Worship Resources, Pride Sunday, Year C

* Call To Worship (Psalm 16)

One: Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

All: The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 

One: The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.

All: You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

* Gathering Prayer

Holy God, you are our refuge and our strength, a very present help in  trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake at the heart of the sea. On this day when communities around the world celebrate LGBTQ pride, we pray that you will make this place a refuge for all of those who suffer discrimination, threats of violence, and shame because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. O God who looks on the heart  teach us to see as you see.  O God of boundless love, teach us to love as you love: without limits.

The Lord’s Prayer (Debts) (Unison)

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.

Worship Resources Trinity Sunday, Year C

Call To Worship (Psalm 150)

One: Praise the LORD! Praise God in the sanctuary; praise God in the mighty firmament! 

All: Praise God for God’s mighty deeds; praise God according to God’s surpassing greatness!

One: Praise God with trumpet sound; praise God with lute and harp! 

All: Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! 

One: Praise God with clanging cymbals; praise God with loud clashing cymbals! 

All: Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!

Praise the LORD!

Gathering Prayer

Lord of the dance, we thank you for the mystery of life. We thank you for Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit: three-in-one, one-in-three, a dance of relationship designed to confound our reasoning. Teach us to trust our bodies. Teach us to embrace our humanity. Inspire us to playful acts of creation, for we are created in your image, God. You look upon your creation with love, and, behold, it is very good. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

Holy Mystery, we give in response to your limitless self-giving. Moment by moment you fill the universe to overflowing. We praise you for your unsurpassing greatness. Amen.

Worship Resources for Pentecost, Year C

Call To Worship (from Psalm 104)

One: O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

All: Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.

One: There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it. These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand they are filled with good things.

All: I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.

*Gathering Prayer

Holy God, we thank you for the infinite diversity of your creation. We thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to open our hearts to our intimate connection with all things. We confess that too often we live as if we’re on our own. Teach us to trust our neighbors. Teach us to love our neighbors. Teach us how to connect with our community in life-giving, life-changing ways. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

God of infinite abundance, we are your children. Moment by moment you offer us far more than we could ask or imagine. Give us a mind attuned to extravagant provision. Amen.

Worship Resource: Mother’s Day

* Call To Worship (from Deuteronomy 32)

Leader: As an eagle stirs up her nest and hovers over her young . . .

           All: As she spreads her wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on her pinions . . .

          Leader: God guides and protects us. She sets us atop the heights of the land . . .

          All: And nurses us with honey from the crags, and milk from the flocks.

* Gathering Prayer (Unison)

Mothering God, God of our mothers, we thank you for the gift of life and those who gave it to us. Give us the grace to embrace our mothers in all their complexity. Bless our mothering so that those who are entrusted to our care might grow healthy and strong. May they remain safe and happy long after their need for our continual care has passed. We remember those who have cared for us and are gone. May we honor their sacrifice by following their example. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

We dedicate our lives to your service and our hearts to your worship, Holy God. Amen.

Worship Resources 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year C

* Call To Worship (from Psalm 30)

Leader: Sing praises to the LORD, O you faithful ones, and give thanks to God’s holy name.

           All: For God’s anger is but for a moment; God’s favor is for a lifetime.

           Leader: Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

           All: O LORD, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

* Gathering Prayer (Unison)

God of joy, God of adventure, give us the courage to try. Not every endeavor works out the way we plan. Sometimes we feel awkward trying new things. Because you are the master, we can join the adventure of lifelong learning. Thank you for the example of our ancestors in faith who fell down nine times and got up ten. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

God of abundance, we too often act out of an attitude of scarcity. Teach us to give freely so that we might live freely. Amen.

Worship Resource: Daniel 2, “Dreaming Together”

“Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream” by Marten Kuilman

Holy God, we deal with powers beyond our comprehension. Algorithms shape our preferences. The ebb and flow of international finance affects our economic well being. Time and chance determine our social location. Changing weather patterns can damage our lives, livelihoods, and shelter in a matter of hours.  A global pandemic can alter our habits and harm our health. In the face of these faceless powers we turn to you timeless creator, boundless benefactor, source of all that is. We entrust our lives to your abundant provision and matchless wisdom. Amen.

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 9-10-21 through 10-15-21

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 9-10-21

Abraham asked good questions. When God appears to Abraham in a dream, God says, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”  2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (Genesis 15:1-2). The dream dialogue unfolds from there. God clarifies the exact nature of God’s plan in response to Abraham’s questions. 

Powerful questions are an important tool for dreaming together. What often begins as a vague feeling becomes detailed vision becomes a concrete action plan through the process of asking and responding to questions. 

Below is a list of questions I came up with regarding the transition process at First Church. I would love to hear your responses to these questions. You can write them in an email or call me on the phone or set up a Zoom. I’ll document the responses in survey form without sharing your identity–unless you want me to. I’m also interested in questions you would add to this list.

  1. What did you think the transition process would be like?
  2. How has it been different?
  3. What about the transition process gives you energy?
  4. What do you find draining?
  5. What is going well?
  6. What could go better?
  7. Where have you noticed God in this process?
  8. When have you felt God’s absence?
  9. What worries you going forward?
  10. Imagine five years from now. Looking back, what will you be most proud of?
  11. Imagine five years from now. Looking back, what do you wish we had done differently?

I look forward to hearing your responses . . . and your questions.

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 9-17-21

Last week I noted that Abraham asked good questions. Genesis 15 tells us a story of Abraham questioning God’s plan to give him the gift of a legacy. Abraham says (I’m paraphrasing), “I’ve left everything behind to follow you to the Promised Land, but how will I pass on this land to my descendants when Sarah and I have no children?” What’s the plan? Great question. Abraham could have left it there and just waited for a response. It turns out, however, that behind Abraham’s question lay a feeling of grief and an entire narrative scaffolding built up around it.

Abraham’s exact question, according to the Bible, was, “My Lord God, what would you give me, for I am going to die childless/accursed.” “Childless” and “accursed” were presumed to be one and the same thing in ancient Near Eastern cultures. If you could not produce an heir, something was wrong with you. Abraham was telling himself a story about who he was and who God was and what his situation meant. Storytelling is a profoundly human activity. And Genesis 15 shows us that the stories we tell ourselves are not always accurate.

Genesis tells us that Abraham was NOT cursed. God’s intention was to bless him with a legacy as vast as the starry sky. If we count not only those who trace their biological lineage to Abraham but also those who trace their spiritual lineage to Abraham, we see that God kept God’s promise. Countless billions over thousands of years have numbered themselves among the “children of Abraham.”

Last week I shared a list of questions about our transition process at First Church. Some responses have started to come in. I hope to receive more! Gathering data from open ended questions is called “qualitative research.” For me, the value of qualitative research is not to arrive at some fixed “truth” about the transition process. Rather, the purpose is to uncover the stories we are telling ourselves about the transition process. Then we can evaluate the stories. Are they accurate? Are they helpful? What are some other stories we might construct given the same data? 

So here they are again. And once again you can respond with email or we can talk by phone or Zoom or some other way. Your choice.

  1. What did you think the transition process would be like?
  2. How has it been different?
  3. What about the transition process gives you energy?
  4. What do you find draining?
  5. What is going well?
  6. What could go better?
  7. Where have you noticed God in this process?
  8. When have you felt God’s absence?
  9. What worries you going forward?
  10. Imagine five years from now. Looking back, what will you be most proud of?
  11. Imagine five years from now. Looking back, what do you wish we had done differently?

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 10-1-21

A couple of weeks ago I shared a list of questions about our transition process at First Congregational Church of Granby. If you haven’t yet responded, I encourage you to take a few moments to share your thoughts. You can respond in an email, phone call, Zoom meeting, in-person . . . whatever form suits you. The questions are:

  1. What did you think the transition process would be like?
  2. How has it been different?
  3. What about the transition process gives you energy?
  4. What do you find draining?
  5. What is going well?
  6. What could go better?
  7. Where have you noticed God in this process?
  8. When have you felt God’s absence?
  9. What worries you going forward?
  10. Imagine five years from now. Looking back, what will you be most proud of?
  11. Imagine five years from now. Looking back, what do you wish we had done differently?

So far I’ve gotten four responses. A surveyor always hopes for more responses; nevertheless, we move forward with the ones we have and publish new findings when we have new data. Today we’ll look at responses to just the first two questions:

First a general observation: Respondents identified “transition” with the South Congregational Church collaboration/consolidation process even though there have been other parts to the transition work, namely, vitality, changes in worship, care ministry, and so on. This is understandable since the bulk of our resources have been focused on the consolidation effort.

Question one gets at expectations: Of the four responses, half said the process has met expectations. Half said it has not. More specifically, half said they expected the process to be messy and confusing. Half expected it to be quicker and more straightforward given the preliminary work that had been done during the previous settled minister’s tenure at FCC.

Question two gets at divergence from expectation. Responses identified the following “surprises”:

  • COVID (one mention).
  • Differences between the churches in their self-perceptions of sustainability, namely, FCC perceiving itself as having an unsustainable trajectory and SCC having a perception of a sustainable trajectory (two mentions).
  • Differences in consolidation models each church brought to the table: “lead-church, joining church” model vs. “consolidation/restart model.” (two mentions).
  • Differences in church culture as it relates to clergy roles, namely, “minister-led” vs. “congregation-led” models (two mentions). 

I have some thoughts about the responses received so far. What do you make of them? More importantly, how would you respond to these questions and would you be willing to share your responses? More to come . . .

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 10-8-21

A couple more responses to our informal transition process survey have come in making the current total six. You can access the survey questions here. You can respond verbally or in writing. This week we’ll take a look at responses to questions 5-8:

5.  What is going well?

  • Working Groups/GUCCI (5 responses).
  • Unite events/meeting new people (3 responses).
  • Spiritual practice of open-mindedness and patience.

6.  What could go better? 

  • A perceived lack of engagement/enthusiasm notice both among FCC folks and SCC folks.
  • More meeting in person.
  • Perceived differences in understanding between the churches of the consolidation model: (lead church-joining church vs. merger/restart)
  • Lack of clarity about what decisions regarding consolidation need to be made now vs. after a vote to consolidate.

7.  Where have you noticed God in this process?

  • In depth, face-to-face conversations, joint activities/worship, hearing life stories (3 responses).
  • Not applicable since this is primarily a “secular/business” process (2 responses).
  • In knowing that “it’s the right thing” to serve the church’s mission.

8.  When have you felt God’s absence?

  • The perception that FCC is actively engaged in a transition process and SCC is not (2 responses).
  • Not applicable (1 response).
  • God is always present!
  • “‘Us and them’ talk.”
  • One person responded to this question by offering their own vision for a new, united Granby UCC with a new vision for a mission that is “beyond the Christian club mentality.”

Thanks to everyone for your responses thus far. Next week we’ll take a look at responses to 

9.  What worries you going forward?

10.  Imagine five years from now. Looking back, what will you be most proud of?

11.  Imagine five years from now. Looking back, what do you wish we had done differently?

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 10-15-21

This week a summary of responses to the final three questions of our transition survey. See the full list of questions here.

9.  What worries you going forward?

  • Perceived lack of clear leadership from GUCCI around the decision-making process. (Image: “A camel is a horse designed by committee.)
  • Disengagement of FCCG folks from process and what that will mean for future decision making. (2 responses.)
  • Differences between congregations in understanding of transition and consolidation particularly as it relates to concrete changes in the “way we do things.”
  • Not worried.

10.  Imagine five years from now. Looking back, what will you be most proud of?

  • Playing a part in forming a new church that will: a) have a stronger mission, b) be more effective in serving community, c) be modern and forward looking, and d) ensure a continued UCC presence in Granby. (5 responses.)
  • That we persevered despite differences.
  • That we were MORE active during COVID while other churches were “shut down.”

11.  Imagine five years from now. Looking back, what do you wish we had done differently?

  • Taken more time for congregations to build a common understanding around sustainability, transition, and consolidation models. (5 responses.)
  • Listen to a wider range of SCCG people more closely.
  • Taken more time to clarify decision making process before engaging Working Groups.
  • If the churches decided not to consolidate, that we did not feel a strong enough sense of urgency.

Thanks to everyone who participated. Some themes that I have noticed in the responses: 

1. That energy, optimism, and hope come from connecting with people to create something new. It occurred to me that this opportunity is always and has always been available to us regardless of transition or consolidation process. We always have the ability to connect. This vitality work. We now know how to do this. It’s simply a matter of deciding to step out of our bubble of isolation and reach new people.

2. That a perceived lack of clarity around process, direction, and goal tends to generate anxiety. The more we can work together to clarify What is it we actually want? What is it God is calling us to? And in the meantime create a space of active, expectant waiting. Imagine this time like Advent, perhaps. We’re busy preparing for the One to come. As Isaiah says, “Those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength.”

What themes, lessons, pointers do you glean from these initial findings?