Cornerstone Newsletter March/April 2020
The CornerstoneNews from the First Church of Christ, Congregational, United Church of Christ
Volume 4, Number 2
The Pastor’s PenWell, here we are in Lent, which is a journey toward the Good News of Easter. And we all could use some good news. It isn’t that we fail to see the beauty of our world or forget to be grateful for our many blessings, but as poet William Wordsworth once wrote, “The world is too much with us,” meaning that we sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed by all the world’s problems, which we realize we cannot solve. Of course, there are things we can do to lighten someone else’s load; there is always kindness to show to the one who is too often ignored, but still the world presses down on us with all its many complicated problems.
Lent and Easter happen in the midst of life’s complications. This is also the world into which Jesus came, a world filled with daunting problems. And in the midst of all that, he tried to show us what it means to live a full and abundant life. Whatever that fullness and abundance suggest, it certainly does not mean we can expect to live problem free. Perhaps what Lent might help us to learn is how to journey in the midst of all the joys, sorrows and challenges we face and carry.
Recently I read a short reflection by a minister, Kaji Dousa, who serves a church in New York City. While she was reflecting on a passage from the Old Testament book of Joel about “rending our hearts and not our clothing,” she wrote something which I think directly applies to our Lenten journey. Maybe when we face a difficulty, she said, “we need to stick with it a bit longer, walk a little longer, listen a little more intently, pray a whole lot more, open our hearts just a bit wider.” We never know exactly what God will do in our lives and in our world. And so, we wait, and we watch, and we hope.
We think of Advent as the season of waiting, hoping and watching, but Lent too shares this aspect. We know the story line very well: Jesus’ baptism by John and his ministry throughout Galilee, ending with the horror and cruelty of abandonment and crucifixion, culminating three days later in victory when God raised Jesus from the dead. While Christians have multiple views and interpretations of the resurrection, surely it at least means that love and mercy, not hate and cruelty, speak the final word.
No matter what or how we think of the resurrection, we should also be able to see that there is a deep mystery to it, defying our human capacity to explain or understand. Perhaps that is why so many people who rarely come to church show up on Easter Sunday. One of my colleagues was always fascinated by this phenomenon. “You would think they would come in droves on Good Friday,” he would say to me, “because unjust suffering and death is a reality we all know and see, but here they are on a day when the most outrageous claim is made: the one who was brutally killed is made alive. Death is overcome and defeated.” He never believed their appearance in church was simply a nod to convention, or a mere welcoming of spring. No, something deeper was and is going on, though we may not be able to explain or understand it. Mystery is never about a puzzle to solve or a question to answer. It is always about a journey into the depths, where we never can predict exactly how or when God will meet us.
DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE EASTER BUNNY AND EASTER HARE?
The Easter bunny and the Easter egg can be traced back to ancient times. Because of their prolific offspring, bunnies became associated with fertility, and ancient Babylonians believed in a fable about an egg that fell into the Euphrates River from heaven and from which Queen Astarte was born or hatched. But in actuality it is the hare rather than the bunny that had pride of place in Easter celebrations. Legend has it that the hare never closes its eyes, not even for a moment. Perhaps this belief comes from the fact that hares are born with their eyes open, while rabbits are born blind.
Since ancient times hares have been symbolic of the moon, and Easter is a lunar festival. The moon has been the measurer of our days, perhaps because it harmonizes so well with the physiological phenomenon of fertility, pregnancy and birth. The lunar month of 28 days gives 13 periods in 364 days, equivalent to the solar year of 52 weeks. The hare is nocturnal and feeds by night and its gestation period is one (lunar) month long.
In case of emergency,
please contact the following:
Church office: 860-673-2796
Rev. Sandra Olsen: (860) 347-4100
Cindy Nye: (517) 402-1000
John Ellsworth: (860) 673-0518
SANDRA’S OFFICE HOURS:
Tuesdays & Fridays: 11:00 am-2:00 pm, and after church on Sundays until 2 pm.
Feel free to drop by, or make an appointment by calling the church office or contacting Sandra: (860) 347-4100 firstname.lastname@example.org
Please contact the church office with prayer requests, thanksgivings, or remembrances to be included in the weekly notices.
Church Member Volunteers are always available to provide transportation to and from church. We encourage anyone who is in need of a ride to please contact Dayle Kane at (860) 404-5149 or email@example.com
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SMALL GROUP OPPORTUNITIES AT FCCU:
HSSS (High School Sunday Series)
A small group Bible study for high school and middle school age young people, following the Children’s Moment in worship.
Meets at Dunkin Donuts in Unionville. Adult Leader: Tim Barth.
Frances Richards Club
Women’s group. Meets the second Wednesday of the month (except January and February) for fellowship, special activities, and lunch. Contact Donna Williams: email@example.com
Men’s Breakfast Club
Meets one Wednesday a month. Contact Tim Barth: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m. (except July and August).
Director: Lisa Durkin
New small groups are welcome and encouraged. To begin one, contact the church office.
I know a woman who lost her young child to an incurable disease many years ago. After loving her, caring for her, and attending to her every need, this mother had to endure the excruciating experience of letting her daughter go. The pain of this felt unbearable and she carried it for decades, not knowing what else to do with it or how to work through it. Over time, with much conversation and guidance and support, as well as a great deal of soul-searching, she was able to stop asking “Why?” and to instead tend to her grief, anger, and despair. In the process, she reached a level of peace and acceptance that she never thought was possible. She recently commented to me, “My mother may have taught me my faith, but it is my daughter who taught me how to live my faith.”
Faith is easy when things are going smoothly, but perhaps that isn’t really faith at all, merely gratitude. It is during the troubling times that our faith is truly tested. We get small glimpses into challenges to Jesus’ faith in anticipation of his crucifixion. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he prays to God in anguish and suggests that maybe his life could be spared. And as he hangs from the cross, Jesus cries out these well-known words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I cannot personally relate to how it must have felt to Jesus to know that he would be executed, nor how much faith was required of him to trust that his life would be restored. But as a mother, I most certainly can imagine what Mary must have gone through as she faced losing her son.
We don’t know any details of their life together, but we can assume that Mary poured her heart into raising, caring for, and loving Jesus. So how did she get through those darkest of days leading up to and after his death? When did she know that he would be executed, and how did she manage that pain? How did she bear seeing her beloved son beaten, mocked, spat upon, and then nailed to the cross? What agony she must have felt to watch him slowly die, helpless to do anything but witness his passing. She could not even hold him and comfort him and soothe him through his final moments. Despite being assured by Jesus that he would rise from the dead, Mary must have experienced profound grief. One cannot imagine that she got through those following days, after Jesus was laid to rest in the tomb, by simply going about her daily business, confident that he would rise again. Yet isn’t that exactly what faith would have called her to do?
These days, some of the biggest tests of my faith happen when one of my children is struggling. While I have enough life experience to trust my own capacity to get through tough times, it is much harder to manage the uncertainty and worry when watching my child try to navigate life’s challenges, and when I am helpless to do anything about it. As mothers we are hard-wired to protect our young and spare them from harm. And when we cannot, it takes the ultimate faith to believe that it will all work out even though we cannot envision how it possibly could, and especially if the outcome deviates from what we hope. So perhaps it is true that, just as Jesus did for Mary, our children do teach us how to live our faith. And in that process we learn to believe that even when situations in their lives are out of our hands, they are in fact firmly entrusted to the loving hands of God.
~ Cindy Nye
On April 4, 2020, 7-9 pm, we are having a local, 7 member band called Mass-Conn-Fusion. Their focus is motown, rhythm and blues, funk, jazz and hits from the 60’s to today. Tickets are $25 and are available now. Tunxis Hose across the street is having their pasta dinner on that night and we are teaming up with them to jointly promote each other’s event. A portion of our proceeds will be donated to them, as well.
The Mass-Conn-Fusion concert is just around the corner! We hope to have 2 dozen wonderful gift baskets to raffle off. These are donated by local businesses and members of our congregation. Some people team up with a friend create one together. We’ve had baskets of wine, lottery tickets, spa items, tea assortments, dinner certificates, etc. They generate excellent income for our church and the designated charity. If you plan to donate one, please sign up on the Social Room bulletin board so we can avoid duplication. Please get baskets in to the church office by Sunday, 3/15 so we can display them during Social Hour for advance viewing and ticket purchase. Thank you for your generosity, and for helping out with this fun and worthy cause. Contact Donna Williams or Barb Emerson with questions.
4/5 Palm Sunday 10:00 am Worship Service with Communion: This service not only remembers Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem, but also reminds us of his suffering and death.
4/9 Maundy Thursday 7:00 pm Worship Service with Tenebrae: Please join us for an intimate and moving service as we re-create The Last Supper and the betrayal, abandonment, and agony of the Passion story.
4/10 Good Friday 12:00-3:00 pm The Sanctuary will be open for anyone wanting to come in and quietly reflect on the significance of this day and contemplate Christ’s last words.
4/12 Easter Sunday 10:00 am Worship Service:: Join us for a glorious celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Egg Hunt for the children to follow, during Social Hour
For anyone who wishing to donate an Easter Lily for Easter Sunday, 4/12, please complete a floral fund envelope by 4/8, and submit to the church office or place in the Sunday morning offering plate. The cost is $8/plant. After Easter, the lilies will be brought to church members designated by Pastor Sandra. If you would like to take one home, please indicate so on the envelope. Thank you in advance!
ONE GREAT HOUR OF SHARING OFFERING
Psalm Sunday, April 5, 2020: One Great Hour of Sharing is the single largest world wide Protestant offering. All over the world Protestants give to make a concrete difference in the lives of real people. Schools have been built; vaccinations given and centers of refuge for abused women and children have been set up. When natural disasters have struck, One Great Hour of Sharing has helped. There is no end to the possibilities of help that can be offered, but it depends on ordinary people giving. Please give as generously as you can. We will take the offering on Psalm Sunday, but you can give it any time during the month of April. Checks should be made out to the church, marked One Great Hour in the memo section.
Faith Formation Opportunities
Book Discussion: We will be reading and discussing Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower. We will meet after Social Hour in Sandra’s office on March 8, 15, 22, 29. See Sandra to purchase a book.
Movie Nights: On Tuesday, 3/24, 7 pm we will have a movie night featuring The 5 People You Meet in Heaven, based on Mitch Albom’s book of the same name. Snacks will be provided. We will also be showing Tom Hank’s Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood at a future date to be determined.
Please Trustees and the Scouts for our annual Spring Cleanup on Saturday, 4/18, 9:00 am.
We welcome Trish Guglielmo as our new church secretary, after filling in for Kathy Manion, who has had to retire for health reasons. Thank you to Kathy for her years of service and we wish her a full recovery.
We are very happy to welcome Bill Vibert back into our church family.
Committee and Club Updates
Frances Richards Club Spring is coming and one way to celebrate the new season is to attend our first gathering of the year on Wednesday, 3/11, at noon in the Social Room. Bring your own bag lunch. Nancy Sylvester supplies beverages and one lady volunteers to make a dessert. During the first 45 minutes or so we enjoy lunch, social time and have a short meeting. Judy Witzke, the Winding Trails Naturalist in town, will come back for the third time to present a nature program. Her topic this visit is: “Bobcats in CT”. The April meeting will be at noon on the 8th. All ladies of the church are welcome and we hope you can join us. If you have any questions, please see Donna Williams, President.
Men’s Breakfast Club will meet on Wednesday, 3/25 and 4/29 at the Applewood Diner, 9:00 am.
Finance Committee meets next on 3/10, 6 pm at George's. Thank you to all who attended our annual budget meeting in January. Our proposed budget for 2020 was reviewed and approved. The budget is tracking very close to plan, year to date. Grocery card sales are averaging about $1,000 per week so far this year generating $50 a week to our church. Thanks to everyone for participating and thank you Donna for selling the cards each week. Rentals for Continuing Ed have started with about 10 classes scheduled to begin in late February. We are still working on getting Room 12 rented.
The Mass-Conn-Fusion Band concert is scheduled for 4/4. The goal is a profit of at least $3,000. As always, it will take an effort from everyone to make this a success. Tell your friends, family, and coworkers. The concert committee is working with Tunxis Hose to promote our event with them since they are having their pasta dinner from 4 to 7pm on the same evening. Make it a fun night in Unionville by attending both events.
Deacons meet next on Monday, 3/2 and 4/6, 6:30 pm in Sandra’s office. The busy Lenten season is underway. We are hoping more folks will attend the MaundyThursday Service on April 8. This is a very moving service that includes a reenactment of The Last Supper and the time leading up to the Crucifixion.
Missions and Outreach has selected Tunxis Hose Company 1 to receive of a portion of the profits from the concert. The committee hosted a children’s service on 2/23. The theme was Letters to God, and children and adults participated in a letter-writing project. A lunch of soup and bread followed the service. Future projects, including annual Easter baskets for Covenant to Care clients, will be discussed at the next meeting.
Church Committee meets next on Monday, 3/16 and 4/20, 7:00 pm in the Conference Room.
Trustees meet next on Thursday, 3/19 and 4/16, 6:30 pm at George’s. Please let Tim Barth know if we’re running low on any cleaning, kitchen, or paper supplies.
Please continue to be aware of classes and other groups meeting throughout the building. The schedule is listed in our weekly bulletin. Additional times may be scheduled as classes are added or changed. If you are not sure if an area is being used, please call the church office to inquire, and be cautious about going into rooms that might be occupied. Classes for the yoga studio are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays 6:00-8:30 pm. Thank you for staying out of these areas during those times, and also for being considerate about noise levels in the building while classes are in session.
RIP MEDICAL DEBT:
Our new Southern New England Conference, formed from the three conferences of MA/RI/CT, has taken on a project of helping people get out of crushing financial debt due to medical bills. 60% of all insolvency cases are due to medical debt. The project began in Chicago last fall and has been growing across the nation. $5.3 million has already been forgiven in Chicago and 12.9 million in St. Louis. Our Conference is asking for 100% participation from its 600+ congregations and is hoping that churches will pledge 1% of their budgets. The UCC has been working with a New York based non-profit, RIP Medical Debt, which buys up medical debt for pennies on the dollar and then forgives it. At least one of the following criteria is used: (1) The person earns less than 2 times federal poverty level, which can differ depending upon place of residence. (2) Debts are 5% or more of annual income. (3) Facing insolvency, because debts exceed assets.
The deadline is April 7. If you would like to make a direct contribution, you can make out a check to SNEUCC and mark it RIP medical debt in the memo section. Send it to SNEUCC 125 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT. 06105. Missions may also consider doing a collection in an upcoming Service.
Social HourThe various committees of the church set up and clean up each week, including providing coffee and other drinks. Please consider bringing in a food item to share on an occasional Sunday. We hope to have 3-4 plates of goodies for each Social Hour. If you forget to sign up but have something to contribute, please bring it anyway and put it out on the table. The fellowship opportunity is the most important part of this time, and light snacks and drinks are more than sufficient. Signup sheets are on the bulletin board in the Social Room.
Choir provides the uplifting anthems we hear in worship each week, and is open to all who wish to praise God through the gift of music. To learn more or offer your gifts of music and singing, contact Music Director Michael Korman or drop by for rehearsal any Sunday morning before Worship.
Handbell Choir needs more musicians to continue to bring their beautiful songs to our special services. Practices are Wednesday nights at 7 pm in the Conference Room, September through June.
Cleaning: We can always use more assistance with keeping our space beautiful. Please email the church office if you can help in any way, either regularly or occasionally/as needed.
Special Events: Throughout the year, we have a number of events and activities that would greatly benefit from extra volunteers. These include our concerts, clean-up activities, and movie nights. Please consider asking how you can help when you see an event that you’re interested in being a part of.
Transportation: We have several members who regularly need rides to church on Sundays, as well as some with more occasional transportation needs for special events. Please consider adding your name to our list of drivers. You may do so by contacting Dayle Kane: (860) 404-5149 or email@example.com