From the Backcountry

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

June 22, 2018

hammock.jpg

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.  

fuega2.jpg

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

arborday2.jpg

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.”

From the Backcountry

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Weekly Pastor’s Update

May 18, 2018

 A meandering burn in the Scottish highlands

A meandering burn in the Scottish highlands

From the Backcountry …

“No poet ever found his muse, till by himself, he learned to wander down some trotting burn’s meander and dare not think too long.”   Robert Burns

Poets, bards, artists and musicians often speak of entering the creative realms through the influence of an “inspirer,” sometimes known as a muse, or a daimon.  These masters are the first to acknowledge that our true potential is “quickened” by a power beyond ourselves. So it is with the Holy Spirit - the promised advocate whom Christ assures the disciples will make their hearts leap into verdant life once again.  I am forever drawn to Robert Burns’ counsel for anyone trying to discover the “inspirer.”  We must go to those places where our soul is exposed to beauty … without expectation, without demand.  So as we enter this glorious season of Pentecost, I wish God’s blessing on all your meanderings into the frontier of your own true potential.

Sunday, May 20    Pentecost Sunday  10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:   Psalm 104 and Acts 2: 1-21

Text:  “Suddenly, from heaven, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind.”  Acts 2.2

Sermon:  “Second Wind”

Tease:  This Sunday we hear one of the greatest narratives of the Christian faith.  It is the story that speaks to us about the beginnings of the Church, the moment when the Spirit of God “blew” into a gathering of Jesus’ followers and forever changed their own life stories.  It is a story filled with amazement and confusion, with disbelief and wonder.  It is a story that has been seen as a beginning… as a new birth.  What do you suppose would happen if we were to hear this story yet again, not as something weird that happened a long time ago…but in such a way that connects it to our own lives and faith today?

Our Church’s Wider Ministry - Opihikao, Hawaii

 Rev. Eric S. Anderson, Pastor Church of the Holy Cross, UCC; Hilo, Hawaii

Rev. Eric S. Anderson, Pastor Church of the Holy Cross, UCC; Hilo, Hawaii

 You may remember Rev. Eric S. Anderson, who served as our Associate Conference Minister for Communication before accepting the call to serve as Pastor of the UCC Church in Hilo, Hawaii.  Eric helped us design our very first website many moon’s ago.  He recently gave the denomination an update on the Kilauea eruption - which I am excerpting here:

“Hawaii has a land area nearly that of the state of Connecticut, all the result of molten rock rising from miles beneath the surface.  The current outbreaks are the latest in a twenty-five year-long eruption. Though no sizable rivers of molten rock have emerged, 2,000 people have been driven from their homes.  Twenty-seven homes have been destroyed, along with nine commercial buildings. Fortunately, there has been no loss of life.  Red Cross officials report that around 15% of the evacuees are currently residing in shelters, as most turn to friends and family, trusting in the tight bonds of this community.  Members of the Puula United Church of Christ (three miles inland from the active zone) and the Maunakea Congregational Church have been laboring to find places for dislodged members and family. ‘The Churches are really reaching out,’ says Rev. Michael Warren. ‘Everybody is doing food and contributing.  The faith-based force has really come in.’ However, Rev Warren fears that nearby communities such as Opihikao could be cut off.  There are relatively few roads in the affected areas.  In addition, parts of the coastline may not be stable, and further earthquakes could trigger a collapse and create a tsunami.  This kind of natural disaster happens in slow motion.  It has no discernible end in sight.  It’s not like a hurricane, which arrives, makes its mark and leaves …and then the recovery can begin. Residents cannot know how long it will go on, how large it will grow, or how many will be affected.”

We will continue to pray for Eric, and the people of the Big Island as we await further news of this ongoing disaster.

See you Sunday,

Royal

From the Backcountry

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

May 11, 2018

 "There be Dragons"

"There be Dragons"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Backcountry …

“Indeed the water I give will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:14

As the glory of May-time unfurls in every leaf and flower, we are also beginning to feel a new vigor and energy surging within us.  The Welsh have a name for it -  Nwyfre -  a power that rises up from within, whether we are speaking of the earth, or ourselves.   Nwyfre has been traditionally represented by an “awakening” dragon.   In fact, this symbol is emblazoned on the Welsh flag - thereby reflecting the proud spirit of a people who derive their sense of well-being from the energy of a land that has sustained them for nearly thirty millenniums.

In a couple of weeks’ time, we will be celebrating Pentecost and the “coming” of the Holy Spirit.  But, rest assured, that power already stirs within us.  The dragon is awakening from its winter dormancy to empower us with renewed energy and life.

Sunday, May 13   10:30 a.m.    Morning Worship

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 1;  Acts 1:15-26

Text:  “…and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven.”  Acts 1:26

Sermon:  “Out of the Ordinary”

Tease:  As we begin our preparations for Pentecost, we examine the story of Matthias, the man chosen to replace Judas Iscariot.  It’s no “burning bush” story, to be sure.  In fact, what stands out is how ordinary the selection process ends up becoming – a casting of lots.  We learn nothing of Matthias’ qualifications.  And we will learn nothing about his subsequent performance.  And yet, his selection tells us volumes about the meaning discipleship and the expectations we bring to our own role within the community as faith – as ordinary as that life ends up becoming.

 Lava flow in Leilani Estates,  Hawaii

Lava flow in Leilani Estates,  Hawaii

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Church’s Wider Ministry - Kilauea Eruptions

Last Sunday, we began praying for the residents of the Big Island of Hawaii.  By now, we have seen the footage of lava fountains spewing into the air.  More than thirty homes have been destroyed, forcing some 1700 residents to evacuate.  While there have been no further reports of lava flow since Wednesday, the US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory continues to issue warnings that additional  outbreaks are likely.  Hawaii County civil defense administrator Talmadge Magno said, “This could be happening for a long time, or, mysteriously just stop.”

Volunteers are currently assisting about 200 evacuees who are now sleeping at emergency shelters, but lawmakers are concerned it could take weeks, or even months before they will return home.  Cracks are making many roads “not passable.”   Authorities are permitting those who can access their homes to gather belongings, but with the caveat that they might have to rush out again.  One of the ongoing dangers is the emission of deadly Sulphur dioxide gas.  This gas and other pollutants (like ash) settle with moisture and dust to create a deadly volcanic smog, or “Vog,” causing any number of respiratory complications.  Residents also have to be constantly aware that the explosions provide little, if any, warning and can send “ballistic projectiles” (from the size of small pebbles to giant boulders) into the air.

So, this situation remains volatile on the Big Island.  We will continue to pray for those impacted by these developments and await further information from UCC Disaster Relief about efforts, supported by our OCWM mission dollars that are supporting this vulnerable community.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

Royal

Road Rules:  “A mother understands what a child does not say.”  Jewish Proverb