Lenten Bible Study: Outlaw Christians

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Lenten Bible Study will be taught from the book Outlaw Christians: Finding Authentic Faith by Breaking the ‘Rules’ by Jacqueline A. Bussie. Copies can be purchased for $11.

  • March 8 – Tired of Dishonesty? Become an Outlaw Christian
  • March 15 – Angry at the Almighty? Tell God the Truth
  • March 22 – Doubting Your Faith? Learn to Lament
  • March 29 – Sick of Hearing “God Has a Plan”? Surprise! God Is Too
  • April 5 – Scared to Tell Your Real Story? Compost Your Pain
  • April 12 – Longing for Hope? Seven Ways to Find It

HB2 Community Discussion

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On October 4, Trinity UCC and Concord-Kannapolis PFLAG will host a community discussion on HB2, Shifting the Paradigm: The Role of Faith Communities in Improving the Lives of LGBTQ Individuals and Families. The speakers will include Trinity’s pastor, Nathan King along with individuals who speak on the psychological aspects of the situation. This discussion will also include a panel for audience participation. Equality NC will sponsor this event.  The program is to take place from 7:00- 8:30 PM. There is no cost, and open to anyone who would like attend.

Concord UCC flier-2

Community Forum At Catawba College on Sexuality and Religion

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Catawba College of Salisbury will be hosting a free community forum Tuesday, September 20th. The speaker for this event will be Dr. Mark Achtemeier, author of The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage. Dr. Achtemeier is a former anti-LGBT activist in the Presbyterian church. He is now a supporter of LGBT inclusion.

Dr. Achtemeier will give two presentations. The first will be held at 11:00 a.m. in the Omwake-Dearborn Chapel on the Catawba campus. A question-and-answer session will follow.

Another discussion will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Hedrick Little Theatre on campus, located in the Robertson College Community Center.  Both will focus on different topics, and are both open to the public. This is a great opportunity to come learn about some intriguing subject matter. Catawba is affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

For more information be sure to read the article in the link below.

http://catawba.edu/news-events/news/college-news/author-bibles-yes-same-sex-marriage-speak-catawba-college/

Racists Anonymous Begins at Trinity

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RA church photo

RA Meets Wednesdays at 6pm in the Fellowship Hall. Dr. Carol Stanley (pictured above) facilitates the meeting. Come see. All are welcome!

Racists Anonymous Story

Concord, NC, Thursday, July 21, 2016— Could it be that we are all just a little bit racist? A local congregation in Concord, NC asks itself this question because many people sense a surprising resurgence in racism in America.  Could this be the reason that wherever we go, racism always seems to be there as well? Could this be the reason that racism, religious and ethnic intolerance seems to appear in nearly all nations where ethnic and religious differences exist? Could it be that racism is a primitive behavior like cannibalism, except for some reason, we’ve not quite yet overcome racism?

Pastor Nathan King wants his congregation and the community to give these matters serious thought. They have established a Wednesday Night Racist Anonymous Group that operates under the same principles as Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step programs. Dr. Carol Eales Stanley, a member of the congregation and a local psychologist, leads the group. According to Carol, “The first night went very well with a diverse group of attendees.” She says the group, open to the community, plans to meet each Wednesday evening at 6 pm at the church –Trinity United Church of Christ (UCC), 38 Church Street N, Concord, NC.

“The first step may be the hardest of all,” says Carol, “admitting that we have a problem. Racism is all around us and yet nobody claims to be a racist.” According to Pastor Nathan, “It’s not much different than when we were children. Mama would come in and ask us children who had done some mischievous thing or another. The answer was always the same, ‘I don’t know. Not me.’”

The second step is to come to the realization that we cannot handle this problem alone. And the third step is to turn it over to God or what some simply call a Higher Power. There are other steps of course. These are just the beginning.

The founding group in Sunnyvale, CA was launched by UCC Pastor Ron Buford at the Congregational Church of Sunnyvale with lay leadership. Pastor Ron says that with great lay leadership over several months, most of its diverse participants have come to recognize their own racism, its powerful grip on our lives, and the need to turn it over. Thousands of RA groups across the nation have the power to change the world – one person at a time, one day at a time.

The goal of RA is not to change others. The goal of RA is to, with God’s help, eliminate racism in ourselves. After all, isn’t this the way Christianity itself began to spread — Confession, Repentance, and Faith? The hour-long meeting is open to the community.

The group meets each Wednesday 6pm-7pm in the church fellowship hall. Park on the lower level and use that entrance. All are welcome!

About Trinity UCC

Trinity is a progressive, Christian “social action, social justice church” that knows “God’s love embraces all persons equally, no matter their age, gender, race, life status, beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” The church is located at 38 Church Street N, Concord, NC. For information about Trinity visit www.CommaChurch.com and Facebook.com/CommaChurch, or, contact Rev. Nathan King at [email protected]. Trinity is a member of the United Church of Christ, based in Cleveland, OH, www.ucc.org.

For more information about RA contact:

Dr. Carol Stanley

[email protected]

(425) 301-2704  (cell)

Trinity in the Park

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Sunday’s service will be held at Les Meyer’s Park in Concord at 11:00am. We will meet at Paul’s Picnic Shelter.

The Morning Circle is graciously providing lunch. All you need to do is bring dessert if you wish.

No Sunday school classes will meet that day.

The topic for this service will be: “Care for Creation.”

This service is open to everyone. Someone will be at Trinity to direct newcomers to Les Meyers Park.

Trinityinthepark

Deep Ecumenism sermon from Trinity UCC January 24, 2016

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By Rev. J. Nathan King

24 January 2016 Ecumenism Sunday

John 10:11-21; Isaiah 56:1-8 (scroll to bottom of sermon for scripture readings)

Deep Ecumenism

“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

Isaiah 58:12

What do we mean by ecumenism and why is it important? A religious man tells this story:

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, “Stop! Don’t do it!” “Why shouldn’t I?” he said. I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!” He said, “Like what?” I said, “Well, are you religious or atheist?” He said, “Religious.” I said, “Me too! Are you Christian or something else?” He said, “Christian.” I said, “Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist? He said, “Baptist!” I said, “Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord? He said, Baptist Church of God!” I said, “Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?” He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God!” I said, “Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?” He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!” I said, “Die, heretic scum!” and pushed him off.

When we talk about ecumenism, that’s not what we’re talking about. That’s division of the trivial kind. But so many things in common!

When we talk about ecumenism, generally we mean our relationship with other Christians of different denominations. In my covenant classes for newcomers I talk about the Christian family tree that begins with Jewish and Greek thought as its roots, and has Jesus in the center of that rootedness. It protrudes then with the early Catholic church forming the lower trunk. Then, branches begin splitting off with the Armenian, Coptic, and Georgian Christians; then the Eastern church; then many others including the Protestant Reformation groups that formed various “denominations” of Christianity. They are all Christian, but different denominations.

Ecumenism in that context means recognizing our commonalities with other Christian groups, celebrating that common ground, and working together to be united in Christ. The UCC is a wonderful, if weird, expression of what happens when some of those estranged groups begin getting together officially in covenant with each other.

And even this sort of Christian ecumenism is held suspect by some Christian groups and denominations that think they’re going to be the only ones in heaven.

I think you all know that it doesn’t matter at Trinity what denomination you came from. In fact, some of you still carry with you precious memories as well as some beliefs and practices of your previous denominations such as celebrating holy communion, crossing oneself upon entering the worship space, and certain prayers and rituals, among others.

But what about other religions? Should we be seeking common ground with them too?

This question gets us into what Matt Fox calls “deep ecumenism.” Deep ecumenism means not only looking for ways to make connections of mutual concern with other Christian groups, it means looking for ways to make connections of mutual concern with groups in other religions.

We’ve read from the Jewish, or Hebrew Scriptures today as we do many Sundays. And we’ve read from our Christian Scriptures as we also do many Sundays. In a sense, we connect with our Jewish counterparts on a regular basis through reading of scripture. Whenever we read from the first five books in the bible, we also connect with our Islamic counterparts who claim as sacred the first five books of our bible. So I assume you know Jews, Muslims, and Christians hold sacred this common body of sacred writings.

There must be common ground between us.

But what about other people? People in other religions?

Several years ago, my own journey of faith led me to explore some other religions. In my Baptist seminary I took a class on world religions and explored the idea of grace and karma. It was a most rewarding independent study. I learned a lot about Buddhism in its various forms.

In the class itself we were gifted with the presence of Buddhists, Hindus, Hare Krishnas, Imams. I learned I did not have to fear these who believed differently and practiced differently from me. On the contrary, I found them to be holy and sacred people with sacred practices of goodness, love, and justice.

In that reading from Isaiah, the prophet declares that regardless of one’s condition, region, belief, or religion, when one works for justice and is good, there is a place in the household of God. I’m thankful today that my seminary professors’ classrooms were large enough to explore and embrace the best of all religions. I learned appreciation of others’ beliefs and practices. I learned to find common ground with them.

I read Buddhist writings and practiced breathing meditation as a form of daily prayer and I fell in love with the teachings of Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, whose book Living Buddha, Living Christ explores the similarities on the two paths of Buddhism and Christianity. Another of his books, Peace Is Every Step, served as an indispensable meditational guide for me as I was learning to sit still and listen for the voice and spirit of God, rather than try to create it with my own words and thoughts.

I say all that to say this: I am a Christian and we are a Christian church and we follow the principles of Christianity as we understand them through serious exploration of our holy writings, mostly stories, we call scripture. And in those holy writings, mostly stories, we call scripture, one of the principles, embraced over and again, both in the Jewish scriptures we embrace with Isaiah, and in our Christian scriptures we embrace with John’s story of Jesus, is the principle of greater things.

Isaiah declares God’s house, or temple, will be great enough to embrace the foreigner with their religion and the one even whose body has been altered and formerly declared unfit for God’s house.

Jesus says there are other sheep not of this fold. He may have meant Judaism. But if we interpret this saying today, we’d have to recognize that the precedent set by Jesus in this passage, which is not alone in its widening embrace of others, is true to how Jesus treats this idea generally. So to follow Jesus in this widening embrace of others, we would have to also expand our embrace of sheep not of our fold, sheep from folds other than the Christian pen or house.

The best illustration I’ve found for our relationship with other Christians and people of other religions comes from Matt Fox through the Middle Age mystic Meister Eckhart. Eckhart said God is a great underground river that no one can dam up. Then Fox in his book, One River, Many Wells, explores the truth that we all come from this one Source that is the Creator, or our Higher Power, or as Eckhart says, this great underground river. Fox teaches that from God, spring many wells (religious paths) that rise up to the surface and provide needed sustenance for those who drink from those spiritual wells. To explore other religions, one must go down deeply into one’s own well of religious teachings and find the source.

This I believe is a needed calling at this point in our world where people of other faiths are held suspect because of a few who profess a particular form of their religion. Indeed, it is more difficult to sift through the fundamentalists practitioners to find those with whom one can arrive at common grounds of goodness, love, and justice. It is a hard work, but is I am convinced, a greater work than just staying in our own places of comfortable belief divided from each other and making the world a divisive place. Religion has been accused of causing many of these divisions. And is guilty on many counts. Deep ecumenism comes as a welcome answer to those divisions caused by religion.

So my call to you on this Ecumenical Sunday is to do the hard work of appreciating others in other religions. Alone and sequestered, we cannot fix these deep divisions in our world, divided largely on religious and ideological grounds. Deep divisions call for deep collaboration, particularly among religious groups. And deep divides call for deep ecumenism that does not hole up in exclusive bunkers of belief, but welcomes and embraces the best in all. Let us, like Christ, make room for others, and be called repairers of the breach.  

You shall do greater works than these, Jesus says. Your practice of deep ecumenism part of that greater work. Let’s get to it!  Amen.

Isaiah 56:1-8

56 Thus says the Lord:

   Maintain justice, and do what is right,

for soon my salvation will come,

   and my deliverance be revealed.

2 Happy is the mortal who does this,

   the one who holds it fast,

who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it,

   and refrains from doing any evil.

3 Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say,

   “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;

and do not let the eunuch say,

   “I am just a dry tree.”

4 For thus says the Lord:

To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,

   who choose the things that please me

   and hold fast my covenant,

5 I will give, in my house and within my walls,

   a monument and a name

   better than sons and daughters;

I will give them an everlasting name

   that shall not be cut off.

6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,

   to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,

   and to be his servants,

all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,

   and hold fast my covenant—

7 these I will bring to my holy mountain,

   and make them joyful in my house of prayer;

their burnt offerings and their sacrifices

   will be accepted on my altar;

for my house shall be called a house of prayer

   for all peoples.

8 Thus says the Lord God,

   who gathers the outcasts of Israel,

I will gather others to them

   besides those already gathered.[a]

John 10:11-21

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes[a] it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

19 Again the Jews were divided because of these words. 20 Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?” 21 Others were saying, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”