Pastor’s Letter March 30,2022

“But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.”

John 5:17

“Are You Done, Yet?”

Earlier this week, I was thinking about my childhood. It was an amazing time to be alive especially after the gas shortage of the 70’s subsided and my family could take road trips once again. We would go all over seeing various types of historical sites and amusement parks. However, as with most pre-electronic age children, playing the “out-of-state license plate” game would get old after a while and one of us would invariably ask the dreaded question, “are we there yet?”

Not unreasonable by any means after a four – eight – twelve-hour journey cramped in the backseat of a car. Anyone would get bored. But, what about the ten, fifty, eighty-year journey of life. What about the journey of our faith overall or the journey of our faith throughout lent? Are you the one now asking, “Are You Done Yet?” 

Are you asking: “Are You, God, done creating and shifting the world in new ways? Changing it all around and making us re-learn things in order to speak with one another? Are you done, God so I can finally be at peace at the journey’s end?”

Have you asked these questions as you threw up your hands and said, “I’m done – I’ve done my ministry – time for someone else to do all the work.” It kind of sounds like – reminds me of – when we were children and someone would ask, “are we there yet?”

The reality is though, God is not done creating and recreating our world. We are not yet perfected in the kin-dom to come. We are all still on the journey of our faith. However young or old we are! Still, the way forward is not always a straight line. There is not just one road before us. It is more like a great untamed desert and with the help of God, we are plotting our way to the next stop along the journey. But it will take us to have a faith in God – a humbleness in our lack of perfection – and a loving goal to go further than the generations before us. It will take all these gifts, beloved, so the journey ahead may be transformed from the frustrated “are You done Yet” into a ministry of love as we journey together through the wilderness of life. 

May these gifts fill your life and transform our fellowship; so, we may hear God calling us to the next waystation on the journey knowing full well that God is not done, yet.

With loving faith

Your pastor and teacher, Brian

Please consider the ways you care for your own spirituality and faith throughout Lent. If you would like, you may text, call, or email me always to talk and discover ideas to help you refresh your soul. As I am here to support you and your relationship with God wherever you are on the journey. My number is (207-350-9561) if you need anything or simply want to talk. Next week, my pastoral care hours are Mon. 9-4, Tues. 12-5, Wed. 9-4, Thurs. 10-2 to provide some time for visiting. Many blessings and Love to you all.

Pastor’s Letter March 9, 2022

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up…”

  • Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 (NRSV)
image of a rustic alarm clock on a wooden table.

…but, why now?

Why now? These words keep fluttering about in conversations throughout our world. Why now, indeed? If you, Beloved, have not heard these words lately, I expect you have at some point in your life. Words of frustration when everything seems to be just a bit off. When it’s pouring rain outside, the dogs meet a new friend – the skunk, and you get locked out of the house trying to get them back in…Why now, seems like a great response along with some other choice words. But we also ask “why now” when everything seems to be going right and we feel some calling – some movement of spirit – some undeniable sensation to do something which moves us from the status quo and into a place of uneasiness. Why now? Why did I feel the need to upset the balance, now?

I have heard those words come from my own lips, beloved, as I prayed to God, often throughout the years. However, in my prayers the words from Ecclesiastes also kept coming back over and over: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” What this scripture does not say is we get to decide what time it is. In fact, the words of scripture remind us that we are not in control. We are the “matter under heaven.” And there is a time for us as individuals, as a fellowship, as a community. So, maybe now is that time and maybe it is not? That is why we pray and discern. Because we do not know for sure what season or time it is right now. We can only look around the world and witness the invitations to grow and learn.

Oh, and faithfully trust in God while it’s happening (whatever “it” is). That may be the most important part. For, anxiety over the future will not bring us peace nor will the sadness for the times now gone, peace is only found when we live in today – praying, discerning, and faithfully following wherever Christ is leading us. 

So, perhaps the question we could ask in this season of Lent is not, “why now”; but what are these things happening around us revealing to me – now? What is God calling me to do – now? What season and time is God bringing all humans into – now? For, I hope you remember, beloved, that our spiritual faith journey is both as an individual as well as part of the community. We affect each other in ways that we cannot even imagine. We learn from each other and grow as one body by witnessing the things affecting each other’s lives. It is in this journey together, we are called to discern where Christ is leading us as well and what time God has brought us into, as that one body. 

I pray you take a moment to pray this week to discern where you see Christ leading us as a people; so, we may come together and fulfill Her ministry and His Mission – together.

your pastor and teacher, Brian

Please consider the ways you care for your own spirituality and faith throughout Lent. If you would like, you may text, call, or email me always to talk and discover ideas to help you refresh your soul. As I am here to support you and your relationship with God wherever you are on the journey. My number is (207-350-9561) if you need anything or simply want to talk. Next week, my pastoral care hours are Mon. 9-4, Tues. 12-5, Wed. 9-4, Thurs. 10-2 to provide some time for visiting. Many blessings and Love to you all.

Pastor’s Letter Feb. 16, 2022

Picture of a handwritten letter amongst a stack of letters. There is a picture of a person slightly obscured by the letter.

Good afternoon, Beloved,

I pray you are enjoying the beautiful gift of sunshine which God has created for everyone throughout Creation. This prayer, though, reminds me of the power of love. Reminds me that by rejoicing in the loving gifts of God and the Love we feel for God, we can make it through the struggles in our lives. When we recall the blessings, we can – in fact – be encouraged to make it through one more month of a pandemic, one more day of a disease, one more moment of whatever… With this truth in mind, Merri and I challenge you, each of you, to share what helps you make it through the troubling times of life. For, this sharing will not only encourage you and each of us, but I also believe it will be a gift to our Creator – God. 

It is the very reason for our Love Challenge number three: Love Letters to God. The very reason why we would like you to share your “Love Letter” with the congregation: because we all need a little encouragement to make it through those struggles of life. Don’t we? We all need to see the beautiful ways God is revealed in each other’s lives everyday – to see the way through our struggles. Of course, we do; for, we all need each other and this way, beloved, is one way we can be there for each other.

So, I pray that you, each of you, will take up this challenge and write a “Love Letter” to God. Then bring it or send it to the church. Now Beloved, the letter does not have to be signed or in words. It can be a picture, a song, or a fuzzy bunny slipper. Any way that you wish to share how thankful you are for God’s Love and an expression of the Love you feel for God is a blessing that we are challenging you to share. It can be many letters or just a few words, as long as, it has meaning for you as a reflection of the love you feel for our God.

Imagine how powerful and encouraging this gift will be – for all of us, when we share our love for God in our own particular – way. Please know, we will share one each week in our God Moments and in our Newsletter until the end of Lent; so, we may all be encouraged by the Love of God surrounding us every day in our fellowship.

Many joyous blessings of God’s Love be with you all

your pastor and teacher, Brian

Please consider these thoughts and the teachings of Jesus during Epiphany. Next week, I am on vacation but, please call if it you have an emergency. My number is (207-350-9561). Many blessings and Love to you all.

Pastor’s Letter Feb. 9, 2022

Two people ice skating and holding one another in the middle of a snow storm.

Good afternoon Beloved,

Many blessings on this beautiful day that God has created for all of us – for all people and all of creation. I pray that you are each able to enjoy the moments of today before they slip away. Yet, I was thinking, is not this the very blessing that we hope and pray for throughout life? To enjoy every moment, especially those moments we are able to spend with the people we love. Is not this the truth that God teaches us as we wander through life? 

I believe it is. I believe every moment of life is a gift that God has created for you. And every moment you spend with the people you love is something even better. It is a reflection of the kin-dom which Christ is preparing for everyone. So, if my belief is true, what are we saying when we let grudges, hurt feelings, old wounds get in the way of the joy we could be experiencing? Are we saying God’s gift of that moment is not important? Are we saying the person in front of us is not important? Or are we simply saying that our pain is more important than living in the loving moments God is revealing to us every day? Personally, I am not sure, nor would I make that judgment on anyone. 

For me though, I can say that every moment I spend fixated on the bitter cold pain of life are moments that I am not spending cuddling under the blanket of love. This point is not a call to ignore the negative moments of life. No, we must be aware of them; but I pray you do not let them consume your every waking hour. For, if you do then you may just miss out on the beautiful day which we are experiencing right now. 

Happy Valentine’s Day, Beloved

I pray you enjoy each and every moment with the people you love; for, this gift is a reflection of God’s kin-dom here on Earth. 

Your pastor and teacher, Brian

Please consider these thoughts and the teachings of Jesus during Epiphany. If you would like, you may text, call, or email me always to talk. As I am here to support you and your relationship with God wherever you are on the journey. My number is (207-350-9561) if you need anything or simply want to talk. Next week, my pastoral care hours are Mon. 9-4, Tues. 12-5, Wed. 9-4, Thurs. 10-2 to provide some time for visiting. Many blessings and Love to you all.

Pastor’s Letter Feb. 2, 2022

An image of Jesus walking hand in hand with a child through the woods.

Good afternoon Beloved,

I pray you are each having a beautiful day and are “at one with God.” I share this blessing because too often we humans are not “at one with God,” or as other pastors might explain “right relationship with God.” However, for me this latter term of right relationship beckons that there is also a wrong relationship – a human judgment of right and wrong – or some clear-cut answer of how we must be in a relationship with God. Wouldn’t that be nice if everything were that simple. It’s not though, is it? 

Every relationship we have with every individual person in our life is different and also changes throughout time. The relationship we have with each of our children is different as are the relationships we have with each and every one of our friends, parents, and fellow parishioners. Relationships, I hope will grow stronger as you spend more time together learning about each other. Yet, those understandings and desires of the other person may change over time. I know mine have. What I understood at five years old when all girls had “cooties” has definitely changed over the years. Why then would our understanding of God not change, grow, evolve. And, why would God have the same relationship with each of us throughout our entire life?

This point is not to say God has favorites or treats some people better than others. Rather, the point is that our relationship with God is more individual than a clear-cut human understanding of right and wrong. It is about being at one with God – at peace with the Divine – in relationship with the one who loves us into Creation. It is a relationship we are called to nurture and respect in a kind and loving way. Not with the ego of, this way is “RIGHT” and that way is “WRONG”; but with, ‘this way of our relationship’ right now is comforting to me and brings me peace. At one with God at this point on my journey to the kin-dom. 

That said, being at one with God is only one part of the journey – a layover – that is good; but does not take us any closer to our destination. For us to continue on the Way, we must be challenged and challenge our understanding against others. Not in violence, but in the love that Christ has for us all. Worship, Christian Education, even the ONA learning Sessions are amazing ways for you to challenge others and your understanding while nurturing your relationship with God. Not because I say so; but because this place is your home – your safe place – your church where you have many relationships with many people. People who love and care for you always. One of the places where you are at one with all of us in fellowship. 

I pray you continue to nurture your own relationship with God and all of us as we learn, grow and nurture our relationships together in this Beloved fellowship.

your Pastor and Teacher, Brian

Please consider these thoughts and the teachings of Jesus during Epiphany. If you would like, you may text, call, or email me always to talk. As I am here to support you and your relationship with God wherever you are on the journey. My number is (207-350-9561) if you need anything or simply want to talk. Next week, my pastoral care hours are Mon. 9-4, Tues. 12-5, Wed. 9-4, Thurs. 10-2 to provide some time for visiting. Many blessings and Love to you all.

Pastor’s Letter Jan. 26, 2022

Good morning, 

May God’s love always find and guide you through the storms of our lives. For, storms will come and there is only so much we can do to prepare for these events ahead of time. Yes, we can go to the grocery stores, pull out the snow shovels, cover our windshields with snow shields; but, in the end, the snow will come. And we as individuals have to face the pile of white fluffy stuff falling from the sky eventually. So, how do we face the storm?

In truth Beloved, there are a lot of theories about how we accomplish this eventuality and many ideas about motivation. Many of these ideas speak on the difference between an external motivation like we have to go to work and an internal one like when we want to go visit someone. Both get us out into the cold. Yet, most theories believe that the internal source is a longer lasting and more healthy way to endure the storm. If you had not guessed, I am speaking about more than just the weather. I am also speaking about the storms in our life where no motivation will get us out from under the covers. Storms of health, depression, loss, etc. What motivates us then to get up, breathe deep, and face the eventual storm?

Now as your pastor and teacher, it would be lovely to think everyone is going to say God; but, let us be human as well and realize what actually does get us up in the middle of the storm. What sends us out in the middle of the night when our child is sick with a whooping cough and needs medicine. What is it that causes us to drive halfway across the country in the middle of a blizzard when our grandmother gets in a car accident? What motivates us to hold and care for our husbands as the storm of sickness carries away their personality? Any ideas? How about love, beloved? The simple and powerful gift of love. Yes, I believe love is the great motivator which sends each of us into the white flurries of the storm, every time. Thank be to God; for, God is Love. Hmm, maybe everyone can say – God gets us through.

In all seriousness, Beloved, this truth is the very reality of our faith; God is not an external or internal source motivating us through the storms. But the One who provides meaning to our lives by inspiring us with love as they traverse the storms with us. The storms that will eventually come and the storms which will eventually end. This love, which is from God, will allow us to face the white stuff falling from the sky – every time. 

May you always be blessed by the Love of God as we traverse the storms together

Your pastor and teacher, Brian

Please consider these thoughts and the teachings of Jesus during Epiphany. If you would like, you may text, call, or email me always to talk. As I am here to support you and would be happy to hear how you are surviving the storms of your life. My number is (207-350-9561) if you need anything or simply want to talk. Next week, my pastoral care hours are Mon. 9-4, Tues. 12-5, Wed. 9-4, Thurs. 10-2 to provide some time for visiting. Many blessings and Love to you all.

Pastor’s Letter Jan. 19, 2022

Good afternoon, Beloved,

         I pray the day finds you well and free from the pretzel-like troubles of this world. These troubles that we are enduring so often today, though, are only intensified because we cannot find a solution. At least not one which seems acceptable due to the lines being drawn in the sand and people flocking to one tribe or another. We have seen this time and time again. The conflicts created by doing anything in the old familiar way as compared to the new changes being innovated in an ever-changing world. 

Now, I believe we can see these conflicts happen in generational differences, political differences, and yes even in religious differences. We even see this reality creep out over small things like mask use: should they be required for the greater good or should they be avoided due to their inefficiency and propensity to cause health problems for people. The problem is that somewhere along the line people stopped listening with an open heart to the opposing perspectives. And decided the arguments were either / or. I am right and moral and you are wrong and immoral. Why would we do anything else as there is so little time in our world to hear the voices of our friends, let alone those others who do not believe as we do. 

Why? Because, Beloved, God calls to all people – all genders – all identities – all of Creation. And if we cannot find a solution amongst our perspective then maybe…just maybe, we need to learn from another source to discover the middle ground in a world of divisions. For our reopening team that place in the middle was and is the individual discernment and choice of mask use for each person. A decision, I believe, was the most faithful choice they could make. Well done.

Perhaps this gift we give ourselves to learn though will also allow us to follow the faithful call to teach one another – another tribe – another Beloved child; so, we call all be held by God together. With this thought in mind, I offer these words from another source about the teachings of Christ and how we deal with the changing church of today. 

Lest We Burst

By John Engleton

Jesus told them this parable: “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” – Luke 5:37-39

Between 2008 and 2019 I led worship approximately twelve hundred times, give or take a hundred. Leading services three times a week for almost eight years really ran up the numbers. I went from wobbly and nervous to loose and confident. I’m not boasting, just pointing out that practicing something a thousand times really helps.

Since the pandemic began, I’ve led worship maybe a hundred times. And those one hundred times have been in at least four or five formats that were new to me: live on Zoom, pre-recorded on YouTube, livestreamed in the sanctuary, outdoors on the lawn, a hybrid of all the above. I’m back to wobbly and nervous, and I don’t like it. I miss the old wine of well-known ways of worship. I’ve tasted the new and I would say, “The old is better!”

It’s okay if the time of worship during Covid isn’t your favorite. It’s okay if it doesn’t measure up to what used to be. No one should expect it to. This is a time of new wine. This time has to be given room to breathe and expand, to become whatever it will become. Our job as the church is to learn new lessons and strengthen new muscles. Our job as the church is to stretch and flex.

Because we aren’t the wine. We are the wineskins.

Prayer

God, this time is hard for us. Help us to worship you in beauty and truth, in new ways.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John EdgertonJohn Edgerton is Lead Pastor at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.

May all of these thoughts help guide you to find the place God is calling you too, not on one side or another; but in the loving place which encompasses all of Creation together. 

Your pastor and teacher, Brian

Please consider these thoughts during Epiphany. If you would like, you may text, call, or email me always. As I would enjoy hearing how you feel are stretching and growing in these times. My number is (207-350-9561) if you need anything or simply want to talk. Next week, My pastoral care hours are Mon. 9-4, Tues. 12-5, Wed. 9-4, Thurs. 10-2 to provide some time for visiting. Many blessings and Love to you all.

Pastor’s Letter Dec. 1, 2021

“you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

  • Mark 12:30-31(NRSV)

Good afternoon Beloved,

I pray that you are all well and experiencing ALL the Love God has to offer in this blessed season of Advent. Love though, as we all know, has so many different ways that it can be experienced. It is the feeling that we have for our significant others. The feeling that we have for our children and for our friends. It can even be the feeling that we have for things like ice cream or a Baconator. Yet in all these ways, we are only describing the feeling of love in our heart, or maybe that which lies in the mind and soul. But none of these various ways truly describe the depth of love we are called to exhibit in “all (of our) strength.” To Love God “with all your strength” includes our bodies. We can understand this idea as the love we reveal through our actions and service to God’s Mission. It is like when our friends gather to help the SonShine Soup kitchen or the Beloved who are learning about Open and Affirming. Basically, it is the idea of showing God’s Love in everything we do, think, and feel. 

This Beloved is actually easier said than done. Yet, sometimes an opportunity comes along to show our love for all humankind with all of our strength. An opportunity which we did not know existed. An opportunity to be the very light of love for another human being in the midst of darkness. Our own beloved Amy Chartrain has brought this opportunity to us this week which I feel exemplifies what it means to be a Christian who loves God with all our strength.

For come to find out, there is a foster home in Lawrence for young girls (ages 13-18). These girls come from troubled homes. Many of their parents are either incarcerated or are formerly incarcerated. Rather than risk going back and forth into many foster homes, the children have chosen to live here. This location alone is a gift of care and love to the least among us as the directors are working at making this place even better. Some improvements include a home gym space so the girls can incorporate activity into their daily routine. However, their upbringing and situations have also made them vulnerable to the worst kind of predators. Those who prey on the children.

As such, these young women have been lured to parties and the subsequent sex trafficking of their bodies through the offer of a new pair of sneakers. Yes, sneakers – predators in our neighboring Lawrence are using sneakers to force children into a life of human trafficking. These horrible crimes must stop and I pray the police find everyone who is guilty. Yet, beloved this darkness also reveals the very way we – you and I – can reveal the love of God with our strength. We can help in this Advent season by taking away the lure. By making one child’s life a little safer from these predators with one 20-dollar gift card to Foot Locker.

Therefore, I hope you will join me in procuring some gift cards and bringing them to worship on December 12th where these gifts of our love will be offered and received. If you have any questions, please ask either me or Amy.

This said, revealing our love can be that easy at times . It can be that easy to give a card but it requires beloved disciples like Amy to reveal the need, to love God and people with all her strength, to bring the darkness into the light of Christ. It requires a discerning mind and the strength to step forward and lead the way. The strength to say, “NO,” when injustices are happening. So, we may end the darkness together. This is part of the love we are all called to do and one way we fulfill the Mission of God.

I feel blessed to witness a beloved disciple loving with all of her strength, thank you Amy. For, you are an example of loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves. I pray we all witness this example and seek with all of our strength to love God by loving one another throughout the season of Advent.

May your week be full of all the Love God has to offer

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 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.

Pastor’s Letter Oct. 13, 2021

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”

  • Romans 12:9 ESV
An image of a heart shaped cloud against a blue sky.
Cloud heart in the sky in the clouds and sunshine

Good afternoon Beloved,

I bring this prayer from the Apostle Paul to us as authenticity seems lost, hidden, replaced behind a veil of hypocrisy or good intentions in our world today. None of which is helpful in loving one another. For the genuine Love of God can only be achieved by witnessing people, authentically, as who they are and remaining in fellowship with them, afterwards. 

To explain, this week is the UCC NH Conference annual meeting. As with many of these meetings, I have seen very few people speak up about their feelings and thoughts. They may have concerns about a decision or a Witness being presented, but that concern lays dormant in their heart. “No reason to tip the boat,” “what will other people think of me,” and “is it worth the energy to fight this decision” are just some of the reasons I have heard or thought about not confronting a decision. Yes, my heart has also questioned how much of my authentic self I wish to share with the conference and with other people. I have gauged whether it was worth the risk or whether it was that important. And, Beloved, I will say that there is no perfect answer. Each of us must discern for ourselves how much we will share. 

Yet, the truth that I can express with you right now is that without authenticity, God’s true love does not exist. Personally, I never experienced love – true love – before becoming vulnerable to another person. Oh yes, I have been in love before but it was not the same. It was not until I revealed my deep authentic self to Angel that I felt the love which poets hint at and the birds sing about. I finally witnessed the glimmer of God’s Love given to all humankind when we debated quite passionately about different issues and found each other’s loving arms holding us afterwards. It is a love built on trust and caring for one another. A love built on each person seeing the authentic self of the other and remaining in fellowship through the conflicts and debates. 

That said, this type of authentic genuine love can be scary at times as there are people who will use our vulnerabilities against us; but, here in this Beloved fellowship where love and forgiveness is what we seek, I believe that we will always be safe to share and discover God’s genuine love in all functions of our faith. Therefore, I pray you will be your authentic self and share your truth in your relationships. Reveal yourself to our Conference. And accept the differing views of others in our everyday lives as we seek the Love of God – together. May we find the Genuine Love we all seek in God, The Church, and in the Other. 

Many beautiful blessings in your journey

Your pastor, Brian

As always please call (207-350-9561) if you need anything. Next week, my pastoral care hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 8:00– 4:00; Tuesday 10:30 – 6:30. I will be writing from home on Friday. If I am in the office, please feel free to stop in to talk. Many blessings and Love to you all, always.