We had a total of 54 people attend three different home worship opportunities this past Sunday. That’s about our average Sunday worship attendance. I consider that a great start to our Silent Period activities. Thanks to our hosts Pam Shadford, Jean Meyer, Rob & Jen Godzeno. Thanks to our worship leaders John Jelliffe, Maureen Matthews, Andrew Laro. This coming Sunday we will celebrate our first “All Together Worship” in the dining room of 1 Walton Place (the current FCC Stamford building). Our format will be breakfast church: singing, Scripture, prayer, and facilitated reflection on Acts 3:1-10.
We are also continuing our leave-taking process. The week before last I shared with the congregation that I’ve received a call as Transitional Senior Minister to First Congregational Church of Granby. Granby is about 10 miles from my home in Windsor. There are two UCCs in this small town, neither of which can sustain themselves in their current way of doing things. My role will be to help FCC Granby clarify and decide upon a path to sustainability, which may involve merging with the other UCC in town. Many of the issues are familiar: too much building, declining membership, need for a more vital engagement with the community, outdated worship. As with any new context, I’m anticipating new challenges and new opportunities to arise.
We are all in a tough spot right now. The Legacy Service with its mix of celebration and grief is still fresh in our minds. We will take time to reflect on that experience this coming Sunday. It’s important that we take the time to let all of this sink in so that we don’t get “stuck” in our grief. On top of that, we are processing the upcoming departure of the Transitional Senior Minister. Even though we’ve know this day was coming for some time, the news still comes as a shock. Some of us may be feeling the weight of all of this loss. It’s important that we don’t bear it alone. Alone, all of this is indeed impossible to bear. Together, we can bear more. Resting within the love of God’s limitless embrace, we are actually lifted up on eagle’s wings.
Luke writes, “All who believed were together” (Acts 2:44). When I began at FCC we were not all together. I remember one particularly contentious Meet the Minister meeting in April 2016, a week or two after I began my work with you. A group of us was gathered in Bill and Maureen Matthews’ living room. There were complaints about the fact that the church had called a “Transitional Senior Minister” instead of a “Settled Minister.” There were arguments over music and worship style, the building, and the direction of the church. There were differing opinions on the virtues and faults of previous ministers. At one point I simply observed, “One thing is clear: we’re not together.”
There’s a difference between diversity of opinion and not being together. It has to do with mission focus. Acts chapter 1 tells us that before Jesus ascended to heaven, he told his followers, “You will be my witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That was their mission focus. When in the next chapter Luke writes, “All who believed were together,” he was not only talking about physical proximity. 20+ years of ministry has taught me that people can regularly be “all together” in a physical space and nevertheless be “all over the place” when it comes mission focus. For some, the most important part of church is the historical building while for others the most important part is the pastor. Still others prioritize socializing with their friends or doing service programs. None of these things are bad in themselves, but if there is no shared sense of a larger purpose that all of these activities serve, it’s as if we’re two-year-olds engaged in parallel play. I’m playing with my truck while you’re next to me doing your puzzle. This is fine for two-year-olds, but the movement Jesus gave his life for was intended to change the world. And for that to happen, we need to be all together, not just in a physical sense, but in a spiritual and missional sense.
This Sunday we begin our Silent Period with Home Worship. We will be gathering in three locations and at three different times across the city. See below for details. Even though we won’t be “all together” physically this week, the intimacy of home worship is intended to bring us closer together spiritually and in our mission focus: restart.
On Sunday, Feb. 17, the Silent Task Force will meet with the folks who have volunteered to host and lead home worship during the Silent Period. The Silent Period begins after the March 3 Legacy Service and will continue into the fall of this year. During this time we will have a variety of worship experiences, community reflections, training and service opportunities to prepare us to restart in a new Stamford location. You can find the schedule for the Silent Period at www.fccstamford.org.
The overview of the worship schedule for the Silent Period is:
2 Sundays/month “All Together Worship”: We will gather “all together” for a time of worship, reflection, and training in restart skills in various locations around the community including some familiar spaces: FCC parlor, FCC dining hall, Ferguson Library, Avon Theater, UCONN Stamford, UUC Stamford. If you have suggestions for All Together Worship locations, contact Maureen Matthews (email@example.com). See the schedule for locations and times.
1 Sunday/month: Home Worship. Informal worship in homes. The following people have volunteered to host home worship: Jen & Rob Godzeno (for kids and families faith formation focused home church), Pam Shadford, Jean & Bob Meyer, Peter Birch, Anne Mochulsky & Paul Bingaman, Pam Riley, Lori & Stu Constantine, Charlotte Smith. The following people have volunteered to lead home worship: John Jelliffe, Denise Moumene, Maureen Matthews, Steve Ayres, Andrew Laro (faith formation one). If you would like either to host or to lead home worship, contact Maureen Matthews.
1 Sunday/month: U-Pick Worship. You pick a growing, innovative church to visit for worship. Take notes. What worked? What didn’t work? Kids should go to Sunday school. What did they like? What didn’t they like? We will share our discoveries in All Together Worship. See Website for church visit suggestions, also to coordinate rides.
5th Sundays: Service Worship. We gather informally and then engage the community to promote our restart. Examples: picnic in the park and hand out hotdogs, walk in the cancer walk and hand out water bottles, rent booth at Pride in the Park (Norwalk) and hand out swag, etc.