A message from Pastor Ara

It has been my great joy to serve with others throughout the world during 34 years of pastoral ministry. I took my first trip to Armenia in 2003. I thought it would be my one trip, but here I am at trip No. 15.

This one is different: little work and a lot of celebration.

Usually, my group works on a house in the village of Lusaghbyur. We have finished 16 houses in a village destroyed by the earthquake of 1988. There were only four habitable structures remaining, out of 240+ after the ground stopped rolling.

My former congregation established a sister church relationship with a church in Gyumri. Over the years, we purchased chairs, refinished hardwood floors, equipped a computer lab, donated a projector, replaced lighting and purchased a piano.

We have started several businesses. We have purchased cars for pastors. We have encouraged several young people to go to college and pursue advanced degrees, in word and deed ($).

I have done weddings, baptisms, preached, celebrated communion. This trip I celebrate the fruit borne of over a decade of nurture.

On Sunday, Sept. 30, we dedicate a new sanctuary and community center in Gyumri. The following Sunday, we attend the wedding of a young woman we encouraged through college. I have known Anna since she was 8 years old. It will be a great party.

Finally, a bit of work, several Fresnans are sending the resources to buy a delivery van for Grand Hope, a ministry that takes donated goods from the capital to the border villages of Armenia.

Please pray for me and the 11 fellow travelers. See you on Sunday, Oct. 14, in worship at Robinson Park for our congregation’s second annual Blessing of the Animals (more details to come).

Women’s Book group will discuss ‘The Sin of Certainty’ beginning Oct. 2

A new Women’s Book Discussion Group will begin at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2. 

The book is “The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than our ‘Correct’ Beliefs” by Peter Enns, author of “Let Your Life Speak,” “The Courage to Teach,” “Healing the Heart of Democracy.”  It is available on Amazon.

From Goodreads:

With compelling and often humorous stories from his own life, Bible scholar Peter Enns offers a fresh look at how Christian life truly works, answering questions that cannot be addressed by the idealized traditional doctrine of “once for all delivered to the saints.”

Enns offers a model of vibrant faith that views skepticism not as a loss of belief, but as an opportunity to deepen religious conviction with courage and confidence. This is not just an intellectual conviction, he contends, but a more profound kind of knowing that only true faith can provide.

Robin Carlson, our commissioned minister of Christian education, will guide this discussion, which will go through Oct. 30.

Reading Assignment is:

  • Oct. 2 — Chapters 1 & 2
  • Oct. 9 — Chapters 3 & 4
  • Oct. 16 — Chapters 5 & 6 (through Falling Branches)
  • Oct. 23 — Chapters 6 (start at Meeting New People) & 7
  • Oct. 30 — Chapters 8 & 9

If you would like Marilyn to order a book for you, please call the church office or email her at office@communityucc.com.  The cost is $17.50.

Build a Bigger Table potluck, Neighbors in Need special offering

Oct. 7 is World Communion Sunday. For the potluck luncheon immediately following worship, bring dishes that relate to your background or culture. Fellowship will provide service items and drinks. There will be a sign-up sheet before then. ~ Patty Parks

Neighbors in Need is a special mission offering of the United Church of Christ that supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States. This year’s Neighbors in Need special offering will be take on Oct. 7.

Please come to our table and celebrate with us!

Each morning we are gifted with a new day
A new day of
Birds singing
Children laughing
Friends sharing

You are God’s beloved
You are an important part of God’s creation
Go and participate in this new day
This new day of possibilities!

~ From Robin Carlson, Commissioned Minister of Religious Education

Help serve lunch at Poverello House

The Missions and Social Justice team invites our congregation to join them to help prep and serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, at Poverello House. Children ages 7 and up are welcome to help.

The team hopes to make this a quarterly event. Contact Felicia Rocha for additional information.

There are times to move fast
and times to slow down.

Whatever the case is:

Work at a healthy pace.
Think things through.

You can make great decisions quickly.
And wise ones arrive when you are patient.

There’s a momentum in the swing of things!

I know you will find
the right pace for you.
You have a talent for that.

~ From Robin Carlson, Commissioned Minister of Religious Education

Please allow me to introduce myself

I am Ara, Pastor Ara. I have served as a pastor for over 34 years, most recently as interim pastor/head of staff at First Congregational Church

Prior to Big Red, I was pastor/head of staff at Pilgrim Armenian Congregational Church, a multi-staffed ethnic and long-established congregation in Fresno, CA. I also serve part-time as the chaplain for Bright Horizon Hospice.

I love what I have been called to do. This is my second interim position, so although I will touch things, I am very aware of being gentle so I don’t break anything. Pray for me, please.

I am a YES person. I say yes, then do all I can to do it. “Can we, pastor?”  Sometimes I take a moment to think, if I or we haven’t done it before. Then “Sure,” say I.

Being a lifelong Presbyterian and a long-serving pastor in a congregational church, it is easier to say YES, for there is a council or session to say wait, … And a strong group to make the Yes talk a reality.

I am a Mission person. I talk a lot, a part of the job, sure. Ask my family, I am rarely at a loss for words.

Talk is easy, action is hard. I endeavor to match my deed to my word. By the grace and power of God, I have been able to live an integrated life.

I have been to many places, rarely as a tourist. There are always siblings to relate to and work with as we seek to reflect the love of Christ. I look forward to the places we will go in 2018 and 2019.

I serve on the board of directors of the Armenian Missionary Association of America, the mission arm of the Armenian Evangelical Union of (mostly UCC) congregations of the Americas. I have a couple of ongoing projects in Armenia and Buenos Aires, Argentina. I hope to visit South Korea again in 2019. This time to Daejeon, South Korea, where a friend and colleague is establishing a great work, I pray.

I am vice moderator and Stewardship Committee chair of the Presbytery of San Joaquin. There I am planning a local mission project and a week-long project in El Salvador. Again, I solicit your prayers.

Finally, some fun stuff. I am, along with Diane Wieble (our conference minister) and millions of others, a St. Louis Cardinal fan, have been since 1967.

I am a 58-year-old grandfather. I am not a rational, reasonable person around the grandson, Zekiel.

I wear interesting socks. No gifts of socks, please (unless you clear it with Vivy, my wife). My rather large sock drawer is overflowing.

The music here is exceptional. I appreciate most genres of music, but my personal non-worship playlist would include the Clash, Peter Gabriel, the Ramones, Rage Against the Machine and Radiohead.

I enjoy film. I go to the movies on my day off and I was able to attend the most recent Fresno Filmworks Festival for the first time this past year, Great Joy.

I am available. This call — as the four previous — is my priority (that is why no film festival before). Call, text or email me. My cell number is 559.862.3874. I put my phone on vibrate around 10 pm and back to ring around 7 am. Occasionally I forget, because I am a forgiven sinner, a broken creature, restored and occasionally put to good use by his creator, redeemer and sustainer.

Celebrate release of band’s CD, ‘Banner,’ Sept. 28

Community UCC will celebrate the release of our church band’s CD, titled “Banner,” with a dinner at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, in Hayden Hall. Dinner will be spaghetti with salad.  Gluten-free and vegan options will also be available.

Our band, led by music director E.J. Hinojosa, will perform songs from the CD, which was more than a year in the making.

“Banner” includes 12 original songs, written to provide nontraditional offerings with a more inclusive perspective. The band members performing on the album are:

  • Michael Bonner, Drums
  • Adam Elmore, Bass
  • David Heckman, Guitar and Album Engineer
  • EJ Hinojosa, Keyboards and Vocals
  • Crissy Martinez, Bass

“We owe everything to the church where this project is concerned,” said E.J. “Christian Ed, Robin, Nancy, Eileen, Marilyn, Pastor Chris. Without Community UCC, these songs wouldn’t exist in the first place. The original songs were written to serve our congregation’s commitment to inclusive language and progressive theology. I hope everyone will enjoy listening to it from time to time.”

This CD and a book which will be available later of the printed music and lyrics are a resource that could be used by other progressive churches.

Tickets to this event are $30, which includes dinner and a copy of the CD. Funds raised from the event will help repay the investment by Christian Ed in producing the CD.

shtvvst3sesiges6bshlsw.jpgJen Bloomer of RadiciStudios, whose artwork was featured in a recent worship service, designed a special image to help promote “Banner.” (shown below)

Those who order tickets in advance can have a special name tag created, incorporating Jen’s design.

Searchforsomething

 

Community Events: Gary Walker will lead Osher class

Gary Walker, a longtime member of our congregation, will be featured as a lecturer under the auspices of Fresno State’s Continuing and Global Education Osher Lifelong Learning Institute this fall. Osher is an educational program provided by several hundred universities throughout the nation for folks at least 50 years of age.

Gary will lead a class on “American Presidents in the 20th Century” from 9:30-11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, 11 and 18 in the building housing the Craig Business School, Peters Building Room 191.

Gary’s class will explore: “What were our presidents in the 20th Century really like? Why did some of the most intelligent and experienced fail while others, less qualified, succeed? This course examines the personalities and character of the eleven Republican and seven Democrats who served in our highest office for a century, for better or for worse.”

For additional information regarding membership information and enrollment fees, visit this web page, or call 559.278.0008.

Join us for Kick-Off Sunday Sept. 9!

Kick-Off Sunday means we celebrate new members and take part in a BBQ lunch following worship on Sunday, Sept. 9. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun!

The Fellowship Team is hosting a lunch following worship to celebrate Kick Off Sunday. Grilled hot dogs (meat and veggie options), picnic side dishes, desserts and root beer floats will be served. There is no charge, but a “free will offering” is requested to offset expenses. Please consider making a small donation.

Break the Barriers will perform and the Syrian family our church is befriending hopes to attend.