of times each month at announced times. For June, I will be in the office on Tuesday, June 6th from 9-11,
Wednesday, June 21st from 10-12, and Tuesday, June 27th from 9-11. Please feel free to make an appointment…or to just stop in.
A time of transition is always difficult. After Jesus’ resurrection, he appeared and disappeared a few times, and then was gone for good. All the disciples knew was that they were supposed to go to Jerusalem later on to celebrate Pentecost. But there was all that time in between. What do you do in that time in between?
My cousin wrote these words:
“In January of 1998 I was struggling in every way possible you could imagine. Financially, physically, emotionally but most of all spiritually. Life had broken me. I was 28 years old and had been a single Mom for 4 years. I was lost. I talked to someone back then that I trusted and she told me this:
‘Friend, I want you to pray this prayer every night before you close your eyes. But before I tell you this prayer you need to know that once you start praying it, things will begin to happen so fast in your life that it may scare you. But don’t be afraid. The prayer is “God open the doors in my life that need to be opened and close the doors in my Life that need to be closed.’
Then she said, but I’m gonna warn you, doors won’t just close they will slam shut, and when they do, know it’s for your good, God will show you the open doors, just be brave enough to walk through them. Trust God, God knows what you can’t know.”
So for those of you who are in between what is and what could be, try praying this prayer and see what happens.
This actually happened—– finding God on the bus, making a way home. Jerry Noyes was driving the van last week, when a woman climbed on with despair written all over her face. Jerry asked how she was and she told him: she had no job, no prospects and had spent her last dime on last night’s hotel room. She knew she would be homeless tomorrow. Jerry started to talk to her about what she could do and suggested she call Salvation Army. Just then a guy got on the bus who overheard them. He had the Salvation Army number memorized, so she called immediately, and made an appointment right away to get help. Then, Jerry suggested she try a local rooming house for a place to stay. At the next stop, two men got on who threw their 2 cents into the conversation. They actually lived in the rooming house and would put in a good word for her, and told her how to apply, and added that she didn’t even need any money to stay the first night. Just then, the phone rang and she was invited to come for a job interview. She was jubilant. “I got on this bus without any hope, and now I have everything I need.” Jerry was awestruck, knowing God was on the bus with them in the form of all the people who came to help.
We have evidence every single day that God is on the bus and everywhere with us and we see it through all the ways we respond to God’s call in our lives. When Shirley fell ill in worship, we had nurses and EMT’s from the congregation assisting her and supporting her, and we were all praying together for her. Though it was difficult to experience, it is a testament to the community of caring that you are.
Whether or not we experience the presence of God on the bus may have to do with the choices we make every day. Are we going to choose servanthood or not? Are we going to give ourselves in service to others and live the promise of abundant life that Jesus made with both his words and his deeds? Will we choose to help someone in need instead of passing by on the other side of the road? Will we use each day as a chance to live kindness, to live sacrificial love fully with every word, every breath?
As we walk through Holy Week and arrive at Easter, we remember that Christlove on behalf of others is hard. Sometimes we give up something we want ourselves in order to give to others. Yet, the promise is that we get everything we need, even though it may not be everything we think we want. Jesus lived sacrificial love even unto death, and we know that the path of Christlove ultimately leads us to abundant life. How will you live your life more abundantly? I invite you to think and pray on this as we walk this journey together.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. I Corinthians 12:4-6
This year was the year I discovered even more deeply the gifts and talents in the congregation. The ministries of the Ministry Teams continued strong; as has the Visitation Team, where lay people from the church visit over 25 congregants every month. What a faithful witness!
It was the first time a delegation from the Athol Congregational Church has traveled on a mission trip overseas. What a pleasure to travel with our four other church members to visit our sister church in Vichuquen, Chile. (Sarah Myntti had gone on her own 2 years before.)
The North Quabbin Veterans Outreach sponsored a workshop for the greater community called “Journey Home From War” which attracted local community members outside the congregation, and others from different parts of Massachusetts. The NQVO also organized its first ever Memorial Day Remembrance on the Common, giving a chance for local people to remember their loved ones who had served in a concrete way. In addition, the NQVO hosted a Veteran’s breakfast, where over 30 Vietnam veterans and Vietnam era veterans received a pin of commemoration.
There are many other ways the ministry of the laity was expressed this year:
People from the congregation continued to offer their personal testimony during worship. A new grief group was started by Katie Thiem and has continued through the winter. Wayne Grimes, Jerry Noyes, Jason Wilcox and Tom Doody have offered sermons this year. Cynthia Maybeck has taught a workshop on how to do scripture telling in worship, which was attended by 12 people. Sherry Berube has offered a dramatic telling of scripture several times based on Cynthia’s training. We have continued to have funny, touching skits, by a number of different members of the congregation. Jan Farnum and Jason Wilcox have prepared moving visual presentations with our new projector. Tom White and Don Risatti have teamed up to record the worship services and put them on youtube, so that people can watch the sermon on Sundays they miss. And the “church mice” have been busy cleaning up, re-organizing, helping out and spreading God’s love in word and deed.
I particularly was made aware of the power of the ministry of the congregation when I tore my retina, and couldn’t see for a couple of weeks, or drive for a couple of months. I was so grateful for the congregation’s ministry to me: the cards you sent, your kind notes, the many offers of support: to drive me around, to do visitation, to preach and lead worship, to bring me meals and to do whatever I needed as I recovered from my eye surgery. Your love and care was an abundant blessing.
We had some losses this year. Adam Doiron-Bergeron resigned to spend more time composing. Tom LeClaire resigned to spend more time with his family. We had celebrations for each of them after Sunday worship and each received a gift of money from the whole congregation.
We lost beloved church members and friends: Mary Bennett, Geraldine Carlson, Hazel Comstock, Jane and Ron Cherichetti, Sylvia Gray, Cindy Harris, Janice Jillson, George Magill, Esther Shepardson and Carlton “Skip” Wilcox.
We hired Lis Leal as our new church musician and she has delighted us with her talents and spirit that she brings to our worship. We also hired Richard Coleman as our new custodian. In this short time, he has proven himself quite able.
Thank you to the Athol Congregational Church, UCC for your gifts, your spirit, your presence and your passion for Christ and for the church.