From the Backcountry ...

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

June 29, 2018

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 From the Backcountry …

“We hold these truths to be self-evident …”   U.S. Declaration of Independence

In days of yore, legal code prevented the confiscation of three “indispensable” items in settling unpaid debts - one’s harp, blanket and cauldron.  It was believed that individuals had the inalienable right to entertainment, sleep and food.    Needless to say, our forebears used a considerably broader brush when crafting a statement declaring as “self-evident” an individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  And yet, 242 years later, it is more than self-evident that many within our society do not enjoy these rights in equal measure.  As we approach yet another national celebration of the values that define us as a people, we must recommit ourselves to the poor, the disadvantaged and marginalized who not only need our voices, but our actions to ensure these “indispensable” rights are enjoyed by all.

Happy Independence Day!!

 

Sunday, July 1    Morning Worship    Holy Communio

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 130;  Mark 5: 21-43

Text:  “Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet …”   Mark 22

Sermon:  “Step by Step”

Tease:   This week we witness two remarkable healing stories that reveal the true depth and scope of Jesus’ ministry.   Once again, we will be called to leave our comfort zones and take some bold, yet intimidating steps toward Christ’s radically new vision of God’s Kingdom.

2018 Henry Green Scholarship Awards

Throughout the summer months, we will feature short articles on all our Henry Green Scholarship recipients – based on their application essays. 

 David Junker with sister, Emily, at the Annual Picnic

David Junker with sister, Emily, at the Annual Picnic

 David Junker - University of North Carolina

David has taken on the formidable challenge of pursuing his MBA while maintaining a full-time job.  His junior year has been particularly challenging.  An ever-increasing course load, as well as ever-increasing academic demands and expectations have all added to the ever-increasing fatigue that inevitably comes with the final push toward graduation.  He writes, “Now is the time when it’s easy to lose sight of earlier goals and patience.” And yet, it only took one less than desirable grade on a midterm to snap out of his doldrums and recommit himself to the MBA program.  “Two things clicked for me this year: the first being a renewed sense of motivation and the second being a need for patience.”   The decision to refocus on his goals resulted in David earning near perfect scores on his final projects and exams!! 

During the course of this past year, David also purchased his own house in Rowayton – yet another process that reinforced his need for patience and perseverance.   So yes, this has been a year of growth and maturity.  Our congratulations and best wishes go out to him as he enters his senior year, refocused on goals and reprioritizing “needs over wants.” 

See you Sunday,

Royal

 

Road Rules:  “Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.  All things break and all things can be mended – not necessarily with time, but with intention. So, go … love intentionally, extravagantly and unconditionally.  This broken world waits in the darkness for the light that is you!   L.R. Knost

From the Backcountry

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

June 22, 2018

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From the Backcountry …

“Oh that I had the wings of a dove to fly away and be at rest.”  Psalm 55

Summer, at last … the time of year to plan our get-a-ways.  Even though studies indicate that vacations can be high stress undertakings, we eagerly await those few days when we can “fly away and be at rest.”  Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor in the second century, was also a Stoic philosopher.  He admitted that, like everyone, he yearned for a cottage in the country … for desolate seascapes and mountainsides.”  But, he also cautioned that it’s foolish for us to seek inner peace in these distant retreats, when we have the power to find our needed rest and renewal by “retreating” into ourselves – wherever we happen to be!  In fact, escaping life’s stress is much easier when we seek times of quiet every day.

Sunday,  June 24   Morning Worship   10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 69;  Mark 4: 35-41

Text:  “A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.”  Mark 4: 37

Sermon:  “Eye of the Storm”

Tease:  Each of the Gospels has a version of Jesus calming turbulent seas and Mark recounts an additional high seas windstorm!  These are all essential passages.   Storm clouds are beginning to gather over Jesus’ ministry, as opposition grows.  None of his followers quite know what the future holds and many in Jesus’ entourage are terrified.  While the tempest stories bring considerable drama to the Gospel narrative, they are nonetheless stories designed to calm our own anxious hearts during times of personal upheaval.  

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Our Wider Mission:  Vamos Adelante (Moving Forward)

During the Lenten Season, we raised over $1,000.00 for a non-profit organization that serves 24 rural villages nestled below three volcanoes outside Guatemala City.   On June 3, one of those volcanoes, Volcán de Fuego, erupted and buried two of those villages, El Rodeo and San Miguel Los Lotes, with a fast moving pyroclastic flow (lava, ash, fumes and rocks.)   Within minutes, entire families disappeared.  Two hundred individuals remain unaccounted for.  Homes, roads, and rustic infrastructure are devastated.  Rest assured, however, that when it is safe for people to return to what remains of their villages, Vamos Adelante will be there helping them to rebuild, restore and replenish.

Tragically, the  lives of these indigenous Guatemalans were a struggle prior to this disaster.  You will remember that Vamos Adelante has been reaching out to  these impoverished communities for over two decades - building schools, feeding the elderly, providing medical  services, check-ups, and vaccinations at a clinic staffed by volunteer doctors and dentists.  Our financial support also helps the organization provide water filters, woodstoves, solar lamps and small farm animals.  Sponsors are found to ensure school-aged children are in classrooms, rather than working in the fields.  Scholarships are also awarded to middle school and high school students.

I would urge you to revisit their website: www.vamosadelante.org and reacquaint yourself with their amazing work.  In the meantime, it’s a comfort to know that our donations are assisting in all of these efforts.  Vemos Adelante!  Ever forward!!

See you Sunday,

Royal

From the Backcountry

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

June 8, 2018

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From the Backcountry …

“You have the voice to undo the folded lie.”   W.H. Auden

What kind of world are we envisioning?  Does it resemble the Biblical dream of a world where there is no fighting and no hunger?  Are we uncertain about what can be done to make this kind of world a reality?  Monk and activist, Thomas Merton, maintained that people of prayer see beyond the lies and media hype that swirl around us every day, and are able to identify the true moral challenges of our time.   This is because, in prayer and meditation, we listen to neglected voices that proceed from life’s inner depths.  “Those who find this inner peace,” he said, “become like trees, whose vital presence purifies the foul air of our polluted world.”

Sunday, June 10   Morning Worship and Annual Church Picnic!!

2018-19 Henry Green Scholarships will also be awarded.

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 138; Mark 3: 20-35

Text:   “And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”   Mark 3:33

Sermon:  “Family Ties”

Tease:   Apparently, members of Jesus’ own family are well aware of the dangers surrounding their loved one.  And so, they journey to Capernaum intent on convincing him to abandon what they believe to be an ill-fated mission.  They fear Jesus is losing his mind and only a forced intervention will protect him from the religious authorities.  It’s quite a dramatic moment.  With his own kin standing on the door step, Jesus decides to redesign the contours of the “biological” family, in order to create what one of my favorite authors likes to call his “logical” family.

Annual Church Picnic 

Following Church Service - 11:30 AM

Continuing the long-standing tradition, we will join together for our annual picnic, immediately after worship THIS Sunday.  Hamburgers, Hot Dogs and beverages will be provided. 

Please bring a Salad and/or dessert to share with the gang.

 Sorry for this photo, when I saw it ... I vowed not to use plastic grocery store bags again.

Sorry for this photo, when I saw it ... I vowed not to use plastic grocery store bags again.

World Ocean Day

Today is World Oceans Day.   Every year, the United Nations sets aside June 8 to remind the global community that the oceans play a vital role in our well-being.  They are the “lungs’ of our planet, providing most of the oxygen we need to breathe.  They remain a major source of food and medicine, as well as maintaining the health of our entire biosphere.  Tragically, human activity is compromising the health of our oceans.  80% of all pollution in the ocean comes from people on land.  We have already recognized that 8 mission tons of plastic ends up in our oceans, wreaking havoc on wildlife, fisheries and tourism.  In fact, plastic pollution costs the lives of over 1 million seabirds and over 100,000 marine mammals per year. 

Change starts with us!  There are so many things we can do as individuals to reduce our plastic consumption.  Begin by taking the pledge to use less plastic in daily life and be sure to recycle the plastic that you must use. 

See you Sunday,

Royal

Road Rules:  “The butterfly counts not months, but moments  ... and still has enough time.” 

~ Rabindranath Tagore.

From the Backcountry

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Weekly Leadership Update

May 25, 2018

 Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

From the Backcountry …

“Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial graven not on stone… but in the hearts of men.”  Pericles

No one is exactly sure when “Decoration Day” first started.  There are records of an official observance at Arlington Cemetery three years after Appomattox.   In 1968, Major General John Logan urged citizens to place “the choicest flowers of springtime” on the graves of those who gave their lives for our nation.  In 1971, Congress established the fourth Monday in May as an annual “Memorial Day.”  Whether we agree with war or not, whether we agree with the politicians who sent our son and daughters into harm’s way, we nevertheless take a moment to cherish the memory of all who died in order that we may have the right to our opinions.  We pray for families who lost a mother, father, daughter, son, wife, husband, sister or brother.  As we celebrate what has too often become merely the unofficial start of summer, they continue to grieve over a family that will forever remain changed. 

Sunday, May 27    Morning Worship  10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 29;  John 3:1-17

Text:  “He came to Jesus  by night …”   John 3:2

Sermon:  “Night Shift”

Tease: The author of the Gospel of John uses the imagery of light and darkness throughout his narrative.  For example, he uses the term “night” to describe those time in our lives when we “fish all night and catch nothing”  - times when, despite our best efforts,  we come up empty.  So, we can be certain that Nicodemus visiting Jesus “by night” is more than a statement about the time of day, but  rather a description of the religious leader’s own personal life - a description that, when we stop and think about it, could be used to account for all of our lives - at one time or another.

“All gave some.  Some gave all.

 Richie honoring the fallen at Omaha Beach, Normandy

Richie honoring the fallen at Omaha Beach, Normandy

In June 2015, an 11 year old boy, identified only as Richie, went with this father to France for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.  Even at such a young age, he had developed an interest for World War II.   The following is an excerpt of the dad’s moving account:

“As part of his personal remembrance project, my son spent four days at the American Cemetery teaching visitors about three paratroopers buried there.  On D-Day, the local police wouldn’t let him enter the cemetery (because of the official memorial observance.)  So, he took his 48 star WWII era American flag to Omaha beach and planted his homemade flag pole firmly in the sand … He held the flag and his salute for an hour and a half … his eyes fixed on the image of the spirits of our soldiers coming ashore … For a moment, he was just a little boy with a flag standing alone on a beach in Normandy.  In his heart he held the flame alight for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  In his soul he held the future of the American ideal.”

Richie’s Dad

See you Sunday,

Royal

Road Rules:   “The pleasure of the soul is to be found in the journey of discovery …a journey of expanded insight and experience.”   Anthony Lawler, Architect and author of “A Home for the Soul -  A Guide for dwelling with the spirit and imaginations.”