Pastor's Corner

Why Go To Church?

posted Feb 15, 2019, 5:13 PM by Tricia Sheffield   [ updated Feb 15, 2019, 5:26 PM ]

Grace and peace to you!

We are called a Fabulous Church of Love for a reason. So, I invite you to come to worship this Sunday at 10:30 AM and here’s why:

We are created to be in community with one another, Genesis 2.18: It is not good that the earthling should be alone . . . 

We are called to gather together, Hebrews 10.24 - 25: And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together . . . but encouraging one another . . . As we gather, you will be welcomed with joy and warmth. And we will rejoice and celebrate that we are people of the resurrection.

We will have peace, and be assured that despite what may be swirling in the chaotic world around us, we know we can have the peace that surpasses all understanding.

We will celebrate the children among us, knowing that children are not our future, but they are our now.

We will experience forgiveness of sin and rejoice in the grace that is given to us daily.

We will have music that will stir your soul with the Joyful Noise Adult Choir singing a song; a prayer really, called “I Wonder” with Marie Howlett as featured soloist, and this song/prayer will continue to move your spirit throughout the week.

We will hear the word preached from Luke 6.17-26, the famous passage of the Sermon on the level place called Blessings and Woes.

We will pray for ourselves, each other, and the world, knowing the Holy Spirit is our Advocate and Comforter, and despite what we may see and hear, God is sovereign.

Upon hearing the word and praying, we will go out into our community to be the hands and feet of Christ, our Lord, Savior, and Friend.

Most importantly, I invite you to worship this Sunday because God’s grace is irresistible, freely given, and available for all people. And because you are loved by God more than you can ask or imagine. This is affirmed in Scripture by the prophet Isaiah 43.1, 4: I have called you by name, you are mine . . . You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you . . .  Because of this assurance of God’s love, we confirm that all are welcomed, affirmed, and celebrated by our God whose love is expansive and unconditional and unending. The world tells us we will only be accepted if we meet certain conditions; but God says, no conditions, you are mine.

So, come to church this Sunday. I look forward to worshiping God with you in our beloved community.

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

The Place I Want To Get Back To

posted Feb 8, 2019, 9:33 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Greetings of peace on this wet, chilly day in New Jersey.

As I awoke this morning, I had no idea what I was going to write to you. ‘I got nothing,’ I thought.

Little had necessarily inspired me this week. My focus was my concern for some in our congregation who are in need of physical and emotional healing. And my head was more in my sermon writing than in taking the time to listen and observe God’s holy hauntings for my Friday email. 

But, as God would have it, while waiting for my car to be repaired, I scanned Facebook, and read a poem posted by one of my colleagues called “The Place I Want To Get Back To” by the recently deceased Mary Oliver.

The Place I Want To Get Back To

is where

in the pinewoods

in the moments between

the darkness

and first light

two deer

came walking down the hill

and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,

this one is okay,

let’s see who she is

and why she is sitting

on the ground like that,

so quiet, as if

asleep, or in a dream,

but, anyway, harmless;

and so they came

on their slender legs

and gazed upon me

not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look

and look and look

into the faces of the flowers;

and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life

bring to me that could exceed

that brief moment?

For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,

not waiting, exactly, just lingering.

Such gifts, bestowed,

can’t be repeated.

If you want to talk about this

come to visit. I live in the house

near the corner, which I have named


After reading it, I felt like she had witnessed a snippet of my life with the creatures of Olivia’s Forest. For just this week, I found myself grudgingly going out to feed them. It was early; it was cold; I was still sleepy; I had just settled in to have my morning coffee, and there stood the herd and the outside cats looking in the window, waiting expectantly. And not only expectantly, but they were also waiting patiently, because they were assured I would come out as I do every morning. Putting on my coat, out I went, and as I filled their troughs and bowls, I called to them by name. As they walked up to me, I forgot my previous tiredness and ignored the chill in the air.

Oliver’s words were a reminder of the joy these animals give me in a frenetic world: peaceful beings reflective of God’s presence, even if it's cold, dark, and I'm weary. This was the nudge I needed to make sure I do take the time to listen and observe, for sometimes we are offered unexpected gifts from God that are simply never repeatable. Those gifts become a holy touchstone for us when our lives become untethered or distracting. It is then we can look back on those moments with a gratitude that will ground us once again. 

Oliver’s poem was my gift this morning from the Spirit. I wonder, what gift — unrepeatable, unexpected, holy — will God bestow on you in the coming days? Look for the holy . . . it’s always humming around us, beckoning us to get back to the place we need to be.

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

What We Leave Behind

posted Feb 1, 2019, 11:05 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Greetings of grace and peace in this continuing season of Epiphany!

In preparation for our annual congregational meeting this Sunday, I’ve been reading over the reports from our various committee chairs. My goodness, MRC, what a great year we had in 2018! I am very grateful for all we have done in order to share God’s vision where the inclusive grace of God is the guiding principle for all our ministries. Truly, we are people of faith committed to boldly proclaiming and intentionally living out God’s command to do justice, share love, show mercy, and walk humbly with our God in our local and global communities. We continue to be a church on the side of love for all God’s people – providing for those who are in need, advocating for all oppressed peoples, and caring for our earth – we love because God first loved us (adapted from our Vision Statement).

And yet, knowing this about our church, I began to look inward, and my Protestant work ethic started to point at me accusingly. As I was looking back on what I had accomplished, I couldn’t help but feel I could have done more. I then began to fret about the coming year, telling myself I needed to do X, Y, and Z, and wondering what I would achieve, or if I would achieve these goals, as the need to complete them were weighing hard on me. Still fretting, still muttering, I walked through my bedroom and glanced down at the Daily Guideposts devotional sitting on my bedside table. It occurred to me that I hadn’t read a reflection yet from the book. So, I sat down on the bed, opened the book to the appointed day, and began to read a devotion by Rebecca Ondov. 

The story was of a woman who was struggling to discern her goals for the new year. Usually such goals were clear to her, but this January, everything was muddy. So, asking God for direction, and seeing it was a nice day for a hike, she decided to climb a nearby mountain with her dog. As she did so she kept asking, What am I going to accomplish this year?

No answer. 

Finally, she got to the peak, and looked at her watch. Congratulating herself for making the climb in an hour, she looked around. There on a knoll was a rock cairn left behind by another hiker. This simple altar took her by surprise. And then she heard a voice whisper, Life isn’t about what you accomplish. It’s about what you leave behind that honors God.

I kept reading those two sentences, staring at them until they became blurry on the page. I looked up from my book and sighed, knowing I had just been whammed by the Holy Spirit. I almost expected to see Her gazing intently at me! I then continued reading.

Ondov finished her story, I’d been restless about this year’s goals because I was focused on myself and what I wanted to accomplish. I hadn’t chatted with God about what God wanted me to do. On the hike down the mountain, I realigned my thoughts and got back on track.

I felt so seen and exposed by that reflection, as if the writer was reading my mind. But, I realized it wasn’t the writer who had seen me, but it was the Holy Spirit who had guided me to that book on that day to “realign my thoughts and get me back on track.” It was then that I realized that as wonderful as my/our accomplishments are at MRC, what I/we do today must have the ever-present vision of leaving behind what is honoring to God, whether it be tomorrow, or next week, or in years to come. Because it’s not I/we who do ministry and accomplish “goals,” but it is the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us to make sure those “goals” are signposts left behind that honor God.

After a while, I sighed again, closed the book, and said a very simple prayer, “Thank you, God,” grateful for a much-needed lesson.

I look forward to welcoming you on Sunday at 10:30 AM where we will worship and honor God in our liturgy; in our singing; in the Word preached; in our offerings; in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper; and yes, in our congregational reports. We will also vote on the slate of nominees for the incoming Consistory. Following worship, we’ll continue the feast of the Lord’s Supper at another table in our Education Building with our First Sunday Brunch. A free will offering will be taken to support the ministries of God’s church.

As we gather on Sunday, I encourage us to remember, Life (ministry/church) isn’t about what you accomplish. It’s about what you leave behind that honors God. To God be the Glory!

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

Coffee and a Conversation in 2012

posted Jan 25, 2019, 1:19 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you in this season of Epiphany!

On Saturday, January 19, I had my last meeting as a member of the Board of Directors for Room for All (RfA). As I signed off, I did so with mixed emotions. I was relieved to be “retiring” after serving six years, and yet, I knew I would miss these beautiful people who are committed to supporting, educating and advocating for the welcome and full affirmation of people of all sexual identities, gender identities, and gender expressions in the Reformed Church in America. What started as a simple conversation with a colleague over a cup of coffee in 2012, wherein I told her I was interested in serving on the Board of RfA, blossomed into one of the most fulfilling and challenging aspects of my ministry. At various times during my tenure on the Board, I considered resigning, as being in that type of ministry can wear a person down, both physically and spiritually. But each time I prayed about it, I heard the Spirit whispering to keep going on. 

And so I did. And I’m glad I did.

I have been privileged and honored to meet some incredible people with whom I never would have crossed paths if I hadn’t been on the Board. Now, many of those people are close colleagues and friends, and they are too numerous to name here. But, two people come to mind and to whom I would like to pay tribute. First, is the Executive Director of RfA, Marilyn Paarlberg. Marilyn and I have planned together, plotted together, and prayed together. We have shared moments in which we have cried in sorrow about the unwelcoming spirit in our denomination, or when a person’s story has touched us. And we have laughed raucously too as we’ve shared a meal, or a glass of wine. Her heart and soul are immense. The second person is Associate Director, Cameron Van Kooten Laughead. Cameron and I began on the Board at the same time, until he transitioned into a staff position. As with Marilyn, Cameron and I have cried and laughed together, and he has always been one of my staunchest supporters in ministry. I can’t begin to describe how much joy he gives me whenever we are together or when we talk on the phone. We started off as immediate friends, and that has remained to this day. And, I am sure, we will continue to be beloved friends.

As you may discern from above, I have many swirling emotions: love, joy, sorrow, relief, gratitude. But, last Saturday as the meeting continued on without me, I felt, well, just plain odd and a bit flat. So, I stopped what I was doing and I prayed for the Board that the One who began a good work in them would complete it until the day when all LGBTQ people would be welcomed, affirmed, and celebrated in the full life of the Reformed Church in America. As a rostered RfA church, let us continue to pray for and support the Staff and the Board until that glad-filled day of inclusive completion.

Come this Sunday at 10:30 AM to worship the One who gives us a life of joy and gratitude. Judy has planned some very special music for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany! She has gathered together an ensemble and they will be singing the anthem, “Days of Elijah,” and for the Offertory, “O Sing to the Lord.” And the hymns! I’m pretty sure you will be humming some of them throughout the week. Not only will our music stir your soul, but our preacher for this Sunday is Elder and Seminarian, Mark Poyner. He will be preaching from Nehemiah 8.1-3, 5-6, 8-10 and 1 Corinthians 12.12-31, and his sermon title is The Lost Treasure.

Now that I’m no longer on the Board of RfA, I’m excited that I will have more “be still and know” time with you. I’m looking forward to having a conversation over a cup of coffee and see where the Holy Spirit is leading you next as a beloved child of God. Who knows? A simple statement could open up a world of new opportunities for ministry and friendship that you have only been dreaming about. Oh, that Holy Spirit! What will She do next and where will She lead us? 

Let’s find out together.

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

Peace, Peace

posted Jan 11, 2019, 8:27 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace, peace, and light to you in this season of Epiphany!

I have really been enjoying our mid-week monthly worship time. We gather on the second Wednesday of the month to take a break from our normal routines and catch our breath. It is a brief service — just thirty minutes — where we read Scripture, or sometimes poetry, offer prayers, sit in silence, and listen to God in music. But what makes this worship so poignant for me are the guided meditations from Deacon Mercedes Barnek and the beautiful rituals we do together. For instance, one week we stood in a circle around the Communion table and served each other the bread and cup; for our Blue Christmas worship, I placed water on each person’s head, asking them to remember what a beloved child of God they are and for God to sustain them through any darkness they may experience; and this week we wrote down what we wanted to let go of from 2018 and burned the pieces of paper, and then wrote on Gratitude cards where we wanted to see God show up in 2019, and floated them in the life-giving waters of the baptismal font. These Wednesdays are small, intimate, and oh, so very holy. I look forward to them each month, for as much as I hope they will be refreshing for our people — a “time out” so to speak — I also am refreshed.

Perhaps why they are so meaningful for me is because we are living in such divisive times. Let’s face it: the world right now is wearying for the soul. Wherever we turn, it seems that people are arguing with friend, neighbor, or family member, taking sides according to their political, religious, or cultural beliefs. And now with the recent partial government shutdown, our leaders are modeling this spirit of division with an even greater gusto. In my opinion, this is not ethical behavior or what true leadership should be. 

Because of the “spirit in the air,” all week long I have been thinking about a certain passage in Ephesians where Paul is addressing the division between the Jewish people and the Gentiles in the church of Ephesus. They are a divided people, living in hostility toward one another, believing their way of living and worshiping God is better than the other. So Paul encourages them in this way, But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2.13-17).

These divisive times may be wearying for the soul, but the peace of Christ is that which breaks down walls of hostility, and unites and refreshes us. 

As your pastor, I am entrusted by God with the care of your body, mind, and spirit. So, I invite you to pause, come to our mid-week monthly worship, lay down your burdens, and take care of your soul. If you can’t attend due to other obligations, I encourage you to take thirty minutes out of the week (more frequently if you can), create a ritual where you can claim the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding, and listen for the whispering of the Holy Spirit in your life. Perhaps as God’s people of faith model a more life-giving form of leadership and keep claiming Peace, peace there will be just that.

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

When Creation Plays

posted Jan 4, 2019, 3:05 PM by Tricia Sheffield   [ updated Jan 4, 2019, 3:10 PM ]

Greetings of peace to you on this eleventh day of Christmas! I hope your New Year was filled with joy.

I came back from vacation on January 2, and I was so grateful to have some time to be still and get recharged for the ministry that God has called me to at MRC. A special note of gratitude to the Consistory for granting me this time of rest and rejuvenation. 

For me, taking the time to slow down helps to appreciate unexpected wonders. I’m pretty certain these moments would have been missed in the humming of ordinary time. This was certainly the case on Thursday afternoon.

I was reading in preparation for my sermon in the living room. Something, or perhaps someone, made me get up and look out the window. What I saw stunned me, although it really shouldn’t by now. There on the lawn in front of the Education Building stood fifteen deer — does, fawns (really teenagers at this point), and a few bucks. It was a bit intimidating to see so many gathered at the same time. It seemed like a deer invasion! But, my thoughts of trepidation soon changed to surprise. Suddenly, Eliza, late-born in September, and the littlest fawn in the forest, began to leap about, pronking, and then started to run at full steam all around the yard. She went around and around, up the little hill, down the little hill, as if on a race track. Pretty soon, other fawns, and a few does, joined in her merry-making, running with her and leaping about. I watched them in amazement, giggling at their antics. Some other deer watched calmly, almost absent-mindedly, as they chewed their cud. And then as quickly as it started, they stopped playing, calmed down, and slowly made their way over to Coventry House, looking for corn.

What a gift it was to see God’s creation at play. And not only that, but knowing the deer felt safe and loved enough for them to engage in such play gave me great contentment. 

Oh, I thought, that the Church Universal could be this way for all people — that they are welcomed, loved, affirmed, and celebrated so much that people feel church is a place for reverential play and joy. For certainly, Christ welcomed and continues to welcome all, inviting us to celebrate in gratitude, knowing we are safe and loved by God more than we could ask or imagine. I am so thankful that MRC is just such a place of joy and welcome for God’s beloved people. Because of your faithful witness to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6.8), many in our community know that eternal and Divine truth.  

What a gift it is to see you sharing your light in the world as a witness to Christ’s life and ministry.

As the herd made their way over to the house, I called and welcomed them over, pouring out big bowls of corn for them all, and thanking each one for reminding me of the beauty of when creation plays. May we also be reminded to play as God’s created ones as we worship the Lord.

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

Looking for Joy

posted Dec 21, 2018, 10:43 AM by Tricia Sheffield   [ updated Dec 21, 2018, 10:44 AM ]

Advent blessings of hope, peace, and joy to you!

We are in the week of the Third Sunday of Advent. The focus for the week is joy. So, on Sunday, I made a commitment to practice looking for joy in whatever and whomever the Spirit led me. And what I found out was interesting. As I was more attuned to seeking out joy, I was then able to experience joy and feel the steadfast presence of God more deeply. Here are a few examples of finding joy from the week:

Sunday: In three little “sheep” running barefoot down the church aisle to their appointed place in the choir; in the laughter and conversation heard in Coventry House at our annual Christmas party

Monday: As I co-led the New Jericho Choir rehearsal, especially little Quinn sitting on my lap while we sang, “Gloria in excelsis Deo . . .”

Tuesday: Having a rich theological discussion with one of our members over lunch, and then holding the presence of the holy with the caregivers group

Wednesday: Opening a present from two of our young ones. It was a charm bracelet with the inscription “Amazing Grace,” which brought tears of joy to my eyes because grace is the most important aspect of my relationship with God. And another moment was lunch spent with a beloved member celebrating her birthday.

Thursday: Serving communion at the home of someone who is unable to come to church, and buying a “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree for the choir kids

Friday: Although this morning started off sad as I found one of my barn cats (Lida) dead in the garage, I laughed earlier when I called out to Eliza, the littlest fawn in the forest, and she perked her head up and came walking toward me. 

And there have been so many more instances of seeing and hearing God’s joy this week, but time and space prevent me from writing them all down here.

What joy will the rest of the week bring, I wonder?

Beloved, I know that sometimes God’s joy may be difficult to experience in our lives, but I encourage you to look for it; seek it out; be still; listen for it. What brings you joy may also end up surprising you in delightful, unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s as loud and obvious as the voices of children singing out “Gloria!"; as quiet as the tinkling of a charm that whispers “amazing grace”; or as sweet as the face of a tiny deer.

Truly, I love serving as your pastor. As I listen to the gentle sound of the rain falling on the ever-growing and deepening puddles, I am grateful for the joy you give me, and for the joy you share with our church family and our wider community.

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

Heard Around Town

posted Dec 14, 2018, 12:56 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Advent blessings of hope and peace to you!

Snippets of conversation heard around Middletown, NJ:

“I don’t understand why everything is such a big production during Christmas. It stresses me out.”

“I have too many parties to go to. I don’t have time for all of them! I’ll never get everything done this way.”

“I’m annoyed that I feel obligated to buy presents just because everyone says I have to.”

“It doesn’t feel like Christmas to me this year. I’ve been too busy at work to appreciate it.”

In many of my travels around town, whether it be at the grocery store, the post office, or a restaurant, this is what I’ve been hearing from people. As I was listening to these bits of conversation, it gave me pause. Certainly during the holidays, some people struggle with mental health, loss of a family member, addiction issues, and/or loneliness. This time is difficult for many reasons and those feelings should be honored as we hold closely those who feel alienated in this season. 

But loneliness was not necessarily what I was hearing around the community. I heard frustration. People seemed to be frazzled, if not also a bit weary, as they have internalized the frenetic pace of our consumer culture. What I heard in their words, and in their voices, is they felt they must perform what everyone else thinks Christmas should be in order to be socially acceptable, or even relevant. The “season of good cheer” seems anything but cheerful for some folks. It’s more like the season of run yourself ragged because everyone else is doing it. And I’ll admit, I may have uttered some of the above statements during Christmases past.

The other day, though, one of our church members wrote something to me when I inquired as to how she was feeling. And her response gave me hope, and a whole lot of joy. She said, Actually, I’m feeling good. I seem to be very content with this holiday time. There’s no rushing and I’m not worried about what gets done or what doesn’t get done. We plan to just relax and enjoy the family being together.

When I responded that her feelings are what I think the focus of Advent and Christmas really should be, she replied, That’s what I keep thinking . . . the birth of Jesus and all the joy it brings.

A different conversation here. Feeling content. Feeling joy.

Beloved, I encourage you to give thanks for the hope and peace God is sending into the world. Like a mother experiencing birth pangs, all of creation groans with expectation, waiting for the birth of love that gives us good news of great joy. Let us look forward to this birth, sharing in the songs of angels and the gladness of shepherds. Wait, be still, let go of all those obligations that say we must do, be, buy, rush, and get ready to receive the greatest gift of all — God’s pure and unconditional Love. Joy to the world, the Lord is coming soon!

With joy for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

A Historic Day

posted Nov 29, 2018, 7:53 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace be with you this morning!

As I announced in worship a couple of weeks ago, November 29, 2018 will be a historic day in the life of our church. 

As many of you know, on January 9, 2017 the Consistory of Middletown Reformed Church met for their monthly Consistory meeting. After six months of prayer and discernment concerning the way forward for our congregation in regards to the non-welcoming and non-affirming climate for LGBTQ people in the Reformed Church in America, a motion was put forward and passed to begin to pursue dual affiliation with the United Church of Christ (UCC). 

Some background: The Consistory decided to pursue this action because of the possibility that the Consistory or I could be brought up on charges for our welcoming and affirming stance. That was one reason. But the more important reason for seeking dual affiliation is the matter of justice and love. We at MRC believe that our primary call is to live out the Greatest Commandment of Jesus to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. On these two hang all the law and prophets. As Marilyn Robinson said, “I experience religious dread whenever I find myself thinking that I know the limits of God’s grace, since I am utterly certain it exceeds any imagination a human being might have of it.” Indeed, God’s unlimited grace for all people is at the center of our church’s vision statement, and is the primary reason we pursued dual affiliation. I am so grateful that we have been called to live out this grace at MRC. 

Later in January of 2017, MRC held its annual congregational meeting. Here the process of dual affiliation was discussed, as well as the Consistory’s vote to pursue dual affiliation. The congregation was provided with handouts of the six month long discussion the Consistory had concerning dual affiliation. After a period of question and answer, the congregation voted by 2/3 count, as is our polity, to support the vote of the Consistory to begin to pursue dual affiliation with the UCC.

This year on May 14, the Consistory invited Rev. Rusty Eidmann-Hicks, previously the pastor of Holmdel Community United Church of Christ to a meeting to discuss the history, theology, liturgy, and ethos of the UCC. From our discussion, we found that we share so much in common, as would be the case for the body of Christ, and we were grateful for his time and insights.

All of this background information is to state that the day for dual affiliation with the United Church of Christ has arrived. 

Tonight at 7, I and two of our elders, along with three other churches in our Classis, will meet with the New Jersey Association Ecclesiastical Council at the Community Church of Cedar Grove for a question and answer session to affirm our status as dually affiliated with the Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ. Once we have an affirmative vote, we will then be a part of what is called the Reformed Caucus of the New Jersey Association. All members of our congregation will have this dual status, and I, as long as I am your pastor, will have dual standing as a minister. However, if I were to go to another church that is not dual affiliated, I would no longer have my dual standing. Don’t worry! I don’t have any plans to go elsewhere! 

I want to reassure you that our worship, theology, and polity won’t change. We will still be very much Reformed while having a more united partnership with one of our Formula of Agreementdenominations. For example, the document we received from the UCC states,“Per the United Church of Christ’s Constitution and By-Laws, each UCC congregation has the right to order their life in accordance with the SpiritThe dialogue affirms the right of dual affiliating RCA congregations to continue to employ RCA polity to order their life of faith. RCA polity invests the local church consistory with the authority to make congregational decisions.” And we will have a voice on their councils and commissions: “The Reformed Caucus will have the responsibility to nominate a dual affiliated RCA voice to the New Jersey Association Council, Church and Ministry Commission, and the Pre-Ordination Commission. Other members of the dual affiliated churches may serve on these leadership teams and on the various working groups of the NJ Association.” 

To be sure, dual affiliation is not uncommon in our denomination. In fact, all four of the Collegiate Churches in NYC have dual affiliation with the UCC, along with other churches in New York State and some in New Jersey. And, one of our most historic churches, Pillar Church in Holland, Michigan has dual affiliation with the RCA and the Christian Reformed Church. 

Let me add that the people of the UCC with whom Pastor Dawn Seaman and I have been working have been nothing but absolutely gracious in the care of us during such a difficult time in our denomination. And the leaders of the UCC have assured us that if the climate changes in the RCA concerning LGBTQ people, and we would like to “just be RCA” again, they would give us their blessing. They have repeatedly said that they are not trying to take churches away from the RCA, but see themselves as a safe and welcoming space for us at a time of uncertainty and grief.

Beloved, this has been a long and arduous process (since August 2016), but one that has been filled with the Spirit's advocacy and hope. We have practiced due and careful diligence, and everything has been in decent and proper order. As much as I celebrate our soon-coming dual affiliation where we will have the opportunity to share in ministry with the UCC and live out more fully what it means to be the body of Christ, I continue to pray for the day when the Reformed Church in America will welcome all people — especially LGBTQ people — into the full life of the church.

Come this Sunday at 10:30 AM to experience the unlimited grace of Christ’s light of hope on the First Sunday of Advent. Our Joyful Noise Adult Choir will be singing “An Advent Credo”  and I will be preaching from Jeremiah 33.14-16 and 1 Thessalonians 3.9-13. My sermon title is Share Your Light! We will also gather around God’s table of welcome as we celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. After worship, we will continue the feast as we break bread together at our First Sunday Brunch. A free will offering will be taken to support the ministries of the church.

Of course, as I’ve often said, if you have any questions about the process and what I’ve discussed above, I would be happy to meet with you for conversation.

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

Stick Season

posted Nov 23, 2018, 4:41 PM by Tricia Sheffield   [ updated Nov 23, 2018, 5:47 PM ]

Grace and peace to you! I hope your Thanksgiving was joyful, and that you were surrounded by a feeling of love.

In Vermont, they call November “stick season.” This is the time in-between the months of October, when thousands of people travel to the state to see the beautiful fall colors, and December, the very busy ski season. During this time, the trees have lost their leaves and all around the state are large maples, birch, and oak standing tall and stately as bare, wooden statues. As I looked out the window this morning at the forest around the church property, I realized we in New Jersey are pretty much in stick season. Everything looks dead, with varying shades of dull gray and muted brown.

But this is an illusion. Nothing is dead; all is very much alive. As I realized this, I wondered, for what is creation waiting? Do they have their own sense of expectation and longing as we humans have?

As we end our liturgical year with our Youth and Children led Reign of Christ worship this Sunday, we will then begin the church year with Advent, a time of waiting and expectation. Knowing this, and in my musings about the trees, my thoughts traveled to you all. What is it for which we are waiting? For what do we long? What are our hopes? It’s so easy to get caught up in what the world says we should hope for, or to whom we should look for our faith, and on what we should wait, but as I type these words the lyrics to the hymn “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” comes to mind: My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ love and righteousness . . . And I was reminded what the Reign of Christ really means for us as followers of Christ with this excerpt from the Companion to the Book of Common Worship, “As the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, Christ is the center of the universe, the ruler of all history, the judge of all people. In Christ all things began, and in Christ all things will be fulfilled. In the end, Christ will triumph over the forces of evil. Such concepts as these cluster around the affirmation that Christ reigns! As sovereign ruler, Christ calls us to a loyalty that transcends every earthly claim on the human heart. To Christ alone belongs the supreme allegiance in our lives. In every generation, demagogues emerge to claim an allegiance that belongs only to God. But Christ alone has the right to claim our highest loyalty.”

It’s stick season, but nothing is dead. Indeed, we are all very much alive, and yet, we are waiting. Our faith is secure in the fact that Christ does reign, and we will be reminded come Advent that what we are waiting for is nothing less than hope and the beautiful gift of unconditional love.


In gratitude for the privilege of being your pastor and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

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