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A Boydseye View: What It Means to be a Former Pastor

December 2019

Dear friends,

This month of December and the early days of January mark the ending of my 20-year ministry with you.  I cherish every moment with you in these Advent days.  I’m grateful for the informal ways you are saying thanks already.  I’m doing my best to reciprocate the gratitude.

I want to take a bit of time as I prepare to finish this ministry among you to make clear what being a ‘former’ pastor will mean.  When we leave, UCC pastors are called to separate from a church in a healthy way so the congregation can move ahead emotionally and spiritually.  On my last Sunday (January 6) with you we’ll share words of blessing and as well as a litany to formally end my pastorate. Both are important. Without doing them, we won’t be free for what the Spirit might guide us to next.  It doesn’t mean we love any less; it means we learn to live with new boundaries.

So, what do those boundaries look like? I expect that January 6 will literally be my last day in the building and in my office.  Tammy and I will still be living in Madison.  Many of you have asked what’s coming next for me.  I plan to ramp up my work as a facilitator for the Center for Courage and Renewal.  I’ve also been in conversation with a couple of entities about some part time ministry work.  I don’t expect things to be ready to share publicly before I leave, but if that changes, I will let you know.  I hope, in general, to use my experience and time to be of service to other clergy, the wider ministry of the church, and the interfaith work for justice in this country.  While I am not specifically retiring, I do hope to work less than I have in recent years.

You may see us from time to time, at the grocery store, on the bike trail, at a concert or in a coffee shop.  If you run into us, feel free to say hello; you don’t have to pretend we don’t exist! We shouldn’t chat about what’s happening at ORUCC, though; the future of the church needs to stay with all of you.  Our daughter, Kythie, is not bound by the same ethics.  She will be finding her way into a new relationship with the congregation too; now that her parents are not part of it.

After my final Sunday, I won’t do baptisms, weddings, funerals, hospital visits or be providing support during difficult times.  I won’t attend church here. I will ask Ken and Tammy to let me know of any deaths so I can hold family and loved ones in prayer.  At the same time, it is important for you to lean into your connections with your other two current pastors, as well as your incoming interim and permanent senior pastors.   As I make my way around the wider community, I will continue verbally to support the work of the church, knowing you’ll find new directions that are exciting and future oriented.

I expect to remain involved in the statewide work of the United Church of Christ, as well as UCCI (Our Wisconsin UCC Camps).  I may cross paths with some of you in those contexts, and if so, we’ll need to do our best to stay out of the pastor-parishioner relationship. Please recognize that when – or if – I put a limit on the conversation, it is out of love for you and the church.  I plan to remain available as a volunteer for the Dane Sanctuary Coalition, although I will not hold leadership positions.  I will continue as a board member of the Mellowhood Foundation until such time as that seems to be a conflict with any successor of mine.  Knowing that the departure of both Debbie Bauerkemper (Office Manager) and I within a month results in the loss of institutional memory, I will remain available to any of the pastors for any factual questions they have about the building or past practices.

Another sensitive place of connection is social media. We need to make space there, too. For those of you who are my Facebook friends or Instagram followers, I’ll be either defriending or unfollowing you for a year or more, which means I won’t see your posts and feel tempted to comment. I invite you to do the same, until your new permanent pastor has been here for a while and you have a solid relationship with them. The social media terminology can sound ugly, but it really is about making space for what comes next.

Sometimes these boundaries are hard to hear. I offer them, though, because I dearly love this congregation. A church cannot move forward with a former pastor lurking in the background. Your focus needs to be on your future together, seeking out your next leaders and vision.

Orchard Ridge UCC is full of saints and blessings, full of energy to serve the world and to care for one another.  I know you will continue to sing with gusto, pursue hard questions, and make room for those seeking a new spiritual home in the Madison area.

Please don’t hesitate to ask questions about these boundaries.

With deep love,

Winton

A Boydseye View – Reflections from our Civil Rights Trip (10.31.18)

Slave family statues from the National Center for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL

Earlier today, I returned from a moving Civil Rights Bus Tour with 23 folks from ORUCC and Christ the Solid Rock church on the east side.  Over 5 days we visited sites in

Memphis — The Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was shot and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music

Birmingham — the Civil Rights Institute and the 16th St. Baptist Church (where 4 young girls were killed in one of many bombings in that city in that period)

Selma — The Edmund Pettus Bridge (the scene of “Bloody Sunday” when marchers seeking the right to vote were brutally pushed back by police officers)

Montgomery — Dexter Ave Baptist Church (a church King served for a time), The Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice (A memorial to lynchings in this country)

and Atlanta — Martin Luther King National Park (featuring MLK’s childhood home and church and the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change)

It was a moving experience, even overwhelming at times.  I was grateful to be with old and new friends to process and share the emotions.  In the coming weeks, members of our group will create opportunities to share more information and stories, pictures and reflections.  We’ll announce that as it unfolds.  In the meantime, you can see a variety of pictures on the church’s Facebook page.

On a trip like this, it is often the little things that stand out.  Amidst all the information, pictures, sites and stories, I want to share on emerging reflection of my own.

This trip highlighted the courage and grit of so many unsung heroes who gave heart and soul, body and even blood, for the right to vote, to live free, and to claim their full humanity.  As I read and heard about the enormous sacrifices people made, I saw anew the amazing power, faith, and strength that emerged from generations of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and widespread discrimination.  I saw a tenacity that would not be turned back; not now, not again.  I saw a faith in God, a trust in brothers and sisters in the struggle, and a belief in the principles of non-violence that would not be stifled nor silenced.

I come through this week reminded that fragility is the enemy of justice.  As as a white, educated, male – I have little cause to walk away from the challenges facing this country.  I cannot be politically or socially fragile if I intend to be an ally of those on the margins.  T. Marie King, a young African American activist our group met in Birmingham wrote a piece on Facebook last winter highlighting 7 aspects of being a white ally.  Here are two of her 7 points:

#2 — This is war for many people of color and other under represented groups so stop being so shellshocked.

#5 — Just because you think you are an ally does not mean you are displaying ally behavior. Being an ally is not a badge of honor to wear like the clothes pin movement. Being an ally is being willing to stand in those difficult places publicly with those that are being harmed. You can’t tap out when it gets too hot because we don’t have that luxury to tap out from being Black. (All seven are on the ORUCC Facebook page).

I come back from this trip praying for renewed strength for us all.  Renewed strength to not give up or check out in this time when our companionship alongside the marginalized is needed most.  I pray that we support and encourage one another so that each of us can be a voice of sanity, trust, resistance and hope in the many hopeless places we encounter each week.  This is not a time for fragility, it is not a time to let fear overwhelm us.

This Sunday, we celebrate All Saints Day.  We’ll honor the saints in our lives and the saints in our Christian tradition.  In our lowest moments, let us channel the energy of the saints in our lives, and the saints in our justice tradition.  Let us live as they did and challenge the powers that be with a clarity of vision that has withstood every evil before us and among us.  It is but one way to honor the struggle those saints endured.

 

Boydseye View (Winton Boyd) September 4, 2018

One of the things I have always appreciated this congregation is our ability to evolve, experiment, and take chances. Since our beginning as somewhat of a new church experiment in the late 50’s, we’ve been a congregation trying new music, exploring new ideas in the realm of justice seeking, adapting our programs and approaches to raising youth in the faith, and exploring new ideas of about what Christianity looks like.

This past Sunday, in Java and Jesus, Chris Tarrant offered a “bugs eye” view of faith. She likened our growth in faith to the exoskeletons of insects. However, since exoskeletons are rigid, they present some limits to growth. Organisms with open shells can grow by adding new material to the aperture of their shell, as is the case in snails. A true exoskeleton, like that found in arthropods, must be shed when it is outgrown. A new exoskeleton is produced beneath the old one. As the old one is shed, the new skeleton is soft and pliable. The animal will pump itself up to expand the new shell to maximal size, then let it harden. When the shell has set, the empty space inside the new skeleton can be filled up as the animal eats. Failure to shed the exoskeleton once outgrown can result in the animal being suffocated within its own shell, and will stop them reaching maturity.

This truth is so applicable to our life of faith. Why would we not expect to outgrow the faith of our youth? Why would we not need to try on new ideas, new attitudes, new spiritual practices over time? Some of the spiritual exoskeletons of our past bound us tightly, even abusing us. The adult life of faith, however, is the constant choosing of a spiritual exoskeleton appropriate for our situation and journey. What a gift to be part of a community that cherishes, nurtures and supports such exploration.

Truth be told, however, the metaphor also reminds us how important it is to offer age appropriate spiritual exoskeletons to our youth. I’m delighted that once again a whole team of adults has agreed to journey alongside and with children and youth of all ages in this congregation. I’m delighted that as a congregation, we can offer our young people some framework — ideas and practices — that we trust will set them on their way. At the same time, I’m reminded that the single greatest predictor of faith development in young adults is seeing a vibrant and life giving faith in adults around them.

So our journey is complex, as with every new exoskeleton. We must learn new ways of living in our faith. We must offer a framework and program to encourage our kids. We must honor the challenges and concerns of all ages as each one of us bumps up against the limits of our faith right now. We must provide a container for continual exploration and experimentation. It is a tall order, but it is what communities of faith are uniquely set up to do. As we begin another year of programming together, may we cherish the complex, ever changing journey we share.

On another note

Throughout the fall, we’ll have a sermon series titled Framing the Puzzle Called Faith: Stories to Guide Us. As I come down to the final months of my time as your senior pastor, I will be drawing on stories from my experiences here at Orchard Ridge over the last 20 years. I hope to use these stories as a way of putting some of the frame around the often confusing journey of faith (i.e. the puzzle). Some of the stories will be familiar to many of you, some will be new to all of you. By the time I finish the series, just before Advent, the puzzle of faith won’t be complete. It never is. But I hope it will help me, and you, make sense of the faith I’ve tried to live and share as your pastor. I am looking forward to it. I hope you will enjoy it too. And maybe even see yourself in the stories.

Welcome to our New Members

Kerri Parker

Kerri Parker is a native of the East Coast who has lived in Wisconsin for nearly 20 years and has mostly shaken the Rhode Island accent (except when she comes back from vacation). She stays in Wisconsin because of the cheese, the state parks, and the great relationships she’s built through the Wisconsin Conference UCC. She’s ordained clergy and serves as the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches. Her prior work includes parish pastoring and nonprofit management. She just finished a term as board chair of the Wisconsin Conference UCC. She’s a fan of our UCC camps, having volunteered in Single Parent Family Camp at Pilgrim Center and MADD Camp at Moon Beach. She enjoys contemplative hikes, cooking, storytelling, and Broadway musicals. Kerri lives in McFarland with her daughter Becca (a rising high school senior) and their cat Moonlight. The house, already filled with books from two avid readers, will be a little fuller in August when her new husband Shaun Drefahl moves in with rescue cat Gus. Kerri and Shaun will be married in July and Shaun will be serving Congregational UCC in Evansville as its pastor.

Anna and Izzy

Anna Schryver (left): I’m Izzy and Noah’s mom and wife to Ryan. My family and I enjoy life in Madison, the best city in the world built on an isthmus. I’m a news junkie: my career has always been in public relations. I first got to know ORUCC through the amazing youth mission trips. My daughter recently completed her 4th service trip! We love the inclusivity of ORUCC and are proud to be members of this active congregation.

Isabel Schryver (right): I am 16 years old and I go to James Madison Memorial high school. I actively participate in many clubs at my school. My favorite club is the engineering club, I really enjoy messing around with machines and learning how they work. I am very interested in studying science and engineering in my future, I would eventually like to work with NASA or SpaceX on space travel and I’m currently taking ground training lessons. I am very glad to be a member of ORUCC and can’t wait to help the amazing community this church has!

Kellie, Joey, Maddie, Lydia, Dan

The Miller family recently joined ORUCC after learning more about the church through the Martens, who live in the same neighborhood. Kellie is a Speech Language Pathologist and a teacher in the Madison school district. Dan is a realtor and owner of Mad City Dream Homes on the west side of Madison. Kellie and Dan are the proud parents of three children: Maddie (16) has been on 3 youth group mission trips and attends Memorial High Scool. Joey (12) attends Jefferson Middle School. Lydia (8) is a third grader at Muir Elementary. The Millers appreciate the inclusive nature of ORUCC, and the Church’s emphasis on community, service, and hope. They’re looking forward to getting to know more of the membership and becoming more actively involved with the Church.

 

Michelle

Michelle Johnson is a journalist, writer and multimedia producer who lives in the Orchard Ridge neighborhood and loves being able to walk to church. A relative newcomer to Madison, she’s a native Midwesterner who returned to the midlands a few years ago after living nearly 20 years in North Carolina. Her passions include cooking and sharing her creations with others. She also enjoys swimming, paddling, hiking and reading (especially poetry). Raised a Methodist, Michelle has gravitated to UCC churches in every city where she’s lived, but until now, never joined one.

 

 

 

Diep

Diep (pronounced “Ziep”) Nguyen is a native of Vietnam. She came to the United States at the age of 15 as a refugee. Diep grew up in the Catholic Church and later joined the United Methodist Church where her late husband served as a pastor. Diep was active in ecumenical and interfaith groups when she lived in Illinois and she wishes to continue to make these connections here in Madison. Diep is an educator, specializing in bilingual/multicultural education. She is passionate about public education, language rights, refugee/immigration issues and social justice. She recently moved to Madison to work at UW-Madison. Diep has three adult children. Tim lives with his wife in DC, Dan lives with his partner in New York and Ian lives here in Madison. Diep loves to travel, and enjoys gardening and cooking when she has time. Even though she likes to sing, her children often gently remind her that she unfortunately has no sense of rhythm.

Joyce

Joyce Dingman grew up in Detroit and moved to Madison 35 years ago to go to law school. I worked as a lawyer for the state for 25 years, most recently for 17 years at the Public Service Commission (the state agency that regulates utilities.) I retired 2 years ago and have been enjoying creating a new post-retirement life! I live in the Meadowood neighborhood with my husband/partner of 21 years, David, and our furbaby dog Peanut. David is a computer network administrator at UW-Extension. I do a wide variety of volunteer work as I love helping people and trying to help make the world a better place. I am a member of two bookclubs, including one solely dedicated to mysteries. David and I are both dedicated readers and I have begun relearning piano and guitar. I’m also enjoying having the time and energy to cook again. David and I love traveling, learning new things, and railroads (both model and real.) We are proud Packers fanatics who are owners that go to a couple of games each fall.

 

Dave, Danielle, Gabrielle, Oliva, Cristina

Dave Witte was born and raised in Monona, WI and attended Lake Edge UCC with his family until he started college at UW-Madison. Dave married the love of his life, Cristina Delgadillo, in 2007 and has been blessed with three energetic and loving daughters – Daniela (9), Gabriela (8), and Olivia (5)- who bring him joy and laughter every day. Larry, the family dog of almost three years, continues to fight for the attention of any and all family members and acts as a fourth child. Dave has been an educator for almost 20 years and has worked in education as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and director of student services in a variety of locations including Houston, Phoenix, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Bronx, and McFarland, Wisconsin.   Dave currently works as an Assistant Director of Special Education for the Madison Metropolitan School District.

 

Kurt and Karen

Kurt Jaehnig: I was born and raised in Wisconsin and have spent most of my adult life in Madison. I’m married to Karen and we have two grown children, Emily and Gregory.   I am an engineering physicist at UW-Madison since 1989 and enjoy working on scientific projects in deserted areas of New Mexico, Arizona, Chile and soon South Africa. I’m an avid bicycle commuter, enjoy hiking, communing with nature and spending quality time with our dog, Bernie.

Karen Jaehnig: My family includes my husband Kurt and our two grown children Emily and Greg. I have spent most of my life in Madison, graduating from Memorial HS and UW-Madison.   I was a social worker at Dane Co Human Services, Badger Prairie HCC, and the Dane Co Sheriff’s Office. Retirement has given me the opportunity to volunteer at Memorial HS and more recently at Toki Middle School. I enjoy running, hiking, walking my dog, studying Spanish and traveling.

Jeanne

Jeanne Moberly:   I have now lived in Madison for a year, having moved here from Gainesville, Florida, which was my home for over 40 years. I am a Badger, having received my undergraduate degree from UW. In Gainesville, I was a Licensed Psychologist in private practice for over 25 years. I have two adult children and two stepchildren. My daughter and her husband live here. My son and his family live in Lincoln, Nebraska. My two stepchildren and their families live in Nashville Tennessee.

Altogether, I have six grandchildren. My husband, who was a Law Professor, died four years ago. I belonged to a UCC Church in Gainesville (the United Church of Gainesville) for over 40 years. I was quite active, teaching Sunday School, doing adult seminars, chairing committees and being on the church board. I have so many things that I love to do! I started a group at UCG called Poetry and Potluck, where people brought their favorite poems and a potluck dish to share . We shared wine, food, and poems that enriched our lives. I love to read, especially mysteries. I walk, enjoy yoga, swim and work out. I am interested in spiritual growth, contemplative prayer, and learning more about how to age well. I would love to participate with a group of older adults who are interested in “growing younger as we age.”

Ellen and Phil

 

Ellen Reuter and Phil Haslanger have been married for 35 years and live in Fitchburg. They have four children now scattered around the country with spouses and children and pets. Ellen, who grew up in Avoca, WI, worked for many years as a social worker/family therapist. More recently, she has worked as a spiritual director (now retired) and an artist. She is particularly interested in the practices of mindfulness.

Phil, who grew up in Marinette, WI, was a journalist for 34 years, working at The Capital Times. He was ordained a UCC minister in 2007 and served at Memorial UCC in Fitchburg until retiring in 2017. They are both looking forward to growing in to the life of the Orchard Ridge UCC community.

A Boydseye View – Pastoral Search Process (4.11.18)

A Boydseye View

It was nice to get a report from moderator Susan Watson after Sunday’s congregational meeting that a new search committee was approved; and to hear they met with Associate Conference Minister Joanne Thomsen on Monday. It is a great group with an important task, and Sara Roberts is an able and trusted leader who will make an excellent chair.

Those of you who were at the congregational meeting know I was not there; nor will I be at any forum and/or meeting called by the Search Committee in the coming months. My role, and the role of Ken Pennings and Tammy Martens, is to keep the wheels of ministry and service for the whole church moving forward. It is to work alongside and in support of our Moderator, Susan Jane Watson, the Leadership Team and each of our five Ministries as they organize, plan and implement various programs and initiatives.   If the Search Committee needs pastoral support, they will be well served by the Rev. Thomsen. She will be their point person for the very well thought out UCC search process; and the pastoral support for them in their role throughout their period of work.

Over the course of the summer, we’ve invited three other pastors to preach here in July and August. These three are Sharon Goss (ORUCC member, retired UCC minister), Muriel Otto (a newly ordained UCC pastor serving Cross of Life Lutheran Church in Brookfield), Kerri Parker (former pastor at McFarland UCC, now Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches).   Their voices, their preaching styles, and their leadership will offer us alternative models to the three clergy you know best.

Administratively, Office Manger Debbie Bauerkemper has notified the Leadership Team that she will be retiring at the end of January 2019 (in all fairness, she told us this before I made my decision). A small mission team has been formed to work on replacing Debbie, including reviewing the structure of her position and the best use of our administrative dollars. The goal is to have a plan for a new position(s) by early fall in order to hire someone to shadow Debbie as she does the year-end financial work in December 2018 and January 2019. It goes without saying that there is also attention being given to capturing and documenting the ‘institutional memory’ that both Debbie and I currently carry in our heads.

While it is still taking shape, it is my hope that my preaching focus in the fall will offer me a chance to reflect back to you the blessings of this congregation, it’s ministry and it’s possibilities going forward. While I have left two previous congregations in my career as an ordained pastor, this departure process after 20 years of ministry is a new one to me; as it is for most of you. I hope we can walk this journey with appreciation, honesty, humility and hope. And let us do so as a people of prayer. Please pray for Tammy and me (and Kythie) as we pray for you throughout these months.

Ken’s Pennings – The Death of Jesus (3.20.18)

When some of our women worked with Winton Boyd to design worship for Lent and Easter, one woman shared a resource for the group to consider, The Wisdom Jesus, by Cynthia Bourgeault. This book peaked my curiosity, and I began to read it not only because the women might be using it, but because I thought the Progressive Christianity Discussion Group might enjoying reading and discussing it. It’s a difficult read, with some challenging concepts, but I’d like to share with you some of Bourgeault’s reflections on the meaning of the death of Jesus, a theme many of us are pondering leading up to Holy Week.

Bourgeault asks, “What is the meaning of the passion (or the event’s which end Jesus’s earthly life: his betrayal, trial, execution on a cross, and death)?”

“First of all,” she writes, “God wasn’t angry! …Particularly in fundamentalist theology, you’ll often hear it said that God got so fed up with the sins and transgressions of Israel that he demanded a human sacrifice in atonement. But of course, this interpretation would turn God into a monster. How can Jesus, who is love, radiate and reflect a God who is primarily a monster? …NO, we need to bury once and for all those fear-and-punishment scenarios that got programmed into so many of us during our childhood. There is no monster out there; only love waiting to set us free” (page 107).

In contrast, Bourgeault shares a different perspective “from a wisdom point of view.” She writes, “So much bad, manipulative, guilt-inducing theology has been based on (the passion) that it’s fair to wonder whether there is any hope of starting afresh. I believe that wisdom does open up that possibility. The key lies in…reading Jesus’s life as a sacrament: a sacred mystery whose real purpose is not to arouse empathy but to create empowerment. In other words, Jesus is not particularly interested in increasing either your guilt or your devotion, but rather, in deepening your personal capacity to make the passage into unitive life (or what she also calls the self-emptying joy and generosity of full human personhood). If you’re willing to work with that wager, the passion begins to make sense in a whole new way…and reveals it as a sacred path of liberation” (pages 105-106).

She continues, “From the wisdom standpoint we need to stay grounded in the collective nature of what is meant by ‘He died for our sins.’ The false self is ultimately what crucified Jesus. It is an archetypal struggle. As each of the various characters in this drama surfaces and resurfaces (Pilate, Herod, the Roman soldiers, the Jewish leaders, Judas, Peter, etc.), we see through the swirl the core traits of the false self in action: fear, pretension, projection, self-importance, cowardice. In their collective mirror we can also catch, if we’re honest, a glimpse of our own unacknowledged shadows, our own particular pattern of inner doubt and darkness” (page 114).

In the death of Jesus, Jesus wasn’t judging or condemning the conditions of the false self, rather, simply allowing them to be as they were (page 124).

Or in other words, in the passion of Jesus, “he was just sitting there—surrounded by the darkest, deepest, most alienated, most constricted states of pained consciousness; sitting, if we can imagine it, among all those mirroring faces of the collective false self that we encountered in the crucifixion narrative: the anguish of Judas, the indecision of Pilate, the cowardice of Peter, the sanctimony of the Pharisees; sitting there in the midst of (it all), not judging, not fixing, just letting it be in love. And in so doing, he was allowing love to go deeper, pressing all the way to the innermost ground out of which (dualistic) opposites arise and holding that to the light. A quiet, harmonizing love was infiltrating even the deepest places of darkness and (inner doubt), in a way that didn’t override them or cancel them, but gently reconnected them to the whole” (page 123).

As I wrote earlier, this is deep stuff! But after pondering Bourgeault’s words long and hard, I’ve come to really appreciate her “wisdom perspective.” Bottom line, in the death of Jesus God wasn’t so fed up with us that he needed to punish our sins in the substitutionary death of his own son. Rather, in the death of Jesus God was sitting with us, ALL of us collectively, in the attitudes and behaviors of our false selves, not judging, not fixing, just letting them be in love, in order to gently reconnect us to the whole.

Hmmmm. Lots of food for thought!

 

What’s happening: Tammy’s Time (3.8.18)

As we “march” through the year, now would be a good me to give you an update on what is happening with the children and youth programming.

At 9:00 on Sunday mornings, we offer Sunday School for preschool through 8th grade. Once a month (second Sunday of the month) our high school youth meet. Children are involved in lots of different      activities throughout the morning including Music Connections with Julie Mazer, Craft/Playtime for young children, and Tru Function rehearsal for 7th through 12th graders.

Our 4th and 5th graders started on a big project last fall and it is finnally approaching completion. They are working on a mural for their Sunday School room. They spent a lot of time trying to work through ideas for the mural, designing it, and now they are painting it. We will celebrate its completion with an “open house” at some point after Easter. The teachers, Kristin Muckian and Jenny Dobbins, have guided the project and Marcia Beckett (Art Teacher) has been incredibly helpful in the overall production of the project.

Our 2nd and 3rd graders have been focusing on climate change issues including natural disasters, weather, carbon cycling, and rocks. They also spend time reflecting on a passage from Scripture that relates to these topics. For instance, when they studied rocks, they read the following passages:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2

Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one. Isaiah 44:8

And then wondered about the following statements:

  1. I wonder what it means that God is thought of as a rock.
  2. I wonder how this idea that God is my rock might help me in my faith.
  3. I wonder how what protections the writer of this psalm feels as he thinks of God as his rock.
  4. I wonder how this idea that God is like rock might help our faith.

Our second through 5th graders are also working on a project with Julie Mazer during their Music Connections time. They have organized a demonstration for their parents which they will lead this Sunday, March 11. They have created activities for parents to experience for themselves the African drums, the xylophones, singing, and movement.

Our middle school youth finished a unit on Christianity’s Family Tree and on Sunday, March 18 will visit Assumption Greek Orthodox Church on the east side of Madison. This will be a wonderful experience to visit one of the oldest Christian denominations.

If you ever want to learn more about these programs, I’d love to tell you more.

Sheep Dung in the Walk of Faith: A Boydseye View (2.20.18)

 

Almost every week, outside groups use this building for their caring work in the world. They range from people supporting the differently abled to LGBTQ high school students learning about leadership to small theater groups writing and performing their own plays to piano lessons to small neighborhood groups planning for ways to support those in need. Without fail, there is a collective sigh of appreciation and comfort when participants in these groups see the labyrinth in our Friendship Hall carpet. Some know what it is and find it encouraging that an ancient prayer practice is still honored in our space. Others don’t know what it is but find the pattern compelling and mesmerizing. When they find out what it means, they are even more intrigued.

I cherish these conversations because so often there is an element of surprise. People expect to see a sanctuary or worship space in a church building. Because they usually know how involved we are in community and world events, this prayer-filled carpet in our busiest room catches them off guard. It gives them pause. I love experiencing their reactions and the joy that so often surfaces without prompting. It is, in the words of a mentor of mine from decades ago, a “ministry of place.” For this reason, I’m deeply indebted to the small team (Barb Hummel, Chris Thomas, Betty Day and Elaine Pasinski-Thomas) that continues to offer opportunities for walking the labyrinth each month.

I love the way that floor embodies the spirit of prayerful action in the world. Just this week we will have a community meeting sponsored by a city alder as he seeks to help service providers collaborate with each other. We will host WAVE (Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort). They’ve been meeting monthly for a couple of years, but their work is heightened again by a school shooting in Florida on Valentines Day. We will provide meeting space for the Mellowhood Foundation as its Board plans for youth employment and neighborhood empowerment. In the midst, a baby shower and young parent game night and Sanctuary volunteer training and a medical screening day will be held. This building is central to our ministry of presence and place in the world, and integral to all these efforts is our commitment to prayer and action, prayerful action and practical prayer.

You need not be versed in the specifics of the labyrinth to benefit from its presence in our common life. Much as the cross or the bread and wine remind us, by their very presence, of God’s love in the world; so also can the labyrinth remind us of the power of invoking God’s spirit in all our work to bring about the realm of God in our time.

Years ago, while on sabbatical, I had a chance to walk an outdoor labyrinth in Germany in an apple orchard behind an old monastery that had been turned into a retreat center. Sure enough, to complete the labyrinth, you had to step over sheep dung more than once. Prayer and life sharing space. It was a beautiful image. In the same way, our Friendship Hall is a well-used, well-loved and, at times, a bit dirty space. Of course, this is where prayer should happen. This is where activism meets meditation; community meets the cries of the marginalized.

It’s my hope that we never take for granted the power of our space, and that we never slack in our appreciation for how prayer and activism shape us into God’s hands and feet in the world. We don’t have to fully understand it. It isn’t always neat and tidy. But it is the way of faith and compassion.

Annual Meeting of the Congregation to be held on Feb 4 at 11:15

Each year, our congregation holds an annual meeting to conduct business and elect leaders.  But, more than that, it is a chance to celebrate the ministries of the congregation, the leaders and volunteers of the congregation and the Spirit of God at work in our midst.  All are invited to our 2018 annual meeting on February 4th after worship at 11:15.

Click here for the 2017 Annual Report of ORUCC

Giving Permission to Lament

During our October 15 worship service, we focused on laments – those cries to God for justice, healing, hope or help.  We are seeking to name our anguish and just as importantly, learn to offer that anguish to God in prayer.  This was our opening prayer.

 

O God, will it never stop? Pain falls on pain like snow on snow.

 Just when we think we might stand, we are pushed down again. Is there no end to it?

The wounds cannot close, for they are constantly hit.

The infection oozes pus, and we are beginning to think that we will be fevered forever.

Only you, O Holy One, can stop the avalanche.

Only you can dig beneath the pus to find us.

Come, O Healer of the nations, come and give us hope,

for we have trusted in you as those who have come before us.

We hope, O Healer of Souls, that you are not far away, that you will not forsake us,

but will stitch our wounds so that we might gain the strength to serve you once more.

 O Listening One, hear our prayer.

(Ann Weems, Psalms of Lament. “Lament Psalm 21”, adapted)