Reflections from "The Messenger" Monthly Newsletter
In 1913 Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated the 28th president of the United States. That year the US Post Office began parcel post delivery; the 16th amendment was passed and with it federal income tax levied; and the National Women's Party formed, the women's suffrage movement taking root. It was in 1913 the Woolworth Building skyscraper opened in New York City; Charlie Chaplin began his film career; and the first prize was inserted into a Cracker Jack box. With the horrors of the Civil War fading and the start of World War I still four years away, 1913 was a year filled with optimism and growth. As the new president prophetically stated, "Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together."
This exuberant spirit filled the town of Belmont as well. Founded in 1859, its population grew with an influx of artists, educators, physicians and scientists. Large estates and farms were parceled out and smaller homes developed, the completion of the Cambridge subway system increasing accessibility to the area greatly. With 200 students enrolled in the new school on Payson Road, the town was thriving. Why make the cumbersome trek to Boston or Cambridge to go to church? some residents wondered. Even the commute to Plymouth Congregational Church, then located on lower Common Street, seemed unnecessarily long with so few automobiles on the roads.
And so Payson Park Church was born. On March 23, 1913, the new congregation sang its first hymns and offered its first prayers, the Rev. Dr. Samuel C. Bushnell leading 160 people in Christian worship. Three weeks later, thirty-five children attended the first session of Sunday School, a house-to-house canvas helping the congregation to swell. By 1915 the first portion of the building was complete, the words, "Love Never Faileth" prominently etched above the doors.
It is with such unfailing love we celebrate the past one hundred years. Recognizing the determination of those founding families, we carry this church forward. From our worship services and educational programs to the many service projects and community groups we support and house, this place is a testament to God's presence in the world. Join us on the third of November as we celebrate such undying love. Come sing and pray as we give thanks to God and our ancestors for this place of blessing and hope. The world is ever changing. But with Christ our purpose remains true. We are vessels of grace, carriers of God's light and goodness in a world that is often filled with darkness. Happy Birthday Payson Park Church! Happy Birthday to you!
With love and gratitude from the Rev. Dr. Lael Atkinson
OCTOBER 2013 In a time filled with the continual devastation of natural disaster, gun violence, terrorist acts, and war we may wonder how we should serve as Christians in the world. Is it possible to live with peace and hope in our hearts? Can we offer healing to others?
I believe it is possible. To me, the miracle of the Christian faith is that we are continually offered opportunities to be vessels of God’s grace, participants offering the love and mercy to others in this world just as Jesus did.
I learned this lesson in a rather humiliating way when I worked at Massachusetts General Hospital in the late 1980’s in an administrative capacity. On one of my early assignments I was examining my employee badge, reading the back of it for the first time. Looking at the text covered in glossy plastic I realized it was a disaster pass. I said to a nearby nurse innocently, “Oh, I get it. This pass lets you get home if there’s a disaster in the area.” The nurse looked at me like I was a fool. “No, Lael,” she said. “It’s a pass that lets you get into the hospital if you’re not on shift. We’ll need you here so you can help with the wounded.”
I believe God’s grace offers us just that kind of disaster pass. God’s love, as revealed in the stories of the life and teachings, the death and resurrection of Jesus, calls us into the fray, prodding us to always reach out to one another – stranger and friend alike. As modern day disciples we have the opportunity to offer compassion and care wherever we are, at home or work, with friends or strangers in God’s great world.
And so in this season of new beginnings, as our program year unfolds and we celebrate 100 years of worship here at Payson Park Church, it’s my prayer we will newly commit ourselves to being vessels of such grace. Come, join in the mystery and miracle of Christian service. Come, just as you are, to be a part of hope-filled and healing community!
In grace and with gratitude from The Rev. Dr. Lael Atkinson
“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die,
we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”
Sue Monk Kidd, “The Secret Life of Bees.”
Welcome to this unique year of storytelling at Payson Park Church. During our centennial celebrations we have the great opportunity to tell our stories as a community and as individuals.
For this is a time to remember who we are and why we are here. Exploring the history of the Congregational Church and our 100 year-old community we get to embrace what brings us into the richness of this faith tradition, the stories and Spirit of Christ inspiring us at every turn. From our most personal spiritual experiences that enliven our hope, to the ways we share the joys and sorrows of life with one another, God’s love becomes a practical reality, not just a philosophical concern. We are known and loved, by God and one another! We live in harmony and build peace in God’s world! Like the courageous enthusiasm with which our ancestors founded this place, we spread the good news of God’s undying indestructible love.
So, what story do we share? How do we say to ourselves and others, “Payson Park Church is a loving community that welcomes YOU!” In the pages of this newsletter you will find a variety of programs that seek to help you and your family and friends participate in such exuberant exploration. Find a way to get involved in our life together in this great time in history. You are a part of Payson Park Church no matter how long you’ve been here. Joined by the everlasting love of God we carry this tradition forward in a world filled with violence and uncertainty. What a privilege. What a responsibility. What a joy!
With love and gratitude,
The Rev. Dr. Lael Atkinson
Each month we gather around many tables together. We gather for committee meetings; we gather at Coffee Hour; we gather in God’s Garden. In large and small groups we meet and talk, working for the life of the church. At these gatherings we not only share our “business” concerns but also our personal lives. No matter how or when we gather here at Payson Park Church, it is always as members of a community of faith, striving, as we proclaim, to “walk in the ways of Jesus.” It’s with this ultimate purpose in mind we can admit there is one table around which we gather that is more important than all the rest: it’s the table set before us as we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion. What a blessing it is to gather this way! Through Communion we celebrate our unity with God and one another, as well as with other Christians around the world. In prayer and contemplation we are joined with the One who calls us into new community, offering us a chance to recommit ourselves to “the living body of Christ.” What a privilege! It’s with this sense of gratitude that we can move through 2011 together. With our new slate of Officers, committee chairs, and committee members approved at the Annual Meeting, we will gather around many tables in the months ahead. May our thoughts and words always be inspired by the table set by Jesus: the table of abiding love and communion with God. Amen. January 2011 As the days of Christmas lead into the season of Epiphany, we shift our attention from the baby lying in the manger to the early events of Jesus’ life. From the baptismal scene in the Jordan River, to the first miraculous act at the wedding in Cana, such stories illustrate the ways Jesus reveals God’s healing and reconciling nature. Whether teaching in a synagogue or reaching out to those in need on the streets, we see that God’s grace is for all people no matter what one’s age or ethnicity, culture or creed. As God’s beloved child, Jesus leads us to recognize that we, too, are cherished and loved as God’s unique and blessed creation. Of course there’s a hitch. While the invitation comes continuously through the Spirit’s presence, we must prayerfully respond to such grace. What will we do? Can we receive this unconditional acceptance and inspiration? Might we allow it to change our lives? It’s never too late. That’s what we learn at the manger right on to scene at the empty tomb. New life and love are continuously offered as the Christian message shows us that no one can stop the power of peace that’s offered by God. As we begin a new year together here – indeed, a new decade – it is my prayer that each and all of us may say “yes!” to such exuberant life. Just as Mary and Joseph gathered with the shepherds and Wise Men, so we, too, have the opportunity to build new community here at Payson Park Church and beyond. May we all be opened this year to new life and greater love by God’s inspiring and sustaining power! Prayerfully from The Reverend Lael Atkinson
Faithful Reflections: Weekly Bible Study & Discussion
Are you looking for a way to think about your faith and how it applies to your most practical decisions? Would you like a chance to talk about your spirituality with other people? Faithful Reflections is a class that provides just such opportunities as Lael leads us in a time of meditation and conversation about the coming week’s scripture passage. With the Lenten sermon series titled What’s Your Story beginning in late February, these classes will be especially thought provoking. Join us for one class or each week, Wednesdays from 6:30 – 8:00 pm as we gather in the Parlor for great sharing. [Note: in case of snow, please call the Church Office at noon to find out if this event has been postponed]
The first word I learned to spell was ―candy.‖ When we were on family excursions, my father would ask my mother when we stopped at a store, ―C-A-N-D-Y?‖ For a while his secret code worked, but soon enough I caught on. I’d pull their coat sleeves, repeating the let-ters with his same questioning tone: ―C-A-N-D-Y?‖ With the advent of my father’s death on April 13, many sweet memories fill my mind: the way he’d reach into his pocket as we got older and give each of us a dime so we could choose our own treats on those family treks; or the crinkle of the bag he held on Valentine’s Day as he’d lift out five small hearts filled with chocolates at the dining room table; or the sound of our squeals when he’d bring in the pan of fudge we’d begged him to make some Saturday nights as we watched ―The Honeymoon-ers.‖ From ferry boat rides to fishing trips, camping adventures to tennis games, I shared many special moments with my father, alone as well as with my two brothers, sister, and mother. Of course it is in this time of loss I hold such memories close. In the quiet of my mourning, I cherish times shared, grieve that there weren’t more, and feel deep sadness that my father’s life on earth is now ended. I’m also grateful for your many prayers that surround me. As people ask, ―Is there anything I can do for you, Lael?‖ I find myself answering, ―Reach out to someone and let them know you care.‖ In the spirit of life everlasting and of God’s love that never ends, live with courage, make connections, build community. We hold the gift of life in our hands this very moment. May it be sweet, rich, full, even in times of sorrow. May we share it with trust and joy, together and with God, all in the light of the empty tomb. This is the Easter promise. Thanks be to God. Prayerfully from The Reverend Lael Atkinson
How are your New Year’s resolutions holding up? Did you make any special commitments for the forty days of Lent? Now that we find ourselves entering the season of spring, I’ve had a new idea. What about Easter Resolutions? Why don’t we make commitments related to this central celebration in the Christian year? Could we consider that? Easter Resolutions: promises that inspire us to embrace the transforming love found in the empty tomb. They could be something large or small. For example: is there a relationship in your life you know needs some special attention? Or: would you like to take better care of God’s creation by taking a greater interest in environmental issues or your own physical and emotional health? Or: do you sense you could be helping those in need by giving more of your time or money to nonprofit organizations or to the church? Easter Resolutions: it’s an idea that can challenge us to think more practically of ways the resurrection leads us to live with less fear and more passion, as the life and teachings of Jesus live on in the world through the very actions we take, personally and communally. This is the good news of our great faith: the love and grace of God cannot be killed. Jesus is risen! Let us then fly! With love from The Reverend Lael Atkinson
Did you know that only 20% of Americans attend church services regularly? Do you realize that 86% of those who find a new church “home” do so because they were invited to attend worship by a neighbor or friend?
Those statistics come from the Reverend Paul Nickerson, Associate Conference Minister for Evangelism, Mission and Justice Ministries of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ. Challenging members of local churches to share the joy of our spiritual communities with the “un-churched,” Paul stresses the need to reach out to friends and neighbors to help our communities thrive and survive. How are we doing this at Payson Park? In what new ways might we try?
It’s with these questions clear in our minds that we continue celebrating the Easter season. With signs of new life surrounding us in nature and through the great message of resurrection, we can be inspired to share the love of God and church community in new ways. On Saturday, May 2, “Sunday School Musical” will be shown in the late afternoon. On May 10 our worship will be filled with special music as we recognize the care and nurture offered by mothers and others. The following Sunday at five o’clock, a “Variety Show” will be presented, an hour of entertainment that you may participate in or simply enjoy. From worship services to weekly fellowship and educational events, Payson Park is filled with vitality and new life. How will you choose to participate? Might you consider inviting a friend or neighbor to join you?
I ask these questions in the spirit of gratitude. It is wonderful to be with you here at Payson Park Church in this time of challenge and new life. May we continue to grow together spiritually, emotionally, and as a healthy, thriving organization, all through the grace and goodness of God!
The Reverend Lael Atkinson
Signs of new life surround us: bulbs have sprouted and blossomed, the trees are beginning to bud, the sun shines more warmly on our skin. After a long, snowy winter, the arrival of spring is something we are grateful for. What a joyous time of year!
The Reverend Lael Atkinson
Christ has no body now on earth but yours;
yours are the only hands with which he can do his work,
yours are the only feet with which he can go about the world,
yours are the only eyes through which
his compassion can shine forth upon a troubled world.
Christ has no body on earth but yours.
With the arrival of November, we approach the beginning of the holiday season. “Where did the year go?” some of us may be wondering. “I can’t believe the holidays are just around the corner!”
With love from The Reverend Lael Atkinson
As another fall seasons begins, leaves on the trees turning color, you are invited to enter this community in new and deeper ways. From Sunday worship services, to weekday committee, fellowship, and educational group gatherings, you can explore your faith and find new friends quietly or through lively interaction. Payson Park Church is a place filled with opportunities to think about how the Christian story inspires us to live.