Holy Week update from the pastor

Dear friends in Christ,

I hope you’re all doing well this Holy Week. Today, the Wednesday in Holy Week, is known as Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday because it’s traditionally the day Judas was given the coins to betray Jesus.

Of all the days in the church calendar, I feel Spy Wednesday has the best name. So, I wanted to share that with all of you.

Anyway, here are things going on in the life of the church:

Maundy Thursday

This Thursday is Maundy Thursday, and we have an outdoor service in the parsonage yard at 7:15pm. You may register by contacting the church office or through this link here: https://forms.gle/1JE95PBE2vT1dsgb9

This will be a Tenebrae service with communion. I’ve been monitoring the weather, and it looks like the rain should be well over by the time we get to the evening, so we’re going to stick with having the service on Thursday. It’s set to be a bit chilly, but I anticipate this is going to be about a 35 minute service. Remember to wear a mask, bring a chair, and register ahead.

We also have an online Tenebrae service that will premiere at 7:15 p.m. Thursday on our YouTube channel. The link to that service is here: https://youtu.be/WZNliO855P4

Easter Sunday

We have our usual livestream service at 10 a.m. on our YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/c/middleburycongregationalchurch We also have an outdoor service at 11:30 a.m. on the Green with communion. Outdoor nursery care will be available. You may register by contacting the church office or through this link here: https://forms.gle/3xaahFpTRENS1Tjx6

Please wear a mask, bring a chair, and register ahead. The choir has also been hard at work on a virtual choir Easter anthem for all of us, so be on the lookout for that being sent out on Easter morning!

April plans

In addition to our livestreamed services at 10 a.m., all of April we will be having outdoor services at 11:30 (weather permitting) in the parsonage backyard. There will be Sunday school and nursery care. Here is the registration link for the April 11 service: https://forms.gle/P9jPMxJdxJVpbPDT9

Additionally on the 11th, so long as the weather is good, our very own Kent S-W will offer a demonstration about swords and armor after worship. Some of you might remember Kent’s demonstration during the MCC Talent show. So, stick around for that! You can even bring a picnic lunch if you’d like.

General comments

Crocuses bring signs of spring near our chapel garden.

I’m looking forward to our upcoming opportunities to gather together and getting to see many of you in the coming days. I’m also looking forward to Easter, but for now we’re still in the middle of Holy Week.

My favorite underrated day of Holy Week is Holy Saturday, which is traditionally the day the church teaches Jesus descended into hell and rescued those trapped there. It’s known as the harrowing of hell, and it’s more emphasized in the Eastern Orthodox wing of the church. I love this comforting idea that Jesus will follow us to death and even to hell to find us and lead us home.

As we continue through Holy Week, I want to leave you with my favorite description of the harrowing of hell, which comes from this ancient hymn used by the Syriac Church. I think I might have shared it before, but often good things are worth reading more than once:

I stretched out my hands and offered myself to the Lord.
The stretching out of my hands is the sign of my offering
,The stretching out on the wood.
Where the Just One was hanged, there by the roadside.
Hell saw me and was vanquished.
Death let me depart, and many with me.
I was gall and vinegar to it.
I descended with it to the depths of hell.
Death could not bear my face.
I made of the dead an assembly of the living.
I spoke to them with living lips
So that my word should not be in vain.
They ran towards me, the dead.
They cried out, ‘Take pity on us, O Son of God!
Deliver us out of the darkness that fetters us.
Open the gate for us that we may go out with you.
We see that death has no hold on you.
Deliver us also, for you are our Savior!’
And I heard their voices and I traced my name on their heads.
So they are free and they belong to me.

Have a blessed Holy Week.

Pastor Katrina

Watch our Palm Sunday service here

Our outdoor Palm Sunday service was rained out, but we were able to livestream our celebration for you to enjoy in the comfort of your home. Here’s our YouTube version of the service, along with a special link to Anna K’s solo of “The Palms” here.

Here are links to our bulletin and weekly Congregational Crier so you can follow along.

Here’s a link to our YouTube service on the fifth Sunday in Lent!

Spring is here, and Easter is just around the corner! Although we plan outdoor services on Sundays in April, during this longest Lent of all we continue to be livestreaming only.

Pastor Katrina Manzi preached on “New Covenant, Same Story” based on Scripture readings from Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Jeremiah 31:31-34. We also sang “The Old Rugged Cross” as a hymn, safely separated at home. The words to the familiar hymn are printed in the bulletin (below) so you can sing along too!

Watch our latest Sunday service on YouTube!

As we inch closer to spring, we are planning to resume in-person worship, at first outdoors on Sundays in April. Later, as the positivity rate goes down, we will resume our indoor worship using social distancing and appropriate pandemic precautions.

Last week, the Rev. Katrina Manzi preached on “Walking in the Dark” based on readings from Numbers 21: 4-9 and John 3: 1-21.

For our musical offering, soprano Valerie Beard performed Richard Walters’ arrangement of the folk hymn “Wayfaring Stranger.” Our broadcast team of Chris and John DiCorpo continue to make improvements to our audio, and you can really hear it this week.

Deacon Katie Pasko shares the Bulletin in the YouTube chat throughout the service, but you can also download a copy at the links below.

Spring mission projects kick off

Easter Baskets: We’re donating Easter meals for three Middlebury families in need.

Because of COVID, we’re asking for monetary donations rather than food donations. The food in each basket is about $100, so we’re looking to raise $300. If you would like to donate, you may write a check to the church and indicate it’s for “Missions” in the memo line, or you can donate online and direct your donation to “Missions.”

(Thanks Katie P for the flyer!)

Diaper Collection: In addition to the food we regularly collect for GWIM, this spring we’re also collecting diapers. You may leave the diapers in the same bin outside the church office.

In-person worship resumes in April!

After discussion with the deacons and church staff, we’re planning to have outdoor worship at 11:30 a.m. every Sunday in April.

For the outdoor services, the same procedures we used in the fall will apply. Wear a mask, bring a chair, and please preregister once the registration forms go live.

I know a number of people are eager to resume indoor worship, but we’re going to start with resuming outdoor activity for now. Outdoor worship is significantly less risky, and it allows us to have a service closer to how things were before the pandemic.

We’ll use the time in March and April to review current conditions and prepare for an eventual return to indoor worship. As we get further along, we’ll make plans for May and after that.

I know it’s been a year at this point since we’ve had worship in the building, and it’s been heartbreaking and difficult to have our life together as the church disrupted for so long (in addition to all the other ways the pandemic has disrupted our lives). But, we’re on the homestretch as more and more people are vaccinated each day and vaccine eligibility expands. We’ve made it this long with waiting, and we’re nearly there.

In the words of the apostle Paul, “Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.”

Pastor Katrina

Join us for Holy Week and Easter!

The deacons met this past Monday, and we’ve finalized our Holy Week and Easter plans.

On Palm Sunday, March 28, we’ll stream out a service online at 10 a.m., and we’ll have an outdoor service on the Green at 11:30 a.m.

Maundy Thursday, April 1, we’ll have an outdoor service at 7:15 p.m. in the parsonage backyard. (Rain dates are Good Friday and Holy Saturday.) We’ll have communion outdoors as we now have a supply of individually packaged communion elements. Pastor Katrina will also put together a video that will include the sermon for those who aren’t able to join us in person. 

Easter Sunday, April 4, we will livestream a service at 10 a.m., and we’ll have an outdoor service at 11:30 a.m. on the Green. We’ll also have communion because it’s the first Sunday of the month. 

For the outdoor services, the same procedures we used in the fall will apply. Wear a mask, bring a chair, and please preregister once the registration forms go live.

Snacks and Scripture Bible discussions during Lent

This year’s Lenten Discussion Group won’t be stopped.

We might not be able to have a soup supper together as in other years, but we can join together on Zoom on Wednesday evenings in March with some snacks and talk about Bible stories about food.

You don’t need to prepare ahead of time. There’s no need to worry if you don’t know much about the Bible! Please email Pastor Katrina if you’re interested.

Magnet keeps pulling us together!

Magnet, our traveling mascot of connectedness, has continued her journey spreading joy to various friends and members of our church.

She joined the Senas, and they found out she has a very good poker face. Then she went to the Tisos, shown en route below, and had some fun. She’s on the move again, so we’ll have to wait and see what she gets up to next!