Archive for February, 2011

What’s my role?

February 24, 2011

Today, I’m addressing another question related to Baptism: What is the role of the Godparents or Sponsors?

This question leads me to ponder… what is anyone’s  role in this ritual?  God’s?  The parents or the person (if an adult)?  The congregation’s?  The pastor’s?  The wider community’s?

I don’t know who created the above piece of art (my apologies) but I like it very much. It speaks to me about the interconnection of all of the above named  “actors”.



Tough Love

February 21, 2011

February 20, 2011; Matt 5: 38-48; Lev 19: 1-2, 9-18

A sermon preached by Rev. Jane McBride, First Congregational Church of MN, UCC

A childhood friend of mine regularly issued a teasing challenge to my pastor father. “I dare you to preach a one-word sermon,” she would say. “Just get up and say “Looovve”; then sit down. I remembered this exchange as I considered Jesus’ words in today’s lesson: You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

Jesus, in his teaching about love, challenges the conventional, common-sense wisdom. We are to love those near to us, those like us. But we are also to love the adversaries who hurt us. In effect, enemies become neighbors. And what is Jesus saying about the space between “neighbor” and “enemy”? Are to love those we don’t like? Love those whose politics we find offensive? Love those with whom we wouldn’t normally mix or socialize?


JRLC Day on the Hill

February 17, 2011

Over 850 concerned Minnesotans from Protestant-Jewish-Muslim-Catholic faith backgrounds.  A lovely group of First Churchers was among them.  This slideshow captures just some of us… 

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The significance of baptism

February 17, 2011

This week I am tackling this question:

Is immersion a more significant experience (compared to the practice of sprinkling)?  Should our church use immersion?

From a purely subjective standpoint, I’m under-qualified to make a response.  I have never experienced baptism by immersion; nor do I remember my own sprinkling as an infant.  As a minister, moreover, I’ve never performed an immersion-style baptism in a baptistry.

One example of a baptistry.


Sermon 2/13/10: “Choose Life”

February 14, 2011

“Choose Life.”  A sermon by the Rev. Abigail G. Henderson, preached on 2/13/11 at First Congregational Church of Minnesota, UCC.

Deut. 30:15-20; Matthew 5:21-26, 33-37; excerpts from “But, If,” a sermon by MLK Jr.  (read here)

“Choose life.”

When I was in college, I thought I knew what that phrase meant.  I thought it belonged to the pro-life movement—a slogan for license plates, bumper stickers, and pins.   I was very familiar with such swag, because one Saturday a month I volunteered at a women’s health clinic in Boston.  This clinic provided many services, including abortion, and in 1994 two of its employees were murdered by an anti-abortion terrorist.  The memory of violence hung over this place, as activists from both sides of the abortion debate gathered in a weekly standoff.  The protestors held up grisly signs and yelled at passersby about “murder” and “infanticide.”  Clinic volunteers, meanwhile, escorted patients and their companions past the picket line and through the doors.


Baptism through the ages

February 10, 2011

In January, we held a “Back to Basics” session at church on Baptism.  We watched film scenes with “baptismal” imagery as a way of exploring the meanings of Baptism in our daily lives.  We also collected questions from participants — insightful, probing, wise questions, that we wanted to share here on the blog.  Over the next few weeks, Abby & I will offer our responses to these questions and hope that you will join the conversation.

Why should parents bring a young child to be baptized? As Abby wrote in her Chimes article, one thing we agree on as a church is that we do not baptize out of fear.  We believe that both those who are baptized and those who aren’t receive the full welcome of God.  As a community, we embrace and honor all, inclusive of each person’s choices and history with respect to baptism.



February 8, 2011

Sermon for February 6, 2011; Matthew 5:13-20

Rev. Jane McBride, First Congregational Church of MN, UCC

You tube videos pan the quarter million inhabiting Tahir Square. People chant and shout. Utter silence falls as thousands kneel in unison to pray. Those intent on violence invade peaceful demonstrations. Facebook and Twitter hum wildly with excitement and lament and calls to action.

Report from Creating Change

February 3, 2011

OK, we promised blogging about baptism… but I’m going to take an opportunity this week to reflect briefly on the National Conference on LGBT Equality Creating Change, held this year in Minneapolis.  Of great interest to me is the “mini-conference” within the conference, known as Practice Spirit, Do Justice (PSDJ).  This gathering is dedicated to teaching and sharing the skills for a multi-faith-based pro-LGBT movement that has strong alliances with secular movements.

I have always followed the progress of LGBT justice in various religious groups, but it was a new experience to have activists from all these different groups together, in one place.  Each faith community brings its own unique strengths and limitations to the vision of full LGBT equality, but there are many points of connection.  As a UCC person, I felt proud of our accomplishments and challenged to dream bigger about the future.

In one workshop, we talked a great deal about intercultural movement-building.  When working with different groups of people, particularly various faith groups, it is important to remember:

  • Shared meaning can not be assumed
  • Shared meaning must be discovered, negotiated, created

I found myself thinking that this is an excellent bit of wisdom for congregational life as well.  In a church, you have so many different people with their own stories, backgrounds, commitments, hopes… how do these various threads intertwine into a community?  I think that’s one of the questions behind the Visioning Process we’re engaged in.  We’re trying to do the intentional work of discovering, negotiating, and creating our shared meaning.  This isn’t to say that shared meaning hasn’t been there before–most surely it has!  But perhaps we’re trying to shed light on it in a different way–assuming less, listening more.

Speaking of listening… do sign up for a small group listening session!   I can’t wait to hear your voice.  🙂