Thursday, May 31, 2012

UMCatalyst News Notes 5/30/2012

Follow this link to read the latest in e-news for clergy and laity in the New England Conference:
UMCatalyst News Notes
You can also check out old issues in the News and Publication Archives of the New England Conference of The United Methodist Church

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In The Spirit

The sermon from this past Sunday is now available for you to listen to on our website.

Letter from the Pastor’s Desk

Dear NUMC,

    On the last Sunday in May 2012 we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, which recalls the coming of the Holy Spirit on Christ’s followers who remained in Jerusalem after his ascension to heaven (where God dwells). This visitation of the Holy Spirit brought a mighty power to the Body of Christ that enables them to continue the marvelous work that they had experienced during Jesus’ ministry on earth. This past April the United Methodist Church’s nine hundred plus delegates from around the world met in Tampa Florida to discuss and make decisions about the mission and business of the church for the next four years and beyond. It was a Spirit-filled time, most of the time.

    I quote Bishop Peter Weaver, our bishop, who delivered the Episcopal address on behalf of the Council of Bishops to the Conference, on the naming of Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay was first named by the Spanish who visited in the 15th Century, “Bahia Del Espiritu Santo” or The Bay of the Holy Spirit. While not everything was accomplished in Tampa that many of us had hoped, we nevertheless had some Holy Spirit moments—times when we felt that the Holy Spirit was present. My constant prayer is that we open up our hearts so that the Holy Spirit can do its powerful work in us and through us. When we realize and begin to live the truth that we cannot live this life to ourselves and that we need God, the Triune God in our lives, then wonderful, powerful things happen. We need God as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer in our lives, as Parent, Sibling and Holy Spirit.

    When I decided to share with this congregation the fact that I was one of nearly two hundred clergy in the New England Annual Conference to have signed a declaration that we would minister to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer and Other persons (LGBTQO) in our congregations including offering a blessing for their relationships, and in states where these members are allowed to marry, performing such ceremonies, it was a part of my commentary on the reality that the church is divided on this issue. It seemed like an appropriate time to let the congregation know where I stood and that my stance is an open stance, not a closed one; meaning that I am willing to discuss the issue with anyone in a respectful and dignified manner, in a Christian manner, with love. What concerns me about this issue is that it has threatened to divide the church for the past thirty years. But whereas discussion of the issue started in an extreme manner, with persons on both sides digging in their heels and not budging an inch and being extremely disparaging and dismissive of each other, I have seen some progress in terms of people at least being willing to listen to each other and to speak to each other in love. It does not mean necessarily that individuals have changed their minds, but it does mean that people on both sides are willing to listen to each other. That is a first step.

    I do not believe that this issue will cause a split in the church. Some people will leave, yes, but the stakes are too high for the church to disintegrate and God’s church will go on anyway, with or without us. We make the decision about whether we will be a part of the unfolding of God’s creation or not. The choice is ours. We can walk away in anger about this or any other issue, or we can stay and with faith in God and the power of the Holy Spirit to move among us, see what God is calling us to do now. At this time. We are called for just such a time as this.

    God who does not change, but who is far beyond anything that we can ever imagine, is always surprising us and nothing in creation is static. If it is, it is dead. Life means change. Can you think of a time when you were convinced that you were right about something, later to find out that you were wrong? That has happened to me so much that I got tired of being wrong and limited, and decided instead to open my mind to the intricate number of possibilities that exist. God is infinity and our words to describe God are really feeble attempts to describe the indescribable.

    Recall that at one time the world was thought to be flat and those who suggested otherwise were punished, some as severely as having to give up their lives for their beliefs. Then some brave sailors sailed and did not fall off the face of the earth. At one time, space travel was thought to be impossible, yet in the sixteenth century there were those who were already imagining space flight. Now space flight is a reality. Or think of the time when communication with someone in another country meant waiting for a letter to take weeks to reach its destination and its reader. Today, we pick up a telephone no longer tied to a line and speak to someone in another country with only a few seconds’ delay, the time it takes for a signal to go from our instrument to a satellite and then to another instrument.

    Truth is, we don’t know everything there is to know—about anything. God is constantly revealing Godself and we are constantly gaining knowledge, each and every moment about all the things there are in this complex universe, including what there is to know about human sexuality. We know some things. We do not know everything. Let us remain open to expanding knowledge of God and God’s creation.

    So since we do not know everything, the sensible response to what we do not know is not to hate it or condemn it, but to be open to learning about it; to accept that we are ourselves limited and to ask the Holy Spirit which knows everything to reveal to us what we do not know. To approach life any other way is to be arrogant. That does not work because we are by definition, limited. The way to approach our differences and our problems is to ask the Holy Spirit for the power of wisdom and discernment and then proceed with care and with love. It is the only way, or as Paul said, the more excellent way. Love casts out fear.

Pastor Laurel

New Newsletter Available

The June issue of Tidings, our monthly newsletter, is available on our website for your education and enjoyment. The next issue will be a combined July/August newsletter. Be sure to submit by the 15th of June any articles or information that needs to be in this edition.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Sermon Up - Listen for the spontaneous applause

Listen online to our latest sermon. You might also be interested to read this from last year as it seems on topic.

Friday, May 18, 2012

UMCatalyst News Notes 5/16/2012

Follow this link to read the latest in e-news for clergy and laity in the New England Conference:
UMCatalyst News Notes
You can also check out old issues in the News and Publication Archives of the New England Conference of The United Methodist Church

Friday, May 11, 2012

UMCatalyst News Notes 5/7/2012

Follow this link to read the latest in e-news for clergy and laity in the New England Conference:
UMCatalyst News Notes
You can also check out old issues in the News and Publication Archives of the New England Conference of The United Methodist Church

Friday, May 4, 2012

Spring Movie Night

MOVIE NIGHT - Saturday, May 12th at 6:30 pm

Take Mom to the movies for Mother’s Day—heck, bring everyone!
Come join in the fun, laughter, adventure, popcorn, drinks,
and fellowship of our Spring movie night.

"TANGLED" - one of the funniest, most hair-raising tales ever told.

When the kingdom's most infamous - and charismatic - outlaw, Flynn Rider (voiced by Zachary Levi), takes refuge in a secret tower hidden deep in the forest, he's taken captive by Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore), a striking and spirited teen blessed with 70 feet of enchanted, golden blonde hair. Having been looking for an escape route from the tower where she's been grounded her whole life, Rapunzel makes a pact with the handsome thief and the improbable duo soon find themselves tangled up in a spectacular action-packed escapade, complete with a super-sleuth horse, a chameleon side-kick and a rowdy gang of pub thugs.

Featuring unexpected heroes, calculating villains, laughter, action and hair - lots of hair - Disney's Tangled is a comedy adventure for the whole family.

Stamp Out Hunger

Good Morning Congregations of MACC Member Churches-

This is a reminder that the national campaign of “Stamp Out Hunger” is coming up on May 12th. Postal Workers will collect canned food which has been bagged and placed by a mailbox to then donate to local pantry that day (we happen to be one of those local pantries). Here is the link to the online information: . This is a simple drive that can have long-lasting effects if people are aware of the opportunity.  Food drives like this one keep our shelves stocked and families fed- we thank you in advance for your involvement, please contact us with any questions.


Nathan Oldham

Community Engagement Coordinator for MACC Charities

Call or Message 860-942-4549

Thursday, May 3, 2012

UMCatalyst News Notes 5/2/2012

Follow this link to read the latest in e-news for clergy and laity in the New England Conference:
UMCatalyst News Notes
You can also check out old issues in the News and Publication Archives of the New England Conference of The United Methodist Church

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

MACC Needs

MACC can feed an average family of 4-6 for about $11 a week. The reason we can
stretch our dollars that far is because of food and financial donations and the countless
volunteers that receive, sort, stock and help distribute the food each week.

This time of year is always a challenge – it is not far from the holidays, usage is up due to the
school vacations (child home and childcare costs are up in addition to more in the household
longer periods of the day), not to mention fixed incomes and higher prices of gasoline… it all
effects the household budget and people do not have many other areas they can cut back so
the food budget tends to take the hardest hit.

Your support reassures me that you remember people are hungry year round. Homelessness
does not take a holiday and advocating for the needs of others never rests. Your gift is
needed and never taken for granted.
Someone’s life will get better because you care and choose to help.

Shopping list:
  • Cereal
  • Canned meats (tuna, chicken, ham & beef stew)
  • Peanut butter
  • Pasta & sauce
  • Canned veggies & fruits
  • Soup
  • Healthy snacks for children
  • Condiments (mustard, ketchup, mayo, salad dressing etc.)
  • Toilet tissue
  • Paper towel
  • Diapers
  • Laundry detergent
  • Feminine products
  • Toothpaste
  • Tooth brushes
  • Soap
  • Dish soap
  • We always need paper and plastic grocery bags, clean plastic bottles with tight fitting lids, freezer bags and egg cartons.
Information about the food pantry:
Please call Dale Doll, Program Director for Food Services 860.288.4251

Opportunities to serve:
Please call Nathan Oldham, Community Engagement Coordinator 860. 942.4549

Thank you for helping. It really does take a community.
Beth Stafford
Executive Director/CEO

Communion Breakfast this Sunday the 6th

On Sunday May 6, 2012, North United Methodist Church will host a tradition that is called “A Communion Breakfast”. I have tried to research this tradition to uncover its meaning and have come up with the understanding that this is one of the various expressions of a holy meal adopted by this congregation. There are several bases for this meal.

First, during his ministry, Jesus often gathered his disciples around a meal after opening the scriptures to them. When he shared the Last Supper with his disciples, it was in celebration of the Feast of the Passover, which recalls God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Jesus fed five thousand men, besides women and children, after a busy day of teaching and healing. The fellowship meal and the Eucharist was an important feature of the church during the Apostolic era. Paul encourages the church at Galatia to sing hymns and psalms and spiritual songs and to participate in the breaking of bread and sharing of the cup until Jesus comes again.

How does the Holy Meal play itself out in the United Methodist Church? In preparation for the United Methodist General Conference in 2004, the church carried out a study on United Methodists’ understandings of Holy Communion in the United States and in several other territories where the church exists. The results were heartening. More than anything else, United Methodists wanted to experience Holy Communion more frequently than they were at that time. Thus as a result of the study, the 2004 General Conference passed a resolution that included, among other things:
  • That United Methodists could increase the frequency of Holy Communion. Some churches went to a weekly Communion and others to a bi-monthly Communion.
  • That wine (fermented grape juice) is allowed in addition to grape juice. Wine was not seen as a substitution for grape juice, but in addition to. The choice must always be made clear for participants.
During the seventeen hundreds as the Methodist movement developed, John Wesley adopted the Love Feast having experienced it with the Moravians. The Love Feast, or Agape meal is a Christian fellowship meal recalling the meals Jesus shared with his disciples during his ministry and express the koinonia community, sharing fellowship enjoyed by the family of Christ. Early Love Feasts began and ended with thanksgiving and prayer and according to Wesley, were celebrated “in a decent and solemn manner.” Sometimes, the Love Feast has been held when there was no-one present to consecrate the elements for Holy Communion. Anyone may conduct the Love Feast, which features the presentation of testimony and praise by individuals.

In the report to the General Conference 2004 titled “This Holy Mystery”, the story is told of a little girl whose parents had taken her forward to receive Holy Communion. Disappointed with the small piece of bread she was given to dip in the cup, the child cried loudly, “I want more! I want more!” While embarrassing to her parents and amusing to the pastor and congregation, this little girl’s cry accurately expresses the feelings of many contemporary United Methodist people. We want more! We want more than we are receiving from the sacrament of Holy Communion as it is practiced in our churches.
Holy Communion is one of the two recognized sacraments in the Protestant Church. There are several different understandings of Holy Communion, which have developed over the centuries. Roman Catholicism teaches that the substance of bread and wine are changed (although not visibly) into the actual body and blood of Christ (sometimes called transubstantiation). Protestant Reformers in the sixteenth century rejected this teaching but had diverse ideas among themselves. Lutherans maintain that Christ’s body and blood are truly present in and with the elements of bread and wine in the celebration (sometimes erroneously called corporeal presence or consubstantiation). Ulrich Zwingli, a Swiss reformer, taught that the Lord’s Supper is a memorial or reminder of Christ’s sacrifice, an affirmation of faith, and a sign of Christian fellowship. Although his name may be unfamiliar, Zwingli’s views are widely shared today, especially within evangelical churches. Denominations in the Reformed tradi-tion, following John Calvin, maintain that although Christ’s body is in heaven, when Holy Communion is received with true faith, the power of the Holy Spirit nourishes those who partake. The Church of England affirmed a somewhat similar view in its Catechism and Articles of Religion. These understandings (stated here very simplistically) suggest the range of ideas that were available to John and Charles Wesley and the early Methodists.

Like baptism, Holy Communion is regarded by Protestants as a sacrament. That is, it’s an act of worship ordained by Christ and is a means of grace. This does not mean that we become any more worthy of God’s grace by taking part in Communion. Rather, we open ourselves to the divine love that’s already there; we become more ready to receive that love and to respond to it. As with baptism, we use common, physical gifts of the earth, bread and wine—though in United Methodist churches we prefer unfermented grape juice. All Christians are welcome at our table, whatever their denomination. Holy Communion is a family meal, and all Christians are members of Christ’s family. Therefore, in each congregation, when we receive the bread and cup, we join with millions of brothers and sisters across the ages and around the world. Holy Communion (or the Lord’s Supper) is a mystery too deep for words. Its meaning will vary for each of us and from one time to another. But three essential meanings are caught up in this proclamation in our Communion service: “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again” (The United Methodist Hymnal, p. 14).

In part, Communion is a time to remember Jesus’ death, his self-giving sacrifice on our behalf. As he said to the disciples at their last meal together, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24). In remembering his passion and crucifixion, we remember our own guilt; for we know that in our sin we crucify Christ many times over from day to day. So the Lord’s Supper is a time of confession: “We confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart….We have not heard the cry of the needy” (The United Methodist Hymnal, p. 12).

But Communion is not a memorial service for a dead Jesus. It’s not a time to wallow in our own guilt. It’s a time to celebrate the Resurrection, to recognize and give thanks for the Risen Christ. The bread and wine represent the living presence of Christ among us—though we do not claim, as some denominations do, that they become Christ’s body and blood.

In Luke’s Resurrection story, the Risen Christ broke bread with two of his followers at Emmaus, “then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him” (24:31). So, as we’re nourished by this meal, our eyes are opened; and we recognize Christ here in our congregation, our community, and our world. What’s our response? Thanksgiving! In fact, another of our words for Communion, the Eucharist, means thanksgiving.

In Communion we also celebrate the final victory of Christ. We anticipate God’s coming reign, God’s future for this world and all creation. As Jesus said, “I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).
So as we participate in our Communion breakfast we will hold all these things in mind.
The Communion breakfast is a Love Feast and a Eucharistic celebration in which we enjoy fellowship through Christ with Christians across the ages and around the world. We will share a meal and participate in Holy Communion. We will share testimonies and affirm our faith in God’s goodness and give thanks for the many ways in which God continues to bless us. But first and foremost we will worship God.