Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What is your Dream?

Leaders from the major national civil rights organizations in the United States—a group known as the “Big Six”—proposed a massive nonviolent demonstration in Washington, D.C., the largest the capital had ever seen. The organizers called it the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and set a date, August 28, 1963.

“The idea of a major demonstration in Washington, in the nation’s capital, that brought together all of the major civil rights organizations would be a statement very different from what was happening around the country,” says Harry Rubenstein, curator of political history at the National Museum of American History.

That summer day, thousands of people gathered at the Washington Monument, where Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and other musicians performed for the growing crowd. From there, the participants proudly picketed down Independence and Constitution Avenues to the Lincoln Memorial. Fourteen speakers, representing civil rights organizations, labor unions and religions, took to the podium. The messages built one upon another in a powerful crescendo, until Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now famous “I Have a Dream” speech. (By Megan Gambino
What is you dream?

Statement from the Bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut:

On August 28, 1963 a quarter of a million people joined the March on Washington for freedom, equality, and human rights.  That day, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired our nation with words of challenge, determination, and hope: "I have a dream..."  That speech helped to set the tone and direction for the country, including The Episcopal Church's deeper engagement in the civil rights movement. (Read More)
Challengingviolence.orga resource website, which has new material including talking points and scripture readings on non-violence, offered by Black Women for Positive Change.

Let Freedom Ring commemorative bellringing - churches are invited to ring their bells at 3pm on August 28 and St. Peter's will join in this!

My dream is his dream: I have a dream that my five little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character...
And we are not there yet,
but I still have a dream today, and I keep praying...

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  (BCP)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Prayer for the First Day of School

Dear God, today is the first day of school. We feel happy, excited and scared. We pray for all teachers to be generous, wise, and strong. We pray for classmates, that true friendships may be found for all. Especially we pray for N. Keep her safe and well. Open all of their hearts and minds to a world of learning, and may this be the first of thousands of days in which they know the depth of your love and the constancy of your care. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

from Changes: Prayers and Services Honoring Rites of Passage, Church Publishing Corp., 2007

Sermon - August 18 (from our joint service with MCC)

Signs of the Times
The Monroe Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Jennifer Gingras
August 18, 2013

Luke 12:49-56

I wonder how ancient people forecasted the weather. When I was young, my father would remind me that to see a herd of cows lying down together meant rain was on its way, even if there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

If you fished for a living, as several of the disciples did, your life depended on learning to interpret the signs of the weather and stay out of the way if they foretold danger. A cloud in a particular location meant something specific. Wind blowing from a certain direction brought with it a predictable weather pattern. Imagine how astounded they would be at the kind of weather forecasting we can do with Doppler radar today!

There are other kinds of interpreting we do just as well, sometimes without even having to think very hard about it. If you’re in the mall and you see them putting up Christmas decorations, well, you know it’s almost time for Halloween… it’s a simple matter of interpretation.

If you are a pediatrician, or a veterinarian, you learn to interpret the signs of illness in patients who can’t verbalize what they’re feeling. We interpret all kinds of things – every day.

When it comes to matters of faith, we might feel a little less confident in our interpretation skills. Applying what we believe in our hearts and souls with what we believe in our minds can become pretty intense. But perhaps a certain amount of discomfort is not a bad thing, after all.

There are many examples of folks who thought they were correctly interpreting the present time and who turned out to be way wrong.

A19th-century group called the Millerites believed their leader had figured the exact day and hour when Christ would return and call them home; so they quit their jobs, sold all their possessions, left behind family members who didn’t see things their way, gathered on a hillside on “The Date”, and waited, and waited...

If interpreting the present time is going to look like that, we would just as soon run screaming in the opposite direction. So most of the time, we don’t say anything at all, even if we’d like to. We keep our faith over here in one box, and the world around us in a completely separate box.

We’re afraid to bring them together, because as they bump up against one another, questions might start shooting out that don’t have an easy answer. It’s easier to keep them separate than to deal with the ambiguity.

Nevertheless, today Jesus confronts us with the uncomfortable question: “why do you not know how to interpret the present time? Why will you not look at the world around you through the lenses of faith?”

Jesus is not requiring that we have the answers figured out before we speak . . . but rather, reminds us that it is our responsibility to raise the questions. We may not be able to persuade anyone around us that faith should be an important factor in the decisions we make and the life we live…but we need to be clear with ourselves that it is important.

Let me give you an example of the kind of thing I’m talking about. Already, the press is forecasting who will run for the 2016 Presidential campaign. If this next election is anything like the previous 56, we will all be reminded that we have legitimate differences amongst ourselves over whose economic ideas and policies represent the greatest good for the greatest number, and whose notions of foreign policy will both help keep us safe and make us a better citizen of the world.

Those are important questions, and we need to keep asking them. But there are other important questions, big-picture, structural inquiries that we never seem to raise, questions like:

How many people could we feed, clothe, and shelter – in this country and around the world – with the hundreds of millions of dollars we spend trying to influence how people vote? To say nothing of the fortune spent trying to influence elected officials to vote in favor of special interests rather than representing their own constituents or their own conscience.

Are we moving toward a political system where it’s less a matter of "one person, one vote" than "one dollar, one vote"? These are not simply questions of politics; they are also questions of faith. And don’t even try finding the answer in the Bible, which knows nothing of democracy!

So how do we interpret the present time?

Another issue is private property, land use and the rights of landowners. We hear phrases like "our sacred right to property ownership" or, mention of a landowner’s "God-given rights." Well, I’ve read what the Bible has to say about property rights, and it’s some pretty shocking stuff!

The New Testament ideal seems to be that believers, anyway, hold all things in common and no one owns their own stuff. And when the Old Testament discusses land ownership, it does so in the context of the year of Jubilee, held every 50th year, in which all debts are forgiven, and all land reverts back to its original owner or his descendants. In addition, every seventh year, land owners were to provide a Sabbath for the land, to let it rest, to lie fallow. The Bible envisions a relationship of responsibility between people and the earth, and among the people who use what the earth gives.

How do we balance the rights of individuals with the needs of the community, and the earth itself? These aren’t just economic or ecological questions, they are faith questions.

How do we interpret the present time?

What do we have to say about a world that has become increasingly violent?
A world where fear seems to dictate how we respond to other human beings? Where we have become more interested in revenge and punishment and filling our for-profit industrial prisons than in repentance and restoration? What does our faith have to say about fear, and about what happens when we allow fear to rule us?

How do we interpret the present time?

Jesus was right, wasn’t he? If we raise questions like these we are likely to create division! Division…not only within families, but within the household of faith… and that makes us (makes me!) profoundly uncomfortable. For many of us, church is where we come to be strengthened and comforted. And there is certainly value in that.

But sometimes, church also has to be the place where we come and get a swift kick in the pants, or it isn’t church. Sometimes when Jesus speaks, he doesn’t leave us with peace; he leaves us all stirred up. We tend to see that as a curse, but perhaps we should see it as a gift.

What signs of our present time are waiting for us to interpret in the light of faith? What clouds on the horizon do we need to attend to? What winds are blowing our way, and where will they take us?

The present time that we live in is confused and broken, and desperately needs people with wisdom and courage to interpret what is happening all around us. To ask the right questions, even when we aren’t yet sure of the answers. And guess what my friends? It’s up to us. May God grant us the strength and wisdom whatever we need, for the work Jesus calls us to do. Amen.

Go Down Death

Go Down, Death by James Weldon Johnson
(A Funeral Sermon) 

Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She's resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband--weep no more;
Grief-stricken son--weep no more;
Left-lonesome daughter --weep no more;
She only just gone home.

Day before yesterday morning,
God was looking down from his great, high heaven,
Looking down on all his children,
And his eye fell on Sister Caroline,
Tossing on her bed of pain.
And God's big heart was touched with pity,
With the everlasting pity.

And God sat back on his throne,
And he commanded that tall, bright angel standing at his right hand:
Call me Death!
And that tall, bright angel cried in a voice
That broke like a clap of thunder:
Call Death!--Call Death!
And the echo sounded down the streets of heaven
Till it reached away back to that shadowy place,
Where Death waits with his pale, white horses.

And Death heard the summons,
And he leaped on his fastest horse,
Pale as a sheet in the moonlight.
Up the golden street Death galloped,
And the hooves of his horses struck fire from the gold,
But they didn't make no sound.
Up Death rode to the Great White Throne,
And waited for God's command.

And God said: Go down, Death, go down,
Go down to Savannah, Georgia,
Down in Yamacraw,
And find Sister Caroline.
She's borne the burden and heat of the day,
She's labored long in my vineyard,
And she's tired--
She's weary--
Go down, Death, and bring her to me.

And Death didn't say a word,
But he loosed the reins on his pale, white horse,
And he clamped the spurs to his bloodless sides,
And out and down he rode,
Through heaven's pearly gates,
Past suns and moons and stars;
on Death rode,
Leaving the lightning's flash behind;
Straight down he came.

While we were watching round her bed,
She turned her eyes and looked away,
She saw what we couldn't see;
She saw Old Death.  She saw Old Death
Coming like a falling star.
But Death didn't frighten Sister Caroline;
He looked to her like a welcome friend.
And she whispered to us: I'm going home,
And she smiled and closed her eyes.

And Death took her up like a baby,
And she lay in his icy arms,
But she didn't feel no chill.
And death began to ride again--
Up beyond the evening star,
Into the glittering light of glory,
On to the Great White Throne.
And there he laid Sister Caroline
On the loving breast of Jesus.

And Jesus took his own hand and wiped away her tears,
And he smoothed the furrows from her face,
And the angels sang a little song,
And Jesus rocked her in his arms,
And kept a-saying: Take your rest,
Take your rest.

Weep not--weep not,
She is not dead;
She's resting in the bosom of Jesus.

© James Weldon Johnson. All rights reserved

Monday, August 19, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

Human Rights

We live in a war torn world.  People long for the freedom and the rights that I live with everyday.  Cries for freedom ring out: Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Myanmar...

So this year's blog action day on Human Rights on October 16 is the right call to action for 2013!

A prayer...

O holy God, you love righteousness and hate iniquity: Strengthen we pray, the hands of all who strive for justice throughout the world, seeing that all human beings are your offspring, move us to share the pain of those who are oppressed, and to promote the dignity and freedom of every person; through Jesus Christ the Liberator, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (from GC 1979)

Spirituality vs. Spirituality

I recently read two articles battling out the idea of spirituality:

On one side, is the Spiritual and Religious
Why Christians need the church: An interview with Lillian Daniel by Jonathan Merritt

LD: Any idiot can find God alone in the sunset. It takes a certain maturity to find God in the person sitting next to you who not only voted for the wrong political party but has a baby who is crying while you’re trying to listen to the sermon. Community is where the religious rubber meets the road. People challenge us, ask hard questions, disagree, need things from us, require our forgiveness. It’s where we get to practice all the things we preach.

On the other is the Spiritual but Not Religious
A Response to Lillian Daniel and a Defense for the Spiritual But Not Religious
By David Hayward

The SBNR people I know are not a homogeneous whole but a diverse diaspora. For the most part, the ones I know are humble but confident. They are unusually deep and find ingenious ways of dealing with difficult situations. They are spiritually complex and fascinating. They hunger for a community they’ve concluded the church cannot seem to provide. They are fiercely and even defiantly independent. And they quit the church because they felt restricted, controlled or even harmed by the system, its ideology and the people who govern and administer them. They left because they concluded “I don’t need this!” and they have discovered they’re right! They don’t need it. The church is no longer on their landscape of duty, demand or desire and there’s nothing the church can do to change this new geography. And it’s frustrated.

Interesting arguments, but I grow tired of the us vs. them motif.

How can we in our different Spiritualities work together for a better world?

- Posted using BlogPress from my mystical iPad!

Praying for Egypt

Hundreds Killed, Houses of Worship destroyed, a whole country unstable.

Sadly, perspective is always needed. As Egypt burned and journalists were killed, New England was fretting over Tom Brady's knee.

Let us pray for Egypt...

Eternal God,
in your perfect realm
no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, and no strength known but the strength of love:
We pray that the people of Egypt
may find solace, peace and security
in love which casts out fear,
in respect which restores brokenness
and in the tranquility which heals disorder.
(From the CofE)

- Posted using BlogPress from my mystical iPad!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

August 11 Sermon

In today's sermon, Deacon Christopher used the final speech of Charlie Chaplain in his move "The Great Dictator." 

A review of the movie from the NY Times in 1940 ends with this:
On the debit side, the picture is overlong, it is inclined to be repetitious and the speech with which it ended—the appeal for reason and kindness—is completely out of joint with that which has gone before. In it Chaplin steps out of character and addresses his heart to the audience. The effect is bewildering, and what should be the climax becomes flat and seemingly maudlin. But the sincerity with which Chaplin voices his appeal and the expression of tragedy which is clear in his face are strangely overpowering. Suddenly one perceives in bald relief the things which make "The Great Dictator" great—the courage and faith and surpassing love for mankind which are in the heart of Charlie Chaplin.  (
The text of the Great Dictator's Speech and youtube link follows:
I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone - if possible - Jew, Gentile - black man - white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness - not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost....

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men - cries out for universal brotherhood - for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world - millions of despairing men, women, and little children - victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say - do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed - the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. .....

Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes - men who despise you - enslave you - who regiment your lives - tell you what to do - what to think and what to feel! Who drill you - diet you - treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate - the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” - not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power - the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then - in the name of democracy - let us use that power - let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world - a decent world that will give men a chance to work - that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will!

Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world - to do away with national barriers - to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite! (

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Millenials are leaving...the Millenials are leaving...

There has been a lot of chatter recently about the Church and the Millennial Generation (roughly those born between 1983 to 2000).  I found this response to be the most useful (and it is written by someone of that generation):

So what does it mean to live a Christian Life?  Here are a couple of thoughts from a member of an earlier generation:
“Being holy . . . does not mean being perfect but being whole; it does not mean being exceptionally religious or being religious at all; it means being liberated from religiosity and religious pietism of any sort; it does not mean being morally better, it meas being exemplary; it does not mean being godly, but rather being truly human.”
William Stringfellow, A Keeper of the Word: Selected Writings
“The practice of the Christian life consists of the discernment of (the seeing and hearing), and the reliance upon (the reckless and uncalculating dependence), and the celebration (the ready and spontaneous enjoyment) of the presence of the Word of God in the common life of the world.”
William Stringfellow, A Private And Public Faith

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Say No to Keystone Pipeline (and the Tar Sands)

I am always amazed at the greed and the cost to our land for the choices we make.

I invite you to read this:

An Indigenous Way of Life Threatened by Oil Sands in Canada

At what cost is this project?  Who will benefit the most?  And who suffers?

I am against the pipeline.

O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.