Category Archives: 2011-10

Pastor’s Pen for October, 2011

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27) It’s common nowadays to hear people say that they’re “spiritual, but not religious.” I’m never sure what that really means beyond the fact that they don’t attend worship or participate in church-related activities. In most cases, the people who describe themselves this way are pleasant, kind, civic-minded individuals of good moral character. They are good neighbors, give their time and money to worthwhile charitable causes, and seem to enjoy the lives they’re living. In many ways, they embody the qualities of life to which Christians aspire. They just don’t feel any drawn to participate in the life of the church. They feel no need to sit in pews reciting words they don’t understand, to sing hymns whose words and melodies reflect a by-gone era, or to spend endless hours in meetings that ultimately seem to accomplish little of lasting significance. So are these people missing anything by their lack of involvement in the church? Perhaps it depends on how they answer questions such as these: • Do their lives have a meaning that’s larger than their own private dreams? • When they face a challenge they cannot overcome, do they have a Higher Power that they can turn to and rely on? • When they fail to achieve a cherished goal, do they have someone to turn to that can reassure them that their lives still have value? • When their health or physical abilities begin to decline, do they know where to find a sense of wholeness, peace, and joy that can never be lost? • When a person (or a relationship) dies, do they know how to find Someone who will never abandon them? • When tragedy or injustice overwhelms them, do they know how to keep their bitterness and pain from poisoning their souls? • When their lives hit a dead end, do they know where to find a New Beginning? • When they feel helpless and trapped, do they know where to turn to find true freedom? • When enemies appear, can they find the power to love and forgive them? The religious life is not a matter of archaic rites and rituals. It’s not a matter of buildings, budgets, or institutional maintenance. It’s not a matter of beliefs, concepts, and ideas. It’s a matter of grappling with the complexities of life together in a community that draws its purpose and energy from the presence of God at work in its midst. For all its imperfections, the church continues offer us an opportunity to be (or become) such a community. Each of us is on a unique spiritual journey. The church is there to remind us that it is a journey that we are meant to take that journey together, not alone. Duane

Note from Marjorie

My thanks to all who attended and contributed to my flood-delayed "goodbye" potluck party at Steele Chapel on Tuesday evening, September 6th on Pastor Duane's "watch" and with Duane and Amy in attendance. I SO appreciated that the choir asked us to gather that evening in the sanctuary before dinner so that they could sing the lovely piece which they had planned for me on the Sunday of the hurricane (my last Sunday) when we had to cancel worship due to the weather. I was pleased that Lynn Bujnak, our Vermont UCC Conference Minister was able to attend that evening and that my partner Carol was able to accompany me. There was great food to share, a beautifully decorated cake, much laughter, terrific spirit, and such very thoughtful gifts including the lovely quilt, a book I'd been wanting to read (ironically about the 1927 flood and how Vermont recovered from it which was chosen for me before "Irene" arrived) and a generous "purse" of money with which to purchase art supplies to use in my retirement. THANK YOU ALL very much. We did good "interim work" together to help you prepare for your next chapter in ministry and I am honored and grateful to have been a part of it. Blessings and gratitude, Marjorie MacNeill