The First Congregational Church in Thetford, UCC

 

40 Days
Dear Friends,
 
Today, Wednesday, March 6th, begins the sacred Christian season of Lent; the 40 days (not including Sundays) prior to Easter.  Lent is a precious opportunity to examine our lives and our priorities. The next forty days offer us a chance to change the source from which we typically seek momentary happiness and, with courage, face the seemingly parched places in our lives. Historically, the season centered around penitential practices like fasting and confessional prayer to ready one’s heart for the journey with Jesus toward his death and resurrection. The newly baptized were also accepted into the church during this time.  Although the character of Lent tends to be dark, it is far from barren. Those who take the season seriously are open for some sweet surprises. Like a womb that will soon push out life itself, or a seed broke open to burgeon sprouts of deep green, our Lenten hearts break open to a deeper understanding of love. I hope you will join me on this journey of surrender into the Divine embrace.

Ash Wed. image
Ash Wednesday Service 

This evening, March 6th,  at 6pm in the Sanctuary. This quiet, reflective service begins our Lenten journey of inner inquiry. Ash Wednesday reminds us that acceptance of death can free us to embrace life in all its fullness. Ashes are a mix of last year’s palm branches and this year’s personal confessions.  Come and join thousands of Christians around the globe as we set our intention for a forty-day walk with God.

Below are suggestions for the journey along with a Lenten blessing from the Contemplative Outreach website:
 

How am I to enter into Lent?
How do I ”change the direction in which I am looking for happiness.”?
What shall I give up and of what shall I partake as food
for the journey to resurrected life?

Possible small acts of renunciation
-fasting from news
-fasting from the television
-fasting from food, sweets, alcohol
-fasting from negative commentary of some sort
-countless ways of fasting; each of us has our own variety

Then, we are invited to uncritically observe the impacts on self:
-the discomfort
-the freed-up time
-the freed-up money
-What is being revealed? Is a kind of purification taking place, a cleansing of self-will, of habitual, mechanical, self-calming behaviors? Is there a wakefulness arising?

Possible acts created by these spaces
-reading Scripture
-listening to sacred music
-walks in nature
-lengthening our prayer times
-reading a special book, maybe one we’re not likely to read
-creations of beauty
-or, maybe it’s simply redefining the contours of our daily existence and infusing them with a renewed intentionality: “I will do this yard work, this ironing, this chauffeuring, this attendance at a meeting and re-orient it with an attentiveness and consciousness born of spaciousness, rather than hurriedness.”

Excerpt from The Word of the Week of March 3, 2019

A LENTEN BLESSING
Marked by Ashes, by Walter Brueggemann

 

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day…
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
halfway back to committees and memos,
halfway back to calls and appointments,
halfway on to next Sunday,
halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
of failed hope and broken promises,
of forgotten children and frightened women,
we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with
some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
you Easter parade of newness.
Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.

Lenten/Easter Services

Palm Sunday at 10:00am– Sunday, April 14,  Grab your Palm Branches and raise your voice in greeting Jesus as he enters Jerusalem for the Passover, “Hosanna!  Hosanna in the Highest and peace to all his people!” 

Tenebrae Service of Darkness, Thursday, April 18th – Tenebrae is the Latin word for shadows.  This service is the mirror image of our Christmas Eve service of light when we extinguish candles between each reading of the Passion Narrative.  This is a moving and somewhat haunting service with song and silence.  We conclude the service in darkness with an acapella singing of, Were you there When They Crucified my Lord?

Easter Sunday, April 21st :  Celebrate rebirth and resurrection!  Come to service in your Sunday best, donning your bonnet, hat, fez or whatever headdress you choose!  In the next week or so, Maureen and I will let you know the special music selections for this high holiday!

 

Job Posting:  Sexton

First Congregational Church in Thetford,

on Thetford Hill (FCCT) – United Church of Christ 

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The Church Sexton will be the facilities manager and custodian for the congregation. The Sexton will oversee the general maintenance, care, cleanliness, functioning and safety of the Church buildings, equipment and property, and will perform weekly cleaning.  The Sexton will interact with outside organizations that use Church facilities, making sure they understand the proper use of the facilities.

The Sexton will assist in identifying opportunities for volunteers.  The Property Committee at FCCT will manage all volunteers. The Sexton is directly responsible to the Pastor, in close coordination with the Chair of the Property Committee.

This  is a part-time, salaried employee position, approx. 11 hours per week.  The salary is $9625-10175 per year, depending on experience.  The position  includes  two weeks paid vacation, Social Security, and other benefits, as required by law.

A complete description is available at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IKiRWRSph6mJKe4FQaENpmEKqxdaFZ91__3oQr6YDK0/edit?usp=sharing

 Or phone the church at (802)  795-2915.

To apply, please send letter of interest, work history, and three references to

building.use@thetfordhillchurch.org

Or

First Congregational Church in Thetford

Sexton Search

P. O. Box 69

Thetford, VT 05074

The application deadline is February 15, 2019, but the position may be filled at any earlier time.  

 

Who we are:

The First Congregational Church in Thetford, Vermont, United Church of Christ, is a progressive, Open and Affirming congregation, Open to All.  We are diverse people on a journey together following the way of Jesus Christ.  We find unity in the shared quest for truth rather than in one common creed.

Our church provides a sanctuary for spiritual nurture and growth through services of word, music and silence, and through education, discussion and mutual support.  We feel called to promote Christ’s way of nonviolence, creating a loving, just society for all. We care especially for our youth, for the struggling people of our world and community, and for the health of God’s creation.

We expect there to be a cost to our faithful discipleship, a cost of our time, talent and substance, and of our selfless love, humble service and personal risk.  This is a church of courage and of comfort.  This is a church of passion and of humor.  This is a church of Christ and of solidarity with people of all faiths who are striving to create a world of peace and justice, mercy and love.

Our Pastor
On September 25, 2016, we formally installed the Rev. Robin Junker-Boyce as our Settled Pastor. Robin began her ministry among us pastor on December 1, 2015.

Robin received a B.S. in Biology from Boston College in 1993 and a Master’s degree in Psychology and Religious Studies from Andover Newton Theological School in 1997 with an extended focus on hospital chaplaincy. In 2002, she was ordained in the United Church of Christ at Old North Church in Marblehead, MA. In May of 2014, she completed a fruitful 12 year ministerial post at Bethany Church, UCC in Randolph, VT and began a sabbatical year to write on Contemplative Prayer and to spend quality time with her husband, Sean, and her two young boys, Fritz and Ulysses (ages 11 and 8). The two greatest highlights of her past ministry were the implementation of a contemplative prayer community for adults and the creation of a vibrant youth ministry in which over 30 teens could be found meditating each Friday night in the basement of her church. If she had to narrow down her many passions, they would be preaching, community building, youth work, contemplative prayer and the study of the intersection between science and spirituality.

Her free time is happily spent reading books, listening to TED talks and the Moth Radio Hour, going for walks, talking theology with her husband and, of course, lovingly raising her three sons.

This short biographical sketch does not, unfortunately, come close to conveying the depth of her spirit, the joy of her character, the strength of her faith and the scale of her intellect. We are very lucky to have found her, and we are enormously grateful that she was similarly drawn to us. This truly feels like a match made in heaven!

General Covenant, adopted April 9, 2000

Beloved God, we covenant with you and with one another, as you
have with us, and bind ourselves in your presence:
to walk together in your holy ways;
to love and support one another wherever our paths may lead;
to seek to know your will and strive to do it.

We commit ourselves to the ministry of this church,
and depend upon your Holy Spirit to guide and empower us.
We embrace community with all creation, in the way of Jesus Christ,
promoting understanding and compassion, justice and peace.

We remain open to and affirming of all,
“having in essentials, unity,
in non-essentials, liberty,
and in all things, charity.”

Covenant to Be An Open and Affirming Congregation, adopted May 3, 1998

We, the members of the First Congregational Church in Thetford, Vermont, United Church of Christ, regard all people as beloved children of God. We give thanks for the many and diverse gifts of God among us.

We declare ourselves to be an Open and Affirming congregation, welcoming and accepting into full membership and participation people of every race, nationality, age, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, and economic status. We honor the worth and dignity of all people. We affirm all relationships founded on the principles of God’s love and justice.

We acknowledge that the Christian church has often excluded people based on their sexual orientation. We believe such discrimination to be incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We pledge to work to end oppression and discrimination whenever we encounter them, and, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, to help create the blessed community of God’s realm.

Our Recent History

The church became the fourth Open and Affirming congregation in the state of Vermont in 1998. It advocated for Vermont’s Civil Unions law and became the only Christian church to endorse Vermont’s Freedom to Marry Act, which it did by unanimous vote at a congregational meeting. In the early 2000s the church held a successful capital campaign to make the building truly Open to All, funding the construction of the Janet Frey Harte Wing including an elevator and accessible bathroom. The Upper Valley Peace and Justice Group was founded in the church shortly after September 11, 2001, and a Nonviolence Group began meeting in 2010. The Floyd Dexter Memorial Community Service Fund was added to the existing Alice Francisco Fund to provide financial assistance to struggling people and the Deacons launched a Calling and Caring program, using these funds to provide support to people in need in the congregation and surrounding communities. The Floyd Dexter Fund has grown from giving a few hundred dollars a year to over twenty thousand a year. One hundred per cent of the funds collected at the Christmas Eve service are donated to the Floyd Dexter Memorial Fund.

In 1997,the church began hosting a mid-week Prayer of the Heart gathering of silence, supportive conversation and informal communion. It has grown to a community of over thirty people from within the congregation and the wider community. The congregation adopted a new covenant in 2000 and has developed long range plans every five years or so, including most recently a strategic plan that clearly articulated the church’s identity, mission and vision for the first time. The church launched the LEAF (Loving Earth As Faith) Fund in 2012 to support its environmental work. It is in the process of energy conservation measures to reduce its heating needs by as much as 30% and reduce its remaining heat energy carbon emissions by approximately 75%. In a very recent large-scale project, the old oil-burning heating system was replaced with a wood-pellet stove in the summer/fall of 2013.

Upon the resignation of our long-time pastor, the Rev. Tom Kinder, in August, 2013, we were fortunate to find the Rev. Rona Kinsley who, with indomitable humor, amazing grace and infinite patience, served as our interim pastor for nearly two years, enabling us to carefully select our new settled pastor.

christmas eve