Times Ink article, May 2017

There are so many places that we could choose to be on Sunday morning – Church of the Inner Spring (sleeping in), Church of the Holy Mountains (Hiking, Skiing, Mountain Biking) St. Futbol’s (soccer) or St. Arbucks (NY Times & Coffee). Actual church gets lower and lower on that priority list as Gen Xers and Millenials no longer have the ingrained tradition and obligation of attending church that previous generations did. Even with all of this, I continue to believe that being a part of a faith community is important and adds to the value of the broader community.
At RCC our new motto is “Love God, Seek Peace, Build Community, Welcome All.” Everyone is welcome here. In a world that is increasingly polarized, it is important to have a place where diverse views are welcome. We don’t all hold the same view point, or vote the same way – and that’s okay.
Each week during worship we share joys and concerns. Our church prays for each other, for our community, and for the world. In this way we recognize how we are connected to each other and to all of God’s creation. Our faith community also rallies around people in times of joy and pain through celebrating births, marriages, and funerals.
In Sunday School we teach our children about God’s extravagant love and welcome. We also instill a sense of responsibility to care for others. Jesus taught us to care for the poor and marginalized, to practice forgiveness, and to seek peace. We try to live out this message with the Thursday Peace Vigil, participating in the COTS Walk, raising money to purchase animals through Heifer International, doing community service projects like the Sunday of Service held on May 21st, and supporting organizations like Our Community Cares Camp and Friday Food Affair.
We are planning a Mission Trip to Costa Rica from February 24-March 5, 2018 to build 2 homes for families in need. The trip is for adults and high school youth (with parent chaperone). We welcome community members to join us on the trip or make a donation to support construction costs. For more information see: http://rccucc.org/costa-rica-mission-trip-2018/
As Christians we look inward to discover our unique identity as a child of God, and we look outward to use the unique gifts and talents we’ve each been given to serve others. I’m proud to serve RCC, and to help our community grow into the people God has made us to be. And I invite you to consider doing something radically countercultural – join us some Sunday morning and come find out what we’re about! You might just be surprised!
Upcoming Church Events:
  • June 4: Pentecost 10:00 AM
  • June 11: Celebration Sunday 10:00 AM – Celebrate the end of the school year as we honor graduates, present Bibles to youth, and thank Sunday School Teachers.

Advent Reflection

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to the special Advent Edition of the Messenger! We in the church office realized that there is so much activity during the month of December, that we needed an additional newsletter to share this information with you.

During Advent our theme is “Follow the Star.” Keep your eyes peeled throughout month of December as stars pop up around Richmond, inside our Sanctuary, and on our front lawn! We will follow the star, starting on November 27th, as we light the HOPE candle on the Advent wreath, and welcome Rev. Debby Ingram to the pulpit. On December 4 we light the PEACE candle. December 11 we will light the JOY candle, paint a silk wall hanging with stars, and have the Heifer Living Gift Market. December 18’s theme is LOVE, and the choir will share Christmas Music. We will have 2 Christmas Eve Services on December 24, and a special Christmas Day Carol Hymn sing!

This year I will be offering three Wednesday Advent Quiet Services from 7:00-7:45 PM. On December 7 & 14th the services will be very simple with candle light, simple prayers and music playing over our sound system. On December 21, we will have a special Longest Night Service with Jen Greenwood accompanying on piano.

As the holidays come around, we often gather together with family and friends to share a meal.  A few years ago at one holiday gathering, something shared this Advent Diet with me. Now I’d like to suggest the following spiritual dietary practice as a way of preparing for the coming of the Christ child.

Advent Diet

Fast from fear, Feast on trust
Fast from grief, Feast on joy
Fast from judging others, Feast on Christ dwelling in them
Fast from an emphasis on judging others, Feast on unity as God’s children
Fast from thoughts of illness, Feast on Christ’s healing power
Fast from anger, Feast on patience
Fast from worry, Feast on God’s guiding presence
Fast from complaining, Feast on appreciation
Fast from negatives, Feast on positives
Fast from unrelenting pressure, Feast on resting in God
Fast from hostility, Feast on peace
Fast from bitterness, Feast on forgiveness
Fast from anxiety, Feast on hope
Fast from yourself, Feast on God

Wishing you an Advent season filled with Peace, Hope, Joy and Love,

Katelyn

A Pastoral Letter in Response to the Election

November 9, 2016

Dear Friends in Christ,

This morning our country seems particularly divided into red states and blue states, Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and progressives. As people of faith, let us remember that God is bigger than any one candidate, political party, or election. God also can hold any emotion we might feel at the election results – all of the pride, sadness, tears, joys, happiness, turmoil, challenge, hate, acceptance, vitriol, pride, peace, unanswered questions – God holds it all.

God also holds us all in God’s hands. No matter who we are or who we love, or what we look like, or what language we speak, or what our IQ is, or how much money is in our bank account, or what zip code we live in, or how young or old we are, we are ALL held in the arms of our loving and tender Creator.

This election cycle has made it easy to label and stereotype. It has been tough on our spirits, souls, and psyches. We’ve come to see people across the aisle as our enemy, instead of our sister or brother in Christ. So today especially let us remember that we are all worthy of God’s love and care. Let us also remember our Christian calling. Jesus taught us to do justice, seek peace, walk humbly, love our neighbors (even and especially the ones we disagree with.) Our country needs to hear this message now more than ever. Let us recommit to working for a world where all of God’s children can live in peace, justice, hope, and love. This is the world I’m praying, hoping, and working for. Will you join me?

With Peace,

Rev. Katelyn B. Macrae

P.S. If you need a space or person to talk to, please call me at the church office or send me an email.

November Times Ink Article

In November we cultivate an attitude of gratitude as we say thank you to God for the many joys and blessings of this life. I’ve been toying with some messages for our church sign to get us all thinking as we drive or walk by, including:

            What are you thankful for?

            How many ways can you say thank you?

            What fills your cornucopia?

            Giving thanks is sweeter than pumpkin pie!

            God welcomes even the biggest turkeys.

            May all of our living be full of thanks and giving.

            Before Oprah had us making gratitude lists, Paul said, “give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thessalonians

            Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving, and God’s courts with praise. Psalm 100

Of course, these all won’t make it up on the church sign, but maybe they might inspire us to deepen our gratitude. What other phrases and questions would you add to this list?  What are you thankful for?

I am thankful for the chance to worship ecumenically with our Methodist and Catholic brethren in faith! On Sunday November 20 at 4 pm, we will host the annual Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service in conjunction with Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (Richmond), Williston Federated Church, and Immaculate Heart of Mary (Williston). A combined choir will sing under the direction of Esther Nui. Fr. Daniel Jordan, the new priest at Holy Rosary & IHM, will offer a Thanksgiving message. A free-will offering will be received to benefit the Richmond and Williston Food Pantries. Following the service, we will share a soup & bread dinner in the Fellowship Hall. Please join us for this Thanksgiving tradition.

In late November, we turn from the season of gratitude to a season of preparation. Advent begins on November 27.  During Advent we will be “following the star” to Christmas.  Keep your eyes peeled for stars popping up around Richmond! Peace is the theme for the first Sunday of Advent, and Rev. Debbie Ingram will be our guest preacher. Wednesdays in December (7, 14 and 21) we will have our Sanctuary open from 7:00-7:45 PM for a time of candlelight, prayer, and quiet music. All are welcome.

Finally, are you looking for an alternative way to give during the holiday season? We have three ways to help our local and global community in December. First, we will also have a Giving Tree for children in need attending Richmond Elementary, Smilie Elementary, Brewster Pierce, and Camel’s Hump Middle School. If you would like to help furnish gifts for a child, please pick up a tag at church during the Holiday Market (Dec 3) or stop by the church during business hours (Tuesday-Friday 9am-1pm). All gifts must be returned to church unwrapped and with the gift tag by December 13. Second, on December 11, our children will be selling shares of animals through Heifer International, which provides animals, agricultural training, and education to people in poverty around the world. Finally, throughout December we will also be collecting new warm socks for homeless women, men, and children served by COTS in Burlington. You are welcome to donate to any of these causes – please contact the church office for more information.

Wishing you many things to be thankful for, and peace, hope, joy, and love in the month to come!

Join us every Sunday at 10 am for Worship & Sunday School, online at www.rccucc.org, or on www.facebook.com/rccucc

Pastor’s Reflections from the 100th Annual VT UCC Clergy Convocation

got-privilege

September 19-21, 2016

Earlier this week I joined my Vermont UCC clergy colleagues as I attended “The Possessive Investment of Whiteness: Unpacking White Privilege” presented by Rev. John Dorhauer, the General Minister and President of the UCC. It was an important and difficult discussion. I am still processing my learning and wondering how to best approach the topics of racism and white privilege at RCC. Rev. Dorhauer gave four talks over the course of two and a half days, “A Spiritual Autobiography through the Lens of Race,” “Whiteness as the Norm,” “Whiteness as Cash Value,” and ‘What It Means to Be an Ally.” We also heard from Sha’an Mouliert, who spoke about “The Reality of Race and Racism in Vermont.” In addition, I also attended a lecture last night at UVM: “Racism, Islamophobia, and Empire: A New Understanding of Islam, Rooted in Social Justice, Gender Equality, and Religious/Ethnic Pluralism” by Dr. Omid Safi, of Duke University. 

Inspired by these conversations here are some possible ideas of what we might consider at RCC. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’d love to hear your suggestions too.

Book Discussion or Study Group ideas: the new free UCC curriculum “White Privilege: Let’s Talk!”The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, the classic Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman, or a selection of readings and videos from a course being taught at NYU http://www.blacklivesmattersyllabus.com/

Worship: We can pray for racial justice and victims of violence. We can read “A Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. King in worship. We can sing spirituals, and gospel music from the African American tradition, and learn about the stories behind their composition. We already sing some songs from this tradition but we could do it more intentionally!

Prayer Vigil: Attend the NAACP Prayer Vigil and March on Sept 25 at 6:30 PM, in front of the Unitarian Church in Burlington.

Conduct a White Audit of the Church: How many books on our shelves are by white authors and people of color? How is God, Jesus, and the Holy Family depicted in images at our church? On our bulletin covers? In our Sunday School Curriculum? What are the racial and ethnic backgrounds of our clergy and church leaders over our church’s history?

Church Sign: Put “Black Lives Matter” on our new church sign along with RIP “Name” every time a person of color is killed by police violence, for example “RIP Terence Crutcher, Black Lives Matter.” We discussed this at Church Council last night with the caveat that putting Black Lives Matter on the church sign would be done as an expression of solidarity with our black and brown sisters and brothers. Lifting up one segment of the population does not mean that we do not also care about people of all backgrounds, occupations, sexual orientations, economic status, religious traditions, mental and physical ability, etc. The Council discussed that with our new church sign we want to be thoughtful about how we use this space and what messages we post!

Sermon Series on White Privilege
Guest Preacher: 
At convocation, Rev. Sally May (First Congregational, Burlington) shared a powerful testimony of what her biracial children experienced growing up in Jeffersonville, VT, and how hearing their stories opened her eyes to the realities of racism in rural VT. Sally has said she would be happy to come and preach at other churches and share her story. Should we invite her?

I welcome any feedback you might have on this topic, additional books or resources to consider, etc.

With Peace,

Katelyn 

July-August Reflection

“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” – Philippians 4:4

Dear Friends in Christ,
It’s summer time in Richmond, which means it is time for rejoicing as we look forward to the 4th of July parade and RCC Strawberry Shortcake Booth, Our Community Cares Camp, Christmas in July worship on July 24, Mt. Mansfield Cooperative School moving to RCC, Blessing of the Backpacks on August 28, and so much more (maybe even a wedding)! I hope that during this summer season, you will join us as we rejoice together in worship. In July and August we worship at 9:00 AM. Earlier this year, the congregation voted to continue earlier worship times in the summer. Worship moves back to 10:00 AM in September.

As you head on your summer adventures, bring Flat Jesus with you as a reminder that God is with you wherever you go. Rejoice and be glad as you take pictures with Flat Jesus out in God’s creation, and email them to the church office at church@rccucc.org. We will post pictures of Flat Jesus’ adventures on the church facebook page and on a bulletin board in the Parlor. If you head to another church for worship while out on your travels, be sure to bring back their bulletin and leave it in my mailbox. I’d love to see how other churches are worshipping God!

On Saturday July 30, 2016 at 2:30 PM, Nathan Sadler and I are getting married at RCC. Rev. Douglas Nielsen, retired pastor of the UCC church in Saco, ME will officiate, and Rev. Pam Lucas, Associate Conference Minister, will preach. You are invited to join our family and friends for the ceremony and have a slice of wedding cake with us following the service.

On Sunday, July 31 at 9:00 AM, Nathan’s father Rev. Dr. Neal Sadler will lead us in worship at RCC. Rev. Sadler and I will co-preside over Communion. After worship, please join us for brunch in the Fellowship Hall. Following the wedding festivities, Nathan and I are traveling to Ireland and Scotland from August 4-22. One of our destinations is the Iona Community, a center for religious pilgrimage off the coast of Scotland. We are excited to see Caitlin Purinton, former member of RCC, who is currently working as the Island Staff Coordinator for the Iona Community. You can learn more about the Iona Community at https://iona.org.uk/

In August, RCC welcomes Rev. Debbie Ingram to the pulpit on August 7, 14 and 21. Debbie is the Executive Director of Vermont Interfaith Action. While I’m away, emergency pastoral care will be provided by Rev. David O’Brien. Office Administrator Jen Greenwood and RCC President Cindy Preston will handle day-to-day concerns. I plan to return to the office on Wednesday August 24.

Friends, I pray that you have a wonderful summer full of rejoicing. Thank you for the gift of time away during August to renew, recharge, and celebrate my marriage. As we continue into our third year of ministry together, I also rejoice at the opportunity to continue to minister in partnership with you.

With Overflowing Joy,  Katelyn

Standing Together in Sanctuary

June 2016 Times Ink Article

For the next few weeks, we will be hanging a rainbow flag outside of Richmond Congregational Church, United Church of Christ as a reminder of the beautiful diversity of God’s children, and as a statement that our Sanctuary is a safe and welcoming place. In faith communities we call our worship spaces sanctuaries because they represent a place of safety where we can bring our full selves before God in all of our messiness, grief, joy and celebration. The park in front of Burlington City Hall became a sanctuary for the more than one thousand people gathered outside on June 13 to mourn the people who were killed and injured at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. I was one of many local clergy gathered for the vigil and I found myself standing next Christian, Unitarian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders. Imam Islam Hassan of the Islamic Society of Vermont spoke on behalf of the faith leaders and affirmed that Islam is a religion on peace, and the act committed was one of hate. He said, “What happened was evil, and evil has no place here.”

In the wake of such an atrocity we sometimes ask, “Where was God?” I believe that the violence committed at Pulse was not of God. God’s name is sullied when it is invoked to justify violence. God was there at Pulse though, in the hands of the first responders and the ER nurses and doctors who tended to the victims. God continues to be there as people around the world gather to pray, mourn, and denounce this hateful act and work for peaceful solutions to such violence.

My faith teaches that we are made in the image of God, and this image is beautiful and diverse. I am proud to serve an Open and Affirming Faith community, and preach in a Sanctuary that is open to all. We often quote the UCC tagline – “no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” As each speaker took their turn at the microphone during the prayer vigil, I was reminded about how much progress has been made in recent years for the GLBTQI community, and yet how much work still needs to be done. Additionally, I was reminded that Islamophobia, like homophobia, has no place in our culture.

When violence occurs, we sometimes look to point the finger at a particular group to explain what has been done. But instead of looking for someone to blame, we should focus our energy on creating communities of peace, dialogue, and reconciliation. The world needs more sanctuaries – both sacred and secular – where we can bring our full selves before God. As we stand in the face of violence and say, “not in God’s name” we proclaim that another way of living is possible. May we rise to the challenge set before us, and continue the hard work of creating safe places for all of God’s children to be together – no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, religious affiliation, race, ethnicity, or economic status.

Rev. Katelyn Macrae, Church Office (802) 434-2053

Sunday of Service June 5, 2016

As our church’s program year winds down we have much to celebrate. On May 22, we celebrated Confirmation with seven youth in grades 7-9. These youth have spent the year learning about the history of Christianity, and how their faith calls them to live in the world today. We are very proud of our Confirmands and celebrate their hard work and learning.

Looking ahead to Sunday, June 5, our church will leave the building! Last year’s Sunday of Service was such a success, that we have decided to do it again. Richmond Congregational Church will go out into the community for a number of service projects including cleaning up local trails, reviving a garden at the Richmond Library, helping Our Community Cares Camp get ready for summer camp, singing with senior citizens, and cooking meals for Act One shelter in Burlington. Here is the plan for the day:

Members of our congregation gather during our Sunday of Service May 31, 2015
Members of our congregation gather during our Sunday of Service May 31, 2015

9:00-9:20 am – Meet in RCC Fellowship Hall for a Service Send Off with prayers and songs. Then depart to project location with your team.

9:30-11:00 am – Community Service Projects

11:00-11:30 am – Return to RCC’s Fellowship Hall for snacks and share your stories of service.

Our Sunday of Service is one way that we can put our faith into action by serving our broader community. If you would like to join us, please contact the Church Office at 434-2053 or church@rccucc.org

Times Ink Article May 2016

May-June Reflections

Dear Friends in Christ,
Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise! (Psalm 96:12) New Living Translation

Spring is in the air, and all of God’s creation is called to rejoice and renew! In this Eastertide season, my heart is full and I just want to shout “Alleluia” at all of God’s goodness and beauty that surrounds us. In May and June, the church calendar is full of opportunities for worship, praise, service and celebration. In May our Confirmation Class is headed to Weston Priory for a Retreat (May 6-7). In worship we will celebrate Mother’s Day (May 8), Pentecost (May 15 – wear red), and Confirmation (May 22). Our Spring Rummage Sale is May 13 & 14. In June we will have our second annual Sunday of Service (June 5) with service projects in the community, Celebration Sunday (date TBA) marking the end of the Church School year and presenting Bibles to youth, and Father’s Day (June 19). In June we also celebrate two years of ministry together – my how the time flies! I continue to feel blessed to serve as your pastor.

On April 14, our newly invigorated Church Council had our first meeting with Rev. Dr. Claire Bamberg, the Director of Coaching with the Center for Progressive Renewal www.progressiverenewal.org. RCC is one of four churches in the Vermont Conference UCC selected to work with Claire over the next two years as a Next Level Church. The other churches in the program are Rutland, Randolph and Middlebury. The program is fully funded by the Vermont Conference UCC, and the goal is to help our Council identify what our Next Level is as a church, and work to get there. Other UCC churches in Vermont have used the Next Level program to plan a Capitol Campaign, reinvigorate their Christian Education Program or plan a Community Solar Fest. For two years, Claire will meet monthly with the Council either electronically or via conference call, to coach us and provide us with resources. I am optimistic that this program will help the Church Council live into its stated purpose in our governance structure of being a visionary body for the church. As we begin, Claire provided us with four questions to answer together as a congregation. We will be gathering your responses electronically and in writing throughout May. But if you would like to ponder in advance, here are the questions:

  • Why did you come to Richmond Congregational Church, United Church of Christ?
  • Why do you stay?
  • Where would you like the church to be in five years?
  • What would it take to get there?

Your thoughtful responses will help us identify and determine our Next Level.

Wishing you days filled with God’s peace and sustained by the Spirit’s presence,

Katelyn

The Gift and the Grace of Lent

IMG_1386Ash Wednesday Reflection by Rev. Katelyn B. Macrae

February 10, 2016

 

My Lenten journey started this morning when I couldn’t find the ladder.

I looked all around the building, even in the shed outside, and behind the furnaces in the furnace room.

No ladder.

So I called one of our deacons who was coming to help set the Sanctuary up for Ash Wednesday and she brought a ladder.

We switched out the cloth hanging behind the altar, and the curtains up front.

But, as one project often leads to another, soon we were back in the Deacon’s closet, pulling out boxes and things from time gone by, some still useful, some which had outlived their usefulness.

The church mice have found a home in the Deacon’s closet, and we found evidence of their habitation in the chewed candles from old Advent wreaths.

Apparently mice like wax.

There were some blankets that they had chewed, presumably to make nesting.

Together we disposed of these items and vacuumed the closet out.

In the midst of the detritus, we found some new curtains in a box, waiting, it seemed, to be hung in the Parlor.

And in the way that one project sometimes leads to another.

And in the way that two of us happened to have irons with us, and a ladder, we decided that maybe we should change out the curtains too, just to freshen things up a bit.

And as we were doing this, preparing our church for the change of liturgical seasons, I was reminded of Mary Oliver’s poem, Making the House Ready for the Lord.

Oliver says, “I have swept and washed, but still nothing is as shiny as it should be for you.”

As I begin Lent, I feel that way.

Tonight in the Prayer of Confession, we admitted that nothing is as shiny as it could be for you O God.

I know that there are ways I could live my life differently, treat people with more kindness and respect, practice patience, listen first before talking. Spend more time in prayer.

On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of our finitude. We come from dust and we return to dust.

On Ash Wednesday, we are also reminded of what God can do with dust.

For in the beginning it was God who breathed life into the dust.

And creation has been spinning on every since. But every once in awhile it is good to pause and remember where we came from, who created us, and why we are here.

I cherish these forty days and 6 Sundays of Lent. I value this season of preparation, penitence, reflection, and prayer.

My spirit needs renewal.

Tonight we pray, create in me a clean heart O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.

At its core, Lent isn’t about giving up chocolate or trying to be holier or more pious than the person next to us in the pew.

Lent is about taking time to make our hearts ready for the Lord again.

The Lord who fashioned us from the dust, and to who we will return to at the end of our days.

Friends, It is time to clean out the cobwebs, and sort through the mental and physical detritus that has accumulated since last year. It’s time to get rid of those behaviors and thoughts that keep us away from God, and see what surprises might be found in the process of making our hearts and homes ready for the Lord.

POEM

Making the House Ready for the Lord by Mary Oliver

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of miceit is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

As we make ourselves ready for the Lord in this season of Lent, may we be bold and humble enough to ask God to “come in”

To renew us, refresh us, and restore us.

For this is the gift and the grace of Lent.