Spring 2020 Prior weeks


Courtesy of Rev. Susan Pfeil

The Day of Pentecost

United Congregational Church, Norwalk, Connecticut

May 31, 2020


(Acts 2:1-21 NRSV; Joel 2:28-32 NRSV)


When the Day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.


Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”


But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:


‘In the last days it will be, God declares,

that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,

   and your sons and your daughters shall


and your young men shall see visions,

   and your old men shall dream dreams.

Even upon my slaves, both men and


in those days I will pour out my Spirit;

   and they shall prophesy.

And I will show portents in the heaven


and signs on the earth below,

   blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

The sun shall be turned to darkness

and the moon to blood,

   before the coming of the Lord’s great

and glorious day.

Then everyone who calls on the name of

   the Lord shall be saved.’ (Acts 2:1-21 NRSV) (Joel 2:28-32 NRSV)



John 20:19-23 (NRSV)

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the

sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:19-23 NRSV)

The Day of Pentecost

“Spirit Poured Out”

Acts 2:1-21 (NRSV)

Rev. Susan M. Pfeil


God’s Spirit Poured Out- Today, if we were together in church, we would wear red. And our paraments would also be red to remind us of the tongues of flame which settled on Jesus’ followers as they received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. We know that the disciples were instructed to remain in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit in the next few days. Jesus said, “…wait there for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4 NRSV). So, 120 believers were gathered in Jerusalem (1:15). And the men and women were praising God. “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers” (1:14). There was a spirit of expectation, of awareness, of longing for a power greater than themselves to accept them and dwell with them since Jesus’ physical presence was no longer with them.


Acceptance— One of the greatest gifts Jesus gave to this diverse group of followers was his loving acceptance of them in all their humanity. Jesus accepted Peter with all his passion (Luke 22:33 NRSV); Thomas with his insistence on touching Jesus’ wounds (John 20:25 NRSV), and his mother and the beloved disciple with their immense grief (19:26-27). On Pentecost the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out for everyone, people of all ages, men and women across the spectrum of human life. God’s abundant acceptance and love need only be received with gratitude and shared with humility.


Shavuot- In the Hebrew tradition Pentecost would have been recognized as the Feast of Weeks, Shavout, when people would bring their first barley harvest into the Temple for consecration (Brown, 283). This year, Shavout was recognized from sundown, Thursday, May 28th - Saturday May 30th. Years ago, a Rabbi friend of mine, Rabbi Emily Korzenik explained how this agricultural festival was also associated with the time when God gave the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai, approximately fifty-eight days after the Passover or Pesach (Korzenik). The festival of Shavuot was the second major pilgrimage holiday for the Hebrew people. The revelation of the Torah to the Hebrew people encamped in the desert at the foot of Mount Sinai has its parallel for Christians in the Day of Pentecost. Just as the gift of Torah brought God’s Presence alive to Jewish people, the Holy Spirit brought about the birth of life energy to the emerging Christian church (Brown, 284).


Tongues, as of Fire— What was the impact of the Day of Pentecost on the followers of Jesus? 120 believers were assembled in Jerusalem. They had followed Jesus’ instructions given before his ascension to “wait there for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4 NRSV). As they waited together in one place, God’s Spirit was announced by a wind that suddenly swept through the entire house where they were worshiping. A divided tongue of fire rested on each of the assembled (2:2-3). The symbols of wind and flame were not a new sign to these believers. It reminded them of the fire and smoke as Moses went up to God on Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. After all, these believers were also in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot! In Jerusalem, no less than at Sinai, these believers felt God’s power in those moments.


Each Their Own Language— And they began to speak in a new way that was heard and understood by many of the visiting pilgrims to Jerusalem. Simple Galileans, followers of Jesus, were heard speaking native languages of visitors from Greece, Rome, parts of Asia, or Egypt (2:7-11). Those speaking foreign languages were not timid in these moments. What was happening? Bystanders made the assumption that these people were drunk! But Peter stood up and said, “Indeed, these are not drunk... for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel” (2:15-16). Apostle Peter was quick to recognize this revelation as the fulfillment of prophecy from the Prophet Joel. Joel had said that there would be a time when God’s Spirit would be given to all people, not just the Israelites. This powerful Spirit would fall upon young and old alike, upon slave and free, men and women together. This time of visions and dreams would also be a time of tremendous upheaval in heaven and on earth and all who called upon God’s name would be saved (2:17- 21). Peter taught the crowd assembled that this energy, which had so filled the 120 people, was none other than the living Spirit of Jesus Christ, both Lord and Messiah, who had just been crucified during the Passover festival a little over 50 days ago (2:36). With the celebration of Pentecost, the life of the Christian Church began. This is the day when the Christian Church was born. Pentecost is a day for celebration. This is a day for being awake and being bold to find ways to use our gifts to be in mission for the needs of our church and needs across the globe.


Given to the Community— The Spirit is not given to an individual but is given to glorify God though individuals working together within the body of Christ. Aesop’s Fable, “A Bundle of Sticks” describes how much stronger individuals are when they relate to one another in community.


The Bundle of Sticks— Aesop’s Fable

An old man on the point of death summoned his sons around him to give them

some parting advice. He ordered his servants to bring in a [bundle] of sticks, and

said to his eldest son: "Break it." The son strained and strained, but with all his efforts was unable to break the bundle. The other sons also tried, but none of them was successful. "Untie the bundle," said the father, "and each of you take a stick." When they had done so, he called out to them: "Now, break," and each stick was easily broken. "You see my meaning," said their father. [“There is strength in unity.”] (Aesop’s Fable)


We can apply the lesson of this fable to serving God as part of a community contrasted with relying only on one’s strength. Relying only on one’s strength can leave us tired, resentful and ultimately, isolated from others. When individuals join together to do God’s work, they will not be broken but will be able to learn from one another and use their best gifts and value the gifts in others as well. So, the coming of the Spirit launches the apostles into an adult faith community of believers who are connected, through the Spirit, not only to each other but with the centuries of tradition that have come before them, and with the promise and fulfillment that lies ahead of them.


Receiving God’s Spirit- The Spirit of God can be received but not be contained or limited by a few. The Spirit has always been with us from the beginning of time across the saving history into the present day. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2 NRSV). The Spirit

brought life at the beginning of time and the Spirit brings life to us today.

The Spirit Alive Today- Where do we see the Spirit alive today? We have been created “in God’s likeness” and have been given “unfathomable freedom” (Alter, 115). How do we receive God’s Spirit and work in the mission with the Holy Spirit? I believe we receive God’s gifts as we continue in covenant with the worshiping community, the church, both local and global. The creativity and energy of the Spirit has drawn people together in record numbers to worship during the social isolation of Covid-19, using Zoom, or streaming, and other aspects of the internet, including email and our own webpage. Sometimes awareness of the larger church at worship helps to strengthen our faith! We get a new perspective of the God who helps us to remember that we are unconditionally “accepted by a power that is greater than [we are]” (Migliore citing Tillich,177). What a blessing such awareness can bring to us. For those of us who may be very competitive, we don’t have to prove ourselves to anyone because we have reached the mark with God through Jesus in whom lies “the basis of our dignity, our worth, our human rights, and our human responsibilities” (Migliore, 177). On this Day of Pentecost may we know we are fully accepted by God, not because of what we have done but because of who God is, and because we are invited to receive God’s love poured out in the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.


Aesop. “The Bundle of Sticks.”

https://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/35/aesops-fables/376/the-bundle-of-sticks. Retrieved May 26,2020

Alter, Robert. The Art of Biblical Narrative. New York: Basic Books, 1981.

Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to The New Testament, New York: Doubleday, 1997.

Korzenik, Rabbi Emily. Conversation May 9, 2008.

Migliori, Daniel L. Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology. Grand

Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991.



Pastoral Prayers for The Day of Pentecost, May 31, 2020


Almighty God,

at the Feast of Pentecost

you sent your Holy Spirit to the disciples,

filling them with joy and boldness

to preach the gospel;

empower us with that same Spirit

to witness to your redeeming love

and draw all people to you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.


(Adapted from Day of Pentecost, Prayer of the Day, Book of Common Worship Presbyterian

                Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1993, p. 339)




Litany for Pentecost: A



Holy Spirit, Creator,

in the beginning you moved over the waters.

From your breath all creation drew life.

Without you, life turns to dust.


Come, Holy Spirit!


Holy Spirit, Counselor,

by your inspiration, the prophets spoke and acted in faith.

You clothed them in power to be bearers of your Word.


Come, Holy Spirit!


Holy Spirit, Power,

you came as fire to Jesus’ disciples;

you gave them voice before the rulers of this world.


Come, Holy Spirit!


Holy Spirit, Sanctifier,

you created us children of God;

you make us the living temple of your presence;

you intercede within us with sighs too deep for words.


Come, Holy Spirit!


Holy Spirit, Giver of life,

you guide and make holy the church you create;

you give gifts—

            the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

            the spirit of counsel and fortitude,

            the spirit of knowledge and piety,

            the spirit of the fear of the Lord,

that the whole creation may become what you want it to be.


Come, Holy Spirit!


True and only Light,

from whom comes every good gift:

Send your Spirit into our lives

With the power of a mighty wind.

Open the horizons of our minds

by the flame of your wisdom.

Loosen our tongues to show your praise,

for only in your Spirit can we voice our words of peace

and acclaim Jesus as Lord. Amen.


(Adapted from Day of Pentecost, Litany for Pentecost A, Book of Common Worship Presbyterian

                Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1993, pp. 340-341)



A Prayer for This Time of Covid-19


Our hearts and minds continue to be thankful for:

our first responders— police officers, fire fighters, EMS teams, chaplains and crisis telephone staff at hospitals, and for all first responder families.

We pray for the scientists and medical experts across our world monitoring the

movement of illness and death related to Covid-19, and for the development of   a vaccine to protect all of us.

We ask discernment for all our leaders at the national and state levels, as they assess

and implement re-entry protocols in our towns and cities.

We ask God’s protection for the safety of families and friends, many of whom have been

separated from us for weeks now, as well as those who live together with us.

And we pray heartfelt condolences for all those whose loved ones have died during this

unprecedented time, asking that the memory of the beloved will remain in our hearts forever.

We pray all this in gratitude in the name of our loving Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.




Charge and Blessing


Go out into the world in peace;

have courage;

hold onto what is good;

return no one evil for evil;

strengthen the fainthearted;

support the weak, and help the suffering;

honor all people;

love and serve the Lord,

rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


(See 1 Corinthians 16:13; 2 Timothy 2:1; Ephesians 6:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:13-22; 1 Peter 2:17)




Courtesy of David Thomas Organist



2. Choral setting by William Harris 1883-1973

Sung by the Girls and Men of Norwich Cathedral Choir









My Heart Ever Faithful from Cantata 68 (for Pentecost) J.S. Bach 1685-1750


Words:  Christiane Mariane von Ziegler (Librettist)

My heart ever faithful, Sing praises, be joyful, Thy Jesus is near;
Away with complaining, Faith ever maintaining, My Jesus is here;
My heart ever faithful, Sing praises, be joyful, Thy Jesus is here!






Seventh Sunday of Easter

Ascension of the Lord, Memorial Day Weekend

United Congregational Church, Norwalk, Connecticut

May 24, 2020


Acts 1:6-14 (NRSV)


When the apostles had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he has said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.


Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. (Acts 1:6-14 NRSV)


John 17:1-11 (NRSV)


After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.


I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am, coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (John 17:1-11 NRSV)

Seventh Sunday of Easter

“Stay, Pray, and Work Together”

Acts 1:6-14 (NRSV); John 17:1-11 (NRSV)

Rev. Susan M. Pfeil


Ascension Day— Just when the disciples had become accustomed to working with Jesus in his resurrected form, he prepared to leave them. All along he had told them that he would leave, but now they realized that he really meant what he said. Just when he had helped them to form their fledging believing community, Jesus ascended into a cloud! If ever there was a time to have separation anxiety, this would be it. “…. [A]s they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). The image of a cloud reminds us of God’s presence in the cloud that came down upon Moses when he climbed Mount Sinai to receive the Torah the second time (Exodus 34:5). Then twelve hundred and eighty years later a cloud descended upon Jesus, Peter, John and James, in the presence of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus was commissioned by God to set his face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:34-35). A message was given on that day by God, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (9:35). Now, three years later, Jesus promised the disciples they would receive power when the Holy Spirit would come upon them (Acts 1:8). And with this new power the disciples would be Jesus’ first “‘witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’” (1:8). So, as the disciples stood together, they witnessed Jesus being “lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight,” (Acts 1:9). I couldn’t help wondering about their immediate reaction to Jesus’ ascension. The reassurance of his physical presence would no longer be available to his disciples. In our time, with social distancing required by the protocols of Covid-19, we value more than ever the energy of physical presence of loved ones. So, we can imagine that the disciples’ inner response to Jesus’ departure could easily have been, “No! No! Jesus, please don’t go— we’re not ready yet!”


Are We Ever Ready? — Are we ever ready to have our metaphorical, spiritual training wheels removed? The disciples were going to have to live by faith in the resurrected Jesus, who had appeared to them repeatedly over the forty days between the Day of Resurrection and this Day of Ascension. Now in only ten more days, on the fiftieth day, Pentecost, the Holy Spirit would come to them. But for now, they had to wait. Waiting for the disciples, and for some of us, can be challenging to say the least. The example of the disciples during this ‘in-between’ time is worthy of notice and has something to teach us during our time of quarantine for Covid-19. So how did they manage? They (1) stayed together, (2) prayed together, and (3) worked together. How do we stand strong during the ‘in-between’ times of our lives? We are in a time of waiting as we follow the protocols of Covid-19 social distancing. What can we learn from the disciples?


(1) Stayed Together— Our text from Acts tells us,

When they entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. (Acts 1:13)


God’s work can only be done by people staying together, even if we are not literally in the same room. The Internet has brought us multiple ways to connect with others. Our ministries depend on a network of people all contributing their unique gifts at the proper time. We are now aware more than ever of how dependent we are on countless people’s efforts to get through a single day. And if we are part of a faith community, we are linked not only by love and care for one another, but by remembering that God cares for us, just as we care for others. When we are networked together through heart and mind, we are much stronger as we go through challenging times, especially times when we have to wait for something to unfold or someone to help us complete a project.


(2) Prayed Together— Our text also reminds us, “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer…” (1:14). What happens when we pray, but when prayer is hard? Prayer is hard when we perceive ourselves as ‘all alone.’ Author Bradley E. Schmeling, wrote the following when he was a pastoral staff member at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. The following reflection is about a young confirmand’s struggle with loneliness while seeking the presence of Christ.

Recently a confirmand sat in my office and said that he just couldn’t feel anything. He wanted to feel Jesus. He wanted to know Christ was really alive. Instead, he said, “I just sit in church and feel alone.”

I wanted to assure him that he wasn’t alone, that we were with him, that the ascended and reigning Christ held his future. Yet something about our conversation made me know that it wouldn’t be the right answer to jump to the end of Matthew, with its promise of Jesus’ presence to the end of the age. All I could muster was, “Sometimes it’s like that.” I suspect it was an extraordinarily unsatisfying answer.


Maybe the ascension teaches us to trust these moments, these spaces between experiences, as the place where new history is possible. (Schmeling, 20)


We are living though a time “where new history is possible” as each day brings an awareness of how to manage through these challenging times. We have had to admit that we don’t have all the answers by ourselves, but together we are allowing ourselves to open up and ask for different kinds of help. This is a difficult time of waiting through uncertainty, and it is easy to “feel alone” and perceive that God is not there for us. Could it be possible that if we don’t give up, like the confirmand in the illustration above, and remain committed together through prayer in our individual home worship, we, like the disciples, would actually grow stronger as believers? We might acquire a new resiliency that comes only from times of testing. Remember, the disciples were worshiping at home, not in a church!


(3) Worked Together— Because the disciples had studied with Jesus for three years, they

knew now his promises could be trusted. Trusting Jesus enabled them to work together

in community. They were now aware that they were able to believe in the strength of Jesus’ teachings. They believed they would receive power from the Holy Spirit and would be strengthened to work and witness together for God across the ancient world. Most important Jesus had shaped these disciples from being learners, who had at one time, betrayed, doubted, and abandoned Jesus. Now three years later, these same disciples were transformed into apostles and directed for vital leadership roles ahead. They would soon receive the power of the Holy Spirit and would become committed to working together to carry a message of God’s goodness. As God’s witnesses to people who had different languages, customs and lifestyles from their own, they would make personal sacrifices of their own needs for the needs of others. They believed strongly in the gifts that Jesus’ promised them. When the Day of Pentecost would arrive, Peter would become an extraordinary leader and creatively link the prophecies of the Prophet Joel with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit “upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17).


Zoom— As we stay together, pray together, and work together from a distance, learning curves are everywhere! Zoom meetings have taken practice but now it is normal for us to have Zoom meetings instead of face to face meetings. Remembering to wear masks and gloves takes a certain kind of mindfulness, since it is easy to forget to do both. Thanks to a collective effort from our church, where our communal prayer life used to be, now we settle into home worship for our Sunday liturgy. And, like the disciples, who also had to worship at home, now we are learning to make the best use possible of our worship offerings. We are changing every day in ways that are visible and not visible. The disciples’ attitude after Jesus’ departure illustrates that they could continue as a close-knit faith community. They are such a good example for us.


Deeper Gratitude— Some have said we are in a honeymoon phase as parts of our society are intending to reopen across the country. Other segments of our society have to wait longer to reopen in order to remain safe. But our prayer life does not need to remain ‘shuttered’ through all of this. Admittedly, we have all felt like the psalmist lamenting, “How long, O Lord? Will you/ forget me forever? / How long will you hide your / face from me?” (Psalm 13:1 NRSV). On some days we may convey out of frustration that we don’t care anymore and give up taking care of ourselves. Or, the opposite may have happened! Rather than moving away from our faith practices, we may have gained a new awareness that has deepened our best habits. My prayer for all of us is that we will continue to maintain healthy, spiritual coping patterns and our faith will have grown deeper through them. We have noticed that we have slowed down for the first time in a long time. We may have begun to have a new gratitude for all those around us, who may have been invisible before, like the many workers who keep our grocery shelves stocked, or the drivers of trucks who bring us our food supplies across the nation. What would we do without the mail carriers bringing us letters and needed items from Amazon! And some like my daughter, who have been home schooling their children, have a much deeper appreciation for the work of teachers, whose classrooms have had to be replicated for the last ten weeks. My daughter said recently, “Mom, I can’t keep up with the third-grade workload! And I don’t understand the way they do the math. I have to get David to help with the science and history!”

Transformed and Transforming— How does this affect us today in these times when we are social distancing and not worshipping in our churches? How do we continue to believe the promises of Jesus, especially when our religious landscape is in this state of transition? Small churches, big churches, suburban churches, urban churches, multicultural churches, have been closed, due to the recommendations from state and national leaders to protect against the contagious nature of Covid-19. In this ‘in-between’ time, we are still faithful to continue to worship together at home and we believe that God will give us the power we need to be God’s witness. And we are transforming others by how we live our lives and treat each other. The world was changed when Christianity was spread across the ancient world by a small group of people about the size of our worshiping community. I believe each of us has the capacity to turn lives around by how we live each day, one day-at-a- time. By allowing ourselves to stay together, pray together, and work together, right now from a distance, we will receive the power to get through each day and our prayer life and spiritual practice will once again occupy the sanctuary we know so well. “Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish [us]” (1 Peter 5:10). And let us pray that discouragement and hopelessness will have no place there. Amen.


Schmeling, Bradley E. “Living by the Word” Sunday June 1 (Ascension) Acts 1:1-11. The Christian

Century, Vol. 131, (11), May 28, 2014.




Pastoral Prayers for The Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 24, 2020


O God of majesty

you led the Messiah through suffering into risen life,

and took him up to the glory of heaven.

Clothe us with your power

promised from on high,

and send us forth to the ends of the earth

as heralds of repentance

and witnesses of Jesus Christ, firstborn from the dead,

who lives with you now and always in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

One God, forever and ever. Amen.


(Adapted from the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Prayer of the Day, Book of Common Worship

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1993, p. 332)



A Prayer for Memorial Day


Almighty God, before whom stand the living and the dead,

   we your children, whose mortal life is but a hand’s breadth,

   give thanks to you:

For all those through whom you have blessed our pilgrimage,

   whose lives that have empowered us,

   whose influence is a healing grace,

We lift up thankful hearts.

For the dear friends and family members,

   whose faces we see no more, but whose love is with us forever,

We lift up thankful hearts.

For the teachers and companions of our childhood and youth,

   and for the members of our household of faith

   who worship you now in heaven,

We lift up thankful hearts.

For those who sacrificed themselves,

   our brothers and sisters who have given their lives

   for the sake of others

We lift up thankful hearts.

That we may hold them all in continual remembrance,

   and ever think of them as with you,

   in that city whose gates are not shut by day,

   and where there is no night

We lift up thankful hearts.

That we may now be dedicated to working for a world

   where labor is rewarded, fear dispelled, and the nations made one,

O Lord, save your people and bless your heritage.

Day by day we magnify you,

   and worship your name, for ever and ever. Amen.


(Special Sundays and Other Special Days, Memorial Day, John Hunter, Scotland, 20th

century, The United Methodist Book of Worship, Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1998. 440-441)


May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord be kind and gracious to you.

May the Lord look upon you with favor

And give you peace. Amen. (Adapted from Numbers 6:24-26)


Courtesy of David Thomas Organist





I heard the voice of Jesus say


Melody by Thomas Tallis   c.1505-1585

Text: Horatius Bonar (1846)








Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Ralph Vaughan Williams         1872-1958    




About Thomas Tallis







Daniel Roth

Titular Organist Saint Sulpice, Paris

(live-streamed earlier this week)


After introductory remarks the recital begins at 6:40 in the bar at the bottom of the screen.






Sixth Sunday of Easter

United Congregational Church, Norwalk, Connecticut

May 17, 2020




Acts 17:22-31 (NRSV)


Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,

‘For we too are his offspring.’

Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17: 22-31 NRSV)



John 14:15-21 (NRSV)


[Jesus said] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have the commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” (John 14:15-21 NRSV)






Sixth Sunday of Easter

“Witness for God”

Acts 17:22-31 (NRSV)John 14:15-21 (NRSV)

Rev. Susan M. Pfeil

Apostle Paul, World Traveler- “The second half of Acts now becomes almost exclusively the story of Paul… We hear of a wide range of travel that will twice bring Paul as far as Corinth in Greece and cover the years AD 50-58” (Brown, 309). In these days when we are confined to our houses, with changed travel plans for late spring and summer, it is intriguing to think of the Apostle Paul as a world traveler when he traveled the ancient world in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. Imagine how he went from Antioch across Asia Minor to Greece and back again with the primitive travel means of the ancient world. If we follow just one of his missionary journeys during the years 50-58 CE, he went across Turkey in Asia Minor, beginning in Antioch, and went west to Ephesus near the island of Samos. Then he traveled, probably by sea, northwest across the Aegean Sea to Macedonia, the northern part of the Greek peninsula. There he went to Philippi, then south to Thessalonica, and down to Athens, then west to Corinth and then back to Antioch! (Acts 15:36- 18:22) (Brown, 309). This travel would be with any combination of means, sea and overland, and would not have modern airports and superhighways.


Lyric Beauty— How did Apostle Paul manage to achieve the lyric beauty of his witness under the travel conditions of his time? It takes all my energy just to fly from LaGuardia to Cincinnati on American Airlines under normal circumstances. The Apostle traveled and as he did this, he wrote and witnessed for God. This eight-year period was “the most creative time of Paul’s life” (309). We will be thinking about his sermon on Mars hill (translation King James Version), Areopagus (NRSV) and you could argue that this sermon was an important ‘marketing sermon,’ though commentaries point out that this sermon was somewhat of a failure since it did not generate any riots or persecution nor was the Apostle arrested and put in prison as he was in Philippi (16:16-40). But the sermon had a time dependent effect and it was as a seed planted along the way of the Apostle’s missionary journeys. What made this sermon an important ‘marketing sermon’ and relevant for us today?


Apostle Paul, Marketing Consultant- “To sell them you must know them” was the slogan

of the Cincinnati advertising agency in which my father worked for many years. Apostle

Paul knew his audience and as he spoke to the Athenians, first affirmed them and then tried to plant a seed with them. Apostle Paul adopted, what commentary writer Raymond Brown calls, “a cultured approach,” with “philosophical and poetic quotations” (Brown, 311) to identify that he was confidently aware of the town and spirit of the place, Athens. Depending on the translation we use he demonstrated a remarkable rhetorical skill by affirming his audience before attempting to witness to them about God. Listen for Paul’s approach.

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious (NRSV) [‘superstitious’ (KJV)] you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully [‘beheld’ (KJV)] at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown (NRSV) [‘Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship’ (KJV)], this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.” (Acts 17:22-25 NRSV)


Success or Failure? What was the crowd’s reaction to this sermon? Convert them he did not do. In fact, it was the opposite. You could say the sermon was flop (Macgregor, 231). And I have always been interested in why Apostle Paul’s Mars hill sermon, a sermon to a pagan audience in Athens, is considered to have had little effect on his hearers of that day. “There was no persecution, and no strong church was established” (236). Paul’s message was heard that day as one more fashionable, intellectual idea for that season. I think to have had no reaction to this sermon is puzzling, but not if we remember that Apostle Paul was just not taken seriously by his listeners. Apostle Paul, as one of God’s offspring, and thus a spiritual brother to Jesus, was a compassionate messenger for God. Apostle Paul’s ministry shows us that he cared deeply about his mission, even when he was not taken seriously by others. With his conversion to preach the compassion of God in Christ crucified, Paul was an unstoppable evangelist.


Witness for God- Like Apostle Paul we are called to be faithful to spread God’s Word by virtue of our baptisms. We all are all called to be witnesses for God. Sometimes carrying that message feels difficult or unproductive, hard and unrewarding, but we are not called to judge the effectiveness of our ministries. We are called to be faithful, and not to worry about being effective. Apostle Paul was faithful, and this is another aspect of what the passage helps us to remember. How do we witness for God? My experience of witnessing for God is that it is often the simplest things that may make the most profound impression. One writer expresses this truth in the following way.

The simplest acts of kindness can have such a powerful impact. Some years ago, I was trying to work my way through college selling children’s books door to door in Florida. One particularly blistering day nothing seemed to go right. I had knocked on every door for blocks without a single answer; I was hot, tired, and hungry, and felt like a total failure. I wanted nothing more than to quit my job and run home to the Midwest. I wasn’t even thinking about selling books- I just wanted a glass of water and a place to rest for a few minutes. I looked down the street at a small white house and was drawn toward it. I had barely knocked on the door when an older woman opened it and immediately asked me in. She gave me a drink and invited me to share a meal with her and her husband. It was obvious that they did not have much money.

            During the two hours I was there, the woman and her husband shared stories of the hardships and experiences in their lives and told me that it was very important to always love and care deeply about others- even strangers. As I left, the man gave me money and said he just wanted to help me out and that he had no need for my books. As I walked back down the street I broke into tears and sobbed for blocks. These people who at first seemed to have so little had given me more than I could ever have asked for. (More Random Acts of Kindness, 117-118)


Jesus, Keeper of God’s Commandments- In our Gospel for today, Jesus reminded his

listeners that the way to witness for God is by keeping God’s commandments. In Jesus’ Last Discourses to his disciples he says,

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” (John 14:15-21 NRSV).


Each of us may have unique ways of witnessing for God. No two of us will witness in the same way. But if we are confident in our faith, we will be natural, authentic, and persuasive with all to whom we speak. As we move toward the eve of Pentecost with Ascension Sunday next week, let us remember these wonderful words, “In him we live and move and have our being…For we too are his offspring” (Acts 17:28). Amen.


Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to The New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997.

Macgregor, G. H. C. The Acts of The Apostles Introduction and Exegesis. The Interpreter’s Bible

Volume 9. New York: Abingdon Press, 1954.

More Random Acts of Kindness. The Editors of Conrai Press. Berkeley, CA: Conrai Press, 1994.




Pastoral Prayers for The Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2020


O God,

you have prepared for those who love you

Joys beyond understanding.

Pour into our hearts such love for you,

that, loving you above all else,

we may obtain your promises,

which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever. Amen.


(Adapted from the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Prayer of the Day, Book of Common Worship

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1993, p. 331)


Oh God, you send your Spirit to dwell with us always;

make us conscious of your presence.

May all nations and peoples recognize the gifts of your Spirit;

            that our world might live in peace and harmony.

Through the gift of your Spirit, you [enable] us all to hear [what we need for each of our


give us a listening heart that we may hear the [cries from] the hearts of others and [be moved with compassion.]

Your Spirit, O God, comes in silence and thunder;

            open our hearts and the heart of the world that we may receive you in all your



Oh God, we praise you in the resurrection of Jesus, sign of victory over death. As we endeavor to live the message and mystery of his life, grant us the grace to remain faithful to you. Let us rise from our [times of ingratitude and self-centeredness] and let our lives bear witness to our union with you. Grant this through Jesus who lives with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit for all eternity. Amen.


(Adapted from ‘Morning Prayer, Sixth Sunday of Easter,’ People’s Companion to the Breviary Vol.

II. Indianapolis, IN: Carmelite Monastery, the Carmelites of Indianapolis, Second Printing, 1997.)


Let us remember all who are serving on the front lines of health and healing during the pandemic:

First Responders; Crisis Call Receivers; Doctors and Nurses; Scientists working on

a vaccine to protect us from the consequences of Covid-19; Chaplains; Leaders in our local communities monitoring the wearing of masks and helping to keep us informed with updates from across the country. For all these and more, we give thanks and pray for their ministries.



And we give thanks for all the lifecycle passages of our lives: birth and baptism, for engagements, weddings and anniversaries, for reunions, reconciliations and celebrations of all kinds, and for the memories of our dear departed ones, may we keep memories of their lives fresh in our hearts. Amen.




The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,

the love of God,

and the communion of the Holy Spirit

be with all of you.

Alleluia! Amen. (2 Corinthians 13:13 NRSV)




UCC – MUSIC FOR EASTER VI              





Christ is made the sure foundation

(Tune: Westminster Abbey) Henry Purcell c. 1659-1695






If ye love me – Thomas Tallis (born c. 1505, Kent? —died November 20 or 23, 1585, Greenwich, London), one of the most important English composers of sacred music before William Byrd.




Laudate Dominum (Praise the Lord) Psalm 117

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart   1756-1791



Text and translation

Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes; laudate eum, omnes populi.
Praise our Lord, all ye Gentiles; praise him, all ye people:


Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus, et veritas Domini manet in aeternum.

Because his mercy is confirmed upon us, and his truth remaineth for ever.




Easter Oratory – Johann Sebastian Bach

Netherlands Bach Society








Fifth Sunday of Easter

Mother’s Day, May 10, 2020

United Congregational Church, Norwalk, Connecticut



Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 (adapted from the Book of Common Prayer)


1. In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in

     your righteousness.

2. Incline your ear to me; make haste to deliver me.

3. Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold;

   for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.

4. Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me, for you are my tower of


5. Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of



15. My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from

       those who persecute me.

16. Make your face to shine upon your servant, and in your loving kindness save me.


Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 (adapted from the Book of Common Prayer)




John 14:1-14 (NRSV)


[Jesus told his disciples,] “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”


Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” (John 14:1-14 NRSV)


Fifth Sunday of Easter

Mother’s Day, May 10, 2020

Rev. Susan M. Pfeil


“A Place for Us”


The Kissing Hand— On this Mother’s Day Sunday, I could not resist beginning our reflection with a story about a very wise mother, a mother racoon, from a beautiful book for children and adults alike, The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn. Some of you may have read it to your grandchildren. The story is about Chester Raccoon who does not want to leave his mother to go to school. Mrs. Raccoon explained to Chester, “Sometimes we all have to do things we don’t want to do… Even if they seem strange and scary at first. But you will love school once you start” (Penn). Chester Raccoon was reminded by his mother that he would do many new things and make new friends at school. His mother then taught him, “A very old secret,” that she had learned from her mother and the secret was “called the Kissing Hand” (Penn). The mother raccoon “took Chester’s left hand and spread open his tiny fingers into a fan. Leaning forward, she kissed Chester right in the middle of his palm” (Penn). Then Mrs. Raccoon “took Chester’s hand and carefully wrapped his fingers around the kiss,” and assured Chester that when he used his hand to “wash [his] food, [she promised] the kiss [would] stick” (Penn). Chester soon learned that he always had the mother’s presence with him, “wherever he went. Even to school” (Penn). When the time came to go to school Chester “looked thoughtful” but he surprised his mother when he said, “Give me your hand,” and when she did, he “unfolded her large, familiar fingers into a fan… and kissed the center of her hand” (Penn). Chester could remember the affection of the kiss from his mother, and his mother was filled with “the warmth of Chester’s kiss” (Penn).


Jesus gives us a “kissing hand” in his wonderful Spirit who will accompany us always. Before he ascends to his Father, recognized in two weeks on Ascension Sunday, he will give us promises that will be for our benefit. Here is one of them,


“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)


The Farewell Discourse— May we hold these words in the palm of our hand as we reflect on Jesus’ extensive Farewell Discourse in the upper room in Jerusalem (John 13-17). This collection of teachings was intended to prepare the disciples for Jesus’ final week in the city before he was arrested, condemned to death and crucified. Jesus wanted to give his followers the consolation of knowing that he would still be with them, though in a different form. He wanted them to recognize before his death that “the disciples’ faith [would conquer] the world by uniting them to Jesus who had conquered the world” [through his death] (Brown, 624). As Jesus taught them, he knew that the group to whom he was speaking, would remember and connect Jesus’ words with another farewell discourse. The Book of Deuteronomy is focused on Moses’ farewell discourse to the Israelites in the wilderness. They had survived slavery in Egypt and had an amazing exodus into the wilderness across the miraculous, dry bed of the Red Sea. Moses would not live long enough to enter the promised land, but he would review God’s teachings, the Torah, that defined God’s law, and he would emphasize what was expected of God’s people within this unique covenant relationship. Moses reminded the people of God’s dependability and power over insurmountable odds. In the first of thirty-four chapters Moses affirms this process.


The Lord your God, who goes before you, is the one who will fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your very eyes, and in the wilderness, where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as one carries a child, all the way that you traveled until you reached this place.” (Deuteronomy 1:30-31)


So, what was the place that Jesus promised? What promised land would this be for the disciples and for us? We could interpret this as a place at the communion table where all may eat together. We might interpret this place as a heavenly place in eternal life. The place might also be in the hearts of believers where the Holy Spirit would dwell. “Jesus’ return after the resurrection would be for the purpose of taking the disciples into union with himself and with the Father… his body is his Father’s house; and wherever the glorified Jesus is, there is the Father” (Brown, 627). So, another “place” for us is the body of Christ called the church where we have the Holy Spirit holding us together like a magnet.


“The Way, and the Truth, and the Life”— The place Jesus prepared for his disciples and for us was not static but was described in symbolic images. He described himself, “I am the gate for the sheep” (John 10:7), and “I am the good shepherd” (10:11). And in our lives, we know the place Jesus describes for us is better understood as a relationship with him into which we will grow, evolve and will be challenged. And the challenge is often felt in our familiar lifecycle stages. Life can be understood as a series of attachments and separations from birth to death. Jesus was teaching the disciples that he would soon be available to them in a different way than they were used to knowing him. He was to prepare a place for them in their hearts which would be guided by his Holy Spirit, not so different than the mother racoon, preparing her baby, Chester Racoon, who had to go out into the world to school in the wonderful story, “The Kissing Hand.”


“Somewhere”— In conclusion, as I think about the idea of Jesus preparing a place, a sacred space for us, there is the well-loved song about finding a safe place, “Somewhere” from West Side Story. Most of us will remember the love duet, that Tony and Maria sing in the hope of someday finding a place free of violence and prejudice where all people will be valued and accepted. The words are always fresh and new. I will end with them.


There’s a place for us

            Somewhere a place for us

            Peace and quiet and open air

            Wait for us



            There’s a time for us

            Some day a time for us

Time together with time to spare

Time to learn, time to care


Some day


We’ll find a new way of living

We’ll find a way of forgiving



There’s a place for us

A time and place for us

Hold my hand and we’re half way there

Hold my hand and I’ll take you there



Some day

Somewhere. (Sondheim). Amen.


Brown, Raymond E. Introduction, Translation, and Notes. The Gospel According to John XIII-XXI, The

Anchor Bible, Vol. 29A. New York: The Anchor Bible Doubleday, 1970.

Penn, Audrey. The Kissing Hand. Terre Haute, IN: Tanglewood Press, 2006.

Sondheim, Stephan. “Somewhere.” West Side Story. September 26, 1957.




Pastoral Prayer for The Fifth Sunday of Easter, Mother’s Day, May 10, 2020


Almighty God,

your Son Jesus Christ

is the way, the truth, and the life.

Give us grace to love one another,

to follow in the way of his commandments,

and to share his risen life;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  


(Adapted from the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Prayer of the Day, Book of Common Worship

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1993, p. 329)


O God, you are one—and all your works are holy. Who can fathom your wondrous love? Through Jesus, you call us to life and count our love for each other as love given to you. Oh God, in your infinite wisdom, in Jesus you have come to share our human condition. We give you thanks for our mothers and those who care for us with kindness and compassion over the course of our lives.


We praise and thank you for your healing touch during this time of Covid-19. We lift our prayers in humility and confidence knowing that you do hear our thanks for your presence, especially with the sick and dying, and for those gifted caregivers, doctors and nurses, and others, who faithfully minister to the most vulnerable, during the Covid-19 pandemic across the world.


We pray for scientists, medical teams and those who are working toward the research and development of a vaccine against Covid-19 to help protect us from becoming ill.


We pray for all first responders: crisis call operators, firefighters, police officers, EMS teams, chaplains, the National Guard, and all who provide safety equipment and medications for those in crisis at this time.


We pray for those who are marginalized and who suffer from food insecurity, and lack safe places to live; may you hear the cries of their hearts, especially from the children.


We pray for all our service men and women overseas, and for their families here and elsewhere, we keep a vigil of prayer for those who faithfully serve our country.


We pray for our veterans, especially for those, last Friday, May 8,th who recognized the 75th anniversary of the ending of World War II in Europe.

And we give thanks for all the lifecycle passages of our lives: birth and baptism, for engagements, weddings and anniversaries, for reunions, reconciliations and celebrations of all kinds, and for the memories of our dear departed ones, may we keep memories of their lives fresh in our hearts. Amen.




This unique prayer/poem, “Standing at the Edge,” was written in the middle of Holy Week, April 8, 2020, by a friend of mine. Her imagery captures the profound impact of Covid-19 upon all of us, while simultaneously reminding us that, as “we care for [ourselves and] each other,” we are held in the hand of our mother Universe, “who wants us to grow.”


“Standing at the Edge”

Reprinted with permission by Kai Carol Jud


Standing at the edge,

gone is the path to yesterday,

to that illusive place

we called normal,

that place where we thought we knew,

where days followed days

in an orderly progression

in a world we called home,

forever gone


Standing at the edge,

there’s no going back,


by a tiny bug that isn’t even alive,

that takes over our bodies

so that it can live,

leaving us in fear,

leaving us at the crossroads

       at a standstill


Standing at the edge,

we listen.

They call it Corona,

Corona — The Crown.

Could it be

that this is the moment,

the time we’ve been waiting for,

when we open to wisdom from above,



Standing at the edge,

we can see

one people, one planet

breathing the same air

walking on the same Mother Earth,

no boundaries can separate us,

not race, gender, class or nationality.

We are in this together.

Are we ready


Standing at the edge,

we are being called

Into a new world,

A world where in loving ourselves

we care for each other

Where slowing down

is good

And we begin to remember

what is important


Standing at the edge

the message is clear.

We are one,

each person, animal, tree and rock

a part of this elegant creation,

everything locked into everything else,

together dancing life into being.

Can we open our eyes

And see?


Standing at the edge,

loved by the Universe

who wants us to grow.

Like a good mother

she has shown us.

But, know it well.

If we do not listen

with love, she will speak louder and louder

until finally we wake up


Reprinted with permission by Kai Carol Jud


UCC – Music for Easter V, 2020



What wondrous love is this      (Southern Harmony)


Jesu, joy of man's desirng          Johann S. Bach   1685-1750



Voices of Ascension - Voices of Connection

The Church of the Ascension (Episcopal), 12 West 11th Street , NYC

hosts an independent, self-sustaining choral group of professional

singers under the direction of Dennis Keene. They are truly one of

the finest choral ensembles in our country.


Because we are not able to gather to share a live musical moments,

Mr. Keene has created what he calls Voices of Connection. Drawing

from recordings of choral works sung through the years by his choir,

he offers us an online library of varied beautiful music. You can gain

access through the link below and then click on whatever you would

like to hear. You can also sign up to receive one new selection sent to

your email each day (a rare, positive thing to which you can actually

look forward.)


I hope you will enjoy hearing the wide variety of choral offerings this

sharing affords. – David










Fourth Sunday of Easter


Good Shepherd Sunday


United Congregational Church, Norwalk, Connecticut


May 3, 2020




Psalm 23 (adapted from the King James Version)




1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.


2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.


3. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s




4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:


   for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.


5. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:


     thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.


6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:


     and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.




Psalm 23 (adapted from the King James Version)








John 10:1-10 (NRSV)




Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the sound of the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.




So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:1-10 NRSV)








Fourth Sunday of Easter


Good Shepherd Sunday


May 3, 2020


Rev. Susan M. Pfeil




“Sheep and Shepherds”




Good Shepherd Sunday— The Fourth Sunday of Easter, is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday, identified by readings from The Gospel According to John 10: 1-42. The whole chapter is known as the “Good Shepherd Discourse,” and “alludes to biblical shepherds such as Moses (Ex 3:1); David (e.g., 2 Samuel 5.2), and God (Ps 23)” (Reinhartz, 178). Two of our readings for today, the Twenty-Third Psalm and John 10:1-10 focus on the theme of the shepherd being trustworthy. In the Twenty-Third Psalm, the shepherd is God. This Psalm is believed to have been written by Israel’s King David c. 1000- 961 BCE after he had had many tests and trials. In our Gospel lesson, The Gospel According to John 10:1-10, Jesus is understood to be both the gate and the shepherd. This Gospel was written at the end of the first century CE. Both writings describe the comings and goings of sheep in Palestine. The image of the shepherd and the sheep was a poignant one for readers of both texts since the scenes described were familiar in everyday life. And, actually, they are especially meaningful for us today as we wait daily to hear from our contemporary shepherds about next steps for stopping the spread of the deadly virus, Covid-19.




Sheep in Judea— With all the rain we have had it is hard to imagine the dry, Judean landscape in which sheep and shepherds must make their lives. Sheep, according to Charles L. Allen, begin to graze around 4:00 AM and walk as they feed, so that by 10:00 o’clock in the morning, when the sun rises, they get hot and tired not to mention thirsty (Allen, 18). Because sheep must not drink water in the heat, and particularly not when they have undigested the grass in their bellies, they must lie down, somewhere cool so they can digest their cud (19). Sheep normally do not eat lying down, so they metabolize their food when they are lying down. Sheep will not drink from moving water because sheep fear being pulled into the water, as their wool is heavy when it is wet, and the sheep could easily drown (20). Sheep do not have good eyesight so the shepherd must guide them as they also lack a sense of direction (24). Walking in the valleys where the paths are dangerous and steep, shepherds must take great care walking with their sheep in the narrow pathways. Sheep may be attacked by wild beasts or slip and fall from their paths. So, the shepherd will carry the rod to defend the sheep and also the staff that enables the shepherd to “place the crook over the small chest of the sheep and lift it back onto the pathway” (28-29). Sheep may injure their noses by being scratched by thorns and briars when they graze, so the shepherd will put oil on these wounds at the end of the day (32). The shepherd also has a large jar of water and will give the sheep water from a bowl or cup dipped into the water (32).




Charles L. Allen tells a wonderful story about knowing the shepherd.




There is a story— I do not know its source— of an old man and a young man


on the same platform before a vast audience of people.




A special program was being presented. As part of the program each was to repeat from memory the words of the Twenty-Third Psalm. The young man, trained in the best speech technique and drama, gave, in the language of the ancient silver-tongued orator, the words of the Psalm.




“The Lord is my shepherd…” When he had finished, the audience clapped their hands and cheered, asking him for an encore so that they might hear again his wonderful voice.




Then the old gentleman, leaning heavily on his cane, stepped to the front of the same platform, and in a feeble, shaking voice, repeated the same words—


“The Lord is my shepherd…”




But when he was seated no sound came from the listeners. Folks seemed to pray. In the silence the young man stood to make the following statement:




“Friends,” he said, “I wish to make an explanation. You asked me to come back and repeat the Psalm, but you remained silent when my friend here was seated. The difference? I shall tell you. I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd!” (38)






Timeless and Poignant— Invariably, I will be asked to pray with our parishioners who are homebound, or in medical facilities, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Twenty-Third Psalm. Often when we pray any one of these beautiful prayers, even when the contact is only by phone, as is the case now, there may be a television blaring in the space next to our parishioner’s bed, or some kind of noisy distraction. I am always amazed at how these prayers, in particular the Twenty-Third Psalm, with its steady rhythm and images, will hold the attention of the person with whom I am praying. There is something almost mystical about the way the images are juxtaposed. The Psalm is timeless and poignant.




Gates and Shepherds— How do sheep know if they are going to be safe with their shepherd? Jesus used this image as he taught those around him, including some religious leaders in the audience.




[Jesus said] …“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:3-5)




For the followers of Jesus at the end of the first century CE., much was a stake. Various false prophets had made claims that appealed to the need for a change that was so desired by believers who formed the unique Johannine community. But Jesus warned them to be vigilant, and by using the images of “gatekeeper,” for God, and “gate,” for Jesus, the writer was applying familiar images to clarify the theological message of the reliability of Jesus over against those who were “strangers” to the sheep.




Our Shepherds— Who are the shepherds leading us through the labyrinth of a new lifestyle during Covid-19? Who are the trustworthy shepherds we must listen to in order to stay informed and safe? Our shepherds in this church include all of our own congregation who make decisions about what will be our next steps moving forward. I want to recognize our Deacons and our Council members who have been working remotely to anticipate our needs, not to mention the Finance Committee that keeps the building up to date on all its bills. We have shepherds, like Barbara Hoffman who, in addition to being Moderator of the Council, is able to email information to the congregation in her weekly letters, send out our worship offerings, and mail material to those without Internet access. Roger Wechter is another communications shepherd posting our materials on the church website. Without the skills of shepherd, David Thomas, we would not have links for the richness of world-famous choirs singing our favorite anthems and hymns, and other musical treasures appropriate for home worship.


And we have shepherds who take care of our church building and grounds from the property committee. I am indebted to all the shepherds in our church! In addition, some of my shepherds have included speakers in the weekly Bridge Conference Ministers’ Thursday Zoom meetings of our Southern New England Conference United Church of Christ. These gatherings have provided valuable content given by wise and experienced clergy to help all of us. And our own, The Rev. Michael Ciba, welcomes clergy to participate in his weekly Zoom meetings, where we can ask questions and discuss ideas about how to support our congregations as well as ourselves during these challenging times. And all of us are guided by Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who invites us to stay close to him so that we will ‘“have life, and have it abundantly’” (John 10:10). Amen.






Allen, Charles L. God’s Psychiatry. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Spire Books, Fleming H. Revell Co.,




Reinhartz, Adele. “Introduction and Commentary, The Gospel According to John,” The Jewish


Annotated New Testament, New Revised Standard Version. Levine, Amy-Jill, & Brettler, Marc Zvi, (Eds.). New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.










Pastoral Prayer for The Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, May 3, 2020




Almighty God,


you sent Jesus, our good shepherd,


to gather us together.


May we not wander from his flock,


but follow wherever he leads us,


listening for his voice and staying near him,


until we are safely in your fold,


to live with you forever;


through Jesus Christ our Lord,


who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,


one God, now and forever.  




(Adapted from the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Prayer of the Day, Book of Common Worship


Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1993, p. 328)






V-E Day— Seventy-five years ago, May 8, this coming Friday, we will recognize V-E Day, remembering May 8, 1945, and the date the Second World War ended in Europe. This is a date on which we remember the inestimable contribution made by thousands of dedicated men and women in our country and in Europe, who fought faithfully and successfully to end the devastation of Hitler’s Nazi regime. And let us also remember all who currently serve in our military forces, including the National Guard.




For Those in the Military and Veterans




Righteous God, you rule the nations.


Guard brave men and women


who [risked] themselves in battle for their country [at one time, and who do so now.]


Give them compassion for enemies


who also fight for patriotic causes.


Keep our sons and daughters from hate that hardens,


or from scorekeeping with human lives.


[When] they must be at war,


let them live for peace,


as eager for agreement as for victory.


[Comfort and stabilize those who had traumatic responses to unbearable scenes].


Encourage them, [whether as veterans, or in active service to support] one another,


and never let hard duty, [or the memories of past wars] separate them


from loyalty to your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.


(Adapted from “Prayers for National Life,” Book of Common Worship Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),


Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1993, p. 818)




For First Responders Across Our Nation




Gracious God, we give thanks for all our first responders,


for their vigilance and care for our citizens during this challenging time of Covid-19.


We pray for police officers, firefighters, EMS teams, chaplains, and all who help others.


We remember those who serve on phone duty for crisis calls,


for those who prevent others from taking life-threatening actions to harm self or others.


We pray comfort and safety for the families of all first responders,


for they too are dedicated to maintaining safety and care for our citizens.


We pray for our doctors and nurses, and paramedics, and all who are helping the ill.


Strengthen these professionals as they help others, so they will be your hands and heart. Finally, loving God, we give you thanks for the example of Jesus, our great healer.


May he guide and shepherd us all through these days of uncertainty and worry.


Let us remember Jesus is always with us and we are never alone on our journey.








UCC – Music for Easter IV, 2020






Courtesy of David Thomas Organist








The King of love my shepherd is   PH 79

(Tune Dominus regit me by John Dykes)

Kings College Choir



The King of love my shepherd is   PH 80

Tune St Columba

Cardiff Festival Choir




The Lord is my shepherd

Georgia Boy Choir  

Melody by Howard Goodall



The Lord is my shepherd



Voices of Birralee - Children & Youth Choral Organisation - Brisbane, Australia

Music by Brian Boniwell arr. by Tim Sherlock

Performed in La Madeleine Church, Paris as part of the Anzac Commemoration Choir tour of Paris. Well-known organists/composers at La Madeleine include:

1858–1877 Camille Saint-Saëns

  • 1877–1896 Théodore Dubois
  • 1896–1905 Gabriel Fauré
  • 1962–1968 Jeanne Demessieux





The Lord's my shepherd

Tune Crimond

Westminster Abbey


My Shepherd Will Supply My Need  

Tune   Consulation from Southern Harmony, 1835, American

Choir of Washington National Cathedral




Third Sunday of Easter

United Congregational Church. Norwalk, Connecticut

April 26, 2020


Psalm 116: 1-3, 10-17 (adapted from the Book of Common Prayer)


1. I love the Lord, because he has heard the voice of my supplication, because he has

     inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him.

2. The cords of death entangled me; the grip of the grave took hold of me; I came to

     grief and sorrow.

3. Then I called upon the Name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray you, save my life.”


10. How shall I repay the Lord for all the good things he has done for me?

11. I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the Name of the Lord.

12. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.

13. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his servants.

14. O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant and the child of your handmaid; you

       have freed me from my bonds.

15. I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the Name of the Lord.

16. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,

17. In the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah!


Psalm 116: 1-3, 10-17 (adapted from the Book of Common Prayer)




Luke 24:13-35 (NRSV)


Now on that same day two of them [the disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.


As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-35 NRSV)




Third Sunday of Easter

April 26, 2020

Rev. Susan M. Pfeil


“Stay with Us”


Sunset— “‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over’” (Luke 24:29). What beautiful words of invitation were spoken to Jesus at sunset on the day of his resurrection. It feels as if an entire lifetime has been lived in this day of resurrection. Even though we, as readers, are chronologically in the Third Sunday of Easter, the narrative from The Gospel According to Luke has continued to unfold step by step on the same day of Jesus’s resurrection. We enter Luke’s narrative as bystanders, perhaps following a little way off, and observing two disciples, or possibly more disciples following the two, as they walked somberly along the road to Emmaus, “about seven miles from Jerusalem” (24:13). As they approached Emmaus, the time of the travelers’ encounter with Jesus was, by now, late afternoon on the day of resurrection. The narrative tells us, that the travelers “urged [Jesus] strongly, saying, ‘stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over’” (24:29). Now on the other end of the day, they recounted how at sunrise,


“‘Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us they had seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.’” (24:22-23)


The travelers and their friends were witnesses at both ends of this one-of-a-kind day, sunrise-sunset. This day encompassed an emotional lifetime for them. These witnesses on the Emmaus Road gave a compelling testimony to Jesus as he drew close to them. He was the mysterious accompanier and learned from them about their experiences of the last few days. They told him how their hopes had been dashed and how they had suffered immeasurable loss. But then, after Jesus’ death on Good Friday, they reported almost unbelievable surprise at Jesus’ risen presence among them on the third day. In any event, what they had gone through, we can hardly imagine.


Accompanier— As he drew near, Jesus just accompanied them along their way, not talking, but letting them talk first, as they told their story. Jesus was a wonderful example of a wounded healer, to use Henri Nouwen’s phrase. Jesus was fully present to the traumatic responses from these travelers. As a survivor of his own pain, suffering, and death, he was able to walk with the travelers and support them emotionally as they told him about being overwhelmed with the events of the last week. Jesus’ healing presence did not require words. Jesus was just being quietly present to them at first. Jesus could receive the anguish of their description about him from the travelers, since he had lived through it, and in his resurrection, had integrated and gone beyond it. And for the travelers it must have been therapeutic to have had a sensitive listener who believed what they told him was true. Jesus looked into their faces drawn with strain and exhaustion. And there was something deeply engaging about how Jesus carefully listened to them. Then as he expounded with the teachings from “Moses and all the prophets,” Jesus gave a shape and form to events, which previously appeared to have no connection to God’s plan for saving history (24:27).


At Table— Sunrise-sunset. Now they were at table in the house at Emmaus. Jesus “took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them” (24:30). As soon as they made the connection with the symbol of the blessed, and broken bread they knew immediately Jesus was with them! “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight” (24:31). And they recalled how they had been moved by his mysterious presence with them on the road to Emmaus and how their “hearts [had burned] within [them] while he [had talked] to [them] on the road, while he [had opened] the scriptures to [them]” (24:32).


Presence— This was one of the most compelling stories for the early church. It formed its central focus around worship: The Word and Sacrament. Jesus preached the Word, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures,” (24:27) and then presided at the table. So those who participated in the meal, affirmed their faith. “Faith is taking the first step when you don’t see the whole staircase,” said The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The encounter with Jesus strengthened Jesus’ followers to continue their work together. They heard the Word and received the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper from Jesus, in the new light of Jesus’ resurrection. They were beginning to be transformed into a group of cohesive and committed apostles.


Walking Together— We too are slowly building new bridges of cohesion and commitment with others. Despite having to face daily into the psychic overload of living with worldwide Covid-19, we are adapting to new ways to nurture ourselves. We are weary travelers for sure, walking on a journey with an indeterminate end, and carefully following guidelines given by our local and state leaders. And though we have had repeated exposure to distressing images in the news, now we are learning to turn off the TV or the radio when we too much information adds to our anxiety. We have practiced new ways to sooth ourselves with mindfulness through mediation, by doing exercise and breathing as we do it, and by building affiliation with others. We are becoming more grateful every day for all that we do have. And I am sure, we have all come in contact with someone, perhaps a someone on the phone, in the email or regular mail, who has reached out to us, and done something special for us at this difficult time.


Viewing Together— Make no mistake about it, the Emmaus Road travelers and those at dinner with them, and all of us walking through these challenging times, would have every reason to disband and scatter and give up our faith in Jesus Christ. But something amazing has been happening behind locked doors. Especially now! Church attendance has gone up to extraordinary highs because of streaming capabilities on the Internet. On Easter Sunday, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in New Canaan reported over 1,100 devices from all across the globe, logging on for the 10:00 AM morning worship. Zoom church meetings, like the one in which I participated on Tuesday for the Presbytery of Southern New England, had a record 300 viewer-participants. Is this the church of the future which is here today? Even though we have been taken way out of our comfort zones by the events of the last two months, our lives have been given new meaning. We are longing to be connected more than ever to the power of renewal as illustrated by Jesus’ resurrection. Stay with us, Lord! Amen.


Luther King Jr., Martin. “Faith.” http://www.brainyquote.com. Retrieved Wednesday, April 22, 2020.





Pastoral Prayer for The Third Sunday of Easter, April 26, 2020


O God,

your Son made himself known to his disciples

in the breaking of bread.

Open the eyes of our faith,

that we may see him in his redeeming work;

who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen

(Adapted from Third Sunday of Easter, Prayer of the Day, Book of Common Worship

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1993, p. 327)


More Prayers about the Outbreak- Intersessions

Let us pray to God,
who alone makes us dwell in safety:

For all who are affected by coronavirus,
through illness or isolation or anxiety,
that they may find relief and recovery:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For those who are guiding our nation at this time,
and shaping national policies,
that they may make wise decisions:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For doctors, nurses and medical researchers,
that through their skill and insights
many will be restored to health:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For the vulnerable and the fearful,
for the gravely ill and the dying,
that they may know your comfort and peace:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.


Let us pray to the Lord,
who is our refuge and stronghold. 

For the health and well-being of our nation,
that all who are fearful and anxious
may be at peace and free from worry:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For the isolated and housebound,
that we may be alert to their needs,
and care for them in their vulnerability:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For our homes and families,
our schools and young people,
and all in any kind of need or distress:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For a blessing on our local community,
that our neighbourhoods may be places of trust and friendship,
where all are known and cared for:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.

These Intersessions are taken from The Church of England website and intended to be used for private worship and when worship at church is not possible due to restrictions of Coronavirus Covid-19.

https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-parishes/coronavirus-covid-19-liturgy-and-prayer. Retrieved April 22, 2020.





Courtesy of David Thomas Organist




Christ, the Lord is ris'n today (Tune: Llanfair)






Scheidt - Surrexit Christus hodie ( Christ Rose Today)


for double choir (8 parts) sung by the Cambridge Singers









April 12, 2020: Easter Day Organ Recital at Washington National Cathedral


















Second Sunday of Easter

United Congregational Church, Norwalk, Connecticut

April 19, 2020


Psalm 16 (adapted from the Book of Common Prayer)


1. Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you; I have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, my

     good above all other.”

2. All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land, upon those who are noble among the


3. But those who run after other gods shall have their troubles multiplied.

4. Their libations of blood I will not offer, nor take the names of their gods upon my lips.

5. O Lord, you are my portion and my cup; it is you who uphold my lot.

6. My boundaries enclose a pleasant land; indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

7. I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; my heart teaches me, night after night.

8. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9. My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; my body also shall rest in hope.

10. For you will not abandon me to the grave, nor let your holy one see the Pit.

11. You will show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your

       right hand are pleasures for evermore.


Psalm 16 (adapted from the Book of Common Prayer)




John 20:19-31 (NRSV)


When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”


But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”


A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”


Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:19-31 NRSV)



Second Sunday of Easter

April 19, 2020

Rev. Susan M. Pfeil


“The Assurance of Things Hoped For”


Uncertainty— “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” proclaimed the writer in The Letter to the Hebrews (11:1). These verses capture the paradox of what it means to have assurance for change, change for the better while living through the uncertainty of these days. How might we regulate ourselves when faced with the loss of certainty about finances, or maintaining health for ourselves and our families and friends, or accepting changes in our roles and responsibilities at work, at home, and in the community? We are trying to believe in the unbelievable, the transformation of the uncertainty that surrounds us now. And I believe we are close to the mystery that the disciples wrestled with when they struggled to believe in the resurrected Jesus.


Resurrection not Resuscitation— Jesus had been resurrected not resuscitated, like Lazarus, and like the butterfly that emerges from a caterpillar, Jesus was not recognizable when the disciples first encountered him after the resurrection. There were reports from Mary Magdalene, Peter, and “the beloved disciple” that Jesus, whom they had seen crucified three days earlier, had now, on the first day of the week, appeared at the empty tomb to Mary Magdalene. She had seen him for herself and had come back to report to the others, “‘I have seen the Lord’” (John 20:18). The disciples were daring to believe that Jesus had not left them after all. But they had good reason to be afraid of what they were being asked to believe. If Jesus really was appearing, would the religious authorities hunt them down as they had hunted Jesus, and now accuse them of stealing his body? (Brown, The Gospel, 1020). As we have mentioned before, at the time the Gospel was written c. 90 C.E. (Brown, Introduction, 334), some believers would have been faced with a difficult decision about believing Jesus was both the Messiah and the Son of God. By confessing Jesus, “‘My Lord and My God!’” (John 20:28), Thomas and the Jewish Christians had to accept that from then on, they would be “forcibly cut off from their religious heritage, [and] they [would] have [to concentrate] that heritage, its observances and its hopes, entirely in the figure of Jesus” (Rensberger, 120).


Moving Forward— In his recent blog “It’s Resurrection,” The Rev. Don Remick, Bridge Conference Minister, reminds us that “Resurrection moves us forward, not backward.” I believe his reflection captures the complexity and mystery of transformation that confronts us all in the midst of Covid-19, and that also confronted the disciples in the first century C.E.


What came out of the tomb was not a reanimation of what went into the tomb.  On Easter many of you heard the scripture from Mark or John.  In these Gospel accounts the women who come to the tomb are terrified and amazed at what they discover.  And even when Jesus appears to them, they do not recognize him.  Of course not, he was resurrected not resuscitated. 

Jesus emerged different from the tomb; see the holes, place your hand in the side.  And he warns them not to cling to him.  That would be our natural tendency for resuscitation. To cling to what we feared and grieved that we lost; to hold onto it so it can’t go away again, ever.  Resurrection moves us forward, not backward.

And when we move forward, we sometimes become aware of limitations in our lives that might have held us back before, and that now, we might be able finally to set aside. The Rev. Remick reflects on this idea at the end of his blog.


But now we are learning that there were limitations …. that kept us from being all that God knows is possible.    Limitations that may have confirmed the view of many that the church is neither effective nor relevant.  Limitations we do not want to resuscitate. 

This is the choice we will all face in the coming weeks:  do we go back to normal or do we take what we have learned into a new normal.  I suppose it depends on whether we cling to a resuscitated Jesus or follow a resurrected one. (Remick, blog)

Thomas and a Change of Attitude— In today’s Gospel, Thomas learned that Jesus had appeared to his disciples, but he was not really convinced that they had seen Jesus. Thomas was living with the limitation in his capacity to believe in “the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20: 24-25)



But Jesus came to the house again, a week later, and spoke directly to Thomas, “‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe’” (20:27). Thomas did not touch Jesus as far as we know, but exclaimed, “‘My Lord and my God!’” (20:28). Then Jesus delivered the final, memorable pronouncement about not seeing and believing, “‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’” (20:29). “Thomas [was] being asked to change his attitude… [was] being challenged to change” (Brown, The Gospel, 1026). What does it take for us to be willing to change an attitude, to let go of our assumptive world view? Jesus asked Thomas to “‘Reach out your hand and put it in my side’” (John 20:27). Thomas was being asked to do something counter to his logic about what he knew to be true about the world and his faith as a man who was a Jewish Christian. He was asked to take a step of risk and trust for the sake of being able to make his confession about Jesus, “‘My Lord and my God!’” (20:28). This action required him to reach way beyond his comfort level or level of familiarity. Losing Jesus was bad enough, but now he was being asked to take a decisive stand in contrast to the faith of his upbringing. He was confessing Jesus. He was living through a transition and moving forward. He was leaving the limitation of the known for the unknown, accepting the paradox of life and death and new life. He was no longer being held back by things “not seen” but now stood “in the assurance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1). Following his example, may we also move forward in our faith. Amen.



Brown, Raymond E. The Gospel According to John XIII-XXI. The Anchor Bible. Garden City, New

York: Doubleday, and Co. 1970.

Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to The New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997.

Martyn, J. Louis cited in Rensberger, David K. Johannine Faith and Liberating Community.

Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1988

Remick, Don. “It’s Resurrection” Blog. April 13, 2020.

https://www.sneucc.org/blogdetail/13616283. Retrieved April 15, 2020.

Pastoral Prayer for The Second Sunday of Easter, April 19, 2020


Living God,

for whom no door is closed,

no heart is locked,

draw us beyond our doubts,

until we see your Christ

and touch his wounds

where they bleed in others.

This we ask through Christ our Savior,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.

(Adapted from Second Sunday of Easter, Prayer of the Day

Book of Common Worship Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1993, p.326)



“Protect [us], O God, for [we] take refuge in you; [we] have said to the Lord, ‘You are [our] Lord, [our] good above all other’” (Psalm 16:1). These words ring in our hearts today as we ask in faith for safety and health for all friends and families known to us in this church, for our own families, and friends, and for those in our wider communities, struggling with the challenges of Coronavirus Covid-19. We pray in that spirit for all first responders, health care workers, doctors and nurses, who continue day and night to provide the highest level of care for all our citizens. We thank you, O God, for all those volunteers in our towns who shop for and bring meals to others unable to go outside, and who provide other basic services. May all people around the world find solace in their faith and belief in a God who loves them and walks with them each day.


O God of healing, we lift up any in our families, here at church, and beyond, and ask your comfort for the ill especially for a loved one who is wrestling the consequences of Covid-19.



We pray discernment for all our leaders, community, state, and national, that they will govern wisely in this difficult time. And we pray also for our service men and women and their families the world over, and our National Guard and their families in this country, who are working around the clock to protect our health and safety. And let us always remember our veterans and their families as we pray your blessing on all who have given their faithful service to this country.


We give thanks:

For those who have been strengthened as they have cared for others;

For those who have found new hope and purpose with a vision for the future;

For our youth who are helping for the betterment of society during this time, we pray for all these.


And for birth and baptism, for engagements and weddings, and anniversaries and celebrations of all kinds; for reunions and reconciliations and all the gifts of life in Christ we give thanks; and may we always keep alive in our hearts the memories of our loved ones who have died and gone before us into eternal life. We pray all this in the name of Jesus Christ our risen Lord. Amen.


UCC – Music for Easter II





Come, ye faithful, raise the strain




Ye sons and daughters




That Easter Day with joy was bright







Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem







The Trumpet Shall Sound (from Messiah) George F. Handel






Resurrection of the Lord/ Easter Day

United Congregational Church, Norwalk, Connecticut

April 12, 2020


Psalm 118: 1-2; 14-24 (adapted from the Book of Common Prayer)


1. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his mercy endures for ever.

2. Let Israel now proclaim, “His mercy endures for ever.”


14. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.

15. There is a sound of exultation and victory in the tents of the righteous:

16. “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! the right hand of the Lord is exalted!

       the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!”

17. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.

18. The Lord has punished me sorely, but he did not hand me over to death.

19. Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the Lord.

20. “This is the gate of the Lord; he who is righteous may enter.”

21. I will give thanks to you, for you answered me and have become my salvation.

22. The same stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

23. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24. On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.


Psalm 118: 1-2; 14-24 (adapted from the Book of Common Prayer)




John 20:1-18 (NRSV)


Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went to the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.


But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20: 1-18 NRSV)




Resurrection of the Lord/ Easter Day Reflection

April 12, 20220

Rev. Susan M. Pfeil


“Beyond All Imagining”


A Quiet Easter— It was quiet on the first Easter. There were no trumpets lifting the voices of choirs singing Hallelujahs. There were no worship communities filled with friends and families greeting one another. Those who had followed Jesus were sequestered in their homes, not daring to come out into the streets of Jerusalem. What had begun as a triumphal entry into Jerusalem just the week before had now unfolded into an unimaginable narrative. Jesus’ frightened believers struggled to make meaning of the last days of Jesus’ life as they confronted their powerlessness and confusion behind locked doors. Their faith that Jesus would bring about change and a new sense of purpose was now tangled with uncertainty about how the future would unfold. But we know that they would get through that first day of the week and it would be beyond all their imagining.


Like Never Before— We are close to the first Easter as never before. No sooner had we embraced Daylight Saving Time, March 8th, than daily updates about Covid-19 bore down on us all, and we learned how perilous it was to leave our homes without masks and gloves. Daily reports informed us about cancellations of national events, not to mention the closing of schools, and of churches with uncertain dates for reopening. So, this year, for the first time ever, choir stalls are empty, choirs are silent, churches lack flowers, and there are no greetings among families and friends. Those churches who have the capability for offering digital worship are bringing that feature into the intimacy of homebound congregations. Web pages are posting sermons and prayers. Like Jesus’ first followers, we face uncertainty about the future and our role in shaping it, and this has left many of us struggling to seek a meaning for what has befallen us. All of us are now compelled to develop a sense of purpose to get though each day. We are more like the early followers of Jesus than we might have been ever before. This pandemic has brought us to the threshold of our faith at the time of year when we celebrate the holiest and most solemn of weeks, Holy Week leading to the Resurrection of the Lord, Easter Day. And we are not alone. Passover began last Wednesday night, when our Jewish brothers and sisters remembered how their ancestors hid in their homes, ate unleavened bread with their Passover lamb, and soon followed Moses away from the tyranny of Egypt, across the Red Sea. They too faced the uncertainty of a new life that would lead them eventually to the promised land.


The Third Day— As we enter The Gospel According to John 20:1-18, it was early in the morning on the third day since the crucifixion. The faithful band of Jesus’ disciples were stunned by what had happened to Jesus. According to ancient customs mourners could visit their dead “within a three-day period after death without being suspected of superstition” (Brown, 982). But Mary could easily have been arrested if identified as having been associated with Jesus. In the shadows of the early morning hours on this third day, Mary Magdalene decided to come to the tomb, and grieve for her lost teacher and leader (John 20:1). Her need to grieve was stronger than her fear of the death squads. When she arrived, she was unprepared to see that the stone covering the entrance to the tomb had been “removed” (20:1). The disappearance of the body increased the power of her grief and loss. In our own time it is understood that the grief and loss process may be more complicated when mourners are unable to attend some sort of a ritual like a memorial service or graveside service to support the memory of their loved one. So, the traumatic response to having lost her teacher and mentor had now been made more unbearable by the absence of his body at the tomb. She didn’t waste a moment and ran to Simon Peter to report, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (20:2). Without delay Peter and “the other disciple,” understood to “symbolize the Christian community for which John was written” (Rensberger, 2041), ran to the tomb and “the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first” (John 20:4). When he arrived, he witnessed the empty tomb and the burial cloths of Jesus’ body. When Peter arrived minutes later, he “went into the tomb” and noticed the burial cloths of Jesus’ body and head were in two different places (20:6). As soon as Peter had gone in so did “the other disciple” and this one “saw and believed” (20:8). But neither of these disciples was able to interpret what they had witnessed with the idea of Jesus’ resurrection. Leaving Mary to grieve, they returned home. I have often wondered about them leaving her, but the writer of the Gospel has shaped the story to convey a message about Mary meeting Jesus as the first real witness to his resurrection.


The First Witness— Mary, now by herself, wept and as she did, “she bent over to look into the tomb.” Archeology has discovered that Jesus’ burial place may have been “a chamber with arcosolia shelf graves on either side” (Brown, 982).

Early arcosolia were carved out of the living rock in catacombs. In the very earliest of these, the arched recess would be cut to ground level. Then a low wall would be built in the front, leaving a trough (the cubiculum, “chamber”) into which the body would be placed. A flat stone slab would then cover the chamber containing the body, thus sealing it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcosolium


For some reason, Mary saw something the other disciples had not seen, “two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet” (John 20:12). When they asked her why she was weeping she replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” (20:13). In her grief and longing, “she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus” (20:14). Again she was asked why and for whom she was weeping, and again she replied, still not knowing that the one speaking to her was Jesus, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away” (20:15). Jesus now addressed her by name, “Mary!” The tone and rhythm of his voice suddenly connected with Mary’s memory of Jesus and she instantly recognized him, exclaiming beyond all imagining, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher) (20:16). Her instinct was to reach out and touch him, but he sent her on a mission. “But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (20:17). Mary did just that. She returned and announced to her fellow disciples, “’I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her’” (20:18).


Jesus Was Unrecognizable— Jesus was unrecognizable at first. What changed his appearance? Unlike Lazarus, who was resuscitated, Jesus was resurrected in a form that was completely different from his earthly presentation. He was unrecognizable at first. The symbol of resurrection is the butterfly. For example, the Monarch butterfly begins with the four-day egg stage. Then the little egg becomes a caterpillar for two weeks. A chrysalis takes ten days to form. Finally, the adult butterfly develops wings and is able to spread these wings and fly for two to six weeks. In the same way, the Easter egg symbolizes transformation and is used in Christian imagery. “The egg is the symbol of hope and resurrection. This meaning is derived from the manner in which the small chick breaks from the egg at its birth” (Ferguson, 18). During the next weeks our Lectionary will tell of Jesus’ resurrection appearances where he will not be recognized at first, and then, through a symbolic gesture, he will become known.


New Life— I believe we are now like Mary, who in the midst of her desperation, recognized the risen Jesus and said, “I have seen the Lord,” (John 20:18). She faithfully returned to her friends, instead of trying to hold on to Jesus. She became the first witness to the new life and relationship with the risen Christ. Conference Bridge Pastor, the Rev. Don Remick, has sent us his thoughts on the effects of Covid-19, and the potential for new life, in his Holy Week reflection.

You are a Resurrected Jesus people.  You know that there is more on the other side of

Good Friday and Maundy Thursday.  You know there is even more on the other side of Resurrection.  And you know you still have to get through this moment; this era that we have not encountered in our life times and did not prepare for in ‘church administration’ and ‘fundamentals of Biblical theology’.  And we all know we will only get through this with each other and with God.


We also know what we don’t know. We are on a steep learning curve together in this new uncharted territory which is full of faithful and wise insight along with the uncertainty and struggle. (https://www.sneucc.org/blogdetail/don-piece-13614670)


In the midst of this pandemic, we are witnessing every day the new life and relationship with the risen Christ in knowing that we are never alone. There is transformation in a community of believers who now share deepened gratitude for many things that might have taken for granted a few weeks ago. May we continue to pray for the sick among us, all first responders, and be safe, strong, and faith-filled beyond all imagining and be led by the risen Christ day by day. Amen.


Arcosolia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcosolium, retrieved April 8, 2020.

Brown, Raymond E. The Gospel According to John XIII-XXI. The Anchor Bible. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, and Co., 1970.

Ferguson, George. Signs and Symbols in Christian Art. London: Oxford University Press, 1961.

Remick, Don. “Holy Week: The Same, and Different.”

               (https://www.sneucc.org/blogdetail/don-piece-13614670). Retrieved April 8, 2020.

Rensberger, David K. The Gospel According to John, footnotes. HarperCollins Study Bible New Revised

Standard Version. Wayne A. Meeks (Ed.). New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993.


A Prayer
(with Seven Deep Breaths)

The Rev. Carol Howard Merritt

Written March 20, 2020

(Reprinted with permission from the author)

Loving God,

We breathe in your life,
knowing that in our stories of creation
your breath is our breath.
We breathe out our anxiety,
acknowledging the stress that increases
with every blaring headline and dire prediction. 

We breathe in your hope,
knowing that you can make a way
out of no way.
We breathe out the despondency,
that creeps upon us,
paralyzing us from doing good.

We breathe in your grace,
as we pray for patience with our loved ones
and endurance in our sheltering.
We breathe out our petty annoyances,
and menial irritations
that make us forget the importance of our bonds.

We breathe in your peace,
which surpasses all our understanding,
and guards our hearts and minds.
We breathe out our worries,
all of our need to be in control,
and the tension in our guts.

We breathe in your abundance,
knowing that we have enough
when we live as a beloved community.
We breathe out our fear of scarcity,
that whispers lies to us
and keeps our fists clenched in greed.

We breathe in your wisdom,
that keeps perspective in our crisis,
reminding us of what is important.
We exhale despair
that blocks us from seeing possibilities
and blinds us from your vision.

We breathe in your love,
knowing that your presence surrounds us,
and encircles us.
We breathe out the suffering
acknowledging that our pain happens
within your loving embrace.

The Rev. Carol Howard Merritt

Bridge Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, New Canaan

(Reprinted with permission from the author)





Alleluia! Alleluia! Hearts to Heaven and voices raise

Saint Michael Singers in Coventry Cathedral




The strife is o'er

National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.




Jesus Christ is ris'n today

Kings College Choir







King's College Cambridge 2014 Easter Let all the World Vaughan Williams



George F. Handel Let the bright Seraphim | Aksel Rykkvin (13y boy soprano)






Two improvisations by Olivier Latry at the organ at the Cathedral of Notre Dame

(before the fire)




Note this is with the rebuilt organ console. Listen carefully and you will hear the tune

Old Hundreth – (the melody to which was sung Psalm 100 in the Calvinist reformation). Latry's improvisation serves as an introduction to the hymn which is then sung by all for the entrance procession. So this Calvinist hymn tune now finds a home in Catholic worship.








Selected for your personal reflections by our organist David Thomas




Go to Dark Gethsemane



Sing my tongue ( Pange lingua)


 Text by Venantius Honorius Fortunatus c. 530-c.600/609 AD

Translation by John M Neale 1818-1866

Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory:

Tell his triumph far and wide;

Tell aloud the famous story

Of his body crucified;

How upon the cross a victim,

Vanquishing in death, he died.

Faithful cross, O tree all beauteous!

Tree all peerless and divine,

Not a grove on earth can show us

Such a flow'r and leaf as thine.

Sweet the nails, and sweet the wood,

Laden with so sweet a load!

Eating of the tree forbidden,

Humans sank in Satan's snare,

When our pitying Creator

Did this second tree prepare;

Destined, many ages later,

That first evil to repair.

the order God appointed

When for sin he would atone;

To the serpent thus opposing

yet deeper than his own;

Thence the remedy procuring,

When the fatal wound had come.

So when now at length the fullness

Of the sacred time drew nigh,

Then the Son, the world's Creator,

Left his Father's throne on high;

From a virgin's womb appearing,

Clothed in our mortality.


Thus did Christ to perfect manhood

In our mortal flesh attain:

Then of his free choice he goes on

To a death of bitter pain;

And as lamb upon the altar

Of the cross, for us is slain.


Lofty tree, bend down your branches,

To embrace your sacred load;

Oh, relax the native tension

Of that all too rigid wood;

Gently, gently bear the members

Of your dying King and God.

Blessing, honor, everlasting,

To the immortal Deity;

To the Father, Son, and Spirit,

Equal praises ever be;

Glory through the earth and heaven,

Trinity in Unity. Amen.



Maurice Duruflé 1902-1986 Ubi caritas



Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exsultemus et in ipso jucundemur.
Timeamus et amemus Deum vivum, et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.


Where charity and love are, God is there. The love of Christ
has united us. Let us rejoice and be glad in him. Let us fear
and love the living God and adore him from a sincere heart.
Where charity and love are, God is there. Amen.







When I survey the wondrous Cross



Beneath the cross of Jesus



O Sacred Head Sore Wounded



The hymn is based on a long medieval Latin poem, Salve mundi salutare,

with stanzas addressing the various parts of Christ's body hanging on the Cross.

The last part of the poem, from which the hymn is taken, is addressed to

Christ's head, and begins "Salve caput cruentatum."


The poem is attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153).

Lyrics: O Sacred Head Surrounded (Latin: Salve caput cruentatum, St. Bernard)

 O Sacred Head, surrounded

by crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding Head, so wounded,
reviled and put to scorn!
Our sins have marred the glory
of Thy most Holy Face,
yet angel hosts adore Thee
and tremble as they gaze

I see Thy strength and vigor
all fading in the strife,
and death with cruel rigor,
bereaving Thee of life;
O agony and dying!
O love to sinners free!
Jesus, all grace supplying,
O turn Thy face on me.

In this Thy bitter passion,
Good Shepherd, think of me
with Thy most sweet compassion,
unworthy though I be:
beneath Thy cross abiding
for ever would I rest,
in Thy dear love confiding,
and with Thy presence blest.

But death too is my ending;
In that dread hour of need,
My friendless cause befriending,
Lord, to my rescue speed:
Thyself, O Jesus, trace me,
Right passage to the grave,
And from Thy cross embrace me,
With arms outstretched to save.




Two settings of O vos omnes by two Spanish composers who lived more than three hundred years apart.


The text is from Lamentations 1:12

O vos ómnes qui transítis per víam, atténdite et vidéte:

Si est dólor símilis sícut dólor méus.

Atténdite, univérsi pópuli, et vidéte dolórem méum.

Si est dólor símilis sícut dólor méus.


O all you who walk by on the road, pay attention and see:

if there be any sorrow like my sorrow.

Pay attention, all people, and look at my sorrow:

if there be any sorrow like my sorrow.


O vos omnes Pablo Casals 1876-1973



O vos omnes Tomás Luis de Victoria c.1548 – 27 August 1611





Marcel Dupré plays "Crucifixion", the third movement from his own Symphonie-Passion at St. Ouen, Rouen. Dupré was 79 years old when this recording was made in 1965.




Palm Sunday

Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

United Congregational Church, Norwalk, Connecticut

April 5, 2020


Liturgy of the Palms

Matthew 21:1-11 (NRSV)


When they [Jesus and his disciples] had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethpage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,


   “Tell the daughter of Zion,

           Look, your king coming to you,

   humble, and mounted on a donkey,

       and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”


The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,


“Hosanna to the Son of David!

     Blessed is the one who comes in the

             name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!”


When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:1-11 NRSV)



Liturgy of the Passion

Psalm 31:9-16 (adapted from the Book of Common Prayer)

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow and also my throat and my belly.

For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed.

I have become a reproach to all my enemies and even to my neighbors, a dismay to those of my acquaintance; when they see me in the street they avoid me.

I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am as useless as a broken pot.

For I have heard the whispering of the crowd; fear is all around; they put their heads together against me; they plot to take my life.

But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. I have said, “You are my God.

My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.

Make your face to shine upon your servant, and in your loving-kindness save me.” (Psalm 31:9-16)



Palm Sunday Reflection

April 5, 2020

Rev. Susan M. Pfeil


A New Normal— Please know how grateful I am to everyone for our shared ministry that has sustained us as we have drawn close to the gates of Jerusalem on this Palm Sunday!! There is no question that the church is the people, not just a building in this challenging time of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Rev. Don Remick reminded viewers of the Bridge Conference Ministers’ Zoom meeting on Thursday, March 26, “For years we have been talking about the church of the future— it is here now! We are seeing the new church in the new normal.” A guest participant of that Bridge Conference Ministers’ meeting, The Rev. Andrew Warner, explained it this way. “Our call is more than serving on Sunday morning. Our greatest cathedrals are woven out of our relationships. Our homes have become places of worship. In this time of social distancing we will be ever more grateful for being together when this is possible.” The summary of thoughts suggests that our life together will have a more profound meaning for renewal on the Day of Resurrection and in the days to follow!


Radical Changes— There is no question that, “Lent came to us stripping us beyond anything we could have chosen,” remarked The Rev. Peter Walsh, in his sermon streamed on March 22, from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, New Canaan. He reminded us that this year we had little choice about what to give up for six weeks, but rather we had to adapt quickly to what we did not have. We would have to commit to a period of social isolation that would require a complete reorganization of all our daily structures. Activities such as unpacking and storing groceries needed to be changed and modified to ensure that all items were free of any potential Covid-19 virus. Parents were thrown into homeschooling their children and had to become educational experts from 9:00 AM-3:00 PM, while watching the family budget tighten in the midst of job layoffs. Extended families caring for their older members, sometimes against their senior members’ wishes, have been repeatedly warning them, not to go out or shop or put themselves at risk. Across the age spectrum not one of us is exempt from making radical changes in our daily lifestyles. How might we make a bridge from our current challenging circumstances and embrace the same longing for change and renewal as those waving palms and cheering Jesus as he entered Jerusalem? The burdens of powerlessness in the face of uncertainty afflict us both. We have Covid-19 restricting our lives, and they had Roman oppression with excessive taxes and harsh treatment. So, let us walk along the dusty roads together and find hope in the affirmation from Psalm 31:15, “My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.” These times are in God’s hands, and fortunately we are all connected with the Holy Spirit, who does not have to isolate or social distance from us!


Joy, Suffering, and Renewal— The texts for today’s liturgy take us to both joy and suffering. Our focus will be on the triumphal entry. The extended liturgy for the Passion, Matthew 26:14-27:66 (or Matthew 27: 11-54) may also be included, however we will read those texts on Good Friday. We enter Jerusalem and rejoice knowing our ascent to the “highest city geographically in Palestine” (Peterson, 14) was well worth the hardship of the journey. We are there for the great Festival of Passover with countless pilgrims who have come from all across the lands. Into this scene we come with every anticipation for change. But as we celebrate Jesus’ joyful, triumphal entry into the ancient city, we need to remember what the faithful disciples and followers did not yet know. They would only know what we now know in hindsight. Jesus would come to save them but not in the way that they expected. He was everything they hoped for until his mission took him before the religious authorities, and he was betrayed and arrested and taken before Pilate to be ridiculed and scorned. He would then be sentenced to death and crucified in unimaginable agony. How was Jesus the leader his followers had always wanted? What kind of a leader would end up like this? How could he help them by being taunted and arrested and killed? They did not know it yet, but his life, this life of God, and then his death, the death of sin and death, would be dedicated to life triumphing over death. And this would be made real in the unprecedented event of Jesus’ resurrection. In his introduction to the Book of Habakkuk, (c. 597 B.C.E.) scholar Kent Harold Richards, offers words appropriate for our thinking today about the resurrection: ‘justice would triumph over injustice; confidence in God would surpass doubt in God; human beings would have salvation, not just judgment alone, and they could share in God’s ongoing love for humankind’ (Richards, 1397).


May God Strengthen Us— The world had never known anything like the resurrection, and to be honest, the world has not had to deal with anything quite like the Covid-19 pandemic. And through it all, we continue to be amazed and converted to new life eternal in Christ today. Many of us have begun to rediscover the preciousness of our relationships and the memory of hugging family, or even something simple like shaking hands. We are surprised and grateful with small blessings of other people’s kindness in phone calls from long distant friends and colleagues, or emails and letters. The miracle of Zoom conferencing and church services that are streamed, have enabled us to worship from home. In many cases, as with our own church, a website and email offerings share inspirational messages on a weekly basis. Jesus’ followers and disciples rediscovered themselves and each other when they witnessed the resurrection after discovering the empty tomb and encountered the risen Christ in the glorious days after Easter. In spite of the circumstances facing us now with social isolation and the dread of becoming ill, our mission, therefore, is to stay faithful and mindfully present throughout this next week, Holy Week. In that spirit, may God strengthen us to walk together so that we might truly be able to embrace those glorious days that follow after Jesus’ suffering. Amen.

Peterson, Eugene H. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. Downers

Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1980.

Richards, Kent Harold. “Habakkuk.” Introduction in The HarperCollins Study Bible, New Revised Standard

Version. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993

Prayers about the outbreak

Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ,
you taught us to love our neighbor,
and to care for those in need
as if we were caring for you.
In this time of anxiety, give us strength
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick,
and to assure the isolated
of our love, and your love,
for your name’s sake.

God of compassion,
be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness, be their consolation;
in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light;
through him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

For those who are ill

Merciful God,
we entrust to your tender care
those who are ill or in pain,
knowing that whenever danger threatens
your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe.
Comfort and heal them,
and restore them to health and strength;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

For hospital staff and medical researchers

Gracious God,
give skill, sympathy and resilience
to all who are caring for the sick,
and your wisdom to those searching for a cure.
Strengthen them with your Spirit,
that through their work many will be restored to health;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

From one who is ill or isolated

O God,
help me to trust you,
help me to know that you are with me,
help me to believe that nothing can separate me 
from your love
revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord.

For the Christian community

We are not people of fear:
we are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety:
we are people who protect our neighbors’ safety.
We are not people of greed:
we are people of generosity.
We are your people God,
giving and loving,
wherever we are,
whatever it costs
For as long as it takes
wherever you call us.

Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-liturgy-and-prayer-resources



All glory, laud and honor



Ride on, ride on in majesty



Beneath the cross of Jesus



O sacred Head, sore wounded



The hymn is based on a long medieval Latin poem, Salve mundi salutare, with stanzas addressing the various parts of Christ's body hanging on the Cross. The last part of the poem, from which the hymn is taken, is addressed to Christ's head, and begins "Salve caput cruentatum." The poem is attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153). 

 Lyrics: O Sacred Head Surrounded (Latin: Salve caput cruentatum, St. Bernard) 


O Sacred Head surrounded By crown of piercing thorn! 

O bleeding Head so wounded, Reviled and put to scorn! 

Death's pallid hue comes o'er Thee, The glow of life decays, 

Yet angel hosts adore Thee, And tremble as they gaze.

In this, Thy bitter passion, Good shepherd, think of me, 

With Thy most sweet compassion, Unworthy though I be:

Beneath Thy cross abiding, Forever would I rest; 

In Thy dear love confiding, And with Thy presence blest. 





My song is love unknown



 Ah, Holy Jesus



1 Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
that man to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

2 Who was the guilty who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus hath undone thee.
'Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee.

3 Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered:
for man's atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.

4 For me, kind Jesus, was thine incarnation,
thy mortal sorrow, and thy life's oblation:
thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
for my salvation.

5 Therefore kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee,
think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
not my deserving.


Barber - Adagio for Strings

The American composer, Samuel Barber (1910-1981) composed

a slow movement for a string quartet which has become known

as the Adagio for Strings.  Here it is in three different versions:


the original form for string quartet:



for full string orchestra:



the later version for choir (with text added):

The text of the Agnus Dei has been set to the same music giving us

an exquisite setting of that text:  

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.



March 29, 2020

Spiritual Topic:  Breath of Hope

A prayer found by Cindy Robbins, thank you Cindy.

Oh God, I’m Spinning Out: A Prayer

 Rev. Dr. Hannah Adams Ingram Chaplain, Franklin College, Franklin Indiana

 March 10, 2020

There is so much I do not know. There is so much I cannot see. There is so much I cannot control. In the moments I feel powerless, I will take a deep breath trusting that I am tasked only with doing my part, not the whole  

In the moments I feel unsure, I will take a deep breath trusting that I am not alone and that together, our wisdom will be richer  

In the moments I feel anxious, I will take a deep breath trusting that there is no depth I can fall out of reach of the Spirit that holds me close  

What I do know is that my life and love and worth extend far beyond my work.  What I can see is that spring follows every winter and new life pokes out from cold ground. What I can control is my breath and the love I inject into a world so clearly lacking it

 “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

A poem/hymn: Claudia Hernaman, 1873

 Lord Jesus, who through forty days for us did fast and pray, Teach us with you to mourn our sins, and close by you to stay.

As you with Satan did contend, and did the victory win, O give us strength to persevere, in you to conquer sin.

And through these days of penitence, and through this Passion-tide, Yes, evermore, in life and death, O Christ, with us abide.

Abide with us, till when this life and suffering shall be past, An Easter of unending joy we may attain at last.

Someone said to me recently,  I don’t think people are praying enough.  We need to keep the word going that God is Listening for more from us. 

With that in mind…..May the Lord Bless you, and keep you, and may He make His face shine upon you and give you peace.  Now and forever more.  Amen

 Stay well, stay safe and keep your/our church in your thoughts.  We are here and we will be here.  You just need to let us know if we are needed for you.


Barbara Hoffman

 Scripture readings for March 29th, 2020: 

Psalm 130

Waiting for Divine Redemption

A Song of Ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
   Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
   to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
   Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
   so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
   and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
   more than those who watch for the morning,
   more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
   For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
   and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
   from all its iniquities.

Romans 8:6-11

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spiritis life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit,since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spiritis life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christfrom the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also throughhis Spirit that dwells in you.

John 11:1-45

The Death of Lazarus

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazaruswas ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin,said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarushad already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two milesaway, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

Jesus Weeps

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

The Plot to Kill Jesus

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.


David Thomas, our organist, has found some very inspirational music, please see the links to that music below.  Thank you David.


All my hope on God is founded

Tune:  Michael  by Herbert Howells





VOCES8: Lux Aeterna - Edward Elgar

VOCES8 performs 'Lux Aeterna' by Edward Elgar live at the Gresham Centre in London. Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in aeternum, quia pius es. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord, with Thy saints forever, for Thou art kind. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord ...




Daniel Roth, Organist at St. Sulpice, Paris, plays Julius Reubke's

Sonata of the 5th Psalm in memory of his wife, Odile.  The video

opens with the Introit from Gabriel Faure's Requiem and a picture

of Odile Roth near the entrance of the church where she, for years,

greeted recital attendees with a smile and a programme.



Saturday, 14 March,  Garrick Ohlsson was to play a recital ath the 92nd Street Y.  An audience was not permitted because of the coronavirus.  Mr. Ohlsson went ahead and played with no audience at all so the recital could be streamed online -- free for

anyone to hear.  Here is the link for you to hear truly beautiful performance and share a historic evening.




March 22, 2020

  My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less


My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name


On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
  All other ground is sinking sand


When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

David Thomas, our organist, has found some very inspirational music, please see the links to that music below.  Thank you David.



Crown Him with many crowns




Herbert Howell's setting for the choir of King's College, Cambridge, England of the

Magnificat (My soul doth magnify the Lord - Luke 1:46-55)




Last Friday Garrick Ohlsson was to play a recital at the 92nd Street Y.  An audience was not permitted because of the coronavirus.  Mr. Ohlsson went ahead and played with not audience at all so the recital could be streamed online -- free foranyone to hear.  Here is the link for you to hear truly beautiful performance and share a historic evening.




If you are comfortable and wish to participate, there will be a “WALK WITH JESUS” at Lakota Oaks (Stations of the Cross) on April 11th at 11:00am.  Organized by Ginny Copeland


Message March 15, 2020

“A Deeper Well”

Romans 5:1-11 (NRSV); John 4:5-30 (NRSV)

United Congregational Church, Norwalk, Connecticut

Third Sunday in Lent, March 15, 2020

Rev. Susan M. Pfeil


Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.


For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:1-11 NRSV)

* * *

So he [Jesus] came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.


A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”


Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”


Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him. (John 4:5-30 NRSV)



Endurance, Character and Hope— The Apostle Paul was writing his Letter to the Romans late in his ministry (50-60 C.E.), and sought to draw other believers to share “that in Jesus the awaited age of God’s restoration and rule, beginning with the Jewish community (i.e. Israel), had dawned” (Nanos, 253). His journey had included much hardship, deprivation and being persecuted, eventually leading to his imprisonment, and his death at the hands of the Romans. And thus, his memorable words remind us today, once again, that (1) endurance, (2) character, and (3) hope are needed to move through some of the most difficult challenges in our lives.


(1) Endurance— We certainly know about endurance after a week of rapidly changing news and on Friday afternoon having our nation declared to be in a state of emergency due to the novel Coronavirus, Covid 19. We have been dealing with unprecedented circumstances which have required us to close our church for public worship this and next Sunday. We are entering a new land, a bit like Abram and Sarai in the text we studied last week when they began on their journey away from Haran to Canaan (Genesis 12:1-4). Abram was 75 and Sarai 65! Never before have I had to attend to being so careful about not picking up an illness. The constant attention to avoid exposure to germs has led to some of us to feel very anxious and was brilliantly articulated by one of our congregants: “It feels like the world is shutting down all around me!” Sometimes, due to isolation or being cut off from others in order to remain safe and illness free, we may end up, for whatever reason, with a dry well inside ourselves. I believe connecting with others will help to fill the dry well.


(2) Character— I have noticed in the last three days, many with whom I have had contact, have made an effort to reach back to me as I have reached out to them. There has been a shared effort at our small condominium group to help out one another if help is needed. At Walter Stewarts one of the customers gave me a pack of antibacterial ‘Wet Ones’ that she had just bought at CVS. She noticed I had nothing to wipe down the metal handle of the shopping cart. Our Presbytery and the Connecticut Conference sent ongoing updates through Thursday and Friday, and I participated in a Zoom conference with our Executive Presbyter and several other pastors on Friday morning. Behind the scenes at our own church, decisions were being made each day this past week by our Moderator and Assistant Moderator, and Deacons, and this was inspiring because the primary concern was to give support for the welfare of the congregation. This was a week where we were able to move quickly into action because these connections are already strong in this church.


(3) Hope— I think the Samaritan woman at the well from The Gospel According to John (4:5-30) gives us hope as we look forward to trusting that eventually we will get through this challenging time. After we have been extending ourselves to manage the unprecedented circumstances, such as the dealing with the consequences of the novel Coronavirus Covid-19, we will be mindful to slow down and drink again from the deeper well of God’s Spirit. As we will fill ourselves up, we will remember how the deeper well of the Spirit ensures that we will feel refreshed and at one with God.


The story from The Gospel According to John is a favorite of mine because I believe it has a lot to teach us about filling up and watering the dry places in our lives, particularly now! The Samaritan woman was a person who was faithful and very hardworking at a repetitive, difficult task. Never mind her past. On the day Jesus met her, she was hauling water from a deep well, and then carrying it, alone, to a destination. It doesn’t get more basic than that. She would have given anything for some relief. The water was heavy. The sun was hot at midday. It beat down on her shoulders. But she carried other burdens. Never mind that she was by herself because of her past relationships with men. Her reputation had separated her out from others. The other women may not have wanted to have been seen with her. And to make things worse, she was a Samaritan, whose legacy went back to the days when Assyria resettled Samaria, when Samaria fell to Assyria in 722-721 B.C.E. “The relocation of populations was a characteristic of Assyrian foreign policy during this period” (Wilson, 588). Therefore, religious practices of the many different conquered people living together in Samaria, in the northern kingdom of Israel would have created temptations to move away from the distinctive monotheism, unique among those living in the kingdom of Judah. The Judean people openly discriminated against the Samaritans, who were believed to have worshiped false gods and engaged in abominable practices (2 Kings 17:24-34 NRSV). This historical perspective had nothing to do with the Samaritan woman personally, but like discrimination anywhere, hatred was well entrenched in a collective, cultural and religious memory that persisted over 750 years later into the days of the first century Common Era. But Jesus proved to stand against the popular animosity between her culture and the Jewish culture. He refused to see her as one of the outcasts of society. This Samaritan woman had been marginalized and considered almost like an untouchable long enough. Jesus wanted to give her a deeper well, from which to draw “living water,” that would restore her sense of dignity and belonging to her community. Instead of living like an outcast without a life, she was now promised, “living water” (John 4:10 NRSV).


“Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’” (John 4:13-14 NRSV)


Hope Does not Disappoint— Overall, through this challenging time I am mindful to stay connected to the deeper well of God’s Spirit. When I stay connected and don’t isolate myself, I become very grateful in a new way, for those who must work in public settings, when others can choose to work from home. In my perspective this woman represents some of those known to us, whose work settings invite us to keep them in special prayer during the outbreak of the Coronavirus Covid-19. I think of the postal worker who brings my mail; the drivers of trucks that bring our groceries to stores now needing restocking more than ever. I am praying for those who continue to feed children, whose schools have had to close, and who would not receive a meal if it was not provided for them by programs like Nourish Bridgeport.

Closer to home, I immediately think of my sister who works in a senior care center in New Hampshire, and how she has been doing double shifts as some of her colleagues were unable to work their shift for reasons, apart from the Coronavirus Covid-19. I think of my brother, whose restaurant in Appleton, Maine will probably lose a lot of business or even have to close because of the decline in attendance due to the virus. I think of my step-grandson in California, finishing up his master’s program at Stanford, and who may well have to complete remaining course work online.


And, I think of the family members from our own church community working in emergency care as police officers, first responders, including firefighters, or in the military, whose exposure to all kind of illness puts them at risk every day for picking up the Coronavirus Covid-19. I know all of us can think of many examples where we have become more grateful as a result of facing these current, difficult circumstances. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “… and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5 NRSV). And Jesus reminds us how that Spirit, as it is “poured into our hearts,” becomes the “living water,” with unlimited flow of possibilities when we accept an eternal relationship with God through Christ.


During this challenging time, may we be a spiritual presence for one another, even when we are not sitting in Sunday worship, by continuing to remember one another through our prayers. We can also check in on one another by phone or email. We are so blessed to have the support of a believing community at a time like this. It makes all the difference! May we continue to celebrate the hope of that deeper well of “living water,” given to us through Jesus Christ, and experienced fresh every day, uniquely ours, and cultivated through many decades of tradition. Amen.



Nanos, Mark, D. Introduction and Commentary, The Letter of Paul to the Romans,”

The Jewish Annotated New Testament New Revised Standard Version. Levine, Amy-Jill & Brettler, Marc Zvi (Eds.). New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.


Wilson, Robert R. “2 Kings Introduction and Footnotes.” The HarperCollins Study

Bible New Revised Standard Version. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993.




Pastoral Prayer March 15, 2020

Pastoral Prayer for The Third Sunday in Lent, March 15, 2020


For this Third Sunday in Lent, we give thanks, O God, for your ever-patient presence with us and for your sovereignty over our lives. Especially at this time of our national emergency with the novel Coronavirus Covid-19, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who walks every step of the way with us, so that we may never be alone. We thank you that Jesus was one who heard your call and received your blessing to minister throughout the land. We thank you that Jesus’ disciples gathered around him and helped him shape the core of our Christian faith. We rejoice in the power and confidence to serve God boldly, even in times like these with great challenges. May we be inspired by your Holy Spirit, who is always present to us in our hearts. May we remember that we are always connected to you, O God, and to each other, to live and love and serve you in the newness of life. Amen.


(Adapted from: “During a National Crisis.” Book of Common Worship. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993. (p. 818).


God of [the] ages,

in your sight nations rise and fall,

and pass through times of peril.

Now when our land is troubled [with the outbreak of the Coronavirus Covid-19]

be near to [hold us] and save [us].

May [our] leaders be led by your wisdom;

May they search your will and see it clearly.

…. Give us your light and your truth to guide us;

[keep us faith-filled and free of needless anxiety and fear].

[We pray all this] through Jesus Christ

who is Lord of this world, and our Savior. Amen.


Prayer for Our Church Family and Our Families and Friends


We remember, as we do each week, all our first responders: police officers, EMS teams, firefighters; chaplains and our National Guard, and all who work to keep us safe day and night. We remember our service men and women and all who are serving overseas and their families, especially their children. We remember our veterans and their families, and we give thanks for their faithful service.


Let us keep all our loved ones in prayer including those named today especially:

Carla Griffith, Barbara Hoffman, David Thomas; and for our homebound, Adam and Gloria Bandini and Daniel Bardos.


And we lift up all who celebrated a birthday in past weeks, and those who will prepare to celebrate a birthday today or in the coming days; we give thanks for all are celebrating baptisms, confirmations; engagements, and weddings to come in the spring and summer, and for anniversaries, for reunions and reconciliations, we give hearty thanks. For memories of those beloved in our lives, whom we have loved, and who have died, may we receive comfort and hold those dear ones always in our hearts. We pray all this in the saving name of our Shepherd, Jesus who taught us to pray. …. Our Father… Amen.

A Prayer for Tuesday, March 17, 2020 to celebrate Patrick of Ireland (389-461) Book of Common Worship. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993. (p. 27-28).


I bind unto myself today

The strong name of the Trinity,

By invocation of the same,

The Three in One, and One in Three.


I bind this day to me forever,

The power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;

His baptism in the Jordan River

His death on the cross for my salvation.

His bursting from the spiced tomb;

His riding up the heavenly way;

His coming at the day of doom

I bind unto myself today.


I bind unto myself today

The virtues of the star-lit heaven,

The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,

The whiteness of the moon at even,

The flashing of the lightening free,

The whirling winds tempestuous shocks,

The stable earth, the deep salt sea

Around the old eternal rocks.


I bind unto myself today

The power of God to hold and lead,

God’s eye to watch, God’s might to stay,

God’s ear to hearken to my need,

The wisdom of my God to teach,

God’s hand to guide, God’s shield to ward,

The word of God to give me speech,

God’s heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger


I bind unto myself the name,

The strong name of the Trinity,

By invocation of the same,

The Three in One and One in Three,

Of whom all nature has creation,

Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.

Praise to the Lord of my salvation,

Salvation is of Christ the Lord. Amen.


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