What shall we bring? — An interview with Marge Kelly

Marge Kelly is a hands-on person – the kind who dives into whatever job comes her way. Community UCC is better for her generous and can-do spirit. As stewardship season winds up, Marge talks about her commitment to the church and her determination to offer what she can to the congregation.

Marge.jpgWhat does stewardship mean to you?
To me, stewardship is a fellowship type thing – reach out to people, try to do things for the church, get funds to keep it going.

How do you support the church?
Financially, I can’t really give much. But when I first starting coming, Susan Liberty [a former member] gave a talk and said an important thing to give is your time. So I thought about that, and I had all the time in the world. So why not give it to the church? I just feel blessed to be here. I’m on the fellowship team, and my enjoyment is seeing people smile and seeing the kids laugh. It’s just a joy to see people come to church.

What do you do on the fellowship team?
We set up for coffee every Sunday. I come way earlier than other people – sometimes at 6 o’clock. But that’s my choice. We set out snacks and sometimes we make our own dishes for the fellowship time after the Sunday service. I love helping people. So no matter which way I can, I’ll do it.

Could you talk about the relationships you have with others on the fellowship team?
Patty [Parks] and I just became really good friends. We’re both caring. She has brought food to my partner, who is terminally ill. That’s a blessing to me. Bonita [Earl] is another blessing. We’ve been asked to help with memorial services and we’ve done that. Amy [Richardson] and I have a special bond because I took care of Amy’s mom for a couple of years before she passed. Her mom was just a total blessing to me, and Amy and I still talk about her mom.

When did you come to the church?
In October, it will be 20 years. I’d just moved to Fresno and went to a few other churches. But when I came here for the first time, I knew this was my place. The people were so friendly and caring right off the bat. People would come all the way down to where I lived and pick me up.

Why did you stay?
I stayed because for many years I had a hole in my heart and tried all kinds of things to fill it – drinking, drugs, other things. When I started coming here, that hole filled up, and it had to do with the atmosphere. I felt like I finally belonged somewhere. This is where my heart was complete.

You got baptized here, right?
About eight years ago, I was going back and forth to New York because one of my sisters had cancer. I’d just come back to Fresno on one of my trips, and that’s when I got baptized. When that happened, I knew I really belonged.

What does God want this church to do?
Keep doing what it’s doing, and do more, if possible. I feel it’s very important for this church to keep going. If it were to fall, I think I’d fall with it.

You’ve seen a lot of changes here in the last 20 years.
A lot of people aren’t here anymore. Some have passed and some left for their own private reasons, and they’re all missed very dearly. Many years ago I read something in Ann Landers that said, “There are gold ships and silver ships, but there’s no ship like friendship.” I find it very true. It can be a friendship that goes back many years or a friendship just beginning.

Anything else you’d like to say?
I just love Pastor Ara, and I wish he didn’t have to leave [when a settled pastor is chosen and arrives]. He gets out there and works and does things that no other pastor has done that I’ve seen. He just shows so much caring toward people. He’s got God in him all the time, and that just excites me. He truly speaks about the love of God and the love of people.

~ Interview by Doug Hoagland

What shall we bring? — A Stewardship Thought About What Our Church Brings to Our Community and the World

What does our church bring to our community and the world? Why should we support Community UCC with our time and our treasure?

Community UCC is one of the few institutions in our area that offers a view of theology, the Bible, and Christianity that understands that God is still speaking and proclaims Jesus’ ministry of inclusivity.  All are welcome at Community UCC to worship together, to listen to God’s message and to learn from Jesus’ teachings.

Community UCC provides a place where people are met with love and hope at intense crossroads of life—celebrating the new life of a child, joining together in marriage or partnership, mourning the loss of a loved one, struggling with addiction, feeling the despair of depression, suffering from broken relationships or any of the difficulties that come with living in today’s complicated world.

Community UCC provides a place where people to learn about God’s gifts to us.  Opportunities include Sunday school for our children, Living the Questions on Sunday before worship, the Aramaic Jesus study on Tuesday afternoons, the Women’s Book Study on Tuesday evenings, Interfaith Scholar Weekend, Journey into Advent, Lenten Studies, Confirmation classes, and classes for new members.

Community UCC provides a place for fellowship. People gather together to meet each other and to celebrate together after worship on Sunday, at the Saturday Morning Breakfast Group, at social events throughout the year, singing joyously at choir practice, spending a weekend in the mountains at the annual All Church Family Camp at Camp Tam, and working together on church projects and teams.

Community UCC provides a place for us to learn about the needs of our community and the world and to take action together wherever we can. Opportunities include participation in mission projects, feeding the hungry, marching for the rights of the oppressed, participating in local ecumenical and interfaith actions, and supporting immigrants and the LBGTIQA+ communities.

At our church we strive to live out our faith no matter where we are on the journey, learn new ways to meet the challenges of our world, and to share and support each other along the way with Jesus as our example.

What Shall we Bring? — A Stewardship Thought about our Buildings and Grounds

Every week, 77 pre-school children can be found learning and playing in our church’s classrooms and playground. In 2007 solar panels were placed on our church roof.  In 2014, our grass lawns along Fresno and Browning Avenues were replaced with water-saving xeriscape landscaping. What do these things have in common?

Our partnership with Headstart allows us to share our classrooms during the week with children from our community who benefit from early childhood education. Our solar panels help the church reduce its energy footprint on the Earth.  The xeriscaping of our lawn has decreased our use of precious water through the hot summer months.

These are some examples of how Community UCC has intentionally made a commitment to reduce our use of Earth’s scarce resources and to share what we have with others.  Community UCC answers the question of “What Shall We Bring to our Community and to the Earth?” with thoughtful and effective actions.

Even with these actions, however, there still are costs that remain to be paid. It takes $5,600 per month for our church to pay for operations, buildings and grounds expenses, even with cost savings and contributions from EOC (Headstart) that help with the water, power, sanitation, custodial, and other charges that we must spend to maintain our church. (This amount does not include personnel or program costs.)   

As you consider what you shall bring to the church, please consider being part of what we bring to our community and give generously in your financial pledge to the church on Stewardship Sunday, May 19.

Link to last week’s Stewardship article.

2019 Stewardship Campaign: What Shall We Bring?

What Shall We Bring to our Community?

What Shall We Bring to the Earth?

This is the focus of our Stewardship Campaign, beginning April 28 and leading to Stewardship Sunday on May 19.  

What is Stewardship?

The definition of stewardship is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.  As Christians, we are encouraged to consider how we use our money, possessions, time and abilities to thoughtfully and prayerfully change lives following the example of Jesus of Nazareth.

Community UCC conducts an annual Stewardship drive to ask church members and supporters what they will bring to the mission of the church by completing a financial pledge form and Time & Talent sheet for the following fiscal year, from July 1 to June 30.  

Why are Financial Pledges important to our church mission and vision?

Our church budget is a reflection of the mission and vision of our church.  We put our resources into things we need (electricity; water) and things we want (ministers; music; Sunday School and Christian nurture classes; ways to work together to make a difference in our community).

If every member of the church completed a Pledge card 2019-2020 after prayerfully considering what they can financially bring to the church in the next year, the church budget can be built with accurate knowledge of what funds to expect and plan for what our possibilities can be in the following year. Electronic giving can make weekly or monthly giving easy to do.

What is a Time & Talent Sheet and why do we need them?

A Time and Talent Sheet 2019-2020 has a broad list of opportunities to participate in our community and is an excellent way for people to communicate what they would like to bring to our church life. Time & Talent Sheets are shared with our church ministries and leaders so that our church can plan the actions of our church in the following year and be enriched by more participation. It is an easy way for people to share their desired gifts of time, skill and ability and helps to connect people together in shared interests.

What to do if not at church on Stewardship Sunday, May 19?

Pledge forms and Time & Talent Sheets can be mailed to the church office or placed in the Offering basket during any worship service at any time.

New Worship Series: ‘What Shall We Bring?’

April 28-June 9

During this series we will be talking about stewardship in a couple of ways.
How to be good stewards of creation and environmental justice, and also how to be good stewards of this church with time, talent and financial support.

  • As we bring our gifts, our gifts will grow, so each Sunday you will receive a little something during the Invitation to Giving time. So you won’t want to miss a Sunday because each item builds on the next!
  • April 28 – Creation Story Genesis 1:1-2:3, Eileen White will share the gift of the stained-glass windows and the stories that go with them. During Invitation to Giving you will also be receiving a clay pot.
  • May 5 – Jesus and the Rich Man Mark 10:17-22, Communion and Pastor Ara will give the sermon. During Invitation to Giving you will receive a couple of rocks to put in your pot.
  • May 12 – Psalm 24:1, Youth lead Worship Service. Come and hear our youth share their gifts during this special worship service. During Invitation to Giving you will get a bit of potting soil.
  • May 19 – Micah 6:6-8, Stewardship Sunday with potluck immediately following worship. Ann Scott, our vice-moderator, will give the message. During Invitation to Giving you will receive some seeds.
  • May 26 – Woman at the Well John 4:5-14, Pastor Ara will give the sermon. During Invitation to Giving you will receive a container for water.
  • June 2 – John 13:21-30, Communion and Pastor Ara will give the sermon. During Invitation to Giving you will receive something to put in your clay pot.
  • June 9 – Acts 2:1-21, on Pentecost Sunday Julia Penner-Zook will give the sermon. During Invitation to Giving the last gift will be revealed.

Grateful Giving — Stewardship Sunday

“The master of the garden is the one who waters it, trims the branches, plants the seeds, and pulls the weeds. If you merely stroll through the garden, you are but an acolyte.” ~ Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

Each year, we appeal to our members to commit to helping our church, through contributions of time, talent or treasure.

Pledges and time/talent sheets are due on Stewardship Sunday, May 6. Extra pledge cards and time and talent sheets will be available in the Narthex.

A Grateful Giving Luncheon will be provided for all members of our church immediately after church services. No charge for the luncheon. The menu will include chicken cordon bleu.

For more information, please call the church office at 559.435.2690.

Givelify app makes giving easier

Givelify app logo

No cash when the collection plate comes by? No worries. Community UCC is now officially registered with the Givelify app. To joyfully give to our church, you can use Givelify app to make a donation from your smartphone.

Download the app to your phone on your Android or IPhone, then look up our church by searching for “Community United Church of Christ,” ZIP code 93710. Or use our website to set up your account Givelify Web Giving 

This article by Kim Williams at the Big Red Church explains how giving via app is a good thing in an age when fewer people are carrying cash in their wallets.

Stewardship Moment – by Lisa Boyles

Giving hands

Lisa Maria BoylesBy Lisa Maria Boyles, presented during worship on April 30, 2017

Like Pastor Chris, I’m an introvert. Writing is my thing – public speaking, not so much. So I’ve written down some thoughts to share with you.

My path to this church has been circuitous. I first belonged for about 5 years in the late 1990s. I was a journalist then, and I met Rev. Gail while interviewing her for an article. She impressed me, so I started coming here and bringing my Grandma, who had Alzheimer’s.

While I was a member then, we celebrated the church’s 40th anniversary. I edited the church newsletter, Tapestries, and I chaperoned some work-service trips with our congregation’s young people.

Some things in my life changed, and I left for a few years, but I always stayed peripherally connected. I attended another church for a while, but nowhere else ever felt so much like my church home as this congregation did, even when I didn’t come regularly.

A few years ago, Charlene Toews told me about the new pastor and his family, and suggested I come back and check things out. I did.

Later, I started coming to the Women’s Book Club Discussion group. A year ago, Sharon Powers-Smith invited me to join a church committee, and I became a Trustee. And a couple of months ago, my youngest daughter – who wasn’t even born when I first came to Community UCC – asked about coming to church with me.

During last year’s Stewardship Campaign, Tony Fazio called me and talked to me about making a pledge. “You can even make an automatic donation through the church website,” he told me. This appealed to me.

Sometimes, when I came here before, the collection part of the service was uncomfortable for me. I was in a different place in my life, financially, back then. Sometimes I felt bad when the basket went by when I couldn’t give enough or maybe couldn’t give anything at all. Also, I’m not here every Sunday, and I felt guilty that I wasn’t helping the church financially on the weeks when I’m not in church.

After talking to Tony, I thought about it, considered what I can afford to give, and decided to do a monthly automatic pledge. Like Ruben said last week, it’s almost painless coming out automatically. And I know from my perspective as a member of the Trustees, it helps to have regular donations we can count on coming in to keep our church going, paying our staff and our bills and meeting our mission obligations.

I don’t feel uncomfortable anymore during the collection, or if I miss a Sunday. I know I’ve still met my pledge with my monthly gift to the church. And I can add something extra for special offerings. Making my pledge automatically helps me to be a joyful giver.

There’s a reason this church feels like the right place for me to be. It’s a different kind of church. Community UCC shines as a beacon of social justice in our community.

Our forebears in faith were early advocates in the anti-slavery movement. The United Church of Christ was the first denomination to ordain an African-American pastor, first to ordain a woman pastor, first to ordain an openly gay pastor.

I was proud to be a member here with my Grandma when our congregation went through the important work of becoming an Open and Affirming congregation. Fresno can be an unwelcoming place for the LGBTQ community. Our doors and our arms are open to all.

I woke up the day after the election in November despondent about the outcome. So many things happening every day since then make me feel, “This is not my country.”

But the day after the inauguration, when women across our nation – and many men – took to the streets to protest, I was reassured to see so many of our church members joining those protests, not only here in Fresno, but in Sacramento, in San Jose and in Idaho. Vicki Wall’s sign in the Fresno protest read, “We march for the poor, the outcasts, the earth.”

The messages I hear in this church, and the actions I see members and our pastor carrying out inspire me to be more and do more in my own life. Our community and our world need what Community UCC leads us to be.

No matter who you are, or where you are on your journey, you are welcome here.

Our church gives me hope. If it gives you that same hope, I ask that you consider what you can give to help keep our congregation’s light keep shining in this community.