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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Barkhamsted Winter Wonderland

 
 
 
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Friday, February 26, 2010

Church Journey Week 5 (New Hartford)

 
 
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As you can tell, we are playing catch up recording this journey. Eventually we will be up to date, I promise. As I re-read my notes on Saint Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in New Hartford, I realized I hadn't written anything down about the church building and I will give you my excuse later. I remember there were wooden pews and some were sideways to the pulpit. It is a typical white New England church building. I don't remember stained glass. The organ was small and in back of the church. It was pretty plain. There was no American flag. There was an addition onto the church that had us kind of rambling around to get to the coffee hour. If left on our own, we would have been lost.

I believe I lost interest in the church building as our focus was on the people. Once we were seated, the couple in front of us immediately introduced themselves and starting explaining things about the church. Within a couple of minutes, Rev. Timothy Yeadon bounded up to cheerily greet us. He said he saw new faces and wanted to introduce himself. He told us a trick to remember his name. He said when he was done with the sermon, we would say "Yeah, he's done." He is a bubbly and exuberant pastor.

The service was a little difficult for us to follow. We are not used to the traditional readings and responses and we struggled to find them on the appropriate pages in the hymnals. I has been interesting on our journey as we have spoken to people and their various worship preferences. George and I don't care for reading the corporate response. I would rather ponder my own feelings and search my heart for my own personal response and would like silent reflection time to respond in my personal way with God. One person we spoke to mentioned how he loved the written responses and how it made him think more about particular issues in relation to his life. Aren't we fortunate to live in a country where we can worship how we prefer?

This particular Sunday there was an infant baptism. After the baptism, the beaming Rev. Yeadon took the baby around to every single pew to show them the adorable infant.

The sermon was entitled "Real Healing" based on Luke 4:31-44, Acts 10:38, John 9, Phil.1:21. (I appreciate it when a pastor gives the references for what they are proclaiming.) Rev. Yeadon tackled the tough subject of the suffering people endure. He reminded us not to take things for granted. He referred to the time when Jesus was asked, "who sinned the blind man or his parents". He said God does not work that way--measure by measure with a clipboard in hand and punishing us in life. Satan is always trying to derail us.

Jesus went through his own trials and suffering on earth. By his wounds we are healed. He did not come just to solve our problems, but to save us. Why doesn't God heal? This is what my notes say, "he heals us by Christ...(child screamed) and we would envy them if we could see them now with Jesus in heaven." There was a little one not happy to be there and with his mom by herself. She was having a time trying to quiet him. As Rev. Yeadon ended his sermon with "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." We are saved to save others--our purpose in life.

The child began crying and would not stop. Rev. Yeadon asked the mother if he could take him. The child immediately stopped crying while the pastor continued the remaining part of the service holding him until the end and even taking him to say goodbye to people at the door. It was amazing. He was not related to the child. The child did not start crying again.

This was another church where they recognized birthdays and even sang the birthday song. I don't recall doing that in a church service before.

During our stay the people behind us talked to us too. The person in front of us led us through the winding hallways and stairs to the coffee hour. We spoke with a couple more people there and enjoyed coffee and goodies. I think the major thing I would take away from this church is the friendliness and the wonderful attitude of the pastor. It is a place where you will always feel welcome and I believe, be uplifted.

We went to the 8 am service. There are services at 8 am and 10:30 am with an additional contemporary praise and worship at 9:15 am. They have Children's church and adult Bible studies. Check out their website for the complete information: www.stpaulsnewhartford.com

Monday, February 15, 2010

Church Journey Pictures Weeks 1 & 2

 
 
 
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This is a learning process and each week will get better. As I've sat in some of the beautiful churches we've been in, I've so wanted to take a picture of the inside, but didn't feel it was appropriate. Someone just suggested pictures on the blog and so we decided to put pictures of the outside of every church with each blog. So, today we drove around to past churches and took pictures of the outsides.
Here are two previously mentioned, New Hartford Baptist Church, which is the start up church and therefore, meets at the South End Fire house in Torrington.
The other two pictures are The Life Church in Granby.

Unfortunately, we did not make it the Covenant Presbyterian today, but will post that picture soon. Have patience with us. Also, ignore the date on the pictures. I totally blame that error on my job which made me turn on the date for something I had to do for them and obviously it is quite wrong. We'll reach perfection by week 52!

Church Journey Week 4 (Winsted)

 
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This edition is brought to you by my husband, George.

Our spiritual pilgrimage continued at the First Church of Winsted: Baptist-Congregational on Sunday January 24, 2010 at 10:00a.m. The church is located north of the East End Park on Route 8. The stone building, according to the corner stone, was built in 1900. The structure is a testament to God and the faithfulness of His followers at the turn of that century. It has stain glass windows throughout. The one over the doors appears to be Christ in prayer. You have to enter by first ascending exterior stone staircase. This put you at a level equal to the top, except for the balcony, of the worship area. The seating is curved pews that descend from the narthax to an area in front of the pulpit that is raised and has room for a fairly good size choir. (None was available this particular Sunday.) Huge pillars are on either side in the front. The tops of the pillars have partially formed heads with expressionless faces.

When we entered we were offered a program, then were allowed to find our own way to a seat. We prefer to sit about half way down at a slight angle. This position works well especially when the church is equipped with large screen monitors to project Biblical verses or words to songs. (This church didn't have modern technology like this.)

The brochure depicts a pen and ink drawing of the exterior of the church. First Church was "gathered" in 1778. The slogan: The Church on the Green Where Caring People Gather to Worship God." This seemed at odds with the reception we had. The congregation was very small, probably fifty in a sanctuary that could easily hold 250or more. Only one person, a woman two pews in front of us, spoke with us. The others seemed to be absorbed in their own lives and probably sat in their "own" seat.

The pastor of the flock was the Reverend Michael Wu. A man of Korean decent, black hair, spoke with fluent English. His blond haired wife played the massive pipe organ. Candles in the front were lit by acolytes. This is a term we have heard quite often in our journey. An acolyte is someone who lights the candles and assists the minister as needed.

The order of service was typical congregational. Apparently since the church is Baptist/Congregational the wording for the Lord's Prayer alters between "forgive us our debts" preferred by the Baptist and "forgive us our trespasses" that is preferred by the Congregationalist. Fortunately, the bulletin tipped us off as to which word: debts or trespasses, to use. The Congregationalist won this one. Both terms seem foreign to our speech patterns of today. A more appropriate word would make this prayer clearer for us. Since both words mean "sin" it certainly makes more sense to simply say: "forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."

It has become customary for many Churches today to include the page of the text in the Bible along with the scriptural passage. Anyone with even a modicum of knowledge of the Bible can find passages without this additional clue.

The Service concluded almost exactly an hour from when it started. Normally, we have coffee and refreshments with the congregants to gage the spiritual atmosphere of the worshipers. And to get free coffee and pastry too! However, since they were having their annual church meeting immediately after the service, we elected to duck out the back door. No one appeared to notice or care that we left.

The service of worship, although held in a beautiful facility and faithful testament of the founders, was lifeless and without genuine participation by the members. It was as though they were sleepwalking through the service, content not to become consciously aware of the purpose.

I looked up front for the flag: there was none. But when I turned around to view the balcony I saw it along with the "Christian" flag. Displayed correctly.

I might return here in the future to worship. I could tell that God was willing to make himself known when the congregation was prepared to receive him.

Winsted has two Baptist/Congregational churches. One on either end of town, with very similar architecture. At one time there were two Congregational churches and a Baptist church. Apparently there was an irreconcilable rift in the Baptist church that caused the members to disband and half united with each of the Congregational Churches. Since Baptist and Congregationalist have the same form of church government, this was not a problem. However, there are some differences in beliefs other than "debts" and "trespasses". Congregationalist baptize infants with "sprinkling of water". Baptist baptize with full emergence with those who have made the conscious, individual decision to follow Christ. So, the union works and doesn't work.

Debbie's 2 cents worth: Hey, it's my blog. I can do that. Actually, George did a great job and was quite accurate. I got the impression that the meeting following was of great importance and the members may have been wrapped up in what was to come--so much so that not only did they not talk to us, but one woman was blocking our row talking to someone else and not moving to let us out--annoying. The sermon even centered around being compassionate with different parts of the church body, working together with compassion and understanding and not to take things for granted and the reminder that many members make one body. He based his sermon on I Cor. 12:12-31.

Visiting these churches, I wish that we were more versed in architectural terms. The stain glass, the pillars, the organ...this church was magnificent in structural beauty. I wish I had the words to describe it, but with my 2 cent vocabulary, I cannot.

The First Church (American Baptist and United Church of Christ) of Winsted is located at 95 North Main Street, Winsted, CT. Worship service is at 10 am. It is the home of the wonderful (so we've heard from many and we plan to go one year) Boar's Head Festival and it hosts Steam Vent Coffee Houses. Website: http://www.firstchurchofwinsted.org/index.html

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Church Journey Week 3 (Simsbury)

As we continue our series, we come to week three when we attended yet another church that is near to us, but we had never attended for a church service (George went for some special program once). Most anyone in the area will know this church as "The Barn". The Covenant Presbyterian Church in Simsbury is a converted barn. We went for the early service at 9am in the Hayloft Sanctuary. I enjoyed the unusual setting, though did not notice if they have handicap access for this experience. There was a small group of people gathered for this traditional service.

As their bulletin points out, this service was traditional in worship, praise and prayer and contemplative for inner reflection. There were times for corporate response and time for silent reflection. As George looks for American flags, it is not mandatory, but I like to see the cross in churches. The loft had a wooden cross draped in white cloth. The wooden beams, the peak of the silo out of a window, I just found the loft an amazing room to worship.

This church has two services. The second one is contemporary and is held downstairs in the Celebration Hall. I convinced George to go to the beginning so I could hear the music. We had coffee in between the services in a section of the building that we were told used to house cattle. It was interesting to consider that and knowing how tired George gets sometimes of the George Washington jokes, I refrained from mentioning to the parishioners that those cattle gave new meaning to Holy Cow.

There were some great homemade goodies, but I think we heard that they only have the coffee hour once a month. We met several people and everyone was helpful and friendly. It was a comfortable setting.

On the way to the Celebration Hall, we were shown the silo which is now an office. I enjoyed the unique qualities of this building. The Celebration Hall was, on the other hand, a modern room with instrumentalists and the words to the songs projected on the walls. I enjoyed the music leaders at that service.

The same sermon was to be preached at both services. As we listened quietly in the loft, the sermon spoke to my personal struggle currently. It was Bible based.

What I got from the sermon: Pastor Martin used I Peter 2:13-25 for the basis of his Chosen for Obedience sermon, "But They're Not Godly!". He stated that we are to submit to all authorities. He included fun antidotes about some crazy laws on the books. Unfortunately, he said we are to submit to all authority, even when they are ungodly. Why? Because it is commendable (example Joseph was sold into slavery; Paul was unjustly punished but in the end God raised up churches and much fruit). Even Jesus stayed silent when he was accused and he just endured his pain and suffering.
How far do we go to follow ungodly authority? We stop when it makes us do ungodly things. We need to stand our ground but respectfully and honorably. "Jesus requires something different of me."
Why does God want us to submit to others? (v. 13) For the Lord's sake be worthy of respect, honorable. It will silence anything negative they will say about us, Jesus or the church. It is not easy. Jesus did not want to die on the cross, but he was willing to submit. Submitting shows Christ's glory in us.

Would we go again? I thought this was a nice fit in that, we could go to the traditional service and then I could go to the following service for a few contemporary songs. I would put this as a great possibility but alas, there wasn't an American flag.

"The Barn" is located at 124 Old Farms Road, Simsbury, CT. Their website is www.cpcbarn.org. They have Women's and Men's studies, youth ministries and prayer meetings.

In case you wondered, unless we find a church that knocks our socks off and shouts this is the place we are to be, it is our intent, God willing, to go to 52 different churchs in 52 weeks. After that we will pick our new church home. I can tell you now that it is going to be a difficult decision...mainly because so far we each have a favorite and it is a different one.

For the next edition of this series, I am turning it over to George. Being as it is my blog, I will probably add my two cents worth. I told him he is welcome to start his own blog, as a man of many opinions, it would be a wonderful outlet, but he has chosen instead to be my guest writer. Stay tuned.

Church Journey Week 2 (Granby)

Again, please refer to the introductory blog for this if you have not read that first.

For our second week of church exploration, we chose Life Church in Granby, CT. We had been told about this church by a friend and we always check out the website on line before we go.

We were surprised that there was such a large congregation in such a nice building so close to us that we did not know about. It is off of a main road, so perhaps that is why we never heard of it before.

We were greeted by a friendly member who gave us an informative, professional welcoming packet. She also explained that after the service they had a coffee hour and in our packet was a coupon for a free coffee. We were puzzled and asked if they normally paid for their coffee. It turns out that it is the fund raiser each week for the youth group. That was a unique idea.

This was a newer building--a contemporary setting to go with the contemporary music. There were instrumentalists and the words to the songs were projected on the walls, as we are finding is typical for contemporary services. We did not read the website that closely, as we were in for a surprise. The service started at 9am with an hour of music. I understand that this is to put you in the reflective state and prepare your hearts for the sermon, however, not everyone likes to worship this way. Contemporary is not George's cup of tea for one thing, and for another, they didn't have an American flag.

Many people felt the need to approach the stage and stand in front as we sang. I guess it is the symbolism of being closer to the altar, but I did not feel the need to go up front to feel nearer to God, after all He is omnipresent. It was distracting that one woman was practically dragging someone she knew up to the front. In the end the friend did appear happy that she went, but when there came a point in the service that you were to greet one another, I cringed when the "dragger" friend came to us. I was ready to say, "leave me alone". It made me feel uncomfortable. We are staid New Englanders and not used to being demonstrative in our worship. Truth be told (and it's a harsh one), we sometimes wonder if some of the demonstrative actions are more for show than a natural feeling of praise. I will accept thoughts in defense of those actions, if anyone wants to straighten me out. This was the second church on our journey where someone was in their stocking feet. We began to wonder if this is some new religious ritual.

We were happy when the preacher finally started the sermon. Pastor Al was quite good. His message was Bible based. This was a Sunday when they were going to have a meeting or something afterward in the sanctuary that would go on longer. The pastor said he wouldn't keep those who had to go any longer, so those that needed to could leave, so we did. On the way out we did meet the cordial pastor's wife.

What I got from the sermon: The sermon was on "Facing Giants in your Life". Pastor Al referred to giants as our impediments or struggles. He said there were three kinds of giants: those from your past--bad things that haunt you; giants of today--troubles and the giants of the future. He read Isaiah 17 and the account of David and Goliath. He outlined the steps to destroying your giants. First was Intimidation. He said to be careful how you labeled your giant. For example, in verse 4 Goliath is called a champion. Don't make your problem too big and feed the monster. Don't empower the monster. Secondly he said to be careful how you describe your giant or you can talk yourself into a frenzy. Third he said to be careful how you listen to your giant. Goliath shouted and used intimidation. Run from negativity. Giants in your life test and continue to test you until you give up. (I Sam. 17:10).

He further said most people can't see what we can see. Speak positive and you will succeed. People will try to snuff out your positive attitude. Remember your past victories and apply them to today. Embrace God at the very moment of your need. Your enemy will come with weapons, but like David, fight in the name of the Lord. We do not fight the way the world fights. Speak positive no matter how bleak things may appear. God is a deliverer. The battle is His not yours. If you think it is your battle you will not win. David used the enemies sword to behead the giant. God did not have him go there with a sword.

The sermon was good. Unfortunately, the rest of the service was not a fit for us. Will we go again? Well, let's just say, we have a coffee coupon if anyone wants one.

Life Church is located at 23 Griffin Road, Granby, CT.
The website is: www.GranbyLifeChurch.com

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Church Journey Week 1 (New Hartford)

If you haven't already, please refer to my introduction entry regarding our church journey. The New Hartford Baptist Church, a new start-up church, was our first visit on this odyssey. One Sunday in August my husband learned about this church because he was cleaning the fire department on a different day than usual and got finished just as they came to set up. So, when we were deciding what church to visit, this one came to mind first.

We have been to start-up churches before and had an idea of what to expect. We figured bare bones--just a seat to sit in and a preacher preaching basically. In this case we were wrong. There were hymnals and Bibles on the seats. They even printed a program and had other handouts including church giving envelopes. I thought of larger churches that we have attended that would need months to decide what type of hymnals to purchase or any other decision. I admired their commitment. They certainly were going forth similar to, "if you build it they will come."

Pastor Solomon Parmar had thought he was retiring, but this congregation of believers convinced him and his wife to stay in the ministry and to help them start this church. There was a table in front with decorations and to my husband's delight, a small American flag along with the church flag. The songs were traditional--more points with my husband, especially when they sang one of his favorites, "A Mighty Fortress". The sermon was Bible-based.

The Pastor recognized birthdays of the congregation. We are finding that this is either a new trend, or just stumbling across a few churches that do this lately.

The service itself, was typical to what we are used to...traditional songs, scripture readings and time for prayer, silent reflection and a Biblical based sermon. The Pastor stood in his stocking feet, which I would have thought would have been cold on the cement floor. I never found out why. Children's church was held in a separate room during the sermon. There was coffee and special homemade goodies afterward. We got to speak to the Pastor and his wife along with other parishioners. Everyone was very friendly.

The question, would we go again? Yes, this is a possibility since the Bible was preached and the atmosphere was comfortable and the people friendly.

What I took away from the sermon: In the world, religions carry God, our God carries us. God is our stronghold, our source of inner strength, our refuge, He is a satisfying river, we will never thirst (John 4:14). If we know the Doctrine first, we will know God's will and Duties second. He is to be exalted among the nations, by doing His will, people will recognize something different in you (Acts 21). Be the passenger, let God drive.

The quote that I liked best, "He who has helped you hitherto, will help you your whole journey through."

The New Hartford Baptist Church website: http://www.newhartfordbaptistchurch.org/index.htm. They have one service at 9am and Bible studies in homes during the week.

The Church Journey (Introduction)

I've been hesitant to write this "series", as it will become, but we have been encouraged by several people to do it. Actually, we've been told to write a book, however, it would have such limited appeal based on geographic location and also the topic matter, that I will just blog it. My hesitancy to do this is because most times I try not to name names in my blog--no cause for ruffled feathers or embarrassment. I will try to be gentle.

My husband and I, at this stage in our lives, know what we believe and I can't imagine what would ever change our beliefs, however, this year we have decided to go on a spiritual journey. This is not to change our beliefs, but to study and to experience the different types of worship services there are in our area. Each week we have decided to go to a different church.

Let me pause to state that we know that God's plan is for people to be in a church home and to fellowship and to serve God and others in that church. I have struggled if there is something we could leave with each church (besides our monetary donation), but have yet to find what that could be. We do try to "serve" God in our daily walk by trying (not perfectly, obviously) to walk the Christian walk and talk the talk and to help others when the opportunity arrives.

It has been interesting talking to people and the different types of worship that they like. It is a diverse world. We have been to the charismatic with the raising of hands and the verbal, "Hallelujahs", to services with traditional songs to the contemporary, one with no music, and to the ritualistic services. In six weeks so far, we were surprised at two services to find one person in each without shoes on. I don't know if there is some symbolic reason or just sore feet. My husband and I each know what we like and for the most part we are the same, except I do lean towards contemporary music and he likes the traditional. That is our little hurdle.

For George, also, it is extremely important that a church carry the American flag. It is, of course, because of this great country that we all can worship how we please and being a veteran, he wants us all to remember that. He will worship at a church without the flag one time.

I have taken notes on each church and since I did not start this series until now, I have six weeks to bring you to date. I have my notes in a journal that I will start transposing to here. So, I hope you will enjoy this journey through us. Please note this is only our personal opinion. We realize that everyone has to find their own comfort zone and this is highly subjective. This series is through our eyes only and we encourage those of you who are searching for a church, don't take our word for any of this. Someone else can have a very different take on it. It is a personal journey. As of this date every single church was welcoming, though some more than others. Only one church did we feel slightly uncomfortable in, but again those are our personal feelings.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Boycotting Mother Teresa?

"I choose the poverty of our poor people. But I am grateful to receive (the Nobel) in the name of the hungry, the naked, the homeless, of the crippled, of the blind. of the lepers, of all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone."--Mother Teresa on her acceptance of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize.

The U.S. Postal Service is issuing a stamp August 26th on what would have been Mother Teresa's 100th birthday. She was a wonderful humanitarian and did so much for so many people. Who would ever find fault with honoring her on a stamp?

Well, it appears the Freedom from Religion Foundation is asking people to boycott the stamp. They feel it violates the postal regulation that "individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings" cannot be on a stamp. There is no doubt that Mother Teresa was a religious person and motivated by her faith, but the same could be said of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Father Flanagan. There was no flack for them being honored on stamps and dare I say, what about baby Jesus who is on a stamp every Christmas?

This atheist group suggests that people purchase the Katherine Hepburn stamp instead because (I did not know this) she was an atheist. I can't imagine that with her successful acting career that she would want to be remembered for being an atheist. Since Hepburn's stamp is coming out in May and it is standard practice to only have commemorative stamps for a few months, it is likely that the consumers won't have the opportunity to choose between Katherine Hepburn and Mother Teresa. There are, of course, many other stamp choices, but I for one, after this publicity, hope that the Mother Teresa stamp becomes a big seller. If the postal service changed their issuance schedule, they could possibly cash in on a contest between the sales generated by Katherine Hepburn vs. Mother Teresa. Who would have ever imagined a contest between those two women?

Who would think that a woman of peace would in death, cause controversy. She blessed so many and in her honor, I leave you with one of her many, many inspirational quotes, "Every time you smile at someone it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing." :)