Online Church Meeting Thursday Night

Faithful Congregation,

Even though we cannot gather together in person on Sunday morning, we still care for each other and would like to check in.

There will be an “Online Church Meeting” on Thursday, March 19 at 7:00 pm.
This will give you the opportunity to be updated on the church, discuss future church plans, as well as see and hear your friends. 

To call into this meeting on your phone, please call 929-205-6099 and when asked enter the meeting ID 197 095 794#. You do not have a participant ID #, just wait for it to connect. 

To join this meeting online, with the ability to see one another, please go to the church website, which is www.churchcorners.org and click on the link for a ZOOM meeting. ZOOM will need to be set up on your computer ahead of time (takes a couple minutes). If you joined on Sunday, ZOOM is already on your computer. CJ is available (and eager) to offer tech support to any, just text Pastor Kelly Jane’s cell and he will assist.

Also, please note that there will not be an April Columns. The World Health Organization and the government suggestions are changing so rapidly that we cannot make any definite dates or plans, looking ahead. 

Check the church website (www.churchcorners.org) and your church emails regularly. If you know of someone who does not receive emails, please reach out to them with any updated information.

Worship Location Change due to CoronaVirus

Beloved members of the First Congregational Church of East Hartford,

We are a hearty and strong people, and yet at this time large in-person gatherings are a great risk to our overall health. While many of us will fight off the virus if infected, none of us want to inadvertently transmit the virus to a vulnerable loved one. In love for our neighbors and for ourselves, we will not be gathering for in-person congregational worship for the next two Sundays. Instead you are encouraged to join me for an online worship experience at www.churchcorners.org on Sunday at 10:00 am.

This decision comes following the recommendation of our Southern New England Conference Ministers who strongly recommended the suspension of in-person congregational worship for at least the next two week (webinar can be viewed here). This recommendation comes as the World Health Organization declares the Coronavirus a pandemic, the CDC urges social distancing, our President marshals federal aid, schools in our region close, and our Governor places a limit on large gatherings. Our world has not faced a pandemic of this size in over a hundred years, so let us be gracious with our neighbors and leaders as we seek safety for all.

What will happen on Sunday morning?
I invite you to join me for an at home worship experience via online video at 10:00 am on Sunday. There will be a link on the front page of our website: www.ChurchCorners.org This will be a specially designed worship experience for you to partake in at home. CJ will be helping with the tech and maybe you will get to see my cat.

What if I have a prayer request?
Please submit your prayer request online by clicking here. I will share these prayers online on Sunday morning.

What about the worship bulletins and anthems already prepared for this Sunday?
We will join in the worship service originally planned for this Sunday when we can safely gather in the sanctuary again, hopefully on March 29.

What about the Annual Meeting?
The Annual Meeting has been postponed to March 29. We may defer the luncheon and meet immediately following worship in the sanctuary. This will require our Lenten Potluck Luncheon to also be postponed. 

What about activities during the week?
At this time individual groups may decide what they would like to do. Howard, with the trustees, will work with our rental groups. Chris and I will work with the Scouts. Louise is in conversation with the YMCA preschool. 

What extra cleaning will happen?
Howard with the trustees are ensuring extra cleaning of our building

Who can I call with questions?
You can call me on my cell phone: 860-351-7420.
You are also welcome to reach out to our moderator, Chuck Holmes, assistant moderator, Joe Murdzek, or Louise Holmes, Director of Christian Education and Ministry Program Assistant. 

What about those who don’t receive email?
Louise will be calling those who do not receive email. If you know someone who does not regularly check their email, please do reach out to them. 

What will I do now that so many activities are cancelled?!

  1. Social distancing does not need to mean social isolation. Let us continue to connect to one another online and by phone…maybe even with old fashioned letters!
  2. Take this time to delve into a spiritual practice. Check out this article from our conference leaders here.
  3. Sunday’s online worship will address the spiritual challenges/opportunities of this time, so tune in at 10:00 am on Sunday. Www.churchcorners.org

May God grant you the serenity to accept what you cannot change,
The courage to change the things you can,
And the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

In Christ,
Your Pastor,
Kelly Jane

How and Why to Worship God

Children’s Message by Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar on February 9, 2020

God is always there loving us,  

But we can do things that keep us from seeing God’s love.  

One of those things is rigid adherence to one way of worship.  

In our confession this morning we read together the words of the prophet Isaiah 58:1-12.

God is upset with the people for being so focused on how they worship that they forget to care for one another and their neighbors. 

People worship God in lots of different ways. 

People worship God… 

In buildings with stain glass 

Mid-13th century (Michael D Hill Jr/Sainte Chapel Stained glass I 

Outside in nature 

Silver Lake Hubbell Chapel 

Naples Florida, C3 Church on the Beach 

or Outside on the Street

Common Cathedral Boston MA

Some people praise God…

With arms raised up and lots of loud music 

Repetitive chants 

In silence 

In lines in pews like we have here.

In pews facing each other 

In a circle 

Kneeling on the floor with candles – as in taize in France 

Standing the whole time, like the Christian Orthodox

These are all Christian ways of worship!  

Jews, Muslims, and Hindus have lots of different ways to worship too.  

People worship God in various ways,  

but God care less about how we worship than what we do because we worship. 

Worship done right fuels us to love and care for others.  

Blocking God’s Love

Children’s Moment on February 2, 2020 by Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar

God loves us very much.

Child holding heart symbolizing God’s love

But sometimes we block God’s love and blessings.
Psalm 15 in the Bible tells us some ways in which we block God’s love.


If we lie, we block God’s love. (add block)

If we gossip or talk poorly about someone behind their back,
We block God’s love. (add block)

If we see injustice or bullying on the playground and don’t do anything,
We block God’s love. (add block)

If we don’t keep our promises,
We block God’s love. (add block)

If we lend money or toys and charge interest –
If we are greedy or refuse to share,
We block God’s love. (add block)

Are there other things we can do to block God’s love? (cheat, steal, murder, swear, etc.)


In the church we call these blocks sin.
Sin is anything that blocks us from God’s love.

God is still there. Still loving.

We have put up all these blocks.


To take down the blocks we confess our sins –
We say sorry and really mean it.

Sorry I didn’t share, help me to share better. (remove block)
Sorry I broke my promise, help me to keep my promise. (remove block)
Sorry I was silent when another was being hurt, help me to speak up. (remove block)
Sorry I spoke behind my friend’s back, help me to speak kind words to and about my friends. (remove
block)
Sorry I lied, help me to tell the truth. (remove block)


Look! God is still there. Still loving!


Let’s pray with God now.
Gracious God, thank you for loving us all the time. Remove everything that blocks us from feeling your love and blessings. Amen.

Children all holding heart of God’s love for prayer

Gratitude

Gift from the Food for Thought Group

This congregation has given a gift that perhaps not everyone has had the opportunity to see its fruits. Once a month for over a year now this congregation has provided space, food, and pastoral leadership to a budding group of young adults under 40 years old to explore spiritual matters. The group averages around 12 people every month, with a total of 27 adults participating at some point in the last year. We have called this group “Food for Thought” because we have thoughtful conversations around a meal. It’s a model Jesus started with the 12 disciples at the Last Supper. 

This program of the church has been incredibly meaningful. 

We had a year-end written reflection and I asked, “has food for thought run its course for now and is ready to take a break?” All 12 respondents enthusiastically said NO! Those who participate regularly obviously wanted to continue, but so did those who can only come occasionally, and one respondent who moved away wrote, “even though I cannot participate from afar, I love seeing the photos and seeing people enjoy the church space! It makes me smile.” 

Why such an enthusiastic response? Participants love cooking together, the summer campfires were a great hit, and the special paint night especially fun – but those are all means to a deeper spiritual need for community, friendship, and spiritual discussion.  

When asked “how has Food for Thought helped you grow in your spiritual life?” Respondents shared the deep value in discussing ideas in a small group of similar age people and the new friendships that are forming. One wrote, “it has been impactful for me to spend time with other young adults who share my faith. Most of my friends are not Christian and so it made a difference to not feel alone.”  

To many millennials and people under 40, church is seen, at worst, as unsafe and harmful and, at best, boring and out of date. However, one Food for Thought participant wrote about finding healing through this church group. Food for Thought has provided a safe space for young adults to bond and grow deeper in their faith. As one wrote, “Food for Thought day is something to look forward to and have meaningful conversations. We learn a little something from one another each time.” 

Indeed, I have personally enjoyed this group – they are authentic, honest, vulnerable and incredibly insightful…as well as a ball to hang out with.  

As is probably clear by now, the Food for Thought group has an immense amount of gratitude for the opportunity to come together. So members have each pitched in to offer a “Christmas Gift” to the congregation.

The idea to give this gift came organically from the group, for it truly has touched people in ways words can hardly explain.  So thank you all for supporting the Food for Thought program of the church!

Stand Like a Christmas Tree

Pastor Kelly Jane’s Christmas Tree

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree! You Stand in Splendid Beauty!
Chances are you will have some time to stand this December. Standing in line, waiting to buy that last-minute gift.
Standing for carols or standing in airports.
Standing at the crowed festive party.


So, stand like a Christmas Tree.
Ground your feet.
Soften your knees (too rigid and you topple). Tuck your tailbone and lengthen your spine. Roll the shoulders down.
Let your arms relax down and out to the side,
Just a bit, forming a little triangle shape.


The hustle and bustle of the holidays can threaten to blow us over. Trees, though they sway in the wind, don’t topple down –
When they are well rooted, Deep into the ground.


So, root yourself through the winds of the season.

Ground yourself in the spiritual,
And let your branches spread out in everlasting love.

Thanksgiving Dinner Fills Tummies and Hearts

The Community Thanksgiving Dinner filled many bellies and hearts last Thursday. A record 218 meals were served!

This decades long service of the Church is made possible by many generous people – Clarence & Pam Douglas of the Friendship Center prepare the meal with a league of volunteers, Riverside cooks the Foodshare turkeys in their big ovens, Stop and Shop donated baked goods, and Rich & Abbie Beebe coordinate the whole deal with Cindy & Delilah serving as sextons for the day. The many church members and community members who attend make it a joyous occassion for all. Thanks be to God! 

A Holy Call @ the Global Strike for the Planet

9.20.19

To be honest, Friday’s strike for the planet wasn’t much of a strike for me. Friday is my day off to catch up on adulting things like bills and housework (who doesn’t want to strike from housework?!). In any case, advocating for the least of these in the public sphere is part of my “job” as a Christian minister. So, not a strike for me, but certainly a strike for the union workers present. Certainly a strike for the thousands of young people who were out of school for the day trying to raise awareness about climate change and calling elected representatives to take swift action to keep fossil fuels in the ground and invest in renewable resources and green jobs.

The youth really did take the lead. They orchestrated it so that the clergy and older participants started at the steps of the capital in Hartford. Then a stream of youth came up the hill chanting and cheering. Seeing so many young passionate activists brought tears to my eyes. First: I realized I’m getting old at 32. Second: their energy and determination gave me hope that change is possible. The rally was certainly a change from every other rally I had been to.

The music was fresh and fun.The band wore animal hats. We did Tai Chi at one point. The Holy was palpable.

Nearly every speaker was a teenager. They passionately shared what scientists have said for years. There is 11 years left for us to change course and stem the impacts of climate change. Climate Change has caused an increase in the number and severity of extreme weather, like hurricanes, flood, and drought. As such, climate change has created 20 million refugees – more than any war. The poor are the worse hit because they don’t have the resources to flee or rebuild.

As the teenagers so bluntly said, “climate change is killing us.” So the rally ended with a “die in”

Hundreds of people laid down on the cold earth in front of the capitol. The speaker read the death toll from recent extreme weather events. Then there was 11 minutes of silence. 11 years left to change course. In the silence the words of Jesus from Matthew 25 fell on my heart, “whatever you did for the least of these, you did to me.”

Then the call:

Stand Up.

As people rose up, there were tears and determination. There was passion and hope in the air. How could there not be when so many hopeful teenagers had taken to the streets to act?

I wore my stole, as I often do when out bearing public witness, striving to bring our world closer to God’s reign of love and justice for all. It was the stole given to me at my ordination, with animals, a cross and a recycling sign sewed with love by the church that raised me. A number of people came up to talk to me. They were curious which church I was a part of. I was happy to tell them about our congregation and the budding green team who had successfully banned styrofoam, moved most church functions to reusable plates, and supported the community garden.

Me in my stole at my ordination

I’m wondering about what is next. Will we mobilize for a green new deal to make sustainable green jobs and stem the extreme weather brought on by climate change? Will we divest from fossil fuels? Will we eat more local food (cutting down on transportation)? I’m thinking of forgoing my car for awhile and riding my bike to church. 11 years. What will we do? What will you do?

Jesus as the man

Sermon by Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar

Preached on Father’s Day, June 16, 2019

On Wednesday we rang the church bell 49 times to remember the 49 people killed in the gay pulse club shooting three years ago. After the bell ringing, we reflected a bit on the number of shootings in our society. Bunny commented that it was a lot of men, some women, although a lot of men. Indeed, 90% of homicides are committed by men. There are likely many reason or variables behind that statistic, but at least part of the problem is the expectations our society has of men.

A visit to the senior center or a look around the church sanctuary reveals another statistic: men die earlier than women. Again, there are likely many factors behind that statistic, but at least part of the problem is the expectations our society has of men.

What are the expectations our society has of boys and men?

• “boys don’t cry”

• muscular strength valued, “grrrr”

• Breadwinner is a sign of success – your worth is tied to your wealth

• Lifeboats are not for you – your life is expendable/less valuable than women and children

All these expectations limit and diminish boys and men. These stereotypes are reinforced with jokes and assumptions we make in conversation.

Interestingly, when God came and embodied the human form in Jesus Christ, God became incarnate in a male body. Except, Jesus as the man, did not conform to the expectations of his day or our day.

• Jesus never married (most scholars agree)

• Jesus talked to unsavory women (Samaritan woman at the well; Mary Magdalene)

• Jesus showed emotion – crying at the death of Lazarus; pleading with God to be spared the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane before accepting the cost of his loving ways in a broken world

In this morning’s scripture we hear Paul explain to the early church, specifically the Romans, a critical action of Jesus – the act the changes the world. Let us listen, with our ears open to how his actions are received differently because he was in a male body.

ROMANS 5:1-11

Paul is outlining the basic Atonement Theology of Christianity:

Jesus died for our sins and in doing so reconciled us to God.

[Classic atonement theory says God requires sacrifices

to make amends for our wrongdoing.

Jesus offers himself as the perfect sacrifice,

freeing humanity from the eternal burden of our sins.

To be honest, I’m not 100% on board with a vengeful God that requires such sacrifice.

However, a quick glance at the news shows that]

Humans kept messing up and separating ourselves from the holy.

Jesus came as a man, showed us how to love – so much that he was killed for his loving ways.

But then, he returned on Easter to show us that death, violence and oppression has not won.

Love has triumphed.

There is one feminist theologian who tried to argue that Jesus was not in a male body, but most scholars agree Jesus was a man. Even as a feminist, I believe Jesus was a man and that his maleness is, actually, theologically important.

Jesus shows us a healthy and powerful way to be a man.

In this core action – loving, even to the point of death – we see that to be a man does not require great physical might nor military maneuvering.

Even though his society – and ours – expect men to lead the battle, bring home the bacon, and be devoid of feelings, Jesus shows us that one can be the most powerful and holy of men in an entirely different way.

Jesus shows us that

a man can be more powerful by being courageous enough to love in the face of loss.

As much as society has pushed forward harmful images and expectations of men,

There are a number of stories that have lifted up men like Jesus –

Men or boys willing to love in the face of loss.

1. Hiccup in “How to Train Your Dragon” (this example and others found here: https://www.fandom.com/articles/5-best-examples-of-healthy-masculinity-in-film-and-television )

Animated film in 2010 of a viking tribe that is constantly fighting off dragons. The viking world is similar to ours in their valuing of might, muscles, and ability to kill – in their case dragons. Hiccup is a hiccup in this viking society. He is scared to kill a dragon. When faced with the opportunity to do so, the dragon is all tied up, Hiccup is moved to compassion and instead of using his knife to kill, he uses his knife to free the dragon. Like Jesus, Hiccup uses his power to free instead of kill. Hiccup continues to befriend the dragon with compassion and courage. Listening and learning. In time, he trains the dragon and reshapes his viking society to be in harmony with dragons instead of in constant war. It started with compassion and courage. A boy like Jesus.

2. We don’t need to face dragons or be viking those. I read a sweet story published in Reader’s Digest. ( found here: https://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/short-stories-about-dads/ )

Kay Lockridge of Santa Fe, New Mexico wrote to Reader’s Digest about here first flight after receiving her private pilot’s license in hand. She planned to take her dad on a flight around Michigan State University – a big circle before landing at the university airport. Just as she reached 1,500 feet and finished “take off”, her dad said, “okay, we can land now.” Kay reminded him of her plan to take them around the airport. He replied, “I’m not fond of small planes. I just wanted you to know that I have confidence in you.” Even with his dislike of planes, her dad made the sacrifice to be uncomfortable for the sake of his love for his daughter. A man like Jesus.

3. In closing, I need to give a shout out to the men of this church. So many of you are compassionate, giving of their time, skills and energy with quiet humility. I won’t name names, but I see compassionate men behind the scenes, showing up to do what needs doing. Men who use their muscles or their brains or their compassionate hearts to support the many ministries of the church. They do so without boasting, but with a steady presence that I truly admire. The children of our church have some incredible men to look up to and we should all be proud of that. Can we give the men a round of applause for their efforts to follow Jesus?

May men strive to follow the lead of Jesus, who had the courage to love in the face of loss.

May those of us who do not identify as men, support and encourage the men and boys in our lives to feel, to be vulnerable, and to love greatly even when it’s scary.

May our society move increasingly forward to embracing people as unique as the stars in the sky -Each with gifts, feelings, and holy love. Amen.

What men have you seen act like Jesus?