Christmastide Blessings

Christmastide Blessings
Annual Incarnation of the Story of the Birth of Jesus

Continuing the work of Jesus, simply, peacefully, JOYFULLY, together.

We worship at 9:30 am on Sunday.
Sunday School begins at 11 am.
Potluck is the first Sunday of the month.

17975 Centreville-Constantine Road, Constantine, MI 49042

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Imagine! Peace Chairs, One Day in a Small Town in Michigan

Thank you, Wendy Anderson Halperin, for your lovely video of our day together in December, creating Peace Chairs.  This is a great encouragement for the process to continue!

You can contact Wendy Anderson Halperin and become part of the Sit in Peace project here.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Epiphany in the midst of Storm Ion

Sometimes I am a slow learner.  It seems that signficant trends can just pass me by.  For example, when did all responsible moms start making their children wear helmets when riding their bikes.  I missed that memo entirely.

Similarly, when I read about our current storm, "Storm Ion," I wondered, "When on earth did we start naming winter storms?" 

Naming Winter Storms

Hurricanes and tropical storms have been given names since the 1940s. In the late 1800s, tropical systems near Australia were named as well. Weather systems, including winter storms, have been named in Europe since the 1950s.  Important dividends have resulted from attaching names to these storms:
  • Naming a storm raises awareness.
  • Attaching a name makes it much easier to follow a weather system’s progress.
  • A storm with a name takes on a personality all its own, which adds to awareness.
  • In today’s social media world, a name makes it much easier to reference in communication.
  • A named storm is easier to remember and refer to in the future.
I remember The Blizzard of '78, our first winter in Elkhart County.  But apparently winter storms only got these kinds of tags in hindsight. 

Names are handles of meaning and markers, creating, in the case of winter storms, an illusion of control over the power of new weather extremes.  Before the winter season a high school Latin class helped to choose names and put them in order.  Then it becomes interesting to see how the name suits the storm as it blows across the country, just as the chosen names we have for our newborns must find the right fit on our tongues, the right adaptations.  Evelyn becomes Eve.

How do Ion and Epiphany name each other? I love that "cows' way" is part of the sense of "going" or "to walk" in the long list of "ion's" history as a word.  Here we are, going along the cows' way, the stable way, and POW! something appears! Epiphany! Light!
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Epiphany, a "striking appearance" is described in Matthew's gospel, as the story of the magi is spun.  It is as much the discovery of the child, Jesus, as the discovery of a way to go, an ION, a deeper than physics attraction for what we treasure and risk in life. 
For the seekers of Jesus in the circle in which Matthew's gospel story was told (Matthew 2), here was a way in to the new circle of meaning and solidarity:

Look for cosmic signs accessible to anyone in any land. 
Follow them. 

Find companions on the way. 

Do not trust rulers who guard power with deception and terror. 

Listen to the inner cosmos of dreams for wisdom that saves. 

Leave behind the best you have to offer. 

Return by another way. 

Tell the story.
          Word Origin & History -- epiphany
c.1310, "festival of the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles" (celebrated Jan. 6; usually with a capital -E-), from O.Fr. epiphanie, from L.L. epiphania, neut. pl. (taken as fem. sing.), from Gk. epiphaneia "manifestation, striking appearance" (in N.T., advent or manifestation of Christ), from epiphanes
"manifest, conspicuous," from epiphainein "to manifest, display," from epi- "on, to" + phainein "to show" (see phantasm). Of divine beings other than Christ, first recorded c.1667; general literary sense appeared 1840, first in De Quincey.

It is not easy to follow the signs of the heavens.  I don't know about you, but I know very few of the constellations.  I do not know how to follow them or how they move through the seasons.  We have lost the darkness that allows us to see the bright shining planets and falling stars. 

And then there are the new signs in the sky, streaks of straight and crossing lines.  Some would claim that the military research that goes on in the ionosphere, called HAARP, makes one more contribution to human disruption of long standing cosmic patterns -- weather. 

Morning sky over Florence Church, October 2013

It is hard to read the signs of the times.  And dangerous lest we fall under into the influence of terror in one form or another and forget to be GOING, on the way, the cows' way, down to earth, with Emmanuel, God with Us.

And so on this day of worship -- at home on Epiphany in the midst of Storm Ion -- we pray:

God of gold, we seek your glory:
the richness that transforms our drabness into color 
and brightens our dullness with vibrant light; 
your wonder and joy at the heart of all life.

God of incense, we offer your our prayer: 
our spoken and unspeakable longings, our questioning of truth, 
our searching for your mystery deep within.
God of myrrh, we cry out to you in our suffering: 
the pain of all our rejections and bereavements, 
our baffling despair at undeserved suffering, our rage at continuing injustice: 
and we embrace you, God-with-us,
in our wealth, in our yearning, in our anger and loss.

Jan Berry in Imaging the Word, vol. 3, Susan A. Blain, ed.  (p. 115)

Saturday, January 4, 2014


We will be celebrating the culmination of this season of worship in our homes due to the coming storm and existing snow on the roads.  How disappointing!  I was so looking forward to Donald Lanctot's epiphany message, to the burning of the greens, and the Pastor's Pancake Brunch.  One of those three has been rescheduled for Sunday 12 January.  That would be the Pastor's Pancake Brunch.  I am determined to find another place for Donald's message of darkness into light.

Meanwhile, soak in these images of the season!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Drawn into Peace: Worship and Workshop, December 15

 “The more we can make PEACE a personal project
the worldview of PEACE…will be felt in homes,    
in neighborhoods, in cities, in nations, and in our world,”
writes local author and illustrator, Wendy Anderson Halperin.

Wendy Anderson Halperin will lead a workshop called “Sitting in Peace,” at Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite on Sunday, December 15, from 9 am to 5 pm.  Participants will transform chairs and tables they bring into original art: peace chairs and tables, potential holiday gifts.  The day includes worship, fellowship and hands on design and painting.  Children and participants of all ages – parents and grandparents, people of faith, teachers, artists and activists -- will be “drawn into peace” by choosing quotes and images that inspire peacemaking. 

“If we are to teach real peace in this world…we shall have to start with the children.”  Gandhi


Wendy Anderson Halperin, of South Haven, MI, is an acclaimed artist who has earned a reputation for her richly detailed, imaginative and expressive pencil and watercolor painting.  Her most recent picture book, PEACE, is a collection of quotes addressing the eternal question, “How can we bring peace to the world?”  PEACE is packed with quotes from peacemakers around the globe and throughout history.  The “Sitting for Peace” workshop invites children and all participants to choose quotes about peace to inscribe and illustrate as creative reminders of the power of choosing peace in daily life.

Registration is required (at no cost) by email: Receive necessary information in advance to prepare a chair or table for the event.   A free will offering will be taken to support Halperin’s “Sitting for Peace Project.”

Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite is a welcoming, progressive, rural peace church located at 17975 Centreville Constantine Road, Constantine, MI, and affiliated with the Church of the Brethren and Mennonite Church USA.  More information on Facebook and at

Pastor Nina B Lanctot



Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Cider Dog"

"If life hands you apples, and pears, and lots of them -- make cider!"

When bounty, creativity, hard work and imagination -- and faith -- all come together, it is a joy!  Here is the convergence:

A bountiful apple and pear crop! Praise God!
Harvesting those apples and pears!
Making a special blend cider that all your friends will love!
Asking for cider donations for a "special project" -- a dog for Sara.
Sara McDonald's imagination of a service dog to assist her diabetes care.
A local organization that saves dogs from the humane society and trains them as service dogs.

Sara and her husband, Nathan Nichols, found a great organization in South Bend that hope to train their very first diabetic service dog for Sara:

Midwest Assistance Dogs is to help disabled individuals cope with life’s daily challenges through the assistance of a trained canine companion. Our mission includes acquiring, whenever possible, our assistance dog "trainees" from local animal shelters. By using shelter dogs we are able to fulfill our mission while at the same time provide a loving home to an animal that otherwise may have been euthanized.

Jerry Warstler loads the apples and pears to take to Millers' Cider Mill, Middlebury, IN
Apples and pears go in for washing and grinding.

Putting smashed fruit in layers in the press.

Squaring up the press.
Todd Warstler catches cider jugs off the line, lots of them, to load in the truck.

 If you would like to make a donation for CIDER DOG, contact Pastor Nina Lanctot at

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Celebrationg the Harvest Festival of Sukkot

One of the most memorable sermons at Florence Church in the last eight years was performed by Willard Fenton-Miller, without a single word.  With his bare hand and simple hand tools he created to four legged stool from a heavy log of cherry wood, and then used it as a stool of invitation in order to wash Donald Lanctot's feet. 

In our series, Harvest Joy, The Feast of Booths or Sukkot was the perfect occassion for his artistic midrash on the ancient scripture:

Leviticus 23:39-43

Now, the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall keep the festival of the Lord, lasting seven days; a complete rest on the first day, and a complete rest on the eighth day. On the first day you shall take the fruit of majestic trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a festival to the Lord seven days in the year; you shall keep it in the seventh month as a statute for ever throughout your generations. You shall live in booths for seven days; all that are citizens in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

After building the succah with a little help from friends, Henry Braun and Gary Nichols, Willard went on to reflect on the Hebrew tradition, making tents and forts in the summers of his childhood, the old indigenous way of hunter gatherers living with the land, and the plight of those who live in temporary shelters as the result of having no home.

“The three obligation of Sukkot are to live in a succah, to wave the luvlav in all the directions, and be joyful….I think just making a sukkah, decorating it, sitting in it, and eating some simple food is a good first step toward remembering – remembering what has been the vast legacy of our forgotten existence – our legacy of joy.”

The children shared in watching Willard’s creation and making their own succah’s from popsicle sticks.  Now maybe they have a small part of the ancient memories that also shaped Jesus – before he headed into the wilderness on his own for forty days.