- Church School of the Past (2/18/2020) - In keeping with our occasional look back on the history of our church this year, below is an interesting excerpt from the 1948 Anniversary book celebrating the… Read more "Church School of the Past"
- The Mainline Seven Sisters (2/11/2020) - The United Church of Christ is often referred to as a mainline Protestant church along with the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church and several others. But… Read more "The Mainline Seven Sisters"
- The Children’s Sermon (2/4/2020) - I’d like to give a shout out to those who led the Children’s Sermons during the worship services over the past month or so when I was… Read more "The Children’s Sermon"
- Timing Time in the Pulpit (1/28/2020) - As I continue to recover from a recent illness, I have decided to lead progressively more parts of the liturgy over the next few weeks. This will… Read more "Timing Time in the Pulpit"
- 10 “Resolutions” (1/21/2020) - In the continuing spirit of the New Year, I offer here the recent words of our United Church of Christ President Rev. John Dorhauer as he seeks… Read more "10 “Resolutions”"
- A New Conference for a New Future (1/14/2020) - Here’s a bit of important news that you may have missed. Our church no longer part of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ. What,… Read more "A New Conference for a New Future"
- Happy New Year! (1/7/2020) - On behalf of the entire staff at First Congregational Church, I wish you all a very Happy New Year filled with peace, justice, hope, and love. May… Read more "Happy New Year!"
- Abundant Love, Abundant Thanks (12/31/2019) - When I recently came down with a bout of shingles, I felt I could shake it easily enough. Boy, was I wrong. Not only was this pretty… Read more "Abundant Love, Abundant Thanks"
- Tree Toppers (12/17/2019) - What sits on top of your Christmas tree? There are really three traditional options here and each has deep scriptural and religious meaning. That said, times they… Read more "Tree Toppers"
- Written in a Rush (12/10/2019) - Phillips Brooks grew up memorizing hymns. By the time he got to college, he had around 200 that he could recite on the spot. Phillips went into… Read more "Written in a Rush"
- From Tomb to Womb (12/3/2019) - On the first weekend on November, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ met as part of the forthcoming Southern New England Conference. More about… Read more "From Tomb to Womb"
- An Honor Roll of Clergy (11/26/2019) - Continuing our look back at the history of our church, this month I am sharing a glimpse of the clergy who have served our church. This is… Read more "An Honor Roll of Clergy"
- Pilgrims and Puritans (11/19/2019) - It is pretty common for people to get the Pilgrims and the Puritans mixed up. Since the United Church of Christ traces its history through both of… Read more "Pilgrims and Puritans"
- Cancelling People (11/12/2019) - I don’t think it is any secret that I am a progressive person. My theology, my politics, and my hopes for the future all lean to the… Read more "Cancelling People"
- Same Church, Different Buildings (10/29/2019) - As we intentionally build a strong future for our church, it is also important to look back and appreciate where we have been. Last month I began… Read more "Same Church, Different Buildings"
- Halloween (10/22/2019) - Halloween has changed over the years, I think. When I was growing up it was pretty tame holiday with games and fun, benign costumes like bedsheet ghosts… Read more "Halloween"
- What Do You Believe? (10/15/2019) - What Do You Believe? “There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.”—Dame Freya Stark I love this… Read more "What Do You Believe?"
- Me? An Evangelist? Nah! (10/8/2019) - Are you an evangelist? (I can almost hear your answer!) “Of course not! I’ve seen evangelists on TV and I want no part of them! That’s not… Read more "Me? An Evangelist? Nah!"
- A Better You (10/1/2019) - What gets you up in the morning? Maybe you need to get to work or to school. Maybe you have an appointment. Maybe you have responsibilities to… Read more "A Better You"
- How It All Started (9/24/2019) - With so many newer people in our church, I feel it is important to not only maintain a focus on crafting a dynamic future for First Congregational… Read more "How It All Started"
- Who is Your 2:00 a.m. Friend? (9/17/2019) - It is the middle of the night and you are wide awake. You are worried about this or that. You are remembering the day just past and… Read more "Who is Your 2:00 a.m. Friend?"
- It Starts with Kindness (9/11/2019) - “Jesus was not killed by atheism or anarchy. He was brought down by law and order mixed with religion—which is always a deadly mix. Beware of those… Read more "It Starts with Kindness"
- A Restorative Time (6/25/2019) - Our June Cook Out is this Sunday! I hope you can join us for this great time of worship and fellowship; rain or shine! Also, please take… Read more "A Restorative Time"
- Being Aware of your Expectations (6/18/2019) - A woman was too ill to attend worship one Sunday morning so she sent her young daughter to church and told her to remember the text for… Read more "Being Aware of your Expectations"
- Praying for and Against (6/11/2019) - Last week a special invitation was made by Rev. Franklin Graham to pray for president Donald Trump. It is not unusual for religious leaders to ask parishioners… Read more "Praying for and Against"
- The Holy Spirit Defined (6/4/2019) - Most people acknowledge two major holidays in the Christian tradition: Christmas and Easter. Maybe that’s thanks to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, but these two holidays… Read more "The Holy Spirit Defined"
- Balance (5/28/2019) - There is a good deal of discussion within the United Church of Christ, and among clergy in general, about what makes for successful parish ministry. It is… Read more "Balance"
- Fifty Years! (5/21/2019) - Fifty years ago this spring, the cornerstone was laid in place to build our current church building. You can see that cornerstone each time you enter our… Read more "Fifty Years!"
- The Year of Baptisms (5/14/2019) - In my nearly 25 years in parish ministry, I have never experienced a program year with as many baptisms as this one! In fact, I would venture… Read more "The Year of Baptisms"
- The Evolution of Mother’s Day (5/7/2019) - This Sunday, in the United States, Italy, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and Turkey, is Mother’s Day. Each country has its own origins for this holiday, but in… Read more "The Evolution of Mother’s Day"
- The Chance to Evolve (4/30/2019) - Joe Biden entered the 2020 presidential race recently. A veteran of the Senate and two other presidential bids, Biden is certainly no newcomer. It remains to be… Read more "The Chance to Evolve"
- Disturb Us, Lord (4/23/2019) - In keeping with Easter tradition, I again offer here the wonderful prayer of Sir Francis Drake. Sir Francis Drake was an English explorer in the 1500s (Elizabethan… Read more "Disturb Us, Lord"
- The Value of Suffering (4/16/2019) - This week is Holy Week. It is the week when we walk with Jesus during the worst week of his life; the week that ultimately led to… Read more "The Value of Suffering"
- Drama Queens (4/9/2019) - It wouldn’t be wrong to accuse Christians of being “drama queens.” After all, we are always reenacting things! At Christmas there are Nativity Scenes in various places—homes,… Read more "Drama Queens"
- Happy Are Those Who Worship (4/2/2019) - If you join us for worship regularly, you are happier than most people. Seriously, you are! At least that is the conclusion of a recent Pew Research… Read more "Happy Are Those Who Worship"
- It’s a Small World (or at least it should be) (3/26/2019) - They say that the world has shrunk because of the internet. We can contact someone across the globe instantly now. People can. Businesses can. Governments can. News… Read more "It’s a Small World (or at least it should be)"
- College Cheating Scandal (3/19/2019) - 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… Read more "College Cheating Scandal"
- A Place for Everyone (2/26/2019) - I have recently been reminded that one of the things that allows people to feel at home at First Congregational Church is my insistence that we don’t… Read more "A Place for Everyone"
- Pastoral Letter on Unity (2/19/2019) - 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… Read more "Pastoral Letter on Unity"
- Stating the Obvious (2/5/2019) - 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… Read more "Stating the Obvious"
- “…Like Warmed Syrup” (1/29/2019) - Some time ago, I heard about a waitress in a Texas dinner names Ivory Harlow. She makes it her practice to help out people who come up… Read more "“…Like Warmed Syrup”"
- Closing the Gap (1/28/2019) - from The Messenger, January 25, 2019 A.W. Tozer wrote: “We cannot pray in love and live in hate and still think we are worshiping God.” The President… Read more "Closing the Gap"
- Sunday School (1/28/2019) - from The Messenger, 1/18/2019 Actress Reese Witherspoon said: “I take my kids to church and to Sunday School. They love it. I really think it is important… Read more "Sunday School"
- Music: The Heart of Worship (1/28/2019) - from The Messenger, 1/11/2019 “The best, most beautiful way that we have of expressing a sweet concord of mind to each other is by music,” wrote Jonathan… Read more "Music: The Heart of Worship"
- In Your Dreams (1/28/2019) - from The Messenger, January 4, 2019 Have you had any interesting dreams lately? There is a whole field of study around dream interpretation. In fact, it is… Read more "In Your Dreams"
- Show Up, Trust, and Proclaim (1/28/2019) - from The Messenger, 12/21/2018 There was a depressed songwriter who battled the successes of the past and a fear of the future. He was bankrupt. He had… Read more "Show Up, Trust, and Proclaim"
- An Honest Look at Christmas (1/28/2019) - from The Messenger, 12/14/2018 There is a surprising person among the refugees at our southern border. In fact, there are three surprising people—all from the same family.… Read more "An Honest Look at Christmas"
- Crisis and Opportunity (12/4/2018) - Every year, I rediscover how odd some of the scripture lessons for the Sundays of Advent really are.
- An Intentional Exchange (12/4/2018) - Happy New Year! That’s right, this coming Sunday is the start of the new year on the church calendar. I know that is it is kind of counter-cultural because the “real” New Year doesn’t begin until January 1st, but it is good to remember that the church is supposed to be counter-cultural!
- Trust God (12/4/2018) - Where do you draw the line on worry?
I hope you have a line. If you don’t, now’s a good time to create one! Start by asking: When does a healthy concern for the future become a self-destructive obsession about tomorrow?
- Staying Aware of the Good News (12/4/2018) - It was already a week lacking in good news.
During the Prayers of the People the previous Sunday there were an inordinate number of prayers for family’s who had suffered a loss or a difficult diagnosis.
- The Enormity of the World’s Grief (12/4/2018) - The following is a Pastoral Letter to the churches of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ from Rev. Don Remick, our Transitional Interim Conference Minister. I commend it to you as a source of solace and inspiration during these challenging days.
- Voting to Answer a Call (12/4/2018) - Jesus commanded Christians to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16). The second part of that calling—to be the “light of the world”—tends to make more sense to us. We know how necessary light is where there isn’t any. It is easy for us to translate that into our need to be light in order to dispel gloom (and there is no shortage of that!).
The first part, though, doesn’t resonate so well. Salt? Really?
- Masked Behavior (12/4/2018) - Cabbage Night is fast approaching! What? You’ve never heard of Cabbage Night? Well, neither had I until I read about it. Apparently, it used to be another name, somewhat locally, for Halloween.
- Stop Battling Against Injustice (12/4/2018) - One of my favorite quotes is from author Tom Peters:
“Celebrate what you would like to see more of.” It is a simple quote but reveals a profound approach to life.
- The Power of Kindness (10/13/2018) - It seems like our country is becoming more polarized and angry by the day.
Maybe that is why my reference to random acts of kindness in last week’s sermon garnered such a response. As I mentioned in the sermon, in the current climate kindness can seem like abnormal behavior.
Kindness is both simple and complex. It is both personal and global in its reach. Its outcome is only positive. Evidence of it is all too rare.
- The News Cycle (10/13/2018) - It is amazing how quickly the news cycle moves on. Major events happen and are front and center for a few days (at best) and then fade quickly into the background.
What do you know about the aftermath of the worst wildfire season in California history? Probably not much. Once the fires are contained, reporters leave.
- Thank You Susan! (10/13/2018) - As was announced in church last Sunday, we are creating a new staff position in the church to address the changing needs of our congregation. While there is much excitement about these new possibilities, there is also sadness as we say farewell to Susan Bowdridge who has been the Church Administrative Assistant for the past 20 years.
- Together as One (10/13/2018) - There are some historic changes happening in our Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ!
First, you should be aware that our Conference Minister, Rev. Jim Antal, has retired as of July 1st. Many of you may remember Rev. Antal from his two visits to our church during which he shared sermons on climate change and the importance of the United Church of Christ. Rev. Don Remick, who had served as Associate Conference Minister in our Conference, has now assumed the role of Transitional Interim Conference Minister. A formal search process for a new Conference Minister is presently on hold due to the following development!
- Welcome Back! (10/13/2018) - This coming Sunday we begin a new program year at our church and I could not be more excited!
Apart from advanced planning by staff and lay leadership, along with a well-attended pizza party earlier this month (thanks Tom and Becky!), it has been a summer of quiet, communal rejuvenation and we are ready to hit the ground running!
And boy do we need to!
- Welcome Back Flyer (8/28/2018) - Sunday, September 9: Welcome Back Sunday Worship and Sunday School at 10:00 AM Sunday School Registration Sunday, September 16: Worship and Sunday School at 10:00 AM Sunday… Read more "Welcome Back Flyer"
- Expiration Date (8/28/2018) - During last Sunday’s Children’s Sermon, I talked to the kids about having an expiration date. That is, unlike a carton of milk, we don’t have one (or at least we don’t know what it is). Consequently, we need to take advantage of every day, every moment, to enjoy life and bring a little bit of peace, love and trust into the lives of those around us.
- Abba’s Da (8/28/2018) - Do you think Jesus would have celebrated Father’s Day? I’m betting he would and I think his take on it would be instructive for us.
- Many Voices, One Mission Born for Such a Time as This (8/28/2018) - n these challenging times, we need all the hope we can get. Our Conference Minister, Rev. Jim Antal, recently shared the following message of hope and I commend it to you
- Ordinary Time (6/3/2018) - If you have a religious calendar of any sort, this time of year is alternatively called the “Season of Pentecost” and “Ordinary Time”. Either way, it is the longest season of the church year...
- Getting the Help You Need (6/3/2018) - I certainly hope that in this day and age we have overcome the stigma of seeking therapy through a counselor but, at the same time, I know that such a hope is yet to be realized.
- A Harvest of the Holy Spirit (6/3/2018) - After our devotional time at the May Board of Deacons Meeting, I was asked about the origin of Pentecost. From the word itself, you can probably guess that it has to do with the number 5. More specifically, it is 50 days after Easter. It marks the end of the Easter Season and the beginning of the Season of Pentecost.
- Seasons (6/3/2018) - I just noticed something interesting about the seasons of the church year that I hadn’t picked up on before. It is kind of a hidden message of sor
- In Jesus’ Selfie (6/3/2018) - There is a great cartoon I saw some time back. It was titled “Jesus Takes a Selfie”. It showed Jesus holding a cell phone at arm’s length and smiling broadly. On the phone screen, however, was not his face but rather a crowd of people of different colors, sizes and genders.
- A Positive Alternative (6/3/2018) - Thankfully, April 3rd passed without incident—at least I never saw any headlines to the contrary.
In case you didn’t know, April 3rd was a tense day in Britain...
- Not Broken, Just Incomplete (4/18/2018) - I am always struck by what people hear in sermons. After worship someone will remark about something in the sermon that may not even have been the point I was trying to make.
There was a turn of phrase that I used in a sermon a while back that was like that. It wasn’t the point of the sermon but people seemed to remember it (I’m not even sure the main point got across—but that’s okay!).
- An Easter People’s Lamentation of Hope (4/18/2018) - As we continue our journey in the Easter season, I offer here the Easter Message from our United Church of Christ General Minister and President the Rev. John C. Dorhauer. May we find hope in his words during these challenging times.
- Disturb Us, Lord (4/18/2018) - It has become my post-Easter tradition to share the following prayer in this column. The prayer was written by Sir Francis Drake who was an English explorer in the 1500s (Elizabethan era) and led the second expedition to successfully circumnavigate the globe. The exact date of the prayer is unknown.
- No Joke (4/1/2018) - Jesus is Risen! April fools!
There is a certain irony when Easter Sunday falls on April 1st—April Fools’ Day. After all, when the first disciples announced his resurrection, many people assumed that they were joking.
- All That We Need (4/1/2018) - During these weeks of Lent, I am offering here an invitation to an ancient spiritual practice called “Lectio Divina”. It is a practice of contemplatively reading scripture in order to still one’s mind and connect to God.
- The Observer (3/16/2018) - During these weeks of Lent, I am offering here an invitation to an ancient spiritual practice called “Lectio Divina”. It is a practice of contemplatively reading scripture in order to still one’s mind and connect to God.
- Look at the Unknown (3/16/2018) - During these weeks of Lent, I am offering here an invitation to an ancient spiritual practice called “Lectio Divina”. It is a practice of contemplatively reading scripture in order to still one’s mind and connect to God.
- A Spiritual Practice for Lent (3/3/2018) - A 12th c Carthusian French monk, Guigo II, described the spiritual life as climbing a ladder. The steps were Reading, Meditation, Prayer, and Contemplation. Or lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio.
- Mindfulness (3/3/2018) - If someone were to ask me what the over-arching goal of Lent should be, my one-word answer would be: Mindfulness.
- Ashing Questions for Lent (3/3/2018) - This week marks the beginning of the Lenten Season. Lent is a season of spiritual preparation for Easter. It is a time to assess our faith and discipleship
- The Better Angels of our Nature (2/7/2018) - The past year has seen a noticeable uptick in bullying. This is the case not only in our schools but also in the work world and social media world as well.
This is disappointing, of course. Schools in particular have gone to great lengths to provide anti-bullying education to students of all ages.
- A Vision: God’s Gift (2/7/2018) - When the bible says: “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18), it may mean different things to different people, but one thing we can all agree on is that it means that we should be looking forward, not behind.
- Lost in Translation (2/7/2018) - There are new computer and phone apps coming out every day. Some are quite amazing.
Take, for example, the fact that up until recently you really needed a guide book of simple phrases if you were traveling to a country where you did not speak the language. Unless the person in front of you from that country spoke English, you were reduced to pointing at the book, gesturing and hoping for the best.
- The “Genesis” of Me Too (2/7/2018) - You know that a social catharsis is underway and a social remedy needed when a phenomenon like “Me Too” shows no signs of going away. And it shouldn’t. As someone said: “Me Too isn’t a fad, it is a truth and truths don’t fade”.
- Lead us not into Temptation (2/7/2018) - There is one prayer in our faith that unites all Christians. Any guesses? That’s right! The Lord’s Prayer (or sometimes called the “Our Father” after the first two words of the prayer).
- A New Year’s Blessing (1/6/2018) - No one blesses better than the Irish. Many Irish blessings have, however, become kind of kitschy after too often being found on dishware, door knockers, and tshirts,… Read more "A New Year’s Blessing"
- A Good Christmas (12/31/2017) - Depending on when you get the newsletter, Christmas is only about three or four days away! Is it just me, or does Christmas come more quickly each year?
If I’m honest, I think that’s a sign of getting a bit older. Remember when you were a kid and the time between each Christmas was an eternity? Now we can’t believe it is here again already!
- Compassion Fade (12/31/2017) - I came across a new phrase today: “Compassion fade”.
It is a term for the phenomenon in which people’s compassion diminishes in proportion to the size or complexity of the problem.
For example, people will more likely give to help a local resident whose home has been lost to a fire than to people dying of a pandemic in another part of the world. It is easier to compassionately support a person whose loved one has died than to confront genocide.
- Jesus’ Family Tree (12/31/2017) - Henry Louis Gates, Jr. hosts a show on PBS called “Finding Your Roots”. In it, he shares the often unknown ancestry of famous people. We not only… Read more "Jesus’ Family Tree"
- Advent? Magnificent! (11/28/2017) - Advent is, of course, all about anticipating the birth of Christ. It is a time of preparation, contemplation, and waiting. But really, it is about so much… Read more "Advent? Magnificent!"
- Independent of Place (11/27/2017) - Have you ever visited the site of the Pilgrims landing: Plymouth Rock? We did when we first moved to Massachusetts. It seemed the appropriate thing to do—a… Read more "Independent of Place"
- Annual Christmas Fair! (11/25/2017) - A Christmas season family destination in Melrose for years, come to buy Christmas gifts & enter raffles and auctions for incredible prizes. Kids of all ages can… Read more "Annual Christmas Fair!"
- How Long, O Lord? (11/17/2017) - The mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Southerland Springs, Texas can be added to a long list of such shootings that are not only tragic… Read more "How Long, O Lord?"
- Summer Schedule (6/26/2017) - During the summer, First Congregational Church worships with other Melrose churches in the month of July. Please see our worship schedule below. Summer church office hours… Read more "Summer Schedule"
- Fun with By-Laws (5/31/2017) - Let’s face it, there are few things more boring in the life of any organization than its by-laws. In fact, I am fond of recommending them to… Read more "Fun with By-Laws"
- Simplifying Things (5/23/2017) - As we continue to struggle through these uncertain days, I recently came across a reminder of what is truly important from an old source. I am sure… Read more "Simplifying Things"
- A Mother God on Mother’s Day (5/23/2017) - We are pretty clear in the United Church of Christ that God is beyond gender. Yet despite our acceptance (since the 1860s) of women’s ordination and countless… Read more "A Mother God on Mother’s Day"
- Re-Enactments (5/2/2017) - The day after Easter, we went to see the Patriot’s Day re-enactments at Lexington and Concord. If you have been to these before, as we have, you… Read more "Re-Enactments"
- Disturb Us, Lord (4/22/2017) - It has become my tradition to share the following prayer in this column the week after Easter since it speaks of our calling as people of the… Read more "Disturb Us, Lord"