From the Backcountry ...

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

September 21, 2018

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From the Backcountry …

“Do not neglect the gift that is in you.” 1 Timothy 4:14

I’ve always had mixed feelings about “Talented and Gifted” (TAG) programs offered in school systems throughout America.  It would suggest that only a select few are bestowed special aptitudes.  But, of course, we recognize that we are all “gifted and talented” – each in our own way.  And, it is our responsibility as spiritual companions to help one another recognize, develop and utilize those God-given abilities – not only for the well-being of our individual souls … but for the soul of the entire world.

Humorist Erma Bombeck often indicated that her deepest hope was to one day stand at the pearly gates without a single ounce of talent left within her …that way she would be able to say, “I used everything you gave me.”    May it be so.

Sunday,  September 23   Morning Worship   10:30 a.m.

Scripture Readings:  Psalm 1; 2 Corinthians 9: 6-10

Text:  “The one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”  2 Corinthians 9:6

Sermon:  “Sweater Weather”

Tease:  Now that we’ve passed the Autumnal Equinox, we will be unpacking the flannel, fleece and alpaca wool that provide those comfy layers against falling temperatures fall and waning sunlight.   But before we get consumed with storing up our reserves for colder, leaner days ahead, we take a moment to recognize and savor the unique spirituality that autumn always brings us.

Our Church’s Wider Mission

United Church of Christ Witness for Justice

The following article is adapted from a letter written by Noel Andersen, UCC Grassroots Coordinator for Immigrants’ Rights

All religious traditions direct us to welcome the sojourner in our midst and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Nevertheless, our government agencies have been enacting horrific policies designed to separate families and terrorize those fleeing persecution, violence and poverty.   Earlier this year, Congress approved spending more than $4 billion to incarcerate an average of 40,500 immigrants per day.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has exceeded that capacity and is currently holding nearly 45,000 immigrants daily.  To finance these increased detentions, congressional appropriators transferred $200 million from the Department of Homeland Security ($10 million was from FEMA – monies that are specifically earmarked for disaster relief.  At the same time, Homeland Security is deliberately slowing the process for refugee resettlement, resulting in only 20,000 refugees resettled in 2018 out of an admission goal of 45,000 – the lowest resettlement goal on record. Now, the State Department has announced an even lower admissions goal of 30,000 for 2019 (at a time when there are more refugees globally since World War II.)  The UCC is calling our government to support a robust refugee program of at least 75,000 refugees per year.

“We have a moral responsibility to speak out against the use of tax dollars to finance the Administration’s anti-immigrant agenda - while important resources are being cut from critical programs that low income and middle class families depend on, such as healthcare, food assistance and even hurricane relief.”


See You Sunday,


Road Rules:   “Hate no one, no matter how much they have wronged you.  Live humbly, no matter how wealthy you become.  Think positively, no matter how difficult life gets.  Give much, even if you’ve been liven little.  Forgive all, especially yourself.  And, never stop praying for the best for everyone.”   Author Unknown.

From the Backcountry ...

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Weekly Pastor’s Update

September 14, 2018


From the Backcountry …

I will bless you … and you will be a blessing.”  Genesis 12:2

When disaster strikes, people instinctively reach out to help one another.  We want to make certain that victims are safe and have enough to eat.   Our world can be a scary place and one way we deal with our fear is to care for those in need.

There can be no doubt that our planet’s climate is changing.  This week, alone, seven life-threatening storms are bearing down on populations around the globe.   Let us pray for the ingenuity and compassion that invariably arise in the midst of crises as our “interconnectedness” is yet again affirmed.


Sunday, September 16    Morning Worship  10:30 a.m.

Scripture Lessons:  Psalm 19;  1 John 1: 5-10

Text:  “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will … cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9

Sermon:   “Escape Hatch”

Tease:   As our Jewish friends gather for Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)  this week, we will also be taking a look at the Biblical remedy for what can often seem like an endless cycle of sin and retribution.  The surprisingly simple antidote is one that even the most modest and unassuming among us can practice!




Hurricane Florence

As I write this Update, Hurricane Florence is making landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.  Even though it has been downgraded to Category One status, the storm is expected to wreak havoc across the south, putting millions of people at risk and threatening billions of dollars in property damage.  The impact of this 500 mile-wide “monster” will be felt from Georgia to Maryland.  Forecasts indicate that Florence will bring heavy rain and strong storm surges to the Carolinas throughout the weekend and then begin its move northward. 

The UCC Southern Conference Minister, Edward Davis and Disaster Ministries Coordinator John Wallace have issued a report that cautions churches to wait until they have had a chance to assess need before sending specific items to the area.  Donors wishing to have the greatest impact should consider financial gifts to the UCC 2018 Hurricane Relief Effort.  Cash allows response teams to be more flexible in providing services. One Great Hour of Sharing Program Associate Phyllis Richards said, “As much as people want to help during the height of the disaster, the very best thing to do is for people to pray for the situation and make a financial donation.”

So let’s keep those impacted by Hurricane Florence in our prayers, as we wait further reports from the area.

See You Sunday,


Road Rules:  “Your day will be a lot happier when you give someone a piece of your heart, rather than a piece of your mind.”    Unknown

From the Backcountry ...

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

September 7, 2018

 Missouri 3 -  Kansas 0

Missouri 3 -  Kansas 0

From the Backcountry …

When the Missouri Tigers took on the Kansas Jayhawks in 1891, one of the oldest college football rivalries was initiated.  For years, the so-called “Border War” was played on a neutral field, until a regulation required collegiate games to be played on respective campuses.  To guarantee a good crowd for the first matchup in their new stadium, Mizzou issued an invitation to all alumni to “come home” for the game in 1911 – which included a parade and spirit bonfire.   Needless to say, organizers were overwhelmed with ten thousand people showed up for the event!  And thus, an American institution was born.

Homecomings are now part of the autumn landscape.   As the year turns toward winter, we are drawn to those aspects of our lives that nurture roots and offer us a sense of comfort and identity.  And yet, it’s the home that lives in our hearts and minds that forever calls out to us to come and be where we are most true to ourselves.  May you find that welcome and encouragement within the warmth of your church home.

Sunday, September 9   Morning Worship  10:30 a.m.

Scripture Readings:  Psalm 146   Mark 7:24-37

Text:  “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs”   Mark 7:28

Sermon:   “Ground Zero”

Tease:   Shortly after the attacks of 9-11, a national ethos, rooted in “us against them,” took hold of America that still finds expression in national discourse.   Born out of grief and sorrow, this tribal mindset sadly runs counter to Gospel teachings.  As we approach the seventeenth anniversary of the tragedy, we’ll pause to hear Jesus’ challenge that God’s future invariably calls us to venture beyond our parochial borders …and reach out to a troubled world with greater compassion. 

Henry Green Scholarship

Throughout the summer months, we have been featuring articles about the 2018 Henry Green recipients based on their application essays.

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Emily Junker begins her second year of graduate studies in Urban Planning at Columbia University.  Her courses encompass a wide range of disciplines, including:  sociology, economics, law, policy and history.  While urban planning is often blamed for a number of society’s ills, she recognizes that it also holds the promise for finding solutions for those same issues. 

Emily has experienced two major accomplishments in the past year.  Her leadership in an Urban Planning Studio program was recognized by school faculty.  In the studio program, her group was assigned an industrial neighborhood in Hong Kong that is undergoing major redevelopment.  As is so often the case, these changes resulted in the displacement of the existing population.  The students were assigned to research the issues and make recommendations to Urban Renewal Authority of Hong Kong on how the project can be more equitable and inclusive.  Emily’s previous professional experiences and her photography skills enabled her to mentor the other students in her group.  Their final presentation was considered flawless and she was awarded a summer fellowship to study affordability and displacement of African American communities in New York City. Emily also reports that she has experienced major advances in her research and writing skills as she continues her long-standing analysis of civil society, law, economics and women’s issues in Cambodia.

In the fall, she will be taking courses in Historic Preservation, a discipline that has become a passion because of her work in Phnom Penh.  She will also be attending the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference in San Francisco.   Way to go, Emily.  We are so proud of you. 

See you Sunday,


From the Backcountry

 Wooly Bear!  (Caterpillar of the Isabella tiger moth)  Folklore suggests the width of the brown band of "wool" determines the severity of the coming winter.  So, what do you think?  Mild ...or, severe?

Wooly Bear!  (Caterpillar of the Isabella tiger moth)  Folklore suggests the width of the brown band of "wool" determines the severity of the coming winter.  So, what do you think?  Mild ...or, severe?

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

August 31, 2018

From the Backcountry …

Each season presents doorways of opportunity. When the first spring flowers emerge, we find ourselves struggling to cross our own threshold of emergence.  By summer, we shed our warm clothing and frolic across the gateway of confidence and action.  As autumn leaves fly, we begin looking for the portals of gathering … so that when winter fastens it grip, we have crossed the entryway toward reflection and stillness.  Each of these seasons brings a kaleidoscope of moods and expectations that causes us to determine our own preferred season.  And yet, if we can live each moment of the year - as it unfolds - we will find a resourcefulness that truly enriches our lives with its own special joy.

Sunday, September 2   Morning Worship  10:30 a.m.

Scripture Readings:  Psalm 15; Matthew 12: 9-14

Text:  “So, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” Matthew12:12

Sermon:   “Love’s Labours Found”

Tease:  Labor Day was instated after a series of violent railway strikes in 1894 to honor those martyred in a campaign to improve workers’ conditions and wages. Needless to say, this holiday has morphed into summer’s “last hurrah” … before we settle back to our daily routines.  So, in the midst of this weekend’s final fling, let’s take a moment to gather for worship and reflect on the ways we might make better use of the division between work and leisure - earned by those who sacrificed so we can now enjoy our Barbeques and Budweisers.

Henry Green Scholarship

Throughout the summer months, we have been featuring articles about the 2018 Henry Green Scholarship recipients based on their application essays.


David Junker   Graduate Student, University of North Carolina

David is completing his sixth academic quarter of graduate study.   As the course load intensifies - along with professor’s expectations - the challenge of holding a full time job and working on an MBA has become increasingly more difficult.  After a disappointing midterm performance, David doubled down on his academic work, rebounded, and finished his junior year with near perfect scores!!

During the course of this year, David also realized he wasn’t getting any younger and it was time to become a homeowner.  He bought a “fixer upper” in Rowayton that, needless to say, has only extended that exhausting list of priorities.  And yet, it’s all good!”  He writes:

“These two events, while on different spectrums, embody the same underlying themes of growth and maturity.  While facing academic adversity in the form of underperformance, I was faced with the reality that I had gotten ahead of myself and lost sight of my ultimate goals.  Taking a step back, I was able to slow down and build off rarely experienced failures.  The timing of this could not have been better as Madeline and I entered a new chapter in our lives with home ownership.  It has called us to prioritize our needs over our wants.”  Well done, David …and congratulations!

 Happy Labor Day Weekend!!


Road Rules:  “This is my wish for you:  Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your hearts, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to behold, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth … and love to complete your life.”    -  Ralph Waldo Emerson

From the Backcountry ...

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

August 10, 2018


From the Backcountry …

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers …”   Psalm 8

The annual Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak this weekend!   This August phenomenon was first recorded by Chinese astrologers in 36 A.D.  It will be particularly brilliant this year because it coincides with several moonless nights.  The best viewing will be early Monday morning.  Once your eyes adjust to the darkness, you should be able to count some 70 meteors per hour if the conditions are favorable (find a spot that is not too impacted by light pollution.)  The meteor shower is named for Perseus, the Greek hero and slayer of monsters.  It’s one of those spiritual moments when you feel both the speck of nothingness, and yet a radiant part of all that is.

Sunday, August 12   Morning Worship and Barbeque   10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 130;  John 6: 35, 41-51

Text:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”   John 6:51

Sermon:   “Bread and Circuses”

Tease:  We take a final look at John’s account of Jesus Feeding the Five Thousand.  Once again, we will be reminded that Jesus is the “Bread of Life,” a humble metaphor that challenges us to consider not the things that we want … but the things that we truly need.   Sadly, the crowd is not interested in Jesus’ “heavenly” sustenance.   Like many today, they are too easily enticed with promises of bread and circuses. 

Final Summer Barbeque THIS Sunday!!   Following Service

It is our joy to welcome the members of Green family from New Hampshire this weekend.  Many of you will remember the legendary Henry Green, NGCC pastor (1969-1979)  who established the Henry Green Scholarship program.  This Sunday, great granddaughter, Julia Tibbits will be receiving a 2018 scholarship.  How exciting that it coincides with our last summer pot-luck barbeque!

As always, hot dogs. hamburgers and drinks will be provided

Please bring a salad and/or desert to share!!

See You Sunday!!


 Tiger Swallowtail,  NGCC Pollinator Garden

Tiger Swallowtail,  NGCC Pollinator Garden

Road Rules:  “Promise me you’ll always remember: You are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  (Christopher Robin to Pooh)  A.A. Milne