Please come and join us every Sunday
Sunday School at 9am and Worship at 10am
First Congregational United Church of Christ, Watertown, SD Welcoming Statement
Based on welcoming statement from Prince of Peace Lutheran, Philadelphia, PA
Who is welcome here?
If you are Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Black, White, or multi-racial . . .
If you are three days old, 30 years old, or 103 years old . . .
If you are male or female or transgender . . .
If you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or not registered to vote . . .
If you are single, married, divorced, separated, or partnered . . .
If you are straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual . . .
If you are Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Jewish, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, or a life-long Congregationalist . . .
If you have never set foot in a church, attend only on Easter and Christmas, or attend every Sunday . . .
If you are fully-abled, living with a disability, or a person of differing abilities . . .
If you have or had addictions, phobias, mental illness, or physical illness . . .
If you own your own home, rent, live with your parents, or are homeless . . .
YOU ARE WELCOME HERE!
This congregation is committed to being a loving and welcoming community.
In faithfulness to God, and to the best of our ability, we work to provide programs, ministries, fellowship, and pastoral care to all who seek God in this place.
We dedicate ourselves to living the UCC church’s motto:
“No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!”
Pastor’s Ponderings for September...
“What To Do In A Foreign Land”
A poem in the Bible that we know as Psalm 137 asks a sad question. It asks how a person in exile can find any joy. The first part of the poem goes like this: “Beside the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept. On the willows there we hung up our lyres, for our captors there have demanded of us songs. Our tormentors have said to us, “Sing us one of those songs of Zion.” But how can we sing the songs of the LORD in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1-4)
There is a powerful metaphor contained in ancient Israel’s story of captivity – exiled from their homeland. Sometimes, in our own lives, there are times and circumstances in which we are in exile and captive to the situation and course of events surrounding us. There are times in our lives when we find ourselves, mentally, and emotionally, by our circumstances in – as it were – another country. It could be a situation of an illness, a loss of a job, a change in a relationship, a personal tragedy, or our doubts and fears. For many, the conditions we are living under with the Covid-19 pandemic has made us exiles in our own community. How do we sing the songs of our former life?
In situations like these we find ourselves asking how we can sing the songs of our lives restored, while knowing that in reality, that life is gone forever, and that the songs we sing will in truth be the songs of our lives yet to be. I know what this is like. In my personal past, I have gone through a time of exile – a time of doubt and searching. During that time, I often felt like I was in a state of exile – living a temporary life in an emotional foreign land. During that time, I did not know how things would work out, but I was able to learn some important things. Let me share with you what I learned. Let me share with you what to do when you find yourself in a foreign land:
Make The Best Of The Situation.
Each one of us have basic needs to be met in order to survive.
The first thing is to make sure you are taking care of yourself and meeting your needs of food, shelter, companionship, and spiritual and emotional stability. These elements of your life that have become shattered need to be reestablished and rebuilt. But more than that, it is important to go further and to turn the negatives of your situation into positives. The old lines of ‘bloom where you’re planted,’ ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,’ though a bit trite, are still good reminders to use a bad situation to turn it into something good.
Lean On Your Support Network.
The second thing is to use your network of family and friends.
These are people who know you best and know both your history and your potential. When you find yourself in emotional exile, your support friends can help you sift through all the conflicting and chaotic things coming at you and help you make sense of your situation. Your support network can also help you discern what to do with your life from this point onward and encourage you to grow.
Promoting growth is the third thing. The time in an emotional foreign land is a time of confusion and trauma, but it can also be a great time of growth. It is in times of hardship when we humans grow the most. Embrace this time of shaping, molding and growing. It is a good time to journal, read and converse with friends about the situation you are in and how you can benefit from it. This may be a good time to take on some training to improve your vocational skills. Maybe this is a time to embark on a whole new career, or a whole new way to live out your life. And of course, do not forget to pray for God’s leading during this time of discerning.
Look To The Future.
The last thing to do when you find yourself in emotional exile is to look to the future. With hope and expectation, look to the time when you will be out of your present situation. In life, nothing lasts. Just as you discovered that the good times of your past life did not last, know that the bad times in your present life will not last either! Since change is coming, plan for it, prepare for it, and go deliberately into your future. Don’t just let the future come to you but instead mold it and shape it to your own advantage. How do you want the future to look? Take the things you have learned and gained in your time of exile and use them to yours and even the world’s betterment! When you come out of your time in an emotional foreign land, you will be a better, stronger and more mature person.
When the ancient nation of Israel went into exile, it turned into a good thing culturally for them. It was while in captivity that the social, religious and philosophical structure of the Jewish people was solidified and written down. A similar thing can happen to you: When the trials of life put you in exile – in an emotional foreign land – with God’s help, it can actually become the best thing that happened in your life. God is a Master at wrangling the good out of our struggles. We need to trust in God’s love and grace to help us grow into the beautiful life that God intends us to be. Trust in God’s grace to let this happen to you!
Grace and peace,
*Scriptural note: Read the rest of Psalm 137. Note the disturbing sentiment recorded in the last verses of the poem. Ask yourself: ‘Have I ever harbored such thoughts against the people who have hurt me?’ ‘Do I look at the world with a ‘righteous indignation’ while not examining my own biases, hateful thoughts, racist attitudes, and private sins?’ Use the lesson of Psalm 137 to teach you that 1) It is alright to pour out our anger and frustration in pray to God – God is big enough to handle it, and 2) after we express our anger, let God shape and mold us into the person who God desires us to be.