United Church of Strafford, Vermont

On Line Worship Service, August 9, 2020

Welcome to this service. 

Today’s service is the first of four “unpastorized” services we will hold while Pastor Tom Kinder is on break. In Tom’s absence, we are simplifying the online service format to place the focus on meaningful sermons that you might have missed the first time around. We’ll be digging into our video archives of sermons, readings, messages for children, and music, as well as offering some new elements. 

During today’s worship, we especially hold in our prayers the family of Bill Burden, as we share their sorrow at his passing, and our Music Director, Annemieke McLane, as she and her family cope with the loss of their home in a fire earlier this week. (Information about how to support the Burdens and McLanes is under Announcements.)

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.

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.

With love,
Becky Bailey, for the UCS Deacons

Today’s Order of Worship
Prelude
Call to Worship
Announcements
Time with Children
Sermon
Hymn
Offering
Postlude

Prelude  “Water” Toccata in E minor, Fugue, J. S. Bach, piano and photography by Annemieke McLane

Today’s prelude video was created for the June 28 worship service and celebrates Annemieke’s life-giving music and photography.

Call to Worship This haiku by Mel Goertz is dedicated to Annemieke and family:

Trudging through clouds
And mist
Searching for glimmers of lights.

Announcements

Condolence notes for Dot Burden can be sent to her at Genesis Health Care, Lebanon, 24 Old Etna Rd, Lebanon, NH 03766. Donations are being collected for Annemieke and her family on the United Church online offering link as well as by checks made out to “McLane Recovery Fund” and sent to the United Church of Strafford Deacons, P O Box 124, Strafford VT 05072.

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.

 Time with Children (and Adults—For Everyone, Really!) 

Created for the May 24 service, this session with Pastor Tom considers what we can learn from high places – like the top of this nearby hill.

Sermon You Have What the World Needs by Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder, created for the June 28 service. Pastor Tom looks at people who embody the ways of Christ here on Earth, including the example of Bradford, Vt., and Freedom Rider Jonathan Daniels. You can find the text of the Sermon by clicking here.

Anthem  “The Lord’s My Shepherd/Brother James’ Air,” Becky Bailey, voice and piano, recorded in the United Church of Strafford sanctuary.

Writes Oxford Press: “Most of us have heard of an anthem called ‘Brother James’ Air,’ but just who was ‘Brother James’?  Well, turns out the good Brother was James Leith Macbeth Bain, born in Perthshire, Scotland in the mid-19th century. He attended several Scots colleges with the view of becoming a minister, and his calling took him to Liverpool and later, to London. He was the author of several books in addition to composing this morning’s anthem. An attribute of a gifted composer is his ability to use poetic license to slightly alter the text of existing poetry to make it more musical, while still upholding its inspiring essence.  In this anthem, Brother James gently edits the 23rd Psalm in this beautiful way:

The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want:
He Makes me down to lie
In pastures green;
He leadeth me the quiet waters by.

My soul he doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for his own name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For thou art with me,
And thy rod and staff me comfort still.

My table thou hast furnished
In presence of my foes;
My head thou dost with oil annoint,
And my cup overflows.

Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in my Father’s heart alway
My dwelling place shall be.

Offering

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.)

Postlude French Suite IV – Sarabande, J. S. Bach, BWV 815, Annemieke McLane, piano.

Churchwide Emails about Bill Burden

You can read our first churchwide email about the death of Bill Burden by clicking here.

You can read the second one by clicking here.

And the August 2, 2020 service sermon talked about him as well.

Weekly Churchwide Email, August 1, 2020

You can read our weekly email newsletter published on August 1, 2020 by clicking here.

Weekly Churchwide Email, July 25, 2020

You can read our weekly email newsletter published on July 25, 2020 by clicking here.

On Line Worship Service, August 2, 2020

Welcome to this service. 

The theme of today’s service is “Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled vs. Jesus Wept.”  The Bible and our entire tradition hold together these two seemingly contradictory approaches to loss and grief.  This service will explore where they lead us.  You will find three different approaches to the theme, first in the Call to Worship, then in this week’s Children’s Time (which is for adults as much as older children) and finally in the Sermon.

(I got talking about our beloved Bill Burden in the sermon, so it ended up being a little longer than sometimes—over twelve minutes.  You can find a link to both the Call to Worship and the Sermon’s written texts below as well.)

We have two guest contributions to this service, local chaplains and spiritual directors who have extensive experience and wisdom related to grief, the Rev. Deadra Ashton and Rachel Guaraldi.  Please be sure to hear them.

You will find an “Orientation to this Service and Announcements” after the first few videos. You can watch the entire service in under an hour or spread it out watching in shorter segments.  You can also find links along the way to read some of the service instead of watching the videos.  Please feel free to respond to the service using the comment feature of this website or you can email us at unitedchurchofstrafford@gmail.com.

 

Prelude  from Messe de Minuit by Marc-Antonin Charpentier

Annemieke McLane, piano and voice

Note that this week’s prelude was last week’s postlude.  Not many people heard it, and it is extraordinarily beautiful.  Its “Kyrie” tone fits today’s service perfectly.

 

Introit When Peace Like a River (with new verses)
tune: Ville de Havre (NCH#438) 11.8.11.9. with refrain, Music by Philip Bliss
verse 1 by Horatio G. Spafford: verses 2-4 by Thomas Cary Kinder

Sung and produced by Becky Bailey of the United Church of Strafford Choir, with Annemieke McLane playing the organ.

 

Teaching One: Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled vs. Jesus Wept—Call to Worship and Mel Goertz’s Haiku

You can find the text of the Call to Worship and Haiku by clicking here.

 

Orientation to this Service and Announcements

Welcome to this online worship service of the United Church of Strafford, Vermont for July 19th, 2020.

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, Prelude, Introit, Call to Worship and Mel Goertz’s Haiku;
  • This orientation;
  • Talking with Young Children about Grief  Rachel Guaraldi;
  • Time with Children (and Adults);
  • Alternate Lord’s Prayer read by six members of our congregation;
  • Reading “Spring and Fall” Gerard Manley Hopkins, read by the Rev. Deadra Ashton;
  • Scriptures John 11:25-36; 14:1-6a, 27;
  • Sermon by the Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder;
  • Anthem  “When Jesus Wept”  William Billings
  • Offering;
  • Benediction from Romans 8;
  • Choral Benediction “Pues Si Vivimos” United Church of Strafford Choir;
  • Postlude  “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” Annemieke McLane, piano.

Read More

Sermon from August 2, 2020

Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled vs. Jesus Wept
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
United Church of Strafford, Vermont
August 2, 2020   Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
John 11:25-36; 14:1-6a, 27

[You can watch a video recording of this sermon at the end of this text and you can see the entire On Line Service by clicking here.  This is the third in a series of three teachings on this topic in the August 2nd service.]

All we know about what comes after death is anecdotal.  I have seen a ghost sitting before me, I have experienced mystical visions, I have sensed presences and received messages from dead friends and family, but even as I say this I doubt my own experiences.  I live as if I am not a reliable narrator of my own story.

The book Life after Life by Dr. Raymond Moody recounts interviews with people around the world who have shared remarkably similar experiences and received remarkably similar messages about the meaning of life in the several minutes they have been technically dead.

The book Final Gifts written by two hospice nurses talks about the “nearing death awareness” that is common in people who approach death over a period of days.  They see family or friends who have died as very real and helpful presences.

Cyrus Eaton was married to my cousin, Anne Kinder.  They played an important role in American history, keeping open dialogue between the Soviet Union and the West during the worst of the Cold War.  They were respected intellectuals, he was a hard-boiled industrialist and railway magnate and they were both atheists.

Eaton was in his 80s lying in his bathtub one evening when suddenly a woman who was a beloved relative poked her head in the bathroom door.  Eaton was alarmed, but she smiled and said, “Cyrus, I just came by to say I’m going now.”  Then she left.

It took him a minute to remember that she was in a hospital far away on life support.  A minute later the phone rang to say that she had just died. Read More

Call to Worship and Mel Goertz’s Haiku, August 2, 2020

[You can watch a video recording of this Call to Worship at the end of this text. To see the entire service, click here.]

Teaching One: “Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled vs. Jesus Wept”—Call to Worship and Mel Goertz’s Haiku

I talked about the end of my mother’s life a few months ago.  I’ve been thinking about her again because she died thirty-two years ago this week, two days before her 66th birthday.

The afternoon she died she instructed my father on her secret recipe for homegrown tomato juice and she talked about her eagerness to see her father who had died many years before.  She seemed completely at peace with both this realm and the next.  She exuded faith and loving care to her sons and husband who were fighting through tears to mirror her positivity.

Yet not many weeks before she had called me in violent, desperate grief saying over and over, “I don’t want to die,” and she had felt cut off from God and unable to pray.

I felt the same mix after she died.  I felt her presence, I felt absolutely sure that whatever good thing lies on the other side of death, whatever light shines in that darkness, she was immersed in it, and yet I was devastated to lose her.  It took a whole year for me to stop picking up the phone to call her. Read More

On Line Worship Service, July 26, 2020

Welcome to this service.  This week’s service features three teachings entitled “The Spirit Intercedes: If God Is For Us, Who Is Against Us?” You will find three different approaches to the theme of the Spirit’s presence and power and how we can work with it to transform our lives and our world, first in the Call to Worship, then in this week’s special Children’s Time on prayer (which is for adults as much as older children) and finally in the short Sermon.

You will find an “Orientation to this Service and Announcements” after the first few videos. You can watch the entire service in under an hour or spread it out watching in two to twelve minute segments.  You can also find links along the way to read some of the service instead of watching the videos.  Please feel free to respond to the service using the comment feature of this website or you can email us at unitedchurchofstrafford@gmail.com.

 

Prelude  Edvard Grieg Edvard Grieg, “Album Leaf,” Lyric Pieces Book I, Op. 12 No. 7, Annemieke McLane, piano

 

Introit “Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” by Ken Medema.

Sung by members of the United Church of Strafford Choir.

 

Teaching One: The Spirit Intercedes: If God Is For Us, Who Is Against Us?—Call to Worship and Mel Goertz’s Haiku

You can find the text of the Call to Worship and Haiku by clicking here.

 

Orientation to this Service and Announcements

Welcome to this online worship service of the United Church of Strafford, Vermont for July 19th, 2020.

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, Prelude, Introit, Call to Worship and Herbert Goertz’s Haiku;
  • This orientation;
  • Time with Children (and Adults);
  • Alternate Lord’s Prayer read by six members of our congregation;
  • Anthem “O Lord, Hear My Prayer” from the Taizé Community, sung by Annemieke McLane;
  • Scriptures  Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-46
  • Sermon by the Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder;
  • “Human Rights Campaign Remembers Civil Rights Icon Congressman John Lewis”  ;
  • Offering;
  • Benediction from Romans 8;
  • Choral Benediction “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round” Eric Essix/Brenda McKenzie,  Legends Tribute to Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian;
  • Postlude by Annemieke McLane from Messe de Minuit by Marc-Antonin Charpentier.

Read More

Sermon from July 26, 2020

The Spirit Intercedes: If God Is For Us, Who Is Against Us?
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
United Church of Strafford, Vermont
July 26, 2020   Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-46

[You can watch a video recording of this sermon at the end of this text and you can see the entire On Line Service by clicking here.  This is the third in a series of three teachings on this topic in the July 26th service.]

Jesus and the Apostle Paul dedicated their lives to the struggle to transform human consciousness and society. They looked like failures as they hung on their crosses, and yet they have changed the world as much as anyone in history.  Why?  Because they continue to open a door to the Spirit in our heart, they open a gate to a sacred way through this world, they put us in touch with the highest power in the universe, and millions have believed them enough to follow and find the truth of what they taught.

Jesus said that the realm of God is like a tiny seed that grows into a great tree, or like a grain of yeast that leavens the whole dough or like treasure buried in a field worth giving all we have to gain.  It is the highest law and power in the universe, and it will grow to transform the world if we let it work through us.

The Apostle Paul said that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes … We know that all things work together for good for those who love God… If God is for us, who is against us?”

Paul suffered as much as John Lewis and C. T. Vivian and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.  He was jailed and beaten and in danger much of the time, yet he was convinced that nothing could separate us from the love of God and the transformative power that God’s love represents.

We are here today because people like Lewis and Vivian have staked their lives on what Jesus and Paul taught, and found it to be true.

A Jewish legend says that there are thirty-six faithful people in every generation, both Jews and Gentiles, and because of those thirty-six holy ones the world continues to exist.

Henry David Thoreau said, “It is not so important that many should be as good as you, as that there be some absolute goodness somewhere; for that will leaven the whole lump.” (from “Resistance to Civil Government”)

So the urgent question facing us each is, how can we be one of the grains of the realm of God that leavens the whole dough?  How can our individual life or our church or community be a mustard seed of God’s realm that grows great enough to transform a society hell-bent on self-destruction?  How can the Spirit of the universe help us make the personal and social transformations we need as quickly as we need to make them? Read More

Call to Worship and Mel Goertz’s Haiku, July 26, 2020

[You can watch a video recording of this Call to Worship at the end of this text. To see the entire service, click here.]

Teaching One: The Spirit Intercedes: If God Is For Us, Who Is Against Us?—Call to Worship and Mel Goertz’s Haiku

Imagine the urgency the Spirit of the universe feels right now.  It is calling to us, begging and pleading that we see what it sees and respond as it would respond.  More than that, as the Apostle Paul put it, the Spirit is interceding—it is shaking and waking people up, it is stirring a new consciousness.  It is on our side, the side of life and love and light, and if the Spirit is for us, who is against us?

Many times since my first sermon here three years ago I have told the story of how we got to this time and place, how the universe exploded into being thirteen billion years ago, how the solar system formed out of molecular gas and dust four and a half billion years ago and after five hundred million years life miraculously came into being, how those first single cells organized into ever more complex life forms and after three billion years the first reptiles crawled out onto land, how five times almost all life died out on earth and yet slowly came back after millions of years each time, how the human mind evolved over the past two hundred thousand years, and how just a blink of an eye ago, a mere 25 centuries, a new awakening in philosophy and religion and art emerged promoting an ethic of empathy, compassion, forgiveness, unconditional and universal love, the Golden Rule, justice, freedom, equality for all, based on the vision of the most evolved, wisest human consciousness, a vision of the true oneness of all life, loving our neighbor truly as our self.  Then yet another breakthrough happened—societies began to organize themselves based on that wisdom.  Not perfectly, but recognizably—democracies and republics emerged, and great social movements of reform moved those societies ever closer to the ideal.

Some saw the spirit of the universe as a force or power flowing through all time, places and beings.  They saw how it worked toward building harmonious communities of cells or humans that could provide the conditions for the sustainable flourishing of life on earth, not just for one species but for the whole.  Some called this force God and called the ideal world toward which the Spirit flowed the realm of God on earth.

They established institutions to help individuals evolve over the course of their lives beyond selfishness into citizens who would serve the common good, who would lay down their lives out of love, who would guide their communities and nations wisely and virtuously, who would move steadily toward the most expansive wisdom that humanity had attained so they could be entrusted with the wellbeing of all and help society evolve toward the ideal of the sacred way of God’s realm.

And yet at the same time some did not evolve along that path and could not extend compassion and empathy beyond their own tribe or believe in universal equality, equity and oneness, who believed that the highest good was the pursuit of self-interest and the individual’s acquisition of power and wealth regardless of the cost of destruction or diminishment to others, and this counter-culture became dominant and its wars and toxic wastes and oppressive abuses of the poor and vulnerable brought the entire planet to the edge of extinction, undoing all that the spirit of the universe had worked toward over four and a half billion years.

Look at this through the spirit of the universe’s eyes.  Peer down at this poor, precious, rapidly dying planet, and let your vision focus in on one little village in a remote, quiet corner of one devolving democracy.  See the worry, grief and longing in their hearts, see their love of nature and of one another, see their cherished ideals, see how fervently they are working to make their village and world fulfill the values that they know are essential to the survival and flourishing of life.

Imagine how much the universe wants to intercede and help them. Read More