Unpacking the Memory Box


Well folks we are all moved into our new home in Haverhill. NO INTERNET yet! However, I have a hot spot that works when it feels like.   As I was packing up our things in my former residence, It quickly became apparent that we were not going to take everything with us.  There were a lot of things purchased, collected and acquired over the years that had found their way into our hearts at one time. As we looked over each object deciding what would come with us or what would be left behind  two things happened. In some cases the attachment had disappeared which raised the question: Why in the world…?.   Second, the things that resonated with who we are and our belonging and those things that  reminded us how much love had sustained us through the rough patches, came with us.  

One of the things that come to the new house is a small wooden box filled with silly little things like tickets to concerts,  name badges from a jobs, a card with an old address frome Tulsa, some old costume Jewelry, a set of rosary beads, a guitar pick,  a large button from a coat I wore studying abroad in Italy,  a sea shell, a small polished stone and a very old sterling silver Celtic cross I used to wear and  a red comma pin.  This little wooden box with its objects of affection came with me to the new place: reminders of God and of people who loved me now gone,  They triggered memories of my travels, of people I had met along my life’s journey. Each, retold a story or harkened back to a moment in time or repeated a testimony or shared a witness to what I believe and how I experience belonging.   

We moved to Haverhill because a small group of people from First Congregational Church believed God wanted to start something new. They worked for several years ultimately calling me to serve this new Church Start “Phoenix Rising UCC”.  These folks packed up and left their former church home and moved on. With God’s help I pray they will see their vision come to life.  This is the hope I have for them and for Haverhill.     

In my little wooden box, I will place a small piece of bark.  I found it on the ground near the Worshiping Oak Tree on the Buttonwoods Museum grounds.  This piece of bark will sit alongside my polished stone, my sea shell, my old Celtic cross, the badges, the tickets, the button: it has already become an object of affection as I researched the Worshiping Oak’s historic place in Haverhill’s founding and its faith history.   To anyone who looks inside, they will only see meaningless stuff and wonder what in the world…?    I can’t help wondering how many new folks I will meet how many new stories that will arise, how many testimonies and witnesses to God’s love and belonging will take place because I intentionally came here on a mission.  We are mostly unpacked with a new space, a new place to call home and an expectation of meeting new people, making new friends and sharing God’s Good News of belovedness and belonging.  


religious_spiritualDiana Butler Bass is a professor of religious studies.  She is the Author of several books her latest: Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening.  A couple of years ago she sent out a survey with four questions. 

Are you Spiritual and Not Religious?

Are you Religious and Not Spiritual?

Are you Spiritual and Religious?

Are you Neither?

A similar survey had been done in 1999.

There wasn’t an explanation and there was not a question regarding any affiliati on i.e.Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or “other”. The outcome was very interesting and many felt a need to share why they chose, what they  chose.  So I thought it would be interesting to invite you to participate in this survey  and if anyone of you would be compelled to share your thougths .  Next week I will share how these responses indicate a New Spiritual Awakening in the Land! How is God showing up in your life?  How is God showing up in our fast changing world?

Identity: WHO ARE YOU?


There is a new/ancient Christianity breaking forth like new wine bursting from an old wine skin of weak and short sited theology. In the past three centuries, there has been a pervasive theology that provoked Preachers and Evangelists to scare the HELL out of people and the HEAVEN into them. A ticket out of hell was given after saying “the sinner’s” prayer:
“Lord help me a sinner. Forgive me of my sins, I renounce Satan and I ask Jesus into my heart amen.
Once said you were told your entrance into heaven was secure. Go and sin no more! phew! But more often than not people never got to hear how beloved they were and went back to their old ways.
The central issue of salvation is not a ticket out of hell. It is the discovery of a true reality of one’s birthright, which opens the mind and heart to a “new identity” with God, self and others in the spirit of inclusive love and justice. Our relationship with God is not centered on how well we manage sin. Our identity is not defined by our failures or our past but on who we are, beloved children of God! To identify oneself as a person of the future, a new creation and not the person of our past victimizations and failures is the refreshing wine of this new/ancient Christianity.
“12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:12-15

May you arise to the possibility of a new way of living!

Moving To and Around Haverhill

ImageThe past 6 weeks have been a whirlwind of change. Packing up and getting ready to move, meeting new people, making new friends and learning about Haverhill.  Finding the perfect house near the 400 year old Worshiping Oak tree, the very spot a small band of visionaries founded Haverhill lead by John Ward their first minister.   Having lunch on the Roma Patio and watching the Eagle flying above us.  I am grateful that I have been awake and aware of all the spiritual implications that have helped affirm my call and make meaning for the reemerging FCC Phoenix Rising UCC.

My conversations with folks has been insightful; I will share two stories:

One person who referred to himself as a recovering catholic with a small “c” shared:  

 “I was raised in the Church did all the sacraments but when my kids came along My wife and I  did not want to subject our kids to the doctrines that promoted more fear than love.  I now question if that was a good idea. They are good kids. But they don’t even entertain the idea that there is a God who exists. I may not go to church but I am spiritual and it bothers me. I wish there was a place that I could go and discover why I have these conflicting thoughts.”   

As we continued to talk it became clear to me that he was a seeker.  I was able to tell him that church is much more than right doctrine, or right sacraments. Church is about connecting to God, being a part of a community who believe they not only belong to God but to each other and beyond! Then I challenged him saying, “Maybe you are more than a Recovering Catholic!  You sound more like a rediscovering catholic with a small “c”. He sat back and laughed out loud. He said, “You know what, I think that is what I am.”   We are now Face Book friends and look forward to talking more.   

Another person wrote to me from the website:

“For many years I was around people who wondered where there first love and excitement over finding God’s love had gone. We were in an evangelical, independent church that was becoming more conservative, fundamental, and political. When we first started to attend there, we were mildly out of step with the thinking of the average attender. But over time, the distance between us grew greater. It was the rediscovery of God’s grace and amazing love that helped to lead us away from that church. We are looking for a place where everyone is welcome and people are intentional about their interconnectedness with God, self and others. I went to your website and filled up with tears.  It sounds like Phoenix Rising might be a place to consider. Can you tell me more?”

Moving to and around Haverhill, informs me that the Spirit of God has been preparing the way.  It excites me to think that FCC Phoenix Rising UCC was not simply an idea in the minds of a few people.  This reemerging Christian Community is emerging from the very heart of God!  The people I have encountered are spiritually aware of God and want to experience more! The interesting thing about being a seeker is that you may be unaware that you are one. You may not know  exactly what you are looking for. I can tell you this that when you find it, you will not only know it, but you will be transformed in the process.   Another  interesting component concerns my call as  pastor of this new church start. I go out with the expectation and intention to find seekers and together we will become a  Phoenix Rising!

A prayer for you:  As you venture out this Fourth of July weekend remember to Live simply, care deeply, love generously, forgive freely and know you belong to God, God Belongs to you and We belong to each other.  AMEN