February birthdays and anniversaries

Each month we recognize the birthdays and anniversaries of our church members. These are the ones for the month of February.

Birthdays

7 — Michelle Williams

10 — John Comegys

Bonita Earl

Tiffany Horton

Beryl Weinschenk

12 — Alexandra FitzGibbon

14 — Cathie Moseley

Christine Gillham

15 — Christian Fazio

16 — Bob Garcia

17 — Rose Rowe

19 — Charlene Toews

22 — Vhuso Sukuta

26 — Cheryl Jones

27 — Anne Simone

ANNIVERSARIES

14 — Bill Ickler and Jeff Crews

 

Community UCC to offer ‘Ashes To Go’ again, and Glitter+ Ash

~ Photo above by Silvia Flores/The Fresno Bee

Glitter_Ash_810_500_55_s_c1Community UCC will again offer Ashes to Go on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14 (Here is a link to a Fresno Bee article and video about our first ever Ashes To Go in 2017.). And for the first time, our church will also offer Glitter+ Ash, an inherently queer sign of Christian belief, blending symbols of mortality and hope, of penance and celebration.  (This 2017 LA Times article talks about the relatively new Glitter+ Ash tradition.)

Glitter+ Ash exquisitely captures the relationship between death and new life. We do not live in fear of ash — of death — we place it on our foreheads for the world to see. We know that fear will rise, cramping our hearts. We also know that God specifically calls us not to project that fear onto the Other, the alien, the stranger in our midst.

God insists that we look for the spark of life, of hope, in ourselves and one another. This Ash Wednesday, we will make that spark easier to see. We will stand witness to the gritty, glittery, scandalous hope that exists in the very marrow of our tradition.

Ashes to go and Glitter+ Ash will be available in the Community UCC parking lot from 7 to 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 14, and then from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at United Japanese Christian Church, 136 N. Villa Ave. in Clovis.

Celebrate with an evening service at 7:30 p.m. that day at the United Japanese Christian Church with Rev. Akiko Miyake-Stoner and Pastor Chris Breedlove.

“Marked by Ashes” by Walter Brueggemann

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
     halfway back to committees and memos,
     halfway back to calls and appointments,
     halfway on to next Sunday,
     halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
     half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
   but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
     we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
       of failed hope and broken promises,
       of forgotten children and frightened women,
     we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
     we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with
   some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
   anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
   you Easter parade of newness.
   Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
     Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
     Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
   Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
     mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.

Message from our Moderator about this time of transition

Dear CUCC members and friends,

Most, if not all of you, have learned recently that Pastor Chris has accepted a call to Foothill Congregational  Church in Los Altos, CA. His last Sunday with us will be April 1st, Easter Sunday.

Pastor Chris and his family are very dear to me, as I am sure they must be to you, and I will miss them very much. I was deeply touched by his heartfelt letter announcing his decision.

Please join with me in thanking him for his inspiration and leadership in our congregation and in the wider community as we celebrate his remaining time with us, and wish him and his family well on their ministry journey.

Transition can be an unsettling thing, maybe especially to newer members who haven’t experienced a change of pastor with our congregation. In response to questions that have come up and in anticipation of additional questions, I hope the following information will be helpful:

How will we honor Pastor Chris as he is released from covenant with CUCC?

There is a Ritual of Covenant Release, which generally takes place on the pastor’s last Sunday separate and apart from the Sunday service. Participants include the pastor, the congregation and representatives from the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ (NCNCUCC) and the Sequoia Association in which we participate with other Central California UCC churches.  This is generally a time to celebrate the work that has been accomplished together and a time to say good-bye. The date and time for this are yet to be determined.

What is the process when a minister leaves?

There are UCC-defined policies and practices to guide us as we prepare for Pastor Chris’ release from his call with CUCC.  We will be assisted by the NCNCUCC and the Sequoia Association as our covenantal partners in this process.

In the very near future, a search committee, representative of our congregation, will be formed by Council to seek an interim pastor. The Conference will provide us profiles of pastors who are interested in interim work to be considered for this position.

Once the interim is selected, approved and installed by our congregation, a settled pastor search committee will be formed to work with the congregation, Council and the interim to develop a church profile. Pastors who are interested in our church based on this profile will be considered by the search committee for the settled position.

How long can the search and call process take?

Search and call will take time and discernment and will require patience and understanding from all of us. Generally it takes a few months to find an interim and a year to a year and a half to find a settled pastor.

What will we do in the likely event there is a time lapse between selecting an interim pastor and Pastor Chris’ release?

In the past, we have invited others to fill the pulpit on Sundays and have been blessed with ordained ministers associated with our congregation who can carry out the sacraments of communion, baptism, wedding and funerals as well as preach on occasion.

We are extremely fortunate to have our Commissioned Minister of Religious Education Robin Carlson who leads our worship planning team and is an excellent preacher and, our Music Director EJ Hinojosa provides the wonderful music, which is a vital component in the life of our church.

What is an interim pastor?

An interim pastor is one who is trained in the specific skills needed to guide and serve churches between settled pastorates. The interim assists the search committee in developing the church profile through the input provided by the congregation.

The interim will help us take this time as an opportunity to look at our strengths and weaknesses, to capitalize on our strengths and to be open to new opportunities. The interim cannot become the settled pastor under any circumstances.

How will the congregation be involved in the selection of the pastor?

The congregation will provide the vital input needed for the development of the church profile. This is generally accomplished through meetings, surveys, etc. The search committee will represent the wishes of the congregation.

How will the congregation be informed about the progress of the search committees?

Once the church profile has been developed with input from the congregation and interim pastor, and the search committee begins considering candidates for the position, the work of the search committees becomes confidential until such time a pastor is recommended for consideration by the congregation.

Change and transition have always been a part of the life of our church.  Please take a look at the timeline below that has been prepared for the 60th Anniversary Celebration as a way of seeing the transitions that have occurred since our church was formed 60 years ago. In our church’s history, we have had 10 settled pastors and six interim pastors.

The process I have described in this letter has worked well for us in the past and I believe it will lead us to a successful outcome. I look forward to our work together as we say goodbye to Pastor Chris and welcome a future minister.

In grace and gratitude,

Nancy Pressley, Moderator, 2017-18

CUCC Timeline_Page_1

CUCC Timeline_Page_2

When life gives you fruit, make pies!

~ Photo above by Terry Cole

Each week in worship, during the Invitation to Giving, someone from our church tells their story. Our Vice Moderator Amy Kilburn told hers during the service on Jan. 21, 2018: 

Many of you know me as the person who does the Life of the Church announcements, or as your Vice Moderator, maybe that I’m Art Drolette’s granddaughter, or even know that my name is Amy, I teach middle school and work as a teacher advocate.  

In the past, I’ve spoken about what has brought me to this church, but when I heard Chris was going to resign, I thought why do I continue to come to church and give?  Why, through the fog of life, would I wake up early and come in on a Sunday?  Why would I attend church meetings during the week?  Why would my participation matter?    

You see, this was my week last week: One of my students who was in the Student Responsibility Center (that’s a nice way of saying the place where you get busted) all year last year, who has not been there one time this year, and has truly tried to be an academic this year was expelled. He had inappropriate pictures on his phone and shared them with others.

Another student, whose only safe place is school because her family verbally beats her down daily — Why? Because she wants to do well in school — was expelled for distribution of a controlled substance on campus. Top that with working with a teacher who was put on paid administrative leave.  

This was not an unusual week for me.  This is the fog of life that could hide the joys that are screaming for attention.  For me, this church represents hopeful, remarkable possibilities.  

Let me tell you what I mean. When I come to service I can predict that at some point a box of fruit will probably show up with a simple, un-Pinterest sign, reading, “Please take.”  

This activity of harvesting fruit from a nurtured tree is a sign of possibilities…like will this dang thing grow?  Will the fruit be any good?  What do I do with all this fruit!?  Possibilities!  

Then watching as congregants take the fruit, what’s possible?  With Rod it’s pies!  Lemon pies!!  Who would’ve known that a delicious pie would’ve come from this possibility….Rod!?

This isn’t a miracle, but it is those simple remarkable moments that bring me back each week.  As we fight through the fog of life it’s wonderful to come to a place each week where we are reminded that sharing, kindness is possible.   

I also come for hope.  For this, I direct you to the faucet found east of the Peace Garden. Some might not know the story behind that faucet. Let me tell you, I was in one of those nighttime church meetings where we discussed our water bill.  It was extremely large because some homeless folk had broken a water pipe to gain access to water during the heat wave last summer.  

Imagine, just imagine, being so desperate that you needed to break a water pipe for WATER. Economic reality is we can’t afford a broken pipe. The discussion during that meeting included the job of clean up after the homeless.  Not a fun job.  

We left that meeting with no viable solution, but with a covenant to treat all as welcome and human. The next thing I see is the pipe split with a water faucet and a hose spigot. I was left feeling grateful for all involved in a simple faucet and thankful for the concept of hope.  

So, I continue to come to this church, give of my time, talents, and finances, because, for me, it represents hopeful, remarkable possibilities. You might think these things not remarkable, but when I think of the fog of life, they are remarkable.

A faucet, a piece of fruit, as simple as they may be to others, seem hopefully remarkable to me. And maybe, just maybe, our little spot permeates the people who walk through our doors, for hours, days, or years, and they go out into the world and share that hope is possible.     

 

Fresno Women’s March — Jan. 20

Fresno Women's March 2017

~ Photo above by Terry Cole, from the 2017 Fresno Women’s March

A group of us are meeting at the church at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, to carpool to the Fresno Women’s Rally and March. The rally begins at 11 a.m. at Fresno and Nees, then marchers will circle the block after the speakers wrap up.

If we carpool and leave some cars in the church parking lot, PLEASE do not leave valuables in your car or visible. We don’t want to make our parking lot a target for vandalism. Thanks!

Special Announcement: Pastor Chris Breedlove to resign

A message from Pastor Chris:

I often marvel at the enduring tie that binds congregational members. Many of our longtime stalwart members have enjoyed deep abiding friendships with one another for years that even surpass the ages of their adult children.

I’m pleased that Community UCC continues to be a vibrant and thriving congregation with members from diverse origins. The spirit of love and grace is alive and well at Community United Church of Christ.

For the past six years, it has been my sacred honor to bless, baptize, confirm, marry, memorialize, consecrate, and affirm what is holy and gracious in the lives of the members of Community United Church of Christ. Together, we’ve tackled social injustices and environmental concerns impacting the greater Fresno community. For years, and in a powerful ongoing way, Community UCC has boldly raised its extravagant banner of welcome and has embraced many that are often excluded and marginalized in society.

After much heartfelt and prayerful discernment, I am resigning from my call of ministry to Community UCC, to accept a call to pastor Los Altos, Foothills Congregational Church.  This has been a mixed time of gratitude and sorrow for me as I’ve evaluated and considered this significant change in both the life of my family and treasured congregation at Community.

I will always be grateful for the kind members and most excellent staff at Community UCC that have nurtured my family with indelible compassion and tender mercies.

I want to ask once more for your blessing of God’s call on my life in ministry. Also, please forgive my mistakes and any moments of uneasiness that arose during my tenure here — know that my heart and soul longed only for a wider experience of God’s grace.  I know that at times, the boldness and provocation of my preaching and presence sometimes pushed too hard and without the necessary patience that mercy and love teaches us.  Your blessing and forgiveness is a divine gift and transforming grace in my life.

My trust and hope is that faithful members will continue on with both presence in and support of the ongoing ministries of Community UCC.  It is my intention, after consultation with church leadership, to conclude my ministry on Easter Sunday.

My resignation as pastor at Community, UCC, will start a careful process of the church in its prayerful search for its next interim steps and eventually the call of a new settled pastor. Having a long-standing relationship with the greater United Church of Christ family, I know that the NCNC conference and more than capable lay leadership of Community will guide and lead the church through this journey.

As an UCC clergy, I am committed to the UCC Code of Ministerial Conduct, starting after my last Sunday at Community, to respect boundaries in the life of this congregation. That means that I will not be present or participate in any of the ministries of this church and would only ever do so by invitation of the Interim or Called Senior Pastor. I will not perform baptisms, weddings or funerals, or participate in the worship or ministry life of the church. This is the healthiest way for me to love and honor you, even as I depart.

In this moment of transition, I am comforted by the words of Paul to the church at Philippi:

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing the Gospel from the first day until now. I am confident that the One who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1. 3-6).

I love you Community UCC, your lives and families, your hopes and dreams, our ups and downs, in all moments — God is faithful.  In the hymn “In the Bulb There Is a Flower” there is a powerful line that resonates this mystery: “In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity.”

Grace and Peace,

Christopher Breedlove