Covenant News
Presbyterian Church USA
United Church of Christ 
June 2021
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Pastor Letter
By Rev. Rob Mark, Lead Pastor

Friends,
After 17 years, the cicada are emerging.
With caution, hope and a little healthy fear, so too are we.
As we do so, in light of the letter I sent on behalf of your council, I present some additional exciting ways we can begin to once again see each other face to face:
 
EMERGING & GETTING TOGETHER: These past 14 months have been long and hard, and it has been extra hard being separated from in-person gatherings. This summer, we’d like to begin re-emerging well and safely together by providing some chances to gather together in-person, even before we can do so safely together in the sanctuary on a Sunday morning. Here are the opportunities that are emerging:
 
  • Porches for 8: Just as in the past we called these “Suppers for 8”, this summer we are offering the chance to gather together with a small group of fellow COTCers at someone’s back yard or porch to share a simple meal. The hosts will provide the food. This will be for those who have been fully vaccinated and who feel comfortable (and obviously without any COVID-like symptoms). If you’d like your name to be added to the list of those who will be invited to these gatherings (dates and locations yet TBD), please email Trudi Veldman.  
 
  • Climate Jubilee Jaunts: Once a month, our Climate Jubilee Team will be hosting some outdoor walks/ hikes in and around Boston. Our first will be on June 6 at noon, meeting at the Hatch Shell along the Charles River Esplanade. Other locations so far will be Franklin Park and the Arnold Arboretum. Contact Betty Southwick with questions.
 
  • Outdoor Evening Prayers: Our evening prayers on Wednesdays can easily be hosted at your place! If you have room for up to 10 people to sit in a circle outside, please let Rob know and we’ll find a date and then promote.
 
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Rob
Update on Renew the Light Campaign to Save Our Tiffany Ornamental Windows
By Lucy Williams, Building Committee

As you know, COTC was one of 16 churches, synagogues and mosques out of over 150 who applied to receive a National Fund for Sacred Places (NFSP) grant that will give Covenant $250,000 to restore our Ornamental, or Clerestory, windows if we can raise $500,000 as their challenge. Importantly, a primary reason we were chosen was because of the mission focus of our church.

The first step is having 100% of our members make three-year pledges toward the campaign. We need this commitment from the congregation before we can go to foundations. Building Committee members have reached out to all of you. We cannot tell you how much we have enjoyed the zoom conversations we have had with you, and thank you so much for your responses. We are almost there! We hope to have pledge cards from all church members by the end of May.

We then will reach out to the huge diaspora of previous COTC members who still love and are connected to Covenant.

In addition, we have already contacted local historical and other organizations and have received enthusiastic responses from many of them indicating that they are excited about the NFSP news. We intend to begin sending in foundation proposals within the next few months. If you know anyone in your personal networks who would be inspired to help us, please contact Lucy Williams or any member of the Building Committee.

The image above is the Renew the Light Campaign logo.
Welcome New Members

Covenant is blessed to welcome two new members. Claudine Ellyin is joining as an affiliate member.
Ron Lacey is joining as a full PC(USA) member. Ron is originally from Charleston, SC, and has lived in Boston for more than twenty years. He works at Harvard and lives with three cats. Ron volunteers with MANNA at the Cathedral Church of St Paul, and has done other volunteer work with the homeless. He also volunteers with Perkins School for the Blind Library, in the Recording Studio, as a narrator. 

Ron's special interests include the Middle Ages, Shakespeare, veganism, and theater. Ron says, "I am grateful for the welcome I have received at Church of the Covenant, and am very happy to volunteer once a month in the Food Pantry."
Climate Jubilee Team Updates

On a sunny May Saturday afternoon, members of Covenant's Climate Jubilee Team set up a table greeting the passersby on Newbury Street, offering a free tree seedling with a card explaining the gift. "...the simple act of planting and nurturing a tree is a bold and beautiful act on behalf of our Mother Earth..." Forty tree seedlings donated by Speak for the Trees-Boston went to new homes for planting. Below, Rev. Rob Mark, Anita Gram, Holly Humphreys, and Betty Southwick show how its done.
How Trees Secretly Communicate with Each Other

This delightful, short (1:47) animated film commissioned by BBC News, explores what has been nicknamed "The Wood Wide Web" - the intricate fungal network connecting plants across entire forests. We learn that trees are social creatures that communicate with each other in cooperative--and sometimes competitive--ways.
News from the Remote Pews
Compiled by Linda Pursley

We welcome two new babies to the Covenant family!

Parents Selom Asuma and Emily Aaronson and sisters Evelyn and Shirley celebrate the birth of Elijah Loving Korku Azuma.

Parents Meghan and Joseph Celli and sister Elena celebrate the birth of Joseph Robert Celli Jr.
The Global Pandemics Bereavement Stone, the 2½-ton granite stone (below) created by the Peace Abbey Foundation to commemorate those lost to the current and previous pandemics, was pulled by human volunteers from the State House to the Hynes Vaccination Site in April. It made a planned stop at Covenant, where Reverend Rob offered a blessing ceremony at the stone, which was covered by the Boston Globe.
The Bereavement Stone will be with the Pacifist Memorial at 2 North Main Street, Sherborn, MA, until August 1, where they can be visited, along with the life-size memorial statue of nationally-renowned Emily the Cow (above.)
Photo credit: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe
Join Covenant's Community
Discussion Group Listservs

When Yahoo! Groups closed permanently last December, Covenant's two longstanding community discussion groups were moved to a service called groups.io. If you are in these new listservs, you should occasionally get emails beginning with [cotcconnects] or [cotcbos] in the subject line.

If you are not getting these, you can sign up! We want everyone in the Covenant community to be in the loop. They are low-volume lists.

COTC CONNECTS is a moderated listserv for church-related matters such as prayer requests and event updates. Listmembers send your emails to cotcconnects@groups.io. These emails are released to the list by the moderator. To join COTC CONNECTS, send an email to cotcconnects+subscribe@groups.io, using the address with which you want to join.

COTCBOS is the unmoderated listserv for non-church-related matters, such as questions, requests, job postings, life updates, non-church events, general announcements, etc. Members of this list would send emails to cotcbos@groups.io. These emails go directly to the list. To join COTCBOS, send an email to cotcbos+subscribe@groups.io, using the address with which you want to join.

Covenant News and This Week at Covenant are sent via Constant Contact to different lists.
Sharings from a Returning
Covenant Member
By Jan Gough

As Evelyn and I were emailing about my anticipated move back to Boston this summer, her Covenant News editor’s hat magically appeared.  It/she suggested that others in our beloved community might be curious about what first called me to the wilderness of northern New Mexico, and what is now calling me back. At the risk of sounding either glib or grandiose, I offer a one word answer to both questions: God. 

Thirteen years ago my then husband, Séamus Malin, and I learned of a spiritual community being birthed by Celtic theologian, John Philip Newell, at Ghost Ranch, the PC(USA) Conference and Retreat Center 90 minutes north of Santa Fe. After attending a transformative retreat led by him in the Boston area, we registered for a small gathering of those interested in belonging to the Casa del Sol Companions at Ghost Ranch. Seeing Philip’s respect for the voices and gifts of everyone in attendance allayed any fears of this being a guru-centered cult. Still, the personal and professional challenges of relocating made that rapidly growing dream seem like madness. And yet, the call to move away from everything familiar was so strong and insistent that it could only have been from God… 

Within a year, we found ourselves living on a remote mesa half an hour south of Ghost Ranch. Thanks to on-going support from Harry Forsdick, Séamus mastered the technology and continued his work as an independent college counselor via Skype. Having retired from my interfaith chaplaincy work at Shriners and MGH, I continued my ministry of spiritual direction via phone and began receiving local folks by referral. I wrote a proposal to offer individual and group spiritual direction at Ghost Ranch and was hired. We were blessed to have visits from COTC family members Ellie McCahon, Sarah Perreault, Harry Forsdick and Marsha Baker, Tim and Betsy Groves, and, most recently Rob and Becky, pre-Rowen.

Concurrently, the vast physical wilderness of our surroundings was mirrored by frighteningly dry and uncharted territory in our daily human lives. Séamus’ preexisting heart condition suddenly worsened and he underwent emergency quadruple bypass surgery on Christmas Eve 2010. The stress of his recovery intensified longstanding struggles in our marriage, some connected to my own on-going recovery from CPTSD, some to the on-going impossibility of finding adequate care for his profoundly disabled daughter, Emily, still in Boston with her mother. John Philip Newell and the Ghost Ranch leadership had a falling out that led to the disbanding of the spiritual community which had sustained us. Eventually, Séamus and I separated, sold the house, moved independently into Santa Fe, and finally divorced in 2017. In 2018 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy and radiation.

If you’ve made it through that lengthy litany, you may well be assuming that I am hightailing it back to Boston before the next “plague” descends! Au contraire!  While my grief and shock have been huge, I have loved living in this hauntingly beautiful, albeit historically haunted, corner of God’s creation. I treasure my introverted life centered in studying, experiencing, and helping others experience, the healing power of prayer. So, I was deeply unnerved by -- and resistant to -- the indwelling Holy Spirit’s annunciation in 2019 of something new demanding to be born… in Boston. 

The travel prohibitions mandated by the pandemic invited me into yet another season of wrestling with God, especially around the financial ramifications of this move. Then last summer the email from PNC chair Betsy Groves arrived. As I read of the proposal to call Rev. Joshua Lazard to help pastor the community, I burst into tears. I knew that whatever I was called to bring into the world, it needed to be a “home birth” among the church family that has nurtured, challenged and held me accountable since 1994 when Dean Denniston first ushered midlife seminarian me to a pew. With that new and sure knowledge, it has been a particular blessing to attend Zoom worship during this time of transition. Thank you for your warm welcome!

So, I am returning to you now, at 72, heavily pregnant. I find myself in frequent communion with Sara, Hannah and Elizabeth.  Like them, I am having to trust God in ever new and increasingly total ways.  While I don’t know exactly what this “baby” will look like, I do know that it has been conceived through the pain of my own trauma and recovery, and through prayerfully accompanying others through theirs. 

For the past two years I have been studying yogic philosophy and psychology as it pertains to the healing of trauma. The more I’ve learned of that tradition, the more I’ve been drawn to explore the how-why-and-when of the Christian church’s choice to promote Cartesian rationalism over Jesus’ primary ministry of healing, both individually and societally. I need access to academic libraries to delve more deeply so I can write from a more historically grounded perspective. I am excited about the new modalities of trauma recovery being developed by researchers and clinicians in Boston and greater New England. And I can’t help noticing a distinct discomfort among them whenever Christian faith is a topic raised by their patients and clients. I definitely feel some labor pains coming on!

Thank you, dear siblings, for hanging in there with me, both through this tome (!), and through my years in the diaspora. I will be in Boston apartment-hunting June 16-24, hoping to be moved by August 1. I am reachable at revjangough@gmail.com and my cell, 617-877-8247.  I would particularly welcome conversation with any of you who have similar interests, gifts and callings. Meanwhile, I ask for your prayers and assure you of mine!
 
P.S. Fun fact: When I was a candidate for ministry, Rob’s mother, Dottie Mark, was chairing CPM. Just a few years later, I was co-chairing that committee when Rob came under care. During that time I had the opportunity to introduce Rob to John Bell, who was visiting from the Iona Community, thanks in large part to the generosity of Ed Cutler and Ann Covert. I found myself saying, “John, Rob is one of the main reasons I still have hope for the future of the Presbyterian Church!” Covenant, can I get an “Amen”??
Under the Mango Tree
By Tim Groves for Nica Companions
 
Note: This column will be a monthly sharing of stories from our sister church community, Dulce Nombre de Jesus, in northwest Nicaragua.
 
In early May, Covenant's Nica Companions had a Zoom conversation with the four members of Entre Culturas, Memo and Amanda in Maryland, and Eduardo and Luis in Managua. We were able to share about our lives at Covenant and to hear about these 4 leaders' lives and their report from recent visits to Dulce Nombre

We asked if people in Nicaragua had access to COVID vaccines. They explained that there are some vaccines available from Russia and from the COVAX Program. So far some health workers, some police and some army have been able to get vaccinated; currently people 55+ with health conditions are also elegible. In general though, vaccinations have been quite slow in rural areas, such as Dulce Nombre; three older members there with health conditions have received vaccinations.

Eduardo then reported how much members of his home church community in Managua, San Pablo Apostál, appreciated the day visit from Dulce Nombre on Palm Sunday to celebrate the Word together and also to sightsee in the capital city. He emphasized how important their sister relationship is to both communities, mirroring the gifts we receive for ourselves at Covenant.

Next, Eduardo and Luis shared news from their recent visit to the village. They shared the videos of the five reflections that Covenant folks sent from our March 14 scripture, "Who Is My Neighbor?" Memo had translated them so that people in the church could hear our voices and also read the words in Spanish. Comments on seeing our reflections included that the reflections from both communities moved along similar lines and interpretations. 

Members in the village also stated again their appreciation that Covenant is sharing money for food relief, offering solidarity to Dulce Nombre despite the financial need and hardship of many in the U.S. at this time of COVID.

Dulce Nombre members also reflected that during the visit to their siblings in San Pablo (Catorce) for Palm Sunday, they saw that younger members of Catorce (Jamil, Eduardo, etc.) were helping the many older members. They see this intergenerational support as important to keep the spirit of the Church of the Poor strong between the generations. They also feel the ways that we at Covenant are trying to learn what it means to practice "a preference for the Poor." The common thread they see in all three faith communities is, "We belong to the same God." They said that they would like to share reflections between Covenant and Dulce Nombre even more often. 

Finally, there was much news from the village:

The government is sponsoring "The Pig Project" in many rural communities. In Dulce Nombre 10 women participate in this project of raising a female pig: Mildren, Jessica, and Rosemary are the three members of our Sister Church participating. The government will provide artificial insemination free for the program of the pig.

They also reported that Yvette, daughter-in-law of Secundino, has almost completed building her house. Luis describes it with the traditional phrase in Nicaragua: she is "kicking the mud," meaning literally that she is mixing wet earth and straw to shape blocks that when they dry in the sun will form her walls.

Crystal, niece of Mildren, is starting secondary school in Somotillo (four classes per week in Somotillo; then study at home.) Meylin is studying 3rd year in University. Brando is in technical school. Pastora's sister Johanna, now active in church, has a son in university who is also starting to teach in Dulce Nombre's school. In fact, lots of young adults are studying in schools/universities. There is now much more access to university for rural young adults for advanced study, branches of city schools called the Countryside University. Nicaragua anticipates that there will be higher demands for nurses, etc. Six new hospitals outside the city are proposed. 

After this report from the village, Entre Culturas gave their thoughts on an important question that the Nica Companions had asked them: "Is providing food aid at this time recreating a traditional dynamic of paternalism and dependence between the communities that we have all been trying to avoid?"
Both Luis and Eduardo reported what they see in the village. Luis, with Memo's translation, put his answer this way. He sees no negative affect on hermanamiento of Covenant providing food aid, at least for now. Personally, he said, six months is a long period of time; might this set up future expectations from Dulce Nombre? But for right now, it feels as if it is just strengthening the community. Money may serve to 'bring souls to heaven."(Luis jokes.) "Building up custom can become the law." - an old Nicaragua expression; so there is always a danger of material aid. The best thing is to always be clear in order not to create expectations; we need to constantly revisit the realities for now and for the future. In summary, Luis, who's been a lead facilitator for the 25 years of our relationship observed, "The hermanamiento has matured; you all know each other; that's much better." 
Council Report
By Sharon Wright

Council meeting of May 11, 2021
 
Council received an update from Pastor Rob on the staff and plans to hold a staff retreat in early summer to build relationships and envision
“Re-Emergence from COVID-19”. He also shared a draft of the pastoral letter about COVID-19 Re-gatherings.

MISSIONAL FOCUS UPDATE

  • Congregational Vitality
o Celebrating the “hybrid” worship service that included Hannah Miller Waters Baptism on May 2

  • Climate Jubilee Centered Innovative Outreach
o  In April Team members held a series of prayer vigils for Justice for George Floyd onsite at Newbury Street entrance to COTC and virtually for outreach to broader Boston community to show that COTC cares and fights for justice.
o  A new banner highlighting our prayers for justice for George Floyd was hung on church and flyers were available to explain to walkers-by.
o  On May 15 CJT members handed out 40 tree seedlings free to walkers-by on Newbury Street, provided by Boston Speaks for the Trees on behalf of Arbor Day.
o  Future plans include offering one climate- or environmental- related resource a week to Covenanters via This Week at Covenant and leading walks for Covenanters during the summer at places such as the Esplanade, the Arboretum, Franklin Park, the Blue Hills, etc.
o  COTC has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with CREW, establishing COTC as a Climate Resilience Hub.

  • Christian Formation for Children and youth (CFCY)
o  Godly Play has a new series entitled Fair/Unfair using LEGOS and connecting scenarios to Bible stories. It has been well received by the children.
o  The last class before the summer recess will be June 13 and will be the date for saying farewell to and commissioning Blake & Kaitlyn and the Toles family.

MOTIONS AND COMMITTEE REPORTS

  • Building Committee & National Fund for Sacred Places: The Angel and Cornelius window will be reinstalled in June after which the public phase of the NFSP campaign will start.
  • Mission and Advocacy: (Barbara) - Anne Crane reported that the Congo Mission Network had a virtual conference that allowed partners to participate
  • Membership - Motion passed to welcome Ronald Lacey as PCUSA Member of Church of the Covenant through Affirmation of Faith.
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June Birthdays

5       Shelly Rambo, Betsy McAlister Groves
20      Devin Hansen
24      Ed James
25       Kathy Bull
27       Simone DeVito
30       Alicia Bull

If your June birthday does not appear above, please notify the church office so we can include you next year!
June 2021 Calendar

Click here for the
most up-to-date church calendar.
About This Issue
June 2021 Covenant News

Editor and Graphics: Evelyn Kimber 
 
Deadline for the July 2021 Covenant News is Thursday, June 24. Please email your submissions to Evelyn Kimber at ebkimber@gmail.com.
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