The Bell tower Newsletter | Nov 2018
Creation care voter pledge
Churches Called on to Ask Members to Sign Creation Care Voter Pledge
October 18, 2018
The Environmental Ministries Team of the Massachusetts Conference, UCC is calling on congregations to ask their members to sign the Creation Care Voter Pledge.
Here’s Why and How
The UCC declares that God’s great gift of Creation – the context in which all life seeks fulfillment – is in crisis. As people of faith, recognizing that the earth is the Lord’s, it falls upon our generation to embrace imperatives that constitute a new moral era. The UCC views the current climate crisis as an opportunity for which the church was born.
But voting data consistently shows that people concerned about the environment and the climate do not vote nearly as often as the general populace. “In the 2016 presidential election, about 68 or 69 percent of registered voters turned out to vote. The problem is only 50 percent of environmentalists turned out to vote. In the 2014 midterms, only 21 percent of environmentalists voted”.
What Can You Do About This?
Ask the members of your congregation to sign the Creation Care Voter Pledge. It costs nothing, but when someone makes the pledge the likelihood significantly increases that the person will actually show up and vote. Each person who pledges will get an email on election day reminding them of their pledge. (And a thank you note after the election is over.) This small pledge “contract” has great effect.
There are many ways to invite your congregation to take the pledge. Several are listed below and you can make up your own approaches and use several approaches at the same time! But time is very short, so act now. Affecting the mid-term elections is a moral imperative for all of us.
Approaches for Obtaining Creation Care Voter Pledges:
The pledges need to be typed into an online pledge form found here. If you cannot arrange to have this done, please contact Karen Methot for help. Do not mail them to Rev. Brooks Berndt in Ohio – there is not enough time for processing before Nov. 6th!
Why is your pledge important?
The Environmental Ministries Team of the Massachusetts Conference, UCC
The story of Noah is a favourite of many. We love the idea of Noah saving all those doomed animals. Well, we need a bunch of Noah's to sign on as Creation Care voters.
The World Wildlife Foundation's biennial "Living Planet Report" is not only disheartening for what it reveals about our stewardship of God's good creation, it speaks of a real danger to human survival. The link to the report is below. Please read this information and then consider signing-on as a "Creation Care Voter."
"Exploding human consumption" has caused a massive drop in global wildlife populations in recent decades, the WWF conservation group says.
In a report, the charity says losses in vertebrate species - mammals, fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles - averaged 60% between 1970 and 2014.
"Earth is losing biodiversity at a rate seen only during mass extinctions," the WWF's Living Planet Report adds.
It urges policy makers to set new targets for sustainable development.
Bible study Group
Tuesday, October 23rd 7 - 8:00pm
We are about to begin reading the Final Act of Mark's Gospel. Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. He doesn't sneak in. He accentuates the turmoil and disturbs those in power by marching into the Holy City to cries of "Hosanna to the Son of David." But where is the Messiah of power? Where's God's grandeur? Maybe Jesus catches us thinking the wrong way about God and God's way, and this probably gives us a forever-warning to not grow complacent when it comes to being a follower of such a Saviour. Jesus' message will always challenge power and often our expectations of even God's power. Jesus speaks and stands for all not the few, even if the few cloak themselves with God-talk. It's action that matters as we discover when power asks about Jesus' credentials. He challenges us to follow in His path as people who think of the greater good, of the common good. I invite you to come and join us as we move on to read Mark 11. The stories may be familiar, but we can never grow too comfortable with its message. Come and read with us, Share your thoughts and reactions to the text. Let's work together to hear that truly God is still speaking.
Installation Service announcement
Installation of Randolph Calvo
Members of the Hampshire Association of the MACUCCare invited to
attend the installation of Rev. Randolph Calvo
First Congregational Church, UCC
41 Main Street - Hatfield, MA 01038
Sunday November 11, 2018 - 3PM
A church is represented by clergy and four delegates.
Visitors are welcome!
roast pork supper
During Sunday's Service, I mentioned Bible Study a couple of times. I didn't have enough sermon time to speak to our reading from Job. This biblical book addresses the ageless conundrum of theodicy, of why do the good suffer? If those present this evening choose, we can speak about this. Otherwise, we'll keep moving forward with our reading of Mark's Gospel. We've now reached the occasion of Jesus' third and final Passion Prediction, and He is met with the third abysmal failure of His disciples to get it. Any yet Jesus proceeds on to Jerusalem and everything that awaits Him there. There's a lot to glean about Jesus from this fact alone, not to mention that these constantly failing disciples end up building the Christian church that is now world wide and 2,000 years young. I invite you to come join us this evening from 7 - 8PM at the church for Bible Study.
Bible Bytes: Mark 16:15-16
Mission & Outreach Discussion
Saturday, October 13th at 10AM - Rev. Corey Sanderson
These words probably weren't even part of Mark's original Gospel, but they still made it into the Bible anyway. There's something to ponder right there. They opened up the book to add that we must proclaim the Jesus story everywhere. So I guess the book is still open and being written - by us.
20th Sunday after pentecost
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)
There’s an awful lot to talk about this morning and not a lot of time. Today is Communion Sunday for one. We’ve also begun our 2019 Stewardship Campaign, and we’re accepting donations for the Neighbours in Need fund of the United Church of Christ.
Obviously, we can’t do all of this justice in the few moments of today’s sermon. But let’s try to hit some of the main points, and let me begin by sharing a recent Blondie cartoon from the newspaper.
Blondie’s husband Dagwood walks into a phone store and asks if there is anyone who can help him with his new cell phone. The guy behind the counter is the same age as Dagwood and he says that their tech support supervisor will be arriving any minute. In the last box of the cartoon strip the guy behind the counter tells Dagwood: “His mom drops him off here every afternoon after school.”
I lived that cartoon a couple of weekends ago. Sharon and I had gone out to Boston and we left our car in a parking garage. As you drive in you pick up a ticket and then the gate rises. Many hours later we returned to the parking garage. It’s supposed to be straight forward and simple. You’re supposed to enter your ticket, an amount shows up on the screen, and you pay by credit card. I thought I did all of that.
Instead, the pay and receipt buttons both lit-up and started blinking, but nothing was coming out. I had to push the “call for help” button.
When I got down to the exit gate, there was finally a human being, a very nice, polite young man. I explained to him what happened. He went into the booth, spoke with someone on the phone and the gate lifted up. I told him I was too old to figure out how to work the automated pay machine. With a very polite smile he said, “No, no you’re not sir,” but I knew on the inside he was saying, “Yes, yes you are.” It was easy enough to get in, but I was finding it almost impossible to get out.
Now I definitely do not want to treat marriage lightly. It is a sacred covenant. It is to be treated with the utmost respect. It should never be entered into lightly, but even when two people are sincerely in love, it can happen that they can fall out of love.
We need to be reasonable and serious both about getting into marriage and getting out too. We can’t let people in and then strand them inside like I was stranded inside the parking garage.
When marriages become troubled, it serves neither party nor the sanctity of marriage to force the couple to stay together in such a relationship.
And we can’t get around Jesus’ words that we hear in today’s Gospel by concocting some fantasy that the marriage never existed in the first place and can be annulled, make it disappear like it never existed. Instead, we have to be realistic enough to recognize that sometimes marriage unions need to end.
But Jesus is saying something else with his words about divorce that we often overlook because the topic of divorce is so divisive that we shy away from it. But that “something else” puts the whole matter of divorce into its proper context as it says something fundamental about Jesus.
In Jesus’ day, it was simple for a man to divorce a woman. He could divorce her for not being as pretty as she was twenty years ago or for not obeying all of his commands, but the woman couldn’t divorce the man for any reason whatsoever.
And when she was divorced she was left homeless and penniless. They didn’t split their assets. He got everything. This would obviously force the woman to condescend to whatever the man said or did, or live in poverty.
Jesus looked at this as another example of institutional bias and even though it was backed by the religious leaders of His day, Jesus said “No!” You’re not going to use your religious laws to trample someone under foot, in this case the easily divorced wife, but by extension everyone who is powerless.
Jesus said “no” to divorce because He was saying a louder “yes” to equality and respect, especially in those cases where God’s name was being abused.
The powerful were using religion not to glorify God, but to protect their own self-interests in marriage, and the weak had nowhere to turn, until Jesus said “No!”
The discussion of divorce has to be considered within this context of equality and respect reaching down to the ones who had neither. Jesus’ strict words on divorce only make sense in this context and must be read, interpreted and applied so that this context is protected.
If you’re proud of Jesus’ “No!” and want to keep protecting it, if you appreciate it when Jesus stands-up for the powerless against the pompous, then support this church of ours, and a part of that support has to be our financial stewardship. Hatfield Congregational is a part of the United Church of Christ. This church has stood up to the abuses of power since it was created in 1957. We were right there and stood-up for racial justice with Martin Luther King Jr. We stood-up for women’s rights long before the Me-Too Movement. We were open-and-affirming long before the nation found it acceptable.
Our stewardship campaign is what allows us to gather here as church and to keep alive this spirit and this work of Jesus. If this is important, keep it in mind as we make our pledges.
Our donations to Neighbours in Need help Native Americans because they have been treated horribly by the more powerful. It also supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States, ministries that fight against systematic injustice just like Jesus did when He said “No!” to the male-only divorce of His day.
All of this is told in the context of today’s Gospel, but the reading from the Old Testament Book of Job is extremely interesting. It’s too bad that we don’t have time to go into it now, but I will remind you that our Bible study group is meeting again on Tuesday evening.
In the meantime, let me close with this story that also includes Satan, this time not up in heaven, but inside a small, country church:
Satan appeared before a small town congregation. Everyone started screaming and running for the front church door, trampling each other in a frantic effort to get away.
Soon everyone was gone except for an elderly gentleman who sat calmly.
Satan walked up to him and said, "Don't you know who I am?"
The man replied, "Yep, sure do."
Satan asked, "Aren't you going to run?"
"Nope, sure ain't," said the man.
Satan asked, "Why aren't you afraid of me?"
The man replied, "Been married to your sister for over 48 years."
Well, there you go, the topics of marriage, Satan and church all in one. But in all seriousness, may we be as generous as we can as we strive to fund the work of Christ and His church, and for this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Faith, love and chitchat.
Children Sunday School 9:30-10:30am
Nursery care available during worship
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