Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"Hands Around the World.....And, Across the Aisle"

 Google 'scouts' and you will discover the familiar US Scout emblems and an amazing array of emblems from all around the world. And for every country represented (and many more), you can know that there are adults working with young people and young people working with each other to create a generation of leaders. These are young people who are learning how to work with others, how to build character, how to engage in their communities..... These are young people who are learning how to tie knots and how to sell cookies. These are young people who will become adults who are better citizens because of their scouting experiences.

Sunday is Scout Sunday at FCC (and everywhere). We celebrate our young people and the adults who are dedicated to scouting. So, our scouts will participate in worship and the adults will show up in their uniforms (if they can still fit into them)! And we can all be grateful for the ways that our church has supported scouting over many years. We can all celebrate the ways that we continue to support scouting, for we are part of this web around the world and even across the aisles of our church that is building the future! So, on Sunday, be sure to greet and encourage our scouts and be sure to thank the uniformed adults. We're glad they're here!

Blessings for the week ahead - Laura Lee

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Celebrate......Making a Difference"

Sunday is the date of our Annual Meeting. It is also CHHSM (Council for Health & Human Services Ministries) Sunday in the UCC.

Right after worship, you will receive our Annual Report, which is a celebration of our year in ministry. In almost every report, you will see some aspect of the amazing commitments our individual congregation made this year to Outreach projects, programs and giving. Each item represents the ways that we makes a difference in the world on behalf of our members.

What you won't see are all of the ways we make a difference through our various partnerships and ministries in the United Church of Christ, like our partnership with CHHSM. This is a partnership of UCC-related ministries of health and human services throughout the whole country: hospitals; nursing homes; housing for seniors, troubled teens, people who are mentally ill or who have other challenges; clinics for poor people and more. These institutions and agencies were founded by our Pilgrim and Evangelical & Reformed ancestors and by UCC congregations and missions all along the way.

In the New York Conference,  we have a number of CHHSM partners: United Church Home Society in Orchard Park and 3 United Church Homes affordable housing communities in Olean, Chautauqua and Fredonia.

TO find out more about CHHSM and about their amazing work on our behalf:  http://www.chhsm.org/news/2011/12/20/health-and-human-service-sunday-to-be-observed-jan-29.260826
And, while you are exploring and learning about the work they do, CELEBRATE, that through amazing partnerships in the UCC, you are making a difference!

Blessings for the week ahead, Laura Lee

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Apologies to those of you who don't like football, but since I grew up in Texas, I could never escape having at least some interest in the sport. And Syed loves football, so games are often on in our house, which means I have to at least pay a little bit of attention.

Lately there's been a lot of cultural interest in Tim Tebow's faith - Tebow is the quarterback for the Denver Broncos and a professed evangelical Christian. He has become famous for "Tebowing" - bowing in prayer after making a touchdown or other particularly good play. I've never seen him bow in prayer after a bad play or after losing a game - but he does like to publicly give thanks when he plays well. In "Missing the Extra Point: The Real Cause of Tebow Fever," Carter Turner writes, "For a lot of people, the intrigue with Tebow is less about appropriate on-field manners, and more about theology. People are watching because for many, his games are about whether or not a God exists who intervenes in human history—even in the mundane, like football."

And these are important questions of faith - does God intervene in mundane events? Does God decide who should win or lose a football game? These questions come up in other arenas in our culture - Does God tell Pat Robertson who the next president will be, because God has already chosen that person? Or to take it even further, does God choose which children eat and which children go hungry?

Theologians have asked these kinds of questions for millenia. What is God's role in the world? What is our role? How does prayer work? I can't definitively answer all of these questions, but I will say this: I don't think God cares which football team wins or loses. But I do think that God cares that we pray, that we seek relationship with God. And I do believe that God responds to our prayers, but I'm not entirely sure what that looks like. I welcome your own thoughts and comments below.

Theologian Marjorie Suchocki writes that prayer is "an openness to God’s own creative energy, and to the good that God intends for us. It is also an offering back to God, giving God the gift of ourselves” (Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, In God’s Presence: Theological Reflections on Prayer, page 26).

This week, I invite you to be in prayer, opening yourselves to God's goodness and creativity, and offering God the gift of yourself.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"The Party of the Big Tent"

Listening to the march of the Republican primaries, I am reminded of a time in my youth, when the Republicans were the "Party of the Big Tent". As I listen to people slice & dice the issues into narrower and narrower segments, I long for that sentiment of 'room for all.'

Anyone who's ever planned a wedding knows that bigger tents allow for more friends and bigger parties. These days, however, the tents seem to be getting smaller and smaller in every arena of our lives. There are fewer multi-generational family gatherings. We only look at media that reflects our own narrow view. The fragmenting is everywhere - in our workplaces, in our politics, and even in our churches. And this means that the parties are getting smaller and smaller.

Jesus said that in his Father's house, there were many mansions - perhaps the biggest tent of all. In God's house, we are all loved, we are all welcomed, we are all supported and we are all invited. I love this image. For me it has taken on different meanings at different times. Including people with AIDS, welcoming my dad's second wife and  her parents, children, their spouses and her grandchildren into our small family, opening my heart to the people of the nighttime streets in Chicago, finding church with a whole community of Filippinos.....

And, every time I have expanded my own tent, I've learned a lot, I've changed a lot and I've loved a lot. AND, the party has always been bigger, better, stronger and much more fun. It takes a lot to build bigger tents - they're unwieldy and harder to construct and more expensive.

I love serving in a church that works to explore the many mansions of God's House, that strives to be the biggest tent with the biggest party. I love the ways that we are all stretched and moved deeper and deeper into our faith as we seek to live out our radical welcome to all people. And, it is not easy in a world that encourages us at every turn to seek out the smaller and smaller tents. What I do know is that it is always, always meaningful and as I look at this picture, the little tent may be prettier, but I'd rather be at the party in the big tent and hope you'll join me and Manda and all of those who celebrate God's grace together at FCC!

Blessings Always, Laura Lee

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"It Was A Very Good Year!"

Zeke, my daughter's boyfriend, has a little 1950's Sam Sneed/Frank Sinatra hat. Whenever he wears it, I am transported back to my childhood of golf matches and dancing in the living room with my dad. Some Sinatra song usually pops into my head. Over this holiday, I found myself humming "It Was a Very Good Year" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymRNpTP1aO8, when Zeke donned his hat.
An interesting song, bittersweet and nostalgic, sort of like memories of dancing with my dad. Nostalgia can be a good thing, a comforting look back at the good things. Nostalgia, however, is also a bit tricky. It can be rosy and a bit fuzzy and there is a wishfulness about things the way we'd like for them to have been.

As I think about 2011, I can honestly say, "It was a very good year!" In my 'nostalgic' moments, I am touched by so many exciting and inspiring and fun things that have happened in my life and in the life of our church and these are memories I will treasure always. But, my calendar says it is now a new year. I am certain that, just like years past, 2012 will create its own memories, but it will also come with its own challenges and losses and difficult times.

So, I invite you all to join me in blessing the year that we just spent together and then turning to 2012 and working together to make this one a Very Good Year, too!

New Year's Blessings to ALL! - Laura Lee