Posts from 2020

To My Beloved PBBC Community

What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us?
…Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will hardship, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(from Romans 8)

I have always loved these words from the apostle Paul’s letter to the early church. We usually hear them read during our Ash Wednesday service, offered as words of assurance following words of confession, spoken in hope for starting out on our journey through the wilderness of Lent. They promise a new beginning, a clean slate, a chance to be forgiven and begin again.

It was on Ash Wednesday this year, at the end of February, that many of us gathered in our sanctuary for the last time before the pandemic would separate us from one another. These seven months apart have surely felt like another kind of journey through the wilderness. We have known loneliness and fear, sadness and despair, frustration and uncertainty. We would love nothing more than the chance to start over, to try and get things right, make things better.

My daughter, Heidi, is serving as co-director of music for the Andover Newton students at Yale Divinity School, and this week she hosted one of their first online worship gatherings for the fall semester, beginning with these words: “Greetings, beloved community, wherever you may be worshipping from tonight. I am convinced (and you may recognize that I am paraphrasing from Paul here) that neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor distance, nor COVID, nor Zoom, can separate us from the love of God and from the embrace of this community. I am so glad to be with you all tonight.”

She is right, and Paul was right. This pandemic has changed many things but it has not changed this one thing…that nothing can separate us from God’s love or from each other. Every day is another chance to start over, to feel embraced, and to find our way through the wilderness.

Wherever you are today, I am so glad to be with you all on this journey…Pastor Claudine

To My Beloved PBBC Community

“Wonderful Words of Life”
(Text and Music by Philip P. Bliss)

Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life
Words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life

Christ, the blessed One gives to all wonderful words of life
Sinner, list to the loving call, wonderful words of life
All so freely given, wooing us to Heaven
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life

Sweetly echo the gospel call, wonderful words of life
Offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life
Jesus, only Savior, sanctify forever
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life

Our words have become important these days. When we can’t see each other face to face, and person to person, the words we use carry more weight than ever before…our spoken words and written words, words we post, words we pray, words we whisper and words we shout, preached words, lived words. As the pandemic wears on and our patience wears thin, as national division grows and global fears increase, we are quick to use harsh words, hurtful words, hateful words.

As our words take on more significance than ever before, the world needs more carefully chosen words…words of truth and forgiveness, words of hope and healing, words of compassion and understanding, words of justice, unity, reconciliation. We need to hear good words more often, words that challenge us as well as comfort us. In a poem by David Whyte called, “Loaves and Fishes,” we find these words: “People are hungry and one good word is bread for a thousand.”

May we echo the gospel call…to say a good word to someone today; ours may be the only good word they hear. May we make the effort to be that one good word for someone this week; we may be the single wonderful word they most need right now. May we offer pardon and peace whenever we can, that our own words might bring life, share love, and feed thousands.

In the name of the One whose words have the power to change the world…
Pastor Claudine

To My Beloved PBBC Community

A Letter from Our Friend and Sister in Christ
American Baptist Missionary Mercy Gonzalez-Barnes

” ‘Education is power…not the power to dominate,
but the power through the Spirit of God to serve and transform lives.’
I truly believe that the power of God works in us, through us, and uses the gifts and talents that we bring to the table. One of the ways in which we serve is by providing education,
and empowering and encouraging leaders to discover their gifts and serve.
I am truly amazed at how God is using this program to empower leaders
throughout Latin America and the United States.
I also want YOU to know how important it is to have YOU on this team
that promotes theological education and the development of leaders.
Thank you so much! I truly cannot do what I do without your support.

Prayer concerns: Prayers for our son Josh, going to college in NYS; prayers for our son Rich, teaching in Japan
Prayers for our daughter Aida and husband Isaac, living in Charlottesville, VA
Prayers for my husband Rick, ministering as a Chaplain in a detention center
Prayers for our current cohorts of students in Ecuador, Dominican Republic,
Mexicali, Brazil, and our U.S. cohort
Prayers for new support partners and churches in the United States
(I am currently at 76% support and need to reach 100%)
Prayers for our world as each country is dealing with this global pandemic.
May we be God’s hands and feet bringing good news, hope, food and support to those that surround us. Remember, the power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in US today!”

These wonderful words of life from our dear friend, Mercy, remind me that we are connected as people of faith, as sisters and brothers in Christ, as American Baptists, and as children of God. What a blessing it is to work together in bringing hope, educating leaders, equipping ministers and serving churches; what a gift to support Mercy, such a faithful servant and such a devoted disciple of Jesus; what a joy to join her in preaching good news and reaching so many people!

As we continue to support her ministry in so many places on this earth, let us be mindful of the needs of all people…those who still wait for hope, those who are in need of food and shelter, those who dwell in darkness, and those who long for more light. As global partners in Christ we are called to be ambassadors of peace and truth throughout the world, seeking to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

May we be inspired by Mercy’s faith, and encouraged by Mercy’s spirit…
Pastor Claudine

To My Beloved PBBC Community

Golden Rule 2020: A Call for Dignity and Respect in Politics
American Baptists join other churches and denominations to offer special prayers as we approach our national election. We are encouraged to pray for our leaders and for our country.

A Responsive Reading
We acknowledge that God calls us to show respect to everyone –
regardless of their views on difficult issues that divide our country.

In response to God’s commandment, we will strive to treat those
who have different views as we want to be treated by them.

As we advocate for what we believe, help us to remember that the Bible
tells us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.”

In response, we will seek to do more listening
so that we might learn from others.

We remember that Jesus said we should forgive the sins against us
not just seven times, but “seventy times seven.”

In response, we will remember to forgive those who say harsh things about us
and resist the temptation to respond in kind when we are attacked.

We know that, as Christians, we are told to work for
increased understanding, justice and peace for all people.

In response, we will do what we can during the year ahead
to stay mindful of the sacredness of each person
and to apply Jesus’ Golden Rule in our personal lives and in our political activity.

We come together today to pray for our country but also for ourselves. We are thankful for the blessings of living in the United States, but increasingly fearful for our future because of the enmity and bitterness we see between our fellow citizens. Help us to be more mindful of your teachings and to act in love to help heal the deep divisions in our country. We pray that you will keep us mindful of your great command to “treat others as we want to be treated,” and that you will help us find ways to apply that principle in our daily lives. We believe that your way of love and kindness can transform our country and ask your assistance as we seek to show that love to others – especially those who hold views very different than our own. Amen.

Joining with you and with all of our sisters and brothers in faith, Pastor Claudine