- 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"