Category Archives: guest preachers

Helen’s song on kindness

sometimes all it takes to pull us through
is a smile – from you
a simple tenderness
to remember us to whats true
a little kindness
to remind us
what the heart can do..
She describes the setting for the song:

every morning at about nine thirty i walk past tomkins square park,
where the food lines are already forming –  and by the time i return
an hour or so later – the line will be endless…it is no different
from poverty depicted in the paragraphs of dickens, george bernard
shaw, dostoevsky or brecht. the derelicts, the denizens, the
dispossessed. struggling and abandoned. bundled in shabby winter
attire and eroded by the frigid temperatures. aside from the various
christian and hari krishna missions that offer provisions, it is
alcohol that for most provides the warmth and strength to survive the

they all know me.  the neighborhood bums.  they listen to me play in
the park when its warm – and they know they can count on me for a
smile and a hello…they are all over, on particular corners, in
different doorways.  home is essentially a cardboard box.

A sermon on Third Sunday in Advent

This was shared by a member of  Rev. Bloch’s church in Port Townsend, WA

Isaiah 35:1-10 Elizabeth Bloch

Canticle 15 12/12/10

James 5:7-10 Advent 3

Matthew 11:2-11 Year A

Lighting Candles in the Dark

It was dark in John’s prison, all right, darker and darker in Herod’s fateful jail on the shores of the Dead Sea. And John the Baptist – for whom God’s fiery light had shone so fiercely bright in his desert days – by now, he could barely detect the light of even a feeble, guttered flame in these days of fear and fury with himself, with God, and with his heartbreaking cousin, Jesus.

It would only be a matter of days now before Herodias would find a way to convince her husband to bring John’s head to her on a silver platter. He was sure of that by now, and that he was sure he would have been proud, no fulfilled, to die for the Messiah he had expected, the one John thought he had preached and promised…

But from almost the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, everything had turned out so differently from what John had expected. I mean, there John had been surviving on locusts, isolated in the wilderness, denying body and soul any hint of fleshly comfort or contact with human corruption, and the next thing he hears: Jesus is changing water into wine at some wedding in Cana so that everyone, apparently, could carouse without limit! John had preached about righteous living day after day until his throat was raw, warning the people about what terrible consequences would surely be if they didn’t fix their wickedness, get rid of all the bad guys, and begin again with a clean slate of righteous people. Meanwhile, Jesus had been deliberately socializing with the unclean, with outcasts and flagrant sinners of every horrible kind.

Now John, in prison and in the worst kind of trouble, was hearing more and more disheartening news. Jesus, far from using his power and popularity to lead a clean sweep of all that had gone wrong with Israel – not to mention the possibility of freeing John from prison on his way to victory – Jesus seemed to be spending all his precious time and talent on a few ailing people who would certainly not be much help in bringing all Israel to revolutionary repentance. Stories of hemorrhaging women, and lepers, and demoniacs, healing one here, one there, just as he came upon them, it seemed. John couldn’t fathom it. He’d even heard a rumor about Jesus healing a Roman soldier’s slave one day. But that couldn’t have been, could it?

Finally, John just had to ask, even if Jesus’ answer was as terrible as John’s question sounded to him; even if it was the last thing he ever did. So he sent some of his old disciples – probably the same ones who had come to Jesus once before to challenge his far-from-strict spiritual practice – to ask him point blank: Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?

Now, listen with me to Jesus’ answer. It holds within it so many answers to all of our John-the-Baptist-questions. John asked, Are you the one who is to come?

Jesus answered, Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.

The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. Jesus makes absolutely no claims for himself. Every statement is in the passive voice. There is not one I statement in the whole list. No 1st person anywhere. John was definitely asking for a 1st person answer but Jesus would not answer the question John thought he was asking. He made absolutely no claim for himself.

This is the first of the two huge stumbling blocks, I believe, for John and for us – stumbling blocks that come between who we often think God should be and who God really is. Jesus says to John’s disciples: Don’t look at me. Look around you. See for yourself people right here – maybe right here at lunch on Wednesdays, maybe right here at our 2nd Saturday Potlucks – see for yourself people right here who really know what Isaiah’s prophecy was all about. Ask them what it feels like to leap like a deer when you couldn’t even walk before, to sing songs full of joy when you’d never been free enough to speak. Pay attention to them. Talk with them. They’re the ones with the answers you really need. As always, Jesus, our brother and our God, was not interested in wielding power but in giving power away – to us.

And that brings us to the second thing about the way God works that was so hard for John to swallow and is often just as hard for us. A huge, all-encompassing, clean sweep of the religious and political arena – with winnowing fork and fire and an axe to the roots – was simply not Jesus’ way. For Jesus, the healing, and raising from death to life, the care for the poor and the lost and the hungry happened pretty much one by one as he walked and talked and listened and touched and fed and set free…

Jesus’ answer was coming to John – and to all God’s dark and wounded world -one at a time, like lighting candles in the dark. One at a time, the way we light the candles on our Advent wreath, one more each week even as the days themselves are growing darker and darker. John, in the darkness of his prison, wanted a fireball God who would make a clean sweep of the whole mess of creation-gone-wrong. But Jesus, our one-at-a-time God, was lighting candles of healing and hope one by one, and always beginning with the stubbiest, least acceptable candles, as far outside the circle of notice and attraction as he could get.

And then, to cap it all off, Jesus lets us in on his amazing secret within that slowly growing and not very impressive circle of lighted candles in the dark. He says, Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.

(Warning: word study ahead)

Makarios is the word we translate as blessed. It meant, in New Testament use, happy – only happy with great emotional force, joyful just about to bursting. Makarios is anyone who takes no offense at me. The word offense in Greek is skandalon, which to ancient Greeks meant stumbling block. Skandalizomai, to stumble. Makarios is anyone who does not stumble over who I really am.

Jesus was saying, as plainly as he could, that if we can make it beyond the stumbling block of loving the God who actually is, instead of the one we so often think should be, if we could love the God who gives power away to us to heal, and bring to life one at a time, beginning from the outside to light stubby little flickering candles in the Way of our God, then we would know joy just about to bursting right in the middle of the darkness.

Here is an Advent clue about how it all works: the joy of the angels dimmed the stars with their light when God began with a helpless infant, born in a stable, to an unwed mother, on the outside of town.

Third Sunday in Advent from the “sunny pew”

As we venture into the third week of advent, the elements of winter -–
that seem so antithetic and threatening to life – expand the
parameters of their reign.  We are venturing – as Joseph Conrad might
say – into The Heart of Darkness.  I am struck in the readings by the
relationship that is being requested between the Natural and the
Supernatural, between the Physical and the Metaphysical – and likewise
between the Mind (which can conceive) and the Body (and its senses,
which are confined to the immediate physical and transitory realm of
existence).  It is not only a relationship – but an argument, a
dialogue, a discourse  – one which arbitrates between that which is
evident and apparent in ostensible realm of the human experience, –
and that which resides beyond the mere image and appearance of the
temporal, material plane – and which contributes to a disparity
between the spiritual and the material , the mystical and the mundane,
the sacred and the profane.

Again, advent is a theological construct that implants itself at a
point in the calendar year when  the severe and extreme conditions of
the natural world force us to experience the threshold of our
tolerance and limitations. The hostile forces of nature become so
fierce and so unmitigating in the external landscape, that they
connive to abolish all sense of hope. The elements of darkness and
cold become increasingly more vicious and unrelenting in their
assault. It is an exceedingly arduous and difficult passage of time
during which we are asked to withstand a darkness that intensifies and
grows more pervasive with each day that passes.  And as Light in our
world diminishes, so does Warmth.  The earth is no longer capable of
replenishing the sustenance necessary for survival. Things become more
gaunt, more attenuated, more grim – as do our spirits.  If logic and
reason were confined to the mere material realm, and the information
transmitted through the physical senses, our outlooks would be
psychically gruesome – and apocalyptic. For it would feel and appear
as if the tyrannical reign of darkness were going to overtake and
triumph over the power of light, as if the frigid temperatures that
betray the capacity of life and growth were going to irrevocably
subsume and engulf. The sense of Anarchy and anxiety induced by
darkness is replacing the certitude and assurance of form and order
which typify the Illumined world. It is chilling and grim.
Understandably such apprehensions – ratified by the factual realm,
metabolize into fear, anxiety, hopelessness and futility. It is easy
to get apocalyptic in our distress and despair. It would seem that
dissolution and decay,  have victor-ed over the creative, the
regenerative.  Death seems to be winning over Life. And it is this
fear, anxiety, terror, and hopelessness, induced by that which is
occurring on the outside, and in the Natural kingdom –  that brings us
to God – and to the other worldly considerations. That brings us to
meditation and prayer.  And that brings us to the aspect in our own
nature that conceives and believes and interacts with the divine.   As
if there is within the human anatomy, in addition to the more physical
attributes that define the species, the small kernel, the seed which
signifies the capacity to understand, address, and await God. This
kernel, is the manger in which salvation will be delivered. It is the
grotto.  It is primitive and hidden beneath the layers of artifice,
edifice and civilization.  Beneath Image and Appearance.

And even now, the days continue to grow darker, colder, more ominous.
The readings are those that offer hope to subsidize our endurance.
They offer assurance   Not to give up – to wait –to have faith.  As I
shared before, there is no greater feeling than to sense that God is
with us, to feel the inextricable presence of the divine in the
immediacy of our lives and our spirits, our surroundings.  To
experience God in the present moment.  But often, the human experience
implies feeling forsaken or abandoned – experiencing the absence of
the sacred or the divine.  Of  having our spirits eroded by Doubt. It
is then we must rely on the scaffolding and framework, that our Faith
as Christians and our belief system provides, to pull us through. It
is an inner construct.   Symbolically, just as what we are being asked
to persevere as we approach the threshold our our limitations, a voice
cries out in the wilderness, assuring us that salvation is on its way.
Our readings during this challenging time of the year are infused
with John’s Assurance, his unassailable Certitude of what is to come.
And so we await in joyful anticipation. In eager expectancy. Out of
the wilderness appears John The Baptist proclaiming the imminence of
the Lord, urging us to keep fast the straight and narrow, to get rid
of the highs and lows, not to deviate,  to fix the straightest course
in our consciousness and souls between ourselves and God.  The
shortest distance between two points. John arrives not from a
synagogue, not from civilization, not from the social, political, or
economic construct, but out of the wilderness to assure us that Help
is on the way, and to prepare ourselves to receive  – and perceive its
presence when it arrives.  As we know from being seasoned, such divine
presence and Holiness will be controversial, denied, refuted,

In Isaiah, we are prepared to anticipate
the utter transformation and revolution that will occur as a result
of God’s arrival and presence into our lives, That which is barren
will be made fruitful, that which is dry and parched will be
moistened, the high shall be made low, etc.  Such attributes are are
reiterated on an emotional, political and social level by Mary in The
Magnificat .  Where God is present all is transformed.  The ordinary
is extraordinary.  The First become Last, The Humble Exalted.   I am
most touched in The Isaiah reading  by the reference to a path – a
holy path amidst all the otherwise unsanguine aspects of
existence…This is the spiritual path…And it exists within the
subterfuge of each moment – and of each extraneous construct – it
exists within  and in spite of any social, political and economic
system –  Offering a course,  a sense of direction, guidance, and
deliverance.  Holy things are for the Holy.   This is a path we
follow, as people of a sublime faith, toward the metaphorical promised
land, the kingdom of God, It is the journey from darkness to light.
from bondage toward liberation, from damnation toward salvation.  It
offers Deliverance.

In the gospel reading Christ acknowledges and affirms the promises of
transformation anticipated in both Isaiah and the Psalm…And Christ
establishes a correspondence between the heavens and the earth,
between the divine and the mortal, His presence and power encourages
and relies on the  testimonies of those whom he serves. It is not
dictatorial or dogmatic in that regard. It is not estranged from
humankind.   It invites us.  It needs and requires our eyes, our ears,
our mouths, We are active participants in the ministries.  The news is
carried from John to Christ and back again through messengers.
Through mortals.  We bear witness and give testimony.  It is a
dialogue.  A discourse. A correspondence.  Sometimes we carry the
message.  Sometimes we are the message.  Christ  signifies the mediary
ambassador between the supernatural and the natural, the divine and
the corporeal, the sacred and the profane.  His ministries require our
participation – and in order to participate we must abolish our own

2nd Sunday in Advent (From the sunny pew)

sometimes the universes dispatches angelic ambassadors.  sometimes it provides signs that renew our strength and replenish the sense of endurance and fortitude we need to continue.  sometimes it sends assurance that the sense of salvation and redemption we are seeking is on its way.  just as there are forebodings, warnings, and omens,( that can seem almost diabolically , if not conspiratorally complicit with what may be happening in our lives,  so does the language of the Divine include prescient and symbolic harbingers of “things to come.”  It is the second week of advent.  for some, it is still continuing to grow darker, colder, more barren – and more challenging.  hope diminishes.  belief grows anemic.  we can become gaunt. hunger deepens.   death seems to prevail in the landscape – and in our own emotional, spiritual interiors

in this weeks gospel reading we hear of the arrival of John The Baptist, announcing and assuring of us of the Lord’s Imminence.  As advent, we continue to wait in joyful anticipation, even though the dark elements seem to be combining and growing in strength around us – and now we have one arriving in advance to assure, with certitude, the arrival.  as spiritual beings, we are most happy and serene when we feel at one with God, when we feel God’s presence, inextricable from the rapture, sense of exultation, and tranquility in our hearts.  but we do not always feel the presence of God.   sometimes we feel forsaken, abandoned, and are tempted by the sense of Doubt induced by logic and reason.  for faith and belief are always mystical and defiant in this regard.  neither faith nor belief are manufactured by the intellect. they are mystical, sacred, and mysterious.  our mental faculties are merely tools in service of a belief and faith that must be renewed in our hearts and souls.  sometimes we need what john the babtist symbolizes to assure us  with infallible certainty that the light and warmth we are seeking is on its way.  but we must never mistake the messenger with the messiah…he has come announce the forthcoming arrival, to assure us, and, as in the lenten period, prepare our souls to welcome the sacred guest…he baptises with water to clean us so that we may be prepared to receive the truth and the spirit, which will have the properties of fire.  it will bring light and warmth into the world, into our hearts, although outwardly the darkness and cold still threaten….

we must prepare to receive god, just as martha prepares.  but we must not mistake those that precede – as the holy or the divine.  as christians we are asked to be like christ.  we are also asked to be like john, to announce and assure others, to carry the message, despite how forsaken or bereft.  the word precede is at the root of precedent.  john sets a precedent…sometimes what we have to offer to another, compassion, guidance, a kind word, a smile, is what offers an innuendo of divine love,  it can have the very qualities of mercy, tenderness, compassion and forgiveness that we ourselves seek, and have learned from our love for the divine.

What occurred to me while i sat here not doing the laundry is How John Himself Was Delivered.  What do we know about him, and his appearance in the mortal realm – how does he appear – announcing the pursuant deity?

We are told that he arrives in wild garb, and eats of berries and nuts.  He exists outside the norm, hardly one of social convention.  His attire alone reinforces his “closeness to the elements.”   There is something both Wild and Transient about him and his solitary travels  A primate, a neanderthal, a sort of sonni (of sonni and cher who i always remember wearing furry vests) and subsidized by raw nutrients that bear a direct affinity with nature and the wilderness.  While our education has trained us to Know and Approve of John, we must not forget (just as the controversial nature of Mary’s pregnancy) the Unexpected, Unconventional, Extraordinary, Means by which he introduces himself.  He could easily be perceived as a barbarian, an outcast, a renegade, a heathen.   There is a spiritual primacy to all of us.  As christians we are reminded that Salvation will be born in a manger, remember – amid the lambs and goats and cows and ox, in hay, in a stable (or cave) – – but not in the Inn.  There is no room at the inn, which is a social, civilized construct.   The Religious Experience occurs outside all civilized constructs.  This is why John – in not appearing like the others but bring testimony and assurance – must also chastise those who represent The Temple (or Organized Religion)  – The church can prepare us to recieve God, and its rites and rituals create a framework and Discipline (from the word Disciple) – but they are aids in our spiritual journey.  They are not necessarily the spiritual experience.  They prepare our souls to be transformed into mangers where salvation begins…Our souls are not artificial constructs.  They are not civilized (unnatural) man made fabrications. They are hidden within the trappings of experience, education, learning and all the things we acquire that are extraneously imposed.  Christ returns us to that spiritual primacy and infancy.  It is where the grotto, the cave, (and femininist doctrine would eagerly chime in “the womb”), where God originates and is both conceived and delivered – in the Soul.

Prayer From Shantideva// St. Francis


May I be a guard for those who need protection,

A guide for those on the path,

A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood.

May I be a lamp in the darkness,

A resting place for the weary,

A healing medicine for all who are sick,

A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles;

And for the boundless multitudes of living beings,

May I bring sustenance and awakening,

Enduring like the earth and sky

Until all beings are freed from sorrow,

And all are awakened.


Make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Being, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.  It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.  It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Billy Hancock’s Morning Prayer

Good morning God. You are ushering in a new day, untouched and freshly new,and here I come and ask you, God,if you’ll renew me, too.Forgive the many errors that I made yesterday; help me, dear God, to walk closely in Thy way. I am well aware that I can’t make it on my own. So take my hand and hold it tight, for I can’t walk alone!

April 15 Newsletter

Chilmark Community Church

We’re just about at the end of our first quarter since we’ve had Arlene as Pastor.  We have been blessed, indeed, with all she brings to our church family, her love, candor, energy and affability.  This is just to touch base with all of you to be sure you’re “in the loop”.

SAVE THESE DATES (Can also be viewed on Calendar Page of
Tuesdays at 6 in April and May..Pizza Nights.  Fun for all ages.

Thursdays at 5  Prayer Service at Church.

May 4 at 10:45 Neighborhood Convention at The Good Shepherd Parish
Center in OB(old OB school).  MJ Bruder Munafo on “God the unseen character”.

May 8 or 15            Church Spring Clean up:  Join Community Corrections to do yard,  flower beds, windows, etc.

May 29, 9-1 Chilmark Church Yard and Plant Sale.  Arlene already has collected lots of furniture and china.  Nancy Cabot has started fabulous seedlings.  Ethel Sherman will make jams. Contact a member of the Fund Raising Committee to help:  Judy Mayhew, Kathie Carroll, Betty Savage,  Katy Upson, Ann Deitrich.

May 30 11:30  Blessing of the Fleet at Dutcher Dock , Menemsha.

June 1 at 10:45  HELP!  Neighborhood Convention in Chilmark.  Program is “Behind the Scenes” at the Yard. Meeting and worship follows in our Sanctuary .  Then we are responsible for drinks, table settings, and deserts for the gathered, usually about 40 or 50.

June 15 Lobster Roll Dinners to Go begins!  Every Tues from 4:30-7.  Call Judy Mayhew if you can help.

June 19, 10-12 Children’s Fair on Church lawn. Contact an Outreach Committee member to help: Kim Cottrill, Fran Flanders, Marilyn Hollinshead, Julie Flanders, Ann Deitrich, Lia Kahler, Judi Worthington.

June 30 Wed, first Flea Market of season.  Renting the wonderful meadow on N. Road from Pat and Joan Jenkinson again. Please sign up later to help with church table etc.


The steeple repairs are just about finished.  Check the web site for pictures  of  the work.  Bids are in for painting the sanctuary.  The Trustees will be hiring the painter, (repairs to plaster also) in the coming days.  Bob Hungerford will be starting work on the Bell after he finishes jury duty. All these jobs involve more than meets the eye and thanks to the Trustees for slogging through the details.  The Yard is renting the parsonage for the whole summer.  Thanks to Flanders Realestate for negotiating the lease etc.

The Worship Committee reports that the idea behind the Thursday Prayer Service is to give a little more time to those who need our prayers, as well as to enrich our own prayer lives.  We also hope that some folks who can’t come on Sunday might try us on a week day. Initially, it will be a service with mostly silent prayer and one or two simple songs.  It will last under a half hour.