Sharing God's Gift of LoveRead Now
As I was walking back to my office on Sunday after the (indoor) potluck luncheon following the (indoor) service, I felt the warm glow of love for our congregation. The potluck was phenomenal, and the “loaves and fishes effect” was in full swing with food in abundance!
Somehow, all the logistical shifts we made due to the torrential rain seemed to fall into place: dedicated A/V volunteers, fabulous music, inspiring lay preachers and liturgist, our phenomenal Deacons, our revitalized Congregational Life board, and our amazing staff all worked together to make an enlivening (indoor) service and potluck lunch come off without a hitch! It all looked seamless and easy…but a large contingent of Plymouth folks was hard at work making everything happen. I was worried that the heavy rains would dampen our attendance and that we’d have a half-empty sanctuary, but it was quite full! YAY, Plymouth!
When I came home, the first thing I told Jane Anne was, “I love our church.”
Paul opens his first letter to the church in Corinth by saying, “I thank my God always for you, because of God’s grace that was given to you in Christ Jesus. That is, you were made rich through him in everything.” That is what I felt on Sunday. Our congregation has been enriched and enlivened by the Spirit and the wisdom of Jesus. You can feel new energy and new vitality happening in all corners of our congregation.
Maybe you came away on Sunday with a similar experience of loving God and loving the people she has called together to form Plymouth. We are not perfect, “not a congregation of the sinless,” as our membership covenant replies. And yet…there is so much goodness, so much energy, so many things percolating that I cannot help but be grateful for the abundance of wonderful folks who comprise Plymouth.
Paul speaks of the abundance of God’s grace given to us through Jesus Christ, and I see that in the incredibly giftedness of our congregation. I’m reading a good, challenging book by Yale theologian Miroslav Volf right now called, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace. Volf speaks about God as the ultimate giver and says that we cannot return a gift to God, who has everything and needs nothing. But he does see us as a conduit for the action of God in the world. “Faith is an expression of the fact that we exist so that the infinite God can dwell in us and work through us for the well-being of the whole of creation.” He continues, “Faith is the first part of the bridge from self-centeredness to generosity.”
In our culture, we see almost everything as an economic transaction, giving this in exchange for that. God’s economy doesn’t work that way, and that “gift economy” is what I saw in action last Sunday. We worked, prayed, sang, celebrated, and ate together.
Together, we recognized God as the giver. And we took some of what he had given to us and turned it not toward ourselves, but toward this vibrant community of faith. And as we were cleaning up after the potluck, we saw more abundance and faith, as volunteers from our Faith Family Hospitality Ministry Team set up cots for the families without housing who are sharing our church building this week.
One of the most important parts of growing in discipleship is to be part of God’s “gift economy.” Growing in faith can help us acknowledge that everything we have and are comes from God. And then to put our faith into action as conduits of God’s grace and abundance. “The gifts flow into us, and they flow from us,” Volf writes. “We are God’s gifts to our neighbors.”
May we continue to grow in faith and awareness of the gifts God entrusts to us.
A Tricky TopicRead Now
For the Missions Marketplace in November, Anabel (age 7) wanted to contribute. She loaded up a small purse with her money and we headed off to church. Without knowing anything about money and finances, Anabel was clear that she wanted to donate her money to help others. What she really didn’t know is that all 300 of her shiny coins were only worth about $3.00. Her contribution, although small, was significant for her. She gave that money with a cheerful heart.
Money is a tricky topic. People do not like talking about money because it can be uncomfortable. As a Church, though, this is a topic that won’t be going away. Our Church is thriving right now – the pews were full on Sunday, people are excited for upcoming events, and more than anything, our community wants to help others. But excitement and the desire to serve don’t pay our bills. They don’t fix the deficit in our budget. As chair of Budget and Finance last year, it was evident that unless we want to lay off our staff, we do not have money to cut out of our budget. We can reduce a little bit here and there, but ultimately, unless people step up and contribute financially, we cannot sustain our current situation.
Our finances are not getting better, and it is time for Plymouth, as a community of believers, to make some changes. Not everyone has money to give to the Church, but many people do. If you love Plymouth and you want to see Plymouth continue to be a beacon of hope in an increasingly chaotic world, now is the time. Visit plymouthucc.org/give to learn more.
Ministry Highlights (May 2023)Read Now
Last Program Sunday
We had tons of kids and youth come cheer & pray for our graduating seniors during the service! During Godly Play, kids created pictures of Jesus ascending into purple clouds & living on in our hearts. OWL wrapped up with a fun celebration. And our youth group celebrated the end of the year at Old Town Churn. Photos: B. DeMarco, E. Kim, B. McBride (includes gallery).
Plymouth Concert Series
Over 40 people people attended our concert series debut on a rainy Mother's Day afternoon. The rapt audience was gifted with a world class performance of sublime music by the likes of Debussy and others -- a resounding success that bodes well for the future of this concert series! Photos: Anne Thompson
Fellowship of the Grape (aka FOG)
FOG, Fellowship of the Grape, is a monthly gathering of Plymouth members and friends 21+ who gather for wine, appetizers, and great conversation. We had 22 at our April gathering, with lots of ages represented and some new Plymouth members. Watch the Overview for dates of future gatherings. Photos: Marty Marsh
Farewell to the Dilles
The Trustees Board threw a farewell potluck supper on May 22nd to thank Tom and Paula Dille for their combined 40+ years of service and friendship to this church. The Dilles are moving to North Carolina to be closer to family.
Community Rewards Update
Thank you to all of the members of Plymouth who have been participating in our King Soopers Community Rewards Program! This participation recently allowed Plymouth Church to donate an additional $1,000 to the Food Bank for Larimer County and an additional $500 to the Family Housing Network’s Faith Family Hospitality Overnight Program. (You can participate in this outreach every time you shop at King Soopers, by linking your rewards card.)
Have you seen this man?
Bill DeMarco isn't just a famous musician... he is behind the lens of some of Plymouth's most iconic photos. If you see him at church, be sure to smile. And see more of his pix here.
It's OfficialRead Now
It’s official! As of last Friday, Roger [my husband] and my youngest daughter, Nina, have joined me at our new home in a lovely neighborhood only a couple of blocks South East of old town Timnath.
It’s also official that I passed my “culminating conversation” last week after presenting my Doctor of Ministry project at The Iliff School of Theology. I am officially a Reverend Doctor! I could not be more thrilled and humbled to be an expert in the work that I deeply love.
For those of you who are curious, the program that I applied to and have spent the past three and half years in is called Doctor of Ministry in Prophetic Leadership. After the first two years of coursework, students pick a specific area of study and research. I chose to research an intersectional feminist approach to worship. The title of my project is:
The Birthing Stool: An Intersectional Feminist Approach to Worship.
To all the pastors birthing something new.
To all the clergy that want to do something different.
To all the churches brave enough to break the mold.
This project is for you.
I know that I will share pieces of this project with this community over time, but here is a nugget:
The Birthing Stool. This image and metaphor of a birthing stool came from feminist scholar Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz. In Muerista's theological and liturgical understanding, church liturgy requires our whole bodies. The birthing stool is a tool that assists with birthing something brand new. It is a deeply spiritual structure that requires relationship and presence. It is an image used to create something new that can be simultaneously exciting but also deeply uncomfortable. The birthing stool was used before male physicians dominated the delivery room and were tended by a community supporting a child's birth. There was always a community of people surrounding the stool. The midwife, doula, grandmothers, and sisters all tend to the new birth around the stool.
I believe that the church can make room for the authentic and lived experiences of intersectional feminism. This work is not individualistic but communal. This work is not perfect, but practiced. This work is necessary and also messy. An intersectional feminist approach to worship will birth something new and incredible within the worshiping community, but it will take the support and care of everyone - like the birthing stool.
In the spirit of the birthing stool - communal ministry and practice, [and now that I am officially here!], I welcome invitations to get to know all of you more deeply. I am open to walks and coffee/lunch [really, any food!] or simply an office visit. My door is always open.
Can you believe this is the end of my second program year with Christian Formation? This past Sunday, I had my second annual Parent Partnership meetings, where we evaluated the last year’s ministry and set goals for next year.
We got to celebrate how this school year brought so much of our life back: OWL, Confirmation, Godly Play, weekly Sunday School, youth group, La Foret, the Car Wash, the Book Sale, the coffee cart… the list could go on. And we had discussions about where we can still grow: making worship more accessible to kids, centering youth voices and youth leadership, and recreating a dedicated ministry for tweens, to name a few.
If you would be interested in volunteering with Christian Formation next year, please don’t hesitate to contact me. We have lots of big dreams, and it will take many hands to make them all happen.
All of that said, I am intimately aware of the fact that at this time of year, we are all so tired. We are all so ready for the summer sunshine and a slightly slower pace of life. I know this is especially true for all of us still connected to school, but I think this is true across the board. It seems life came back busier than ever. My prayer is that this summer might offer us the space to find balance again.
And so, I would like to offer this brief centering prayer or meditation that I wrote for our families as we’re wrapping up this season:
Take a breath in. This year has been full of good fun!
Let your breath out. By the end of this month, we'll be on summer break.
Take a breath in. We had a great year,
Let your breath out. And we will have a restful summer.
A fundamental tenet of the Reformation was the priesthood of all believers, the idea that individuals do not need a priestly intermediary to communicate with God. The other implication is that ministry doesn’t belong to the clergy, but to all of us who form the church, the body of Christ in the world. All of us — lay and clergy — work together as the church. And it takes all of us to keep the church vital.
One of the things we realized in creating our budget for 2023 is that we would need to cut ministerial positions by about 37 percent, because income was not able to support 2.7 full-time ministers (the positions that JT, Jane Anne, and I filled). So, we were blessed to find Marta Fioriti as our full-time settled associate minister to work alongside me as a colleague in ordained ministry. Things are going well with this model so far!
Our approach in Marta’s first two months is for us to both participate in at least part of each board, committee, and council meeting together. Part of the reason was that Marta needs to get to know our members and vice versa. Another purpose was to see how our boards and committees were operating and where one of us might be the most help.
Working together, Marta and I have planned a division of labor that is based on the current staffing structure, where the needs are, and the requirements of Plymouth’s constitution. It also reflects where our own skills and passions lie.
What have had to cut staffing for adult education, the position that Mark Lee filled in 16 hours a week and that Jane Anne later took over in 8 hours a week. The Christian Formation Board and their ministry teams are working hard to make this work with both forums and other studies. This is lay ministry at work!
The other shift, recommended by our consultant, John Wimberly, is that clergy relationships with boards will be more like coaches, rather than players on the field. Each of us will be in touch with a board, attending a part of their meetings, and will be available for consulting as needed. It may take a little getting used to, but we’re already on the way!
Marta and I wanted to share with you who will be doing what, which is a little different than it has been. It’s also critically important to recognize that Brooklyn McBride will be solo staff for the Christian Formation Board and that Phil Braudaway-Bauman will be solo staff for the Board of Trustees and the Budget & Finance Committee. So, here is our plan:
Supervision of Staff
Marta will supervise Brooklyn McBride
Hal continues as head of staff and will supervise Marta, Mark Heiskanen, and Phil Braudaway-Bauman (who supervises Barb Gregory and Anna Broskie).
Both Hal and Marta will provide emergency on-call care (anytime day or night!) and also will share general pastoral care as well. Feel free to call on either of us. (Reminder: If you are having surgery and would like a pre-op prayer, we’re happy to do that! And we’re happy to visit you in the hospital if you wind up there for any reason. But with HIPAA regulations, you need to let us know you are there, which hospital, and that you’d like a visit; we have no other way of knowing.)
Marta will support our lay caregiving teams: both the Congregational Visitors and Stephen Ministers
Boards, Committees, and Council
Marta will be the staff liaison with the Boards of Congregational Life, Deacons, and Outreach & Mission.
Hal will be the staff liaison with the Leadership Council, Board of Stewardship, and the Personnel and Nominating Committees.
Marta will preach on average once per month.
Hal will preach on average three Sundays a month.
This is a good occasion to remind all of us that Plymouth’s ministry does not belong just to Marta and me; it belongs to each of us. It’s part of what we commit to as members of Plymouth, and it also helps build a robust faith for each of us.
I am grateful to have each of you as a partner in ministry!
Ministry Highlights (April 2023)
Wow, April was a busy month!
Get a taste of the events below,
then see even more pictures here.
It was a jubilant morning of palm raising and hosannas!
The church was packed on Easter, reminding many of pre-pandemic times. Pew pads were signed by 362 people, plus 157 devices accessed our online worship on Sunday.
The traditional Silver Grill cinnamon rolls were featured at coffee hour...
... and we had at least 40 kids show up for this year’s Egg Hunt! A dozen youth hid eggs all over the lawn and the playground.
Earth Day Sunday
Between services there were earth-friendly stations for all ages:
Wisdom Jesus Book Study
The April meeting of the Fort Collins Interfaith Council focused on Environmental and Climate issues. The meeting began with a wonderful Native blessing and dancing/drumming and then moved to a movie showing how Native people in Canada are working to take care of Mother Earth. The Fort Collins Climate Action Plan (www.fcgov.com/sustainability) was presented and discussed. Learn about the many activities of the FCIC here.
Do you have a ministry highlight to share?
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This Is a Candle-Lighting WeekRead Now
The liturgical Season of Easter almost always gets overlooked. And that is crazy because it’s the liturgical season when the work of the people is being called to serious action.
To be an Easter People means that our faith in the resurrection must transform the very meaning of our lives, the church we belong to, and the many deaths woven throughout and among us.
So, let’s start this 50 days of the season of Easter with candle lighting. It’s a simple and accessible way to begin this journey of transformation. I love candles. I love the slow burn of light that glows. I love scented and unscented candles. I love the metaphor of a guiding light in uncertain terrain. I love the practice and intention of striking a match against the hard cardboard box and the first smell of burnt offering when the wick gets lit. I love that the candle almost always decides how long it burns and that the control is out of my hands. I love that this practice is a prayer for this or that–for me, for you, and for the world. Nevertheless, it’s a great way to begin the journey through the Season of Easter.
Mostly, I think that this week is a candle-lighting week for our nation, so I invite you to a ritual in your home.
Gather three or four candles (tea candles or taper candles or a Yankee candle) in a central location: dining room table or coffee table.
Say these words and light a candle for each:
My Easter People, intention comes first, then action. May your prayers be lifted to God in the Spirit of transformation and deep and abiding love. More than anything, may they guide your intention to DO the work of Easter People. Amen.
P.S. If you engage in this practice, I’d love to see the pictures of your lit candles to share in community. You can share them with me using this form.
Listen, and Sing
Perhaps no other time in the liturgical year demonstrates the truly sacred dimensions of music in worship as in the sequence of services from Holy Week through Easter Sunday. The meditative spirit of Lent reaches its conclusion in the drama, even pathos, of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in remembrance of Jesus' last tragic days of his world-changing ministry. And then Easter Sunday— a burst of joy (boisterous and quiet expressions alike!) celebrating the assured victory of life over death. Green blade rising.
Music for every occasion. A spiritual tool to bring us closer to the divine. Truly a remarkable gift to the world this "ordered sound."
I offer these inspired words from the closing paragraph of the wonderful book "A Song to Sing, A Life to Live" by Don and Emily Saliers:
Listen, and sing...
Begin with the music you already cherish
but live with openness to the possibility
that in the coming years
music you have not yet heard
will lead you more deeply
into the mystery at the heart of all that is...
May music be a wellspring
from which you will drink courage and joy.
Mark Heiskanen, Dir. of Music/Organist
The Holy Week Roller Coaster
There is no other week in the Christian calendar that brings us from the highs of Palm Sunday to the darkness of Maundy Thursday to the depths of Good Friday and back to the pinnacle of Easter Sunday. It’s a bit of a roller coaster ride! And as a congregation, we embody and relive some of that raucous and then solemn and then joyful journey.
Palm Sunday was jubilant at Plymouth, including the most vigorous palm-frond waving I’ve ever seen! But it doesn’t really work in a narrative sense to skip right from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. This isn’t a week without deep intimacy and tragedy, and to miss that is to diminish the capital-M Mystery of Easter. As is often said, we cannot have Easter’s resurrection without Good Friday’s crucifixion.
My son Chris’s favorite service of the year is the Maundy Thursday Tenebrae service, which demonstrates the shadowy nature of the Last Supper and crucifixion. Many young people “get” the drama of this service, and this year Brooklyn McBride will gather our youngest worshippers and supply them with glowsticks! Our hard-working deacons arrange a simple soup supper at 6:15 in advance of the 7:00 service. (So sorry that snow and frigid temperatures caused us to cancel the Ash Wednesday soup supper!) Join us for this service that will help all of us understand, in both a cerebral and an affective way, the final steps in Jesus’ ministry.
Good Friday is the day of tragedy for Christians. (Even the New York Stock Exchange stops trading for the day!) And we are providing a midday opportunity for you to join us at Plymouth at 12:15 for a program of organ music, spoken word, and quiet meditation. It is a service that helps us as worshipers to feel and acknowledge a small part of the depths of human tragedy.
Easter Sunday at Plymouth reflects the triumph of God’s YES to life, of God’s realm over empire, of love over violence. Our worship embodies this with glorious hymns and alleluias, brass and timpani, abundant flowers, and a celebration of the resurrection. Easter Sunday at Plymouth also means cinnamon rolls from the Silver Grill at 10:00 and an Easter Egg Hunt at the same time. (Did you know that blown Easter eggs reflect the empty tomb and that an Easter egg roll is emblematic of rolling the stone away from the tomb?) I would strongly recommend arriving early for either the 9:00 or 11:00 service. It’s also a great Sunday to invite a friend to church, someone who might need the gift of Plymouth in their lives.
For me, Easter has a special meaning this year. We all have lived through the shadows and depths of the pandemic, and it seems that as a world and as a congregation, we finally are experiencing resurrection. As Paul intimates, it is with a somewhat different body. The world is not exactly the same as it was three years ago, nor is Plymouth the same as it was before Covid. But we are here to testify to its resurrection.
P.S We are “mask-friendly” at Plymouth, so you are welcome to wear a mask but are not required to do so.
P.P.S. You can find the livestreams (and recordings) of the midweek services on our Holy Week & Easter page.
Ministry Highlights (March 2023)
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,
We Built This City
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!
Back to Normal?
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!
I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. I'm thankful for all of you every time I pray, and it's always a prayer full of joy.[i] (Philippians 1.3-4)
Though we think of it as the special word of the end of worship, the word “benediction” simply means “good words.” Here are my “good words” for you as I write this final staff reflection.
The picture above shows all the wonderful tangible gifts that you gave me Saturday evening at that fabulous fare well dinner (and Sunday at youth group lunch). Thank you and thank you and thank you! I love them all! And they hold precious memories. These gifts and these memories will sustain me as I move through the next year or so before I come back to be with you at congregation gatherings. As the Senior Minister’s spouse! A role I also treasure.
I have just spent the morning (Monday) with Marta and Hal in transition meetings. More are scheduled for Tuesday with JT and the rest of the staff. Rev. Marta is a true gift! She and Hal will be, are already becoming, a great team. Please remember to wear your name tags for her so she can learn names and faces! Please support them both as they move into ministry with you together! Things will be new for Hal and for all of you as well as Marta. Be gentle with yourselves, with Plymouth’s beloved staff and with one another.
Plymouth is coming alive after our pandemic days, beginning to sprout with new people and ministries. The future is so promising! I do thank God for each of you and our time together over the past 8 years and 4 months. Before I leave you with the benediction that I love so much (see the footnote telling from whom I learned it), hear these words of encouragement from Philippians, 4.4-7:
Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. Don't be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.[ii]
In the goodness of God you were born into this world.
By the grace of God you have been kept all the day long, even unto this hour.
And by the love of God, fully revealed in the face of Jesus the Christ,
You are being made Whole.[iii]
Go in peace to love and serve, my dear Plymouth!
With you always on the journey,
[i] & [ii] Bible, Common English. CEB Common English Bible with Apocrypha - eBook [ePub] (Kindle Locations 45178-45181).
[iii] Adapted from the benediction created by the late Rev. Dr. John R. Claypool IV who was my pastor as a teen at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He later became an Episcopal priest.