31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
October 30, 2022
2 Corinthians 5:17
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Anniversaries and birthdays can make us nostalgic. Tempted to look back on our years through rose colored glasses. Remembering all of the good and very little or none of the challenging.
We, as a Christian community, could choose to spend our time remembering the past. There are a lot of good memories to hold on to.
We know though that God is calling us to be made new in Christ, to faithfully move forward because as the famous writer, C. S. Lewis once wrote, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
There are far, far better things ahead because God promises to forever be with us. There are far, far better things ahead because God promises us a future of hope. There are far, far better things ahead because we have been made new in Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. There are far, far better things ahead because we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, blessed by the legacy of so many saints.
In this season of generosity, we pause to look at how God has been with us through the years; we give thanks for the blessings of this moment; and we dream of what God can do through us.
We don’t have photographs from 275 years ago. We do know though that God has been guiding this community of faith from the very first settler through today. God has guided us through the building of three meetinghouses.
God has guided us through changes to the church building. God has guides us through changes in leadership and even leadership structures. God has guided us in caring for our neighbors. God has guided us through two global pandemics.
God has guided us to this moment; to this ministry; to being a community that nurtures people’s relationships with God – through in person and online worship, through Confirmation and Bible study, through Silver Lake and prayer.
Through 275 years, God has called us to be a community that nurtures connection with others. Sharing meals. Sharing laughter. Sharing our lives. Supporting one another through the joyous and challenging moments. Always widening out the circle of welcome.
Widening out the circle of welcome to care for those in the Bristol community and throughout the whole world. Partnering with other churches and non-profits to care for the food and housing insecure. Partnering with other churches and non-profits to make our world a better place for all. And always, always, sharing the love of Jesus Christ.
There are certainly a lot of challenges in our lives and world right now. And God is leading us to respond. God has given to us an abundance of blessings. We have a safe, well cared for building. We have a firm financial foundation, built by the great cloud of witnesses who came before us. We have a talented, faithful, and dedicated staff. We have wonderful church members and church leaders who give their all, out of love of God and love of neighbor.
Grounded in the faithfulness of those who came before us, blessed by God’s abundant gifts, we, the First Congregational Church United Church of Christ, look forward in faith, move forward in faith, dreaming of what God can do through us.
Dreaming of affordable housing and shelter for all. Dreaming of more weddings, more baptisms, more care for others and care of the earth. More connections, more generosity, more service.
We do not know what is ahead of us, as individuals and as a church community. We do know though that God is guiding us. We have faith that God is calling us forward to deeper love of God and love of our neighbors.
So “let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrew 12:1-2)