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From the Pastor’s Desk, 5/30/22

Read: Ecclesiastes 3

   That which is already has been, that which is to be already is, and God seeks out what has gone by. So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them? (vv. 15, 22)

   Time marches on and ever so rapidly. The old adage, “The older you become, the faster time goes by,” certainly holds true. I did see a brief psychological explanation for this phenomenon, but whether it can be explained scientifically or not, it happens. I speak from my experience, at least.

   The third chapter of Ecclesiastes opens with a poem about time. The poem offers succinct statements about seemingly opposites of time: at time to be born and a time to die, a time for war and a time for peace. Implied, in my view, is that life happens between these opposites, and even in spite of these different ends of the spectrum.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 5/23/22

When in doubt, throw it out,” is a familiar mantra that comes to mind when we are looking at a container of food in the fridge of which we are uncertain of the date when it first arrived there. Another familiar mantra is “turn around, don’t drown” when coming face to face with areas that are flooded which under normal circumstances are easily traversed. The emphasis is safety. Be careful. If danger is present, remove it or move away from it.

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From the Pastor’s Deks, 5/9/22

   I’m nearly finished reading Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John & the Praying Imagination by Eugene H. Peterson. I consider the book to be one of the best I’ve read on understanding the book of Revelation. Peterson views the Revelation not as some futuristic world event yet to happen with fantasy-type events, but more so as a commentary by John on the present reality of the time. With this view, we have the opportunity to understand the book as a relevant commentary on our present-day challenges. I recommend Reversed Thunder as a helpful commentary on a difficult book to grasp, and as a helpful to considering our response to present day challenges.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 5/2/22

Exile is the experience of powerlessness, in extremis. Everything is determined by another. We are removed from where we want to be and whom we want to be with. We are isolated from place and persons. We are victims. The worst punishment possible in ancient Israel was banishment. To be separated from family and country, from community worship and family faith—that was the cruelest decree. The severest judgment that the nation experienced was exile to Babylonia. A person created for personal relationships of love cannot live adequately without them. Exile dehumanizes. It sentences us to death by bread alone. “On the island called Patmos” Rome showed St. John who was in charge. Every lonely hour on the barren rock was proof that Rome determined St. John’s destiny, that Rome’s word was the final word on his life, that Rome’s decree set the limits within which he was permitted to exist. St. John was alone, powerless, and bereft. –from Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination, Eugene H. Peterson (Harper Collins, 1988) pages 88-89

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 4/18/22

After my mother’s death, my sisters and I (and spouses) sifted through mom’s possessions, which included some of Dad’s things, too. One item of interest in particular we found was a clothes hamper stuffed full of scraps of material. The material was useless in our eyes but, we assume, valuable to Mom. Why? Well, Mom loved to sew and, we speculate, she may have used the scrap material to piece together a quilt top had she retained her ability to do so sans dementia.

Scraps of material are useless unless or until fused together to produce a beautiful piece of quilted artwork. Fragments then become a masterpiece, a thing of beauty.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 4/11/22

I’ve been thinking lately about the ways in which our worship services are developed and presented. A beauty of this process is that it involves a number of people to make it happen, and some of these folks are not known to us personally while others are quite well known. For instance, we have been utilizing the SHINE curriculum produced by Brethren Press and other associated communions as a guide for developing worship services. The writers of and contributors to this material are generally not known to us personally. Occasionally, we may know some of those who help to publish the material. But the number of people involved in bringing the material from ideas to the printed page to making it available for us are numerous, and mostly unfamiliar to us.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 3/21/22

From the Pastor’s desk—

   The following quote by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks gave me reason to pause and reflect: “People resist change, and can become angry and hostile when faced with the need for it.”

   I’m aware that proposed and/or implemented changes can arouse anger. Having read various books and articles on the subject of change, anger often stems from loss in the midst of change. Change means something different may or will happen which in turn has the potential to eliminate a comfortable feeling or practice of the past. This loss may be necessary for a system or organization to not only survive but also to thrive. However, loss is usually not wanted and can move into anger.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 3/14/22

From the Pastor’s desk—

I enjoy watching YouTube videos about woodworking. It’s a great way to learn about tips and tricks of the trade.

A recent video I watched offered a few tips to beginners. The tip I found really profound is this (paraphrased): Strive for improvement, not perfection. The presenter of the video shared that striving for perfection nearly cost him the opportunity to continue in the woodworking enterprise. He claimed that his personality is such that he wants to do everything as perfectly as possible. And in woodworking, perfection is not always, perhaps never, achievable. He had to move past this personality trait to grasp a new reality of continually improving.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 1/31/22

Robert Burns was widely regarded as Scotland’s national poet. However, his poetry is known beyond those boundaries. One of his poems, To a Mouse, gives us a line that is frequently quoted, although paraphrased to a degree. The line is: “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley.” The paraphrase is: the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. Burns wrote the poem after disturbing the nest of a mouse. He realized that the mouse had diligently planned for making a dwelling place. After destroying the nest, Burns’ poem is an attempt to apologize to the mouse.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 1/24/22

 The Christian Century magazine always includes an art selection inside the back cover of each issue. In the latest issue, the selection is a work entitled Praise by Martin Wenham, and includes a verse from Daniel 3 (The Catholic Bible) which reads, “Let the earth bless the Lord, yea, let it praise him and magnify him forever.” Psalm 148 includes similar language: “Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord…”

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 1/10/22

    When attending Annual Conference (pre-pandemic), Tammy participates in the blood drive, if possible. Frequently, a tee-shirt is given away as a gift for participating, and Tammy usually gets a size that fits me. So, I am the beneficiary of her benevolence. Those who receive her blood are too.

   The tee-shirts, of course, are imprinted with advertising for the local blood-drive organization and include a catchy phrase to alert others about the benefit of giving blood. One particular tee-shirt received has imprinted on the front in big bold letters, OUT FOR BLOOD, with the word “blood” in red. On the back, in small print, inconspicuously, is the name of the blood drive organization.

   I went to the post office one day wearing this tee-shirt. As I stood at the counter being waited on by the usually friendly employee, I noticed her demeanor being somewhat different than usual. I think I caught her momentarily glance at my tee-shirt. That is when her usual outgoing personality changed. She didn’t smile much and spoke only to ask a question or state her usual pitch about the survey at the bottom of the receipt. Otherwise, she was reserved and seemingly disturbed.

   Thinking about how unusual the encounter at the counter was, it dawned on me that maybe the message emblazoned in my tee-shirt was the problem. Without proper context, OUT FOR BLOOD can have weird connotations. Did the post office employee think I was some kind of enraged goof ball waiting  to pick a fight if someone looked at me cross-eyed or said something I didn’t like? Was she concerned that I would go off on some crazy tangent if she inadvertently did something to cross me? Maybe she was simply having a rotten day and I’m blowing out of proportion the whole scenario, but, I have never worn that tee-shirt publicly since.

   Words matter, even those displayed on a tee-shirt. If the words we choose are heard or observed out of context, then the good meaning we intended may have consequential outcomes. It is important to choose wisely.

   Abraham Lincoln was a prolific letter writer. A number of the letters he wrote were never sent. Lincoln let the letters simmer in a desk drawer, and after giving careful thought about their content, he ultimately realized it would be best if the recipients did not receive his remarks.

   Recently, Tammy and I were engaged in a conversation in which I could have responded very quickly to one of her comments, which reviewing in hindsight, would have escalated the conversation to an argumentative pitch. I walked away for a few moments and gathered my wits to respond more calmly and with a greater degree of diplomacy. The conversation developed much more amicably at that point. I’d love to tell you that this is always my response but, quite frankly, I all too often reply quickly and curtly with some of the aforementioned consequential outcomes. Thankfully, once in my life, I thought before I spoke.

   Words matter. When and how we say or display them matters. To think before speaking or wearing a tee-shirt, matters.

Recap: Worship, Jan. 9, 2022                                  

   The scripture text around which the worship service centered was 2 Samuel 12:1-15, the story of the prophet Nathan confronting King David about his unacceptable actions involving Uriah and Bathsheba.  

The service emphasized the importance of caring for those who are vulnerable and elevating their dignity. Those in powerful positions have a tendency to think of their own well-being at the expense of those unable to exert power. Nathan’s efforts are a reminder that the powerful need to understand the consequences of their actions for the good of all.

   Songs and videos used in the service may be accessed using the following links:

Prelude in C Major (Bach) – J.S. Bach – Prelude in C Major – YouTube (Intended to use this in the service but inadvertently skipped past it.)

Lord, Speak to Me – Lord Speak to Me, That I May Speak – OUMC Choir – YouTube

Disney Princess Advice – The Wisest Disney Princess Advice! | Disney Princess – YouTube

Beauty for Brokenness – Beauty for Brokenness (God of the Poor) – YouTube

Worship Services January 2022

   The Leadership Team recently engaged in conversation regarding continuing to meet in-person for Sunday worship services in view of heightened pandemic concerns. Consensus reached was to continue in-person services noting the importance of following helpful pandemic protocols such as wearing masks, practicing social distancing, sanitizing, and washing hands. Also, if you are not feeling well or have been in contact with anyone with COVID, please refrain from attending in-person, and if you have the capability, connect via Zoom. We are continuing to provide the Zoom option with all in-person worship gatherings. The Zoom link is included here (also above in the opening article) for January through March services. If in-person services need to be canceled due to inclement winter weather or state mandated pandemic protocols, information about such changes will share using the prayer chain and other means as needed.

   January through February worship services will follow themes from the SHINE curriculum. SHINE curriculum is produced by Brethren Press. Biblical stories encountered during worship include Nathan confronting David, Esther saving her people, proclaiming jubilee, a son returns home, Zacchaues making amends, and more. We will spend two Sunday’s on each theme.

Topic: Worship Services January – March 2022

Time: Jan. through Mar. 2022 each Sunday 09:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 12/21/21

  The secret is not to make your music louder, but to make the world quieter. –a quote from The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

   Tammy and I enjoy watching The Voice, a prime-time reality show where amateur or semi-professional singers compete to be named The Voice winner. Contestants are coached by one of a panel of four coaches. The coaches are in competition, as well, striving to coach one of the contestants to the winning

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 12/6/21

A WORSHIP SERVICE

FEATURING

ANGELS AND SHEPHERDS

December 12, 2021

In what ways is joy expressed and experienced in the Christmas story?

   Can the angels and shepherds in the story give us clues?

      How do we find this joy to carry with us on our journeys of life?

During the worship service, anticipate…

·       …joyful music and diverse images of Christmas.

·       …the addition of more décor to the simple Christmas atmosphere in the church sanctuary.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 11/29/21

A WORSHIP SERVICE

FEATURING

ANIMALS OF CHRISTMAS

December 5, 2021

Animals, as well as symbols, can inspire our anticipation of the Christmas miracle.

   Have you ever imagined what the animals experienced that first Christmas?

      Some of our familiar Christmas songs mention our furry and wooly friends. Surely this inclusion of animals is important.

During the worship service, anticipate…

·       …imaginatively learning the insights of animals.

·       …adding more Christmas attire to the sanctuary, whetting our appetite for the experience of Christmas moments.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 11/15/21

grat·i·tude

/ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/

noun

  1. the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

“she expressed her gratitude to the committee for their support”

   Ten days from now we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation in 1863 declaring the final Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving. For 36 years prior, Sarah Josepha Hale, a prolific writer and noted magazine author, as well as author of the nursery rhyme “Mary had a little lamb…”, had published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to government officials campaigning for a national holiday of Thanksgiving. Hale earned the nickname “Mother of Thanksgiving.”

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 11/1/21

   Worship is often thought of in terms of people gathering in a particular space to share together in singing, praying, sharing, reading scripture, and hearing a sermon or similar exposition of the scriptures. Over the past 20 months or so, our congregation has experienced worship beyond the usually understood terms. The ZOOM platform has given us the opportunity to understand that worship can happen with participants engaging from their own personal space. Yes, participants are gathered but in a different way than has always been the custom. Additionally, new ways of worshiping together have been introduced, opening the door for greater participation from everyone. These newer methods also expand our ability to encounter God and/or God’s imprint in all corners of life and experiences. Stories, music, art, poetry, images and so much more point the way to the presence of God in places and ways that inspire and amaze us anew.

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The Believers Share Their Possessions: Lessons from Monopoly – 10.24.21

DATE: Sunday, October 24, 2021

TITLE: The Believers Share Their Possessions: Lessons from Monopoly

FACILITATOR: Carol Davis

SCRIPTURE: Acts 4:32-37.

The Believers Share Their Possessions

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

From the Pastor’s Desk, 10/18/21

From the Pastor’s desk—

   Books come into my library and life in a variety of ways, one of which is as a gift from someone culling their personal library. I’m presently reading “The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages” written by Joan Chittister, O.S.B., a gift from the library of another that I have added to my collection. The writing is divided into daily readings in which Chittister shares a small portion of “The Rule of Benedict” upon which she then writes a brief commentary. Following are a couple of excerpts that I’ve found helpful and enlightening.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 9/27/21

John 7:53 – 8:11

   The scripture reference above is the story of the woman brought to Jesus and accused of adultery. Those who accused the woman were intent on stoning her. They were seemingly confident Jesus would agree with them. Jesus surprises them. He says, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” The stone throwers slowly dispersed indicating that they, too, had unresolved sin in their lives. How could a sinner condemn and use capital punishment against another sinner? When all had left Jesus asks the woman where her accusers were, and who now condemned her. She sees that her accusers are gone, and she replies that no one condemns her. Jesus says that he does not condemn her either. Then, Jesus makes a pronouncement that has always puzzled me. He says to the woman, “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 9/20/21

   A bottle of Elmer’s carpenter’s wood glue ended up on my work station table here at home. It isn’t just any wood glue, it is MAX. The label states that it (1) bonds stronger than wood, (2) resists heat, mold, and mildew, (3) is sandable and paintable, and (4) cleans up easily with water (i.e., before it dries, of course). It’s great to have this glue around when needing to bond a frame together or repair a broken piece of furniture. The label indicates that once pieces of wood are glued together the glue-er can have confidence that the bonded parts will remain together without concern of separation or naturally caused damage, that options are still available to improve upon the glued-up parts, and that any clean up from the bonding process is relatively easy.

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Who Holds the Future? – 9/8/21

What are you anxious about, and what helps you through anxious moments?

What experiences of resurrection have you experienced during anxious moments?

What joys you are experiencing in these uncertain days?

Worry, tomorrow, and who holds the future were related themes that provided the focus for the worship service August 8 shared via Zoom.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 8/9/21

   My expert knowledge about myself is that I am not an expert. I do the best I can with the abilities and skills I have at many different things but if I encounter a task that is beyond my capabilities I submit to the experts. For example, if I am approached to provide counseling I immediately state that I lack those credentials and will help find an expert who is trained appropriately. For my new business, if I am asked to complete a project requiring expert electrical or plumbing skills I quickly defer to the experts with licenses in that particular field of work. I know my limitations and trust the experts who are trained and experienced.

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From the Pastor’s Desk – “Big Things in Small Packages” (7/12/21)

BIG THINGS IN SMALL PACKAGES

   Some significant gifts come in small packages. A diamond ring is encased in an exceedingly small box. Two $100 bills are enclosed in a congratulatory card. A $500 gift card is found in a tiny envelope. A concise, informative, erudite concept emerges from a 52-page book. It is the latter that captured my attention this week.

   Vernard Eller, a past-professor of religion at the University of LaVerne in California and author of over twenty books, has become one of my favorite authors of things related to religion and the church. Eller thinks outside the box and adds imaginative perspective. Even though his writings are several decades old, they remain relevant to the present age, in my humble view.

   The book alluded to in the opening paragraph of this article, written by Eller, is entitled Proclaim Good Tidings: Evangelism for the Faith Community. The e-word, evangelism, frequently elicits anxiety and fear primarily because it is associated with telling (speaking) the good news of Jesus Christ in a manner that will entice people to come along, to join the company of Jesus followers. Moreover, evangelism invokes images, maybe nightmares, of well-defined programming wherein “evangelists” are trained with tools to convert non-believers to the way of Jesus, to Christianity. Anxiety and fear kicks in when those of a more timid nature are concerned about speaking to strangers. What if difficult questions are asked or the good news is rejected? OH MY! Those more outgoing have less trepidation about visiting with others, but…OH MY!…there isn’t enough time to squeeze in a training program!

   Eller, consequently, eases these evangelism burdens. Instead of boxing evangelism into a programmatic monster to be tamed, he develops a portrait of evangelism as a community effort of radiating the essence of the Jesus way. In other words, the body of Christ, the church, or the community of Jesus followers, simply needs to let their manner of living serve as their witness. This manner of living “speaks” volumes, not always in words, but unquestionably with actions. Eller calls this “evangelism through body language.”

   A paragraph from Eller’s 52-page gem provides a nice summary of his thesis. He writes: “The calling of the church is that it function (sic) as ‘the body of Christ.’ Thus, within the body, the members are to operate, not for their own enjoyment or enhancement, but to the end that the body as a whole is built up. When the group is functioning so, its body language is such that a chance observer can read it and be moved to fall down and worship, crying, ‘God is certainly among you!’ And what is going on here is nothing more nor less than evangelism.”

   Eller also helps us to understand that evangelism is not a one-person enterprise. Sharing the good news of Jesus and the Jesus way is most effective when it is done together, in partnership, as the whole. It isn’t a programmatic enterprise, either. It is, at the most basic level, a way of being, acting, and living, revealing evidence of the Spirit of God moving within and acting upon our individual and collective lives.

   So, if the e-word puts you into a state of panic, take heart. Simply be who you are shaped and informed to be in the Jesus way, joining with the company and gifts of others. The rest, in a manner of speaking, will take care of itself.         

“The Stories Will Rise” – by Carol Davis, 2021 Peace Essay Winner

We are pleased to share this essay from Carol Davis entitled, “The Stories Will Rise.” The essay was selected by Bethany Theological Seminary for its 2021 Peace Essay Contest. The contest was funded by the Jennie Calhoun Baker Endowment and open to students in graduate school, college, or high school. This year’s contest solicited entries on the theme, “Civil Resistance and Nonviolent Social Change in an Increasingly Virtual World.” (Read more about the 2021 Peace Essay Contest here)

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Buildings, Barbershops, and Butterflies; 6/13/21

Courage is action.

The worship experience June 13 included the story of Samson and the courage he displayed in holding on to his faith in God, information about a contest of barbershops to influence their community positively and the courage to do so in the face of possible opposition, thoughts on metamorphosis and the courage to change, as well as stories of personal experiences facing future unknowns with active courage.

Links to the elements of the service are as follows:

The Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2itQkiQUOE

If I Were King of the Forest from The Wizard of Oz – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOCNY9pJ850

I Will Fear No More by The Afters – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMmmbJlWhtk

Cincinnati Barbershop Challenge – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThM95Iv4ZBo

Courage by Pink – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-VmsCFah0M

Monarch Butterfly Metamorphosis – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocWgSgMGxOc

Fly by Maddie and Tae – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfDr_7LN-Ew&list=PLg5rJHdQWc6w5f1Qsjx07J_w3ngWPiDfx

In the Gray: Interview With Actress Hannah Musa of Jos, Nigeria; 5/30/21

Hannah Musa from Jos, Nigeria joined us, via Zoom, for worship this past Sunday (May 30, 2021). Having her share with us about “In the Gray”, a film project she helped bring to reality, was a joy and blessing. She offered commentary that was helpful in understanding the film as well as gaining awareness about the challenges that Nigerian followers of Jesus are facing. Hannah also shared that the film was designed to be a ministry tool, and that her church would like other films to be produced. We also learned from Hannah about her work with women whose husbands have died. Our Nigerian sisters and brothers are faithful and resilient.

Links to the elements of the service are as follows:
IN THE GRAY movie (Available to view for free on Youtube)
He Will Hold Me Fast by Shane and Shane
No Gray by Jonathan McReynolds
Climb Ev’ry Mountain performed by Audra McDonald
 

Overcomers, 5/23/21

What obstacles have you witnessed Daughters of Deborah overcome? What obstacles are phenomenal women today overcoming? Women too frequently need to overcome obstacles and systems in order to achieve. The worship service on May 23 offers vignettes of women, both historical and present, who are overcomers. Supportive scriptures and theopoetic offerings will be included as well.

Link to Resources

Cover Image of Pauli Murray was taken from Carolina Digital Library and Archives

Katy Perry – Rise

Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine

Brave – Touch the Sky

Being Serena, “Baby’s First Grand Slam

“A Woman”  – Featuring Amy Grant & Ellie Holcomb

The Daughters of Deborah, 5/16/21

Are you familiar with the story of Deborah, a lifelong leader, profound prophet and poet, fearless fighter, songwriter, and brilliant woman? The worship service, May 16, offered insights about Deborah, based on her story found in the book of Judges. Invitations were given during the service to share about “daughters of Deborah” (those special women in our lives) who have been influential and impactful in various ways. Brief stories were shared and experienced.  

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Phenomenal Woman, 5/2/21

The May 2nd worship service was the first in a four-week series focusing on women. Women were instrumental and played key roles in funding the itinerant ministry of Jesus. Women continue to hold key positions of leadership in not-for-profit organizations making a positive social impact. The worship service on May 2nd highlighted the names and activities of several of these important women.

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Mother’s Day Service, 5/9/21

Mother’s Day is celebrated the 2nd Sunday of May each year. Worship this past Sunday, May 9, followed along with this celebration theme. Included in the service were vignettes about special women who contributed significantly with their lives, and whose contributions while important to the context and time in which they lived have continued as a legacy for us today. At the close of the service, several stories were shared about women of special influence and impact that we have known and know personally.

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Renewal: How New Generations are Approaching Church, featuring Dunker Punks Founder Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred, 4/25/21

This month our services at the Canton COB have focused on renewal. How have we experienced renewal of what the sacrifice of Jesus means in our lives? How have we witnessed renewal in nature? How have we experienced renewal regarding our commitment to sustaining the environment? These are powerful questions we’ve reflected on throughout the month. But this Sunday, it’s appropriate to explore what renewal means in regards to the church. The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way we “do” church. Most conversations about church and the idea of “renewal” tend to focus on the challenges. 

A recent gallup poll, for instance, found that fewer than half of Americans belong to a house of worship. This is the first time this has ever occurred since Gallup began asking this question more than 80 years ago. Even more remarkable is how rapidly changes are taking place as just 20 years ago the poll revealed that 70% of Americans belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque.  For years, demographers characterized millennials as “the rise of the nones,”  yet research shows these “nones” are actually on the rise in every age bracket born before 1946.

This morning our aim is to confront these challenges by reflecting on where we see hope. As Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” In particular, we want to explore how newer generations of leaders are redefining ways to do church. To help us better understand this renewal we are extremely fortunate to have Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred with us as our guest.

Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred (@emmetteldred) | Twitter

Emmett is a leading advocate for young adult participation in the church. He was a former intern for On Earth Peace, he was a Youth and Young Adult Ministry Assistant, he served as a contributing editor to Messenger magazine, and he’s a frequent guest speaker at COB conferences & worship services. 

Emmett organized what’s known as the Dunker Punk movement. His leadership then inspired the Arlington COB to start the Dunker Punks Podcast which Emmett serves as a co-host. The DPP has grown today into a country-wide movement that sees headphones and USB cords stretching like the mustard seed weed in Jesus’ parable. The DPP amplifies young prophetic voices to reach across and beyond traditional church, because everyone deserves community in Christ. Emmett was an original voice on the show and has furthered the project in numerous ways. He has a lot of insight into the young adult experience in the church today and we are thrilled to have him as our guest.

Continue reading “Renewal: How New Generations are Approaching Church, featuring Dunker Punks Founder Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred, 4/25/21”

Earth Day, 4/18/21

Creation is a gift to each and all of us. We are called to be stewards of this amazing natural endowment but experience and history reminds us of ways in which we have missed the mark. In 1970, a movement began to express an urgency that we, humans, need to pick up the pace of our stewardship practices or else this wondrous phenomenon with co-exist with may wither around us. That movement, Earth Day, continues and is celebrated each April. The worship service on this Sunday celebrated Earth Day and its reminder to us of our responsibility to care for the created order gifted to us. May we take pride in our individual and collective efforts to do what is right with all that is shared with us on the terrestrial globe we call Earth.

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We are Never Alone In Our Resurrections, 4/11/21

Worship this Sunday focuses on the theme that “we are never alone in our resurrections” and was inspired by American astronauts of Apollo 13. A question to spark our thinking and conversation is: Why should others be included in our resurrections?

Links to the elements of the service are as follows:

Apollo 13 theme music and Hubble photos

Apollo 13 Launch scene

Apollo 13, Houston, we have a problem

Apollo 13, A new mission

Apollo 13, Rocket re-entry

We Are the World

Science Fiction & Faith, Exploring Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man” ; 3/28/21

Kevin is producing the service this Sunday which will consider the subject of desire. Using a chapter entitled The Man, from Ray Bradbury’s book The Illustrated Man, along with thoughts from Irish poet John O’Donohue, the opportunity will be offered to explore desire’s divergent paths.  

What is your response to science fiction? One angle is considering the genre to be purely fantasy and entertainment without any substance. Another angle is learning that we are using today what was considered fiction or fantasy only several years ago. So is it fantasy or prophecy? How does science fiction continue to provide formation for our lives? How does this genre engage our imaginations to focus and re-focus our energies to enter life experiences to adopt and adapt new ways to encourage better human co-existence? In what ways do we find theological perspective (God; the Divine) in science fiction? These and other questions will be explored during our worship services in March. As this journey unfolds over the next several weeks, be encouraged to find theology imprinted within the science fiction genre. May we all be inspired by the nuggets of wisdom we’ll mine together.

Continue reading “Science Fiction & Faith, Exploring Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man” ; 3/28/21″

Science Fiction & Faith, Exploring Motifs of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”; 3/21/21

On this Sunday, the service is produced by Martha Harr. She will explore a few motifs from Ray Bradbury’s book Fahrenheit 451. If you are uncertain about the meaning of the word motif, and how it assists in making theological connections, listen in to learn more.

What is your response to science fiction? One angle is considering the genre to be purely fantasy and entertainment without any substance. Another angle is learning that we are using today what was considered fiction or fantasy only several years ago. So is it fantasy or prophecy? How does science fiction continue to provide formation for our lives? How does this genre engage our imaginations to focus and re-focus our energies to enter life experiences to adopt and adapt new ways to encourage better human co-existence? In what ways do we find theological perspective (God; the Divine) in science fiction? These and other questions will be explored during our worship services in March. As this journey unfolds over the next several weeks, be encouraged to find theology imprinted within the science fiction genre. May we all be inspired by the nuggets of wisdom we’ll mine together.

Continue reading “Science Fiction & Faith, Exploring Motifs of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”; 3/21/21″

Science Fiction & Faith with Dr. Steven Schweitzer, Academic Dean at Bethany Theological Seminary, 3/14/21

Mar. 14 – Dr. Steven Schweitzer, Academic Dean at Bethany Theological Seminary, is our guest presenter this Sunday. Steve brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in connecting science fiction and theology. Anyone who has experienced Steve’s presentations can attest that he will keep your attention regardless of the subject matter. His ability to share knowledge is equaled by his capacity to connect with the audience.

Dr. Schweitzer regularly teaches an advanced seminar on Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah and a course on Science Fiction and Theology. He has offered Insight Sessions at Annual Conference and workshops for various districts and congregations. He and his family attend Cedar Grove CoB in New Madison, Ohio in the Southern Ohio/Kentucky district.

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Science Fiction & Faith, 3/7/21

What is your response to science fiction? One angle is considering the genre to be purely fantasy and entertainment without any substance. Another angle is learning that we are using today what was considered fiction or fantasy only several years ago. So is it fantasy or prophecy? How does science fiction continue to provide formation for our lives? How does this genre engage our imaginations to focus and re-focus our energies to enter life experiences to adopt and adapt new ways to encourage better human co-existence? In what ways do we find theological perspective (God; the Divine) in science fiction? These and other questions will be explored during our worship services in March. As this journey unfolds over the next several weeks, be encouraged to find theology imprinted within the science fiction genre. May we all be inspired by the nuggets of wisdom we’ll mine together.

Mar. 7 – Our service today is produced by Carol Davis. It includes a series of scripture readings and introductions to and viewing of movie clips serving as metaphors to God, Jesus, the Bible, and faith. This service, as well as subsequent services in March, will utilize theopoetics to engage our minds and hearts to explore new questions and broader horizons. March 7 is a great kick-off to the other services in March.

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Overcoming, 2/28/21, with special guest Reverend LaDonna Nkosi

This month, the Canton Church of the Brethren will be recognizing the contributions of African Americans and their central role in U.S. History. Please enjoy the following audio recording from our service from Sunday, 2/28/21.

THEME: Overcoming

Overcoming fear of injustice is a reality for people of color that white people may not experience as intensely. How might we understand the fear others have that we may not experience? How do we engage in efforts to help dispel realities that cause such fear to be experienced? Rev. LaDonna Nkosi, Director of Intercultural Ministries for Discipleship Ministries, will be the guest presenter this Sunday (The Gathering Chicago)

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Dreaming, 2/21/21

This month, the Canton Church of the Brethren will be recognizing the contributions of African Americans and their central role in U.S. History. Please enjoy the following audio recording from our service from Sunday, 2/21/21.

THEME: Dreaming

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS: What dreams do you have for humanity to exist peaceably and justly? If these dreams are realized, what do you envision this reality looking like? What can we do to ensure a more just and equitable co-existence?

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Love Your Enemy, 2/14/21

This month, the Canton Church of the Brethren will be recognizing the contributions of African Americans and their central role in U.S. History. Please enjoy the following audio recording from our service from Sunday, 2/14/21.

THEME: Love Your Enemy

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS: Do we really forgive people if we cannot forget? What stories of Jesus are examples of Loving Your Enemy? Why do you think Jesus added “for they know not what they do?”

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Hate as a Measurement of Unambiguous Love, 2/7/21

This month, the Canton Church of the Brethren will be recognizing the contributions of African Americans and their central role in U.S. History. Please enjoy the following audio recording from our service from Sunday, 2/7/21.

THEME: Hate as a Measurement of Unambiguous Love

ESSENTIAL QUESTION: After all that they endured, why did the people never give up hope?

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Sunday Morning Meditation at the CCOB, 5/17/2020

THE CCOB MORNING OF COLLECTIVE MEDITATION

Sunday, May 17, 2020, 9:30 a.m.

ANGELS AMONG US

READING 1:

In the New Testament we learn that at each significant moment of Christ’s life on Earth, angels showed up. Whether they were in the air or on the land, these guardians relayed prophecy, celebrated moments of joy, provided protection, and delivered messages of hope.

The angel Gabriel not only told Mary she would bear a son, but what the boy would be called, who he was to become, and how his future was already established (Luke 1:30-33).

Angels rejoiced and sang Glorias from the heavens when the baby was born (Luke 2:13-14).

An angel told Joseph he could finally take his son home because Herod and those who wanted to kill the baby were dead (Matthew 2:19-20).

After Jesus endured the Devil’s temptations in the wilderness, the angels came and ministered to him (Matthew 4:11).

An angel sat with Jesus as he prayed in the Garden at Gethsemane (Luke 22:43).

When Jesus was betrayed, he exclaimed that he could have twelve legions of angels to sustain him if he only asked God for help (Matthew 26:53).

An angel rolled back the stone of the tomb of Jesus and another announced his resurrection (Matthew 28: 2, 5-6).

Jesus ascended into Heaven with angels watching nearby (Acts 1:10).

And someday Jesus will send out angels with trumpets to gather his elect from the four winds – from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:31).

Whether we believe in the actual physical embodiment of angels or not, the significance of angels in our lives can be very real.

In his inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln, with a Civil War brewing all around him, spoke of angels. He stated,

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again

touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

As we now face a pandemic which has disrupted our lives in every way imaginable, we must continue to believe in angels…we must BE angels… deliverers of joy, of protection, of hope.

For as we learn in Hebrews: Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (1:14).

And as we are reminded, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (13:2)

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CCOB to Offer Services Online: Message from Pastor Kevin Kessler

I continue to hope and pray that you are safe and well. If at any time you need to visit or you have thoughts and concerns you need to share, please contact me by phone (cell: 309-224-4828), text (same number), or email (cantoncob@gmail.com).

Because we are social beings, having the ability to continue meeting together on Sunday is important The online platform Zoom provides us with a means of connecting electronically. It isn’t the same as being present with each other in the same location, but it is a platform that allows us to be present with each other by video/audio or audio from the safety of our own homes.

Therefore, for the next 2 Sundays, March 22 and 29, we have the opportunity to connect with each other using Zoom at our regular meeting time of 9:30am. If you have access to a computer, microphone, and camera (fairly standard laptop) you can easily access the Zoom connection. Even if you do not have this equipment, you can still join in by phone. Using the phone does not provide video but at least offers connection by voice (you can share and you can hear others who are sharing). A few directions will follow.

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How Dare You, 3/1/20

Sermon Title: How Dare You

Speaker: Pastor Kevin Kessler

Scripture: Romans 8:22-23, Isaiah 57:16-21, Genesis 2:15

Date: Sunday, March 1, 2020

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God-like Gratitude, 11/24/19

This Thanksgiving, we are encouraged and reminded to be grateful, but what does God-like gratitude look like? Jesus brought us a new humanity that transcends ethnic and social boundaries, but do we as Christians have vision for those displaced and oppressed? As we conclude our study on the spiritual practice of sharing a meal, it is wise to consider if we are setting a place at the table for everyone.

Speaker: Joe Brewer

Title: God-like Gratitude

Scripture: Colossians 3:15-17

Date: Sunday, November 24, 2019

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In Suffering, Comfort, 10/27/19

Sermon Title: In Suffering, Comfort

Speaker: Pastor Kevin Kessler

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Date: Sunday, October 27, 2019

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Assurance: A poem by Marilyn McEntyre read by Carol Davis, 9.22.19

Title: Assurance (A poem by Marilyn McEntyre from “When Poets Pray. For more information about Marilyn McEntyre here is a link to her website)

Speaker: Carol Davis

Date: Sunday, September 22, 2019

Scripture: Psalm 8: 1, 3-9

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