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ConnTact: April 2012

Cover of Apr. 2012 ConnTact

HARTFORD (04/18/2012) -- In an age when there are more who describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious" than mainline Protestants, does Church still matter?

In this issue of ConnTact, both church people and not-church people take up the question. Their backgrounds, experiences, and even their conclusions vary, but overall they have a clear sense that the community of faith can, does, or should make a difference in the world.

For some that is about creating hope, for others sharing joy. For some it is commitment to shared labor, or to shared learning.

Perhaps the critical word for them all is: sharing.

Church matters.

Annual Meeting 2012 -- When Spiritual But Not Religious is Not Enough: Why Church Matters

HARTFORD -- Last September, 363 words launched a torrent of commentary, after the Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel's StillSpeaking Daily Devotional "Spiritual but Not Religious? Please Stop Boring Me" appeared on UCC.org. In blogs, on social networks, in sermons, in conversations, believers and non-believers alike took up the question: In an age of spiritual individualism, does religious community matter? 04/17/2012

In Search of "Church"

STATE COLLEGE, PA -- Wondering why church matters, CTUCC Media Assistant Drew Page interviewed a former member of a UCC church in Connecticut who no longer attends church regularly. Dr. Amanda Goodwin, a lecturer at Pennsylvania State University, meets instead with a small group of friends for a theological discussion. Here are the insights on church matters from a seeker's point of view. 04/17/2012

Why Church Matters

HARTFORD -- When dawn's early light revealed the charred remains of what had been the historic sanctuary of the Somers Congregational Church UCC, the entire community was shocked in disbelief. For miles around, people came to keep silent vigil: the curious, the heartbroken, the disbelieving. The grieving of hundreds, even thousands, revealed the meaning of the congregation to its community. 04/17/2012

Fresh Edition: Make It Matter

HARTFORD -- It's only page two, and I'm going to end the suspense: Church matters to all of the writers in this issue of ConnTact. Their reasons -- the why of why Church matters -- aren't terribly different from one to the next, either. It comes down to two things, by and large: (1) Church provides a grounding in the faith, in the foundational conviction that God loves us, and (2) Church gathers a circle of people who embody, display, and reinforce the love of God with their own. When we do those two things, Church matters. 04/17/2012

From the Spirit Calendar

HARTFORD -- I don't remember the first time I heard Amos 5:24, but I do know that I wasn't thinking about an actual river. I am sure that I was a child and I thought of rivers as free flowing and smooth bodies of water. As I aged, I learned that some rivers are violent. I also learned that flowing waters change the land around them. Pushing at their original boundaries, sometimes shrinking, and other times growing. 04/17/2012

Can Shelton Rise Again?

SHELTON -- Shelton Congregational Church UCC is giving up more for Lent than most would care to imagine. They are giving up their sanctuary. The building is for sale, but the church's future is uncertain. 04/17/2012

At Silver Lake, I Can be Myself

SHARON -- We hear it time and again from our conferees, staff, and counselors: "At Silver Lake, I can be myself." What we don't hear as often is how important being accepted for who you are is to faith formation. And sometimes the work that our staff and volunteers do to provide that experience to young people is not explicitly recognized. 04/17/2012

Fully Abled in the Body of Christ: Why Church Matters

GREENWICH -- I was "un-churched" for over 25 years. During those years I developed a very personal and spiritual relationship with God. No rituals. No dogma. No creed. Just the two of us. But as I got older, I felt drawn to be in a church community, partly for companionship and partly to share my faith with others. I wanted to learn more about the Bible and Jesus, and I wanted to find a place where I can best serve God. 04/17/2012

Beyond the Motions

GLASTONBURY -- When I was younger, I was just going through the motions. Every Sunday, I'd get dressed up and attend Sunday school. I'd read the passages in my beginner's Bible, accompanied by many colorful illustrations. I memorized the Lord's Prayer, and recited it on cue. I followed the practices, but there was no meaning in anything I did. 04/17/2012

What Does It Mean?

SOUTH BRITAIN -- Last fall, the Rev. Shannon Wall asked members of the South Britain Congregational Church UCC to speak about what the church means to them. Excerpted here are portions of what two people said about the importance of their church and the faith community to which they belong. 04/17/2012

When is Music Sacred?

WILLIMANTIC -- Music is a perpetual source of societal tension. Older generations love to complain about the newest sounds. Parents fret over increasingly lewd lyrics. Record companies sue over music sharing. Even in church, we debate what types of music are appropriate in worship. 04/17/2012

When the Beloved Speaks

MADISON -- The Mercy Center at Madison welcomes people of diverse faiths and backgrounds to a peaceful place of natural beauty for personal, spiritual, and professional renewal and growth. Most visitors to Mercy will tell you that when they turn into the driveway, they take a deep breath and the presence of the Divine is palpable. 04/17/2012

Church Can Teach Us What Cannot Be Taught

GLASTONBURY -- "Hope is not a strategy" is a saying that I have often heard in my professional life. One immediately recognizes the truth of this statement; that simply wishing for something will not make it happen. On the surface, this saying also appears to be dismissive of the importance of hope. Yet, upon reflection, one realizes this is not necessarily the case. Hope is critical in all important endeavors. As I have witnessed as a member of the Congregational Church in South Glastonbury, there are many different kinds of hope. 04/17/2012

Prayer Pagers

CHESHIRE -- Late 2009 and early 2010 were difficult for Rich Grudzias. In November, his mother died. He suffered strokes in January and April, which left him with some weakness in his right arm and leg, and he lost the peripheral vision in one eye. He underwent physical therapy, and is now much improved. 04/17/2012

Poem: The Cost

SIMSBURY -- Hard work, long day... a poem about the soldiers at the crucifixion. 04/17/2012

Grappling the Important Issues of Faith

GLASTONBURY -- I was new to the church, actually still in the visiting phase, when Pastor Kate (associate pastor the Rev. Kate VanDerzee-Glidden) approached me. "Hey there, Lorie, glad to see you again -- listen, I was wondering if you might like to join us for our Women's Theological Reflection Group next Wednesday? We meet at 8:00 in the morning here at the church." Theological Reflection Group? Eight AM? Ummmm... 04/17/2012

Sarah Verasco to Depart

In March, Interim Conference Minister the Rev. Charles L. Wildman regretfully reported the resignation of the Rev. Sarah J. Verasco. "We wish Sarah well in her future ministry," he said, "and are extremely grateful for the significant dedication and gifts which she has brought to her role of Regional Minister of the Fairfield County Region of the Connecticut Conference."

Rev. Verasco, who has served since 2009, is pursuing new opportunities for her ministry. Among her gifts to the Conference was her leadership of the Crossroads Project, which has supported struggling congregations as they discerned new directions for their ministries.

A search for an interim regional minister will begin promptly, said Rev. Wildman, with pastoral coverage being supplied by the Rev. Michael Ciba and the Rev. Michael Penn-Strah during the intervening period.

Rev. Verasco’s last day will be May 21. Arrangements to celebrate her ministry were not complete at press time.

Subscribe to the Connecticut Conference Podcast!

“CTUCC ConferenceCast,” a regular audio podcast for Connecticut Conference members and churches, has now run to forty-six episodes, and has featured the weekly spiritual reflections of Conference staff and also recordings of live presentations from such distinguished speakers as Andrew Young and Governor Dannel P. Malloy. It has brought live sounds from Hartford, Silver Lake, local church services, and General Synod in Tampa, Florida. It has even been recorded aboard a moving train!

Each ConferenceCast begins with a spiritual reflection and prayer written by one of the Conference staff. The meditation may be read by the author, or by the podcast host, the Rev. Eric Anderson. The rest of each program, which run eight to ten minutes, consists of brief news stories and highlights of upcoming events.

The podcast is released each Thursday afternoon. It is available in the iTunes music store (it's free!), at ctucc.org/conferencecast, and via standard RSS feed.

The video edition of ConferenceCast may be viewed on the CTUCC.org home page or the Connecticut Conference YouTube Channel.

Maintaining Contact

ConnTact:
The Newspaper of the Connecticut Conference will publish four issues in 2012, in February, April, September, and November.
www.ctucc.org:
The Conference web site features breaking news, upcoming events, staff contact information, and many resources.
FIDO*:
Faith Information and Discussion Online offers subscribers regular news and calendar updates via email, and the opportunity to ask questions and share wisdom with UCC folk across the state. In particular:
  • CTUCC This Week: Headlines arriving weekly
  • Program Announcements: Updates on alternate weeks, with highlighted events occasionally
  • The Spirit Calendar: a weekly reflection from one of the Conference staff (archived here)
  • Christian Ed: a discussion forum for those teaching the faith
Subscribe to FIDO*
ConferenceCast:
A weekly eight- to twelve-minute audio podcast, opening with a spiritual reflection by a member of the Conference staff, reviewing news of the week, and highlighting some upcoming events.
All-Conference Mailing:
Flyers for upcoming programs emailed directly to local churches and pastoral staff.
Conference Staff Blogs:
At www.ctucc.org/staffblogs/
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