Dear Members and Friends of First Parish Church, Congregational UCC—
Nothing says Christmas like the sound of a kazoo band!
Those of you who attended the Dec 3rd holiday concert, held in the church prior to the Community Friendship Tree Lighting on the green, know what I’m talking about. For those of you who weren’t there, you may know that every year the church hosts this holiday “kick-off” event, sponsored by the Manchester Woman’s Club, where children and youth choirs and bands from Memorial Elementary School and Manchester Essex Regional High School perform Christmas and Hanukkah music. This year, the chorus from the high school played kazoos during one of their songs. It was marvelous!! (And, for the record, the whole concert was marvelous—not just the kazoos—the young people at the concert were so talented!!)
As the interim pastor of the host church, I was asked to give a welcome. As I was writing the welcome, I thought of the 300th Anniversary of the church that the congregation celebrated last year. One of the things that means is that for 301 years, the church (the people and its buildings) has been hosting not only worship gatherings, but also secular meetings for the town. (And the December 3rd concert—with various types of holiday music--was an interesting blend of sacred and secular.)
It also struck me, on December 3rd as I sat in a pew watching the concert, what a wonderful gift the church has to offer the town: the gift of hospitality. Hospitality is a gift that is praised throughout the Bible. In fact, the book of Hebrews reminds us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)
As I was giving the welcome that day, I looked out at the “standing room only” crowd, and I spotted at least a few dozen church members interspersed among the people gathered there. Plus, there were members of the Sunday School and youth groups in every group that performed. So, not only is our building offering hospitality, but all of you—young and old-- are ambassadors of God’s Love as you participate in town events.
It is my hope and prayer that you/we (pastor and people) consciously see ourselves as God’s ambassadors and continue to offer hospitality to the people we interact with every day—through our church building, programs, and the friendship/care we extend. And if there are people we meet who do not already have a faith community, may we respectfully invite them to come and experience the Love of God that we see
revealed in Jesus during our Advent/Christmas worship (Sunday morning 10 am, Saturday evening 5:30 vespers, Christmas Eve 10 am, 5 pm, 7 pm.)
I enclose a Christmas offering envelope if you wish to give an extra gift to the church for the Christmas season to help us continue all of this good work.
Rev. Dr. Marlayna Schmidt