The Power of Kindness: Jazz Liturgy Service in Stoddard Park

The Canaan Congregational Church UCC, in collaboration with the Town of Canaan, will hold a Midday Jazz Liturgy service of prayer, poetry, and music on Saturday, September 20, at 1 p.m. at Stoddard Field, Canaan.

Featuring local musicians Catherine Schane-Lydon and Pete Toigo, the theme for this musical gathering is the “Power of Kindness.”

Attendance is limited to 50 people in keeping with New York State COVID-19 guidelines. Bring your own chair as seating will not be provided. Registration is required for contract tracing purposes and can be completed using this link:

Poster of Power of Kindness midday jazz liturgy with date and time and place and musicians

Obituary: Rev. Dr. Charles “Charlie” Close

The Rev. Charles C. Close, pastor of the Canaan Congregational Church in Canaan, NY, died on Thursday, April 23, 2020 after a brief illness. His loss comes on top of many others for the small Southern New England Conference church: three other men active in the life of the congregation have passed since the church stopped in-person worship in March, although none were lost to COVID-19.

In addition, the church lost its building to a fire in the fall of 2017; they constructed a new building and moved back in December, 2019.

Associate Conference minister Jill Graham met with the congregation via Zoom following their pastor’s death. During the month of May, Quentin Chin – Interim Pastor at First Congregational Church of Southampton – will offer online worship with the congregation each Sunday.

Rev. Close – Charlie – was well known around the Conference, having served many congregations throughout the New England area including Immanuel Community Church, Concord NH; Central Congregational Church, Orange, MA; Union Congregational Church, Rockville CT; North Falmouth Congregational Church, North Falmouth MA; and Wilbraham United Church, Wilbraham MA; before coming to the Canaan church. He led congregations in a variety of settings and valued each one as unique and beautiful.

He was the beloved husband of the Rev. Jane Tanaskovic Brady-Close, devoted father of Jennifer Close-Conlon (Josh Conlon) and Steven Close (fiancée Lisa Reburn), grandfather of David, Xander, Aylah, and Samuel. Charlie is also survived by his loving sister Joy Close (Susan O’Loughlin), nieces, a nephew, and cousins. Charlie was predeceased by his wife Karen Mackie Close, son David Charles Close, and sister Elizabeth Close.

Born the son of Charles Walker and Betsy Cade Close, Charlie grew up in Levittown, NY, and Wellesley, MA. He was a graduate of Boston University School of Education, and Andover-Newton Theological School (MDiv, DMin), where he was a member of the Jonathan Edwards Honor Society.

Charlie’s greatest delight was time with family and friends. He also appreciated music, theater, design, and the beauty of the natural world. He relished people and gatherings and offering the hospitality of his home. He loved to sing and play the guitar, had a stellar wit, and was a true and faithful friend. Charlie had the gift of warmth and was a calming presence, serving many as wise counsel and witness through life’s moments and challenges. His life was a testimony to God’s love and grace.

Prior to his seminary education, Charlie was a special needs teacher for the Ipswich MA, public schools, camp waterfront director, swimming instructor and coach. He was an advocate for the needs of others, serving in a faithful, kind, professional, and hands-on manner, rooted in his sense of the binding of heart and soul in covenantal relationships and in prayerful discernment.

Active in the broader United Church of Christ, he served on the Massachusetts Conference Board of Directors, in leadership roles in the Barnstable and Franklin Associations, and as consultant for Partners in Education. He also served his beloved Star Island Community on the Star Island Corporation Board of Directors and Finance Committee, and as a long-standing All Star I Conference Minister and teacher.  Some years ago, Charlie wrote: “Well, I’ve led some pretty spectacular services, speaking to hundreds of people, and hearing incredible music. But my most meaningful experiences happen in those quite moments where God’s love and grace shine through.”

Those who so desire may make donations in memory of Charlie to the Star Island Annual Fund, Morton-Benedict House, 30 Middle Street, Portsmouth NH 03801 (Star Island being a place of refreshment and learning for generations of the Close family) or to Canaan Congregational Church, PO Box 66, Canaan NY 12029 (Charlie’s congregation at the time of his death, where he lovingly led them in their efforts to rebuild following a devastating fire).

The interment at Belleville Cemetery, in Newburyport, MA will be private due to COVID-19 social distancing and gathering limitations. Plans for a memorial service will be shared when we are all able to gather again and enjoy a celebration of his life.

Weekly Devotionals

While we are unable to be together as a church family, Rev. Close is posting a weekly devotional on the Canaan Congregational Church Facebook page (at Facebook, scroll down to “Videos” and click on “Greetings and Devotions”):

Devotionals will continue to be posted until the congregation can meet together again in the church. Coming up are

  • April 5—Palm Sunday Devotional with Home Communion
    Palms will be placed against the front door of the church for anyone who would like to swing by and pick up a palm for their home devotional.
  • April 9—Maundy Thursday Devotional sharing Jesus’ Last Supper and Passion
  • April 12—Special Easter Devotional
  • April 19—Second Sunday of Easter Devotional
  • April 26—Third Sunday of Easter Devotional

The Tree of Life by Katharine Houk

fabric art banner depicting the tree of life in greens and with red apples with the Celtic spiral in the tree leaveswith the Shaker proverb "hands to work, hearts to god"
Tree of Life banner created by Katharine Houk

Hanging in the new sanctuary of the Canaan Congregational Church is a colorful fabric banner depicting the Tree of Life, with words across the top that say “Hands To Work, Hearts To God.” I immersed myself in the creation of this Tree of Life banner, which took more than eight hundred hours to design and create. It is a gift expressing my love for God, Life, and our Canaan Congregation.

About eight years ago, the Deacons of the congregation asked me to make a banner for the church. The fruit of that discussion was the Tree of Life idea, with a verbal message from the Shaker tradition. I began work on the banner, but soon was stricken with a serious, rare illness, which sidelined the banner work until relatively recently. With my health much improved, I was able to complete the banner just in time for the dedication of our new worship space. Had I not set the work aside for a time, it could have gone up in flames when our church building burned.

Trees nurture each other as do the members of the church family at Canaan Congregational Church

The Tree of Life has surfaced as an important religious symbol in many traditions, in differing forms, carrying a variety of meanings: love, peace, honoring of ancestors, growth and strength, harmony, family, fertility, wisdom, immortality and rebirth, and a connection to everything. In the Celtic tradition, the Tree of Life is depicted in multiple forms. The roots represent the “otherworld,” the trunk represents the mortal world and connects the roots and branches, and the branches represent the world above, or the heavens. When they cleared their lands, the ancient Celts, who held great reverence for trees, would leave one single tree standing in the middle. They would hold their important gatherings under this tree and it was a very serious crime to cut it down. It represented harmony and balance and was an important symbol in the Celtic culture.

“She (Wisdom) is a Tree of Life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.” — Proverbs 3:18 (New International Version)

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, there are several references to the Tree of Life. The first is in the Book of Genesis. It is a tree that grows within the Garden of Eden and is the source of eternal life. In Christianity, some believe it to be the symbol of humanity free from corruption and sin, while others believe it to represent love. The tree is believed to have healing properties, and its fruit grants immortality. Because Islam honors many stories from the Bible, the Tree of Life, which appeared in Eden, is known as the Tree of Immortality in the Quran. Buddhists have the Bodhi Tree, under which the Buddha achieved enlightenment.

The choice of the Tree of Life is of deep meaning to me personally because I have been a tree lover all my life. As a very young child, I used to think that the trees swaying on a windy day were expressing themselves by creating the wind with their dancing movement. My scientist parents promptly disabused me of this notion, but I continued to think of trees as marvelous and very alive beings. Now science is discovering that trees do indeed “communicate” with one another underground, via tiny white strands of fungus in the soil called mycelium: Trees nurture each other as do the members of the church family at Canaan Congregational Church.