On Baptism of Christ Sunday, Rev. Portillo speaks on the transformative nature of baptism and how it is borne out in the story of Jesus’ own baptism as an inflection point in the life of Christ.
Happy New Year, all!
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a podcast, but since people have asked, I’m going to make an effort to keep up. Here’s the meditation from the New Years’ Day service…
While Rev. Portillo was visiting family, James provided a meditation on the end of one year and the beginning of the next.
Advent is truly a wonderful time of year, but it is busy for all of us. Your deacons are involved in several holiday projects and are grateful for the support of the church family.
We wish to thank all who came out on Saturday, Nov 26th for the “Hanging of the Greens”. We enjoyed a festive atmosphere with beverages and snacks and beautiful decorations for the Advent/Christmas Season.
Poinsettia order were due Nov 27. If you would still like one, call Jackulin David at 978-821-4184 by Dec 6. Each costs $10. Proceeds will go to the International Institute of New England which is the organization that we are sending welcome bins to for families new to this country.
Linda Roscoe is coordinating our volunteers for the Wish Tree at the Burlington Mall. This is a People Helping People holiday program in which children are given “wishes”. It involves a table on which cards with the wishes written on them are displayed. When someone obtains a gift he/she puts a snowflake on the tree. Gifts are given out to families the Monday before Christmas. Our days to staff the Wish Tree are Tuesday, November 29 (10 – 5), Saturday, December 3 (10 – 8) and Monday, December 12 (4 – 5 p.m. only). If you can take a two hour shift, please sign up or contact Linda, OR if you’d like to take a shift and our slots are full, also contact Linda.
Pajamas, sweatshirts and underwear are also part of PHP’s holiday program. On Sunday, November 27 and Dec 4. Linda McCusker will have cards with sizes and ages of the children who need them. We are asked to bring the gifts unwrapped to the church office no later than December 11.
Through mid-December we will also be collecting gently used or new coats, jackets and other winter clothing for Elm Brook Place in Burlington. Their clients are both men and women, aged 18 and older, some of whom wear larger sizes. There are marked boxes near the coat rack in the front hallway and in Fellowship Hall.
The Christmas Joy Offering celebrates the coming of Jesus Christ, the “wondrous gift” of God with us. Jesus arrived in a humble stable in a small and insignificant Bethlehem, to lead and teach in truth and love, and bring about God’s salvation to the world. What a “wondrous gift” indeed! This was a gift so profound that the only response was the bringing of more gifts; the Magi arrived with gold, frankincense and myrrh to honor the Christ Child
Half of the Christmas Joy Offering supports the continued ministry of educating and forming Christian leaders. The other half of the Offering honors those leaders who serve and have served us well. Through the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions, current and retired church workers who experience need because of tragedy, health concerns, or financial hardship can receive assistance from the church they have served so well. You will be hearing Minutes for Mission the next few weeks. Please listen carefully to the stories told and please give generously.
Harvest of Offerings Update: On November 20, we received 16 pledges. There are extra cards and sheets available on the table in the Narthex If you have not yet turned yours in, you may mail it to the office or place it in the collection plate on Sunday.
Youth see Heifer
On November 11th, nineteen members of Burlington Presbyterian traveled to Rutland, MA to visit the Heifer Farm. In the Global Village, we learned how families in various countries benefit from raising different animals – everything from worms to yaks! Did you know that snail slime is a valuable product? Or that you can drink yak milk? We also visited the one-acre farm and learned about sustainable, organic farming practices. We cooked our own lunch over a wood stove in a house with no running water or electricity, because that is how many families in the world manage. We learned that Heifer provides animals, seeds and training, and that these three gifts can empower families to become self-sustaining and entire communities to improve their standard of living.
If you want to know more about our experience, ask one of our many youth and adults who participated!
If you are interested in visiting Heifer Farm yourself, (it’s just a little over an hour from the church), check out http://www.heifer.org/visit/Heifer-farm. They will be having a Holiday Open House on December 3, 4, 10 and 11, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Free with a canned good donation!
As part of our effort to raise money to help Heifer with their program, some of the Sunday school classes will be decorating gingerbread houses on Sunday, December 11th and raffling them off during Coffee Hour.
“Comfort, comfort my people, says God”
There are many moments in our lives when we need comfort. There are tough times when we yearn for consolation. The suffering people who looked for the long-awaited Messiah were given a hope-filled image of God in the writings of Isaiah. It expresses the belief that no matter what happens to us, God will be there to comfort and support us.
Advent and Christmas can be a painful time for many in need of that reassurance and comfort. The constant refrain on the radio and television, in shopping malls and churches, about the happiness of the season, about getting together with family and friends, reminds many people of what they have lost or have never had. The death of a loved one, whether recent or long ago, the anguish of broken relationships, the insecurity of unemployment, the weariness of ill health, the pain of isolation – all these can make us feel very alone in the midst of the celebrating and spending. We need the space and time to acknowledge our sadness and concern; we need to know that we are not alone.
We need comfort and encouragement to live the days ahead of us.
For these reasons, we are offering a special meditative Advent Service of Wholeness and Healing, Monday evening December 12, at 7:30 p.m. at the church.
Come out, and join with us in sharing and hearing prayers, scripture, and music that acknowledge that God’s presence is for those who mourn, for those who struggle – and that God’s Word comes to shine light into our darkness. Everyone is welcome.
The short service will be followed by time for walking a canvas labyrinth in
Fellowship Hall. For those who are uncomfortable walking the labyrinth, there will be ‘finger’ labyrinths available to “walk” while seated, and chairs for those who may wish to just sit quietly near the labyrinth.
Pastor Nominating Committee
The Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) recently elected by the congregation has been meeting weekly since our election, and is hard at work. The PNC is being chaired by Elder Brenda Flynn, and includes eight members: Brad Morrison, Brenda Flynn, Caitlin Rivet, Chuck Anderson, Ferdinand Akombe, Judy Brunner, Kim Oey-Rosenthal and Vijay Johnson.
Our Presbytery Liaison is Jane Wilson, the current co-chair for the Committee on Ministry.
The PNC is currently working hard on writing our job description (aka Ministry Information Form or MIF). You can see the kinds of questions we’re thinking and praying through here: https://www.pcusa.org/resource/ministry-information-form/ . Once the MIF is complete, both session and presbytery will need to approve it before we can submit it.
The process is a highly confidential one, so don’t worry if you don’t hear a lot. We are working hard in hearing and seeking God’s will for our congregation!
Here we go a-caroling….
Meet at the church on December 11 at 2:45 pm. Join a caroling caravan to senior residences, shut-ins and other friends. All ages are welcome-singing ability optional. We end by 5:00-5:30 with a warming supper. Would you like to host? Sign up on bulletin board in Fellowship Hall.
Christmas Eve Tableaux
The long-standing Burlington Presbyterian tradition of the Christmas Tableaux is coming up quickly! Mark your calendars for 7 pm Christmas Eve! (Rehearsal will be 6:30 on Friday the 23rd!)
Our young actors hail from 2nd grade through high school readers. Most eligible kids should have gotten an invitation to sign up. If you lost your form or failed to get one, reach out to Brenda Flynn (email@example.com) to let her know what part you’d like to play!
We’re also looking for some adult assistance. We need some wranglers to help make sure the kids are dressed and ready for their big entrances. We also need some additional outfits. The biggest need is for white angel outfits (to fit a wide variety of angel-sizes). We could also use more shepherd’s costumes.
The service will end with our traditional Joy to the World as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the living Christ!
Christmas Eve Service
A Family Tradition with Crèche, Carols and Candlelight
Saturday, December 24 − 7:00 p.m.
There will be nativity tableaux vivants (or living scenes) featuring young folks in the roles of Mary and Joseph, angels, shepherds and wise men. Choir and congregation will join in many carols. The service will end with a spreading of candlelight throughout the sanctuary. Pastor Trina will give a brief message. The Christmas Joy Offering will be received. This service is a wonderful way to introduce friends and neighbors to the church – and maybe to make a difference in their lives.
Women’s Bible Study
Women’s Bible Study will begin a new study in December. We will be studying the book of Colossians and learning good study skills at the same time. Please come and join us on Thursday mornings at 9:30!
Pumpkin Patch Report
Thank you again for all who helped out at the fourth annual Pumpkin Patch held at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church during the month of October. Approximately 21 church and community organizations participated in the staffing over a 29 day period, including 3 rainy days. Total sales were $10,621with an average day sale of $367. The highest daily sale was $955 and the lowest was $16. This effort resulted in a check for $4,700 given to People Helping People last Tuesday night at the appreciation dinner.
So much of life is, indeed, a mystery to us. My Gran had a chronic form of leukemia, with which she had lived and managed quite well for several years. But eventually, the treatments that were available became less effective and then unable to prevent the progression of the disease. We knew that she was dying, and with the help of home hospice services, we were able to keep her comfortably in her own home, where she wanted to be. One afternoon, she was feeling well enough for a visit from her next-door neighbor, who had recently had a little girl. She brought the baby over, and my Gran held her quietly, staring into her sleeping little face. After a while, she whispered, “Isn’t it something? One life ending and a new one just begun.”
Every birth, every new life, is a mystery. And death is a mystery to us as well. And both are a reminder to us of how we are all connected to the mystery that is greater than ourselves. None of us knows how it will all work out. None of us has all the information we would like. Sometimes we don’t have all the information we would like, but we have to make a decision anyway. And in those moments, the best we can do is to step out in faith, like Mary, a young woman faced with carrying that mystery into the world, and trust in the promises of God to catch us.
Mary’s song is one of resistance, of hope, of mercy, of joy. In her reflection on how to live in hope even in the midst of a world filled with pain, Lindsey Anderson writes: “Active Advent waiting, hopeful resistance, shining on means, in the face of that which would destroy, we choose, again and again, to live. And to live fully, to embrace all that it is to be in this wide world. To resist the evil agendas of injustice, greed, fear that seek to steal away our humanity. To reject the lie that to be unaffected or impervious is best; instead we choose to be open to beauty, mystery, risk to the brokenness and suffering of others and so to the redemption that has been seeded into each of us.”
She continues, “There is a power, a light, a resistance in choosing, choosing our humanity, choosing to inhabit our life. In Advent, we live into the reality of our dying selves, knowing that weak and vulnerable, finite form is where the miracle of God’s Love chose to come and do its work.”
We are called to proclaim a mystery. A mystery in which the very heart of God was made manifest in a tiny, fragile baby; born to a young, vulnerable mother; of an occupied and oppressed nation. In the words of Isaiah, the desert shall burst forth with life, and streams of water will flow in the wilderness. “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees,” says Isaiah, “Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God.” (Isaiah 35:3-4, NRSV)
This Advent season, let us proclaim the mystery of our faith. Let us, like Mary, step out in faith, leave our fears behind, and believe that every word God has said will come true.
Pastor Trina mentioned in her sermon today a sculpture at the UN of a gun twisted into a knot. We were at the UN two weeks ago and took a picture of the sculpture (commissioned by Yoko Ono for John Lennon; originally displayed in Central Park):
On October 2, we will celebrate World Communion Day, when we will be receiving the Peace and Global Witness Offering (formerly the Peacemaking Offering). On this day, people are joined from all over God’s earth, looking at our world and our lives, and asking, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness? Even in my wilderness?” To which God responds and says, “Come to the table of peace.” Our support of the Peace and Global Witness Offering helps invite others to the table, both near and far. Please give generously.
World Communion Sunday
October 2 is World Communion Sunday. This year Rev. Trina and the Worship Committee are asking for your participation in this celebration in a few different ways.
First, we are looking for people to bring colorful cloths from different cultures to use on the Communion Table.
In addition, if you have a favorite bread that you bake that is unique to your culture or country of origin, please sign up in Fellowship Hall to let us know that you will bring a loaf for worship on October 2. These loaves will be placed in baskets on the Communion Table and used in the service.
Communion on World Communion Sunday will be served and received around the Table and the loaves of bread and colorful cloths will celebrate and acknowledge our unity in diversity at BPC.
In addition, the Peace and Global Witness Offering will be received during worship on October 2.
Heifer Farm Trip
The Christian Education Committee has planned a trip to Heifer Farm in Rutland, MA. We will participate in their “Seeds” program in order to learn more about Heifer’s mission to work with communities around the world to end hunger and poverty and to care for the earth. We will visit their Global Village (where we will eat lunch) and their livestock and garden facilities.
When are we going? Friday, November 11th
How long does the program last? Four hours, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
What is the cost? $15 per person (what a bargain!)
How will we get there? Carpool – we’ll meet in the church parking lot at 8:15 a.m. and return there about 3:15 p.m. (It takes a little over an hour to get to Rutland.)
What do we need from you? Signed permission forms and a check for $15 made out to The Presbyterian Church in Burlington.
When do we need your forms and check? Sunday, October 16th
Who is invited? Youth in 4th grade and older, including middle and high school. Adults are also welcome.
If you are interested in attending, please contact Ann McGrath at firstname.lastname@example.org for the permission forms.
BPC FALL CLEANUP – OCTOBER 15, 2016
9am to 1pm
The Board of Trustees has scheduled the church’s fall cleanup for Saturday, October 15th, from 9am to 1pm with a rain date of October 22th. We encourage everyone who can make it that day to assist in sprucing up the church property, both inside and out. Please bring all the equipment you need to help, including rakes, shovels, gloves, brooms, garden tools, wheel barrels, small step ladders, window cleaner and paper towels. There will be a job for everyone, working either on the lawn and shrubbery, sprucing up the atrium or sweeping the fall debris from the play yard. We have a lot of windows to clean, both inside and out. If you don’t like doing yard work, helping out with the window cleaning will be greatly appreciated. This is a great opportunity to give a few hours of your time and maybe work with someone who you don’t know.
Pumpkin Patch Volunteers Needed
St. Marks’s Episcopal Church, 10 Saint Marks Road, Burlington, will hold their third annual Pumpkin Patch event during the month of October. Our church, along with many other churches and civic organizations, has been asked to help with the selling of pumpkins during the month. Our staffing dates are Friday, October 14th and Friday, October 21st. The patch opens at 12 noon and closes at 6pm. We need volunteers to sign up for two hours or more on each day. The hours are 12-2, 2-4 and 4-6pm. Please refer to the sign-up sheet in Fellowship Hall if you can commit to helping out. A percentage of the sale proceeds go to support People Helping People. Please speak to our church coordinator, Ken Dewar, if you have any questions.
Burlington Wish Tree
People Helping People has started the planning process for the Burlington Community Wish Tree which is located at the Burlington during the month of December. The Wish Tree provides gifts for children in need in the community of Burlington. Last year the program processed over 2000 gifts for children. The Wish Tree Holiday Program, although very rewarding, is all very labor intensive and much help is needed. This year we are looking for individuals who can assist the program by picking up gifts that are collected at local businesses. These pick-ups are done during the day. We are also looking for an individual to be the Gift Pick Up Coordinator for the Mall. In additional the program is always in need of people who would like to sit at the tree during the month of December. If you would like to make a difference in your community, please contact Judy Walsh at judyw621@gmail or call 627-797-6786.
Open Our Hearts
A benefit concert for Central American asylum-seeking women and children in Massachusetts. Show your support and enjoy a great show featuring performances by The Loomers, The Blood Mountain Brothers and a special guest appearance by The Yellow Room.
Saturday, October 1, 2016
The First Church in Belmont, Unitarian Universalist
404 Concord Avenue
Tickets: $25.00 at the door
Food Pantry Needs
We receive donations for the Food Pantry on the 1st Sunday of each month. The donations have been dwindling. Please consider purchasing some 20 oz. dish detergent, individually wrapped bars of soap or bottles of shampoo. The Pantry is in desperate need of these items. Your help is appreciated. Our donation dates are Oct 2, Nov 6 & Dec 4. Thank you!
Introduction to Zentangle® class
The Zentangle method is an easy to learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. If you can write the letters “i c s and o” you can complete a Zentangle tile. Come and learn all about it at this class taught by Certified Zentangle Teacher Marylou Lynn The class will be Friday, October 21 at 7:00PM.
The class costs $15.00 and includes all materials needed. Class size is limited to 12 so sign up soon in Fellowship Hall or call the church at 781-272-9190.
Help set up a household for a refugee family. Fill a “Move-In Bin”
Before a refugee family departs for the US, IINE must identify and prepare an apartment for their arrival. Help IINE by collecting a bin full of household items. Items can be purchased and/or include high-quality donations. Each bin requires the following goods.
Please check sign-up sheet in Fellowship Hall.
Place settings of dishes Set of Pots Pans
Mixing/serving bowls Cooking and eating utensils
Can opener Rice cooker
Cutting board Colander/strainer
Food storage containers Alarm clock
Pens, pencils, notepads, paper, etc. Light bulbs
Dish soap Kitchen/bathroom cleaner Sponges/paper towels Laundry detergent
Waste baskets Trash bags
Toilet paper Toothbrush/Toothpaste Bar soap Generic shampoo
Food Week of Action and World Food Day
October 9–17, 2016
Our faith calls us to work for a world where everyone has sufficient, healthy and culturally appropriate food! And where those who produce and prepare the food are fairly compensated, respected and celebrated!
When you go to the local grocery store or purchase a meal at a favorite restaurant how much do you know about how the food is grown, gathered and prepared? What is your church doing to end hunger and poverty in your community or across the globe?
These are some of the questions Presbyterians and the public are asked to consider this October during Global Food Week of Action and World Food Day. October 9-17 gives Christians and others around the world the opportunity to take action for food justice and food sovereignty.
World Food Day is celebrated every October 16 commemorating the establishment of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1945. Forty-two countries came together in Quebec that day and World Food Day has been celebrated ever since. Now more than 150 countries participate. In 2008, churches around the world convened through the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance to launch a week-long campaign focusing on that special day.
The global Food Week of Action (October 9-17) is an opportunity for Christians and others around the world to act together for food justice and food sovereignty. It is a special time to raise awareness about approaches that help individuals and communities develop resiliency and combat poverty. Beyond examining our food choices, we must also recognize the lingering roots of racism embedded in our food system, which was founded on slavery and plantation agriculture, and still exploits the environment and workers in the food chain. We call for societal and policy changes that bring us closer to realizing the right to food for everyone and positive transformation of the dominant system.
The Food Week of Action includes World Food Day (October 16), International Day for Rural Women (October 15), and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (October 17).
The Presbyterian Hunger Program is asking individuals and churches to consider one of four actions during the campaign;
Support farmworkers through the boycott of Wendy’s Restaurants
Advocate for a raised minimum wage across the country
Support fair trade and oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership
End U.S. support for repression of human rights in Honduras
What makes you feel welcome when you visit a place for the first time? What makes you want to come back again? Think about going to a store, a restaurant, a hotel…what are some of the hallmarks of a place that will keep you coming back? A friendly, warm greeting; attentiveness to your needs without being too pushy; clear directions and signage so you could find what you needed; a clean and hospitable environment – all these things would likely make your top ten list of places to which you would want to return.
Church Leadership Consultant Thom Ranier has worked with hundreds of churches in his career and provides great insight on how to create a welcoming culture for new visitors and guests to the church. Below are fourteen things that help make a church feel welcoming. Ranier says that Genuinely Friendly Churches (GFCs) have at least eleven of the fourteen items present in their church culture:
1. They are intentional about being friendly. Warmth and friendliness are clear values of theses churches. They are articulated regularly. All organizations, including churches, naturally drift toward an inward focus unless they are otherwise intentional.
2. The leaders model warmth, humility, and friendliness. The friendliness is not contrived or phony. These leaders have prayerfully become genuinely friendly men and women.
3. The leaders are clear that genuine friendliness is more than a brief stand and greet time in a worship service. The efficacy of a stand and greet time was debated extensively on this blog. Regardless of a church’s decision in this practice, leaders in GFCs were adamant that true hospitality and friendliness extends beyond a two-minute welcome time.
4. GFCs utilize a secret guest at least twice a year. One small church of which I am aware budgets $100 a year for a secret guest. They pay the guest with a $50 gift card to come to the church and provide feedback on their experience. I call this process “looking in the mirror” because it gives the church a real opportunity to see itself as others do.
5. GFCs had a guest friendly web site. The web site typically set the tone for a guest. If it did not have obvious information for a guest, such as worship times and addresses, the guest came to the church with a more negative disposition.
6. The church has clear signage. Far too many churches lack this signage. They assume that everyone knows where everything is. First-time guests know nothing about the church or its different facilities.
7. GFCs have a well-organized greeters’ ministry. They have greeters in the parking lot, greeters in the entrances, and greeters in other strategic locations inside. Many GFCs utilize newer members in this ministry.
8. These churches have clear information places. It may be something as simple as a well-marked table manned by a member of the church. The signage points clearly to the information table, booth, or kiosk.
GFCs have clean and neat buildings. It is amazing how much a clean facility adds to the positive mood of a guest. It is equally amazing how few churches pay attention to this issue.
9. They have a guest feedback process. To the best of their ability, GFCs follow up with guests to get feedback on their experiences. They also encourage the guests to be open and frank in the feedback.
The children’s area is clearly safe and sanitary. Don’t expect young parents to return if the church does not give clear attention to this matter.
10. The majority of church members in GFCs are involved in the community. They thus exude genuine friendliness in the worship services because they are regularly connecting with non-church members other days of the week.
11. Small groups are highly intentional about reaching people beyond their own groups. Thus when these group members are in a worship service, they are already accustomed to reaching out beyond those with whom they already have relationships.
12. GFCs have new member classes that emphasize the responsibilities and expectations of church members. Members are thus more apt to look beyond their own preferences to serve others. That attitude shows up in the worship services.
Imagine that you were coming to Burlington Presbyterian Church for the first time this Sunday. How many of the following things would you experience? Where do you see room for improvement? I welcome your comments and feedback. Let’s build up a culture of hospitality in order that we may welcome others in a genuine and intentional way, as a church family.
Peace, Pastor Trina