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Pastor’s Message

Happy New Year from our Pastor

Sometimes we wonder what our faith does beyond our commitment to the church.  In worship we have space to cultivate our relationship with the holy, something that calls us to define our values, relate with others per those values, celebrate compassion for and with others, and recognize injustice when we are in its midst.  Often, though, we spend Sunday morning resting in the loving presence of God, renewing ourselves for the world, but then, once actually in that world, struggle to connect that love with our passions and relationships.

Every one of us has some form of a relationship and/or passion (financial, familial, participatory, to name a few) outside of church that exists as a result of our deep faith.

Mine is with the organization Girls on the Run International, and, more directly, Girls on the Run, Greater Boston.  I want to share this relationship with you because everything I have done for and with this incredible group is because of my relationship with God, developed and refined through God’s presence here at Allin.

Girls on the Run (GOTR) is a physical activity-based positive youth development program (PA-PYD) that inspires 3rd through 8th grade girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.  GOTR envisions a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.

Having coached more than a half dozen seasons at my kids’ school here in Dedham, I have seen this program change young girls’ lives.  At the end of the season I’ve held crying parents who are grateful beyond words for what the program has offered their tender daughter.  I’ve seen young girls work through confidence issues that, if unattended, could have become self defining as they mature. I have witnessed young girls who begin the season afraid, angry, and shy, end it having learned that they are so much more than what they thought they were.

My passion for this organization called me to introduce the program to Dedham elementary schools in the fall of 2014, encourage its growth to include teams at each of the 4 elementary schools AND our middle school, serve on the board of directors for the Greater Boston district and help hire their current director, Olivia Matthews.

And in April I will run the 123rd Boston Marathon for these incredible girls and in honor of this life changing organization.

All of this because my relationship with God, cultivated through the work of the church, insists that I encourage young girls to be all that God made them to be.  My faith requires that I share my energy and love with young people for whom it is fuel that drives them to be strong, confident, and generous with themselves.

My faith dictates my passions.

What then are your passions?  What do you do in your life that is founded in the faith we encourage you to build here at Allin?  Where do you share your love and energy in an effort to build up God’s creation?

I want to hear your stories and I want us tell each other our stories.  If you are passionately and faithfully connected into an organization, community, or group outside of this church would you consider sharing your story with us in this space in forthcoming newsletters?

My hope is that, by sharing we can begin to understand the connection of our faith to our work in this world and, through this, how valuable our faith practice and divine relationship is to this community and to others all over the world.

Peace, Pastor Cheryl

 

Pastor’s Christmas Message

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1Corinthians 15:52)

In his poem, “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman wrote,

…the little child that peeped in at the door and then drew back and was never seen again…

How quickly, in the scheme of time, did Jesus come into the world and then leave?  I realize Whitman was not talking about Jesus when he wrote this, but it got me thinking about the astoundingly short period of time that God was living with us, among us, human like us, a gift to us and with us; observing and participating, watching and wondering, experiencing and feeling life.

And then he was gone.  They say he lived 32 years but I’m only going to count the 2 or so that he was actively ministering, healing, preaching, and learning about what it is to love, hope, suffer and die.

… and yet, in that “blink of an eye” everything changed.

It’s like when a baby is born in the night.  We are one person just as the sun retreats below the horizon.  As that same sun finds its way around the earth and back up the other side, giving light to our world and our experience, once more we see that everything has changed, like a new lens has slid before our eyes (or maybe a skin has fallen off?)  Even that slightly burnt toast and too dark mug of coffee now look different in the presence of this new life just born.

… a babe who will be called the prophet of the Most High; for [he] will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. (Luke 1:76-77)

I wonder if the people of Bethlehem – of Jerusalem and of all the world! – woke that morning feeling as if something had changed over night.  I wonder if something felt different.  The status quo they had settled so comfortably into, the injustices they had justified, the suffering they had accepted as “life,” was suddenly highlighted, visible, and maybe even unacceptable.

I wonder if, as that same sun that had been setting and rising since the beginning of time suddenly, on that new morning, brought with it a new hope for “peace on earth and good will for all.”

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  The dead will all be raised and we will all be changed.

This Advent, as we await that once and forever day into night into day, when everything has changed and nothing will ever be the same again;  as we prepare for our hope restored and for new life to emerge from death; as we live into God’s love through which even the most impossible is possible…

Let us believe.  Let us prepare for a New World that is ours by the grace of God, given in the instant of new life.

Peace, Cheryl

September message from our Pastor

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?’ 29Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you 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.” 31The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ (Matt 12:28-31)

Again and again we ask this question:  what does it mean to “love God?” How do we love something so completely when we cannot see it, cannot interact with it, and often do not get feedback or appreciation from it for our efforts?  And, per Jewish law, it is not enough to just love God. We are called to love God with ALL of our heart, ALL of our soul, ALL of our mind, and with ALL of our strength. In short, to love God is to give ourselves completely to God by our faith and actions.

But what does THAT look like?  Certainly we are not all called to be monks or clergy.  Jesus gives us a hint to what this means in his second command: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Loving God doesn’t mean loving something that is up in the sky- a human construct – an old Gandolf with a white beard.

Loving God means stepping back from our own experience and ourselves, and loving creation.  It means seeing all of creation as God sees it and applying our love into it.  Loving God is an action.  It’s not an adjective. Not a noun. Loving God is a verb. When we are loving God we are actively stepping back from our own truncated world, that tiny world where, often, more important than anything else is that which causes us personal offense, and seeing that every member of creation has its own story, its own needs, its own suffering, and its own reasons for its choices and behavior.

Loving God is stepping back and realizing that this life is not about you.  It’s not about me and it’s not about you. It is about how we see and then love the divine in each other and in all of God’s creation.

Loving God and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves means stepping out of ourselves, stepping back from the situation or the world and seeing things as a whole.  Just before this scripture Jesus is asked “by a lawyer” a very tricky question about resurrection involving a woman who marries brother after brother until all have died.  The lawyer wants to know which of these brothers will be her husband in the resurrection.

Jesus’ response invites the lawyer and others listening to open their perspective to something much greater than human perspective.  He invites them to see life and death and resurrection from the perspective of God: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.’”

Similarly, as faithful people of God we are called to love God by opening our perspective beyond ourselves.  We are called to imagine something greater for community; for the nation; for the world. We are called to love God by seeing the beauty, the possibility, and creation in all people.  We are called to step back from ourselves and see ourselves as just one player on a much larger team.

This is what we will be doing as a church this program year:  stepping back from our own individual needs and imagining something much greater – within which each of us is a vital player.  This year, the Allin Church will be entering a “Visioning Process.” What this means is that, working with a coach, we will come together and imagine how we can serve this community as a church – as a people of Christ – as people of love.  We will take a good look at all that we love about this church and then look forward a few years and wonder where we can take this love further. We are going to ask the questions: Who are we as a church and what is the purpose of these gifts – for Dedham and for the world – but mostly for God.

Because that’s how we love God.  It’s how we love our neighbor. It’s how we love the Allin Church.

Peace, Cheryl

A June message from our Pastor

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. (Song of Solomon 8:6-7)

I did NOT watch the Royal Wedding played live early Saturday morning, May 19th.  There were other things going on: kids, breakfast, and a school fair. But later that morning I heard about it. As you would expect, I heard about the Duchess’ beautifully simple dress. I heard about the informality of some of the service as it contrasted with the very formal nature of our English neighbors. I heard about the extraordinary cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

But more than any of this I heard about the sermon, preached by The extraordinary Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Maybe friends and acquaintances were just bringing up the sermon with me because, as a minister, they figured that’s what I would have appreciated, but in every instance it felt like more. Folks were inspired by what Rev. Curry had to say about the Power of love as redemptive (that means it can save us from ourselves and evil things like hate and judgment!) They felt hope, something many haven’t felt in some time, by his words to “make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.” connected with his and the Song of Solomon’s use of unquenchable fire as a metaphor for the power of love.

In short, all of those who commented on The Rev. Curry’s sermon felt that feeling of transformation and were ultimately inspired.

The interesting piece of this is that nearly all of those who commented did not attend a church.

Interesting because, is this not what we do every single Sunday? Especially since Easter, we at Allin Church have focused on the importance of Jesus the Christ’s message of love present in our scriptures: as it is offered by his birth, through the stories and miracles of his ministry, by his death, and then the promise of both his resurrection and ascension.

We have considered some of the hard truths of this world, its tragic events and priorities that show a lack of appreciation for Divine creation, and searched scripture for meaning. Again and again we have held ourselves and our communities up against the standard of God’s love working together with our faith and God’s faith in us to believe that it is exactly the gift – the tool – needed to bring differing minds together and to build a peaceful world. Sunday mornings we gather to practice this peace, this love, and to celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ as human manifestation of this love. We sing out our hope and we find renewed inspiration for being in this world that often does not value this gift as we profess to do.

The scripture printed above, quoted in The Rev. Curry’s sermon, speaks of a love that is as strong as death; a raging flame which cannot be quenched by any amount of water. This is no sentimental love, he claims. THIS is divine love. This is the only thing powerful enough to change the hardened heart of this world. This is Jesus.

And THIS is what we celebrate, praise, study, and grow into as people of the resurrection. this is what we do at church.

I wonder who wouldn’t want to get behind such a message with so much hope, lifted up with so much joy? this is what we do in church, why aren’t all those people who found inspiration in The Rev. Curry’s sermon for the royal couple flooding our pews on Sundays and committing themselves in faith for love?

I can tell you: they don’t realize that this is church. So let’s tell them! Don’t tell them about nice people (though we have so many!) Don’t tell them about good community (though ours is the best!) Don’t tell your friends and neighbors about our great music and even better fellowship (though both of these are top notch!) Tell them and all of Dedham about love. Tell them it’s what this world needs and it’s what we’re cultivating every Sunday. Tell them that hope is on the way because we at Allin Church and so many others are busy building our arsenals with faith in the power of love through justice and mercy. Tell them about love.

Tell them to go to church.

Peace,

Pastor Cheryl

A May Message from Cheryl….

Revolutionary Love 2018

This is the name of the conference I went to the week after Easter. Revolutionary Love.

If your reaction is that it sounds a bit hyperbolic, something not unique in the world of clergy conferences, then we are on the same page – Or, at least I was.

You all know that I have always been a preacher of love as a force that can and will change the world. It is large piece of the foundation of my personal faith that love, offered in divine ways, can turn the heart of the most hateful man, system, or institution. I believe that this particular love is at the very core of what Jesus taught and is his purpose throughout our scriptures.

However, it‘s idealist to imagine that the world – or, even a country in flux as our country is – could sign onto such an ideal so as to reach revolutionary heights, altering the character and trajectory of our American culture, permanently changing social norms, priorities, and systemic structures that have been in place since this country‘s origins (so much so that some are written into our constitution.)

And then I attended Revolutionary Love 2018. And then my hope for eternal life – for the Beloved Community – is restored.

While you will inevitably hear tidbits of the brilliance that came out of the speakers/ preachers of the Revolutionary Love movement in my forthcoming sermons and written pieces, I want to take this piece to introduce you to some of the inspiration that has me singing songs of Hallelujah for a creation that can and will manage peace as God intended from the beginning of time.

First, what is the premise of this movement – or, what was the theme of this conference? Actually, this is the 12th RevLove conference offered by Middle Collegiate Church, one of 5 Collegiate Churches in and around New York City. Organized and hosted by the Rev. Dr. Jackie Lewis and her team of faithful, this year‘s conference was subtitled, Completing the Dream with the intent of marking the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.‟s original dream for an end to racism and racist practice in the United States and a call for civil and economic equality – all of this through the practice of love and non-violent action.

 

This weekend we considered what such non-violent action, or Revolutionary Love, would and could look like today, 50 years after King‘s death. We wondered if this ―darkness‖ in which our culture currently resides might not be “of the tomb” (death or an end) but actual-ly “of the womb” (new life or a new beginning). We named some of the ills or “broken sys-tems” of this culture that keep us separated from one another and therefore separated from God (continued racism, sexism, and generally a fear of seeing and loving the human in all of humanity including, pointedly, our neighbor, our opponent, and ourselves.) We recog-nized this country‟s history of valuing the “white, land owning, Christian (man) in good standing” as favored through much of what has become cultural norms and we imagined how our culture might look different if such normatives were shifted. There were many mo-ments (entire sermons/speeches) that challenged my “truth” expanding my cultural under-standing far beyond what I thought I experienced as normative. There were moments when the “truths” that I hold as structural to my very being were shown to be at best dismissive and at worst harmful to my sister‟s effort to fully live her life as God created her to be.

Basically, we remembered the work to which Jesus calls us from his very first sermon, “‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favour.‘”

In the weeks to come I am looking forward to introducing some of these ideas – ideas that empower us with the joy of life that comes from through the fire of death, joy that, when expressed and valued in the midst of cultural darkness, becomes moral resistance.

Together, let us rediscover the Good News and how God is calling us to share this gospel to all the world, for THIS is the year of the Lord‘s favour!

Peace,

Pastor Cheryl

March 2018

We’ve talked about the wilderness that Jesus was ―driven into after being baptized, blessed by the Holy Spirit, and called beloved by the Great Divine. We’ve learned about the 40 days he spent in that wilderness alongside the “wild beasts” while be “waited on by the angels.”

 

 

We’ve wondered about the “wildernesses” in our own lives, in the culture, and in the world. On the last Sunday of February we considered these wilderness – as our nation and its leaders sometimes violently go up against one another as we try to understand our history of racism and our love affair with guns of all kinds. We talked about how easy it is to devalue these wildernesses, clearcutting the forests that they are, paving roads and building industry around them so they are less scary and definable as wilderness. And yes, the wild beasts still roam – more often now in our backyards.

 

Which brings us to March and our last 4 weeks of Lent. As much as we might hope to view the wildernesses of life as something we can choose to go in and out of when we make time for self reflection or introspection, these next 4 weeks show us that indeed the wilderness is around us at all times in varying capacities and identities. And that we are called to be the people of Christ, living his ministry of love and hope while literally right in the middle of the wilderness.

 

I don’t know about you, but when I hit a tough spot in my life, a time of high stress or change or loss or fear – a wilderness time – I prefer to find the strength through retreat. I dream of a lovely get-away from the stress where I can recollect my head and heart, reminding myself of who I am and to whom I belong. Then, at the end of the 3 days, few hours, or hour and a quarter yoga class, I feel more sound, more hopeful, courageous and ready to enter back into that wilderness that is life.

 

The stories that Mark tells from Jesus’ ministry, however, show a man who lives out his ministry from within the wilderness of suffering, abandonment, fear, and hopelessness. Yes, occasionally, Jesus attempts to take some time to himself, however, even then he is inevitably interrupted by the cries from within the wilderness – cries of suffering and need. Jesus realizes, as we will come to see, that, even in the midst of his most challenging days, he was called to see the other, empower them through love, and build the beloved community – not from without, but from within. We, too, are called to the same.

 

The following are the gospel readings for Lent 3-6. Mark your calendars as, together, we brave the wildernesses of our culture in an effort to bring the Word of God as Jesus Christ into its very core.

 

Sunday, March 4th Mark 1:16-20, Jesus gathers the disciples and promises to make them “fishers of men.”

 

Sunday, March 11th Mark 7:1-15, Jesus asks the question, how do we apply the law of our tradition to what is happening in the world today?

 

Sunday, March 18th Mark 11:15-19, when Jesus and his disciples went into the temple and turned over the tables of the money changes and sellers indigting them, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

 

Sunday March 25th Mark 11:1-14, Mark’s telling of the Palms to passion story, from when Jesus entered into Jerusalem in glory and favor to when he was convicted, beaten, humiliated and finally crucified by the people of Jerusalem.

 

Peace,

Pastor Cheryl

 

PS… And while we’re marking our calendars, Holy Week will look a little different this year. Your worship team is excited to offer a Good Friday service including the reading of the passion, music offered by the Allin Church Choir and our Interim Minister of Music, Johnson Ramsaur. This service will begin at 2pm ending at 3pm with the tolling of our bell, marking the time of Jesus’ death.

 

This Good Friday service will replace the Maundy Thursday service we have offered in the past.