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

florence.brethren.mennonite@gmail.com

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Nina Lanctot has One Job


For the last two and a half years this has been my office at Associated Mennonite Biblcial Seminary. I was the half time Assistant Director of Engaging Pastors as well as the half time pastor of Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite.

Well, yes, I am an engaging pastor! But there was more to it than that. The seminary had been awarded a multi-million dollar grant to foster interdependence between seminary professors and pastors. There were ten programs as part of this great experiment. And it was my job to find professors and pastors who wanted to participate and to help keep the programs running.

This was a great opportunity for me. Since I did not grow up Mennonite, it gave me a much broader window into the Mennonite Church in the United States and Canada. I especially enjoyed the opportunities I had to relate to pastors in person. Here is a sampler:

I hosted about a dozen pastors who were on sabbatical at AMBS at various times throughout these years.

I hosted six Spanish speaking pastors in a weekend visit to AMBS. Maria Montoya made tamales for this visit, and people at AMBS are still raving about them.

Two groups of new pastors came for long weekends, one in 2008 and one in 2009. I partnered with AMBS and denominational leaders in offering these pastors resources to strengthen their mininstries in the coming years.

This fall I was an organizer and participant in the Interfaith Spiritual Care Pastor Faculty Study group. Four chaplains and five pastors meet with Daniel Schipani to share about our experiences of relating to people of various faith traditions.

The culmination of the grant was a Summative Conference at AMBS in early December where about 120 professors, pastors, conference ministers, theological educators and denominational leaders reflected on what we had been learning. That kind of process will be on-going in seminary curriculum revision and in making theological education useful for the changing face of our communities and congregations.

So it is both with sadness and relief that my position comes to a planned ending along with the ending of the Engaging Pastors grant. I packed up my office last Friday following a full week of Pastors' Week on campus. And now...

Now I have two weeks to do the final preparations before I leave on sabbatical on February 14. How fortunate I have been in these tough economic times to have two jobs! It will be easier and more enjoyable to manage one.

Thanks for your grace in working with my complex schedule in the last two and a half years! We will see what the fall brings...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pieta for Bryan Shelly


A poem/prayer arising in
Nina’s grief at worship at the seminary
with the weeping woman of Luke 7:37

January 27, 2010

The one month anniversary
of Bryan Shelly’s death.


Jesus, you became the
mother in the Pieta
holding the broken bodies
of my loved ones who now
rest in you at peace
while for me, tears
still blur bodies and presence
on this earth
yet painfully.

Bryan,
you hold him so gently that all
his own buried gentleness melts into
your limbs of love and his heart answers
yours in sorrow
resolving peace
that can bless and heal the torn bits
of heart left behind
and healing at home. At home
he is with you, O God.

Draw us, too, into that gentle embrace that
eases pain, that
tenders regret with forgiveness, that
humbles heartache as a little child
held near the beating
breast of a mother, father, whose bond, stronger
than death, sealed in pride,
beams, weeps, remembers and
loves always.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Florence Board for 2010




FLORENCE 2010 BOARD has two committees: Worship and Christian Ed or W/CE and Ministerial and Trustees or M/T.


Back row, left to right: Donald Lanctot (convener of W/C), Nora Harris (Journey Ministry Assistant), Charlie Bowers (chair M/T), Jane Bowers (Journey and secretary), Kathy Fenton-Miller (treasurer), Tim Lind (W/C)


Front row left to right: Luke Nofsinger (M/T), Lori Lichti (W/CE), Dallie Nichols (M/T), Verna Troyer (W/CE), Kim Henritzy (M/T), Christine Nofsinger (chair)


Each new year the Florence Board re-configures itself. At our first board meeting of 2010 all members were present. The board meets every other month to attend to the spiritual life and practical logistics of the congregation. The two committees meet in the months in between.

As you can see we are both serious and full of fun as we work together! I am grateful for the gifts and time given by each one.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Considering the Sabbath


For the next five Sundays we will consider the theme of sabbath at Florence. This will provide a safe container for us to rest in God in our on-going grief. The theme of sabbath also anticipates the sabbatical that Florence Church and I will be experiencing beginning on February 14. After a celebration at Florence I will be leaving for eight weeks in Costa Rica and a total of ten weeks away from my pastoral role. The congregation will be preparing for Rural Revival Days in the summer and a congregational retreat in the fall. And for finding ways to keep sabbath in their own way.

So, you are invited to enter into sabbath with us. Consider taking two hours per week of sabbath rest beginning in January. In February, consider taking four hours. In March, eight hours. If you add it up, by December and the end of 2010 you will have the opportunity to experience a full day of sabbath per week. How might God transform your life in these times?

Here are words from Tilden Edwards...

“The Christian sabbath is a practice of receptive time that balances and permeates our active time…The need for such a receptive quality of time has cropped out in recent years in…greater concern for rest, meditation and celebration. These concerns point to the abiding yet obscure human hunger for intimacy with the deep transpersonal Horizon of our lives. It is a hunger that cannot be fully satisfied apart from spacious times of restful presence. I use the world presence to mean both our presence before and to God. It is a presence that compliments the intimacy that arises through our active ministries. This dim awareness of our need and the attempts to satisfy it have often been either fragmentary, overly privatized, or strictly utilitarian, and unconnected with the sense of a gifted and historically grounded corporate rhythm of life for the whole church and, in its rudiments, for all human life.”

Tilden Edwards, Sabbath Time (Seabury Press, NY: 1982) ix.

Bryan Shelly Memorial Service including Meditation by Nina Lanctot

There has been more silence on this blog. I as a pastor have been recovering from illness along with the sorrow that our congregation holds in the aftermath of the suicide of Bryan Shelly. Below you will find the meditation from the service. Mark Shelly and Kim Henritzy, Bryan's parents, worked closely with me to create this message. They very much want some good to come out of the bad news of Bryan's death. His life was so much more, full of excellence, gentleness and success. May these words bless you or someone you know. Nina

Memorial Service for Bryan Shelly

February 28, 1992 -- December 27, 2009

Service by Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite
at Marcellus High School Gymnasium
Marcellus, Michigan

Sunday 3 January 2010 at 1 pm

MUSIC FOR GATHERING
John Mark, Emily, Elizabeth and Margaret Wenger

FRIENDS AND FAMILY HONOR BRYAN
Ben Nofsinger Jon Swartz
Tyler Lanning Caleb Reuter
Ian Shelly Todd Shelly

LIGHTING OF CANDLES BY THE FAMILY

WORDS OF WELCOME & OPENING PRAYER
Nina Lanctot,
Pastor of Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite

SONG
“Here in this place” (insert)

BRYAN SHELLY’S LIFE
Mark Shelly

SPECIAL MUSIC
Ben Nofsinger

REFLECTIONS
Kim Henritzy
Kathy and Willard Fenton-Miller Family Friends
Peter Steinkraus Marcellus HS Senior
Dave DeCou Marcellus HS Teacher and Coach
Hannah Reuter Marcellus HS Senior
Tim Perry Pastor and Marcellus Coach

PRAYER
Bangern Jinna Pastor, Los Angeles, CA

SONG
“Precious Lord, take my hand” sung by Florence Church

SCRIPTURE & WORDS OF HOPE
John 1: 5 and John 14:18-19
“You are not alone” by Nina Lanctot

SPECIAL MUSIC
Ian Shelly and Luke Nofsinger

GLIMPSES OF BRYAN SHELLY’S LIFE
SLIDE SHOW & VIDEO
Created by the family & Ben Nofsinger

“KICK AT THE DARKNESS ‘TIL IT BLEEDS DAYLIGHT”
At the close of the slide show everyone is invited to light electric candles or open their cell phones. As the light builds and we sing this prayer together, we commit to fight the darkness together and to remember the light that Bryan contributed to our lives.

SONG
“Lord, listen to your children” (insert)

INVITATION TO GREET THE FAMILY AND EAT TOGETHER

CLOSING WORDS & PRAYER
Nina Lanctot


MEDITATION: SCRIPTURE & WORDS OF HOPE

John 1: 5 and John 14:18-19
“You are not alone” by Nina Lanctot

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 14:18-19
"I will not leave you desolate or orphaned;
I will not leave you alone.
I am coming to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me;
because I live, you also will live.

THE BAD NEWS

A week ago we were stunned and shocked and deeply saddened by bad news. Bryan, our son, our friend, relative, student, was so overcome with depression that he chose to end his life.

I asked myself, as I think we all did, “Why didn’t I see this coming? Why didn’t I reach out more to Bryan? Surely there was something I could have done…” We each face our lists of regret.

And we face our anger. This just isn’t right! Bryan was so young, so talented, so well loved. He had his whole life before him.

Why did he end up able to love everyone but himself and overwhelmed with sorrow? We want to know WHY. Why did this happen?

We will never have answers to all these questions. But we can have hope in three things.

 We can learn to make a difference for those overwhelmed with sorrow.
 We can receive forgiveness and peace for the regrets we feel.
 And we can know that Bryan is not alone, and neither are we.

MAKING A DIFFERNCE

There is one thing that is absolutely clear to Kim and Mark and to all of us. We want good to come of Bryan’s life. We want our reflections on Bryan’s death not to overshadow the gift of his life.

While we will never fully know Bryan’s path in the last weeks and months, we do know that he was in a dark, dark, space in his mind and his soul. So we need to talk about depression and mental illness.

Depression is an illness that affects many, many people. It is a chemical disease that alters a person’s ability to feel, think and make decisions. It makes life seem narrower and narrower, so that the ability to see options or perceive hope starts shutting down. There is often no apparent trigger to depression. The stresses of life are a factor, but some people are just prone to be depressed, just as some are prone to be diabetic or asthmatic. Like other illnesses, once the disease has begun, it tends to get worse unless a person receives medication and counseling and support from family and friends.

Depression isn’t the same as feeling sad. It is persistent hopelessness, guilt and thoughts of death that last two weeks or more. To live and love wisely, we can be aware…

We can know our family history. We track diabetes and heart disease and alcoholism. We can also look at our family trees for tendencies toward depression.

And we need to know that there is good news. Depression and other mental illnesses are treatable.

I know. I have been clinically depressed off and on beginning in high school. I have known the feeling that death seems like relief. But when I am not depressed, it is clear to me that is a lie. Today I can tell you that I am not depressed and have not been for years because I got help. And I have been able to get help for others.

Depression makes it very hard to talk. But there are many ways to get help. A simple note: “I need help,” is a beginning. A call to a helpline. An appointment with a counselor. We have a strong community around us. We can choose life and find hope if we support one another.

What if someone doesn’t want help? What if they tell you they are thinking of death and say not to tell?

Even then there can be a way. While we keep the trust of our friends when they confide in us, sometimes we must tell the secrets of others. When a person is in danger of hurting themselves or others we can and MUST tell someone, even if we were told not to tell. We can ask the person to share themselves. But if that person is not willing to do so, I will. We must. We can learn that getting help is more important than keeping dangerous secrets.

The scripture in John 1:5 says that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it – or overshadow it.” While depression takes us to deep darkness and a sense of worthlessness, I think it is so evident today that the gift of life in Bryan and the gift of life in this community is real and powerful and precious. If mental illness tells us there is now way out, it does not have to be the final answer.

RECEIVING FORGIVENESS

I believe God looks on the whole of our lives and looks on our hearts. While we feel many regrets with the painful vision of 20 20 hindsight, God would not wish us to paralyzed by shame and self punishment. Our purpose in life is to love, and we know that being stuck on our failures does not allow us to love fully.
“There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God,” it says in Romans. And Jesus life and death give us powerful evidence of that reality.

We know that Jesus closest friends and family did not understand his struggles and the death he faced. They did not stick with him, were not able to prevent him from suffering an unjust and sorrowful death. Jesus felt alone, crying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

But we also know that Jesus first act upon rising from the dead was to return to the upper room where he had his last meal with his friends. In John 20, what does he say? “Peace be with you.” He not only fully forgives them, but he breathes new life into them. He breathes resurrection breath through them and gives them the power of the Spirit to be his hands and feet and eyes and heart in the world. Through their deep suffering together he knows they are transformed into people not paralyzed by death, by failings, by shame, by anything. They know that “nothing can separate them from the love of God.” Beyond the worst that sin and death can deal, the good news is that life and love are stronger. Life prevails. And Jesus is breathing that same Spirit of new life and love and forgiveness and courage into us.

And into Bryan.

WE ARE NOT ALONE

Our hearts go out to Bryan. It seems he felt all alone. But we know that is not true. Look at us all here! We are here because we are all attached to Bryan, care for him, and love him. And even as we sense God’s love here with us, we know God’s love was with Bryan, even when we could not feel it. Bryan was not alone even though he felt that way.

And I believe he is not alone now. I sense that someone who knew the path of great sorrow is holding him and healing him. I sense that someone who said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” is sharing a deep understanding with Bryan. I sense that Jesus is healing Bryan’s body, mind and heart at the same time that God is reaching out to heal us all. I believe that Bryan is being cared for forever and that his sorrow is being relieved.

Jesus promised his friends:

John 14:18-19

"I will not leave you desolate or orphaned;
I am coming to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me;
because I live, you also will live.”

I believe this promise is for Bryan and all of us.

I believe God in God’s mercy looks on the whole of Bryan’s life – his humor, great hair, friendships, drive, family life, questions, risk taking and all – and receives the whole of him into God’s love. And God’s peace. And we are received, right now, in life, in that same way, too.

THERE IS HOPE IN PEACE: PRAYER FOR PEACE

We pause again to open ourselves to God’s peace. We offer these prayers as a beginning of making peace and a commitment to finding peace in time.

In our hearts let us hold our regrets and say to Bryan, “Bryan, we are sorry. We wish we would have done differently. God, forgive us and give us peace.”

In our hearts let us hold the ways we have felt hurt by Bryan. "Bryan, we forgive you and we ask God to give peace – to you and to us.”

In our hearts let us hold whatever keeps us from being at peace with ourselves, with those around us, and with God.

O God, forgive us. Help us to become free from shame and guilt, from selfishness and sorrow. Grant us your peace. For in your peace there is hope. AMEN

CLOSING WORDS & PRAYER

Look around. We are a strong community.
The gift of Bryan Shelly’s life has been a blessing
and has made us stronger. That strength will continue.
As we end this time of worship I love the words that Mark choose from Bruce Cochburn:

“KICK AT THE DARKNESS ‘TIL IT BLEEDS DAYLIGHT”
we commit to fight the darkness together
and to remember the light
that Bryan contributed to us all.

We will remember Bryan
and smile and cry in the months and years ahead.
For now, we say good-bye.
And we commit Bryan and ourselves to God’s peace.

Bryan,
May God bless you and keep you.
May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May God give you peace.

Loved Ones,
May God bless you and keep you.
May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you and comfort you.
May God give you peace.

As we go let us once more pass the peace of Christ to our right and to our left – and to Bryan.
Go in peace. We are not alone. God is with us all.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

In Memory of Bryan Shelly


We received word at dawn on Sunday, December 27 that Bryan Shelly, middle son of Kim Henritzy and Mark Shelly, took his life. The last two weeks have been achingly sad for all of us. I include here a small reflection of the way we have tried to honor Bryan's life and support one another in grief. We have been deeply grateful for the love poured out from the Marcellus community in this time of need.

Here is a reflection written by Jerry Anderson for last Sunday.

As We Again Gather Together

As we again gather together
Within this time of seeming helplessness
Within this moment of boundless grief
Where the familiar woven fabric
Of our shared lives
Has been torn into countless scattered pieces
By the unknowable weight of sorrow
Descending in an instant
Upon all of those
Bound by love and compassion
All of those who now again gather together
Huddled around the few struggling fitful embers
Remnants of the once bright fire
That warmed us and gave us light
Amidst the surrounding darkness…

As we gather again together
Seeking desperately within the deepening shadows
For anything which may appear to bring
Only a short glimpse of peace or reassurance
Measured against the seemingly unyielding pain…

As we gather together again
There may be no ready answers as we cling together
Except to begin with small staggering steps
To gather the ragged ends
Of that torn and scattered fabric
And begin to weave again with trembling fingers
Amidst the tears and grinding heartache…

As again we gather together
We shall see that the embers will be tended
The bright dancing flames
Of the fire can be restored
Within that shifting light
We will begin to share once more
Bound in love and compassion
To open our hearts and souls
And embrace the pain and seemingly overwhelming grief
To present the only gift we can truly offer
To share this sorrow with open hearts
To partake as we may
Of any such small part of the shared silence
Profound in its depth as words lose their meaning…

Grant us the strength to proclaim our weakness
As we confront another of the many mysteries
Which shake the deepest footings and foundations
Of our limited understanding and trembling faith
Give us the wisdom to trust in the gifts we have received
Each knowing that love and true compassion for others
Requires a true strength of purpose
And a disciplined persistent will
That must be renewed constantly or it will falter
Each accepting that open hearts must be willing
To embrace the familiar and unfamiliar pain and sorrows
As well as the joyful mysteries of love shared
As we again gather together…

Written by Jerry Anderson