive as our greatest enemies can be our greatest teachers, because they show aspects of ourselves that we find unpalatable and give us the chance to heal. “We have the wrong perception that we are separate from the other,” he said. “So in a way Trump is a product of a certain way of being in this world so it is very easy to have him as a scapegoat. But if we look closely, we have elements of Trump in us and it is helpful to have time to reflect on that.”

The article also includes helpful wisdom from James Gordon who also develops this idea of finding Trump within ourselves. He wrote a comment piece in The Guardian, arguing that “Trump’s grand and vulgar self-absorption is inviting all of us to examine our own selfishness. His ignorance calls us to attend to our own blind spots. The fears that he stokes and the isolation he promotes goad us to be braver, more generous.”

Finally the article reminded the readers of the Civil Rights Movement and that made me think of the pledge of non-violence that people made to the movement. The pledge was referred to as “The 10 Commandments.” These are things we can be actively doing today.

“I hereby pledge myself—my person and body—to the nonviolent movement, therefore I will keep the following ten commandments!”

1. MEDITATE daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.

2. REMEMBER always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation—not victory.

3. WALK and TALK in the manner of love, for God is love.

4. PRAY daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.

5. SACRIFICE personal wishes in order that all men might be free.

6. OBSERVE with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.

7. SEEK to perform regular service for others and for the world.

8. REFRAIN from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.

9. STRIVE to be in good spiritual and bodily health.

10. FOLLOW the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.

All of these words/ideas bring hope to what we can do in the face of the struggles we face in all of the arenas of our lives. I’m staying hopeful. I hope you are too.

Ken’s Pennings – Spring

I’m giddy with excitement with the signs of spring. Each day I rove our gardens looking for the sprouts of tulips and daffodils. Though it’s still quite cold, I bundle up and sit on my deck in the sun sipping hot tea, wondering which part of the yard I’ll start cleaning up first. SPRING inspires the poet to write beautiful poems like the ones I share with you here:

Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment. — Ellis Peters

Lord of the springtime, Father of flower, field and fruit, smile on us in these earnest days when the work is heavy and the toil wearisome; lift up our hearts, O God, to the things worthwhile–sunshine and night, the dripping rain, the song of the birds, books and music, and the voices of our friends. Lift up our hearts to these this night and grant us Thy peace. Amen. — W.E.B. DuBois

The bud itself is the miracle. To watch the upthrust of a daffodil, to see it take form as a flower-to-be, to see the bud grow and take on the warmth of color–there is the very synthesis of spring. — Unattributed

 

And the Spring arose on the garden fair;

Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;

And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast

Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest. — Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

If Spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder and expectation there would be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change! But now the silent succession suggests nothing but necessity. To most people only the cessation of the miracle would be miraculous and the perpetual exercise of God’s power seems less wonderful than its withdrawal would be. — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Praise with elation

Praise every morning

Spring’s re-creation

Of the First Day! — Eleanor Farjeon

The air and the earth interpenetrated in the warm gusts of spring;

the soil was full of sunlight, and the sunlight full of red dust.

The air one breathed was saturated with earthy smells,

and the grass under foot had a reflection of blue sky in it. — Willa Cather

 

In those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is calm and pleasant,

it were an injury and sullenness against Nature not to go out and see

her riches, and partake in her rejoicing with heaven and earth. — John Milton

 

It was a perfect spring afternoon, and the air was filled with vague,

roving scents, as if the earth exhaled the sweetness of hidden flowers. — Ellen Glasgow

 

Morning

The year’s at the spring

And day’s at the morn;

Morning’s at seven;

The hillside’s dew-pearled;

The lark’s on the wing;

The snail’s on the thorn:

God’s in his heaven–

All’s right with the world. –- Robert Browning

 

Today, look at the blue sky, hear the grass growing beneath your feet,

inhale the scent of spring, let the fruits of the earth linger on your tongue,

reach out and embrace those you love. Ask Spirit to awaken your

awareness to the sacredness of your sensory perceptions. — Sarah Ban Breathnach

 

When the snowdrops push their green spears through the earth

I know that spring has arrived, and each year I think what a

miracle it is. No matter how long the winter, how hard the frost

or how deep the snow, Nature triumphs. No season is awaited

so eagerly or welcomed so warmly as spring. . . . Each year I

am astonished by the wealth of flowers the season gives us:

the subtlety of the wild primroses and violets, the rich

palette of crocus in the parks, tall soldier tulips

and proud trumpeting daffodils and narcissi. — Sheila Pickles

 

Parting from the Winter Stove

On the fifth day after the rise of Spring,

Everywhere the season’s gracious attitudes!

The white sun gradually lengthening its course,

The blue-grey clouds hanging as thought they would fall;

The last icicle breaking into splinters of jade:

The new stems marshalling red sprouts.

The things I meet are all full of gladness;

It is not only I who love the spring.

To welcome the flowers I stand in the back garden;

To enjoy the sunlight I sit under the front eaves.

Yet still in my heart there lingers one regret;

Soon I shall part with the flame of my red stove! — unattributed Chinese poem, ad 822

 

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another.

The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month. — Henry van Dyke

Tammy’s Time – Do Anything Different

There is a story I heard awhile back that speaks of the family patterns that we get into and I’d like to share it with you as a Monday morning musing.

A wife went in to see a therapist because she was getting increasingly frustrated with her spouse and that he wasn’t helping around the house. She explained to the therapist that every night when he got home from work, she was in the kitchen cooking and instead of her husband coming in to help her, he would go and hang out with the kids. The wife would then start complaining about her husband’s behavior and how frustrated she was. This pattern seemed to happen every night. So instead of the therapist asking the wife why she thought the husband behaved like this and what could be the reasons, the therapist asked the wife to “do anything different” when she started to notice herself repeating this pattern. So that night, while she was cooking supper, the husband came home and like always went to be with the kids. The wife started to complain and then remembered the therapist’s words to her “Do anything different.” She was froze in the moment. She realized that she could not think of anything different to do. Yet, she was determined to come up with something. Finally, the only thing that popped into her brain was to start dancing. So that’s what she did. She started dancing around the kitchen. Well, her behavior caught the a en on of her husband and her kids. And the husband came running into the kitchen, turned o all the burners and said, “Kids, grab your jackets, we are all going out to eat!”

Now maybe this sounds a bit contrived, but I would argue that it has a message for all of us to consider. We are all creatures of habit and patterns. And we get into these patterns of behavior with our kids, spouses, neighbors, etc. Sometimes the patterns work well for us. But sometimes they don’t. And even when our patterns don’t bring about the behaviors that we would like in others, we still continue in these same patterns. So the advice, “Do anything different” can be very helpful to all of us when we find our- selves entrenched in negative patterns.

For instance, when a child continues to not comply when we ask them to, and after a few warnings, we have sent them to a time -out, and we experience this over and over again, it may be me to consider the phrase “Do anything different.” Maybe after the first warning to the child, the parent comes to the child and sits next to them and engages with them. Maybe, the parent starts to sing a song, maybe the parent dances around the living room, maybe the parent tells a funny joke, maybe the parent says a simple phrase in another language—you get the idea. The challenge is to tap our creativity and come up with alternative behavior responses that we can engage in and see what happens. Part of the difficulty in doing this though, is that we get so serious in our thinking about the situation that we lose our ability to think outside the box. But if we can bring down our anxiety about the situation, and not see it in such a serious way, we will be able to see these moments as opportunities to move in a different direction.

This is also wonderful advice to consider in our relationships with our spouses, parents, co-workers, etc. The phrase “Do anything different” beckons us to ask ourselves, “How am I keeping this problem going?” When we see that we have a part to play in the problem, we can begin to think of alternatives, even playful ones, to bust up the negative patterns.

Do anything different. What might that be for you this week?

Ken’s Pennings – Prepare Now for our Lenten Focus on the Gospel of Mark

During Lent, we’ll be exploring the Gospel of Mark in a number of ways, including a Lenten Devotional called “A Word A Day,” Home Groups, Sunday Sermons, and a Dramatic Performance by Broadway, film and TV actor James Krag on March 25th called “According to Mark.”

We’re urging the congregation to read through the entire Gospel individually and/or with families (33 pages in the Harper Study Bible, or any version you choose) during Lent.

As we read, we may want to look for the following themes:
• A new understanding of Messiah – prophet, teacher and miracle worker, not military leader
• Suffering, serving King
• Discipleship as self-sacrificing service to God
• The unfinished ending — What does Mark’s unusual ‘first’ ending offer us as people of faith?

Some, who hold that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a major source, have suggested that Mark may have been composed in the 50s or early 60s. Since Mark’s Gospel is traditionally associated with Rome, it may have been occasioned by the persecutions of the Roman church in the period A.D. 64-67, thus Mark’s many references, both explicit and veiled, to suffering and discipleship throughout the Gospel (see 1:12-13; 3:22,30; 8:34-38; 10:30,33-34,45; 13:8,11-13).

Most scholars reject the tradition which ascribes the Gospel to Mark the Evangelist, the companion of Peter, and regard it as the work of an unknown author working with various sources including collections of miracle stories, controversy stories, parables, and a passion narrative.

Mark’s Gospel is a simple, succinct, unadorned, yet vivid account of Jesus’ ministry, emphasizing more what Jesus did than what he said. Mark moves quickly from one episode in Jesus’ life and ministry to another, often using the adverb “immediately.” There is no genealogy or birth narrative, nor, in the original ending at chapter 16, any post-resurrection appearances. It portrays Jesus as a heroic man of action, an exorcist, a healer. Jesus is also the Son of God, but he keeps his identity secret, concealing it in parables so that even the disciples fail to understand.

As we read, study, discuss, preach and perform the Gospel of Mark, remember that there is great value not only in what the text brings to us, but in what we bring to the text. Let’s discover together how our lives intersect with the Gospel of Mark!

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Ken’s Pennings – Excerpts of a sermon from December 15, 2013

I invite you to read carefully Isaiah’s vision of a new world (Isaiah 55):

1Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 

2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 

3 Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 

4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 

5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. 

6 Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; 

7 let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon….

10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 

11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 

12 For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 

13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. 

In 2013, we lost a dearly loved founding member of our church, Ellen Fluck, who died at the age of 95. A year before she died, I visited Ellen and read to her from my book “The Night Before Christmas.” I paused after reading the page “The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads,” and said to Ellen, “As a child, this was my favorite line of the poem. I had no idea what sugarplums were, but I knew if children were dreaming about them on Christmas Eve, they must be something wonderfully amazing!” After I finished reading the poem, I asked Ellen. “What are the visions of sugarplums dancing in your head? What is your hope and prayer in this season of your life at this time of year?” She thought for a moment, and replied, “I want my family and friends to be truly happy.”

Isn’t this the vision of sugarplums dancing in our head also? Don’t we all hope for a better world not only for family and friends, but for all members of the human family?

Isaiah 55 casts a wonderfully amazing vision of a better world for everyone.

Consider all the incredible things offered!

To those who live in poverty and hunger come the words from Is. 55: “Eat and drink all you want! Even though you have no money, come and be satisfied with plenty!” vv. 1-2

To those who are alienated from their neighbors come the words “People who don’t even know you will run to you” v. 5

To those who are down and out come the words “I will glorify you. I will favor you” v. 5

To those who have made horrible mistakes, who have hurt themselves and others, come the words “I will take pity on you. I will forgive you.” v. 7

To those who need liberation from all kinds of things that keep them in bondage come the words “Yes, as sure as the rain and snow water the earth, as sure as the fields provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so my word will accomplish everything I intend for you…that is, your freedom and flourishing” vv. 10-11

To those who are overwhelmed with sadness, who live in fear for their lives, come the words “you will leave your exile with joy and be led away in safety….” v. 12.

And the sugarplums are dancing not only for humans, but for all creation. To our planet which is languishing under the burden of human consumption, exploitation and waste come the words “the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle” vv. 12-13.

Wouldn’t it be great to get all this for Christmas?!

-Enough to eat and drink for all, even if people can’t afford it!

-Extravagant welcome of the stranger!

-Abundant pardon for the wayward!

-Joyful returns & peaceful reunions wherever and whenever people come together!

-A planet so renewed it bursts into song and claps its hands!

Why do we keep dreaming the dream of Horns-a-Plenty, Homecomings, & Hospitality alive? Why aren’t we willing to give up this vision? 

Because all it takes is one act of kindness, one expression of joy, one word for justice to call evil into question, to make evil cower in shame. It seems in every time and place where evil abounds there are always people looking for glimpses of God’s extravagant Wink, Wine & Welcome in just about every place they might dare look.

Occasionally we see glimpses of Isaiah’s new world in surprising places, like in a cattle stall which smells of manure, in a manger of hay, on a rugged cross, or in the surprising transformations that occur in us when we confront the real cruel world of evil with a heart full of compassion.

We shall continue to look for God in the most unlikely places, in prisons and traffic jams, in understaffed nursing homes and bedbug infested tenement buildings. We shall continue to look for God veiled in human flesh as in Jesus of Nazareth, as in each one of us. Out of the rubble of real life, we dare believe sugarplums will dance, and God will appear!

A Boydseye View, by Winton Boyd

A word out of Place – adapted from my sermon on December 4, 2016

Circle of Life

There’s more to see than can ever be seen

More to do than can ever be done

There’s far too much to take in here

More to find than can ever be found

liokin 

Several summers ago, a Concerts on the Square Wednesday night program featured the music of Elton John. At one point, the song Circle of Life (Lion King) was played. Remembering the movie of their youth, young adults with babies, puppies and even dolls their creatures/children high into the sky.

In the movie, the song is a blessing song, what in our tradition we’d call a baptism or dedication. On the square that night, of course, young adults were simply re-enacting that movie. But at another level, I think many of them were doing something more profound – proclaiming hope as they faced the unknown future

So much before us is unknown and uncharted. This can be inviting and intriguing, as well as scary, overwhelming, or even paralyzing.

The season of Advent often begins with the prophets, who spoke boldly into their own experience longing and mystery. Isaiah 35 interrupts devastation and despair of chapter 34 with these words:

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad.

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing…

Part of the mystery of these words is how they can even be spoken. In the fact of the destruction and despair, Isaiah is daring to speak a word out of place. A word that doesn’t make sense in the context. A word of possibility that refused to wait until things improved. Or, as noted Old Testament theologian Walter Bruggemann has said, “A doxology – or praise song – that is against the data.”

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Recently I sat in a circle of folks committed to the ministry of our UCC camps. Gathered around a raging fire in the Moon Beach lodge under the north woods cathedral canopy of majestic trees, we were asked, ‘why are you here?” Not why are you on the board of directors, but why do you care about these ministries, what motivates you to give time and energy to this ministry?

What followed was story after story of love and grace thriving against the data of our lives.

A female pastor who first went to church camp as a teenager who cut herself. At camp she had something to give, a purpose and a community.

One of the staff described a young teenager, transitioning from her birth gender as a boy to the gender her brain has always known her to be, who found immense support from both cabin mates and their parents as she continues and explores this transition.

A parent of a severely disabled 16 year old came to Moon Beach with other friends living with a host of disabilities because here there was freedom to explore and feel the grace of nature in ways not possible anywhere else. On those grounds, surrounded by love, those very out of place everywhere else were welcomed and wanted.

As I listened I thought, is this not the kind of world I want to give my energy to? Not just at camp, but in all of life? Against all the realities of exclusion and bullying and limitation and wondering – is this not the world we want to work for, give our hearts to? Are these not the doxologies – the songs of praise – against the data of our lives we want to sing?

When we listen to one another’s stories of faith and face each of our life’s transitions, we listen for a very real but ancient harmony. We listen for the words of grit and hope that have always defied the data of life. Paraphrasing my favorite poet, Wendell Berry, “Such harmonies are rare. This is not the way the world is. It is a possibility nonetheless deeply seeded within (us). It is (a world that can be.” (Poem I. from Leavings By Wendell Berry)

It is this world we work for in these darkening days of December.

 

Tammy’s Time: Advent

In all of the Sunday School rooms, there is a felt wall hanging that displays the Christian or liturgical year. This past Sunday, I stopped into the Kindergarten and First Grade class during Sunday School time. I was told that the kids are very excited because they know this coming Sunday, November 27 the arrow on the Christian calendar will be in the 12:00 position and will be pointing to a purple shape which represents the first Sunday of Advent. They know there are four Sundays in Advent and that this time is the official countdown to Christmas.

When the children return this Sunday, November 27 their room will have some purple colors to it as well—purple napkins for their feast time, a purple cloth under the nativity scene and a purple candle that goes along with the Advent story. As we move into this Advent time, I thought I’d provide just a little refresher course on how the season of Advent came to be. The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus, his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, and his first miracle at Cana.  During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas. By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas. Today, the Advent season last for four Sundays leading up to Christmas. The first Sunday of Advent is the first Sunday in the Christian year. Traditionally, the first two Sundays in Advent look forward to Christ’s second coming, and the last two Sundays look backward to remember Christ’s first coming. Over the course of the four weeks, Scripture readings move from passages about Christ’s return in judgment, to Old Testament passages about the expectation of the coming Messiah, to New Testament passages about the announcements of Christ’s arrival by John the Baptist and the Angels.

In Sunday School, children through first grade will travel the road to Bethlehem during the Sundays in Advent. The older children will be learning more about Jesus’ family tree and create symbols to represent the biblical stories—going all the way back to Genesis. They will hang these symbols on a “Jesse Tree”. The name Jesse Tree comes from Isaiah 11:1 “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” I am grateful for the start of a new Christian Year. We begin all over again this Sunday, November 27. I hope to see you in worship.

Ken’s Pennings – Two Important Ministry Teams at ORUCC

In his book Integral Christianity, Paul Smith reflects on what it is in church life that transforms lives, and advocates for changes that deepen our connection to God and to one another. Such a clear charge – “deepen our connection to God and to one another.”

The Ministry of Adult Faith Formation is continually addressing the first part of that charge. How can the members of AFF deepen their own connection to God? Then how can AFF encourage others in the church to deepen their own connection to God? Recently, AFF has been living into that charge by developing last summer’s theme “Who Do We Say That We Are?” with lay preachers opening our eyes and hearts to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and by launching four home groups where over 40 people are reading and discussing Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me.

The Ministry of Congregational Life is constantly addressing the second part of the charge – “deepening our connection to one another.” This year, by hosting events like “Party Gras” on Feb. 9th, “Sundae Sunday” on June 5th, the “Welcome Back Bar-be-que” on Sept. 11th, the Worship & Work Luncheon on Oct. 23rd, the Ministry of Congregational Life is living into the dream of our church members connecting more deeply with one another. It’s not just about good food, as important as that is! It’s about deepening our connections with one another! What a privilege it is to work with both of these Ministries, AFF and CL! What a gift to partner with these people who are so committed to deepening our connection to God and to one another!

A Boydseye View: Being the Church and Being a Man

Part I: Being the Church

Elsewhere in this newsletter, you can read a first person explanation from Mary Bucknell as to why giving to the church is important to her. She’s not only the chair of this year’s Stewardship appeal, she’s the first of several members who have been invited to reflect on their giving to the church during upcoming video mission moments. We’ve come to realize in the last couple of years that it is not enough to celebrate our love for ORUCC during Stewardship season. We need to also remind ourselves why giving is important to both the church and each of us. It’s no secret that our bank statements are statements of our values in action. It is no secret that raising the necessary funds for ministry never gets easier. It is also no secret that this congregation has been and continues to be very generous. The Leadership Team had a celebratory moment last week at their monthly meeting. We were able to authorize the final ‘internal loan’ repayment from our 2010 Seeds for the Next Generation campaign. Because a number members of this church loaned us $420,000,we were able to save over $80,000 in interest payments to the bank. Because we had a budget surplus this year, we were able to combine $9900 in 2016 funds with approximately $22,000 in savings built up from pledges still coming in from our two campaigns involved in the church remodel (Seeds for the Next Generation and Preserving our Ministries). This loan payment is the last payment of our expenditures for the building remodel. As ongoing pledges continue to come in, we’ll be able to replenish investment funds we used to start the building process before we began the financial campaign. I know there are a lot of words in that last paragraph. Simply put, it could read, “THANK YOU!” Thank you for valuing the ministry of this congregation in so many ways and for helping each of us ‘be the church’ in the world around us. Thank you for sacrificial giving, for joyful giving, and for consistent giving. As we hear more about 2017 plans and as we invite you to consider yet another pledge, please know that we do so in the spirit of hope and love, justice and joy.

Part II: Being a Man

I don’t think I have much to add to the ongoing conversations about sexual abuse and/or manhood in our wider culture right now. But, as a boy and a man, I’ve encountered plenty of selfish, self-aggrandizing, degrading and irritating men. To suggest they are only in locker rooms is, of course, a fallacy. No profession is immune to these types. Not mine, not yours. Indeed, most extended families include at least one of these types. At times we ignore them and at times we stand up to them. Sometimes we simply leave. While I think we are becoming more nuanced as a gender, we obviously have a long way to go. The bigger question is how we pay attention to what shapes us. No church is perfect; indeed the arrest of one of our own in recent months was a painful reminder of our brokenness. And yet, when I think about the men in my life who help shape, mentor, and mold me, they are often men of this church. They counter stereotypes all the time. They cook, they share parenting actively, they cry, they think of others before themselves, they are vulnerable and they respect and adore both the women and the men in their lives. What I pray for in these days are more and more communities that can shape and mentor us all into being the best adults possible. I pray that each of us, men and women alike, can surround the boys and girls, and even those who can’t be defined in such terms, with affection, admiration, appreciation and grace. I pray that just as we are called forth to be compassionate, our relationships with others will help call forth the best in them. We need to fight abuse and harassment at every turn; but as people of faith we are also called to create healthy communities of nurture and guidance. In fact, there is no time like the present to do just that.