Here's what's been going on around Plymouth...
We had three amazing high school students choose to be confirmed during the 9 a.m. service on 3/26. Our young kids blessed them with confirmation gifts. Sirus was baptized, and then he joined Griffin and Ovella as they each shared their confirmation statements with our congregation. It was a joyful celebration of what the Spirit is doing in their lives! Images: 1) our confirmands 2) textile art by Ovella, inspired by Rev. Ron's sermon on the woman bent double in Luke 13.
Youth Retreat at La Foret
Do you have a ministry highlight to share?
Be part of the 4th Tuesday post. Visit plymouthucc.org/shine
I already love you.
And, it’s not because you are perfect. And, it’s not because I am perfect. I love you because I can tell you love “church” as much as I do.
You love eating together and toasting together!
You love housing the poor and caring for the sick.
I have seen all of this in just a few weeks.
This is a letter of gratitude for the radical and love-infused hospitality that you have extended me in the three weeks since I have joined this beloved community.
Your hospitality reminds me of Jesus’ words to Mary of Bethany when she accidentally breaks the alabaster oil jar, “Jesus said, 'Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing for me.'" Matthew 26:6-13
It reminds me of when the disciples were indigent and Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
Or when Jesus captures radical hospitality in Luke 14:12-14 when he says: Give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.
Thank you my new friends for your radical hospitality. Your welcome has gone beyond being friendly; it has been a warm welcome, with openness, and authenticity that significantly exceeded my expectations. It has been an intentional hospitality that surprised and delighted me. I have felt like I too belong.
In the spirit of radical hospitality let us hang our hats on these three principles:
Let us receive the other with revolutionary generosity as Jesus did.
Let us offer personal attention, especially to those that often go unnoticed.
Listen with the ear of your heart ~ Benedict. And, always follow up.
I am grateful, church.
I love what may be possible together.
I love that hospitality already seems to be in the moral fabric of this community.
I love that radical hospitality is in fact a spiritual practice and an opening of the heart for Plymouth UCC.
Peace & Love,
It’s time again for one of my absolute favorite weekends - the Spring Youth Retreat at La Foret.
This time, our theme is “We Built This City,” inspired by the Starship song and the idea of building beloved community. Logan Bennett, the Director of Transformational Programs, often tells the students that their time at La Foret is their chance to imaginatively create a space that reflects the world they want to see. Our hope is that this weekend, we will lean in to this kind of dreaming with special intention.
Of course, we will spend the weekend doing the typical camp activities - scavenger hunts, crafts, games, hiking, Frisbee golf, and my personal favorite, chill time. But we also have some really strong theme-related activities planned for the weekend.
First, we will give the students space for collaboration and imagination as they craft a city together. Then, we will spend time thinking about the ways we as individuals are gifted and important for contributing to our beloved communities. I rewrote a spiritual gifts workshop specifically for this weekend. Finally, students will be challenged to encourage each other by naming the ways they see each other’s gifts. In other words, they will be filling each other’s cups in beloved community so they can be sent out into being agents of wholeness in their contexts.
I want the students to feel valued and inspired. We have such a unique opportunity to empower a generation of brilliant, empathetic dreamers and doers. I hope their home churches will continue partnering in this work after the weekend is over. This will be my third youth retreat with our UCC Rocky Mountain Conference camp, and we’re bringing the largest bunch of students so far!
We’ll be driving down Friday afternoon and back up Sunday midday, so please pray for our travels, our health, and for our time together.
We’re so excited!
It was three years ago this Sunday that our Leadership Council made a decision shut down the church because of the novel coronavirus, which was just appearing in the United States. No one knew that the lasting effects of the pandemic would stretch to three years and beyond. I can say candidly that these have been the most difficult years in my ministry, and I am glad to see them in the rear-view mirror.
How about you? How has the pandemic changed your life? Have you lived through supervising your own kids (or students) learning on Zoom? Have you found yourself more comfortable with technology? Have you been affected by the Great Resignation? Do you long for connection with other human beings in ways you didn’t before? How has your experience of church changed over those three years? Are you worshiping from our “virtual balcony,” attending meetings via Zoom, wondering if it’s safe to come back?
Each one of us has been changed by the experience of living through the pandemic. Happily, none of our congregation died from Covid, but we probably all know someone who did. Yes, Covid is still with us (Feel better soon, Brooklyn!), yet fewer of us are contracting it and very few of us are winding up in the ICU and even fewer succumbing to the ravages of the virus. Covid seems to have become more like a slightly scary version of the garden-variety flu.
The other day, I found myself pausing and relaxing into the notion that now we can gather as a church community, share a meal, meet face-to-face. I found myself breathing a little deeper, appreciating the sunlight, and enjoying the present moment. The lovely retirement dinner for Jane Anne lifted my spirits through the lovely companionship of so many beloved folks and the amazing team that designed and helped with the event. It felt so wonderful to be in each other’s company, and if felt so normal. But while I used to take such gatherings for granted, I do no longer.
Earlier in the year, we had a small potluck with the folks reading Brian McLaren’s book, Do I Stay Christian? and it amazed me that in that relatively small group, we had people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. I cannot imagine another setting in our society where that kind of intergenerational community exists. We hear so much about the epidemic of loneliness, and one easy step (seldom suggested in most media) is to connect with a community of faith. For most Americans having intergenerational community is no longer the norm. We are glued to screens and behind windshields and don’t mingle. Connection and community are part of the genius of church: we have what other people can only dream of. It isn’t “normal,” but it is wonderful!
I think there is some sense of normalcy coming back to our congregation, but it is a new normal, with lots of new faces in the pews (and in the pulpit!), which may be momentarily uncomfortable, but they are signs of growth. So, when you see a new person or couple or family in the pew next to you or at coffee hour, please be sure to offer a warm Plymouth welcome.
Beloved Community takes intentionality and work. At some point in your past, someone welcomed you to Plymouth, and I invite you to return the favor by extending a friendly greeting when you see someone at Plymouth who may be a new friend in waiting. Better yet, think of someone who needs the gift of Plymouth and see if they’d like to join you on Sunday.
Welcome to the new normal! It’s going to be different, and it’s going to be great!
P.S. Please don’t forget to wear your name tag on Sundays! It helps all of our new folks to get to know you better, especially Marta!