PASTORAL PONDERINGS - September 2018

PART 1

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more." ~Revelation 21:1

"Give a hoot! Don’t pollute!" Growing up, while watching television, I heard Woodsy Owl say this over and over again. Today, the catch phrase is "Go Green!" As a church, we have begun to make movements toward "going green". While we do recycle the paper in the office, and the toner and ink cartridges, there is quite a bit more that we can do. And every little step counts!

Beginning January 1, 2019, we will begin using email as a means to deliver the newsletters. In a cost analysis done by Judy and the Council, we found that with our expenses, if we were to mail just 100 newsletters, Faith UCC would save money, not to mention we would be working toward "Going Green!"

Go Green

We understand that not everyone has an email, and that is okay. You can still help us "Go Green!" and save Faith UCC money. If you attend worship on a regular basis, we will ask that you pick up your newsletter on Sunday. If you haven't picked it up prior to the next newsletter mailing, we will send it to you.

We have several emails, but are looking for more. If you have an email address, and are willing to get the monthly newsletter that way, please contact the office at 563-391-5726, or email Judy at office@faithuccdavenport.org.

Thank you for your help! As stewards of all that God has given us, this is one more way for us to work toward health and reconciliation of our relationship to Creation.

PART 2

"Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing."~1 Thessalonians 5:11

Over the course of my lifetime, I have had the honor of attending many different kinds of worship services. Most of them have been on hard, wooden pews, but a few of them have been on chairs. While I understand that it is "tradition" to have pews in church, personally, I find the chairs much more comfortable. We claim that Faith UCC is a radically welcoming church. Often, we think of that radical welcome to be toward those who come to visit us. But it also extends to those who come on a regular basis. That means, if someone isn't able to come to church any longer because they physically are unable to sit in the pews, then it is our responsibility to think outside the box.

Council has been doing just that. Recently, we have added two chairs in the back to help make worshipping more comfortable. This has been a huge success, and Council has approved adding more chairs. But not all of the chairs can be put in back, so it has been approved to remove one or two pews, or partial pews, to make room for more chairs.

So, if you are one of those who finds yourself unable to sit comfortably, please try these new chairs out! (Or even if you aren't one who isn't uncomfortable!) Let us know what you think.

Worshiping a God who loves us abundantly doesn't mean we have to do so uncomfortably! And the last thing I want is to have people stop coming to church because they are uncomfortable! If you have questions, please feel free to contact the Chair Committee—Todd Ozmon, Bob King, or Jill Pepper.

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi

UCC

PASTORAL PONDERINGS - August 2018

Conflict/Resolution

"All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;” ~2 Corinthians 5:18

If there is one thing we as humans are good at, that would be fighting. We fight with our siblings (to this day, whenever I see them, I tell mine I am sorry for how I treated them while we were growing up!); we fight with our spouses and partners; we fight with the cashiers at the grocery store; or the neighbor who lets their grass grow longer than we like it; we fight with our children; our co-workers; and with God. And the subject of these fights? Well, you give me a subject you haven’t fought about!

When we fight, words fly out of our mouths, whether we mean them or not. Those who are blessed with good memories, tend to bring past fights into the current one. Holding grudges over past wrongdoings to us can create a callous heart, allowing our words to become more harsh, and our compassion and empathy toward others diminish.

I recently had a conversation about "healthy churches" and "unhealthy churches". The difference? Healthy churches will take the time and hard work that is necessary to work through conflict. They have people who are not going to give up and go home when things don't go their way. They listen to one another, respect one another, and work toward common ground. Being a "healthy church" doesn't mean everyone is on the same page – that's just plain impossible. What it means, is that we will follow God's command, and Jesus' example of forgiveness and reconciliation. An "unhealthy church" is one whose people aren't willing to put the time and energy into working through things. It is a church that has "parking lot" conversations – those meetings after the meetings – where everyone present complains about whatever the conflict is, and their energies feed off one another, causing the feelings of anxiousness, anger, resentment, and jealousy to fester into something bigger than it needs to be.

Last month, I wrote to you about embracing change, and that, although we are what I consider a "healthy church", working through our conflicts together, as we continue to discern God's call on our lives, and on the life of this church, we no doubt will have discussions which will lead to conflict.

Earlier this spring, I was confronted with an opportunity to mediate a conflict, and didn't do a great job. I may be good at the fighting part, but the resolution part, I need some help with. So I am going to do just that! I will be attending a week long class called Mediation Skills Training Institute for Church Leaders at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, IL, held by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center. It is a 5 day course that will include conversation and roleplaying different conflicts which we face as church leaders, and as humans in general.

This will be an intense course, which is somewhat intimidating, but this is something I have wanted to do for a very long time. I have preached several times about how we are called to practice our forgiveness and offering of grace, but I haven't always been good at practicing it myself. I am excited about this opportunity, because it will teach me the skills I need to be the best leader I can be – no matter what the conversation is about. I do pray that I won’t have to use these skills here, but just in case!

As I will be gone from Sunday evening, August 5 to Friday evening, August 10, Pastor Mariah Marlin-Warfield will be on call. If you have an emergency, please contact her at 773-420-6426.

I am looking forward to sharing what I learn with you, so that we can go out and practice it in the world. The more we practice, the better we will get, the more people will learn from us, and before we know it, our faith family will be creating peace through resolution, one conversation (or conflict!) at a time!

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi

UCC

PASTORAL PONDERINGS - July 2018

Embrace Change

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." ~ Isaiah 43:19

Change is hard for most of us. We like to think that when we face change, we are okay with it. But the reality is, most of us aren't. We don't like change because we like to know, and therefore control, everything that is going on a round us.

But if you think about it, there isn't anything in life that stays the same forever. From the moment of conception, we change. With every tick of the clock, with every trip around the sun, our bodies grow older, moving from new life into death. Seasons, friends, jobs, our habits, our tastes, technology… all of it is in a steady motion of change. Even though it can be hard, change is usually for the better. Dare I say, change, in many cases, is actually necessary.

Without getting overly political, there are many laws and government changes which need to change in order to treat one another with less division, and more like humans. Advancement in medical procedures and practices have increased our lifespans. Technological advancements have changed the way we can teach, learn, and understand the world around us. (Did you know that if you have a smart phone, you can track someone across the globe? When Jarrod first got to Germany, we hadn't heard if he landed yet or not, so David used his "Find My iPhone" app—and he located Jarrod—right down to the street he was on—over 4,500 miles away! It was both amazing, and very scary!) These advances are changing the way we see ourselves and our roles in history.

Currently, we are living a change in our faith lives. As a whole, we are beginning to look at one another through the lens of God's eyes. With this new sight, comes a new understanding and new stories that need to be shared. Ultimately, this shift in how we understand faith will change how Church looks, and how we—both as a whole and as Faith UCC—live out God's mission for us.

We are beginning to see some of this already, in our conversations around the Rest and Renewal time; awareness of people being uncomfortable in the pews and looking to replace a few pews with chairs, and the most timely—in our partnership with First Christian Church for VBS this summer. These are all changes, and like all changes, will bring challenges. But this is where we much not change. Since I have been here, I have experienced Faith UCC to being an open church, who doesn't sweep the hard issues under the rug. My prayer is that we will continue that tradition by being intentional about having the necessary, albeit sometimes difficult, conversations around change—however big or small that change may be.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. If those aren't words of change, I don't know what words would be. These words are filled with encouragement and hope, and the permission—as well as challenge—to not stay the same. This is our time, our season of change. What will we look like? Where will God lead us? Our God is a God of new beginnings and new life, and that means this can only be GOOD NEWS!

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi

UCC

PASTORAL PONDERINGS - June 2018

"After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone." ~ Matthew 14:23

July 1, 2018 will mark the end of 5 full years since you called me to be Faith UCC's settled pastor. I don't know about you, but I think I am "settling" in pretty well! We have experienced much together over these last 5 years – new life and end of life, new missions and new ideas, new members, large projects and small projects, tears, laughter, some anger, forgiveness, but most of all, we have shared an abundant amount of blessings and love.

God created everything in 6 days, and rested on the 7th, taking one day to recharge. There are many stories in the Bible where Jesus, after healing, preaching, and teaching, went off to pray alone, taking some much needed time to reconnect with God, and recharge his Spirit.

Our culture is not good at practicing the "rest and renewal" commandment of Sabbath. Many of you work in, or have worked in, jobs which do not allow for this time of recharge. When I was a property manager, several of our residents were engineers from Germany, France, and Spain. These engineers would work for three months, then be off for a month, taking their families home to rest before returning here to work for another three months. Their belief is that if they are renewed, their productivity increases. Here in the United States, we hear of college professors receiving Rest and Renewal (Sabbatical) time. But in the last decade, most Christian denominations have begun intentionally practicing this commandment. When I accepted my call, I was blessed to answer YES to a church who felt it was important for this to be a part our covenant together. Therefore, I will be taking my time of Rest and Renewal (sabbatical) of three months during the summer of 2020.

Rest and Renewal – or Sabbatical – "Is a planned time of intensive enhancement for ministry and mission. It is an extension of the biblical concept of a Sabbath day and a Sabbath year for renewal. It is both an act of faith that God will sustain us through a period of reflection and changed activity and an occasion for recovery and renewal of vital energies." (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)

This will be a time for me, as your pastor, to spend time with family, and to relax a little, but mostly it will be a time for me to research and study concepts and ideas around mission that I plan to bring back and share with you, as we listen for God's call on Faith UCC, and begin to plan for our future within this community and the wider world. At the same time, you – Faith UCC – will spend time looking into some of these things as well, listening to, and learning from, new people. And when the time is over, we will come back together and share our experiences, molding them together into a ministry which will be uniquely Faith United Church of Christ. This is a time of excitement and joy, of celebration and encouragement.

Our first step in this exciting journey will be putting together a Rest and Renewal Committee. This committee will brainstorm goals and plans for myself as well as the church; host a potluck with a time for Q & A and FAQs about this Rest and Renewal time. They will gather the people needed to help write both a grant to the Lily Foundation, as well as to the National UCC office to help pay for this journey. They will also help plan the celebration upon returning home. (If you are interested in serving on this committee, or have any questions, please contact me, or Deb Sullivan.)

The idea of a period of Rest and Renewal may come with mixed thoughts and emotions, and lots of unknowns, which may cause some fear. But this is not a time of fear. This will be a time filled with amazing experiences, abundant blessings, and wonder-filled joy. I am very excited about the possibilities, not only for myself, but for us as members of the Body of Christ. May God bless us, and this time of planning and preparing.

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi

UCC

PASTORAL PONDERINGS - May 2018

"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." ~ Matthew 22:37-40

Quad Cities Big Table

On April 20 and 21, the Quad City area held a 48 hour event called Big Table. This included 528 tables with an estimated 5,000 people gathering in all four of the major quad cities, to get to know one another, and discuss ways to make our community more cool, creative, connected and prosperous.

Both David and I hosted one of these Big Table talks. (It wasn’t all that glamorous, we were just there to make sure we stayed on topic, and that everyone had an opportunity to speak.) My “table” had 10 people, and we shared a lot of really good things. While we identified issues (topics relevant to our specific group), our takeaway was this: While we all want to make a big difference in our community, the reality is it has to start small. Get to know our neighbors; engage with them face to face.

One of the gentlemen there said that when he moves into a new neighborhood, he holds an Open House, inviting his friends and family over to view their new living space. One time, he decided to invite all of his neighbors as well. So he delivered the invitations door to door, and while not all of them attended, he told us that he would feel comfortable going to any one of them if he needed something as small as a cup of sugar.

This is what it comes down to—relationship. As Christians, we hear the story of when the religious leaders tried to trick Jesus, and the Pharisees asked him which commandment was greatest. And Jesus’ answer? Love God with everything you are, and everything you have, and love your neighbor in the same way. Everything else is built on that.

Relationship is hard. We want people to see things our way. They want us to see things their way. But relationship—radical relationship—is based on listening to one another as we share our stories. When we take a moment to listen—without interruption—we open ourselves to a new perspective. We find out that they aren’t so different from us. We all breathe air, need water to survive, sleep, eat, have feelings, and die. And we all have an innate need to be loved.

The voices of this world can overwhelm us with darkness, violence, hatred, and fear; almost to the point that we forget what we celebrated just a few short weeks ago. The story of Jesus’ journey of death and resurrection is our reminder that, even in this sometimes dark world—a relationship which is filled with love, will always win.

God. Others.

How many of you know all of your neighbors? If you do, kudos! How about the next block down, do you know all of them? How about the next block? For those of you who are able to attend Faith UCC, do you know all of our neighbors? If you don’t know your neighbors—why not? While we probably won’t solve all of the world’s issues, (or even our community’s issues), getting to know our neighbors would be a good start. Who knows what we might learn?

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi

UCC

PASTORAL PONDERINGS - April 2018

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."  ~ John 3:16-17

As of Sunday, March 25, we will have held 12 weeks of Sunday worship in our Fellowship Hall. The entire first quarter of 2018 has been spent outside of our sanctuary, and yet, we still find ourselves able to give thanks and praise through singing, spreading peace to one another, praying, teaching the children, and listening to God's word.

For those of you who have been able to join us, you understand the challenges that we face each week. If someone is late getting to worship, they come in the door where everyone can see them. It is difficult to stand due to the way we are set up, so we have been sitting for everything but the last hymn. The choir gathers around the piano, which is where I put my chair, so I have been standing during the choral prelude and anthem. When the children come forward, they have to stand, because I am not overly keen on them sitting on the rugs which have been covered in salt, mud, and leaves. We don't light the candles, we pass the offering plates and communion elements differently, and we haven't used the hymnals at all. And then there's my personal issue—I don't get to "hide" behind the pulpit—I use a music stand, and have had to learn to stand differently than I usually do.

But just because we aren't worshipping in the sanctuary, doesn't mean this space isn't holy. Believe me, it is. I see it every time we worship. As we gather around the tables, we are able to look one another in the eye, instead of looking at the back of the heads of the people in front of us. We see the choir singing, instead of hearing them from the back. The children come up, even if they have to stand. And if someone is late, I find several people who scramble to make room for them. While it isn't exactly the way we are used to, and most of us are really ready to be back in the sanctuary, it is still worship, and it is sacred. And we are beyond blessed to be able to have a space we can gather.

The biggest blessing we have been given through this Lenten Journey, is a new perspective. We are reminded that we can worship anywhere; that we can adapt and overcome difficult situations; that gathering together around a table is more important than not doing it at all; and that even in our desert—our discomfort—God is present and the Spirit still moves.

As a faith community, we have journeyed together through this Lenten season, contemplating our relationships along the way. Sometimes, though, our journeys need to take us outside of our comfort zones in order for us to remember that what we do is always about the relationships we have, and not about what we surround ourselves with. No matter who we are, no matter where we are on life’s journey.

While our stations, our settings, and our circumstances in life are in a constant state of flux, there is one thing that never changes. God's love for us. God is always using their imagination to find new ways to connect with us—even to the point of offering their Son to prove it. While death may not feel like a great way of connecting, Jesus' death isn't our focus. It is the what happens three days after that awful crucifixion that matters. The resurrection is our proof. God raises Jesus in order to prove to us that we will not have to walk our desert journeys alone, or forever, because death does not have power over love, and death will not win. And that is certainly worthy of celebrating—ANYWHERE!

~ Happy Resurrection and Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi

UCC

PASTORAL PONDERINGS - March 2018

"From that time on Jesus began to preach, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." ~ Matthew 4:17

Love Always Wins

Unless you have been isolated from all news sources, you know that once again, our country has been devastated with the horrific act of yet another safe place being torn apart by violence. Once again, we are asking the question, "Where does it stop?"

Here's the not-so-good news: it won't stop. Not until we, as individuals as well as a nation, repent of our ways—until we intentionally turn away from our complacency, our acceptance, our agenda pushing, our refusal to work together toward a solution, and our fear—and turn toward the only thing / One that will make a difference. LOVE.

But here's the good news: the truth we need to hear, and to trust: LOVE ALWAYS WINS.

Even when violence fills our news and our days—LOVE WINS. Even when hatred is spewn by children and youth who shouldn't even know what it means to hate—LOVE WINS. Even when we think we are at the end of our rope, with nothing left to lose and no place else to go—LOVE WINS. Even when we can't love our neighbors, let alone ourselves—LOVE WINS.

But in order for love to win, we have to open ourselves to it. We need to repent of our old ways and turn toward new life, new ideas.

Please know that I am just as scared as everyone else. I don't want to get involved when I see something going wrong. But not doing something is just as much a sin as doing whatever is wrong in the first place. Until we choose to face our fear and confront those who are doing wrong—from those exhibiting poor behavior, to the government agencies who swear to keep our communities and country safe—nothing will change. We will continue to have to grieve death from senseless violence.

I wish this issue was as simple as having better or more strict gun laws or fewer guns made. I wish that we could have a one-size-fits-all solution, but in the words of a very wise woman, "It's just not that simple." It's like an onion—there are layers and layers of problems. So where do we start? If I had that answer, we'd already be doing it.

I don't know about you, but I am tired of it. I am done being afraid. No longer will I stand by and stay quiet. I am going to do the only thing I can do—repent and turn toward LOVE. I am going to say "I LOVE YOU" to everyone; share of my abundance; clothe the naked; feed the hungry; stand up against injustice; share the stories of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection; shine God's love and light; and from the top of the mountain, I will shout, "LOVE ALWAYS WINS!" until everyone hears. And I will do it even when I am afraid, because I know that God goes with me, and that with Christ, all things are possible. AND LOVE ALWAYS WINS!

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi

UCC

PASTORAL PONDERINGS - February 2018

Musical Notes

I love music. I love listening to it, singing it, and sometimes, even plunking it out on the piano—not well, mind you, but I still love it. The only thing I regret about my past is that I didn't learn how to play the guitar.

Music fills our souls like nothing else can. You don't have to sing well, or play it well, in order to enjoy it. Music is filled with emotion. The beating rhythms permeate through your body, filling your whole being with the song. It's like, when you listen, the music is filling those empty spots you didn't even realize you had. It can lift your sagging spirit, fill your heart with joy and hope, take you back to another time in your life, and it can move you to tears—even when you least expect it. Music is amazing, and it is Biblical.

Music has always been a part of how we worship and praise God in our faith tradition. And many of us have strong feelings and opinions about the music played and sung in worship. This is a good thing! If everyone agreed, then the music would always be the same. But that makes planning the worship services difficult sometimes. I work hard to get a mixture of songs in, the oldies but goodies, the traditional favorites, the easy ones, as well as some new, and often times challenging ones. Why do I do that? Because, although we might have our favorites, when we experience something new, we might find a new favorite. Besides, each generation has to find their own "traditional favorites."

Believe it or not, we are on the cusp of the Lenten Season, that 40 days (not including Sundays) which gives us an opportunity for spiritual and personal examination, a time to study our relationship with God, and with one another, a time to improve those relationships, and make them deeper. This year, the theme for our Lenten Soup and Conversations will be "Music in the Church." We will connect music with the Bible, discuss the history of music in worship, listen to different genres of music within different faith traditions, as well as dig into our favorites here at Faith UCC. My prayer is that we can look at the music we sing in a new or renewed way, both offering a deeper appreciation for a wider variety, as well as possibly exploring new ways to plan music for our own worship services.

The theme for our Lenten journey together is "Love." Together we will explore God's abundant love in scripture, and in our daily lives. Where do you see God's love in your everyday life? How will you share the love of God with others during this season?

Be sure to join us this Lenten Season as we look for God's love in our world and in our lives; and as we share the songs in our hearts. And be sure to invite your friends!

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi

UCC

PASTORAL PONDERINGS - January 2018

I am not a big fan of chalk boards, and never have been. I don't like how you can be writing and suddenly, the chalk breaks and your fingers slip and slide across the board making an eerie screeching sound that hurts my teeth. I am also not a fan of chalk dust. It gets everywhere and makes you sneeze! When I was in elementary school, one of the chores assigned each day was cleaning erasers. I did everything I could not to have to do that job. (And that is saying a lot, because our elementary school had an eraser cleaner in the custodian's office, so we would get to leave the classroom when it was our turn!)

There is one thing I really like about a board you can write on like these, and that is that the writing isn't permanent. It can easily be wiped off, creating a clean slate, if you will. No matter how many doodles or mistakes are made, you can start over just by wiping it off. Maybe you could call it a do-over.

The church calendar starts over beginning on the first Sunday of Advent. It is at this time we begin preparations for a baby—Emmanuel—to be born among us. A baby whose birth, life, death and resurrection, wipes off the old and brings the new, creating in us a clean slate, a new beginning, an opportunity to start over. This new beginning is possible only through forgiveness. When we forgive someone for hurting us, we are offering them a clean slate, an opportunity to wipe the mistake away and start over. We don't have to forget what they did, and sometimes we shouldn't forget, but a clean slate offers us endless possibilities to start over. The same thing happens when others forgive us for hurting them. And sometimes that forgiveness needs to be toward ourselves.

Forgiveness is not easy, but it is necessary. When you write all over a chalk board and don't erase anything, before long it gets hard to read, and looks like a big mess. When we hold anger and grudges within ourselves, the same thing happens. Those feelings get all tangled up and pretty soon you aren't able to tell where one hurt ends and an opportunity for a clean slate begins. Our anger clouds our vision, it puts physical stress on our bodies, and if held in too long, has a tendency to come out in very ugly ways. A wise person recently told me that our society has normalized anger, giving people permission to be angry about anything and everything. I wonder what would happen if we learned to offer forgiveness as the Bible instructs us to……

"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a  grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." - Colossians 3:13

So watch yourselves. "If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying 'I repent,' you must forgive them." - Luke 17:3-4

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." - Ephesians 4:31-32

"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." - Matthew 26:28

As we journey through the end of one year and into yet another new year, where in your life do you need to create a clean slate through offering, or asking for, forgiveness? How would you feel, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, to have the opportunity to begin all over? With God, that opportunity is always present, and it is my prayer that you will extend that opportunity to those around you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi

UCC