1st Congregational Church, UCC

  • Dong and Fritz wedding after 31 years of committed relationship

    Don Cooley & Fritz Barker

    November 28, 2015 10 AM

    Greetings in the name of God our Creator, our Redeemer Jesus Christ and our Sustainer the Holy Spirit.

    Friends, we gather today not to start a new thing but to continue a great thing. We gather to celebrate over 30 years of commitment that will now be recognized by the powers that be. We are told by scriptures to be in the world but not of it – today we are celebrating the in at last available to families of same gender people.

    Rita Snowden wrote: Lord of life we can never be thankful enough that you have given us each other. It is wonderful that we need not face this day alone, but can plan and proceed to our tasks together. More than belonging to each other - we belong to you, and to your great world family. Let no selfishness of ours shut us off from any today.

    PRAYER Bob Ahern

    Walt Whitman said: …, I give you my hand! I give you my love more precious than money, I give you myself before preaching the law, Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

    Scripture Readings: Psalm 23 and I Corinthians 13 Claire Henderson

    Don and Fritz today we affirm your commitment to one another. We ask before God and these witness that you make solemn vows and devote yourselves to God and one another anew.

    For thirty plus years there’s been a union – with God and Fritz and Don

    Began quite simply and became adventurous and fun

    Together you have faced so much – this time cannot convey

    And here you are in this sacred space to your vows once more say

    This time the state will recognize what God has always known

    Love comes from God and thanks to God together you have grown

    You are strong men and stronger still with partner by your side

    God loves you and gave you each other – on you God’s peace abides

    11/25/15 llm

    Readings from Fritz and Don read by Sharon Deringer

    VOWS

    Don do you take Fritz to be your lawfully wedded spouse?

    Will you love him faithfully as long as you both shall live?

    Fritz do you take Don to be your lawfully wedded spouse?

    Will you love him faithfully as long as you both shall live?

    Fritz will you stand bravely by Don’s side through strength and weakness, retirement and employment, affirmation and criticism?

    Don will you stand bravely by Fritz through blessing and testing, affirmation and criticism, holiness and struggle?

    Exchange of Rings

    Unknown: Peace be in thy home, and in thy heart, or if thou roam Earth’s highways wide, the Lord be at they side, to bless and guide.

    PRAYER OF BLESSING

    Announcement of Marriage

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  • Fall Already!!!

    The days are shorter and darkness is taking hold over our lives. We get up in the dark and spend most of the daylight time in school, at work, busy........ The darkness often suppresses our immune systems, our moods, our motivation.... This is a time of reflection and introspection. This is a time to study our ethics, our strengths, our weaknesses, our hope, our vision...... There is so much that comes to light in the darkness.

    As the days grow shorter and colder we gather as families and friends for thanksgiving, christmas, new year and anything we can think of to bring light, life, love, warmth and energy into our lives. We run from the darkness and fear dormancy. Maybe we need to embrace the cold and the darkness. Maybe we need to allow it to speak to us as the 'still small voice' of God.

    That being said: Advent Bible Study will be a time of exploration. In the three part series we will discuss Evolution, Ancient Marvels, Stewardship of Creation, the Unexplained. We shall see were our discussions take us, what new heights they transport us to pondering together.

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  • Tough Stuff

    Humanity calls out to us. We are asked to help with all our resources. My human side says we have too many hungry, homeless, unemployed and lacking medical care folks here already. And God calls out saying in your poverty you are rich compared to the least of these - you can and you must share. I say, I don't want to. God says - often through Beverly - so who do you preach to and are those words not true????!!

    God came in the person of Jesus - did the expected thing of growing up in an extended family and helping to financially support his mother and siblings. A time came when he knew he had to follow is purpose - he had to challenge his comfort level - he had to become unemployed, homeless, uninsured, and insecure to find his ultimate calling. He had to deal with oppressed, dirty, ignorant people, with the sick and the lost and the confused.... And he stood his ground in defending their rights - no matter their race or gender, social status or nationality. He stood his ground even to dealth at the hands of the establishment. And he won - it did not look like we think victory should, yet he won.

    His victory informs me, challenges me, empowers me. I too must stand with the oppressed, frightened, ill and alone. I too must see our Creator God alive in each hungry, dirty, desperate face.

    Join me in the struggle.

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  • Blessings

    Blessings are great. When we bless we pray for God to protect and empower. We request Divine inspiration and strength upon the one's and items we bless.

    August we will be blessing each Sunday. Blessing those who are going about their lives and could use a little recognition. We bless because we care. We bless to share our love.

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  • My response to the 40 questions floating about.

    I feel the need to begin with a general statement. The issue of recognition of weddings for all is a justice and civil rights issue. It ranks with recognizing interracial marriages and the rights of all citizens no matter race, religion, or creed. Religion often sides with the oppressor rather than doing the biblical mandate of standing with the oppressed. We are called to love and support widows, children, sick, mentally ill, outcasts of all sorts.

    1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated? In the 1970’s I first learned there were classifications for the sexual self-discovery scale. I thought this to be a tool for understanding not judgment and discrimination. My only previous option was holy unions – glad there will now be some better legal avenues.

    2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind? For me there was no change of mind. I have understood that Jesus said in John 3:16 that whosoever will is welcome. I take that seriously. There there is also Galatians 3:1 and Matthew 7:1-5 to name a few.

    3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated? I don’t think the holy scriptures are based on sex. Sex is not the focus of my life – it is an added blessing. Jesus did not really mention it at all. There are those who believe he had an intimate relationship with John. I’m not on that page but it is an option.

    To know God in scripture is the same though as to have sexual relations. So maybe we need to evaluate sexual expression as a form of knowing God through another.

    4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church? See above, but also consider that love is God. Love is a reflection of the Divine in many manifestations.

    5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship? Absolutely. Males being with males was very common in his era. It was reflected as the highest form of love by philosophers and the military thought it caused men to fight more vigorously for each other. Jesus saw no need to discuss it directly. It was to him a non-issue.

    6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman? He did not. He addressed the wrongs of divorce. He affirmed the celebration of unity.

    7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding? Prostitution, fornication, adultery, rape, incest

    8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1? Lust, sex for power, rape

    9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven? See above for response to this. Also – the only unforgivable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

    10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to? see above

    11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp? Several of these folks are known to have had same sex lovers. Social and political powers also show up in church doctrines all too often.

    12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned? Some of these folks are way ahead of us in understanding that God calls us differently.

    God is love and in God we are free to be ourselves. We all must follow as God leads us, without fear.

    13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman? Politics not a fair gauge for the church.

    14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father? 15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion? Much research shows it takes a village to raise a child. It is best for a child to have many folks of varying sexual discoveries, genders, ages, races, professions and beliefs, who love, nurture and support them.

    16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad? The church is a place of blessing. It does not require any paper from the government to do its job. I apply this to senior citizens who would loose benefits with a state sanctioned wedding too.

    17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment? Yes! It points to a spiritual union. It should demonstrate loyalty, commitment, monogamy, grace and demonstrate the love of God for the other.

    18. How would you define marriage? Generally the state sanctioned unity of 2 adults. Grants legal rights for ownership and benefits.

    19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married? Not a healthy choice. Leads to genetic problems.

    20. Should marriage be limited to only two people? My Christian understanding says yes – but that is not true of all cultures.

    21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married? I advise folks with differing values and goals to seriously consider other options. Abuse is never acceptable. In my 25 years of ministry I have talked numerous couples into holding off on marriage.

    22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license? Sure – a voting adult would be good in my opinion but research indicates that a brain does not have fully sound reasoning skills until after 25. That sounds good to me too.

    23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage? 24. If not, why not? I struggle with the guy that was allowed to wed a head of cabbage, so no. Monogamy, devotion, mutually supportive without abuse, equal voice and power in relationship – all matter.

    25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion? Yes so long as they are not using established religions to promote prejudice and injustice. We have had this problem with slavery, rights for minorities, and Nazi Germany.

    26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue? I stand with the just and the holy. We don’t have to agree but we do have to do justice.

    27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics? AMEN. We all called to unity in Christ. Like Christ we need to reach out to the unlovely and those in power; to the sinner as well as the saint.

    28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles? I require premarital counseling. I recommend annual check-ups on the relationship/physicals. Folks I marry know my beliefs and I hopefully know theirs.

    29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline? I don’t think sex is a sport or social activity. Sex is part of a committed monogamous relationship. So if by open you go against that – I don’t affirm sin.

    30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage? definitely

    31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found? This should already be in place.

    32. If “love wins,” how would you define love? John says God is love. So love is God expressed, experienced and shared.

    33. What verses would you use to establish that definition? I John 4:8 & 16; I John 1:5

    34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love? Love, self-sacrificial compassion is who God is.

    35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make? absolutely

    36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith? no change for me.

    37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost? I know God is still speaking and revealing the Godself. I invite all to friendship with my best friend, Jesus.

    38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples? UCC, MCC, Episcopal, and more

    39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead? Certainly. God is not done with me. We all need to grow in our relationship with the Divine.

    40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind? Abuse of power, politics and religion, abuse of the creation and all its resources; abuse of the earth, the universe

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First Congregational United Church of Christ, Marysville, Ohio

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