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News From The Peaks


 

June 10, 2017

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Can you believe two beautiful days in a row?  Having been without the sun for so long, I’m especially appreciative of this warm air and cloudless sky.  Who knows (or cares) what tomorrow will bring, because  today is just perfect!

 

Speaking of enjoying and appreciating the present, we ARE in count-down mode in the few weeks remaining until the end of the month.   Partings are big events in our lives, which is why it’s important for us to talk about them.

 

June marks the end of the school year and the partings of our students as they graduate or are promoted to the next class.   There are weddings (I’m performing one this afternoon, in fact) that prompt the couple to part from their former homes and lives and to begin creating a new life.  These are jubilant partings because they lead to  imaginable new life chapters.

 

Partings with no known next step, like mine in a few weeks, are more difficult precisely because of the unknown that will follow.  Tomorrow, Sarah Chesler and her partner, Tony Bocchetta, will join us once again to lead us in music.  Through their rich sounds from voice and guitar, they will remind us of the different moods of parting: from sadness to joy, from nostalgia to adventure, from loneliness to love.   Don’t miss it.

 

See you in church.

 

Love, Holly


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Saturday June 3, 2017

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,
Next to Easter, my favorite Sunday in the church calendar is Pentecost.  Why?   Well, Easter is the HOPE-filled side of the cross; it represents what happens following the pain, suffering and even death on the first side of the cross.  Easter is the expression of God’s promise to us of our salvation in the Risen Christ.  It defines us as Christians.
But then, 50 days later, we observe Pentecost, the moment that the Holy Spirit descended upon the multitude as recorded in Acts 2:1-21.  Can you imagine the chaos in that town square of Jerusalem when all of a sudden, lots of tongues of fire descended upon the already-confused folks, violent winds blew them every which way, and they began babbling in other-worldly utterances of shock and awe to one another!  It was the moment when the crowds were joined together by the Holy Spirit just as Jesus had promised, and the church was born!
Most important, as “church,” the disciples began to spread the Good News far and wide once they felt the Holy Spirit.  What I love about it is that just as Easter gives us hope in our salvation in the Risen Christ, Pentecost is what defines us and the purpose of our lives:  to be living examples of the Holy Spirit, which is God’s Spirit within us.
It is always a creative challenge to recreate that Pentecostal moment in Jerusalem with tongues of fire and violent winds – without violating fire and other safety laws, that is.  Thanks to the Wechters, the sanctuary has already been transformed.   Curious yet? 
See you in church!   [And wear red!]
Love, Holly

PS   We will also celebrate a Baptism tomorrow! Come be a welcoming community to this 10-month old baby!
 

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May 19, 2017

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Earlier today, I was out in the garden and spent quite a while watching an ant village go about its business of the day. To my naked eye, the ants looked alike; to my fairly-normal hearing, the ants made no discernible noise.  But here’s the interesting part:  each ant was on the move!  Each ant had a job to do!  Some ants were carrying food supplies; others were building their ant hill; and although they were invisible, I know there were even more ants underground digging tunnels and organizing their life together.

 

This Sunday is RECOGNITION SUNDAY in our own village.   Every person has a role in this community: some people are quite visible, and others are behind the scenes but no less significant in the life of this village.   I suspect that some people are not even aware of the role they play in the life and energy of this place.  But here’s the point:

 

Everyone matters!  This community is because each of you, whether you are here every Sunday or not, contribute to its whole.  Whether you sit in the front row (no one sits in the “sinners’ pew”) or the back pew or somewhere in the middle, you are a part of the fabric of this community of faith.  On that note, I urge you – each and every one of you, young and older – to be in church on Sunday.  Discover how it is that YOU matter to this church!

 

See you in church,

 

  Love, Holly


 PS   A reminder that Elizabeth (Betsy) Bunting Pratt’s memorial service is at church tomorrow at 4:30.   There will be a brief reception afterward.  All are welcome.

 

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April 28, 2017

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,
Easter may be over, but the story is just beginning.  Easter is about so much more than dyed eggs, chocolate bunnies, the exultant cries of Hosanna!, and the wonderment of the empty tomb.


If you were in church last Sunday, you heard how the Easter story unfolds differently in each Gospel.  Tomorrow, you’ll not only HEAR the story unfolding in the Gospel of Luke; you’ll also SEE it for yourselves.   


The story in the Gospel of Luke is a wonderful visual image of the road to Emmaus, and some travelers proclaiming Easter news along the road.  Tomorrow, at 275 Richards Avenue, this story will be brilliantly performed by some of our UCC troupers!  You won’t want to miss this!


Tomorrow is also important because we’ll have our semi-annual clean-up day around the property, with pizza for all the helping hands.  There are tasks large and small, inside and outside, that require minimal skills and no tools….just helping hands and warm hearts.


And finally, tomorrow is also the day we welcome the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit to their first service in our sanctuary.   Their service begins at 1:00, and folks may start arriving from 12:30 on.  Their pastors are so happy to welcome their flock to our church, and have told me they feel like they are “coming home.”  They will take care of it as if it were there home.


SEE you in church, where there’s always more than meets the eye,
Love, Holly


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April 7 2017

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

On my walk today, I spied a clump of icy snow.  Nothing surprising there, given the unseasonal weather of the last four weeks including two snowfalls. 

 

But here’s what I loved:  right next to that icy snow was another clump – this one of daffodils.  Each bright, yellow face in that clump was shivering, and opening its face in a hopeful search of warmth.

 

What a perfect metaphor for the week we are entering.  We all know we’re traveling this road to Jerusalem, and we know what awaits us at its end – a symbol of stone cold death on Friday, but the promise of glorious life renewed on Easter Sunday.   This Holy Week reminds us that we need not fear suffering and death in the face of hope and renewal. 

 

But first things first!  We begin the week this Sunday with our joyous arrival at the gates of the city, and a parade led by our children, plus some special singers who will help us prepare the way of the Lord as we wave our palms and dance our way around the parking lot and sanctuary (weather permitting).  Don’t miss it!

 

By the way, a photographer from the Hour will be with us Sunday morning.  I’m hoping s/he will find a sanctuary packed with all the men, women and children of this congregation.  This wonderful clump of faithful will be dancing around the parking lot and sanctuary with joy, their faces turned toward the cross, hopeful, in search of warmth and salvation.   Please be part of this.  Who knows?  You may see your picture in the paper Monday morning!

 

See you in church,

 

                                   Love, Holly


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      March 9, 2017                                

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Today is proof that God has a sense of humor!!  Spring IS coming, but she reminded us of just who is in charge with today’s beautiful snow fall!  Spring is a week away, but this Sunday, we set our clocks forward one hour to begin Daylight Savings Time.  So don’t forget, SPRING FORWARD!

 

As we move toward the second week of Lent, and in response to requests from the congregation, I’m offering a prayer service every Wednesday night from 6:00 to 6:30 beginning next week.   It will be a time for scripture, prayer and silent reflection to echo the tone of this contemplative Lenten journey we share.  Please come as you are!

 

This Sunday, we will continue our Lenten theme of FAITH: what it is, and what it looks like in our lives.   If you were here last week, you heard the message about how spiritually famished we all are in our life journey, and don’t even know it.  My Florida sojourn nourished my soul and restored my faith in the Holy that is all around us.  I hope you’ll join me this Sunday on a sojourn of your own, to reclaim what it means to be a person of Faith.  It is in faith that we find peace and love, and that makes all the difference!

 

See you in church,

                                    Love, Holly

 

PS  Don’t forget:  Spring Forward!

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November 10, 2016

 

Dear Friends,

 

May peace be with you.

 

This week has been an emotional one for this nation. I have heard from some of you, and know that many of you are pleased and hopeful with the results of this election; others are deeply saddened and despairing of the election outcomes you fear. Clearly, there is great passion on all sides as this nation faces a new and uncertain future.

There is no question that this election made clear the deep divides that exist in our nation. And, unfortunately, the tenor and tone of the campaign has left many Americans feeling alienated and threatened, because of their race, gender, ethnic heritage, and class, leaving them to wonder if America is truly their “home.” The results themselves showed how many Americans feel “unheard” and “forgotten” by their leaders.

The hard and “heart” work of the church in the midst of a divided, distrustful, and fearful nation is now more critical than ever. So here at United Congregational Church, we have the opportunity to do what we do best. This is our opportunity to do what Jesus did: shelter the lost, comfort the broken, feed the hungry, befriend the lonely, bring peace among people, make music in the heart, and be open and affirming of all people.

Whether you are excited or devastated, please come to church this Sunday. It is where we can come together, respectful of our differences, as we proclaim our common belief in the presence of an eternal God who was, is, and always will be our watchful presence, guide and protector. It is where we practice our love of God and our love of one another.

See you in church! Love, Holly

“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans.” Ps 118.8

 

275 Richards Ave., Norwalk CT 06850 • 203-838-8858 • www.uccnorwalk.org 





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April, 28, 2016


Dear Fellow Disciples,

St. Paul’s letters to his disciples scattered throughout Greece and Asia usually begin in much the same way:  “Dearly beloved friends, I have missed you and long to return to you, as I’ve been hearing such good news about you.”

I could say the same thing.  I have missed you, and will return to you on Sunday completely healed.  Like Paul,  I extend to you an invitation.

You all have questions about your faith.  Many of you have doubted your faith, and some have questioned whether God even knows their name.  Many of you, and especially our children, question what life is all about, and why some people seem to die too soon. 

Discipleship calls us to question who we are and who we are in relation to a God we will never fully understand.    So, here’s my invitation to you and your friends and neighbors:

This Sunday, our service will be dedicated to hearing your questions – whatever they are – and I will try to answer them.  One of my clergy friends said to me, “Are you nuts? Aren’t you afraid they’ll stump you?”  My answer was, “well maybe I am just a little nuts; we’ll call it ‘Stump the Pastor’ Sunday.

But you know what?  You all have questions, as do I, that are as old as humankind.  Let’s begin to talk about our questions….let’s begin to confess our doubts…..let’s begin to challenge ourselves about what it really means to be faithful Christians.  Jesus’ disciples didn’t dare challenge him, until it was too late.  It’s never too late for us.  Start now to make a list of your questions to bring on Sunday, and

I’ll see you in church!

  Love, Holly

PS  Remind your children to be in church Sunday and May 8 to learn how they can participate in leading worship on Pentecost Sunday, May 15! 


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April, 28, 2016

Dear Fellow Disciples,

St. Paul’s letters to his disciples scattered throughout Greece and Asia usually begin in much the same way:  “Dearly beloved friends, I have missed you and long to return to you, as I’ve been hearing such good news about you.”

I could say the same thing.  I have missed you, and will return to you on Sunday completely healed.  Like Paul,  I extend to you an invitation.

You all have questions about your faith.  Many of you have doubted your faith, and some have questioned whether God even knows their name.  Many of you, and especially our children, question what life is all about, and why some people seem to die too soon. 

Discipleship calls us to question who we are and who we are in relation to a God we will never fully understand.    So, here’s my invitation to you and your friends and neighbors:

This Sunday, our service will be dedicated to hearing your questions – whatever they are – and I will try to answer them.  One of my clergy friends said to me, “Are you nuts? Aren’t you afraid they’ll stump you?”  My answer was, “well maybe I am just a little nuts; we’ll call it ‘Stump the Pastor’ Sunday.

But you know what?  You all have questions, as do I, that are as old as humankind.  Let’s begin to talk about our questions….let’s begin to confess our doubts…..let’s begin to challenge ourselves about what it really means to be faithful Christians.  Jesus’ disciples didn’t dare challenge him, until it was too late.  It’s never too late for us.  Start now to make a list of your questions to bring on Sunday, and

I’ll see you in church!

  Love, Holly

PS  Remind your children to be in church Sunday and May 8 to learn how they can participate in leading worship on Pentecost Sunday, May 15! 



March 19, 2016                                            

Dear Fellow Disciples,

My grandson, Will, is visiting us for the weekend. As always, he brings enough gear, enough books, and enough treasures to occupy him for several weeks. But this time, he brought something he had just won in a school raffle only yesterday afternoon: a drone!!   An “Eye in the Sky.”

We spent the morning trying to interpret the user manual written in every major world language, and yet undecipherable in those we knew.   It became clear that my iPhone was to be the central control board for this Eye in the Sky. But first, I had to keep adding more storage space to accommodate the heavy space requirement of the App I tried in vain to download. The situation devolved from there as my efforts to download the app to activate this great ‘Eye in the Sky’ were rebuffed; the iPhone never did cooperate, so I finally turned to the iPad, repeated all the same steps, and – at last – the download worked

Here’s where I must confess my shortcomings in this whole saga.   I really wanted Will to see if this drone could fly. BUT, I ran out of patience, and would have suggested we all go home for lunch, IF Will hadn’t said “Let’s try it one more time, okay?” That’s my boy! And so I agreed, and suggested we download a different app, one that might give us better results. If you want to get different results, you’d better try a different way, right? So that’s what we did.

And you know what? A miracle happened.

The drone came to life and rose! It rose to about 15’ and then landed upon Will’s command. The look on his face was worth all the frustration of the morning. We were all thrilled with excitement to witness the successful launch of an “Eye in the Sky.”

As we all know, though, tomorrow begins the Holy Week when the true Eye in the Sky faces far worse frustrations, a betrayal, and a brutal crucifixion before He too will rise.   Come share in this drama unfolding, beginning tomorrow morning.

See you in church,

Love, Holly

 

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March 11, 2016                                 

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

I begin each day by reading a couple of Daily Devotionals.   They center my prayer and reflection for the day to follow. This last week, one devotional in particular was so provocative that I wanted to share it with you. Written by the Rev. Molly Baskette, a UCC pastor and author, it just may speak to you too, giving you cause to reflect.

 

 "This command I gave them, 'Obey my voice, and I will be your God,and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you,so that it may be well with you.' Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward." - Jeremiah 7:23-24



 

“A lot of us claim to believe in God, but then act as if everything depended on us, on our efforts and wisdom, on our ability to keep all the little planets of our concerns in perfect orbit around the great blasting sun of our inner control freak. Meanwhile, we are white-knuckling it all the way. Nadia Bolz Weber calls this "functional atheism.’   Some verbal hallmarks that you are a functional atheist: "I can handle this all by myself." "Don't worry about me." "Yup, just fine." 

One of the great sicknesses of the 21st century is our solitariness, our isolation from each other and from God. We are allergic to asking for help and have a pathological fear of being thought "needy." Some of us will walk in our own counsel right off a cliff rather than show our vulnerability to another human being, or turn to God in prayer. 

Here's a news flash: You're just as God made you, and that includes being needy. Control freaks, perfectionists and fiercely independent types are not of much use to the God who made us to fit together, interlocking parts that hold the whole Creation in place.”

 

This, my friends, is why we have church: so that we can gather together and fit together, like interlocking parts God long ago created a plan for.   It is where we can submit to the full power of a loving and protecting God. It is where we can confess our own vulnerabilities and – yes – our neediness for God’s unwavering love and protection.   That’s a tough challenge for the “control freaks, perfectionists and fiercely independents” among us. Fortunately for them and for all of us, God is patient, and God is always there when you’re ready to talk.

 

 See you in church!      

 

Love, Holly


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March 5, 2016                                              

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Ever since I was a child, I have always thought about this time of year  - late February into late March – as a “nothing” season: it is not winter and it is surely not spring,  Skiers will tell you they are finished for the season, and golfers count the days when their local course will reopen. 

 

And yet, I see 10 signs that spring is almost here:

 

10:      Yesterday’s snow amounted to nothing.

9:         Birds are building nests.

8:         Green shoots are visible in garden beds.

7:         People are washing their cars.

6:         Kids and even adults are running in shorts now.

5:         Wild turkeys are out grazing again, and even stopped traffic on W. Norwalk Rd. 

            the other day.   

4:         Spring sports are back in the news.

3:         High School seniors are hearing from the colleges they’ve applied to.

2:         The sun and even the air feel warmer, and finally

1:         Daylight savings time begins next Sunday, March 13!

 

Yup, spring is in the air, and Easter is in three weeks!  The Easter Chorale is busy rehearsing for their wonderful contribution to the Easter service – remember, rehearsal tomorrow at 9:45.  All are welcome to sing!

 

And as for a “nothing season,” even I don’t believe that anymore.  There’s no such thing.  Every time has its season, and there is a season for every matter under heaven.    We are always in the process of becoming: becoming more than we were yesterday.  Church is a good place to find out who you can become, and whose you always are.

 

See you in church!

 

            Love, Holly

 

 
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February 25, 2016                                        

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

The other night, I had the pleasure of attending an evening at Yale that was sponsored by a new course open to the undergraduate students, and co-taught by the Divinity School. The year-long program is called “Life Worth Living,” and through readings by theologians, philosophers and humanists, it engages students in robust conversations about life’s most important questions across different disciplines: What makes me “happy?” What is success? What is expected of me? And who is it that has expectations of me that really matters?

 

These are weighty questions, indeed. What pleased me was that the audience at Battell Chapel was sold out, and the conversation was live-streamed to a huge audience elsewhere.   These questions DO matter, and the answers – however elusive they may be – affect all of us.   On Sunday, I’ll share some of the answers I picked up from the dialogue shared by a theologian and David Brooks, the NYT columnist, author, and political pundit on PBS!

 

These are the same questions our own Visioning Task is grappling with in the first two meetings we’ve had: Who ARE we as ‘church?’ Why are we here? What is important to us? What makes us “happy?” What is success for us? What is expected of us? And who measures us? Last Wednesday, the group got as far as acknowledging that we are a congregation that enjoys being together in fun and in worship. That’s a start in our own pursuit of what it takes to make “life worth living,” even for a church. Please join us…… the next meeting is next Wednesday, March 2 at 7:00 pm; we’ll enjoy a pot luck supper together, too!

 

Remember, singers, to come to church at 9:45 to begin rehearsing Easter music with David Thomas. Special music will add to the joy of our Easter Sunday celebration! Come, be part of it.

 

See you in church!

 

                                            Love, Holly

 

 PS Don’t forget Miss Sarah in Concert! Friday night, 7:00 until……



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February 12, 2016                               

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Did you notice?  Love is in the air!  Yes, even though it’s so cold outside that we bundle up and make unrecognizable strangers of ourselves to keep warm,  love is in the air!

 

On Sunday, Valentine’s Day, Chris Coogan will be back with us, bringing his effervescent joy and jazz.  He will even get us up to dance in the aisles to the sound of his love songs.  Don’t believe me?  Bring a friend or two and see for yourself!!  But don’t miss Valentine’s Day at United Congregational!

 

Because this Sunday also begins the Lenten season, you’ll have the opportunity to watch the first installment of the award-winning “Jesus of Nazareth,” the 1977 movie directed by Franco Zeffirelli.  Its all-star cast features Robert Powell, Anne Bancroft, Claudia Cardinale, James Mason, Ernest Borgnine, Sir Laurence Olivier, Christopher Plummer as the wicked King Herod Antipas, Rod Steiger, and many more.

 

Beginning this Sunday and going through March 13, we’ll watch the movie for about 1 1/4 hours followed by a discussion on what we’ve seen, what seems to be faithful to scripture, and what we learn about Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Lots is happening, and love is in the air.

 

See you in church!

 

                   Love, Holly

 

 
 
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Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Last Sunday, Council members and others of the congregation began an important process whose outcome will affect all of us. 

 

As it is said in Proverbs 29.18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  And so on Sunday, we began the process of visioning the church’s future…a process that will last as long as it needs to for us, as church, to be able to say to each other and to anyone in the larger community,

 

  • Who we are
  • What we stand for
  • How we want to matter in this community
  • What and where we want to be in five years

 

We made the mistake two years ago of creating a Vitality Team without first creating a vision, and without having the confidence of a self-awareness with which we could create a vision. 

 

So now is the time for us to create a vision for our church, and after that a Mission Statement that will help us achieve the vision.  It will take place over many months, I expect.  ALL members of the congregation are welcome to be part of this initiative.

 

Our next meeting is Wednesday, February 17 at 7:00, in the church’s lower level.  We’ll begin with a simple supper (Roy’s chili, homemade soup, and bread), and then pick up where we left off.

 

A summary of our observations follows on the next page.

 

This is an important process that will affect us all.  Please feel welcomed to be part of it.

 

                                      Love, Holly

 

 

Summary of Meeting #1 – Sunday, February 7

 

Participants volunteered their impressions of this church, as if a first-time visitor.  It was hard for some to resist the problem-solving!

 

Shared Impressions:

  • Cross
  • Few Cars
  • Unusual Structure
  • Doors-Open? Closed? Hard to find-Need arrow near path, need to be open, sometimes are hard to open.  Paint a different color…purple?
  • Welcoming inside-there is usually someone to welcome people once inside.
  • Absence of formal welcoming area
  • Mudroom/Foyer-Ugly need to make more inviting. 
  • Things inside are orderly indicating a traditional church, gives impression of smaller and older congregation.
  • Stark-white walls
  • Uncertainty
  • Dark not well lit
  • Playground outside indicates presence of children
  • Landscaping is austere
  • Stove hood vent ugly
  • Signage, not really visible, typeface to fine
  • Values that the impressions indicate: Plain, Austere, simple indicative of traditional congregational worship/faith but more inclusive of other Christian faiths.

Individual impressions:

  • Old Hymnals, pews
  • Absence of: indication of mission, what is our outreach? Activities
  • Need a highly visible welcoming Banner
  • Not Current-Not looking to the future
  • Self/Inwardly focused not public/other oriented.

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January 6, 2016       
                                    

Dear Fellow Disciples,

Today is the Feast of Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day and Twelfth Night (the 12th day following Christmas). Based on the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12, the day is a Christian celebration of the revelation of the birth of Jesus to the wider world.  This revelation is embodied in the story of the three wise men visiting a newborn Jesus with gifts,

In this story, the Magi from the East follow a star to Jerusalem, where they ask the King Herod, what he knows about a newly born "King of the Jews." This sounds like a challenge to Herod, who gathers his priests to learn where and who is this king. They relay a prophecy that a Messiah will be born in Bethlehem, and so Herod sends the Magi there, saying: "Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

The wise men eventually find Mary and her son, Jesus, to whom they bow and worship. They give Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and then return home, for a dream told them to bypass Herod.

While Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians traditionally focus on the story of the Magi, Eastern Christians, like the Greek Orthodox, celebrate the baptism of Jesus on Epiphany and consider the day to be more important than Christmas. This coming Sunday, OUR church will celebrate the baptism of Jesus through very special music and an invitation to renew your own baptismal vows in the hope that maybe, just maybe, you too will be inspired to follow the star and be open to the revelation of one who loves you – Jesus Christ.

Bring a friend this Sunday to what will be a memorable service.

 See you in church.

 Love, Holly

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December 31,2015  
                                      
Dear Fellow Disciples,

A propitious moment: the end of one year and the window on a new year. What do you see?

In looking back on the year that has been, what I see are some fun and ambitious activities, like the

• Big Bazaar of last June, when we had tents and vendors, a hot dog truck and a flea market, balloons and prizes and many visitors who come to see how we have fun;

• start of an organic community garden so that, next spring, we can invite neighbors to come grow a garden with us and help us grow a church in the process

• rebirth of a [live] music program, thanks to Becki Christopherson and the sounds of her exquisite violin, David Thomas and his coaching of our choral voices, Rick Lewis and his guitar, and more surprises coming up in 2016!

Hurray for 2015! Just these few activities alone demonstrate that we can work together, play together, make decisions together, and make dreams and visions come to life.

What's ahead for us? What are your dreams for 2016?

I have a couple, but I want to hear what you want for our church for 2016. When you look back, and realize how far we've come, I hope you feel as encouraged as I do that when you want something badly enough, you CAN make it happen.

Working and worshipping and having fun together are a recipe for making anything happen. I am excited about the promise of 2016, and hope you are too. May the year bring you good health, sustaining faith, and a hope in what can be for us all.

See you in church,

Love, Holly

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December 24, 2015                                     

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been asked several times, “Are YOU ready for Christmas?”

 

I usually responded with “What do you mean?” Their reply would have to do with the details of shopping, preparing for family visits, sending cards, and so forth. Soon, I began asking them if THEY were ready for Christmas.   They’d go into a detailed list of all the errands they had still to complete: the shopping, preparing for family visits, preparing for travel to visit family, sending cards, making cookies, and just a few last presents.

 

I confess that I too can get caught up in those details of preparing for Christmas. But it came to me today that none of that has anything to do with being ready – really ready - for Christmas. It came to me over at the Open Door Shelter where I was scheduled to provide a Christmas Eve service for the residents and guests.

 

Nothing worked out as I’d anticipated. I had expected at least a dozen folk for the service, and maybe a chance to mix and mingle with many others. Instead, I had two teen-aged women who had been huddling together alone in the private family quarters. When they were invited to attend the service, they immediately came out and sat in rapt attention as I told the Nativity Story using our manger as a prop. As the story went on, their eyes got bigger and bigger; and as I got to the part about the homeless Baby Jesus because there was no room in the Inn, their eyes watered….in their miraculous connection to the Christ child. In that moment, I too became ready for Christmas.

 

Are YOU ready for Christmas? Here’s my advice: drop everything! What isn’t done, doesn’t need to be done…..not now, anyway. It is time to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child, whom we too can connect with and make room for in our hearts.

 

 See you in church…..tonight, at 5:30 or 10:30!

 

 With love,

 

            Holly



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December 5, 2015                                       

Dear Fellow Disciples,

I awoke this morning to find my cat, Sam, sitting on top of me.   Even in my dimly-awake state, I could see that his eyes were enormous, as if looking into the future; his ears were straight up and out, as if he were hearing some super-feline sounds; his paws were placed side-by-side in an orderly fashion, but a position which would give him the running start of a cheetah and yet poised to put his paws around anything that moved.   Sam was definitely wide awake, but in his patient way, he was giving me a chance to awaken, anticipating that I would fill his bowls with food and water.

As I lay there, observing this patient and yet expectant creature on top of me, it occurred to me that my cat was reminding me of what Advent is:   watchful, expectant and active waiting. 

Advent is NOT just waiting for Christmas, making ourselves crazy with shopping, planning, decorating, making lists, replacing them with new lists, and trying to please everyone.

To the contrary, Advent is a time of expectant, active waiting.   Our eyes and ears need to be open to all that is happening and will happen, We need to be poised to embrace those holy moments over the next three weeks leading up to December 25 when we celebrate the birth of a little baby who was born to save us with Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Our bodies need to be poised to embrace moments and acts of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love that will fill our bowl and soul for a lifetime.

Therefore, I thank Sam for reminding me about the spirit of Advent.   Just as he was so well-nourished this morning, I pray that all of us may feel well nurtured and nourished as well this Advent season.

 See you in church.

Holly

 
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November 25, 2015

Dear Fellow Disciples,

In the midst of this worldwide climate of fear and uncertainty that we've witnessed since the Paris massacre by ISIL, two events have occurred just in the last two days that give me hope.

The first was Monday evening, when the Norwalk Interfaith Clergy alliance hosted an interfaith Thanksgiving service at our sister church, First Congregational-on-the-Green. (It was good to see Bavet and Roy Heget there!) The theme of the service was "Unity in Diversity;" and diverse we were: there were large groups from Temple Beth El, from Al-Madany, and from Congregational, "other" and "none" affiliations. Out of that diversity, a line of worshippers filed down the aisle to the altar to light a candle to illuminate the darkness any where in the world where there is homelessness, hunger, violence, poverty, danger and oppression, and fear. Their faces showed compassion, reflection and, for several, the tears of empathy. Fellowship after the service was warm and engaging; individuals from all walks of life and faith traditions actually talked with each other....and enjoyed it! These conversations were the seeds of mutual understanding and respect. How beautiful to be a part of it.

The second was just last night, when close to 1,000 members and friends of our church, of St Matthews, Temple Shalom and the United Church of Rowayton gathered together to pray and sing for peace in our world. The sounds of music lifted up by the chorus of each church – including ours – were breathtaking as they filled the sanctuary with prayers of thanksgiving and prayers for peace. These were the perfect sounds and sentiments for this time in our lives. They reminded me, at least, that despite our differences we are united and unified in so many ways with people all over the world in our universal search for meaning and relationship.

I am so proud of our Thanksgiving Chorus. We sang quite well under the direction of David Thomas, our patient and thorough teacher. David wrote me, "Vocally, their sound had a gentle reality to it and felt, to me at least, that it came from their own heart. They have worked hard to shape their sound, and were successful in staying focused and incorporating the things on which we had worked. They are an interesting group of people --open and willing to consider change for the sake of a common goal. They should all have a sense that what they offered last night was quite lovely and genuine worship."

His words, and the impact of these two services give me hope that, in God, and with God's grace, all things are possible. I have hope that if enough people want peace, they will find ways [through their faith] to work for it. I also have hope that the more we come together in small groups to talk and listen to each other, the greater our mutual understanding and respect will be. As Mahatma Ghandi taught us, "Be the change you want to see."

Tomorrow is the official day of giving thanks. We really should give thanks every day of the year for all our blessings. I am grateful for you! May tomorrow be a day of blessing for you.

I won't be in church on Sunday, but promise you are in for a wonderful service led by David Van Buskirk, with Paul Vossbrinck preaching. Enjoy!

See you in church!

Love, Holly

 
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Dear Fellow Disciples,

"Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore." (Ps 133.1-3)

It is good news that Al-Madany's 30-year effort to find a permanent home is now ended.  It is especially good news that their finding a new home in Norwalk was made possible by building on a relationship they already had with Christ Episcopal Church in Norwalk.  From 2009 to 2013, the community room of Christ Episcopal Church served as a gathering place for Al Madany's Friday prayers and education classes, until Christ Episcopal was de-consecrated due to dwindling numbers.

Commenting on the sale, the Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut said: "Unfortunately in the United States today, Muslims are too often misunderstood and marginalized. Cooperating with Al Madany in this project has given us an opportunity to be in relationship with our Muslim neighbors in new ways. I thank God for the gifts of friendship and solidarity that have emerged."

Azzeim Mahmoud, the President of Al Madany, notified me early this week of the finalization of the sale.  He also specifically expressed his thanks to our church for supporting them in offering parking space if needed, had they succeeded in building at 127 Fillow St.

As he also told the media, "Our mosque will be a place for connecting with God in an environment of learning and sanctity. It will be a place for all people to cultivate hassanat (good deeds) for the benefit of the entire Norwalk community. Our mission is to serve and engage local Muslims by promoting the values and teaching of Islam in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad), and to advocate for interfaith harmony in a multicultural environment."

Indeed it is good when brothers [and sisters] dwell in unity!  Al-Madany will now have a home, and they will welcome all of us to it.  What a wonderful way to break down the walls of misunderstanding which have kept us apart for far too long.

We are also reminded that each of us in Norwalk's interfaith community is no stronger than the weakest among us.  Similarly, when each of our religious institutions has the ability to live into its respective calling freely and unconditionally, then each of us is strengthened.   It is time we pull down the walls that divide us; once we can see each other, then we can understand that there is more that unites us than divides us.

See you in church!  It's jazz worship with Sarah Chesler and Tony Bocchetta.

Love, Holly

 
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November 5, 2015

Dear Fellow Disciples,

Today was an amazing day. From a posse of 4-year-olds, I heard the good news, the absolute gospel truth as only 4-year-olds can tell it!

It began in the playground, where I witnessed the expression of neighborly love. Children were making their own piles of leaves.   As quickly as the leaves were falling from the trees, the kids were scooping them up into piles that were quickly blown away by the wind.   Occasionally, a child might whine, “Hey, [to the wind], STOP that!” But they also helped each other re-build their piles …..and to SHARE leaves, to make sure there were enough to go around.   If any of you have been raking lately, you might be muttering to yourself about the need to “share leaves!”   But imagine the world through the eyes of a 4-year-old, one who has no responsibility for raking them up, and only the privilege in watching them float to earth in a perfectly choreographed descent!   Imagine what a pile of leaves looks like, not from YOUR adult vantage point, but from the perspective of one 3’ tall!   They’ve learned a lot already about neighborly love and sharing.

But that’s not all. It was when they arrived inside, all rosy-cheeked and sweating from their outdoor play, that I heard more good news. Prompted by a teacher’s request that they wash their hands before lunch, they broke out into proclamations about hand-washing and germs: “My germs are squiggly!,” said one. “Mine are green,” said another. Another giggled, “My germs have happy faces!” and another echoed “Mine are jumpy and they bump into each other!” And yet another explained, “Mine were on an ant on my finger and I flushed them down the toilet!” Within minutes, the truth of germs had gone viral, and the children were ecstatic and united in their combined knowledge.

Can you top that? I guess the disciples did, over 2000 years ago. Finally, they got it about hope, second chances, and the power of life over death, and love over evil. Their good news went viral, and it continues to excite and unite the world in this knowledge.

That really is great news…..and our kids already get it!

 See you in church!

 Love, Holly


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October 31, 2015

Dear Fellow Disciples,

Instead of going to the gym yesterday, I took a long, long walk.  My journey took me along back roads where there was little traffic, and along the coastline of Rowayton.  During my walk I enjoyed the warmth of the sun and the smell of the salty air.  I encountered several friends along the way, and it was good to stop and chat with them before continuing my walk.

I noticed a couple of sailboats out on the Sound, and I felt envious of their passengers being out on the water on such an exquisite day that seemed more like a summer day in July than at the end of October.

But I also noticed something else.  Underneath each oak tree I passed, there were mounds and mounds of acorn shells chomped up and discarded by armies of industrious squirrels.  Much as I have held onto these warm summer-like days, those acorns reminded me that these wise little animals were preparing themselves for winter, and I was not!  In my mind, I was riding the waves in a sailboat, and not preparing myself for the next season of our lives.

How about you.....are you ready for what comes next?

As a reminder, TURN YOUR CLOCKS BACK TOMORROW!

But don't go back to sleep!  Come to church at 9:30 am (formerly 10:30) for the first rehearsal of the Thanksgiving Festival Chorus with David Thomas.  We have a couple of songs to try out.  Singing together will warm our voices and hearts, even if the outside air does not!

Tomorrow is also All Saints Day, when we remember our own Saints who have departed this last year.  The children will be invited to participate in this important observance.

See you in church!

Love, Holly

 

 

 

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October 17, 2015

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Tomorrow is a busy day, AND it begins at 9:30!

 

We're beginning with an informal discussion about the day's lectionary – Mark 10:35-45. We'll take time to read it through several times, and then have an open discussion about what the passage suggests to us.

 

As anyone in our Bible Study will tell you, there is no one right way to understand the Bible. It hits us differently each time we pick it up and read a verse or two, and it all depends on what we bring to it from our own experience and our mood of the moment.

 

I expect (hope?) the message I've prepared for tomorrow will be greatly enhanced by our experience around the table together.

 

A reminder that tomorrow afternoon at 2:00, we will celebrate the life of Dot Yoder. Her family will be here, and are looking forward to "coming home." There will be opportunity to talk with them at the reception immediately following the service.

 

Meanwhile, enjoy this beautiful day.

 

See you in church!

 

Love, Holly


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October 2, 2015

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Last Sunday's vote was important for this church.

 

As I said in my remarks to you, the vote was not a referendum on me, but was rather a referendum on you - the congregation – and what you want your church to be. If what you want is a place to come Sunday morning, then all you need is a part-time preacher.

 

If, on the other hand, you want this church to be a "destination – a refuge – open day and night; if you want to find education and nurturing here; if you want a place for your children to be educated and nurtured in their spiritual growth; if you want to be able to share this with a growing community of the spiritually curious, and IF you want a place where you can all come together for fun and entertainment, then you need a full-time pastor to make it happen."

 

Your near unanimous vote to retain a full-time pastor was a clear expression of your desire to be a full-service church for this generation and the next. What we need to have is more discussion on how we can make this happen. This can be fun....AND the rewards can be priceless.

 

We're beginning the conversation on Sunday.

 

See you in church!

 

Love, Holly


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 September 25, 2015

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

The visit of Pope Francis’ visit to North America this week has captivated me.  Even before he left the Vatican to begin his journey, I had developed perhaps unrealistic expectations of what the fruits of this visit might be. 

 

  • Perhaps he would soften the heart and the policies of President Raoul Castro to liberate the political detainees and to open the borders to freer travel into and out of Cuba.

  • Perhaps he would soften the hearts of our own elected officials to see politics as an obligation for governing a nation for the benefit of ALL its people, to treat each other with civility and respect, and to govern in relation to a changing world.

  • Perhaps  he would remind the faithful - and especially the clergy - of ALL denominations across this great nation about what it should mean to be church: simply put, it is to do as Jesus did and would have us do.

 

 

 

It is too soon to tell what the impact of his trip will be.   But I saw some signs that give me hope.  Without scolding or lecturing, the Pope’s message is simple and yet profound:

 

 

 

  1. We are all but creatures who share the planet Earth, and we need to do better at sharing it and taking care of it.

  2. In his remarks to Congress, he said, “Politics is…an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good.”

  3. He rejected the pomp and ceremony due to a Head of State in favor of moving into the crowds of people to pat heads, kiss children, shake hands and connect with them as a sign of truly seeing them and caring about them. And he was most in his element when moving among the ordinary people, the homeless and the voiceless.

 

 

 

I am inspired anew by this man.  He makes me want to be a better Christian and a more pro-active disciple of Christ.   How about you?

 

 

 

            See you in church!

 

 

 

                                                            Love, Holly


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September 18, 2015

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Several years ago, in answering the question, “Why do you go to church?” a Gallup poll revealed these responses from church-going Americans across the country:

For spiritual growth and guidance                                           23%

Keeps me grounded and inspired                                             20%

It’s my faith                                                                           15%

To worship God                                                                      15%

The fellowship of other members/the community                    13%

Believe in God/Believe in religion                                           12%

Brought up that way/A family value/Tradition                         12%

 

Why do you come to church?   I mean, really, why do you come to church?

 

Some of you (more than 15%) have already told me that you come for the fellowship of our church. Some of you have told me that church is a source of spiritual growth, grounding and inspiration for you. And yes, there are a few of you who come because it’s what you’ve always done, even when your church was located in South Norwalk.

 

I would hope that for whatever reason you come to church, you feel filled and content, as after a fine meal. We have the capability of being a full-service church: that is, we can be a resource for spiritual growth and guidance, a safe harbor for grounding and inspiration, an affirmation of faith, a joyous forum for worship, a welcoming and hospitable congregation, the living evidence of an ever-present God, and a place that honors tradition, lives in the present, and envisions the future.

 

Yes, we have the capability, and it takes YOU to make it a reality.

 

This Sunday is HOMECOMING.   Whether you’ve been away or not, we will welcome you home, and remind you of what you are coming home to.

 

 See you in church!

 

  Love, Holly


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September 11, 2015

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Did you notice how different yesterday morning sounded when you woke up to the gentle patter of raindrops on your window? At first, I didn’t recognize the sound, and thought I might be dreaming. But it was the darkness that gave it away: an unusual greyness and heaviness that covered yesterday with a new look and a new feel. It was different, all right. A different sensation to spend the day dodging drops of rain, not rays of sun.

 

Today was another new day. The leaves on the trees looked perkier, and I do believe the grass even looked greener. Even the bushes that two days ago were drooped to the ground now stood tall, raising their blossoms upward.   Even the air was cooler and crisper than it’s been in months; I found it energizing and invigorating. Today was also reminiscent of that other day fourteen years ago, when we pondered the paradoxical occurrence of acts of evil and the perfection of a beautiful, clear September morning.

 

All by way of saying that all living things need water to survive. And we humans especially need time, and patience, and faith to revive that which has been broken in us.   Jesus said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." (John 4.14)

 

And so, on this September 11th, let us rejoice in the miraculous rain that has revived our parched spirits, and that – together, acting as a community of faith - we can overcome the power of evil with the power of loving community.

 

  See you in church!

 

 Love, Holly


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September 4, 2015

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Labor Day is about as late as it can be this year!   Always a harbinger of Fall and the start of new beginnings, it also marks the imagined end of Summer. I find that hard to imagine as the days still soar into the 90’s and the LI Sound is as nice as it will ever be for swimming. But maybe we need that break to push ourselves into transitioning from one season to another.   I can still hear my Grandmother proclaiming in that definitive voice of hers that, “One must never wear white after Labor Day!” Really? (Try it! See what happens!)

 

Labor Day is also meant to be a day of rest. An annual celebration of workers and their achievements, the holiday originated on May 11, 1894, when employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.  On June 26, the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, bringing the nationwide railroad traffic to a halt. To break the strike, the federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, unleashing a wave of riots that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers. In the wake of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with American workers, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September a legal paid holiday to give workers a day of rest.

 

Consider how we celebrate Labor Day today: BBQ’s, picnics, a last swim at the beach, shopping the retail sales, parades, fireworks and more. If you are currently working, this day will mean a paid rest from your labors; you have earned it. If you are no longer working by choice, this day may have a new meaning for you as you reflect on your career and the importance of rest days. If you are not working and you wish you were, may this day provide the reassurance that with God’s help, and the support of your network of friends and colleagues, you too will find your way towards a purposeful position.  In the meantime, let us all be grateful for the many people who don’t get a vacation day: those in uniform fighting to keep our nation, our towns and communities safe; those who are fighting fires out West - including our own Zachary Lyon; those in health care who never stop saving lives and serving others; and many more.

 

What will you do this Labor Day weekend? Wear white if you want, and I’ll

 

See you in church!

 

 Love, Holly



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August 27, 2015

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

As I write this, I am flying to San Francisco to do a wedding.  (Not to worry: I’ll be back in the pulpit Sunday morning!)  As I fly westward, I am reminded of one of my favorite movies,Groundhog Day.  Starring Bill Murray as a frustrated, cynical and self-absorbed TV weatherman who is sent to Punxatawney PA to report on the annual Groundhog Day festivities, the movie is a hilarious, if sobering, reminder of the passage of each moment of our life, and how infrequently we reflect on how well – and how poorly – we have lived those moments.

 

Well today is my chance.  When I arrive in CA, I ‘ll have the opportunity to re-live the four hours I’ve already experienced.  It will be 12 noon when I arrive, and at home, it’s already 3 pm.   I could have a second lunch, for example.  Or I could call my children to tell them I love them.  Or I could write to a dear friend I’ve not seen for a long time, and apologize for not being a better friend.   You see where I’m going with this? 

 

For certain I will not do the former; but I am grateful to be reminded of the latter two…, which are all about relationships with loved ones.  Just like Bill Murray, I can let myself get caught up with the tasks of life and church management, and can lose sight of the only thing that matters.  That, my friends, is relationship: relationship first with God and Jesus, and second, relationship with our family, friends and neighbors. 

 

If I could relive these four hours, here’s what I’d do:  I’ll pray more; I’ll pray thankfully every time I remember my many blessings, and I’ll pray imploringly every time I begin to do something because I can do everything better with the Lord at my side.   Here’s what else I’d do:  I’d tell those I love that I love them, even though they know it. 

 

If you could live over a moment of your life, what would you do?

 

           See you in church!

 

Love, Holly

 

PS I love you!

 

 

 

 


 

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Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

The other day, we got a phone call from an old friend we've not seen for many years. A resident of Washington State, he's not that easy to see. He called spur of the moment to explain that he had been up at Yale doing some research, and was heading back to NYC by train to catch a plane, and by any chance were we available for a spur-of-the-moment reunion. As luck would have it, we were able to juggle a few things and meet him in Stamford for a couple of hours. Those moments of spontaneous, serendipitous responsive often bring wonderful surprises into our lives....and without the rigors of planning!

 

That said, there are also times when we need to plan ahead so we'll have a road map to follow. I think of another friend who decided it was a good day to prune his trees. In his rush to get started, he forgot to put on sturdy shoes and assemble all the gear he'd need including a ladder. Because of his lack of preparation, he ended up falling off a stone wall and breaking three ribs.

 

Managing a church is just like managing a home, a career, an education and a project of any kind: we need to have a planning process that allows us to 1) envision the future we want and the many alternatives that could happen, 2) consider all the options for responding to these alternatives, and 3) prepare ourselves – with the mind set and the gear we need – to move forward intentionally and deliberately. Yes, we can always be open to the spur-of-the-moment change in plan that improves our vision of the future and improves our chances of achieving it. But we shouldn't begin without a strategic planning process.

 

To that end, I am forming a Strategic Planning Group and invite any interested members and friends of the congregation to join with me in this process. We'll meet twice a month at a mutually convenient time beginning in mid-September and lasting two months, with an option to renew if the work is not finished. The requirements are simple: an open mind, an open heart, the ability to look ahead and imagine, at the same time you have an objective perception of the reality in front of you. Interested? Then I want YOU!!

 

Speak to me in church on Sunday, or send me an email....spur-of-the-moment ...right after you finish reading this!

 

See you in church!

 

Love, Holly


 

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August 14, 2015


Dear Fellow Disciples,

One of the Nursery School teachers was looking at my handwriting on the central calendar the other day, and she said to me with great excitement, "I see that next Sunday you are having a 'Ladies Trip!' How exciting....where are you going?"

I looked at her with some confusion, and then double-checked the calendar to see what she was referring to. It all became clear; what I'd written on the calendar for this Sunday was "Ladies Trio," and the "o" looked a little droopy like a "P!" No wonder she had mistaken what promises to be a musical treat for what could have been her dream trip come true......and all because of a droopy "O."

I think we all do that sometimes. We have a dream, a wish, a vision of "what could be" and we impose it on "what is." One result can be huge disappointment that the reality doesn't meet the expectation. Another result can be delight that the reality exceeds the expectation. Yet another result is that some will continue to live in the world of expectations of "what should be" or "what could be," and never come to g rips with the reality around them.

Church is like that too. For real, this Sunday you will hear a Ladies trio; they are my friends and fellow-singers from the Greenwich Choral Society, Cathy Cavender, Mary Demko and Priscilla Hurley who sang for us last year and had such a good time they wanted to return this August. You will enjoy them! They ARE a trip.

Also for real, church – this church – is a place that is open and affirming of all people, whoever and wherever they are on their faith journey. We are a community seeking spiritual nurturing through the Word, music, service and fellowship. We welcome all ages! That's for real! Come and be part of it.

See you in church

Love, Holly

 

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August 7, 2015

Dear Fellow Disciples,

According to the Book of Genesis, even God needed to take a break after completion the Creation.

This last month has convinced me how important it is that we humble mortals take a break every now and then. It is good to step back from our own creations large and small; it is healing and restorative to stop "doing" and to practice "being." And it is energizing and stimulating to look at new sights, hear new sounds, meet new people, and – most of all – to embrace silence and solitude.

My time away was all those things for me, and I pray that each of you will take the opportunity to break away from what you have been doing, and try to just "be."

Perhaps you will hear the unique sounds of August as the tree frogs and cicadas pronounce the waning days of summer. Perhaps you will notice how the air is changing and the shafts of sunlight are shifting as the globe tilts away from the sun ever so gradually, making our days shorter. Perhaps you will notice how the mornings begin a few degrees cooler each day. And perhaps you too will feel a new energy as we prepare for the start of a new year in church and in the nursery school.

Beginnings are exciting, but we need to be rested and ready to go! Are you??

This Sunday we'll celebrate a baptism and a new member of our congregation; we'll also continue the August series with Exodus, the second Book of the Bible.....and the beginning of the universal journey we're all taking.

See you in church!

Love, Holly

 

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July 2, 2015

 

 Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

 Derek O’Brien and I had the pleasure of serving the CT conference as delegates to the 30th General Synod in Cleveland. We arrived home yesterday exhilarated, quite weary, and full of impressions, ideas, new friends and many stories to share. This Sunday, Derek will share one or two of his highlights with you, and in September, we will both present a more comprehensive report to you and to Fairfield West about what happened in Cleveland, and what it means to us as a local church and as a national presence.

 

 Over the course of six days, we were served 30,000 cookies in hundreds of boxes that were regularly refilled to sustain us. I personally sampled an unconscionable number of at least six different kinds. There were the familiar kinds, like oatmeal, oatmeal and raisin, oatmeal and cranberry, chocolate chip, sugar cookies and a lemony sugar cookie. It was natural to reach for those first, because I could already imagine what they’d taste like, and I knew I would like them.

 

 But there was also an unfamiliar cookie, a local specialty called the buckeye cookie. It looks a little weird, and I didn’t readily reach for it. But when I tasted it, it was, well it was fantastic! It’s an intense mixture of chocolate and peanut butter…..and it is indescribably delicious.

 

 Imagine this: we and our brothers and sisters are all cookies on a platter. Some look familiar, others look different. Some fall within our comfort zone and are easy to reach out to; others, are unfamiliar, prompting us to feel apprehensive and even resistant.

 

Whether you’re in Cleveland under the big tent with over 3,000 delegates and visitors, or in any local church, you are one of many cookies on a platter. And you have choices: will you reach out to the familiar, or will you dare to lean towards the unknown, willing to be surprised?

 

 In Cleveland, many new voices cried aloud to be heard and to be understood and appreciated, just like those buckeye cookies. These were voices of young adults, of American Indians, of LGBT persons, and of persons of color. Just as I was able to develop a serious relationship with buckeyes, I came to hear and appreciate the many other less-familiar voices that needed to be heard and valued.

 

 This prophetic tale is timely for us as church. May we always be open to the unfamiliar, the unknown, and especially the strange-looking cookies among us, and the broken ones. Lord knows, Jesus was……and he loved them, every one of them.

 

 As I write this, I am at 30,000’ en route to Peru, where I’ll be visiting many religious sites, including Machu Picchu.   I’ll bring back many stories to tell.

 

 May the Lord be with you, and I will…..

 

 see you in August.

 

  Love, Holly


 

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June 27, 2015

 

 

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

 

 

 

 

                                   

 

We’re here! Derek and I arrived in Cleveland Friday morning for our first day at General Synod, whose theme is “Finding God in Unexpected Places.”

 

 

 

And we are…….finding God in unexpected places:

 

  • Finding warm welcome from other CT delegates on our plane and other planes arriving at Cleveland’s airport at the same time;
  • In the extraordinary kindnesses of people wanting to help us find our way from the airport, to the right rapid transit train, to the right exit, and walking along city streets to our hotel;
  • In Derek’s first plane ride, that flew us over Manhattan and other familiar landmarks;
  • In the first of 50,000 cookies placed strategically around the convention center….to stimulate taste buds and brain cells;
  • In the winds of change blowing through UCC, as we prepare to elect a new President/General Manager, and vote to revise the national organization to be more effective and efficient, and much more cost effective;
  • The diversity of our national church which is united by faith and a determination that all people have a right to a just, moral and loving life;
  • And the Supreme Court decision affirming the right to marriage equality.

 

 

 

And that was only day 1.

 

 

 

We will be with you in spirit tomorrow morning as you gather together to sing praises to the Lord.   And while you’re at it, look for God in some unexpected places…….you may be surprised!

 

 

 

            See you in church!

 

 

 

                                                            Love, Holly



 

 

 

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June 17, 2015

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Last Sunday witnessed many hands helping to make our First Annual Bazaar a success! We made money, we made friends, and we made a difference! Even the church service was unusual and, I'm told, it made a difference on those who attended, including the vendors!

 

I now wonder what this coming Sunday will witness. It is the occasion of our annual meeting to nominate and elect leaders to serve the several ministries that govern this church. Perhaps you are one of those who thinks, "That's somebody else's job!" or, "I've never done that before, no one would elect me!" or "All the jobs are already taken; no one needs me," or "I've been on this Board all my life, I wouldn't know how to do anything else!" Come on, 'fess up: you are all thinking at least one of these thoughts, as evidenced by the few names volunteered to stand up and be counted!

 

C.S. Lewis once said, "It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."

 

Said another way, we all need change. We all need to be hatched out of our comfort zones, so that we can learn how to fly to new heights and share our gifts in new places. Even task forces (boards, committees, etc) need new blood to be effective; the same people sitting on the same task force do things the same way, think the same ideas, and prevent that task force from innovation and effectiveness. So says Steven Covey and other management gurus.

 

Here's where we need leadership:

 

Finance: Raising, investing, saving, spending and/or counting money;

 

Christian Nurture: Making church school a destination for kids, overseeing the pre-K school to make it a competitive destination for kids; supporting pastor with ideas for Christian formation;

 

Deacons: Supporting everything to do with worship and congregational matters, and helping pastor build the spiritual health of the church;

 

Mission: Initiating and organizing ways for our church to help others in the community;

 

Communications: Telling our story internally and externally through social and traditional media.

 

Fellowship: Not an official ministry, this is actually the lifeblood of the church. It initiates, organizes and makes happen the social events that bring us together in fun activities throughout the year.

 

Vitality Team: Again, not an official ministry, this is the new initiative to move us out into the community in more visible ways, and to initiate ways to bring the community into the church. The Vitality Team and Fellowship could work well together in making things happen!

 

I ask you to consider where your skills and interests would be best served, and how YOU might be hatched into a bird of paradise, not the same decent old egg you've been! If you've been on a board, consider moving to another one. If you have not been on a board, consider which one you'd most enjoy. You are needed!

 

See you in church!

 

Love, Holly

 

The Reverend Holly Adams


 

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June 13, 2015

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

The BAZAAR is tomorrow! Much hard work for the last five or six months will pay off tomorrow as we entertain a cast of.........dozens? Hundreds? Thousands??

 

But let us not forget that the day begins with church. It won't be church as we are used to expecting. Actually, I don't think that church should ever be what we are expecting. If it does, it means that church has become about us, and not about God, not about the ever-hoped for presence of the Holy in our lives, and not about the spontaneous transformation that can happen in church.

 

So we will begin the day in church, and all generations are invited to worship together. The service will be a little shorter than usual so we can get outside to our own party that will be happening around us.

 

Dress comfortably and be prepared for a warm day.

 

How about this: bring a friend! Bring a neighbor! If everyone brings a friend tomorrow, we will double the size of attendance....first at church, and then at the Bazaar where all may shop at the many vendor booths, eat at the many food trucks, and meet our neighbors.

 

I've already talked with some of the vendors (and one "shopper" who came today by mistake! She can't wait for tomorrow); they are as excited as we are. It will be a fun day. Let's enjoy it together.

 

See you in church

 

Love, Holly


 

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 June 4, 2015

Dear Fellow Disciples,

This week's Christian Century has an article on the recent Pew Research data showing a sharp decline in the nation's Christian population, from 78% to 70% in seven years. This number includes Catholics and Protestants alike. What is particularly disturbing is that although these numbers affect all age groups, the rise of the "none's" (no religious affiliation) is highest among the youngest. This is troubling because it means that our children are missing out on learning that is as important as the 3 R's and STEM!

I talked with a young mother a couple of weeks ago – she's a "none" – who recounted to me how she had taken her young children into NYC for the day, and they had gone by a large church with a visible cross on top. One of her children asked, "Why is an X on top of that building?" She asked me what to say. Another young woman told me just the other day about how her young son asked her, "What's God?"

Here's what I don't understand: we as parents and grandparents do everything we can to ensure the physical and intellectual health of our children, don't we? When they sneeze, we rush them to medical help; when they lag in their schooling, we rush them to tutorial help; and when they are sad, we rush them to psychological help. But even though there is a spiritual vacuum born in each of us, including our own children, NO priority is placed on rushing our children to the place where they can receive spiritual nourishment...where they can learn who that loving God is, and that the cross on top of a building called a church is about a man called Jesus.

I want our children to learn that this is a place where they can be safe, loved and nurtured for life. I want our children to build memories here that will last their lifetime. After all, they are our future. Every Sunday throughout the summer, there will be learning opportunities for them. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

Rev. Siladi will be with us this Sunday; it is a chance to tell him your dreams for our church, and how the Ct. Conference might help.

See you in church!

Love, Holly

 

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May 28, 2015


Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

The Irish writer, Oscar Wilde, once wrote that, "The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention." These words ring especially true as I look around my office, the nursery school and the Sanctuary upstairs and see the evidence of many acts of kindness: love letters from church children hang on the wall over my desk; a pot of daisies sits on a table upstairs brought in by Bob Kish; some anonymous donations of toiletries for Gini's House; outdoor property that is free of winter debris thanks to the many hands on Clean-up Sunday; kitchen cupboard doors that are firmly hinged, thanks again to some anonymous helping hands; an orderly storage closet behind the organ thanks to Marilyn, Barbara, Dottie Jean and others; a flower bed by the front door that looks carefully tended; pews in the midst of repair thanks to Wil and Paul; and parking lot lines newly painted by Eagle Scout Robert Curran and the pews that will be painted shortly by Eagle Scout Garrett Schlegel. I could go on and on naming other small acts of kindness that end up making everyone feel better, and leaving this place so much better off.

 

This Sunday, we will be saying "Thank You" to our church school teachers for their dedicated nurturing of our children's spiritual health. We are so grateful for their dedication to this part of our church life. If we don't begin now to teach our children about faith and God with the same concern we have for their physical health and safety, we are denying them an important dimension in their growth. And so on Sunday we will say THANK YOU with full hearts, grateful hearts.

 

We will also recognize our children, and invite them to help in saying "Thank You" for their teachers' kindness. One kindness deserves another, and to give thanks is, in itself, and act of kindness lovingly given. To borrow the words of Mother Theresa, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small things with great love."

 

See you in church!

 

Love, Holly

 

PS Singers, young and older: come sing with Becki at 9:30!



 

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May 24, 2015

 

 Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

 This Sunday is Pentecost, a day marking the birthday. It is the day, according to the Book of Acts, when the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus’ followers and everyone else gathered in the Jerusalem square at that time. Imagine the scene as that Holy Spirit, accompanied by tongues of fire and loud noise, touched all those unsuspecting folk; they began to respond in different tongues, many unintelligible.   Peter preached his first sermon, saying “Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams,”
and that the Spirit would be given to all who turned to God through Jesus.

 

 Many Christians, especially those of us who have been influenced by the individualistic culture of our country, live as if the church is nice but unnecessary, even irrelevant. We seem to believe that as long as we have a personal relationship with God, everything else is secondary.

 

 But Pentecost is a vivid illustration of the truth that is found throughout Scripture, that the community of God’s people is central to God’s work in the world. Yes, we each can have a right relationship with God, and I pray that each of you does!   But it is only as community that we can truly do the work of God!

 

 Last Sunday was a great example of what we can do as a community of faith. We worked together to put our house of worship in order! Together, we can make a difference.

 

On Sunday, we will also celebrate our veterans who, by working together, made a difference in securing the safety of our nation.   Yes, each one made a significant contribution to serving his/her military service. But it is by working together that they made a difference.

 

 Sunday will be full of surprises, noises, tongues of fire and wind.   Come and join us! Catch the Spirit…..I promise it will land on you!

 

 See you in church!

 

                                                            Love, Holly


 

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May 14, 2015

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

On this exquisite spring morning, I sat in my office with the outside door wide open to capture the fresh air. My other door was wide open to the arresting sounds of four-year olds at play.

 

Closest to my door are the big blocks and Lego collection. Usually, when several of the boys come in to school in the morning, they head straight for the block and Lego section, and they start their building projects. As their skills and imaginations have developed this year, so has their sense of pride and ownership in their building project. So much so, in fact, that I've heard emerge from our four-year-olds the foundation of free enterprise and competition to build the biggest and the best!

 

This morning it came to a head! Two boys were arguing over the use of some special blocks and how they were to be used. Their voices were raised, and for a moment, I thought I'd be witnessing the mass destruction of each other's building. But lo and behold, they came up with another solution: they formed a team! Together, they began to share ideas and blocks to build a joint project that they both could be proud of! It was huge and beautiful, and a successful example of how we can get more done, and with much more fun, when we share what we've got and can work as a team.

 

Being part of this church is an opportunity to share what we've got, the faith we have, what we know how to do, and – most important – to be a team in sharing this journey of life. This Sunday in particular, come in old clothes and be ready to join the fun of working as a team to restore order to our house of worship.

 

See you in church!

 

Love, Holly




 

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                                      May 8, 2015

 

 

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

 

 

This Sunday will be special. We will be honoring our mothers and grandmothers and all they have meant to us in our lives.

 

 

 

At the same time, we must be sensitive to those for whom this celebration may bring more pain than joy. And so we hold in prayer those who:

 

  • Have lost a mother or grandmother;
  • Have wanted to be mothers but, like Sarah, have been unable to bear children;
  • Have lost a child to illness or accidental death;
  • Have mothered children who, like the Prodigal Son, have remained lost, or distant and unresponsive to their parent’s love;
  • Never knew their mother (or grandmother), or never had a loving relationship with their mother;
  • Take care of an aging mother right now, and who wonder at the role reversal of parent and child.

 

Indeed, mothering and being mothered is a labor of love; it brings joy and pain. Come, let us celebrate Mothers’ Day together.

 

 

 

A reminder for all children: on Sunday, come sing with Becki at 9:30! You’ve already got a growing group of youthful choristers, and all are welcome!! It’s fun, and it’s amazing what you can learn in a short time!

 

                             See you in church!

 

 

 

                                                Love, Holly


 

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Dear Fellow Disciples

On this last day of April, I am sitting in my office with the door wide open to the sounds of happy and energetic WNNS 3's and 4's in the playground; I can't help but be reminded of how this month began. Did you forget already? S-N-O-W!! However, the power of hope and patience have moved us through April, with satisfying moments of Easter renewal (Grace?) as evidence that hard work does bear fruit.

 

 

• Imagine! We now have music, thanks to Becki Christopherson, who joined us on Easter Sunday and, despite her own busy life, loved this church enough to want to serve it through her gift of music. Thanks to her, a core group of five children met with her last Sunday to begin to sing and learn how to read music. The group grew as more families dribbled in later. From now on (except for this Sunday), children are invited to sing with Becki at 9:30 every Sunday; they will be prepared to sing for the congregation before you can say "Alleluia!"

 

 

• Another moment of Grace came in the form first of a phone call, followed by a written proposal from a Norwalk gentleman who wants us to stand for something in the community; he hoped we would consider using some of our property to create a community organic garden. David IS an organic gardener, and wants to show us how we can help the community feed itself. This is the kind of affirmation the Vitality Team has been hoping for all year. If you are interested in hearing more, come to the Council meeting this Sunday, right after worship.

 

 

• And yet another moment of Grace came when Robert Curran finished painting all the parking lot lines and we were able to thank and recognize him in person. This is a 17-year old, who chose us for his Eagle Scout project, because he cared about us, and he saw this was a job that needed to be done. How about that! On Sunday, May 17, we will all have a chance to pick up where Robert left off and do some cleaning out, fixing up, and putting our house in order. Won't you plan on joining us?

 

 

• And even one more Grace moment: last Sunday, we could smell lots of loaves of scrumptious banana bread the children made, and proudly carried up to their grateful families. Give us this day our daily bread....made by our children!

 

As I see it, we are blessed, and the community is rooting for us as the resurrection church!

 

See you in church! Love, Holly



 

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Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Here are 6 reasons to come to church tomorrow:

 

 #1: ALL the children ages 5 and up are invited to church at 9:30 to join Becki in their first musical Sunday together. Hear her invitation:

“We will have fun learning songs to sing beautifully and to share our music   in          upcoming church services!   We will even learn a bit about reading music!   We            need boys and girls, so please plan to meet me in the sanctuary at 9:30am this             Sunday. We will rehearse for about 45 minutes, which gives everyone a break          before the service. Parents don't need to stay with their children. If your children have friends who love to sing, please invite them too!

 

#2: During church school, our children will be baking bread, and after worship, will have a yummy loaf to give to their family!

 

 #3: Sunday is Flora Major Appreciation Day! We will be thanking her for enriching our worship services for the last year and a half with her organ and piano music, and for preparing our chorus to participate in the ecumenical Thanksgiving services at St. Matthew’s these last two years.   We have so much to be grateful for. Come and be part of this celebration of Flora, and stay for the reception following worship!

 

#4: Speaking of music, our 30-year old Allen organ has been re-tuned this week, with more work to be done next week to complete its refurbishment. Please come to hear the difference and to make your comments known!

 

#5 The Planning Team for the Bazaar has been busy making contacts to attract vendors and exhibitors, and they are calling in for information, so we know the BAZAAR BUZZ is happening! Come to hear how YOU can be involved in this all-church event.

 

 #6: Not least of all, you will find a community of caring, welcoming, interesting and enthusiastic men and women of all ages, who will make you glad you came!

 

            See you in church - and children, see you at 9:30!!

 

 Love, Holly

 

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April 15, 2015
Dear Fellow Disciples,

The excitement and promise of Easter’s empty tomb has already revealed itself in yet another new beginning here at United Congregational church.

At its meeting on Sunday, the Council voted unanimously and enthusiastically to call Rebecca Christopherson as our Acting Music Director!!!

Becki, as she likes to be called, thrilled our SRO Easter congregation with her violin soli and organ accompaniment.  We will joyfully welcome her this coming Sunday and every Sunday thereafter to enrich our worship services with music of all kinds and played with all kinds of instruments.  Becki will also invite the children of ALL ages to begin singing under her direction; rehearsals will begin on 9:30 Sunday mornings beginning April 26.

Listen to what else she is doing:
•    Founder, owner and CEO of the Talent Education Suzuki School (Norwalk), a music school for children and families, with a staff of ten teachers;
•    Founder/President of the Norwalk Arts Society, hosts of monthly arts and

      cultural events
•    First Violin, Norwalk Symphony Orchestra
•    Founder, member of the Norwalk Arts Commission
•    Volunteer and member of Norwalk’s Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce.
Becki is excited to be joining us to  rebuild a music program that will fill our hearts and enrich our sense of the Holy, and not just in worship.

Flora Major is happy for us, and will be with us on Sunday, April 26 for FLORA MAJOR APPRECIATION DAY, a time for us all to show how much we love her and appreciate all she has done for us because of her love of this church.  

    See you in church!                    With love,  


Holly Adams, Senior Pastor                Wil Robbins, Moderator

 

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  April 10, 2015

 

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

What a glorious Easter!  
•    The warmth of a standing-room only Sanctuary and the return of family and friends;
•    the breath-taking strains of Becki Christopherson’s violin;
•    the fullness of the organ accompanying your voices proclaiming “Christ Is Risen;”
•    the excitement of the children in their Easter finery with baskets ready to be filled with eggs lying in wait in the playground;
•    and the final glory of our voices proclaiming Handel’s Alleluia chorus….surely they raised the roof!

 

Yes, Easter was glorious…..and it is not over!  

 

The Easter season will continue for another six week as we, just like the disciples, seek the appearance of a risen Christ in our lives.  Impossible, you think??    Not at all!  If we don’t see Him and touch Him ourselves, we will come to know those who have been touched by God’s Grace in ways both ordinary and extraordinary.

 

Come to church this Sunday, and you’ll see what I am talking about.  

 

We have a special guest with us who will share his ministry with you.  Don’t miss it!

 

            See you in church!

 

                    Love, Holly


 

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April 1 2015

 

Dear Fellow Disciples,crocus

 This is no April Fool’s joke! This is what I saw beside the parking lot this morning! Spring IS here, perhaps hidden under leaves, but it is here.

 

 And so is Holy Week, the most significant time of the year for the Christian church. It is when we are called to have faith in what we can’t see, and to believe in something we cannot understand. It is the ultimate of God’s love for humankind – even though God requires that we go through pain and suffering to know that love.

 

Our church will observe the major events of this week:

       Maundy Thursday: supper at 6:30 (pasta and salad), and service at 7:30

                                    The Service will be one of penitence, humility and thanksgiving                                    (from the Gospel of John) with foot-washing and Holy Communion.

 

       Good Friday:        service at 3:00 pm, with readings that follow the stations of                                    the cross from the Garden of Gethsemane to Jesus’ last words.

 

       Easter Sunday:    service at 10:30, with Rebecca Christopherson, a guest                                   musician who will add joy to our Easter music with her violin

                                  and piano accompaniment.

 

See you in church

Love, Holly

          

 

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March 27, 2015

Dear Fellow Disciples,

We are nearing the end of our Lenten journey as we get closer to Jerusalem and the beginning of Holy Week.

At the beginning of the Lenten season, I described our journey as being similar to a spring house-cleaning when we sweep away the cob webs of the past, toss out the unwanted and unneeded “stuff” of our lives that has accumulated despite our best intentions, and we clean house for a new season.  

How has your house cleaning been coming?   
•    There is still time to clean out old ideas and assumptions that don’t hold up any more, and
•    There is still time to throw away old grudges and hurts.  

In their place, there is still time to prepare for the new season with a spirit of forgiveness and hope!   Yes, forgiveness for all the pain of the past, and hope for the promise of the future!  That is the message of the cross: death and rebirth, pain and forgiveness, despair and hope.   

As we prepare ourselves for Holy Week, I invite you to finish cleaning your house as I am mine, so that as a community of faith, we will be ready to face the pain of the cross and the promise of the empty tomb together.   The events for next week:
        Maundy Thursday: supper at 6:30, and service at 7:30
        Good Friday:   service at 3:00 pm

But first, we will parade into Jerusalem this Sunday morning - or at least around our campus, waving palms on high and proclaiming, “Hosanna!.”  Following our worship service, we’ll be hosted at luncheon by the Christian Nurture ministry, when we’ll enjoy fellowship and prepare eggs for Easter’s egg hunt.

        See you in church!

                    Love, Holly

 

 

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March 20, 2015

Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Happy Spring!!  

 

My friend, Peg, of Clearwater FL, called me at 8:00 this morning, with a bright and cheery, “Happy Spring!”  She did not immediately understand my loud guffaws, nor my question, “Is this a joke?”  She had not yet heard that we were on the edge of yet another winter snowstorm, severe enough that event cancellations were already streaming across the screen of Channel 12.

 

Whether we scream with laughter or frustration, we can’t help but wonder if this winter will ever end.  We can’t help but wonder if we are being tested beyond our capacity to handle it –- at least to handle it with grace.  

 

Yes, this has been the winter of our discontent.  And we have been challenged by much more than weather alone.    Just within our own family of faith, we have
•    lost loved ones to death and to relocation,
•    had serious health scares and hips and knee replacements,
•    lost jobs and started new jobs,
•    known costly home repairs and other financial reversals, and
•    accepted the consequences of captivity, brought on by snowy, icy, impassable roads.

 

Surely, you wonder, as do I, if this will ever end.  And perhaps you wonder, as do I, where God is in all of this.  

 

I invite you to come to Church this Sunday.  The message is about the seeds of hope that are planted all around us and even within us.  The message is about where God is in all of “this.”    Come to church:  you might even find yourself comforted by the experience!

 

Make sure your children get to church by 10:00 for their “Wonderful Warm Weather Waffles” breakfast – no matter what the weather is!  Keep the faith, have hope, and

 

            See you in church!

 

                    Love, Holly


 

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  March 12, 2015

 Dear Fellow Disciples,

 

Daylight Saving Time sprang us out of bed an hour earlier for church last Sunday, and we made it!   This entire week has sprung us toward hopes of a real spring, as the warmer sun melts the snow and ice of the last six weeks.   Further, I pray that the prospects of the next several weeks will spring YOU back to church if you have been hibernating these icy cold winter days.

 

Here are some headliners:
•    Come hear Paul Vossbrinck deliver a wonderful message on Sacrificial Love,

      as he describes Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness.
•    Next Monday, join us for our dinner together at Boston Market on Rte 7,

      anytime  between 4 – 9:30 pm.  You may eat inside, with colorful table decorations

      made by Marge Kokoth and some of our children, or take your order home.  

     At church Sunday morning, pick up an Event Ticket that will result in 10% of proceeds

     coming back to the church.
•    Bible Study meets every Wednesday, rain, snow or shine, at 11:00 am. 

      We’ve been studying the courageous women of the Old Testament,

      and next week will move on to the women of the New Testament. 

     Join us! We have great discussions.
•    Healing Services, offered each Thursday night during Lent, provide an

      opportunity to reflect on a passage about brokenness such as broken trust,

      broken promises and broken justice, and to pray for healing and grace. 

      A light supper follows. Come join us!
•    For kids next Sunday, March 22: “Warm Weather Waffle Sunday,”

      beginning at 10:00 am.  They will receive their own mail about this!!
•    Our Palm Sunday Parade for all to weave our way around our campus,

      waving palms for the world to see, as we proclaim Jesus’ joyous entry into

     Jerusalem.  Don’t miss it, or the luncheon following worship service provided

     by the Christian Nurture Ministry.


Yes, this has been the winter of our discontent.  But look around you at the signs of hope and renewal!  They are there!!  They are all around us.  Spring arrives…..

 

            See you in church!

 

                    Love, Holly


 

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Sunday February 15th, 2015

 Reflections on Snow Days


Dear Fellow Disciples,

Sunday, February 15

Even as the wind howls outside my windows and the wind chill invades my bones, I regret we could not be together in church this morning. In the church year, it is an important Sunday, one that transitions us from the season of Epiphany when God is revealed through Jesus, to the season of Lent when we replicate Jesus’s journey into the desert for forty days of resisting temptations and accepting the challenges of discipleship.

Our reading this morning was the story of the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-9) in which we find Jesus and three of his disciples, Peter, James, and John, on a high mountaintop. There, Jesus is transfigured -- changed in appearance, becoming, Mark writes,
"dazzlingly white." The great lawgiver, Moses, and the prophet Elijah appear and talk with Jesus. The disciples are overwhelmed by this vision. Not knowing what to do or say, they blurt out a suggestion that they build three dwelling places. “Let's stay here, they say, and memorialize this moment.”

As soon as they propose this, the vision ends; God’s voice, heard from a cloud enveloping them all, declares Jesus to be God's beloved Son, and instructs them to listen to him. At that point, Jesus is transformed back into the teacher and companion they had known, and they all head back down the mountain.

The disciples' response to Jesus' transfiguration was completely understandable. Who could blame them for wanting to linger on the mountaintop after such a revelation? There are plenty of examples in the Bible of people building monuments and altars at places of divine encounter. But perhaps there is more to it than that. Perhaps they wanted to stay on the mountain, at least in part, to retreat from the clamoring crowds down below. Before ascending the mountain, they had witnessed Jesus' healing and teaching, his stilling a storm, raising a little girl from the dead, feeding thousands, and walking on water. It's not hard to imagine that the Transfiguration -- which would have been far more amazing and miraculous than all of those -- was the seeming culmination of those saving acts and the reward for wading through the endless human brokenness and need. At the very least, it was a respite from the heartbreaking human longing that awaited them back down the mountain.

275RichardsAve.,NorwalkCT 06850203-838-8858www.uccnorwalk.org

Here, I think, the disciples reflect our own instinctive withdrawal from a world so filled with news of terrorism, natural disaster, racial strife, and – yes – a seemingly endless winter of dangerous ice and snow. We should note, however, that it is only those with privilege and cold hearts who can retreat. As part of that withdrawal, it is easy to retreat to what is familiar and comfortable, making it even more difficult to understand and appreciate the plight of our neighbors.

I think that is where discipleship begins: in deciding to go back down the mountain to where real lives lay in wait for healing from their brokenness, and for relationship from their isolation. That is where our work begins for this Lenten season: with a journey into what it means to be disciples of Jesus. It is only when we have followed Jesus’ wilderness journey, through his sufferings, that we can understand our own. And it is only after we have acknowledged our suffering as a people that we can truly appreciate this journey that ends at the cross on Easter Sunday. I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

Some important events this next week:

Wednesday, February 18: Ash Wednesday - Bible Study as usual at 11:00.
From 6:00-6:30, we will enjoy a light supper together and then share in a worship service of penitence. Holy Communion will be served, and ashes will be distributed. All are welcome. Bring a friend or two or three.

Friday, February 20 at 6:30: An evening with Ms. Sarah & Friends.
Tickets are $15 and available at the door. BYOB, and supper food will be available. Bring lots of friends to this event. It’s always a huge hit and loads of fun!

And finally, I will be on retreat from next Thursday the 19th until the following Wednesday the 25th. I can be reached at my cell phone (203-623-2254). David Van Buskirk will lead worship service next Sunday, and the guest preacher will be Paul Vossbrinck, who will preach on “Sacrificial Love.” I’ll be back in the pulpit March 1.

In the meantime, stay warm, be safe, and consider what you can do to be a true disciple of Jesus. He is the one of whom God said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” It is only when we are listening that we can hear the voice of a still-speaking God.

With love,
Holly
The Reverend Holly Adams 

Ash Wednesday Service, February 18th, 6:30 PM 

SUPPER AND COMMUNION

 

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