The Rev. Baxter Chism will be celebrated on October 1, 2023, for his 5 years of ministry at Tewksbury Congregational Church.  He is a native of Alabama and served rural and suburban churches in north central and east central Alabama before coming to Massachusetts.


Scripture: Matthew 18:20 (NRSV)

For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.


Reflection:  Culture Shock



Over 20 years ago, I was invited to a church by a friend. She let me know that her church would be a very different experience and I may have culture shock. I pulled into the parking lot for the worship service and the church had a distinctive design which was neat. I ventured in to see what it was all about.

The first thing I noticed was that the diversity was different from the lily-white world I was accustomed to. It was a melting pot of people made of Native Americans, people of color, hippie-dressing people, members of what we call the LGBTQ community today, and others.

They sang music that was different to me, and the sermon was from the heart and how God helps the marginalized to get through life when you feel like you are always on the outside looking in.

It was the first time in my life hearing a sermon like this.

A Native American man led a prayer that was in his language and chanted. He referred to God as “mother.”

I was like, “Where am I?”

It took me years to appreciate how God worked through this moment to help shape me for ministry today. I came to see that moment in time as a glimpse of how the body of Christ could really be. There are so many beautiful expressions of worship. There are many ways to know God.

For where two or three are gathered in God's name -- no matter who, no matter where, no matter how -- God is there among them.  Among us.


God, help us to remember that customs and rituals can sometimes get in the way of the community Jesus desired, and that one of the most important things is to worship authentically, and let others do the same. Amen.

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane at

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war, as well as the many landscapes that are currently embroiled in conflicts.
  • For those grieving or suffering due to the ~29,000 gun violence deaths that happened in the US since the start of the year.
  • For those suffering from the recent wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods.
  • For those saddened and outraged by the recent murders of three black people by a white supremacist in Jacksonville, Florida, and relief from these times of turmoil.
  • For the friends and family of The Rev. Stoddard (Todd) Blake Williams who passed away on August 10, 2023. Rev. Stoddard served churches in East Haddam CT, Danbury CT, and Unionville CT where he held the honor of Pastor Emeritus at Unionville Congregational Church upon retirement after 28 years of service. In retirement, Todd served several churches in CT and on Cape Cod as an Interim Pastor.

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving: 

This Week in History:

September 4, 1957 (66 years ago):  Arkansas troops block “Little Rock Nine” from entering segregated high school. [History

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

Starting With Scripture is a weekly devotional and prayer request of the
Southern New England Conference, UCC.
1 Badger Road Framingham, MA 01702
Toll Free in CT: 866.367.2822 | 860.233.5564

Marlen Gasdia-Cochrane, Editor