July 28, 2023
Following last year’s successful school supply drive, we connected with a school social worker who lives in our neighborhood and works at Dessau Middle School, a Title 1 school about 20 minutes from our church. The school was incredibly grateful for our donations. As our plan to host a school supply drive approached this year, we decided to connect with DMS again. For this year’s drive, we are collecting items specified by faculty at the school, and sending the supplies over to the school along with the handcrafted cards we’ll create this Sunday after worship.
So, from now through August 12, stop by our School Supply Giving Tree in the Fellowship Hall to participate in this year's drive. Grab an apple (or many!) from the tree and shop for what's written on it. The last name of the teacher is on the back of the paper apple, so please bring back your donations with the apple taped to it for easiest sorting. Drive donations are due back on Sunday, August 13. If you’d like to participate but are not able to grab apples at this time, please contact the church office and we can send over some apples or connect you with an Amazon wishlist.
And this Sunday, July 30, stick around after church to design and decorate encouragement cards for the 90-member staff of the school: teachers, administrators, coaches, counselors, janitorial staff, everyone! One of the teachers at Dessau even requested “unlimited prayers” on her wishlist - a request we will prayerfully honor. School staffs work incredibly hard to provide safe, caring education for our students, and we are honored to send them back to school with school supplies, support cards, and a whole lot of love!
See you soon,
The UCC Social Justice Team
We are really looking forward to the time together after church two Sundays from now - July 30. While some Sundays have education opportunities, business meetings, or property workdays, we like to reserve any time that there's a 5th Sunday in a month for something we call the “5th Sunday Social Justice Project” - a way we can show love to and achieve justice for those in our community. The team especially strives to find activities that all ages can do together.
The Social Justice Team was already planning to do a school supply drive at the beginning of August, so as we looked at July 30, we began to brainstorm ways that we could connect with this project. Someone remarked that while teachers receive gifts and messages for winter holidays and teacher appreciation in the spring, it would be really nice to send them back to school with messages of support and encouragement to begin the school year!
So that’s just what we’re doing. Sunday, July 30, after church, we’ll pull out the tables and paper, markers, stamps, stickers, and more to create lots of beautiful support cards to go along with the school supplies! We’ll have some wording suggestions and all of the crafting supplies to get your creative juices flowing. We’re going for heartfelt rather than fancy, but please feel free to get as creative with your words, scripting, designs, decorations as you’d like! Making the cards will also be a great project for parents and kids to work on together.
Crafting not your thing? We will also have some period products and snack items from previous social justice projects that need to be sorted and bagged so they can be easily put in our Little Free Pantry. No matter which project (or projects!) you choose to help with, in just one Sunday afternoon you are going to be making an impact in the lives of others in our community.
Please mark your calendars to help out after church on Sunday, July 30, and keep an eye out for further information about the school supply drive that will run from July 30 - August 13. We are excited to share God’s love and some UCC spirit through these projects.
~ The UCC Staff and UCC Social Justice Team
This devotion is adapted from the daily devotion book that was provided to our team on the Mission Trip with the Appalachia Service Project. The prayers and questions provided led to a lot of wonderful reflection and inspiration for our team and beyond. We hope this one inspires you today:
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. -Romans 15:4
As followers of Christ, we are a people of story. We are part of the ongoing story of God's saving love for God's people. As this verse from Romans reminds us, all of God's stories in scripture encourage us in hope.
Our faith is grounded in the stories we read in Scripture, our stories of service and the stories that have been passed on to us. As faithful people interacting with stories of other people each day in multiple dimensions, we have choices. We can choose to use stories to divide, disempower, and entrench, or we can use them to exercise vulnerability and humility and to expand our understanding of common ground we share through God's love. May we be strong in hope as we share in God's story.
How is your story being told this week? How are you living into God's story? What are you learning about your story?
July 7, 2023
This time last week, 20 of our youth, along with 8 adult leaders, were on our final day of service in Appalachia, Virginia. We spent a week at four different worksites, doing everything from ripping up subfloor to installing new siding on a house. For some of us, this was the first time we had used a hammer, and for others this was our umpteenth time using power tools. New skills were acquired, friendships were made or deepened, lessons were learned, songs were sung, meals were consumed, games were played, very little sleep was had, and much joy was shared. To put it lightly, this mission trip was a great one.
On Sunday, we invite you to join us in worship and learn more about the work we did and the ways in which we learned to “Love Strong.” Each of our work crews will present a small sermonette about their worksite and how their week went. You will get to hear about how we learned to serve others through our talents and gifts, and how we can be a part of God’s ongoing story of love and serving our neighbor. Our hope is that you can pray on the messages you hear on Sunday, consider your own gifts and strengths, and how you can share those gifts with others.
Pastor of Pastoral Care and Youth Ministries
I’d like to start this message with a snippet of the sermon on Sunday, given by Clark Thompson.
“We often harbor the illusion that we can fix all of our problems ourselves. We in the modern West are especially enamored of this illusion. We created the myth of the rugged individual who is totally self-sufficient and solves all challenges by simply pulling himself up by the bootstraps. Such individualism comes at a cost. It is one of many factors that have brought revolutionary, though ultimately negative, change to our society. The 20th century bore witness to the weakening of Americans’ sense of community, the fracturing of the American family, and an incremental rejection of God and church that continues to this day.”
“The weakening of Americans’ sense of community.” Do you feel it? I do.
In some ways, it’s because we ARE self-sufficient. During The Freeze in 2021, our neighbors had a group text where one set of neighbors offered to let others use their pool water to flush their toilet, and someone else said if anyone needed anything from the store to let her know because she might have what was needed. And while I was so appreciative of the concept, turns out, we didn’t actually end up needing each other. We all got on just fine. I sometimes think about that and wish I could go back and take someone up on their offer. Not because I NEEDED it. But just to feel connected.
In other ways, of course, we DO have need, but we also don’t want to feel like a burden. Or we don’t feel safe enough to be vulnerable. Or we’re not sure who would even care enough about us to help. And so we make do. But we feel the lack. The lack of support. The lack of community.
As we think about generosity here at UCC, I want us to think beyond just giving money. Money is a part of it, of course, but it’s not the only need and it’s not the only solution.
Some of us need someone to listen. Or to take us to the airport. Or to watch our kids for a couple of hours so we can go to a doctor appointment. Or to fix that stupid door that doesn’t close right. Or to invite us over for Thanksgiving so we don’t spend the holiday alone. Or to ask us about how that visit with our mom went because they know the relationship is troubled.
We like to be thought of as generous people, as people with excess. But in real community, we are both. Relationships, community, connection - that’s how we get our own needs met and meet the needs of others. Let’s be generous with our money, yes. But let’s also be generous with (and to) ourselves.
Over the next week, try to think of a non-monetary way in which you can be generous with someone; and then think of a need you might have, one that can be met within community.
In community with you,
Stewardship Team Lead
“The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food.” -Dean Ornish