Reading the story of the Red Sea's closing over the pursuing Egyptian army, Eric Anderson hears faint echoes in the protests over injustice against African Americans. "God works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed," says Psalm 103, so it is time and past time to bring the promise of America to all its citizens. Two CTUCC church leaders will lead the search for the next UCC General Minister and President. Wilton's pastor urges united efforts to provide a better, cleaner world to future generations, and CTUCC delegates visit Ferguson, Missouri.
For over fifteen years, Cecile Gilson participated in the process of fostering faith in children, and as Faith Formation Sunday approaches, she recalls the joys of that experience. Paraphrasing Horace Bushnell, she hopes that all children may never know themselves as anything other than loved by God. This was the experience the Rev. Mary Nelson Abbott sought to bring to young people at Silver Lake this summer as well. The Conference will reconfigure its staff team to help them focus on the twin priorities of Leadership Development and Congregational Vitality in the coming months, as well as expanding its Sacred Conversations on Race programming. Just returned from sabbatical, host Eric Anderson shares some of the gifts he found spending a week building a traditional wooden boat in Maine.
A wedding and gathering of friends give Mary Nelson Abbott a new setting for Hosea's words of commitment, in which God promises Israel a marriage of "righteousness and justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy." It "reminded me that all our relationships -- not just romantic relationships... -- should always be based in righteousness and justice... Every interaction is an opportunity to make one another very, very happy, and to fill that place with love." In Saugatuck, 300 Nigerian flags declare a church's prayer and demand that Boko Haram militants release the schoolgirls they hold captive. CTUCC delegates to Korea learn about the aid provided to women who "entertain" US soldiers. The Newtown church reaches 300 -- and host Eric Anderson can't quite leave on sabbatical without sharing a few more thoughts.
In a public library, Tamara Moreland and her daughter find someone who has entered a world of his own making - most likely because of traumatic experiences in war. She reflects on those injured in spirit in "spiritual warfare," striving for justice, religious freedom, and full inclusion of all people in households of faith. "Thank God our story doesn't end there. We are an Easter people who are known for rising anew..." Youth rejoice in revival, and the Somers church celebrates the consecration of their rebuilt meetinghouse. Clergy enjoy camp, and a part time pastor calls upon the church to better serve its part-time clergy and full-time congregations.
Tim Hughes muses musically on "The Road You Came In On" - the physical and spiritual path that brings people to critical life experiences such as the radical welcome of Silver Lake Conference Center. Over the course of a week, the entire community of staff, deans, counselors, and conferees labor to see that there is only an "In" crowd, and never an "Out" crowd at all. In such a space, friendships can blossom and faith can truly form. In Farmington, where they housed the Amistad captives in the 1830s, they strive to "keep the story alive" with a dramatic reading of Julius Lester's Day of Tears, which recounts the experience of the largest slave auction ever held in the United States. And we look forward to hearing more stories from Clergy Camp, which just ended, in next week's program.
Psalm 116 raises the cry - of need and of thanksgiving - of someone in truly desperate circumstances. Some people have moments, observes Da Vita McCallister, when they have no one to call upon but God. "In those moments God heard my cry," she says, and surrounded me with Grace and Love." Conference Minister Kent Siladi applauds the UCC's suit in pursuit of religious liberty in North Carolina, and celebrates the 20th anniversary of our ecumenical partnership with the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea. And we offer prayers for the hundreds of girls who have been kidnapped in Nigeria.
Easter takes Tom Clough by surprise - this year and every year - with its joy emerging beyond expectation. "What if we were to live with the expectation of love and more love?" he asks. "Is that what it means to be an Easter people?" Conference Minister Kent Siladi reflects on the stories of Holy Week that unite us in a special Vantage Point, interim ministers discuss the changes in their specialized ministry, and we imagine what it might have been like in Jerusalem on a Thursday two thousand years ago. Finally, we close with a special additional medication for Easter from the Rev. Matthew Crebbin, pastor in Newtown, who knows what it is to experience Easter early.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem in a manner that recalled the prophecy of Zechariah: "humble and riding on a donkey." The crowd shouted, "Hosanna!" or "Save us!" We need to be saved, observes Kent Siladi this week, from believing that we are smart enough to figure it all out, from our judgments of others, from our hardness of heart. Hosanna! After Easter, Rev. Siladi and eleven other people from around the Conference will travel to South Korea for the meeting of our ecumenical partners, the Kyung-Ki Presbytery. The partnership celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year.
"We know all that can bind us," says Barbara Libby this week, as she looks with open eyes upon Jesus resurrection of Lazarus after four days in his tomb, "our addictions and fears, our feelings of incompentence and anxiety? Death can happen on both sides of the grave if we let it." In opposition, she summons the words of Jesus: "Be unbound and live!" Connecticut Conference Minister Kent Siladi thanked those churches who have made a pledge for the 2014 financial support to the UCC this year. April launched our New England Mission 4/1 Earth effort, and we have yet more invitations to enjoy the warmth of Silver Lake Conference Center this summer.
When Cain asks God, "Am I my brother's keeper?" God's answer is vague - but Scripture, as a whole, is clear, says Michael Ciba. We are the caretakers and keepers for all our brothers and sisters around the world, and this Sunday's One Great Hour of Sharing offering gives us a chance to live that. Michele Mudrick's work as Legislative Advocate has had her very busy this session, following bills of interest and building relationships with lawmakers. One of Silver Lake's conferences this summer will help its participants talk safely about relationships, identity, and sexuality, and co-deans Missy Sturtevant and Gabrielle Joffe join us to talk about "My So-Called Life."
Karen Ziel brings her poet's heart to the story of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at Jacob's well. "Who is this man who speaks of living water?" she asks, and finds, "Suddenly, I am not alone." Giv2 youth helped people hungry for food in the physical and spiritual senses on the 9th of March: preparing a meal for a Winsted soup kitchen, and baking lasagna in Woodstock for families confronting crises. Silver Lake's summer deans are getting ready for their conferences - and have issued some very special invitations to prospective conferees.
In the week of the International Day of Awesomeness, Eric Anderson finds awesome examples of awesomeness in the Scriptures: and God's call to all of us to fulfill our God-given call and ability to be awesome for each other and the world. A retired pastor reminds churches to make amplification available for their hearing-impaired worshipers. A Hartford church raises funds for an anti-violence program with a Reconciliation of the Bands. And you can show your Mission 4/1 Earth commitment with a button now available from the Connecticut Conference.
Eric Anderson reflects on the challenge of appreciating God's grace in the world - looking about and choosing to see it will be his Lenten practice this season. Diana Butler Bass describes the contemporary Great Awakening at Super Saturday, and in East Haven food at discounted prices reduces the burden on stressed families. A new Vantage Point takes up several facets of Lent, and Maxwell Grant offers this week's wisdom: "Receiving ashes can feel like a performance to some. but we need to remember how grounded it is in a truth we might just as soon forget."
Cecile Gilson brings the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus down to earth, as she shares some of the fears and pains of the disciples. UCC leaders across the nation and the state urge participation in the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath in March. A play in Wilton helps people to understand where their perceptions of racial issues have some of their roots. And we will shortly begin the 2014 Lenten Carbon Fast.
Tim and Anne Hughes spent time with God in a truly deep way recently: literally under the sea, reveling in the life they found there. Tamara Moreland rejoices in the crazy jazz quilt of our society, bringing together so many different pieces, all of whom need one another. The Conference Minister and Sacred Conversations on Race Ministry Team voice their concerns about the mistrial in the death of Jordan Davis, Newtown pastor Matthew Crebbin urges participation in this year's Gun Violence sabbath, churches in Bridgeport and Salisbury form a new partnership for service and for worship, and the Conference offers new publications: the Vantage Point video series, the CTUCC mobile app, and the Spirited Wednesday devotionals.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., saw it decades ago, when he noted that the Church was once more powerful in the lives of its society, transforming "the mores of society." Day McCallister heard echoes in Michael Ciba's recent blog post on "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." There's a difference between the original short story and the film adaptations: in the films, Mitty takes on a real adventure. For both McCallister and Ciba, "The time for 'the secret life of the United Church of Christ' is over. It's time to make God's fantasy our reality." In the news, churches can assist the outreach of Simply Smiles in Mexico and South Dakota by participating in the Church Coffee Program. Conference Minister Kent Siladi shares his Vantage Point in the first of a regular video series. Two conferences will cooperate on a new interdependent workshop and celebration event, the upcoming Super Saturday on March 1st.
God told Moses, "I am." And so Charlie Kuchenbrod begins his own statement of faith: "God is," a brief statement that invites further exploration and holds further depth of meaning. The UCC's New England conferences will engage in a renewed Mission 4/1 Earth effort in late spring, seeking to protect our fragile planet. Youth from North Guilford, Orange, South Glastonbury, and Prospect made sandwiches, traveled miles, spent hours in the cold, and all to raise awareness and provide real assistance to the homeless of Boston and of cities around Connecticut. We're also seeking youth interested in a Sacred Journey to South Korea this coming summer.
In 1960, a six-year-old faced a mob, when Ruby Bridges was escorted into a formerly all-white New Orleans school by U.S. Marshals. This young child, says Gini King, had put the words she learned in church into practice: "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." Hartford area churches celebrated the ministry of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the holiday in his honor, while in Southbury a food bank has asked churches and organizations to help them keep certain supplies in stock by adopting a shelf.
Isaiah could have brought a summons to battle to the exiles of Israel carried away to Babylon. But God did not give him one, says Tom Clough. Instead, the response to the darkness is to become "a light to the nations." As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said over fifty years ago, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that." Connecticut churches will join the remembrance of Dr. King's courage and commitments by ringing their bells on Monday, the King Day observance. In Avon, the congregation gives worship time to service in a Day of Caring. Silver Lake summer conference registration is open! And we hope each church will celebrate our outdoor ministries with a Silver Lake Sunday.
As many begin the year with "New Year's Resolutions," Patsy Bjorling asks about making some around Christian witness. "How am I going to show the world that I am Christ's disciple this year?" she wonders. In South Britain, a living nativity inspires wonder outside the sanctuary door after the children's pageant. The Sacred Conversations on Race Ministry seeks grant applications, and Back Bay Mission announces an interim director. In Touchstones with History, we recognize the 375th anniversary of Connecticut's Fundamental Orders: the first English tradition constitution in the United States.