Canaan Congregational Church in the News

We’re in the news!

Many thanks to Daniel Zuckerman and Columbia-Greene Media for attending the first Interfaith Celebration of the Earth and Jazz Worship Service at Canaan Congregational Church. Participants were led in meditation and prayer, with the music of saxophonist Willie Sordillo, pianist Chris Bakriges, bassist Avery Sharpe, and vocalist Zoë Krohne holding all together. Read the entire article at

Saxophonist Willie Sordillo, pianist Chris Bakriges, bassist Avery Sharpe, and vocalist Zoë Krohne (photo courtesy S. Bues, April 23, 2017)


Cracking the Shell of Whiteness

Dismantling Racism: Building Capacity for White People to Understand Racial Injustice (Racism Series at the Quaker Intentional Village–Canaan)

The first workshop—Identifying Whiteness—was held Saturday, April 15, 2017. This was the first of six monthly workshops from a proven curriculum to build the capacity for white people to be in solidarity with people of color. This curriculum was developed to create a space for white people interested in being effective allies with people of color in the work of dismantling racism and undoing white privilege.

The workshops are free and open to the public. It is not necessary to attend every workshop in the series. Refreshments will be served. RSVPs are requested but not required. For more information call 518-392-0289 and ask for Noah. The series is held at 235 Bradley’s Crossing Road, East Chatham, NY 12060.

Called Cracking the Shell of Whiteness, the next sessions include:

  • May 20—“Socialized into Whiteness”
  • June 10—“Where and When We Come From”
  • July 8—“The Legacy of White Privilege”
  • August 19—“Allies in Resisting Racism and White Supremacy”
  • September 16—“Creating Action Plans for the Future”

Interfaith Celebration of the Earth: Compelling and Sustaining

On Sunday afternoon, April 23, 2017, the Canaan Congregational Church (CCC) hosted an Interfaith Celebration of the Earth—a prayer service and jazz concert. Interspersed with the music were readings from diverse faith traditions: Rev. Koshin Karl Bower, a Tendai Buddhist priest ordained at the Buddhist temple on Route 295, led a thoughtful meditation; Yaqin Joseph Aubert, a Sufi from the neighboring Abode of the Message led a breathing meditation; form CCC Deacon Jay Aronson read a Native American prayer; Nellie Rustick, who represented St. James Roman Catholic Church, sang a beautiful Marty Haugen song, “Canticle of the Sun”; and of course, Rev. Charlie Close, represented our Protestant Congregational faith. And in keeping with the interfaith spirit of the event, the jazz quartet performed a traditional Jewish song, “Adamah Veshamayim [Earth and Sky].”

Each individual message was inspired, and the responsive readings were deeply moving.

Interfaith Celebration of the Earth and Jazz Worship Service at the Canaan Congregational Church, April 23, 2017 (Photo courtesy S. Bues)

The jazz group, comprised of four performers, saxophonist Willie Sordillo, pianist Chris Bakriges, bassist Avery Sharpe, and vocalist Zoë Krohne, were terrific. Although each performer was a wonderful soloist, when they performed together as a group, the effect was powerful.

It is praying, singing, and worshiping together—in a group—that is the most compelling and the most sustaining.

—P. Bues

An Interfaith Celebration of the Earth: A Jazz Gathering on Earth Day Weekend

Featuring Saxophonist Willie Sordillo and his jazz trio, Chris Bakriges, Zoë Krohne, and Avery Sharpe

3:00 PM, Sunday, April 23, 2017

From such exotic locales as Singapore and Hawaii to major music festivals throughout North America, alto saxophonist Willie Sordillo’s music has taken him around the world. With the band, Flor de Caña, he is a three-time Boston Music Award winner. An album he produced became a top 10 hit on the Billboard Magazine, World Music listing, and one of his co-arrangements played on the ER television program. A writer as well as a player, Willie’s original compositions have been reproduced in a number of magazines, songbooks, and textbooks.

Celebrate the natural world with several faith communities, including Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians; rich jazz; and sage readings.

Willie Sordillo, jazz saxophonist

Sordillo has composed theme music for four movies, including the award-winning documentary, Project Censored. Recordings featuring his saxophone work include Muévete and Bailando en la muralla by Flor de Caña, Cartagena, with the Geoffrey Hicks Quartet, Besame Mucho, a duo session with Geoffrey Hicks, The Color of Grace and The Colors of Love by Judy Hanlon, and Ben Tousley’s recordings Open the Gates and Take My Hand. His acoustic guitar playing is featured on all of banjoist Pat Scanlon’s recordings, including his newly released double CD, Extremists for Peace. Willie’s most recent CD as a leader, echoing, features some of the Boston area’s finest jazz musicians. Willie leads weekly jazz services at Old South Church in Boston. The Canaan Congregational Church is proud and pleased to host this unique and insightful performer and musician.

Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Accidental Saints Book Group Meets March 26

Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book, Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People, is an engaging, funny, and inspiring read. It’s just what many of us need right now when the temptation to separate ourselves from people we don’t agree with or don’t like is so strong.

“What if that person you’ve been trying to avoid is your best shot at grace today? And what if that’s the point?”

Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor of a church she founded, the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver. She also is a tattooed former stand-up comic who swears a lot. She is open about her own struggles and foibles and finds healing when she is known and loved anyway. She has to force herself to reach out to people she doesn’t like or who make her angry or who she just doesn’t understand, but finds grace when she does. She believes that Jesus loves us for who we are, including our “uncool parts,” and reminds us that Jesus was a radical who hung out with people scorned by the society of his day.

Bolz-Weber writes of the need for church to be a place where we can face the realities of our world together, not escape them. Church, and religion in general, give us “rootedness.” She writes, “When I say I’m religious, it has to do less with belief than with what I’m exposed to on a regular basis, what my symbol system is, what my practice is in terms of being a Christian in a community . . . (and these) help us to know how to hold the tragedy, violence and suffering we experience in the world and in our lives.”

Supporting the Environment through Interfaith Efforts

This year’s mission focus on the environment culminates with the Interfaith Celebration for the Earth on Sunday, April 23.

The focus began last spring when our congregation was designated a level one “green congregation” by the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ. Noted local photographer, Uli Rose, displayed his beautiful landscape photos in our church. Also, a newsletter column provided helpful hints in, “After the Light Bulbs and the Recycling.” We worked with local environmental groups to compile for the first time a local environmental directory.

Religious focus on the environment has a rich history. Some of the best-known environmental organizations in the United States began with religious or spiritual roots. According to the Greenpeace website, it was a Quaker couple, Dorothy and Irving Stowe, among the founding members, who brought the idea of “bearing witness,” a sort of passive resistance. Sierra Club’s most prominent founder, John Muir, was a deeply spiritual man who saw the presence of the divine in nature.

Environmental Activism and Stewardship

Many interfaith organizations are involved in environmental activism and stewardship. Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) is a national organization with affiliates in 40 states, promoting energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Our church is a member of New York Interfaith Power & Light (NYIPL; see From their mission statement, “We help congregations reduce their carbon footprint, increase energy efficiency, use renewable energy, and educate their members on climate change. We also encourage people of faith to speak up at community, state and national levels about global warming, and to collaborate with other faith communities in these efforts.”

Is there a role for our church in supporting interfaith efforts on behalf of the environment? Just as the environmental directory is helping to encourage support of local environmental groups, the Interfaith Celebration for the Earth is an opportunity for our church to encourage support of organizations like Interfaith Power and Light. Our small church can do big things!

—D. Dooren for the Missions Group

An Inventory

As this year draws to a close and a new year approaches, I find myself with the desire to take stock, do an inventory of sorts. As knitting plays such a big part in my life, this is where I feel it first. I get the urge to take stock of what projects I started and have yet to finish, what yarns I have at hand. I think about which of those projects I still want to complete, which I no longer like or want to finish. I set goals for the unfinished projects and decide what to do with the others. Will I take them out and reuse the yarn for something else, or do I no longer care for the yarn, and will I give it away to someone else who will use it?

In our spiritual lives we can do the same thing. Take a look back at this year. Ask yourself: What happened in my life this year? How did I handle things that happened? What areas did I do well in? Where have I grown? What things do I regret? What areas could I stand to improve? Have I invited God into my life on a regular basis?

In my own life, I try to remember to start each day by thanking God for another beautiful day. I believe this simple act of thanks and an acknowledgement of God’s grace in my life can start each day on a good foot. The other part of my daily ritual is to ask for God’s guidance and help throughout the coming day.

I am reminded of Pastor Charlie’s sermon on Christmas Eve: “Go, Tell.” How can I live out and share my faith in God’s presence in my daily life? How have I done this in the past year? How can I improve on it in this coming year?

Taking stock is not meant to be a list of the negatives about yourself. It’s meant to be a simple inventory, as if you were a shop owner looking at your shelves. It can be freeing to let go of what is no longer working for you, whether in the physical or the spiritual sense.

As a church, this is also a good time to think about this past year, as we move into the new. Soon we will gather for our Annual Meeting. In leading up to this, each committee will be looking back at this past year and looking ahead to the new. What things worked this past year? What would we like to improve? What new things would we like to try?

Let’s step into this new year both personally and as a church, with trust in God’s guidance, and share, by the power of our example, how God is at work in our own lives and the life of our church.

—Deacon T.C.

Canaan Congregational Church Annual Meeting: Sunday, January 29 at 11 a.m.

The Canaan Congregational Church Annual Meeting will be held Sunday, January 29 at 11 a.m., following the 10 a.m. Worship Service.

We will conduct our church’s business, including voting for officers and committee members, reviewing and adopting the annual budget, and reviewing the past year’s activities.

All are welcome to attend the potluck luncheon and meeting, however, only members of the church may vote. Please mark your calendar and join us!

An Unexpected Gift from NYSEG

colin-wedding-june-2013-063There’s nothing like a power loss to give one new perspective on darkness and our dependence on light. A snowstorm and its accompanying 13-hour power outage provided an interesting opportunity to reflect on darkness, on waiting, and on the coming of the light.

Candlelight creates a contemplative atmosphere. I didn’t fight it. As a matter of fact, I welcomed the break from our ever-present electronic devices and basked in self-awareness, self-reliance, and independence. Darkness falls in our area closer to four o’clock each day as we near the winter solstice. To preserve body warmth, we hunker down, as we did in front of the fireplace during the storm. The richness of the dark, the holiness of silence, the mystery of shadows, and anticipation of things unseen are ripe in our consciousness and imaginations.

It was the perfect gift for Advent. A sharp crackle of the birch logs on the fire shook me from my reverie, and yawning, I waited by the fire for the coming of the light.

— Susan Bues, Moderator