Pastoral Ponderings – June 2022

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what isexcellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” ~ Philippians 1:9-10

As we look to the future and continue to discern what call God is placing on us as a church community, one of the most important things we can do is be honest with ourselves. Honest about who we are, and what we as a community are physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually able to do. This will sometimes include difficult questions and conversations.

This month, we are going to begin discussing the ministry of our annual Holiday Bazaar, held on the first Saturday of November. The Attic Shop was added to the Holiday Bazaar in 1982, which means this event has been going for more than 40 years! That is a long time, and it has been wonderful. As I read past annual reports, there were many changes made to the bazaar along the way—times were changed, meals added, attic shop added—and now it is time for us to take a breath and evaluate once again.

Every year it gets harder to make this event successful. We have fewer volunteers, even since you called me here. And let’s face it, none of us are as young as we used to be!

Currently, we are in need of someone who will be willing to step up and lead the Attic Shop portion of the bazaar. Leading means just that—making sure there is a team to help clean and price the items (or choose to do it differently); make sure there is a team to help set up the week before the bazaar; a team to cashier; a team to walk around during that Saturday and help customers; and a team to help pack everything that is left over when the bazaar is finished.

At our Council meeting on Sunday, we decided we want to see what you think. Please watch your email (or mail) for a short 8 question survey regarding the Holiday Bazaar. We are asking that you answer the questions no later than Wednesday, June 1. We will collect the data, and then we will have a brief congregational gathering following worship on Sunday, June 5, where we will give you the results we collected, as well as offer a time for further discussion.

The purpose for this survey is to see if we are going to continue forward with the Holiday Bazaar, either as we are doing now, or with some changes, or if we need to let it go and find other fundraisers that will fit our congregation’s gifts and talents differently.

I know these discussions are difficult, because we like things the way they have been, but as we have all seen over the last 2 years, life is different, and honestly, different can be good! It can breathe new life into us, so that we can breathe new life into our community, and into our world.

As we continue with these difficult discussions and decisions, remember that we are not alone because we are being led by the Holy Spirit, and keeping God at the center. When we do that, we can be confident that we are following the missional path that God is leading us to. May it be so.

~ Always Peace,   Pastor Heidi

 

Pastoral Ponderings – May 2022

“He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” ~ John 20:15-17

We are in what the church calls “Eastertide.” This is the 50 days between the experience Mary and the other women had at the empty tomb, to Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit blew in through the Upper Room and landed as “tongues of fire” on each of the disciples, causing them to speak in different languages. The blowing of the wind changes their lives forever.

The empty tomb, with the linen death cloths folded on the stone where Jesus lifeless body had been laid, changed lives forever. What is interesting in this passage, is that Jesus, while wanting to comfort his friend, tells Mary she can’t hold him because he “had not yet ascended to God.” She didn’t recognize the one she called Rabboni, because he looked different.

Maybe this shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to Mary, he “changed” in front of Peter, James, and John on the mountain top when Elijah and Moses appeared in the Transfiguration.

Okay, let’s go even further back. Jesus is the ultimate “change.” He is the Son of God, come to earth in human form (and yet fully divine). Being born as a human baby, to live and breathe, to feel and taste and smell, to experience life like a “normal” human, Jesus changes from whatever form he was prior to birth, to human—made from dirt—having sinew and bone. He changed from something we “normal” humans couldn’t see—or really understand—to something tangible, something that made sense to our brains.

What if that is what change is all about? What if the whole reason things change—whether it is how we understand the world as we grow from infancy to adulthood, or making leaps and bounds in technology, or figuring out how to be neighbors—is because we are moving from one state of understanding to another state of understanding? What if we knew deep in our cores that we can’t stay the same, life can’t stay the same, because there is always something better to be working toward?

What if this is the case when it comes to being church—the Body of Christ? Depending on your age, the world has watched the decline of the church since the 50’s. Our sanctuaries are no longer full. Our Women’s Groups no longer meet during the day because most of the women are working. Our Men’s Groups don’t meet for Saturday breakfast because there are games to coach, children to chase around, and chores to be done that can’t get done during the week. And don’t get me started about children and youth programs!

Again, what if this change is what the church needs? Maybe, like someone with an addiction, the Body of Christ must hit rock bottom before we face the reality that change is inevitable, and the church was never supposed to be tucked away from people in a building in the first place? Before he leaves earth to ascend back to God, he tells the disciples “Go into the world and make disciples.” GO INTO THE WORLD.

Faith UCC is at that critical point. We need to decide what our “change” is going to be. We need to be talking about how we will GO INTO THE WORLD and make disciples. We are small in number, but we are HUGE in compassion, care, forgiveness and love, and those are the things we need to be sharing with the world.

In the months and years to come, how can we—Faith UCC—spread God’s love and light in the world? How can we be the salt and light we are called to be? We have started, by sharing space with First Christian, by opening our doors to Cub and BSA Scouts, to a homeschool group. But what else can we do? Can we do a neighborhood clean up? Can we worship differently? I know that is a really hard question, and thinking about changing how we worship makes us uneasy. But worshipping like we do now is not how we will survive. So what can we do differently? Let’s start talking about these things. If we do, maybe we won’t have to hit “rock bottom.” Maybe we can show up changed, like Jesus, and be who we were created to be in the first place!

~ Always Peace,   Pastor Heidi

 

Pastoral Ponderings – April 2022

“He is not here; he has risen!” ~ Luke 24:6-7

By the time you read this, we will officially be over half done with the season of Lent.  It always amazes me how quickly this time of reflection and repentance goes by.

This year, we have been discussing the topic of being “Good Enough”, just as we are. In a world where we are bombarded by people telling us we need to be better, to be more successful, to produce more, God loves us just as we are—flaws and all! And what a beautiful message to hear!

As we continue to walk this journey, we find ourselves being presented with many “firsts.” This is the first time in the history of Faith UCC that we have shared ministry space with another church. This is the first time in the history of Faith UCC that we have shared decorating the altar. This is the first time that we have shared our Soup and Conversation in the way that we are. (Yes, we have shared with Edwards a couple years ago, but this is the first time doing it this way!)

Maybe the biggest “first” is going to be Easter Sunday morning. As you know, First Christian worships at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoons. But to celebrate EASTER SUNDAY, on EASTER VIGIL SATURDAY, doesn’t fit the narrative. After much discussion among themselves, First Christian decided they would like to worship as their own church on Easter Sunday (not combine worship), as this is their “first” Easter outside of the building they sold.

Pastor Linda and First Christian’s board approached me and asked how we could make it work. The answer that Faith UCC came up with was another “first.”

This Easter, April 17, First Christian DOC will worship at 9:00 a.m., and Faith UCC will worship at 11:00 a.m. Please feel free to join either service, either in person, or on Facebook Live.

We have also been invited to join the P.U.N.C.H Annual Easter Egg Hunt at Cork Hill Park. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. In the meantime, may you remember, in the core of your being, you are GOOD ENOUGH!

~ Always Peace,   Pastor Heidi

Pastoral Ponderings – March 2022

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” ~ Matthew 4:1-2

Jesus has just been baptized by his cousin in the Jordan River, and out of nowhere, he was picked up by angels, and plopped in the middle of the desert, where he fasted and prayed for 40 days. Seriously? I can hardly go 4 hours without thinking I need something to eat! I can’t, in my wildest dreams, imagine fasting for 40 days and nights.

This 40 days and 40 nights is a theme in the Bible. After Noah built the ark and the family gathered 2 of every species onto the floating life raft, the Bible says God made it rain for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights. The Israelites wandered for 40 years before getting to the Promised Land. Goliath taunted Saul’s army for 40 days before David arrived to slay him. Even Elijah traveled 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb to get away from Jezebel. And now, Jesus spends 40 days fasting and praying.

In our tradition, we have set aside the 40 days and nights prior to Easter to observe Lent. This is a time that offers us an opportunity to take a good look at ourselves, to come to grips with the fact that, while we are sinners and need saving, our Good News is that we can repent, that is, to change and go in another direction, preferably the direction of God. Lent is a time to open the doors of our hearts a little wider and our minds a little deeper so that we might understand God a little deeper.

Lent gives us time to prepare our minds and hearts for remembering the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. From the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday (this year it is March 3) until Lent ends on Easter Sunday (April 17). In some traditions, Lent is a time of fasting or giving something up, known as abstinence. In our tradition, we aren’t strict about giving something up, but many do. In recent years, many progressive churches have encouraged their flocks to study and practice a new spiritual discipline. There are several spiritual disciplines: Solitude, Silence, Prayer, Journaling, Meditation, Fasting, Chastity, Confession, Fellowship, Simplicity, Service, to name a few.

This year, we will focus on praying and studying God’s Word both in worship and during our Wednesday evening Soup and Conversations. We hope you will join us as we dig deeper into God’s Word, and open our hearts and minds to figuring out how that works in our lives, and how God uses us to work in God’s world. Hope to see you all, both Wednesday evenings, as well as Sunday mornings!

~ Always Peace,   Pastor Heidi

 

Pastoral Ponderings – February 2022

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines..”  ~ 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

According to scripture, each of us, as humans, have been given some sort of gift from God/Holy Spirit. These gifts vary for each one of us, and are to be used to make the world a better place. Sometimes we know what our gifts are, and sometimes we don’t. Regardless of what our gifts are, God calls us to use them for Their plan for us and the world. If we don’t use our gifts, we are cheating others and all of creation.

As people of faith, we don’t always recognize these gifts in ourselves, or don’t know we have them until we have an opportunity to try something new. As we continue to move through this pandemic, the chaos of violence, continued division, and hatred, we must hold fast to our gifts, and let them shine in ways we never thought possible.

I currently serve on two different committees outside of Faith UCC. I am the Chairperson for the Funding Future Leaders Scholarship Committee, and Treasurer for the Eastern Iowa Association. Like every other aspect in our lives, both of these committees are in need of volunteers to serve. (As does the Eastern Iowa Association Committee on Ministry.) At this point in time, all three of these are meeting online. Below are the descriptions of the committees, as well as the positions we are looking for.

COMMITTEE ON MINISTRY—meets monthly (3 year term)
COM is the committee which authorizes ministers in the EIA, as well as the overall health of clergy, and relationships between clergy/congregations.

 Term Ending 2024 (lay person)

ADVISORY COUNCIL—meets every other month (2 year term)
Advisory Council is the governing body of the EIA. They are in charge of budget and policies, hold the Annual Meeting. They are the support of the lay leaders of the churches within the EIA.
Term ending 2023 Vice Moderator—Lay Person
Term ending 2023 Member-at-Large—Lay Person
Term ending 2023 Nominating Committee Chairperson—Lay or Clergy

FUNDING FUTURE LEADERS– meets 8 times a year (2 year term)
FFL is the committee who reviews the scholarships for the Members in Discernment of the Iowa Conference.
Term beginning August 1, 2022—ending July 31, 2024

If you are interested in using your gifts by serving on any of these committees, please contact me!

~ Always Peace,

Pastor Heidi

 

Pastoral Ponderings – January 2022

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”  ~ Philippians 4:9

The year of our Lord, 2022, is quite literally, right around the corner—only 11 days from the day I write this! With each year comes new life lessons for us to learn. I read somewhere that if we don’t learn our lesson the first time through an experience, then we will continue to have similar experiences until we learn that lesson. Whether or not that is actually a truth, I feel very much like it is, especially over the last two years.

As we celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus this week, and prepare to welcome in yet another new year, I would invite you to take a couple of moments and look over the last year of your life. Taking time to really understand yourself and your relationship with God and with God’s creation, is important for you to move forward in God’s plan for you.

Find a quiet place, with no distractions, even if for 10 minutes. Get yourself comfortable, maybe grab a cup of your favorite beverage, and allow yourself to just be. Breathe in the hope and love of this Christmas season, and breathe out all your could haves / should haves / would haves of the past year. Allow these to float away from you, taking any regret with them.

After a few breaths, take a couple of minutes for each of the following questions:

  1. What life lesson have I learned this past year?
  2. How has this lesson changed my life? Have I actually allowed it to make the change it is supposed to?
  3. How has this lesson changed my relationships with those I love, as well as with those I find difficult being in relationship with?
  4. Is there a lesson that I didn’t learn, but feel like the opportunities to learn it keep popping up in my life?
  5. How can I pay more attention to those lessons I choose not to learn, or have trouble understanding I need to learn?

When you finish, breathe in the hope of this new year, and breathe out everything of which you want to let go. Breathe in. Breathe out. Make room for the opportunities for whatever lessons are coming your way.

What lessons do you need to learn? What lesson do you think God needs you to learn? What lessons do you think God needs us to learn as a whole? Will you resolve to be open to those lessons?

May you have a Wonder-filled Christmas, and an abundant New Year!

~ Always Peace,  Pastor Heidi

 

Pastoral Ponderings – December 2021

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ~ John 1:14

WHEW! It has been quite a year! And I would never have guessed that we could top last year. Guess I need to stop saying things like that! No need for the Universe to get any crazy ideas for 2022!

As the preparations for Advent and Christmas begin to rear their heads, and we follow those up with a plunge into another new year, may we find a few quiet moments to take a few deep breaths and look back upon the year. Maybe we can learn something about our world, our community, our family and friends, or maybe even ourselves.

This year, I see how much emotion plays into our lives. Of course we emote—God created us to do that, but have you paid attention to how your are emoting? If we shove our emotions aside, they will manifest themselves within our bodies. When our emotions don’t have a way to come out, they find a way. Physical pain and depression are common effects of not emoting in a healthy manner.

In a recent discussion with one of my many “healers,” we talked about surrender, and how surrendering to the feelings we have in the moment help our minds and bodies work through them, leaving us better equipped to cope with what is happening in our world. By “feeling all the feels,” we allow ourselves to let go of what we need to, and make room for something new.

As a follower of The Way, we believe that God is in the business of making something new, with whatever They want! This Advent/Christmas season, we will be talking about making room for the Holy. What does HOLY mean? How can we let go if we don’t know what we need to let go of? How can we allow the space for God’s new creation within us?

This is a very special year. Not only do we get to talk about these things, we are physically living into them. We get to practice what we preach! First Christian will be moved in by the time you get this letter. Two churches under one roof—talk about having to MAKE ROOM!! But here is the exciting part: while there is an ending to one way of life, we are birthing another! When it came time for Mary to give birth to her baby boy so long ago, the life she knew was ending, and a whole new way of life—one even she couldn’t fathom– was just beginning.

As we move into our new life as Two Churches, One Holy Space, One God, we will have growing pains, and many, many emotions. I pray that we allow ourselves these emotions. Let ourselves feel all the feels, and then make room for whatever new God is preparing us for.

May you cling to the hope only Christ can give; may you find the peace you seek; may you experience the joy that resides deep within; and may you love your neighbors as yourselves. Deep peace and blessings during this season!

~ Always Peace, Pastor Heidi

Annual Holiday Bazaar

  • Post category:Fundraising

Our annual holiday bazaar is back!!  We are having the attic shop sale, bake sale, cookies by the pound and will also have some crafts for sale.  We are so excited to be back.

Due to Covid though, I’m sorry to say that we will not be serving breakfast or lunch.

Doors open at 8 a.m. and the event goes until 2 p.m. this Saturday, November 6th.

Candy Land is Ready!!

Hershey Candy Bars (Dark and Milk Chocolate), Hershey Nuggets, and Rolos are spruced up for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Use as part of your holiday table setting or give to teachers or friends!! They are almost too cute to eat!

Pastoral Ponderings – November 2021

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” ~ Acts 2:1-4

No, it isn’t Pentecost. In fact, we are a few short weeks away from the beginning of Advent, the season of preparation. I chose the first verses for this pondering because, if you have worshipped with us at all lately, or been in the building, the movement of Spirit is palpable! You can’t help but breathe it in! Like I said last month, it is something I have dreamed about since I got here—9 years ago December 1, by the way!

I am so excited about what is happening here, while at the same time, I am beginning to feel a little overwhelmed. Therefore, and this is the Spirit part, I am going to call on your help. We have some wonderful, and life-changing things, which will be happening within the next several weeks, and in order to make everything happen, we will need to work together.

First, our Annual Holiday Bazaar. We need all hands on deck, and that includes our prayer warriors! We need you to invite all your friends and family, co-workers, and people you bump into in order to make this another success. (See page 4 for further details. And if you need a flier to hand out, please contact me!)

Second, with a Scout Troop AND a Cub Scout Pack meeting here on Mondays and Tuesdays, we need to find space for their things. While they don’t have a whole lot to store, we still need to find them some space.

And that is going to be a bigger challenge than it would have even 6 months ago, as we will be sharing space with First Christian beginning Saturday, November 27! We have much to discuss yet, but we are closing in on some of it, like how they are going to rent space to begin with. The Adult Sunday School room will become Pastor Linda’s office, and their secretary will share that space with her. They will hold their worship services at 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays, again, for the time being. But the biggest challenge, is finding space to put everything they want to bring with them.

Over the next few weeks, we will be cleaning out spaces—Sunday School areas and nursery downstairs, the adult Sunday School room, and the big storage closet. If you have time and are able to help with some of these things, please let me know!

What we need most, are your prayers, your patience, and your radically open hearts and minds as we begin moving from our church building of Faith UCC to OUR church building, of Faith UCC AND First Christian Church.

This time calls for us to be creative, understanding of differences (which will be AWESOME practice for us!), and transparent communication. None of this will work without those things, by EVERYONE.

Friends, this is such an exciting time, and believe it or not, these are things God has had planned for us since we were born. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but for now, Faith and First, will be exactly what we are supposed to be, and the best part? We will be it TOGETHER!

Finally, I want to invite you all to join them at their last worship service on Sunday, November 21 at 10:00 a.m. WE WILL NOT HAVE WORSHIP AT FAITH UCC THAT MORNING! We will still be on Facebook live and YouTube. We are also invited to join them in a shared meal following that worship service. Please RSVP by Sunday, November 7.

This is all so exciting! God is so good, and Spirit really is moving! And for that, let us give thanks and praise to God!

~ Always Peace, Pastor Heidi