Steve Jobs once noted that in developing his technology empire he did not think primarily in terms of goals. Rather, to serve his desire for innovation, he would just try something new and look behind him at the progress made thus far to determine the next steps. When I read this, I could not help but think of our present circumstances and the often ambiguous path ahead. And also, how this mindset can inform our decisions going forward.
When the pandemic hit last March, we began streaming worship services within days of the shutdown. There was no tutorial or experienced live stream team to take the reins at first. We just did it and learned as we went.
Members of the Chancel Choir have begun making videos utilizing the Acapella app for inclusion in our worship services. It was a process of glitch after glitch and we're still a work in progress. But into the thick of it we went! And soon, we'll test the waters with a brand new concept introduced in a recent New York Times article....drive-in choir! Choristers park around the director/accompanist and sing into wireless microphones using their car's FM radio as monitors. Do not be surprised to see videos of this quirky yet promising venture in the near future. As John Lennon once sang, "Strange days indeed!"
With the new pattern of pre-recording services once per month, we can now think in terms of production: an opportunity that did not exist before. Christmas Eve will be quite special with a plethora of instrumentalists and singers participating that would never be able to inhabit the chancel together in real time. The benefits of the virtual realm.
With the organ now up and running (yay!), musical presentations both live and pre-recorded will follow. There will be an Advent concert on Sunday, December 13 featuring the organ and guests. An "Organ Encounter" (a chance to see and hear what makes this wonderful machine tick!) will be coming in the new year. Other musical collaborations will no doubt follow. We shall see, again, where the muse leads!
Despite growing up on the shores of Lake Erie, I don't swim. Embarrassing, in a way. Nevertheless, it is necessary for all of us to take that deep dive. So far, so good.
Dir. of Music
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.
First … a Big Thank You to All who have pledged for 2021! We deeply appreciate your faithfulness in sharing the abundance that God has shared with you!
And it is not too late to pledge…just go to the Plymouth Pledge page on our website to fill out an online pledge card. If you would like to become an Evergreen Partner and have your pledge deducted automatically from your bank account each month you can go to our Evergreen Partner page. Thank you in advance for pledging for 2021!
Performing in the musical Godspell for an entire year during my sophomore year in college was a life-changing and life-shaping experience for me. It still impacts my life. There is a prayer of thanksgiving in the back of our New Century Hymnal, #844, which I have used many times in worship to dedicate the offering because it is good theology – and because it reminds me of one of Godspell’s most beloved show tunes, “All Good Gifts.”
“All good gifts around us come from you, O God. You have given us life, and new life in Christ. As you have given us gifts, so we offer our gifts that we may be gifts to one another, even as Jesus so taught and lived. Amen.”
I offer you the video below this week to celebrate our 2020 pledge campaign, “Pilgrims on a Journey.” It is a beautiful rendition of Godspell’s “All Good Gifts” recorded by the ensemble, “Trumpets.” And it is dedicated by them to all our frontline workers during the pandemic. Here in northern Colorado we can offer up thanks and prayers particularly for the firefighters still working on the front lines of the Cameron Peak Fire as well as all the other folks who have been on the job throughout the pandemic.
With you, my fellow pilgrims, on the journey,
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
I really appreciate hearing from members of our congregation each fall about the ways Plymouth has changed their lives and why they support our congregation. They are poignant, honest, profound, and sometimes even funny. About ten years ago, Bob Sturtevant did a great talk (with apologies to David Letterman) centered around his Top Ten Reasons to Give. Number One was “Because through his son’s teachings, God asked me to.” <Mic Drop>
There are a lot of reasons Jane Anne and I make giving to Plymouth a priority, but for me, giving to the church has been an important part of my spiritual journey. Back when I was in graduate school and we had a newborn, it was hard to pledge, but we managed to give $1,200 a year to First Congregational UCC in Boulder. When we moved to Connecticut, I was the minister responsible for stewardship and mission giving in our conference, and with another young son, we found ways to increase our pledge to First Church in Windsor, UCC. And our move to Fort Collins in 2002 brought new responsibilities and new perspectives. I heard Tom and Paula Dille talk about tithing (that’s 10 percent) their income when they were young adult members of a UCC church in Missouri. I heard Larry McCulloch say that he invested in the church, because it has been the greatest agent of change over centuries. I witnessed Jackie and Kevin Schneider pay their full pledge when the pandemic started to help ensure we didn’t have cashflow problems. I saw one of our members who recently lost a job submit a pledge…that’s an act of deep faith. I have learned so much about God’s abundance from the people who form this congregation. You are an inspiration.
God imbues the universe with “the lyric of abundance,” as Walter Brueggemann puts it. There is enough of everything to go around — that’s God’s intention. The problem lies in distribution. I want to be part of God’s movement, to sing the lyric of abundance not the dirge of scarcity, and I want to do everything I can to support the realm of God. That’s why I support Plymouth financially.
You and I have witnessed incredible injustices in our nation. We are living through a deadly pestilence of biblical proportion. How are we to respond? We can sit back and wring our hands. We can vent on Facebook and feel righteous indignation. But how does that change the world or change lives? Even as I write, our Immigration Ministry Team is using our North Wing to sort donated clothing and supplies for PSD students who arrived in this country not just without documentation, but alone. I want to support that. Carla is developing a lay caregiving program that will have far-reaching impact. I want to support that. When this pandemic is over, we are going to come together to celebrate and sing and offer thanks to God for our deliverance. “O Lord, I want to be in that number,” and I’ll support that!
We have choices about whom we will serve. As for me and my family, we will serve God.
P.S. You won’t want to miss worship on Sunday…jazz, inspiration, blessing, and celebration! And you can pledge online right now at plymouthucc.org/pledge You don’t have to wait!
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.
See the Animal Blessing photos here.
In December 2019, Carla started her two-year designated term pastorate at Plymouth. She spent the last 5 years consulting with churches on strategic planning, conflict transformation and visioning. Before going to seminary she volunteered at her church through Stephen Ministry, visiting ministries and leading worship services at a memory care unit and a healthcare facility. Learn more about Carla here.