Pastor's Notes

October 2019

posted Oct 16, 2019, 8:59 AM by Lee Church

Dearest Friends in Christ,

           My thoughts this fall have been filled with memories and stories that make me feel profoundly grateful, both for the ministry and the fellowship that we
continue to share.  In worship, we have been using a series from the Worship
Design Studio and Dr. Marcia McFee that is centered on creation spirituality.  It has been a wonderful reminder of how intrinsically connected we are to God, to all of God’s creation, to one another, and that knowledge and love of God is revealed to us in all that we see, hear and do.  God is great –
all the time – and we are so blessed by God’s love and presence in our lives.

The time of interim ministry for the church will be upon you at the end of
November.  Please know that the Governing Board has formed a small
sub-committee, per the church’s By-Laws, to choose an interim minister.  It is my intention to meet with whoever is chosen, so that the time of transition will be as seamless as possible.  There is also very solid leadership from the Governing Board and the heads of the church’s various areas of ministry, so that the worship, music, Christian education, charitable outreach and other areas of service and programming will not be interrupted.  Change can certainly be an unwelcome companion at times, but can also be an opportunity for transformation and growth.  New joys and fresh understandings of who we are as people of faith emerge when we are forced to move away from our cocoons of comfort.  I pray that this time of interim ministry will be one of hope and anticipation of what new expressions of faith and service God will bring to fruition in the future.  One thing is for certain, the Lee Church will always be in my heart and my prayers.

Blessings,
Pastor Gail

 

September 2019

posted Oct 16, 2019, 8:58 AM by Lee Church

Dearest Friends in Christ,

           Change is in the air for all of us with my retirement planned for November 17th, and I am certain that I am correct that some of you have questions….and perhaps a little anxiety.  Please ask questions and share what you are feeling, so that this time of transition can be focused on the blessings and grace that we have known and shared.

If you are feeling sad, please know that I feel a certain amount of sadness, too.  I know that my decision to retire is a good one for me.  I believe that we have accomplished together the things that God sent me here to accomplish.  I feel very good about that, and you should, too.  I also believe that the church community is well positioned to move ahead with new pastoral leadership and that sound decisions about what comes next will be made.  This is the perfect time to think about the good and positive experiences that you have had as part of the Lee Church community, to hold up what makes you proud and excited to serve God and Christ, and what you want others to know about your church.

The hardest piece will be to sever our pastor/parishioner relationships.  We have shared much together over the past 14 years and strong bonds of love and respect have developed.  My retirement cannot and will not undo that; however, it will mean an end to me being your pastor. I have cherished this role, but in retirement it is, of necessity, changed.  We can be friendly, but I will not engage in conversations about the Lee Church, nor will I offer opinions about the ministry that follows mine.  I will not be available for baptisms, weddings, funerals, or counseling.  Those privileges belong to my successor and I fully intend to honor that boundary, and request that you do, as well, for the benefit of everyone.

We can do this….we can do this together, and we can do it well.  “And now these three remain:  faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”  1 Corinthians 13.13.

With my love and gratitude,

Pastor Gail

 

August 2019

posted Oct 16, 2019, 8:56 AM by Lee Church

Dearest Friends in Christ,

One of the greatest blessings of summer is that we take opportunities to relax, play and enjoy the company of family and friends.  The other seasons of the year can become times when various school, work and holiday commitments control our schedules and monopolize our free time.  But summer…..well, summer is its own season with the invitation to put on flip-flops and sunscreen, fire up the grill and enjoy the warm days, longer evening hours of light, and relax.  In summer, we seem to strike a better balance – which is renewing and re-energizing for our bodies and our
spirits.

Balance between our work lives, our leisure time and our religious practice is often very hard to achieve.  Being involved in the life of the church community can be relegated to the hours that we have “left-over,” and too often there are few, if any, of these “left-over” hours.  It is understandable, as work and family commitments are legitimately demanding and of priority.  However, our spiritual self needs care as well.  In every life, there needs to be times of activity and times of rest, and this applies to both our lives in and outside of church.  The avenue for achieving this balance takes us to places of prayer and discernment – what is important in our lives and where will we focus our energy?  This is always an individual decision and is not an easy choice at times.  Prayer can help, as we take time in silence to await that still small voice of God.

As the fall months approach, and various activities vie for our attention and our involvement, I encourage you to prayerfully consider where you currently fit in and contribute to the life of the Lee Church, and what new areas of service you might embrace.

Blessings,

Pastor Gail                                                                                

 

June / July 2019

posted Jun 10, 2019, 6:41 AM by Lee Church

Dearest Friends in Christ,

What an exciting time in the life of Lee Church Congregational, UCC!!  It was wonderful to feel the energy and the joy in the room on May 19th, as we all took a significant step into the future of this church – a future marked, not only by a desire to serve, but also by a passion for extending a welcoming hand of friendship and the affirmation of acceptance to each new and established friend who enters into our sanctuary.  We now have both an inspirational mission statement, and an empowering covenant of how we will be as we move forward in faith.

For some, this was a very easy decision; for others, it was difficult or impossible to accept this covenant.  The challenge, as always in a congregation with diverse religious backgrounds, is to find places of common belief.  It is my prayer that we can continue to share ministry despite our few areas of disagreement.  God, through Christ, calls us to ministries founded on love, mutual respect and honor for the common humanity that we share.  Surely, we agree on this.  And with love to define and guide our journey, we will continue to serve faithfully as the body of Christ.

With pride and love for the journey we share,

Pastor Gail

May 2019

posted Jun 10, 2019, 6:39 AM by Lee Church

Dearest Friends in Christ,

On May 19, at a specially called congregational meeting, we will consider the adoption of a covenant statement claiming our identity as an Open and Affirming church.  This is a vote that is a significant indication of who we are as both people of faith and as a congregation that follows Christ.  All members of Lee Church Congregational, UCC are invited to attend this meeting and to vote as their faith directs them.  It is not a decision to be taken lightly, but after serious and prayerful consideration of what God, through Christ, calls us to do and be.

Folks have asked me if becoming an Open and Affirming church changes our mission statement.  The answer to this is “no.”  Our mission statement stands as an affirmation of who we believe ourselves to be as a church community.  The ONA covenant states our intention of how we wish to live together as a community of faith, welcoming all who come to join us in worship, and finding a place for everyone around the table, without exception.

Will this change who we are as a community of faith?  While we are a church that works hard to make everyone feel welcome, the ONA covenant is much broader and if taken seriously, should provide a framework for how we move forward as a congregation.  Decisions about worship, about outreach, about mission, about education will be made in light of a choice to be intentionally more inclusive.  All of these areas will continue to be critical in the life of the church, with an appreciation for how folks of all diversities will be involved, and will feel welcomed and heard.

How about the diversity that exists within the church at the present time?  Will all voices still be welcome, or will more theologically conservative voices be silenced?  We would not be an Open and Affirming congregation if any voices were intentionally silenced.  Lee Church Congregational will continue to be a community of faith that welcomes a variety of voices and theological perspectives.  No one will be told that they way that they read the Bible is wrong, nor should they be judged for their beliefs.  However, while we are engaged in the work and worship of the church, we will be welcoming and non-judgmental toward others.  We will respect the views and beliefs of others, especially those that are different from ours, and we will not criticize or condemn.  No one is expected to change their perspective to be a part of the church, but all are expected to be kind and respectful at all times while engaging in church activities and worship.  Welcome has to be sincere if it is to be genuine; genuine love and hospitality is the model that Jesus has given to us.  If we are to call ourselves a Christian community of faith, it is Jesus that we must follow; it is Jesus that we want to follow; it is Jesus’ love that following him calls us to embrace and to share with others.

Wishing you blessings and peace,
Pastor Gail

April 2019

posted Jun 10, 2019, 6:09 AM by Lee Church

Dearest Friends in Christ,

As I headed out the door for work this morning, the smell of spring was in the air and the hold of the cold winter seemed to be finally broken.  Certainly there will be some colder days that will linger, but the budding trees and the soft smell in the air are indications that we have turned a corner from the bitterness of winter to the sweet promise of spring.

The sweet promise of God is that the joy and hope of a new season is always with us.  No matter what struggles, pain, sadness, despair or loneliness various seasons of our lives will bring our way, there is always hope that awaits us in faith.  It can be hard to feel that hope; that doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.  During the weeks of Lent, we are reminded that Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem, knowing fully what awaited him.  With understanding and courage, he continued the path that opened before him, teaching and encouraging his followers as they walked with him.  Steadily and with great love and compassion, Jesus embraced the tasks for which he was sent to humanity – to cure the sick, comfort the afflicted, embrace the lonely, show compassion to those who were broken and to love with reckless abandon.

Yes, he turned his face toward Jerusalem, knowing what awaited him.  We might think of the acts of betrayal that he experienced in his last hours.  Not only from Judas, but also from the rest of the disciples who abandoned him in their fear – terrified for their own lives.  We might think of the cruelty of Pilate and the Roman guards, the hatred of the Pharisees and the Temple priest, and the apathy of the crowds that came to witness his comeuppance.  However, what truly awaited Jesus in Jerusalem was triumph – the triumph of life over death, and hope over despair, of light over darkness, and of love over death.  That triumph is ours as well, in faith, as we navigate the present and walk into the future with the promises of God that surround us, the image of Christ that goes before us, and the support of the Holy Spirit that journeys with us.  It is a sweet, new season, indeed.

Wishing you peace and blessing in this sacred season,
Pastor Gail

March 2019

posted Mar 1, 2019, 6:50 AM by Lee Church

Dearest Friends in Christ,

            Shortly we will enter the season of Lent, as Ash Wednesday is March 6th this year. The themes for our services of worship will focus on the busyness of our lives and the invitation will be to seek to reconnect with an unhurried God.  This worship series is the latest creation from the Worship Design Studio, which has provided us with some wonderfully meaningful spiritual experiences over the past two years.  I have no doubt that this Lenten time will be the same.

            The weeks of Lent have long been associated with the spiritual practice of abstaining from some activity – a holdover from the penitential nature of the medieval church.  However, Lent does not have to be a time to refrain from chocolates or dessert, but can rather be a positive time in which we take some moments each day to reconnect to the God who loves us and cares for us like no other.  In place of the usual Lenten devotionals, each week you will receive a note containing a brief passage from Scripture and a short prayer.  This can be used daily as a prayer routine designed to create some sacred space in the midst of daily chaos, in order to be still and listen for what God will make known.  The weeks leading up to Easter are the perfect time to search for that place of reconnection and blessing.

            As always, I wish you peace as we enter this most holy season,

                        Pastor Gail

February 2019

posted Mar 1, 2019, 6:49 AM by Lee Church

Dearest Friends in Christ, 

            In worship for the weeks of February, we will be thinking about the dreams that we have for our community, our nation and our world, with a focus on the creativity that brings our dreams to life and gives them momentum.  What is God’s dream for God’s creation that we can make a reality?  This may seem like a huge topic and something that we cannot hope to make a reality, but God invites us to try – to dream, to have a vision, and to strive to make that vision happen.

            Too often, we operate from the model of scarcity – we are too small, too poor, too afraid to even begin to dream.  Truthfully, not all dreams become a reality, and some dreams change as the process of envisioning and achieving unfold.  That should not stop us from dreaming, from seeking the image of God in the world that surrounds us, or from working diligently together to bring our dreams to life.  God’s invitation is that we are called to try and to put fear aside and trust that the Holy Spirit will guide us if we can surrender to that guidance.

            The time to dream, create and trust is now.  What will we choose to build together? 

                        Blessings and peace,

                        Pastor Gail

            

January 2019

posted Jan 4, 2019, 10:16 AM by Lee Church

Dearest Friends in Christ,

Once again, we cross the threshold into a new year and wonder what the months to come will bring into our lives. Of course, each day holds the possibility for fresh beginnings, but we think of this in particular as the calendar year comes to a close and we are curious about what new thing that God will reveal in and through the ministry that we share in Jesus’ name.

Naturally, I do not have a crystal ball with regard to the future, but I do expect that the Lee Church will take a vote on whether to become an Open and Affirming Church in 2019.  To widen the discussion, I will be facilitating a Bible Study, beginning in February, that is intended to stimulate conversation about how God, through scripture, calls us to be in relationship with one another.  The dates have not been determined; however, I believe there will be 10 sessions, as we explore various Old Testament and New Testament books, and what they have to say about the extravagant welcome that God requires of us.  Everyone is welcome to participate in this study and it will be the most helpful to folks who are unsure about what Open and Affirming means and how it applies to the life of the church. These classes are not intended to change anyone’s mind about how the Bible speaks to them and no one will be told that their understanding of Scripture is wrong or right.  The purpose is to look at a variety of passages from Scripture and wrestle with what those passages might mean to us in the 21st Century so that we can discern what God is calling us to do in the life of the Lee Church.

Wishing you blessings and peace as we journey together in faith,

Pastor Gail

 

December 2018

posted Jan 4, 2019, 10:15 AM by Lee Church

Dearest Friends in Christ,

The season of Advent is upon us, carols are being played in every public space that you visit, and the frenzy of Christmas preparations is pulling us in.  The activities of the season are in full swing, with the delicious aromas of gingerbread baking in preparation for the construction of edible crèches, the placing of the characters and the stable for the Living Nativity, and the beautiful decorations in the sanctuary.  We are getting ready – practicing, polishing and preparing to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

Advent and Christmas worship will revolve around the 200th anniversary of the debut of “Silent Night.”  This poignant carol represents the totality of the Christmas experience for many of us.  I have no memory of the first time that I heard this sung, for I am certain that I was an infant.  But I have vivid memories of standing with my family during Catholic mass on Christmas mornings singing with the rest of the congregation during the years of my youth, and of standing with my own family in later years with tears that prevented me from singing, but which sprang from my deep well of longing for those who were missing from my side.

As with most music, “Silent Night” tells a story – a story of wonder and awe, of hope and promise, of joy and peace.  It represents Christmas and the miracle of Christmas with melody and verses that touch hearts and turn them toward the source of all goodness and grace, the source of all that is holy, the source of all that is.  We will celebrate that during the weeks of Advent, and throughout all the weeks that follow.

May God continue to bless us all in this season of hope and peace,
Pastor Gail

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