Our Conference Newsletter
December 27, 2016
"We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8: 22-23)
In January, 1989, TIME magazine named earth "planet of the year" because of the abuse it has taken from mankind. We have hunted hundreds of animals into extinction. We have nearly destroyed the ozone layer, letting in deadly radiation from the sun. We have dumped tons of pollutants into the atmosphere and the oceans. We have destroyed the forests that cleanse the air, prevent erosion of the soil, and provide a home for millions of species of plants and animals.
There's only one way to describe it. Romans 8:22. "For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now."
Creation is groaning under the pain. But it is not just pain; it is pain with a purpose, like the pain of childbirth. As John Calvin put it, not death pangs, but birth pangs. The pain will have worthwhile end--it is going to culminate in glory. As the Old Testament prophets declared, the desert will blossom like a rose, the wolf and the lamb will feed together, the lion will eat straw like the ox, and nothing will hurt nor destroy in all God's holy mountain (Isaiah 65:25). The rivers will flow free and clear again (Stedman, 239).
If that is earth's destiny, it would seem sensible for us to begin preparing for that day by being responsible stewards of the earth today--protecting it, preserving it, and treating it with sensitivity and care.  
So, creation groans. But someday it will be delivered from its bondage to corruption--the day when the sons of God enter into their glory.
Romans 8:23. "Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body."
We have the first fruits of the Spirit, the present ministry of the Spirit in our lives which is the pledge and foretaste of the magnificent blessings that shall be ours in the future, just as the first fruits of the harvest in the Old Testament were the pledge and foretaste of more to come in the future for them (Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 18:4). But that joyous prospect doesn't eliminate the present groans. Our spirits have been saved, but we still live in dying bodies. We still suffer the ravages of disease in our human bodies. We still grieve as we watch friends and loved ones die. And we long for the culmination of our adoption as God's sons--the day when our bodies themselves will be raised immortal and incorruptible, delivered from all pain and death--what Paul calls here "the redemption of our body" (that answers to "the glory which shall be revealed in us" in verse 18, and "the revealing of the sons of God" in verse 19).
Many of you have suffered painful and/or terminal illnesses and you can identify with what Paul is saying here. I have groaned in my spirit at the discomfort I have experienced. I have groaned in my spirit over the aggressive therapy the doctors have administered to my friends and family, which at times seems to be worse than the disease itself. I have groaned in my spirit when I have talked to patients whose disease was advanced and who were suffering severe pain. I have groaned in my spirit when I have talked with the bereaved survivors of patients who have passed away. I understand a little of what Paul was saying.
I'm thankful that there is more to my adoption into God's family than we have already experienced. And I am eagerly anticipating the day when our adoption will be culminated, when our bodies will be completely and finally liberated from the effects of sin and death. We will be free from pain. We will have a perfect body, with no weaknesses, blemishes or defects. We will have an exalted position our heavenly home near our precious Lord. All the riches of heaven will be ours to enjoy for eternity. That will be glory! Our groaning will turn to glory! What a wonderful hope!  Amen!
With you on the journey 
Rev. Bob Nolan
Assoc Pastor, Music & Healing Ministry - Woodridge Congregational Church, UCC
Chaplain & Director - The Chaplaincy Center
News Items:
How to Survive the Holidays
December brings challenges as we prepare for Christmas. During this time we also experience less sunlight and increasingly cold temperatures. Expectations of how things "should" be and what we expect of ourselves and others can become overwhelming.   How to Survive the Holidays by Patty E. Fleener MSW is a resource with many suggestions, one or more may be useful to you.

A Christmas Commitment to Peace

In his Christmas message,  United Church of Christ General Minister and President the Rev. John C. Dorhauer asks all of us to give a gift to the world.

And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to those of good will.


Jesus came for this. 


He'd have a hard time seeing that today. From post-election acrimony to racial tension; from Aleppo to Palestine; from refugee resettlement to climate change, there are signs of deep division and unrest between various communities. 

What may be worse is there seems to be a lack of desire to resolve the differences. Rather than committing to the ways that make for peace, we all seem to be more interested in being right than being well. 

So, what do you say? How about in this Christmas season we pray for peace, remembering the one whose peace passes understanding. But let us all also commit to one act of understanding, of compassion, of empathy, or of reconciliation. 

Let our Christmas gift to the world be our single commitment to peace. Find someone with whom you are now in conflict or tension; someone who doesn't see the world the way you do; someone who voted for a candidate that you couldn't fathom voting for; or someone that you find it particularly challenging to even be kind to. 

Prayerfully, creatively, carefully imagine a word, a gesture, an invitation, or a gift that - if received in the spirit of love in which you offer it - might change the way you relate to each other. 

As a child, I always enjoyed singing the song, "Let There Be Peace on Earth." Jesus came to bring peace. Let those who call themselves Christ's disciples dream of such a peace. 

Merry Christmas. 

Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.

Keynote Speaker:
Br ian McLaren

Super Saturday - March 18, 2017

Workshop proposals welcome
What are you passionately engaged in now at your church or community?
How might you share that with others?
What concepts and practices have you develop that could be shared at this upcoming
March Super Saturday in Wilbraham, MA?
Brian McLaren will be the keynoter...
Submit a proposal for a ninety minute workshop.
Registration is free for up to two leaders
of a given workshop.
Click here  to submit a proposal.
The deadline for submission is December 31st!
I n Our Conference:
State House Rotunda
Wed. Jan. 4 
3:00pm - 4:00pm     
Seekonk Congregational Church 
Sun. Jan. 8  
1:00pm - 5:00pm     
Rhodes on the Pawtuxet 
Mon. Jan. 16   
Edgewood Congregational Church 
Thurs. May 4
8:00am - 3:00pm      
Other Events
Trinity Repertory Theatre
Sun. Jan. 15 
Harvard Divinity School
Wed. Jan. 18
Thurs. Jan. 19
8:30am - 3:30pm      
Barrington Congregational Church 
Sun. Feb. 26
Minnechaug Regional High School, MA 
Sat. Mar. 18
8:00am - 3:45pm      

2016 - 2017
Call Conference Office 

April 3, 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr. returns to Memphis' Lorraine Motel after delivering his famous "mountaintop" speech. There he is visited by a spirited young maid who challenges him to come to terms with his life, life's end, and legacy. This breathtaking re-imagining of the last night of one of America's greatest heroes achieves what only theater can do - it brings Dr. King to immediate, spontaneously felt life.
The Mountaintop - with surprising humor and newfound urgency - draws audiences a bit closer to the summit.

Installation - Rev. Dale Azevedo 2/26/17 at Barrington Congregational Church
Annual Meeting of RI, MA, & CT UCC Conferences - 6/16 & 6/17/17 Hartford, CT 
UCC General Synod  - Friday 6/30/17 - 7/4/17 Baltimore, MD
Youth@Synod - Friday 6/30/17 - 7/4/17 Baltimore, MD 
Check out Rev. John C. Dorhauer's weekly podcast on UCC.org.  The United Church of Christ General Minister and President offers these weekly messages so that "the art and practice of spiritual reflection is modeled as a priority and not just a part time avocation."To listen to this weeks podcast, click here.  
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