This week's author is Drew Page, News & Media Editor for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
Isaiah 1 :12-17 (The Message)
When you come before me,
whoever gave you the idea of acting like this,
Running here and there, doing this and that—
all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?
Quit your worship charades.
I can't stand your trivial religious games:
Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings—
meetings, meetings, meetings— I can't stand one more!
Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them!
You've worn me out!
I'm sick of your religion, religion, religion,
while you go right on sinning.
When you put on your next prayer-performance,
I'll be looking the other way.
No matter how long or loud or often you pray,
I'll not be listening.
And do you know why? Because you've been tearing
people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.
Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don't have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.
I have a story to tell.
October 25 marks the 25th anniversary of the day I returned to the church. It wasn't a homecoming celebration. I didn't even set foot in a sanctuary. I simply took a trip to a place I had never visited before.
Two friends, Christine Smith and Carlane Mattson, asked me to join them on a work weekend at this oddly named camp in Sharon, CT.
"There will be chainsaws and wood splitters," they said. Their temptation worked.
They did not hide the fact that Silver Lake was a church camp, but they didn't make a big deal out of it either. They knew I had not set foot in a church since my "Confirmation" 10 years before that. For me, Confirmation was a lie. I had participated in a Confirmation class ? I even took a final exam (on which I received a grade of 56%, but was told I "passed"). I stood before the congregation and said the words I was told to say. I don't remember what those words were, but I know I didn't mean them. I didn't return after that Sunday.
At Silver Lake, I met other adult volunteers and many high schoolers. They had all come to work, to maintain this beautiful, rustic camp that everyone seemed to love so strongly. Some of those young people and volunteers had traveled several hours to be there.
And they worshipped. They talked about issues in the world and what we could do to bring justice to those suffering in it. They asked for prayers, and the prayers offered were the authentic joys and concerns of those present. And they spoke of a God who welcomes and loves everyone unconditionally and calls us to be one.
It was so different - and felt so right. There was no ambiguous offering plate with its un-named purpose. No irrelevant, pre-printed unison prayer. The songs were upbeat and passionate, not the dirge-like hymns I remembered from church.
For many years since that weekend, Silver Lake was the only church I knew.
Eventually, I joined a local church. There were pre-printed, irrelevant prayers. There were ambiguous offering plates, and there were dirge-like hymns.
It didn't feel like a place people would drive several hours to be.
At the 2016 CTUCC Revival this month, Rev. Tamara Moreland said, "Sometimes we're singing, sometimes we're shouting, sometimes we're waving our hands, but sometimes God's not even in that."
Isaiah saw a need for the church to emphasize service and justice work rather than routine, as a way to bring the Spirit back into the church. And there are churches who have done this — churches who have asked why they do what they do and what they can do differently.
I would like to tell those stories.
Still Speaking God, where do you need me? I will go... singing, shouting, and waving my hands, knowing your Spirit will be "in that."
Special Prayer Requests:
Those grieving or suffering after a bus accident in California killed 13 and injured over 30 others on October 23;
The family and friends of Frank A. Manocchio, father for Rev. Donna Manocchio, Associate Pastor at Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford. Frank died on Oct. 8; and
A prayer of joy for Ewan Vander Swaagh, grandson of the Rev. Price Vander Swaagh, who has been declared cancer free and has returned to doing "all the normal things a six year old does."
The people of Iraq impacted by the renewed fighting in and around the city of Mosul where Iragi forces are trying to retake control of the city from ISIS;
Those residents of the southeastern states affected by flooding and the destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew on July 7-8;
the friends and family of Rev. Paul Bomely, former pastor at Oxford UCC, who died on August 5;
the people of Haiti as they try to recover from the destruction of Hurricane Matthew, which struck on October 4;
those effected by a fire that destroyed the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, CA on October 1;
Rev. M. John Arens, Pastor of the New Preston Congregational Church, who had surgery on June 28;
Rev. Da Vita McCallister, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership and Vitality, and her family as they face a loss and difficult illness in the family;
The Rev. Sara Smith, pastor of United Congregational Church of Bridgeport, and her sister Ellen, who is recovering from a stroke;
Rev. Kelly Hough Rogers, Associate Pastor of the Norfield Congregational Church in Weston, whose parents were involved in a tragic car accident. Kelly?s father, Wallace, has died and her mother, Janet, is hospitalized;
Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
the Rev. Dr. Don Westerberg, Pastoral Counselor in New Milford, who recently received a lung transplant and is recovering;
Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
the Rev. Mary Nelson, South Central Regional Minister of the Connecticut Conference, whose brother is recovering from surgery;
Alisia Selders, daughter of Bishop John Selders, pastor of Amistad UCC in Hartford, in a new round of treatment for cancer;
the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, seeking employment, or working to find just resolutions; and
those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Drew Page at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please Remember These
Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers
Second Congregational Church of
Carl F. Reynolds - P
North Stamford Community Church
Jacqueline Gilchrist - SP
The First Congregational Church of Stamford
Todd Grant Yonkman - DT
Union Memorial UCC
Blaine A. Edele - P
United Church of Stonington UCC
Lori Peach-Filban - P
Drew Page is a member of the Conference's Communications Team. He writes and edits news, blogs, and devotionals, produces video, and spends a week each summer deaning at Silver Lake Conference Center with his wife, Debby.