I’m Reverend Dominic Taranowski and I’d like to welcome you to the First Congregational Church in Melrose, United Church of Christ. A lot of churches say “come as you are,” but we really mean it. It doesn’t matter your age or your background or your story: you are welcome here. We’re an intergenerational church with something for everyone: from our vibrant worship service on Sunday morning, to our Sunday school program, to our mission work, to our public advocacy presence. We’re always about the work of faith formation and discipleship.
We strive to create a deeper relationship with God but also an outward expression of that faith in the wider world. The church provides opportunities for both of those. You can renew and strengthen your relationship with God and also find ways to live out that faith on a daily basis. We are a casual, committed, progressive church and we welcome you here.
See you in church!
As one who has kids who are college-aged, I was shocked by the news last week of the cheating scandal—that wealthy families paid huge sums of money to assure that their kids were admitted to top universities around the country. This was done by paying people to falsify student profiles, change test results, and even present as disabled when they were not in order to get preferential treatment.
The bottom line is that these extremely wealthy people kept out others who were playing by the rules. They bought their kids the school enrollment that they wanted.
As upsetting as this is, it struck me that it is not so unusual. Throughout history there have always been those who have felt entitled; those who felt that the rules don’t apply to them. There have always been those who have tried to buy their way to whatever they wanted.
That’s actually true in the realm of religion too. Like those parents who were willing to pay whatever it took to get their kids into the best universities, there were also those who, at one time, were willing to pay whatever it took to get themselves and their families into heaven. It was called “indulgences” and it was a linchpin of the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s.
At that time, the Catholic church had set up a system whereby one could curry divine favor through financial payments. One could have one’s sins forgiven, assure a place in heaven, and even post bail for someone in hell (essentially) by means of financial contribution to the church.
It certainly did a lot to line the pockets of the church at that time (and probably some chosen members of the hierarchy too). It was a workable system for the rich. It did not work so well, however, for the poor. You see, they believed the same thing that everyone else did: that you could pay your way into heaven as it were. Only they couldn’t afford it. So they were stuck. What the poor didn’t realize is that they were in better shape spiritually by not paying indulgences than the rich who were.
The bottom line is that tricking your way into the life you want is no life at all. The foundation is dishonesty. Thankfully, this college fraud was exposed not only to help end it and allow everyone the fair shake they deserve, but also to prevent the children of these wealthy families from starting their adult lives based on lies.
Likewise, we are thankful that the Protestant reformers had the courage to expose an unjust system some 500 years ago and thereby prevent more people from adhering to a twisted theology based on divine bribery.
See you in church,
Our General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, Rev. John Dorhauer, has shared the following Pastoral Letter with our churches. His important words speak to the role of the church in reclaiming community and hope in these challenging times.
See you in church,
Dear Partners in Christ:
The vision of a body united – in purpose, in mission, in vision – is one that inspired the birth of our denomination. All of our spiritual impulses reverberate in an effort to call us into a more perfect union. Throughout our shared history as a people of faith and as a part of the Body of Christ, we have challenged ourselves to widen the circle of inclusion. Widening the circle has always come with growth pains as we shed old skins and welcome those whom we had previously thought unwelcome. And, with each new articulation of a more fully expressed Body of Christ we have realized new joy. Through it all we remain focused on the call to be one and committed to meeting the challenges inherent in that call.
We are now living in and through a season when the threats to unity are legion. Talk of walls that mark refugees as threats, labels like ‘terrorist’ that attach too easily to Muslims, overt racial bias that normalizes fear and hatred, a pandemic of abuse to women with the trigger reflex to forgive the men who author that abuse have turned America into a land many of us no longer recognize and that too many of us are finding harder and harder to reconcile with our faith.
Now more than ever, the Holy Spirit of the Living God and the Risen Christ is seeking to partner with anyone committed to unifying the human community. The gospel mandate to love our neighbor as we love ourselves resonates deep within us. It calls for the better angels among and within us to always resist impulses to hate, to condemn, to vilify, or to castigate. In such a time as this, the United Church of Christ’s call to fulfill the prayer of Jesus, that they may all be one, stands as an urgent mandate to disciples who envision a just world for all.
United with you in God’s service,
The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
General Minister and President, UCC
Late last December, Congress unanimously passed legislation to
make lynching a federal crime. Now, you might think that such a
horrific act would already be on the books as a crime, but, until last
December, it was not.
With the recent hate crime-attack on actor Jussie Smollett, which
had many hallmarks of a lynch-attack, it becomes readily apparent that
this law is deeply needed.
Interestingly enough, there was opposition to the bill. Even more
interestingly, it came from Christians (or at least those who claim to be
The Liberty Counsel, an evangelical legal organization known for
its political lobbying on behalf of Christian conservatives, lobbied
against the legislation. Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty
Counsel, asked legislators to remove language from the bill that
explicitly includes protections for people on the basis of sexual and
Why, you ask? Simple: An anti-lynching law is, according to
Staver in an interview he gave to the Christian news siteOneNewsNow,
only a baby step to one day passing employment, housing and health
care legislation that would offer protections to LGBTQ people. Because
gay and lesbian people go against God’s will, they should not be offered
these protections. That said, he is generally opposed to lynching.
The idea that we are even having a political argument about
whether people should be legally protected from lynching is utterly
ridiculous. I cannot fathom anyone who would not want to see
extrajudicial, identity-based killings of any sort outlawed.
Fortunately, these lobbying efforts were unsuccessful but it
highlights just how organized and influential hate has become. The fact
that this kind of discrimination comes in a Christian package is even
When people of faith forget that Jesus called us to empower the
marginalized, to love one’s neighbor as one’s self, to not judge lest you
be judged, and to include everyone at the table of God’s grace,
something has gone wrong.
When people of faith forget that Jesus was essentially lynched by a
crowd of politically frenzied religious zealots because he didn’t fit in,
their faith has no heart and they assume the title “Christian” as only a
label and nothing more.
It may be stating the obvious, it may sound redundant, it may be
simplistic, but the truth is this: Ours is a God of love and inclusion not a
God of hate and violence.
See you in church,
In depth review
Church blogger George Parks recently attended our congregation and had this to say: “This is a warm, active, community church, that provides space for personal growth and contemplation, as well as advocacy for the greater good of the community. Melrose and the surrounding communities are very lucky to have FCC of Melrose contributing to the greater good.” Read his review here.