Spiegel im Spiegel

Spiegel im Spiegel

      A number of people came up after service asking about the piece Jenny and I played –  Spiegel im Spiegel – and its composer, Arvo Pärt, who is actually my favorite living composer, in large part due to his spiritual transformation and the resulting pivot to mystic minimalism. (See and hear a recording on Crawford’s YouTube channel, here.)
      The title means “mirror in the mirror”, sonifying two mirrors facing each other, producing a cascade of identical images that appears to cascade infinitely ahead. The piece gives me the feeling of staring deeper into the reflection, looking for its origin, its starting place. The deeper I go, the more the ‘here and now’ reveals its infinitude.
      As parents, we see ourselves mirrored in our son’s words and behaviors more and more (for better or worse). He embodies that which he reflects, just as we reflect our parents and mentors, and they theirs, ad infinitum. Our best glimpse of what unites us with all that came before, and with all that stretches far ahead, is the steady breath of the here and now, the Ruach, which is the Sancte Spiritu, the same reflection manifested in Acts, in Pärt’s personal spiritual transformation, and, hopefully, for you this very day.
      Arvo composes from a place of mystic meditation and spiritual discipline, listening inwardly rather than projected outwardly. Through this act, we might recognize and resonate with the invisible spirituality of others. As he says, “We cannot see what is in the heart of another person. Maybe he is a holy man, and I can see only that he is wearing the wrong jacket.”
      Here is a favorite recording of Spiegel im Spiegel. Like most great recordings, the musicians aren’t simply playing notes, but sounding themselves, as if listening to a mirror of their own infinite reflection. To add to your listening, my favorite of Pärt’s works is his Berliner Messe, which begins with this stunning Kyrie. I imagine heaven sounding like this.
      As for the song “Breathe” from Sunday, it reflects this same Spirit. I only wish we could insert our choir in our recording. Actually, if you listen closely, you can hear me sniffling as Jenny marches down the aisle to this wedding version I arranged for string quartet, sung by a friend one month shy of five years ago.
      Thank you for reading. Whatever you face this week, don’t forget to breathe!
– James G.
Music Director
Crawford Memorial United Methodist Church
Planet vs. Plastics

Planet vs. Plastics

The theme of Earth Day,  April 22, 2024, is Planet vs. Plastics.  It seems like a good time, with warmer weather approaching, to remind people to carry reusable containers for water.  If you need to purchase water bottled in plastic, please don’t leave them in a warm place and of course, recycle the used plastic.  I am very grateful that I can still bend down and pick up discarded plastic, but I would be much happier if I didn’t have to.  There are still a lot of discards on the ground. This is Winchester and a river runs through it and that river reaches the ocean eventually.

Now that Earth Day is upon us, maybe we can renew our efforts to recycle, try to use less plastic, walk more and pick up more.  My mother used to say that “every day was mother’s day,” true and it is also true, that every day is Earth Day.  We are so blessed with this gift of God’s good earth.

– Janet Herrmann

Ways to Reduce Use (and Abuse) of Single-Use Plastics

If you have ideas for ways to reduce our use and abuse of plastics, let us know here, and we’ll add them to this list!

Refill shops (also known as zero waste stores)
These usually small, independently owned shops provide items commonly used in most households (dish soap, laundry detergents, shampoo, conditioner, and more). Customers bring their own containers which are weighed before and after filling, so they only pay for the product. I made the switch to my local refill shop’s shampoo and conditioner a couple of years ago, and love the products. Another thing I purchase from my refill shop is foaming hand soap refill tablets. While you can buy a stylish new bottle with a supply of tablets on Amazon, I simply use the refill tablets in my Method foaming hand soap dispenser. If you’re local to Winchester, here are two nearby refill shops to check out:

Wherever you are, Google “refill shops near me” to find your local shops.

– Stacey H.

World Day of Prayer for Creation

World Day of Prayer for Creation

(Diana Butler Bass, August 31, 2023)

From September 1 to October 4, Christians around the world mark the Season of Creation, a relatively recent development in the liturgical calendar.

The practice began in 1989 when Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I proclaimed September 1 a day of prayer for the environment. In 2000, a Lutheran congregation in Australia developed a four-week celebration of creation — and the idea spread throughout that nation and beyond. Eventually, the Vatican picked up the practice and the World Council of Churches promoted the new liturgical season.

During these weeks, Christians are urged to recognize the theological centrality of God the Creator, Creation itself, the human vocation of caring for Creation, and doing justice on behalf of the Earth and all of her inhabitants.

All creation is a temple, says St. Gregory the Great.
Every tree, stone, lizard, rabbit, meteor, comet, and star to us is holy.

—Ernesto Cardenal

For all of its struggles internally, especially in the West, Christianity remains the world’s largest religion — and it is incumbent upon people of faith to work for the Earth’s healing and renewal in this time of crisis. Christians bear the burden of being part of the problem as many Christian traditions have badly muddled their theologies of creation and promoted practices that colonized and destroyed the very world we were instructed to “till and keep.”

The Season of Creation is marked by repentance for that past, a call to deepen theological reflection and spiritual awareness of Creation, and engaging justice on behalf of nature and our neighbors. Attending to Creation in liturgy, prayer, scripture, and spirituality may be one of the most significant theological shifts in contemporary Christianity, and is certainly one of the most needed.

The World Day of Prayer for Creation is not a kind of off-handed “thoughts and prayers” dismissal. It is an invitation to experience faith differently, to center Creation and the Creator, and to learn the Bible and theology anew. This day invites us to metanoia — a profound change of heart and life, a genuine conversion toward a Creation-based vision of God, nature, and neighbor.

And, as I hope Cottage readers know, this invitation is not exclusive to Christians. The Cottage is, as always, open. Everyone is welcome to this month of creation reflection — whatever your faith, practice, or tradition. Please contribute insights from your sacred texts, offer prayers from your tradition, and share generously as we join this journey together.

We all need a new heart when it comes to the repair of this hurting, wounded world. And we need each other now — as urgently as the planet needs us.

For the next month, we will continue to explore the Season of Creation here at The Cottage — especially in Sunday Musings.

Read Diana’s post online here, or join Pastor Anne in subscribing to her blog/newsletter (“The Cottage”) for free, here. (It’s not a free trial, it’s free as long as you’d like to receive it.)

The Bell Tolls for Us

The Bell Tolls for Us

(A Message from Bishop Johnson regarding recent hate crimes, published August 28, 2023)

English poet John Donne (1572-1631) penned these words that ring with truth today:

Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know for 
Whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. 
Another hate crime, the murder of three African Americans at the hands of a white supremist armed with an AR 15 semi-automatic weapon, happened on Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Public outcry seems to be a whimper. We are becoming so used to our culture of violence and hatred that it barely makes the news anymore. I can only reflect on how much more solidarity we need as a nation so that when our own people are murdered our collective voices rise loudly in unison to decry the horror. 

I call all of us to remember these constant shootings are personal. These are crimes against humanity, and that is us. The slain are your siblings, your neighbors, your beloved. 

During World War II as the Nazis were invading Europe and murdering and incarcerating Jews, the American public, for the most part, ignored the Holocaust. The United States turned back a ship full of Jewish people who were trying to escape death. 

Denmark was different; the Danes stood in solidarity and the Jewish people were protected in a national rescue effort. They smuggled 7,000 Jews to safety in Sweden; another 500 who were deported by the Nazis were sent to a ghetto in Bohemia where the Danes continued to protect and advocate for them. 

Why did they do this? They saw their Jewish citizens as their people, their family. We need more of this in our country. 

It was 60 years ago today that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., before a crowd of 250,000 people. 

There was an event in Washington this past Saturday commemorating this, the most important racial justice demonstration in U.S. history.

Yolanda King, Dr. King’s 15-year-old granddaughter, spoke: “Today, racism is still with us. Poverty is still with us. And now gun violence has come for our places of worship, our schools and our shopping centers.” 

The beloved community that we claim to be as Christians needs to speak out (and advocate and legislate) when any member of our human family is being oppressed and murdered. 

Let us grieve the death of each one. It is our own. 

Let us individually check our souls for racism and implicit bias. 

Let us collectively own the racist history of this country and name freely that “liberty and justice for all” is still a long way off.

Until everyone is free, none of us is truly free. 

The bell tolls for all of us.

See the Bishop’s original post as published on, here.

Black History Spotlight: Lewis Latimer

Black History Spotlight: Lewis Latimer

Written and submitted by Bernadette Higgins

Who says you can’t learn anything from watching soap operas? Recently, I binged watched the HBO series “The Gilded Age” and I learned of a man named Lewis Latimer. So I immediately went on Wikipedia and this is what I found out.

Born in the seaside city of Chelsea, Massachusetts, Mr. Latimer was born in 1848 to former slaves who had escaped enslavement into Massachusetts.  When Lewis was 10 years of age, due to the Dred Scott decision, his father needed to leave his family because he could not prove he was legally free from enslavement.  The Latimer family became fractured.

Lewis joined the U.S. Navy in 1864 at the age of 16. After he was honorably discharged, he worked as an office boy in a patent law firm and learned how to use a set square, ruler, and other drafting tools. He did well at the firm becoming a draftsman in 1872. From there he went on to co-patent an improved toilet system for railroad cars, draft the drawings that enabled Alexander Graham Bell to get a patent for Bell’s telephone, develop a forerunner to the air conditioner, and pursue a patent on a safety elevator that prevented riders from falling out and into the shaft.

What got Mr. Latimer a plug on The Gilded Age was his work on perfecting integral parts of the electric light bulb.  Nine days after his 33rd birthday he and another man received a patent for a method of attaching carbon filaments to conducting wires within an electric lamp. A few months later, another patent followed, this one for a modification to the process for making carbon filaments which reduced breakage during the production process.  (Don’t I sound wicked smart?  Kudos to Wikipedia.)

In 1884, the Edison Electric Light Company in NYC hired Latimer as a draftsman and an expert witness in patent litigation on electric lights.  While at Edison, he wrote the first book on electric lighting, “Incandescent Electric Lighting,” and supervised the installation of public lights in several major cities, including New York and London.  He ended his career as a patent consultant to law firms.

Along with a stellar and remarkable career, he was a true Renaissance Man.  He married Mary Wilson Lewis Latimer in 1873 and they had two daughters.  As a patriot and a veteran of the Civil War, he was a proud member of the Grand Army of the Republic and served as a secretary and adjutant.  He wrote a book of poems and various pieces for African American journals, as well as “Incandescent Electric Lighting.” He played the violin and flute, painted portraits, and wrote plays.  Mr. Latimer was a founding member of the Flushing New York Unitarian Church.  He was active in Civil Rights writing about equality, security, and opportunity, as well as teaching English and drafting courses to immigrants in New York.

I was struck by the grace with which a boy from such challenging, sad, and tragic circumstances grew to be a man of such accomplishment, fortitude, and wisdom.  I am glad to know him and thank him for the light by which I write this biography.

Banning Leaf Blowers

Banning Leaf Blowers

My loathing of leaf blowers is no secret. I have complained loudly and bitterly about the noise, the fumes, and their near-constant use in the neighborhood around the parsonage. They are terrible for the environment on multiple levels and harmful to those who use them. This article puts it all together nicely.

There are some in Winchester working to enact changes to the town’s bylaws to make some changes. It’s not enough, in my view, but I’m in the camp of “something is better than nothing” and have signed the proposed bylaw to come before the Town Meeting this fall. I invite interested Winchester residents to sign on to help protect the house God built for us by enacting these measures. It will help the mental state of your pastor at the same time!

Pastor Anne Robertson

Response to the Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade

Response to the Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade

Early last month a draft decision by the Supreme Court of the United States was leaked, indicating that the nation’s highest court would overturn the constitutional right to abortion and leave the decision to the states. This morning, that decision was announced and became law, overturning 50 years of precedent.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that three other court decisions should also be struck down on the same grounds: Griswold (the right to contraception), Lawrence (de-criminalizing sex between LGBTQ persons), and Obergefell (marriage equality).

If you are in deep distress today, you are not alone.

Because many celebrating this decision today are doing so with reference to their Christian beliefs, you might wonder where Crawford stands on this issue. At the Annual Conference of the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church two weeks ago, we adopted a resolution on this matter, which is in line with the stance of the United Methodist Church as a denomination. It concludes:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the New England Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church affirms this statement and upholds a person’s right to an abortion after informed consideration with their family, medical practitioners, pastor, and other pertinent counsel. State and federal laws and regulations prohibiting abortion violate a person’s right to the full range of reproductive health care, and, potentially, life.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that New England United Methodists pledge solidarity with those who seek reproductive health care, including abortion, by taking active measures, including accompanying people to medical appointments when necessary.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that New England United Methodists and their churches will support a person’s right to reproductive health care, including abortion, through personal prayer, letter writing campaigns to their legislators and, when necessary, peaceful protest.

You can read the full text of the resolution, which includes the full statement of the UMC, here.
The resolution passed by an overwhelming majority, including my vote and the vote of Crawford’s Lay Delegate to Annual Conference, Colin Simson.
Unlike some denominations and churches, your church membership or right to pastoral care and support is not dependent on your agreement with the church’s or pastor’s stand on social issues. But I wanted to make it clear that the stand of the UMC, the New England Conference, and the leadership of Crawford is in alignment with the above resolution.
As we process today’s decision and figure out a way forward, I encourage all of you to support one another, to join in the actions affirmed in the resolution, to listen to the lived experiences of others, to reach out for support, and to pray.
In faith,
UMCOR Sunday

UMCOR Sunday

This Sunday is UMCOR Sunday. You’ll find more information in the pews at church, and a special offering envelope in your bulletin. Gifts to the UMCOR Sunday offering cover the administrative cost of the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s ministry. When we support UMCOR’s cost of doing business, we help UMCOR keep the promise that 100% of gifts to a specific project will fund that project.”

Read more about UMCOR and the projects they’re funding now here. And because it’s top of mind for many of us, you can read specifically about how they’re addressing the crisis in Ukraine, here.

Just Breathe

Just Breathe

“Isn’t it strange that sometimes it’s easier to be busy than to be still and breathe? (Or is that just me…?)”
Joseph Woo, “Breathing In God” 

During coffee hour following a recent worship service that featured a 30-minute musical mediation lead by Santiago Barragan Noguera, we discussed meditation in general, and the impact of intentional breathing on our minds, spirits, and bodies. Here are some resources that attendees shared that day and in the days that followed.



This is an excerpt from the Blessing of the Greens service conducted by Rev. Anne Robertson at Crawford Memorial UMC on Sunday, December 5, 2021. You can read more of the history she shared about the origins of our Christmas decorations, here.

The most popular flower of the Advent-Christmas season is the bright red poinsettia. First introduced to the United States in 1828 by Dr. Joel Robert Poinsett–our first foreign minister to Mexico–this brilliant tropical plant is called by the people of Mexico and Central America, the Flower of the Holy Night.

A charming Mexican legend explains its origin. Having finished running his daily errands, an orphan boy named Pedro sadly counted his centavos. There were hardly enough of them to buy his evening meal. “Come with us to the cathedral,” urged his friends. “No,” answered Pedro, “I have no money to buy a gift.”

“Take this,” suggested one of his practical friends, pointing to a weed by the side of the road. Hesitantly Pedro picked the stringy weed, climbed the steep hill to the church, and slowly made his way to the altar with its Mexican manger scene. Kneeling, he reverently laid his gift in front of the figure of the Christ Child. He soon became aware of the murmuring crowd. In wide-eyed amazement, he saw a dazzling and beautiful scarlet flower where only dried leaves had existed a moment before. His humble offering had been miraculously transformed.

The poinsettia has also been used to symbolize the more tragic side of Jesus’ coming. It reminds us of the blood of the male infants killed by Roman soldiers as King Herod sought to find the child that would threaten his throne. It also symbolizes the blood that Jesus would shed on the Cross.