A message from the pastor

Dear Friends in Christ,

You’ve heard this from me before (and it bears intermittent repetition). It’s an old church joke.

How do you cause God to laugh?

Make plans.

But, what’s the difference between vision and plans? Or between prophecy and promise? What is the work of justice if not setting “the head of the cornerstone,” to build the structure of sanctuary?        

When Christians look back at Moses and Miriam, Abraham and Sarah — and maybe most especially Mary — the “laugh at your plans” idea makes sense. But if our ancestors didn’t make them when they left slavery in Egypt, or a new home in the Promised Land, or the structures of Paul’s Early Church (OK, Luther, Sojourner Truth, Dorothy Day: you get the point) we wouldn’t be NHCC today. We need vision and direction.

Now we’re planning for the seasons ahead, simply to make it through the summer, faithfully to make it through next fall and winter, and hopefully to make it decades and generations beyond.

Let me look back for one minute, to look ahead.

This is a list of our recent stewardship campaigns, and the question, did the plans we made come to fruition? I’ll look back only a few years.

During Covid our campaign to sustain the church was called Refuge and Strength. That’s what we all needed. And our parish ministry made it past Covid. Then afterwards came Sowing Seeds of Hope, as well as Imagine a Future with Hope. We need and like hope. One of the ones I liked was an image of a GPS map of the location of our sanctuary, with a pin on it and the brochure said “You Are Here.” When you opened it up it said, “Because God is Here” (which is the name of a great hymn — the bit about God, not us). For our 150th anniversary we were “NHCC+” or, plus. Then this year, starting last year, our prayer was to be Visible, Viable, and Valuable. During and after Covid churches were closing and pastors were leaving; 50% of the UCC churches in New Hampshire were searching just after Covid. But our prayer at NHCC was and is to be visible and valuable through all.

Have we fulfilled the premises and promises of our last few years? You tell me. Although the reason you can tell me is because we are still here. So we have a new title looking into the year ahead (Sacred Spirits — that’s all of us, and Caring Community; that’s all of us). The best titles and mission statements look both within and beyond ourselves, for this is God’s call in Christ. To have a healthy spirit and real sanctuary, and to feed the sheep, repair the breach, seek justice, and all the other outward looking expressions of faith. At any rate, on balance, I think we are living up to our visions and plans. And perhaps God is even chuckling.

Meanwhile, as I said on Easter, this year our voice is particularly important when voices calling themselves Christian call for restriction, contraction, and even destruction. Yes — even destruction. This year our visibility and our community caring goes against the tide of what is seen by much of our world regarding those who claim the sacred name of Jesus Christ. What are we to do? Well, more of the same. As the hymn says, they’ll know we are Christian by our love. More of the same as well as new things (like plans…). Teach our children, celebrate our seniors, sing our love songs to God (thanks choir), pray together, and let our light out from under any bushels. Perhaps you know: we have the most healthy Christian Education program around. Confirmation groups of 10 and 11 are unusual; we have them. Our staff is exceptional. And our challenges are global.

Is this a stewardship letter or a pastoral note? Well, yes. It’s also a prayer of thanks to all of you who’ve read this far. Thank you not for sustaining this church, but for being this church. I doubt God laughs at us. But I believe She’s smiling, which — as it says in Genesis — is very good.

God’s peace to you,

Ken's signature on a transparent background

P.S. On a personal note, both of my children, both baptized in this sanctuary, will be graduated from different schools this May/June. I’ll take two weekends to be with them, and we have great pastors who will come to be with us to lead worship. Meanwhile, thank you for loving them into adulthood. My children, not the visiting pastors.

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