This is our second message in our new series Signs of Life!
Friends of CUMC, you can download the Worship Guide for Sunday’s service here. It includes the prayers we will use, and allow you to have your Bible’s ready for the scripture readings. Remember that we will be on both Facebook Live and Youtube Live starting at 10:30 a.m. and then anyone who would like to join a time of conversation, we’ll move to Zoom after the service. The info for Zoom will be posted on our Facebook page in the morning.
The church has entered the Easter season. That’s right – Easter is not just a day – it’s a whole season. And every year the season heads toward one destination: a birthday party! Specifically, the Easter season moves toward the birth of the church, the day called Pentecost.
This year, with everything locked up, locked down and locked away, we thought we’d open things up at bit, metaphorically that is. These 7 weeks are all about anticipating a birth. It is a season of expectation. And just like when someone is expecting a baby, there are SIGNS OF LIFE along the way. The same is true when it comes to looking ahead to Pentecost.
So each week, we’ll look at the various stories of Jesus and of the ways the disciples were being shown SIGNS of things to come. And we’ll ask the question: even in the face of such darkness and despair as the world looks to overcome the dangerous virus COVID-19, what are the signs of life around us? Where is God working? How is Jesus being made known today, here, through you and me.
We don’t know how long we’re going to be on “stay-at-home” orders, but our prayer is that by May 31st, the day of Pentecost, we’ll be cut loose and able to gather together for a grand birthday party. But even if we can’t, and we’re all still home – we can party safely at a distance. So start planning now! Order the balloons, look for the best cake recipes, and start designing that party outfit, for there will definitely be SIGNS OF LIFE all around!!!
Dear friends, our Maundy Thursday service is a pre-recorded live experience this year available on Youtube starting at 6 a.m. This means you can go to the link (https://youtu.be/BOYptWN73CY) anytime after 6 a.m. and enjoy the service with your family.
A short guided meditation has been created for Good Friday, which will be available starting at 6 a.m. on Friday. You can find that here: https://youtu.be/av00kicVrzU. Remember, this won’t be available until Friday after 6 a.m.
Each week CUMC will offer worship through its Youtube channel. The best way for you to stay connected and up to date with this is to subscribe to the channel. Then you will see new content immediately.
The address for our channel is: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCikbt1EQIfQjsQQOkXKOMmw
This week we will be posting meditations for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. You will be able to access those any time it is convenient for you and your family. Please share the news!
Here is the outline for worship this coming Sunday. We’ve put it out early as it is a special service and we’d like to celebrate it as such, even if we must stay home. First, it is Palm Sunday. It’s not safe to share Palms, but you might make arrangements at home – create palms out of paper, or in some other creative way. You and your family can wave them as we read the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem.
Second, we would typically celebrate communion, but that is impossible online. So we will celebrate a Love Feast. If you and your family would have some bread and water available, we will share in this Feast wherever we are, and in the chat on Youtube, you can share a thanksgiving or a praise that you have as we celebrate.
Here’s the outline you can download and print.
The letter below will be mailed out to people connected to the congregation. We thought it would be helpful for anyone out there to know a bit more about what’s happening at CUMC. The letter also includes the “Grow-Pray-Study” guides for the next few weeks. Contact us if you have questions.
Dear CUMC family,
Grace and peace to you. This letter is coming to you from Pastor Rick and Pastor Jen. We pray you are well as we are all learning how to adapt to our new reality as it pertains to Covid-19. Please know we are holding each of you, our church, and our communities in prayer during this time.
As you are no doubt aware, the Center for Disease Control has recommended that none of us gather with others in groups larger than 10 people. The New England Conference agrees. (You can find additional resources through the Conference website) which can be found at www.neumc.org.
As such, we are cancelling PUBLIC worship at CUMC for at least the next three weeks. (March 22, 29, and April 5th). As we get closer to Easter, we will see where things are with recommendations related to public gatherings. However, even though public worship is cancelling, we will still provide a worship experience ONLINE, through the church’s Facebook page, starting at our normal time of 10:30 a.m.
This will be a Facebook LIVE experience, led by Pastor Rick, Pastor Jen, and a few others. We will pray, inviting you to comment and add your prayer concerns, we will sing, we will read scripture and we will explore the text with a message.
Please feel free to share this with your friends and neighbors. In these times when we are being asked to distance ourselves physically, it’s never been more important to connect to each other relationally! As we’ve been talking to others, we find many people are feeling anxious, isolated and wanting to know they are not alone. Gathering online in worship is an opportunity to help our community stay connected. We look forward to “seeing” you on Sunday at 10:30
Though we are limiting how often we gather and how we gather as a faith community, ministry continues. The youth are continuing to meet, practicing safe ways of being together. We are also connecting with people associated with the church through a variety of means (small groups, calling trees, etc.) And, we are still looking for ways to serve the community. For example, the Resilient Communities Taco Tuesday on March 24th from 5:00 pm -6:30 pm is being modified so that they can still offer a free meal to the public, but to do so in a safe way. They will be offering a free chop suey meal via drive thru. If you are interested, call the church (207) 474-3915, give your name and the number of meals that you need. They will be waiting for you at the drive thru to deliver it to you! Drive up under awning at the front entrance.
People still need food and household items – and many folks are having a hard time finding what they need. Pastor Jen is also a team leader for the Skowhegan Area Action Team a volunteer cohort that has come together in response to the Covid-19 National Emergency in the Skowhegan Area. We are collecting food items to help families with food insecurity, school supplies for area children as they transition to remote learning and trying to connect volunteer drivers and other resources to people needing assistance. If you are living alone and cannot get to the stores to get what you need, please let Pastor Jen know and she will try to get you connected to someone who can assist.
Pastor Jen is also still working on exploring the creation of a 501c3 for our future ministries.
We will also explore conducting our regularly scheduled Ad Council meetings on-line using either a Zoom or Google Hangout platform. As you can see, even though we are not meeting in person, our ministry and administration of the church continues.
That means that we need you to continue your faithfulness to God through your generosity and giving. Remember, we don’t give to simply support our budget or pay bills. Followers of Jesus are called to be generous with God because we believe the church is the hands and feet of Jesus in the world today. Like when the disciples turned to Jesus and asked if they should send the thousands of people home to find food, Jesus turned to them and said, “You feed them!” (John 6:1-14). Jesus says the same to us – use the resources in your hand to make a difference in the lives of others.
You can give in two ways, The first is by simply sending a check to the church through the mail: CUMC, PO Box 630, Skowhegan ME 04976, or give online by going to the church website. Thank you for your faithfulness!
Regarding our Small Group Ministries: Part of what the small groups do every month or so is reach out beyond the walls of our church to bless the community with kindness and love. The groups have covenanted to meet each week for Bible study, prayer, fellowship, encouragement, and ministry. THESE GROUPS ARE CONTINUING EVEN AS WE WORSHIP ONLINE!
One group meets online using an application called “Zoom.” The Wednesday group meets Wednesday afternoons at 1 pm, led by Pastor Jen, and is looking to meet via conference call until we can get together in person. Interested in deepening your walk of faith? Want to join others in blessing the community on a regular basis? There is always room for you to be part of one of these groups. Come and see, or contact the pastors to learn more.
On a separate note, because of the travel restrictions as the world deals with the COVID-19 crisis, Pastor Rick’s planned trip to the Camino de Santiago is cancelled, and he will not be taking renewal leave during April and May. He will be working with the new Bishop when she/he arrives this fall to reschedule.
On the following pages, please find the Grow-Pray Study guides for the next 3 weeks. You are encouraged to read the Scriptures each day and engage the questions and reflection prompts.
We hope that in this time of practicing social distancing for our physical well-being and the well-being of our family, neighbors and friends, that it will also be an opportunity to grow in your spiritual relationship with God. It is the perfect opportunity to try a new spiritual practice or discipline.
For the past 20+ weeks, Pastor Jen has been meeting on-line with a covenant group of other United Methodist clergy to practice several Ignatian spiritual disciplines. These practices have greatly deepened her prayer life and her relationship with God. Some of these practices are listed below with a brief description. You are invited to explore them, as you feel comfortable.
- Do a short, focused morning prayer. This can be, “Good morning, Lord. I’m grateful to be alive another day,” or, “May my thoughts, words, and actions reflect your love today,” or anything else that is short and to the point. It can be a waking-up prayer, to help you focus your attention as the day begins.
- Sigh to God. The Holy Spirit takes every sigh, every tear, every groan and translates them to our heavenly Father. Sometimes we put too high a value on words when it comes to prayer. Sometimes, a sigh will convey exactly how you’re feeling and what you need. Please note: you are encouraged to do this prayer multiple times a day.
- Reflect. Stop at mid-morning or noon or afternoon or evening, and look back at what has happened in the day so far. What did you do or say? How did you feel? Where did you perceive God present or at work? Respond with thanksgiving or with a prayer to do better during the rest of the day.
- Listen to Scripture. Allow Scripture to soak into your mind and heart by listening to it—in recorded songs or hymns or from an audio version of the Bible. Take just five or ten minutes to do this, while you’re commuting or eating your lunch.
- Say thanks. Pause to thank God for one thing in your day. Or thank another person for one thing he or she has said or done that helped you.
- Say please. Acknowledge your true desire at this moment and voice it to God. Or ask another person for help rather than trying to do everything yourself.
- Help someone. Donate money to an organization that addresses needs in the community. Encourage a coworker. Help a stranger pick up the dropped bag of groceries. Hold a door open. Pitch in when you see a friend or family member overwhelmed with a task.
Some other practices:
- Live each day with intention-how will you be an instrument of God’s love, mercy, and grace in the day ahead?
- Do at least one thing for yourself each day that brings you joy.
- Go on a prayer walk around your yard or neighborhood.
- Keep a journal of your experiences during this time of being “set apart.”
- Pray always. Pray for our church, our denomination, our church leaders, friends, family
- PRAYER LIST
- Prayer Concerns: Diane Arsenault, Toni Jo and John Blaisdell, Kevin Tansey, Tammy Neal, Ken Fitzherbert Jr., Elizabeth Fitzherbert, Gerald Gagne, Chris Veysey, Janice Stedman, Shirley Whittemore, Maxine Hardy, Christina, Jasmine, Clarissa & “Gushie” Brown, Andrew “Goose” Curtis, Arthur Judd, Mark Corson, James Barto, Stephanie Smith, Bessie Ann Boggs, Patrick Fitzgerald, Joe Fitzgerald and family, Green family, Rose Richards, Krista, Tommy Lyons, Mr. Brown, Marjorie Saporita, Scott Giguere, Paige and Toby and Family, Joyce DePietro, Alice Emery, Avis Emery, Rodney Brown, Fran, Angel, Adam, Raven, family of Jim Trevains, the homeless, Skowhegan Community, all unspoken prayers, The Zimmermans, Bradley UMC
LENT 4 Grow. Pray. Study 3.22.2020
Monday, March 23: 1Samuel 16:1-13 We live in a world where our value is defined by our success. Our titles, careers, or roles have become more than what we spend our time doing; we have believed the lie that these things are the definition of who we are. But God wants us to realize that we are more than just what we find on a business card. God defines us on a much deeper level than that. If David was believing the lie that “I am what I do,” how would he have seen himself? How does God’s choice of David encourage you in your current stage of life or career?
Tuesday, March 24: Psalm 23 Lent is long; lament takes time. Anyone who has experienced loss and endured the valley of the shadow of grief can bear witness to this. What does it mean to love as those who “fear no evil” in the midst of threat, in the face of loss, suffering, or death?
Wednesday, March 25: Ephesians 5:8-14 What are the positive and/or negative motivations which prompt you to live a Christian life? Where do you feel like you are making progress? What does it mean to you to being children of the light? Compare Paul’s view of a Spirit-filled life with your own. In comparison, how full of the Spirit have you been this week thus far? What do you want to work on so that the Spirit might fill you more?
Thursday, March 26: John 9:1-41 Jesus noted that no one was to blame for a certain man’s blindness. Why is it so hard to comprehend that terrible things happen and no one is to blame? Besides satisfaction or closure, what gain does “blame” provide?
Friday, March 27: Reflect: No one sinned[JR1] , said Jesus, but, let the work of God be made visible. No one sinned. When these things happen, to a man born blind, to a young man born angry, to a mother, a child, a family, a father, or a friend-when these things happen to us and to others, there is no easy answer, but there is a simple solution: do not run away, but get down in the mud with whoever in your world is brave enough or messy enough to join you; make a little healing paste of the dry dust and dirt of your life…apply it to your own eyes, and try to see the world a little differently. No one sinned-but let the work of God be manifest. Where is God, or where can God be through us, in the life of a hurting child, an angry town, a disgruntled worker, a hopeless situation an answerless question? What can we make in the mud that is beautiful, healing, transforming, a living testimony to God’s wondrous love in the world?
LENT 5 Grow. Pray. Study 3.29.2020
Monday, March 30: Ezekiel 37:1-14 As Ezekiel preached the words he was given by God, the power of the Spirit moved and the valley of death came to life, bringing hope to even these dry bones. God’s breath of life came through finishing the work of bringing dust and bones together to become living, breathing people. What brings you hope in a hopeless situation? If you could speak to the dry bones of the church today, what would you say?
Tuesday, March 31: Psalm 130 The Psalmist speaks out from a place of pain and despair that must have been felt by those either in each text, or to whom each text was written, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!…Lord, hear my voice!” Have you ever lost a night’s sleep anticipating something the next day? Did it turn out as you anticipated? Have you been waiting on God for something for a long time? Why don’t you give up? How long will you wait?
Wednesday, April 1: Romans 8:6-11 Apostle Paul assures the Roman Christians who are struggling with physical challenges and ever present danger that no matter the difficulty, no matter the spiritual warfare, no matter the condition of their heart on the day they move from this world to the next, if one lives wrestling with sin, one’s life is with the one whose power is so great he was resurrected. Make a list comparing what Paul says about living according to the Spirit. What is the relationship of each to the Law of God?
Thursday, April 2: John 11:1-45 While Jesus had been speaking words of hope, words of assurance, words of promise to those who gathered around him as he approached and arrived in Bethany to see Lazarus and his family, he was nonetheless overcome by the grief and despair of the death of his friend. But in his words were hope, and in his acts came fulfillment. Simply by the words of Jesus, a dead man was given breath and life again. When have you been faced with a situation recently that stretched your faith? What would have been different for you if that situation had been simply avoided? What have you found helpful when you are called upon to help a friend who is undergoing grief?
Friday, April 3: Reflect: Consider two or three of the Scripture readings. Try to pinpoint the moment that hope began to break through. What triggers the shift from hopelessness to hope? What processes or questions could you develop for yourself to remind you to look for the hope breaking through the brokenness of the world?
The Scripture lessons of Holy Week transform us into eyewitnesses and direct participants in the awesome events of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In our daily readings we see the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies, and the mighty acts by which God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, grants us forgiveness for our sins, and rescues us from the pain of eternal death. What Wondrous love is this!
Monday, April 6: John 12:1-11 In Jesus’ final days, he goes to Bethany to stay at the home of Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary. Mary anoints him with a costly perfume. Given the value of the perfume, how would you have reacted as you watched Mary? How does Jesus interpret Mary’s action? How is his comment to Judas in verse 8 applicable to Judas? If you had a year’s salary or time, how would you give it to Jesus?
Tuesday, April 7: John 12:20-36 In this Scripture passage we hear Jesus predict his own death. What is so unique about the Gentiles requests to Philip that he would first filter it through Andrew? In Jesus’ parable, who is the grain of wheat? Where is Jesus calling you to die so that you might live? What do you tend to hold on to rather than follow Jesus?
Wednesday, April 8: John 13:21-32 While eating one final meal together in the Upper Room we hear Jesus predicting his betrayal to the Roman authorities. In foretelling his betrayal, what do you sense in Jesus: Resolution? Resignation? Restlessness? What do you sense in his disciples? In Judas? If you knew ahead of time someone was going to betray you, how would you treat that person? How does Jesus show a wondrous kind of love in this situation?
Thursday, April 9: John 13:1-17, 31b-35 Here we witness the awesome moment when, at the Last Supper, Christ abolishes the ritual practice of the Old Covenant and establishes the ritual of the New Covenant, prophesied by Jeremiah, through the Sacrament of Holy Communion. He also humbles himself and washes his disciple’s feet. What wondrous love is this! In your young spiritual life, who was one of the people that demonstrated to you what it means to “wash feet?” What did he or she do?
Friday, April 10: John 18:1-19:42 The Gospel reading witnesses for us the arrest of Jesus, his trial and conviction, and finally his torture, crucifixion and death at the hands of a sinful humanity. If Jesus preached the same Gospel today that he preached in the first century, who might be the “chief priests,” “Peters,” and “Pilates?” How and when did the meaning of Jesus’ death become real to you?
Due to Covid -19, The Clothes Closet will be closed until April 1st. If you have an emergency or extreme need for clothing, please call the church at 207-474-3915 and we will do our best to make arrangements to help you.
Our next message in our series considering the 5 major world religions. This week, Islam, and how we might be better neighbors to our Muslim neighbors.