The United Methodist Church of Enfield
Sunday, March 07, 2021
Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.

 

 

 

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
(Psalm 25:4-5)

 
February 24, 2021

To the faith-filled sisters & brothers of The United Methodist Church of Enfield –
 
Last Sunday in worship, we proclaimed the passage above from Psalm 25.  For how are we to know God’s ways, unless we learn them?
 
During Lent, I invite you to try a variety of ways to pray.  This week, I encourage to try “lectio divina”, a way of praying with scripture.  It means listening to God so that the Word of God can reach deep within us.  Lectio divina is a Latin expression meaning literally “sacred reading.”
 
There are four steps to lectio divina.  The first steps involve doing, but the last step entails simply being.  You may go back to the passage and read it until another word strikes you.  Over time, lectio divina forms a listening heart in us so that we become more reflective and more attuned to God in everyday events.  You might begin by using the passage from Psalm 25 above. 
 
1) Lectio – READ. Select a brief passage of scripture. In the first reading, allow a word or phrase to speak to your heart as a special word from God.  What catches your attention in the passage? 
 
2) Meditatio – REFLECT.  In the second reading, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you in what way this passage has a direct connection or touches your life at the present moment.
 
3) Oratio – RESPOND. In the third reading, let your heart respond in a silent or expressed prayer, sharing with God how you feel in response to this passage.
 
4) Contemplatio – REST.  In the fourth reading, simply rest in God, consenting in the name of Jesus to the presence and action of the Holy Spirit within you.  On this level, we know the Holy Spirit in an experiential way.
 
By immersing ourselves in God’s Word, the Word takes flesh in us!  What better way to learn God’s ways? May the presence of Christ be with you.
 
Peace & grace,
Pastor Janet
 

 

 

 

February 17, 2021

 

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51:1)

 

To the faith-filled sisters & brothers of The United Methodist Church of Enfield –

 

Lent has begun, and with it a desire to renew our relationship with Jesus.  One summer, when I was visiting my mother in NH, we had one of those horrific rainstorms that rains steadily for a long, long time. Since the house was situated just below the crest of hill, major rainstorms could dig a ditch across the dirt driveway, creating a crevasse that would make it difficult for cars to cross.

 

That was this kind of storm.  From the house, we could see the water racing in torrents across the driveway, and dirt begin to erode away.  I went out to take a look, and realized if I could dig a channel at a key spot, the water would start running into the drainage ditch instead of across the driveway.  Back into the garage to get a shovel and back out again.  Surprisingly, it didn’t take long.  The flow of water quickly found the channel I dug. The driveway was saved!   

 

In a way, God’s grace is a lot like a steady downpour.   God is very, very persistent in offering abundant grace and mercy to us – all the days of our lives. Yet we encounter challenges in letting God’s grace into our lives.  Challenges that come from within us – not from God.  You see, God has done everything possible to get us to understand that all God wants for us is to love Christ – and love others as we love ourselves.

 

But, deep down, we know that if we let God’s grace in, we’re going to be changed.  And while we might want to change, we often dread actually changing.  Accepting God’s grace means that we will have to start thinking differently, perhaps with new priorities.  Letting God’s grace flow into our hearts means that we might have to have greater tolerance for people we couldn’t stand before.  Allowing God’s grace into souls just might mean we would have to accept that God loves us beyond measure.  Even with all of our faults, all of our prejudices, all of our mistakes. 

 

If this is where you are in your faith journey, then Lent is for you.  This season offers us the chance to confess our shortcomings before God – but it also opens up a channel for God’s grace to begin flowing into our hearts and minds and souls. Our desire expressed in prayer opens the doorway for God’s grace to flow.

 

I encourage you to participate in worship services during Lent whenever possible.  Open up a channel for God’s grace to flow into your life – and be amazed at the abundant life that comes.

 

Peace & grace,

 

Pastor Janet 


 


 

 

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)


February 10, 2021
 

To the faith-filled sisters & brothers of The United Methodist Church of Enfield –
 
The season of Lent focuses on change, both the need and the desire to be renewed in our relationship with Jesus Christ.  God changed the world through Jesus Christ on the day of Resurrection, and Christ’s love can transform our lives – if we accept his offer.  During these seven weeks before Easter, we will make a journey towards wholeness in our relationship with God.  How in the world do we begin to acknowledge our need for renewal and accept this offer?     By focusing on Christ’s offer of transformation through his resurrection, and his promise to remain with us throughout all our journey, we will be prepared to accept the gift of renewal that comes on Easter morning, and be ready to share this gift with the world. 
 
I invite you to begin the season of Lent by participating in the Ash Wednesday service next week, available on Zoom, February 17 at 7pm
. Instead of coming forward to receive the mark of ashes, you will be receiving in the mail a cotton square with an ash cross marked on it.  In The United Methodist Church, we see the ashes as representing “our sinfulness before God and our human mortality…helping us realize that both have been triumphed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ…they remind us that we are not God, but God's good creation…Ashes also signify our sorrow for the mistakes we have made. We recognize our inability to live up to all God has created us to be, and our need to be forgiven.”  This cloth marked with an ash cross is something you can pray with during the service and throughout Lent. 
 
We begin Lent by expressing our need for God’s grace and mercy on Ash Wednesday.  We end with the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning, April 4, with cleansed hearts.  During this journey from ashes to a clean heart, we can immerse ourselves in practices to draw us ever closer to God.  Traditional Lenten practices include fasting (from a type of food like meat, or an activity like listening to the radio in the car) to enable us to create space and time to be with God, reading scripture, prayer, acts of service – there are many!  A list of suggestions will be included in your Lent-in-an-Envelope. 
 
My prayer for all of you is to participate in Lent this season in ways that will cleanse the dust from your souls to be renewed in your Spirit, so that on Easter morning you will shout with joy “Alleluia!  Christ is risen!” and know that your heart rises with him forgiven and freed.
 
Peace & grace,
Pastor Janet

                           

 


 

 

January 27, 2021

 

To the faith-filled sisters & brothers of The United Methodist Church of Enfield –

 

Wilson Bentley became fascinated with snowflakes as a boy growing up in Vermont in the late 19th century.  At first he tried to sketch each snowflake, but failed due to the tendency of his subject to melt before he could finish the drawing.  After years of experimenting  with a camera, Wilson Bentley photographed a single snowflake in 1885.  His technique of microphotography captured snowflakes on camera for the first time in history.  He went on to photograph more than 5000 snowflakes during his life, discovering in the process that no two snowflakes have the same design.  Scientists and artists continue to rely on his photographs for their work today. 

 

Our response to snow changes throughout our lives.  As kids we eagerly did the snow dance, in the hope school would be canceled – much to our delight but to the consternation of our parents.  As teenagers and young adults, snow meant sledding and skiing.  Shoveling snow was often (but not always) fun, especially when one could start throwing it at one’s siblings (not that I ever did that).  Now I look at snow, as I did today when it fell for the first time in weeks and say – ‘I wish it wasn’t here.  I’ll have to get out and shovel it before it freezes solid tonight.’ <Writing break to go out to shovel.>

 

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

 

The passage from Isaiah opens up our eyes to seeing the purpose God has in snow and rain.  That which God sends out into creation has a purpose – snow and rain, spring green and fall brown, persons who look like me and persons who don’t look like me.  Just as God has a purpose in the rain and the snow nourishing our earth so that the earth will nourish us, God also has a purpose in creating the variety of humanity.  Just think – no two of us are alike. 

 

What would it take to renew our sight to see all the world and everything in it through Christ’s eyes, as a creation gift from God? What would it take to see all people just as Wilson Bentley described snowflakes – as “tiny miracles of beauty?”  God’s vision of all people needs to be renewed in our eyes.  Across the world people are facing discrimination because of the way they look or sound.  Perhaps, just perhaps, if we ask God to renew our sight to see the beauty in snow, we will also be restored to seeing the beauty in all people.      

 

 

Peace & grace,
Pastor Janet 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

January 13, 2020
 
To the faith-filled sisters and brothers of The United Methodist Church of Enfield –
 
My menu typically changes in winter, as we move away from summer with its fresh fruit and vegetables.  Out come soup and stew recipes, back from a long vacation on the shelf – Chicken Normandy Stew, Beef Bourguignon, Kielbasa, Potato and Spinach Soup.  All I want to bake is corn muffins to go with the soup, banana chocolate muffins for the morning, and every cookie recipe I read. The colder and darker it gets, the more comfort food I want. 
 
Comfort food is the cookbook header for all the recipes that we grew up with and love, food that makes us feel warm and filled.  Popular recipes these days include lasagnas and macaroni & cheese – the all-time comfort food. It’s cold and it’s dark in so many ways these days, that it’s no surprise we find ourselves seeking comfort in food.
 
We’ve had enough surprises in the last year in our churches, in our schools, in our country, in our world.  Yet never, in most of our lives, have we seen the kind of upheaval on a world-wide scale that we’ve witnessed in the last year.  And more is yet to come.
 
It’s too bad, really, that we cannot survive on a comfort food diet.  Unfortunately. 
 
Early in the pandemic, I read an essay where a pastor reflected that we needed to guard against bingeing on “spiritual comfort food.”  The phrase has resonated with me all year long as I planned worship services and wrote sermons and spoke with you.  How could I balance the need for comfort this year with the inherent nature of Christian discipleship as challenging?  Can both comfort and challenge co-exist in our lives, especially in our relationship with Jesus? 
 
The trap that’s so easy to fall into is believing that a relationship with Jesus is all about gaining comfort, and not at all about encountering challenge.  A relationship with Jesus can be comforting, but is not at all meant to be comfortable.  Because we can no more exist as his disciples by doing the same thing all the time than we can survive by eating only macaroni & cheese all the time.  Unfortunately. 
 
The shaking up of our worship lives (online? in sanctuary? on DVD?), our social lives (Zoom? Phone call?), our ministries (missions drop off in the parking lot?) and our events (what events?!?), led us way out of our comfort zones in our faith community.  Yet here we are.  Stronger, more resilient, accomplishing many things in God’s name that we could not have dreamed of a year ago.  I, like you, yearn for the familiar rituals, for the comfort of the known.
 
And yet…I am comforted in knowing Jesus is walking with us, even in the middle of change, even in the middle of the new, even as we look ahead at the unknown.  We are not alone as we continue on our faith journey with Jesus – even if the food is a little unfamiliar. 
 
Peace & grace,
Pastor Janet  

 

 

 

 


 

 

A Prayer for Our Nation

 

God of all the ages,
in your sight nations rise and fall, and pass through times of peril.
Now when our land is troubled, be near to judge and save.
May leaders be led by your wisdom;
may they search your will and see it clearly.
If we have turned from you way,
reverse our ways and help us to repent.
Give us your light and your truth, let them guide us;
through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of this world, and our Savior. Amen.

 

(Source: The United Methodist Book of Worship

 


January 7, 2021

To the faith-filled sisters and brothers of The United Methodist Church of Enfield –
 
We are in shock.  We are in grief.  We are in a place of crying out to God in lament – yet again – for God’s presence to be made more fully known in the world.   The violent events in Washington, D.C. yesterday [Wednesday], both destructive actions and inflammatory words, have left us reeling after a year that has already demanded much of our lives.  Free speech in our country does not equal cheap speech.  The words we use have a cost to them, be they words used in a personal exchange or a public forum.
 
How can we not consider the value of the words we use, when we in the church have chosen to follow God’s word made flesh – Jesus the Christ.  This Word, above all other words, paid a terrible cost to be heard for all time.  If we are at all to cherish this Word, given freely but not cheaply, then we are also called to cherish the words we choose to use. 
 
I encourage you to be present in worship on Sunday.  We will hear God’s Word in prayer, in proclamation and in life.  This Sunday is the day in the life of the church when we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, and when we will have the opportunity to reaffirm our own baptism into the body of Christ.  We will have the opportunity to use our words to reconnect to the original source of grace, love and mercy in the world.  It will be a service of scripture and song, reflection and prayer, based in part on the prayer vigil held by the New England Annual Conference last night.  If you would like to watch a recording of the prayer vigil, please go to this page on the Conference website
HERE , where you will find a link to the video.
 
Above is a prayer we will use in the service.  I encourage you to offer this prayer in the coming days and weeks ahead. 
 
May God’s peace and grace be with you,
Pastor Janet

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
December 31, 2020
 
To the faith-filled sisters and brothers of The United Methodist Church of Enfield –
 
December 31 is an odd day in our calendar year. It belongs neither to the old year that is about to pass
into history, nor does it belong to the new year which has not arrived. It is the last day of the year. The
day when we look back at the last twelve months, summarizing and coming to terms with all that
happened – the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. The day we look ahead at the year to come, at
ourselves, our loved ones, our towns, our workplaces, our faith communities and wonder – What’s next?
 
We can take stock, we can wonder, we can pray. I invite you to come to a Watch Night Service on
Thursday evening, December 31 at 7pm. It will be held on the Zoom platform (see the link in the
announcements). John Wesley believed that Christians should reaffirm their covenant with God
annually, so he created a service in which an individual renews their covenant with God. This will be a
short service lasting 30-45 minutes focused on scripture, quiet reflection and prayer. It will provide us
with an opportunity to place ourselves, our hopes, and yes, our fears, before God – where they belong.
The service will be a resting place as we end the year 2020, and begin the year of 2021.
 
I would also like to share with you a reflection on the end of a year, written by Dr. Howard Thurman.
Dr. Thurman was a theologian and preacher, who at one time was the dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston
University, and later the dean of Rankin Chapel at Howard University. The reflection is an excerpt from
“This Is a New Year” originally published in Meditations of the Heart (1953).
 
“But, for many, this will be a New Year. It may mark the end of relationships of many years’
accumulation. It may mean the first encounter with stark tragedy or radical illness or the first
quaffing of the cup of bitterness. It may mean the great discovery of the riches of another human
heart and the revelation of the secret beauty of one’s own. It may mean the beginning of a new
kind of living because of marriage, of graduation, of one’s first job. It may mean an encounter
with God on the lonely road or the hearing of one’s name called by Him, high above the noise
and din of the surrounding traffic. And when the call is answered, the life becomes invaded by
smiling energies never before released, felt, or experienced. In whatever sense this year is a New
Year for you, may the moment find you eager and unafraid, ready to take it by the hand with joy
and with gratitude.”
 
My prayer in 2021 for all of you is to hear the call of God to a life of grace, love and mercy above all the
noises of the world.
 
Peace & grace,
 
Pastor Janet
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

December 23, 2020

To the faith-filled sisters and brothers of The United Methodist Church of Enfield –
 
As you read this, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is just a day or two away. This year especially we crave the hope, the love, the joy and above all the peace that Jesus brought to the world.  Not as a passing emotional frame of mind, but the truest experience of these things that comes from being in the presence of God.  This year, perhaps more than most, the scene at the manger holds a powerful appeal.   
 
When Christ was born, he was known to most people as Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph of Nazareth.  To a few – the shepherds, the wise men, to Simeon and Anna in the temple – he was known as the Messiah, the Christ, the one whom God had sent to redeem God’s people.
 
The birth of Christ challenges us to stop, look around and consider who we are before God.  We are reminded of the greatest gift the world has ever received – that of God’s son, born of a young woman named Mary in the city of Bethlehem so long ago.  Jesus Christ continues to give life to everyone who turns to him. 
 
If you have not read the story of Jesus’ birth in a while, slow down long enough (just 5-10 minutes) to read the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke. The beginning of the chapter is below. Imagine yourself as one of the people who came to the manger to gaze upon the baby who would one day be known as the Messiah.  How might you find a moment of rest, a moment of joy, a moment of hope at the manger scene?
 
Christmas blessings to you all! 
 
Peace & grace,
Pastor Janet
 
 
Luke 2
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn…(to be continued)


 




 
 
 

 

This recent column from the United Methodist Foundation of New England came into my email box last week. I found the reflection on Advent from a prisoner named Phil thought provoking. I wanted to share it with all of you.

 

Peace and grace, 

Pastor Janet

 

The introduction was written by Gary Melville, Director of Development for United Methodist Foundation of New England…

 

As I have stated in the past I am involved in prison ministry. This year has been particularly hard on the men behind the walls as all volunteers have been banned since February, and much of that time was without family visits as well. Bethany House Ministries is one of the not-for-profits that supports the men when they are released. This year, as part of their annual appeal, they shared a reflection written by one of the men I know well. I share it now because it is too moving not to.

 

An Advent – Christmas Reflection from Behind the Walls 2020

 

Let’s face it, these are tumultuous times for all of us. Time in which I find myself often gazing from my cell window and wondering, what it might be that you yourself are seeing from your window? For me, I see a co-mingling of sorrow and joy. The leaves are changing and so are we. Colder weather is moving in, and the ways in which we now interact with one another are dramatically altered. So much suffering abounds, often it is difficult to know how best to help. Many have become cynical, fearful, disillusioned, and the stress and anxiety and frustration can get overwhelming. I get it, I have my moments too. However, the longer I gaze out my window, the more deeply I feel drawn to go deeper within myself.

 

From this vantage point, the window of my heart, my Advent journey is beginning. I can see that many of us have grown older, more infirm, are struggling to make ends meet, and are wrestling with the innumerable uncertainties life now challenges us with. Many more of us are also grieving the losses of both loved ones and the way life used to be. In the windows of my own nostalgic moments, I fondly recall your face and the many memories we shared from our vibrant communal Bethanian days. It is the memory of your face, like a shining star to me, that brings me both solace and hope. Comfort knowing that we may [be] separated, but we are far from being apart.

 

For a few moments I wished I could turn back the hands of time. Then a realization struck me. Advent calls us forward, not backwards. We have grown since last we met, and each of us is on a journey now to transcend who we are at this moment. Like the Wise folk of old who took a risk, took off their mask, and dared to follow that bright shining star into an uncertain future, so too are we called to do the same, to step out in faith. Advent journeys are about learning to trust, and about learning to see through the darkness and into the light. Often one baby step at a time. Advent feeds us the nutrients we most need to birth new life in us. Christmas dispels the dark, transcends the fear, in the humble gathering where we meet once again at the manger of Christ and together are fed. May we be stars for others along the way to the celebration. See you at the manger of Love!    Phil






 
 
 
 
November 25, 2020
 
To the people of God in Enfield and beyond –
 
Three months ago, when we re-opened the sanctuary for worship, we knew that we might need to take a step back one day if the COVID-19 cases rose significantly in our area.  That day has arrived.  Effective immediately, we will not be offering public worship in our sanctuary.  I came to that decision yesterday, after consulting with information on the State of Connecticut website, guidance from our bishop, and prayer.  The Church Council affirmed my decision. 
 
Enfield and surrounding towns are currently classified as “red” communities because of rapidly increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases.  From November 15-22, the number of cases in Enfield increased by over 100, the largest number in one week since the pandemic began.  A “red” level means that the number of cases are equivalent to a rate of over 15 cases per 100,000 people.  Enfield has a level of 23.8 cases/100,000 people up from 10.9 cases for the previous two-week period. Per state guidance, when a community ‘turns red’, organizations are to postpone all indoor activities and outdoor activities (where mask wearing or social distancing cannot be maintained).  This is a stricter requirement than the Phase 2.1 requirements of the state. 
 
Bishop Devadhar, of the New England Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, has asked us to go further than the requirements of the state.  In a letter dated October 29, he urged us to be more vigilant than ever, even as we long to return to normalcy.  He wrote “If you live in an area with a high infection rate or a known outbreak, I implore you to refrain from any in-person activity until the risk of infection has dropped significantly.” 
 
We are followers of Christ. Finding new ways to love our neighbor as we love ourselves is part of our calling, part of our mission.   The absence of public worship in our sanctuary does not equal an absence of Christ in our lives or in the world.  It means we are continuing to learn about the incredible and various ways the Holy Spirit can work in and through this world.  And through every one of us.  We will continue with online worship, currently live on Sunday mornings on Facebook (if you are on Facebook) and later posted to Facebook for anyone to watch (even if you are not on Facebook). As I announced last week, Christmas Eve Service will be pre-recorded and available in a number of formats which we will let you know about in the weeks to come.   I will continue to explore new ways to bring God’s word into your homes and into your hearts. 
 
And let’s see the hope, the love, the joy, the peace – the presence of Christ – in this Advent season.  That will come through no matter how we worship. 
 
Thanks be to God!
 
Peace & grace,
Pastor Janet
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 November 19, 2020

 

To the people of God in Enfield and beyond –

 

On November 29, we begin a new year on the church’s calendar that always begins with Advent.  During this special season, we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ even as we anticipate in trust the day that he will come again.  It’s been a different year, it’s going to be a different Advent.  Yet rather than see the differences as loss, we can see the differences giving us deeper insight into the meaning of the birth of Jesus for our lives and the life of the world.

 

Jesus was born into a world filled with chaos.  The Roman army occupied the land of Israel.  The Israelites filled with despair about the land God had promised to them, did not look to the future with hope.  Nothing at the time of Jesus’ birth would lead one to think that the world suddenly became filled with peace and love and hope and joy.  This is the world into which Jesus was born, and through which his teachings would challenge people, and call for transformation. The words of an unknown Jewish poet, “I believe in the sun, even when the sun is not shining,” were scrawled on a wall during the Holocaust. Our Advent theme song, based on these words, calls us to a different response to the world through the power of narrative and music.  A response that can include transformation and reconciliation through hope, love, joy, and peace. This Advent and Christmas, let us fill the night with music and light, proclaiming the reasons why we can still “believe, even when…” we are discouraged.

 

Our Christmas Eve service will be shared in a unique way.  Given current restrictions on gathering, distancing, and other measures to keep the body of Christ safe during the pandemic, our sanctuary cannot accommodate even half of the number of people who worship on Christmas Eve. Instead, staff and volunteers will be working throughout December to put together a meaningful pre-recorded service. Lynne Tracy-Thim, the choir and soloists are practicing music, Pastor Janet will be preparing her sermon, and we need you to participate.

 

One of the most cherished moments in a Christmas Eve service is at the end, when we share the light of Christ through the lighting of candles, while we sing “Silent Night.”  Since we can’t pass the light of Christ in person, we will be sharing the light of Christ through the magic of technology.  Christmas Eve candles will be given out on November 21 at the Cider & Pie Social, after worship on November 22 and November 29, and in some cases through the mail.  People can film themselves lighting the candle from left to right, then the videos will be knit together so it will look like the light is passing from one person to another.  Details on how to do this are included in “Notes from the Bell Tower.”   More information on how to watch this very special Christmas Eve service will be available at a later date.

 

Remember – through it all, is Christ, everyday in every place.  Thanks be to God. 

 

Peace & grace,

Pastor Janet