In September–

We’ve returned to gathering in person in the sanctuary on Sunday morning and are also maintaining a Zoom connection. Please join us in either fashion! (For the Zoom link, contact the church at upcobzoom (at sign) gmail.com.)

Greg Laszakovits has joined us to begin his interim ministry as of September 1. He and Kim will be working together for the month of September. Greg will be preaching on September 5. While he’ll be commuting from Elizabethtown, PA, and doing some work from home, he expects to be here on Tuesdays and Sundays regularly. Welcome, Greg!

Sunday, September 12 — Outdoor worship and picnic at Calvert Park (4807 Drexel Rd)– 11 a.m. Bring a salad or dessert to share– burgers, beverages, and table service provided.

We’ll be enjoying the park and some informal time together as we worship, eat, and play games.

Moving forward…

Greg Davidson Laszakovits has been called to lead us in a guided interim ministry beginning this fall! Greg brings valuable experience and skills to this process–and is a friend and former member of the congregation. He served earlier as a denominational staff member in the Church of the Brethren Washington Office, and in church development in Brazil. More recently, Greg spent fifteen years as pastor of the Elizabethtown, PA Church of the Brethren and has worked with Initiative One, a secular leadership development company.

This interim is an intentional time to claim strengths and identity and to discern what God may be calling us to do and be in the future. Together, the congregation will explore questions that can help as we move ahead in ministry. Greg’s gifts of perceptiveness, strength, and deep commitment to Christ’s church will help lead us along this path.

Kim and Greg will overlap for the month of September before Kim’s retirement. During the interim, Greg will be commuting from Elizabethtown, where he and his family still live. We’re excited about the potential in the coming months as we take this journey together! Watch for more as we get (re)acquainted with Greg in the coming months.

Identifying marks

What marks reveal you as who you are? Your stature or hair color, your work or activities, your voice or your passions or your way of relating to people? Our congregation identifies as Church of the Brethren, but emphasis on the qualities that define the Church of the Brethren is varied!

A search committee has begun working here at University Park to find pastoral leadership after Kim retires. Part of their task is to describe the congregation. It’s both for candidates who may want a picture of the church and for the benefit of our own congregation as we reflect on identity and future mission. Over the coming months there will be chances for many to help in responding to questions they’re exploring. What are the marks that reveal who we are?

The wider church is also thinking about this, both nationally and beyond. There are eleven denominations across the world who have identified themselves as Church of the Brethren groups. Though each official structure is independent of the others, they are all part of the Global Church of the Brethren Communion, an association meant to offer chances for dialogue and collaboration.

As these groups reflect together, they’ve been invited to respond to a list of marks that may be associated with the Church of the Brethren. (This list is not a formal description but a grouping that reflects historical emphases.) They’re being asked to consider whether each of the characteristics is essential, important, or irrelevant. Responses will aid in future conversations among the groups.

Below is the list. How many reflect understandings you have about the wider COB? About University Park? About yourself?

–identifying with the Radical Reformation
— being a non-creedal New Testament church
— practicing the universal priesthood of all believers
— practicing community interpretation of the Bible
— teaching and exercising freedom of thought
— practicing voluntary association as an exercise of individual freedom
— teaching and living the separation of church and state
— being a pacifist church
— teaching and exercising conscientious objection
— being an agape church that observes the love feast
— practicing baptism by trine immersion
— anointing for healing
— being non-sacramental
— promoting a simple lifestyle
— practicing loving service to neighbors and the needy
— being a church in which fellowship supersedes the institution
— being an inclusive church and “welcoming the different”
— being an ecumenical church
— working for the preservation of Creation

Holy Week: Again and again

Palm Sunday (on Zoom) included traditional music, daffodils in several households, and branches cut from yards of members as we joined in heartfelt welcome of Jesus and his way.

Maundy Thursday Love Feast (on Zoom) will begin at 7:00 p.m. We’ll share in reflecting on the fellowship, service, and communion that draw us together as we remember the last time Jesus spent with his disciples at table.

Easter Sunday worship (hybrid– some in person outdoors, some on Zoom) begins at 11 a.m. (with gathering from 10:30-11 in the backyard of the church house and on Zoom.) All are welcome. Celebrate God’s persistent new life as we gather to hear the story of resurrection! Those who come in person are asked to wear a mask and sit in household groupings –thanks!

Please contact us if you’d like to join us via Zoom. 301-864-4328 or upcob@aol.com

Lenten prayer wall: God’s “AND”

(We are continuing to worship via Zoom on Sunday mornings, and welcome those who might like to participate. If you’d like to join in that time, please contact the church at upcob@aol.com.)

During Lent, we’ve created a community wall of prayer in the front yard of the church. It’s in the form of an “AND” (ampersand) sign.

The ampersand expresses hope for more, for what is yet to come.  After a year of pandemic and of division, and in the face of our need, Lent invites us toward new life. For each, that will mean different things — healing, forgiveness, justice, peace, freedom from suffering, or other things. Our hopes and prayers are addressed to the One who opens new paths again and again, who always has an “AND” to offer!

All are welcome to add prayers during this season by using the marker and plastic strips at the sign (directions are there) and weaving strips into the dark mesh of the ampersand. The texture of the wall will grow and change over the weeks ahead as we anticipate the central “AND” of Easter!

(The prayer wall project comes from resources provided by A Sanctified Art)

Invited

As we begin the Lenten season, we recognize that again and again, the limits of our lives sober us. Again and again, the innocent suffer at the hands of the powerful. And again and again, God opens a path of new life in and through our lives.

During the weeks ahead, we’ll spend time in reflecting and responding to both the anguish and the promise of “again.” Let these words from Sarah Are invite you on the Lenten way:

I like to imagine that each year,
God invites me to a party.
God drops me a note that says,
“No gifts, casual dress. Come just as you are.”
I like to imagine that I am brave enough to go.
I like to imagine that I decide that I am worth it.
This was no pity invite,
There is no obligatory postage.
God wants me there.
So I get myself together,
Smudged glasses, sensitive ego, wrinkled shirt, and all.
I ring the doorbell a few minutes late on account of
the fact that
I lost my keys twice trying to get out the door,
And I almost turn back to hide in my car,
Afraid that I might embarrass myself over
appetizers or small talk.
But then God answers the door,
And God says, “You’re here!”
And I smile, because I am.

And with every step past that threshold,
I know that God is cheering me on.
It’s the pride of a parent watching their child take
their first step.
If I freeze, God is not disappointed.
If I fall, God is not mad.
But if I trust the invitation,
If I move closer,
I know, God celebrates.
Friends, you’ve got mail.
It’s an invitation to dust off your shoes,
To go deeper,
To trust that you’re worth it,
To lose your keys and your faith,
And then to find them both, along with your worth.
You are invited.
We are invited.
Again and again and again.
This invitation is for you.

(Sarah Are: A Sanctified Art)

taking the name in vain

Yesterday sobered us. A mob breaking into the Capitol. People fleeing. Shots fired. In the midst of the crowd, a banner proclaiming Jesus appeared. It was held high by one of the rampaging protesters. Boldly proclaiming the Prince of Peace as an ally to lies, hatred, and violence, its offense — and that of the broader assumptions it represents– compound the grimness of what happened there.

We’re shaken, and rightly so. This chaos came closer than some which we’ve only observed (or silently consented to when promulgated by U.S. actors) far afield.

An assault on safety, civility, and property is deeply disturbing. The distortions of truth from which it grew are utterly unacceptable. And the immunity with which many have collaborated in falsehood is worthy of prophetic condemnation.

Yet someone lifted up a banner bearing only the word “Jesus.” As if he approved.

That flag takes the name of Jesus in vain. It reflects the unholy linking of faith to ambition and ideology. To commandeer Jesus as a tool of political supremacy warps his truth. Appropriating his name for personal or national power must be challenged. Among the things we may have learned yesterday is that being silent to keep a false peace or because we are tired of conflict is not acceptable.

(image from American Friends Service Committee)

One of the commentators on the events said that they’re reminders that we are all responsible for the work of protecting democracy. The same is true of peace: we are all responsible for the work of building it, even as we seek the strength of God in that work.

The One whose birth we have just celebrated over Christmas recognized common humanity, not lines of division. He didn’t shy from confrontation but called for accountability. He built peace and also insisted boldly on justice.

May we who follow him make our way through this time by doing the same!

Advent calendar: Week four

Assemble a hygiene kit to be sent to those in crisis (disaster sites, refugee camps, etc) Put the following items in a gallon plastic bag:

Sunday: a hand towel and washcloth

Monday: wide-toothed comb

Tuesday: fingernail or toenail clippers

Wednesday bath-sized bar of soap

Thursday: toothbrush, 10  bandaids

Deliver to UPCOB (4413 Tuckerman St.) any time after Christmas. We will pack and ship the kits to the distribution center.

Advent Calendar — Week Three (underway!)

Even if you haven’t kept up with daily calendar activity suggestions, you can still jump in and join in at least one of the weekly projects. This week: Assemble a food box for those in need this season.

Sunday: Put 2 cans of vegetables in a cardboard box

Monday: Add rice, pasta, or beans

Tuesday: Add canned soup or stock

Wednesday: Add 2 cans of meat or fish

Thursday: Add a box of dried fruit (raisins, dates, etc)

Friday: Add a package of cookies, cake or other dessert

Saturday: Add bottled juice or other drinks

Deliver your food to a pantry near you, unload it at the Free Community Cupboard on the corner of Tuckerman and Route 1, or leave it at the church. (Just leave the box under the bench outside, and we’ll bring it in and distribute it!)

NEXT: The Week Four project ahead is a Church World Service health kit. These kits go to places where people are in crisis: natural disaster sites, refugee camps, etc. Daily items will be posted here next week or you can find the items needed at: https://cwskits.org/assemble-kits/hygiene-kits/