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Sunday, January 10, 2021

What a first week of the new year it has been! In less than 12 hours, many of us swung from the heights of joy at news of only the second African American ever to be elected as a senator from the South since Reconstruction (and only the 11th in the history of this country) to the depths of horror at the insurrection at our nation’s Capitol building, its first breach since British troops set it afire in 1814.

On January 6, people across the country prayed in their homes and in Zooms. During one such gathering, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ the Rev. John C. Dorhauer spoke plainly about the presence of evil that had manifest earlier in the day: “I feel called to do everything in my power to name evil and to confront it. I take very seriously that part of our baptismal vows that reads, ‘Do you promise by the grace of God to resist the powers of evil.’ I’ve made that promise.” He continued, “I knew in my bones that what I was watching today in our nation’s capitol was evil. It was present and it was real and it was embodied in the hearts and minds of white supremacists assembled to inflict terror.”

This Sunday, known as The Baptism of the Lord, we assemble to worship together and tell again the story of Jesus’ baptism found in Mark 1, connecting it to the experience of some of the earliest believers recorded in Acts 19. And, like Rev. Dorhauer, we will have the opportunity to reflect on our own baptismal vows and what they mean in the presence of persistent, clear and present evil. We need to be together this morning—to grieve, to see one another, to pray. And to remember, in the presence of one another, to what actions our baptism is calling us in these momentous moments.

Rev. Todd Atkins-Whitley preaching from Genesis 1:1–2; Psalm 29:4–5a; Mark 1:4–11; and Acts 19:1–7
Godly Play “Holy Baptism” story shared by Kim Michaud
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Rev. Dr. D. Mark Wilson
Artwork: “Baptism of Christ” by David Zalenka

Sunday, January 3, 2021

There is no recording of this service available.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

There is no recording of this service available.

Christmas Eve 2020

On Christmas, the dreams we dreamed throughout the Advent season are birthed into the world. In the Christmas story, we are reminded that we are all dreamers. Like those gathered around the manger, we come to this night each year with awe, wonder, and holy imagination for what is possible. After a year like 2020, I think Christmas Eve takes on new meaning, as we hopefully anticipate a new day and new year ahead filled with healing, peace, and the justice of God.

As we move into Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and beyond, I would like to encourage us to be like one of the characters we find in our nativity scenes—Mary. Yes, you read that right, this Protestant is urging us to be like Mary this Christmas. Like Mary, we must treasure God’s dream in our hearts. A dream of healing. A dream of peace. And once Christmas is over, with all the gifts unwrapped and nativity scenes put away, we must commit to keeping God’s dream alive.

Rev. Eric Sherlock preaching
Music by John Kendall Bailey, Gabrielle Goozée-Nichols, and Nancy Snyder

December 21, 2020—The Longest Night: A Service of Remembrance and Grief

There’s an Advent tradition within Western Christianity of inviting people to come together for the Longest Night, a night around the time of the winter solstice, where that are more hours of darkness than light, a time to come together for prayers and laments, to mourn the losses and griefs of the year, to let the tears flow for the hurting places in our lives, as well as for our country and our world. Following a year of such great loss, grief, and despair, we invite you to join us for a Longest Night Service on Zoom.

There’s an Advent tradition within Western Christianity of inviting people to come together for the Longest Night, a night around the time of the winter solstice—where that are more hours of darkness than light—a time to come together for prayers and laments, to mourn the losses and griefs of the year, to let the tears flow for the hurting places in our lives, as well as for our country and our world. Following a year of such great loss, grief, and despair, we invite you to join us for this special service.

December 20, 2020—Fourth Sunday of Advent

Perhaps you are familiar with the Magnificat—also known as Mary’s song of praise—a powerful, affirming declaration in response to news of a young woman’s impending motherhood. Next year, the Lectionary gives us the Magnificat as our gospel text for the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

But not this year.

This year, we encounter the story that precedes Mary’s song: the space immediately after the angel has delivered news that will forever alter her life. [And—spoiler alert—the lives of the rest of the world, too.] Certainly she must have been perplexed, pondering, perhaps even paralyzed by fear.

This year many of us, like Mary, find ourselves in the space between present circumstance and, God-willing, praise. Perplexed. Pondering. Paralyzed with fear.

A vaccine promises relief while the pandemic surges with a vengeance.

Technology keeps us connected, yet we long for proximate physicality.

“I’m fine,” we say to those who inquire of our state, but inside we’re not so sure.

Enter the gift of the Lectionary for just such a time as this. The bridge between Mary’s unusual circumstances and her eventual song of praise lies in how she chooses to respond: rejecting isolation and instead seeking out solidarity with a trusted relation. That is our story for the Fourth Sunday of Advent 2020.

And it might just be that Mary’s story can inspire us to bridge our own present circumstances similarly: leaning into the blessed solidarity we share as people of faith and, rooted ever in love, inspiring our own individual and communal songs of praise.

Not alone. Together.

Rev. Todd Atkins-Whitley preaching from Luke 1:26–45
Music by John Kendall Bailey, Gabrielle Goozée-Nichols, and the DCC Jazz Quartet

December 13, 2020—Third Sunday of Advent

This Sunday we pivot from Mark’s gospel to the words of the prophet of Isaiah found within the Old Testament. In Isaiah, we hear the prophet speak of a dream where the brokenhearted are healed, the prisoners are set free, and those who have been captive are released. Isaiah speaks of this dream, sowing joy for those living in exile—a place of disorientation, doubt, and fear.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I think we could all use some joy right about now because we have a good idea of what it feels like to live in exile. We have been living in an exile of our own—unable to physically gather together as the church for forty-one weeks because the pandemic continues to stir within our country as cases of COVID-19 climb and our healthcare system suffocates from a surge in patients. Indeed, we have some idea of what the disorienting fear and uncertainty of exile feels like.
Last week we sang a traditional Advent hymn, Comfort, Comfort, O My People, and this week we turn our attention to Isaiah’s dream where we find additional comfort and hope. This a dream that casts a vision beyond exile, where we are released from our captivity and set free. Let us lean in this Sunday to the joy of Isaiah’s dream, as we await the Good News.

Rev. Eric Sherlock preaching from Isaiah 61:1–11
Music by John Kendall Bailey, Gabrielle Goozée-Nichols, and the DCC Chancel Choir

December 6, 2020—Second Sunday of Advent

This Sunday we continue in our Advent journey as we light the candle of peace and meet John the Baptist in the wilderness crying out for us to prepare the way in Mark’s gospel. As we read Mark’s gospel this Sunday, we find ourselves in a different wilderness of sorts. No doubt the preparation of this Advent and Christmas seasons are different for us at DCC. Unable to practice our traditions and rituals in person—the Greening of the Church, Christmas Music Sunday, The Nativity Pageant, and our much loved Christmas Eve services. Even your own personal celebrations and preparations for this season, compounded by nine months of the global pandemic, may feel different. This season we may feel as if we are living in a perpetual disoriented state of wilderness wandering, much like John the Baptist. And yet, amidst the disorientation of wilderness wandering, John the Baptist cries out to us to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.

Rev. Eric Sherlock preaching from Mark 1:1–8
Music by John Kendall Bailey, Gabrielle Goozée-Nichols, and David Brown

November 29, 2020—First Sunday of Advent

This past Sunday, Pastor Eric invited us to notice—to notice that “God’s blessings are all around us.” On the verge of a Thanksgiving unlike any other, we pray that gratitude for blessings great and small inspire and sustain you during this season. For our part, we remain grateful for a church like DCC—a faith community characterized by faithfulness, generosity, and great love for one another and for the world. We are thankful to be your pastors.

As we prepare to begin a new liturgical year this Sunday, we shift our noticing into deep awareness, naming hope as the hallmark of that awareness—of keeping ourselves awake, as Jesus urged in the gospel text for this week.

Hope is an essential element of our faith; yet if we pay attention to the world around us, we find that for many, hope—often clung to in the midst of trying times or great suffering—remains elusive…forlorn…even goes unrealized.

So as people of hope, what is it we are to “be awake” to? To whose stories do we pay attention and what is our role in challenging systems of oppression, inequity, and dehumanization that chip away at the hopes of those long denied justice, of those who long for, as Jesus prayed, “God’s kingdom come.” Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity writes, “Advent is a season of trusting that God’s deep wisdom will guide us from disorientation (the mini apocalypse found in Mark 13) toward wonder, awe, and praise (Mary’s Magnificat).

As we journey together this season, I pray that we will not only dream of a better world, but bring it forth through our choices and actions, our rituals and practices.” Friends, let us pay attention to the realities of the world around us and with an active hope, dwell in that space where God’s dreams for change and new life are emerging. Let us be alert, ever hopeful, as we wait for God to draw near.

Rev. Todd Atkins-Whitley, preaching
Music by John Kendall Bailey and Gabrielle-Goozée Nichols

November 22, 2020

Traditionally, the Sunday before Thanksgiving has been marked as “Thanksgiving Sunday” at DCC where we celebrate the past year and give thanks for all that we have received and for all that will come. This year, however, the holiday feels a bit different for me. I imagine you may have similar feelings. Unlike years before, our Thanksgiving tables this year may be less crowded. We may welcome a smaller group to gather around a common table, physically distanced. Some of us will decide to remain sheltered at home, partaking in our Thanksgiving meal with members of our own household, virtually, or alone. Whatever your decision or circumstance, this year’s Thanksgiving holiday is unlike any other that has come before.

I remember in seminary one of my professors said that Thanksgiving is one of the hardest times to preach for a preacher—other than telling people that they “ought to be” thankful, what else is there to say? I have to be honest, after a season of pandemic, loss, social unrest, and a divisive election cycle, my professor’s statement has never been more true. It is not my place to tell you how you “ought to feel” right now. You have the agency to feel whatever it is you need to feel in this moment, and my preaching that you “ought to be thankful” is not going to change how you feel after the year we have experienced. Nonetheless, we are tasked with coming together this Sunday and to reflect on the scripture at hand—Luke 17:11–19.

In Luke’s gospel we read the story of the healing of the ten lepers and the gratitude of one of the ten who received healing. I wonder what the one leper’s experience of healing, noticing of his healing, and his giving thanks might have to teach us as we reflect together on this Thanksgiving Sunday.

Rev. Eric Sherlock preaching
Music by John Kendall Bailey, Gabrielle Goozée-Nichols, and the DCC Jazz Quartet

You can view earlier services on our YouTube channel.