Pastor’s Letter, July 17, 2024

Dear Members and Friends,

It’s a very sad time for us as citizens who have many privileges and would like to simply “love our country.” 

It’s sad to be a part of a nation so divided that political leaders in an information age so oversaturated with social-media platforms, can easily exploit our ugliest human qualities and tendencies.  It’s sadder still when verbal violence reaches a crescendo in physical expressions such as when angry, hate-filled mobs take to the streets and our nation’s capitol building.  And, it’s saddest of all, when someone uses a gun in an attempt to assassinate a political candidate – which is what happened this past weekend.  

In moments such as this, people react in all sorts of ways.  Many become “reac-tive” and raise the temperature in our volatile social “climate.”  Some even become “over-reactive” and heighten the threat of retaliatory violence.  In the following days and weeks, we’ll likely see and hear all of these kinds of reactions.  

It’s now a moment for all of us to pay close attention to what’s happening around – and to – us. It’s also a  time for us who are Christians to pray with thoughtful words in mind and heart.     

Toward this aim, I have postponed my planned worship service theme until next week.  And, this Wednesday evening, I’m planning to lead special service of worship and prayer with a focus on an ancient Biblical political leader’s question to Jesus.   This leader’s name is Pilate and his question to Jesus is: “What is truth?” (John (18:33-38)

If you can’t join us, I’ll hope you’ll read this passage from Scripture, reflect upon it, pray about it, and ask yourself what you can do about it.   And, if you want to converse with me about your thoughts, let me know.  

Blessings of Peace, 

Pastor Ed     

(603-620-4498 or RevEd85@aol.com)

Pastor’s Letter, July 3, 2024

Dear Salem FCC Friends in Christ,

In a speech to Congress the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, President Roosevelt famously declared December 7th, 1941 as “a date which will live in infamy.”  These days in our nation, I wonder how he would have characterized, January 6th, 2021.

Of the many days in my lifetime, January 6th, 2021 is a date that will live in infamy for me.  I never thought  I’d see a violent mob break into the Capitol, try to overthrow a Presidential election, destroy property, and shout out death threats to our political leaders.  And, I never imagined I’d see insurrectionists, standing at the front of the Senate chamber, thanking God for their cause and invoking the name of Jesus Christ regarding their efforts!  How about you?

More shocking for me was that all of this was supported by some members of Congress and the President of the United States!  I wondered what was happening to our country – and to Christianity!  

As we come to the 4th of July this year, I’m still in shock. Too many Christians continue to support the spirit and aims of this day in an emerging “Christian Nationalist” movement.  Too many Christians are either unaware or underestimate the power and danger of this movement.  Too many Christians remain indifferent and inactive.  I  know; I’ve been one of the latter two.   How about you?

If you’re becoming more concerned like I am, you can learn more about this misguided movement by reading one of the many  new books on the subject.  You can listen to a podcast such as Confronting Christian Nationalism.  Or, you can visit a website like: Christians against Christian Nationalism.org. 

As we sang in last Sunday’s closing hymn, We’ve a Story to Tell the Nations: “We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord who reigneth above has sent us His Son to save us, and show us that God is love.”  As a Christian who believes that we ought be striving to practice the religion of Jesus rather than the religion about Jesus, I think this message is a terrific birthday gift we can give our troubled society and nation this year. 

But, what do you – as a Christian and American – think?  

I hope you – and our country – have a blessed 4th of July, 

Pastor Ed     

(603-620-4498 or RevEd85@aol.com)

Pastor’s Letter, June 26, 2024

Dear Salem FCC Friends in Christ,

This upcoming Sunday will be our last Sunday of worship before we begin summer worship on Wednesday evening, July 10th.  It’s also our last Sunday of worship before the 4th of July holiday when we remember and celebrate our nation’s birth.  It’s a time for reflecting on what I call our “dual citizenship.”   I hope you can join us in person or “tune in” online.   

As we prepare for Wednesday Evening worship, I want you to know we’ll be following a theme this summer.  It’s based on one of Jesus’ first questions to his followers, “What are you thinking in your hearts?”  (Luke 5:22)

Jesus’ question comes with two twists.  According to Luke, Jesus knew what they were thinking even before he asked his question!  This begs the question:  “If he knew, why did he even ask?”

The answer may lie in a second twist.  Some translators have Luke writing, “What are you thinking?” They imply that Jesus was asking a pointed question, you know: WHAT are YOU THINKING in YOUR HEARTS?   

These two twists make for interesting reflection, and they’ll add a layer to our thinking as we consider questions of faith and favorite hymns that some of you gave to me earlier in the year when I asked about these.  And, if you didn’t offer a question or hymn, but now have one you’d like us to consider, let me know.  As I wrote last week in inviting you to have a conversation with me this summer, every matter under heaven is fair game!

Blessings of a Relaxing Summer and Restful Worship!  

Pastor Ed 

(603-620-4498 or RevEd85@aol.com)

Pastor’s Letter, June 19, 2024

Dear Salem FCC Friends in Christ,

These hot, humid, late Spring days remind us of what’s coming: the “ lazy, hazy days of Summer.”   It’s a time when we in New England “slow down.”     

Even in the church we “slow down.”  Here, it includes moving worship to midweek and “having our weekends.”  On Wednesday evenings, we’ll have a lighter, more informal, “40 minute worship hour” with some relevant “give and take.”   And, who knows what else?   

Summer’s slowing down is all to the good in my “book.”  How about yours?

One thing to note, however, is that what doesn’t slow-down is human need.   So, as your interim pastor, I want to remind you: I’m not going anywhere this Summer.  I’ll be around, and if you have – or someone you know has – a pastoral need  let me know via phone, text, or email – anytime.  Or, if you just want to have a conversation about “any matter under heaven,” let’s find a time!  

Blessings of God’s Spirited Holiness Amidst All Seasons, 

Pastor Ed (603-620-4498 or RevEd85@aol.com)

Pastor’s Letter, June 12, 2024

Dear Salem FCC Friends in Christ,

WARNING: don’t look below until you have answered the question that follows this sentence!

The question?    What is the mission of this church of which you are a part?   

Got it?  OR give up?  

If so, look below, now…

The mission of the First Congregational Church of Salem, NH is to unite together all who seek a relationship with God through the Christian faith, promoting individual spiritual growth and personal peace in a safe, nonjudgmental and nurturing atmosphere. We will strive to provide a strong Christian fellowship community celebrating God’s grace through prayer, worship, music, education, service and fellowship and to provide Christian leadership in the community through action and example.

Did you get it?   Or did you not have a clue?   Why or why not?

Either way, let me – or a search committee – member know.

I ask because, as your interim pastor at the beginning of Pentecost Season- the season of the church,  I’m curious …  

Why am I wondering?  Ask yourself, or… ask me.  

Blessings of All Good Gifts of God’s Spirit,  

Pastor Ed

Pastor’s Letter, June 5, 2024

Dear Salem FCC Friends in Christ,
This upcoming Sunday we’ll gather for what we call All Church Family Sunday Worship. But, I wonder: what do we mean when we call ourselves a family?

After all there are many kinds of families. Just consider the adjectives we use to describe families. Like blended families, single-parent families, all-American families, queer families, and more…

There are also many different qualities to families. Families range from close and loving to distant and abusive. (which is why I’ve always found the term, family values used by some Christians, especially fundamentalist Christians and certain politicians, to be confusing, misleading, and even manipulative).

So… what kind of family are we?

My response is that we are a communion family, one filled with inclusive love and extraordinary hospitality for all persons. Everyone is welcome at our “tables” of worship, learning, serving, and Communion. But, what’s your response?

More importantly, whatever kind of family we call ourselves as we gather on this particular Sunday, what kind of family will we be going forward, day-in and day-out?

Blessings of Late Spring and Early Pentecost,
Pastor Ed

Pastor’s Letter, May 22, 2024

Dear Salem FCC Friends in Christ,

Thanks to the faithful work of your Settled Pastor’s Search Committee, we have now experienced 3 Focus Groups. Their initial process of information gathering was completed during last Sunday’s sermon time after we read the Pentecost story and noted how the Holy Spirit brought a diverse group of people the capacity to understand one another and speak to each other. I likened their experience to a challenge we face today as a church: translating the language of Christianity and our beloved ways of being church for unchurched people whose experience is very foreign to our own.

Now, the Search Committee will go to work compiling the information, reflecting on what it means, and translating it into responses to be inserted into your church’s profile that eventually will be circulated to prospective candidates for the position of settled pastor here. It is challenging work, so please keep the committee in your thoughts and prayers.

Blessings of All Good Gifts as we Enter the Pentecost Season,
Pastor Ed

Pastor’s Letter, May 15, 2024

Dear Salem FCC Friends in Christ, 

On this upcoming Sunday, May 19th we’ll remember and celebrate Pentecost during worship.   We’ll do so by listening to Luke’s story of Pentecost in his second book, The Acts of the Apostles.

His story recounts the day when Jesus’ followers and others experienced the coming of what Luke called the Holy Spirit.  As time went on, this day would come to represent the birth of Christ’s church.   So it is, we celebrate the church’s birthday each year on Pentecost Sunday!   

Now, what better day is there, then, to give Christ’s church a gift?   

And, what might the church need for a gift?…   How about ourselves?     

This is exactly what you’ll have a chance to do on this year’s Pentecost Sunday because the Settled Pastor’s Search Committee will be hosting its third focus group meeting during worship.  The focus question will be: How will we get where we’re going?  It’s a question for you as well as the Search Committee. 

I encourage you to attend worship this Sunday.  For you’ll be bringing the church a precious gift: yourself!   And, the Search Committee will benefit from your presence as they prepare a Church Profile for circulation to pastors seeking new call-settings in which they may share their own God-given gifts.   

May Christ’s church here be blessed by your presence this Sunday! 

Pastor Ed

Pastor’s Letter, May 8, 2024

Dear Friends in Christ,

Next Sunday we celebrate this Thursday’s Ascension Day, the 40th day after Easter, (Recall any other associations with the number 40?).  It’s an intriguing day when we remember that the once upon-a-time earthbound Jesus returns to heaven.  Luke reports that “while he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.” (Luke 24:5).  Later, in the first chapter of Acts (verse 9), he offers another image: “as they were watching, Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”  As a kid, I had my own version.  I imagine Jesus as like an Estes model rocket blasting-off and zooming upward into the sky!  

Taken literally this story seems unlikely history and more likely fantasy.  That’s why I now understand it metaphorically.  And, I’m in very good company.  Of Jesus’ Ascension, Christian scholar, and great teacher, Professor Marcus Borg wrote of Ascension Day in a blog almost 20 years ago:

          For Christians  past and now, it meant and means that Jesus is now with God, indeed “at God’s right hand” and “one with God.”  These affirmations have two primary dimensions of meaning.  Like the traditions of ancient  Israel and Judaism, they are religious and political, spiritual and social. First, Ascension Day proclaims the lordship of Christ. To say that the risen and ascended Jesus is “at God’s right hand,” a position of honor and authority, means “Jesus is Lord.”  In the first century, when kings and emperors claimed to be lords, this claim had not only religious but also political meaning.  To say “Jesus is Lord” meant, and means, that the Herods and Caesars of this world were not, and are not God.

          Second, because the risen and ascended Jesus is “one with God,” he (like God) can be experienced anywhere. Jesus is no longer restricted or confined to time and space, as he was during his historical lifetime. Rather, like the God whom he knew in his own experience, he continues to be known in the experience of his followers.

          To use language from Matthew’s Gospel, for Christians the risen and ascended Christ is Immanuel: “God with us.” (For Borg’s entire reflection, see: https://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/christianity/2000/05/the-ascension-of-jesus.aspx)

Now, I find in Borg’s expression an ongoing miracle of God more believable, more meaningful, more inspiring and more powerful than any magic moment of literal understanding.  But… how about you?

Blessings of Ascension Day,  

Pastor Ed 

Pastor’s Letter, May 1, 2024

Dear Friends in Christ,
Your Search Committee has offered two great opportunities for you to share your thoughts regarding who you are and where you want to go as a church body! I’ve found these sessions extremely interesting and very helpful. Attendees have offered many thoughtful contributions, and Search Committee members have listened carefully. They’ve also been reflecting faithfully at their meetings on what they’ve heard in these Focus Groups! They’re an extraordinary bunch!

So, I look forward to the upcoming third focus group on how you see yourselves getting to where you want to be. It will be integrated into our Pentecost Sunday worship on May 19th (along with the Annual Meeting). It promises to be an important, rich moment along your interim-time journey! So, I hope you’ll be able to be present because your contributions may be quite valuable.


Blessings of Easter Season,
Pastor Ed