Congregational Church Celebrates Nature, Calls for Stewardship

campsunday1The pastor led the prayers beside a rough rock fire circle, and the choir sang beneath a canopy of solemn spruce trees.

The First Congregational Church on Valley and Walnut Street worships every Sunday, but once a year they gather in a sunlit clearing on the shore of Crystal Pond in Eastford. This year, Reverend Rick Haverly led a service that called for believers to recognize divinity in the natural world and be good stewards of the Earth. The church-owned parcel on which the service was held is named in honor of the Native Americans who once lived there: “Camp Wabbaquassett,’

“Our outdoor worship at Camp Wabbaquassett provides us with the perfect setting and opportunity to celebrate an ‘Earth Day,’ where we enjoy the wonder of creation and remember our responsibility in the beautiful and fragile ecosystem,” Haverly said.

Backed by guitar and piano, the worship band opened the service with a contemporary version of “For the Beauty of the Earth.” Rev. Haverly offered a responsive prayer that gave thanks for the soil, air, and water, and asked forgiveness for humankind’s misuse of the world’s limited resources.

In lieu of a typical homily, Rev. Haverly invited church member Linkesh Diwan to reflect on his experiences at the camp as a teenager. Mr. Diwan had recently returned from India, where he studied sustainable energy. He credited his many years spent at the camp as the source of his interest in environmental responsibility.

“Growing up here in Connecticut, surrounded by nature at home and here at camp has taught me to love nature,” Diwan said in his reflection. “To have a truly sustainable civilization means to acknowledge and work within the web of life.”

When the service was done, the congregation held a picnic and – fittingly – took time to enjoy the bucolic surroundings. Children dove in the water and caught bluegills while adults contemplated the lake’s sparkling façade, or simply basked in the abundant sunshine. The relaxing atmosphere mirrored the church’s casual approach to religious practice.

“For us, it’s about the journey,” said Lynn Hinckley, a member of the congregation for many years. “Our members are on a faith journey together.”

The setting proved an apt one for contemplation, Haverly said. “It’s a great place to experience the presence of God – in the beautiful surroundings and in the relaxed joy of the community.”

by Jason Bachand

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Pastor Rick’s Message: May 2014

Growing Up

Our church school backgrounds can give us great preparation for our faith.  We often learn the stories of the Bible that can then be resources that we draw on for the rest of our lives.  But to be useful in our adult life these stories need to be reexamined and explored at greater depth than we were capable of when we first learned them.  While we may think of them as nice children’s stories often the Bible passages were meant to handle much more grown up problems.

A case in point is the new movie, “Noah”.  There has been much criticism leveled at the movie and its presentation of the story.  But the real contrast may be between the movie and the version of the story we first learned as an elementary student.  While the animals coming two by two, a dove discovering dry land and a rainbow appearance can be cute, the story in the Bible is much more involved.  The real story may be too mature for a Sunday School audience.  The real story may wrestle with questions that only adults can really handle.  And it may be over our heads as well.

On May 18th we will shape our worship around the Noah story.  I invite you to see the movie first if you would like to.  I invite you to read the story again for yourself.  Let’s build on the foundations of our faith to bring maturity and depth for our adult lives.

Pastor Rick’s Message: April 2014

As I sit and write this, many of us are tired of what seems like a very long and brutally cold winter.  We hope for spring!  But we don’t get spring.  Even toward the end of March the frigid temperatures persist and we find ourselves fortunate to be just missed by what forecasters were calling a Nor’easter bomb.  Despite the cold, we still hope for spring.

As we enter April, we come to the most significant time of the Christian year as we celebrate Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter.  We remember that 2,000 years ago people were hoping for the Messiah.  Some thought they had discovered him in Jesus of Nazareth and looked forward to the culmination of God’s plans only to have their hopes dashed when he was crucified by the Romans.  And then came Easter.  The impossible happened and hope was restored.

Our own lives reflect the disappointed longing for spring, the emotional roller coaster of Holy Week.  We may have times where we feel our lives are finally ordered, steady and complete.  But then disaster or disappointment hit us when we least expect it.  Overwhelmed we may see no way out.  God is there to see us through though.  Hope can be reborn.  Resurrections can happen in our own lives.

Join us for worship during Holy Week and Easter to confront the painful realities of our own lives and the hope that God can bring us.

Pastor Rick’s Message: March 2014

This year our Lenten study will be of the New York Times bestselling book, The Daniel Plan.  But this is not just a book study.  This is a practical reshaping of our lives for wholeness.   It challenges us to try life differently for 40 days.  First, we will look at strengthening our relationship with God which we may think of as a standard emphasis for Lent.  But we are also creatures of body and mind and they effect everything else in our life, too.  So we will try to bring health to our body by altering our eating habits and increasing our physical activity.  We will sharpen our minds with new focus.  Finally, we will have the strength of friends and the group to help us carry the plan through Lent.

All of this based on the beginning of the book of Daniel.  I invite you to go back and read it as Daniel refuses the rich diet of the Babylonian palace for a much more austere diet and challenges the King to decide who is healthier in the end.

I invite you to try the Daniel Plan and judge your wellness and energy when we arrive at the Easter event.  You may find you understand resurrection and abundant life in a new light this year.

Pastor Rick’s Message: Feb 2014

This winter has been brutally cold at times.  That cold has extended over vast portions of the United States.  It is amazing and sad to see the crippling effect the latest storm has had on Atlanta, GA and other parts of the south.  From our perspective we can look at it and shake our heads wondering how people could be so bothered by less than 3 inches of snow and some ice.  But they experience storms of this nature so infrequently that it doesn’t make sense for them to maintain the equipment that would deal with it easily and they don’t have the experience to handle it.

While we can be casual about small winter storms, it can be a major setback for those without the resources to take care of them.  Reversing the perspective, while we may wonder how we will handle the dangerous heat of a heat wave, southerners may look at us and ask, “What’s the big deal?  That’s just summer!”

Similarly, we may look at the lives of other people around us and wonder why they have a hard time dealing with parts of life that we find so normal or a minor inconvenience.  Each of us has different strengths and experiences in our lives.  What is a major problem for one doesn’t even register for someone else.  Rather than blame another person for not handling part of life well, can we lend some of our expertise to help them through it.  And hopefully others will be there for us when we stumble or fall.  Let’s use our experience and wisdom to help others when we can, knowing there are areas in our lives where we are the ones lacking the experience or the resources to cope.