We enjoyed a beautiful meal this past Thursday made with butternut squash from the Clark’s farm in Hadley, fennel from Crimson and Clover farm in Florence, apples picked by Genevieve at Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown, and wild cranberries my family found up in Maine. It was a locavore’s delight and a lot of fun to pull together.

We also had almost as many children as adults at our gathering!

It is really beautiful to observe how the kids are attuning themselves to the culture of Common Ground. When Genevieve arrived, she headed straight for the altar. Without being asked, she picked up the bowl full of candles and began to pass them out so we could begin our worship.

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I love watching the kids find a friend to sit with over dinner– a dinner that more than one ate because of the promise of a chocolate chip cookie for dessert (thanks to Linda!).

But what struck me most was how engaged many of the children became during the sermon time.

I was speaking about encouragement. I asked each person to take a stone, channel their angst about anything in life with which they were struggling into that stone, and than hand it to me when they felt ready.

As we sang a song about courage for each person who shared, I took their stone and added it to a cairn in the center of the worship space.

We has barely begun when the kids rose up, almost as one, grabbed stones of their own, and began to share their doubts and worries and fears. What a privilege it was to sing courage to these brave young people of faith.

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We are truly blessed to have so many families with children participating in Common Ground. But with so many children comes the need to adapt once again. So I am pleased to announce that Maggie Krone, who provides child care in our nursery on Sundays, has agreed to come and help with the children on Thursday nights.

We still want to encourage children to be as much a part of our worship as they would like to be. But Maggie will be on hand to create a safe space in the parlor adjoining our worship service, where kids can find even more things to do while still being under the watchful eye of a caring adult. Maggie is wonderful with children, and the parlor is close enough that kids can come back in and rejoin us for communion, the blessing, or any part of the service to which they feel drawn.

I also want to encourage everyone who comes to Common Ground to take an active interest in our children. Invite them to sit with you over the meal; ask them what they think of the theme; get up and play with the legos; paint a little something at the activity table along with our smallest members. They’ll love it, and I have no doubt that you will too. And as a parent I can tell you that it means a great deal to Andrew and me to see others share their love and wisdom with the people we love most in all the world.

Leadership Team

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Common Ground has also grown to the point where we need to develop a leadership team. To that end, Pastor Todd and I have been working on developing a leadership training program that would create a cohort of small group leaders. These leaders could help facilitate Bible studies, spiritual formation, and service opportunities amongst our members outside of our Thursday evening gatherings.

Ideally I’d love to see these groups take root in the various communities where our people live. These groups would not only meet regularly to learn and pray, but also find ways to work and play together. I imagine these groups would provide opportunities for our people to garden together, participate in service projects, prepare a meal for Common Ground, and/or plan and lead our worship.

We are planning to hold a leadership training retreat in January and to have the groups launch by Lent. So please pray for yourselves and one another; and if you feel called to take a more active role in the life, mission, and direction of Common Ground, let me know. If this is something that stirs your heart, I would love to have a conversation with you soon.

Our next Common Ground is not until November 6th. I’ll be in touch again between now and then with an invitation and the recipe for our next soup.

Peace to you all and many thanks,

Pastor Sarah