While we sat in darkness, Lord Jesus Christ,
you interrupted us with your life.
Make us, your people, a holy interruption
so that by your Spirit’s power
we may live as a light to the nations,
even as we stumble
through this world’s dark night.
-Book of Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals
We have had a lot of building and parking lot activity, interruptions and surprises this summer at Plymouth!
It has continually brought me back to the blessing of interruption. I am a creature of habit and ritual. I take comfort in certainty and routine. These things are good and have their purpose. However, when I look at interruptions as only annoyances, I am closing myself off to what are often the most urgent and true needs, blessings, and happenings around me.
May we welcome interruptions as opportunities. May we be people who invite God’s perspective on what is actually happening to and around us in our daily lives. May we see with holy-healing sight. May we see the needs around us (including our own). May we go forth with willingness, grace, humility and courage. Make us, Lord, into holy interruptions.
Yendra Tencza is Plymouth's Business Manager. Read more about her here.
It’s almost fall! Public schools are starting. CSU students are returning. (Traffic is picking up!) And this Sunday, August 25th, we begin a new program year at Plymouth! We go back to our school year worship schedule, 9 and 11 am and 6 pm. At each service we will begin with processing in all of the chancel paraments (the colorful hangings), the candles, the Bible, the communion elements (at 9 and 6) as a way of celebrating the beginning of a new season.
I hope you will join us for worship! At our 10 am Education hour (which will be a fellowship time this Sunday), there will be wonderful breakfast burritos for sale just outside the Fellowship Hall at the north doors. $3 a piece! A festive touch to the coffee hour for this day. There will also be computers to register children and youth for 2019-2020 Christian Formation programming and Christian Formation volunteers to help you (or get a jump on it and register right now). And there will be tables with some Outreach and Mission volunteers activities to participate in during the coming weeks.
Even as we start a new program year we are still working with the all-church theme for 2019, “Going Deeper.” I hope you will consider going deeper through new avenues of participation in worship, in Christian Formation learning opportunities, in volunteer opportunities in church hospitality, Congregational Life events, Outreach and Mission work. Keep your eyes and ears tuned for all of these ways to participate in the life of Plymouth and in the realm of God we are helping to build here in our corner of Colorado.Read these weekly Reflections and the Thursday Overview emails. Read the Placard and the weekly bulletin inserts. Listen to announcements before the worship services. Check out all the bulletin boards in the Fellowship Hall. Come to the Taste of Plymouth/Dinner Church potluck next Sunday, September 1 at 6 pm. Participate in the All-Church Retreat (9/13-15) and the All-Church Spiritual Practices classes each Sunday in November. Ask a friend how they are participating and if you can join them!
Above all, listen to the yearnings of your heart and the questions in your mind. Discover how God is calling you to deepen your soul work, to deepen your faith. Are you in need of study, service, prayer, the creative work of welcoming others, visiting those who are ill or cannot get to worship? Feel free to email any of the staff with questions about getting involved!
Go deeper with Plymouth this fall! You’ll be glad you did!
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. Read more
Last night, the Leadership Council made an important decision about the way forward. As you may know the national landscape of mainline Protestantism is changing, as is the nature of theological education. UCC seminaries are struggling mightily to stay afloat. Our oldest freestanding seminary, Andover-Newton, closed its doors in Newton Centre, Mass., and is folding into Yale Divinity School. Bangor Seminary in Maine granted its last degrees in 2013. United Seminary in Minnesota sold its campus last year to move into a downsized location in the Twin Cities. Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley is trying to lease out some of its empty buildings. To say the least, it’s a difficult time for seminaries and divinity schools.
And those turbulent waters spread into the supply of clergy emerging with Master of Divinity degrees – the expected baseline for most ordained ministers in the UCC. After advertising our interim associate position nationally, we only had two applicants. So, the Search Committee beat the bushes and inquired with other ministers we know, and we have another possible candidate as a result.
The changing ministerial search process in the UCC also includes not only “settled” and “interim” ministers, but “designated-term” ministers as well. This third type of ministry is still elected by the congregation, but for a fixed term. At the end of a designated term, typically two years, the congregation would elect a settled pastor search committee and consider the “designated-term” pastor first, if that is her/his desire, before doing an open search.
The advantage of this for Plymouth is that it would allow us to complete our upcoming Strategic Planning process, including recommendations on staffing, during the two-year term when the designated pastor is serving.
Plymouth’s Leadership Council voted to opt for this path forward and invites you to a Congregational Conversation to learn more this coming Sunday, August 18, following the 10:00 service in the Forum Room.
We are excited about the prospects of finding excellent pastoral talent for Plymouth, even in the midst of changing times in mainline churches.
Grace and peace,
The Rev. Hal Chorpenning 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.
I can recall many an organ lesson where my instructor would say, in an effort to help resolve the phrasing of a particular passage, "Well, how would you sing it?" It always worked. The original instrument, the human voice, provides the most natural interpretation of musical expression which other instruments can only attempt to emulate. A sensitive musician can do so very effectively though. Listen to an expressive cellist like Yo-Yo Ma, a solo by a brilliant guitarist such as Pat Metheny or Brian May, or the phrasing of a virtuoso pianist such as Angelin Chang. What do all these players have in common? They impose a sense of breath onto their respective instruments. This is especially vital for us organists who play an instrument that, as long as we have electrical power, never needs to breathe! Igor Stravinsky famously called the organ, "the monster that never breathes." Perhaps he had some bad experiences or was just very biased. Either way, the listener will be naturally inclined to expect an organic (no pun intended) approach to music-making. It is all about the human voice, an instrument we're all intimately familiar with.
It is no secret that Christianity has had a long association with singing in worship. The psalms are song texts after all and often encourage singing. Examples include Psalm 95:1 "Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation" and Psalm 101:1 "I will sing of your love and justice; to you, LORD, I will sing praise."
There are many more examples in scriptures of course. Ephesians 5.19 states "Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord." And Hebrews 2.12 offers “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.”
The relevance of the human voice in worship and in our experience with the divine was further reinforced at a few workshops I attended this summer. In June, I participated in a nearly week-long session with the Church Music Institute in Fort Worth, Texas The time there included lectures on the history of hymnody, daily morning and evening prayer services, church music seminars, and a hymn festival. Recently I returned from a choral conducting workshop in San Diego with the Proarte Voices. The nuanced emphasis on embodying the breath and vocal mechanism in gesture was profound. Coupled with the appreciation of the history of vocal culture in the church at large, I am feeling quite good about the upcoming program year, beginning this Jubilee Sunday.
The good news is we all have the opportunity to participate vocally in worship via congregational songs and hymns. We are blessed at Plymouth to also have other musical outlets for those who wish. We just completed another season of Summer Choir, a "pickup choir" singing necessarily simple anthems to enrich summer worship. The Chancel Choir begins on August 21 providing accessible quality anthems for the program year normally at the 11:00 a.m. "choral" service. The Chamber Choir is an auditioned ensemble of 12-16 singers who offer high quality choral works ranging from the Renaissance to contemporary eras. The Plymouth Ringers resume rehearsals on September 4. While an instrumental group, we strive to not just ring but make our Schulmerich Bells sing!
Vox humana: It is an organ reed stop meant to imitate the human voice and found on French classic organs as early as the 17th century. It is Latin for "human voice," you have no doubt surmised by now. The desire to speak to God and make music with our voices, even while playing an instrument, is such an innate and interesting impulse. Why resist?
Mark Heiskanen has been Plymouth's Director of Music since September 2017. Originally from Northeast Ohio, Mark has experience and great interest in a diverse range of musical styles including jazz, rock, musical theatre, and gospel. He is thrilled to serve a congregation and staff that values diversity and inclusion in all facets of life. Read his mostly-weekly Music Minute here.