Latest Blog

  • 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 the sermon.  When she came home, the little girl said that the text was “Don’t be scared.  You’ll get your quilt.”

    The woman was perplexed by this and finally called the pastor for clarification.  She was informed that the text was “Fear not.  Your comforter will come.”

    Sometimes we get things mixed up.  Sometimes things get lost in translation.  And sometimes we even miss the point entirely.  And nowhere is this more the case than with the bible.

    It is often said that the bible can be used to support any position or cause and that’s true.  The bible holds the foundational stories of our faith.  It was written over a considerable length of time by many different people with different agendas.  Many things that were written in the same vein but were not included in the bible.  In the end, though, the whole enterprise of reading the bible should have one simple goal: To get to know God.

    This begs the question: What kind of God is revealed in the bible?  A wrathful God?  A loving God?  An absent God?  A present God?  A partisan God?  A universal God?

    The reality is that these questions can only be answered by the person reading the bible.  And the truth is, each person tends to arrive at their answers—their picture of God—by finding what they are looking for.

    That is to say, if you are looking for a wrathful God in the bible, you will find one.  If you are looking for a loving God in the bible, you will find one.  The God of the bible is often too-long-absent from human affairs and at other times ever-present.  God chooses sides and plays no favorites.

    You find what you are looking for in the bible.  So, what are you looking for?  What are you expecting to find?

    This is why reading scripture requires being in touch with yourself.  It is really the only way the bible can be of value.  By acknowledging your own bias, you are better able to broaden your connection to God through scripture.  Then, if you expect God to be judgmental, you may be surprised by God’s abundant love.  Similarly, if you expect God to be all-loving, the times when God seems to act unfairly in the bible are opportunities for discernment and growth.

    Our faith is rooted in the bible we should have a keen interest in it.  Out of that interest should come one’s own encounter with a God who journeys with us on our path to a deeper connection to the divine.

    See you in church,

    –Rev. Dominic

  • Summer Office Hours! (6/17/2019)

    School’s out, so the summer hours will be shifting!

    Our reduced summer schedule of Mondays & Tuesdays from 9-2 begins in July. The office will be closed however on July 1, 2, 8, 9, and August 12 & 13.

    Beginning on August 19, we’ll be open weekdays from 9-2, and beginning on August 26 we’ll resume our traditional hours of 8:45-1:45 pm, Mondays – Fridays.

    Don’t forget, you can always view the google calendar on our website, which lists the office hours.

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    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
  • Raffle and Auction to Support Refugees (5/14/2019)

    Click here to learn more and order tickets!RIM Raffle for printing legal size.jpg

    You can find out more information about this interfaith initiative of Refugee Immigration Ministry here.

  • 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 to say that very few UCC churches have celebrated as many baptisms from September to June.

    This year we have had 11 baptisms (including the upcoming baptism in June).  That is to say, we have had at least one—sometimes two–baptisms every month this year.  Said differently, we have celebrated the Sacrament of Holy Baptism at First Congregational Church more often than the Sacrament of Holy Communion this year.

    That is surely a sign of a healthy, dynamic church that is in touch with the movement of the Holy Spirit!

    Emily Krueger, Caitlyn Krueger, Yenna Lee Lumbra, Ayva MacDonald, Margaret Almeida, Olivia Wallace, Aidan Violanto, Lincoln Shank, Danni Hughes, Jane Silva, and Roman Meehan.  Those are the names that have been proclaimed with joy from our baptismal font this program year.

    And remember this: Each time we have had a baptism, your own baptism has been renewed during the service.  That means that 11 times this year (provided you were in worship!) you experienced the restoration of your faith through the waters of baptism.

    In baptism, we are claimed by the Holy Spirit.  Hope comes alive in baptism and joy abounds!  We say “yes” to God and find tangible evidence that God is alive and well and working in our world.

    This year, I hope you have felt the renewal of your faith at FCC.  I know our church as a whole continues to harness the winds of the Holy Spirit to be a beacon of God’s love, healing, grace, and power in the world.

    In baptism, you are given a special role play in the ministry of Christ.  I hope you will allow that call to come to fruition through the many ministries we undertake here at our church—a place that is awash with the grace of God and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit!

    See you in church,

    –Rev. Dominic

  • 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 our country it is traced back to Julia Ward Howe; a staunch abolitionist and poet best remembered for her poem “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.  Back in 1890, Howe composed a “Mother’s Peace Day Proclamation”.  For many years thereafter, she was instrumental in organizing festivities in Boston.

    The mantle was picked up later by one Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia who, in 1907, began a seven-year campaign to have Mother’s Day recognized as a national holiday.  President Wilson finally consented and signed legislation to this effect in 1914.

    Today’s Mother’s Day bears little resemblance to Julia Ward Howe’s post-civil war vision.  For the most part, we honor our mothers on this day with brunch, cards, flowers, and candy.  Apart from the commercialization of it all, there is nothing inherently wrong with this, of course.  It is just interesting to take stock of how this important day has evolved.

    For the record, then, here is Julia Ward Howe’s original, 1890 Proclamation.  In her own impassioned words, she shares her goals for the original holiday:

    Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears!  Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.

    “Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.  We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

    From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.  It says, “Disarm, disarm!  The sword is not the balance of justice.”  Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession.

    As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.  Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.  Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each learning after his own time, the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

    In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.”

    See you in church,

    –Rev. Dominic

  • 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 travels fast, too.  When something happens on the opposite side of the planet, we know about it immediately.  We know about it right away, but there is still a significant difference in how MUCH we know, how quickly we forget, and how measured is our interest and compassion.

    In some significant ways, the world is still enormous.

    For example, a cyclone struck Mozambique last weekend.  It killed hundreds, displaced hundreds of thousands and completely destroyed the city of Beira (population 1.5 million).

    This is a story that hit the headlines for maybe a day and then fell by the wayside.  The world is small in the sense that we found out about this instantly, but it is still very large in terms of the gulf in our interest.  Of those who took an interest in this story, I’m betting a good many were wondering where Mozambique is (it’s in Africa, by the way).  Can you imagine the focus on this story if this devastation had happened in our country?

    No matter the size of the world, our hearts are still pretty local.

    Or take the mass killing in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Worshipers of all ages at a Mosque gunned down because of religious hatred.  Days after, we have already moved on.  Maybe it makes sense in some ways.  Maybe it is too painful to remain focused on tragedy.  To avoid “compassion fatigue,” we switch things off.  I get that.

    This Lent, however, I would encourage us to think of every nation in the world as a different state in our country.  Maybe that would really help to shrink our world and extend our hearts.  Think of the people of Africa and Asia, for example, are citizens with us in one country in the same way as people living in New Hampshire.  I’m betting we would see the world quite differently.

    Using nationalistic math, the farther away a tragedy occurs the less concerned we need to be.  That is not the math of Jesus Christ or the Kingdom of God.

    Divisions fall away for Christ and for the Christian faith.  In Christ there are no Jews or gentiles, no slaves or free, no women or men, no Africans or Americans, no Muslims or Christians, no black people or white people, no old or young.  There are only children of God who are trying to make their way in this world the best way they know how.

    And we are eternally linked to one another; no matter the geographical distance between us.

    See you in church,

    –Rev. Dominic

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hhX2-6tPtzc-gQmQ3BlxzmvujzjsRICc/view

  • 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 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,

    –Rev. Dominic

     

     

     

     

  • 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 to the role of the church in reclaiming community and hope in these challenging times.

    See you in church,

     

    –Rev. Dominic


    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

  • 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 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
    Christian).

    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
    gender identity.

    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.

    Wow.

    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
    more troubling.

    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,
    –Rev. Dominic

  • Snow Cancellation Procedure (1/18/2019)

    Dear Friends,

    Now that we are in the heart of winter, I want to share with you an update on how you would know if we should decide to cancel our Sunday morning worship service due to snow. This is simplified from what we have set up in the past.

    In the event of a significant storm, Rev. Dominic will consult with our Senior Deacons and together they will make a decision. If the decision is to cancel, a notice will be placed on the church’s website. Additionally, the outgoing message on the church phone will also be updated to notify of a cancellation of worship. The following will be contacted directly: All staff, Facilities Deacons, Worship Deacons, Fellowship Deacons, Christian Education Deacons.

    So remember, if a storm is upon us on a Sunday morning and you are unsure if there is a worship service, keep checking the church website
    at fccmelrose.org and the outgoing message on the church phone at 781-665- 2111.

    Thank you, –Rev. Dominic

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