[Moses] called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites tested the Lord, saying, “is the Lord among us, or not?”
Exodus 17:7 (NRSV)
I came across a poem/prayer yesterday morning I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. It’s attributed to the Church of Scotland and, if the rest of their liturgy is this good, there must be something in the air and water there. It reads:
I need some laughter, Lord.
I have had enough
of sad saints
and sour religion.
I have had enough
of sin spotting
and grace doubting.
I need some laughter, Lord,
the kind you planted in Sarah.
But, please, may I not have to wait
until I am ninety
(Celtic Daily Prayer, Book 2, page 1035)
It’s worth a couple of read-throughs and perhaps for you to carry in your back pocket as well. In times of extended stress and duress, joy and levity become can seem difficult to justify. If we aren’t seen to be sad and weighed down, can we even be trusted as people who understand the intersecting crises of the moment?
It’s probably as good a time as any to remember the stories we encounter in scripture are often full of ironic humor and well-crafted jokes, whatever the sad saints would have you believe. Religion, Christian religion, is at heart an intentional practice of reconnection to the God who promises life and life abundantly. We can hold responsibility and empathy in one hand and laughter and light in the other; in fact, that’s the balance we must greet each day with to remain awake and alive to the grace of God with us in all our storms.
So then: laugh, love, lament, and grow. Hard times can make hard people. Let’s not let that happen to us.
Grace and Peace,
It’s Fall, and We Don’t Know What That Means Yet as we plan for a return to some in-person Christian education and such, it’s good to remember that we must continue to be flexible. We don’t know what the return to school and in-person work is going to mean for transmission of COVID-19. We remain committed to both providing means of safe connection digitally as well as low-risk in-person gathering as possible.
Here in New Jersey (and Hunterdon County specifically) we have been moving in a good direction since last Spring. This is great, but is not guaranteed to continue until the true end of this pandemic.
With this in mind, please join me in committing and recommitting to utilizing the tools we have, be they Zoom, Facebook, e-mail, and others, to make sure no one is excluded from the life of the church until next Spring or Summer when, hopefully, we will truly be moving toward an end of our current challenges. Please also understand that there may come a time when state and local officials, denominational leaders, or even we here at Flemington UMC come to realize we have to take a step back before we move forward.
Spend Some Time Investing in Your Closest Relationship this Fall
Laura Newton, current chair of Ministry with Members, our faith-nurturing committee, believes in the importance of spending time to grow and deepen your marriage. She shares:
The Leadership Couple who runs our Marriage Enrichment Workshops speaks very highly of this group and their Marriage Weekend. They have participated for several years. Normally over $400, virtual attendance is only $119 a couple.
If you have any questions please follow the link and find out more! There will be more opportunities to connect with different sorts of resources online this year – take advantage of this time and use it to grow stronger.
Church Conference to Be Held as a Charge Conference This Year
Our Church Conference will be held over Zoom this year on September 30 at 7:00pm. A link will be shared closer to the date. As a Charge Conference, current members of Church Council will be present and voting.
We have two additional items to vote on:
First, a vote to give thanks for the life of Paul Huffman and to receive his unrestricted bequest of 1.5 million dollars to be managed alongside the church’s existing funds with Evesham Capital.
Second, a move to further our missional effectiveness by combining our existing administrative board structure into a single Leadership Council. Pastor Ben has not received any questions about this, but if you are curious about other churches where this structure works and has led to growth and new ministries, he is happy to share them.
New Study For Fall and Advent
Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upward” is a reflection on the surprising way our deepening faith and expanded religious practice begin to take place later in life in many cases. While we often focus so much attention on building a perfect life with healthy relationships and productive work in our 20s and 30s, its only in our 40s and 50s and beyond that many seem prepared to ask the big questions of this life we thought we had figured out. If you’d like to participate, please let Pastor Ben know. This is a slightly different small group opportunity for a slightly different Fall and Advent.
Worship with Flemington UMC on Facebook
Each Sunday at 10:30am, reach for your phone, tablet, computer, or other internet-connected device for a time of music, prayer, scripture, and preaching. Watching live gives the opportunity to comment in real-time with prayer requests, updates on your life, and more, but if you view the service later you can still comment and share prayer requests and experiences from your life with your church.
If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can simply visit the church’s Facebook page:
The videos are all accessible there without the need to create an account or login. If you have technical questions, please reach out.