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Pastoral Letter


Many, many thanks to all who supported the opening events for the UCC Environmental Justice Center at Pilgrim Firs!  We had a good crowd, our three young adults speakers were great and the reception afterwards was wonderful.  Many, many thanks to all those who gave of their time and efforts and a special thanks to University Congregational UCC and Plymouth Congregational UCC for their financial support as well as Plymouth’s willingness to provide a space for this first gathering!  The next session will be a training based on the new Environmental Justice curriculum being designed by our denominational Justice and Witness staff.  We’ll be sending out more information about this February training session, soon.

- If you haven’t checked out the information at the UCC website about Mission 1 ( ) do so soon!  In addition to their being a breadth of support materials, there is also quite a bit of idea sharing about what other churches throughout the UCC are doing.  Take a look!


Lauren saw it first.

It had been a full week for both of us; an over-the-top busy kind of week.  Part of the thing that kept us moving through it was that we knew – on the other side of it all – was a trip to San Juan Island for a day and a half away. 

The evening before, the ferry had weaved its way through the islands.  The sun was just starting to set.  The landscapes and seascapes made everything look alien and somehow unrelated to time.   By the time we arrived where we were staying it was dark.  From our room, we could see the lights of ferries and freighters and stars.

The next morning we were determined to get to the beach for at least a little while.  Everything was still stirred up by a storm that had blown through the night before.  There were branches on the road, the wind was still high and the waves were crashing against the rocks.   There was a trail from the parking lot to the beach that ran high up above the shore.  We had to lean in to the wind.  The little bit of rain that still lingered mixed with the spray from the Sound and stung a bit as it blew in to our faces.  It was all so beautiful, seemingly dangerous and ridiculous – all at the same time - that we couldn’t help but to laugh.

The beach, fortunately, was on a little bit of a cove sheltered from everything.  Lauren went off one way and I went off the other.  I stared out at the Sound hoping to see a whale (being consistently fooled by the waves and the light) and Lauren did a little bit of beach combing; eventually finding a seat on a big driftwood log that landed underneath the tree closest to the shore.  After being adequately convinced that today was not the day I would see a whale, I walked over to join her.

As I got closer, I could see she had a funny look on her face.  She started to point.  A baby harbor seal had crawled from behind a driftwood log.  The seal was staring at me and was, clearly, afraid.  And, just as clearly, curious.  And, I think, wondering if I was going to feed it or eat it.  I sat down with Lauren slowly.  I think that, within about a 10 minute period, we both used the word cute more than we had in the last year.  Over just a little bit of time, it lost the look and posture of fear and was just curious, now.  It stared at us.  We started at it.  Eventually, it closed its eyes and fell asleep.

We both expressed the desire to pick it up and hold it.  Again, it was cute.  Did I mention it was cute?  It was really, really cute.  We also had this desire to protect it and openly talked about spending the day there until its mother came by again, just to make sure it was safe.

Our motivations were good, our instincts were even good… but we knew better.  We knew that it was against the law to get too close to a baby seal.  We knew that they bite and that that, just by touching them, diseases can get transmitted both ways.  We knew that, if we stayed too close, its mother might not come back to claim, care for and feed the pup at some point in the day.  Doing what our hearts suggested wouldn’t have been a solution to a problem but a reaction that would have created a problem.  Even more, this may have appeared to be a problematic moment to Lauren and I but there was no problem.   This baby seal was just doing what baby seals do.

So we left (looking back frequently).  We looked at the pictures of the pup we both took on the ferry ride back.  I think that night was the first night either of us prayed for a seal.


Mike Denton
Conference Minister

PDFs of Articles
September 2011
July/August 2011