Pastoral Prayer for Proper 28B/Ordinary 33B/Pentecost 26 November 18, 2018. Mark 13, Little Apocalypse.

God of change,

Empires rise and fall, rulers come and go, temples are built up and torn down, but your pervasive, sustaining love is available to us in this moment and the next throughout time and space eternally.

We rest in that love. We open ourselves to your limitless energy to change ourselves and change our world.

There is so much suffering. Give us the courage to do something. Give us the patience and wisdom to discover what that something might be.

On this Stewardship Sunday we dedicate our pledges. On this Thanksgiving Sunday we offer our gratitude. On this Sunday we honor the Transgender Day of Remembrance, Nov. 20. We remember transgender victims of violence. We pray for safety, welcome, and respect for all our transgender family, friends, loved ones, and neighbors. Amen.

Worship Resources for Proper 28B/Ordinary 33B/Pentecost 26 November 18, 2018

Call to Worship

Change is the reality of our lives. Sometimes we welcome change, when, for example, a grandchild is born or when we get that dream job. Other times, we find change frightening and difficult. Spiritual practices like worship, Scripture study, prayer, and devotion are tools for grounding ourselves in God’s boundless and unchanging love. Firmly grounded in God’s love, change is no longer a problem to be solved or a tragedy to be avoided but an opportunity to celebrate God’s steadfast faithfulness. Let’s worship God.

Prayer of Confession         

God we confess our tendency to embrace the changes we enjoy and resist the changes we dislike. Teach us to face life squarely, courageously, and with clear vision so that we can make choices that are in line with our commitment to follow you no matter what the cost. We trust in your boundless love to sustain us no matter change life might bring. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

*Dedication of Offerings and Pledges

Holy God, we pledge to you and to your church our time, talent, and treasure. We trust that you will show the place where our deep longings and the world’s deep needs meet. We trust that you will help us honor our pledges for the blessing of our lives and the building up of you kingdom. Amen.

 

Worship Resources for Proper 27B/Ordinary 32B/Pentecost 25. November 11, 2018

*Call to Worship

In ancient Israel most people were farmers. So worship included sacrifices of crops and livestock as a way of honoring the belief that all that we have and that life itself is a gift of God. Life is not ours to possess but ours to give is service of others. In this way sacrifice can be a path to a joyful, meaningful life. We not longer offer sacrifices of crops and livestock, but we do sacrifice our time, talent, and treasure. And in worship we are invited to lay down our hearts and lives before God. Let’s worship God.

Prayer of Confession         

Holy God, sacrifice is difficult. We clench our fists tight even though letting go would open us to blessing beyond measure. Forgive our mean-spiritedness. Teach us faith by giving us the courage to do faithful things. Teach us joy by giving us a spirit of sacrifice. Teach us love by helping us to follow the example of Jesus, who laid down his life that we might have abundant life now and eternal life in the world to come. Amen.

*Prayer of Dedication

Holy God, on this Veterans Day we acknowledge the sacrifice of those who have served our country. Our offerings seem to pale in comparison. But we trust that you will bless what we now offer now and continue to grow our giving. Amen.

Worship Resources for Proper 26B/Ordinary 31B/Pentecost 24 November 4, 2018

Mark 12: 28-34

*Call to Worship                                                                                   

What is love for you? Jesus said the greatest commandment is love. Christians should love God above all and our neighbors as we love ourselves. But do you love yourself? What would it mean to love oneself in a Christian way? And how is that different from narcissism? How do we love our neighbors? Is being nice enough? And what about God? How are we supposed to love someone we can’t even touch or see? Love is the heart of who we are as Christians. Let’s open our hearts to God in worship.

Prayer of Confession     

Holy God, we confess we’re not always sure what love is. Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking we’re behaving in loving ways when, in fact, we’re just serving our egos. Sometimes we cut ourselves off from love because we’re frightened it might change us. If we truly loved someone, if we truly loved you, would we lose our sense of who we are? If we truly made ourselves vulnerable, would we get taken advantage of? So we hold back. We make half-hearted gestures. We make grand sacrifices to show off our moral superiority. And all the while we miss the love we long for. Forgive us and heal us. Amen.

*Prayer of Dedication

Holy God, the Apostle Paul reminds us that if we give away all our possessions but do not have love, we gain nothing. So we offer our money, but more than that, we offer our hearts. Bless our offerings. Amen.

 

Reconnect

Pastor’s Page November 2018

My wife and I have hosted Thanksgiving for the past 20 years. Celebrating Thanksgiving at Todd and Nicole’s has become a family tradition for our generation of brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, cousins and in-laws. It’s a multi-day event which includes a feast of turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, squash au gratin, stuffing (or “dressing” as my sister-in-law from Alabama calls it) gravy, vegetables, pies of various kinds, and–a Thanksgiving favorite–chocolate mousse. Over the years our family has grown, so the table has gotten longer. In fact, I think this year we might need two tables. What makes this time so precious is the opportunity to reconnect with people we love.

It is important to take time to reconnect. On October 13, about 20 of us from FCC Stamford made a retreat with Rev. Jim Griffith, who taught us about what church restart means and what it will take for us to do a restart should we decide to. One of the things he mentioned was that in this time of transition from our current location to a new one we make sure we take time to reconnect with each other. Our Monday evening pub study has been a great time of reconnection. Nicoline and Stuart Sawabini are hosting a generosity gathering at their house on Sunday Nov. 4, 5pm, share food and conversation. There are a lot of stresses in our lives both inside the church and outside, in our families, our workplaces, our schools, our politics, and in our hearts. It’s vitally important that we intentionally take time to reconnect.

 

Church Restart vs. Relocation

What’s Up w Pastor Todd 10/16/18

This past weekend over 20 FCC members attended a retreat led by Rev. Jim Griffith of Griffith Coaching and Rev. Paul Nickerson of Nickerson Coaching. Energy was great. We learned a lot. Over the next several weeks, leadership will be summarizing and sharing our learnings and sketching out a plan for an FCC church restart. For me, one important learning was the distinction between restart and relocation.

The definition of church restart is “An effort by a long-declining church in which the church chooses a strategic death so that a new church can be launched in its place, using its existing members and assets.  A restart is characterized by a rapid shift in vision, culture and ministry approach with the purpose of reaching a new target group in its community. A restart combines the approach of church planting with the pastoral work of leading change.”

Restart is a strategic effort to leap as a congregation for the death side of the bell curve (see diagram below) to the birth side of the bell curve. It’s not primarily about changing location, although it can involve that. It’s primarily about changing who we are as a congregation. This is very different from relocation, which is simply changing venues with no accompanying effort to change vision, culture, and ministry approach. Relocation will simply keep us on the same death trajectory, just in a different place, which, to me, seems pointless. That’s why church leadership is engaged in a process of restart.

Church Restart

Worship Resources for Proper 25B/Ordinary 30B/Pentecost 23 Mark 10:46-52

*Call to Worship       

Like Blind Bartimaeus, Jesus’ call puts a spring in our step and brings a jolt to our awareness. Even if we can’t see Jesus, we can confidently follow the sound of his voice. Worship is our calling out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Scripture tells us that when we call, Jesus responds. Let us worship our Savior.

Prayer of Confession                                                                              

We confess, Jesus, that we often assume we know what others need. We offer help that’s unasked for and sometimes unwelcome. In our zeal to do good, we fail to honestly examine our intentions. Is this truly about serving Christ’s mission or is this more about serving my ego? These are tricky questions, God. Give us the courage to open our hearts to the light of your love trusting that you accept even our imperfect offerings. Amen.

*Prayer of Dedication

Holy God, we offer our hearts for healing and our resources for genuine service. Amen.