Sunday, June 28, 2020

Holy Welcome ONA Sunday

Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….

Today’s prayer
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

These words have been attributed to John Wesley (June 28, 1703 – March 2, 1791), whose birthday we celebrate today.  However, Methodist scholars maintain that Wesley never actually said these words. At least, it has not been demonstrated that these words originated with him as they do not appear in any of his writings.  That said, many life-long Methodists have associated this “rule of life” with John Wesley.

If the most we can say is that Wesley used words similar to these (as is the case in one of his sermons) or that Wesley’s theology, life, and ministry reflected the essence of these words, or simply that we have come to connect them with Wesley because they (likely wrongly) have been attributed to him for so long, so be it. Let us be grateful for this wise “rule of life” as we celebrate the 317th birthday of John Wesley.  Better still, attempt to “Do all the good we can ... ”

By Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar

Opening Reflection


Wondrous God

By Rev. Ann B. Day Program Coordinator,

Open and Affirming Program of the United Church of Christ Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns 1987-2007

Originally published in Shaping Sanctuary

Wondrous God, lover of lion and lizard, cedar and cactus, raindrop and river, we praise You for the splendor of the world! We thank You, that woven throughout the tapestry of earth are the varied threads of human diversity. Created in Your image, we are of many colors and cultures, ages and classes, gender and sexual identities. Different and alike, we are Your beloved people. Free us, we pray, from fears of difference that divide and wound us. Move us to dismantle our attitudes and systems of prejudice. Renew our commitment to make this a household of faith for all people – gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, and straight – that all who worship and minister here may know the grace and challenge of faith. In our life together, grant us minds and hearts eager to learn, reluctant to judge, and responsive to the leading of Your loving Spirit. We ask in Christ’s name, Amen!

let us begin today’s worship

God Has Shown Us What is Good
From St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Oklahoma City, OK More Light Sunday, 2005

One: God has shown us what is good, and what then is required of us?
All: To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
One: Jesus says: Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the One who sent me.
All: The Spirit says, “Come.” Let each one who hears the Spirit say, “Come,” for all are welcome here
One: Let us worship God!

Opening refrain we are marching in the light of God..

Called as Partners in Christs Service #495

(All candles lit.)

Matthew 10:40-42 (NRSV)
   40 "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward." 

Matthew 10:40-42 (The Message)
   40 "We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. 41 Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God's messenger. Accepting someone's help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I've called you into, but don't be overwhelmed by it. It's best to start small. 42 Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won't lose out on a thing." 

The word of God for the people of God!


Whoever welcomes you welcomes me…whoever offers a cool cup of water…
Blessing congregation you are a cool cup of water in a dry and weary land today in the UCC tradition is welcoming Sunday

Open, Affirming and Reconciling Covenant

We, the faith community of the Federated Church of Marlborough, celebrate that every person is a beloved child of God, made in God's image and redeemed by God's radical love. We recognize that our LGBTQ sisters and brothers have suffered discrimination and exclusion in many places, including and often caused by the Church. Jesus taught by word and example how we ought to love one another, and we reject using Bible quotations as weapons against the LGBTQ community.

Therefore, we welcome all people to be full members of our community without condition. We welcome persons of any sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, race, ethnicity and persons who are physically or mentally challenged. Rich or poor, all are welcome here. We celebrate family in all its forms, and honor, support and bless all loving and committed relationships. We celebrate the rainbow and the richness of diversity. Loving one another as Jesus loves us, and following his example and his commandment to love one another, we rejoice to say that no matter where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here.

That is our ONA (UCC), Reconciling (Methodist), Welcoming (UU) Covenant. Normally we would have read this together as an annual affirmation. It was in October of 2016 that this congregation first adopted this covenant.

Just four years ago

Notice I used the word covenant and not statement. As the church went through the process of ONA welcoming with the UCC it is important to understand this is more than just a statement.

“I will make my covenant between me and you.’ (Gen. 17:2 NRSV)

The Mayflower Compact was the first covenant in North American history.

An Open and Affirming covenant is more than a statement, policy, declaration or an amendment to a congregation’s by-laws. In the UCC’s Reformed tradition, a covenant is an act of faith, a solemn promise to God in response to God’s holy Word. An ONA covenant is a serious step for a congregation in its life of faith.

In a church covenant, a congregation seeks “to walk together in all God’s ways” (Constitution of the United Church of Christ).

The first Reformed covenant in North America was the Mayflower Compact (1620): “[We] solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic.” In one of the first church covenants in New England, the congregation gathered in Dedham, Mass., professed in 1638 “through the help of the Lord to live together in this our holy fellowship according to the rule of love.” In 1648, Congregationalist theologian Thomas Shepard grounded church covenants in Christ: “Members [of the church are] bound to cleave only to Christ, their head … and to one another by [mutual] love, which they are bound to strengthen and confirm … by a Solemn Covenant.”

In New England, a church covenant was affirmed by the congregation as a body after a time of prayerful discernment. As a contemporary expression of this tradition, an ONA covenant is grounded in prayer, Bible study and dialogue “according to the rule of love” (Dedham church covenant).”[1]

Of all our Churches in the United Church of Christ only 30% have done the work to become an Open and Affirming Congregation, 63% of the UU churches are officially welcoming congregations, and while the Methodists Reconciling ministries has over 1000 churches and organizations participating the denomination is prepared to split over the issue of LGBTQ Marriage and ordination which is sad.

Of course none of this journey has been without pain and misunderstandings. More importantly none of this happened overnight.

The UCC process started in 1972 and with only 30% of the churches officially ONA it is still an ongoing process…

“From sanctuary to inclusion to justice


The Rev. William R. Johnson is the first openly gay minister ordained in the United Church of Christ, and UCC members found the UCC Gay Caucus (later the Open and Affirming Coalition).”[2]

“June 25 is an historic date. So is June 27. On June 25, 1957, the United Church of Christ came into being, as a union of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches. On June 27, 1969, the "Stonewall Rebellion" took place, when, for the first time, gays and lesbians resisted a police raid on a gay bar, the Stonewall Inn in New York City's Greenwich Village, rather than meekly submitting to arrest.

So in 1972, when Bill Johnson was about to make some history of his own as the first "openly avowed homosexual person" in modern times to be ordained to (a Mainline) Christian ministry, he selected Sunday, June 25: the UCC's 15th anniversary and the weekend of the third anniversary of the event generally acknowledged as the beginning of the gay liberation movement.”[3]

We lift this up historically and yet I find it heart breaking because bill was never called to Pastor a church, but then again maybe he wasn’t meant too, for he served “on the UCC's national staff, most of that time dealing with issues of education and advocacy about human sexuality and AIDS. (In 2002) he became Executive Associate in the Office of the Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries.”[4]

The year Bill was ordained is also the birth of the Coalition; “ ‘The Coalition challenged the United Church of Christ to honor our baptisms,’ he (Bill) says, ‘to recognize that we all are called into the church by God and welcomed through baptism. Many people don't understand that the affirmation that the Coalition's Open and Affirming Church Program is asking them to give to gay and lesbian people is preceded by God's affirmation through baptism.’”[5]


The UCC’s General Synod approves a resolution “Deploring the Violation of Civil Rights of Gay and Bisexual Persons.”


The Rev. Anne Holmes is the first openly lesbian minister ordained in the UCC.


The UCC’s General Synod urges UCC congregations to “Declare Themselves Open and Affirming.” The Coalition accepts responsibility to fund, manage and grow the Open and Affirming (“ONA”) movement.

The Coalition certifies the first 15 ONA congregations.

General Synod adopts a strong resolution “Deploring Violence against Lesbian and Gay People.”

General Synod calls for an end to the prohibition of military service by gay and lesbian citizens.

General Synod approves a resolution on “Prevention of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender
Youth Suicide.”

General Synod votes for a resolution “Affirming the Participation and Ministry of Transgender People within the United Church of Christ and Supporting their Civil and Human Rights.”

Resolution affirming “Equal Marriage Rights for All” is adopted by General Synod.

General Synod affirms the adoption rights of LGBT couples and urges congregations to provide sanctuary for LGBT refugees seeking sanctuary in the U.S.

The UCC welcomes ONA congregation #1,000. In November, Open and Affirming churches play a key role in victories for marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington state.

The UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns changes its name to the “Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ,” reflecting the Coalition’s continued responsibility for the churchwide ONA movement and reaffirming its goal to lead every congregation in the UCC towards an ONA covenant.”[6]

This seems like a quick history and there is so much that goes in between the dates we mark.

In this time of quarantine and safe distancing, but social togetherness. I cannot help but be very aware of what this means for some in my community, the LGBTQQIA, community.

My Doctorate dissertation was on pastoral care and counseling of long-term HIV/AIDS survivors. This coviid pandemic is bringing up daily fear and anxiety for many. One post I saw on face book, referring to may 28th when coviid had reach 100000 deaths in the united states…it was front page news… yet in January 25 of 1991 more than 100000 Americans had died from AIDS…the new York times reported it on the bottom half of page 18…no names…no picture…no headlines.

This is why we renew our covenant. This is why we pay attention to our congregations and denominations history.  People, and I am going to make this broad, people, all people, need to know there is a sacred space they can go to, but for the marginalized, for the marginalized we have to let them know. Otherwise we may be just another unsafe, abusive place.

“whoever welcomes you welcomes me” and so we proclaim our covenant to welcome all people…

“Therefore, we welcome all people to be full members of our community without condition. We welcome persons of any sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, race, ethnicity and persons who are physically or mentally challenged. Rich or poor, all are welcome here. We celebrate family in all its forms, and honor, support and bless all loving and committed relationships. We celebrate the rainbow and the richness of diversity. Loving one another as Jesus loves us, and following his example and his commandment to love one another, we rejoice to say that no matter where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here.”

That is a bold statement and that is why we must proclaim Black Lives Matter, no human being is illegal, water is a right, we need to reform our policing system, we need to reform our prison system, we need to find ways to make our world one of justice and inclusion equally for all.

I bless you, the congregation of the federated church of Marlborough for the hard work you did, for the hard work you continue to do…

You are a cool cup of water to so many in the world may you always have a spirit of freshness and renewal amen, ashe.

A call to prayer
The early disciples devoted themselves to prayer,
The teachings of the apostles, and sharing the bread of life.
They were a people of prayer,
Who shared their joys and concerns?
Their passions and sorrows,
With one another and with the Lord.
For burdens shared and burdens lessened,
And joys shared and joys enriched,
Come, let us follow their example and lift our prayers to God

Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn

God of our Life #366

Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us

Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

Invitation to the Offering

Maker of covenants, we are grateful for your generous Spirit in condescending to be partners with us in our human endeavors.

Death-accepting, to-life-returning Christ, we are thankful for the baptism you share with us that we may know the splendor that lies beyond this world as we understand it. Giver of rewards, we are undeserving of the attention you give to the simplest acts of humanity and generosity. We are thankful for all the promises you have made and kept, and live in hope of the completion of the new creation you have undertaken as the kin-dom of Jesus Christ. Amen.

if you would care to, you can mail in your offerings or go to the top of the webpage and click the donate now button

Offering Prayer

Divine Overseer, if even a cup of water for one of your disciples does not go unnoticed,
then our offerings to support your ministers
and the work of your church will also be rewarded.
Grant us also the share of the prophet's reward
and the blessing that comes in the company of good people.
Receive the gifts of our hands, o God.,
            That they may be signs of your love and grace
                        For a divided world.

The office is open for regular hours
We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry

I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in

In the Midst of New Dimensions #391

We Will Try to Be Holy and Useful
From the More Light Presbyterians Retreat & Mission Weekend New Orleans, LA, 2006

Let us Pray together:
 We will try to be holy and useful,
We will strive to repair the world given to us to hand on.
Let us lift each other on our shoulders and carry each other along.
Let us see the light in others and honor that light.
Let holiness move in us.
Praise the light that shines before us, through us, after us. Amen!

This service is ended no go and be of service to one another in Christ’s name.

Just a note Bible study is on summer leave…

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