On Poetry and Pat Feldman

I started reading the newspaper to begin my days in graduate school at Iowa State University–The Des Moines Register.  It was an excellent newspaper from an era that now seems as far away and quaint as fading memories of my parents watching Walter Cronkite on a black and white TV.

The news is not black and white these days, as we all well-know; facts go begging and we are awash with options and opinions–it is all so exhausting, conflicted. 

A few months ago, weary of it all, I broke a habit and started a new one.

I stopped reading the newspaper in the morning, quit looking at my phone or iPad to start my days, and started reading poetry. This small change of habit has been such a blessing, such a relief, and such a gift, shifting my sense of time and feeding creativity.

Currently, I am reading Jim Harrison’s last collection of poems, Deadman’s Float.  Here is favorite poem, which I would be glad to quote for you by heart:

Warbler

This year, we have two gorgeous 
yellow warblers nesting in the honeysuckle bush.
The other day I stuck my head in the bush.
The nestlings weigh one-twentieth of an ounce,
about the size of a honey bee. We stared at 
each other, startled by our existence.
In a month or so, when they reach the size 
of bumble bees, they'll fly off to Costa Rica, without a map.

Much of pastoring is about poetry, learning to find the lyrical rhythm of our lives together, the beauty of it, ways we are startled by our existence, times we discover our stunning ability to fly like warblers into chartless lands.  

Pat Feldman loved birds and flowers and the startling joy of our mutual existence–loved poetry And when we celebrated her life, the church full to capacity with people standing in the aisles, granddaughter Scout and her son Jason shared poems they wrote in her memory.

These poems below are offered in memory of Pat, to be sure, but also to remind us all that in all the news of the world, poetry reveals truth that sustains us.

May  God bless you and keep you,
Pr. Craig Jan-McMahon

Be Like You
by Scout Feldman
 
When I was young
And staring at the multiplication tables that you brought when you came to visit
I never imagined I’d want to be like you
As I stared at that paper, filled with multiplication, 
Having no idea how to even add double digit numbers,
You told me to multiply by two
You told me it was the same thing as adding the number to itself
 
Three times two
Three plus three
Six
 
Multiplication is replication
You taught me to replicate
To duplicate
To recreate
At the time I had no idea how appealing replication could be
But more appealing than the replication of numbers 
Was the replication of your smile
I wanted to make people smile the way you did
The way you made people laugh
 
I wanted to be like you. 
Something I never thought I’d do.
Untitled
By Jason Feldman
 
Rest: While we mourn the loss of you
 
A collector of things
 
Custodian of friendships
       - epicurious relationships, toasting to the meaning
       - literary discussions turned to laughter, over knowledge
Celebrations of talent, as if they were her own, knowing she played a part
 
Prayers, with eyes shut so tight and hands clasped so strong 
              Knowing she will hear and provide
              Keeping us all safe, so precious
 
A woman to whom Cardinals sang
                in pre- dawn spring
Calling for her to awaken- acknowledge life
 
To her:
Loons have swooned while discussing a sunset 
              Shimmering on the water
              before the fire begins to crackle
                                         and children's laughter makes the stars brighten
 
Her classroom was a child's refuge
          - Knowledge, Energy, Growth, Safety
New paths to intellect - welcomed and pushed away
        Old ways still ring true
Look me in the eye
I care about you 
Your success is a reflection
My Effort
My Kindness
My Sweat 
My Tears
After years of hope we pause for breath and celebrate
 
Even though in the beginning of this chapter she asked, "Why me?"
However, show me no pity.
I have lived and loved.
 
Cause in the end we circled around, 
                 While she asked, "When will it be over?"
She took the time to roll her eyes and gasp 
Smile, and pray for us.
 
Rest: As we celebrate the memory of you.

Annual Report: Windsor UCC 2022

Dear Congregation,

2021 was a hard year.  We witnessed all communities groaning under the strain of the pandemic, wondering how this time will change us, asking how the effects of 2021 will shape our lives in the coming years. We begin 2022 more aware than ever before that our lives are in the hands of God. How will we respond in faith to become light in the darkness?  What will it mean for us in 2022 to answer the call of the Holy Spirit though we are weary and suffering losses we are yet unable to name?

Last year, our first full year together, began with four months of online worship followed by a survey to develop a plan for our phased return to in-person worship.  Following Dane County Health Department Guidelines, with the help of our Medical Advisory Team, we organized an online sign up process to meet capacity limits, set up the church to ensure social distancing, and wore masks, believing all of this was transition to emerging fully from the pandemic and returning to normalcy.  

Our efforts to install an AV system were delayed, first by the challenge of making such a consequential financial decision during a pandemic, and then, when funds were generously given, by the Evergreen container ship running aground in the Suez Canal, of all things.  

As summer ended, with hope of emerging from the pandemic stronger and more united, I recommended we continue to worship together in the fall, combining worship times and styles.  As it turned out, we have not emerged from the pandemic but find ourselves adjusting to evolving conditions.

We have responded in faith as best we could, each step along the way bringing new challenges straining our resources–time, patience, good-will.  In all of this, we are united in a sense of loss most often expressed as a desire to return to normalcy.  

We enter 2022 like Mary going to the tomb on Easter morning, heart broken, eyes blinded by tears:

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. John 20:11-12

Faith calls us to mourn our losses, grieving the many kinds of death we have suffered, trusting God will wipe away our tears and transform us, like Mary, into witnesses of resurrection. 

I am thankful to God for the faithfulness of many and for the new life emerging in our congregation. I am especially grateful to Terry Anderson, who completes four tumultuous years serving as church Moderator–pastoral resignation, interim process, search and call process, pandemic, transition to a new pastor.  In normal times serving as Moderator is demanding; the past four years have been more demanding than any four years in our church history.  

As the Apostle Paul encourages the early church to grieve with hope, so I pray you will be encouraged,

“so that [we] may not grieve as others do who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13c). 

With Stubborn Faith and Steadfast Hope,

Pr. Craig Jan-McMahon

Windsor Word January 2022

On a snowy night in February 2020, I met with the Search and Call Committee for the first and only time. Less than a month later, COVID 19 began disrupting our lives and all of our plans, as it continues to do today. 

Back in February 2020, as we discerned whether God was calling us together, we had no idea how the world would shift and change, nor could we have foreseen the challenges our congregation would soon face.  But then as now, we all strive to faithfully answer the call of God on our lives, and our desire to do so unites us together.

With thanksgiving that the Holy Spirit called us together, and with prayers for our coming year, I offer the same prayer for our congregation in 2022 that I shared with the Search and Call Committee that snowy night two years ago, The Merton Prayer:

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton, from Thoughts in Solitude, Farrar Straus Giroux

God bless us as we walk the road ahead of us in 2022, wherever the Spirit leads us, trusting we will be led by the right road, and our lives will be pleasing to God. 

Yours in Christ,
Pr. Craig Jan-McMahon

AV Thank you

Dear Windsor UCC Congregation,

Congratulations and Thank You! In a very short period of time you have contributed the funds necessary for the purchase of a new system for our audio-video ministry. Your rapid response helps us prepare to reopen our sanctuary in a manner that will allow all our church family to worship at the same service either in person or online.

The rapid response provided us the means to order the equipment that should be installed in about one month.  All this before we were able to get word to everyone that may have a desire to contribute to this program. Even though we have sufficient funds for the initial system additional funds could help us make additional improvements in our worship services. Should you wish to join the campaign to improve our worship experience at Windsor additional funds will help the Council to consider things such as an additional speaker to improve the sound in certain areas of the sanctuary, a component to aid the hearing impaired or additional microphones to enhance the broadcast amplification of choir and congregational participation during worship.

Our new audio-video ministry is exciting. Soon those unable to attend our services in person will be able to participate through our livestream broadcasts. Our ministry will truly live beyond the walls of our church building. People looking for a church home may visit us at any time. If you wish to join this campaign, please send your contribution to the church office with “AV” on the memo or contribute online at windsorucc.com/give

Again, thanks for your support of this new worship dimension at Windsor United Church of Christ.

In Christ,
Terry Anderson, Church Moderator
Dwight Miller, Church Treasurer
Hope Schultz, Council Secretary
Pastor Craig Jan-McMahon

Epiphany 2021, Part 2

Matthew 2:1-12, 16-18
Reader’s Guide: Adult Sunday School Class
Windsor UCC, 1/10, 1/17, 9:30apx
Zoom (please email me for Zoom invite to class)
Resources: Herod the Great | Infancy Narratives (Star, Magi)
Everyone is Welcome!

Immediately following worship (apx 9:30) this Sunday, January 17th, we will continue our study of Epiphany, three foreigners traveling from the East following the star to find the Christ child.

To deepen our conversation and study of this text, I have invited some of our members to study and prepare for me to “interview” them and for us to ask questions together:

Bob Mutton: Herod the Great.
Carol Barth: The Star and the Magi
Gretchen Lord Anderson: Massacre of the Innocents, Jeremiah (Matt. 2:18)

Returning with New Perspectives: Reread Matthew 2:1-12, 16-18 in whatever Bible you are accustomed to using or read the text online here

  • What do you see after our discussions that you didn’t see before?
  • What ideas stuck from our discussion stuck with you through the week?
  • What new questions emerge as you reread the text? 
  • What  understandings are confirmed as you reread?

Interpreting the Story: The practice of our tradition is to open our hearts to the inspired word of God–the Spirit animating stories and teachings and events (actions, movements). These discussion prompts are offered to help us talk about what the Spirit reveals to us today and for our world through our study of scripture together.

Plot and Characters: Herod: Last week, much of our attention focused on Herod. We found the causal link between events–the plot–defined Herod’s reign.  Our conversation began by asking why all of Jerusalem would be frightened (verse 3c) by strangers looking for the child who had been born king of the Jews (verse 2a).  We saw that the fear of the people was explained by Herod’s fury at being tricked, resulting in the massacre of innocent children.  

  • What does this story help us to see about God?
  • How does this story help us to understand human tendencies: in this instance, we might talk about Herod’s sinful use of power and authority, the effect of this power on people, how Herod serves as a counter-example of what God intends for humanity, as revealed in Jesus Christ.    
  • Why does Matthew allude to Jeremiah and Rachel’s unconsolable lamentation for her lost children? 
  • What does the prophetic lamentation of Jeremiah help us to see about God’s response to injustice, suffering, and despair.  

Plot and Characters: Magi: We noticed different names given to these figures depending on which translation or interpretation of the story we read.  We found that the name “Wise Men,” describes their decision to go home by another way rather than foolishly returning to report to Herod.  

  • What significance do we find in the foreignness of these characters?
  • How do these characters deepen or diversify or challenge our understanding of the birth of Christ and how we and others follow the light outside of ours

Epiphany 2021, Part 1

Matthew 2:1-12, 16-18
Reader’s Guide: Adult Sunday School Class
Windsor UCC, 1/10, 1/17, 9:30apx
Zoom (please email me for Zoom invite to class)
Resources: Herod the Great | Infancy Narratives (Star, Magi)
Everyone is Welcome!

First Impressions

Read Matthew 2:1-12, 16-18 in whatever Bible you are accustomed to using or read the text online here.  Take a moment or two to consider your first thoughts:

  • What words, phrases, names, ideas jump out at you?
  • What impressions arise within–memories associated with this story from any context?
  • What new things (people, places, story events, etc)  do you notice that you have not noticed before?
  • What most interests you about this story?  What would you like to learn more about?

Reading Story

This text is a story.  We will first make sure we understand the basic sense of the story.  These ideas will guide our discussion of the story:

  • Plot: What are the causal links between the events that happen in the story?  
  • Characters: What characters appear in the story?  Which characters seem central to the story, and which marginal to it? 
  • Setting: What do you notice about the setting of the story?  Where do events take place? What do you understand about the sense of time in the story?
  • Narrative: What events or stories precede and follow this story? How is this story connected to the Gospel of Matthew’s narrative of the Good News of Jesus Christ?

Next Week

After we discuss the story of Sunday, we will identify themes, characters, ideas we will discuss next week.  A second reader’s guide will be sent.

A Change is Coming

Friends,

As we all know, the cornovirus disrupted all the plans we have made, including my plans to use this blog to communicate with you as I begin serving as Pastor of Windsor UCC.

Thanks to the support of the congregation and the leadership of our Council and Finance and Stewardship Board, we have installed membership software. Two of our members, Gretchen Lord Anderson and Susan Norby, entered all of our membership information, including our complete newsletter mailing list.

I will now begin sending communications, including Pastoralia posts, to members of Windsor UCC using our new membership software. If you receive our newsletter AND subscribe to this blog, you will receive duplicate emails: one from this blog, one from me through the church membership software.

So…, if you are on the Windsor UCC newsletter mailing list, you may want to unsubscribe from this blog below. If you are not on the newsletter mailing list but want to be, please send me an email. For all my other friends, it is great to have you following Suppose It Matters. I will continue to update this blog with my writing for the church.

Keep yourselves safe.

Peace,
Pr. Craig

Can’t Wait

I am thankful the congregation worked together to call me to serve as your Pastor.  We were all hoping the pandemic would fade, so we could meet face to face, say our hellos, and start our work together. 

COVID-19 changed all of this.  We are now facing the sober realization that we likely will not meet together as a congregation for some time, and we are also finding that we have to find new ways to make adjustments and find new ways to celebrate and to stay connected.

Our Hospitality Committee has decided we can’t wait to say our hellos any longer.  Hosts are needed to gather a circle of friends to meet with me, so we can finally meet and get to know one another. To serve as a host, please call (H: 608-825-9986, C-608-334-5498) or email (nmfr7@charter.net) Nancy Miller, and we will schedule a time and place to get together.  

We all hope we will be together again soon, but until it is safe for us to gather as a congregation, we are still the church, and it will be good to finally meet you in small groups face-to-face.

Peace,
Pr. Craig

Windsor UCC Zoom Cafe Tomorrow :-) 7/19

Please drop in to say hello following Windsor UCC Live tomorrow, apx 9:45. This week, I promise my camera will be work .

See you tomorrow!

Windsor UCC Zoom CafeTime: Jul 19, 2020 09:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85465791758

Meeting ID: 854 6579 1758One tap mobile+13126266799,,85465791758# US (Chicago)+19292056099,,85465791758# US (New York)Dial by your location +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) +1 929 205 6099 US (New York) +1 301 715 8592 US (Germantown) +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston) +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose) +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)Meeting ID: 854 6579 1758Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kceVzED0YO

SIW-Online

Help us stay together while we are apart by signing up to Serve in Worship Online.  We’ll send scriptures and prayers to you by email; you record a video and send it to us.  If you don’t know how to record a video yourself, we’d be glad to help.  

Complete the online form >>>>HERE<<<<   and we will be in touch soon.

Peace,
Pr. Craig