It was a dark and stormy night as the service began. I had been in the basement of the house finishing up my wrapping of Christmas presents and had paid absolutely no attention to the weather forecast, so when I came up stairs, I was surprised to see that it was sleeting. I still did not turn on the weather, however. I drove to the church at four o’clock just to check out the road and parking lot conditions. It was icy, but I didn’t think it was so bad as to cancel church.
The phone was ringing off the hook as I entered the building. “We’re not having church, are we?” was the common question. Up to that point I hadn’t considered the possibility of cancelling Christmas Eve Services. I also had calls from some of the other congregations in town asking what I was going to do. Most of them had already cancelled.
Week of Compassion is the Disciples witness in the face of natural or manmade disasters.
Floods, hurricanes, fire, civil wars, poverty and disease are only a few of the challenges that Week of Compassion responds to on behalf of Disciples. The Special Day offering is the only church-wide effort to provide general funding for the ministry. Week of Compassion offering will be received February 16 and 23, 2014.
As you make your offering to Week of Compassion this year, may your worship be joyful; may your sharing be delightfully abundant; may God be made glad by your cheerful generosity!
Spring Work Days for the Disciples Center at Camp Tawakoni will be March 27-29 and May 15-17. Your help is appreciated any or all of these days. Depending on volunteers, their skills and interests and the weather a wide variety of projects are planned: Cleaning and recycle work, tree-trimming and landscape work, exterior painting, making pool ready for summer, and building projects. It is important that we know WHO will be attending and WHEN! Work is generally scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday through early afternoon. Overnight accommodations are available. Please bring your own bedding and linens.
I have yet another confession to make. As I sat down to write this month's newsletter column I seriously contemplated writing a simple phrase over and over just to fill the space: All work and no play makes John a dull boy... Why, you may be asking, would I do something like that?
In all seriousness, I do wonder if the monthly newsletter is actually a worthwhile venture for the church any longer. Like print journalism of many kinds, has the arrival of this bulk item in your mail boxes finished its time? I would be curious to hear from those of you who actually read these words, who actually find value in this monthly arrival in your mail box. The cynical side of me says that I will not hear too much. I do hope I am proven wrong.
What a full and beautiful day we had on Resurrection Sunday, 2014. It started with a gentle Sunrise service at the picnic shelter. On cue, the turkeys, the purple martins and all of creation joined with our human voices to proclaim, "My Lord, What a Morning!"as the sun poked up over the horizon to illuminate the empty cross.
A wonderful variety of food was offered between services, and a rich time of fellowship was held as folks greeted one another to the new day. Laughter overcame much of our tiredness as we enjoyed one another's company. The food just didn't seem to want to disappear because of the abundant generosity of everyone who provided.
Then came the highlight of proclaiming the resurrection during our 9:30 worship service when seven young people entered the waters of our baptistry to take on the way of Christ. At the conclusion of the baptism/sermon it was very moving to hear the united voices in the congregation rattle the rafters with the thunderous acclamation "HE IS RISEN INDEED!".
We felt something very special going on Sunday. Even the gleeful laughter of the children hunting for Easter eggs after services filled us with joy and awe. There was a sense of wonder and delight as they discovered each egg, proclaiming to us observers life and hope.
It was a joyous day, it was an exhausting day, but now what? Monday comes and the ever day world returns. The memory of a wonderful day has already begun to fade. Oh, we will continue to tell stories, but in the end, do we truly respond to the ultimate, transformative message of the day? Do we remember that the day is all about the proclamation of God's power to do a new thing? That in all the stories, all the memories, that we are a new creation called to live out resurrection hope with all that we are and all that we have in a Good Friday world?
We remember this day as the most significant in our faith tradition. Resurrection is a once and for all time event that invites us to not only be aware that new creation happened but continues to happen around us and ought to happen through us. It is living out our baptismal promise to be an extension of the resurrected Christ's hope and love to a troubled world.
May we strive to live daily the message of resurrection, seeing joy around us and celebrating, seeing sorrow encompassing many and bringing hope to them. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!!!
Disciple Women May Service Project
Safe Haven Outreach Mission is the Disciple Women’s service project for May. We are taking a cash offering because we feel that they can use that to their best advantage. They have bills to pay and while they have material needs, those change from day to day and money can be used where needed. While in the home, residents are helped to find jobs, have responsibilities in the home, are encouraged to get an education, and be able to get back into a productive stream of life. Please give generously!
Join us for a Chicken Noodle Dinner to support the Children’s Ministry. Dinner will be held on Sunday, May 4th from 11:00 to 12:30 pm, dine in or carry out is available. Menu includes salad, homemade chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, green beans, dessert and tea or coffee. A Free Will offering will be accepted to support this worthwhile ministry. Thank you for your support!
Church Office Hours
The church office will be closed Monday, May 26th in observance of Memorials Day. Regular office hours are 8 am to noon and 1 pm to 4 pm. The front (West) doors remain open during business hours and the back (South) door is locked for security reasons. Read More
What is it to Live Forever?
For the early Hebrews, living forever meant having progeny -- bearing children so that your name would “not depart from the earth.” Eternal life was through your “seed.”
Subsequent to the exile in Babylon, they adopted a notion of the soul and came to believe that the soul could live on after death and some believed in the possibility of resurrection, where not only the soul would live on but the body as well would enter into some kind of afterlife.
We typically don’t speculate much about afterlife, whether we are on the great wheel of karma, or whether we meet Peter at the pearly gate, or whether our children are our way to live on. The Apostle Paul considered it a mystery and a blessed hope. And many of us simply side with those who understand that the gospel is much more about “Thy Kingdom come, on earth . . .” than trying to get into some afterlife eternal real estate.
That being said, one very practical and gospel way to live on is through legacy giving. A legacy gift continues our influence, our intentions, our goals and our values even after we have crossed over into the mystery. It funds “Thy Kingdom come on earth . . .” Even after we pass on, we live on.
I am beginning to think the world has gone mad and is in a pretty volatile place right now. The news from this morning was very sad and disconcerting. The horrific shooting down of a Malaysian airliner in the rebel-held Ukraine has brought us to a place of shock, dismay and much finger pointing. The conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East has escalated once again to a place of heightened bloodshed and despair, with many innocents caught in the middle, again with accusations flying back and forth about who is responsible for this most recent onslaught. The situation on our own border with Mexico and the thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America who are arriving there, trying to escape the dangerous situations of their native countries and the frozen politics of our country has infected many with fear and hate.
I heard this all this morning on CBS This Morning as they took a look at the world in 90 seconds. I turned off the television, hoping to escape any more bad news and went online. The first article on my news feed on Facebook was about yet another city cracking down on homelessness in a far less than compassionate way by banning them. That remote, desert island is looking better every day! Read More
FCC will host Vacation Bible School beginning Monday, August 10th through Wednesday, August 12th from 9:30 am to 11:30 am with lunch to follow from 11:30 am to noon. Our theme this year is “This in My Father’s World.” There will be bible lessons, fun music, demonstrations and crafts dedicated to making us better caretakers of our world.
APPRECIATION BREAKFAST FOR THE ARMY RESERVE
First Christian Church will host a breakfast for the Army Reserve on Saturday, August 1 at 8:00 am in Fellowship Hall. This is a way for us to thank our neighbors to the east for serving our country. We have a hearty menu planned for all 60 of them. We are asking the congregation to contribute. Please sign up in the narthex or call the church office 421-4790, Peg Cramer 421-4252 or Sharon Ryan 421-6729.
If you wish to make a monetary donation please put it in a pew envelope and mark it ARMY RESERVE.
There are only a few items left to be donated for the breakfast. Items are 2 bottles of sugar free pancake syrup, large bottle orange juice, large bottle cranberry juice, 3 lbs fresh strawberries, 8 peaches, 3 cantaloupe and 10 plums. Please have donations to the church by Friday morning (July 31) so we can prepare part of the meal Friday afternoon. Egg casseroles can be brought Saturday (August 1) before 7:30 am. Thank you to everyone for their donations of food and money!
September 27 and October 4
In her famous poem from 1976 “Children Learn What They Live”, Dorothy Law Nolte lays out a prescription for teaching children self-worth and compassion. In the poem, she carefully contrasts the impacts of criticism versus praise and encouragement. “If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.” When this poem was released, it could be found on refrigerator doors, nursery room walls and classroom bulletin boards throughout this nation. It marked a shift in our shared consciousness as to the value of our children and our responsibility to provide environments that fostered love and handled their sweet souls with tender care.
Imagine that all of our children grew up in homes and were taught in schools that handled their sweet souls with care. Would we continue to have gapping disparities in access to quality education? Would black and brown children continue to comprise a disproportionate number of school suspensions, expulsions and dropouts? A significant part of our children’s learning occurs outside of the home where they also are shaped by acts of encouragement or criticism. Therefore recent reports that indicate that not all of our children receive equal treatment in our school and judicial systems compel the church and faith community to act. Data from the Department of Education chronicling the 2011 – 2012 school year show that although African American youth comprise only 18% of pre-school enrollment, 42% were subject to suspension at least once that year. That rate is increased to 48% for the same group that were subject to multiple suspensions. This data is not meant to indicate that African American preschoolers are inherently prone to bad behavior or that pre-school teachers are inherently racist. What it does show is that we are all shaped in a paradigm of implicit bias that requires intentional effort to dismantle.
October 2015 newsletter
As I begin to write this, my final article for you, I find myself waxing nostalgic. So many memories are pouring over me, that I find it hard to truly focus on how and what I should impart as my final words to you. For some reason, a Charles Dickens quote comes to mind: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." I really resonate with the first half of the quote, but for my time with you, I would dispute the second half and change the second part to, "there were times of struggle."
I have gotten to know and to love so many of you as friends and co-workers in Christ. You have allowed me to enter your lives in the best of times and in times of loss and pain. During my time here in Parsons, I have conducted celebration of life services for 106 families, 84 of them from this congregation. Together, we have said farewell to many others as they have left the community to move closer to families for various reasons. A number of faithful servants, who were very active when I first moved here, have become home bound and some have entered care facilities as their health has diminished.
At the same time, however, I was privileged to welcome 50 people through baptism and transfer of membership in to the life of the congregation. There have also been a number of "visitors" who have become regular attendees on Sundays and actively participate in many other church sponsored events. I have held newborns, watched children grow up and move away. In my first two months I was here, a baby girl was born to a family that has become active in the life of the church. She just celebrated her 7th birthday and I have marveled at watching her, her sisters and all the children grow, develop and thrive.
There have been numerous mission opportunities, fellowship meals, Bible studies and special events that I know have fed my soul and hopefully have fed many of you as well. There were those special services of Advent/Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. I will never forget the Pentecost service when we dropped balloons from the balcony and the joy and spirit it ignited on the faces of all as we "shared" the spirit by tapping those red orbs to one another. It still warms my heart to see with my mind's eye some of our ninety plus year olds - some who have now joined that great cloud of witnesses - light up as a balloon came their way and reached out to tap it on its way.
So many heart-warming, faithful memories have imprinted themselves on my heart. There were, however, periods of struggle. One of the biggest struggles we have had of late is with finances. With all the deaths and moves that have happened over the last seven years, our attendance and finances have diminished. We have been drawing on our reserve funds over the past few months. I know for some that has caused a sense of panic and panic can often cause fear and fear leads to blaming and distrust.
If there is one regret I have in my time with you, it is this: I was unable to motivate leadership, and the church to live lives of faithful stewardship. The giving of finances, time and abilities has remained static even as we have lost people. There have only been two people who have wanted to chair stewardship and both did a great job, but felt like they failed. We are all called to be life-long stewards of the blessings of God. One of the most important committees that should be functioning on an on-going basis is the Stewardship Committee. Their function should be to remind us of the joy of giving, and help to hold us all accountable in our responsibility to share God's gifts of finances, time and abilities with all.
It was the best of times, it was struggling times, but in the end, we are called to exist for God's good pleasure. It has been a humble honor to serve alongside you these seven plus years. You are ever-imprinted on my soul.” Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11)." Grace and Peace,
The Thanksgiving Offering benefits the Colleges, Universities, Seminaries, and Divinity Houses affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). These learning communities are an extension of the church, challenging students to understand and respond to God’s call to serve.
From the very beginnings of the movement, Disciples have founded institutions of higher learning, encouraging students in their intellectual pursuits. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is still committed to higher education. Your gift to the Thanksgiving Offering helps underwrite the education of students attending one of our fourteen undergraduate institutions and our seven seminaries or divinity houses.
Thousands of students have attended the Colleges and Universities of the Christian Church receiving both a quality education and the opportunity to remain within our Disciple’s heritage. Your financial gift provides scholarships and support for spiritual life offices. By giving to the Thanksgiving Offering you are investing in our students and helping keep education costs down.
The Thanksgiving Offering also provides scholarship and support for those pursuing theological education at one of our seven seminaries or divinity houses. Consider the many generations of pastors, who, if not for the support of faithful congregations and individuals over the ages would not have flourished as our pastors, teachers and leaders. What impact has your pastor had in the life of your church, community or region? You can thank them by supporting the Thanksgiving Offering. Read the newsletter here.
ForeThoughts December 2015
Disciple Women’s Merry Christmas Luncheon will be in the Fellowship Hall on December 8th at 12:00 pm. Christmas Music & Program will be presented by Greg & Suzie York.
Dinner will be covered dish and table service will be provided. Working women, please be our guest! You don’t need to bring anything and will be served first. Eat and go or stay and enjoy fellowship. This will also be the LAST chance to buy tickets for the Kansas Troubles Barn Raising Quilt. Proceeds go to the DW budget. Drawing will be during the Luncheon. Read full Newsletter.
The Disciple Women’s Merry Christmas Luncheon was well attended with 42 members and guests present, including some of our working women. We were very glad to be able to have them with us. A delicious potluck dinner was served and the program was presented by Greg & Suzie York. Everyone enjoyed the dinner and fellowship.
Quilt fundraiser - The ladies raised $856.00 in ticket sales for the Kansas Troubles “Barn Raising” Quilt. Greg York was asked to draw from the multitude of tickets and after shaking them up and rattling them around, he drew Shirley Degenhart’s name as the winner of the quilt! Congratulations, Shirley!
Read the newletter here.
The Disciple Women’s March Project Safe House in Pittsburg is a safe and secure home for women and children who are victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Domestic
violence is violence committed again one person by another member of the same household. The abuse can be physical or mental and usually involves both. Attacks often begin as verbal abuse or threats and turn into battery, rape or even murder.
Safe House works with these people to end the cycle of violence. Read full newsletter.
New church movement experiencing a Second Wind
Pentecost Offering May 15 and May 22
Indianapolis, March 28, 2016 — The Disciples new church movement is experiencing a Second Wind. With courageous leaders at the helm and the wind of the Holy Spirit breathing vitality into the movement, Disciples are on course to start 1,000 new churches by 2020.
Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation invites you to join the new church fleet by supporting the 2016 Pentecost Offering, which will be celebrated in Disciples of Christ churches May 15 and May 22.
Since the creation of the 2020 Vision, Disciples have planted 934 churches in the United States and Canada, sharing the gospel with more than 61,000 individuals who may not have had a relationship with Christ. According to Gilberto Collazo, president of Hope Partnership, “A Second Wind,” which is the theme for this year’s Pentecost Offering, is energizing the new church movement, making it a vital force for sharing God’s Word. “The new church movement is very much on course and gaining momentum,” he says. “Our new church planters are more determined than ever to share the gospel and win souls for Christ.”
Each year one half of the Pentecost Offering is designated to the Region or Area in which the offering is taken, while the other half is used by Hope Partnership to support the recruitment, assessment, training and coaching of new church leaders.
Once again, Hope Partnership invites Disciples congregations to view the 2016 Pentecost Offering video created by the award-winning production company, the SALT Project. This two-minute video offers a creative style in highlighting the Pentecost Offering theme. Also, for additional resources and for more information about the Pentecost Offering, visit www.hopepmt.org.given.” Read the full newsletter here.