From the Backcountry ...

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

October 19, 2018

 Last year’s Rainbow Carrot harvest

Last year’s Rainbow Carrot harvest

From the Backcountry …

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.  The second best time is today.”  Chinese proverb

Even though there are days when life weighs heavy and the future seems cloudy, we must continue to believe in our ability to reach goals.  By remaining stubbornly positive and focusing on serendipity, rather than misfortune, a path eventually appears.   And on those days when it feels like we’re spiraling into a bottomless pit, remember that panic and despondency will only pull us further down – while quiet reflection opens unsuspected ways. 

So, resolve not to give in to the “pitfalls.”  Let’s always do our best to maintain a constructive, determined attitude and a serene composure.

Sunday, October 21   Oktoberfest Sunday!!  10:30 a.m.

Scripture passages:  Psalm 91; Luke 12: 16-21

Text:  “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves, but are not rich toward God.”  Luke 12:21

Sermon:  “All Good Gifts”

Tease:    Harvest festivals have been observed for over seven thousand years!!  As we gather to enjoy our own Oktoberfest, we’ll take a look at the history and meaning behind these autumn traditions that are celebrated around the globe.   In a world where so much actively promotes one’s own self-interest, our Gospel lesson will also remind us that  harvests  provide wonderful opportunity to righting the balance between providing for ourselves and building a world that reaches out to those in need.  So join us as we share some brats and bier … and gather in our final Teaching Garden harvest (carrots) for Neighbor to Neighbor.


Immediately following Worship

A special order of Fleisher’s Butchery Brats will be grilled to perfection for our first annual NGCC Oktoberfest!! 

Members and friends are asked to bring a side dish (with some kind of German flare) AND an ample supply of craft beer to share!!  Soft drinks will be provided.

Hopefully someone will remember that it’s never a good idea to imbibe German beer without pretzels – particularly the “hard” baked Bavarian brezeln that are warm and squishy on the inside.  Tip: In order to get that wonderful glossy and crunchy finish, you’ll need to use a little lye - yes, that caustic substance that is traditionally used to make soap. (The causticity of the lye dissipates as the pretzel is baked.)  On second thought, a bag of Snyder’s Bavarian Pretzels might be a little easier on the stomach. 

Bis Sonntag!!


Road Rules:  “God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change and the courage to change the one I can …And the wisdom to know it’s me!”  

Adaptation of Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer”

From the Backcountry

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

October 12, 2018

 Orb Spider Web -  Harbinger of Fall

Orb Spider Web - Harbinger of Fall

From the Backcountry …

 “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable Spirit revealed in all the slight details that we perceive with our frail and feeble minds.”    Albert Einstein

Even though Jesus had a boundless grasp of Scripture, he often turned to the natural world for occurrences that teach Gospel truths.   Our ability to perceive these lessons is cultivated as we find the time and desire to search for God’s signs in the earth, plants, sun, weather, water and critters around us. So, take as much time as you can to look at, listen to, touch and taste October’s glorious splendor.  As you study all the sticks, stones, feathers, shells and leaves, your wisdom of God’s ways is sure to grow with each passing season.

Sunday,  October 14, 2018  Morning Worship  10:30 a.m.

Scripture Readings:  Psalm 22;  Romans 12: 3-18

Text:  “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  Romans 12:18

Sermon:   “Oh Bother!”

Tease:  Sunday marks the anniversary of the publication of A. A. Milne’s first collection of stories about Winnie the Pooh!   What we discover in these tales of the “Hundred Akre Wood” is a portrait of society that has remained relevant for almost a Hundred years!!  Yes, the characters are merely stuffed toys… but within their exploits and, more importantly, their foibles, we see ourselves and all the possibilities for finding life in all its fullness.


Sunday,  October 21   Immediately following Worship

O.K. – It’s time to get in touch with our inner “Deutscher/Deutshen” and celebrate the Harvest! No holds barred!!   After a rousing sermon extoling the virtues of Oktoberfesting, we will retire to the picnic grove to partake in our annual fall potluck. 

Brats and Buns will be provided …

THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN - We need lots of other German foodstuffs!!   You can do it!!   Sauerkraut … Spätzle …Potato Salad …German Chocolate Cake!!  The internet is loaded with easy German recipes.  Be adventurous.  

Here’s an easy one:   German Pan-fried Potatoes (Bratkartoffein)

5 cups of potatoes – peeled and chopped

1 large onion - finely chopped

6 pieces of bacon

2 Tbsps. of olive oil

Peel and chop potatoes (place in cold water to prevent browning)

Cook 6 pieces of bacon in skillet (medium heat) - move to plate/ save bacon fat

Add chopped onion to bacon fat in skillet – sauté – move to plate with bacon

Place chopped potatoes in pan with bacon fat – season with salt, pepper and paprika

Cover pan – cook on medium heat for 25 minutes (repeat with remaining potatoes

Use 1 Tbsp. of olive oil if needed)

Place pan fried potatoes in dish – Stir in caramelized onions and chopped bacon

Take to Church and serve

Oh … one last but very important detail - Bring German Beer to share!! 

See You Sunday,


 Road Rules:  “As we get older, we realize that a $300 watch and a $30 watch both tell the same time.  A Michael Kors wallet and a Forever 21 wallet hold the same amount of money.  A million dollar house and a $100,000 house host the same loneliness.  A Ford will drive us as far as a Bentley.  Happiness is not found in material things.  It comes from the love and laughter we find in each other.”    Author unknown

From the Backcountry ...

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

September 28, 2018

 “St Francis Feeding the Birds”  by Giotto

“St Francis Feeding the Birds” by Giotto

From the Backcountry …

“Whoever watches the wind will not plant… whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.”  Ecclesiastes 11:4

It is human nature to be cautious, particularly when confronting more momentous decisions.  Determining whether one should or should not do something can be a process fraught with perceived peril.  Such is Hamlet’s plight.  His inability to chart a course of action ends up undermining his entire sense of well-being.  One can only ponder options for so long.  Yes, we’re told, “Not decide is to decide.”  But, in most cases, the only way to know what the future holds is to venture forth in faith … and simply live it!

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

Scripture Lessons:  Psalm 124;  Luke 12:32-40

Text:  “Fear not, little flock for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  Luke 12:40

Sermon:  “The Other Jesus”

Tease:   Christendom pauses this coming week (October 4) to remember John Bernardone - better known as Francis of Assisi.  History’s most beloved saint is often associated with animal blessings and statuary in tranquil garden sanctuaries.   His true legacy, however, leads us to society’s harshest realities and ministry among the  most destitute.   Biographers often refer to Francis as the “other” Jesus because he so fervently desired to become a true “crusader” - or cross bearer. While the church tends to “tame” her saints, St. Francis challenges us to grapple with the Gospel message in the light of our most personal issues and concerns. 

Our Church’s Wider Mission

“Just Peace” Initiative

“You don’t have to be big to make an impact and change lives”

The United Church of Christ website recently showcased two tiny parishes in rural Indiana, who are engaged in some remarkable mission work.   From assembling and distributing kits for the homeless, to building wells in Niger and raising money to buy land for a school in Haiti, they are taking demonstrable steps to support our denomination’s 30-year strong “Just Peace” initiative.  Determining a congregational mission strategy can be a daunting process. The signature “Just Peace” program is designed to help churches identify small (and not-so-small) measures that advance their best hopes and share Christ’s love with the wider world.

Take a moment to visit ….search for “Just Peace” … and explore what other churches are doing to spread the Gospel “from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria …and beyond.”

Road Rules:   “Life is ten percent what happens to us … and ninety percent how we respond to it.”   Lou Holtz

The manner by which we react to the routine circumstances of our lives will often determine their long term impact on us.  Even should a particular experience be considered isolated and unfortunate, residual feelings of anger, resentment, or hurt prevent our ability to perceive positive benefits and invariably exhaust our energies with unnecessary resistance.   Epictetus puts it this way - “We cannot choose our external circumstances… but we can always choose our response.” Those courageous enough to follow these simple guidelines will not only seize their destiny, but enjoy a much happier and successful life.

See You Sunday,


From the Backcountry ...

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

September 21, 2018

CParkFall2 035.JPG

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