Wow! What a wild and wonderful Jubilee Sunday. I saw so many friends I had missed all summer, and I got to meet new friends. We talked about everything coming up for this year - Godly Play, Confirmation, OWL, fundraising, and so much more! In a lot of ways, it was like the first day of school.
In our time with children during the service, I talked about how the idea of jubilee felt like butterflies in my chest. There were many times I felt those butterflies as we celebrated Jubilee together. We shared our redecorated children’s classrooms for the first time. Our young kids put on an impromptu concert in the Sunday School room. We finally brought our new sixth graders into the youth group fold. And we spent some time dreaming about the future of Christian Formation at Plymouth in what feels like the most “normal” year since the pandemic. I loved listening to the different images of jubilee JT described, dreaming of what the kin-dom of God might look like here today. I wonder what jubilee feels like for you. I wonder what might inspire the world to choose jubilee - to choose rest, play, and liberation.
I know the school year has started. To me, jubilee feels like the start of a new thing. And we are starting a new program year strong. Now is the perfect time to jump in to jubilee.
Brooklyn McBride is Plymouth's Director of Christian Formation for Children & Youth. Brooklyn has served in local church and student ministries for the past several years. A native of northern Colorado, Brooklyn has professional experience leading in worship, youth, and children’s programs. Read her full bio here.
'Tis the season for starting up again. A general sense of renewal and coming back – with perhaps a clearer perspective – always permeates the air at the start of a new academic year. And I love it! While it's been some time since I attended college or any type of schooling, the anticipation of a brand new academic year of knowledge-seeking still echoes loudly for me. The cooling weather and low level hum of a healthy anxiety made opportunity and personal evolution visceral. That energy remains as I look to a new program year of music ministry at Plymouth.
With the blessing of effective vaccines we're granted the opportunity to now just get on with our lives. While Covid infections can still inflict great harm to a few and long Covid is certainly a concern for all, we are nevertheless left with no choice but to just live with this virus. I suggest we embrace the opportunity to "live with it" enthusiastically!
Music-making is preferably a contact sport in my view. Without community and close social contact, music would be relegated to solo performances. Those can be obviously wonderful and very satisfying as a musician but the shared experience of musical expression is uniquely uplifting. Whether it be the coordinated ringing of bells in the Plymouth Ringers, the joyful mission of preparing and singing choral anthems in the Chancel Choir, the shifting band of minstrels who provide an eclectic array of sounds for the 9:00 a.m. Sunday services, or congregational singing – the heartbeat of a church's musical worship life – it is in community that the Spirit is stirred most profoundly.
We have a chance to confidently enter yet another new beginning. We can safely infuse our valued traditions as a church, such as a vibrant choral program, with new life if we so choose. I choose to offer a robust response to this opportune moment and heartily invite you to participate in this blessed space as well.
'Tis truly the season to do so.
Mark Heiskanen is Plymouth's Dir. of Music and Organist. Learn more about him and read his weekly Music Minute here.
Once more, I’m at his desk! As most of you know, Hal is beginning a well-deserved Sabbatical and like the proverbial bad penny, I have turned up again to help, or at least do no harm for the next three months.
I will be here and available to work with your leaders and with all of you as you begin another program year in the life of this amazing collection of God’s people.
I will be with you on Sunday mornings, in some meetings, and in the office on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday or as needed. I will be working half-time with your staff and with all of you as together we seek to follow the way of Jesus.
You can reach me at 970-482-9212 x119 (forwards to my cell) or use the contact form.
For those of you who have not met me, let me reintroduce myself. Charnley, my spouse, and I live in Tacoma, WA. We are active in a small UCC congregation on a nearby island. I teach Sunday School and Charnley chairs the Christian Education committee and leads adult education classes. We are both active in the Pacific Northwest Conference of the UCC. I am on the Board of Directors, and she is on the committee that guides people in the process of becoming an ordained minister. We retired to Tacoma from Naples UCC in Naples, Florida where I had been Senior Minister for 13 years. I am Pastor Emeritus of that congregation. I spent most of my 43 years of active ministry serving in large congregations. Charnley is a retired Systems Analyst and keeps up her computer skills by helping our home congregation with their technology.
Together, we have four children and five grandchildren. One of our children, Joanna Lemly, is a Plymouth member. With our son-in-law Duncan and two grandchildren they participate regularly in the life of the congregation and are the reason we visit Ft. Collins every year.
My time-off activity in Fort Collins is weaving at Lambspun, a local yarn and craft store. I plan to learn more about overshot weaving during the coming few months and to make a few special Christmas gifts for family and friends. Charnley joins me there as she develops her talents as a knitter.
Five years ago, I shared with you that I regard myself as a “work in progress.” I believe that God is never finished with any of us and that finding bread for the journey is why we are together. I find great joy in being with people and listening. I love to tell stories and learn the stories of the people I meet. I believe that congregations nurture ministers to excellence and that preaching is important. I have the idea that mission in all forms is the reason for the church’s existence and that if we get the mission correct, almost everything else works out.
I am thrilled to be with you until mid-November. I look forward to spending time with as many of you as possible, working with your excellent leaders and staff and serving as your Interim Sabbatical Senior Minister. I welcome your visits, invitations, and phone calls.
From Our Pandemic Team
In the past two weeks the county status related to Covid has gone back to green; therefore, we are going back to a mask-friendly policy and will also allow food/drink inside.
Please continue to social distance when in the sanctuary or other areas of the church, as this helps curb the spread of Omicron.
Our Pandemic Team will continue to monitor the county statistics and follow the advice of the health department representative who is helping us. As always, online church is available and encouraged for those who are high risk.
Blessings on your week!
Mel Huibregtse, Chair
Have you ever asked yourself this question? I have. I am guessing many of you have as well. Perhaps, because of personal doubt. And doubt is good, by the way. Or perhaps, because you have seen and heard things done in the name of Christianity that are deeply disturbing and not at all in line with your faith ethics as a Christian. Or perhaps, you have encountered the shadow side of Christian history in the crusades, the Inquisition and in the way European colonialism treated indigenous people and in the silencing of women voices. Or perhaps, you grew up in a tradition of Christianity that was rigid in its dogma, in its social and scientific views, a tradition that did not tolerate questions of its particular Christian tenets. All of the above experiences can prompt one to ponder, “I love the ways of Jesus….but not all the ways of his followers! Should I stay Christian?”
Do I Stay Christian? A Guide for the Doubters, the Disappointed, and the Disillusioned is the provocative title of Brian McLaren’s newest book. Discussion of this book will be the center piece of Plymouth’s Adult Formation Study Groups this fall. Here is an excerpt from the book jacket to tease your interest:
“Do I Stay Christian? Publicly addresses the powerful question that surprising numbers of people – including pastors, priests, and other religious leaders – are asking in private. Brian McLaren does not urge Christians to dig in their heels, nor does he warn them to run for the exit. Instead, he combines his own experience with that of thousands of people who have confided in him over the years to help readers make a responsible, honest, ethical decision about their religious identity. According to McLaren, there is a way to say both yes and no to the question of staying Christian by shifting the focus from whether we stay Christian to how we stay human.”
My hope is to have at least two discussion groups each week – one on Sunday mornings and one on a midweek evening, in person or on Zoom. Groups will run nine weeks from the second week in September to the second week in November. I am looking for a set of volunteers to lead these groups. Each group can have 2-3 leaders. The schedule will be to read 3-4 chapters each week….they are short chapters! McLaren has an excellent short appendix that will help us read and co-lead book discussions. Very doable! Please let me know if you are willing to help as a discussion leader! Download tips for reading and Weekly Chapter Schedule. Sign-ups for each discussion group will be coming soon.
AND as a member of one of these discussion groups, you are invited
to an hour-long Zoom session with the author, Brian McLaren
at 3:00 pm on Sunday afternoon, September 25, 2022!
I have found this book to be challenging, enlightening, and oddly comforting in my own questioning. I hope you will join me in reading it and participate in one of our book discussions this fall. I think the discovery, discussions and discernment coming out of this book study will be a welcome catalyst as Plymouth creates its future as Beloved Community committed to the activity of God in northern Colorado.
With you on the journey!
P.S. You can get Do I Stay Christian? from the Center for Contemplation and Action, Amazon, or from Brian McLaren's website.
As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
As the Psalmist says, there is a great thirst in the human soul
for connection with the Divine, for a deeper relationship with God.
It is through this deepening relationship with God
that Christians experience transformation
from lives focused elsewhere
to lives of loving God and all of God’s creation,
including others and ourselves.
The Rev. Dr. Mark Lee
For many, many years Adult Christian Formation has been a jewel in Plymouth’s crown of ministries. The Rev. Dr. Mark Lee served as our Adult Director of Christian Formation for eleven years before going back into full-time pastoral ministry in June 2020. Before him came the Rev. Julie Mavity-Maddelena and Alice Clark. Robust Adult Christian Formation has been vital at Plymouth since way before Rev. Hal Chorpenning became Senior Minister and that was 20 years ago now! It is a hallmark of our faith community of worship, learning and service.
When Mark Lee left us, it was the height of the pandemic lockdown. All of the Adult Formation programming was on Zoom: Zoom Adult Forums on Sunday mornings and Zoom study groups during the week. At that time, Plymouth added 8 hours to my 20 hour a week schedule to lead adult formation study group programming. Hal took on staff liaison work with the Visiting Scholar Team. We have been attempting to fill Mark’s shoes ever since. Big shoes to fill! Mark was paid for 16 hours a week; but I know he regularly put in 20, at least. Hal and I do not have an extra 10 hours a piece on top of ministerial duties. Still, Plymouth managed to keep things going throughout these crazy years of pandemic programming, even hosting two wonderful Visiting Scholar weekends on Zoom in 2020-2021. We made it through because of so many lay volunteers. MANY, MANY THANKS
As most of you know, I will be retiring from parish ministry at the end of February 2023. And I want to leave Plymouth with the infrastructure for continuing its long-standing, robust Adult Christian Formation programming. At this point, our staffing plans at Plymouth do not include another Director of Adult Christian Formation due to budget concerns. Our ministerial staff will be back to two full-time ministers after I leave and there is no room in their job portfolios for hands-on adult formation leadership.
So …. what is up with Adult Formation programming now?! We are rebuilding!
How will it continue? With the guidance of the Christian Formation Board and with YOUR HELP! Lay organizational leadership will be imperative to keep Adult Formation up and running. I am working with the CF Board to organize one new ministry team, reorganize another and support a third existing one so Adult Formation programming will continue with high standards even with less staff input. The two full-time ministers will be available for content consultation.
Here is the proposed plan:
And….plans are in the works for this coming fall. There will be Adult Forum and at least one study group on Sunday mornings and perhaps more study groups during the week. I am hoping to gather two groups at different times to study Brian McLaren’s new book, Do I Stay Christian? A Guide for the Doubters, the Disappointed, the Disillusioned. (I am almost finished with the book. It is inspiring and enlightening!) And Brian will be with those study groups for an hour of online consultation on Sunday afternoon, September 25! More on Brian McLaren and the fall Adult Formation programming in next week’s reflection! Stay tuned!
And with you on the journey,
* A Huge Thanks to all the volunteers who have sustained Adult Christian Formation since the pandemic lockdown in March 2020. Mea Culpa for anyone I forgot!!
2020-2021 Visiting Scholar Team
Pat Slentz, chair
Adult Forum Team
Book Study Volunteers
Sara and Peter Mullarkey
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. She will be retiring in February, 2023.