Centre Congregational Church
We Welcome Everyone: An "Open & Affirming" Church
Phone: (781) 334-3050; Fax: (781) 334-6463; Email:
Douglas W. Hodgkins: Organist/Choir Director
August 27, 2008
Sorting Lumber - Bringing Hope
“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone (or cornerstone).”
(Psalm 118:22, Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, and 1 Peter 2:7)
There were 39 of us who went on the Mission Trip to New Orleans, August 2nd to 8th, this summer. There were 20 youth and 6 adults from Centre Church, while there were 10 youth and 2 adults from First Congregational Church, Dalton, MA. The trip was organized through our leader, Carl MacDonald of the Boston City Mission Society and through the United Church of Christ Disaster Response team, housed at Little Farms United Church of Christ, River Ridge, LA. Our group stayed at St. Paul's United Church of Christ, New Orleans.
Previous mission groups had transformed the second floor of St. Paul's Church into three large dormitory rooms, built bunk beds, restroom, shower, and laundry facilities. We made our own meals in the church kitchen and shared them in the fellowship hall. A place had been prepared for us in this church that had almost closed after Katrina. Fortunately, it did not close so that the small congregation can continue to worship and so that groups like ours have a safe place to stay when visiting to help rebuild.
Our group of 39 was divided into three groups. Two of the groups worked on three different houses, installing wallboard, building cement steps, installing windows, spackling wallboard, painting and such. The third group, the one that I worked with, worked at Beecher Memorial United Church of Christ.
Beecher Church had suffered flooding to about 5 feet. The walls, electrical, plumbing, and everything, except the roof, sanctuary ceiling, and brick exterior had been destroyed. Our job was to hang wallboard, a grid for a suspended ceiling, screw down particle board for the sanctuary chancel and organize lumber piled in the back yard saved from a house that had been demolished next to the church.
I was in charge of organization of the piles of lumber in the back yard of the Beecher Memorial Church. What was once a playground for the after school program of the church before Katrina, was now a community dump site for the lumber left from the demolition of a house next to the church. Someone had the bright idea that it might be worth something. So, instead of carting it away in dumpsters, it lay there in piles for well over a year as if it were the community dump site for lumber the builders rejected.
Like the clothing I bought at Salvation Army and Building 19 before I left, this lumber had been set aide with the hope that it might be useful to someone. I had trouble validating the use of our time sorting, cleaning (pulling out the old roofing and construction nails), and then pilling up this old lumber which was, in some, if not most cases, over 50 years old. We were told that other homeowners might be able to use this lumber in the repairing of their homes. Would they? Could they? I asked myself. Yet, we were there to do what was asked of us and obedience is an important spiritual discipline.
One night, shortly after returning home, I remembered the text about “the stone the builders rejected” and I thought about the lumber piles that I was rejecting, even the clothing rejected by others that I wore. I thought about how many of us feel rejected. And yet, Jesus stopped and took time to visit with the rejected people of his world. He even called upon some of them to be his disciples, to change the world, to lead the establishment of his church, to preach, teach, heal, and organize. Even after Katrina hit New Orleans there were some who felt that it should not be rebuilt, questioning the validity of its very existence! It kept haunting my thoughts, “the stone, the lumber, the clothing, and..., the people and places...rejected became the chief cornerstone.”
Under the ugly piles of lumber I found something I did not expect, hope: much of the wood under the surface was actually in good shape, valuable for reuse, building, and such, once the nails and screws were removed. Under the surface, there's a lot more to all of us that, at first, meets the eye. By the end of the week we had piled up a lot of valuable lumber, 2x6s, 2x8s, 2x10s, as well as a lot of other sizes, valued to worth several thousand dollars, money that many homeowners in New Orleans do not have.
We take a glance of someone and within ½ second or less judge whether or not this person is worth our time for conversation and attention. Based on the way people look on the surface we usually move on to someone else, who looks better dressed, better educated, more interesting. But the parable of the piles of wood behind Beecher Memorial Church reminds me that it is often the people who look rough and demolished on the outside that have the most valuable and strongest stuff on the inside, worthy of being chosen for the most challenging of projects.
As I reflect, now, on my experience of sorting lumber, salvaging what was once lost, I am reminded that all of God's people are living stones, living building materials for the work of God, capable of being used to build God's kingdom here, on earth. But the cornerstone is Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone because the whole building rests on him. He is the cornerstone because what we build takes its design from him. No Christ; no building...
No matter what pile we find ourselves in, no matter whether we find ourselves worthy building materials, Jesus looks to us like he looked to his disciples and invites us, even calls us to follow him. He pulls out our nails, our sins, our brokenness, and puts us in the “clean” pile to be used for some worthy purpose. And he will, as he has done so many times in the past, look to those of us who were once cast aside as unworthy, to become the essential elements in the building of something special, something new, something that will bring people together instead of causing division, into bringing hope where there is now hopelessness, and into redeeming the people and places, yes, even the piles of discarded lumber, for healing, restoring, and new life.
Yours in Christ,
P.S.: I shared much of this message in my sermon of August 17th, but felt moved and encouraged to share it here, also. Thanks to all who supported this wonderful mission trip experience financially and spiritually. It was my first, but hopefully not my last!
IN THE CHAPEL
August 31, 2008, 9:00 A.M
Exodus 3:1-15; 4:1-5
Sermon by the Rev. Dr. Dennis C. Bailey
“Are You a Candidate?”
Join us for these informal services followed by punch and fellowship.
Welcome Back Sunday
Please join us on Sunday, September 7 to celebrate our return to worship in the Sanctuary. Registration for all children will take place in the Narthex. We look forward to seeing you there.
Back By Request - Sunday August 31st following the service in the Chapel - 10:30 a.m. (approx.)
Centre Church's HOLY-WORD Theater presents “Fish Can’t Fly” a documentary film on the effects of various programs throughout the United States collectively ascribing to the so-called “Ex-Gay Movement” belief that homosexuals can happily lead heterosexual lives. The participants in the documentary all voluntarily joined the programs and now talk of the lack of effectiveness of the programs and the damaging effects they had on their lives. The show follows the participants’ paths into the ex-gay program, results of the program, and their present attitudes toward Christianity and sexuality.
This is a Must See Program For Anyone who has Struggled to Reconcile Religious Teaching With Homosexuality.
Membership in Centre Church
Are you ready to answer the call of discipleship and become a member of Centre Congregational Church, United Church of Christ? If so, we welcome you! Please contact me, Rev. Dennis Bailey because I am hoping to host a Membership Sunday at Centre Church this fall, inducting those who wish to be members. We will have Membership Classes after church leading up to this so that you can learn and know what it means to be a member of Centre Church. Please either email me: email@example.com, or call me at the church office: 781-334-3050.
Cradles to Crayons Thank You
Thank you to everyone who donated school supplies for Cradles to Crayons. Your generosity made the drive a success!
Fall Yard Clean-up Day
We will be having a property clean-up day which will involve cleaning of the garden beds, some trimming, sweeping and general pick-up. We want our property to always look its best. Please plan on spending part of the morning with us at Centre Church starting at 8 AM Saturday September 13. Questions please contact Phil Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 781-508-5678.
Annual Golf Tournament
Save the date of Friday, September 19 for the sixth annual Centre Church golf tournament. The net proceeds go to support our Missions Ministries program. This will be a best ball tournament with a tee time of 1 PM at Thomson Country Club in North Reading. The cost is $125 per player and that includes a cookout following the tournament at the Johnson’s. Prizes and the chance to have your winning team’s names engraved on The Unholy Grail are but a few of the benefits of playing in this tournament. Players of all skill levels welcomed. Please invite your friends to play, too. Sign up with Phil Johnson (email@example.com or 781-598-5678) no later than Wednesday September 17th. Checks should be made payable to Centre Congregational Church.
Please save the date of Sunday, September 14 at 6:00 p.m. to hear the Youth Group’s presentation of their trips this summer to the National Youth Event and the New Orleans Mission Trip. We would like to thank all those who contributed funds to make these trips possible. Dinner and dessert will be served. Everyone is welcome to attend.
From the Mailbox
To Our Dear Church Members,
With Earls’ recent back surgery behind us, we’re hoping to get back to church and being normal fairly soon. The P.O. Box has been flooded with beautiful, thoughtful & encouraging cards from all of you and have been so appreciated by the both of us.
The flowers from church from Evie Round were so very welcome. To have Earl “free of Pain” after so many years has been our biggest blessing. Dennis’s many trips to Hospital, Rehab and home & home have been so very much appreciated. We’re grateful to be involved with our wonderful Church Family.
Bless you, Earl and Edie Richard
News From Around the Parish
We extend our love and sympathy to Ray and Jill Couillard and their families upon the death of Ray’s grandmother, Vera Misiano.
Our prayers and love are extended to Mary Ann and Chris Parker and their families upon the death of Mary Anns’s mother, Lucy Carchidi.
Congratulations to Bob MacKendrik who has recently become President of the Lynnfield Rotary Club. We wish him the best for a very rewarding and successful year of service.
Special Needs Yard Sale
Moving…cleaning…getting organized? Donations of goods are needed for yard Sale, Saturday, September 13 at the Meeting House on the Common, 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Rain or shine. Come by and browse, buy and be happy you came. Proceeds go to special needs young adult programs. Please contact Fran Soderberg at 781-334-3437.
|Morning Worship - Chapel
ONA Film – Movie Room
|Church Office Closed for Labor Day|
|8:30 am||Bread & Roses Meal Prep - Kitchen|
|7:30 pm||Senior Choir - Choir Room|
|10:30 am||Scripture Study - Pastor's Office|
Our thoughts and prayers are with:
We also remember Col. Brian Bisacre, Jane Vancor’s cousin and Maj. Alec Leung, Ollie and Carl Wood’s grandson in Iraq.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Ushers: Mark Meehl and Karen Harrington