Thursday, April 30, 2020 || Praise & Prayer

Join us for a service of praise and prayer tonight at 7:30 pm ET. This is an opportunity for us to gather (virtually) together, offer our thanks to God, and pray with and for one another. You can join this service virtually through Google Meet by clicking this link (https://meet.google.com/txp-ndfa-ivu) or by calling 1-440-467-1448, the PIN is 220 679 745#.

All are welcome. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

You can view and download the bulletin and devotional below.

Devotional || Psalm 134

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Psalm 134 is a traveling Psalm, one of 15 beginning with Psalm 120 and ending with Psalm 134. This series of Psalms were sung by pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover. Picture the travelers, whole communities walking together to get to the holy city of Jerusalem, to the holy temple- set apart for the worship of God. As they traveled, they sang these Psalms. Picture the child Jesus, traveling with Mary and Joseph for Passover at age 12, in a group with his friends. As they traveled, they sang of the mountains, and of God’s glory and as they neared the city, they sang this Psalm.

Come bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord!

May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.

They expected a blessing from worship. It was a joy to be there in the Lord’s house. Imagine what it will be like for us as we return to worship in person in our own church. What a joy it will be when we can all  be together in God’s house.

But while we wait, create a holy worship space in your own home, as we come together to celebrate God’s love for us through this time of the pandemic. I have my cross and my candle near me when we worship. We sing or say praises to God with the Doxology and the Psalm for the evening. We may not be making a pilgrimage to the holy land, or even driving down the street to our local church, but the time we set aside to worship God together is a holy time, set apart for God.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 || Praise & Prayer

Join us for a service of praise and prayer tonight at 7:30 pm. This is a time for us to together, offer our thanks to God, and pray with and for one another. You can join this service virtually through Google Meet by clicking this link (https://meet.google.com/txp-ndfa-ivu) or by calling 1-440-467-1448, the PIN is 220 679 745#.

All are welcome. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

You can view and download the bulletin and devotional below.

Devotional || Psalm 15

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Psalm 15 is probably an entry Psalm, for the beginning or worship. Who can come into God’s temple?  Right now, no one can.  The Psalm lists the qualities that we need to be God’s people. We are God’s people when we are worshipping at home.

The hymn, “We Are the Church,” says:

I am the church
you are the church,
we are the church together.
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world,
we are the church together.

The church is not a building,
the church is not a steeple,
the church is not a resting place,
the church is the people.

No. 558, v. 1., “We Are the Church,” The United Methodist Hymnal (1989). Words & Music by Richard K. Avery and Donald S. Marsh, 1972.

We are God’s people in our homes, in our neighborhoods and in the world. The people form the church.  What qualities do we need to show?

Integrity– doing what’s right when no one is looking.

Truth-telling– not spreading bad information, or tweeting gossip.

Kindness– not insulting one another, not speaking ill of one another.

Being with people who do good things– not hanging around with people who are bullies or doing or saying evil things.

Keeping promises– doing what you say you will do even if it hurts or is hard.

Avoiding usury– lending money at high interest which will push people into debt that they can never fully  pay.

Avoiding bribery.

During this time, as we are all locked down in our homes, it is hard to be the church. We can’t come together, but we still can be kingdom people, following God’s laws.  Be kind to your family members when you are sheltering together. Remember those who are sheltering alone. Give what you can, whether it is sewing masks, or making phone calls to check on neighbors, or donating to organizations which are helping others with less, or thanking a medical provider a nurse,  a first responder, a grocery clerk or pharmacy technician. There are many ways to show kindness. We can smile, though they may not see our mouths through our masks, our eyes can express a smile as well.

Whoever does all these things will never stumble. Bring God’s kingdom to this time and circumstance. Be kind. Praise God! Hallelujah!

Discussion Notes || Sunday, April 26, 2020

These discussion notes were written by Pastor Jacob and used to lead the conversation on Sunday, April 26, 2020 during our virtual service of Worshipful Conversation and Fellowship. Feel free to use these notes to start a discussion with your small group, family, and/or friends. This conversation is based on a reading from Joel 1.


Finding a New Normal:
The Crisis Now

By Rev. Dr. Jacob W. Juncker

I spent the better part of the last few weeks searching the scriptures to try and find a biblical book or story that might ground our discussion about the current novel-coronavirus pandemic that has so drastically changed all our lives.

To be honest, it was tough going.  While I won’t pretend to have perused all of the Bible in the last few weeks, I did search and skim and read significant hunks of it.  The fact of the matter is, the Bible speaks nowhere of global pandemic.  In a few places great sickness comes across the land, generally in a very localized context (think the plagues on Egypt), but the problem with those stories is that these sicknesses come at the direction of God.  God causes the sickness.

In my own thinking about the current global pandemic, I refuse to believe that God has inflicted a sickness on our world that has, to date, infected over 2.9 million people and resulted in over 203,000 deaths[1] worldwide including over 2,700 deaths here in Massachusetts.[2]

It is inconceivable, to me, that the God who created and wills life would impose a global pandemic, sentencing death on thousands, to make some divine point.

For sure, there are people who believe this.  There are those who believe that God is using this virus to cleanse the world of people who had it coming for one reason or another.  Such thinking is bullshit dangerous.  I once heard it said that those who believe in hell often think they know who should go there.  I think the same may be true of those who think that God works through global crises, including pandemics: if you think God works through divine retribution, harming people who have offended God, then you probably have certain people in mind who you think have offended God and stand under divine judgment.

Let me be clear—I do not believe that God has caused the current global pandemic.  I do not believe that those who have died have offended God any more than I have.  And, I do not think that we, as people of faith, should try to be reading into this global pandemic some sort of divine judgment or apocalyptic end.  Such thinking is bullarkey.

So what, then, are we left with?  How can we understand what’s going on?

It is at this point that I thumbed through and found the book of the prophet Joel.  Joel’s writing is found in the part of the Hebrew scriptures known as the Twelve Prophets, or the Minor Prophets.  It was written approximately 2,500 years ago (between 500 and 350 BCE) and is comprised of a series of poetic oracles.  Unlike other prophets in the Hebrew canon, Joel leans heavily upon a wide array of Hebrew prophets and writings using images and phrases from Obadiah, Malachi, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, Nahum, Exodus, and others.

Prophetic writings in scripture follow a pretty standard rubric.  Something is happening, the people are disobeying God, and the prophet calls them to change their hearts and lives (repent!)and return to God.  What is unique about Joel is that he does not follow this familiar formula.  The book of Joel does not call out God’s people for a specific sin.  He doesn’t accuse them from wandering away from God. Instead, Joel is trying to make sense of a devastating crisis that has occurred.  He uses the scripture he has at his disposal to make sense of what is going on around him.

In the opening chapter (our reading for today), we do not find Joel calling out the people’s sin.  Instead, he is calling the people to look around and acknowledge the devastation: to bear witness to the crisis that surrounds them.

Pay attention, everyone in the land!  Has anything like this ever happened in your days, or in the days of your ancestors?

Joel 1:2b, Common English Bible

It is hard to underestimate how devastating the locust swarm was on Joel’s community.  It decimated all the crops, the vineyards, and the grain in the land.

Be shocked, you farmers; howl you vinedressers, over the wheat and the barley, for the crops of the field are destroyed.  The grapevine is dried up; the fig tree withers.  Pomegranate, palm, and apple—all the trees of the field are dried up.  Joy fades from the people.

Joel 1:11-12, Common English Bible

Joel tells the people to pay attention, to acknowledge the crisis that is right now; and, he calls them to mourn what was lost.  Joel recognizes that the normal they had all gotten used to—the fruitful land and the full barns—is no more.  There would be no return to “normal.”  The people would have to find a new normal.

To begin the process of finding a new normal, we must first acknowledge what we are going through now.

How do you understand what is going on?

We are each experiencing this pandemic differently based upon our family structure, economic status, where we live, and what resources (medical and otherwise) we have access to.

This global pandemic is (we hope and pray) a once in lifetime experience.  What has been your experience of this pandemic?  What will you tell your children and have your children tell their children, and their children tell their children?

Do you find yourself mourning during this time? about what?  What have you lost?

These are challenging times. Now is not the time to hide your head. We need to be aware what is going on around us, if we are ever to get through this crisis and find a new normal.

Amen? and amen.

“We Shall Overcome,” sung by The Aeolians (Oakwood University, Huntsville, Alabama)

[1] information pulled from the Johns Hopkins University and Medicine “COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).”  Accessed April 26, 2020, at 8:35am.

[2] information gleaned from “Massachusetts Department of Public Health COVID-19 Dashboard—Saturday, April 25, 2020” (https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-dashboard-april-25-2020/download).

Sunday, April 26, 2020 || Worshipful Conversation & Fellowship

Join us for a time of Worshipful Conversation and Fellowship on Sunday, April 26, at 10am. You can join this service virtually through Google Meet by clicking this link (http://meet.google.com/ens-kcoq-bgg) or by calling 1-262-885-7027, the PIN is 172 874 072#.

You can view and download the bulletin for this service below. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

In order to best participate in this service, you will need access to a bible (bound or electronic), and some sort of food/snack and drink.  The Bible is for the discussion.  The food is for the love feast during which you will be invited to share some aspect of your hope, joy, or faith before you eat what you have with you. Prompts for our time of sharing are provided in the bulletin.

All are welcome.

Devotional || Psalm 116:1-4, 10-19

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Psalm 116 is a Psalm of gratitude. God loves us and walks beside us throughout our lives in sickness and in health. God loves us and walks with us when our loved ones are ill or struggling. God loves us and walks with us when we mourn. In return we give thanks to the Lord for all that God has done.

How do we show gratitude when we are struggling to just survive? For me, I think about what good is in a situation. Because I have ALS, I have had several losses. When I first went to my support group, I thought everyone there must not like it when I come walking in when most of the others are in wheelchairs. I can physically care for myself when others are dependent on caregivers to bathe and dress them. I have come to realize though, that they all fear the loss of speech and swallowing which is what I first lost. Each of us sits there and says, at least I can still … whatever they haven’t lost. I am grateful that I can walk and care for myself. I am grateful that my left arm is growing weak and not my dominant right arm.

I am thankful that I live alone and not in a care facility where COVID-19 can run through all the patients very quickly. Whatever it is that you have lost through this virus, be thankful for what you still have. If your needs are financial, be thankful for unemployment checks and food pantries that can help you. If you are a healthcare worker, be thankful that you are well enough to work. If you are a parent and trying to become a teacher too, be thankful for this time with your children, to watch them grow and develop. If you are graduating from high school, be thankful for your education, even if you have to miss out on graduation ceremonies and all the excitement that brings.

So, whatever you’re feeling sad about, or grieving, or worrying about, take a moment to give a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord.

Praise the Lord!

Thursday, April 23, 2020 || Praise & Prayer

Join us for a service of praise and prayer tonight at 7:30 pm. This is a time for us to together, offer our thanks to God, and pray with and for one another. You can join this service virtually through Google Meet by clicking this link (https://meet.google.com/txp-ndfa-ivu) or by calling 1-440-467-1448, the PIN is 220 679 745#.

All are welcome. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

You can view and download the bulletin and devotional below.

Devotional || Psalm 114

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Psalm 114 recalls the Exodus, the time when God rescued God’s people from their difficulties. It is a celebration of God’s grace and mercy when life becomes difficult. When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God sent Moses to bring them out. When they needed to cross the Red Sea, God, held back the water to allow them to pass. Then years later God stopped the waters of the Jordon River to allow the Israelites to cross into the promised land. When they were hungry, God sent manna in the morning and quails at night to feed them- enough for everyone. When they were thirsty, God allowed spring water to burst forth when Moses struck the rock. At every turn, God provided for the people.

And so, the mountains and hills leaped in the air.

This is a time of trouble for us, as we continue to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. We know people are dying, people are desperately ill. Families can’t visit with their sick relatives. There are shortages of medical supplies and essential medication. Grocery stores are empty of some essentials. And yet, we see medical and nursing staff stepping up to care for very sick patients putting their own lives at risk. Factories are changing their manufacturing process to create personal protective equipment. Breweries are making hand sanitizer. People are making masks in their homes. People are caring for their neighbors.  Others are donating money to emergency relief funds. God always provides; and, God provides by using humans.

And so, we to join the earth in singing praise for God’s mercy and provisions in times of need.

“Shout to the Lord” by Hillsong (feat. Darlene Zschech)

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Taesung Kang, New Hampshire District Superintendent

Who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Who saw the pain of the people of Israel and redeemed them from slavery, 
Who heard the mourning of the captives and ransomed them from their lonely exile, 
Who watched Your Son Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and raised him up from the dead. 

We were so grateful for the celebration of this Easter Sunday that was like no other;
Singing Hallelujah at home, at the top of our lungs, along with a virtual choir, 
Watching the powerful story of the empty tomb from the couch, 
Sharing a Love Feast with family members, 
Recognizing how greatly we needed the spirit of Easter and living it out as Easter people. 

Now, only five days later, after being filled with the great joy of Jesus’ triumph over death,  
We feel like those Israelites who were in captivity, 
We feel like Thomas who doubted your real presence, 
We find our daily life compromised by anxiety, fear, and doubt. 

There are times when we wonder, “Where is God in this pandemic?” 
There are times when we feel that God seems so far away, 
There are times when we think God is absent from our midst, 
There are times when we ask, “How long, O God, do we need to endure?” 

So continue to have mercy upon us, O Lord, 
And redeem us from the doubt and despair that is within us and around us, 
Deepen our faith so that we may remain pure and genuine through this trial, 
Grant us your peace and restore our true Easter joy, 
Help us to understand that “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” 
Help us to love you, O Lord, “even though we do not see you now.” 

Risen Savior, 
We choose to trust in your ever-present love, 
Our faith will remain “strong through many trials” 
For “it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 
Amen. Hallelujah! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020 || Praise & Prayer

Join us for a service of praise and prayer tonight at 7:30 pm. This is a time for us to together, offer our thanks to God, and pray with and for one another. You can join this service virtually through Google Meet by clicking this link (https://meet.google.com/txp-ndfa-ivu) or by calling 1-440-467-1448, the PIN is 220 679 745#.

All are welcome. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

You can view and download the bulletin and devotional below.