United Church of Strafford, Vermont

Upcoming Service Notes for May 20, 2018 Pentecost!

This Sunday could be considered the most important in the church year.  We would not know about Christmas and Easter, let alone celebrate them, if it were not for what happened on Pentecost.  There would be no church, no message of good news.  Jesus of Nazareth would not be even a footnote in history.

Instead he became the single most influential man who ever lived.

There was a saying in the American Civil Rights Movement about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  “Martin did not make the Movement–the Movement made Martin.”

Jesus never founded a church or religious institution, and at the time of his death most of his disciples had deserted him–all but a handful of strong, courageous and faithful women.

Because of those women, the other disciples discovered that the tomb was empty and Jesus lived, and so it was that they were all in one place on the day of Pentecost when the miracle happened and the movement began that is the one reason why Jesus became what he did and why we have a church today.

So this is a big Sunday.  We will hear the story from the second chapter of Acts about what happened, as well as a verse from the Gospel of John where Jesus prophesies about it.  (John 16:13)  We will also read from the beautiful Psalm about the Spirit of creation, number 104.

We will sing “Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” and “Be Thou My Vision,” and a popular contemporary hymn, “Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness,” that has a flowing melody that fits perfectly with the story of the Holy Spirit on earth.

The sermon title will be “Declaring the Things That Are to Come” and our Future Directions Study Group will unveil the summary statements of appreciations and dreams that are drawn from our questionnaire and small gatherings last fall.  The Spirit is calling us this Pentecost into a new chapter of our lives to meet our rapidly changing world.

The choir will sing three beautiful, popular songs of praise in different languages, as is fitting on Pentecost, “Henay Ma Tov,” “God Is So Good/Mungu Ni Mwema” and “Have Nashira.”  Pianist Annemieke McLane will play Bach preludes 9 and 21, BWV 854 and 866, as well as “Les Bergeries” by  F. Couperin.

Sermon from May 13, 2018

Even the Sparrow Finds a Home and the Swallow a Nest
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

United Church of Strafford, Vermont
May 13, 2018   Seventh Sunday of Easter, Ascension Sunday,
Mother’s Day, Festival of the Home
Psalm 84; Matthew 23:37-39; John 17:13-23

The Rev. Dr. William Barber is a national leader of the NAACP.  He has recently revived the Poor People’s Campaign that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had begun when he was assassinated in 1968.  Barber has written, “As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saw clearly in the last years of his life, we face a real choice between chaos and community—we need a moral revolution. If that was true fifty years ago, then we must be clear today: America needs a moral revival to bring about beloved community…. The main obstacle to beloved community continues to be the fear that people in power have used for generations to divide and conquer God’s children who are, whatever our differences, all in the same boat.”

Father Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation.  He continues Barber’s thought, saying, “I believe that ‘moral revival’ is a natural outgrowth of realizing how connected we already are: what we do unto others or to the earth, we really do to ourselves. All created beings are included in this one Body of God…. It takes a contemplative, nondual mind to see foundational oneness—that we truly are ‘in the same boat.’”

The first call for a Mother’s Day was by the popular author Julia Ward Howe who wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  Howe’s vision was in keeping with those of William Barber, Richard Rohr and Martin Luther King Jr.  She had witnessed the horrors of the Civil War and called for a “Mother’s Day for Peace,” a day when women around the world would go on strike from their daily labors and convene to talk about the abolition of war.  Howe dreamed of women saying to their husbands that they would not tolerate their use of war as a way to settle disagreements.  She dreamed of mothers insisting they would not have their children recruited to hurt the children of other mothers.

Julia Ward Howe wrote in her 1870 Mother’s Day Proclamation, “Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, man as the brother of man, each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.”

Jesus was filled with similar motherly passion when he said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Jesus had attained what Richard Rohr called “a contemplative, nondual mind [that can] see foundational oneness—that we truly are ‘in the same boat.’”  Jesus prayed in the Farewell Discourses of the Gospel of John, “I ask…that they may all be one. Read More

Upcoming Service Notes for May 13, 2018

This Sunday we celebrate several things: the last Sunday of Eastertide, the Ascension of Christ, Mother’s Day and the Festival of the Home.  Bringing all those together with what is happening in nature right now we will think about nests, how we are born into them, how we are nesting creatures, how people we love leave our nests, how we leave the nests of people we love, how our spiritual tradition teaches us to respond to losses or imperfections in our nests.

You can read about the children’s Religious Exploration program that will be happening in the Parish Hall mid-way through worship by clicking here.

We will read the beautiful Psalm 84 and sing the even more beautiful tune of “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” with words that translate that Psalm.  The children will hear the good-parts version of the story of the Ascension based loosely on Acts 1, and we will read two gospel passages, Matthew 23:37-39 and John 17:13-23, that relate to our nesting and being one.

We will also sing the beautiful Mendelssohn hymn with words by Harriet Beecher Stowe, “Still, Still With Thee,” a perfect one for these glorious spring mornings.  We will send the Easter Season off with one of the most rousing, fun to sing hymns in our tradition, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” followed by the Caribbean “Halle Halle Halle” that we sang on Easter morning.

The choir will sing a Korean “Hallelujah!” as well, and the Anthem will be “Dreams That Children Dream” by R.E. Schram & C. Staggers.  PIanist Annemieke McLane will play pieces by Debussy and Schumann. 

Concert and Music News

Next Concerts

Held on Fridays (except where noted), 7:00-8:15 PM. Admission by donation, 20% goes to the church’s Manheim Fund for the Arts.

May 11th, “Music and Memories,” pianist Annemieke McLane. Composers writing for friends, or about memories, pieces listeners may have memories from—an eclectic selection of great pieces.

June 22nd, “Beethoven & Friends,” pianist Annemieke McLane (repeat by request of people who missed it)

Saturday, July 14th, Summer Workshop concert

August 31st, Cassotto Duo (Jeremiah & Annemieke McLane)

Summer workshop!! “Tonalities/Tonal Center.” July 11, 12th evenings and 14th day plus evening concert. Led by Annemieke McLane.  Songs throughout ages in many keys, modes, moods.

Sing with the Choir  Weekly choir for ages 12-92. Sing in service. Sing with gratitude, love, pain, all that is there.  Everyone is welcome 8:50 AM-ish. Rehearsals start 9 AM. At the beginning of each month a 4-week plan/repertoire list will be handed out. All levels/experiences are welcome.

Sermon from May 6, 2018

Chosen and Appointed
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

United Church of Strafford, Vermont
May 6, 2018   Sixth Sunday of Easter
Psalm 98; Acts 10:44-48; John 15:9-17

Pentecost is just two weeks away, when we will hear the story of the first church being born.  The Holy Spirit came upon the followers of Christ like a rush of wind and tongues of fire.  The Spirit filled them with inspiration and the power to do things they never imagined being able to do.

Jesus said that no one could enter the realm of God on earth without the Spirit giving birth to that life and guiding and empowering it.  He said, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:1-8)

This is an extraordinary, life-changing teaching.  Forget all we have been taught that success means.  The thing that matters most is that we allow ourselves to be filled by this wild Holy Spirit, this creative force of love and life and light over which we have absolutely no control and which we cannot predict or even fully understand.  What defines success is opening to it and welcoming it and handing our will and life over to it however it chooses to blow through us.

We surrender our ego to that Spirit and find ourselves being born into another way of being.  Our life may look as unsuccessful as Christ hanging on the cross, or St. Francis walking out of Assisi like a homeless beggar, or Nelson Mandela suffering for 27 years in prison, or any of us sitting in a church pew on a Sunday morning instead of lying in bed eating bonbons.  Our life may seem senseless or pointless by our society’s standards of competitive self-interest, but following where the Spirit leads is success in the realm of God.

On the one hand, that teaching can be such a relief.  We can rest from all our anxious labor and wait with patience for the Spirit to make our next step known.  The Spirit will give our life the highest meaning and purpose it can have, if we learn how to discern its still, small voice and trust it enough to follow where it leads.

On the other hand, we could run in the other direction, because we like worldly success.  We like the idea of being in control of our lives.  We like the comfort of our familiar ways. Read More

Children’s Program: Who Was Jesus? What Did He Teach? Why Does It Matter?

New Religious Exploration program for children starts this Sunday.  This week, Joey Hawkins and Danette Harris and Pastor Tom Kinder met to discuss and plan another session of religious education. After much discussion and consideration, it was decided to focus on the life and teachings of Jesus for the next six weeks. Since we couldn’t wait to get started, we are kicking off the new session this coming Sunday. Below are the dates and the tentative topics:

Who Was Jesus? What Did He Teach and Why Does He Matter?

Sunday, May 6: Humble Beginnings: The Birth of Jesus
Sunday, May 13: Jesus as a Child in the Temple
Sunday, May 20: Jesus’ Baptism and Journey Into the Wilderness
Sunday, May 27: Jesus: Teacher and Healer
Sunday, June 3: Jesus: Reformer, Prophet and….Trouble
Sunday, June 10: Jesus Lives! Easter, Pentecost and Carrying the Teachings of Jesus Forward
Children of al ages are invited to join us in the Parish Hall after the Time with the Children in the Sunday service!

Upcoming Service Notes for May 6, 2018

We will hear and sing three of the powerful South African Freedom Songs again this Sunday, in case you missed them last week.  We also will sing three favorite hymns, “God of Grace and God of Glory,” and “Take My Life and Let It Be” and “Let Us Break Bread Together.”

Last week the service reflected on the movement for freedom, justice and peace that dates back to the earliest stories in the Bible, a movement carried forward by the Hebrew prophets and Jesus and Paul and all the saints through the ages until people like Dorothy Day, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and the Rev. William Sloane Coffin in our own time.

This week the scriptures tell us that we are chosen and appointed for our own role in this movement to establish God’s realm of love on earth.  We will look at what that may mean for us as individuals and as a church.  We will read Psalm 98, Acts 10:44-48 and John 15:9-17.

Pianist Annemieke McLane will play two of the pieces that Johann Sebastian Bach included in his Notebook for his wife Anna Magdalena Bach, including “Rondeau” by François Couperin and Bach’s Aria of the Goldberg Variations.  Annemieke will also play Consolation 2 in E Major by F. Liszt.