Midweek Update: Annual Meeting 1/30

Dear friends in Christ,

I hope you’re all doing well this Wednesday as we approach what’s either going to be a blizzard or moderate snowfall on Saturday. There are a few announcement for this week:

Annual Meeting 1/30

The Annual Meeting of the church is this Sunday immediately following worship. We will vote on the budget, elect officers and board members, receive reports, and make two minor changes to the bylaws 1) to allow for virtual church meetings and 2) to change the name of the “board of Christian Education” to “board of Faith Formation” in recognition that the board’s name has changed. We are planning on the meeting being both in person and via Zoom. However, if the weather ends up particularly terrible and we need to cancel in person worship, we will still have Annual Meeting via Zoom.

Copies of the budget can be picked up ahead of the Annual Meeting in the Church Office. The full Annual Report isn’t finalized yet, but it will be available for the Annual Meeting and after.

Winter Mission Projects

  • Souper Bowl Sunday Soup Sale 2/13
  • Mitten Line
    • In the winter months we are collecting winter clothing items (hats, gloves, scarf, etc.) We’re also taking new or gently used outerwear. Winter clothing items may be hung on the mitten line in the Social Hall or dropped off in the Church Office.
  • Sock It to Homelessness
    • One of the most needed clothing items for people experiencing homelessness is socks. So, we are collecting new and gently used socks of all types and sizes for GWIM to distribute. Socks can be dropped off in the bin next to the Multiplication Table in the sanctuary or in the Church Office.

Silver Lake Registration is Open!

Silver Lake, the CT camp run by our conference of the United Church of Christ, has opened registration! You can learn more and register here: https://www.silverlakect.org/

General Comments

Last Saturday, I was trying to figure out the best place to put a tripod with a camera in the sanctuary so we could have the budget info meeting and Annual Meeting work for both Zoom and in person. At one point, I tried having the tripod on the pulpit, and that wasn’t the best spot for the meeting. However, I did end up getting a lovely picture of the late afternoon light coming in the sanctuary that I wouldn’t have ever gotten if I hadn’t been trying to figure out a setup for Zoom. I’ve attached the picture.

This got me thinking about some of the silver linings that have come out of these past two difficult years because we’ve had to do some things differently. With needing to rethink our music program for safety, we’ve had people learn or get back into handbells, we’ve had people step out of their comfort zones and sing solos or in small groups, and we’ve heard instrumental music we likely wouldn’t have heard otherwise. While I’m glad we’re back indoors now, I really enjoyed getting opportunity to worship outside, particularly in the spring when all the birds were singing and plants were growing. It was also nice to have the smallest kids near everyone worshiping as they were just over at the playground. We did soup and strawberry shortcake to go, and those things ended up big hits. The other thing that comes to mind is this past tree lighting we decided to offer hot chocolate outdoors for safety reasons instead of indoors, and that ended up much better because we got to see and talk to so many more people than we did when we had the hot chocolate indoors. I’m sure there are more examples. Those were just the ones that immediately came to mind this Wednesday evening.

One of the common threads in scripture is that God shows up, even in difficult times and even in ways we don’t expect. And those silver linings I mentioned are indeed some of those places God has shown up in our small patch of God’s kingdom.

Peace,

Pastor Katrina

Midweek Update: Budget Info Meeting 1/23

Dear friends in Christ,
I hope you are all doing well this week. There are a few things coming up in the life of the church:


Budget Info Meeting 1/23
This Sunday after worship will be the informational meeting about the 2022 church budget. The meeting will be in person and there will be a Zoom option. This is your opportunity to learn about the proposed budget and ask questions. The Zoom link to this meeting was emailed out.


Annual Meeting 1/30
The Annual Meeting of the Middlebury Congregational Church will take place on Sunday 1/30 after worship. This meeting will be in person with a Zoom option. I will email out the Zoom link next week. This meeting will be to receive reports, approve the 2022 budget, elect board members and officers, and we have two minor changes to the bylaws. (Jeanine emailed out the specific changes.)
1) We are amending the bylaws to allow for virtual meetings.
2) The board of Christian Education has been renamed to the Board of Faith Formation to better reflect their mission, purpose, and what they’re already doing, so we need to just change all the instances of “board of Christian Education” to “board of Faith Formation” to reflect this renaming.

Pastoral Update
A little over a week ago, I shared the sad news that our brother in Christ, John Spain, had died. In case you hadn’t seen it, I wanted to share his obituary: https://www.munsonloveterefuneralhome.com/obituary/John-Spain

COVID Updates
Church Council met last night, and taking into account member feedback, the number of people attending church in person, and that COVID cases seem to be starting to trend downwards, we have decided that the sanctuary windows will be shut if the outside temperature is freezing or below. Council will continue to revisit our COVID precautions monthly.
Additionally, the government website to order free at home COVID test kits has launched. If you haven’t already ordered kits, you can order them here: https://www.covidtests.gov/


General Comments
As we head towards Annual Meeting, I put together a video reviewing 2021 at MCC in pictures with music from 2021 as well:

As I was looking through the hundreds of pictures and figuring out what music to put in, I was realizing how much we managed to do, even in the middle of a pandemic. We tried new things. We worshiped and had Sunday School and fellowship online, outdoors, indoors, and sometimes combinations of all of those in 2021. I just wanted to say I’m really proud of the church and the ways we’ve managed to weather this storm and celebrate in the midst of it.

Psalm 46 has a verse that goes: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change.” The earth has changed a lot during 2020 and 2021, and we have changed in response to all those shifts. And even though the earth should change and we change, our God’s love and presence have and will remain constant, and therefore I have great hope for us as we face the future.
Peace,
Pastor Katrina

Midweek Update: 2nd Sunday after Epiphany

Dear friends in Christ,

I hope you’re all doing well this chilly week. I’ve got a few announcements:

Sunday 1/23: Budget Info Meeting

As in previous years, we will have an informational meeting about the budget the Sunday prior to Annual Meeting. This year, the budget info meeting will be on 1/23 following worship. This Is a chance to get more detailed information about the budget and ask our Treasurer (Bob G) questions. The meeting will be in person, but we will have a Zoom option for people who would like to join the meeting virtually. I will email out a Zoom link to the budget info meeting next week.

Sunday 1/30: Annual Meeting

Our Annual Meeting to approve the budget and elect board members and officers for 2022 is taking place on Sunday 1/30 after worship. Like the budget meeting, we will offer a Zoom option for those who aren’t able to join us in person. I will email out a Zoom link the week leading up to Annual Meeting.

Silver Lake Registration Opens 1/15

Silver Lake, our UCC conference’s camp, is opening registration for summer camp on 1/15. I’ve attached their flyer, and there’s a discount code on there for registering early. More info about Silver Lake can be found on their website: https://www.silverlakect.org/

Scenes from Christmas Eve 2021

I wanted to share some lovely pictures from Christmas Eve. Sarah K used her photography talents to take some great pictures at our two services. I’ve attached a few. Thank you to Sarah for capturing these special moments!

ShawnaLee K also did a beautiful drawing of the 11pm service that I’ve attached for you all to see as well.

General Comments

This coming Sunday, the gospel lesson is Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana. This is one of the most well known stories from the Bible, and it’s a story that’s had a lot of influence in the Church’s relationship with and understanding of alcohol. I wanted to share some of my favorite fun aspects of that history here that I don’t think will make it into the sermon.

In the 19th century, Congregational churches, and many other protestant churches, became very involved with the Temperance Movement, the movement to ban alcohol, and the story about Jesus turning water into wine became a real theological problem for people in the Temperance Movement: how do you square the good Lord Jesus turning perfectly good water into “demon alcohol”? Now, to be honest, the short answer is you cannot make this story about Jesus into an anti-alcohol story, but that did not stop people from trying very hard. My favorite tortured interpretive attempt involves people insisting Jesus turned water into grape juice, which involves a number of questionable interpretive and translation gymnastics.

Now, just as Jesus turning water into wine caused Temperance crusading protestants cognitive dissonance, so too did the church’s ancient practice of using wine for communion. In the early days of the Temperance movement, there was no way to keep grape juice from fermenting into wine, so some Christians opted to use water rather than wine. Water is used in baptism and Jesus changes water into wine, so it seemed close enough. There are some denominations that still use water for communion, and it comes from this involvement with the Temperance Movement. However, the majority of protestant denominations felt that water was a poor substitute, so people had to live with the cognitive dissonance around alcohol and communion for many years.

But, protestant America was  delivered in the late part of the 19th century from their wine based woes by the work of a Methodist dentist named Thomas Welch. Just like at our church, Thomas’s church had members take turns preparing and setting up for communion. During his volunteering with communion, Thomas had a revelation: he tried the new cutting edge pasteurization process on freshly pressed grape juice in the hopes that it would prevent the juice from fermenting into wine. He turned out to be right, and Thomas eventually launched a company, Welch’s Grape Juice, to provide juice for communion to all the churches desiring a substitute for wine. Grape juice was just the solution most of protestant America was waiting for, and many churches, including ours, shifted to offering grape juice instead of wine. Eventually, Welch’s realized there was a market for juice beyond the church setting, and the company is obviously still around today. So, the reason we have grape juice is because of the Temperance Movement and communion.

I hope you all have a good week.

Peace,

Pastor Katrina

Midweek Update: Baptism of the Lord

Dear friends in Christ,

I hope you’re all doing well and that those of you who commuted this icy morning are safe. I have a few things to highlight for this week:

A Pastoral Concern

For many months we’ve been praying for church members Mickie and her husband Carl as Carl has been on home hospice care. On Christmas, our brother in Christ, Carl, died at home surrounded by his family. There was a private service for Carl this past Monday. Carl’s obituary can be found here: https://www.fordfh.com/obituaries/Carlton-A-Shea?obId=23491595

Please keep Mickie, her children (Robbie, Ernie, and Susan), and the whole family in your prayers. If you’d like to send cards to Mickie or Robbie, their addresses are in the latest church directory, or you can contact the church office. The deacons and I are talking to the family to see if anything else would be helpful for them.

On behalf of the church and the whole people of God, we say to Carl “well done thou good and faithful servant.”

Some Resources

My Christmas Eve sermon had a bit about the WWI Christmas Truce. If you’re interested in learning a little more about that event, the Imperial War Museum has a really nice 12 minute primer video on the truce that I think is particularly good because it’s got audio of veterans telling their stories. You can find that here: https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-real-story-of-the-christmas-truce

Some of you asked for the text of the prayer by Thomas Merton that was in my sermon this past week, and here’s that prayer:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though

I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me,

and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

In case you’re interested, here’s the SNL sketch I referenced in my sermon this past Sunday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiuYmM0lG6o

As we’re just still barely in the Christmas season, I also wanted to share with you an article by a Yale professor about how December 25th came to be the date of Christmas. The common wisdom thrown around is that Christians co-opted a pagan solstice festival to get the date for Christmas, but that’s not actually how December 25th became the date of Jesus’ birth. If you want the full story, the article can be found here: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/how-december-25-became-christmas/

General Comments

I’ve attached some pictures of the church from the past week or so. On Monday, there was a beautiful sunset, so there’s a picture of that. We’ve also had a number of foggy days, and I put in a couple pictures of how the Christmas tree on the green looks in the fog. And then from this past Sunday, I’ve attached a picture of our decorations for Epiphany.

This coming Sunday the church celebrates the baptism of Jesus. Epiphany, January 6th, is the day the culminates the Christmas season, and Baptism of the Lord marks the start of a stretch of ordinary time in the church calendar before Lent. Some versions of church calendars consider the time between Epiphany and Christmas its own season of Epiphanytide.

Baptism of the Lord Sunday is one of the traditional feast days where baptisms would occur (as you might guess), and it’s also a day the church typically uses for people to reaffirm and remember their own baptisms. One of the traditional rites for remembering baptism is called asperges (which my phone always autocorrects to asparagus.) Essentially, that’s a fancy word for sprinkling people with water. This is usually done with an aspergillum, which those of you from more liturgical backgrounds might be familiar with. It usually looks like a ball on a stick. Or, sometimes a small branch from a tree or shrub is used to sprinkle the water. This Sunday we’re going to reaffirm our baptisms, but I’ve elected not to splash you all with water, at least not this time.

Have a good week and stay safe.

Peace,

Pastor Katrina