Weekly Words of Wisdom 7-1-20

The playwright Eugene Ionesco once wrote, “ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.”  In reflecting on the overwhelming sense of division in our country, I am deeply aware of how politics, race, religion, and nationalism, often divide us from one another.  How often have we heard that you can’t discuss politics or religion at the dinner table?  We find ourselves in our respective corners, ready to come out fighting, convinced we are right!

But then, we are suddenly reminded of our common humanity: a child is born and our hopes for that child soar; a loved one dies, or a serious diagnosis is received, and our agendas are pushed aside; a flood, or a fire like the one that ravaged two Boonton homes last week, intrude on our daily lives, and a community responds, together, in solidarity.  This is why the church, and what we stand for, what we believe, and what happens among us, is so important: to touch what is deepest in ourselves, what is already in our hearts, and to realize again that in those hopes and dreams, and in our suffering and anguish, we are all alike. We are all children of the one God, and sisters and brothers of one another. Is that Pollyannaish, ridiculously naïve?  Maybe so, but I believe in the essential goodness of people and in our potential to be better than we are. So let’s not be defined by our “isms”, political or religious, but let’s be willing to reach across what seems right now to be a vast chasm, to touch the world with love and hope–never needed more than at this moment! As Jen said in her sermon on Sunday, “God commits to the things that we can only dream of,” and that includes the dream of reaching across chasms of hate and anguish and disagreement,to bring a new, richer culture of love, understanding, graciousness, and peace.

Rev. Sherm Skinner

Weekly Words of Wisdom 6-24-20

Weekly Words of Wisdom    

June 24, 2020

This pandemic has turned some of the ways we look at work, whether our own or that of others, upside down.  In conversations with family members and friends I’ve become aware of the challenges facing us, in a variety of ways.  Some  have told me they are working harder than ever.  Looking for a change of pace, some are trying to figure out how and when to get away.  But some are not working at all and some are living on less because of pay cuts. For some, work has sped up and for others it has ground to a halt.  For many, work has suffered a rupture that is desperately in need of repair.  Working from home might provide flexibility but is often disrupted and interrupted, causing loss of focus and concentration, and mounting stress.  For some, a feeling of repetition and monotony hangs over each day.  There is no minimizing the hardships that arise beyond our control, especially when we have others to care for.  

Perhaps this time of change and turmoil is offering us a chance for renewal, perhaps  an opportunity to rethink our sense of vocation and what it means.  To be sure, our economic employment is one facet of our vocations as our work has helped to define who we are.  But at a deeper level we can understand and appreciate the concept of vocation as more than just about how we make our living.  It’s about how God works through human beings to care for God’s creation.   It’s about loving and serving our neighbors in our multiple stations of life.  It’s about human flourishing.  So if we think of work as vocation, a word that comes from the Latin word for calling, work should be something that calls to us as something we want to do, something that gives voice to who we are and what we want to say to the world.  

Yes, vocation is about our spiritual yearning to be connected to something larger and truer than our own egos.  It is relational.  To do this we can ask ourselves what it is we like best about our work and how these practices/activities are expressions of our soul. In this deeper sense, vocation is not a goal to be achieved but a gift to be received.

I love this gift of blessing from poet, author, and former priest John O’Donohue:

“May the light of your soul bless your work with love and warmth of heart.  May you see in what you do the beauty of your soul.”

Rev. Lorrie Skinner

Weekly Words of Wisdom 6-17-20

Weekly Words of Wisdom    

June 17, 2020

We face many mysteries in this world over the course of a lifetime. Many are left unsolved or unresolved in our hearts and minds. COVID-19 is one such mystery.

Parenting in this mysterious time can be challenging.  Being a parent means many things, but one aspect or topic that a parenting book does not prepare you for is explaining what has been going on currently in the world and in our local communities with social distancing post the onset of the coronavirus.  It has become necessary to teach science lessons about germs and the difference between good and bad germs, explain why we cannot be at daycare or church among our friends, and emphasize the increased necessity of frequent hand-washing.  It has become a new part of daily dressing to learn how and why to properly put on and wear a protective mask. 

I realize not only three-year-olds but all of us have questions or present with inquisitive minds as our sense of security and normalcy is stretched and tested.  However, it may be helpful to take a moment to reflect on the positive experiences happening in our lives: perhaps your knowledge and use of technology are expanding; perhaps you are enjoying increased quality time spent in your homes with those you love; perhaps you have been able to enjoy taking a nature walk you did not have time for three months ago; perhaps you have been able to enjoy the fulfillment of making new or uncovering old recipes; maybe you have dusted off and enjoyed board and card games; maybe you have even organized a closet or two.

This time away from our previous routines has reinforced the fact that we all can still learn to make changes at any stage of our lives, learn from the heavenly Father and believe in His master plan for each and every one of us. As stated in one of my most cherished anthems, “God of the Deep” by Dan Forrest, “When simple explanations lie too deep for me to find, I rest in God who holds the whole creation in His mind.  I hope in Him whose skill and wisdom far exceed my own.  The secrets of the hidden depths belong to God alone.” 

May you find peace, comfort, solace, and hope in the coming days and weeks ahead.

Musically yours in Christ,

Sarah Berta

“God of the Deep”  -arr. Dan Forrest

Each time I stand and wonder at the vastness of the sea,
I know that there are mysteries too great and deep for me.
The wide expanse of water reaches far beyond my sight,
And yet I know the One to whom its depths are full of light.

The mighty waves roll in to shore and break upon the sand,
Compelled by unseen forces that I cannot understand.
The currents run beneath the waves in perfect, charted paths;
A skillful hand directs their courses, as it ever has.

The ocean teems with living things who never see the sun,
And yet there is an eye who sees and knows them, every one;
And that same eye has fathomed all the myst’ries of my days;
When tears have dimmed my sight, a heart of Love still charts my ways.

When simple explanations lie too deep for me to find,
I rest in God who holds the whole creation in His mind.
I hope in Him whose skill and wisdom far exceed my own.
The secrets of the hidden depths belong to God alone.

-Eileen Berry

Weekly Words of Wisdom 6-10-20

Are you as disheartened as I am, after two weeks of chaos, violence and death?  My head is spinning as I have moved from an awareness of how connected we all are (“we’re in this together”) because of the coronavirus which is affecting the whole world, to how disconnected we all are from one another because of the racism, anger and rage we have seen.  The layers of pain which have been exposed, the language of “domination,” “thugs,” and “battle space” which we have heard, and the violence we have witnessed all too clearly, have stunned, enraged, and frightened us.

Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer distinguished between “cheap grace” and “costly grace,” the difference between preaching “love” (cheap) and living love (costly).  More is demanded of God’s people than living a comfortable life and being a good person, and I find myself wondering how much of our passive acceptance of  the status quo regarding race has contributed to where we are now. What happened to us?  Have we become satisfied with cheap grace, knowing the high price of costly grace?

So much is just plain wrong.  Racism in all its manifestations is wrong.  Violence, in ourselves and in others, is wrong.  Domination– of protestors, of different races or religions, of women, of the earth and all of life–is wrong. And we need to speak out and condemn these dark stains on our corporate life.

But more than that—we need to do something—like taking a look at our own racism and all the assumptions we hold on to as people of privilege, like sitting down with our black and brown brothers and sisters as equals to hear their stories, their frustrations, their hopes and dreams—their reality. And maybe we need to begin by having in depth conversations with one another, here in the church, about our fears, our hesitancies, our personal anxieties—all those inner feelings about race that we find so hard to talk about, or to face in ourselves.

We are hoping to create opportunities for just that kind of dialogue in the near future.  Stay tuned.  And meanwhile, may the disturbing spirit of God, who has unsettled so many of us in the last couple of weeks, help us to embrace what is costly.

Rev. Sherm Skinner

Weekly Words of Wisdom 6-3-20

We are in a time of turmoil and it’s sending some of us to our knees ( at least those of us who can get up again):  the death toll now over 100,000 , unemployment reaching staggering numbers, a death resulting from police brutality and protests in our streets. 

What to pray? How to pray?  Where is God in all this? 

 During Lent we focused on God’s promise in Jeremiah: …”when you call upon me and come and pray to me I will hear you.” And now we’ve arrived at Pentecost, unable to gather together in our sanctuary and pray together.  Assembled in our sanctuary we prayed first the Prayer of Connection, a prayer to open our worship experience praising God. Then a Prayer Seeking God’s Grace, admitting to God whatever it is that separates us from God.  The Prayer for Illumination helped to focus our listening as scripture is read and explained.  Then we prayed together our Lord’s Prayer following the Prayers of Thanksgiving, Intercession and Petition.

Oh but there’s more prayer in our service, right?  Yes, much more.  These are just the ones we pray in unison, together in one voice.  And that’s what we’re missing.  Praying together is sharing our common experience, our common longing and desires, expressing our relationship with one another and with God.  That’s what it means to be a praying community of faith.  

So, now we’re on our own and need to turn to scripture and the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us in the way of prayer, perhaps following the advice of Paul to the Thessalonians:  “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances (I Thess.5:16-18). While we are away from one another, “If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter.  God’s Spirit does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.” (Romans 8:26 , The Message)

While we are separated from one another, how do we experience God?  How do we allow ourselves to be led into the loving, healing presence of God?  I am finding, in this time of crisis, that an old familiar prayer keeps me grounded.  Known as the Serenity prayer it is attributed to theologian Reinhold Niebuhr during another time of American exigency, the Great Depression and World War II:

         God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

         The courage to change the things I can;

         And the wisdom to know the difference. Amen

Rev. Lorrie Skinner

Holmes Public Library Update

On behalf of the Boonton Holmes Library family, I hope this email finds everyone well and safe.

At the library, we are brainstorming daily and thinking of new ways to support and assist the Boonton community during these quarantine times. We have several online services, monthly programs, and activities scheduled for residents to join and to participate in every day.

I am reaching out to you to explore any ideas or suggestions the members of your organization may have how the Boonton Holmes Library can assist, support or entertain you better. We would love to hear from you!

Following is a list of services, programs and activities we are currently providing during quarantine:

Chat Room – Monday-Friday 10-2

Pre-made craft kits for all ages

Online library card registration

HOOPLA – online borrowing eBooks, audio books, comics, movies, music & more

CLOUD Library – online borrowing books

RB Digital – online borrowing magazines and comic books

Boonton Tales: We would love to hear your story!

Yoga, Fiber Arts Club, Book Club, Story Time, Movie Nights, Happy Hour

Online lessons for ZOOM, WEBEX, FACEBOOK LIVE and more!

Volunteer opportunities

Boonton History

Boonton Times – accepting donations for digitalizing copies of the BT

Please refer to our website Boontonholmeslibrary.org for more detailed information regarding the above services, programs and activities, just Reply to this email or join the Chat Room. Once the stay-at-home orders are lifted, we look forward to resuming full services in a manner that is safe for our community and staff alike.

Watching for the dawn

I was hoping that the June 1st updates from our Governor might shed some more light on the possibility of worshipping together sooner than later. As of today, indoor gatherings of up to 10 are now sanctioned as well as outdoor gatherings of up to 25. Both the session and the Covid task force, who have both “Zoomed” last 2-3 weeks, have been brainstorming what might be possible for future gathering/worship.

Concurrently, we have been trying to offer the most hopeful, life-giving and increasingly diverse worship experiences with great reliance on technology and skilled Media folks and a small group of people who you entrust to offer meaningful worship.

As of this evening, the state’s next level of opening, what I’m calling “Phase 2, sub-set a”, does not give churches permission to worship fully, either indoors or out. That is part of “Phase 3”.  Even if we attempted to organize in-person worship, indoors or out, both options would bring a different set of challenges and do not accomplish safe worship for ALL, (even without hand-shakes, hugs, passing of the peace and the hearing and singing of hymns.

In addition, when Phase 3 is exacted, there are still many logistics to sort out, including that every church within Newton Presbytery will need to submit and receive approval of their ‘re-entry plan’ before worship can commence. I think this is very prudent and wise.

So, we are in an interim time.

The Deacons met this evening via Zoom and I shared some excerpts from John O’Donohue’s book The Space Between Us as our closing prayer : “…you are in this time of interim, where everything seems withheld, The way forward is still concealed from you…The more  faithfully you can endure here, the more refined your heart will become, for your arrival in the new dawn.”

I don’t know how long we’ll need to gather, worship, teach and share fellowship apart, but I know THIS community of faith can sustain that as long as we need to, to keep everyone connected and everyone safe. Here’s why. When I was meeting with the PNC (Pastoral Nominating Committee) 14 years ago I asked about their sense of ministry, mission and their future. The youngest member, (who is now over 40 said), “if we couldn’t worship in this space for any reason, we’d find another place; the building doesn’t matter, the mission and ministry does. Nothing can stop us.”

We’re not stopping. We’re just missioning and ministering in smaller spaces until God brings us the new dawn.

Watching for the dawn with you,

“Weekly Words of Wisdom”

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dear Saints,

We are called to remain faithful while enduring this strange world of sheltering in place, social distancing (for some: complete cutoff) and gathering via computers and phones for worship and fellowship. The longer this goes on, the harder it gets for most everyone, save extreme introverts.

My idea for offering some Words of Wisdom this week was to strongly encourage you to take just 5-10 minutes and turn to scripture, where wisdom, comfort and hope abound. Many of us as kids (or maybe even as adults) may have experimented with the “close your eyes and open the bible” method. Wherever your eyes landed, in whatever book you opened to, that was to be “God’s message” to you; to be accepted and heeded. Sometimes it did work. But when it didn’t? Start the process all over again!

Today I thought I’d narrow that exercise for you, by limiting the exercise to the Psalms, and recording each text I landed on, to demonstrate how apt and helpful the Psalms can be. But as I sat down with my bible to start the exercise, I lost my grip on it and it opened all on its own…to Habakkuk. Yup, that’s right, a tiny little 3-chapter book near the end of the Old Testament.

Habakkuk is known as a (very) minor prophet. There is little to no info about who he was, and Jewish and Christian writers place his authorship in a myriad of historical times and places. So nah, maybe another time… or… should I trust in “God’s message” to me this day? I read a little further in the introductory section and there it was. The Scholar, Marvin Sweeney writes: “Despite its small size, Habakkuk plays important roles in Judaism and Christianity…In modern times, Habakkuk’s address to the Lord raises the question of divine absence in relation to the Shoah (Holocaust) and other atrocities”. Boom. How incredibly timely this tiny book is again now, even though it only 3 chapters and written roughly 2500 years ago.

Scripture has a powerful and singularly unique way of speaking our thoughts when yet they are still unformed and voicing the laments we are unable to cry, out loud. It also gives guidance as to how to trust and pray to God, who is in fact not divinely absent but actually completely and utterly present, especially in this time of grief, fear, isolation and wobbly faith.

How does the book end? Well… it’s only 3 chapters. Why not take the time and read it for yourself and come share your insights on our Zoom call tonight? Or just come as you are and learn, share and be fed.

Seeking God’s wisdom with you,

Rev Jen