Pastor’s Letter Nov. 17, 2021

Text "Thankful Grateful Blessed" in wood relief on a table with acorns and pinecones.

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”

-Meister Eckhart 

Good morning, Beloved,

I pray everyone is well and safe in God’s loving care, a gift which I hope you never overlook and are continually thankful to receive. These thoughts came to me this week as we discussed the beautiful writings of the Apostle in Paul’s Letter to the Romans in our Bible study. Words which speak of the logical result following the day Jesus was crucified and risen into the kingdom of God. Words that free us from the “Law” of our fore parents and invite us into a deep relationship based on love, discernment, and covenant. A relationship which we are all thankful for as it invites us into beloved kinship with Christ. I was pondering these thoughts and realized how grateful I am to be free of those laws and the works of our past. Grateful that our Creator and Christ trusts each of us to be faithful. Grateful to be one amongst many of God’s Beloved.

In these moments before Thanksgiving, I wondered if there is a connection between our faith and our holiday of Thanksgiving? And then it came, of course there is Beloved for the pilgrims alone are our religious fore parents; celebrations of Thanksgiving go back into the annals of the Old Testament; and, President Abraham Lincoln was a Christian. This truth became obvious when he declared Thanksgiving to be a national holiday by saying, 

“As a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

Interestingly though, and a point we so often overlook in our modern day observance of the holiday, it is also a call to “humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.” A call for us to repent those past offences while being thankful for the blessings which God has granted each of us, every day. What a beautiful reminder that our faith is both a joy which we are so thankful to receive and it is also one which comes with a cost. A cost to repent, do better, and continually be in fellowship as one community, regardless of our cultural beginnings. I offer this truth, beloved, as we prepare for our Thanksgiving celebrations for it becomes another way for each of us to show our gratitude to God when we seek justice, peace, and reconciliation with God’s beloved, no matter who they are or where they are on the journey of life.

May we each continue to pray with thanksgiving – reconciliation – and love; for, that is enough.

Your pastor, Brian

As always please call (207-350-9561) if you need anything or simply want to talk. Next week, My pastoral care hours are Mon. 8-12, Tues. 12-5, Wed. 8-4 to provide some time for visiting. However, if I am at the church please come in . Many blessings and Love to you all.

Pastor’s Letter Nov. 11, 2021

Picture of a red rose, wet with rain drops coming out of the darkness.

Hello Beloved,

And you are Beloved by one another, by me, and by God. In this Truth, I pray that each of you are doing well on this beautiful rainy morning. Those words though almost sound like an oxymoron. A reality which seems contradictory in nature. For, how can the rain be beautiful? It is overcast, gloomy, and some may even say depressing. As it is with so many conflicts in our life. There is nothing good about war or change, many of us would believe. Yet, the world which is created (or rather recreated) after the conflicts can be beautiful. That is the world we look towards when the rain falls and conflicts happen. Not the present strife; but the glory to come when the world is recreated by God. When hearts soften and forgiveness fills the souls of all that live. So, when I say what a beautiful rainy day, it is my hope for the future to come when new flowers will bloom and the green grass will be replenished by the gift of fallen rain. Mind you, it does not hurt that the rain we get today means we may have one less day of snow.

With this thought in mind, I am reminded of the conflicts which have erupted throughout our fellowship in the past and sadly in the last few months. Moments when the rain fell and stirred emotions of fear and anxiety. I am reminded of them and say thank you, God, for the beautiful rain. Thank you for showing us how to grow into a covenant of love which invites us to continually forgive and let go of these conflicts once voted upon. Let go and love one another, love ourselves, and especially to love God. I was and am reminded of this truth when all the hard work and stress of many months erupted into one of the most beautiful craft fairs I could have hoped to witness. Smiles and joy were everywhere as people flocked to visit from throughout the community. Conversations and laughter seemed to fill the rooms. And, to my joy, treats and treasures were shared while Christmas music played in the background. To anyone who missed this blessing of fellowship, I am sorry and I hope you can join us next year. I am sorry as this gift which was originally created by Philathia is and has been a revelation of the beloved community we are called to become. Thank you all for sharing in this ministry of community fellowship, outreach, and love.

Finally, I would like to publicly say that I am sorry once more to anyone who has felt abashed, hurt, or abandoned in the last few weeks, months, or years by anything that has transpired in this faithful community. I know these rains of conflict still cling to some hearts as do the rains which have befallen my own life. But, I do believe they are all beautiful rains which may rear their pain at times; and yet, I feel they are also inviting us to come together in the loving fellowship of God’s Beloved community. Inviting us to be recreated like we were through our Covenant or how we were revealed in our beautiful craft fair this last weekend. Inviting us to forgive.  I will live into this beauty; for, you are each my brother – my sister – my friend who I call Beloved. To this truth, I testify and commit my whole heart.

May you each witness the beauty after the rain, everyday

Your pastor, Brian

As always please call (207-350-9561) if you need anything or simply want to talk. Next week, My pastoral care hours are Mon. 8-12, Tues. 12-5, Wed. 8-4, Thurs. 10-2 to provide some time for visiting. However, if I am at the church please come in . Many blessings and Love to you all.

Pastor’s Letter Oct. 20, 2021

Hello Beloved,

I pray everyone is well and feeling all the love God offers freely to our Beloved church. Church though is an interesting word. Is church a building, the people, both. I seem to lean towards the idea of both. But even more, church is a relationship. The relationship we have with one another through God. The one we create with one another. It is also the ability to forgive and grow with one another. The joy to celebrate through work and fellowship in all we do, together. Basically, I believe that church is the blessing of being in fellowship with one another while we worship God – together. 

We are reminded of this in the Bible: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Here we are reminded that worship happens when at least two or three are gathered; but, beloved, this is the minimum requirement. It is the beginning of what church can be. What happens when three or four, fifty and sixty, etc. gather in relationship – in community – in fellowship to worship God in love – forgiveness, and all we do together?

Might I suggest, we then have a beloved church. What do you think?

This week as we prepare for the installation service, I would like to invite everyone to consider what church means to them. I pray it is the same and that we continue to grow in our faith in God as we deepen our relationships of love with one another.

May your week be a blessing of God’s church, born out of the relationships with one another.

Your pastor, Brian

As always please call (207-350-9561) if you need anything. Next week, I will be on vacation visiting more of our beloved family and building those relationships of God’s love. Many blessings and Love to you all.

“How do we stand?”

The image is of one hand reaching down to multiple hands reaching up. In the background is a multi colored sunset and a cross in the distance.

Presented to the First Congregational Church of Salem August 18, 2021

I used to love reading old mysteries like Sherlock Holms by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. You know the old “Who-Done-It” stories or ones like it. The ones which reveal some crime before the hero is called in to discover the criminal. Personally, I enjoyed figuring out who that adversary was before the hero stood up and confronted them; and, I was quite good at figuring who they were well before the hero stood up. That is until I realized it was all a trick. For you see, writers have to show you the adversary many times – give reasons – point out clues to make the eventual confrontation believable.

But in life, not every adversary has a face. Sometimes our adversary is nature – is the world – is a destructive force like War – Strife – Famine – Pestilence and Death. How do we stand against these destructive forces let alone confront these adversaries when they are not people? How do we stand when each day brings another issue? When each moment becomes harder and harder to get out of bed – deal with depression – or manage a mental illness? How do we, as a people, stand against the destructive forces in life?

Before we continue, would you pray with me:

Holy God, help us to stand against those forces in life which tear at our minds, hearts, and bodies. Help us, God, and teach us how to be your hands helping others to stand as well. May all that is spoken and meditated upon this day be pleasing to You.

The reality is Beloved – you alone – cannot. Cannot stand or confront these forces – alone. I say this with all humility and please know that it is not just you – it is me as well – and everyone in the world, I imagine. None of us can stand or confront the personified adversaries of destruction – alone. We are speaking about things like the destructive war in Afghanistan, the divisive politics in the US, the fires in California, or even the pandemic which is affecting everyone. 

But these destructive forces can be smaller as well. They can also be something as tragic and personal as mental illness. Even this personified adversary cannot be confronted alone. It is an adversary who is recorded to be affecting 20.56% of New Hampshire’s population, that is about 221,000 people, in 2021. Those, Beloved, are only the recorded cases, let alone the people who have not sought help. Furthermore, mental illness has been growing in this state well before Covid 19 began with major increases between 2017and 2019. Of course, the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. As of yesterday, The Washington Post reported that there were four times more children admitted for mental illness from June 2020 to this past spring. These facts, beloved, means, we really do not know how many people are dealing with mental illness right now in our community. But it is at least one in every five people you meet every day.

Moreover, most people cannot stand up and confront this adversary alone. We need help from time to time. We need help to witness how we have changed emotionally, physically, and spiritually. For, we do not always see the loneliness in our eyes as we make jokes – the cuts on our thighs when we dance through the kitchen – the anxiety on our face when someone asks us to go out into the world. We do not see, because sometimes we cannot see beyond our own anxiety, stress, or depression. Others may not see, because people may be dealing with their own personified adversary.

And there have always been personified adversaries and destructive forces working in our world as revealed in our continued reading from the book of Revelation. In this scripture, we witness the lamb open four seals and call forth the four most destructive forces the world knew at that time. Each one is personified as a rider on a horse which the theologian William Barclay explains is reminiscent of the book of Zechariah. Which makes sense; because we know the prophet John is writing through symbols to avoid persecution. So of course, the destructive forces – the personified adversaries – the horsemen would be a symbol which the Jewish Christians understood from the Old Testament. This goes along with the descriptions of War on the white horse with a bow which is symbolic of military strength, Strife on the red horse destroying peace and turning neighbor against neighbor, Famine on the Black horse which the living creatures refute as one who takes food from the poor yet does not touch the wealthy person’s “oil” and “wine.” Finally, the last force is Pestilence and Death on the pale horse. For the prophet John, these are the most destructive forces which assault humankind. Historical evidence supports this as each one of these destructive forces were assaulting the people of Asia Minor during the time when Revelation was written. Therefore, I imagine the people must have felt like these forces were heralding the end times – the apocalypse – the final judgement by God. 

The same way I imagine it feels for someone who is suffering with mental illness. They can feel a war rage mentally as internal strife tears apart their emotional abilities to cope. Famine, or a lessened appetite, can weaken a person’s health forcing them to be more susceptible to the pestilence and the plagues of today. Yet, it can also work slowly – ripping at our mental, emotional, and physical lives. So slowly in fact that we cannot always see what is happening. For, the clues – reasons – adversary may not be obvious as we go from day to day. Therefore, we may not even realize there is a crime happening before the adversary of mental illness has destroyed us entirely. 

However, these destructive forces – big and small – are what we are called to stand up and confront in ourselves and within all of Creation. The book of Revelation goes on to share this truth in that we, the Beloved, are the only ones who can stand as we are the only ones who will be free of the destruction coming from these adversaries. 

Yet, I would like to turn our attention to the Gospel of John so we may witness the Good News of how we are able to stand when we feel the forces destroying us or each other. The Good News which shares that we are not alone – when we believe. When we believe in God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, we will have a place for us in the kin-dom to come. Wherever Christ goes, we will be there, as well. That truth by itself is powerful, beloved. The thought that no matter how bad things, may get. How destructive those forces, may be. How far we spin into the abyss of mental illness, we will not be alone in our suffering; for, God is always with us when we believe. And although this thought is comforting to me, I humbly submit it may not be to everyone, especially our beloved who are facing the war of depression or the strife of anxiety. But remember – remember the words of truth – the words which say, WE will be there also. We – as one beloved people – will be there also with God and you; and this truth, beloved, is the Good News of how we stand.

We stand with one another through the Holy Spirit – with God – and with Christ to confront these destructive forces – together – as one people; for, we are not alone. That truth is how we stand – as one people held together – lovingly – through God. But this message, Beloved, is also a call to action. A call to rise up and stand for one another as there are destructive forces eating away at our lives – tearing apart our mental – emotional – and physical lives. It is our call to listen – hear – love one another in their frustrations. Hold – support – care for one another in their grief. It is a call to kindly and lovingly reach out to our sisters and brothers to witness who they are – now. Witness their reality and ask, have they changed from yesterday, last month, a year ago? Are they now short fused – succumbing to hate – losing weight? I pray that each of our beloved friends are not as these can all be signs of mental illness and the destructive forces at work. And this truth, Beloved, is the Good News that we are called to reveal to one another – every day of our lives. The Good News that they are also not alone – we will confront the destructive forces together because we all believe together in God. The Good News of a higher call which we need to do as we each care and love one another through the struggles of life. May your week be a blessing of giving and receiving this care from our beloved fellowship who loves you – every part of you. In the name of Christ who showed us the Way, Amen

Pastor’s Letter June 30, 2021

Hello Beloved, 

I pray you are all staying cool and enjoying life as we head into the summer months. May every day be a blessing of peace for each of you. Peace though is not something we just have. It is a state-of-being granted from God. One that I hope, you will always work towards, strive for, seek in all that you do. For, this state-of-being is also a gift which revitalizes our spirits. A gift like sleep which restores the mind or food which rejuvenates our body. Yet as I write this letter I wonder: how often do people seek or experience the peace of Christ? Could it be compared to retirement when all the work of life is done or perhaps more like our summer vacations when the work of the year is over. Maybe, we need more peace than that – maybe we need daily peace to revitalize our spirit? I pray this latter time was your answer; for, we do. We need to seek and experience peace- daily – to revitalize our spirits and recharge. 

Now beloved, I bring this truth to us today as caring for ourselves is an important step to being beloved disciples who care for all people, even those we may not like. For, how can we care for others unless we feel care – how can we offer peace unless we feel at peace – how can we give love unless we feel loved. I am not sure we can. Therefore, I pray as we start to plan our summer vacations to recharge, we do not forget the many ways to revitalize our spirits and care for ourselves.

Ways of care and revitalization of the spirit, though, are as varied as there are people in the world. They can be the simple prayer to God to the extended conversation we have with Jesus during an early morning cup of coffee. It could be a walk on the beach each night or a hike up the mountain. It could even be the gathering of people at a concert to our Wednesday night fellowship and worship. Personally, I hope it is our Wednesday night worship. However, wherever and however you are revitalized is important and welcomed as this presentation is part of who you are. And, I love who you are. 

May you always remember, beloved disciples, to revitalize your spirit by seeking the peace of Christ so we may all care for the world together.

In God’s love for all

Your pastor, Brian 

My pastoral letters will be posted on Sundays throughout the summer. More news to come on this offering.

Next week, my pastoral care times in the church will be Wednesday and Thursday. I will generally be in the office from 8-4 (or 5), unless visiting. Even though I will be on vacation this week, please know I will be reachable by phone if you need anything. If you would like to meet at a particular time when I return please call. My cell phone is available anytime at (207) 350-9561(texts and voice messages). I am also available by email at pastor@fcc-salem.org. May God guide us in Love, always and amen.

Pastor’s Letter June 23, 2021

Hello Beloved, 

I hope that today finds you peacefully in the palm of God’s open hands. Especially in our world that seems to always be in conflict – always changing – always wanting, the idea of simply being at peace sounds wonderful to me. I pray it does for you as well. I pray that you strive for that peace – the peace which God offers all people and not the insatiable hunger to want more. I pray you each receive this gift of peace; for, the insatiable hunger  of our society is the first step on the path to envy.

And, we know this truth. We know that coveting, or wanting, another’s wife, husband, house, ox, or anything is against the ten commandments. It is against the Ten Commandment because it causes the sin of envy. For, when we want what another person has to the point of coveting, humans feel envious of their neighbors. Yet, the want and envy cannot be sated and this creates both internal and external turmoil. Therefore, we can witness this sin as one of the major causes of divides and separations between neighbors.

That said, I was wondering this week if envy and coveting could be seen more broadly. What if the hunger, the want, the covet is not just in relation to people, livestock, or things. What if the want is also thought? As in, can we covet another person’s thoughts – want them to have the same thoughts – feelings – goals as us – hunger for this reality to the point of envy or divisiveness? I believe we can. Not only do I believe this problem is possible, I believe it is happening and creating horrible turmoil in our society today. For people are wanting everyone to believe the same way. 

Yet, we are the beloved all with different thoughts, history, and beliefs coming together not to demand we have all the same thoughts; but, to learn, grow, and be at peace in the beautiful diversity of a beloved community. What a blessing it will be when all people will feel at peace enough to share their thoughts with each other – comfortably. May your week be a blessing of peace amongst a world of controversies. 

In God’s love for all,

Your pastor, Brian 

Next week, my pastoral care times in the church will be Monday and Tuesday. I will generally be in the office from 8-4 (or 5), unless visiting. After that, I will be on vacation until July 6th. If you would like to meet at a particular time in person, by phone or video please call. My cell phone is available anytime at (207) 350-9561(texts and voice messages). I am also available by email at pastor@fcc-salem.org. May God guide us in Love, always and amen.