I want to take this opportunity, with us gathered in this way [at an outside drive-in church service], to name a couple-few of the values that I have heard named and have seen in action among folks in our church as we have been adapting and responding to the urgencies of these time. These are values I’ve been seeing in you all, and in folks in our wider community and nation and world, who have been responding in admirable ways to the various crises we are in the midst of – the pandemic, economic hardship, fires, hurricanes, social upheavals around racism, and more.

         These values are rooted in our faith:

         Courage. Compassion. And Connection.

         These are values that are a matter of survival, really, and soul survival.

         These are some of what is important to keep front and center to guide us as a faith community and us as individuals, as we seek to live fully and faithfully in these times of struggle and uncertainly. There are other values, of course – and I would love to hear your thoughts about what those are.

         I’ll just say a few words about how Courage, Compassion, and Connection our rooted in our Christian faith.

         I’ll actually start with Connection, because I think that comes first.    

Connection: it’s part of what we’re doing right now, staying connected in safe and meaningful ways, to be involved in each others’ lives, to know that we are together in this as a church community.

This has been really important and really needed. And these days it does take effort and intention and ingenuity at times.

As people of faith we are able to also be connected to our ancestors in our faith, and to the ancient wisdom passed down by those prior generations who have lived faithfully through all kinds of historic upheavals. That kind of connection can give us sustenance.

But at the center of all that, through all that, above and below and beyond all that it is our connection to the Divine, to the living God, as we find manifest through Jesus. This connection can give us bigger perspective and strength.

But however important Connection is, it’s empty without Compassion.

Compassion is essential for communities surviving and thriving … Looking out for each other, especially those most at risk.

Our Christian faith compels us to be looking out especially for the least, the last, and the lost. To do this out of humility, knowing how we are all in need, and how we depend not only on each other but on our holy higher power, on God, for our very existence. Humility helps us to be channels for God’s Grace in the world. And helps us to be really witnessing and embracing the dignity of all people, That-of-God which lives in every human soul.

And then there’s Courage.  Connection, Compassion, and Courage.

Be of good courage. Hold fast to that which is good and true. The goodness and truth that sets us free, so we can be free and bold in living out the truth, in living with dignity and integrity, in doing the right thing, come what may, in doing our part on behalf of the realm of God on earth.

That’s why we look to the example of Jesus, whose Way we follow, a life of courage, guided compassion, rooted in the vision of the Realm of God on earth, Where

“Grace and truth have met together;
justice and peace have kissed each other.”

         I want to take a moment to let us honor how we have been doing this as a church, living out these values of courage, compassion, and connection. Imperfectly, yes, but earnestly. As we live into the future and its uncertainties and opportunities, there is a spirit that has been at work that is giving us momentum.

         This year is the 20th anniversary of First Congregational becoming Open & Affirming of LGBTQ+ folks.

         Today is also national coming out day, to support folks who are coming out for the first time as lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, who are ready to more openly and authentically live out who it is God has created them to be. We want for those folks who are then people of faith to have faith communities who will welcome and embrace and uplift them, and to help heal from the ways that so many folks have been taught that not only for reasons of sexual orientation or gender identies, but all the reasons we can be taught that somehow we are outside of God’s love.

         Being Open & Affirming has been an important part of our church’s identity and way of seeking to live out our core values, all the ways we know and experience and share God’s grace and love – imperfectly, but earnestly. This is a commitment carry us well into the future.

We’ve been blessed that the Executive Director of the Open and Affirming Coalition with the national United Church of Christ, Rev. Andy Lang, has sent us a video recording of him speaking to our church in honor of our 20th Anniversary of being Open & Affirming.

Thanks be to God.