From the Desk of Hamilton

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    ThuThursdayOctOctober2nd2014 Stories & Faith in Community
    byHamilton Coe Throckmorton Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    In October 2014 the I-Open Research website published an interview with Hamilton in which he reflects on the following aspects of stories and faith in community.

    • What is Most Meaningful to You? Connecting to People Through Stories
    • The Transformative Power of Stories-And Connecting to a Larger Narrative
    • It’s The Verbs That Connect Us! What We Do Transcends Time
    • Accept Your Acceptance-Share Stories of Acceptance and Being Loved
    • Share Stories of Experience-Stories of Personal Discovery Connect Us
    • We Are United By Our Own Feelings-Create Spaces to Share These Vital Stories
    • Take The Next Step to Service-Spread The Feeling of Being Treasured
    • What Do You See for the Future? Hope as an Investment in a Force for Good
    • On Work and Preparing to Preach-Connect to Truth Beyond Experience
    • The Mundanity of Excellence-Look for the Spiritual Dimension of Life

      Click here to view the video of the full interview or to read the text.
    TueTuesdayAprApril23rd2013 Why does Federated Church exist?
    byHamilton Coe Throckmorton Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    Why does Federated Church exist? I don’t mean why do churches exist, but why does Federated in particular exist? What distinctive purpose do we serve? What’s our unique role in the Chagrin Valley? Churches, like people, have their own DNA. We have our own reason for being. And it’s different from any other church.

    We explored this question some at our most recent Church Council meeting. Around the table we went, listing gifts and blessings we see here. Here’s some of what was said:

    • It’s a place to discover and express gratitude.
    • It’s a place that reveals God.
    • It’s a church that seeks answers to tough questions.
    • The Holy Spirit is so richly alive.
    • It’s a place that honors the orientation of many younger adults to spirituality and mission.
    • There’s no doctrine here; we don’t pretend there are easy or formulaic answers.
    • God is still speaking here.
    • The people are central—and wonderful (that’s my editorial addition!)
    • There’s a history here of advocating for social justice (standing up against the Ku Klux Klan decades ago, for example)
    • Federated emphasizes that we are all called to serve.
    • We experience a unique and warm community here.
    • This is a safe place for seekers.
    • We take the Bible seriously but not literally.
    • There are smart people here, with a depth of commitment.
    • We’re comfortable with the discomfort of the questions.

    That’s an impressive list. What would you add to it? What gifts and graces do you see that are particular to Federated? Send them to me if you’d like. I’d love to hear what you treasure about Federated.

    And let’s keep telling the story of who and what Federated is. There are countless people who need to hear that “God is still speaking,” who need to know that, in the midst of their questions and confusion and pain, there is a place that affirms them, that seeks the healing of the world, and that radiates the grace of God. Share the word! Tell our story!
    WedWednesdayAugAugust29th2012 Summer Sabbatical 2012
    byHamilton Coe Throckmorton Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    Dear Friends,

    As I return from some summer rest, reading and relaxation, I thought I’d fill you in a little on our family life, tell you something about my summer reading, and look forward to the year ahead here at Federated.

    This was a different summer for our family, as Mary and I and our sons, Alex and Taylor, had the privilege of taking a two week trip to Europe. We had never vacationed together out of the country, but the occasion of our 25th wedding anniversary, as well as the relatively recent college graduations of both our sons, provided the occasion for the journey.

    We spent most of the two weeks in London and the surrounding countryside. What an amazing experience it was to see
    all those majestic sights: the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square and its towering statue of Lord Nelson, the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s Church. We worshiped on Sunday morning in Westminster Abbey, sitting literally right next to the extraordinary choir.

    Outside London we went to Cambridge, where I had lived for a year as a fifteen-year-old. We went to the street I lived on in the little town of Coton, stopped in to the little church which is some 900 years old, and visited the school I had attended while there. Unbelievably, I couldn’t remember anything at all about the school. Nothing about it came
    back to me. But other parts of the town and city did, including the street on which I lived, and it was extremely beautiful.

    We also took a day trip to the Cotswolds (remarkably the only day we were inconvenienced by the rainiest June in English history), and had the chance to visit Windsor Castle, the town of Bath, and Stonehenge. And one day we spent most of an afternoon in an old manor called Coughton Court, the ancient home of the Throckmorton family. It was fun to get a tour, and to be greeted, because of our name, as royalty. Across the street was the famous (!) and delectable pub known as the Throckmorton Arms.

    While in Europe, we took a trip, as well, to Paris. We went through the Chunnel, which was quick and easy. There, we
    were mesmerized by Notre Dame, Sainte Chappelle, Sacre Coeur, the Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay, and the Musee de l’Orangerie. It was a special delight to climb the steps of the Eiffel Tower at night, after its hourly light show, and to see all of Paris lit up before us.

    One of the delights of summer is the chance to read more intensively than I do during the rest of the year. Because of our
    travels, and a greater amount of work that I needed to be doing at church over the summer, I didn’t have the chance to read as extensively as during other summers. Nevertheless, what I read was a gift. Here is some of my list:

    Having heard a great deal about Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, I made that my first read of the summer and it was a gripping story. It is an intense saga of violence and competition and survival, and it has been called a kind of parable of the experience of the teen years. Imaginatively told, it was a satisfying tale. I now look forward to seeing the movie.

    A work of fiction I especially enjoyed was Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding. A great baseball novel, it’s about a fabulous college player who suddenly loses his ability to throw. The agony and self-doubt bred in Henry Skrimshander by one errant throw, as well as the antics and struggles of the rest of the characters, make for a riveting journey toward self-understanding.

    After my father died some 3 ½ years ago, my mother undertook to read what many great writers had written about the experience of losing their spouses and partners. One of the books she recommended most strongly was C. S. Lewis’ A
    Grief Observed. I found it a remarkable book. It is full of raw and honest grief and questions, as well as wise and extraordinarily perceptive observations about the place of God in it all. If you have been through such loss yourself, or even if you haven’t, you might find it a rewarding book.

    Jim Collins is a well-known writer on business and leadership, and I read his Good to Great and the Social Sectors. In it, he likens social service agencies to businesses in some ways, but he is also clear in pointing out their differences.
    Churches do well to pursue greatness, he says, by focusing on what they do well, and doing it diligently and expertly. This is a short book that pays dividends.

    In the realm of theology, I found Thomas Long’s What Shall We Say: Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith to be a great help. He looks at the dilemma of believing in a good God when the world is so broken and pained, reminding us that God’s power is made manifest right in the midst of the brokenness. This is a robust and challenging, but not overly dense, book that might make for a good book study here.

    One other book that I found deeply engaging is Lauren Winner’s Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis. Winner converted to
    Christianity from Judaism, and after some early years of great enthusiasm, she found her faith and her excitement waning.
    This is a thoroughly accessible exploration of faith in one woman’s life. It is moving and perceptive, and written in a style not unlike that of Anne Lamott. I would highly recommend it.

    As we return to our fall pace, there is much of which to take note. First, having lost Dan DeWeese, Lisa Vitantonio, Pat Nichols, Lisa Braun, and Don Newrones in the last several months, we now prepare for the departure of Larry Trace, our Properties Manager. We will honor him and thank him at the Family Life Center Saturday evening, Sept. 8 and in worship Sunday morning, Rally Day, Sept. 9. Even with that, though, we will never adequately be able to thank him for all he has done and been here at Federated. He has cared for these buildings, as well as these people, as if they were his own, and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude. I hope you will take the time, over these next few weeks, to thank him for what he has meant to us.

    Even as we experience the losses that are endemic to human life, though, at the same time we are called forth by God to
    both ongoing ministries and new initiatives. One of the great joys of Federated is the commitment of so many to give themselves to the mission of this church in countless ways. As we prepare to enter this new season, I am struck daily by our ministries with children, youth, and elders; by the Angel Ministries which have so flourished over these last few years, providing food and flowers and rides and presence to so many; and by the gifts of God so many carry with them into the wider world. As we begin a new two-service Sunday morning schedule, I am buoyed by the music and worship that are so rich here. And I see that richness blossoming in extensive plans for a rejuvenated and exciting Sunday morning Mid-hour schedule.

    Even as the place of the church continues to decline in our culture, Federated still provides a moving and lively vision that
    counters the prevailing tide. Here we testify to a God who is still speaking. Here we let ourselves be transformed into evergrowing disciples of Christ. Here we discover ministries to heal and restore the world. Here we are bathed in the grace of God and sent forth to world-changing work. This is the stuff of the deepest joy. Join us.
    SunSundayJulJuly1st2012 We have "Faith, in Cleveland"
    byHamilton Coe Throckmorton Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    Dear Friends,
    Several weeks ago, Mark Simone, Alan Shinagawa, and I attended the launch of a wonderful new initiative in the United Church of Christ. Called “We Have Faith, in Cleveland,” it’s a reminder that the work of God is happening, not just in some vague distant place, but right here, in our backyards and kitchens, our workplaces and ball fields. In every corner of our lives, God is making a home and working for good.

    Not only is God active, though, but so are we. In countless ways we express our faith in all the places we live and work. To have “Faith, in Cleveland” carries a double meaning. It means that we believe in this place, in this special corner of God’s earth. But it also means that we believe in the grace of God unfolding in this place. “We Have Faith in Cleveland,” without the comma, would simply mean we believe good things can and will |happen here. And that’s great. But “We Have Faith, in Cleveland,” with the comma, means that our faith comes to life here — our faith in God as the transformer and healer of the earth. “We have faith” —the faith that animates and sustains us—in this remarkable and God-blessed place.

    This initiative calls us to redouble our trust in the One who grounds us and gives us meaning. It reminds us that no moment passes without the presence of the Holy One shining in its midst.

    The initiative also calls us, though, to be part of the work of God in all those places we find ourselves. If we have faith, here in Chagrin Falls, in Cleveland, on this earth, that means we find ourselves joining the great work of God for healing and justice and hope and mercy. If we have faith here, it means we redouble our commitment to be part of solutions rather than problems. It means we invest ourselves in all the dailiness of our lives.

    This is a theme that can inspire and animate every dimension of life at Federated. Our Youth and Childrens’ ministries, our Mission and Service Commission, our Angel Ministries, our knitting circles, our presence in Chacraseca and South Africa and on the Colorado trip and during the Work Camp trip this summer—all of it is an expression of the faith we have, here and so many places beyond.

    I pray we might be led and inspired by our deep convictions, that God is working in our midst, and that the world will be a better place as we join God in that holy mission. May we have “Faith, in Chagrin Falls, in Cleveland, in the world.”
    FriFridayMarMarch23rd2012 Contemplation: Sanctuary, House & Closet
    byHamilton Coe Throckmorton Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    April 2012

    During this season of Lent, many of us at Federated have been studying a book by Diana Butler Bass called Christianity for the Rest of Us. In it, Bass points to a number of disciplines of the faith that she thinks can spark a renaissance in the church. Such practices as beauty, hospitality, discernment and testimony can help revive a mainline church that has been flagging in recent decades.

    One of the practices she suggests as fundamental is that of contemplation, the act of attending to God. It’s terribly easy, in the church, to get busy doing the tasks we think need to be done, and forget to listen for the breath of God as the heart of all we do. And Bass says there are three main ways we can attend to the movement of God in the community. I talked about these at our recent planning session for new church leaders, and want to lift them up here as fundamental to the entire life of faith.

    Expanding on a model suggested by a local church pastor she knows, Bass says contemplation has three main venues: sanctuary, house, and closet, and that each is necessary for a balanced life. “Sanctuary” is where we entertain a Word from God that comes from beyond us and speaks its “slant” word into our lives. In community worship, we listen to biblical stories that speak a radically different word from the one we hear on a daily basis. The dominant message of the culture is that you had better be accomplished, wealthy, successful, thin, charming, and happy. The message of the gospel, on the other hand, is that God loves you even if you’ve failed and lost your money (or never had it) and are heavy and dull and sad. The message of the culture is that self-aggrandizement is perfectly acceptable. The message of the gospel is that true life is gained only in creating a community and sharing with others. It’s in the sanctuary that we hear this radically “other” message, and it’s what saves us.

    The second dimension of our contemplation is the “house,” by which she means the various small groups that give us a sense of community and connection. House is necessary as the place where we learn together (in book and Bible studies), where we get to know others at a deeper level, where we care for each other when the cancer strikes or the divorce papers are served, and where we have fun together.

    The third dimension of our attending to God is “closet,” by which she means the time we spend in a personal approach to God. This is “one’s private experience of God” through “healthy habits of private devotion” (p. 122). This dimension of faithfulness is extremely difficult for many of us. We get consumed by all the various distractions of our age (TV, internet, smart phones, email, text messages, etc.), and neglect to spend intentional time with God.

    As we witness, this month, to the power and wonder of Christ’s resurrection, and as we begin now with our exciting new model of governance and ministry, I wonder if these facets of contemplation might guide us to a renewed faithfulness and attention to God. As Easter dawns, let’s keep each other focused on such practices. It will only enhance our life with God and each other.
    From the Desk of HamiltonColumns from The Spireby Hamilton writes a column for our monthly newsletter, The Spire. Here are some of the highlights from that column.
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