Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Dialogue

~~Advent and Christmas at Bethany Church

Sunday, December 4th - The Second Sunday in Advent
  • 10 am Worship, lighting the Second Candle in the Advent Wreath, Communion
  • 10:15 am Sunday School – ornament making
  • 7 pm Youth Group – Christmas Jeopardy
Sunday, December 11 – The Third Sunday in Advent
  • 9:30 am Second Sunday Concert
  • 10 am Worship Service, lighting the Third Candle in the
  • Advent Wreath
  • 10:15 am Sunday School – making treat bags for Bethany Bowl and the Good Samaritan Haven
  • 6:30 pm Community Carol Sing at the Unitarian Church
  • 7:00 pm Youth Group – gift making
Wednesday, December 14h
  • 6:00 pm Greening of the Church
Sunday, December 18 – The Fourth Sunday in Advent
  • 8:30–9:30 am Christmas Bethany Cup
  • 10 am Worship Service, Lighting of the Fourth Candle in the Advent Wreath
  • 10:15 am Sunday School – Pageant Rehearsal for Christmas Eve
Saturday, December 24 - Christmas Eve
  • 6 pm Family Christmas Service with Pageant
  • 10 pm Candlelight Service of Lessons and Carols
Sunday, December 25 – Christmas Day
  • 10 am Worship Service with Carol Sing
Sunday, January 1 - New Year's Day and Celebration of Epiphany
  • 10 am Worship with Communion

Christmas Day Worship!
This is a special year, because Christmas falls on a Sunday! Come join your church family for worship at 10 am in our beautiful sanctuary on Christmas morning! We will sing Christmas carols, hear the Christmas story, and celebrate the joy of the day together! A light, bright, informal service.
Making Advent Real
Advent has arrived. Advent: The coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important. In the Christian church, Advent is the time to prepare for the arrival of Jesus.
Each Sunday in Advent, we light a candle in the Advent wreath to help remind us of the hope, peace, joy and love – God’s gifts to us. It’s hard to remember those gifts when the world around us is calling out to come and buy, buy, buy. We may ask ourselves – what will others think if I don’t get them this or that? What will happen if someone else gets a better gift? How can I do more than last year?
We have the opportunity to make choices about how we spend our time of preparing and celebrating God’s gift to us. The choices could include going to Black Friday sales, spending more than we have to buy something that may or may not make the recipients life better OR we can choose to pass on the gift from God to others in a donation to:
  • Warmth Project
  • VT. Food Bank
  • Humane Society
  • Audubon Society
  • Cancer Society
  • Central VT. Home Health
And many other organizations that help those that God created.
A wonderful thing happens for us here at Bethany this year. The last Sunday of the month – the day we bring our donations for the Montpelier Food Pantry lands on Christmas Day. What gifts will we bring? How will we prepare for the arrival of something as important as Jesus? How about through hope, peace, joy and love for all God’s creation!
Liz Sykas-Ringgenberg

Feed your soul this Advent!
Advent can be a wonderful time of spiritual preparation, in addition to being a time to buy and wrap presents, attend holiday parties and decorate Christmas trees! Giving your soul a little attention in this time can help make the whole season a true joy!
Bethany's Working Chapel is a great place to spend a hour or so each week during Advent. Come walk the labyrinth, sit and meditate on a new group of mandalas or color your own mandala. Lose yourself in a zen sand garden or fold a paper crane as you pray for peace. There is no right way to use any of the resources in the chapel – simply do one and see what happens! You might be very surprised at the peace and serenity that comes with one of these simple activities!
The chapel is open each day from 8 am – 8 pm, except for Monday evenings and some Saturdays. A CD player and CD's are available in the cabinet at the rear of the room if you would like some music to accompany you.

Second Sunday Concert-
December 11 9:30 in the Chapel -
Tuesday's Woodwind Quintet will play several pieces including but not limited to works by Vaughn Williams, Milhaud, Ebert, Mozart, and some original holiday classics. Free coffee and open to the public.

Just a reminder – the Board of Trustees will meet on Wednesday, December 7th at 7 PM.


In this season of giving thanks and sharing gifts, the volunteers from the Bethany Bowl wish to offer their deep appreciation for the continued support from the Bethany congregation and the larger community as well. Our attendance continues to average about 120 folks weekly…sometimes higher, sometimes lower. The appreciation from those who attend is incredible and warming…and you help to make it happen.
Thank you to all who continue to offer financial support. This support helps us to maintain a well stocked pantry and to purchase other needed supplies such as napkins, cups, butter, milk, coffee, cooking staples, etc.
To those who have provided produce from their gardens, thank you for some mighty fine meals. The Halls have become expert squash and beet cutters and cookers, and Jim Conneman and the Levers sure can grow big zucchinis. In addition, the donations of sugar, spices, cups, napkins, containers for leftovers help to stretch our funds.
We continue to have the best desserts in town thanks to the regular bakers especially Amy Bell, Judy Ribolini, Chris Terry, Ann DeVaughn and Darlene Colby. Desserts are always needed.
And of course, the larger community plays a part in this mission. The Manghi’s Bread provides at least four loaves of fresh bread which are a part of the regular meal each Tuesday. NECI at National Life sends hearty soups each week. By the way, these soups are under the direction of Bethany’s Bob Hildebrand. La Brioche sometimes has day old pastries and muffins. The Red Hen Bakery in Middlesex continues to drop by with four bags full of their various breads. These are put out on the free table for the guests at the Bowl, and some are left on the pews in the narthex for others to share. Recently the Cabot Coop by way of John Hall sent yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese and salsa.
Thank you and blessings to all who volunteer and participate in making the Bethany Bowl a reality. We have just completed our 12th year. Sally Donaghy and Pat Seivwright did, indeed, have a great vision.
Phyllis Rowell

Christmas Eve 6:00 Service

The pageant will be rehersed in Sunday School on December 18. Participants should be at the church at 5:15pm on Christmas Eve.
If your child would like to be in the Christmas Pageant and you will not be present on December 18, please let Pastor Amy (223-2424), Patty Turley (223-5488), or Kassi Benedict (272-1187) know so that we can be prepared at the Christmas Eve service.

Advent Activities
in Sunday School

This year, the Sunday School classes will be following a traditional advent program, focusing on each Sunday’s message of hope, love, joy and peace. On the fourth Sunday in Advent, December 18, the children will be preparing for the Christmas Pageant during Sunday School time. There will be no Sunday School classes on December 25 or January 1; the children will stay in the sanctuary to enjoy the services. The nursery will be available (but not staffed) those two Sundays.
Patty Turley for the CE Board

Do you know about the Child Safety Policy at Bethany Church?

The CE Board would like to take this time to remind everyone about our safety policies. What do we do to keep our kids safe? Among other practices:
In the classroom we have two adults with each class, and we do not allow the children to go to the bathroom or otherwise walk through the building unescorted.
After church, the teachers and CE Board are no longer able to supervise your child. Parents are responsible for their children during hospitality. We have designated places for the children to use if they do not want to stay in the parlor. Younger children are allowed to play in the chapel, while the older youth (7th grade and above) may congregate in the Youth Group Room.
It takes a community to raise a child, and Bethany is a wonderful community. One part of our commitment is to keep children safe at church. Bethany Church is open to all in the community. This means we don’t have (and don’t want) guards at the doors to “keep people” away. Our beautiful building is full of nooks and crannies, and lots of community folks move through the space, even on Sunday mornings. Children should not be in areas of the building unsupervised at any time, and we ask all adults in the building to encourage this policy. Bethany is a pretty safe place, but it is no more safe than other community spaces, such as a library or school.
If you have questions about our policy, please see Reverend Amy or a CE Board member. Thanks for your role in keeping Bethany as safe as it can be for our kids!
Patty Turley for the CE Board

From our Property Committee
Thank you to everyone who came for the Fall clean up day on Oct 22nd. Many folks (members and friends) helped clean up Bethany, inside and

A big thank you to the Bethany "Road Crew"! On Sunday, Nov 6th, the Bethany Road crew lept into action and filled in the large pot holes in the parking lot. Ester Farnsworth scoped out the suitable fill material and the crew consisting of David Fiske, Peter Ricker, Gary Rogers, Reg Welch, John Maddox, Eric Benedict, and Connie Rowell transported the material and filled the holes. Thank you all!

The Property Board is looking for one or more interested folks to act as a facility liaison during the First Night event. This would primarily being available (in person or perhaps "on call") to either address issues directly or contact the folks who can address the issues. If we have more than one person volunteer, the "on call" duties may be shared. If you are interested in this, please contact the church office or a Property Board member (Eric Benedict, David Fiske or Gary Rogers).

Wax on, Wax Off! On Sunday Oct 30th, Art Farnum, Mark LeGrand, Mark Redmond and Gary Rogers washed and waxed the Fellowship Hall floor.
Thank you!

Shopping Help
Looking for a unique Christmas/Holiday Gift? Don't know what to buy for the person who has everything? Why not purchase a Bethany Church Cookbook! Only $12.00 too so it won't break the bank! Contact Judy Ribolini at 223-7134 or via email at
San Antonio Grande Committee will be offering the opportunity to give an alternative gift in memory or in honor of someone. You may buy a star for $5, or any larger amount, and hang it on the Christmas tree in the narthex. A gift card will be sent to the person whose honor you have given the money, or a card may be sent to a relative of a gift that is a memorial.

Mission 1
Update: Nationally and Locally
The churchwide Mission:1 campaign to fight food-related injustice eclipsed its goals: collecting more than 1 million food and household items for local food banks, writing more than 11,111 letters to Congress advocating for hunger-related causes, and raising more than $111,111 for hunger-related ministries.

In typical UCC fashion, local churches across the country took Mission:1 to heart and created their own special ways of fulfilling its goals.
In Anoka, Minn, members of First Congregational UCC delivered 1,111 items to the local food shelf –– items that weighed in at 934 pounds. "It was the best part of the day to fill up two vans with items and deliver them to a place that will distribute them to people in need in our community," wrote a church member.
"Our kids used the cans and boxes of food to make a peace sign on the church altar," said Sue Forsyth of the United Church of Christ of South Livonia, N.Y. "May our contribution help make peace a reality in our world."

At the close of business on Nov. 28, the totals stood thus: 1,438,124 food items collected; 37,443 letters sent to Congress regarding hunger-related concerns; $119,584 raised for hunger-related ministries; and $113,271 raised for East Africa famine relief. The totals are expected to climb further as late-reporting congregations send in their efforts.
Bethany Church was a part of this mighty work! Because some of this was done on line we don not know how much people gave to combat famine, or how many letters we wrote, but we know that several Bethanyites did. We also know that we collected 593 food items above our usual collection and went to the Montpelier Food Pantry. Way to go!
"Mission:1 was hugely successful because it captured the new essence of denominationalism, which takes seriously local initiative and ingenuity, bridges charity and justice advocacy, and syncs the work of many congregations, schools and agencies in common purpose and direction for a specified period of time," said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of the UCC’s Local Church Ministries. "We also can't underestimate the power of succeeding in doing good, which is contagious and produces more momentum.
"Mission:1, in many respects, was a game changer for how we understand and approach local mission."

Operating Budget Update
Many thanks for your ongoing support of Bethany’s operating budget. Without your generous financial gifts we could not heat the building or turn on the lights, and would be hard pressed to even begin to be of service to those in need in our community and the world!
The FY12 approved annual budget compared with the actual income and expense totals for the first four months of the fiscal year are shown on the chart below. From July 1st to October 31st, (33.3% of the fiscal year) we
Received 43.4% of budgeted revenue.
Paid out 36.44% of the projected expenses.
[To see a graph, please see a paper copy.]

Expenses will quickly catch up with revenue in the coming months. Note that our income goal is approximately 104% of our budgeted revenue because the budget approved by the congregation included a deficit of $9,151.00. To date we have closed that gap by $5,425.00.
Finance Committee

Feeding the Hungry
The date for the Bethany Church congregation’s turn to prepare the evening meal for the Good Samaritan Haven Shelter is December 25th. What a blessing to be able to serve in this way on this most “Holy-Day”! The shelter guests will be having a noontime Christmas dinner at Hedding Methodist Church so we will provide a light evening meal. Perhaps soups and sandwiches, salads and desserts would be good. The sign-up sheet can be found in the Parlor following worship every Sunday and on the Outreach bulletin board during the week. Many thanks to everyone who participates in providing wonderful food to those most in need. Christmas Blessings and Happy New Year to all!
Thanks very much!! JudiJoy

Working for Justice
This upcoming Legislative Session VLIAC will be celebrating 40 years of representing the interest of low income Vermonters. The goals of VLIAC are quite simple: VLIAC is committed to empowering the poor to speak for themselves, and to speak for those who cannot. VLIAC believes that it is our responsibility to bring the issues of Poverty and the needs of lower income Vermonters to the forefront of the Legislative agenda.

The Vermont Conference of the United Church of Christ has been a partner and supporter of VLIAC since its inception. A member of the Department of Mission participates on the VLIAC Board, and the Conference helps organize two major events each spring-a day at the Legislature and a legislative dinner. In addition, the Conference gives financial assistance that helps pay the salary of VLIAC's legislative liaison working in the State House.

Karen Lafayette, the current liaison, is available during the summer and fall to visit your church meetings, events or services to let you know about our anti-poverty efforts and the Vermont legislature. Karen is a former state legislator and has served as VLIAC's advocate for 10 years. Her contact information is: 109 Caroline St., Burlington, VT 05401, or (802) 373-3366.

From Bethany's President
I went to sleep asking for an idea about what to write my Dialogue Article about. I woke up at around 3:00AM with this sentence: "Don't let thinking about tomorrow rob you of today". It made me think of another quote of Murray Banks, “The trouble with the future is that it is not what it used to be”.
Nothing more, so that's all I will say.

Too Good To Be True Giving
“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn will break upon us”
Luke 1:78

These words come from the amazing poem known as the Benedictus, the blessing of Zechariah on his surprising gift-son, John (the Baptist). Zechariah is one of those minor characters in the birth narratives of Jesus, often lost in the shuffle of shepherds and magi that populate our Christmas pageants. Yet Zechariah gives us a great gift for Advent: the gift of the skeptic.
When an angel told Zechariah that his middle-aged wife Elizabeth would have a baby, he didn’t believe it. All his life this man had been faithfully serving God; clearly he was a sincere believer. He held onto his faith through the years of their infertility and who knows how many other problems in their lives. But when an angel promises something “too good to be true, “ the skeptic in Zechariah comes out and he rejects the God he has relied on when things have been truly bad.
This Christmas let us be about giving to the world in ways that are too good to be true. Let the skeptics see that love is more powerful than anyone expects it to be. Let us, in the image of God, give of ourselves in life-transforming ways beyond the presents under the tree, just like Zechariah and Elizabeth and John. Nothing about God is ever too good to be true! Merry Christmas.
Stewardship Committee

Some people use this word as an exclamation when things go wrong. Something that is of a low value is said to be not even worth a “hill of beans”. “Bean counters” tend to be disparaged. Mr. Bean is a bumbler. Beans figure prominently in children's humor as a magically/musical fruit.
Some other people use beans as the foundation of their diet. As a source of protein, fiber, flavor, nutrients beans are cheap to buy and easy to grow on a little land. Beans are valuable.
On December 25 Bethany Church will gather all the beans they can. Beans in cans, in bags, in jars. Beans cooked and ready, dry and waiting. Beans in sauce or baked in molasses or re-fried. Black, while, red, green, brown, or spotted. They might be soldiers or navy.
Beans. They are what's for dinner. They are what we are collecting for the Food Pantry on Christmas Day. And if you want to think of them with Child like innocence, remember that their magic includes nutrition and their music can be the songs of heaven that give praise to God and those who feed the hungry.

Join the Youth Group for
Sunday, December 18th – 8:30-9:30 am in the Parlor!
Come for warm, homemade muffins, great coffee, yogurt parfaits,
an oatmeal bar, and artisan bread for toasting.
$5 for full breakfast -
$3 for coffee and a muffin

A GREAT BIG THANK YOU goes out to Amy Papineau for directing "The Life and Times of Moses" on Sunday, November 13th! Thanks also to Mark Pitton for writing the play and to all those who also lent a hand - Steve Frey, Karen Songhurst, Patty Turley, Melitta Maddox, Donna Legare, Stephanie Ratmeyer, Amy Bell, and Kassi Benedict. And of course, thanks to all our Sunday School students who performed brilliantly! It was a memorable Sunday!

What is the UCC Wider Church Ministries
"Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ works with conferences, associations and local congregations to develop relationships with partners nationally and internationally seeking to lift up the needs of our world and uniting in a common mission of service."
WCM joins with the Division of Overseas Missions (DOM) of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), to form the Global Ministries. This organization facilitates all the mission efforts of our two denominations. The Rev. James Moos is Executive Minister of UCC Missions.
Our Vermont Conference UCC has two nationally elected members on the WCM: Dorothy (Dee) Keller and Jennifer Wright. We will be meeting November 11-13, 2011 in Cleveland to look at our mission partnerships in five world regions: Europe and the Middle East (10 nations), Africa (14 nations), East Asia and the Pacific (17 nations), Southern Asia (13 nations), and Latin America and the Caribbean (19 nations).
Wider Church Ministries serves through 160 partnerships in over 80 nations as a presence in times of critical economic, social, environmental, educational, medical, human rights, and spiritual need. In addition, WCM offers each of us many avenues for involvement: child sponsorship programs, youth internships, short and long term volunteer opportunities, personal and group travel or pilgrimages to mission areas, missionary relationships for our churches, disaster response services, appointment for a call to missionary service, and much more. WCM is supported by OCWM and One Great Hour of Sharing. Learn more, join in, and find out the many ways you and your church can work through Wider Church Ministries for worldwide service following the teaching and the way of Jesus Christ.

Bethany Youth Group News
Sunday, December 4 - Meet from 7-8:30 pm in the Youth Room
Come ready to test your Christmas knowledge! We will play Christmas Jeopardy! Come for the fun!
Sunday, December 11 - Meet from 7-8:30 pm in the Parlor
Need a gift to give for Christmas? Amy will bring her beads and you can make a bracelet or necklace to give to someone special! Bring $5 to cover the cost of the beads and supplies.
Sunday, December 18 – Meet at 7:30 am in the kitchen
It is a Christmas Bethany Cup! We will be making some great holiday muffins! You all did a terrific job last month – let's do it again!
Sunday, December 25 and Sunday, January 1st – no youth group!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


San Antonio Grande

Three things have come out of having a Sister Parish in El Salvador:
Love, Friendship, Hope. You can be a part of this.
Every visit made, every story told seems to embrace us in love that seems holy. We share love between our two communities because God first loved us. Friendships are made. Hope springs from the nourishment of love and friendship. Hope has many names, but one name is “Educational Scholarship”.
Before the love and friendship, most residents of San Antonio Grande had little or no schooling. Teachers were not paid by the government. Now there is funding for the early grades. But Bethany's early efforts mean that some students are now at University. The education scholarships that Bethany has provided give new hope to the community's struggle out of their poverty. Myra is in her 11th cycle of Medical School. In 2008 we met Roberto and Oden at Bethany. Oden has graduated from Law School. Roberto will be graduating from business school this year.
The number of students and the final amount needed changes every year. Our love and friendship does not change and our hope for making such a significant transformation in lives does not change. Our financial help will need to be no less.
All gifts can be given to Bethany Church if “San Antonio Scholarships” is listed on the check or envelope. This will be a way to change the world for the better, to nourish hope, and to feel the love of God.

From Mark
Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker composed “Do You Hear What I Hear?” in October 1962 as a plea for peace in the face of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sadly, it is not in either of our hymnals. I really want to sing it.
It has been running through my head for 2 days. I have been leading a Bible Study at the Good Samaritan Haven homeless shelter on Tuesday mornings since August. We finished with the Sermon on the Mount at Thanksgiving. I suggested that we could wait until January to resume, but they wanted to meet in December. So it was the first thing I did when I returned from my Thanksgiving vacation. Kinda nice.
Not wanting to study the Christmas story before Christmas (their wish, not mine – I find the Birth stories boring at any time), I suggested we look at the Servant Songs in Isaiah that Christians have come to see as a description of Jesus. I started by saying that in scripture, a Prophet is not one who fore tells the future. A Prophet speaks for God to the people and speaks for the people to God. A Prophet interprets.
Scholars do not hold to the idea that Prophets were given scrolls to read, or were in trances to simply repeat what God placed in their head. They were inspired. They were inspired by what they heard, saw, and knew. And then they asked people to listen to them. Prophets would say:
“Do you see what I see? The poor and needy seek food and water and there is none!”
“Do you hear what I hear? The needy are turned from justice and the poor are robed of their rights”
“Do you know what I know? Strength of weapons and vehicles of war are trusted more than God.”
Then a Prophet says, “Listen to what I say! God is God. God calls for justice and food for all. God wants peace, not war. We should trust God.”
The people do not always hear (as in 'ignores') what the Prophet says. Sometimes they hear just fine and dislike it (although they know the Prophet is right). Sometimes they interpret the Prophet and think that their interpretation is what the Prophet actually said. And Prophets are sometimes killed. Like John the Baptizer, the voice crying in the Advent wilderness.
The same things happen in a church. Someone says something and it is not heard, or disliked (different from disagreeing with it), or an interpretation is taken as fact. And then feelings and discussions are wounded. This is why active listening lists always tell people to make sure a person heard what the person said before responding. “What you think you heard is not what I think I said” is what happens when this step is missed. The discussion changes to communication clarification.
“Do you hear what I Hear?” was written in fear of death as a plea for peace. Do we hear it as a pretty song? A children's song? A sermon about how everyone who confronts the birth of Jesus must figure out what it means? A Reminder that in human communication it is good to check if others experience the same thing? The work of and pattern of Prophets? A plea for peace?
It can be any and all these. What we hear says as much about us as it does about the speaker. But that is another topic.
May you see Jesus, hear the angels, and know God.