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From the Pastor’s Study: Summer 2017

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Dear Members and Friends,

I’m finding I enjoy the pace here on God’s Acre in the summer. So far, the weather has mostly cooperated for 8:00am worship in the Memorial Garden. It has been nice to see children in worship. We encourage you to come as you are in the summer. We love seeing you in worship with your shorts and flip flops!

I was glad to attend my first Beacons of Light event this year. The youth groups had an awesome year. I provided a brief reflection on the theme for the year: belonging. Some in attendance asked for a copy, so I thought I would share it here. The following is my talk from a few weeks ago:

When Caroline invited me to speak, I decided I wanted to say something relating to this year’s theme which was — belonging. As I thought about it, I soon became interested in the relationship between “fitting in” and “belonging.” There have been many times in my life when I didn’t feel like I fit in.

I remember the cafeteria at the Turkey Hill Middle School. There was this one table where the most popular, most attractive, members of my class would sit. Nobody came out and told me I couldn’t sit at that table, but it was clear to me that I didn’t quite fit in.

During the summer before my freshman year of high school, my family moved to Cape Cod. I was on the Cape, all summer, with no friends. What an awesome way to walk into your first day of high school, knowing no one. My family also ended up moving during the middle of my junior year of high school. I went from a school of a few hundred students to a school of around 2000. I had a hard time fitting in.

My parents made me go to church every Sunday. To be honest, I didn’t really feel like I fit in with the church crowd. In some ways I did, but I didn’t like singing hymns. I tended to get bored in worship. I know nobody here has that problem. The kids I liked hanging out with in school, didn’t go to my church. I always felt a little bit like a fish out of water.

After college, I ended up going to seminary which is three years of graduate school. Talk about not fitting in. I went to college to be a gym teacher. I took courses in weightlifting, archery and badminton. In seminary, I was required to read a book titled A Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics.

I remember reading that title and thinking, “What? Are you kidding me?” I had to sit in class and discuss Immanuel Kant’s A Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics with people who were really smart and people who studied philosophy and the Bible in college, not badminton.

I’m guessing most people have times in their life when they don’t fit in. You may be in that place right now, but here’s what I think. I think fitting in isn’t the point. Jesus didn’t fit in. He didn’t fit in with the Pharisees or the Sadducees. This was a guy who had the ability to walk on water, for Pete’s sake! People must have seen him as a little odd.

Not only that, but he sought out people who did not fit in. Who’s familiar with Zacchaeus? Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. Everybody hated tax collectors. He was also short in stature. Personally, I don’t hold that against him, but it meant that when Jesus passed through town, Zacchaeus couldn’t see him on account of the crowd. So, Zacchaeus climbed a tree.

Not only did Zacchaeus not fit in on account of his occupation and the fact that he was particularly short, but being up in a tree meant he was physically separated from the rest of the community. When Jesus came to that place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”

You’ll have to read the story for yourself. Suffice it to say that after some conversation with Jesus, Zacchaeus repented of his wrongdoing and in response, Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.” Zacchaeus did not fit in for a number of reasons, but he belonged. Jesus went out of his way to make it known.

I’m thinking that fitting in doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with belonging. You might not fit in, but you can still belong. In fact, in my life, it’s the people who haven’t exactly fit in that have made life interesting. I have an adopted cousin who is African American. At every family reunion, he is the only black person among dozens and dozens of white people. In a way, he doesn’t fit in, but he has belonged since day one.

Before I sit down, I’d like to say something about Caroline. When I came to New Canaan, I wasn’t sure if I would fit in. You might think I would automatically fit in because I’m a minister, but that’s not how it works. There are lots of reasons why a person might not fit into a community.

I still don’t know how I fit, but Caroline has a way of making a person feel like they belong. That’s something I appreciate about her and about the youth groups she and Kim Case and Kelly Leather led this year. AND do you know who has the most responsibility for making our youth groups places of belonging? You! If you’re a member of one of our youth groups, it’s up to you to make everyone feel like they belong.

If you’re someone who doesn’t feel like you fit in, I say don’t even worry about trying to fit in. Don’t try to be like other people. Don’t surrender that which makes you unique and original in order to fit in somewhere. That is not what it’s about. You don’t have to fit in in order to belong. You belong because God made you just as you are.

This church doesn’t have to be a place where everybody fits in. In fact, I encourage you to do anything but fit in. However, this church is a place where everyone belongs. Whether you sit at the popular table or not, whether you are tall or short, gay or straight, whatever your gender or background, whether you fit in around here or not, you belong.

I hope The Congregational Church of New Canaan is a place you feel like you belong. Have a great summer!

Blessings,

Eric

Summer Fellowship Gathering at Eric’s Home

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Eric would like to extend an invitation for an evening of fellowship at his home on Friday, July 14, from 5:00-7:00pm. Friends will gather on the porch to enjoy wine and cheese and will partake in some activities to help get to know one another better. It is sure to be an enjoyable evening please RSVP to Eric, eric@godsacre.org.

Celebration Sunday is June 11!

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

All are invited to join us for Celebration Sunday, June 11!

We will celebrate our year in Ministry at the 10:00am Worship Service in the Meeting House. The service will be Church School-led and will include a Minister’s message and songs from our Youth Choirs!

An All-Church Picnic will follow at 11:00am on the Church Grounds. Families with last names A-H please bring dessert for 10; families with last names I-Z please bring a salad, fruit, or side dish for 10.

Come take pictures with your friends and family in the photo booth! Enjoy cookie decorating, face painting, freeze dance, and lawn games. All are invited to help decorate our Church School cross.

It’s going to be a spectacular morning!  See you there!

Parenting in the Pew Discussion

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Parents! Save the date, Sunday June 4 at 9:00am in the library. Eric will lead a discussion on the book Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman. This lively discussion will help parents better handle those uncomfortable Sunday morning moments and will encourage families to worship together!  Pick up your copy in the church office or at Elm Street books today.

Beacon of Light Dinner 2017

Monday, May 29th, 2017

The 2017 Beacon of Light Dinner is Sunday, June 4 at 5:00-7:30pm at the Church.

We hope everyone will join us to celebrate our year in Youth Ministry at the Beacon of Light Dinner! We will start with a worship service including photos, videos, and music from the Worship Team band. A fellowship dinner will follow with food catered from several area food trucks.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $75 for a family of four, or $10 for additional family members and children 10 and under. Please contact Tracy duPont with any questions or to RSVP at tdupont@optonline.net. Please RSVP by May 23 if you will join us for dinner.

Celebrate Music at the Mary Bradley Clarke Benefit Concert!

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

The community is invited to a gala benefit concert at 7:00pm on Saturday, May 20 at the church. A festive reception in Smith Hall, hosted by the Music Ministry Team, will follow after the concert. There is no admission charge and childcare is provided.

The program will include a variety of music that will entertain all ages and musical tastes. Broadway, opera, jazz, and popular repertoire will be presented by the Chancel Choir, its professional section leaders, and the Spirit Singers, Joyful Noise, and Sonshine Singers choirs. The benefit is now in its eleventh year and is organized by our Director of Music Ministries Dr. Jo Deen Blaine Davis, who recently remarked, “This is a fun and entertaining hour for the entire family. What a great way to enjoy fellowship and musical favorites.”

Solos will be performed by the church’s professional section leaders, Diana Benton, Anne Maguire, Antonio Abate, Aram Tchobanian, Stephen Clark, and LaMarcus Miller, some of whom have sung solo and title roles at The Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera, as well as oratorio and solo work with orchestras and theater companies throughout the United States and Europe. Miller was the lead in the 2016 world premiere of Fallujah, which was featured at New York City Opera. Also included is Director of Children’s Music Noëlle Francis.

A free-will offering will be taken, with proceeds benefiting the church’s Mary Bradley Clarke music fund, which was established in 1973 by the wife of former minister Rev. Merrill Fowler Clarke to provide singers and instrumentalists for special musical programs held at the church throughout the year. For more information please contact Dr. Davis at music@godsacre.org or (203)966-2651, x4.

Spring All Youth Worship

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

Calling all youth from 3rd-12th grade for our final Youth Worship service of the year!

Join us for a special outdoor Youth Worship in the garden on Wednesday, May 17 led by our YG Senior Leaders.

Dinner will be served at 6:30pm in Smith Hall and our service will conclude by 8:00pm. Can’t wait to see our fish there!

May is Faith Formation Month!

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

In May, the Sunday morning Lifelong Learning events will focus on opportunities for Christian Formation here on God’s Acre.

  • Sunday, May 7: Come learn what the Bible says about caring and visitation and hear about the Stephen Ministry program.  Going through the Stephen Ministry training is a great way to deepen one’s faith.  “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galations 6:2)
  • Sunday, May 14: Come and learn about the place of mission in the Christian faith.  You will hear from participants of the OG Mission trip to Nicaragua and learn about other mission opportunities here on God’s Acre.  If you’ve thought about putting your faith into action and wanted to learn more, this is your chance.
  • Sunday, May 21: Come and learn about spiritual gifts and our unique programs to assist in discovering and using those gifts. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, Paul wrote, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all people.” Members of the Gifts and Talents ministry will provide information on discovering spiritual gifts and spiritual discernment.

These learning events will each take place in the Library at 9:00am.

Also, be mindful of the following Bible studies in May. All Bible studies are open to everyone and always welcome new members. Just show up!

Lifelong Learning: May Bible Studies
Mondays, 6:30-7:30am, Library: “James, 1 Peter and 1 John”
Tuesday Women’s Group, 9:30-11:00am, Parlor, “James, 1 Peter and 1 John”
Wednesdays (ongoing), 9:30-11:00am, Parlor, Chapin’s class

MSYG Car Wash is May 13!

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Car-Wash-CouponsIn further preparation for the Mission Trip to Mountainside MSYG is hosting a Car Wash as a fundraiser for their experience. It is a great chance to get all the pollen cleaned off your car and support a great mission.

Pull up these coupons and you can easily get all of your family’s cars cleaned as well as a sweet treat while you wait! Make sure you stop by on your way to the May Fair, here at the Church on Saturday, May 13 from 9:00am-1:30pm.

The HomeFront Project is Saturday, May 6

Monday, April 24th, 2017

On May 6, 8:00am-4:00pm, we will repair the home of a veteran in our greater community. For 25+ years we’ve worked local projects preventing neighbors-in-need from having to decide between groceries and a leaky roof or faulty wiring. Join us this year!

Sign-up (ages 14 and older) in Smith Hall or contact Marianna Kilbride at marianna@godsacre.org.

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