Show Up!

Pastor’s Page Feb. 2019

This month we are preparing to say goodbye to First Congregational Church of Stamford as we have known it. Really, as the world has known it for the past 384 years. It’s a big deal. On March 2-3 we will be celebrating a Legacy Weekend in which we will ritually close the church.

You remember that old cliche “When God closes a door he opens a window?”

We are going to be testing the truth of that statement.

Let’s be clear: we are choosing a strategic death trusting that by intentionally letting go of what was we are creating a space in which God can give birth to something new. As a congregation we are doing what from the beginning has been the defining practice of Christians: imitating Christ. Jesus gave himself over to death on a cross trusting that God would raise him up to new life. And God did. Jesus told his disciples that this would be their path as well: “Those who lose their life for my sake and the sake of the gospel will find it.”

Our current plan is to reopen in a new location with a new name in the autumn of this year. In the meantime, we will be going into a “Silent Period” during which we will be engaged in community outreach and creative worship experiences around the city.

So for the next several weeks I encourage you to show up! Show up for worship. Show up for Discovery Weekend February 3. Show up to commission the restart task forces February 10. Show up for Healing Service February 17. Show up for Baptism Sunday February 24. Show up! The folks who stayed close to Jesus on Good Friday had front row seats to his resurrection Easter morning.

Worship Resources for Epiphany 4C February 3, 2019

*Call to Worship                                                                                                   Public opinion blows this way and that. You’re a hero one minute and a villain the next. While that may be the way of politics, it’s not the way of Jesus. How can we ground ourselves in what is really real, really true, and really good? One way to start is through the ancient practices of worship. Let the storms of the world blow, in here we’re calm, centered, and ready for God’s word of truth.

Prayer of Confession

Holy God, we confess our fascination with palace intrigue and political fights. It’s easy to get caught up in the latest outrage. We admit we are all too ready to point out the faults of others, but are reluctant to look into the mirror of your truth. Give us the courage to deal with the log in our own eye before we go searching for the speck in our neighbor’s. Give us clean hearts so that when we are faced with injustice, we can speak to it with a clear voice. Show us where we need to get into good trouble. Amen.

*Prayer of Dedication

We pray that no one would ever have to put their lives on the line for the cause of justice, but we recognize that sometimes you call Christians to do just that. We dedicate these offerings not simply as tools of charity but as tokens of our commitment to justice. Amen.

Worship Resources to Celebrate the Legacy of a Church that has sold its Building

Prayer of Confession

Holy God, we confess that we have become attached to this place. We find it difficult to let go. These walls contain memories of babies baptized, weddings consecrated, funerals observed. Significant movements were launched from within this sanctuary: the homeless have been housed, the hungry fed, the lonely comforted, the powerful confronted. We ourselves have been confronted with our own limits, with our own failings, with opportunities missed, and conflicts allowed to blaze unchecked. We let go of it all because it’s no longer needed. We entrust our past, we entrust our future, we entrust ourselves this very moment to you. Amen.

*Prayer of Dedication                                                                                                         

O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, we dedicate our offerings and our lives as countless generations before have done. They have entrusted a legacy to us. Give us the wisdom and the guts to build a legacy for those who will follow. Amen.

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 1/23/19

Folks have been encouraging me to give an update regarding the Restart Plan for FCC Stamford.

There’s a group of about 27 church members working on six separate task forces to implement the restart plan, which the congregation approved at last fall’s congregational meeting. There’s too much to report on in this space, so I will only touch on some highlights. If you have further questions please contact Maureen Matthews, Rob Godzeno, or me.

  • The Restart Team has agreed to hire Griffith Coaching to support the Search Task Force in their work to identify a restart pastor with the appropriate qualifications and cultural match for the FCC Restart. The Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ (CTUCC) supports FCC in our decision to work with Griffith Coaching, which has its own professional search services. Griffith Coaching will be working in coordination with CTUCC. Rev. Jim Griffith is the restart coach that helped us develop our restart plan last year.
  • Jim Griffith and his search associate, Sally Morgenthaler, will be joining us February 1-3 for a “Discovery Weekend,” during which they will be conducting small group interviews to get a sense from FCC members of what kind of restart pastor will be a good match. Click here for the Discovery Weekend schedule.
  • On February 10 we will commission the Task Forces during worship. Following worship we will have a congregational meeting to hear reports from the Task Forces and create an Advisory Committee to carry out the responsibilities of our existing boards and committees that have not been delegated to any restart task force.
  • March 2-3 is Legacy Weekend. This is in essence a memorial service for FCC Stamford. It marks a time of remembering and letting go of what was in order to make space for what the new church will be.
  • After the March 3 Legacy Service, the church will go into a six month “Silent Period.”  The purpose of the Silent Period is to create a shift in energy toward a deeper engagement with our spiritual lives and the lives of those in the Stamford community. This shift will prepare us for our “soft opening” in a new space in September 2019. The Silent Period will have its own worship and programming schedule. The Silence Task Force is currently working on the plan, which will be publicly available at the February 10 congregational meeting.

That’s probably enough information for now. Once again, for questions contact me, Maureen Matthews or Rob Godzeno.

Prayers for Epiphany 3C January 27, 2019

Call to Worship

God has given you a purpose and a mission that only you can carry out. It is God’s great mission of salvation for all of creation. It is an impossible mission for us as limited, sinful individuals. But together, we can come closer. And with God all things are possible. God needs your unique contribution. Without it we are all impoverished. Worship is one of the ways we get in touch with God’s calling on our lives. Let’s listen with all our hearts. Sing with all our soul. Pray with all our mind and strength.

Prayer of Confession

Holy God, we pray for your Spirit. We confess that for too long we have wandered aimlessly. Our minds carry us here and there into gilded memories of a past that never existed or futures filled with imaginary threats and escapist fantasies. Teach us the mystery of fulfilling the Scripture now, in the precious present, which is the only opportunity we have to truly change the world. Forgive us and restore us to ourselves. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

We dedicate these gifts and our lives to living out our God given purpose right here and right now. Amen.

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 1/17/19

This weekend marks the MLK holiday weekend. At FCC we will be marking the occasion with a joint worship service at North Stamford Community Church, 31 Cascade Rd., Stamford. Worship begins at 11am. Pastor Jacki and I will be speaking to the theme, “I Have a Dream.” We will also be inviting the congregations to share their dreams. In preparation for Sunday I’ve been reading from King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” King wrote this open letter to a group of fellow clergy who were criticizing his use of non-violent direct action to bring about justice for African Americans, particularly in the South. The criticism was that King was creating unrest and “disturbing the peace” by raising awareness of the suffering of black people. Instead, these clergy, who identified as “white moderates,” recommended patience and incremental change. King defended his actions and called on his colleagues to remember their God, who, we are told, heard the cries of his people oppressed in Egypt and took action on their behalf to free them. King famously wrote about the “fierce urgency of now.”

The Letter from a Birmingham Jail reminded once again of the difference between charity and justice. Charity meets the needs of suffering people while leaving the social structures that create suffering in place. Justice takes a critical look at the structures and seeks to change them. Saint Oscar Romero, a Salvadoran Catholic priest martyred for his work on behalf of the poor once said, “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why there are so many poor people, they call me a Communist.” Which is exactly what they called Dr. King.

I don’t believe that we have to become Communists to create more just social structures in the U.S., but my dream is that as a church, we use the opportunity that our church restart affords to engage not only in acts of charity but also in a movement for justice.

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 1/7/19

Baptism of Christ by Egino Weinart

This Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of Christ. Jesus’ baptism has been a complicated subject for Christians from the beginning. Scripture says that when he was a young adult, Jesus was baptized by his relative, John, in the Jordan River. John said that his baptism was for repentance and forgiveness of sin. So the question arose immediately: What did Jesus do that he needed to repent and be baptized? Scripture doesn’t answer this question. Rather, it dances uncomfortably around what appears to be the historical fact of Jesus undergoing water baptism, which, on the surface seems to be in tension with the claim that Jesus is the Son of God, and, therefore, without sin.

In the Christian church, baptism is a sacrament. A sacrament is a sacred ritual that helps us step into the story of God’s love. Baptism uses the symbol of water, which can mean many things: washing, drowning, life, power, chaos, creation, refreshment, womb. Baptism wraps up all of these deep meanings and helps to set us on the Christian path.

What we make of Christ’s baptism and what we make of ours, therefore, is a matter of interpretation. It can change and shift over time, which is what makes baptism so powerful and meaningful. When we baptize infants, it’s not so much about cleansing for sin as it is about welcoming an innocent newcomer into the family. At other stages of our lives, it’s a reminder of the commitment we’ve made to follow in Christ’s way.

As we step into 2019 as individuals and as a church, reconnection to baptism is a great reminder of our commitment and God’s deliverance. We don’t need to be perfect for God to love us, we just need to be willing to take the plunge and follow God’s lead as best we can.

A recommended resource on baptism and other Christian theological issues is Fr. Richard Rohr’s “Daily Meditations” newsletter. Sign up at

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 1/2/19

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 1/2/19

Happy New Year! The first Sunday of the new year brings us the story of the wise man or, more properly, “Magi.” Preacher Barbara Brown Taylor begins her sermon on the journey of the wise men this way: “Once upon a time there were some very wise men who were all sitting in their own countries minding their own business when a bright star lodged in the right eye of each of them. It was so bright that none of them could tell whether it was burning in the sky or in their own imagination, but they were wise enough to know that it didn’t matter. The point was, something beyond them was calling them, and it was a tug they had been waiting for all their lives.” (Taylor, 1999)

We don’t know for a fact that the wise men were, in fact, men. We just presume so because of patriarchy. We also don’t know know many there were. There were three gifts, but does that mean three givers? The point is that they set out on a journey that became their calling, much like Abraham and Sarah so many centuries before them. They followed a star not knowing their destination or how long they would be underway. They achieved their goal, worshipped the Christ child, and God sent them home by another route. “Home by Another Way” is the title of Barbara Brown Taylor’s sermon.

There is no doubt that we as a congregation are underway and that 2019 will be a year of movement and adventure that will test our faith and the strength of our bonds as a community. But we can take courage from the Magi who found their way home by another way, and once home, found themselves transformed.