United Church of Strafford, Vermont

Upcoming Service Notes for September 24, 2017

We say in our bulletin every week, “We pray for the too many refugees in the world. ” Last Sunday Steve Dycus spoke prophetically, calling us to do more than just pray.  He urged us to find more ways to act.  He reminded us that there are now over 65 million refugees, the highest number in the history of the world, fleeing war, oppression, poverty, famine and environmental disaster.  Bill Burden then spoke about the devastation that the current record-breaking hurricane season is wreaking, giving rise to more refugees as islands become uninhabitable.

The lectionary lessons this Sunday are some of the dozens of passages in the Bible that proclaim God’s love for the stranger or resident alien or refugee. God calls us over and over us to offer extravagant hospitality to all. We will reflect on how this calling can shape the beloved community we create both within the church and around us in the town, and we will celebrate the extravagant hospitality we have witnessed here. We will also look at these passages in light of what Steve and Bill said last week.  (Leviticus 19:33-34; Hebrews 13:1-2; Psalm 105; Exodus 16:2-15; Matthew 20:1-16)

The children will hear the story of God giving the Israelites the gift of manna when they were refugees fleeing from slavery in Egypt.   Read More

Religious Education Input Wanted! 

Joey Hawkins and Danette Harris will meet with any interested parents on Sunday, October 8 at 11:30am in the church library to discuss what parents would like to see in a Sunday School program this year. If you are unable to attend, please contact Joey or Danette with your input. You may email (joeylornell@gmail.com or danette.a.harris@gmail.com) or call. (Joey is at 765-4040 and Danette is at 765-4312.) Thank you!

Sermon from September 17, 2017

No Future Without Forgiveness As a Way of Life
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

United Church of Strafford, Vermont
September 17, 2017
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Annual Meeting Sunday
Psalm 103; Exodus 13:21-12, 14:19-31; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter, the Episcopal priest Mpho Tutu, wrote The Book of Forgiving.  In it they say, “There are countless studies that enumerate the social, spiritual, psychological, and even physiological benefits of forgiveness.  The actual process of forgiveness, however, has often been left a mystery.  Yes, it is good and helpful to let go of resentment, but how do we…when we have been harmed?  Of course it is better not to exact retribution, but how can we [not]…when what has been taken from us cannot be restored?  And is it even possible to forgive and still pursue justice?  What steps must we follow to achieve forgiveness?  How do we heal all the holes in our hearts that come with being the fragile creatures we are?”  The Tutus’ book answers those questions.

Jesus and Paul are telling us that we had better read that book.  They call us to become masters of forgiveness and reconciliation and heal the holes in our hearts because being unforgiving and feeling unforgiven are pure torture, and tear the social fabric apart.  Beloved community, God’s realm of mercy and peace and a sufficiency for all, any positive future is possible for our church and town and world only if we practice forgiveness as a way of life. Read More

A Joyous Annual Meeting

Thank you to all who participated in our Annual Meeting on September 17th by attending, leading or preparing excellent and thoughtful reports, and thank you to all who did such wonderful work this past year!  We laughed often and hard at the meeting, we remained calm in the face of challenges and worked well together through momentary, mundane conundrums.  We entered the new year with faith, hope and love –and joy–in abundant evidence.  The Spirit is moving among us!

Here are some photos:

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Sign Up for Small Gatherings this Fall

Tom and the Deacons are organizing a number of small-group meetings for members of the congregation during the month of October. These are a chance to get to know Tom and one another better and explore our feelings about and dreams for the church. We hope that everyone can find a meeting they can attend and the meetings can stay intimate in size. They will each last an hour and a half.

Please sign up in the Parish Hall or easily and quickly online by clicking here.  Please let us know if none of these times works for you.  We will schedule a fifth meeting that you can make!  Questions? Speak with Becky Bailey, 765-4703 or rbailey@sover.net.

Here is the line up:

  • Sat, 10/14, 3 pm, Gretchen & John Hannon’s, Alger Brook Road
  • Wed, 10/18*, 7 pm, Joey & John Hawkins’, Alger Brook Road
  • Thurs, 10/26, 7 pm, Sue & Melvin Coburn’s, So. Strafford Village
  • Sat, 10/28, 3 pm, Martha Manheim’s, Strafford Village

*Please note the new time!

These groups are in conjunction with the Questionnaire that you can read about by clicking here.

Thank you for the Parsonage Open House!

Thank you so much to all who made the parsonage open house such a light and love-filled event!  It was a joy to be together as the church in that historic space.  It was too crowded to get perfect photos, but here are some that can give you a flavor of it.


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Upcoming Service Notes for September 17, 2017

Seven is a symbolic number in the Bible.  It represents perfection and completeness.  Peter asks Jesus if he should forgive someone who wrongs him as many as seven times.  He is asking, should I forgive always?  Jesus replies, not seven times but seventy-seven (or in the King James Version, seventy times seven times).  Forgiveness is not to be merely perfect and complete, but infinite and unconditional.  Do not judge, and forgive always.  These are Christ’s way.  They are to be our way of life.

This is such a relief, such a joy, and yet such a hard thing to do!  We are trained to judge, and we so easily get tangled up in resentments or annoyance.  We have a hard time letting go of old wounds and grudges for complex psychological reasons.  Some of us are pretty good at not judging and forgiving others, but mercilessly judge our own flaws or failings to be unforgivable.

A loving and beloved community requires that we try to live by Christ’s wisdom.  A family, a village church and a small town can be united and harmonious only to the extent that we practice having non-judging minds and forgiving hearts.  We will reflect on how we can do this, Read More

Sermon from September 10, 2017

When Two or Three Gather, What Happens?
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

United Church of Strafford, Vermont
September 10, 2017
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 119; Exodus 12:1-14; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20

The Rev. William Jeffrey began as pastor here in 1964.   He wrote a long list of accomplishments in his first annual report.  Strafford was nearing its lowest population level, but we had sixty children in Sunday School.  78% of all children in Strafford were participating in our programs.  Melvin Coburn remembers well his youth group trip that year to Washington DC, partly because Rev. Jeffrey got stopped for speeding.

Isn’t a sanctuary full of young families the way it is supposed to be when two or three gather in Christ’s name and ask for their church to flourish? Almost every congregation I know grieves how few children they have compared to the old days, and prays for full pews.  Isn’t a faithful church supposed to thrive?

Well, no, actually, even though Jesus does say in today’s gospel passage, “Truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”

That teaching has caused much trouble. Read More

Upcoming Concerts in the Church: Mark Your Calendar!

The United Church of Christ in Strafford is presenting more and more outstanding music!

Besides Sunday services every week that are full of beautiful choral and instrumental music, plus holidays and holy days and special events like “Lord’s Acre” and “The Pageant”, there will be several concerts. Everyone is welcome not only to attend, but also to sing in the choir led by Annemieke McLane.  (See the video profile featuring her at the end of this post.)

For all of these concerts, everyone is welcome. Concerts are about 60-75 minutes, with no intermission, so also younger ones/elder ones can enjoy them and be home at a reasonable time!

Donations at the door.

20% of donations will go to the Manheim Fund for the Sacred Arts to support future events in Strafford.

Here is the lineup:

September 29th, 7pm, “Voici!” A unique concert of French music by Couperin, Hahn, Debussy, Poulenc and more by soprano Julie Ness and Cassotto Duo (Jeremiah McLane, accordion and Annemieke McLane, piano) including original arrangements of traditional music. Touching texts, magical melodies.

Donations at the door,a percentage will go to the Manheim Fund for the Sacred Arts to support future concerts.

To mark your calendars further into fall:

October 27th, 7pm, “Romantics”, Chopin, Brahms, Rachmaninov and more, pianist Annemieke McLane

November 17th, 7pm“Give”, Annemieke McLane piano solo, presenting her new program “Danse with me”, music by composers from 1600s to 2000s, and also: with upcoming Thanksgiving in mind, please bring a can of non-perishables/canned foods like beans & soups/rice/pasta/ cereals/ diapers/ baby milkpowder/ etc. to share with community members in need (distributed in the Upper Valley via the church Mission Committee).

December 8th, 7pm, not to be missed! “Noël” Advent and Holidays music through the ages and countries, with Soprano Julie Ness, Bagpiper/whistler Timothy Cummings, Accordionist Jeremiah McLane & Pianist Annemieke McLane (Cassotto Duo)  All original arrangements of wonderful melodies and songs from all over the world, beginning with a tune from the 1300s.

Here is a profile of Annemieke Spoelstra McLane:

Donations for Hurricane Victims Update

Thank you so much to all who have contributed to our Hurricane Relief Fund.  We have surpassed the $1,000 mark and still have the rest of September to bring the total even higher.

Thank you!  Here is an update to our original announcement about how you can contribute:

The Mission Committee is raising funds to help our sisters and brothers who are the victims of recent hurricanes.  We are gratefully accepting monetary donations and will forward them directly to the Red Cross, earmarking them for Hurricane Recovery. We are thankful to have surpassed our goal of $1000 due to the compassion and generosity of so many people and we welcome any further donations today!  Checks may be made out to the United Church of Strafford Mission Committee, with “for Hurricane Relief” written in the note blank. You can donate in the offering plate (we will have special envelopes) or by mail to the UCS Mission Committee c/o Danette Harris PO Box 143, South Strafford, VT, 05070.

Thank you for showing your love and supporting those affected by this heart-breaking natural disaster.