Thursday, July 16, 2020

Breath of God

Romans 8:26-27 (NRSV)

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,

Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Edwin Hatch, 1878 (UMH 420, v. 3)

Gracious and loving God,

We are so grateful always, but especially in these days, to know that it is you who have breathed into us the breath of life.

We are mindful that there are those in our world, in our country, in our Conference and in our neighborhoods that are fighting for breath.

We are mindful that disease has stricken so many and robbed them of the breath they gasp to take in.

We are mindful that oppression has held its knee on the neck of too many robbing them of the breath that you bring into being.

Cultivate in us that mind which was in Jesus Christ so that we may take the necessary precautions to avoid spreading breath-stealing disease.

Cultivate in us that mind which was in Jesus Christ so that we are compelled to stand up against the oppression that steals the breath of your beloved children.

When we do not have the words,

When we cannot fathom the circumstances that have befallen so many in this pandemic,

When we cannot imagine the grief of the mothers whose children have been senselessly killed,

Send us that Spirit which intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.

Send us that Spirit which breathed the church into existence at Pentecost.

Search our hearts. Set us straight.

Help us in our weakness.

Breathe in us, Breath of God.

Rev. Cheryl L. Meachen, Pastor
Wesley United Methodist Church
Concord NH

Join us for worship at Wesley UMC - Concord NH
Sundays at 10:30 on YouTube at this link.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Beloved Community

"All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Acts 2:44-47

My heart continues to return to the above passage from Acts at the time of Pentecost, the birth of the Christian church. You can see that there are several elements described above that characterize who we are as God's people in the world:

1. Together
2. Give of ourselves in order to give to others
3. Spend time in the temple
4. Break bread 
5. Glad and generous hearts
6. Praise God
7. Receive new people daily

We're able to praise God walking through the woods or sitting in our living rooms. We're even able to give generously, be glad, share virtual communion and have visitors to our virtual services.

But it is a challenge to be together since we currently cannot spend time in our "temple."

We can be formed spiritually through prayer and study of scripture. We can worship together while apart. We can generously provide to those in need.

But what about community. We yearn for togetherness -- the very thing that spreads this horrible disease of COVID-19. I'm sure it breaks your heart as it breaks mine that we are being told that singing and hugging and sharing meals and being together in groups are potentially deadly. We are compelled by our faith to care for our neighbor by wearing masks and socially distancing. We are compelled by common sense to stay home for the time being.

But what about community. How does one form beloved community in this time of coronavirus? We at Wesley have tried to encourage groups, teams, committees, nests and individuals to keep connected by phone, postal mail, email, Zoom, text and Facebook. Personally, I've been building relationships with my neighbors. The person who used to be "that lady who walks by twice a day with her ski poles" now has a name, a familiar face and a remarkable connection as the mother of my high school class salutatorian. I've made friends with "the guy with the Jack Russell terrier." I talk to the neighbors on either side every day now rather than every once in a while. It's pretty cool. I don't think it would have happened without the pandemic, at least not this soon after moving here.

So it is possible to build community. It is possible to maintain community. This time is very stressful, wondering what comes next. So take good care of yourself. Sleep well. Eat well. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Take care of your soul. Remember that Jesus calms our anxious, fearful hearts. 

And most of all, reach out when you're feeling lonely. Chances are, the person you choose to call, needs someone to talk to too.

Rev. Cheryl L. Meachen, Pastor
Wesley United Methodist Church
Concord NH

Join us for worship at Wesley UMC - Concord NH
Sundays at 10:30 on YouTube at this link.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

15 Years

"I will give you pastors after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding." Jeremiah 3:15

My Dad gave me a poster with the above words on it shortly after I first became a pastor 15 years ago. It has hung in every church office I've occupied since then. I invite you to share some memories of these years with me below.

This is a week when United Methodist pastors across the connection are moving to new appointments, leaving old appointments, retiring, beginning or staying, looking forward to the next year. I've sometimes described it as musical chairs to non-Methodists, when everyone moves to the next seat in the midst of a melody of love and care for our precious congregations.

I served my first church in Marlow NH from 2005-2009 and it was a dear place that deeply formed me. It was a quarter time appointment which enabled me to continue my job supervising the legal clinics at Franklin Pierce Law Center, caring for my young son, getting my undergraduate degree in Human Services from Franklin Pierce College, continuing in the first year to worship at Rejuvenation! and sing with EP each week and begin my time at Boston University School of Theology. This precious community holds a dear place in my heart. My field education (internship) was to a second church, East Lempster UMC to see what Christian community might rise from the ashes after that church had closed four years previously. 

I was then appointed to Brattleboro VT to First United Methodist Church from 2009-2016 where I finished my seminary career traveling to Boston several times a week and serving the church full-time. Some of the unique characteristics of that church were that we did billowing - a form of dance with long flowing bands of cloth. We had a community garden that produced hundreds of pounds of vegetables for community feeding programs. We held an annual Drive Through Nativity driving around the church with luminaries lighting the path through nine scenes of scripture leading up to Christ's birth. I also enjoyed significant ministry with incarcerated individuals through the Brattleboro Community Justice Center during my tenure here. In the last two years of my appointment here I also served Leyden United Methodist Church in MA. I would conduct an early worship service in Leyden and then travel to Brattleboro for a second service each week. Leyden is a farming community with wholesome and loving people whose teddy bear prayer ministry is heartwarming as they pray over the bears and deliver them to those in need. Leyden has a booth at the Franklin County Fair where they make the most delicious homemade meals for fairgoers each year with pounds and pounds of carrots and onions and potatoes. We would hold our worship service in that booth on the Sunday of the fair for all to join!

From 2016-2019 I served Lake Sunapee United Methodist Church (2/3) and Grantham United Methodist Church (1/3) as a full-time appointment. Grantham is a healthy, service oriented church that innovated wonderful ways to serve the community like bringing dozens of Advent boxes filled with 24 thoughtful gifts prepared by congregants to dozens of homebound people in the community and community servants. We also innovated a delightful Gas Giveaway event each spring where we had the local gas station roll back the pumps ten cents a gallon. We then pumped gas, washed windows and brought coffee to patrons in their cars, with the church paying ten cents for every gallon and for all of the coffee we gave away. We got to know the community and shared a lot of joy and laughter! We had many successful leadership retreats, fundraisers for our partners bringing education to Sierra Leone and Blessings of the Pets. In Sunapee, I reached out to the community by serving a buffet every Friday night to the coffee house which used our space, offered weekly worship services at three area nursing homes and trained to become an Emergency Medical Responder and Firefighter with Sunapee Fire Department, spending my Tuesday evenings with 20-30 of the most wonderful firefighters and going on calls ministering to people in the community. I even got to play Mrs. Claus for the annual children's party. Santa and I arrived at the event riding on Ladder 5!

Over the course of these fifteen years I have also married dozens of couples, buried dozens of saints, baptized dozens of babies and confirmed dozens of children. In fact, one of the young women in my last confirmation class was instrumental in that church becoming the fourth reconciling congregation in NH!

I am so pleased to be beginning my second year serving Wesley United Methodist Church in Concord NH. This is a vibrant, caring and socially active church, healthy in its interactions and deeply spiritually grounded. I can't wait to see what we'll do together in Christ's name through Christ's love for the people of Concord and beyond.

Rev. Cheryl L. Meachen, Pastor
Wesley United Methodist Church
Concord NH

Visit Pastor Cheryl's blog for inspiration and encouragement