Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Belonging vs Fitting In

This past week, I preached at Central’s contemporary WAVE service on belonging. As part of our “Book and a Bible” series, I delved into Brené Brown’s newest book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Some of you might be familiar with Brené through her New York Times bestselling books, interviews on Oprah, or popular TED talk on vulnerability.

            As a sociologist and researcher, Brené interviewed numerous eighth graders on the difference between belonging and fitting in. Their answers were insightful and worth sharing:

·         Belonging is being somewhere where you want to be, and they want you. Fitting in is being somewhere where you want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other.
·         Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.
·         If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.

The delineation in their definitions is relatable. It’s also illustrative of the fact that true belonging requires authentic self.

            As much as we’re wired for genuine connection, it requires courage to present our authentic self to others and honor it ourselves. Brené writes, “No vulnerability, no courage.” But it is precisely our vulnerability that can bring us greater joy and even has the capacity to heal our increasingly divisive society.

            When we recognize what binds us as humans is greater than what divides us, when we believe in mutual love and respect, and when we come together for a purpose larger than ourselves, we begin to cultivate a community where authentic selves can thrive. And that is something we hope, friends, Central offers you through Jesus Christ.

             Coming together for Lent and Holy Week is a time-honored tradition that celebrates the love that unites us all. In Jesus, we all belong and are welcome. I hope to see you in worship!

Warm Easter Wishes,
Pastor Noelle

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Five Years

            It popped up on my Facebook page the first thing this morning. “See Your Memories,” it said, and then a post I wrote five years ago about becoming a resident of Summit, New Jersey. Yes, I’ve been living here, serving as Pastor here for five years, which hardly seems possible that it’s already been five years, which is good news if the saying is true that “time flies when you’re having fun.”

            In the post that I wrote five years ago, I mentioned that I could not find my way from the front door to the back door of the house without relying on my GPS, which was a bit of an exaggeration, but also a reminder of how new everything seemed five years ago. Over the course of these past five years, that newness has worn off, and there’s much that is good about that. Now, I feel comfortable here, at home here amidst sights that are now familiar. 

And yet, there is also something that makes me want to cling to a sense of newness, because when places and people are new, we pay more attention. We are open to surprise, around each curve, in each conversation, no matter how brief. We see better. “And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new’” (Revelation 21:5). For that One seems to like newness, and maybe that’s because that One wants us to pay attention to the familiar stuff of our everyday lives; to be open to surprise and wonder; really to see life, the world, the universe surrounding us.

--Pastor Don Steele

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Iona Community

I have been intrigued by the Iona Community ever since I first visited the small island of Iona, located off the west coast of Scotland, in 1986. Iona is the place where, in the 6th Century, Columba came from Ireland to launch his Christian mission in Scotland. Today, the dominant structure on Iona is the Abbey, which was reconstructed, starting in the 1930’s, on medieval foundations. During Lent, we are bringing prayer services used in that Abbey to Central Church, each Thursday evening at 7:15 pm.
However, the Iona Community is so much more than the island. It is a community of women and men, spread out around the world, joined by a five part rule that unites the community. And I think that the five part rule gives us practices that we could well use during Lent:
1)      Daily prayer and Bible reading. For the 40 days of Lent, try to spend some time in your day reading from the Bible, even just a verse or two, and spend some time, even just a short time, reflecting on your life—what concerns you, what brings you joy.
2)      Sharing and accounting for the use of our resources, including money. During Lent, review your finances. What percentage of your income are you giving to help others? The Bible talks about giving away a “tithe” or 10%.
3)      Planning and accounting for the use of our time. Take a look at back at your calendar since the beginning of the year. How have you been using your time, and how much deep satisfaction is that use of time bringing to you?
4)      Action for justice and peace in society and the integrity of creation. Get in touch with those things that you hear in the news that genuinely move you. What are you doing to be a part making things better in the world?
5)      Meeting with and accounting to each other. Is there a group of people with whom you can talk about how you are doing with the four points above? This is not therapy. This is about growing as a disciple of Jesus, which is the whole point of Lent.
Pastor Don Steele

Friday, February 9, 2018

Olympic Dedication

When I was little, I remember watching Peggy Fleming compete in the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. It is the first memory of the Olympics that I have. A few weeks later, I remember my Dad taking me to an ice skating rink—my first time on skates—and I was a failure as an ice skater. I could barely stand on the skates off the ice, let alone on the ice. How did Peggy Fleming do it—the jumps, the spins, skating backwards?

It was years later that I came to understand the dedication it takes to become an Olympic athlete—the hours of practice, the personal sacrifices, the focus that these incredible athletes must have to keep at it even when they lose, even when they fail. Peggy Fleming was born with some natural talent, no doubt, but those natural abilities did not take her to the Olympics. She worked at it.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1,2). And Bible scholars think that the image was of ancient games, maybe something like the Olympics, only the point was not about athletics, it was about life. Life is race. In order to get anywhere, it requires dedication, focus, even sacrifice. There will be losses and failures, stumbles and slips along the way, but the question is what kind of life are you leading?  What purpose, what goal are you working to achieve? 

--Pastor Don Steele

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Did you know? WAVE is launching a new sermon series, “Book and a Bible,” this month! At each service in this series, a pastor will delve into a special book, talk faith, and tackle important questions. Topics such as Chernow's Grant and the NYT's best-selling book The Collapse of Parenting will be covered.

I will be kicking off the series on February 11th by preaching on acclaimed author Sara Hagerty’s newest book, Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed. Discover the redeeming value of life’s hidden moments and seasons, when God can be richly growing us if only we’d notice. It’s in these times — the job we feel stuck in, the children we’re raising alone, our private experience of loss — that God can become Friend and whisper life-changing promises to our hearts.

WAVE is a special service that’s intergenerational with children and adults worshiping together in a relaxed atmosphere. The service will be at 5 PM in the auditorium on 2/11. Chili will be served, and the children will be making special valentines for shut-ins. See the February KEY for WAVE’s full spring schedule and instructions on how to view its recent televised services. Attendance is increasing, and everyone is welcome!

Also, coming up in February is Ash Wednesday. Did you know that it’s on Valentine’s Day this year? I can’t think of a better way to honor God’s love for us than to begin the Lenten season intentionally with worship. Come to the Chapel at 9:30 AM on 2/14 for a short service that will include the disposition of ashes. I will be officiating along with Pastor Deborah.

We are blessed to be a part of a church community that is so active. Join with me in praying that Central will serve as a light to the community through these services and its many offerings!

God Bless,
Pastor Noelle

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Who Do You Love?

February is the month of love - with little paper hearts and dollies, shoe boxes decorated with red paper and timeless messages Be Mine, UR Cute, or Text Me printed on candy hearts, we celebrate our friendships and take time to tell our loved ones how important they are to us.

As important as this question is for us - Who do you love? We also need to consider the other question- who loves us? Of course, we hope to be loved by our friends and our family, but we also should pause to consider the love that God has for us, and for the whole world.

God’s love, scripture tells us, is the power behind creation and the reason behind the coming of Christ into the world. It’s God’s love that has the power to transform the world. God’s love isn’t based on whether or how we return our love to God- it doesn’t decrease if we forget to send a card, or even if we haven’t talked in a while- God’s love is enormous, and when we join into God’s love, we find that we are a part of that love- claimed by it, part of it, loved by it.

This February, as we think about love in so many ways - I pray that we know that we are loved by God - and part of that enormous and powerful love for the world.

At Central we have ways for you and your family to respond to God’s love this month:

Souper Bowl of Caring on 2/4 is a great way for us to support our partners at Fountain Baptist Church as we collect canned goods and cash to support their ministry- with the fun of the big game, it’s important to remember those in need.
Stockpile Sunday is 2/11, and this month we are collecting TOILETRIES. Please bring items to the gathering area.

Young Children
Mission with Mommy- Preschool and kindergarten-aged children are invited to join us on February 28th at 11:30 with a care giver to prepare for our next Midnight Run. The Children are collecting granola bars for lunches for the homeless.

Music and Mission Sunday School-
On February 11th we will be making cards for our college students and preparing for the Midnight Run in March.

Middle School
Service at Central is going strong with activities every Friday Evening from 5:30- 7:00 to support our community. Highlights this month are the Tackle Hunger Event at The Connection on 2/2 (7:00-9:00 pm) and making sandwiches for Midnight Run on 2/9.

High School
Midnight Run will be on 2/9. Drivers and participants are invited to sign up here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0e4faaaf29a4fc1-cpchigh