Monday, December 29, 2008

I've been thinking about...

Time to start another regular feature on the blog. Every Sunday at Encanto Community Church we fill up the back page of the Order of Service with my weekly "I've been thinking about..." column. And since it doesn't really make sense to republish that article elsewhere, I thought it might look nice on blog. You can expect to find it here every Monday morning.

I’ve Been Thinking about...The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Which before it became an insanely long Christmas Carol with a great rousing cheer in the middle (FIVE GOLDEN RINGS!), was actually a liturgical season.

The Twelve Days of Christmas are in fact the dozen days that separate Christmas Day from Epiphany; that is the 12 days that bridge the gap between our celebration of the birth of Christ and the arrival of the Magi from the East. Or for those who are calendar people, the Twelve Days of Christmas run from December 25 to January 6. It is a time of celebrating!

In fact, in the Middle Ages the Twelve Days of Christmas was a period of continuous feasting and merrymaking which climaxed not on Christmas Day, but on the very last of the nights. Thus the setting for one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays, “Twelfth Night.”
Our pilgrim forbearers actually brought Christmastide celebrations over to this land from Europe, but with the growing secularization of Christmas, commercialization of “After-Christmas” sales, and general revelry of New Year’s Eve, the Twelve Days of Christmas has faded to the background or disappeared altogether...

...well, except in our worship life!

For these two Sundays of the Twelve Days of Christmas we’ll celebrate the birth of Christ with just as much joy and merriment as we did at our Christmas Eve Service. We’ll recount the stories, sing the Christmas Carols, and continue to spread the good news of Christ’s birth.

Because the true lesson of the Twelve Days of Christmas is that the joy of Christ’s birth in our world and in our hearts is simply too big to be confined to single celebration!

Yours in the Journey, Rev. Brian

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mark Your Calendars: Upcoming Conference Events

Tools for building your ministry - a day of workshops
A day of workshops sponsored by the Southwest Conference

Location: Shadow Rock UCC in Phoenix
Date/time: Saturday, January 17, from 9 am to 4 pm
Cost: $15 in advance, $18 at the door, includes all materials and lunch


Workshops include:

  • Sizzlin' summer specials
    Summer CE (Partners in Education)
  • Summer CE (Partners in Education)
  • When the going gets tough ... !
    Stewardship (Sue Gallagher)
  • On becoming an ONA Conference
    Open & Affirming Conference (Holly Herman)
  • NOT your regularly scheduled youth program
    Youth Ministry (Brian Gruhn)
  • Equipping the saints
    Assessing Gifts (Phil Reller)
  • How to make herding cats easier
    A practical workshop for moderators (Pat Dunn)
  • Blogs, podcasts, & email communications
    Communications (Peggy Ice)
  • Check out digital worship!
    Digital Worship (First Congregational UCC- Tucson)
  • Our Whole Lives/sexuality
    Sexuality (Ann Hanson)
  • Brochures with additional information and registration form will be available from your local church after Christmas.

    This event will also be held:
    Saturday, February 28 to First Congregational UCC in Tucson, AZ
    Saturday, March 28 to St. Paul's UCC in Rio Rancho, NM

    Believe irt!
    Planned Giving Workshops
    The Southwest Conference is sponsoring three Planned Giving Workshops in January. Hans Holznagel and Donaldson Hill, from our national offices in Cleveland, will be here to conduct these workshops.

    We are all looking for alternative sources of funding, and for long-term strategies to help build our budgets and strengthen our mission. This is a great opportunity for you and some of the leaders of your church to learn about Planned Giving, Endowment Giving, Wills and Bequests as tools to use to sustain the mission and ministry of your church.

    Here are the dates and locations:
    Sat., January 17 at Church of the Red Rocks in Sedona for Northern Arizona churches
    Monday, January 19 at Shepherd of the Hills for East Valley Phoenix churches
    Wednesday, January 21 at Church of the Palms for West Valley Phoenix churches.

    Hans was here in November for workshops in Albuquerque, Tucson and Central Phoenix.
    Justice and Witness Summit
    A two-day, overnight Justice and Witness summit will be held in Phoenix on
    Monday, Feb. 9 and Tuesday, Feb. 10. The Rev. Wally Ryan-Kuroiwa, Executive Minister for the Economic Justice team in Cleveland will be the presenter for the summit.

    We are asking every church to send a delegate, and inviting all authorized clergy who are able to attend. At this event, we will build a long-range vision for Justice and Witness in the life of the Southwest Conference.

    More information will follow, but make plans now to select and send your delegate to this very important event in the life of the Conference. Scholarships to help cover costs will be available for those who need it.

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    Three Things from Church Council

    Church Council met Monday December 15 at 7PM in the Fellowship Hall of Encanto Community Church. Here are the three things you need to know about that meeting.

    1) We had a very fruitful conversation about the presence of previous pastors at memorial services at the church. I will update this post later with the official language of the resolution that Council passed, but the general thrust of it was that previous pastors who have served this congregation may be attendance at memorial services for church members, provided that they inform the current pastor that they are planning on attending. Further, at the request of the family and with the direction of the current pastor, previous pastors who have served the congregation will be allowed to participate in memorial services.

    2) Council has agreed to make January 2009 History Month at Encanto Community Church. We have a wonderful plan for a really fun way to tell our story and dive into our own congregational history over the course of the month of January. More details to follow in future newsletter articles, pulpit announcements, and blog posts! But please start collecting any pictures (particularly older pics) that you might have of the church, church events, or church people.

    3) The next All Church Work Day will be January 24th.

    Three things from the Trustees Meeting

    The Trustees met Monday December 15 at 6PM, here at the Encanto Community Church. Here are the three things you need to you from that meeting:

    1) We had extended conversation about new "No Parking" signs to go in on the church side of Windsor Avenue, replacing the ones the city recently removed. Del will follow-up with the city about the signs which are to read "No Parking at Any Time".

    2) The large pine tree at the parsonage will be trimmed.

    3) We discussed re-painting the sanctuary (both the water damage on the ceiling as well as the front walls) as well re-painting the interior of the Church House. The conversation will be revisited after the Christmas Holidays.

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Three Things from the Deacon's Meeting

    Time to kick-off a new running feature on the blog: The Three Things You Need to Know From...

    As I attend different meetings in the life of the church, this running feature will keep you informed on what is going on at Encanto Community Church. I'll do my best to add a post just like this one for every single committee meeting that I attend in the life of the church. And I'll try to post it no later than one day after the meeting!

    So without further ado, The Three Things You Need to Know From The Deacon's Meeting!
    1) We have made plans and begun assigning parts for the Christmas Eve Worship Service, which will be held at 7:30 PM on Wednesday December 24th in our sanctuary. Won't you please joins us!

    2) It will be a service of lessons and carols, with different Deacons reading the scriptural story of Christ's birth and we as the congregation joining our voices with the choirs of angels (and the Encanto Community Church Choir...our local batch of the angelic chorus!) to sing our glad tidings and songs of praise. So really, please join us!

    3) Laity Sunday will January 18th and Cindy and Jane will be heading up that service.

    Tonight the Trustees and the Church Council will meet, so I'll give you a similar 3-point recap tomorrow of those important meetings in the life of the congregation.

    In Bethlehem Inn

    Yesterday the children and youth of Encanto Community Church presented the Christmas Play during our Sunday morning worship service. It was, in a word, wonderful.

    But it deserves so much more than just one word, so here we go...

    The children and youth, along with their adult sponsors worked so hard to put together this wonderful retelling of the Christmas Story. "In Bethlehem Inn" is written by John Carter and it is a funny, poignant, moving retelling of the birth of Christ from the perspective of the Inn Keeper, his wife, and their dutiful (if not altogether helpful) staff. It made for a meaningful service in which the congregation was inspired all over again and God was praised throughout. Plus, they passed out cookies half-way through the performance! How great is that!

    I'd like to thank Ted, Jenna, Abi, Ali, Chloe, Chase, Matthew, and Melanie for all the hard work they put in rehearsing their parts, memorizing their lines, and learning their cues. You all did a marvelous job and I'm grateful. I'd also like to thank Kathy who produced and directed the show as well as the slew of other adults (co-producers all) who helped make it possible.

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Welcome to the Blog

    Greetings friends, family, church members, and general internet surfers!

    Welcome to my professional blog, which is currently running in conjunction with the website for the Encanto Community Church a United Church of Christ Congregation in the historic Willo Neighborhood, smack in the middle of it all in Phoenix, Arizona. I am the Rev. Brian Frederick-Gray and it is my great honor to serve as the Intentional Interim Pastor at the Encanto Community Church. If you managed to find this page without using the church website, then please check us out at

    Since this is my first post on this blog, it makes sense to set the expectations. Like I said, this is my professional blog. Which means if you are coming here to download all the latest pictures of my son Henry (aka "the world's cutest toddler") then you are in the wrong place. Truth be told, we've become rather lackluster in our picture taking lately, and there really isn't a place to see all the latest Henry photos because there really aren't that many Henry photos...but I digress.

    The blog will be a place to keep up with the latest church news and hear about decisions, meetings, events, and upcoming stuff at the Encanto Community Church. It will also be a place for me to post some of the latest links from the UCC (if you haven't found the United Church of Christ's national website then you have to check out, it is one of the best websites around; and I know I am biased, but whatever, click on the link). I'll also be running a regular blog post called, "What I'm reading this week" which will be a place for me to post links to some of the fun things I'm spending my time keeping up with -- things like articles I've come across for my sermon prep, nifty prayers, the latest from Sojourners, and whatever else tickles my fancy that week (though I promise to keep the fantasy basketball articles to a minimum). I'll also be reprinting the "I've been thinking about..." column from the backpage of the Encanto Community Church Sunday bulletin here too; mostly because I can't think of a better place to post those.

    With any luck this will be a fun place to check-up on the church, keep up with Encanto Community Church news, and find something interesting to read (if not here, then at least through a link or two). I'll do my best to post a couple of times a week. If there are features or stories you would like to see included in the blog, feel free to post it in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you and if you are in the Phoenix area, we would love to have you join us for worship one Sunday morning at the Encanto Community Church -- we're at 2710 North 7th Avenue; just south of Thomas and right around the corner from Phoenix College and St. Joseph's Hospital. For an easy map just click here.

    Rev. Brian