Sometimes August has felt like a “dreaming month” for me as my schedule slows down and there is time to observe the surrounding beauty more closely. Space seems to open up for extended conversations with family, friends and neighbors. Evening walks offer the mingled, florid scents of dozens of blooms in every yard and even pups on the leash walk more modestly. I am hoping for such a month as this first day unfolds.
My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, has a poem with this languid, August feel. I share it here, with all of you, hoping that you will also have a moment for a contented sigh tucked into this day and the “dog days” of August yet to come:
While I Am Writing a Poem to Celebrate Summer, the Meadowlark Begins to Sing
Sixty-seven years, oh Lord, to look at the clouds, the trees in deep. moist summer,
daisies and morning glories opening every morning
their small, ecstatic faces – Or maybe I should just say
how I wish I had a voice like the meadow lark’s,
sweet, clear, and reliably slurring all day long from the fencepost, or the long grass
where it lives in a timy but adequate grass hut beside the mullein and the everlasting,
the faint-pink roses that have never been improved, but come to bud
then open like little soft sighs under the meadowlark’s whistle,
its breath-praise, its thrill-song, its anthem, its thanks, its alleluia.
Alleluia, oh Lord.
Yes, there is discord and division in the public arena. Yes, there is a choking cloud of smoke that hangs over thousands of acres of devastated land in California. Yes, children still cry themselves to sleep wondering when their parents will be allowed to place their arms around them again. Yes, we carry the grief of all this in our hearts. But, we dare not forget that God is at work, sowing seeds of reconciliation and renewal; bending low to carry the forsaken and bring home those lost to community. Therein, lies my song, my anthem, my desire to follow to the ends of the earth this “alleluia-bearing God” who sings on in the meadowlark’s trilling for all who rest by the road to hear.
Toward our wholeness and shalom peace as God’s children,
Martin Niemoller was a Lutheran pastor who was born near the end of the 19th century and became an ardent foe of Hitler and his Nazi regime. He spent the last seven years of this regime in a concentration camp, as did millions of others. In the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. there is a plaque on the wall with one of Niemoller’s poems. A slightly different version exists in the Holocaust Museum in Boston.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
I was thinking about this poem and about the summer adult study series in which we are leaning about ordinary persons and the development of their voice for God. I was also thinking about Rev. Sandra Pontoh, pastor of the Indonesian Church which worships in Madbury, NH. She has been pastoring and translating for the Indonesian families of her church for many years. Recently, however, she has been told by ICE that she is no longer permitted to translate for them. Suddenly, she is “biased” toward them and not welcomed into the Norris Cotton Federal Building in Manchester.
This refusal to allow Rev. Pontoh inside the Federal Building to translate was made despite her training to become a translator for the express purpose of mitigating the backlog of cases that ICE is now being asked to process AND despite the fact that there are only an estimated 55 Malay speakers in all of NH out of a population of 1.35 million persons. It is likely that most of these 55 speakers are members of her congregation.
If she cannot speak for them, who will speak for them? The ICE agents told Sandra that interpretation will now be carried on by phone through a government interpreter that ICE will choose. I wonder, given the climate of our culture, does this decision also not carry the potential of being biased? Sandra has known most of these persons for more than a decade and seen their hard work, their faith and outreach to their neighbors, the friendships they have developed with the UCC Madbury Congregation with whom they share a sanctuary and their deep thanks for their freedom and ability to worship. Does a translator on the other end of a phone who cannot see the facial expressions nor the gestures of the person who is speaking and whose employer is the government, run the risk of missing the true intent of the Indonesian speaker?
The plight of these fellow Christians makes me weep. My sorrow for them springs up in my prayers and burdens my heart. If I were in their place who would speak for me? Would a friend or neighbor speak? Would a fellow Christian? Who would say to the ICE questioner, “I know this woman. She is not a threat to this country, herself, her children, or her neighbors. Her joy is being a hard-working citizen and showing God’s love to others, treating them as she would wish to be treated.”
God spoke and the world came into being. What cannot be born when we silence the voices of those we deem unwelcome? What cannot be born when we silence our own voices when we could speak the words of life Christ has given us to speak? It is worth pondering and praying about the worth of each of our voices for the sake of the common good of all humankind. Blessings, Rev. Debbie
Lectionary Readings and Sermons for August
August 5, 12, 19 and 26 we will focus in worship on Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John. This is the “bread” chapter that begins with the feeding of the 5,000 and ends with a spirited discussion of what happens when we eat this bread of life ourselves. Do you believe we really live forever?
Congratulations to our Confirmands and to those who decided to join the church. What a pleasure to have worked with 8 young adults this year, 5 of whom were ready to join the church as new members. We celebrate your study, your growing faith and the vibrant community service projects you have accomplished.
The Summer Camping Schedule at Horton Center UCC Summer Camp is on the bulletin board.
Don’t forget to check out the fabulous camp options for adults, children, teens and grandparents.
From the Music Director – Sunday mornings from 9-10AM beginning on June 17th will be so much more inviting and inspiring with the addition of vocal and instrumental music from church members and friends. Please look for the sign up sheet in the robing room off the sanctuary or call the church office (603-926-2837) or email us at: email@example.com if you want to sing or play during worship. We welcome any interested singers of any ability, from grade 6 through adult, to join us. For accompaniment, contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 603-770-8736.
Online giving is here! 40% of our FCC pledgers are already giving online!And, the number is growing every week. Have you signed up? Electronic giving is a convenient, easy option for making your regular or occasional contributions. Give anytime, anywhere using your computer, tablet or mobile device. Make regular church offerings without writing a check or preparing envelopes. Schedule recurring contributions so they arrive even when you can’t attend services. FCC has partnered with Vanco Payment Services, the most highly recommended electronic giving company for churches, to offer secure e-Giving. Giving options are available through the church website, fcchampton.org, or by downloading the free app for your mobile device. Online givers are welcome to use the “Giving Cards” to place in the offering plates. Cards are always available in the Narthex and on the Info Bulletin Boards downstairs.
TASC Transportation Assistance for Seacoast Citizens
Purpose: to provide transportation for people who can’t drive, predominately elderly and disabled, to medical and other selected appts.
Some Interesting Data:
Started in 2006, TASC averages about 3,500 rides a year to include such things as dialysis, cancer treatments and other regular dr. visits
All volunteer drivers; currently 45
John Diebert, a member of our church, volunteered for many years and said “It was very gratifying to provide a service that is so critical to their lives. He made many connections with the people that he will always remember.”
Hampton, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Exeter, Greenland, Kensington, Rye, Seabrook, Stratham
Bolded towns biggest users
Through social services from 6 of 9 communities
UCC of Exeter, Exeter Hospital, Trinity gives free space, Stratham Church and N. Hampton
Some Government Funding & Grants as well as Fund raising in June
How to Contact:
For driver volunteering or discussing needs for rides, you can call 926-9026