Saturday Breakfast Group to meet Jan. 12

Mark your calendars for the next meeting of the Saturday Breakfast Group at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, in the Conference Room. Elizabeth Davis Russell will talk about her experiences as the founder of a university in Liberia. EJ Hinojosa will furnish breakfast.

Usually, the group will meet on the first Saturday of each month, but we shifted the January meeting since some people might still be traveling or on vacation for the holidays on the first Saturday in January. Contact Phil Fullerton to learn more.

(Photo from the December gathering)

Canceled: Save the Date! Sweetheart Dinner, silent auction fundraiser planned for Feb. 16

UPDATE: We will reschedule another fundraiser for a different time. If you committed to donating an item for the silent auction, we will be able to use that at the rescheduled event. Stay tuned!

Saturday, Feb. 16

A special event is coming to CUCC in February.  It’s a “Sweetheart Dinner” scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 16 and will be a “Party for Community” type of event, which we’ve not had for a couple of years.

More importantly, this event will be a fundraiser for the church.  We are in need of ongoing fundraising to meet our budget projections and keep our church functioning fully.  

One fundraiser at the event will be a Silent Auction.  In order to have the Auction, we need things to auction off.  While the Finance Team will oversee the gathering of auction items, it is important for everyone in the congregation to participate in donating auction items.

What might the donations be?  Any kind of donation would be valuable. For example, you may be able to donate a specific item such as a bicycle, cake, or perhaps a piece of furniture.  Some may even donate a vacation weekend at a cabin. Others might host a small dinner party you will prepare.

How about those who can do some handyman-type of service at someone’s home? We have lots of crafters in the community who can make things — painters, woodworkers, knitters, and crocheters, needlework enthusiasts….Everyone can get on board to make some money for the church!

Our annual budget specifically plans for $10,000 in fundraising money to be provided this fiscal year.  Let’s all do our best to balance the budget and keep Community UCC active, purposeful and supportive for all of us.

 

Advent Devotional: Wednesday, December 19

Theme: Making Room for Hope

Written by Kimberly Williams, First Congregational Church of Fresno

Luke 1:39-45

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb.

Anyone who has ever had a baby human growing inside of them knows that once the baby starts kicking and moving around, there’s no turning that sensation off. It’s not like turning down the volume on the TV or changing out of a scratchy sweater. That baby in there will be felt whenever there is movement — sometimes the cross-belly rippling movement of what feels like a full yoga session in the uterus, other times it’s a little flutter that rests somewhere in between indigestion and first-date butterflies.

Then there are times when it’s the strained, sick-with-worry awareness of a lack of movement, which is even more unbearable than a heel to the rib. All of it is noted, noticed, overthought about.

I can tell you one thing after carrying three babies of my own — I never once felt any of them leap in my womb. Lots of hiccups and elbows, zero leaping.

In this story, Mary enters Elizabeth’s home and greets her. Both women are pregnant, carrying little bundles of revolutionary joy — Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist. As soon as Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice, baby prophet John recognizes the presence of baby messiah Jesus, and he leaps. This is huge. This is even shocking to someone who has conceived a baby well past her time and is familiar with God’s surprise blessings. This child in her womb is ecstatic, the Lord is here! In this room! The awareness that often comes along with holding life in one’s belly is on high alert and Elizabeth immediately understands.

There is such beauty in these two women in this moment, belly to belly. The connection they have is unlike any other. Both trusted the Lord when the stakes were high. They see each other, not just two moms-to-be exchanging stories about sciatic nerve pain at night (which is a powerful connection on its own!), but as women who believed—who believe!—and who are deeply blessed.

Lord, thank you for the leaping joy that comes with feeling your presence! Amen.

Advent Devotional: Tuesday, December 18

Theme: Making Room for Hope

Written by Rev. Ara Guekguezian, Community United Church of Christ

Isaiah 9:1-7

“For a child has been born for us.”

The birth of a child, any child, brings a spark of hope. The birth of the heir to the throne, the ruler, starts a fire of hope in an entire people. This poem of Isaiah sings of this hope in the birth of the heir to the throne of David. It underscores the Promise of the Davidic covenant for a despondent people. “But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish.” The Prophet has my attention.

Every winter, as the nights lengthen, the light shining from this great word brightens my world. The lights of the Church shine brighter through the month of December. More evening activity, especially more special worship throughout the season of Advent.

Life is sweeter in just hearing these words, before any one of them is fulfilled. All the bad things are destroyed, consumed by fire. And every good thing will be ushered in with the new ruler, once the ruler grows into the role. Power, Justice, Peace Forever! For a moment it is all good.

Christmas allows us an extended moment of relief for the ordinary stresses of our lives. As we celebrate the fulfillment of this promise during the extended season of Advent, our trust in the new Promise of the end of the age with the return of Jesus is strengthened.

Prayer: It has been awhile, O God of the Covenant. There are moments when our hope ebbs, when the promise seems false. The gloom settles in, because the reality before gives rise to anguish. May the Spirit renew in us trust in the Promise of the new age ushered in by the birth of Jesus. Amen.

Slideshow from ‘A Festival of Lessons and Carols’

Community United Church of Christ presented “A Festival of Lessons and Carols,” a service of music, scripture and prayer featuring a string quartet, organ, piano, soloists and the Community UCC Chorus on Sunday, Dec. 16. 

Many thanks to our music director EJ Hinojosa and the many talented singers and musicians who brought us this wonderful evening!

Our talented church photographer Terry Cole put together this slideshow of his beautiful images from the event.

Living the Questions will resume on Jan. 13

Living the Questions: An Invitation to Journey will resume on Jan. 13. These sessions will be offered at two times — at 9 a.m. Sundays and at 3 p.m. Thursdays in the Conference Room — to better accommodate people’s busy schedules. Please attend the time that works best for you.

Each Sunday we will watch a DVD and discuss issues and concepts that may challenge many people’s worldview and understanding of the Divine.  It may, for some, be radically new information.  For others, it will be an affirmation of what they’ve known deep down for a long time.

The intention of this information and discussion is not to provide answers but to expose people to ideas and concepts that may take a while to process.

Theme: INVITATION TO JOURNEY

  • Jan. 13/17 — An Invitation to Journey
  • Jan. 20/24 — Taking the Bible Seriously
  • Jan. 27/31 — Thinking Theologically
  • Feb. 3/7 — Stories of Creation
  • Feb. 10/14 — Lives of Jesus
  • Feb. 17/21 — A Passion for Christ: Paul the Apostle
  • Feb. 24/28 — Out into the World: Challenges Facing Progressive Christians

Theme: RECLAIMING THE WORLD

  • March 3/7 — Restoring Relationships
  • March 10/14 — The Prophetic Jesus
  • March 17/21 — Evil, Suffering & A God of Love
  • March 24/28 — The Myth of Redemptive Violence
  • March 31/April 4 — Practicing Resurrection
  • April 7/11 — Debunking the Rapture
  • April 14/18 — No LTQ
  • April 21/25 — Reclaiming the World

Theme: CALL TO COVENANT

  • April 28/May 2 — A Kingdom without Walls
  • May 5/9 — Social Justice: Realizing God’s Vision
  • May 12/16 — Incarnation: Divinely Human
  • May 19/23 — Prayer: Intimacy with God
  • May 26/30 — Compassion: The Heart of Jesus’ Ministry
  • June 2/6 — Creative Transformation
  • June 9/13 — Embracing Mystery

Come and join us on this journey of exploration.

Advent Devotional: Thursday, December 13

Theme: Making Room for Hope

Written by Rev. Dr. Garner Scott Odell, First Congregational Church of Fresno

Mark 1:1-3

Advent Roads

The season of Advent is marked by roads. Prepare the way of the Lord, we read in this week’s text from Mark. In this present time, the landscape we live in can seem utterly trackless. We may find it difficult to envision by what path Christ could enter this world, and daunting to imagine what road would finally lead to the healing and redemption of creation. Yet this is what Advent invites us to do: to lift our heads, to raise our eyes, to look toward the horizon and dream of the way by which Christ will come to us.

In calling our eyes toward the horizon, Advent does not draw us away from the present or lull us into an avoidance of the world at hand. Advent invites us instead to stand in the thick of this life and open our heart to the road that Christ wants to make, not only for us but also in us and through us. Because when Christ comes, the horizon he appears on is not so distant, after all. The place where he shows up is always in our very midst.

In this Advent week, I pray Christ will give us the courage to envision, to hope for, to dream, and to make ready the road by which he comes to us.

Lately, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the roads of my life. I thought of roads I have traveled, the ones already laid down for me: pathways made of concrete, of asphalt, of dirt, of stone. Pathways made of traditions, of the habits of communities, of the patterns of institutions. I thought of roads I have made where there were none. Ways I have made through imagination, through dreaming, through effort and intention. Roads made of words, wood, paper; roads fashioned of longing and of prayer.

I thought of what it takes to make a way, how it is that we create a passage from one place to another within the landscape of the world or of our own inner terrain. How we must discern the materials to use and the tools; how crucial to learn to navigate, to reckon, to read the lay of the land. How we sometimes find a path as much by stumbling as by skill. How we may have to tear up a road, make it again in a different direction.

But I think the Advent road is perhaps not like this. That it is not one that we can fashion from our striving and our skill. That when John the Baptist comes over that wilderness horizon, smelling of camel’s hair, his lips dripping with honey and with fire, he is pointing toward a way that we can make only by what we give up, what we shed, what we let go of.

What’s in your way these days? If you were to imagine your life as a path, a road, what would it look like right now? Is there anything cluttering your way? Is there something you need to let go of in order to prepare the way for the Christ who enters the world in this and every season?

Blessings to you in these Advent days. May you find delights even in the desert spaces, on whatever road you have taken this season.

Advent Devotional: Wednesday, December 12

Theme: Hurry Up and Wait

Written by Lisa Maria Boyles, Community United Church of Christ

Isaiah 40:1-5

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

Daily life assaults us. Noise bombards our ears. Burning smoke creeps into every crevice. We ache with sorrow and loss.

We reel from a never-ending stream of tragedies, both natural and manmade: obliterating fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, acts of hate, terrorist attacks, mass shootings, and another, and another, and another.

Acts of cruelty, from every level of society, even once sacred, revered places, confound us and break our hearts. How did we get here? Where is God in all of this?

Still your heart, your mind, and listen. God is still with us, even in our Planet’s dark hours. Close your eyes and refocus your mind’s eye. Block out all of the noise and listen. Let God’s whisper quench your loss, your pain. You — we — are not alone.

A drop of water can swell to a trickle. A trickle can gush into a river. Keep room in your soul to allow the flood of hope back in. God is there to fill it up.

We have power when we walk with each other and let God guide us, to heal this broken world, our neighbor’s broken soul. Our own.

Let the light of this Advent season into your heart. Remember the promise a baby brought so many years ago, in a lowly stable beneath a star-filled night. God is still with us, even now.

“… Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Advent Devotional: Tuesday, December 11

Theme: Hurry Up and Wait

Tuesday, December 11

Written by Kim Williams, First Congregational Church of Fresno

Psalm 72:1-14

Take this Psalm:

Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.

May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

May his foes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust.

May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.

May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.

For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

He has pity on the weak and the needy and saves the lives of the needy.

From oppression and violence, he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.

Set a timer on your phone, on the stove, find an egg timer, an hourglass. What kind of time do you have today? Set it. Slowly read. Sit with it.

Read it again. Run your fingers across the words. The ink is flat, the page smooth, but what can you feel? Once read, do the words develop texture? Do you feel it in your fingertips? Your gut? Your shoulders? Your heart?

Is it still flat? Why is it flat? Get curious about why it may remain one-dimensional. Read it out loud and form your mouth around the words—especially the words you don’t like. Write in the margins.

Does anything stand out?

Sit with those words and concepts until the timer goes off. Move with them through the day.

Wait with the Lord, wait for the Lord.