The United Church of Strafford is launching a series for youth and adults entitled “Songs That Can Change the World,” led by our Church Musician Annemieke McLane and Pastor Tom Kinder. The first event in the series will take place on Sunday, January 7th, from 4:00 to 8:00 PM in the church Parish Hall.
We will watch the award-winning film, “Freedom Song,” starring Danny Glover, a fictional but very realistic story about a teenager and his father in a small town in the south when the Civil Rights Movement came to organize there.
We will discuss the film and the role of the freedom songs in it over a meal, and then learn some of the songs that we have heard the actors sing (plus Sweet Honey in the Rock on the soundtrack). We will reconvene a week later at 9:00 AM on January 14th to practice the songs before singing them during the Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday worship at 10:00 AM. Read More
Many thanks to everyone who has contributed food and other non-perishable items in the basket for the food shelf in the back of the sanctuary. A big load of items was delivered on Saturday, December 1 to the Sharon Food Shelf. We are grateful for your continued thoughtfulness and generosity. Thank you, one and all! We also ask that you please continue to show your support through the winter months with non-perishable food items and health items. Your donations are appreciated more than you could ever know. Also, while we have been grateful for the donations of the magazines, we are no longer collecting them. Again, thank you, thank you for your donations and kindness. Bless you!
The children will light the Advent candle of Peace at the wreath on this Second Sunday of Advent. The service will focus on inner and outer peace, and particularly on “the things that make for peace.” We will read the beautiful Benedictus of Zechariah that ends, “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break 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.” We will hear how Zechariah’s son, John the Baptist, walked that way of peace that Jesus then continued and passed on to us. (Luke 1:57-60, 67-79; Mark 1:1-8) We will also hear the tender comfort of Isaiah 40.
The message is that peace is coming. Followers of Christ are peacemakers in this world because Christ comes as a peacemaker in our hearts and homes and church and leads us out from there.
Two weeks ago the sermon talked about the dreams for our congregation that are emerging from the questionnaire responses this fall. One powerful dream is that we be a congregation where we can talk about anything, including the hard and controversial topics of our day, and that we learn to do so in a way that does not divide us, but that makes us a closer, stronger, more loving community.
Compassion and understanding grow as we listen respectfully to one another. We find the deep oneness and peace that no surface differences can overcome. Read More
Hope in the Power of Light
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
United Church of Strafford, Vermont
December 3, 2017
First Sunday of Advent, Hope Sunday
Isaiah 60; Mark 13:24-37
Today’s passage in Mark addressed struggling and suffering people who were deeply divided as their social and religious institutions and whole world order seemed on the verge of collapse. It speaks to us, too, if we suffer or struggle, or if we feel our society is irreconcilably divided and world endangered.
Advent begins in the kind of place where Bill Coffin would say, “When things seem hopeless, don’t forget to hope!” Mark and Lisa Kutolowski, our Advent program leaders, are teaching us how to transform our fear into trust through contemplative practices.
Lisa talked at the last session about the phrase, “Hallowed be thy name.” She said that in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, the word translated as hallowed means preparing a space for something to happen, like clearing a piece of ground so a seed can sprout, or like going into an abandoned house and cleaning it so someone can live there, or like opening our heart and lungs so we can breathe.
Lisa invited us to work with that image in silent prayer. I imagined a crowded, cluttered, Fibber McGee closet of a room inside me. I tossed enough things aside to set a chair upright, and then I felt tired, so I sat down in it. Something remarkable happened. I found that I did not need to clear away anything else. I sat in that chair amid chaos and felt deep peace descend.
Advent can be like that. We do not have to drop out of life—just give us a quiet corner and twenty minutes, or give us a neighbor in need and a way to serve, and we can feel transformed.
In fact Jesus promises that when things are most a mess and the world seems most lost, Read More
The Mission Committee recently voted to support Africa Healing Exchange. The founder and executive director of this amazing non-profit is Sara Stender (Ann McLaughlin’s daughter and Meg Albee’s sister). Some of you may remember Sara as Mary in a United Church of Strafford’s live nativity scene in a barn just down the street from the church many years ago!
Africa Healing Exchange’s mission is to “provide a platform for people to overcome trauma, manage daily stress and create healthy living habits. The Restoring Resiliency Program is delivered to individuals and organizations in the US and Rwanda to end the cycle of trauma, with a particular emphasis on mothers and children.” The organization also has an Entrepreneurship Training Program to offer assistance for small business development.
We are proud to support Sara in this work and wanted to offer the opportunity to everyone else to donate as well. Here is the website address, which has information about the organization as well as ways to help out: http://healingexchange.org
Advent is magical, in the sense of having a mysterious power to transport us. Its power is complex–part nostalgia, part longing for what is coming, part the beauty of its greens and candles and music, part the wonderful feeling of the community coming together, part the eagerness and joy and hope of children, part the snow in the air and stars in the sky, part the parties and festivities, part the contemplative nature and part the activity of giving and serving those in need, part the old stories of the Bible or favorite children’s books or our family.
Sometimes Advent and Christmas lead us to a place of sadness for what is gone, but in the context of all the parts of Advent in the church, even that sadness can work a magic that transforms our place of devastation and moves us into the light that shines in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome–the grief is real, but so is the light.
The more time we give to Advent, the more magical it is, so I hope you will consider it a blessing that this first Sunday of Advent will be a longer than usual service, with a ritual of the children bringing the greens and holly and poinsettias forward to decorate the sanctuary, and the lighting of the Advent candle of Hope, and the celebration of communion. Read More