“Where did summer go?” This is the refrain that I have been hearing from families, teachers, and really just about everyone the past couple of weeks. To be honest, I have been wondering about the disappearance of summer myself. I’m not feeling all that prepared for September to happen later this week. I keep hoping that somehow I’m mistaken and we’re actually still in July. Where did the time go? Why does it feel like the business of fall is creeping into our lives earlier and earlier?
I could spend some time sharing with you the exciting things that we have instore for the Fall- the Sunday school classes that are starting up next week, the WRYE report and car wash that are just around the corner. I could share with you opportunities to connect with the Christian Formation programs both in and out of the classroom. Instead I thought I’d take some time to pause, reflect and be still for just a moment as time flies and our schedules continue to book up.
When we were kids a timeout was punishment, now it feels like a gift. Go to your room, no phone, no email, sit and be. That actually sounds really nice right about now. It reminds me of my favorite bible verse to meditate on from Psalm 46 “Be still and know that I am God.” Sometimes we just need to slow down and rest in the loving presence of God. Otherwise we end up like one of those old cartoon characters that is running so fast they aren’t able to see what’s going on around them and they run right off a cliff. It’s only when they stop to look they realize there is nothing there and they fall. How often do we get so busy we lose track of what’s important? How often do we keep running for the sake of running only to realize we’ve gone way off course?
“Be still and know that I am God.” It doesn’t mean stop everything, stop trying to make a difference, or 'give up and let God,' God commands us to pause, refuel, and check in with the Holy. It reminds me of a podcast I listen to, “Levar Burton Reads.” You might know Levar Burton from his role in Roots or Star Trek: The Next Generation. If you’re from my generation you might remember him as the Reading Rainbow guy. Every week he reads a different short story, just because he loves to read. Before every story he invites the listeners to take a deep breath with him. It’s just one moment, one pause in the business of life, one breath. Yet this one breath feels like a gift each time and I am frequently reminded of the gift that is being still in our busy lives.
So, before you move on to the next thing, let’s slow down, take a deep breath. Be still, and know that God is with you.
Grace and Peace,
Director of Christian Formation for Children & Youth, Mandy Hall began her ministry at Plymouth in August of 2014. She is originally from Michigan where she followed her call to ministry to become a Deacon in the United Methodist Church. Her passion is helping young people grow in faith in creative and meaningful ways. Read more.
This Sunday is Jubilee Sunday, i.e. “Welcome back after summer” Sunday! To kick off the program year the ministers will be doing a sermon series on “Thorny Theological Themes” at all three services, starting this Sunday with discipleship.*
As progressive Christians we may “balk” at the word discipleship. It may have rigid, rule-based, unimaginative connotations. Join us for worship and the Involvement Fair at Jubilee Sunday this week as we open up the parameters of discipleship.
Consider this story from our Jewish sisters and brothers. How does it open the concept of discipleship?
The Rebbe’s Melody
(adapted by Jane Anne from Yiddish Folktales, ed. Beatrice Silverman Weinrich, trans. Leonard Wolf)
Tradition had it that whenever the rabbi sat down to his studies he would sing:
“All the angels, all the seraphim
Ask who God may be.
Ah woe, what can we reply?
‘No thought can be attached to Him.’
All the people – every nation –
Ask where God may be.
Ah, woe, what can we reply?
‘No place is without Him.’”
One day as the Reb Zalman was teaching the Torah he noticed a new student in the midst of all his disciples. The man was older. He face was fierce with a frown of concentration. Yet it was full of grief in not understanding.
After the lesson the Reb sent for the new student. The man came to his study and the rabbi asked what he had understood that day. With that the man broke down into tears. “Nothing!” he cried. He explained that he came from a poor family that did not have the money for synagogue school when he was a child. And his father had died when he was young leaving him as the eldest child to help his mother provide for the family. So he worked hard all his life. He married and had a family and provided well for them so he did not have time for Torah study.
The man said, “All I can do is recite the Psalms and even though I do so daily, I do not understand them well. Now my children are grown and on their own. I have time to study the Torah, but I fear it is too late. Most scholars laugh at my misunderstandings but I heard that you turn no one away from your table of study. So I came to you. Please, help me. Is it too late to learn Torah?” And once again the man began to cry.
Reb Zalmon looked at him kindly and placing a hand on his shoulder he said ”No tears today for today is the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of joy in God’s presence. You have made a wise and humble choice my friend to study Torah. Today I was explaining the great Rabbi Baal Shem Tov’s understanding of Hasidism. If you did not understand listen to this melody for all his wisdom and the wisdom of God are hidden in it.”
The rabbi began to sing to the man, a sweet, sweet melody. The man listened with rapt and perfect attention. He found his soul caught up in the sound. After a time a light began to dawn in the man’s face and suddenly he smiled and then he laughed through tears. When the rabbi finished singing, he cried out, “I understand, I understand! Oh, Rabbi, thank you. Now I feel worthy to be your student and to study Torah in God’s presence.”
So it became a custom for Reb Schneur Zalman to always finish his lessons with the singing of that simple, profound and sweet melody. Just in case there was someone at the table who had not fully understood the teaching that day. And the melody became known as the Rebbe’s Melody.
Blessings on your journey into our new Plymouth worship and program year,
*Thorny Theological Themes schedule:
DISCIPLESHIP - The Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson
GRACE - The Rev. Hal Chorpenning
SURRENDER & EMPTYING - The Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson
LIVING IN EXILE - The Rev. Dr. David Petersen
SALVATION - The Rev. Jake Joseph
ECCLESIOLOGY: BEING THE CHURCH - The Rev. Hal Chorpenning
The Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson, Associate, Minister, is a writer, storyteller, and contributor to Feasting on the Word, a popular biblical commentary. She is also the writer of sermon-stories.com, a lectionary-based story-commentary series. Learn more about Jane Ann here.
With the regularity of any migratory species, students are just about to return to Fort Collins as the academic year begins! And the migratory pattern is slightly altered this year with the opening of The Stadium Apartments next door to Plymouth on Lake Street. We’ve been watching progress on the large, handsome building, and I walked by this afternoon to see students moving in!
The landscape of campus ministry has also changed with major shifts at the Geller Center, whose building on Howes Street is up for sale. I am not certain what the future holds for them, but they have shifted from campus ministry to a non-profit that helps students engage in dialogue on tough issues.
As identified in Plymouth’s Strategic Plan, our consultant John Wimberly reported, “The greatest and most compelling opportunity for growth and impact is campus ministry with the Colorado State University community.” And we all want to have that positive impact!
Jake is staffing our campus ministry with help from the rest of staff and from Nic Redavid…AND it also involves YOU! (Yes, you!)
Here is how to get involved:
And FYI, we have lovely Ram Fellowship bookmarks at the Deacons’ Desk in the sanctuary and the greeting stations in at our north and east entrances and the Welcome Desk in the Fellowship Hall. They have event dates and a prayer I wrote for students. Ask if the student you’re talking with would like one! And maybe a few Plymouth beer mats to go with them!
I’ve heard some members grumble a little that students won’t pledge (no, they probably won’t, but that’s not the point!), that we spend too much time concerned about them (not nearly so much as we spend with elders), and that they’ll only be here for a few years (what if they learn to love God while they are at Plymouth?!?)
This is a ministry that isn’t just for Jake and Nic to do…it’s a mission and a ministry for ALL of us…and it will be a blast!
Yours in faith and Ramfulness,
The Rev. Hal Chorpennng has been Plymouth's senior minister since 2002. Before that, he was associate conference minister with the Connecticut Conference of the UCC. A grant from the Lilly Endowment enabled him to study Celtic Christianity in the UK and Ireland. Prior to ordained ministry, Hal had a business in corporate communications. Read more about Hal.
Ahoy there , Plymouth!
Some of my favorite memories of growing-up in Fort Collins are connected with the “sport” of garage sale exploring or “treasure hunting” as my mom would call it. Early Saturday mornings we would load into the family Jeep and comb the pages of the Coloradoan for the best and most promising garage sale advertisements. From this we would derive an itinerary and map of adventures: A Fort Collins Treasure Map! For my family (a family of extreme extroverts), the best part of those mornings had more to do with the people we would meet and the conversations we would have than any particular item we would find. That said, I did end-up with an extensive 8-Track Tape collection at one point as a result of these early morning expeditions.
This childhood lesson about garage sales functioning both as community-building events and as actual selling/ fundraising purposes extends to Plymouth’s upcoming All Church Garage Sale on Saturday, August 18th from 8:00 Am until 2:00 PM!
It was brainchild of the Progressive Evangelism Committee of Leadership Council as a way to offer a welcome to our neighbors at CSU (remembering that graduate students, post-docs, and new professors are of every age and stage in life) and others looking for household items! As the plan developed, our Plymouth Habitat for Humanity Ministry Team partnered to take the lead as a fundraiser for the local Harmony Cottages build site. Like my birthday, there is a Thrivent Financial Match to whatever we raise at the garage sale. I LOVE Plymouth partnerships that engage multiple parts of our mission like this! It shows how this congregation is able to multi-task in mission. In this case, we will raise money for an important local cause while also meeting and greeting our neighbors!
It meets all three parts of our mission: inviting people to our church and the September Taste of Plymouth event, transforming the affordable housing in Fort Collins and our members’ evangelism, and sending people with hospitality and social justice.
All hands on deck! We still need volunteers to help on Saturday 8/18 with set-up, clean-up, hospitality/ CSU welcome, and as cashiers! We likewise still need volunteers on Wednesday 8/15 and Thursday 8/16 from Noon to 6 PM and all day on Friday 8/17 for collection and sorting of donations. Finally, we need stuff! Bring your donations* next Wednesday 8/15 and Thursday 8/16 afternoons and ALL DAY Friday 8/17 to the Fellowship Hall!
*We only will not accept TV’s with tubes, cribs, car seats, large appliances, metal desks, and mattresses. Otherwise, please help support welcoming our neighbors at CSU while also building homes for our neighbors working with Habitat for Humanity for affordable home ownership.
With the local paper as a treasure map, the family Jeep as our trusty ship, mom as the captain, my sister as a crew, and many an island of garage sale surprises from the halls of Parkwood to the shores of Warren… a childhood of "treasure hunting" in Fort Collins taught me the importance of imagination, community, and the value of used and reusable things.
On Saturday the 18th of August, Plymouth will be where “x marks the spot” for the most valuable treasure of all—a faith community that reaches out in love and in hope to those around us! This is undoubtably the greatest bounty of all. Let’s share this treasure of Plymouth with everyone. Aye Aye!
Happy Treasure Hunting,
The Rev. Jake Miles Joseph (or just Jake)
The Rev. Jake Miles Joseph ("just Jake"), Associate Minister, came to Plymouth in 2014 having served in the national setting of the UCC on the board of Justice & Witness Ministries, the Coalition for LGBT Concerns, and the Chairperson of the Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministries (CYYAM). Jake has a passion for ecumenical work and has worked in a wide variety of churches and traditions. Read more about him on our staff page.