Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Feet & Hands

First, I want to offer thanks to everyone who showed up to participate in the Foote Lectures. We had some thought-provoking conversations that I hope we'll continue. A special thank you to everyone who helped make the Foote Lectures happen - all who were involved in planning, hosting our guests, setting up and cleaning up the meeting spaces, providing meals and refreshments, and of course to the Foote family for making it all possible.

So now that we've covered the Feet, let's talk about the Hands - we need your hands! The book of Acts says that the earliest Christians lived in community with each other, selling their possessions and sharing all things in common. And while that doesn't characterize most Christian communities today, it does still hold true that we need everyone to participate in those parts of our communal life that we share together. That includes our physical building and property. Our building is not only for the various gatherings of our church - it is also part of our ministry to the wider community. Nearly every day, various groups (Scouts, Music Together, Community Nursery School, and many, many others) experience our hospitality through our building.

YOU have an opportunity to participate in this hospitality! This Saturday from 8am-noon, we'll have a "work bee" - for those who didn't grow up with the concept, it's a time set aside for people to come help out with projects that need to be done in our church building and on the property. Even showing up for an hour or two within that time would be a huge help. Tasks vary, from spring cleaning, to changing light bulbs, to checking speakers, to raking leaves, to cleaning flower beds, to painting.

Many hands make light work - so I hope you'll lend a hand for some time on Saturday. If you cannot come or if you want to do more, Bill Heffner has a list of projects that need to be completed. Click here to email Bill to set up a different time to help out.

Thank you for joining your hands and feet with the rest of our Christian community, the Body of Christ.

Blessings and peace,

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Over the Rainbow

It's time again for our annual Foote Lectures - and this year, we will build on something we started last year: partnering with other congregations in the area. Last year, the presentations and conversations with Greg Mobley and Rabbi Jack Moline sparked additional collaboration between our congregation and Temple Beth El. And they inspired me and Syed to take a similar approach in our exploration of the relationships between Abraham, Sarah and Isaac, and Hagar and Ishmael. Throughout this past year, I've seen our congregation continue to engage with people of other faiths and explore how we might work together to strengthen our community and our world.

This year, we have an exciting opportunity to gather together with people from St. Paul's United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church of Ithaca.  Last Friday, a young man from Ithaca College interviewed me for a journalism project on LGBTQ-affirming churches. We spoke about our shared concern that the media privileges religious voices that do not affirm all people - and the need for progressive religious leaders and congregations to be more visible. 

A few weeks ago, Ellie Kraft-Sanders, Rose Mandl, Ray Edwin, and I went to a workshop for area UCC Open and Affirming (ONA) congregations and those considering the ONA process. We were inspired by churches who have been ONA for decades as well as those who are just beginning the conversation. Andy Lang, Director of the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns, spoke about their work to help ONA congregations form stronger connections with one another. Another presenter shared her research and work on bullying in schools, and she spoke about the importance of congregations as safe spaces for youth. And if you ever come to my office or go up to the youth room, you'll see that Diane and I have posters that say "This is a safe space where you can talk about" a long list of topics. Ellie, Rose, Ray and I came away from that workshop with some new energy about our ONA values, and the Foote Lectures offer another opportunity to explore that.

The Foote Lectures will include a Sunday night lecture at 7pm at First Baptist Church and a Monday night lecture at 7 pm at our church. We will hear from Dr. Melanie Duguid-May, from Colgate-Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and Dr. David Mellott, from Lancaster Theological Seminary - "Over the Rainbow: Two Lectures Leading Us into Community by Exploring Gender in a New Day." In addition, Dr. Mellott will be our guest preacher in worship on Sunday.

I think this year, like last year, will be energizing and fruitful for our congregation and for our community. As a congregation, this is an opportunity to explore how we are living into our open and affirming commitments. And I imagine that we will strengthen our relationship with our partnering congregations, so that we can all work together to make an impact in our community.

Get the full schedule and read more about the presenters on our website:

I hope to see you - and your friends - there this weekend!

Have a lovely week,
Many blessings,

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Paradox of Easter

It was a real joy to celebrate Easter with all of you! From the signs of new life in the cemetery at sunrise, to the smiles on the children's faces, to Laura Lee's exhortation to pick up where Mark's Gospel left off and tell the good news, to the glorious Hallelujah chorus...I left feeling uplifted and hopeful.

I was especially struck, though, by the paradox of celebrating resurrection in the cemetery. But isn't that what Easter is? It's a paradox, this faith in resurrection and faith that God has conquered death, while death still happens all around us, and we still live with the pain of loss.

As you all know, I have had some losses in my own life recently, and our church has also experienced losses these past few months. I've been reading a lot of online resources about grieving, and I found this reflection by Jeffrey Reed helpful. I hope you will, too. Have a blessed week, and wherever you find yourself - I hope that you are guided by faith and that you feel embraced by our church community, for you are loved.


This reflection by Jeffrey Reed was posted by Nancy Weil on her blog at Legacy Connect. Click here to read her posts.

May Faith Guide You

During the season of Lent we are asked to sacrifice, we also sacrifice during the grief process. The word sacrifice means: the giving up of something valued or important. During the grief process both pre- and post-death we are asked to sacrifice and we do so freely. Our day-to-day routines change, our social life goes on hold as we shuttle back and forth from the doctor or the hospital visits. While the Lenten season is measured in days forty (40) the grief process has its own time frame... Forever! The grief we endure with the loss of a loved one will never go away. The pain and hurt we feel will slowly lessen. We get BY; we do what we have to do, we trudge along. As we get BETTER the days do not seem to be as long and we begin to see glimpses of whom we were prior to our loss. Then we get BEYOND; it is not that we forget those that we loved, we still miss their smile, their tender touch and their voice still resonates in our ears and heart.

Hope brings us through this period of adjustment. Our faith continues to guide us, our prayers never stop and we hope that the new life we have been left with will be as rewarding as the one we just lost. We need to mourn at our own pace, our time table may not be the same as someone else’s and that is OK. There is no calendar for grief, you are in control and it is you who turns the pages as the days, weeks and months go by.

As we journey through this life change we need to take care of ourselves spiritually, physically and mentally as we adapt to our new life without the one we loved. We need to keep in mind that God is much kinder and gentler on us than we are on ourselves. We take on new tasks and responsibilities that our loved one once took control of. While stressful at times, this learning curve will work itself out.

The resurrection of Jesus symbolized eternal life granted to those who believed in him. The same holds true for those we have loved and lost. They will always be with us in our hearts, our mind and our soul. There is new life after death; your life will take on new meaning, a new direction and a new purpose.

We need to let our faith guide us through the grief process. We need to keep reminding ourselves that the strong love we have for God will allow us to keep our love strong for those who have passed before us.

No one needs to travel the path of grief alone. Take the hand of those who have extended their help and support. Embrace your life with the same vigor you did when you met that special someone. Remember Jesus died and then rose again for you!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Weekday Christians

As I was reflecting on Holy Week and what I might have to share with you today, I was thinking about the fact that I grew up in a Christian church that didn't observe Holy Week, or much of the liturgical year at all. In my childhood understanding, Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday were all things that Catholics did, and they were just rituals with no meaning. And as for Easter, well, my childhood church said, "Every Sunday is Easter."

In my early adulthood, I learned (ironically, from a church within the same tradition as my childhood church)  that there could be a rhythm to the church year, a cycling through the scriptures and also through the life of Jesus and of the early church that we could mirror in our life together in our present-day church. I finally understood why Holy Week could be meaningful to so many Christians.

While there is some truth in saying that every Sunday we can celebrate resurrection and new life (Easter), what about every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday? I love what UCC pastor Emily Heath says in her article, "Holy Week and the Importance of Weekday Christians":

"To me, the most comforting part of Holy Week is not the waving of triumphal palms on one Sunday morning, or the flowers and joyous hymns on the next. It's what happens in between. It's Jesus on Maundy Thursday sharing a table with the people he loved the most. It's him washing their feet, and showing that the mark of a true leader is whether they can serve others. It's Jesus still loving those disciples even though he knew that, at best, they would abandon him, and at worst, they would betray him. And it's Jesus in the garden, alone, heart-broken, and struggling between what he wanted to do and what he knew he had to do.

And on Good Friday, it continues. The world turns against him, and the ones who cheered his entry in Jerusalem instead cheer his death. He suffers. He calls out to a God who does not seem to answer. He doubts. He feels pain, and loss, and grief. And in the end he loses the life he knew....

What if we became known not just as the people who knew what to do on Sundays, but the ones who knew how to stay with you when your life was falling apart, just as Christ asks us to do on Maundy Thursday? Or the ones who could stand by and still love and respect you even when you call out your doubts, as Jesus did on the cross? What would happen if we weren't just know for our Easter Sunday celebrations, but for our Thursday night solidarity? Our Friday afternoon compassion?

We have the capacity to be those people. We have it because Christ has called us to be those people. All we have to do is be willing to make the journey with him. Not just on Sundays, but on the days between. The world has plenty of Sunday morning Christians. It needs a few more of the weekday ones."

I hope you will join us this Holy Week, as it provides unique opportunities to join our own human journeys with that of Jesus and his earliest followers. Enter the story and share communion with us on Maundy Thursday at 7pm. Reflect on the crucifixion and pray for reconciliation with us on Good Friday at 6pm. And on Holy Saturday, wherever you are, spend some time in prayer for those who are hungry (sign up here).

I believe that as we practice being weekday Christians, we will find Easter all the more glorious.

Blessings and peace,