From The Pastor

REVerberations – November 2018

Marty Kuchma, Senior Pastor 

So I sit down at my keyboard still struggling to find words that speak to the violence in the world, especially of late. And I realize that the best I can do is put words on the page, seeking to be inspired in some meaningful way as I write. This writing process, then, is an act of faith… and of hope. 

As I mentioned on Sunday, the Squirrel Hill community, where the recent synagogue murders happened, was my home at one point in my life. Squirrel Hill is the most diverse neighborhood in all of Western Pennsylvania, sitting just outside of downtown Pittsburgh, adjacent to Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh. It is home to thriving congregations of all stripes, even as it is anchored by the rich and varied Jewish community. There is a bustling mix of old and new business that is rather seamlessly integrated with residences ranging from stately homes to small, relatively affordable apartments. It has the feel of a small town where cultures come together in harmony and all people live in peace. Resi-dents and visitors are truly neighbors in the best sense. This horrific killing there shattered what turns out to be nothing more than an illusion of tranquility, reminding us quite poignantly yet again that there really are no safe places right now. 

I heard a young woman who was interviewed say that she does not understand how it is that people call everyone to prayer at times like this when her place of prayer is both no longer safe and literally not available until the bodies and the blood are cleared, the investigations stop, and repairs are made. 

Of course we realize that it is not just that synagogue that was attacked, but churches, and grocery stores, and far too many schools, and movie theaters, and mailboxes in homes and offices, and… all with no sign of things getting any better and some pretty clear indications that, though this type of violence does seem to be cyclical, things are getting generally worse. The rabbi of the synagogue said this shooting was not just an attack on his synagogue or on Jews, but an attack on America. 

Another young woman spoke of growing up “post-Columbine,” in a world where active shooter drills are commonplace for all school children. We all live in that world, don’t we? There are so many reminders of the frailty of life in this country, and in this world too, if we dare look beyond our own borders. 

There is no easy answer to any of this. And getting to an answer is complicated by the reality that we as a culture don’t really have a way to deal with the complexity that is involved in this escalating violence. We tend to respond as a culture to small parts of the big picture, but we lack the means, and apparently both the ability and the will to make sense of this multi-faceted matter of great importance. In the wake of such massacres, we point toward guns, and mental health, and political discourse, or whatever, when the solution undoubtedly requires accounting for all of that and more. Further, we have lost, it seems, the ability to have meaningful conversations about anything that might stray into anything resembling politics by hitting hot buttons that trigger knee-jerk reactivity and shut off any possible rational problem-solving. 

And perhaps more fundamentally, until we remember that we are all in this together, it is impossible to imagine a way forward. In fact, all of the violence and tension gin up our fears and incline people to cling even more tightly to small, insular and increasingly isolated groups that promise safety, small “tribes” that are becoming more entrenched in opposing views. Sadly, this is not just an American problem; it is happening all around the world, in Brazil, in Germany, and elsewhere, not to mention Russia and China and other traditionally closed countries. 

And, because we are inundated with “news” around the clock, we end up knowing too much without really knowing anything at all. With all of that energy spent filling the air-waves and digital space, what passes as truth is more likely to be defined by ratings pursuits and advertising money, and politically-driven distortions, and all sorts of unabashed bombast. 

One part of any hope for resolution of our current issues, it seems to me, is for us to learn to be in conversation with each other again, beginning with listening to each other. Listening does not mean agreeing with. But being heard lifts people from oblivion before they start yelling more vicious and venomous things more loudly, before they pick up guns to make their point, before they retreat further into the imagined safety of their small group that stands with them against the world. Conversation that begins with listening builds bridges instead of walls. Listening that sets aside assumptions and opens to new learning about each other does that best of all.

Listening is truly NOT not doing something. Instead, it is a very effective way of bringing about transformation in others and in ourselves, and working toward the kind of deep inter-personal healing it seems we need right about now. Listening creates space for movement and opens the possibility that people can begin to see other people – even those with whom they think they have absolutely nothing in common – as companions on a journey, with whom they might not ever agree, but at least as human beings they are less likely to hurt or kill. That seems a good starting place, doesn’t it? 

This is an age of worry and fear and pain and confusion and so much more, for right now at least. And there are dire predictions that we might never be able to reverse the momentum toward fragmentation and polarization. But I am not willing to concede that. Of course we have a lot of work to do. And that work begins face to face and in respectful conversations, not only with people with whom we agree but with people who see things differently and even very differently. David Brooks, who has thoughtfully engaged questions of civility at this moment of history, reminds us that we can only find whole truths if we work together, incorporating in whatever fashion the varied perspectives of every other. Getting to that goal requires getting to know each other all over again, even as we get to know ourselves anew as well. 

For me, a new approach Is worth trying. We surely cannot keep going the way we are. 

In the next several days, I hope to pull together a listening session for people who want to be in constructive conversation. Stay tuned for more information. And the First Sunday Forum on Sunday, November 4, is intended to be a time to think together and talk together about reclaiming the highest ideals for our national political discourse. Come as you are willing and able. 

Be well… 

Marty 

REVerberations – October 2018

Marty Kuchma, Senior Pastor 

On Sunday, September 23, we were very fortunate to have a chance to visit with Mr. Frank Bolden, the Chair of the Board of Directors of the United Church of Christ (national setting), and Rev. Roddy Dunkerson, Interim Central Atlantic Conference Minister. It was a great delight to have them with us! They were gracious and informative and insightful. And they said how grateful they were to be here and ex-pressed their appreciation for what we are doing, and for the lovely and lively spirit of this congregation. 

I come away from the morning feeling like we did indeed reinvigorate the sense of covenant that holds the United Church of Christ together and allows us all together to be an effective force for good in the world. There is so much to be done, and we are surely not alone in the work. 

During the 10:45am service, Janet and Michael and Vera and Ed shared some Celebrations of what we have been up to. Those will be reprinted below. Of course the list is not exhaustive, nor is it predictive of the things that are still to come. But I offer it here as a chance to celebrate our life together, even as we look intently toward a bold and beautiful future. 

Be well… 

Marty 

St. Paul’s Celebrations Shared During the Service on September 23, 2018 

On September 9, we celebrated the ten-year Anniversary of becoming Open and Affirming, and we continue to be the only Open and Affirming Christian congregation in Carroll County. We host a thriving PFLAG chapter, and, with them, co-sponsor “First Fridays”— a casual hang-out for LGBTQ young people. Through our relationship with PFLAG, we host an annual LGBTQ Valentine’s Dance and the annual community Transgender Day of Remembrance service. This year our Fellowship Hall came alive with PFLAG’s first-ever Carroll County Drag Show and we are looking forward to the next one. 

In all things, we strive to live up to the extravagant claim that, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!” We invite people to connect with us at many and varied points of contact, and encourage all to join us in doing whatever good we can to make a difference in the world. We encourage people to “get what you need and give what you can.” 

Over the past ten years, through the St. Paul’s Foundation, we have given grants in excess of $400,000 to local, regional and global beneficiaries including, for example, providing a source of fresh water for hundreds of people in Ethio-pia and empowering women in Kenya, funding initiatives by the Baltimore regional Gay-Lesbian-Straight Education Network, giving money for literacy programs in Carroll County, and, one year, making it possible for 14 local families to secure stable housing through a Rapid Rehousing program here in Westminster. 

This year, we have formed a partnership with the “Garden of Hope” program in the poor rural areas surrounding Antigua, Guatemala. We have funded a full-time teacher and are leading efforts by the Catoctin Association to possibly send a work group to build a community center on their meager campus. 

We have a long-standing relationship with Lancaster Theological Seminary. Over the past couple of decades, we have had three distinguished Seminary board members. Our pastor serves as a Professor of Practice in the Doctor of Ministry program. We have two current students who are excelling in the Master of Divinity program. We support the Seminary financially through annual benefit concerts and generous gifts and a scholarship offered by St. Paul’s members. And we have three people trained to provide supervision for field education students.

Over the past several years we have seriously streamlined our organizational structure so that, now, we have only one group that meets on a regularly-scheduled basis – formerly the Consistory that was recently renamed the Church Council. Everything else is done through Task Forces and ad hoc groups. We strive to be a nimble church focused more on mission than maintenance. We have even moved beyond the requirement for Robert’s Rules! 

We have developed the 30/30 Challenge which strongly encourages every person who is in any way associated with St. Paul’s (members, friends, visitors) to do at least 30 hours of community service and at least 30 hours of in-church work per year. And we have created a catalog of opportunities that people can use to meet their goals. 

For over 30 years, St. Paul’s has served a community meal for approximately 100 guests every Thursday at noon and on special occasions when needed. Through collaborative partnerships, A Meal and More provides fresh produce during growing seasons and supplements meals with nutritious items to which we would not have access otherwise. There are a number of people who have been involved with serving this meal from the very beginning. 

Recently, we developed the St. Paul’s Culinary Training Program which is designed to prepare out-of-work people for jobs in the restaurant industry by helping them get ServSafe certified – an entry-level requirement for many food service jobs. We provide mentors to help candidates, pay for the certification exam, and connect graduates with local restaurants that have agreed to work with us on this program. 

We are fully engaged in addressing homelessness. We regularly support the local Women and Children’s Shelter, the Cold Weather Shelter, the Westminster Rescue Mission, and the Family Shelter where we replaced all of the mattresses in a collaborative project with the Cedarhurst Unitarian Universalists. We have funded and produced the Homeless Life Story Collection Project video which was shown to over 1000 people throughout the county to increase community awareness of and involvement with homeless people. We are also the lead organizers and hosts of the annu-al community Homeless Memorial and Blues Christmas Service on the Winter Solstice. 

We are now planning our fourth annual Racial Justice Event to provide information and educational experiences for the community in the spirit of an ongoing conversation on race, as well as to raise funds to support Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality and the local NAACP chapter. We have had multiple expert presenters from this congregation at various social justice events, and we are represented in nearly every community racial justice and social justice organization and board. We have also recently added a Minister of Social Justice to our staff. 

We are actively engaged in education for all ages, currently rebuilding our children’s program and sending youth to regional and national youth events. Our adult programs are dynamic and daring; Seekers is an action-packed topical conversation-oriented group, and Eureka! is venturing out from its lectionary bible-study roots to explore meaningful and cutting-edge studies. And we have recently added the First Sunday Forum intended to delve deeply into vital and timely topics like climate change and immigration. 

We have a long tradition of great music that now rests primarily with our Sanctuary choir, and two bell choirs, one for adults and one for youth. We are blessed to have a wonderfully talented music director and three gifted in-house musicians to support all aspects of the music program. In addition, ensembles pop up from time to time and various solo artists offer their talents as well. And we are now nearing completion of the first phase of renovation of our 1941 Moller organ. 

We have been blessed with a wonderful building and we are committed to using it for the greater good. The building is currently home to: 13 AA and Al-Anon meetings every week, a Birthing Circle, a Reiki group, Junior Women, Healthcare for All, Civitan, the Caring Carroll Board, and many community events. We serve “The Best Spaghetti Dinner in Town” as a monthly fund-raiser through much of each year, with an ever-increasing group of “regulars” and a vibrant spirit. 

Our Connections Team is actively working to create opportunities for us to have fun together, play together, and get to know each other better through a wide range of engaging activities and events. 

As our next major focus, we are dedicating this church year to becoming a WISE Congregation through the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network. We are just now beginning our WISE study and becoming involved with the network of other WISE Congregations that are welcoming, inclusive, supportive, and engaged with mental illness, substance abuse, and brain disorders. At the same time we are expanding our relationships in the local mental health and substance abuse communities and preparing to offer the first Carroll County peer-to-peer support group sanctioned by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Our goal is to complete a thorough period of study and reflection, and to officially become a WISE Congregation in May of 2019, and then perhaps to help other regional churches engage in the process also. 

REVerberations – September 2018

Marty Kuchma, Senior Pastor

How time flies… I think about my girls and their friends, and about all the young people of St. Paul’s. And I am amazed at how much they have moved beyond their former selves, heading into new grades and new schools, starting college, graduating, and forging their way in new careers, new relationships, new lives, all the while growing into the beautiful people they are becoming. It is exciting to witness, indeed an honor and a privilege, even if it evokes a certain amount of wistful nostalgia. (OK, I know “wistful nostalgia” may be a bit redundant, but I like it.)

It only seems fair that the young people grow and change. Life happens to and with and for us all, for better… and for worse, too, I suppose. Working on the new church picture directory over the Summer has been a fascinating experience of looking back at the last one published in 2006 while at the same time having the opportunity to see advance copies of the awesome latest edition. Even as I celebrate the sheer multi-faceted beauty of who we are now as a congregation, I remember how and who we were back then as well, including those whose pictures, for whatever reasons, don’t appear in the current version. And I feel genuine fondness for all.

Since that 2006 directory was published, so much else has changed. At that time we were just barely thinking about wading into conversations about possibly becoming an Open and Affirming Congregation, maybe. With a mix of determination and trepidation, we were contemplating the process of study that would help us make our decision. And, unbelievably, it’s now been ten years since we endorsed our Open and Affirming declaration. Wow, how that changed us, how that radically expanded our welcome and helped us appreciate the blessings of coming together across sometimes seemingly vast differences that, despite our initial worries, can never obscure all that we hold in common and all that brings us together still.

Not only has becoming Open and Affirming changed who we are, it has shaped what we do. For example, as an Open and Affirming congregation we have helped create and continue to host a flourishing PFLAG Chapter in our midst and, in collaboration with PFLAG, we have been host to hugely successful community meetings and events, and to lovely annual Valentine’s dances, and to a drag show that packed Fellowship Hall with enthusiastic guests. We have created First Fridays that is thriving as a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer young people. And, with the dawning of Marriage Equality, we have held joy-filled and long-awaited same-gender weddings in our Sanctuary. Throughout, St. Paul’s has been overwhelmingly blessed, enriched, and strengthened by the myriad contributions made by wonderful, talented, committed people who might never have crossed the church threshold if not for the courage and wisdom to live up to and live into the ONA declaration. We are immeasurably better for becoming Open and Affirming, and for living beyond that, for really meaning it when we say “no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!”

We have not stopped expanding our welcome and vigorously engaging in all sorts of work in pursuit of authentic social justice and extravagant inclusion. Yet, as much as the world has changed in the past ten or twelve years, I find it rather remarkable that we are still the only Open and Affirming Christian congregation in Carroll County. May there soon be others, who finally discover the love at the heart of the Christian message, get past misinformed and misplaced obstacles, and simply get on with it.

Of course there is so much more for us to do, and we shall continue to boldly engage in the work that lies ahead. Yet for this moment, we will pause to mark this very special occasion, to celebrate this Tenth Anniversary, and to look forward to the next ten years with hope and renewed zeal.

In the meanwhile, we will, with similar fortitude and dedication, take on the next parallel but unrelated process: becoming a WISE Congregation (Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged with Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, and Brain Disorders). We will do this so that we can be better prepared to extend welcome and love in even more ways to even more people. Becoming WISE will be the major theme of this church year, and the work begins with the recognition that there is a whole group of people who do not yet feel like there is a church home for them. We will become that church home and more.

In all of this, all of us together are making a difference in people’s lives and in the world, and we are doing so in the footsteps of Jesus, who calls us still to share God’s love with every person everywhere. May it be so. And may God be with us on this next phase of our congregational journey.

Be well…
Marty

REVerberations – July/August 2018

 

Marty Kuchma, Senior Pastor 

And so we come to our Summer edition of Highlights. Thanks to our wonderful editor, Renee Fink, for yet another year with a high-quality, first-rate newsletter, compiled and produced each month with professionalism, creativity, and compassion! Thank you also to all who have contributed to Highlights, whether on a regular basis or just episodically. Thanks as well to everyone who has read Highlights or at least scanned portions of it. Honestly, a lot of folks work hard to communicate important things by way of Highlights, “Tidbits,” the Facebook page, the website, the “Things to Know” part of the Sunday bulletins, in-service announcements, bulletin inserts, directed emails, posters and flyers, etc. Amidst all those possibilities, word-of-mouth is undoubtedly the most effec-tive way to communicate. Be sure to do your part. Spread the word! 

Looking toward the near future, the following is a collection of things we all might benefit from knowing: 

Rev. Erin Snell has been named St. Paul’s Minister of Social Justice. Welcome, Erin, to this new role! Consistory made the decision to officially name Erin to this newly-created volunteer position in recognition of her many years of ordained status and her fierce commitment to social justice, notably in her sustained participation in the leadership of PFLAG and Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality. Erin has also recently become very active in the reboot of Martin Luther King’s Poor Peoples’ Campaign that blends passion for economic and racial justice. In her role as Minister of Social Justice, Erin will serve as a conduit for information and opportunities for the rest of us to constructively engage around pressing issues. Erin will also be a resource if people have ideas for new social justice activities and interests. I am excited to have Erin on board in this new capacity! 

A group is now forming to help us celebrate our Tenth Anniversary of becoming Open and Affirming. Can you believe it? Ten years this coming October! So much has happened in that time, and the world continues to become a place where everyone is loved and valued. Yet we are surely not there by any means, and the struggles continue… We will be sure to mark this historic moment well, and to be prepared for the work that still lies ahead. 

One aspect of that ongoing work relates to having a Drag Show in Fellowship Hall on July 7. That event will help stretch us just a bit more in terms of our identity as an extravagantly welcoming congregation and establish us even more clearly as a beacon of hope and a place of refuge for LGBTQ people and the broader community. 

Also in Fellowship Hall, on Sunday, July 29, at 5:00pm we will be working with the Sunday Night Big Band for our third annual “Christmas in July” concert to benefit Access Carroll by way of Big Band Merry Christmas. This has consistently been a great show. Come on out and enjoy a wonderful event! You might even want to bring your dancing shoes. 

And on August 12, we will host an afternoon concert by local blues musician Christopher James and his band. All proceeds from the concert will be used to support the border ministry of Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Sahuarita, Arizona. This is one of the ministries that leaves food and water in the desert for people making perilous passages. This concert will offer great music for yet another great cause. 

The long-awaited organ refurbishment is expected to begin during the second week of July and to continue into October. The work will include installing updated technology that will give that old instrument new life. Thanks to all who have contributed to funding this first phase of repairs and renovation! And to Bob Frazee for thoughtfully overseeing and passionately driving this process! 

Starting on August 1, we will begin a period that the Worship Creation Team is thinking of as “Forty Days in the Wilderness” during which we will not be using the Sanctuary. From Sunday, August 5 until Sunday, Au-gust 26, we will worship in Fellowship Hall. While this period will overlap with the time the organ is being worked on, it is not necessary that we be out of the Sanctuary. Instead, this will be used as a time to intentionally step out of routines, immerse ourselves in new experiences, and perhaps make new discoveries along the way. On Sunday, September 2, we will, as per usual, worship in Belle Grove Square Park with Westminster Church of the Brethren for Labor Day. Then on Sunday, September 9, we will return at long last to the Sanctuary for our 9:30 Homecoming Service, immediately after which we will have our annual 30/30 Challenge Opportunity Fair in Fellowship Hall. On Sunday, September 16, we will return to two services and regular Sunday School sessions. 

Beginning in earnest in September, we will deliberately make our way to become a WISE Congregation, Wel-coming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged with Men-tal Illness. This process will be a central focus through-out the church year. Over the Summer, the WISE Leadership Team will be working on a plan for helping us learn what we need to know and prepare as best we can for what will eventually be a congregational vote on a declarative statement, presumably next Spring, that will be the mechanism by which we officially become a WISE Congregation. 

In the midst of all of that and more, I hope that our Summer Travelers will be blessed on their journeys, and that those who are staying close will find enjoy-ment and rewards as well. 

Until the next edition of Highlights in early September, be well… 

Marty 

REVerberations – June 2018

Marty Kuchma, Senior Pastor 

This past Monday morning, I rang the church bell at the start of the Westminster Memorial Day parade. Tucked away in that steeple stairwell, holding that old, fraying rope, I felt deeply honored to have some part in this grand annual community celebration, the longest-standing Memorial Day parade in the United States, so I hear. Quite a tradition! Aware of that, and of my heart-felt desire to honor all who have died in war, I pulled that rope just a little harder and rang that bell just a little longer. 

Eventually rung out, I made my way to the parade route where I caught up with some old friends standing in the crowd in front of what used to be the bank. Together we all waited and watched for the parade, which turned out to be very exciting, with motorcycles roaring by, and lots of veterans representing various groups, riding in cars and on trucks and proudly strolling in uniform down the parade route. I do indeed give thanks for their service. They’ve had experiences with which I, thankfully, will never have to personally grapple, nor will I ever fully comprehend. 

The marching bands enlivened the crowd as they passed. And the fraternal and community service organizations paraded by, Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, a wonderful reminder of the great good work they do to help people in our community and beyond. There were little baseball players and baton twirlers and various politicians and pageant winners, and scouts, both Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts seemingly still separate for now. And as the son of a professional fire-fighter, I always find fire trucks captivating in their own way; they closed out the parade. 

There was much to take in. Indeed there were many things that commended this hour-long parade, not least the fact that it is a community event for which Continue reading REVerberations – June 2018

REVerberations – May 2018

 

REVerberations 

Marty Kuchma, Senior Pastor 

First Sunday Forums. We are due to have the first First Sunday Forum after the 10:45 service on May 6. We will gather in the Seekers Room from approximately noon until 1:30. As you are able, I would ask that, if you attend, you bring a little food to share. The kitchen refrigerators and microwave will be available as needed. Beverages will be provided. 

For the past couple of weeks, I have posted that the first topic would be Money and how it is interwoven with so much of life. Well, I have been thinking about this a lot and I want to walk that back a bit. Money might be – and I suspect will be – a topic we will want to explore in this Forum. But maybe not first. 

Rather than me coming up with a topic, I think it will be best if we have a chance to talk through possibilities together. So the gathering on May 6 will be a time for all present to have a say in what we will talk about in the next session. If you are unable to be there that day but want to be part of this, email me your ideas for what we might focus on in a future session. 

It might be helpful if I explained a bit about what I have envisioned for this time. There are so many big issues, even “ultimate” issues that deserve more thoughtful attention than we are usually able to give them in the rush of our daily lives. And there are plenty of topics, I assume, that we would benefit from talking about with interested and interesting others. I hope that, in the Forum, we can create a space in which to have informed, facilitated conversations about things that matter, incorpo-rating some relevant study in advance, and allowing each participant and the group to go as deep on relevant topics as we can in a focused hour and a half. 

As a monthly gathering on the first Sun-day of each month, we will have the opportunity to, for example, read a book, or research a topic, or ponder articles of interest to the group on a specific topic. While I would not want to “schedule” too far in advance lest we risk missing critical moments and oppor-tunities to let conversations build organically over time, we can use each month to learn as individuals and share as a group about what we decide to focus on from session to session. We might even chose to create a way of being in touch in the interim by way of email or some other electronic means. 

Some examples of what this group might delve into… Money might indeed be something we choose to talk about, how it (insidiously?) drives much of the way the world works and has implica-tions for nearly every facet of life, how it is at the root of societal fractures and maybe all evil, how it can be a blessing and a curse. Is it possible that we spend too much of our lives chasing after health in ways that may not matter much in the long-run but give us illusions of control over death as our ultimate fate? And what about that? What does it mean to be vulnerable beings sus-pended somewhere between birth and death? Or are we that at all? On a different scale, how do we make sense of living on a planet that is dying? Will we, should we, could we do something to turn that tide? What matters most in life? And what role does faith play in any of it? What has the “Church” gotten right? What has it gotten wrong? What does it mean to be “us” as we have these conversations and how might other “us-es” see things differently? What about all of this us/them stuff anyway? How did we get to such deep societal divisions, and is healing even an option, and, if so, how? How can we discern what really is “true?” What should we be thinking about and doing relative to the various hashtags, #metoo, #BlackLivesMatter, #EnoughIsEnough, etc. And what does it mean to live in a hashtag-laden world? What really are American values? Carroll County values? St. Paul’s values? What else? 

What big things are you thinking about that you would love to talk about with others in an intentional way? 

The way I see it, we are blessed to be part of an amaz-ing congregation that collectively forms a broad base of knowledge and wisdom and encompasses an inter-esting array of perspectives that we can share in an open and thoughtful context. I want to make the most of those gifts, to the benefit of each participant, and the group, and the broader congregation, and the wid-er world. 

I cordially invite you to be part of the first First Sunday Forum, and to join in this venture of talking and learn-ing together about things that matter. Let’s make this happen! 

Marty 

(Note that the First Sunday Forum is offered in addition to our wonderful ongoing Adult Ministries programs, Eureka! and Seekers. Those groups do extraordinary things week in and week out. First Sunday Forum will provide yet another avenue for learning and growth. Perhaps this Forum will be distinguished by a couple of factors: it will involve intentional group study in ad-vance of each session; it will allow time and be facili-tated in a way that will drill down on topics in a conver-sational format; it will intentionally include a variety of “outside” voices to spark, ground, and inform our con-versation; it is designed to be responsive to but not driven by current events; and it will be offered at a different time than the other programs, including over the Summer – with the exception of June 3, the day of the Spring Congregational Meeting.) 

REVerberations – April 2018

Marty Kuchma, Senior Pastor 

We are almost there… As you receive this edition of Highlights, we will be in the period of waiting, according to the biblical account of the Passion.

We may think back on the Lenten jour-ney by which we got to this point in the story, on what brought us to Jerusalem, and on how the disciples of Jesus’ day really did not understand the depth of sacrifice that would be required of Je-sus, and of them once they got there. There are many ways in which we are just like them, just as clueless, and we hope for new insight and enlighten-ment, some kind of deeper appreciation of what this season is all about. This whole season, taken all together, evokes such a mix of profound sorrow and the great joy to which the sorrow gives way, eventually. Throughout, we are reminded again and again that hard times matter.

We will recall the story of Jesus’ passion that is played out in the public square over a couple of excruciating days, and his crucifixion that lasts through an afternoon, ending at 3pm with Jesus’ last gasp. Perhaps we will take the invi-tation to let go of parts of ourselves and our lives that distract us from our high-est calling, and we will re-prioritize what we are going to live for and what we are willing to die for. We are reminded that Luke’s Jesus instructs us to take up our crosses daily, and we will proceed with a new sense of the gravity of that com-mand.

On Saturday, we will have the oppor-tunity to wait expectantly, keeping in mind that the very first disciples had no idea what would come next after Jesus was placed in the tomb. May we be blessed to feel that same kind of fresh-ness in the Holy Week and Easter expe-rience this year. We will undoubtedly be tempted to dedicate the day to er-rands and preparation for Sunday, and to other mundane tasks and routines. Yet I hope we will each make at least a little time to tend to an awesomeness of the moment in our spiritual lives, pa-tiently letting its potential unfold in or-ganic ways.

And on Sunday… On Sunday, we will gather to celebrate, in our Easter ser-vices, and in meaningful moments with family and friends. Joy will abound! If we let it be so, we will be enveloped by a sense of new life, new hope, new pos-sibilities, and maybe even an awareness of new responsibilities and obligations that flow from our claims of disciple-ship.

Then what? What’s next?

One might say that what’s next should involve continuing Jesus’ work in the world, bringing God’s love to all people, creating a world in which God’s love is indeed ubiquitous, pervasive. We might think of the season and seasons after Easter as a time to carry on the work of justice for which Jesus lived and for which Jesus died. Lord knows there are powers for us to confront and plenty of injustice and inequity for us to take on. There are wrongs to be righted and priorities to be re-shuffled, in our individual lives and our collective life. And if we don’t carry on the work, who will?

So, what will you do? Will you do anything different at all? Are you open to actually being different?

I pray that we will make choices that truly and in every way carry forward Jesus’ legacy and love.

I guess we’ll see how it goes from here…

Happy Easter and Beyond!

Marty

REVerberations – March 2018

Marty Kuchma, Senior Pastor 

I’d like to tell you a little about my friend George. Truth is I don’t know as much about him as I want to or will know; but he is an interesting guy, and always eager to talk. He is a good conversation partner, remarkably polite, and kind and gentle. George reads the Bible every day, even as he studies for the nursing program in which he is enrolled at the Community College, both texts carefully highlighted.

Now George has really appreciated the welcome he has received at our Thursday Meal and More, and he has expressed his gratitude many times. He has even said the blessing before the meal on a Thursday when I was at an-other meeting. He is homeless for now. And he has been looking for a place to worship on Sunday mornings since the church he’s been attending is having some internal strife at the moment.

So George showed up at St. Paul’s one Sunday morning. I sorely wish I had realized the need and found a way to let everyone know that George, based on all I know about him, is not a threat to anyone. Instead, he is a blessing to be around. Continue reading REVerberations – March 2018

REVerberations – February 2018

Marty Kuchma, Senior Pastor 

Greetings!

This edition of Highlights will bring us to Lent, which is yet another time for new beginnings in the Church-year calendar. It invites us to do something different or to do what we do differently. Originally, Lent was simply another name for Spring, when the green fullness of na-ture slowly begins to re-emerge from the cold and gray of Winter. Eventually, Lent was given special meaning within the Church as forty days of anticipating and preparing for Easter, the central celebration of Christianity, without which we would likely not be Christians at all.

The Latin word related to Lent is quad-ragesima, meaning fortieth day. It is often said to experientially parallel the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness in advance of the beginning of his pubic ministry. In that wilderness, Jesus un-derwent temptation and withstood all of the challenges. And he returned from the wilderness emboldened Continue reading REVerberations – February 2018

REVerberations – November 2017

by Rev. Dr. Marty Kuchma, Senior Pastor

On October 31, 1517, a Catholic priest and professor named Martin Luther posted his infamous 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  By so doing, Luther intended to reform the Catholic Church, but what he did resulted in a Church split that gave birth to Protestantism.  His act precipitated a seismic shift in the life of the Church.  Remember that before Luther, for about 1500 years, “the Church” was the Catholic Church.  All of that changed 500 years ago this week.  So, as Protestants, we celebrate that powerfully transformative moment in the history of the Church that had significant implications for the history of the world.

A number of factors converged at the moment in history when Luther approached the church door with his hammer in hand.  For example, there had been previous attempts at reform over several centuries, like those led by Jan Hus who was burned for his heresy, John Wycliffe who translated the Bible into English in the fourteenth century, and others.  Luther could capture some of that energy in his bold action.  At about the same time, Gutenberg’s printing press had come into popular use, so Luther’s own writings could be published broadly and, as was Luther’s intent, the Bible could be mass produced in many languages.  And, importantly, Luther addressed deeper issues of theological significance.

Luther’s concerns, as a faithful priest, were numerous, but in particular, he was driven to take action by the Catholic Church’s wide use of indulgences that had their roots in acts of simple penitence Continue reading REVerberations – November 2017