Dear Church Community,
This is my birthday month, so it’s always occupied a fond space in my heart. I grew up farther north, where the trees have typically dropped their leaves by now. But in the DC area, my birthday (right in the middle of November) is peak leaf season. And I love it!
Around my birthday, I try to reflect on things particularly meaningful to me. One of these is the earth, nature, creation (choose your term). Thus, over the past couple of weeks I’ve been rather distraught by the news coming out of the 26th UN Conference on Climate Change in Glasgow. I’ve felt alternately angry, sad, jaded, and energized. I’ve thought, “I/our church isn’t doing anything about climate change right now. It’s so important, and we’re just ignoring it.” Then, “but how could we possibly add anything else to our already overfull plate?” Followed by, “but it’s the life-or-death issue of our time!”
Welcome to my brain. The good news is that out of this back-and-forth process came the theme of this Sunday’s worship service, Give It a Rest. Because the more I thought about it, the clearer it became that our collective challenge may have as much to do with what we are doing than what we aren’t. This earth (and each of our lives) is arguably more burdened by collective overproduction than by mass under-action. Which means the question isn’t just, what are we called to do, it’s what do we need to stop?
As I mark the 58th anniversary of my birth (and the 10th anniversary of my installation as your pastor), I find myself asking a lot of questions about how we’re living in this world, and how it all fits together with our life as a congregation. Beginning Sunday, November 21, I look forward to preaching about this from the pulpit in the sanctuary. Our next season of congregational life will be lived in hybrid mode, nurturing love of God, neighbor, and fellow congregants in person and online. I’m excited about this and a tad nervous as well. I wonder if maybe we’ll need to stop doing something to maintain a balance with this next new thing…
I don’t know. And together, we’ll see. I’m glad you’re on the journey with me.
Peace and Blessings,
P.S. If you are a veteran or family member of a veteran, this is a special day for you. Both my biological and adoptive fathers served in the military in the 1960s, and I’m grateful for their service while also being very glad they never had to experience combat. I pray that all war will cease and that all veterans will be amply supported.
Notes from our UCC Delegate
We are a congregational church. This means we are autonomous from any denominational organization. No one can tell us what to do—what to believe, who to hire, or how to use our property. But we are also a part of the United Church of Christ (UCC). We are related to 27 churches in the Potomac Association, 167 in the Central Atlantic Association, and 5,000 across the country. This extended family connects us with fellow UCC congregants near and far and broadens our mission.
Two initiatives discussed at the Potomac Association’s recent fall meeting show how this works, and how it benefits our church.
- The Association’s Justice and Witness Committee, until recently chaired by our own Michael Hargreaves, has transformed its work, focusing on organizing congregations and members to build justice in our region. Teams in MD, DC, and VA are dedicated to building partnerships and strategies for bringing about social change. The Virginia team has focused on ending the death penalty (and succeeded!). The Maryland team is working towards police accountability. The DC team turned its efforts toward housing justice and is working with grassroots partners to achieve these goals. The committee is also awarding small grants to encourage this work on the congregational level—including one to our congregation’s Affordable Housing and Racial Justice work. If you would like to know more about the DC team’s work on affordable housing, please email email@example.com.
- A task force of the Potomac Association’s board has developed a program that would encourage congregations to pair up to pursue a common interest, for a limited period. Perhaps two congregations would want to pursue a mission project together, explore each other’s worship practices, or talk about justice issues across racial lines. The association is offering to facilitate matchmaking for this pairing, which is exactly the type of work the association should be doing. Our congregation has a lot of things on its plate just now, but I hope we can participate in this effort soon.
The Potomac Association does this work with and for us and the other congregations in our region. When you look at our budget and wonder why we are sending money to the association, I hope you can see why this work is important for our mission of nurturing love of God and love of neighbor in the world.
Opportunity for Social Action—DC Statehood
On Wednesday, Nov. 17, at 10am, activists and religious leaders in partnership with People for the American Way, Declaration for American Democracy, Black Voters Matter, and Democracy Initiative are gathering in front of the White House to demand President Biden use the full power of the presidency to bring lawmakers together and ensure the passage of federal voting rights legislation as well as DC Statehood. Those who are interested in attending can sign up via this mobilize link.