Advent Blog 2020 – Devotional Download

Each Friday we will share a devotional reflection. A devotional is something that you can use for spiritual reflection (writing, poetry, images, etc.) that help prompt your meditation, prayer, journaling, or just to ponder throughout the day.

“… an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled: Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will call him, Emmanuel. (Emmanuel means ‘God with us.’)”
— the Gospel of Matthew

This week we light the first candle on our Advent Wreaths and begin our Advent journeys. As we light our first candle of Hope, we recognize we need Hope in order to have Peace, Joy, and Love. Hope gives us the ability to aspire to these other three.

This week, if you are feeling despair, anxiety, or fear from the difficulty of this year (and the uncertainty of the future), allow this light to remind you that you are not alone. Remember: the angel’s message Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds was “do not be afraid.” We believe that the Christmas message of “God With Us” (Emmanuel) is why Jesus came to be with us. He was born into a world that was also experiencing trouble, unrest, oppression, and fear. God wanted to be with us then, and God still wants to be with us in a Spirit of Hope that never dies.

Adapted from Dr. Marcia McFee’s Advent Resource

What ways are you inviting hope into your life this week?
Write down a list of 5 hopes you hold in your heart today.

“Drawing Near”
A Blessing for Advent

It is difficult to see it from here,
I know,
but trust me when I say
this blessing is inscribed
on the horizon.
Is written on
that far point
you can hardly see.
Is etched into
a landscape
whose contours you cannot know
from here.
All you know
is that it calls you,
draws you,
pulls you toward
what you have perceived
only in pieces,
in fragments that came to you
in dreaming
or in prayer.
I cannot account for how,
as you draw near,
the blessing embedded in the horizon
begins to blossom
upon the soles of your feet,
shimmers in your two hands.
It is one of the mysteries
of the road,
how the blessing
you have traveled toward,
waited for,
ached for
suddenly appears,
as if it had been with you
all this time,
as if it simply
needed to know
how far you were willing
to walk
to find the lines
that were traced upon you
before the day
you were born.

—Jan …

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Advent Blog 2020 – Journey Through Advent in Art

As a part of our Advent Blog series, Wednesdays will feature artistic renderings of the Advent story. This week, I want to share with you “The Annunciation” by Henry Ossawa Tanner, which is one of my favorite paintings of this familiar Christian story. “Annunciation” paintings are a genre that depict the angel Gabriel sharing the news to Mary that she will bear God’s son (Luke 1:26-38).

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898), Philadelphia Museum of Art

Here in Tanner’s rendering, he steps out of the genre’s tradition which usually depicts Gabriel with wings, a dove descending, and perhaps a lily. Annunciation paintings also often picture Mary reading a Bible, praying, or often wearing the attire of a noble woman (as in many Renaissance and Reformation-era renderings).

Here, however, Tanner depicts a traditional Middle Eastern home with Mary listening closely to a soft glow of light. Here we feel like we can step into the painting and hear the conversation just as it appears in scripture. It seems Mary is just about to say “how can this be?”

Henry Ossawa Tanner was the son of an African Methodist Episcopal preacher, and one of the first African American artists to receive international recognition. He painted this piece just after a trip from Egypt upon returning to Paris. This painting is housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Take a moment to read the story from Luke while looking at the painting. Use this practice of “visio divina” to invite God near in meditation and prayer.

– Rev. Emelia Attridge…

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Advent Blog 2020 – Musical Moment

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” is a holiday song that feels like it might have been around forever! But did you know that it wasn’t written that long ago, AND, it was written in response to and during a very anxious time in the World? I’m finding that I’m relating to it in a new way this year – what about you?

Click the link below to give a listen as I narrate the history of this song from an article written by Richard W. O’Donnell and Gabrielle Regney in the December 07 St. Anthony Messenger. I know you’ll be singing it all season!

In anticipation and hope,
Rev. Chad William Kidd
Minister of Music

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Advent Blog 2020 – #MissionMonday with City Mission Christmas Shop

Each Monday we will post an opportunity to give back (call it #MissionMonday). This week, we highlight City Mission’s annual Christmas Shop, which helps provide gifts for children and families in need.

Donating toys, hats, gloves, mittens, clothing, books? Drop them off at the church office door on Sanborn Street from 9 AM – 1 PM, today through Thursday, December 3. There will be a box just inside the entryway to receive donations.

We will also be doing another “drive-by” collection day on Sanborn Street this Sunday, December 6, from 11:30 AM to 2 PM. Just pull up and drop off items (or volunteers can help take them from your trunk). Please wear a mask when making donations.

Monetary donations can be made online here:
Wishlists and what’s needed can be viewed here:

Shop local — here in Reading you might check out Whitelam Books or Goodhearts Children’s Shop.

This year more than ever it’s important to support local businesses. But you might also want to consider buying gifts from Black, Brown, and Indigenous-owned businesses, and women-owned businesses, when possible. It’s also important that children of color receive toys and books with characters that look like them. There are some resources here, too. Here are some suggestions:

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Sign up for Advent in a Bag!

Back by popular demand, and perfect to help prepare for Christmas this December while at home, “Advent in a Bag” returns for 2020. This year, however, it will look a little different! We’re not even sure at this point if it’s a “bag” or maybe it’s a “box.” No matter what shape it comes in, we’re excited about what will be included inside to help guide you through this Advent season.

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Upcoming Opportunities to Give Back

Donate Winter Coats

FCCR is once again collecting gently used coats for the Anton’s Cleaners coat drive. This includes coats of all types and sizes, for kids and adults. This year, due to COVID and space limitations, the FCCR collection will run from Monday, November 2, through Wednesday, November 25 only. Place coats in the box just inside the Sanborn St door of FCCR, Mon-Thurs., between 9am – 2pm. Coats may also be dropped off at any Anton’s, Jordan’s Furniture, or Enterprise Bank thru Jan 8. Alternatively, you can call the office to request information on contactless pickup.

Anton’s will clean the coats and donate them to charities that distribute them to those in need in the Boston area. These organizations include the Salvation Army, the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, Rosie’s Place and the Boxford-based Community Giving Tree. Anton’s held its first Coats for Kids drive in 1994, collecting 2,000 coats. In its 15-year history, Coats for Kids has collected, cleaned and distributed a total of 620,015 coats. Last year 60,000 coats were collected, a number Anton’s hopes to meet again this year. 

Annual Thanksgiving Food Pantry Drive

Sunday, November 22, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. you can pull up to an open parking spot on Sanborn Street and either a volunteer can take donations from your trunk or you can bring them to a table. Please wear a mask.

The items collected will be divided once again between the Reading Food Pantry and Neighbors in Need, a food pantry in Lawrence.

For people unable to participate that day, there will be a weekday drop-off opportunity on Thursday, November 19. The church’s Sanborn Street entrance nearest the office will be open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a collection box placed just inside.

Top needs include:
Goya products, tea, coffee, body wash, bars of soap, shampoo, conditioner, tissues, paper towels, toilet paper, cereal, shelf stable pudding cups, and brownie mix. Reading Food Pantry also has an online Amazon Wish List.

Collection for City Mission’s Christmas Shop

Each year, City Mission in Boston distributes over 5,000 gifts & clothing items during the annual Christmas Shop. Toys, books, hats, mittens, scarves, clothing and underwear for kids & teens, and more. Donations will be available to be dropped off Monday through Thursday from 9 am – 1 pm on Nov. 30 – Dec. 3

There will be a “drive up” donation day on Sunday, December 6 from 11:30 AM to 2 PM on Sanborn Street next to the church.

Click here to read more about what items are in need this year, and how to support and empower local, BIPOC-owned and women-owned businesses. There is a great need for toys and books featuring children of color, and the website offers resources on where to find these items. …

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Thank you for a wonderful Olde Redding Express!

We are thrilled with the way the Express was received by the community. Despite the steep learning curve, the Express exceeded expectations in every way. This gives us a lot to work with for next year’s event, or maybe even something in the new year. I would like to thank everyone for their participation, especially those who were able to step forward to re-imagine and re-create the Faire 2020 style:
Jeannie Peirce
Gay Williams
Linda Ananian
Cindy Crampe
Diane Wilson
Betsy Connor
Craig Taylor
Rev. Emelia Attridge
Mary Ann Higgins
Peter Newhall
Mark Johnson
Carol Johnson
Christine Georgilas
Andi Jeffrey
The total profit for this year’s event (barring any late expenses) is a whopping $7,416.49! Out of this we will disburse $400 each to the Reading Food Pantry and to Emmaus, Inc. In these challenging times it is more important than ever that we share with our friends providing direct services to those in need. We are so glad that FCCR is able to continue this tradition of giving. 
Thanks to everyone, please stay healthy, and keep imagining the future.
Betsy Schneider

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Reflections on discussing White Fragility together

During the month of September, a group of about 20 church members came together over three Zoom sessions to discuss the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, and to dive into honest and vulnerable conversations on racism. What resulted was faith-filled, spirit-led dialogue, and wondering, what next? Two members of the book study composed this report for the October Newsletter. Interested in learning more about how you can participate in the work towards racial justice? Join us on Sunday mornings, and stay tuned for more programs, education, activism, and dialogue.

“I’m not racist!” How many times have we heard this statement by caring people who are not aware of the institutional racism embedded in our culture? This is one of the topics explored by the book group that read, White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo. Rev. Emelia led two groups, each consisting of about ten people, over a six-week period with three Zoom sessions each.

As we read the book, our discussions provided a safe place to share our personal experiences with racism, to explore guilt, misconceptions, and revelations, and also explore terms that were new to us. 

The first thing we learned was a new definition of racism. It’s no longer about “bad” people running around lynching Black people just because, or refusing to let Black people eat at a lunch counter. Such racism, once common in the United States, is no longer so prevalent. But, racism is still built into our basic institutions in that African Americans in general do not have the same access to education, health care, or decent jobs that white people have. So, the issue is more about identifying racist institutions and how we have benefitted from them, than it is about “being mean”. But when one points out the realities of institutional racism, people get all defensive. Hence “white fragility”. We can’t handle truths that should shame us.

During one session, we discussed a continuum of racism from a UU curriculum that demonstrated how not everyone is in the same place on this journey. The continuum runs from the overt racism of white supremacist militias; to people who think white folks are naturally superior; to folks who think we’re all the same, but the white way of life is the norm toward which all should strive; to honoring and cherishing cultural diversity and to being active allies in the fight to remove racist institutions. My biggest revelation was how racist my family was. I explored reasons for this and found the beginning of an answer. 

During another session, the term “White Women’s Tears,” was discussed when it was introduced in the reading. Sometimes when racism is pointed out, people break into tears (most often, apparently, white women) as a means of changing the subject away from racism: “How could you think I had anything to do with racism?” How tears evoke anger was an eye opener for me and helped to explain some interactions that I have had that I have never understood before. …

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