United Church of Strafford, Vermont

Sermon from September 16, 2018

Celebrating Our Future Directions Vision
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

United Church of Strafford, Vermont
September 16, 2018   Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost,
Annual Meeting Sunday

Selected New Testament Verses:

Expand the vision of your heart, for the realm of God is here. The realm of God is within and among you. For God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may discern the will and way of God. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before all, so that they may see your good works and give glory to God. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God. By the tender mercy of our God the dawn from on high is breaking upon us to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Take up your cross and follow me.  

We have much to celebrate in our Future Directions vision (see below) and in ways we are already fulfilling it, starting with what a gift it is to have a place here where we can turn with hope—a congregation that faces together the global crises and personal struggles that worry or grieve us most, drawing on thousands of years of collected wisdom.

I want to reflect briefly on some of that spiritual wisdom as it relates to our vision.  Read More

Upcoming Service Notes for September 16, 2018 Annual Meeting Sunday

Worship this Sunday will explore and celebrate the vision that is emerging of the congregation we feel called to be in this crucial time in the history of our nation and human civilization.  You can read the first draft Future Directions Vision Statements by clicking here.  We will also celebrate four new official members joining the congregation, Jane Prescott, Cameron Speth, Christina Robinson and Tom Kinder.  Following worship and a break for refreshments we will have Annual Meeting where we vote to put in place the logistical pieces needed to help us live into our vision in the coming year.

The worship service will include a medley of scripture verses that provide the spiritual grounding for the congregation we envision being.  We will sing some favorite hymns or hymn tunes, including “Community of Christ” (set to the tune “Leoni” of “The God of Abraham Praise”), “Be Thou My Vision” and the Caribbean “Halle Halle Halle.”  The choir will sing “Spirit of the Living God,” “Simple Gifts” and will lead us in the Caribbean Hallelujah.  Becky Bailey will direct the choir and we will welcome back Annemieke McLane’s outstanding pupil, Nicole Johnson, as our pianist.

Here is a YouTube of Halle Halle Halle from a collection put together by John Bell, the influential church musician best known through his work with the Iona Community in Scotland.  We will be singing from a book of his that the choir frequently uses.

Sermon from September 9, 2018

Happy Are Those Whose Hope Is in God
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

United Church of Strafford, Vermont
September 9, 2018   Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 146; James 2:1-9; Mark 7:24-37

Before the sermon we enacted with the children a scene from the Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back.  You can see it here:

Here are photos from our skit:

This Tuesday a book entitled Fear will go on sale.  It is already the number one best seller on Amazon.  This past week Conference Minister Lynn Bujnak, wrote in the Vermont United Church of Christ newsletter, “There are times in our lives…when we want to throw up our hands in despair. Times when it seems as if there is nothing we can do to stem the tide, the erosion of everything we value the most. In those moments it is easy to trick ourselves into believing that hope is gone, that nothing can change…”

Lynn went on, “As followers of Christ, abandoning hope is not an option. We follow a God of surprises, a God who has promised to make all things new and a God who reminds us of our part in that transformation.”  Lynn is right, despair is not an option, nor is fear.  But it is going to take a miracle on a global scale to save the civilization that has nurtured us, and when we think of what our children and grandchildren may have to live through, fear and despair are rational responses.

It did not take a miracle to get us in this condition, it took decades of calculated greed, inflammatory talk shows and political opportunism.  It is no miracle that economic inequality has become so entrenched, that climate change has surged out of control, that oligarchy and authoritarian government are threatening our democratic republic, that fascist white supremacism has gained a foothold in the White House.

They have happened by strategic political and cultural groundwork.  So why do we need a miracle if we want to reverse them?  Because we do not have thirty years to rebuild the foundations of democracy.  We do not have thirty years to adopt a sane climate policy.  We need to find solutions to problems right now that seem unsolvable, and to do that, we need our culture to be transformed to have something like the heart and mind of Christ, and that is going to take a miracle.

And guess who is going to have to do that miracle: the body of Christ as it lives in the world today.  In other words, us.  So we need to learn how. Read More

2018 Annual Report

Below are links to the 2018 United Church of Strafford Annual Report.  Please read these before Annual Meeting on September 16th after worship.  Thank you!  (The Warning for the meeting is printed below.)

2018 USC Annual Report

Addendum P. 1 and 2

Addendum P. 3

Addendum P. 4

Addendum P. 5

Warning: United Church of Strafford Annual Congregational Meeting will take place Sunday, September 16, 2018, following the Sunday morning service: The congregation will be asked to act on committee and board reports and to vote on nominees for boards and committees and the annual church budget. The congregation will also be asked to approve a transfer of $25,000 from the Endowment to the Cumulative Income Account for anticipated major capital costs and operating deficits over the next three years.  This motion further allows a change of the name of the Cumulative Income Account to the Cumulative Income Capital Account.  The congregation may also act on any other issues that are legally brought before the meeting.

If you have any questions, please contact the Moderator, John Hawkins.


Climate Rise for Action Event Saturday, September 8th

Danette Harris, the Chair of our Mission Committee, asked that we spread the word about this event:

From: Two Rivers Action Coalition (TRAC) <strafford-sharon-area-action-group@googlegroups.com>
Date: Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 5:40 PM
Subject: Join TRAC in Montpelier for a global rise for climate mobilization
To: Two Rivers Action Coalition (TRAC) <strafford-sharon-area-action-group@googlegroups.com>

On Saturday, September 8th at the Vermont State House Lawn in Montpelier, there will be a picnic and fair designed to bring awareness to the need to address climate change. 

We are gathering to demand action that puts us on a fast and equitable path towards a fossil-free future and 100% renewable energy.
These RISE FOR CLIMATE actions are happening all over the world in advance of the Global Climate Action Summit hosted by the Governor of California Jerry Brown from September 12 to 14.
Please join other TRAC members in attending this event and making our voice heard. Jill will be at the Sharon Park and Ride in a blue CRV and can take 4 others. Strafford folks going can respond to this message with their plans for meeting at the South Strafford Park and ride.

Upcoming Service Notes for September 9, 2018

The choir will begin the service with the South African freedom song, “Siyahamba (We Are Marching in the Light of God).”  It is a joyful, confident, powerful song. You can feel the courage and faith of the anti-apartheid South Africans, black and white, singing it in church and singing it as they marched in the streets.  It is harder to sense the terror and despair that they had to overcome to sing it in the face of the brutal, totalitarian government that was destroying their lives, their nation and whole former world.

Today fear and despair are becoming challenges for many among us in response to different problems that threaten the well being of our lives and the sustainability of human civilization and the world as we have known and loved it, including 1. the erosion of democracy and rise of authoritarian oligarchy and tyranny; 2. poverty and extreme economic inequality; 3. white supremacism and hatred toward people of other races, religions and nationalities; 4. climate change and dramatic environmental degradation and upheaval—to name only some of what we see in the news every day.

These all go directly against the teachings and model of Christ, the messages of the ancient Hebrew prophets and the realm of God as this congregation understands it.  We have plenty of good reasons to feel afraid and hopeless, and yet the wisdom of all spiritual traditions tells us that fear and despair are the enemies most necessary to overcome, not just for our happiness and peace as individuals, but to bring about miraculous solutions to impossible-seeming problems and establish the realm of God’s love and sustainable well-being on earth.

The words and music this week all point us to the sacred way summed up by that South African introit, the path of courage and faith, of joy and confidence and power in the service of God’s love and mercy.  We will look at how we can apply their teachings to guide and empower our lives today.  Read More

Sermon from September 2, 2018

Our Struggle Against the Spiritual Forces of Evil
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

United Church of Strafford, Vermont
September 2, 2018   Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 34; Ephesians 6:10-18a; John 6:56-60, 66-69

The Strafford Unitarian-Universalist congregation sends a daily devotional email.  Recently it shared this gem:

In 1998 the Rev. William Sloane Coffin gave a speech about Justin Morrill as part of a symposium….  Coffin said…

“[Justin Morrill’s] faith was in the basic goodness he sensed in…the citizens of the United States.  It was a faith he never lost, not during the dark days of the Civil War, nor during the corrupt times that followed.  He kept his faith despite the evidence, knowing that only in so doing did the evidence have any chance of changing.  His deepest desire was that we not sell ourselves short.”

That is classic Bill Coffin.  He said in an interview on National Public Radio in 1994, “Hope is a state of mind, independent of the state of the world…. You can keep the faith despite the evidence, knowing that only in so doing, has the evidence any chance of changing. So while I’m not optimistic, I’m always very hopeful.”

The evidence today is overwhelmingly against optimism.  We have no idea how we will solve the urgent problems threatening human civilization.  And yet, only in keeping faith despite the evidence does the evidence have any chance of changing.  The scriptures help us see why. Read More