New show in the sanctuary

Last week I worked with Fayston artist Cathy Stevens Pratt to hang a show of her new work, based on the theme of vessels. It’s colorful and captivating, and I hope you will stop by to see it! The show will be up through mid-May. Here’s a sample, her 16″ X 24″ painting “Perfect Little House Moment” More about Cathy and her work can be found at her website,

Lenten Lunches: Thursdays in February & March

Lenten lunches started yesterday. They are held Thursdays from 12-1PM and rotate among several churches in Waterbury.

What are Lenten lunches? They are an opportunity to break bread together in unity and love during Lent in the Waterbury area. Lunch begins at noon with a short devotional led by the host church with lunch to follow provided by the host church. There is no charge for the meal but an offering basket is available to support the Waterbury Good Neighbor Fund which helps those in need in our area. Let us prepare in fellowship and joy to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus in the unity and love of the Holy Spirit from different churches but one in Christ.

Here’s the schedule:

  • 2/19 at the Waterbury Congregational Church, hosted by Wesley UMC Waterbury
  • 2/26 at & hosted by the Waterbury Congregational Church
  • 3/5 at & hosted by the Waterbury Center Community Church
  • 3/12 at & hosted by the Hunger Mountain Christian Assembly
  • 3/19 at & hosted by Saint Andrew Church in Saint Leo’s Hall
  • 2/26… To be announced

We hope to see you there!

Elizabeth Fram Show Opens March 1

Starting to plan for our next Meetinghouse Arts show in March: the luminous textile collages of Waterbury artist Elizabeth Fram.  Here’s a sample to tempt you:

The show will be available for viewing from 8:30 to 4:30 on Tuesdays through Fridays, or by appointment.  Free and open to the public!

You can find more about Ms. Fram at her website, here.

Sermons in Brown Envelopes

I mentioned last week that the Vermont Conference annual meeting at the beginning of June was a success.

One of the successful things about it, from my perspective, was having the Rev. Robin Meyers as a keynote speaker. Meyers has been a clear theological voice over the past decade calling the church to go “underground.”

That’s a purposefully provocative image. What he means by it is too much to tell today — but the nutshell is fairly simple to grasp: Continue reading

Eye of the Beholder Project

On Sunday, April 14th, we began a project we’re calling Eye of the Beholder.  The basic idea of the project is that all of us have interesting perspectives worth hearing or seeing on

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

any given Sunday morning experience.  In the interest of broadening the conversation we’d like to hear or see your “take” on the worship service.  I tried to suggest in my sermon that perhaps the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples was a story designed by the early Christians to restate the main theme for them of resurrection — which is that death not only will not have the last word, but that the troubles and fears of life, the great difficulties we face today, are not solved by any kind of spiritual avoidance of the issues, but by face-to-face, I-Thou encounters.

An ’empirical Jesus’, to borrow a phrase from our second reading, which is a Jesus so desperately held up by some as the one unique individual who literally rose from the dead, only leads to trouble — only makes face-to-face encounters with other Jesus’, even one’s who are so different from us — impossible and makes realizing the goal of true religion impossible.  I named that goal as the point of the text: “We’re all in this together.”

What do you think? How might you depict such a life? Or perhaps you want to make the case that something else is more important in these readings. Using whatever artistic medium you find yourself drawn to, we invite you to create a work of art that we will display in the sanctuary for our last Sunday in June (and leave on display for a month or so).  We’ll spend out time on June 30th in worship absorbing that art, revisiting the this great story Saint Thomas and Jesus.

Below are links to a recording of the worship service and to the bulletin which includes all of the texts and readings.


Audio Recording

Video Recording

Have fun!

We hope to gather the art projects together for the end of June.  If you’re participating in this project, please let us know at the church.  It’ll help us plan.

Audi alteram partem

Devotion offered at the State House, January 16, 2013

I am not a fan of Latin in the church.  It is a dead language and the church is struggling not to be dead; struggling to be an institution that can be in fruitful dialogue with other viewpoints — not so that it can foist it’s particular ideas of life on others, but so that it can participate in the great adventures of ideas that mark the genius of civilization.

To that end, I was happy to learn a new Latin tag yesterday — audi alteram partem.  You lawyers in the house recognize this as a basic principle of legal fairness — literally translated it means, “Hear the other party.”  Or, more loosely translated as a prescription, “You must listen to the alternative viewpoint.”

Pip, in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, exclaims at one point that “In the little world in which children have their existence, there is nothing so finely perceived and finely felt as injustice.”  It is hard to imagine that Dickens intended that line to apply only to little children.  On the contrary, we adults have to recognize that our ideas of what the good consists, and therefore our ideas about proper policy and law conflict with other well-meaning, good people.  We must recognize as a result that the old Platonic ideal of harmony, harmony within the soul and harmony within the state, is not an ideal because it is impossible.  Something else must animate our public institutions and our inner dialogues.  Audi alteram partem, legal scholars have long recognized, serves that role admirably.

Perhaps it seems strange to hear a member of the clergy argue for such a principle.  After all, we traffic in absolute truths, right?  Even listening to an alternative view, many in my field judge to be anathema.  But for two thousand years the judgement of alternative views as ipso facto illegitimate has only led to more injustice and more violence.

This fact alone, should alert us to the privilege all of us should grant, whether Christian or Muslim, Conservative or Liberal, to the idea of justice as procedural. An unjust procedure is unjust everywhere — it is unjust for Pip, it is unjust for you and it is unjust for our enemy. Ideas about the substantive content of justice — that for example, you might reasonably consider a society unjust that allows poverty to perpetuate — differ among well-intended people.

Perhaps I’ve been too serious for too long.  Let me close with a humorous look at the corollary to the principle that we must hear the other party — namely the principle that no one should be the judge of their own case.  Or, more loosely, that the perception of an unjust procedure is justice not accomplished. In other words, justice most not only be done — it must be perceived to be done.

And here’s how that’s accomplished:

A judge calls the opposing lawyers into his chambers and says, “The reason we’re here is that both you have given me a bribe.”  The lawyers squirm in their seats.  “You, Alan, have given me $15,000.  Phil, you gave me $10,000.”

The judge hands Alan a check for $5,000 and says, “Now you’re even, and I can decide the case solely on its merits.”

Well –I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone here do that.  But do, please hear the other side, and hear it well — that in so doing, we move, in the adventure of life, toward a common good.

Goodspeed in your work.