[Editor's note: You may want to bookmark this edition. It is the last standard edition before the New Year. Our December offering will be a weekly Advent reflection, a sacred space for you to experience.]
This month as our communities continue to deal with the challenge of CoVid 19, we anticipate a unique Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. This Thanksgiving may not include everything we have come to expect and yet, there will be celebration and gratitude.
Hospitality is a key element of a traditional holiday celebration. In another year, we might have a routine we've developed and crafted as we prepare to welcome familiar faces and guests. Jesus modeled hospitality, not consistently, but perfectly. Hospitality is a spiritual practice and a way of anticipating the needs of those we welcome. So what might the hospitality of physical distancing look like? Can we create hospitality within the small circle of those we are sharing this CoVid time with? How might we lean into a safely distanced Thanksgiving and lessen our stress and anxiety? Our colleague, Deborah Ringen, Transitional Minister of Health and Wellness offers these suggestions in her reflection, Thanksgiving During A Pandemic. (3 mins)
My own goal this year is to keep it simple and simply keep some of the traditions my family holds most dear. Favorite foods will be on the menu and special items and rituals passed through generations will be used even if there will be few of us. I'm planning to put an invitation to dinner (with a teaser riddle about Turkeys) on the pillow of each family member the night before Thanksgiving! For those I'll be Zooming with, I'll be sending it ahead in an e-mail!
Early in November, as I considered this notion, I shifted my daily devotions to consistently include a spiritual practice of gratitude. Grateful hearts are open hearts and gratitude lessens anxiety. This practice has enabled me to maintain a focus on that which is good, life-giving, and spirit-lifting. I find gratitude anticipates good and deepens hope. You'll want to read more about the spiritual and physical benefits of gratitude in a reflection by my colleague, Debby Kirk, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. (3 mins 45)
While we openly lament the continued challenges and losses we face, and we should, we can also begin to reorient ourselves to that which anticipates hope, peace, joy, and love. We are now in discernment and planning as we prepare for the coming Advent Season. We can help! As you spend time this month, not only practicing gratitude, but prepping all you anticipate this Advent and Christmas, check these out! A link below will take you to an awesome reflection on Christmas by colleague Debbie Gline Allen. She offers wonderful ideas in her blog, 12 Days of Christmas for Families. (2 mins 45)
And as we know, 'great minds think alike'. Our Silver Lake Program Director Jenn Clark offers ideas for 12 Days of Christmas at Home and our Outdoor Ministries folks are offering families a 12 Days of Christmas at Home Box. (2 mins)
In my devotional practice of gratitude this month, I lift two or three of my colleagues and our staff each day. I am ever grateful for good work to do and good souls, loving souls, kind souls, creative souls, to do it with! As you know the Bridge Conference Ministers and our Board of Directors continue to lead us through a challenging time, a changing time. Faithfully, they invite us to lean into a new vision proclaiming important values! Good folks from throughout our Southern New England Conference are in collaboration with our staff to engage in the various staff position searches being conducted. For staffing updates, watch our website!
Here is the announcement about your Faith Formation Staff (1 min 47) which was made by the Conference following the publication of last month's Discipleship Matters. We welcome your prayers for those on our staff remaining, those who will be departing, and those we anticipate, too!
Don't overlook all the goodness here including Kristin Putney's Cradle Roll Ideas. (3 mins) Ministry to and with our youngest is one intentional way the church can embody and exercise its gratitude and care for the gift of our babies and toddlers.
Finally, my devotional time includes each and every one of you! Those of you who are leading and those of you searching. Those of you with new calls and those in settled tenures. Those of you who lead and care for the formational journey of each one you seek to serve. Those who continue to find new ways to be in ministry and those secretly resisting. We are all human- we all carry so much during this time. Pray with me!
God of grace and gratitude, be in our hearts and be in our work as we seek to serve you in ministry. As laity, as practitioners, as clergy, we are all ministers who long to share the Gospel, the Good News, in every aspect of our witness and service. May we exemplify your kin-dom values. May we embody hospitality and gratitude. May we model healthy habits and healthy boundaries. May we protect the vulnerable among us. May we know patience, strength, hope, and promise in these times AND may we know unconditionally, your love. For you, O God, we give thanks! Amen
In Partnership, Karen Ziel
Minister of Faith Formation and Leadership, Editor
Blogs and Reflections - A November Feast continued
Rev. Lisa Kisthardt, Associate Pastor, First Congregational Church in Southington, CT, invites us to consider, 'Discipleship is not a paint-by-numbers! We might wish for clear instructions, a formula to follow, to encourage others to follow Jesus. But our faith is so much bigger than a small set of paints and a canvas. Even if we tried to break down discipleship to clear numbered lists or activities to follow, we wouldn’t end up with the same result.' She reflects on the art of painting as a metaphor for discipleship in her recent blog. (2 mins 15)
In addition to those mentioned and linked above, here is a link to all blogs and reflections from your SNEUCC staff and your peers.
You can find wonderful blogs and reflections throughout the month on various topics including faith formation, justice, innovation and more! In addition, while we try to stay as connected as possible, there are times when the story is best told by YOU!
Sharing your ideas and insights in this space is possible, too! Simply reach out and shine your light- don't hide it under a bushel! Got a story to share? Do you have a reflection to offer? Contact any one of the Faith Formation staff and share your Good News!!
News and Views
Association of United Church Educators (AUCE)
From Roots to Shoots Anniversary Event letter from AUCE Chairperson, Rev. Julie Yarborough link here.
New England Association of
United Church Educators
Announces NEAUCE 2021
Annual Event Save the Date! 50th Anniversary Year!
Tear Down, Transform, Transcend- A Call to Action!
MORE... Events and Opportunities
FREE Webinars, Resources for All Things Formational
Director of Children and Family Ministries - Trumbull, CT
Designated Term Director of Christian Education