Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Give Us this Day...

During Manda's first interview with the search committee, she invited us to offer the Lord's Prayer on behalf of those who worry each day about their 'daily bread'. This practice has added new depth and power to this familiar part of my own spiritual life.

Throughout Lent, our focus has been on the bread we eat and the cup from which we drink at the table of communion. And, as we transition through Holy Week into the Easter Season, we are invited to think about ways that we are called to feed and serve others.

To prepare for a month of Outreach Committee emphasis on feeding people locally and globally through our giving and our actions, you are invited to participate in a church-wide Prayer Vigil on Holy Saturday (April 7) from 6:00 p.m. until midnight (Easter Sunday). This is an important way for us to be the church in prayer. You are being asked to commit to dedicating a specific time to pray for people who are hungry in the world, at home or on a walk or wherever you may be. You may sign up for 20 minute periods of time and as many people as possible may sign up for the same period. There will be an opportunity to sign up at church on Sunday morning and next week, you will be able to sign up online at

Eat This Bread.... Drink This Cup and in gratitude, let us help to bring the bread of life and the cup of the new covenant to those who are hungry and thirsty. Let us pray together, eat together and work together........

Blessings, Laura Lee

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sing a New Song

I've been here over a year now, and people often ask me how I like Ithaca. I tell them that I really like it, and the biggest adjustment is the shift from city life to small town life. I have mostly lived in big cities - Houston, Boston, Dallas - and I really like the variety of food, culture, people, entertainment, and conveniences, as well as a degree of anonymity. I'm discovering, however, that bigger cities don't offer the opportunities for community connections that smaller towns like Ithaca do.

Because we are a smaller community, we are also affected in more immediate and intimate ways by tragic events in our community. And, we also have a desire to respond to those events in ways that bring the community together and facilitate peace and healing. 

Growing up in the South, I learned a great deal about racial tensions, and my friends helped me understand how their experiences differed from mine. And my dad told me about the blatant racism he witnessed in the Houston court systems. In college, my freshman-year roommate's parents forced her to transfer to another school because she, a white woman, was dating a black man.

Living in Boston and now in Ithaca, I've observed that racial tensions are just as present, but they are not often as visible as they are in the South. But they are very real, and our Ithaca community continues to struggle with race and class divides. Wendell Berry, a favorite author of mine, called racism a "hidden wound" - something we don't like to talk about but which is hurtful to all of us.

One reason I have come to love Ithaca is that we have so many people who are working for peace, healing, and justice in our community. I think many of you in our congregation know how powerful music can be in working toward healing. This Sunday, Temple Beth-El is hosting a musical feast that you won't want to miss. "Sing a New Song: Spiritual Voices of Ithaca" will feature local artists including the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers, Voices: Multicultural Choir, the Ithaca Children's Choir, the Calvary Baptist Church Choir, the Jewish Community Choir, the Filipino String Ensemble, and several of our community’s choral groups (including members of  FCC’s and several congregations’ choirs).

I hope you will be there to represent our congregation at the State Theatre on Sunday at 3pm. Contact the church office for tickets - donations are welcome, but we have tickets for anyone who would like to go. Your presence will bless the community, and I believe you will walk away feeling richly blessed.

Have a wonderful week,

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The old in the new

You may have noticed that our congregation has used music from the Taize community in various worship settings - songs like "Nothing Can Trouble" and "O Lord, Hear My Prayer" frame our prayer time; "Eat this Bread, Drink this Cup" moves us through communion, and various other Taize songs have helped us worship in evening Advent and Lenten services.

Tomorrow, the men's breakfast group will be talking about music and faith practice when they meet at 7:45am at the Royal Court Restaurant. When I learned that, I thought that perhaps others of you would like to learn more about the Taize community as well. This 15 minute video gives a nice introduction to the community, and you can visit their website to learn more.

I've been reading several scholars (such as Harvey Cox, Diana Butler Bass, and Phyllis Tickle) who study the shifts taking place in how people understand faith and spirituality in our broader culture. They are finding that there is a resurgence of interest in ancient spiritual practices. In her book The Great Emergence, Phyllis Tickle writes, "in the course of birthing a brand-new expression of its faith and praxis, the Church also gains a grand refurbishment of the older one."

We are in a time of exploring and inventing new things, and at the same time, refurbishing older traditions and practices that have sustained Christians through many generations. The popularity of Taize music and the Taize community is one vibrant example. I'm excited to be in a church where we are committed to work together to be a church of both/and - finding a place for both old and new, and learning, growing, and serving together.

Wishing you a lovely week,

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

You're Invited!

When I was a kid, receiving an invitation to a party was confirmation that someone else wanted my presence at their special event. On the other hand, if I knew there was a party and I didn't get an invitation, then I felt rejected - I felt like an outsider.

The Center for Progressive Renewal has found that nearly 90% of people who come to church for the first time do so because someone personally invited them. And in my time in the United Church of Christ, I have noticed that many of us aren't very good at inviting others to church - and for good reason! I grew up in an evangelical tradition, and I know the looks people sometimes give when we start talking about church. I also know that the religious right has monopolized the conversation on the meaning and reasoning for inviting others to church. Perhaps you can identify with this guy:

This Sunday, join me for the AfterWord, when we'll talk a bit about cultivating a culture of invitation - because we've got some good news to share about a great community of people who love God, each other, and the whole world. You can even get a head start by inviting someone to join us for Spirit:Uncorked on Friday night at Corks & More, or any of the other opportunities for community, service, spiritual growth, and worship.

Have a great week,