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.”
Saturday, December 24 at 7:30 p.m., a Family Candlelight Service
Christmas Eve will be celebrated with lessons and carols on Saturday, December 24, at the Canaan Congregational Church. The 7:30 p.m. service, led by Rev. Dr. Charles Close, includes familiar Christmas readings, interspersed with traditional carols and special music by the choir. The final hymn will be sung in a sanctuary lit only by candles held by each participant.
December 25, 2016: No service on Christmas Day
January 1, 2017: New Year’s Day special service to welcome in the New Year with Holy Communion
The Living Roots Trio will perform live in concert at the Canaan Congregational Church on Saturday, October 1 at 4:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door. Light refreshments and cash wine bar. The band will have CDs and t-shirts for sale.
The Living Roots Trio “predominantly ply a quiet, subtle British-style folk, delicate, ringing guitar picking a la Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Nick Drake, which quickly breaks into an American jazz-inflected swing blues, [which] is pure ’20s class. Meaghan Witri’s vocal harmony brings a lovely light to the proceedings, ringing out clear as a bronze bell over the smooth burr of Séamus Maynard’s cello[-like] tenor. …They bring an airy, graceful gentility to the folk gathering that is particularly, stunningly beautiful” (No Division blog).
Founded by singer-songwriter Maynard and vocalist Witri, the band is recently joined by versatile jazz bassist John Merritt. Maynard, originally from Harlemville, NY, studied classical guitar, composition, and acting. He has been performing as a musician and actor since his teens. Witri is originally from Chestnut Ridge, NY, and is an actress, singer, and musician. In addition to professional work in plays and film, Witri tours internationally as a soprano soloist performing in cathedrals and sacred spaces.
After releasing their album To All Things in January 2016, The Living Roots Trio has shared its music with festivals and venues across the country and overseas. For more information about the band, see their website at http://thelivingrootstrio.com/.
On Sunday, April 10 at 10:00 a.m., the Canaan Congregational Church UCC will offer a special service celebrating its stewardship of the Earth. The featured speaker will be the Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, Minister and President of the Massachusetts Conference United Church of Christ (MACUCC) since 2006. The MACUCC includes 365 UCC churches, along with more than 800 authorized UCC ministers throughout Massachusetts, and Canaan Congregational is the lone New York State member of the conference.
Antal’s topic will be “Shaped by Hope—In a Climate Crisis World.” Recognizing climate work as the new abolition movement, the sermon will offer examples of how the UCC and other activists are engaged in faithfully offering hope in the face of climate change. “Today, people realize that climate change is happening now; it’s gotten worse in the past few years and it’s going to keep getting worse; and humanity is doing too little in response. To address this—the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced—we need a much larger hope than we have settled for,” says Antal.
After teaching and leading two national peace organizations, Rev. Antal spent 20 years leading churches of all sizes in Massachusetts and Ohio and providing a public voice on peace and justice issues. His mentors have included Henri Nouwen and William Sloan Coffin, Jr. A national leader in the area of climate change, Antal speaks frequently, regionally and nationally, on the essential role people of faith must play to counter climate change. His leadership in the areas of the environment and climate change is noteworthy, from having engaged in civil disobedience at the White House to stop the Keystone XL pipeline to drafting a resolution for the MACUCC to divest from fossil fuels.
Because today’s environmental realities call us to examine how we live, members of the Canaan Congregational Church have been working to expand environmental activities in the church and develop sustainability in church life by increasing energy efficiency and conservation, decreasing consumption and waste, and engaging in issues of public policy to advocate for ecological and climate justice.
To this end, the church is a member of New York Interfaith Power & Light, an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to “help diverse faith communities in the state of New York actively respond to global warming [by helping congregations] . . . reduce their carbon footprint, increase energy efficiency, use renewable energy, and educate their members on climate change” (www.newyorkipl.org). And Canaan church members work closely with a loosely knit interfaith group of several local congregations (Roman Catholic, Quaker, and Presbyterian), who joined in the 3-year-old grassroots action of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (fcnl.org) on a “Republican climate resolution.” The resolution was introduced to Congress by Rep. Chris Gibson (NY-19) and 10 other Republicans and “called upon Congress to commit to act to address changes in the climate, including efforts to balance the human impacts of climate change (http://fcnl.org/issues/energy/FCNL_praises_house_climate_change_resolution/).
In addition to publishing regular articles on environmental issues and climate change in its newsletter, the church hosted a public forum with speakers from the Berkshire Environmental Action Team and Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline on the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Energy Partners’ Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company pipeline through the local area—Canaan, New Lebanon, and North Chatham.
At its June Annual Meeting, the MACUCC will recognize and certify Canaan Congregational Church as a “Green Congregation.”
Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, will be the title for the next Book Group discussion on Palm Sunday, March 20, following the worship service. This work of nonfiction, one of the New York Time’s most notable books for 2014, is about the way aging and death are handled within the medical establishment. Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston as well as a staff writer for The New Yorker, writes with firsthand knowledge about medicine’s treatment of aging and death as clinical symptoms to treat rather than the inevitable conclusion to life. It includes true stories surrounding the end of life and offers suggestions for changing how we deal with this important, inescapable phase of life.
Oliver Sacks wrote about Being Mortal: “We have come to medicalize aging, frailty, and death, treating them as if they were just one more clinical problem to overcome. However it is not only medicine that is needed in one’s declining years but life—a life with meaning, a life as rich and full as possible under the circumstances. Being Mortal is not only wise and deeply moving, it is an essential and insightful book for our times, as one would expect from Atul Gawande, one of our finest physician writers.”
The book is widely available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and digitally for Kindle. It can be purchased at the Chatham Bookstore or any bookseller, including online. Copies can also be obtained from the Mid-Hudson Library System.
Join the Canaan Congregational Book Group for an informal conversation about Being Mortal after church on March 20.
On Sunday, November 22, the Rev. Dr. Charles Close was installed as pastor of the Canaan Congregational Church by the Berkshire Association of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ (MACUCC). Members of the pastor search committee were in attendance as well as members of the congregation and the lay leaders of the church. Dignitaries from the MACUCC and the Berkshire Association, as well as local area religious leaders participated in the service and enjoyed the reception at the Canaan Town Hall afterwards.
During the service, a charge was offered to Pastor Close by the Rev. Elizabeth Goodman, pastor of the Monterrey UCC Church. She told Charlie to “delight in this congregation. …They need to be loved more than led. …Lead from beside.” The charge to the congregation was given by the Rev. David Hurst, pastor of Grace Union Church, Wilbraham, in the form of a prayer: “Serve one another…serve God…share the joys, burdens, waivers, faith.” He reminded the congregation that “all pastors are ordinary people who have sought a calling…give your pastor love and compassion.”
The Rev. Goodman reminded all the assembled that “how we are together is more important than what we do…and never miss an opportunity to laugh.”