Be the church

What does it mean to “be the church”? I recently read a beautiful essay called “Church Is What We Create with Each Other” by Erin O. White that really captured the blessings of being a smaller church. In it, she describes how her church does announcements at the beginning of each service, which can be anything from the mundane to the joyful, as when an 89-year old member announced the birth of his twin granddaughters one Sunday. People share reminders about upcoming events in the life of the church and community, or ask for donations or volunteer help with something.

“For a long time announcements bothered me,” White says. “I thought they kept us from what mattered, that they were housekeeping, business best conducted somewhere else. Was now really the time to talk about pancake breakfasts and broadband networks? But I’ve since come to understand that yes, actually, now is the time. Because I’ve learned — over many, many years — that church isn’t about order or quiet or even ritual so much as it is about showing up. For yourself, for God, and for the people around you who need to feel — just as you do — that the blessings and burdens of being a human are not theirs to bear alone.”

Indeed, church is about showing up for one another, in many ways. In the small ways perhaps even more so than the big ones. Church is when someone picks you up and gives you a ride to church on Sunday mornings; or when someone brings a home-cooked meal to your house when you are sick. Church is sending cards or flowers; it is going to the memorial service for your loved one. Church is helping someone else’s child get a glass of juice at coffee hour; it is a phone call to make sure you are okay when you haven’t been at church for a while. Church is about sharing our joys and concerns, not just during prayer time in the service, but at other times as well.

“When you are part of a church you accept people’s offerings, even the ones you don’t necessarily want,” White goes on to say. “One week their announcements will bore you and the next week they will make you weep, and sometimes it will be the same announcements. And sometimes during a hymn they’ll start a harmony and you’ll join, and your voices will become a conversation, an expression of love between people who by many measures barely know each other at all.”

So, let’s keep showing up for each other, as we move into this Eastertide season filled with new life and new possibilities. Let’s create the church we want to be, together.

Now that our new pastor is here

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.” Philippians 1:3-5

Dear Church,

My mother always made sure that I wrote thank you notes in a timely manner after my birthday, or Christmas, or graduation. And, although I try very hard to carry on that practice, I do not always send out notes as quickly as I should. It is not that I am not grateful for the gift, or for the thought that has gone into it, I’m just not good about getting the notes written. So, I wanted to take this opportunity in this month’s newsletter to share my deep gratitude to all of you, for making the Installation Service such a joyful and uplifting occasion. From the first introit led by Voices of Africa, to the vibrant anthem and hymn singing, to the last notes of the bagpipes, my heart was full.

So many people played a role in making the afternoon such a wonderful celebration – bringing food, singing in the choir, setting up the fellowship hall, printing bulletins, making the sanctuary look beautiful, wearing red, and just your very presence! – that I could never thank each of you enough. I want you to know that I do not take any of it for granted, and that I feel both deeply honored and humbled by the privilege of being only the third installed pastor of this congregation.

I still smile every time I think about that day, and I do give thanks to God every time I remember you, as Paul wrote to the church at Philippi. I chuckle to myself every time I hear someone say, “Now that our new pastor is here,” since I don’t feel all that new! But it reflects the new relationship we have entered into, one which allows us the ability to explore new ways of doing ministry together both here in Burlington, and in the wider church and global community. I want to hear your thoughts, dreams, and ideas for ways we can live out our faith together. I am preparing a survey of the congregation which will seek your input in the areas of music and worship, mission, and congregational care. The more input we get, the better our collective ideas will be!

As always, I welcome your phone calls, visits, or emails to share your thoughts or concerns at any time. I look forward to continuing to build relationships with you as we move forward together, sharing the gospel in our words and actions, both near and far!

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Trina

Mission Team

We are approaching the second anniversary of the first time I came to preach at Burlington Presbyterian, and yet we are also setting out on a new phase in our journey together, as pastor and congregation. I am excited about celebrating my installation as your next called and installed pastor on February 4th! While I feel that I have gotten to know many of you individually, and as a church, I also still have much to learn. In many ways, we have been in a holding pattern over the past two years, as you grieved the loss of Pastor Mike and prepared the search process through the PNC. We have done well at keeping the basic functions of the church going strong – and have even made some changes here and there! – but we have not delved too deeply into what really makes you passionate and energized to serve Jesus Christ beyond these walls.

As a church, you have supported many missions and ministries both here in your local community, such as People Helping People, Camp Wilmot, and Elmbrook Place, and in the wider world, from Heifer Project International to special offerings for disaster relief and in many other ways. We are a small church, but we can make a significant impact on the lives of those in our pews and in the world around us when we work together. I would love to hear from you about where you think we can make a difference, whether on a local, or larger scale issue.

We will be putting together a mission team to determine where we want to focus our efforts as a church for the upcoming year, and determining some ways we can serve God together in our communities. If you know of opportunities or organizations that would benefit from a group service project, we are open to suggestions! And if you are interested in joining the mission team to help guide our focus and narrow things down, please let me know. This is a time for dreaming new dreams and seeing new visions! What new thing is God doing in the life of Burlington Presbyterian Church, even now?

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Trina

Reformation 500: More than a celebration

October 26, 2017 by Presbyterian News Service
As Presbyterians prepare to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this Sunday two prominent Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) theologians say it is an opportunity for the church to reconsider history — and how it tells the story of the past 500 years.
The Rev. Dr. David Gambrell and the Rev. Dr. Charles Wiley of the Presbyterian Mission Agency believe that while the Reformation divided us, we are now witnessing a convergence of the traditions that were separated. They say this presents an opportunity to focus on the gifts we have received from each other and to celebrate what we share.

For past five years, Gambrell participated in the eighth round of Roman Catholic-Reformed dialogue in the United States (2012–2017). This dialogue builds on the work of previous rounds — especially the 2013 Mutual Recognition of Baptism that came out of the seventh round.
“We were seeking consensus around historically divisive issues,” says Gambrell, “asking questions like ‘Who can be ordained? Can we recognize each other’s ordination? Who oversees ministry? What is the relationship between bishops and presbyteries?’”

Gambrell points out the acknowledgment of each other’s ordination already happens, informally. When there is a crisis in the community, Reformed and Catholic leaders get together and figure out to best serve their communities — which participants believe is something to celebrate and build on, as the dialogue continues.

“Instead of continuing to fight the battles of the 16th century, we have a chance to change our way of thinking,” says Gambrell, “to reconsider the gifts we’ve received from one another.”

The gifts of Protestants and Catholics will be on display at an upcoming “Commemorations of the Reformations” service at the University of Notre Dame. Wiley, along with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Episcopal and Roman Catholicbishops, will be one of the co-presiders at the November 5 service.
“It’s an incredibly generous act by a Roman Catholic bishop to invite us to commemorate the Reformation at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart,” says Wiley. “This event would have been unthinkable decades ago, let alone centuries ago.”

According to Wiley, the service will celebrate the gifts of the Reformation and acknowledge its sin on behalf of all the participants.
In the Rite of Repentance, these are the words he will share:

As this commemoration brings joy and gratitude to expression, so must it also allow room for all Christians to experience the pain over failures and trespasses, guilt and sin in the persons and events that are being remembered. The Gospel was mixed with the political and economic interests of those in power. Failures resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Families were torn apart, people imprisoned and tortured, wars fought and faith misused. Human beings suffered and the credibility of the Gospel was undermined with consequences that still impact us today. And so, let us ask God for mercy and forgiveness.

Wiley sees Luther as a valuable and important reformer of the whole Western Church, not just the reformers. But he believes it’s also true that during the protest Protestants left behind gifts.

“We are the poorer for doing so,” he says. “Reformation 500 gives us an opportunity to treasure the good that we bring to each other.”
After the scripture reading and homily (sermon), each co-presider in the service will pray and thank God for the diverse traditions in all of the churches. One thing Wiley will give thanks for is, “Roman Catholics’ celebration of Mary as the first of Jesus’ disciples.”

“One of the most powerful parts of the service reflects a poignant irony,” says Wiley. “This thanksgiving is a prayer service because we cannot celebrate communion together. “

“Even in our thanks, this service demonstrates both hope and a reminder of a fractured church.”

Gambrell has a lasting image from his time spent with other participants in the latest round of Roman Catholic–Reformed dialogue. At their final service of worship together they were surrounded by scaffolding at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which has been under construction for 100 years.

“Being surrounded by construction materials, and yellow tape marking off the dangerous places, reminded me of the long term, painstaking process of reformation,” says Gambrell. “Still, we worship together to glorify the one God we share. One day we will enjoy full and visible unity with one another in Christ.”

by Paul Seebeck, Presbyterian News Service

Abundant Gifts

As we move into the cooler days of fall weather, I find myself thinking about the abundance of good gifts with which we are surrounded here in New England. From the colors of the trees to fresh picked apples and the bounty of local farms, we are truly blessed with many precious gifts from God’s creation. We have many activities coming up in the next weeks and months which you can read more about in the newsletter, including the Pumpkin Patch, a YAV Harvest Fundraiser, and the Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration.

At the same time, there are many places in the world that are not experiencing the abundant blessings of creation right now. People and places that are suffering as a result of natural disasters like the recent round of strong hurricanes that impacted much of the Caribbean and the U.S. mainland, particularly in Puerto Rico, causing devastating damage to infrastructure and leaving our siblings there facing months of uncertainty without power or access to clean water. Crises of human creation are impacting huge numbers of people around the globe as well. The Rohingya people fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar; refugees left in limbo in refugee camps around the world; the Venezuelan people who cannot afford the exorbitant prices for food in their own country; and the escalating war of words between the United States and North Korea, just to name a few of the looming crises our world faces.

We look around at all that is happening and wonder, “What can I do?” “I’m just one person.” “I can’t possibly change all this.” And while it is true that one person cannot take on all the problems of the world, there is certainly plenty that each of us can do to respond to the needs of the world, in whatever ways we are able. There are lots of opportunities to give, through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and other relief organizations. We have also taken up a collection for new packages of underwear for men, women, and children that we will send to a relief organization working in hurricane-impacted areas. Bring your donations to church by October 8th!

One other way we can make a difference is by coming together as a community. This fall, we will be asking ourselves the question, “Who is my neighbor?” I invite everyone to join us for a kick-off dinner and discussion on October 14th, from 4 – 7 PM at the church. We will be using the new book “A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community” by John Pavlovitz as a framework and as an opportunity for further small group discussion. I have pre-ordered some copies of the book; if you are interested in getting one, please let me know.

Here is an excerpt from the book description: “Pastor John Pavlovitz invites readers to join him on the journey to find or build a church that is big enough for everyone… He invites us to build the bigger table Jesus imagined, practicing radical hospitality, total authenticity, messy diversity, and agenda-free community.” I hope you will join us as we seek to live into a hopeful, welcoming, and authentic vision of the community Christ calls us to be.

Peace,
Pastor Trina

Welcoming Our Neighbors

Welcoming Our Neighbors

As we look forward to resuming many of our regular activities in our church life together, and in our communities, it is also a time of new opportunities to be a place of welcome for friends old and new alike. One such opportunity is that our church is opening its doors to the Boston Grace Korean Presbyterian Church, and providing space for them to hold worship services during the month of September.

Pastor Shi-Chang Wooh approached me earlier in the summer about looking for a new place for his congregation to worship, as the church where they were meeting in Lexington had grown and needed to expand its own use of the church building. After an initial conversation with the session, we have agreed to shared use of the church for the month of September, and possibly for a longer-term basis. The Korean Church will worship on Sunday afternoons at 2:00, and hold a Wednesday evening Bible study and Friday evening prayer meeting.

Many of the people who come to the Korean Church are here as students, doctors, or other professionals who are in one- to two-year training programs from Korea. The church has grown in the last three years from 12 adults and one child, to about 45 adults and 30 children! Please make our new friends feel welcome and share your hospitality with them, should you be in the building when they are here!

Looking forward to Sunday, October 1st, World Communion Sunday, I have invited their congregation to join us for worship at 10:30 to celebrate communion together. Friends of mine, Kurt Esslinger-Lee and Hyeyoung Lee, who are mission co-workers in South Korea serving as the site coordinators for the Young Adult Volunteer program in Daejon, will be leading us in worship that day and it seemed an ideal way to bring our two communities together. Please join me in welcoming our siblings in Christ to the Presbyterian Church of Burlington!

Peace,
Pastor Trina

This Grace That Scorches Us

While the disciples were gathered in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit filled the house where they were staying with the sound of rushing wind and divided tongues of fire, which rested upon each of the disciples. And then, in verse 4 “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” The crowds gathered there were from every nation, and they were amazed to hear the disciples speaking in their own native languages asking, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?”

The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost is like a reverse Tower of Babel story, where rather than separating people from one another based on different languages and cultures, God brings the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone, in their own native languages, so that all may hear and understand. The Good News is not for one race or people; it is for all people, everywhere, as is made clear at Pentecost. We are living in a time of great division between people; a time when deep fears and hatred toward “the other” have been stirred up and encouraged to fester. Pentecost reminds us that God calls us all to be one; to love one another; to share the Good News of God’s love for the world through Jesus Christ through our words and actions.

This poem, written by Jan Richardson, is a beautiful reflection on the blessing that Pentecost offers us, to look beyond ourselves and our own limited world-view, and to be open to the gift of the Spirit at work in our lives and in the world.

This Grace That Scorches Us
A Blessing for Pentecost Day

Here’s one thing
you must understand
about this blessing:
it is not
for you alone.

It is stubborn
about this;
do not even try
to lay hold of it
if you are by yourself,
thinking you can carry it
on your own.

To bear this blessing,
you must first take yourself
to a place where everyone
does not look like you
or think like you,
a place where they do not
believe precisely as you believe,
where their thoughts
and ideas and gestures
are not exact echoes of
your own.

Bring your sorrow. Bring your grief.
Bring your fear. Bring your weariness,
your pain, your disgust at how broken
the world is, how fractured,
how fragmented
by its fighting, its wars,
its hungers, its penchant for power,
its ceaseless repetition
of the history
it refuses to rise above.

I will not tell you
this blessing will fix all that.

But in the place
where you have gathered,
wait.
Watch.
Listen.
Lay aside your inability
to be surprised,
your resistance to what you
do not understand.

See then whether this blessing
turns to flame on your tongue,
sets you to speaking
what you cannot fathom

or opens your ear
to a language
beyond your imagining
that comes as a knowing
in your bones
a clarity
in your heart
that tells you

this is the reason
we were made,
for this ache
that finally opens us,

for this struggle, this grace
that scorches us
toward one another
and into
the blazing day.