United Church of Strafford, Vermont

Climate Church, Climate World Book Group Notes

Climate Church, Climate World book discussion group, 6/16/2016

Attendees: Telos Whitfield, Suzanna Liepmann, Margaret Gadon, Robin Jacobs, Gail Giovanna, Gretchen Harvey, Mark Harvey, John Frietag, Becky Bailey, David Webb, Ingrid Webb, Marcia Bushnell, Ken Bushnell, Danette Harris, Cat Spalding, Wally Smith, Barbara Smith, Cameron Speth, Gretchen Hannon, Marissa Mazzucco, Tom Kinder, Christina Robinson; Joey Hawkins

Small Group Takeaways:

  1. Disproportionate burden of the impact of climate change on the underprivileged. For those who have the capacity (by virtue of having ‘enough’), changing from a scarcity to an abundance mindset (p. 25), trusting that our needs will be met without the need to hoard.
  2. What is blocking us from action? Most of ‘us’ locally are doing our part. How do we undo the disproportionate impact of climate change (p. 6)? How do we deal with ‘dark $’? How do we heal, transform? Fear of change is an issue for churches, for people.
  3. What’s the best thing an individual can do for the climate? Bill McKibben: “Stop being an individual!” Collective action is key. There are so many issues needing attention, climate change is the umbrella issue which encompasses them all. The common problem is the mentality of greed and exploitation (Wendell Berry). We need to work on our dependences (fossil fuels, factory farmed food) and learn to embrace rather than fear change.
  4. Read More

Upcoming Service Notes, June 23, 2019

This will be the third Sunday in a row featuring this quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

“It is possible to have a new kind of world, a world where there will be more compassion, more gentleness, more caring, more laughter, more joy for all of God’s creation, because that is God’s dream.  And God says, ‘Help me, help me, help me realize my dream.’”  (from the Forward to The Green Bible)

The sermon this Sunday will be “Creating a New Civilization: God’s Realm on Earth, Part II.”  You can read Part I by clicking here.  This week we will consider what practical things we can do as a church and as individuals to bring about that “new kind of world.”

We will look at the profound, multi-dimensional wisdom of Gandhi.  On the one hand it is as simple as what his grandson, Arun, summed up as “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  On the other hand, Gandhi developed a sophisticated, highly effective nonviolent movement for change that had two primary approaches, an Obstructive Program (strikes, marches, challenges to unjust laws, court cases, fasts, civil disobedience and jail sentences, etc.) and a Constructive Program (grass roots economic development, skill training, education, health care, spiritual teaching and practice, leadership development, promoting the vision and new narrative for “a new kind of world” etc.).

We will also look at the importance of listening, something stressed in our Future Directions vision.  Our Deacons are working on a series of communication workshops for the early fall that will train us in how to listen our way through conflict, and how to speak in a way that allows us to be heard.  We can apply these skills to conversations about difficult issues in town, at school, at work, in our homes and at church, with the result being Tutu’s list: “more compassion, more gentleness, more caring, more laughter, more joy for all of God’s creation.”  This is an essential tool for establishing God’s realm in communities of two and on up to towns and nations and the whole world.

The scriptures, hymns and choral and instrumental music will all add to the collected wisdom.  We will read from Psalms 42 & 43, Romans 12:1-2 and John 15:9-17, and the children will hear the Gospel of Luke’s story of Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit at the start of his ministry in his home town synagogue. (Chapter 4)

The congregation will sing the South African freedom song, “We Shall Not Give Up the Fight,” and a freedom song sung by American slaves and later by the Civil Rights Movement, “Guide My Feet.”  We will also sing an updated version of a 19th Century song from Great Britain that envisioned creating God’s realm on earth, “These Things Shall Be,” set to the stirring tune, Truro.  The choir will sing three beautiful pieces, Peter Amidon’s “I Will Guide Thee” (listen to the YouTube recording below), and “Ephesians 3:16 (Planted in Love)” by Will Burhans, former Vermont pastor and hymn collaborator with Tom Kinder, and then ending with the Hebrew prayer for lasting peace, “Shalom Rav.”

Pianist Annemieke McLane will play two beloved pieces by Chopin and the spiritual “It’s Me O Lord.”

Here’s the Amidon recording:




Sermon from June 16, 2019

Creating a New Civilization: God’s Realm on Earth, Part I
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

United Church of Strafford, Vermont
June 16, 2019    
First Sunday after Pentecost, Trinity Sunday
Proverbs 8; Acts 4:31-35; I John 3:14-17; John 16:12-15


Twelve years ago on Trinity Sunday I preached a sermon inspired by the same passage from the book of Acts that I shared with the children today, the story of how the disciples created a completely different way to live from the established culture of Israel or Rome.

The sermon in 2007 was entitled “The Making of a Counter-Culture.”  I said, “To live in our society is to be complicit in war, the destruction of God’s Creation and the oppression of the poor.  If we are going to call ourselves followers of Christ, we need to end our complicity.  We need to find a way to live differently from the dominant culture around us.  We need to become a counter-culture.

“The Book of Acts is not meant to be an instruction manual on counter-culture, but the making of a counter-culture is what it and most of the New Testament is all about.  Jesus came proclaiming to the realm of Herod and Caesar that the counter-realm of God was at hand.  He lived as if already in that realm, and taught us to do the same.”

That was twelve years ago, and I thought that I would preach on something similar today, but as I thought about it I realized that I had to change the title and the core message.

We have entered a new era in history and it is no longer enough to create a counter-culture.  We no longer have the time to set a good example and wait for the world to notice.  We need to change the way of life that is destroying our life-support systems on this one and only planet that we have.  The lives of all species and all future generations are at stake.

The good news is that we have the scientific and technological know-how to save those lives, and we have the spiritual wisdom handed down through our tradition. We have two world-saving documents, a Global Ethic and an Earth Charter, that have been drafted and endorsed by leaders around the world in recent years.  We have the work of Gus Speth and his colleagues who have been thinking in careful detail about the new systems we need and the change of consciousness they will require.  Our congregation has been part of a global conversation about creating a Golden Civilization that is arriving at the same vision in every nation.

We know what we need to do and we know how to do it.  The problem is that we face fierce resistance from the fossil fuel industry and those in power today who profit from the existing violent, inequitable, earth-destroying system.  They have spent billions of dollars over decades on propaganda, creating a media empire that has shaped the perspective of a large minority of our country.  They have undermined democracy in order to grab and hold onto power.  We are in a culture war with everything at stake, a war that we cannot afford to lose.

So the title of this sermon is not “The Making of a Counter-Culture.”  It is “Creating a New Civilization: God’s Realm on Earth.” That is what Jesus and Paul and St. Francis and St. Teresa of Ávila and Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King Jr. all called us to do.  Transforming human civilization into God’s realm on earth is what they were building toward, and they dreamed of the day when a generation would rise and finally make the love of neighbor, compassion and the Golden Rule the laws of the whole human race.

They did more than dream of it, they worked toward it day and night.  They risked, sacrificed and laid down their lives for it.  They moved us closer to it, and they believed with all their hearts that it was possible, that it could be done, and that someday it would be done.

The day for that vision’s fulfillment has arrived.  It is up to our generation.  I have complete faith that we can do it.  It is what the evolution of human consciousness has been preparing us to do.  But we must choose to do it with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, willing to do what this time demands of us. Read More

Music and Poetry Workshop July 12th and 13th

“Give Sound to Words: Say a word. Sing the same. Hear a song or sing it, too.”

A crash course in what inspires poets to write songs and composers to use certain poems, and a chance for us to bring words and music to life together.

A crash course in what inspires poets to write songs and composers to use certain poems, and a chance for us to bring our own words and music to life together.  We will learn how to set words to music and how accompaniments can serve to illustrate texts.  We will receive singing instruction and, of course, get to hear some beautiful music and sing some, too.

Friday July 12th, 7:00 PM Concert: With Danny Dover (poetry) & Dorothy Robson (piano), and Tom Kinder (poetry) & Annemieke McLane (piano)

Saturday July 13th:

Morning session: “Text, Music, Rhythm, Improv” with Jeremiah McLane (composer/accordionist) morning session.

Afternoon session: Led by soprano Julie Ness. She will help us to sing in a healthy, beautiful way, and will perform too!!

5:00 session with all the performers and teachers: Presentation with readings and music, including poem-songs we composed.

All FREE thanks to the Manheim Fund for the Arts (feel free to donate), open for all who are interested (you do not have to sing, but it would be nice).  Bring your own snack/meals/paper&pencil.

To all young ones in the community, we invite you to write a short poem about what is on your mind and submit it. We may pick yours to set to music as part of this workshop!  Deadline is June 24th.

Upcoming Service Notes, June 16, 2019

The First Sunday after Pentecost is known as Trinity Sunday.  The Trinity is one of the great mysteries of the Christian tradition—how the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ and God are distinct and yet one.  Many churches will tell you what to think about this mystery, they will insist that even though it is a mystery there is only one correct interpretation, but not only is that illogical, it takes away the greatest power of the Trinity, which is that it invites endless contemplation bearing endless fruits along the way to enlightenment, like a koan of Zen Buddhism (eg “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”).

A leading insight today is that the Trinity means that God is all about relationship.  God, Christ and Spirit are constantly pouring themselves out in love for one another, and moving us to pour ourselves out in love for one another in the same way, all of us constantly emptying and being filled anew with love.

This Sunday we will not talk much about the Trinity directly, but we will look at how God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit move us to relate to one another and the world.  We will hear the story from the book of Acts of how the earliest church organized itself to reflect this relationship that they had learned from Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  They saw their true oneness, so they shared all that they owned in common.  They were moved by love and compassion for all, so they made sure that all had what they needed to live.  They were particularly moved by those who were most vulnerable and suffering and in greatest need, so they shared with them everything they had beyond what they needed to meet their own basic needs.

We can imagine most of our society today calling this communism or socialism as if it were a dirty word, but this is in the Bible!  This is how Peter, James and John lived in response to the teachings, life and death of Jesus.  They completely redesigned society according to the principles of Christ-like love and the Golden Rule, and they didn’t just preach it, they lived it.

Today we need to change human civilization in equally radical ways in order to replace the systems that are threatening our survival with new systems that create sustainable harmony between humans and the earth and among all people.  The good news is that the teachings and example of Jesus give us a vision of life lived by the very virtues and ethics we need, and we can see from the Book of Acts that when we create a model of that ideal society it can have a powerful influence on the world around us.

What will the ideal society of today look like? Read More

Sermon from June 9, 2019

I Am About To Do a New Thing
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

United Church of Strafford, Vermont
June 9, 2019    Pentecost
Psalm 104; Isaiah 43:1-3a, 18-21; Acts 2:1-17

We recognize prophecies as gifts of the Holy Spirit most clearly when they speak truths about the nature of reality that apply to all times and places.

Listen to the comforting hope of Isaiah as if you were in the Midwest or South right now: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”  Imagine being in California last year: “When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”  Listen to what Isaiah says to our troubled society: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

We can feel hope today because we know that the force of love and life and light that we name God has proven true to those words since the dawn of time.

The Bible says that in the beginning everything was without form and void and dark.  We can imagine God saying, “I am about to do a new thing,” and then the Spirit gave birth to the universe with a Big Bang, and there was light.

For almost a billion years the earth was nothing but water, rock and dust.  Then God said, “I am about to do a new thing.”  The Holy Spirit touched lifeless elements together and a single cell began pulsing.  A few billion years later the Spirit breathed human consciousness into being. Read More

Upcoming Service Notes, June 9, 2019 PENTECOST!

There is a tie for first place among the three most important Sundays in the church year: Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.  We should celebrate Pentecost just as robustly.  In Italy some churches drop rose petals from above to signify the Holy Spirit like tongues of flame that rested on the heads of the disciples.  In France they feature trumpets in worship to echo the Holy Spirit rushing into the room like a blast of wind.  In England there have been parades and feasts and dancing in the street.

You are invited to wear red and we will be saying the traditional Lord’s Prayer in many different languages at the same time—another echo of the first Pentecost when all the disciples praised God loudly in different languages that they did not know so that people on the street heard it said in their own tongue.

Joy will be part of our service, and the tremendous hope that the Holy Spirit will come upon the church today as it did on the first church and guide and empower us to meet the daunting challenges we face as we seek to establish the realm of God’s love on earth.  The sermon will imagine what new thing the Spirit may be about to do with us and for us and by us.  We will hear prophetic voices like Gus Speth, Jim Antal and Greta Thunberg and our own Future Directions Vision and paint a picture of what it might look like in our church and village in the months after a new Pentecost happens. Read More