#WeekendPlans: “What is it?” w/Rev. Julie Conaron 3/26/23

Ever wondered what Manna was, and why the Children of Israel puzzled about it? How did it sustain them throughout their many years in the Wilderness?

Guest Minister, Rev. Julie Conaron
Just a little fun for Easter, (a toast, if you will:)

We will meditate on this and other topics during this Easter Season worship service. Join us on Zoom at 10:30 am, for Fellowship and 11:00 am, for Worship. Zoom link will be provided to church members and their contacts. Please let us know if you’d like the link if you’re not currently connected to the church.

#WeekendPlans: “Breath of God” w/ Rev. Robbin Ferriman; 1/29/23

What does the “Breath of God” really mean? How does the “Breath of God” give us life? How does it nourish us? And how does it connect us to each other, through space and time?

Join us for fellowship at 10:30 am, and worship at 11:00 am over zoom. Rev. Robbin Ferriman of the Urbana Church will be our Guest Minister; January 29, 2023.

Black and white photo of a palm tree in wind

#WeekendPlans: 12/18 #Advent, “Love Sunday” w/Rev. Lauber

Rev. Catherine Lauber will be leading our zoom only worship on December 18, and offering a Scripture and Sound Meditation, using crystal singing bowls while sharing verses from the Gospel of Luke. This immersive experience is intended to create a slight meditative state to help you access the inner sense of scripture in a deeply personal way.

Church members will be emailed the zoom link and may share it with their close contacts.

#WeekendPlans: Annual Meeting 12/11/22

In case you missed the service, please read the sermon, by Lay-Leader, Pete Toot.

Pete Toot – Joy Sunday

Welcome to the third Sunday of Advent, the 15 th day of the Church Year. The Ides of
December. Welcome to the Sunday of Joy, that Sunday which in the liturgical
calendar of Western Christianity is known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the first
word of the first phrase of the introit for this day’s mass in the Roman Catholic
Church: “Gaudete in Domino semper” – “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
Rejoice!, rejoice!
A history lesson about Advent in 3 sentences… Advent has been around for over for
1500 years, is a period of penitence, or contrition, before Christmas like Lent is before
Easter. 1000 years ago, Advent was shortened to four weeks, and at its midpoint
Gaudete Sunday was introduced as a break in repentance to rejoice in the nearness of
the Lord’s coming. Similar to Anglican and Lutheran traditions, both of which can be
thought of as birthplaces of the New Church as a unique faith tradition, we light a
rose colored candle in the Advent Wreath adding today to the light of the circle of the
So let’s do a congregational check-up. How do you feel today? Are you especially,
profoundly joyful this morning? Caught up in rejoicing that it is only two weeks until
Christmas? – – – Are we all tired after two weeks lamenting all the wrongdoings and
sinning we’ve been up to through the year? Do we just really just need this one day,
today, this officially sanctioned break to feel happy?
Why should this sound strange? Aren’t we all on a Joy Sunday high? The answer that
comes to mind is probably not, but that’s normal since the world has changed a lot
from when religion was the central focus of community life and the church was very
much a part of everyday activities. Today life is more a race to stay ahead of what
comes at us. Families, communities, and even our view of the world and its peoples
are fragmented. News and opinions flood over us. We do not finish reacting to one
thing before another interrupts and takes its place. One result is that the rhythms of
church life, such as where we are on the liturgical calendar, don’t get felt the same
way they once did. Festival days come and go unthought of. The plan may affect the
sequence of the messages we hear in sermons, and bible readings in church, or
possibly the daily email Bible verse, but it is only the well commercialized holidays like

Christmas and Easter that hold our attention, drive our travel plans, our shopping
plans, our eating plans, and communications with family and friends.
I have some ideas about this, but let’s check out where our group’s Advent thinking is.
This is a another quiz. In this church we use a particular sequence of Sunday themes.
But those interested enough can go online and find all sorts of ideas about how
Advent should unfold. Our first Advent Sunday was “Hope Sunday” and it implies that
the first thing we would feel about the coming Christmas is that something is needed
and we can just hope that need can be filled. If we do catch that feeling, how the Lord
will do this may not even occur to us. – – – And this Sunday is “Joy Sunday” and we’ve
described this is where we sense that help for us is really coming soon, and we can
feel joy creeping in. – – – How many of you can name what the other two Sunday
themes are? Or know why there even are those themes, or what order they are in? –

  • – Frankly, whatever order you put them in, a scheme can be put together to make it
    a good Christmas story with a plot in which we are included. But maybe this shows
    it’s not the ritual that has the most value. Granted, we do not have very many
    Swedenborgian rituals, and we in this congregation probably observe fewer, and
    those less often, than many other Swedenborgian churches. It is also true that many
    of our parishioners feel at home here because they weren’t comfortable with the rites
    and institutions of the organized religions they grew up with. A bunch of rebels, are
    we? Don’t want our lives to be organized for us?
    I will admit, a confession if you will, that I did not get up this morning thinking today is
    the day of rejoicing and wow I really feel energized about that. Swedenborg in his
    explanation of the Isaiah 42 passage spoke about the how “sing a new song” dealt
    with “confession from joy”, but all I seem to be getting is a smidgen of joy in
    confessing that I felt pretty much just as joyful this morning as I do every other
    morning. That’s not zero, but not a big jump from yesterday.
    OK – – – What is Advent asking of me that I don’t get? What it seems to be asking is
    superficial. But I have had 76 Christmas’ in my life. I know what to expect and I have
    good feelings about some of it, bad feelings about some of it, and I am absolutely
    certain that when it is over, the feelings about Christmas will fade away and return
    next December. Advent comes to me most directly asking me to remember that ~
    Jesus was born in Bethlehem, ~ that even though he was born in the springtime, not
    the winter, that doesn’t matter, he has a birthday that comes every year and it marks
    his coming into the world so he could arrange for all of us to go to heaven. Advent

doesn’t say to me, like it may have to early Christians, that I have been pretty bad and
I should think a lot about that before Jesus gets here and be glad I can still get to
heaven. Swedenborg does not speak much about the journey in those kinds of terms.
So I search for where are the missing pieces – in short, why don’t I feel really happy
about such a wonderful day as Joy Sunday? Here are my ideas:
Idea 1. Joy is something felt when we have accomplished something of real personal
value. It is something we may surprise ourselves with when something we tried
works out well. Or, maybe we brought a smile to someone who needed that smile.
Or it may be something felt when something we see touches our hearts and make us
glad we got to see it, or glad it happened. Idea 2. It is relatively short-lived, and can
happen often from many different kinds of things. Think about those moments when
joy struck you. I bet most came without the need to be close to Christmas. Idea 3. Joy
must be important! It really feels good while it lasts! Maybe joy is encouragement to
encounter important and useful additions to our lives. Idea 4. James says “be patient
… until the coming of the Lord.” One joy does not happiness bring by itself. While it
can be said that joy can come from both selfish and unselfish accomplishments, I
would say the ones that come from unselfish accomplishments are the ones that
really lead us to happiness, and really can be connected to God-oriented-spiritual-
development. Now if that sounds heavenly to you, well it does to me, too. We carry
our little personal heaven within, as we and the Lord put it together. Joys are the
milestones that mark a positive spiritual journey, which means our real journey, the
journey that starts in this life and is just the tiniest beginning of our whole life.
Joy and Love are intimately connected. What does Christmas celebrate in a deep
spiritual sense? It is the birth of Love within us. Who knows how many times that
spark has to be rekindled? But it grows, it can grow, when we sense that something
lovable happening is a gift, we let it grow. It make us better suited for a life of eternal
happiness. Leads us to be more loving, that is, more proficient and willing to pass on
to others the love we get, and take for granted from the Lord. You see Christmas is all
the time delivering us beginnings. Advent is all the time in its possibilities. So when
we wake up in morning, we could say “self, are you ready for advent, ready for
today’s adventure?” We could say “I’m ready to look for hope and peace and joy and
love in my interactions in the world,” … couldn’t we.
I called this message “Joy and Commitment.” The commitment part is important, and
though commitment to the church organization is what we will look at in the next

part of todays’ meeting, this is not the main partner of Joy which is very important.
The main partner of Joy is the commitment we make to ourselves to grow spiritually,
to grow into the fullness for which we are created. Those word’s come from our
church’s purpose statement. …to grow spiritually, “to grow into the fullness for which
we are created.” Our theology, I think all Christian theology, teaches that we are
eternal, that we are spiritual beings that live temporarily in these funky bodies in this
world, just for a while, and graduate to eternity after we get a head start here. I say
head start, but there is only one thing to learn here, though it may take time to do it,
and only one decision we make that really counts. That is the decision to be on the
side of love for one another. The trick is THIS head-start course, (or maybe heart-
start course,) comes with some hard to understand instructions written in the Good
Book. Just as it is impossible to successfully explain to a kindergartener that their
school life prepares them for the adult world, it is hard for us to understand the
explanation that our earthly life prepares us for the spiritual world to come. A
kindergartener has little reference point for adult life, just like we have little conscious
experience of the spiritual life to come.
I would just recommend one practice, a possible commitment. Just an idea. Train
yourself, when you hear this season the words “the birth of Christ”, or “the birth of
Jesus”, add a couple more words to yourself, you pick the ones that work for you, but
you might try something like “in my heart” – – – “the birth of Jesus in my heart.” And
use that trigger for a quick visit to your heart where Divine Love waits for your touch.
“Hey, Happy birthday God.” Didn’t Isaiah say “a highway shall be there … it shall be
for God’s people … no lion shall be there ….” I think quick visits to the heart help us
see where it is headed, shows us where our personal version of that highway lies, call
it the Holy Way as Isaiah did if you like. A small step on this road is a joy indeed.
Maybe in such moments we can have the blindness of our eyes opened, and the
deafness of our ears unstopped, and our voice empowered to sing a new song.

#ThursdayTheology: Zoroastrianism, part 1

Back in 1893, the Swedenborgian Judge Charles Bonney initiated the first World’s Parliament of Religions, the largest of all the congresses held in conjunction with what we think of today as a world’s fair. Swedenborgians are still recognized today as a strong proponent of interfaith efforts, and the New Church of Montgomery’s programs are flavored with the basic idea that all religions can be honored for the wisdom they offer, and for their various approaches to encouraging a universal friendship across peoples. Our own faith celebrates the infinite expressions of the kingdom of heaven, as Christians call it, and those who inhabit it, and those who, knowingly or not, grow towards it as they live the best they know how. Here we shine a light upon one of the world religions represented among the many presented at this 1893 exposition, and with which we maintain connections in 2022.

Consider this little piece of historical text

This letter is used as the preface for an essay reprinted as part of the Kessinger’s Legacy Reprints, A Brief Sketch Of The Zoroastrian Religion And Customs, An Essay (1893), by ErvadSheriarji Dadabhai Barucha. While the essay itself is quite long and provides much historical and theological perspective, one thing that can be easily found is some basic ideas that 129 years later still can be found to apply to the local Zoroastrian Community in Cincinnati.

In this posting we include a few excerpts from the essay, and some commentary on our recent interaction with the Zorastrian congregation some of our parishioners participated in a few weeks ago.

First some historical notes right from the essay: “While other religions of the ancient world, such as those of ancient Egypt, Chaldea, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome have disappeared from the face of the earth, this [Zoroastrianism] has survived many trials and vicissitudes and still flourishes, if not in all its pristine vigour and glory, with many of its distinctive features preserved practically intact. In the earlier days of its greatness its adherents were counted by millions, and it had a considerable body of renowned literature.” Today most of the literature has been destroyed or hidden, and only now (in the 2000’s) are recent finds coming to light that can shed some light on the history of both the life of Zoroaster and the development of the religion. The number of adherents has dropped to a quite small number, due to repeated persecution, mostly situated today in India and the United St ates. “…this religion and this ancient customs of its followers … possess certain striking and interesting features which have always excited the admiration and respect of those who have brought a liberal and sympathetic spirit to bear on their study…”

The essay goes on to speak about what little information is known about Zoroaster, rather, Zarathushtra in ancient Iranian, and about the early personages involved in supporting or denigrating his teachings. However, in this short offering we’ll just point to it’s peak time and influence in the world, and what things the events of those times reveal about the religion.

“Leaving aside the prehistoric times and coming to the historical, it may be confidently asserted that the kings of the Achaeminian Dynasty such as Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, and others (B.C. 559-329) were Zoroastrians, for they emphatically speak of Auramazda, the greatest God, as does every Zoroastrian…” For a thousand years it was the dominant religion during three mighty Persian empires, that stretched west towards Rome and Greece, east to India, north into Russia, and south into Egypt. At that time it was the largest empire geographically that had ever existed in the world. When Cyrus conquered Babylon, during the time the Jews had been held in captivity there, he returned the jews to Israel and financed the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. This illustrates one of the principles of Zoroastrianism, namely its openness to other religions and cultures, and those dynasties of the Persian Empire were (like the later Roman Empire) largely successful due to their integration of conquered peoples into the empire, rather than practice subjugation and oppression, as many other conquerors did.

Being one of the other faiths (meaning similar to our own) that has a particularly universal perspective on how God and the world’s people operate in a cooperative fashion that includes everyone as a worthwhile and loved child of God given the opportunity to strive for the success of goodness over evil, it is instructive to learn how similar and different our two faiths really are in practice. In a future post we will examine this and other faith groups that can be working hand in hand to advance our common missions.

#WeekendPlans: “You are the Light of the World” w/Rev. Cory Bradford-Watts 7/31/22

Please join us for our hybrid in-person/zoom church on Sunday, July 31, 2022. We welcome guest minister Rev. Cory Bradford-Watts from Kitchener, ON, who will join us virtually. Fellowship begins at 10:30 am, worship at 11:00 am. Zoom details will be emailed to church members and their contacts.

“You are the light of the world,” is the title of the service. These empowering words were spoken by Christ, not as an elitist view of his “Christian” followers, but as a description of the very nature of each of our spirits – especially when we allow ourselves to shine.

Rev. Bradford-Watts