Some stories demand to be shared, and as they're passed along, they shape the generations that follow. The Transfiguration, says Cecile Gilson, is one of those, one which celebrates and empowers Jesus as God's Beloved. What stories will we create that are worthy of being shared? Are we creating stories that define who we are as God's Beloved? The cyber attack on Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield may affect members of the UCC's health plan, as Anthem participates in some claim processing, but officials have not yet determined the extent to which people's information has been compromised. Members and friends of First Church in Farmington will go out to help their neighbors on March 7th.
Contemporary research has found that experiencing vulnerability has benefits for human beings. What enables me to "lean into" being vulnerable, wonders Karen Ziel. If we do so, do we emulate Biblical figures such as Moses, Ruth, and Jesus' first disciples, for whom vulnerability led to courage, humility, commitment, and compassion. Congregational leaders explore ways to encourage people to hold actual dialogues in church, using film screenings, book studies, and breakout groups (during worship!). The Racial Justice Ministry has produced a discussion guide for the movie Selma, and 14 young people and mentors took a retreat to think about working for God for a living. Vantage Point launches a new series interviewing pastors of churches engaged in interdependent ministries. See you on YouTube!
The Rev. Tamara Moreland recalls her experience of the Civil Rights Movement as a child in Connecticut, listening to her elders as they interpreted the events to her. There is still unfinished business, she declares: there are still bridges to cross and protests to march. Touchstones with History follows the travels of missionary Samuel Mills, one of the Haystack group, who was present in New Orleans for the battle in 1815.
Silver Lake Executive Director Tim Hughes takes us on a guided meditation on the wonders of creation, Silver Lake-style. The Conference makes a welcome announcement, and churches gather to celebrate the life and commitments of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The ministry of the Christian Conference of Connecticut comes to an end, but in dying, plants seeds that may yet grow in new soil.
Michael Ciba was one of those who valued his mind over his body as a youth, but with the years has come the realization that we are embodied creatures. "Matter matters... Can we recognize that each of us, body and soul, is a place where God dwells?" Silver Lake Conference Center has opened registration for summer conferences and offers a tiered pricing system this year to keep the summer experience affordable. The Conference is expanding its Racial Justice trainings, and the United Church in Tolland works to end the evil of slavery.
Charlie Kuchenbrod finds the story of the magi's visit to the infant Jesus strange -- very strange -- and also very powerful for what it tells us about Jesus' relationship to those who rule by violence and oppression. We review our ministries of 2014, while the First Congregational Church of Woodbury dares to take on the most challenging questions of faith. Church bells will ring on January 19th in recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.
In this special Christmas edition of ConferenceCast, Conference Minister the Rev. Kent Siladi shares his deep love for Luke's account of Jesus' birth - the manger bed, the angels' song, the shepherds' awe, the mother's pondering. The story is embedded in his soul, and so we share a special reading by six members of the Conference staff: Rev. Siladi, Karen Ziel, the Rev. Tamara Moreland, the Rev. Da Vita McCallister, the Rev. Mary Nelson Abbott, and ConferenceCast host the Rev. Eric Anderson. "So let us not lose heart," says Siladi. "Let us be surprised yet again by the unspeakable gift of Jesus Christ born among us to reveal God?s love for all of humanity. Let us be like the first shepherds who after encountering Jesus went back home glorifying and praising God for surprising earth with heaven." The video edition includes last Thursday's Vantage Point with Christmas greetings to all. Merry Christmas!
The virtues of Advent - hope, love, joy, and peace - seem like they are pre-existing conditions of the Church, or so believed Day McCallister as a child. But in many places in the world, people pray for hope, yearn for love, search for joy, and work for peace. "We pray with anticipation for the day when [God's] Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace will be made manifest in our lives. Come, Holy One, come!" Christmas greetings have arrived in video form from the national staff of the United Church of Christ and the staff of the Connecticut Conference. Looking ahead, host Eric Anderson shares a poem for the day after Christmas. Blessings to all!
The prophet's words of hope inspire Cecile Gilson to commitment: to work against racism, to act when people are hungry or lonely, and to preserve the Earth. "I have hope that our traditions and our new stories will help me find a way to do the work God has called me to do." Willimantic celebrates an Agape meal in the style of the Moravian Church, UCC leaders renew calls for justice for people of color, young people are invited to join the Youth at Synod program.
Eric Anderson doesn't want to apologize - a trait he seems to share with many these days - but if the lights of Advent are to shine brightly, he'll have to obey John the Baptist's summons to repent and change. Change is the yearning of many African-Americans, highlighted now by the violent deaths of young black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City at the hands of police officers who face no criminal charges. We hear voices from Hartford and from the Rev. Da Vita McCallister from her recent visit to Ferguson. Houses of worship work to prepare to offer a warm and helpful welcome to their returning veterans, and we consider new ways of helping children develop their faith.
The death of a homeless man makes a difference to his church family. How, asks the Rev. Mary Nelson Abbott, can we stop ignoring those in need around us before tragedy strikes? "Homelessness exists," she states, "because we lack the will to eliminate it." The Smithsonian will display the James Pennington Bible. Connecticut Conference pastors prepare for the reaction when a grand jury issues its decision in the death of Michael Brown. The boards of directors of three New England conferences explore interdependence. Church leaders learn about advocating for social justice - and we've just released a new Vantage Point.
What is mercy? Karen Ziel hears the cry of the Psalmist and remembers the exclamation of a childhood neighbor. "Mercy me!" she would say. These are acts of prayer which provide speech when other words won't come. Churches take different approaches to mission trips, but they share these truths: they offer assistance to people who need it, and they have a powerful impact on those who participate. The Conference search for a minister for Transitions is well under way, and videos from Fancy Camp are available!
Tamara Moreland loved the story of Jonah, an "adventurer for God," and has come to appreciate as well how he learned from his struggles and trials to become the prophet God had called him to be. The Fancy Camp Gala honored and furthered the ministry of Silver Lake Conference Center in a night that glistened with sequins. Hartford's Conference of Churches honors a UCC pastor and, for the first time, leaders from other faith traditions. And the Connecticut Conference seeks writers to help tell the stories of our churches.
The Halloween edition of CTUCC ConferenceCast is also the Silver Lake Action Weekend edition, and Executive Director Tim Hughes shares the (exhausting) joys of working together to make God's holy experiment called "humanity" go just a little better. "The sore muscles and tiredness are good reminders that we are alive and helping God to accomplish God's plan." Videos from the Annual Meeting have made their way online, bearing the message that we need one another. We don't have to do this alone.
The Rev. Day McCallister goes to the root of what binds human beings together: "What connects us and holds us together is a deep and abiding love, a love that God shows to us and one that we show to one another." The Connecticut Conference gathered for its Annual Meeting last weekend, and rose to their feet to applaud Conference Minister the Rev. Kent Siladi as he shared a vision of interdependence and common ministry for the Conference and its churches. Delegates approved two resolutions on social issues, calling for an end to the mass incarceration of non-violent offenders, and pledging not to invest in companies profiting from the occupation of the West Bank by the Israeli government. We're looking forward to a great Fancy Camp gala for the benefit of Silver Lake Conference Center!
It's Annual Meeting week, so this is a brief edition of ConferenceCast, featuring Charlie Kuchenbrod's reflection on what happens when Moses doesn't return from his mountaintop conversation with God as quickly as his people wish. Since we believe that God is never, never absent from us, Charlie asks, why don't we live as if God is always, always present?
Jesus' story of the wedding feast - which features the radical expulsion of one guest who arrives inappropriately dressed - offers a challenge in a community that values extravagant welcome. "But those who do enjoy the privilege of being disciples," muses Tom Clough, "must also accept the responsibility that comes with discipleship... and live in a new way that will be visibly different." In Tolland, 100 people accept the challenge to eat on $4.15 a day, the amount of federal SNAP benefits, and we look forward to an exciting and engaging Annual Meeting.
The unity of Christ's body is not clearly evident, notes Conference Minister Kent Siladi. It is easy to see how Christians are divided. But what would it look like if, on this World Communion Sunday, we began to recognize our interdependence? How can we better see that Christ has made us one? At General Association, church leaders explored the gifts found in emptiness, failure, temptation, and uncertainty - the gifts of the Darkwood, as raised up by the Rev. Dr. Eric Elnes. A Windsor teen finds new appreciation for the breadth of God's world during last summer's Sacred Journey to South Korea. "We are all fruit from God's tree and together we can do great things."
After the water gushed from the rock and relieved the thirst of the Israelite refugees from Egypt, Moses memorialized the event with a name that recalled the quarrelsomeness of the people who blamed him (and God) for their thirst. Too many conflicts have followed this example in the long centuries since. "A healthy conflict can strengthen a church if it is resolved in love," says Michael Ciba. "God is present in the beloved community, the body of Christ." In the news, hundreds of thousands rally in New York City and around the world demanding work to reverse climate change. Conference delegates prepare for the upcoming Annual Meeting - and ctucc.org and silverlakect.org get some unexpected down time.
"Manna from heaven" didn't look like a great gift to its original recipients, who had never seen anything like it and certainly weren't sure it was edible. Thus it's name, which comes from the Hebrew phrase, "Man hu?" or "What is it?" God's gifts aren't always what you expect. In New Haven, food advocates came together to look at the moral imperative and the means of providing just and holy food to all our neighbors. Conference Minister Kent Siladi extended a Vantage Point invitation both to the Conference Annual Meeting in October and to a new vision of interdependence and common witness.