REVerberations – April 2019

Marty Kuchma, Senior Pastor 

Greetings! 

As always seems to be the case, there is much going on in the life of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ these days, and we continue to make whatever difference we can in the world. If I may share some thoughts on a few things in particular… 

I join with Michael in celebrating all of the awesome activity that is happening related to our WISE Congregation process. Please do see his article in this edition of Highlights. Having as many people as we did come out for the intensive Mental Health First Aid training was simply thrilling as we now turn toward drafting our WISE Covenant. Thank you to all who have been and will be part of this important process! Things are also bubbling up in exciting ways with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and our connections there. We will now be adding a couple of much-needed community education and support groups for mental health to the many AA and Al-Anon groups and Reiki experiences that take place in the building each week. Meal and More continues to add to the cumulative healing and helping factor as well, in addition to our worship and educational opportunities, our social gather-ings, and all the great work that is going on. Of course PFLAG and First Fridays continue to provide an essential anchor and support for the local LGBTQ community across generations. They are now beginning to plan for this year’s Drag Show. And we continue to provide space and energy for several other efforts to bring about justice and eradicate homelessness for all. So what’s next? 

Relatedly, we celebrate Erin Snell receiving this year’s Award from the Carroll County Human Relations Commission! My comments at the awards banquet drew a connection between Erin’s life and the passage at Micah 6:8 – to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. Erin makes that passage real through her ongoing involve-ment in the community, her leadership of Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality, her longstanding commitment to the PFLAG Steering Committee and First Fridays, her participation on the executive committee of the local NAACP chapter, her active involve-ment in the Poor People’s Campaign, and so many other endeavors. Congratulations, Erin! I am proud to affirm your great work as St. Paul’s Minister of Social Justice! With profound humility and heart-felt kindness, Erin has become a true force for justice in the world. 

St. Paul’s will have another opportunity to be a presence in the community as the destination of this year’s Good Friday Walk with the Cross. The walk begins at 11:00am at Ascension Episcopal Church on North Court Street and will make its way down Main Street to St. Paul’s. As the closing service at noon, we will offer Taize-style worship in the Sanctuary. 

Remember also that we are still looking for a couple of volunteers to staff the St. Paul’s booth at the Seniors on the Go Expo at the Ag Center on Wednesday, April 3, from 9:00am until 2:00pm. Thanks to the team that is pulling together a nice display that will represent us nicely at this well-attended event, and at other events in the future. 

So there is a lot to do. And there is also the Lenten summons to just be, and to reflect, to pray, and to prepare for the new life Easter promises. May we be blessed in it all, and find balance in each moment, and make our way forward with meaning and energy and hope. 

Marty 

REVerberations – March 2019

Marty Kuchma, Senior Pastor 

One of the earliest conversations I ever had with anyone from St. Paul’s was with Janet Kelly who, as Head Elder at the time, was thinking about Communion during my candidating weekend. We worked out the details and when I got here, I found the Communion table set with the finest silver pieces. It was beautiful! And Communion worked very smoothly that Sunday morning, as I remember. 

Over the years, we have had other important conversations about Communion. For example, we expanded intinction to include small cups of juice for people who are immuno-compromised or simply prefer the cups. We have added a variety of breads for World Communion Sunday. We have made it official that all people, including young children, can receive Communion as long as parents approve – and we have had some who did not until Confirmation. We have worked, quite meticulously at times, on the delivery of Communion in the pews, even to the point of diagramming delivery routes for Consistory members who are now Church Council Members. I am sure that professional football teams would have envied the thoroughness of the planning – “OK, you go long, and you post up right here…” We have experimented with whether servers should start in the front and back of the Sanctuary as op-posed to the front and the middle. And we have dedicated portions of Council meetings to actually practicing this stuff. 

The changes have been more than logistical. Several years ago, we looked care-fully at the standard Communion liturgy – the one printed on the Communion inserts when we use those, and adapted it to be more gender neutral and theologically correct; for example, there are times it is appropriate to use the name Jesus and times it is appropriate to refer to Christ. 

More recently, we added wine along with grape juice during Communion so people could have a choice that suits their past experiences and current preferences. That was a big step and was undertaken quite thoughtfully given that the tradition at St. Paul’s had been to avoid serving wine, at least partly in deference to the presence of AA in the building. In extensive conversations with AA leaders and members, it was clear that the people with whom we spoke fully supported serving wine as long as juice was also offered. A couple of things became very clear: members of AA must deal with the availability of alcohol all around them in the world and in their lives, and AA seeks to pre-pare the person to live in the world and not change the world to suit the person. Indeed one leader with whom I spoke said it would be sad if we didn’t serve wine if there were other reasons to do so. And there are. Especially for people who grew up in the Catholic tradition, Communion is bread and wine. The same is true for individual Protestant congregations as well. So we offer both. (I won’t go into the history of how the Welch’s company got woven into the “tradition” across Protestantism as they lobbied for juice to bolster sales of their product.) 

Recently, and quite by accident, some of the kids took wine. I watched as it happened, and I can assure you that they did not like it. Nonetheless, there are a variety of beliefs about whether wine should be available to young people, with some believing it is quite con-sistent with tradition based on parental consent, and at least one other believing that we are “giving kids booze.” We need to think that through together. 

We have also experimented with new ways of doing Communion liturgy. That, too, arouses the interest of people with a wide variety of preferences. Some would like to have the full Communion liturgy every Communion Sunday, while others want even more extensive liturgy than that, and still others strongly and strenuously object to components of that liturgy and find that any words at all can get in the way of them fully appreciating the sacrament. So we can dialogue about that also. 

I have heard through the grape vine that there are conversations happening now about all of this. And I have asked that the Elders join me in a Congregational Conversation about Communion in general, open to all who are interested in being there and sharing views in a productive forum. The Elders will then share the results of that meeting with the whole Church Council and we will find the best way forward that we can given a wondrous diversity of opinions, needs, and preferences.

So come to Fellowship Hall after the 10:45am service on Sunday, March 10, and be part of the process. We will also have a similar conversation during the 8:30am service and members of Church Council and I will do our best to faithfully make sure what is said is accounted for in any decision-making. I hope to see you there! 

Be well…
Marty