From The Pastor’s Pen (Page 2)

From The Pastor’s Pen (Page 2)

From the Pastor’s Pen

In the North Sea, above the land we now call Scotland, lie the Orkney Islands. The rule of these islands, was split between two cousins, Earl Hakon, a mighty warrior, and Earl Magnus, also mighty in battle but gifted in peacemaking. Together they ruled peacefully for seven years until evil men gained the ear of Hakon and turned him against Magnus. There were great arguments until good men, persuaded the two rulers to work out their difference diplomatically. It was…

From the Pastor’s Pen

The forty days of Lent (not counting Sundays) commence with Ash Wednesday and conclude with the day before Easter. This span of days commemorate the time Jesus spent in the wilderness wrestling with temptation before beginning his ministry. Historically, Christians have used Lent as a season for confronting their own temptations and rededicating themselves to faithful discipleship. Lent contains some of the richest worship services of the Church year, including Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. These services give…

From the Pastor’s Pen

“Would you like to join the Diaconate?” asked an older church member. She was a nice person, diligent in her service to the church. Most every week, she showed up early on Sunday morning to prepare the sanctuary for worship. She put up the hymn numbers, checked the candles and arranged the flowers. On Communion Sundays, she set the table, cut the bread and poured the juice and wine. Sounded like holy housework to me. Instead of saying yes or…

May 2018

On Sunday, May 6, the Central Association will be holding their Annual Meeting in West Boylston. I am pleased to say that my name will be on the list of new officers and committee members to be voted in at that gathering. I will be serving on the Central Association Committee on Ministry. According to UCC polity, Associations are delegated with the function of recognizing, authorizing and maintaining ordained, commissioned and licensed ministry. Each Association has its own Committee on…

From the Pastor’s Pen

Once upon a time, churches were looked upon as safe havens to which even fugitives could go for protection. “Church” and “safety” were all but synonymous. The exposure of clergy abuse scandals changed all that. Gone forever were the days when it could be taken for granted that any church was a safe sanctuary. Suddenly, “Safe Church Policies” were needed, primarily to protect children from predatory behavior within churches. Over time, a broader awareness of safety issues within places of…

From the Pastor’s Pen

It feels like an unusual number of calendar dates have been pulling double duty this year. Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, which meant worship in the morning, early evening and late night. Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day doubled up for the first time in almost 75 years. And now Easter and April Fool’s Day will be sharing the spotlight on April 1. Typically, the Sunday after Easter is referred to as Holy Humor Sunday. More than a gimmick to…
Years ago, in the city of Muenster, Germany, a strange love story unfolded. A female black swan who was given the name Petra, became so attached to a paddleboat shaped like a great white swan, that she refused to leave its side. If you look closely at this picture, you can spot Petra floating contentedly alongside her “beau.” Even when winter arrived, she would not abandon her companion for a warmer location. Ultimately, the swan boat was temporarily relocated to…
Some holidays have special traditions attached to them. Easter has eggs, Christmas has trees and Thanksgiving has turkeys. Epiphany isn’t usually considered one of those holidays. But there is an old Epiphany tradition that can be celebrated by families. It’s called “Chalking the Door.” In Deuteronomy 6:9 God tells the people of Israel: “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you…

From the Pastor’s Pen

On the first Sunday in December, we begin our celebration of Advent. On the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, we will rejoice in the great gift that is ours in Jesus Christ. To help us celebrate, we will be lighting the candles of the Advent wreath. The candles signify that Jesus is the Light of the World. The evergreens remind us that He is life and brings life to us. All these are arranged in a circle because life…

From the Pastor’s Pen

The Hand Thanksgiving Day was near. The first grade teacher gave her class a fun assignment to draw a picture of something for which they were thankful. Most of the class might be considered economically disadvantaged, but still many would celebrate the holiday with turkey and other traditional goodies of the season. These, the teacher thought, would be the subjects of most of her student’s art. And they were. But Douglas made a different kind of picture. Douglas was a…

Pentacost

Pentecost (which will fall on June 4 this year) reminds us that the grace of God is made known, not only in what God does for us, but also in what God does through us. At the first Christian Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples, empowering a group of ordinary men and women to do extraordinary acts of ministry. So enlivened were those followers of Jesus, that onlookers scoffed and attributed their energy to the imbibing…

From the Pastor’s Pen

Jesus had a knack for never being where you would expect to find him. It was an unnerving habit he seemed to have developed even before he was born. I mean, what could be more unexpected than a child who was conceived in the womb of a virgin. Soon after Jesus was born, a paranoid King Herod sent soldiers to Bethlehem to get rid of him, because that’s where the ancient scriptures predicted the Messiah would be born. But Jesus…

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.

Isn’t it about time we put that saying to rest? Because words do hurt. And underestimating the destructive power of words has a price. The language we use translates into concrete realities with all the attendant consequences. Bullying in schools creates despair that swallows young lives. Homophobic insults give rise to L.G.B.T. harassment. Racial slurs, sexist remarks, anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim comments become manifested in realities of discrimination and exclusion. Jesus never downplayed the gravity of hateful words. In the Sermon…

Every day is Christmas

I used to know this guy who, whenever you asked him how it was going, would come back with the same response – “Every day is Christmas.” I still don’t know exactly what he meant by that. But, what I do know is that I wish every Christmas could be on a Sunday, like it was this year. It seemed like knowing many of us would be gathered to worship – not only on Christmas Eve, but also on Christmas…

From the Pastor’s Pen

We’ve all heard that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” So when our dog Lexi first came to us from her foster home in Tennessee, Sue and I signed her up for obedience training right away. The trainer quickly impressed upon us the importance of several training principles, including repetition and consistency. But just as important is context. If you train your dog in the same environment all the time it will think that the rules only apply…

From The Pastor’s Pen

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you?”  And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these … you did it to me.’”         Matthew, Chapter 25 As this verse clearly indicates, welcoming strangers is an indispensable part of Christian ministry. In fact, the welcome we provide to strangers is no less sacred than welcoming Jesus…

From the Pastor’s Pen

On March 12, Ceil Burgess, Nancy Sides, and I attended Super Saturday in Killingly, CT. For those who don’t know, Super Saturday is a day of dynamic worship and informative workshops on important topics of relevance to churches. This year, the keynote speaker was Rev. Traci Blackmon. Rev. Blackmon serves as the first woman pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri and as Acting Executive of UCC Justice and Witness Ministries. She was also appointed…

From The Pastor’s Pen

I used to live across the street from a cemetery. Which, maybe sounds a little depressing.  Sometimes, though, cemeteries can be very educational places. Very old gravestones often tell more than the name and age of the person buried beneath them; often they tell you something about the life that person lived, or the manner of their dying. It was also not unusual for a person’s gravestone to reveal what he or she believed about what followed death. For most…

From The Pastor’s Pen

  On their way home from an Ash Wednesday service, little Johnny asked his mother, “Is it true that we are made of dust like   the minister said tonight?” “Yes, honey,” she answered. “And is it true that we go back to dust again when we die?” “Yes, dear,” his mother replied. “Well, Mom, when I said my prayers last night and looked under my bed, I saw someone who is either coming or going, ”It seems that the dust…

From The Pastor’s Pen

  The late Henri Nouwen once wrote, “Maybe we still do not fully believe that God’s Spirit is, indeed, the Spirit of love, always leading us deeper into love. Maybe we still distrust the Spirit, afraid to be led to places where our freedom is taken away. Maybe we still think of God’s Spirit as an enemy who wants something of us that is not good for us. But God is love, only love, and God’s Spirit is the Spirit…

Stewardship

“In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” Ephesians 2:21-22 Dear Fellow Church Members, In November, we visited or mailed you an invitation to support the ministry of 1st Congregational Church of Westminster, UCC. In the letter was a Pledge Slip to be returned with your financial commitment for the upcoming year. In addition to the Pledge…

From The Pastor’s Pen

Happy New Year! January first may still be weeks away, but the Church Year follows its own timetable, one not determined by nature or calendars, but by the rhythms of Jesus’ life. For that reason, the Church Year begins with the first Sunday of Advent. The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” It is the season that Christians prepare for the birth of Christ at Christmas, which is the First Advent. It is also the time for anticipation of the…

Your Church in 60 Seconds

Research Says, “Givers Also Get” “While most people probably subscribe to the general theory that charity is ‘good for the soul,’ almost all would be hard-pressed to say why. Many would also be surprised to learn that philanthropic acts are also good for the mind and body. Research is beginning to confirm these claims. These emerging findings can transform the way people live and feel about themselves . . . philanthropic involvement is measurably wholesome for mind, body, and soul.”…

From the Pastor’s Pen

I think it was Joni Mitchell that sang the phrase, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone?” Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have until we are forced to do without. This lesson was really brought home to Sue and me one year. First, a short circuit left us without phone service for several days. Next, the refrigerator went on the fritz for a few weeks forcing us to make use…

The Journey to Bethlehem Continues!

If you have been in Covenant Hall recently you will see lots of “stuff” being collected for the journey to Bethlehem, a Creche Celebration Service on December 20. Thank you to all of you who have already contributed materials. Carolyn Hemman and Dolores Tamulen have been spending several mornings each week organizing and inventorying what we have and what we need. We still need some items. Your help and donations are greatly appreciated! And be looking for more information on…