On Line Worship Service, May 31, 2020, Pentecost!

Welcome to this service. This Pentecost service was put together as our nation increases the speed of its falling apart.  Economic inequity and unregulated greed, environmental destruction, widespread nefarious acts to take the vote away from non-white, non-affluent people, virulent polarization and deadly racism are all being inflamed by our federal government to the point of conflagration.

I hope you will take to heart the calling of Pentecost to let yourself fill with the Spirit’s power, and I hope you will use whatever gifts it has given you to protest and prophesy, to help and heal, to dedicate all you are and all you have to creating the realm of God’s love, compassion and justice on earth.

Mel Goertz’s haiku for this week takes on deeper meaning if you think of the flickering fires of hope in cities across America, the fires of people struggling for justice, struggling for the simple right to live in equality, dignity and peace:

The first firefly
a star among the dark trees
blinking on and off.

You will find an “Orientation to this Service and Announcements” after the first few videos.  This week we celebrate Pentecost with a special gorgeous duet Prelude, a joyful and funny dramatic interpretation of the Pentecost story in Acts 2 and two celebratory pieces by our choir.  We are trying a slightly different format: instead of a Call to Worship and longer sermon we will have a linked series of three shorter teachings.  The best experience may be to set aside a block of time to experience this entire page as a worship service (under an hour) but it is designed to allow you to watch in two to ten minute segments if that works better for you.  Thank you.

Let us open our hearts to receive whatever the Spirit would have us receive here today.

Prelude Flute Sonata in Eb Major, BWV 1031, J.S. Bach; Laila Reimanis, Flute; Annemieke McLane, piano:

Scripture Lesson:  Acts 2:1-17

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…”

A Dramatic Interpretation of the Pentecost Story

I asked the same family of thespians who performed the Palm Sunday story to create a dramatic interpretation of the Pentecost story.  I encouraged them to enter into the wild, joyful and occasionally comical spirit of the day.  They did!  And they proved that the Holy Spirit is by no means done inspiring us with gifts to use to serve the world.  Enjoy! (It will help if you have read the scripture passage above first.)

Time with Children and Youth (and all ages…)

Alternative Lord’s Prayer

I invited children, parents and other adults to record themselves saying the prayer.  Here is a composite of six readers.  Please keep sending these in—it would be wonderful to have every member of the congregation lead the prayer!

Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer,
Way, Truth and Life,
Force of Love and Light
flowing within and all around us,
may your realm of compassion,
justice and peace rule our world.
Thank you for nurturing and guiding us,
forgiving us and helping us forgive,
and leading us away from harmful desires.
Please save us from all forms of evil,
for you are our source, our home, our power,
all goodness and beauty forever. Amen.

Hymn “Halle, Halle, Halle,” Caribbean, arranged by John L. Bell, sung by the United Church of Strafford Choir

Please join in singing this with the choir.  There are only two words: “halle” and “hallelujah.”  Sing with reckless abandon, and don’t worry about getting it just right.  Or, if you are like me, sing it with tears of love and missing and longing as you look at the photographs, a fullness of joy and a fullness of sorrow.


Orientation to this Service and Announcements

Welcome to this online worship service of the United Church of Strafford, Vermont for May 31st, 2020, the Day of Pentecost

You can respond with thoughts about the service or with anything you would like to say by using the comment feature at the end of the post or by emailing us.  You can also bring others into this experience by sharing the link to this service by email or social media.

Here is the order of worship on this page:

  • Above: Welcome, Mel’s Haiku, Prelude, Scripture, Dramatic Interpretation, Children’s Time, Prayer and Hymn;
  • First Teaching;
  • Anthem (“Everytime I Feel the Spirit” sung by the choir)
  • Second Teaching;
  • Anthem (“Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness” sung by a virtual choir)
  • Third Teaching
  • Offering;
  • Benediction Anthem (“We Shall Overcome” sung by another virtual choir)
  • Postlude.

Please note that we are gathering as a congregation by Zoom at 10:30 AM on Sunday mornings to say hello to one another and share our Joys and Concerns and Prayer requests and offer our compassion and support and company for this journey.

Our Heartfulness Contemplative Training Circle is also meeting by Zoom on Thursdays at 6:00 PM.  This is for anyone who is interested in practicing mindfulness or meditation, or heartfulness and centering prayer.  It is a time for talking about those practices and also more generally about our spiritual life.

You can find links to instructions on how to be part of those Zoom gatherings on the Welcome Page of our website.

If you are not on our weekly email list and would like to be, please email us at unitedchurchofstrafford@gmail.com and we will make sure you receive all our church news.

It is extremely important that we stay connected now.  Please reach out by phone or email to neighbors and other members of the congregation, especially those who live by themselves or are struggling or vulnerable.  Our Deacons, Becky Bailey, Kim Welsh and Maggie Hooker, are coordinating our Deacons Fund and our outreach to people in need of support, and Danette Harris, Chair of our Mission Committee, is leading our work with the Food Shelf.  Becky, Danette and Joey Hawkins are on the town committee that is coordinating outreach as well.  If you would like to donate or help please email us or use the comment feature on this page.

You can listen to this service in one sitting in under an hour or you may spread it out over the course of the day or week. Thank you!

First Teaching

You can read the text of all three teachings for this week by clicking here.

Anthem “Every Time I Feel the Spirit,” African-American, sung by the United Church of Strafford Choir

Second Teaching

You can read the text of all three teachings for this week by clicking here.

Anthem “Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness” sung by another church choir (not ours)

Third Teaching

You can read the text of all three teachings for this week by clicking here.


This congregation is a small but meaningful part of the movement to establish God’s realm of peace, justice and care for God’s creation on earth, actively engaged in serving our community and supporting the wider worldwide movement.  One of the ways we work together and increase our strength beyond our individual abilities is by pooling our resources.  This is hard to do when we are forced apart by the pandemic, so we hope you will take just a minute to use our online donation service.

To make your offering on line, please click here.  (This is a service we are providing through an extremely well established on-line donation company specializing in churches that is recommended by the national United Church of Christ and used by thousands of churches like ours.  To read more about our decision to allow on line donations, click here.)

Benediction Anthem “We Shall Overcome” This was filmed before this week of mass protests around the country, but it feels poignant.

Postlude  F. Schubert, Sonata in A major, D 959 (1828) Scherzo (Allegro Vivace) Annemieke McLane, piano

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