A Thriving Spiritual Community

Annisquam Village Church Logo

Annisquam
Village Church

820 Washington St.
Gloucester, MA

Annisquam Village Church Logo

Annisquam
Village Church

820 Washington St.
Gloucester, MA

A Thriving Spiritual Community

Order of Worship: Seasons of Life
Order of Worship: Seasons of Life
(N.B., Rather than give a traditional sermon, Rev. Sue gave a series of reflections on the meaning of “Seasons of Life” for our congregation this year.)
September 20, 2020
seasons-of-life-tree

One of the unique aspects of who we are as a congregation, is that whether or not someone participates in the spiritual life of our church, we hold space for our community to gather at life’s threshold moments – births, weddings, and deaths. In these sacramental moments, we recognize that the deepest dimensions of what it means to be human are alive within us. We often see and feel God’s presence more clearly. These turning points open our hearts to what is most important in life, love.

These are moments of being and becoming; when one form of identity is shed and a new one emerges. When a child is born, a person becomes a parent; At a wedding, two individuals and two families become one in marriage; At a funeral or memorial service, the dying are welcomed to eternal life; and the grieving may become widow or even orphan. In light of such significant moments for individuals and families, our community gathers to witness these transformations and offer caring support while recognizing the presence of the grace that holds us in each moment.

Rev. Amy Morgenstern writes, “Threshold moments are like doorways – inviting us to pause to honor the whole of our lives, the self we are leaving behind as well as the self toward which we are going, held and affirmed within community. We recognize that prior to these turning points, we may feel ourselves full of anticipation, sometimes for long, long periods of time, which can be beautiful, sweet and good, and also excruciatingly painful. We know that on the other side of the doorway sits a new way of life.” We also claim a confident trust that God is with us through it all.

Today we celebrate these most meaningful moments in our individual, family, and community lives. We recognize that the sacred is inherent in each of these passages. Since March, we have not been able to gather as we normally do. We have discovered that this church is far more than a building: it is a belonging. And this year, in each of these Seasons of Life – Beginnings, Commitments, and Endings – we have become acutely aware of how much we need each other to witness these transformational moments.

We have had to be flexible, open and adaptive – to find new ways to express our love and care. Today we celebrate the unbreakable bond between our important life events and the loving support of this Annisquam Village Church community.

The Season of Beginnings

The welcoming of a new child into the family stirs our hearts and souls at the deepest level.
With each birth, we know that we will never be the same. Our hearts are cracked open and flooded with a love unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. We can sense that we are in the presence of the miracle of life and we naturally feel that we want to do everything we can to make sure that this precious child is protected, guided, and surrounded by love.

There are other beginnings we celebrate – welcoming a new animal companion to the family (like Tashi!), the start of school, a new home, a new job, and even the call of a new pastor. Today we recognize the many beginnings in our individual, family, and community lives.

For the next minute, you are invited to remember the new life you have experienced since May 2019. Within the quiet of your own heart, as you remember these beginnings, offer to God your gratitude. Our minute of silence will begin and end with the ringing of the bell, after which time we will offer a communal prayer of gratitude.

The Season of Commitments

The choice to marry or enter into another form of sacred covenant, like membership in a church or calling a new pastor, is a defining moment in life. Marriage, in particular, is a sacred commitment and an act of faith, hope, and love unlike any other. It is the union of two souls joined together in love and respect and of two families becoming one. The commitment to marriage requires that two persons embrace all that life has to offer – the good times and the challenging ones – together as a team for life.

Whenever two people engage in a marriage covenant, they recognize that God is present as a third party to help them grow through the joys and trials they will share together. Anytime we make a public promise to follow a way of life – whether as a married person or a member of a spiritual community – we are opening to and calling on the presence of grace to enable us to go forward by exercising all the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Marriage is a path to God.

As a community we celebrate the weddings of Stephanie and James Giurleo, Sarah and Bill Lawson, Megan and Justin Greco, Michaela and John Soper, Lauren and Aaron Brennan, Megan and Ben Pittman, Tasha and Ian Turner, Jaclyn and Dylan Morrissey. For the next minute, you are invited to remember the weddings and other sacred covenants you have experienced and witnessed since May 2019. Within the quiet of your own heart, as you remember these holy commitments, offer to God your gratitude. Our minute of silence will begin and end with the ringing of the bell, after which time we will offer a communal prayer of gratitude.

The Season of Endings

When someone we love dearly dies, our hearts break open. We often begin to see the gifts of the person who died even more clearly. For those left behind, there can be an acute pain over how much we will miss our loved one, even when a long, lingering illness has taken their life, and even when we believe that our loved one is now enjoying the peace of God.

This year our community has been touched by many deaths. The list of names of those who have died since May 2019 and beyond found in the program and at the bottom of the Order of Worship is long. What this says is that the legacy of love that each of those people we remember today, continues to make a difference in our lives. Because of the pandemic, there are still some we have yet to mourn as a community. This fact makes our own grieving more difficult.

Before the pandemic began, we said goodbye to someone with a deep passion and love for this faith community, Christie Powell. She shared how surprised she was that until her diagnosis she didn’t realize how many people’s lives she had touched. Christie said it was such a gift to find out how much people cared for her. In her stewardship talk last year Christie ended her presentation with this quote from Fred Rogers:

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

Today we honor Christie and the other members of our extended community who have died since last May: Llewellyn Howland III, Jack Munroe, Richard Colesworthy Poore, Vicki Dangelmayer, Joseph Grace, Frenchie Blodget, Deborah Pearce, David Babson, Nick Fairfield, Judy Friend, Royce Miller, Dick Novak, Bob Quine, Grace Murray, Jean Ashton, and Doris Nelson.

For the next minute, you are invited to remember your loved ones who have died since May 2019, as well as those who are named in our program. Within the quiet of your own heart, offer God your gratitude for their legacy of love. Our minute of silence will begin and end with the ringing of the bell, after which time we will offer a communal prayer of gratitude.