The sermon title for this Sunday, January 21, is "Tables as Idols". The scripture will be John's story of the temple tables being over turned (2:13-25). The Annual Meeting for Sharon Congregational Church will happen after worship this Sunday. Annual Reports will be received and a vote on the budget will be taken.
Christmas Eve ServicesThere will be a 4:00 service on Christmas Eve. We will light the Advent Candle. We will sing Carols. We will hear the Christmas Story and use a manger scene to tell it. We call it a Family Service. But if you like a lessons and carols and few candles, you will like this service at any age. We hope you will join and see what our new Minister will do. There will also be a 7:00 service on Christmas Eve. This one is filled with music from our choir, the lighting of our Advent Wreath, a retelling of the Christmas story, and a brief message from the Minister about how any of this might be important. He says it will be brief. And he has been pretty good, so we are inclined to believe him. We will also receive an offering. We will use this in the coming year when there are needs in the Sharon Community that we can help with. We like to think that most of what we do helps Sharon, but here we are talking about direct aid to people. We will also be having a service at 9:30 in the morning. This is actually our regular Sunday service. It just happens that it is on Christmas Eve Day and so is technically a service on Christmas Eve. Kinda. Please join for this too if you would like. We will sing some Carols, light the Advent Candle of Love, and other churchie stuff. And coffee hour. Which is usually pretty good. And some good people. And it would be good if you were there too.
So, it is that holiday season that runs from before Thanksgiving, through Advent and the 12 days of Christmas, and includes New Year’s Eve. About a tenth of the year is during this time!
And it is time a time of Ho Ho Ho, fa la la la la, and making merry for many people. But not all people. Or not for all of it. It can be a tough time of the year for many people.
There are a lot of reasons for this: holiday stress (family, finances, time), grief that someone is dead, (there is like a 1 in 12 chance that a loss or tragedy actually happened during this season so there is an anniversary of loss during this time), job loss seems to happen a lot, short days, and the cultural expectation of everyone being a Bob Cratchit and not a Scrooge just seems to highlight when we get the blues. The colored lights of the season might even make these blues a deeper shade.
So, if you find that you can not deal with all the merriment, don’t.
● Do not fake happiness; it takes energy to put on the holiday face. Be honest that you have a case of the blues. You are allowed. Save the energy for living your life.
● Do not hide from all the merriment. Maybe avoid some (especially when it seems forced like New Year’s Eve), but do interact with people who will let you be honest. Sunday Worship should be that. Helping at the Church Supper can too.
● Balance that interaction with taking time for yourself. Balance your eating and exercise. If you drink, remember chemically it is a depressant. If you need a drink, don’t. If you have one, enjoy it.
● Do not let yourself stew in your own thoughts. Talk with me, a counselor, or someone you know who will listen without judgement. It can help to simply tell someone that you miss a tradition, your kids, the way things use to be, or a person.
● Be mindful of your management of time and finances. Don’t let our culture (family, neighbors, ‘them’) push you past what you decided to do. It won't make you happy.
● And yes, pray. Be contemplative. You do not need words. Watching the night sky thinking about God’s creation. Use your creativity being mindful of God. I will not say this will cure all things. But it helps and puts you in the hands that will hold you with love. Relax and enjoy it.
NOW, if you are like Buddy the elf, please remember that others are not. Don’t roll your eyes because someone does not act like they had extra sugar in their hot chocolate. Don’t try to jolly them into a round of Ho Ho Ho or poo poo their mood. Scrooge lost his love. It hurt and he was changed from that loss. Bob Cratchit had love in his life. Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, was able to love his uncle who was a scrooge. When Ebenezer was transformed, it was to these two that he turned. They had let him mutter bah humbug, and never let go of their relationship or hope for transformation. Steadfast loving kindness. You can allow others their scrooge mood while waiting for their Ebenezer to reappear. Actually, that is kinda Christian.
That is how I see Jesus acting and who I know God to be. And I feel the need to say this: Love everyone.
Especially love yourself, no matter the mood. Let the Spirit transform us into someone even more loveable. ‘Tis the season.
Pastor's PenI took two years off from pastoral leadership before arriving here in Sharon. It allowed several good things to happen. After a respectful time, I attended church again at Bethany. I cannot tell you why or what was different, but I found it inwardly satisfying to be in worship. It stabilized my whole day. Sometimes a couple of days. One of the things I discovered was how much I like giving an offering. The plate never goes to a minister leading worship. Giving money in worship is a very different thing than giving money to the church. It could truly be called an act of worship. It transformed the money giving thing from something that could be done with Rotary, medical research, or shopping from catalogue. The money wasn’t sent, it was given and blessed and dedicated to God. After nearly 30 years of envelopes given in the office or sent at the end of the year, my money again became an offering. Same money, but completely different. And I liked it. Years before during a pledge/stewardship effort at my church, Amy and I decided to significantly increase our pledge. I am not sure now that we even had a reason for doing it. But I gotta tell ya’, it was really cool. I would get a smile on my face just thinking about it. I still do. I stretched my neck/wallet out there and trusted it would be okay. It was okay. It gave me a real thrill to be that courageous and faithful. And I liked it. So, try something new with this year’s pledge. Find some way of reminding yourself that your pledge is an act of worship or an expression of faith. Figure out what might help you remember that this money is not dues paid to a club or a donation to a charitable organization. Remember that this is not giving so you get something in return. This is some glorious expression of thanks, honor, or tribute to who God is in your life. This is something awesome! I will pray that find that awesomeness. But work with me here. Try anythingnew that makes sense to you. Sure, a real jump in your giving could do that. Writing a few word prayer (thanks for-, sorry about-, help with- ) or just a message to God on the check or envelope might be cool. Giving an offering before you pay any bills is a classic reminder. If you need to give outside of worship time, try just touching the offering plate and saying, “thanks” to God. But SOMETHING to make sure that this is a part of your spiritual life. Next year at this time let me know what you did and what it was like. I will be praying that you say, “I like it!” Yours, Mark
A graveside memorial service will be held on Friday, July 22nd at 2:00 pm in the Pine Hill Cemetery in Sharon with Pastor Marjorie MacNeill officiating.
Let us introduce you to our new minister and his wife. Duane and Amy Brown
In their own words: Duane and Amy met at Bates College in a class on contemporary religious thought. Amy’s a Vermont Yankee and Duane’s a Connecticut Yankee. Somehow they’ve managed to make that unlikely alliance work – maybe because they both come from small towns and have in common a passion for reading. They recently celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary. Duane grew up in North Canaan, Connecticut, a little town that hasn’t changed much over the years. During his late teens, he got a part-time job cleaning buildings at the Silver Lake Conference Center, a United Church of Christ camp in Sharon, Connecticut – an experience that profoundly influenced his spiritual journey. He became a member of the permanent summer staff there and over the next three years formed relationships that deepened and broadened his awareness of Christ’s presence and love. Unfortunately, both his parents died while he was in his early twenties, and he has no siblings, but he still enjoys going back and visiting from time to time. He was baptized, married and ordained in his home church, so it holds a special place in the hearts of both Duane and Amy. Amy grew up in Vermont. Starting in Saxtons River, and then Montpelier, where her father was a high school math teacher, her family moved to Poultney and then to Proctor, where he became a high school principal. Shortly before his death he was appointed assistant headmaster to St. Johnsbury Academy. Amy’s mother, Eleanor Belding, still lives in St. Johnsbury, where she was an elementary school teacher in North Danville for many years and very active in the Vermont Conference UCC. Her aunt, uncle and cousin are long-time residents of Barre. Amy has two younger brothers, one who lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and one in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. When Amy graduated from Proctor High School and went off to college, she always assumed she’d return to Vermont; she couldn’t really imagine any other place feeling like home to her. But things happen – love happens – and she married Duane. He’d attended Bates with plans to become a math teacher. But God – and a remarkable Old Testament professor – intervened. They started their married life in the Boston area, where Duane attended seminary, and then he was called to a small church in western Massachusetts, where their first two children were born. From there they’ve followed God’s call to southern New Jersey, central Pennsylvania, Maine, and Massachusetts. Amy had dreams of becoming a professional writer from the age of nine. In high school, she edited both the school newspaper and literary magazine and won several state writing contests. She held onto this dream despite life’s ups and downs and began to have moderate success publishing some short stories in the 1980s. She discovered her writing passion – historical fiction – in the mid 1990’s and is the author of Mr. Emerson’s Wife, which came out in 2005. She’s currently finishing a revision of a new novel set in Massachusetts during King Philip’s War Amy received her MFA from Vermont College in 2000 and has held a number of part time and temporary jobs over the years, including a delightful three-year stint as a tour guide at Orchard House, home of Louisa May Alcott. For the last six years, she’s been teaching writing to college freshmen in Massachusetts. Perhaps it’s in the blood – she comes from a long line of educators – but she enjoys the challenges of teaching more than she expected. When she’s not writing, teaching, reading, or spending time with her family, Amy enjoys photography, amateur painting and quilting. Duane and Amy share their living space (and hearts) with a mixed breed dog, Angel, who seems to be under the illusion that she chose them rather than the other way around. They’re the proud parents of four grown children – all redheads. Daryl, the oldest, lives and works in the Boston area. Nathan, next in line, lives in Los Angeles and works for Warner Brothers. He married his wife, Lisa, (also a redhead), in January of 2010 at an outdoor wedding at which Duane was honored to officiate. Their only daughter, Samara, works in New York City at a genetics research lab. A couple of years ago she became a dog owner – and she’s now companioned by an energetic cairn terrier. Their youngest, Matthew, is a high school history teacher in central Massachusetts. Though he was last born, he was first to be married – to Melissa – in October, 2009. The service was held in the Congregational Church of Grafton, with Duane proudly officiating. And now Duane and Amy look forward to continuing their joint adventure in Vermont. From his present Church’s website: Rev. Dr. Duane R. Brown Born and raised in northwestern Connecticut, Duane received his B.A. from Bates College and his M.Div. from Andover Newton Theological School. He later returned to ANTS and received his D.Min. in Psychology and Counseling. He began his ministry in Western Massachusetts in 1972, and has served churches in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maine before returning to Massachusetts. Duane is an avid reader and an equally avid sports fan who enjoys keeping a close eye on the adventures of the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics. He brings a passionate intensity to his efforts to deepen and strengthen the spiritual vitality of individuals and church organizations, and a gentle, self-deprecating good humor to his relationships. He and his wife, Amy, are the proud, empty-nest parents of four children. Reactions from the Search Committee: Pam Brackett: I find Rev. Brown to have a very calming presence and his focus on God is unwavering. Tony Perkins: I admire Rev. Brown’s humor, Godliness, and his comment to not lose the true meaning of Church! Paula Howes: I like his sense of humor and his teaching, spiritual manner. Pat Densmore: His is very personable and brings God with him! Mary Ayer: Rev. Brown made me very comfortable and I find him to be down to earth. Francene Ellis: I like his interaction with children.
Come hear our Pastoral Candidate, Rev. Dr. Duane Brown preach on June 19th at 9:30 a.m. There will be a continental breakfast starting at 8:00 a.m. and a light pot luck lunch after the service so Dr. Brown will be able to meet members of the congregation.
Notice To all members and friends of Sharon Congregational Church, UCC Sharon, Vermont: You are hereby warned That on June 19, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. our worship service will be led by the candidate out Search Committee has selected for our settled pastor. Following the worship service, there will be a meeting to discuss and vote on said candidate. Joe S. Willis Moderator
"Still More Cats", Sharon's newest band with Michael Barsanti, Anne Mapplebeck and Peter Neri, will play for the Sharon Food Shelf Fundraiser on Saturday, June 4th. Held at The Seven Stars Center, doors open at 7 pm with festivities going to about 10 o'clock. There will be baked goods for sale. This is a non-alcohol event. A small admission fee of $5 -$10 is requested and if folks want to bring a donation item for the Food Shelf, these are the items needed most: mustard, ketchup, pickles, relish, paper towels, toilet paper, dish detergent, foil and plastic wrap. Come kick up your heels and have some fun! There will be an open house at the Food Shelf (in the Lighthouse across from the Sharon Congregational Church) from 6-7 on Saturday, June 4th. For more info call Peter at 763-7067.