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January 30, 2014, 1:38 PM

Joyful Play Grows Where You Least Expect It

“I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”   - John 15:11

This month, we will finish our focus on the faith practice of Working for Justice; and for a few weeks before Lent begins, we will change topic to the faith practice of Playing and Living Joyfully.  The two may sound like antitheses, but they are not; in fact the two practices inform and enrich one another.

 On a recent Sunday, as an example of Working for Justice, I talked about the Simply Smiles mission trip to Oaxaca, Mexico that Jim Esslinger and I participated in about five years ago, with a group from Choate.  We helped to build a one-room cinderblock home for one of the families who live next to the Oaxaca City landfill, scratching

out a living by selling recyclables that they have scavenged from the garbage that the city garbage trucks dump every day.  This simple home was replacing a corrugated steel shack, set directly on the hard-packed earth with no windows or doors.  During the rainy season, the runoff ran right through the house and the family lived in mud.  The cement floor of the new house raised the occupants a couple of feet up out of the mud so that the house was weather-tight.  It was also built with steel reinforcing rods through the cinderblocks so that the house could withstand earthquakes. 

In addition to building twenty-four houses, the work that the Simply Smiles organization has done with the families living by the dump has included helping them to organize to get the best prices for their recyclables and to get electricity and street lights for the neighborhood.  It has made it possible for those families to better their own lives. 

You might expect it to be a depressing experience to be working in the Oaxaca dump neighborhood among people of such poverty.  I don’t know what I expected when I boarded the plane for Oaxaca, but I didn’t expect to have as much fun and enjoy it as much as I did.  It was, certainly, a way of life that is foreign to me, but the people we met and worked with lived with dignity and ingenuity and joy.   After work each day – or before work – Bryan Nurnberger, founder of Simply Smiles, introduced us to Oaxacan history and culture.  One morning, we took our breakfast up to the ancient Zapotec archaeological site of Monte Alban.  One afternoon, we quit early so we could go to Dona Rosa’s pottery studio and have a demonstration of the ancient techniques that create the characteristic black pottery of Oaxaca.  Another evening we visited a market square where I got to see the work of Oaxaca’s rug weavers and other artisans.  On our last night, we had dinner with the families of the two men who were our construction foremen and teachers.  To receive our souvenir t-shirt, we each had to eat a deep-fried grasshopper, which is a favorite snack of Oaxacan children. 

The combination of immersion in a foreign culture of amazing beauty and history, and the opportunity to play some (however small) part in helping others to better their lives, I found to be joyful play as well as working for justice.   I discovered on that trip that joy inspires and energizes justice work; and that the work itself brings joy and appreciation for life.  Let’s play.  See you Sunday!

(Read the rest of the February issue of Judea Journal.)


~ Pastor Cheryl

Rev. Cheryl Anderson

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January 2, 2014, 9:38 AM

Working for Justice: Putting Things Right


“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”  Amos 5.24

      During the month of January, we will be focusing on the faith practice of “Working for Justice.”  In Judaism, the faith of the prophets and of Jesus, there is a concept of “tikkun olam.”  It is a Hebrew phrase that means "repairing the world" or "healing the world;" which suggests humanity's shared responsibility to heal, repair and transform the world. Working for justice is “tikkun olam” – putting things right. It is building right relationships with God, each other, and all of God’s creation. To work for justice we imagine God’s Shalom and stay focused on the world as God intends it to be. Justice is a universal value that, within the biblical story, is required of people of faith. Following Jesus’ lead, we seek wholeness and reconciliation through both systemic and individual change. Working for justice is a way of life that is different from doing charity. Charity is a compassionate response to a need; justice works to repair the root cause of need. Justice is not a one way street; it requires active partners. Healing the world means healing both the oppressed and the oppressor.

     During our “working for justice” month, one special Sunday worship will focus on the Susan B. Anthony Project that works to end domestic violence in our region by providing shelter for victims, as well as community education and advocacy. 

     Early in February, we will be concluding our exploration of Working for Justice as we recognize Black History Month with a special service about former slave and underground railroad worker, Harriet Tubman.

     As a congregation, we are examining social justice issues and participating in justice work within and beyond our faith community:

     At our quarterly congregational meeting on January 12, we will begin our conversations and discernment process to determine whether we, as a congregation, feel called by God to become an officially “Open and Affirming” church. “Open and Affirming” is a designation within the United Church of Christ for congregations that create a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to individuals of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.  Head deacon, Wayne Hileman, will be leading an opening discussion and answer questions about the discernment process at the congregational meeting.  Our “O&A” task force has discovered that working for justice often begins with the “inner” work of examining our own attitudes and prejudices that interfere with “right” relationship with – and compassion toward – others who are different from us in some way.

     AccessHealthCT selected our church as one of 300 nonprofit organizations in the state of Connecticut to send someone to participate in the training and certification process for the “Assister” program.  Peter Armstrong, who with his wife Henrietta Small serves as the clerk of our congregation, has received training and is working for justice on behalf of our church. We are administering a grant of $6,000 to support Peter’s training and outreach to the uninsured.  Peter is speaking to various community groups in our region as well as assisting people during the process of enrolling in a health insurance program.  The Assister program is a federally-funded grant program established through the Affordable Care Act.

     We hope that this will be an enlightening, inspiring, and empowering month of working for justice that will put social action into a faith perspective. 


See you in church!

Pastor Cheryl

The Rev. Cheryl P. Anderson

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November 28, 2013, 11:23 AM

Advent, A Season of Faith Practice

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence/ And with fear and trembling stand/ Ponder nothing earthly minded/ For with blessing in His hand/ Christ our God to earth descendeth/ Our full homage to demand.” 
(traditional French carol)

This year, we have been focusing on a single faith practice each month.  September was “Keeping Sabbath;” October was “Living Stewardship;” and November was “Hospitality.”  When asked about the faith practice for December, I have been explaining that we won’t be focusing on one particular faith practice during Advent.  And then I realized that observing Advent is itself a faith practice.  Faithful Advent observance involves many of the other faith practices that we have been exploring.  The Christian season of Advent bears little resemblance to the overloaded, pressure cooker, non-stop cocktail party-Nutcracker-Messiah-Salvation-Army bell- ringing-mall-Santa- photo-op-barking-dogs-jingle-bells-retail-extravaganza that America calls the “Christmas Season.”  In fact, it couldn’t be much farther from it.  The words to the traditional French carol above, about keeping silent and waiting describes Advent observance.

Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Kingdom of God, not the coming of Santa.  It is intended to be a time when we ask ourselves: “If Jesus were to really return this year, would we greet him with joy and wonder like the shepherds did, or would we send assassins like Herod did?”  Advent is an introspective time; a time for assessing our progress on life’s journey; and a time to reorder our priorities for the coming year.  It is a time to slow down rather than speed up. 

The Christmas “season” is actually celebrated in the Christian calendar for twelve days: from Christmas through Epiphany.  During the Christmas season, I love listening to WJMJ radio.  They play Christmas carols for twelve days straight. 

I know that it would be unrealistic of me to suggest that any of us attempt to pull the plug on all the social obligations and special events of this time of year.  But in the interest of promoting Advent observance; the church will be offering a number of different opportunities for moments of Advent silence this month – for peace and pondering in the midst of the clamor: 

Each Sunday during Advent, starting on December 1st, our new organist, Pat, will be offering fifteen minutes of meditative music before worship for quiet reflection.  

Anne-Marie and I will be continuing the Grace Fellowship group meditation and discussion on Mondays at 7:00pm.  All are welcome to come experience some guided and silent meditations.

We are offering a Wednesday morning Bible Study on Handel’s Messiah- learning about the Old Testament prophetic texts and Handel’s musical settings.  The four-session study will begin the day before Thanksgiving and continue through the Wednesday before Christmas.  We will meet at 10:30 am and all are welcome.  There are books available for purchase or loan.

In cooperation with our New Beginnings ministry, Anne-Marie and I will be leading a special “Christmas Service of Comfort and Peace” on Sunday evening, December 22nd, for anyone struggling to find joy and peace this season.  It will be a quieter, candlelight service, followed by refreshments in the Parish House.

I hope you can set aside some “Sabbath” time in this busy season to experience the refreshment and renewal of the Advent season.  Join us.  Grace and Peace to all.

~ Pastor Cheryl

This article, along with other information about upcoming events and member information can be found in our December 2013 Judea Journal.  Click to read or download.

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November 27, 2013, 6:38 PM

Judea Journal December Issue is Out!

Hi friends,

We are in transition.  Our new site offers us new functionality, including this blog feature.  My expectation is that it will replace our Judea Weekly news email, as well as other ad hoc news notices that go out to our members and friends who have subscribed.  We welcome comments and would love your participation and involvement in the site and in all of our activities of the church.  Really, there is something here for everyone!

So here is the traditional newsletter formatted Judea Journal for December.  Read, enjoy, but know that very soon, the content you would find in the Journal - and then some - will now be held within our website.  More to come on that....

Judea Journal, December 2013

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