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If you see some brightly colored rocks in the Welcome Garden next to West Concord Union Church, you’ve just discovered WCUC Sunday School’s “Kindness Rocks Project.” This simple yet powerful way of sharing messages of hope originated in the mind and heart of Megan Murphy, a mother of three from the Cape going through a life transition.
Each day she would walk on the beach looking for signs that closing her business and going back to school was the right decision. One day in 2013, she was inspired to decorate five ordinary beach rocks with messages of encouragement and return them to the beach. The next night, knowing nothing about their origin, one of Murphy’s close friends texted her a photograph of a rock she’d found on the beach with the message, “You’ve Got This!” It was just the sign Murphy needed to continue on her path. Just four years later, there are kindness rocks being made all over the world from the Cape to New Zealand!
The WCUC Sunday School decided to adopt this Kindness Rocks Project as a way of resisting hate and spreading hope within our community. Come on by the Welcome Garden and check out the messages our children have created. Feel free to take a rock with you or add one of your own. But you might want to come over soon! Kindness rocks have a way of finding new homes quickly! For more information about the Kindness Rocks Project and how to make your own rocks go to: http://thekindessrocksproject.com
On October 8, scores of Dennis Lin’s family and friends gathered to celebrate his life. Dennis grew up locally and graduated from Concord Carlisle High School where he met many of his friends. After high school, Dennis achieved his goal of living independently and resided in West Concord for the past three years.
Dennis died on September 25 after a life-long battle with Prader Willi Syndrome. The love-filled memorial service was hosted by Sunday Fellowship, a ministry for people of all abilities at West Concord Union Church (WCUC), both of which Dennis was an enthusiastic participant. In addition to his many friends at WCUC and Sunday Fellowship, the service was attended by Dennis’s mother, Woahyih Lin, his father, George Chia-En Lin, his brother, Samuel and his aunt, Jenny. Many of Dennis’ former classmates and teachers at Concord-Carlisle High School, gathered with friends he made at local businesses, among Concord’s first responders and on the commuter rail to remember Dennis’ enthusiasm, his love of dancing and his inexhaustible friendliness.
Members of Sunday Fellowship led the congregation in a reading of Psalm 139 affirming that we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God regardless of how our bodies move, communicate or think. Samuel read the story of the Good Samaritan, a scripture Dennis referenced in his testimony. George spoke gratefully of several notes he found among Dennis’ papers in which Dennis expressed deep love and faith. As the coordinator of Sunday Fellowship for the past three and a half years, I couldn’t help but think that Dennis would have LOVED the idea of his friends all meeting each other, especially at a Sunday Fellowship gathering. While I and so many others will always wish we could have had more time with Dennis, we are comforted to know that his time was so very full of love and joy. We love you Dennis!
This week roofing has been completed along with our new solar panels! Insulation was added to the new entryway, appliances were installed in the kitchen, and detail work is wrapping up in the sanctuary. Thanks to all who helped to move items on Sunday!
Last Sunday, Sunday Fellowship was prepared to host a St. Patrick’s Day dance with twenty-five of new friends from the L’Arche Community in Haverhill, MA. We were so excited! The room was decorated. The green punch was ready. We even had a St. Patty’s photo booth supplied with green flashing sunglasses and a sequined bow-tie!
At 4pm, our guests started arriving but our DJ didn’t. This would be a MAJOR party foul in most circles. But it was no biggie for this crowd. In typical Sunday Fellowship style, we didn’t let a little thing like a missing DJ get us down or prevent us from “getting down” with our new friends. We just grabbed a laptop, some speakers and played our own music. The pictures below tell the story: No matter what happens, stay calm and dance on!
What happens up on a mountain?
In the text from the book Exodus today, we are reminded that Moses spends time up on a mountain. It is during his long journey out of Egypt and towards the promised land. Moses says to the elders of the people: “Wait here until I come for you again.” And Moses goes up towards the glory of the Lord, which is like a devouring fire on the top of Mt. Sinai. Moses stays there for forty days and forty nights, receiving the law and the commandments. Then, he comes back down, to share them with his people.
The Prophet Elijah we hear mentioned in the gospel spends time up on a mountain, too. Elijah is in deep trouble; he is fleeing for his life as a result of his prophetic actions. After only one day on the run, he is filled with despair. Elijah sits down under a broom tree and says, “it is enough; O Lord, take away my life.” But as he sleeps there, under the tree, an angel wakes him twice and feeds him. This gives him enough physical and spiritual strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mt. Horeb. It is there, in a cave on the mountain, that he encounters a God who speaks in the silence. God tells Elijah what he needs to do next – how to continue with his work.
Jesus goes up and down mountains a lot; there are plenty of stories from the gospel of Matthew, which we are following this year. Jesus is tempted by the devil on the top of a mountain (4:8). He spends three chapters giving a sermon on a mountain (Ch.5-7). Not long afterwards, (14:23) Jesus goes up on a mountain to pray by himself. A little later, he heals on a mountain (15:29).Today Jesus decides it’s time for another hike.
I wonder what kind of a mountain trip Peter and James and John think they are on. These three earliest disciples of Jesus are the only ones invited to go with him up on the mountain this time. Whatever they expect, Peter and James and John, I have to guess it isn’t what actually happens. When they arrive at the top of the mountain, Jesus doesn’t preach, or pray, or heal; he doesn’t do any of the things he’s done on mountains before. Instead, Jesus is transfigured before them. His appearance changes, and they can actually see God shining through him: in his face, which looks like the sun; in his clothes, which dazzle the eye.
Peter and James and John hardly have time to take this in, though, before Moses and Elijah appear on either side of Jesus and begin talking with him. What would I give to hear that conversation? It’s hard to overstate what a big deal it is, how incredible it is for Jesus to have these particular two people show up to talk with him: two amazing faith freedom fighters, back from the dead. It’s as if one of us climbed a mountain and Sojourner Truth and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. appeared on either side, and started shooting the breeze with us.
Jesus is blazing with light and chatting with Moses and Elijah and Peter feels his heart grow three sizes. He blurts out, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But while Peter is speaking, God herself interrupts. A bright cloud overshadows them and a voice declares, “This is my son, the beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”
This is all too much for Peter, and James, and John. The voice of God: this is the final straw. The disciples fall to the ground in abject awe, in utter amazement, in holy fear. But again, in a moment, the scene changes. Jesus comes, and touches them, and says, “Get up and do not be afraid.” It’s only Jesus there, now. His famous companions have disappeared. He no longer shines. Suddenly they are all walking back down the mountain, Peter and James and John and Jesus.
What happens up on a mountain? Mountains are a good place to meet God. Other things can happen there too; other things do happen there; but the mountain, in our tradition, is a good place to meet God. Mountains are places where we might see God, like a blinding light; or hear God, like a voice in the silence; or witness God’s glory showing forth in a human face.
Where are your mountains?
In the sessions I’ve been leading this month, we’ve been talking about God in unexpected places. Because, of course, God does not only show up on mountains. God shows up in all kinds of places, and in all kinds of practices, and in all kinds of relationships. God is always and everywhere, but most of us only manage to tune our hearts to a God frequency a small fraction of the time. Sometimes, it is a complete surprise when and where we encounter God. Sometimes, we can begin to recognize patterns and paths of where our hearts are most likely to be ready.
Where are your mountains? Few of us have seen God face to face, like Moses; or received clear instructions from God, like Elijah; or witnessed the amazing events of the Transfiguration of Jesus, like Peter and James and John. But there is wonder and meaning and love beyond reason in every life I’ve witnessed so far. Where are your mountains?
It’s an important question for all of us on journeys of faith. It’s an important question right now.
We are, here, a non-partisan organization, and there are people in our community of a variety of political affiliations and voting records and policy opinions. Everyone is welcome. No one should be treated with disgust or disregard. And, it is our responsibility, all of us, to consider the current events in light of our Christian tradition. We can see that the first few weeks of this new administration has created suffering and fear for the people Jesus was most concerned about: the poor, the shunned, the stranger. So many people are suffering and afraid. We are afraid: of hate crime, of bullying, of deportation, of loss of health care, of treaty violations, of the destruction of creation.
All of this takes spiritual energy. Even if our privilege protects us from a great deal of the suffering and fear, there is a spiritual cost to witnessing the suffering and fear of others; a spiritual cost to witnessing the deceit and callous disregard of some of our leaders. There is spiritual energy demanded, too, in discerning each day how to care for ourselves, and how to care for one another in the midst of this.
We need some time up on a mountain.
In this transfiguration story, Peter usually gets ridiculed. Simon Peter is known for his reckless enthusiasm. In story after story, he almost gets it right because of his big faithful heart – and then he gets it wrong, because he takes it too far. It’s clear from our text today that it would be foolish, and impossible, to follow Peter’s suggestion and build dwellings on the mountaintop for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Peter is so enraptured by this moment of bliss that he tries to make it a permanent thing; and that’s just not how God works.
But Peter is right about one thing. He says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” It is good for us to go up on a mountain: to seek out the places, and practices, and relationships we often find God in: to fiddle with the frequency dial on our hearts, trying to listen in to how God is present in this moment. We need glory. We need to see it, and hear it, and soak it in.
You could say, “Hey! There’s no time for that! There’s so much to do!” Yes. There is so much to do. There is so much change to make, in our own hearts and in our neighborhoods, in our government structures and beyond them. There is so much to do. It is so important.
And we won’t know what to do, or have the strength to do it, if we don’t keep coming back to our mountains. We need time to listen for a voice of guidance. Time for prayer. Time to listen to the wisdom of the ancestors. Time to bask in God’s glory. I’m not worried that anyone will stay up on the mountain for too long. When it’s time, we’ll feel Jesus’ touch on our shoulder. We’ll hear his voice, telling us, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” We will head back to work, with him by our side.
God, help us to trust that prayer and worship and wonder of all kinds are not a waste of time, but rather necessary fuel for the discipleship you call us to. Teach us to be disciplined in seeking you out, again and again, so that when we return to our work, we do it with strength, with courage, and with you. Amen.
It was so wonderful for me to be back on Sunday with our Multiage group! We began with a quick conversation about our February vacations (so many fun things to share!) and then we started to learn a new song called Jesus, Teach Us How to Pray that we will continue to learn throughout the spring. Our story on Sunday focused on Jesus’ final message from his Sermon on the Mount: follow my teachings and you will be like a wise builder who builds her house on a solid foundation of rock; ignore my teachings and you will be like a foolish builder who builds her house on soft sand. When a storm comes, the house on the rock will stand, while the house on the sand will fall. We wondered why Jesus’ teaching are like a rock (“because they are solid,” “because they never go away”) and what kind of foundations we have in our own lives. We each held a rock during our prayer time and drew or wrote a symbol of peace while we pray ed. Then the children split up to try to construct structures with different foundations: in sand, on a flat table, or on a wobbly couch cushion. We made fans to try to blow over our structures in a storm – it was surprising what stood and what fell! We ended our time together watching a short YouTube video about a wise builder and a foolish builder. Watch it with your child and talk about it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXWHLB1f6_U&t=1s
Please come and meet our sabbatical interim pastor, Rev. Cindy Maybeck, on June 12th. She sent us this introduction to help us get to know her better:
With great joy and thanksgiving, I accepted your call to be sabbatical interim pastor at West Concord Union Church this summer. So let me introduce myself. I have been a pastor in churches here in Massachusetts since 1990: a decade at Bethany Christian United Parish in Worcester and 13 years at Trinity Church in Northborough. I love ministry, especially preaching. I love the church, especially the people. I love teaching about scripture in the Bible. I bring an intelligence, enthusiasm and warmth to ministry, along with a sense of humor.
Three years ago, I responded to a call from God to create a new ministry outside the local church. Spirit Story is a ministry of transformation for those in churches and those outside. My aim is to tell the biblical story with my own particular brand of passion and love to reinvigorate the faith of all who hear. You may take a peek at this ministry on my website www.cindymaybeck.com
Our summer outdoor setting of worship will be a lovely place to tell and hear sacred stories. I will be available for pastoral visits and look forward to meeting you. Please call on me to schedule a time for conversation. Stay tuned because plans are still in process, but summer programs may include S’mores and Stories by the campfire for all ages, Finding Our Story — a workshop to learn to tell your church story, or I Love to Tell the Story, a class to learn to tell a biblical story.
As your pastor enjoys the blessings of Sabbath this summer, I will provide you with a fresh new look at scriptures and stories. I will be present to guide you on your walk of faith. I am pleased to provide spiritual leadership to you during this season of summer stories. And when Pastor Hannah returns, you and she will both be renewed in your precious ministry together at West Concord Union Church.
–Rev. Cindy Maybeck
Not even wet and chilly weather could dampen the spirit of the WCUC Easter in Action team who marched together in the Minute Man Arc March on May 7. Not only did the Team exceed our goal of 20 walkers, we more than doubled our fundraising goal to raise over $2000. Minute Man Arc also exceeded it’s goal by raising over $130,000 for recreational and employment services for people in our community impacted by disability. I’d like to thank all who gave and all of the walkers for your willingness to put your faith in action. Special thanks to Jessica Torgerson and Joyce DeGreeff for helping to make this joint mission project of the WCUC Sunday School and Youth Group such a resounding success!
What an incredibly successful work trip to Household Goods on November 14th. Linens were measured and sorted, Boston College sofas picked up in May were cleaned and put out on the floor (and quickly claimed by clients) and 80 car and truckloads from donors were unloaded and items put away. Tom and Sharon and Ellen have decided to continue volunteering. HG is a very special place and a chance to volunteer with like-minded, happy people doing work that you can see makes a difference. If you would like to know more or can commit as little as 3 hours a month, go to householdgoods.org and fill out a volunteer form. You can also donate starter kits or kit items; click here for details. Pris and Marcia