Oct 15, 2015

“To have a conversation,
ask a question first,
then – listen”
-Antonio Machado

Upcoming on October 25 and November 1, after church, Pastors Tom and Phil will be holding listening sessions around the question of same-sex weddings in our church.  While they are now legal in the state of Michigan, it is up to each community of faith to decide whether or not they will offer such rites.  It is clear that this is also connected to questions of our individual understandings of scripture, our traditions as a church concerned with social justice, and whether or not to be an Open and Affirming congregation.

Unfortunately it got listed as a class, and this has confused some people.  While Pastors Phil and Tom will be able to clarify issues around questions people have, the primary goal is for the church to listen carefully to where we are as a congregation.  Where we go from here will depend on what we hear.  Respectful and prayerful listening
is the order of the day.

If you are unable to attend, or prefer a less public venue to express yourself, please contact Pastor Tom or Pastor Phil and we will be happy to listen to you (together or individually) and clarify anything about which you have questions.

Sept. 2,2015

How we approach scripture strongly influences the meaning we perceive in it. If we are very settled in our lives, and have a deep interest in maintaining the status quo, then there are passages that speak to the orderliness of creation and the rightful rule of those who are in power. But for many of us, life is much more fluid. Maybe we have been thrown for a loop by our health. Or perhaps our job situation is not as stable as when we hired on. Perhaps we feel that life is up in the air, or we sense that we are regularly betwixt and between. For those  whose lives seem more like this, the Bible is not a manual for returning to settledness so much as a travel guide for wanderers. It speaks of people who are faithful in the face of exile, people who search for God in the wilderness, and of a Jesus who works best outside the structures and settled areas of life. Most importantly, it offers us images of the God who walks with us.

Grace and Peace,
Phil

June 30, 2015
Did you know that for many years I had trouble singing the song “They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love?” I like the song just fine. In fact I love the sentiments behind it. My problem was that I grew up in a time and place where much more conservative churches were much more vocal than our little church, and the messages I often heard felt spiteful, disrespectful, condescending or simply mean spirited. These messages did not feel loving to me or to many of the people I hung out with, including at my church. How are they supposed to know we are Christian by our love when these were the messages out there?

Two things have changed over the years in regard to this dilemma. The first is that I realized that I held the church (my church, their church, the wider church) to an incredibly high standard, perhaps one that was unrealistic for an institution made up of people like me.
The other change was when I realized that the world SHOULD be able to know we are Christians by our love. And if the message that is out there from Christians is not loving, then the ones who want to be more loving need to sing louder, pray harder, be more vocal and more visible, and “live the way we pray” as the hymn says.

So now I have no trouble singing:

We are One in The Spirit,
We are One in The Lord.
We are One in The Spirit,
We are One in The Lord.
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love,
By our Love,
Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

We will work with each other,
We will work side by side.
We will work with each other,
We will work side by side.
And we’ll guard each one’s dignity
And save each one’s pride.

We will walk with each other,
We will walk hand in hand.
We will walk with each other,
We will walk hand in hand.
And together we’ll spread the News
that God is in our land.

I have no trouble singing it not because we have a monopoly on loving, nor because we love perfectly, but because we are trying.

Grace and Peace,
Phil

May 19, 2015

A Forgotten Memorial Day

The first widely publicized example of a Memorial Day event was in post-Civil War Charleston, South Carolina. On May 1, 1865, freed  slaves by the thousands marched to and through the Hampton Park Race Course in Charleston. It had been the site of a Confederate prison for Union solders, and at least 257 had died while interned there and were buried in unmarked graves. The marchers then worked to landscape the burial grounds, plant flowers, build an enclosure and erect an arch saying, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

Yale historian David W. Blight describes it this way:

“This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the war had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.”

There have been many claims to the first Memorial Day celebration, but none of them predates or has more collaborative evidence than this one.

May 6, 2015

A Mother’s Day Acknowledgement  by Amy Young

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you.
To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you.
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you.
To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you.
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you.

Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you.
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you.
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you.
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you.
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience.
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst.
To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be.
To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths.
To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you.
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you.
To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart.
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you.
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

Grace and Peace,
Phil

April 20, 2015

PhilSupportsUSDear Friends, It was with a heavy heart that I read of an apparent suicide of a Charlotte High School student over the weekend. I was glad to hear that resources and people from Suicide Prevention of Eaton County (SPEC), which Pastor Tom has been instrumental in supporting and leading, were on site at the High School Monday. But it got me thinking about the role of our church in suicide prevention. I think we have several ways that we do and can make a difference:

1. Get good resources and information out to people, 
2. Be a place of hope, welcome, care and love for people wherever they are on life’s journey, 
3. Be a public voice for such welcome and care, so that people might find hope and home before they take drastic measures.  
Here they are:

1. Resources

Listening Ear Crisis Center
517-337-1717
www.theear.org
Offers crisis intervention and referral for anyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.Clinton-Eaton-Ingham Community Mental Health Authority
800-372-8460
Offers crisis services for adults and children 24 hours a day, seven days a week.National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
800-273-TALK (8254)
Offers free crisis services for anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline
800-273-TALK (8255) Veterans press 1
A national suicide prevention hotline to ensure veterans in emotional crisis have 24/7 access to trained counselors.
 
 
2.  We are fairly good at providing a welcome to all who come here, wherever they happen to be on life’s journey.  But people need to know
that we are here and provide such a loving community.  Which brings us to #3:
 
 
3.  Be a public voice for welcome to all.
 
It is not enough to be welcoming to those who happen to find us.  We need to let people know that we are loving and that we are here.  The
question is, is it time for us to step up and begin the process of discernment to become Open and Affirming?  This would be a public affirmation of 
what we are already doing, namely being a safe, loving and holy place for all people regardless of age, race, gender, ability, or sexual orientation.
 
Let Pastor Phil know what you think.
 
Grace and Peace,

Phil

April 1, 2015
Easter is not a day on the Christian calendar; Easter is a season.

There is no way one single day can encompass all that Easter means to the church nor is there any possibility that we can come to live as a raised people from only one sermon, one Sunday’s worship, one hearing of the Toccata by Wido.  Which part of the Easter story grabbed you this year?

  • ·         Who will roll the stone away for us?
  • ·         Do not be alarmed.
  • ·         He has been raised; he is not here.
  • ·         But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.

What part of Easter do you need more of in your life?

  • ·         Not being afraid
  • ·         Finding new life
  • ·         Knowing God’s love is bigger than all that we face
  • ·         Being a part of a community that helps raise people
  • ·         Praising and rejoicing
  • ·         Hope

May the Easter season work upon us changes in attitude and perception so that we might greet the Risen Christ in all whom we meet.

Phil