August 11, 2019 – Sermon

On August 11 we celebrated the 250th anniversary of Cataumet United Methodist Church in the neighborhood of what was then called South Pocasset. Donna Mark gave a brief background talk in Cataumet on the church history, then Pastors Sandra Smith and Tim Atwater shared reflections (Sandra’s sermon is slightly different in Cataumet from the version preached in Bourne)….

I wanted to share some of the history of our church as we celebrate its 250th anniversary.

The history of this building began in 1765 as an Indian meeting house in Bournedale.  Rev. Thomas Tupper was the minister and he was paid by the General Court.

The Indians did not adopt his religion, however, and the church fell into disuse.  In 1769 it was dismantled and moved to South Pocasset (Cataumet) and rebuilt in the cemetery grounds.

We were not always Methodist, may have started out as Congregational but the first Methodist minister, Joseph Snelling, preached here in 1808.  In 1893 the church was moved from the cemetery to its present location and in 1897 a parsonage was built, and funds were raised for an alcove for the church.

The steeple was blown off in the Gale of 1898 and a new steeple and belfry were constructed by Walter Wing in 1899 for $200.

In 1967 the congregation raised the funds for an addition which includes the Amend Room, the office, Handy Hall and a new, bigger kitchen.

There have been repairs to the roof, to the steeple and windows have been replaced.  In 1996 to make this church more accessible to everyone the congregation put the addition on the front of the church which includes the lift.

It has been interesting reading the history of this building but what I have found the most inspirational is the story of the people who faced many difficulties but who felt that having a place of worship was important.  This church became a center for the village; providing a place for worship, Sunday School, MYF, church suppers, plays performed by the children (hooks are still there for curtains) and community meetings.

In closing and in acknowledgment of our distant Congregational past, I found a Congregational prayer for a house and as this is a house of worship, I thought it would be appropriate. And today I think these words are more important than ever.

May the Lord bless this house and make it home
Full of generous welcome for all who visit
Brimming with warmth and contentment for family and friends
Overflowing with hospitality and nourishing provision
A haven for safety and peace in night and day
And a place of refreshment, of growth and happiness
May the Lord bless this house and make it home

Filled with His love,

Amen 

(Donna Mark)

 

Pastor Sandra’s sermon is unavailable at this time.

 

Pentecost 9   August 11, 2019 (Psalm 33, Isaiah 1:1, 15-20)

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40    Faith is…

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I’m thanking God for Pastor Sandra’s reflection today on God’s wisdom from Hebrews – with it’s beautiful imagery of the faith of our ancestors, in whose faith heritage and lineage we are living…

We continue to celebrate God’s great faithfulness to us – and to our ancestors over the past 250 years in Cataumet, 225 years in Bourne.

It’s been a blessing this weekend to be together in community with neighborhood groups in our Cataumet church, on what we’ve been calling “Cataumet Weekend.” A blessing to walk with others on a tour of the Cataumet Cemetery, with Dave Dimmick and Rich Dow pointing out where our church was located starting 250 years ago, till we moved across County Road 120-some years ago. It’s been a blessing to notice some of the many ways our lives intersect with the lives of our neighbors in the wider community…

A few weeks ago we were blessed as our Bourne church gathered in worship outside Briggs-McDermott House…and we were re-visited by notable ancestors in faith who have blessed us on the journey. Our history reminds us–

Faith indeed is believing in things unseen… Trusting and striving to live ever more deeply into God’s promises… Believing God’s word… though we don’t see the end of our journey in sight…

As I’ve been reflecting on the people of faith who helped plant and build-up our communities of faith over the years through their prayerful, faithful service… I’ve been remembering how God tells Abraham in Genesis – “Don’t be afraid Abraham – I am your shield –  your reward will be very great (Genesis 15:1)…” And Jesus, echoing God’s word to Abraham, tells us – “Don’t be afraid little flock – it’s your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32)…”

I’ve been reminded of how Abraham, hearing this huge promise straight from God, still needs to carry on his daily work – still needs to spend many years waiting… more-or-less-patiently… for fulfilment of God’s promises… before receiving the gift of the promised boy child Isaac, born to Sarah and him in their old age…

So it’s to be expected that we, as spiritual children of Abraham, Sarah, and most of all Jesus, also need to keep working and waiting – preparing, always, as Jesus says, to be ready for God’s kingdom. Which, Jesus says, will come at a surprising time; most likely in a surprising manner. So – what does it mean – to be ready?

For our ancestors, being ready for Jesus meant, among other things, dealing with hardship and adversity…

Bourne was still part of Sandwich and Cataumet was part of Pocasset when early settlers (31 families totaling about 160 persons) petitioned Sandwich town officials in 1769 for permission to have their own parish church. They laboriously moved a former mission church building from what’s now Bournedale – and reassembled the church in what’s now Cataumet. And the initial response to their petition, drafted by Major Thomas Bourne of North Sandwich said (quote:) “the inhabitants of Pocasset are not now and there is no possibility that they ever will be able to perform the duties of a parish… the greatest part of the inhabitants being poor.”

Nonetheless, parishioners persisted – and in about a year became an officially-recognized parish. (In all New England states except Rhode Island at the time, the Congregational church was the state-sponsored church; pastors were paid by the state from tax revenues. Parishioners John Perry and Zaccheus Hatch in Bourne had a cow and silver spoons taken by the state as payment when they refused on principle as Methodists to pay the tax for the established church.)

Meanwhile, in Cataumet – as we remember how Psalm 84 says of the temple: “Even the sparrow finds a home, the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young, O Lord of hosts…”  Of the early Cataumet Church scribe E.G. Perry wrote:  “they couldn’t have the luxury of cushioned pews… but sat on boards laid across timbers… and… barn swallows took such a liking to the new sanctuary they crowded in through the knot holes, and built so many nests in the rafters overhead, with their numerous birdlings – that (parishioners) were requested at the close of each service to leave their seats turned over – as a safeguard for the next sitting, next meeting.” (Perhaps wearing a hat in church was recommended.)

As we remember the daily struggles and sacrifices our ancestors made – working the land with horse and plough – harvesting the sea powered by sail and oars… Attending church on Sunday for much longer than an hour. (Preachers would feel like their gospel duty was sorely neglected… if they were to be as succinct as Pastor Sandra and I today.)

Parishioners wearing their Sunday best would be hot in summer, cold in winter. In early years there were evening as well as morning services – regular attendance at mid-week Class Meeting was also expected. There were regular meetings of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society and Ladies’ Aid; later the Woman’s Society of Christian Service, forerunners of our United Methodist Women. Also Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) and Sunday School meetings…

Attendance and participation in church increased and ebbed, increased and subsided again, in cyclical rhythm much like the tides. Church histories tell of  pastors celebrating in revival times and lamenting when participation diminished…

But in every age and season – in good times and difficult times – we have always been blessed with committed people… deeply faithful…. loving and serving God… Trusting God’s promises…even when there’s been little to see by way of visible progress… Remembering…  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for… The conviction of things not yet seen.

So may we always continue… to thank God for God’s faithfulness… to us and our ancestors before us. Thank God for the assurances of God’s faithfulness to our great-great-grandchildren-yet-to-be-born… As we continue to prepare together…

To be ready always for Jesus… Storing up treasure in heaven… Giving generously to the poor. Giving generously of ourselves, our time and treasure. For where our treasure is, Jesus tells us, is where our heart will be also. And Jesus reminds us: “the measure you give will be the measure that you get…”

We have been blessed with prosperity beyond the dreams of our ancestors. So – May we live ever more deeply in faith – trusting God’s promises –

Thanking God always for the gift of faith we have been entrusted with…

Praying and striving to be faithful…

All the way to the heavenly kingdom.

Thanks be to God. Amen.