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From the April/May Newsletter:

Holy is the week. Holy, consecrated,

belonging to God.

We move from hosannas to horror with predictable ease of those who know not what they do.

Our hosannas sung, our palms waved,

let us go with passion into this week.

It is time for preparation….the time to give thanks and break bread is upon us.

The time to give thanks and drink

of the cup is imminent.

And then, on that darkest of days, each of us must stand beneath the tree and watch the dying

if we are to be there when the stone is rolled away.

The only road to Easter morning is through the unrelenting shadows of that Friday.

Only then will the alleluias be sung;

only then will the dancing begin!

                                                                                                   Ann Weems

 

I encourage you to be with our Family of Faith for our Holy Week services and experience the joy, beauty, music and spirit of Easter as you have never experienced it before!!

                                   With Love,

                                                    John

 

From the Pastor October/November Newsletter

There are two lasting we can give our children,

one is roots, the other is wings.

It is time to celebrate!

You are invited to attend our time of worship and fellowship on Sunday, November 13th as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the United Church Nursery School. Alumni and past teachers and directors are also invited to be part of the celebration. This year's classes will be singing and participating during worship and we will recognize and honor the founders of the school, Sandra Aldrich, Adelaide Vant and Jean Bora Ross.

It is going to be a very special morning. Worship begins at 10:15am and the celebration

fellowship immediately follows worship.

If you know any alumni please pass on the invitation. 

I am so grateful for the past 50 years of nurturing and learning. Come celebrate the roots and wings!!!!

 

                                                                                    With Love, 

John

 

From the Pastor September 2017 Newsletter

Worshipping in the park has been beautiful; however it is always exciting for me to come back on Rally Day and gather in our House of Worship. It is such an inspirational worship space! 

In November 1962 an article appeared in a magazine of the arts called HORIZON. The article was titled Church with a Twist. A Connecticut parish has defied the traditions of New England architecture and built a house of worship uniting modern design with timeless reverence. The article was written by Russell Bourne. I proudly share a few excerpts from this article.

“Every community and congregation faced with growth and change confronts its individual debate over what kind of a church to build. The debate at Rowayton reached a height of controversy that threatened to split the town as well as the congregation - a group of some eighty families of several denominations who had come together, or ‘united,’ for the purpose of common worship. Yet, although the proposed new church was denounced by some as ‘the Rowayton twist’ and worse, its sponsors prevailed, and the United Church remains united under the upswept rafters of a creation the ages may overlook but its neighbors cannot. It spirals above the primly gabled roofs of the town’s comfortable houses with the shaggy eccentricity of a physics professor at a liberal arts school. It stands on the same corner lot as a fifty-year-old Baptist church (from which many of its members came), like a shrine of a wholly different, more casual sort of religion.”

After narrowing the number of applicants down from seventeen to four, by a slim margin the building committee chose Joseph Salerno of nearby Westport, Connecticut, an independent architect with a diversified, if selective, practice.”

“In the new building’s design there is a haunting, internal echo of the old Baptist church. Both seating plans are semi-circular. But the resemblance goes no further. The new building focuses on a simple altar above which rises a glowing cone of laminated wooden beams brightly washed with light admitted through colored glass panes. ‘The light coming down to the altar is an indication that God is with us,’ Salerno explains. ‘And the semi-circular seating plan represents unity of the people.’” 

“The force of the winding roof line does draw you in; the concentric circles of the seating plan do draw you toward the altar. Not everyone, of course, is moved by the thrust of the eccentric spire and delighted by the bare wood of the interior as are these Christians in Rowayton. They face unconcernedly the possibility that their sanctuary will seem as imperfect to the next generation of worshippers as the old Baptist church does to them. They did not build their House of Worship as a beacon for the future or a monument to the past, but as a tent in which their souls might find first aid. Perhaps that is why their church looks momentarily so right.” (Horizon, November 1962)

The first time I stepped into our House of Worship was May, 1986, the day Judi and I met with the Search Committee. I loved it right away. I still feel a sense of peace every time I step through its doors. Another thing that I loved right away was the anchor that is in front of our Church. The anchor is a symbol of hope. When you look at the anchor you see that it is a cross resting upon and securely balanced within, a crescent moon. The rising anchor is a symbol for hope. This is alluded to, metaphorically, whenever we say that "our hopes are rising." When a ship weighs, or raises, its anchor it tells everyone that it is leaving its current port-of-call and is on its way to a new voyage, a new adventure.

This is a metaphor for how each one of us feel when we finally decide to leave a stagnant portion of our life behind us in order to begin a new journey, voyage or adventure.

Every time we drive by or better yet, every time we pull into the church driveway we see this anchor. May it give you hope!!! I will be saying more about this anchor, this symbol of hope, on Sunday September 11th during my message for our Rally Day. My message on Rally Day will be Growing in God’s Love.

I am looking forward to seeing you pull into the driveway, pass the anchor, and then step into our beautiful House of Worship to gather together with our Family of Faith continuing to search for peace and hope!!!!!!

With love,

John

 

From The Pastor   June - August Newsletter 

I shared the following words written by Barbara Cage on Confirmation Sunday.

Be true to your dreams, and keep them alive. Never let anyone change your mind about what you feel you can achieve. Always believe in yourself!

Be true to the light that is deep within you. Hold on to your faith, hope, and joy for life. Keep good thoughts in your mind and good feelings in your heart. Keep love in your life, and you will find the love and light in everyone!

Be giving, forgiving, patient, and kind. Have faith in yourself. Be your own best friend, and listen to the voice that tells you to be your best self!

Be true to yourself in the paths that you choose. Follow your talents and passions.

Most of all, never forget that there is no brighter light than the one within you.

With Love, 

John

Congratulations to the Confirmation Class of 2016

Eliza Jean Ayala (Academy of Information Technology & Engineering),

Oliver Grayson Beringer (Darien High School)

Bennett William Close (Greens Farms Academy),

Sebastian John Macrae Cunningham (Brien McMahon High School),

Julia Marilyn Ely (Brien McMahon High School),

Jack Christian Froelich (Brien McMahon High School),

Madison Lynn Froelich (Brien McMahon High School),

April Melissa Gall (Brien McMahon High School),

Remington Leah Gibson (Brien McMahon High School),

John (Jack) Conway Keller (Brien McMahon High School),

Salim Hunter Hong Onbargi (Darien High School),

Spencer Connor Rhodes (Foundation School)

 

From The Pastor   April/May Newsletter 

Two seeds lay side by side in the fertile spring soil.

The first seed said, "I want to grow!

I want to send my roots deep into the soil

beneath me, and thrust my sprouts through the earth's crust above me. . .

I want to unfurl my tender buds like banners

 to announce the arrival of spring. . .

I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and the blessing of the morning dew

on my petals!"

And so she grew.

The second seed said, "I am afraid. If I send my roots into the ground below,

I don't know what I will encounter in the dark. If I push my way

through the hard soil above me I may damage my delicate sprouts. . .what if I let my buds open

and a snail tries to eat them?

And if I were to open my blossoms,

 a small child may pull me from the ground.

 No, it is much better for me to wait until it is safe."

And so she waited.

A yard hen scratching around in the early spring ground for

food found the waiting seed and promptly ate it.

MORAL OF THE STORY:

Those of us who refuse to risk and grow

get swallowed up by life.

 

                                                          Patty Hansen

 

I love springtime! It is a time of growth and new life. It is a time for us to examine our lives and discover ways for us to be better people; discover ways for us to strengthen our faith; discover ways for us to appreciate the earth’s beauty. Throughout April and May our Sunday morning worship experiences will help us discover all this and more. From fourth grade First Communion to 10th grade Confirmation; from our special music Sunday with David Snyder to Teacher Appreciation Sunday - we have opportunities to grow spiritually. The writer Sharon Salzburg reminds us:

“Faith helps us approach life with a sense of possibility rather than foreboding and helplessness.

It enables us to reach for what we don’t yet know with a measure of courage. It teaches us that

whatever disappointments we might meet, we can try again, trust again, and love again.”

  With love,

John


From the Pastor February/March 2016 Newsletter

As we approach our Annual Meeting and as we read the Annual Reports, I salute our Family of Faith and I honor our place in this world, as one local church, with the following words:

 

A Toast

Here’s to everyone:

To fullness of life on earth

and bounteous blessings for all humanity;

to justice, compassion, and

the warmth of the sun for all God’s creatures;

to the golden health of loved ones everywhere,

and the radiant glory of those

who have gone before.

God bless us now and evermore.

So be it.

                                                                                       From Seasons of the Spirit                     

                                                                                       With Love,

                                                                                                   John

 

64th Annual Meeting

February 7, 2016 During Worship

1.   To review Annual Reports and vote on their

      acceptance.

2.   To elect Officers, Board and Committee members and Delegates for the year.

3.   To approve the Operating Budget for 2016.

4.   To take up any other matters that may be properly raised without special notice.

                                    Bill Peltz, Clerk

 

 

From the Pastor  December Newsletter 2015 

As we approach this time of year many of us start getting a little frantic, don’t we?  Christmas is coming. There is so much to do. This is a frantic time for many of us. The season of Advent is supposed to be our chance to get ready, but there is more to getting ready than just having all the decorations in place, and all the gifts bought and wrapped, and the last card will sent. We need to spiritually prepare ourselves for Christmas. When Christmas arrives this year, will you be prepared for the birth of the Christ child? Paul, in Philippians 4, gives us a formula for getting our hearts ready for Christmas. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” With these words, Paul gives us a comprehensive formula for finding peace this Christmas--a peace which, as he says, transcends all understanding.

Here’s where our Family of Faith can help. I believe you will find more peace on your Advent journey if you worship with us on Sunday mornings and take part in the other special Advent programs we offer, including December 6th Tree Lighting (See article) and December 20th evening Prayer Vigil - “Peace in our hearts and Peace in our World” (See article). When we gather for worship on Christmas Eve may we all be able to look back upon the Advent Season and be grateful for the time we took to get spiritually prepared. “Joy to the World! The Lord is come. Let every heart prepare him room.

                                                                                           With Love, John

 

From October/November 2015 Newsletter

Anyone who has ever watched “The Price is Right,” still going strong on CBS’s morning

schedule, is familiar with the words, “COME ON DOWN” - a person’s name is called and then you hear, “COME ON DOWN!” I feel like saying those words to many of you who are reading this newsletter. “COME ON DOWN” to The United Church of Rowayton. We have begun another Fall season with our Rally Day on September 13th and yet many of our families have not yet returned. Whenever I see people during the week I hear, “Oh, we’ll be back. . .we miss being there!”  I know that there are many things happening in life that make it difficult for people to “Come on down” to the Church on Sundays, however I also know that when people do get here they feel so much better about the “many things happening in life.” The children that come on Sundays really love what is going on here. The things they learn about God and love and being supportive of each other are things that will stay with them throughout their lives and help them to make this a better world. Of course, it’s the parents who need to bring the children. Once the parents “come on down,” they too receive, so I hear, words of encouragement that help them make it through another week. Here is a portion of my message from September 13th.


“Over the past few months - while I have been reflecting on the teachings of Jesus and his

wisdom, I also read Arianna Huffington’s book "Thrive" - I just love the title - "Thrive."  She has

known extraordinary success in the form of money and power, however in her own experience

those two measures of success were not enough.

Back in 2007, she collapsed from exhaustion. Clearly her life and her definition of success

needed to change. Now her definition of success includes and embraces personal well-being,

wonder, giving and wisdom.  Here is how she defines it:

-   Understanding life as a classroom where we can learn even from our struggles

-   Practicing and expressing gratitude

-   Paying attention to our intuition and interior life

-   Appreciating the difference between information and wisdom

-   Slowing down in our culture of hurry sickness

-   Being mindful instead of operating on  automatic pilot

Those six points are very much in keeping with the teachings of Jesus. Arianna’s definition of

success really does embrace personal well-being and wisdom. I think this is exactly what we try

to teach and preach and pray and sing about right here in this Family of Faith.” (Rally Day, Sept. 13, 2015)

“COME ON DOWN.” Make Sunday worship a priority for yourself and your family. It will help you in many ways endure the living of life. Take a moment and reflect on these words:

 

Living Life by Bonnie Mohr

"Life is not a race - but indeed a journey.

Be honest. Work hard. Be choosy.

Say "thank you" and "great job"to someone each day. Go to church, take time for prayer.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh.

Let your handshake mean more

than pen and paper.

Love your life and what you've been given,

it is not accidental.

Search for your purpose and do it as best you can.

Dreaming does matter. It allows you to become that which you aspire to be.

Appreciate the little things in life and enjoy them. Some of the best things really are free.

Do not worry, less wrinkles are more becoming.

Forgive, it frees the soul.

Take time for yourself.  Plan for longevity.

Recognize the special people

you've been blessed to know.

Live for today and each moment.

Strive for peace in your heart and the world."

 

I love all of her thoughts and have bolded “Go to church” because I believe you will experience so

much of what she expresses when you are part of the life of the church. “Come on Down.” I’ll be waiting with open arms.

                          With Love

                                 John


From September 2015 Neewsletter:

Life is a gift. . .accept it;

life is an adventure. . .dare it;

life is a mystery. . .unfold it;

life is a struggle. . .face it;

life is an opportunity. . .take it;

 life is sorrowful. . .experience it;

life is a song. . .sing it;

life is a goal. . .achieve it,

life is a mission. . .fulfill it.   

                              Frederick Buechner

I believe Buechner’s words can help anyone live life and help to lead us as individuals to a healthy and faithful and effective life and it is supported by the ministry of our Church. We are a healthy and faithful and effective Church, at least according to a few experts who say that the qualities of healthy and faithful and effective churches are those who have empowering leadership - those who encourage sharing gifts - those who have inspiring spirituality and worship - those who are fostering small group gatherings - and those who are sustained by caring and loving relationships. The United Church of Rowayton is healthy and faithful and effective! Once this fall gets going, our Church becomes very active, day after day and night after night!

We try our best to live our faith. We try our best to be our Mission Statement: We are a Christian community, dedicated to welcoming those who seek a relationship with God, to sharing God’s Word and love, and to nurturing all in their journey of faith.

This summer we had many new people join us for worship in the park. May this spirit continue as we move into another active fall season.  We “Rally” together on September 13th for worship and fellowship. Bring a friend and share the opportunity to be part of a place that helps people see that life is a gift!!     

                                                                                                     With Love,  John


From the April/May Newsletter

Holy is the week. Holy, consecrated,

belonging to God.

We move from hosannas to horror with predictable ease of those who know not what they do.

Our hosannas sung, our palms waved,

let us go with passion into this week.

It is time for preparation….the time to give thanks and break bread is upon us.

The time to give thanks and drink

of the cup is imminent.

And then, on that darkest of days, each of us must stand beneath the tree and watch the dying

if we are to be there when the stone is rolled away.

The only road to Easter morning is through the unrelenting shadows of that Friday.

Only then will the alleluias be sung;

only then will the dancing begin!

                                                                                                       Weems

 

I encourage you to be with our Family of Faith for our Holy Week services and experience the joy, beauty, music and spirit of Easter as you have never experienced it before!!

                                       With Love,

                                                    John

 

Maundy Thursday - April 2nd, 8pm - Holy Communion and Tenebrae

This powerful service involves the lighting and extinguishing of candles as a reminder of the darkness that covered the Earth after the passion and crucifixion of Christ.  Tenebrae, the Latin word for "darkness," is also observed to impress upon our hearts the tragic consequences of humanity's sin and the greatness of the Saviour's sacrifice at Calvary.  Throughout this service there will be readings highlighting the Passion Story of our Lord Jesus Christ.  You are encouraged to join us for this meaningful service.

 

Good Friday April 3rd, 12 Noon

Reflections of the Seven Last Words of Jesus.  The Rowayton United Methodist Church will be joining us for this special service of dramatic readings.

 

Easter Sunday, April 5th

6:00am             Sunrise Service at Bayley Beach

                                    followed by community breakfast

                                    at the Rowayton Firehouse

9:15am                         Easter Worship

10:15am                       Egg Hunt

11:15am                       Easter Worship

                                    Message: Now What?

                                    Mark 16:1-8 

 

From the February/March 2015  Newsletter

63nd Annual Meeting
February 1, 2015
During Worship

I encourage you be with us for worship and our Annual Meeting on February 1st. We have so much to celebrate and for which to be thankful. It is going to be a very special and uplifting morning.  I have been saying all year that you are such an important part of our Family of Faith- Our Church would not be complete with out you- CH---RCH without U is incomplete! A friend shared with me the following words. As we celebrate the past year and look forward to the year to come may these words be encouragement to us all.

 

This is my church.

It is composed of people just like me.

It will be friendly if I am.

It will do a great work if I work.

It will make generous gifts to many

causes if I am generous.

It will bring others into its fellowship

if I bring them.

Its seats will be filled if I fill them.

It will be a church of loyalty and love, of faith and service. If I who make it what it is,

am filled with these,

Therefore, with God’s help, I dedicate myself to the task of being all these things

I want my church to be.

With Love,

John


From the December 2014/January 2015  Newsletter

Judi and I are really looking forward to sharing The United Church of Rowayton Advent and Christmas traditions which have become so endearing to us and our family. As you read this newsletter you will see so many opportunities for you to experience the wonder and joy of this time of year. I encourage you to choose to let the spiritual meaning of the season guide your plans.

I urge you to come to Sunday worship. The lighting of the Advent candles each week is such a meaningful and treasured tradition. On December 7th our New Members will join our Family of Faith and we will celebrate with our Advent Pancake Breakfast!!!  And then that evening the celebration continues with our tree lighting and caroling and pizza party. This year we are uniting with the Nursery School families for this fun and festive night. All are welcome whether you have children or not.  I encourage all ages to come and experience the joy of caroling and a visit from Santa. During worship on December 14th we will have our Living Nativity with Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus and donkey, wise men, shepherds, and our famous camel. You don’t want to miss this amazing and magical morning. On Sunday December 21st our Senior Choir will share music with a harpist and the wonder and beauty of the music will fill our House of Worship and inspire our faith. All of this leads us to Christmas Eve as we gather for worship at 4pm (Family Worship) and 11pm (Candlelight Worship). I urge you to participate in these traditions. I promise it will help you stay focused on the spiritual meaning of this most wonderful time of year.  

                 

                        With Love,

                                 John

                              

From the October/November 2014 Newsletter

On October 14th Judi and I will celebrate our 36th Wedding Anniversary! Last year for our 35th we received from our adult children, Kelly, Samantha and Michael, a framed print with the following words on it:                      

The Livingston Family

Celebrating 35 years 10-14-13

Every bit of bark, every inch of branch

through the leaves that come and go

WE HAVE GROWN TOGETHER

Through the wind, through the hail, through sunburn

we may have swayed but never cracked

Only rising taller, only burrowing deeper,

                               turning drought to nourishment and storm

                                                     to strength

                                    A tree is only as powerful as its roots

                          THANK YOU for being the foundation of this family

 

Those are such meaningful words. I have chosen to share them with you in this newsletter because I believe they are a wonderful metaphor for our Family of Faith. Read it again, but this time think about our Church. We, the people, are the Church. On Rally Day the choir sang an anthem which began with this narration:

 

“The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord, and this church stands as an example of Christian unity, bringing people together for worship and fellowship and service. We reaffirm our commitment to carry God’s love into our community and the world around us. We are the church!

 

As we come upon this fall season, a time when we will be asked to make our financial commitment to this Church and a time for giving thanks for all our blessings, I want to remind you that you are the CHURCH. Without you, we would be incomplete - just look at the word - CH_RCH - without U it’s incomplete. Remember how important this Family of Faith is to you and our community. What would your life be like if this Church were not here? Take a moment and think about that question! May I be so bold to suggest that you need this Church. And there is no doubt in my mind and heart that we need you! We need you, financially supporting the Church; we need you, volunteering; we need you, participating in our programs; we need you, worshipping; we need you singing and ringing; we need you, teaching; we need you! We need you to continue to grow together….

 

Through the wind, through the hail,

through sunburn

we may have swayed but never cracked

Only rising taller, only burrowing deeper,

turning drought to nourishment

and storm to strength

 A tree is only as powerful as its roots

 

A Church is only as powerful as its roots. Thank you for being part of the foundation of this Family of Faith! And I thank you, in advance, for your personal support!

                                                                                                                   With Love

From the September 2014 Newsletter

 

May the Great Mystery that we call God

keep alive in each one of us

the search for a Faith that is real;

a Faith that helps us to live happier lives

a Faith that gives us a fuller

meaning to life and the events of life;

Bring us to know the goodness that flows

from the heart of the universe,

and may we be expanded in heart and soul

by that goodness.  This is our prayer.

From “The Historical Jesus Goes to Church.” 

Used with permission of Polebridge Press.

 

On September 7th we begin another exciting and fulfilling church program year. We call it “Rally Day” because we, as one definition of “rally” states, we “come together for a common purpose.” I believe that “common purpose” is to keep alive in each one of us the search for a Faith that is real; a Faith that helps us to live happier lives; a Faith that gives us a fuller meaning to life and the events of life.

See you in Church as we, a devoted Family of Faith, explore the Great Mystery that we call God.

With Love,

John

 

Rally Day, September 7th

10:15 am Worship

Pastor John Livingston will accept the ALC Ice Bucket Challenge during Fellowship Hour


From June - August 2014 Newsletter:

As we move into the summer season I thought these two illustrations would be helpful for you to find joy and peace. The first is an excerpt from my Easter message:

The familiar ancient Daoist saying goes, “No peace in the world without peace in the nation; no peace in the nation without peace in the town; no peace in the town without peace in the home; no peace in the home without peace in the heart.” 

The writer Robert Fulghum takes that one step further, he has written, “Peace is not something you wish for; it is something you make, something you are something you do, something you give away!”

If that’s true, and I believe it is, then, how do we find this inner peace? Some of you may be familiar with a recent study on this very subject. The study conducted by a group of psychologists throughout the world determined eight keys to emotional and mental stability, to inner peace. I find them quite helpful:

The first key is: Get rid of suspicion and resentment. Nursing a grudge is a major factor in unhappiness and discontent.

The second is: Don’t live in the past. An unwholesome preoccupation with old mistakes and failures can lead to depression.

The third key is: Don’t waste time and energy fighting conditions you cannot change. That’s what the inspiring Serenity Prayer states:

God, grant me the peace to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. It means cooperate with life, instead of trying to run away from it.

The fourth is: Force yourself to stay involved with the living world. Resist the temptation to withdraw and become reclusive during periods of emotional stress. 

Number five is: Refuse to indulge in self-pity when life hands you a raw deal. Accept the fact that nobody gets through life without some sorrow and misfortune.

Number six is: Cultivate the old-fashioned virtues--love, humor, compassion and loyalty.

Number seven is: Do not expect too much of yourself. When there is too wide a gap between self-expectation and your ability to meet the goals you have set, feelings of inadequacy are inevitable.

 

And finally, number eight is: Find something bigger than yourself to believe in. Self-centered, egotistical people score lowest in any test for measuring happiness and inner peace.

 

The second illustration is from the writer Arthur Gordon. He shares a wonderful, intimate story of his own spiritual renewal in a little story called “The Turn of the Tide.” It tells of a time in his life when he began to feel that everything was stale and flat. His enthusiasm waned; his writing efforts were fruitless. And the situation was growing worse day by day. Finally, he determined to get help from a medical doctor. Observing nothing physically wrong, the doctor asked him if he would be able to follow his instructions for one day.

When Gordon replied that he could, the doctor told him to spend the following day in the place where he was happiest as a child. He could take food, but he was not to talk to anyone or to read or write or listen to the radio. He then wrote out four prescriptions and told him to open one at nine, twelve, three, and six o’clock.

“Are you serious?” Gordon asked him.

“You won’t think I’m joking when you get my bill!” was the reply.

So the next morning, Gordon went to the beach. As he opened the first prescription, he read “Listen carefully.” He thought the doctor was insane. How could he listen for three hours? But he had agreed to follow the doctor’s orders, so he listened.  He heard the usual sounds of the sea and the birds. After a while, he could hear the other sounds that weren’t so apparent at first. As he listened, he began to think of lessons the sea had taught him as a child—patience, respect, an awareness of the interdependence of things. He began to listen to the sounds—and the silence—and to feel a growing peace. 

At noon, he opened the second slip of paper and read “Try reaching back.” “Reaching back to what?” he wondered. Perhaps to childhood, perhaps to memories of happy times. He thought about his past, about the many little moments of joy. He tried to remember them with exactness. And in remembering, he found a growing warmth inside. 

At three o’clock, he opened the third piece of paper. Until now, the prescriptions had been easy to take. But this one was different; it said “Examine your motives.” 

At first he was defensive. He thought about what he wanted—success, recognition, security, and he justified them all. But then the thought occurred to him that those motives weren’t good enough, and that perhaps therein was the answer to his stagnant situation.

He considered his motives deeply. He thought about past happiness. And at last, the answer came to him.

 “In a flash of certainty,” he wrote, “I saw that if one’s motives are wrong, nothing can be right. It makes no difference whether you are a mailman, a hairdresser, an insurance salesman, a housewife—whatever. As long as you feel you are serving others, you do the job well. When you are concerned only with helping yourself, you do it less well—a law as inexorable as gravity."

When six o’clock came, the final prescription didn’t take long to fill. “Write your worries on the sand,” it said. He knelt and wrote several words with a piece of broken shell; then he turned and walked away. He didn’t look back; he knew the tide would come in.

One more thing - along with these two illustrations to help you feel the joy and peace of the summer season - come to worship in Pinkney Park (see article). It is a wonderful way to experience joy and peace.                                                                                          

With Love, 

  John


From the April/May Newsletter:

At the end of our worship every week, before the Benediction, I say, “The way is long let us go together; the way is joyful, let us share it; the way is ours, let us go in love; the way opens before us, let us begin.”

The way - could mean the way of Jesus - Jesus' followers and their movement to share his teachings were often called “The way.”  For some it means that or it could simply mean the way of life itself - the journey. The way is long, let us go together.  If we are going to meet any of the challenges of life we need each other. Because the journey of life and faith can seem so very long with its disappointments and losses, heartbreaks and despair, tragic deaths and prolonged illnesses, and loneliness, we need each other’s emotional and relational support. I love what Elizabeth Kubler Ross says in her last book called Death: The Final Stage of Growth.  She says, “What is most important is to realize that whether we understand fully who we are or what will happen when we die, it’s our purpose to grow as human beings, to look within ourselves and build upon the source of peace and understanding and strength that is within. And THEN to reach out to others with love and acceptance and patient guidance in the hope of what we may become together.” Isn’t that wonderful? The way is long, let us go together.

 

The way is joyful, let us share it. We need to be joyful. It is known that Mother Teresa who served constantly among the despairing, the hungry and dying, required that her hospital wards be filled with laughter - she felt the sound of laughter was the strongest force toward health, renewing strength and spirituality. St. Francis of Assisi wandered the streets like a clown, laughing at despair. The symbol of the laughing Buddha represents the essential joy of Buddhism, laughter and happiness are at the core of its teaching as joy is at the core of Christianity. I recall when I was traveling through Honduras and Guatemala that I was constantly encountering people who existed, according to our standards, at barely above a starvation level, yet they lived with genuine joy. Their lives were filled with smiles, song, dance and celebration for whatever they had. Barbara Johnson, the writer of the book Splashes of Joy in the Cesspools of Life - great title - writes -Think about the Apostle Paul - while in prison because of his faith, in a joyless place, in joyless circumstances. Paul was joyful because he knew the difference between splashes of joy and the cesspool often depends on how you look at what is happening to you and around you.

I like the personal 10 commandments of the poet Helen Steiner Rice, who emphasizes optimism: Be happy. Use your talents to make others glad. Rise above defeat and trouble. Look upon each day as a new day. Always do your best and leave the rest to God. Don’t waste your time and energy in useless worry. Look only on the bright side of life. Don’t be afraid of tomorrow. Have a kind word and a kind deed for everyone. Say each morning – this is the day that God has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! The way is joyful, let us share it. 

 

The way is ours let us go in love. Once a woman, who was 96 years old, said to me as we were talking about our various needs in life, said very simply, “All I need and ever needed was someone to love and someone to love me. Nothing’s changed!” The author, Desmond Morris wrote these profound words - “In a social environment that is ever crowded and impersonal, it is becoming increasingly important to reconsider the value of close personal relationships before we are driven to ask the forlorn question, ‘Whatever happened to love?’”   He’s right - especially in today’s world. So, here’s a Love quiz for you - I suggest you ask yourself questions like this every night before you go to sleep - Is anyone a little happier because I came along today? Did I leave any concrete evidence of my kindness, any sign of my love? Did I try to think of someone I know in a more positive light?  Did I help someone to feel joy, to laugh, or at least to smile? Have I attempted to remove a little rust that is corroding my relationships? Have I gone through the day without fretting over what I don’t have and celebrating the things I do have? Have I forgiven others for being less than perfect? Have I forgiven myself? Have I learned something new about life, living or love? Now - if you’re not satisfied with your answers each night - take heart. The next day you get to start all over again! This is one quiz you can never fail. The way is ours, let us go in love. And finally, the way opens before us, let us begin.

I want to share something that I love. I found it in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology. It was written by an 85 year-old man who learned he was dying. He says, "If I had my life to live over again, I’d try to make more mistakes next time. I wouldn’t try to be so perfect. I would relax more. I’d limber up. I’d be sillier than I have been on this trip. In fact I know very few things I would take so seriously, I’d be crazier. I’d be less hygienic. I’d take more chances, I’d take more trips, I’d climb more mountains, I’d watch more sunsets, I’d eat more ice cream and fewer beans. I’d have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones. You see I was one of those people who lived sensibly and sanely hour after hour and day after day. Oh, I’ve had moments, and if I had it to do all over again, I’d have more of those moments. I’ve been one of those people who never went anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had it to do all over again, I’d travel lighter next time. I’d start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in fall. I’d watch more sunrises. If I had my life to live over again…but you see I don’t.” Such simple yet profound wisdom! No one knows what is beyond this life, but we do know what is here and now. This is God’s gift to us and how we use it is our gift to God. The way opens before us, let us begin.

With Love,

                     John

 

 

From February/March Newsletter

Put this in the category "Every few years we
need to be reminded of this" article reprinted
from February 2011.
"Death is a subject that is evaded, ignored
and denied. But the fact is that death is
inevitable. We will all die; it is only a matter of
time. Death is as much of human existence,
of human growth and development, as being
born. Death is not an enemy to be conquered
or a prison to be escaped. It is an integral
part of our lives that gives meaning to human
existence."

                        from Death the Final Stage of Growth
                        by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross


I believe Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is right. As the
pastor of this Church ministering to our members
and friends during times of death is one of the
most important and meaningful things I do.

I want to encourage you, if you haven't done so already, to think about your death and the deaths of those you love. However morbid and gruesome you may think this request is, I believe it is appropriate and joyous. According to our Christian beliefs, death means eternal peace and when loved ones gather for worship to remember and celebrate one's life it should be a gathering of hope and love and joy and faith. Therefore, in order to make it such a gathering, it is best to plan. Again, I encourage you. I encourage you to think about what kind of funeral or memorial service you would like to have. Many people have spoken to me in advance and it is very helpful to me and other family members. It doesn't matter how young or old you are. The information can always be changed or updated. When a death occurs, I take the file I have for the person and many questions we have are answered. Did the person want to be buried? Cremated? Did they want a time of viewing at the funeral home, traditionally called a "wake?" Do they have a place in the Church's Memorial Garden? Do they have a cemetery plot and if so, where? Do we plan a funeral, meaning that the person would be buried after the service, or do we plan a memorial service, meaning the person is either cremated or buried prior to the service?


Are there people they want to have speak at the service? What scripture passages were meaningful
to them? What hymns should be sung? Was there other music that was special to them?
How many of these questions can you answer for yourself and those you love? Come and talk
to me. Give me the opportunity to start a file for you. A celebration file! A love file! A new beginnings
file! Whatever we choose to call it, it will be a very helpful file to me and those who love you.
And while you are thinking about these things, how about a living will? Do you have one? Give me
a call and set up a time for us to talk about these meaningful issues. Don't wait until it's too late and
then have us wondering. Death should be embraced as an integral part of life. Prepare for it.

Henry van Dyke wrote, "There is only one way to get ready for immortality, and that is to love this life and live it as bravely and faithfully and cheerfully as we can."


And as you reflect upon these words there is something else I encourage you to consider, no
matter what your age - make the Church a beneficiary in your will. When I ask people if they ever
thought about this, usually the response is - "Gee, no I haven't." You see a number of people say to
me, year after year, during our annual Stewardship Drive, that they love the Church and wish they
could give more to the Church. You can.

You can give a gift that could help secure the financial foundation of the Church and therefore
play a significant role in securing the future of your Church.

Let me tell you a true story: Many years ago one of our members, Jane Brown, said to me, "I love the Church so much I wish I could give more." I asked her if she ever considered leaving something to the Church in her will. She said she hadn't thought about it but would consider it. A few weeks later she told me that she amended her will so that the Church was listed as a beneficiary and would receive a percentage of her estate. She went on to say that it might not be very much but she wanted to do whatever she could and she wanted any money from her estate to be used for maintenance and improvements. Fine. As it turned out her brother died before she did and she inherited a large sum of money and when she died the Church received a significant gift. This money was wisely invested by our Investment Committee, and today is worth much more. Are you thinking that your estate would never be that significant? It's not about the amount of the gift that matters, it's the love behind the gift that matters. Jane Brown did something significant to secure the future of the Church.


Since that gift the Church has received a few other gifts from estates, which have been invested and
are a part of the Church's endowment that was established in 1998 when the Church received a gift
from the Gillespie family estate. Again, all these funds are watched closely by our Investment Committee.
Gifts from estates can be used in different and creative ways - gifts could be designated for
certain operating expenses; for specific programs; to fund staff positions; toward outreach; and so on;
or simply to enrich the current endowment - the possibilities are almost endless and very exciting
for the Church.


In addition to providing for your family and loved ones, you might want to put The United Church of
Rowayton in your will thus helping to assure the long-term future of its ministry and mission. And
here is another important issue: all bequests to the Church are free of estate tax and can substantially
reduce the amount of your assets claimed by the government.

So, you can help secure the Church's future.Really! Simply include the following words in your will: I give, devise and bequeath to The United Church of Rowayton (insert the amount given or percentage here) to be used to (support The United Church of Rowayton - or any specific wording you desire). A bequest can be a specific dollar amount, a specific piece of property, a percentage of an estate, all or part of the residue of an estate. You can also name the Church as a contingent beneficiary in the event someone named in your will is no longer living. As you consider this stewardship of your assets, it is always recommended that an attorney help in drafting or amending your will. I encourage you to come and talk with me about this possibility. If you are wondering why I, your pastor, am addressing this issue, well, I love this Church as much as you do. I want to do anything I can to help secure the Church for tomorrow,
long after you and I are gone. I hope to remain here for many years and when I retire, I hope the
endowment of our Church will have increased significantly by that time because many people
cared enough to do something. It really is a tremendous opportunity for you to help the future of
the Church. I encourage you, during the season of Lent, a season in which many try to "give up"
something, to consider the gift of "giving" something in a very significant and meaningful way. You
can help secure the Church's future. Really!

               With Love,

                    John