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Easter Letter 2014

April 2014

Dear Friends,

Harrell Beck, a professor at the Boston University School of Theology for 33 years, once told the story of attending the wedding of a friend. The bride was 20 minutes late, and a visiting cousin had played a piece from Bach four times badly – it was all she knew. Finally Beck peeked across the organ to see if the bride’s mother had been seated (often a clue as to whether anything will happen) and his eyes fell across the prelude. To his horror it was titled (translated from the German) “I Stand with One Foot in the Grave.” This was a wedding. What was worse, the groom, who was himself an organist, had picked the piece out for this occasion. This was not the most auspicious beginning for a marriage!

But then Beck noticed the subtitle: “A Cantata in Praise of Jesus Christ.” The bride finally showed, and following the wedding, Beck looked up this cantata to see what had happened.

J.S. Bach, getting ready one Saturday afternoon to face a congregation – he was after all a church organist – wandered down to a nearby pub to clear his mind, where he heard a folk song entitled “One Foot in the Grave.” It set his foot to tapping. He went back to his house where he helped Mrs. Bach put to bed their 18 children. Then, when all was quiet, he went back to the church alone and there, in that cathedral, he transformed this folk song “I Stand with One Foot in the Grave” into “A Cantata in Praise of Jesus Christ.”

When the people of that congregation came to church the next morning and heard that sound, they knew that they were loved. A transformation had occurred. The common had become uncommon. The secular had given birth to the sacred. “One Foot in the grave” had become “A Cantata in Praise of Jesus Christ.

Today, as we prepare for Easter morning, we too can speak of transformation and new life. As a congregation, we have recommitted ourselves to mission and ministry in our neighborhood and to one another. We assist with community lunch, supper, and recreation programs; our members volunteer at Charter House and support the back-to-school shop and Christmas shop; we support Habitat for Humanity, HOPE, CVOEO, CROP Walk, Church World Service, United Methodist Commission on Relief (UMCOR); and we support our missionary partner, Jeremias Franca, director of Chicuque Rural Hospital & Center of Hope in Mozambique.

To help us continue these ministries, please consider offering a gift to the Church. But most of all, please join us during Holy Week as we celebrate the risen Christ, the one whose life, death, and resurrection transformed not just a tune, but the whole world:

  • Palm Sunday, April 13, 10:45 AM
  • Maundy Thursday, April 17, 7:00 PM
  • Good Friday, April 18, 12:00 PM (held in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church)
  • Easter Sunrise, April 20, 6:00 AM at Youngman Field, Middlebury College
  • Easter Morning, April 20, 10:45 AM

We look forward to seeing you!

Grace and Peace,

Gus and Laurie Jordan, Coordinating Pastors

From Gus and Laurie

Almost exactly a year ago we were confronted with the realization that the way we defined ourselves as a church was outdated and failing. Using every relevant measure we were an institution in decline. Membership, worship attendance, finances, all in a kind of free fall. We knew that if we held to the status quo, we were not going to make it.

And so, step by step, we have begun to abandon old categories that used to define what it means to be a church. Even the word “church” may not be adequate to what is happening to us. Step by step we are letting go of twentieth century notions of what a church is and does. Whatever those images are for you, let them go, because God’s is moving in our midst, challenging customs and expectations.

The first thing you did (for better or worse) was to let me and Laurie step in as volunteer coordinating pastors. Do you know that there is no such thing in the United Methodist Church? Together, we made that up. You may not realize it, but every week we are subverting the very notion of a twentieth century paid, professional, pastoral ministry. Nothing in the recent history of Methodism, at least in America, prepares us for this. This is just all new.

Next you did away with the formal committees and structures outlined by the Methodist rule books. We just made up new ways to organize ourselves. The Bishop looked over at what we are doing and said, well … go for it. See what you can accomplish as the people of God.

And so we are. But we are not and cannot be done.

In the days and weeks ahead your coordinating committee will present new ways to bring ministry into our neighborhood. For example, imagine a small group of recent college graduates, from across the region, living in our parsonage, funded by us to bring new kinds of worship and ministry to our neighborhood. Is that possible? We don’t know. How would it work? We don’t know. But then a year ago we did not know how any of this was going to work, and yet here we are.

On March 3rd we will get together as a whole church to talk together about these kinds of ideas for our future. Exciting ideas, because God is not done with us yet. The Holy Spirit reminds us over and over that we are not here to preserve an institutional heritage, or to maintain institutional inertia. We are of course grateful for the faithfulness of all those who have gone before us and who worked faithfully in their day.  However, we are not here to do exactly what they did just because it worked then, or because others expect us to do it now.

What we are here to do is to join together as the Body of Christ. We are here to figure out what that means now in our little community. We are here to proclaim without embarrassment that the kingdom of God is at work here. That God is real, that the needs of the world (right here) are great, and that we have something to do and say about that.

Come and join us.