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Pastor’s November 2019 Message

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ (Mark 12:28-31)

 Recently I made the decision to catch up with our culture and so joined Twitter.  On this social media platform one can decide who she will “follow” including both general topics (politics, religion, health) and very specific opinions.  And the more a person “likes” posts of a particular opinion or theme, the more of those same opinions or themes show up in one’s feed. AND, should that person write a post, tagging related topics, she will be forever connected into those feeds.

I know this from experience as, just last week Gabriel and I thought it would be fun to “tweet” an invitation at Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to visit us at Children’s hospital because we were bored and imagined his presence might brighten our mood.  In the end, Mr. “The Rock” did not come and visit, however, because I had tagged #childhoodcancer in the tweet, our message got retweeted a couple of dozen times AND now I get tagged daily in childhood cancer tweets being sent out from all over the country.

All of this is to say that I am convinced that Twitter exists to hold like minded people close.  The unfortunate downside of this is that, often, in the empowerment that inevitably comes from community, we are tempted to mistaken our ideas and opinions as fact and then use them as weapons against one another.  And so Twitter, as far as I have experienced, is a collection of ideas, opinions, and rants thrown violently and carelessly at others.

… at our neighbor.

Yes, these human-less profiles on social media and even often on the other side of our televisions and newspapers are indeed our neighbor.  I know we progressive Christians prefer to define the “neighbor” Jesus calls us to love as the marginalized, the oppressed, and the voiceless.  We fulfill this most important requirement by bringing food to the homeless, visiting the imprisoned, and protesting racial violence. And, these are our neighbors – our co-created; our co-divine.

But Jesus reminds us that “loving our neighbor” ALSO requires us to pray for our enemies for “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”  By asking, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” Jesus harkens us back to our selective reasoning around who we recognize as neighbor and challenges us to see the divine neighborhood as it was created to be:  infinitely diverse, with as many “truths” are there are experiences.

But I’m pretty sure Twitter is not interested in the humility and self sacrifice it takes to love those who do not share our experiences and ideas.  I don’t see those posting their self righteous impressions for the world to re-tweet or at least reply, terribly concerned with learning the life story including challenges, hopes and dreams, of the brother they are calling out.  I can’t imagine that Twitter users are looking for unity and peace between people. Twitter is not a platform for empathy.

Twitter IS a microcosm of our real-life communities though, and so we ought to take note.   While I may be capable of avoiding partisan scrumming and against those with whom I disagree on Twitter, my life in Christ requires I love these even as I love God – even as I love myself.  

I would argue the most important and even dire command of our God today, as we love our God with all of our being, is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, remembering that our neighbor is ALSO that person we have dehumanized, called stupid or monster or ignorant, or even pointed out as the perpetrator of the very injustices we have committed to making right…

… for the sake of unity among creation and for the sake of peace.      Cheryl

 

 

Pastor’s Cheryl’s October Message 2019

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20) 

I find it interesting how, when life-things spiral into an otherworldly place, unexpected creativity seems to always come along for the ride.

Which was exactly the case this summer as I spent my days navigating the unpredictable waters of childhood cancer treatment, silently including caring for the emotional tornadoes that are preteen and teenage siblings, checking in on a marriage that we have to just trust will make it through, and keeping my own self from shattering.  The emotional depth that inherently comes with all of this caretaking has become, for me, the fuel for my creativity. And so I found that, in the quiet down times (and once on a drive into Dana Farber) I felt compelled to write.

I know you all well enough at this point to make the statement that I am not alone in my extreme circumstances.  I’ve seen you too experience the chaos of an unexpected familial death, diagnosis, or mental health emergency. I’ve wandered with you into those depths of wonder and widened perspective. I’ve witnessed your new found sight – a sight that sees life and death and life everlasting in a new light.

In our efforts to make sense of it all – or maybe just to record the divine insight? – some of us turn to art.

I’ve always known art to be a window to Divine wisdom.  We are warned in the scripture to keep our idolatry of words in check.  That The Word – God’s Word – is more than just the words originally passed orally from generation to generation, then scribed on parchment, and then compiled into a single bible.  The Word is the experience that created these words, the emotions behind them, the relationships around them.

In short, The Divine Truth, the Christ, transcends simple words – which is why creativity and art become essential.  Dance, music, sculpture and painting. And creative writing.

But wait! Writing IS words! True, but also writing is imagining and metaphor and storytelling.  Jesus knew he could not translate God’s truth with simple “do this” and “do that” statements. And so he drew pictures with his words and actions, telling stories that drew on emotions and history and culture, to present an utterly counter culture message that would hold its relevance for all of eternity.  Even today, as we gather together in worship hearing again the stories of our tradition, we are called to wander into the depths of our own lives taking with us the fears, compulsions, graces and insights of our long ago ancestors.

All of this is to say that writing, for me, while not scripture, is evidence of my wandering through this expanding faith perspective.  It is my attempt to find meaning in the midst of everything changing. It’s where I can look into my faith and find hope.

And I want to share some of this with you!  Early in September I launched a blog project, Parables of Hope which can be found at www.parablesofhope.org.  So far, the pieces that I’ve published here have everything to do with Gabe’s cancer and our experiences navigating the emotions that fill in around and within his treatments and appointments.  As time moves on, however, the themes of my entries will be more typical-life focused though will continue to seek hope through theological reflection on elements of the world around us.

God showed us the value of creativity in God’s original creation – of the sky and the sea, the earth and life and of humanity.  Through our own creating may we know God in deep and faithful ways. And may we hear God’s blessing: It is good.

Peace,

Pastor Cheryl


PS…  If you sign into the website you will receive an email when a new post has been published.  Alternately, look up Parables of Hope on Facebook and Instagram.

Pastor Cheryl’s September Message

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:26-27)

 We are an institution in a volatile place.  We have spent the past year(s) opening ourselves up in vulnerability, going deeper and deeper, telling and listening to our stories, and uniting in a common vision.  And then, just as we took that courageous step into unity that is committed relationship and community, a place of defenselessness and humility, we were hit with the bombshell of cancer… and the loss of leadership and planning and organization that inevitably comes with it.

Together in prayer we asked, “What now?”  Individually in quiet corners we questioned, “Was all of this for nothing?”

And so we planned what we could plan and then, with confidence in one another and faith in God’s love and loyalty to our community… we stepped back.

I’ve been watching your good and faithful work this summer.  I’ve seen how the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, has lead our leadership to take the reigns of this church and it’s organizational needs.  I’ve seen how this divine spirit called so many of you again and again to Show Up on Sundays, for mid-July meetings about plumbing, interim pastors, and the crisis of death.  I watched you show up for each other, generously sharing the divine within yourselves through compassion and mercy and presence.

I’ve been watching and, in doing so, have witnessed the presence of God in you.

On September 8th, this year’s Rally Sunday, I look forward to returning to the pulpit and to leadership.  I can’t wait to share with you all some of what I’ve been researching in my downtime this summer. I’m excited to step back into a place of leadership among you and alongside our interim, Rev. Wayne Earl.

However, I will not lead at the expense of the beautiful Spirit of humble leadership that has evolved these past months.  Instead, I will be listening to both your minds and your hearts. I will be giving space to the leadership of our many ministries to explore what has been learned by this holy presence.  And I will be calling us to a place of peace. Peace because when we allow for The Advocate – The Holy Spirit – to lead us in the way of God’s call, we can be assured that we will live!

Thank you all for leaning into your faith, taking up responsibility for leadership, and for Showing Up this summer.  I can’t wait to discover what the Spirit has in store for us this fall!

Peace,Cheryl

A NOTE:

Let’s talk logistics!  As mentioned above, I will be returning at ½ time (25 or so hours a week) beginning Tues, September 3rd. W

Wayne and I will hold office hours Tuesday mornings

Cuppa Faith Formation will resume EVERY OTHER WEDNESDAY beginning Wednesday, September 11th.

Sunday school and nursery care will continue to be held every Sunday with the exception of intergenerational Sundays (will be advertised 2 weeks prior.)

Confirmation (if your child is of age for this program you have already been contacted) will begin in November.  Communications to follow…

½ time is a challenging schedule to hold for a minister!  I will do my best to attend to the priorities of both the church and each of you, but please tell me if there is something you need from me!  And do not hesitate to tell me if I missed an opportunity to care for you at a time when you needed me. These are opportunities for me to grow and improve the work I do for and with you.

If you are a chair of one of our many ministries I would like to hear what you are up to!  Send me a note or give me a call. I’m looking forward to thanking you for your dedicated work while celebrating your vision for your ministry!

Rally Day 9/8/19

Rally Sunday marks the start of our Christian Education fall program. The Christian Education Committee will be holding class registration prior to and after the service.

Lindsay’s LAST Loop

Beloved,

This is my last time writing to you. While I am filled with hope and anticipation—for Allin Church and myself—for the days and years to come, I am also feeling pretty sad. I’m sad because I love you, because I love this church, because I love the ministry we’ve been able to do together these last four years. As I’ve prepared to leave (tossing out the papers I don’t need anymore, getting things together for the person who’ll come next, clearing out the Sunday school for—praise God!—new floors to go in), I’m struck by how much I have to be grateful for.

I am so thankful for the wise and playful and brave children of this church. These kids have taught me how to pray during my time here: their thoughtfulness and their depth, the way they think of the biggest concerns and the smallest things and offer them up to God, has deepened my own knowledge of the divine.

I am grateful for the ways we have all grown in our ministry these last four years. The children and parents of the church trusted me to totally overhaul the way we do Sunday school, so that it could work better for our children (even if it looked way different from how it has in decades past). I’m grateful for the adults of this church making more space for children in our worship; I’m grateful that y’all have allowed Cheryl and I to plan and lead so many inter generational services, so that people of all ages can experience the wonder and joy of worshiping God in community. I am grateful to have gone through the process of becoming Open and Affirming with this church; seeing you all open your doors ever wider was a gift to me, and to this world.

I am grateful that you all have been a place for me to grow as a minister, to grow in my preaching, worship leadership, and administration.

Of course, there is so much more to be thankful for: for your willingness to learn alongside me, for the ways we have opened our lives up to one another, for the ways you are turning outwards to your community in Dedham and beyond, for the ways the Spirit continues to move through this church, 381 years after its founding.

I am filled with hope for this church. Here are some of my hopes for you in the days and years to come:

I hope you will continue to follow the Spirit’s leading and try new things. It takes courage to lead a service in a different way, to try a different type of programming, to connect to people who are different from one another. That courage exists here, in this church, in each one of you. I have seen it. Hold fast to that courage, and see where it takes you.

As a congregational church, all congregants—equal before God—are the ministers and leaders. I pray that you all will continue to take ownership of the ministries of this church. (The best way you can honor me as I leave, and the best way you can care for Cheryl during Gabe’s sickness, is to care for each other, and to carry on the work of this church).

I hope there continues to be time—in the Sunday school, in youth group and confirmation, in worship and adult education—for you all to play, to be creative, to see something new from each other and God. I hope each person, from the youngest to the oldest, finds in this church a place to rest and a place to be challenged.

I long for each of us to remember, to really know in our bones, that Jesus is with us, always. I long for that knowledge to give us comfort and peace and courage and strength and hope.

With you in the Love of Christ,

Lindsay

PS: This church has done so much to help me prepare for ordained ministry. My ordination service will be sometime in the fall, and I’ll make sure you all know about it, so that we can all celebrate together what God is doing.

 

 

 

Celebrating FAITH INTO WORKS at the Allin Church, UCC -Summer19

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?…For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. (James 2:14-16, 26)

 The good news is that the Allin Church is an example of the works that come from our faith.  There are so many of you who, after receiving God’s blessings of grace, peace, and understanding on Sunday morning, share these blessings beyond the walls of this church through service,

This month, we get to hear from church member, Jo-Ann McDonagh.

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Celebrating FAITH INTO WORKS at the Allin Church, UCC – June19

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?…For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. (James 2:14-16, 26)

 The good news is that the Allin Church is an example of the works that come from our faith.  There are so many of you who, after receiving God’s blessings of grace, peace, and understanding on Sunday morning, share these blessings beyond the walls of this church through service, benevolence, and work.  While The World does not always make space for our efforts in faith, it does not realize that our faith that is of Jesus Christ cannot be stopped, because faithful practice is the byproduct of our own worship and prayerful self care.

This month, we get to hear from church member, Nancy Finkel.

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Milestone Sunday (Children’s Sunday) on May 12th

Church is a place where we mark significant transitions in our lives: it’s a place where babies are baptized, where couples are married, where we say a final goodbye to our loved ones in funerals. At these times, we remember that God and God’s community holds us. In all the changes in our lives, God’s love is a constant.

As we thought about Children’s Sunday this year, we realized that that title was a bit of a misnomer: it’s been a service that has been planned by the children and the youth of our congregation, and a large part of it is recognizing the graduating seniors in our congregation (who are adults now!)

This year, we’ve been blessed to have our children participating in inter-generational worship once a month: we’ve celebrated holidays together, done a baptism during a snow storm, explored the words of the Lord’s Prayer, and more. We’ve opened up our worship to include more art, more candles, different ways of praying, and even a few snacks (when we ate matzah as we re-told the story of the exodus from Egypt). It’s been a gift to all of us to have our children involved in planning and leading worship more than just one Sunday a year. It’s helped all of us connect to God, and it’s helped make a place for all our members to experience worship in new and meaningful ways.

Because of that, we’re shifting the focus on “Children’s Sunday” to “Milestone Sunday.” We’re recognizing the significant milestone of two of our members graduating from high school (congratulations, Erin and Kyle!) and moving on to college. We’ll also be giving Bibles to our 1st graders and our 5th graders: another big milestone.

When we baptize babies in our congregation, after the parents and godparents say their vows, and after Cheryl pours the water on the baby’s head, the rest of us stand and say a vow:

“With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround this child with a community of love and forgiveness, that he may grow in his trust of God, and be found faithful in his service to others. We will pray for him, that he may be a true disciple who will walk in the way that leads to life.”

When we mark the milestones in the life of our congregation—from infancy to toddler-hood,  to getting your first storybook Bible,  to graduating from high school—we’re living out the commitment we made at the baptism of these ones. We remember that we promised to proclaim the good news and live according to Jesus’ example, and that we promised to surround each other with a community of love and forgiveness. We witness God’s faithfulness as people grow up into the adults God has called and created them to be.

My hope is that this won’t just be a time of celebrating the milestones of our young ones. What are some of the milestones you’ve passed this year? Did you make it through a significant illness or hospitalization? Did you get a new job or retire? Did you have a baby or a grand-baby or a great-grand-baby?

Remind us of these milestones (send an email, give us a call, snag Cheryl or me during coffee hour), so that our service can include these, too. God is faithful to us from before we’re born to long after we die, and every mile along the way. We want to remind ourselves of that faithfulness!

With you in God’s love,

Lindsay

PS: I know we’ve been calling it Children’s Sunday for a long time; my hope is not to replace that title, but to shift and open our focus, so that we can all see how God is moving among us, today.

 

 

 

Celebrating FAITH INTO WORKS at the Allin Church, UCC

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?…For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. (James 2:14-16, 26)

 The good news is that the Allin Church is an example of the works that come from our faith.  There are so many of you who, after receiving God’s blessings of grace, peace, and understanding on Sunday morning, share these blessings beyond the walls of this church through service, benevolence, and work.  While The World does not always make space for our efforts in faith, it does not realize that our faith that is of Jesus Christ cannot be stopped, because faithful practice is the byproduct of our own worship and prayerful self care.

This month, we get to hear from church member, Kevin Mawe.

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