Posted in Prayers and Reflections

Blessed Assurance: Then and Now and Forevermore

  • March 5, 2019

On Sunday, we sang this old familiar hymn with a bit of a twist with lyrics adapted to fit the themes that the Youth so eloquently brought forth to the congregation as they led worship together.

Blessed assurance, God’s love is mine. Oh what a free gift, from the divine. Known for who I am, called to be me Born of the Spirit, loved tenderly.

This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long. This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long.

When I feel doubtful, alone, or afraid
Longing for comfort from friends who have stayed Close by my side and – who see the real me Blessed child of God, I – am thankful and free.

This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long. This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long.

Filled with God’s goodness, all is at rest
Mind, body, and soul are peaceful and blessed. Jesus walks with me, holding my hand
Called to share God’s love, throughout the land.

This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long. This is my story, this is my song. Living in God’s love, all the day long.

*We also discovered an amazing history of this beloved hymn. Read on!!

Fanny Crosby: Legendary Methodist Hymn Writer (1820-1915)

“Blessed Assurance” is one of the most beloved songs in the United Methodist Hymnal. The person who composed this classic, Fanny Crosby is credited with writing 8000 hymns in her lifetime–despite losing her sight six weeks after birth in 1820. This blind, musical visionary was a lifelong Methodist who began composing hymns at age six. From the age of 15, Crosby attended the New York Institute for the Blind and later joined the faculty and met her husband there. Alexander Van Alstyne, blind himself, was supportive. He often transcribed his wife’s poems since Crosby could not write and composed the lyrics entirely in her mind.

The Rev. Alfred T. Day: “Fanny Crosby was not held back at all by her blindness. And probably the words of her poetry and hymns helped more people to see and know and experience Jesus as anybody with two working eyes and 20/20 vision.”

Crosby’s writings never brought her wealth. She was often paid just a dollar or two per poem with the rights to the songs being retained by the composer or music publishers. At one point, the songstress was destitute but Crosby wrote in her autobiography that the songs were God’s work and not for profit. Any royalties she received were often donated toward the mission work she championed with prisoners, homeless people, immigrants and the poor. Crosby was most drawn to her denomination’s work with the marginalized and her songs spoke to social issues of the day including the temperance movement and the campaign against child labor.

Middle class women in nineteenth-century United States had little voice in worship, however. One of the only ways for a woman to claim the authority to be heard was by direct personal revelation from God. Fanny Crosby readily claimed God’s personal revelation as a source for her hymns; her personal revelation then became a communal inspiration as Christians throughout the world sang her hymns and confirmed her faith experience as their own.

So it is in honor of Fanny Crosby, and in the spirit of inclusivity, that we sing this song today.

Advent Blessings at Walden

  • December 11, 2018

Prayer walking in winter can be invigorating and inspiring!  Take a look at what we are seeing on our WCUC Walden Prayer Walks.  God’s Advent invitation to slow down, to ponder with expectation, and to stay awake comes alive in this place.


Gratitude

What did you notice?

The dew-snail;
the low-flying sparrow;
the bat, on the wind, in the dark;
big-chested geese, in the V of sleekest performance;
the soft toad, patient in the hot sand;
the sweet-hungry ants;
the uproar of mice in the empty house;
the tin music of the cricket’s body;
the blouse of the goldenrod.

What did you hear?

The thrush greeting the morning;
the little bluebirds in their hot box;
the salty talk of the wren,
then the deep cup of the hour of silence.

When did you admire?

The oaks, letting down their dark and hairy fruit;
the carrot, rising in its elongated waist;
the onion, sheet after sheet, curved inward to the pale green wand;
at the end of summer the brassy dust, the almost liquid beauty of the flowers;
then the ferns, scrawned black by the frost.

What astonished you?

The swallows making their dip and turn over the water.

What would you like to see again?

My dog: her energy and exuberance, her willingness,
her language beyond all nimbleness of tongue,
her recklessness, her loyalty, her sweetness,
her strong legs, her curled black lip, her snap.

What was most tender?

Queen Anne’s lace, with its parsnip root;
the everlasting in its bonnets of wool;
the kinks and turns of the tupelo’s body;
the tall, blank banks of sand;
the clam, clamped down.

What was most wonderful?

The sea, and its wide shoulders;
the sea and its triangles;
the sea lying back on its long athlete’s spine.

What did you think was happening?

The green beast of the hummingbird;
the eye of the pond;
the wet face of the lily;
the bright, puckered knee of the broken oak;
the red tulip of the fox’s mouth;
the up-swing, the down-pour, the frayed sleeve of the first snow—so the gods shake us from our sleep.                                  – Mary Oliver

Newcomers are always welcome.  Join us if you can!  We walk every Monday, beginning at 9am with joys and concerns sharing time, followed by a silent journey around this amazing pond!  Our last walk of this season will be on Monday, December 17th, and we will begin again on Monday, January 7th.

Praying with our Neighbors

  • November 6, 2018

This past Friday night, folks from WCUC gathered along with members of many local faith communities and other friends to light the way into Shabbat services for our Jewish neighbors at Kerem Shalom.  Some folks provided candles to share; others, including Jim, helped lead us in music. We held signs and witnessed to the light of hope together.  The Kerem Shalom community graciously welcomed us in to participate in the Shabbat service.  This beautiful worship experience included songs and prayers in Hebrew and English, a special remembrance of those who died in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and words from Rabbi Darby Leigh. Rabbi Darby invited us to consider last week’s tragedy in the wider context of intolerance and violence, and encouraged us to continue to build local connections that will nurture love and understanding in our communities. The folks at Kerem Shalom provided a wonderful reception and warm fellowship for all who were there. It was truly a blessing to be there!

Please read below for Pastor Hannah’s brief remarks during the service:

I give thanks to Rabbi Darby and this congregation for your hospitality in welcoming those of us who are your neighbors, to share this tender time with you.

This Sunday, many Christians will be studying a text from the book of Ruth, a text that is holy in both Jewish and Christian traditions. In this story, we meet a woman named Naomi who is grieving the loss of her husband and both of her sons. Naomi tries to send her daughters-in-law away from her, back to their parents. She has nothing to give them; no way to protect them. But her daughter-in-law, Ruth, says: “Where you go, I will go; where you stay, I will stay.  Your people shall be my people, and your God my God…Not even death will part me from you.”  So Naomi and Ruth journey on together, and together they make a new life.

As we witness hateful speech and action around us, we must condemn the wrong that is done.  As a Christian pastor, I especially grieve that violent anti-Semitism has been justified by Christians and by Christian scriptures. Jesus himself was a faithful Jew; and Judaism is both an honored ancestor and a beloved sibling to the Christian faith. We share sacred texts and holy values. We both follow a call to love God with all that we are, to honor one another, to care for the most vulnerable among us.

I pray that all of us, from many traditions, religious or not, will respond to the tragedies around us today not only by grieving, but also by growing in our practice of the kind of love that Ruth models. Let us go with one another; let us stay with one another; let us understand ourselves to be one people, bound together. May it be so.

Walden Prayer Walking: From Fear to Freedom

  • October 2, 2018

WCUC’s Walden Prayer Walkers are finding solace and serenity in community, in contemplative exercise, and in the sights and silence that the site offers.   Join us on the beach at 9am on Mondays.  Newcomers are always welcome!  Here is a glimpse of our Walden Wisdom in September.

My life flows on in endless song,
Above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the clear, though far off hymn
That hails a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

This is a Christian hymn written by Baptist Minister Robert Wadsworth Lawry in 1869 and later adapted by the Quakers as well as secular musicians such as Pete Seeger and Enya.   Early in September, we used it as our reflection in our opening circle time and carried it with us as we walked around the pond.

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”  More recently, these words of Maya Angelou centered us and inspired us to keep singing our songs!  That same morning, as if by divine intervention, a resident Great Blue Heron joined us on our journey and even flew clear across the pond to meet up with  us again for our closing circle.  A grace-filled moment and a sign of hope that we too will be free to fly and sing.

 

Caged Bird

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind   
and floats downstream   
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and   
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.
The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

 

Bless the Space Between Us: Summer comes to Walden

  • June 5, 2018

With signs of summer everywhere, the WCUC Walden Prayer walkers enjoyed their final walk together for this season.  Consider joining us next fall and in the meantime, continue to breath deeply, pray fervently and walk with intention.  May God bless you with many grace filled moments this summer!

“For Equilibrium, a Blessing:

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,

May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

As the wind loves to call things to dance,

May your gravity by lightened by grace.

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,

May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,

So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,

May your sense of irony bring perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,

May your mind stay clear of all it names.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough

to hear in the depths the laughter of god.”

John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

Stillness Speaks at Walden

  • May 16, 2018

Morning Poem
by Mary Oliver 
Every morning

the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches— 
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead—
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging—

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth 
is exactly what it wanted—

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

TRUTH and HOPE

Come sit with me, here beneath the shade, in the quiet corner of creation, and together we will sort out the worries of the world. We may not have the power to make things right, not with a single word, but we have words enough to speak the truth, and there is a power in truth greater than money can buy. From our bench we will survey the great garden of hope, growing in an abundance that knows no borders, welcoming the children of every land, sheltering the elders who come to talk away the warm afternoon. Come pray with me, in any way you want, until our dreams appear like fireflies, here beneath the shade, telling us it is time to go, time to make our way home until another day.

Steven Charleston

Join us on the beach on Tuesdays @ 9:30am for prayer walking!  Newcomers always welcome.

Wisdom at Walden

  • April 30, 2018

“She will guide me prudently in my undertakings.”  Wisdom 9:11

Spring is beginning to show up at Walden Pond!  Join us for walking prayer on Tuesdays @ 9:30am to share in friendship, nature, silence, and reflections.

Open Window

“Inside each of us there awaits a wonder – full spirit of freedom.

She waits to dance in the rooms of our heart that are closed, dark and cluttered.

She waits to dance in the spaces where negative feelings have build barricades and stock-piled weapons.

She waits to dance in the corners where we still do not believe in our goodness.

Inside each of us there awaits a wonder – full spirit of freedom.

She will lift light feet and make glad songs within us on the day we open the door of ego and let the enemies stomp out.”

from Joyce Rupp’s The Star in my Heart: Experiencing Sophia, Inner Wisdom

Holy Week Reflection: Tuesday Morning with God at Walden Pond

  • March 27, 2018

Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
—Psalm 71.3

From a lectionary reading for Tuesday of Holy Week: Psalm 71.1-14

Happy Holy Week from the Walden Prayer Walkers of WCUC!  This morning, as the sun sparkled on the water and the crisp air filled our lungs, we listened for God’s voice in the words of the Psalmist and in the wisdom of poet, writer, and theologian, Jan Richardson.  Walden for us has become what she describes as “not a place of escape from spiritual struggle but a space where [we] can both wrestle with God and rest in the God who delivers [us] and provides shelter and strength for [our] souls.”

On this Lenten day, where do you find the solid ground that God provides? How do you seek the refuge, solace, and shelter that God offers you—not as a perpetual escape from the world but as a place of safety where you can receive the strength and sustenance that will enable you to engage the world in the ways God needs you to engage it?

Blessing of Refuge

That I may flee to you
not to escape forever
from the world
that you have created,
the world that you
call beloved

but that in your refuge
I will find
your presence
to strengthen me
your courage
to sustain me
your grace
to encompass me
as I go
where you would
have me go.

You can find Jan Richardson’s full reflection here:

Youth: Lessons in Love for Lent

  • February 27, 2018

“All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”     –  Charles M. Schulz

 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” –  Luke 10:27

“Love is a song that never ends.”     – Bambi

“Love can move mountains.”    – Celine Dion

“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.”     – George Sand

“Hate cannot drive out hate.  Only love can do that.” – MLK Jr.

“Love is patient.  Love is kind.” – Corinthians 13:4

“Welcome everyone, to the love of God.” – WCUC

These are just a few of the “love quotes” generated by the youth to be used at WCUC’s Ash Wednesday prayer service:  “Marked by Love”.  The youth have been exploring the promise of God’s unconditional love and it’s power to inspire us to put our faith into action as we share that love with our neighbors.  During vacation week, several youth volunteered to help out at Household Goods in Acton, an organization that receives donations to be given to people who are in need of home furnishings.  Later in the week, even more youth came to church to paint some bulletin boards that will be hung in the downstairs hallway to hold pictures of our congregation.

“And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” 

                                                                                                                                            Mark 1:12-13 

These verses from Mark, traditionally read at the beginning of every Lent, inspired a youth art project that illustrates the answers to two questions:  What “wild beasts” challenge you in life?  and Who are the “angels” that support you along the way?

Stop by the Youth Room when you get a chance to take a look at the creative results!

                    

Walking Prayer at Walden: Lent, Love, Life….

  • February 27, 2018

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.                                                                                              Mark 1:12-13

“Holy Spirit, drive me out of my comfort zone and into the fullness of life.  And thanks for the angels.”                                                From the UCC Lent Devotional:  “Lovers and Fools”

Just as winter begins to move towards spring at Walden Pond, so also our lenten journeys wander towards Easter and its promise of new life.  We carry with us hearts full of joy and sorrow, questions and certainty, anxiety and peace.  We, like Jesus, walk in the wilderness of life encountering all sorts of “wild beasts” and praising God for the “angels” in our midst.  Our prayer walks at Walden this season have served as reminders of the power that can come from community, nature, and the abiding presence of the Spirit.  Join us on the beach at 9:30am on Tuesdays.  Newcomers are always welcome!

Strong is the hand that holds our own, firm the arm around our shoulder, for the Spirit is a support in time of sorrow, a very real presence in the hour of our need. What is holy is as real as the Earth on which we stand. We can feel it. We can see it. We can breathe it. Especially when we are brought low by the weight of our lives, grieving or afraid, then most of all the tangible presence of love takes shape, lifting us up. The face of God we may imagine in a thousand ways, but the hand of God is always the same: life-giving strength, warm comfort, steady reassurance. No dogma can contain the memory of the touch that holds fragile life in the palm of eternity.

– Steven Charleston,  Native American elder, author, and retired Episcopal bishop of Alaska.