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Archive for January 2017

This Moment in Time


I will be honest. I have been turning the channel a lot these days. I want to watch the news but I cannot do it for very long before I have to change the channel.

I’m never very good at good-byes, especially when it is someone I respect the way I respect our current President. And, of course, there are many other reasons for my aversion to watching news that I don’t need to recite here.

But, the fact is that the polarization, infighting, hateful rhetoric, yelling, accusations, false statements that I see filling the news channels is not new. I’ve been watching it for years without changing the channel quite as fast as I am changing it now. So, all that has me wondering, what has changed? Why am I having such a hard time watching it now?

I’m afraid it’s because I have given up. I’m afraid that somewhere inside of me I have decided that it is too late to end the fighting and polarization. I shared this with my Spiritual Director last week. We talked. And, God talked. God reminded  me that with God all things are possible and giving up is not an option.

There is a lot happening this week—the Inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington (happening in cities throughout the country as well). No matter who you are or how you are feeling—excited about the future, scared about the future, confused about the future—you are needed here. God needs me. God needs you.  God needs us.

Maybe I can’t do anything about what is happening in Congress or in the Oval Office but I can do something about how I engage in ministry right here, right now. One of the first things I believe we need to do is to learn how to talk to each other. If this season in our country’s history has taught us anything, it has taught us that we are not doing a good job of talking to one another—of sharing our hurts and pains with each other; of sharing our hopes and dreams with each other.

When was the last time you sat down with someone who is really different from you (either in life circumstance or in  opinions and views on life) and had a deep conversation where you were not trying to convince that person of your own viewpoint but that you purely wanted to hear their story and understand what they are most afraid of, most excited about, most hopeful about, most angry about? When was the last time I did that?

I am in Chicago this week for a week intensive related to my Doctor of Ministry program. My project will be about generous listening. I think that for those of us who identify as liberal Christians, we have the most difficult time with this. Because we are all about inclusivity and radical hospitality we think we already have it all figured out and that we “have arrived”. The truth is, in many cases, we shut down and even don blinders  related to inequality and oppression because we think we already have it figured out. We stop listening to what people are trying to tell us because we think we know it and that we are the ones who need to teach others. The truth is there is a lot we still need to learn if we are going to be advocates for those who do not have the privilege we have, privilege we didn’t earn but was given to us by nature of how and when and to whom we were born.

You know the saying, “When you point your finger at someone there are four fingers pointing back at you?” My hope and prayer is that I (and I hope you all will join me) will spend important time in the coming year seriously thinking about what those four fingers pointing back at me are telling me about what I still don’t understand about my own privilege and my own prejudice. I pray that the conversations I have in this next year (and in these next years) will help me to truly hear another person in a way that allows me to be an agent of change in my own community and also in my own life.

~ Original post by NCNC Office

 January 18, 2017







Unicorns, Fairies, and Market-Based Health Care

A timely opinion piece and a call to action on the consequences of dismantling the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) from one of our favorite writers…

by James Burklo on January 8, 2017

uninsred man

Here’s what “market-based healthcare” looks like:

Been there, and done that. A real “market-based” healthcare system is one in which people with the greatest need for medical attention will be the least likely to get it. It means people will be left on the streets to suffer and die from treatable conditions. It means that if you cannot afford insurance, and cannot pay cash for medical care, you cannot get into an emergency room if you have a life-threatening condition. It means that if you have no money to see a doctor, you have to beg. But if you have to beg, the people you know are probably not the ones who can come up with the cash to help you.

Many Republicans are living in a parallel universe populated by unicorns and fairies if they really believe their own rhetoric about a “market-based” healthcare system. We haven’t had one for a long time – thank God. Before Obamacare, about half of all healthcare expenditures in America already came through government programs like Medicare, Medicaid, public employee plans, and the Veterans Administration. Those in the private market fended for themselves in an expensive, bewildering, and inhumane health insurance market, and many were left behind. NerdWallet Health Analysis estimated the number of medical-related bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2013, before Obamacare was fully in effect, at 646,812, vastly worse than in any other industrialized nation. That number is surely going down as a result of millions of people getting insurance, and getting better coverage, under Obamacare. But it will surely rise higher if Obamacare is dismantled.

Civilization and a “market-based healthcare system” are incompatible. Free enterprise and medical care don’t mix. The market works fine for producing and consuming shoes, cars, computers, and many services. But it fails in delivering basic medical care to everyone. Ironically, the nearest thing to a “free market” was created by Obamacare itself, in the form of an online “marketplace” in which consumers could meaningfully “comparison shop” for private health insurance plans for the first time.

What America needs is “an orderly and smooth transition” from Mike Pence claiming to be a Christian to Mike Pence acting like one. Jesus did not offer health care on a “free market” basis. He healed for free, without a market. Jesus’ health care system fails the Republicans’ rigid, irrational, and inhumane ideological standard. Can anyone imagine Jesus the Christ advocating for greatly reducing the number of people in America who have access to health insurance, or reducing the quality of that insurance? Yet every Republican plan for Obamacare “replacement” would have those effects.

So let’s flood Congress with emails and calls demanding “an orderly and smooth transition” to civilization in America – in which everybody has access to decent health care, everybody is adequately insured regardless of their ability to pay, nobody goes bankrupt behind medical bills, and nobody dies sick or crippled on the streets.

Here’s how:  Sign The Obamacare Petition

Also, Paul Ryan’s office is conducting a phone poll about the Affordable Care Act.  Call (202) 225-0600 & press 2 – many reports of difficulty getting through. So try (608) 752-4050 instead, his Wisconsin line. You can participate in the ACA poll there as well. There’s a full 30 seconds of dead air when you call — don’t hang up. You also have to sit through a message about what Ryan has done to try to repeal the ACA, but then you get to vote in the poll ( and leave a strongly worded voicemail if you’re so inclined). You’ll hear a recording about the bill to repeal it, then Press 1 to support continuing the Affordable Healthcare Act.




Follow me on twitter: @jtburklo



Today’s News

wealth is health apple


EXTRAORDINARY TIMES call for extraordinary churches

In America and in much of Europe, right-wing politicians backed by screaming mobs of white nationalists are taking power. The anger, fear and hatred are so strong that democracy itself might not survive.

In America, life is about to get rocky for many. The elderly face cutbacks in Social Security and Medicare. Women face renewed pressure on reproductive rights and a prevailing attitude of     misogyny. African-Americans face overt racism and police brutality. Immigrants face deportation and public assaults.  Muslims face repression for their religion. Jews face overt anti-Semitism. Homosexuals face retribution for gains made in recent years. In moves that will surprise those who voted for the incoming president, working class whites will face loss of what few safety-net benefits they have, as well as unrealized promises on jobs.

That’s a lot of people heading into rocky times. Except for congregations serving the 1%, some of these people will be sitting in our pews, looking to us for hope. Many more are beyond our walls. They are our future.

In a time of extraordinary hurting, churches will need to get beyond “business as usual.” Here’s what would an extraordinary church should be doing in the years ahead:

  1. Look radically outward. Stop trying to make everyone inside the walls happy. Stop focusing communications internally. Stop allocating resources to serve the membership. Instead, see people outside our walls, recognize their needs, and gear up to respond to them. Understand it as love in action, not as a Membership strategy.
  1. Move beyond noblesse oblige. Stop playing “Lord and Lady Bountiful.” Stop seeing other people as “problems” needing to be solved through handouts. Instead, see them as neighbors. See “them” as “us.” Stop the once-a-year charities. Invest in people and in relationships.
  1. Ratchet down spending on self. Stop spending so much on Sunday worship and pastoral care. People need food, jobs, shelter, health care, safety, education – not better and better Sunday worship. To paraphrase JFK, ask not what your church can do for you, but ask what you and your church can do for a broken world.
  1. Form action-based partnerships. Stop hanging out only with your own kind. Extraordinary times make for strange bedfellows. Cross the boundaries that separate us. God doesn’t care who gets the credit, only that the work gets done.
  1. Strengthen faithful resolve for the resistance. Build up courage, build up determination, build up a faith that dares to be non-conformist in repressive times, build up voices that will speak when speaking becomes dangerous. Cut through doctrinal and denominational baggage, and form the oneness that has been God’s goal all along.
  1. Provide practical help. Stop the public displays of right-opinion. Stop symbolic actions. If people need jobs, help them to find work. If seniors need medical care, help them to find it. If immigrants need sanctuary, provide it. If women need ways to escape abusive men, open a shelter.
  1. Stop fighting. Just stop it. Stop worrying about who’s in charge. Stop pressuring your clergy to do your bidding. Stop settling old scores. Stop trying to hold on to power. Stop using church fights as a way to keep God small. God doesn’t need us to be right, God needs us to do kingdom work in a troubled world.

This is a lot to ask. Being an extraordinary church would stretch us in ways we have wanted to avoid being stretched. Faith is hard work.

About the Author:

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York.

He is the publisher of A Fresh Day online magazine,

 author of On a Journey and two national newspaper columns.


Read Today’s News


Rev. Nathaniel Stearns Klug

In lieu of an article this week, I would like to share some important and very exciting news with you!

Our Search and Call Team has chosen a pastoral candidate and their choice has been approved by the Church Council for presentation to the congregation on


January 22, 2017

Rev. Nathaniel Stearns Klug

Nate will lead worship for us beginning at

5:00 pm

Following worship, we will hold a brief Congregational Meeting to elect Nate as our settled pastor.

The Congregational Meeting will be followed by a fellowship dinner that will allow you to begin to get to know Nate as he begins to connect with us.


You do not need to be a member to attend.





Nate Klug was born in Minnesota, grew up in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and earned a BA in English at the University of Chicago and a Masters from Yale Divinity School. He is the author of Rude Woods (The Song Cave, 2013), a book-length adaptation of Virgil’s Eclogues, and Anyone (University of Chicago, 2015). In 2010 he was awarded a Ruth Lilly Fellowship by the Poetry Foundation. A UCC-Congregationalist minister, he has served churches in North Guilford, Connecticut; Grinnell, Iowa; and Orinda, California.

He will be joining us a half-time settled pastor beginning on February 1.  The other half of Nate’s bi-vocational career is that of a writer and award-winning poet.  You can learn more about Nate’s writing career by visiting

We have found Nate to be a sensitive listener with a warm and welcoming nature who meets people where they are and accepts them with kindness and respect.  His writing background has enhanced his communication and preaching skills.

Nate and his wife, the Rev. Kit Novotny, currently attend the First Church of Berkeley, UCC, where Kit serves as the Young Adult  Minister.  They live in a pink house in Berkeley with Inky the terrier mutt (named after Increase Mather, the notorious Puritan. Do ask.).








Today’s News