From the Backcountry 7-7-17

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

July 7, 2017

Still Life with Shell by Andrew Wyeth

Still Life with Shell by Andrew Wyeth

From the Backcountry …

“One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach.”  Anne Morrow Lindbergh

As summer unfolds, many of us head to the beach.  Even if only for a day, we find it easy to fall under what Ann Morrow Lindbergh describes as “the spell of seashore rhythms.”  A quiet walk along the water enables us to relinquish customary concerns so that our minds can awaken to new awareness. But don’t expect insight and deep peace to occur immediately.  Gather a few shells, or stones, and bring them home with you.  Place them in a special place – perhaps a desk, or window sill.  Let them remind you of your relationship to nature, to the universal and timeless - where meaning and peace become inseparable.  Hold on to that sense of sense of well-being as long as you can… and then go about your day.

Sunday, July 9 Morning Worship10:30 a.m

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 145; Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30

Text:  “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.”  Matthew 11: 17

Sermon:  “Blame Game”

Synopsis:  This week’s text reveals an extraordinary teacher at work.  Using the allusion of a simple children’s game in his day, Jesus offers a commentary on his own generation that will feel awkwardly directed toward our own.  Once again, we will hear the reassuring words, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens … and I will give you rest.”  But gird yourselves.  The only way to experience this longed-for rest will be to put on Jesus’ yoke.

SUMMER BARBEQUE THIS SUNDAY!!   After worship.  Join us for a hamburger or hot dog after the Service.  Meats and Beverages will be provided.  Please bring a salad/dessert to share.


I came across this lovely litany by Max Coots, a Unitarian minister, entitled:  “Let Us Give Thanks:

For generous friend with hearts and smiles as bright as blossoms;

For feisty friends as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them;

For crotchety friends, sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends – who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn;

For the others, as plain as potatoes – yet so good for you;

For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussel sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes;

And serious friends, as complex as cauliflower,

Or, as intricate as onions;

For friends as unpretentious as cabbage, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini and who like, parsnips, can be counted on to see you through winter;

For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening, and young friends, coming on as fast as radishes;

For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings;

And finally for friends now gone … who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter.

For all these we give thanks.



Our Summer Break is coming up shortly.  There will be no services of worship on Sundays, July 16 and 23.   Regular Sunday worship will resume on July 30.


Enjoy those summer rhythms!



Road Rules:   Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.  In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to sing to us while we are still in darkness.  If we listen to their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves.”  

Rabindranath Tagore 

From the Backcountry 6-30-17

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

June 30, 2017

From the Backcountry …

The daisies in our pollinator garden are finally opening!  Botanists classify these perennials as leucanthemum “vulgare,” not that they are crude or indecent, but because they are so common!  There was a time when poets referred to daisies covering hillsides as the “snows” of June.  Farmers were not as kind.  For them, “vulgare” perfectly described this tenacious white-weed taking over their crop fields.  Ohio still lists the ox-eye daisy as a “noxious invasive.”   

The daisy (or day’s eye) is nonetheless an amazing plant. Take a closer look.  Each blossom is really a bouquet of flowers. Those deep yellow centers are composed of hundreds of tiny florets – each a separate pollen-bearing flower.  The surrounding petals merely serve as a landing pad for pollinators – or perhaps a handy tool in determining whether an admirer loves us … or not. 

Sunday, July 2    Morning Worship 10:30 a.m.   Holy Communion

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 13;   Matthew 10: 40-42

Text:  “And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you, none will lose their reward.  Matthew 10: 42

Sermon:   “Pursuit of Happiness”

Synopsis:  One of the inalienable rights that we celebrate this Independence Day is the pursuit of things that afford us pleasure, which conversely includes the freedom to avoid those things that cause us pain, thus presenting a patriotic dilemma.  How do we pursue love, without risking rejection?  How do we pursue growth, without risking failure?  How do we pursue happiness, without risking disappointment?  And then, the $64,000 question:  What finally convinces us that we are truly happy?  Our Gospel reading this Sunday challenges us to re-examine our formulas for achieving happiness.  Are they empowering us?  Or, are they setting us up for failure?



SUMMER BARBEQUE after Worship next week, July 9.  Bring a salad/dessert to share.

SUMMER BREAK:  No Services of Worship on July 16 and 23.  Worship will resume July 30


Happy Fourth,


From the Backcountry 6-23-17

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

June 23, 2017

From the Backcountry …

Tonight is St. John’s Eve … a perfect moment to dust off your DVD of Disney’s Fantasia and rewatch Night on Bald Mountain … for the original title of Mussorgsky’s eerie 1867 classic was “St. John’s Night on Bald Mountain.”  Like All Hallows Eve, this is a time when the “spirits” are believed to be particularly mischievous.  If you are more daring, consider joining revelers across the northern hemisphere who will be building protective bonfires on hill tops. It’s a midsummer night for magic, mystery and madness!  The quick and nimble will once again be goaded into jumping the flames for good fortune.  But make sure enough St. John’s wort is on hand to heal any bumps, bruises, or burns.  Above all, be attentive, like the haunting ending of Night on Bald Mountain, the peel of a church bell at daybreak will halt all the mayhem with tones of quiet reassurance that neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, can ever separate us from God’s love…and enjoy Saturday’s Feast of St. John the Baptist!!


Sunday, June 25   Morning Worship10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Psalms 86;   Matthew 10: 24-39

Text:  “I have not come to bring peace … but a sword.”  Matthew 10:34

Sermon:  “En Garde!” 

Synopsis:  Jerry Brady was fond of quoting the saying: “The gospel comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.”  We’ll need to hang on tightly to this maxim as we tackle Jesus’ particularly challenging warning: “I come not to bring peace, but a sword … to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother.” (Matthew 10:34-35)   We cringe whenever we hear this passage.  Is Jesus really calling for disrupted families and violence?  Or, with a little more context, might he actually be trying to bring reassurance to any downtrodden followers who find themselves facing a gathering storm.

“New and Improved” Website Launched!!

Our thanks to Kerry Linderoth who masterfully helped rebuild our congregation’s presence on the World Wide Web!!  Check us out at: Lots of photos!!

Looking Ahead:

Summer Barbeque:  Sunday, July 9 Enjoy a moment of fellowship immediately following worship.  Hamburgers and Hot Dogs will be provided.  Please bring a salad, side dish or dessert to share.

Summer Break:   We will be taking our annual break this summer.  There will be no services of worship on Sundays, July 16 and 23.   Worship will resume on Sunday, July 30.

May the Spirit stir us,


Road Rules:  “It seems to be that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement, the greatest source of visual beauty, the greatest source of intellectual curiosity, the greatest source of everything that makes our lives worth living!”   David Attenborough, Broadcaster and author.

From the Backcountry 6-16-17

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Weekly Pastor’s Update

June 16, 2017

Solstice 007.JPG

From the Backcountry...

It’s easy to lose all sense of time at this time of year.  The sun rises early and sets late.   Life moves a lot more slowly.  The air is heavy and fragrant with limitless bounty.  Insects hum.  Birds chirp.  Afternoon thunder rolls across surrounding hills.  What wonder…what joy…to finally adjust to more natural rhythms.  Let’s promise to afford ourselves ample time for recreation, for relaxation and restoration.    May your summer be as glorious…as it is languorous!

Sunday,  June 18     Morning Worship   10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:   Psalm 100; Matthew 9:35 – 10:8

Text:  “Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits… “  Matthew 10:1

Sermon:  “Devil In The Details”

Synopsis:   It strikes me as odd that in addition to curing every illness, “casting out unclean spirits” is also listed on the job description for Jesus’ disciples.  While the Vatican may have an official exorcist on staff, “demon possession” doesn’t find its way into most contemporary religious conversation.  So, what does Jesus have in mind by giving us “unfettered” power over unclean spirits?   The passage makes more sense once we unshackle that verb:  “fettered.”


Looking Ahead:   Two summer barbeques are scheduled for Sundays, July 9 and August 13.  Both will follow the service of worship.  Meats and beverages will be provided.  Everyone is asked to bring a salad or dessert to share.

David Junker   University of North Carolina - Masters of Business Administration

Henry Green Scholarship Recipient

After accepting a position at Vision Financial Markets in Stamford, David quickly became a Chartered Financial Consultant and Vice President of Trading, prompting his enrollment in the University of North Carolina on-line MBA program. This course of study involves immersion experiences in various global financial centers.  David recently returned from Johannesburg, South Africa where he surveyed the post-apartheid business landscape, interacting with business leaders, some having been victims of oppression, others coming from privileged backgrounds.  Today, they work side-by-side to bring South Africa “up from the ashes of prejudice.”  While in Johannesburg, David visited an orphanage in a Soweto township that also serves as an HIV clinic.  The following excerpt from his application essay describes how the experience has shifted the focus of his own MBA studies:

“It was here that we saw the side effects of modern society rear their ugly heads.  HIV/AIDS has long been an epidemic in African countries.  But, drug use is a rapidly growing problem… causing the further spread of HIV, as needles are often shared through an activity called, “bluetoothing.”  Those who can’t afford drugs find it easier to steal flat screen TVs and inject chemical components found in the screen. This is contributing to an endless cycle of crime, disease, death - and orphans who lack the support needed to make it out of these townships.  This experience highlighted the role of entrepreneurs and business leaders in giving back to the communities they serve…and not just in developing nations!  All communities can benefit from sustainable and symbiotic business-community relationships.”

Well done, David!!  And congratulations on your new career journey!

Road Rules:  “Love has no conditions or boundaries.  It does not restrain itself or hold back.  Love gives all the time and asks nothing in return…a continuous flow without limits.  And it is all inside you!”   -Rhonda Byrne

Happy Father’s Day to all our Dads!!