Thank you for the honor of serving as your Moderator for this past year. I have had several people ask me about the experience of holding this leadership position. That question has led me to reflect on the year both personally and what has been accomplished within our church.
Performing the duties of Moderator has allowed me to experience church in very different ways than in my past volunteer commitments. It required me to understand and help make decisions from a business perspective with the need to always remember that compassion must factor into those decisions. It has helped me to improve my listening skills, not one of my strong suits, when approached by members to share successes and challenges in the work of the church. I have had the privilege of working with our staff and learning to appreciate the roles they all play and how hard they work behind the scenes to make things seemingly happen so smoothly. It has been overall a good year and I am grateful for the team of dedicated people serving on Leadership Council and the committees of Council.
It has been a year of resurrection for so many of the activities we took for granted before the pandemic and of the creation of new opportunities for being church. Following are some of these and I’m sure I am forgetting others. Our Outreach and Mission focused efforts include working with the family from Afghanistan to help them become a part of our community, hosting Faith Family Hospitality families, implementing Share the Plate to raise financial resources for a variety of mission-oriented organizations, and the sleep-out organized by our youth to support Homelessness Prevention. Children are once again attending Sunday School, our youth are meeting and Our Whole Lives (OWL) curriculum is being shared, there have been interesting topics presented at Adult Forum and several book studies. Social groups are meeting and a fun bingo night and Advent Craft event were held. Ministry Match was implemented to help folks find their place at Plymouth, and our new settled Associate Minister, Marta Fioriti, will be joining us the first of March. All our Boards, Committees and Ministry Teams have worked hard to reopen and rebuild our church community. Thanks to all involved in these vital ministries.
The theme this year was “Extending and Embracing Beloved Community.” For me, the following Bible verse speaks to how that is done. “Above all, love each other deeply… Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace.” 1 Peter 4:8-10 (NIV) A recent UCC Devotional by Mary Luti shared this reflection on church “Some Christians think that the church is most fully what Christ intends only when it’s publicly engaged in the struggle against the sinful systems of our unjust world. But the world’s axis also tilts towards God’s dream whenever some random old woman (or anyone at all) comes to us to be accompanied and is met with open arms.” Plymouth for me is all of you and your willingness to open your arms and build beloved community.
Peace and blessings,
Claudia DeMarco is was our 2022 Moderator. She has been a member since 2006 and involved in the Deacons Board, Celtic Spirituality group, Women's Friendship, Congregational Life Board, Associate Pastor Search Committee.
In church on Sunday, I shared about my experience with skiing for the first time. I have lived in Colorado for almost twenty years, and this past weekend I finally braved the slopes. A good friend of mine patiently taught me every step of the way, responding to my frustration with encouragement. She literally picked me up every time I fell. I thought this was a sweet picture of beloved community – I pushed myself to participate, and she met me exactly where I was.
I talked through this story with our youth group. I asked them how they imagined beloved community. One of our middle schoolers said that a ski lodge is the perfect place to experience beloved community. Up on a ski lift, complete strangers can become momentary friends. Everyone there understands the difficulty of walking downstairs with ski boots on, and everyone patiently waits.
Openness, patience, and understanding were the top traits that our students picked out as necessary for beloved community. They agreed that in order to build a beloved community, you have to show up as your whole, authentic self and engage fully. Participants need to agree on a covenantal relationship of kindness and mutual respect. They said this seemed “utopian” – perhaps even impossible to achieve in the state of our world. But I believe God wants us to join in the work of making a better world. So, I asked them where they find glimpses of beloved community. Skiing. Drama club. Youth group. Boy Scouts. Their friends. Their families.
Where do you find your beloved community? How are you making beloved community? How can we collectively move Plymouth towards our ideal beloved community? Look to this next generation. They get it.
As I was reflecting on what the theme and goals could be for this year, I kept coming back to the concept of working for the common good. I kept thinking about how our country has moved away from this value, particularly over the past decade or two. Surely, there are people who continue to believe and actively work to make it a reality. Wouldn’t it be nice to hold them up and celebrate their good work? I slowly moved from this phrase to express it a bit differently with Beloved Community, as expressed in our new strategic plan.
You might ask as I did, what does beloved community mean and where did this phrase first originate?
“Philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce, who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation, coined the term Beloved Community in the early 20th century. It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, who popularized the term and invested it with a deeper meaning. King's Beloved Community is justice, not for any one oppressed group, but for all people. As Dr. King often said, `Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ He felt that justice could not be parceled out to individuals or groups, but was the birthright of every human being in the Beloved Community.”
I can see the connection between working for the common good and beloved community. Therefore, the Leadership Council has adopted the following theme for 2022 - “Extending and Embracing Beloved Community.” What an amazing difference this can make in how we interact with all people and creation. Some will say this is only a dream. They are correct unless we commit to finding the various ways, both individually and corporately, we can breathe life into reality.
Leadership Council cannot do this alone. We need all of our church family to be engaged. Let us find ways to celebrate those among us who are putting this dream into action. Please reach out to me or to other Council members with names of groups or individuals we need to recognize and thank for their efforts.
Peace and blessings,
Claudia has been a member of Plymouth since 2006. Her volunteer jobs have included Deacon, Congregational Life Board, lead organizer of the All Church Retreat and the Women's Friendship annual retreat, and an active member of the Celtic Spirituality group. and Fellowship of the Grape (FOG) group.