From The Pastor

REVerberations, September 2014

Like the booming bass voice declares at the beginning of the “Festival of the Lion King” show: IT… IS… TIME! 

The 30/30 Challenge was introduced during the Spring Congregational Meeting and in the service leading up to it.  At that time colorful catalogs explaining and outlining various options for completing the Challenge were distributed – thanks Renee!  And the Challenge has been mentioned periodically over the summer.  At the Fall Congregational Gathering on September 7, you will be asked to officially make your choices about what you are going to do to fulfill your part of the Challenge. 

Remember that the 30/30 Challenge is that every member, friend, and visitor of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ will “engage in at least 30 hours of Outreach and at least 30 hours of In-house Service every year.”  Keep in mind that Continue reading REVerberations, September 2014

REVerberations Summer 2014

Greetings!

I recently had the opportunity to experience yet again what it is like to be “held in prayer.”  And it was awesome!  The precipitating factor had to do with my mom’s eye problems and partial loss of vision for which she came to Wilmer Eye Institute for treatment in June and for which she will return in July.  I let that need be known on the congregational email prayer list and almost instantly received a flood of notes offering support, care, and encouragement.  Knowing that there were people loving through prayer provided considerable comfort to my mom and to our whole family.

Time and again, I have witnessed this congregation actively demonstrating compassion in myriad ways.  By asking how another person is then actually listening for the response.  By sending cards, notes, and flowers.  By providing food and other tangible support in small quantities and very large.  By praying and sending positive energy.  By rallying around special collections.  By exchanging heart-felt handshakes and hearty hugs.  By simply hanging around to talk and socialize, building new friendships and strengthening old ones.  Compassion is evident here in so many wonderful and meaningful ways.  By all of those acts and many more, we hold each other, sometimes even holding each other up when life’s burdens are bearing down.  By holding each other in whatever ways we do that, we become the tender hands, and the loving arms, and the immediate presence of God in each other’s lives, incarnations of God’s love for each and every one of us and for the world. Continue reading

REVerberations Summer 2014

Good Friday Cross Walk Reflection by Rev. Dr. Marty Kuchma

Micah 6:8 – And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Cross Walk Reflection by Rev. Dr. Marty Kuchma, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Good Friday, 2014

189246_10151241532581718_1736292925_nJesus was born into utter simplicity, far from the halls of power, just out of sight of mighty kings.  He lived his life in that vulnerable space at the margins of society.  It is from that social location that he spoke and out of that spirit that he acted.  He advocated for a world in which the last would be first and the first last, where the poor would get richer and the rich get poorer, where the mighty would fall and the meek rise up.  In all that he did, he made it so that there was a place at the table, and in his ministry, and in his heart for the people others were content to ignore and ostracize and oppress. Continue reading Good Friday Cross Walk Reflection by Rev. Dr. Marty Kuchma

COMMUNAL REFLECTION

Communal Reflection (Rev. Dr. Marty Kuchma)

 

Imagine a new-born body

Soft, precious, as light as air but distinctly more

A wisp of substance with a lifetime of possibilities

An utterly dependent yet marvelously resilient miracle of new life

 

Imagine a body young and pliable

Emanating endless energy into the world

In all directions and everywhere, exploring, discovering

Probing independence but not alone, brimming over with new life

 

Imagine a body wracked with injury

Bent, broken and bruised, vulnerable, fragile and frail

Sustained mostly by the power of prayers fervently said

A nexus of pain and suffering, seeking relief in healing and new life

 

Imagine a body riddled with disease

Worn down and worn out, turned inside-out and upside-down

Willingly, if reluctantly, collaborating in the destruction of life for life’s sake

Forcing hope from despair, grasping after new life

 

Imagine a body gracefully aged

Elegantly etched with lines that trace memories

Of a life with regrets, to be sure, but well-lived nonetheless

Time and again, celebrating new life, and still.

 

Imagine a body on the verge of death

Depleted, exhausted, chest heaving, gasping for one last breath,

Then receding, perhaps with a final prayer, never to rise again

Breathless and lifeless, a body now jettisoned on the journey toward new life

 

Are we bodies with souls or souls with bodies?

And what of our thoughts and feelings, our hopes and dreams,

The relationships we make real only in our bodied selves

That extend beyond mere flesh and bone

To fill the expansive universe

That lies at once all around us and deep within us.

 

The Passion of Jesus of Nazareth is about so much

That informs our theology and shapes our beliefs

It is a story that begins and ends with a human body

That is born and grows strong then is battered and broken,

For us… But how? And why?

A body rendered breathless, lifeless

Yet fully and forever alive.

REVerberations —– March 2014

I loved my time at Andover Newton Theological School! I was there for three years working on my Master of Divinity degree. For two of those years I lived on campus which is quite near Boston where I had lived before and had many friends. My experience provided a chance to make new friends, to study hard, to reflect deeply on what I was doing in seminary in the first place, and to take my next official steps toward ordained ministry. The professors were so personally involved in students’ lives and I developed some very meaningful mentoring relationships with some of them. Continue reading REVerberations —– March 2014

REVerberations – February 2014

REVerberations – February 2014

And so we enter this New Year with hope and renewed commitment to make a difference in the world.  As you can read at other places in this edition of Highlights, our work on transitional housing continues to build momentum.  We now have groups actively engaged with three shelters in the Human Service Program system which serves all of Carroll County.  Our efforts at feeding people in need continue to grow stronger, more diverse, and more comprehensive; we are discovering more and more of the “more” in Meal and More.  By way of congregational representatives, we are actively advocating in various community forums for services and programs that move people from homelessness to housing.  The St. Paul’s Grant Foundation is being re-directed this year to programs which keep in place local people at risk of losing their homes.  And we are actively leading the way with a new idea to actually create jobs in a cottage industry kind of context for people who want to work but cannot find jobs.  With each new endeavor, there are new needs and opportunities that present themselves. Continue reading REVerberations – February 2014

REVerberations – December 2013

REVerberations – December 2013

 OK, so I have a real problem with Christmas. Not as a concept. But as a cultural feat we attempt to pull off in 24 hours in the dead of winter. So much of the world around us starts building just after mid-year toward what we are to believe is the peak of the season,
December 25. We are compelled to orient our lives toward buying just the right presents that we hide away until just the right time. We plan great acts of benevolence and generosity that we hold off until they fall in line with the spirit that we cram into one season. We anticipate that great gifts will be forwarded our way as the season draws to its climax. We host and attend meals and events that we hope will accentuate the specialness of the holiday, lifting our spirits well into the frozen months to come when we hope the memories are enough to warm us until the sun returns. I guess the trending craze is to replicate Roller Derby in the department store showroom, intent on wresting that cherished item from the hands of other determined shoppers before we even finish giving thanks for what we already have. In short, it is easy to use Christmas as an excuse to buy too much, eat too much, worry too much, expect too much. I wonder how any one day could ever bear the enormous weight of expectation with which we burden it. Continue reading REVerberations – December 2013