Doing My Part

I was honored to have been asked to saw a few words at the Rally for Reproductive Rights in Plainville, Connecticut this afternoon. Here's what I had to offer.

Hi Everyone. I am Don Erickson. I’m the pastor of the Congregational Church of Plainville, United Church of Christ, or UCC. 

Don’t worry. I’m not gonna be preaching to you tonight. To be honest, I'm not a preachy, protesty kind of dude. Pastor Introvert is a suitable nickname for me.

I only have 309 words to share.

As a denomination, the UCC for decades has boldly supported women’s bodily autonomy, reproductive freedom, and the right to choose.

On the day the unwise and uncompassionate ruling was handed down, the general ministers of the UCC wrote these words: “we believe women have an inalienable right to shape the direction of their lives as they see fit, and no institution established by humankind should supersede such freedom.” I agree.

The UCC stands with other denominations and other faith traditions and with all people that support a women’s right to choose.

But I'm not primarily here to represent my church. I’m here as a citizen, a parent, and a person who essentially holds to this simplest of creeds:

The Ultimate Truth is Love. And with Love, there is no compulsion, no coercion, no external control. To walk the way of Love, which I try to do, means honoring each person’s right to their own body, their own self, their own right to live their lives, to experience liberty, and to pursue happiness, never compelling, coercing, or controlling another.

Friday’s decision enables the legislating of compulsion, coercion and external control. Sadly and maddingly, the decision mirrors the compulsion, coercion, and external control women have endured for millennia.

As another dude I know, “this aggression cannot stand!” We cannot let it. So… V-O-T-E, vote, and if you're so moved, pray with your vote!!

Let me close with a succinct summary:

I am pro-faith.

I am pro-family.

I am pro-choice,

And I am proud to stand with you!


Survey Truths

Last week, on Plainville Talks, a Facebook group page in the town in which I pastor, I asked the following:

I did not get a big response to the survey. But the answers I did get were telling. I’d like to share them…

One reply was from Butch, who wrote, “Music is the make or break for me, coffee hr is a must too, less preaching and more real current life workings

I followed up with this question: "As far as music goes, are you talking more traditional music or contemporary?"

Butch answered, “drums a must, guitar, piano/organ, both tradition, contemporary, gospel, singers, praise music.”

A Nicole - not ours :) - answered this way, “Evening services. I'm not a morning person, and church is not enough motivation to get me out of the house before noon on Sundays.”

The most colorful response came from Jimmy: “Why a church? Get involved with your community or private organizations not an ancient fairytale money grab business ran by some old man who lives for free off the congregation.”

Yes, these are just 3 replies. But they say a lot.

Butch confirms that music is key. But not just any music. A mix of traditional and contemporary is the desire. I think this is a sentiment shared by many. It is something we need to do more of, and will be working toward in the new church year.

Nicole’s statement about morning services not being ideal for all is an important one to consider. For young families, especially with kids and especially with kids involved in sports, Sunday mornings have a great deal of competition. Even for families with kids who are not in sports, another earlier morning is tough for families who have students needing to catch up on sleep. Middle school and high school students face a quiet epidemic of inadequate sleep. (See this article to learn more.) Early school days and lack of sleep mean weekends are the only chance for kids and even adults to catch up on missed sleep. This is something my household personally struggles with.

I am hoping the 2nd service I will be sampling this Sunday will be an evening service.

Lastly, there is Jimmy. We need to face reality. New England is a tough market for churches. This region of the country remains the least religious in the country. Some just see no point in church, and never will. The unchurched and uninterested (in church) are growing exponentially in number.

Another sad truth is those who might be interested will naturally be drawn to bigger churches that already have people in pews and programs in place. It is the old catch 22. You need the energy of people to create and facilitate successful programs, but people are less likely to become a part of your community if those programs aren’t already in place. 

An example of this Catch 22 is a 2nd service in the evening which I am hoping to try. To make it work, a 1st session that has good turnout is vital. If you have a couple new people, but they make up a third of a small number of attendees, the result is a sense of “this feels dead,” and an unlikely return. But those who'd most likely be interested in this new venture are you all, folks who attend the traditional service at 10 am. Expecting you to be faithful to two services is a lot to ask.

That said, we keep trekking! We gotta keep trying. I ponder ideas like a children’s choir which is something that I think would be successful if done right.

It is my goal that CCP begin having these big conversations about “vision” more and more as we progress. 
Please share your thoughts.