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pastor's noteAUG2015 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 06 August 2015 14:09

 

Dear friends,

 

We’re midway through summer and the start of another school year is almost here. Many of us have enjoyed vacations away or at home or extra time with friends and family. Seasonally, it seems a good time to pause, to take a breath before schedules fill up more.

 

Let’s take a moment to check in with our inner life. Is it well with your soul? Consider some questions as we do so.

 

What is one thing bringing you joy today?

 

What is a disappointment you are experiencing today?

 

When you think about the past six months, when did your soul feel most awake?

 

When did you experience a sorrow or regret?

 

For what is your soul most longing?

 

May you all know God holding you in God’s heart, this day and everyday. God’s blessings on the steps in the journey that will lead you to your soul’s longing.

 

Peace,


Pastor Lynn

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 August 2015 14:10
 
pastor's note July 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 08 July 2015 15:17

 

Dear friends,

I hope that everyone is enjoying summer. It is wonderful to have a time to relax and to renew. That is what the Hebrew Scriptures call Sabbath. I hope that everyone finds a moment in the longer days to center themselves in what is most meaningful to them. We honor God when we take time to refresh and renew. As part of any activities that you may have planned for July, I hope you will join us for a time of fellowship and putting our faith in action at the gatherings on Wednesday in July. I also hope that you will take a moment to reflect on how we might be able to embody God’s love to our surrounding community and how we might work for a more just, equitable world.

Peace, Pastor Lynn

 
pastor's note PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 June 2015 15:18

pastors note

 

Dear friends:

I hope that June finds you well. Can you believe the school year is now over? Our church calendar following the life of Jesus – his life, teachings, death, resurrection and sending the Holy Spirit is complete too. We have just celebrated Pentecost, the giving of the Spirit. One of the amazing things about Pentecost is that a group of rightfully scared people became so on fire for the mission of God that they saw revealed in Jesus. They became so on fire that they underwent tremendous persecution as they spread the Good News: God loves and welcomes all people and desires justice and wholeness for all. The Spirit empowers us to live out the love that Jesus’ life and teachings embodied. We focus on the transformation that God offers to each of us individually and to our faith community and we focus on how we live that out to bring wholeness to our communities. We all know that we have a major culture shift away from regular worship attendance. We all know that our culture less frequently engages in live communal events. [Really, sports, then music, then, maybe, church services, theater, etc. are the activities that we seem to do at the same time together via a later recording or podcast. Or is that just me?] BTW, that is one reason that the church worship services are available on YouTube: via the little button on our website (www.jaxucc.org) or www.youtube.com/channel/UCn8r-xvn- 41NP9jBc4cp74Q On the one hand, that might show a rise in individualism as well as a rise in technological possibilities. Yet I think people remain hungry for community. People remain hungry for a message of love and hope. And our world remains hungry for the passion of mission-oriented communities. I invite you to think about and then to share with me and others what your vision for God’s church is. How can you, how can I, how can we touch people in community with God’s love? How can we work for a more just world for all people? What should our mission focus be? What stirs your heart? I cannot wait to hear how you hear the call to something greater.

In God’s peace, Pastor Lynn

 

 

 
pastor's note PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 April 2015 16:29

 


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Dear friends,

Welcome to Spring! Welcome to the Easter season! Welcome to the chance to reboot or press reset!

I remember the first time I realized that hitting ctrl-alt-delete could solve a multitude of problems with the earlier versions of computers. Less than we are now, we were beginning to become more reliant on technology. Then as now, when your personal computer freezes, and you are in the midst of a document or spreadsheet or a even a game, and the screen freezes and nothing else worked, often including the save function, a simple reboot often saved the day.

A while later, I reconnected with a friend from junior high. His life journey had a number of twists and low places. He told me Ctrl – Alt – Delete was his life philosophy. I got John’s point. When we get stuck, sometimes we just need to shut down and restart. We might miss a few things, lose a few things, but there was a fresh start. We aren’t dead; we just start again, quite possibly in a little different  place then before.

Now there is a reset button on our modems, routers, etc. But it isn’t just electronics that needs a reset.  We all get run down; we all need fresh starts. I know even this morning I overreacted to something a son said. I was defensive. I was tired and stressed out about the week ahead and the work remaining and the travel that was going to take place regardless. That is a long way of saying I was stressed and didn’t even really know it until I heard myself taken something personally that wasn’t meant that way.

Breathe and reset.

I know I am not the only one who needs to step back sometimes and hit the reset. Somethings we can do is to find something that refreshes our spirits  and/or reconnects us to our better selves, our families, our friends, our community. Some people find spiritual disciplines such as prayer or meditation help. Ohters find walking in nature to refresh. Something as simple as stopping for a coffee, meeting up with a friend, petting a dog, all little things, help so much to refresh us.

Easter has a reset function, too. After all the heaviness of life, after all the angst of betrayal and denial and death of Holy Week and our Lenten journey through brokenness, what a relief that grace and God’s love provides. One of the beauties of Easter is the hope of new life. It’s the ultimate reset on our lives.

Wishing you God’s peace,

Pastor Lynn

 

 
From the Pastor PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 06 March 2015 15:37

 

Dear friends,

In looking back over five years with Congregational UCC, I see how who we are and who we are becoming boils down to these attributes:

·        we seek God’s guidance in community

·        we honor God with worship

·        we study and wrestle with our faith

·        we strive to make the words of faith flesh by doing justice and sharing compassion

 

We don’t always get it right, and that’s okay – it’s how we learn and grow – but mostly we have found a way to live into these attributes of faith.

 

I think that we have a sense of mission and I am grateful for all the leaders and encouragers and workers. My hope is that the next five years will deepen our sense of mission and our playfulness. We have worked so hard and we still have much to be done (we are a small group taking on the projects of groups larger than we are) but there is much joy and play that will happen too.

 

As we work at practicing Christ’s hospitality as our congregation’s goal for 2015, let’s laugh and sing and pray. Let’s make everything we do understandable to people of any or no religious tradition. Let’s sing songs from all genres and from “secular” and church traditions. Let’s continue our efforts for small group study, reflection and fellowship. Let’s continue to develop relationships built on trust and respect.


I give thanks to God for our ministry together. I look forward to what the future brings. I look forward to seeing what new thing God will do (is doing!) with our lives and our gifts.

 

Wishing God’s peace to all of you. 

Pastor Lynn

 
pastor's note PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 05 February 2015 15:31

 


Dear Friends:

Is anyone else sort-of surprised that it is already February? We just finished putting away the Christmas decorations and cleaning up from the annual meeting on January 31. How can it possibly be true that Lent is around the corner?!

 

I have grown to like the season of Lent. It’s a time for reflecting on faith and following Christ. Lent is not about giving up chocolate or Facebook (although, if either help you in your walk, go for it). It is about confronting our brokenness and embracing a life fully integrated with God’s will for restoration and wholeness.

 

Once again, Congregational United Church of Christ will offer: worship services on Ash Wednesday, February 18, 7:00 pm (see below), mid-week Lent Gatherings, Wednesdays at 6:00 pm, beginning on February 25 (see below), and Holy Week worship services on Maundy Thursday (April 2, 6:00 pm) and Good Friday (April 3, 7:00 pm). More information will be published closer to Holy Week.

 

Please join us for as many worship or casual gatherings as you can. We deepen our faith and build our community. Both help us to be agents of God’s love and compassion in a hurting world.

Wishing you all God’s peace.

Pastor Lynn

 
December 14 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 04 December 2014 16:53

 

Dear friends:

Everybody I know, including me, wants something more:  some people want more money, some want more time, some ache for more health, some want more love.  Everyone I know wants something more. It’s part of being human. Most of us are aware of at least an occasional emptiness and we want to fill it. What we crave may differ but we all yearn for something.

Maybe that is the reason God invites us into the season of Advent:  during the four weeks of Advent that lead up to Christmas we’re encouraged to become a little bit more comfortable with our emptiness.  We’re asked to learn how to wait – and watch – and listen and rediscover the love of God that is already present in our lives so that we don’t get trapped in worry or fear, because that can never fill our emptiness.

Advent trains us to meet Jesus, whose coming we await. (That’s what Advent means – coming.)  Jesus comes to bring us comfort, rest and peace. Jesus comes to share hope with those who are afraid. Jesus comes to offer meaning to those who wonder what the point of living is all about.  Jesus comes to share with us the gift of God’s grace.  Jesus comes to meet us, love us, and heal us. 

That’s why the Christian church begins it year with Advent. Advent offers a challenge and alternative to our hunger for more.  Advent asks us to be still – to take a long, loving look at what is real – to learn how to see the signs of God’s call to love and offer hope that are all around us.

Most of us can’t change the world – but we can touch somebody’s life that needs us. Advent teaches us to live fully and love fully while we wait.

God’s peace to you.

Pastor Lynn 

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 December 2014 17:01
 
Pastor's Corner11/14 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 06 November 2014 15:50

 

Dear friends,

I am watching the sun come up while I write this post. When I was out with the dogs, the air felt crisp and wonderful. What a good way to start the day, made better by the coffee that was just finishing its brew.

Fall is here and I am glad. I am gaining a new appreciation for the melancholy in fall as I move into the fall season in my life. The colors are beautiful and the air is crisp but both presage a type of death that will ultimately lead to renewal. There is something beautiful in itself yet that both leads to a time of loss and renewal.

Thank goodness for the seasons and their reminder about the repeating cycles of life. They are one way that the external world holds a mirror up for our lives, both as individuals, families, even institutions like the places that we work and the church itself.

It is no secret to anyone that the culture we live in is very different from the one 20, 30, 50, 100 years ago. Practicing religion or engaging in spiritual growth and discipleship as a community is not central to the practice of life. Groups like our church are on the fringes of society and yet continue to play a vital role not just in equipping us all for living out the message of God’s hope, love, peace and justice in a very hurt and divided world.

Congregational UCC is not immune to the struggle.  We continue to live and witness as faithfully as we can and we will continue to be an advocate for God’s love and hope and dignity for all of God’s good and beautiful creation.

We are, however, making some changes to reflect the economic reality of the day. Starting this week, I will also engage in ministry at Salem Evangelical UCC in Quincy. I will continue to serve as minister here at Congregational UCC but will spend about 15 hours (plus travel time) in Quincy, visiting people who are homebound. Salem will reimburse Congregational for my time.

Time will tell how exactly this change will impact daily or weekly ministry here in Jacksonville. This coming holiday season won’t see much change at all; in fact, there will be an increase in activity as Advent gatherings occur on the Wednesdays in December and Longest Night (a service of solace) is observed.

One change that is likely is that I will not be able to attend all ministry team meetings but will still attend the majority of them. I will look to shed responsibilities such as being Vice-President of the Jacksonville Conference of Churches. I will continue to be active in the community and will continue on the Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library Board and on the Illinois College Fine Arts Series Board.

My hope is that most weeks I will go to Quincy on Mondays and Tuesday. This is our first week and already that is not happening. We will all see what works better for my schedule and for this church. (Salem Ev. UCC doesn’t care which days.)

The office will still have regular hours. Our secretary will work W-F, 9-12, except for the week with the third Tuesday, in which case she will work T, Th, F. [For those of you who did not know that we had decreased secretarial hours from 15 – 9, starting in July, I apologize.] Mary H. has volunteered to work the phones, etc. on Monday mornings when I will be in Quincy.

Sometimes change creates anxiety but I hope that all find peace with the transition. To me it feels like a gift that allows Congregational UCC to breathe and continue to ponder how we live a bold witness for hope and transformation in this day and place.

Let’s live from a place of gratitude and grace, extending that to all.

Peace,

Pastor Lynn

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 November 2014 15:08
 
Pastor's Corner10/14 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 15:08

 

Dear Friends,

As we have been journeying through the narrative of the First Testament (the Old Testament), we have been linking our stories in with the longings for God and the experience of God that the ancient people had as well. Last Sunday, we were with the Hebrew slaves in their liberation from Pharaoh’s slavery. As we were invited to cross the Red Sea, we were able to link any fears we have about the future with those of the escaping slaves.

If we keep reading that story of Exodus, we know that as the people wandered for 40 years, biblical shorthand for a really long time, they begin to complain and to think back upon the days of slavery with a certain nostalgia. They are hot, hungry, tired, and thirsty. Why isn’t God making the journey any easier? Why the wilderness?

I think there is something both reassuring and familiar about the whining. I am quite sure that I would be whining too, given the circumstances. It is easy to forget how difficult things might have been when the present moment is a bit complicated. That is human nature. I find it reassuring that for at least 3000 years, people have both felt uncertain and that for at least 3000 years, God has been with people, prodding them and encouraging them and refreshing them.

As we, along with many (most?) Christian churches grapple with existence in a vastly changed culture from when almost everyone in this nation belonged to a congregation, sometimes it can be as easy for us to ask about our income and our growth and our programming. It can be easy for us to wonder why (insert name here) Big Church is prospering but we are not. Why the wilderness.

So, what does Moses do? What can we learn from this story? Moses and a few leaders step away from the anxious people to listen to God for what is next. They listen for God’s voice, the stirring of God’s Spirit, to be heard away from the refrains of anxiety. Rather than focus on survival, they focus on doing God’s work (which might very well include survival!).

I invite all of you to reflect, to listen, to share next steps you see in doing God’s work here in this community. Let’s seek God’s perspective for the big picture and see what steps we take, acting with God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to make that plan, that hope real.

Peace,

Pastor Lynn

 
Pastor's Corner 9/14 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 05 September 2014 16:25

 

Dear friends,

One of the lines in the Psalms is “Taste and see how good the Lord is!” (Psalm 34.8).

No wonder Jesus spends so much time eating and feasting with people rather than scolding or even instructing them: most of us learn best by doing and experiencing. We can’t intellectually embrace the sweetness of God; we have to taste it. The words have to become flesh before we understand.

Today, as you read this, we have started a new school year (whether we have any work or family with a school or not), we are back to the more regular rhythms of work and rest, of study and play.

We start another lectionary year, beginning with the covenant promises of God that will culminate in our celebration at Christmas of the birth of Jesus, one who shows us the fullness of life in God. We will be offering opportunities throughout the fall to go deeper into our relationship with God, to allow that transformation that God brings, and to take that passion, healing and wholeness into the world through acts of compassion.

We will host and participate in the CROP Walk to end hunger. We will host another Justice and Witness film, A Place at the Table, dealing with childhood hunger in the United States.

We will also offer the opportunity to participate in small groups that will gather once a week to get to know each other better and to engage in conversation over various texts in the Bible. We are going to use Brian McLaren’s new book, We Make the Road by Walking, as our resource.

We Make the Road has 52 chapters, each with a short text and some conversation starters for reflection and growth. Some things will resonate; some won’t. Some questions may find an answer, at least for now; some won’t. That’s okay, either way. We are on a journey and we feast together as we deepen our relationship with God and to the world.

If you are interested, please let us know. We hope to have morning, afternoon and evening groups, to accommodate the different needs. We hope to meet in coffee shops, etc around town or people’s home, including either at Heritage Health or Knollwood. 

You can comment on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pages/Congregational-Church-UCC/108199412555194) or our Faceboook group page (www.facebook.com/groups/54925609563) or via email ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) or phone (217.245.8213).

Unfortunately the book is so popular that we are back ordered! That is actually pretty exciting – renewal and energy and conversations taking place around our country. The time waiting for books gives us the time to get the groups together.

As we move into September and the season of Fall, let’s taste and see the goodness of God. Not only did Jesus spend more time opening up hearts by feasting with God, he also asked us to go and do likewise. Let’s live awake and alert to beauty and justice, to head and to heart!

Peace,

Pastor Lynn

 

 

 
PAStors note 7/14 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 11 July 2014 16:54

 

Dear friends,

Throughout this newsletter, you will read of the many activities and goals of Congregational UCC as we endeavor to live out Christ’s call to each of us and as a faith community. I know that the summer is also a time of vacations and catching up with family and friends and relaxing. I hope for all of us that we can both engage is something that deepens our relationship to God and neighbor AND take a break.

Even God rested on the 7th day of creation and God put in place a Sabbath, so that every worker had a chance to rest and celebrate life. Whether using your time for the mundane but necessary tasks like laundry or relaxing on the beaches of Michigan, whether you gather with us at our Peace Cross + Gen gatherings these Wednesday evenings (5:45 to 7:00, simple meal served) or marvel at the sunset, know that God is with you and honors your efforts at renewal.

On a personal note, Kate is doing poorly. While there is no apparent physical reason for her decline, she is getting increasingly weak. Currently, she isn’t really eating or moving, all of which contributes to a decrease in mobility. Perhaps this rapid decline has a neurologic cause or is a life-sapping symptom of previously diagnosed issues.

Regardless of cause, Kate’s condition is challenging to all of us. I ask for your understanding and open-heartedness as we all try to navigate these difficult waters. Prayers for her well-being and for our care-giving are appreciated. I want to give a big thank you to all those who have helped us out. Your kindness has touched me deeply.

Wishing us all God’s peace,

Lynn

 
Pastor's Note 4-2014 PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 April 2014 14:19

 

Dear friends:

I hope you are enjoying the beginning of spring after such a long, brutally cold winter. Even the rain cannot dampen my spirits too much. [Here’s where I learn from my children. Walking out to the car for the drive to school, J notices the rain and is at first bummed. Not two seconds later, he announces that that’s fine because it is supposed to rain in spring. Off he goes singing.]

We are coming to a season of refreshment and renewal at Congregational UCC. We will celebrate Easter and the new life and new hope that brings. Please note the Holy Week and Easter worship and meal schedules in this newsletter. Please come and invite a friend. A fresh start and a voice of hope, especially followed by a good meal, is always good news and something we all need.

Also, please note the article on Congregational UCC being a Just Peace congregation. We talked at Faith Ministry Team and among the new members before they joined about how many of the designations we bear were made before the time of many people joining. They may be reasons people were attracted to us but many of us were not part of those conversations and so lack the institutional memory that so many others of us share.

To that end, I will periodically select one of these to put some explanation of what the designation means officially and to invite people to ponder what it means or might mean to us. We start with the Just Peace designation. Read the article and then come join us the first Monday of the month at the Peace Pole to pray for peace!

Wishing you God’s peace,

Pastor Lynn

 
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