Monday, March 30, 2009

Wordle: Get Ready

Here is a Wordle of this past Sunday's sermon. To see a larger version of the pic, just click on it. To see the full text of the sermon click here. To make your own, go to

I've been thinking about...

...the stage in Fellowship Hall.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, you simply have to run over to Fellowship Hall (I mean it, run, don’t walk; you don’t want to miss this!) immediately after service and see the marvelous difference it makes in that space to have our stage completely reclaimed!
Those big beautiful windows letting all that golden natural light pour in! The openness and warmth that it brings! All the stories of Christmas Pageants Past that it brought back for so many! It is a like a whole new Fellowship Hall...or perhaps more accurately more like the old Fellowship Hall.

Many thanks are due to Kathy and Steve, Kathy and Ed (and Ed’s brother), and Del for the hard work they put in removing the built-in closets and restoring our stage. It was no easy job, and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.

I’ve been thinking about the stage because it is such a striking metaphor for the work we are doing through our interim time together — breaking down old walls, rediscovering old stories and lost treasures from our past, letting new light shine into the church in exciting and glorious ways, looking out into the world to discover the places we are called to serve, and preparing this church (building, people, and all) for the brightness of the future that God has in store.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Weekly Bibliography

Here's a running list of some of the interesting things I've been reading this week on the web:

Information about Rev. Geoffrey Black
Unanimously approved by the Executive Council of the United Church of Christ
The UCC will elect a new General Minister and President this Summer at the General Synod in June. This past week Rev. Geoffrey Black (currently serving as New York Conference Minister) was unanimously confirmed by the 90-member Executive Council to be the candidate for General Minister and President. Follow these two links to learn more about Rev. Geoffrey Black.

Youth and Young Adult Interim Report
How do put together a Youth and Young Adult Report in today's world? Youtube, of course! Watch this fascinating report from our Interim Minister for Youth and Young Adults where our young people answer the questions: What does God dream for you? What does God hope for the United Church of Christ?

Rev. Kate Huey's Weekly Seeds
Weekly Seeds is a wonderful, recurring column from that gives an indepth reflection on Sunday's sermon scriptures. This week the article focuses on Jeremiah's reflection on the new covenant that "will be written on our hearts". Even though I didn't preach on the text, it is well worth reading...and bookmarking so that you can come back each week.

Vicar of Dibley Jokes
The sermon started this week with a reference from the 90's British sitcom "The Vicar of Dibley" including the end-jokes that followed the credits on every single episode. Here is a 10-minute YouTube collection of some of the best of those jokes. Enjoy.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wordle: So Loved

Here is a Wordle rendering of this Sunday's sermon, which was based on John 3:14-22.

You can see a larger version of the pic if you click on it. Or if you would prefer to see the sermon in a more readable fashion, you can find the full text of it available on the church's website.

I've been thinking about...


How can you not be, right? With a recession at hand, federal bailouts underway, and a furor growing over the bonuses received by AIG execs, it seems like everyone is talking about money.

Which makes it a strange, yet important time for two of our annual special events to coincide. Today during service we will receive our One Great Hour of Sharing special offering. One Great Hour of Sharing supports international programs of health, education, and agricultural development as well as worldwide disaster relief efforts and refugee assistance.

Immediately after service we will have our Annual Budget Presentation. Church leaders have been working hard to put together a thorough financial plan for the next 12-months in the life of our congregation. Indeed, a budget is the most telling autobiographical statement we put together as a church — it reflects our values, our commitments, and the actual mission projects we find so important to our church that we commit to share our resources with them. Where our money goes, so goes our heart, our energy, and our church.

So in these challenging financial times, let us pause to consider the worthy causes that are before us. The worldwide mission of One Great Hour of Sharing, and the faithful planning and support of our local congregation!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Friday, March 20, 2009

Weekly Bibliography

One Great Hour of Sharing. A national clergy survey. A new book from the UCC Justice and Witness Ministries. A favorite article on God's love. And more college hoops than I care to publically admit. Here's a sampling of the things I'm reading this week.

The UCC's One Great Hour of Sharing Website
We will collect our OGHS Special Offering this Sunday. In preparing for the service and writing a sermon inspired by OGHS, I've been frequenting the website, reading over the stories and reports, and feeling proud that the UCC is one of the denominational partners who makes this worldwide outreach ministry possible.

The Results from the Protestant Clergy Voices Survery
Just how liberal or conservative are Mainline Protest Church Members? And how does that compare with their pastors? And how about UCC pastors in particular? Follow the link and take a look!

I've Ordered Mine. Have you ordered yours? The Public Policy Briefing Book.
"Due to popular demand, Justice and Witness Ministries (JWM), partnering with Wider Church Ministries (WCM), revives a highly respected ecumenical resource, the 2009-2010 Public Policy Briefing Book. JWM and WCM are pleased to share this helpful tool in hopes that it will be a useful instrument for individuals or congregations to engage in the justice and peace movement. Inside the briefing book you will find tips for congregational advocacy, in-depth coverage of the U.S. financial crisis and the Iraq War, and issue-by-issue coverage of domestic and international concerns likely to be acted on during this two-year session of Congress."

"Life and Light" by Dan Clendenin from his "Journey With Jesus" Blog
This is an article from a couple of years ago, that I come back to now and then. It happens to draw from John 3 (this Sunday's
lectionary text) and gets an extended quote in the sermon. In case you want to read the entire article (about the nature of God's love and the ways it transforms us) here it is.

The Official NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Site

Come on, folks! It is March Madness! And the Sun Devils have already advanced past the first round! Even if you haven't kept up at all this whole year, you have to be excited about men's college basketball now, righ?!?

Three Things You Need to Know from Church Council

Church Council met on Monday night, March 16, 2009. Here are the three things you need to know from that meeting.

1) The Budget has been constructed and Cindy will lead the Budget Presentation on Sunday March 22nd immediately following the worship service. Given the loss of income from the building rental to the Academy (now that they have officially closed) and the current economic situation it is going to be a challenging budget, but with faith in God and the commitment of the church we can make it happen!

2) The Stewardship Letter is being workshopped and will be mailed following the Budget Presentation. As such, Loyalty Sunday (when we turn in our pledge cards) was officially set for April 19th. Service will be followed by an ice-cream social that day. So bring your pledge card and get an ice-cream sundae!

3) The nominating committee was (more or less) finalized and will have their first meeting on Sunday March 29th after the worship service. You can look forward to hearing from them in the coming weeks!

Three Things You Need to Know from Trustees

The Trustees met on Monday evening, March 16, 2009. Here are the three things you need to know from that meeting.

1) We had an in depth conversation about the state of the finances at the Encanto Community Church, including our financial future now that the Academy is no longer renting the building, the hit our carry-over balance from 2008 has taken in the first two months of 2009, and plans for the future financial health of the congregation.

2) Discussed the "Finances" page of the new wedding guidelines including the difference in fees for members versus non-members.

3) A new paint color has picked for Fellowship Hall (note: in the meantime since the meeting the stage has been reclaimed, flooding the Fellowship Hall with natural light from the three re-exposed windows; helping to make our refurbishment of Fellowship Hall that much more eye popping).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Deacons Three Things You Should Know

The Diaconate Board met on Sunday March15. Here are the three things you should know from that meeting:

1) April 5th will be Palm/Passion Sunday. We will walk through the entire story of Mark's telling of the Passion of Christ. PLEASE NOTE: Even though this is a first Sunday we will not be celebrating communion during worship, but will instead break bread together on...

2) ...Maundy Thursday. Our Maundy Thursday events will include the Soup Supper at 6PM (organized by the Church Council, see the sign-up sheet in the Fellowship Hall) and Tenebrae Worship Service at 7PM which will include a full service of communion.

3) Easter Sunday is April 12th and the Deacons will provide an Easter Breakfast here at the church starting at 8:30 AM that morning, leading us to the celebration of Christ's Resurrection and God's gift of life with worship at 10AM.

RE's Three Things You Should Know

The Religious Education Board met on Sunday March 15. Here are the three things you should know from that meeting:

1) The Yard Sale is coming up Saturday April 4th. This is the major fundraiser for our youth group, and we need your gently used donatable items to sell! The sale will run from 7AM to 3PM.

2) The Easter Egg Hunt will take place during Church School on Easter Sunday, April 12th. Please bring your non-chocolate (it melts) candy donations to help us stuff our Easter Eggs for our church school kids.

3) The Ice Cream Social will be April 19th immediately following the worship service. Come cool off with your friends at the Encanto Community Church, and enjoy some delicious icecream while you are at it!

Getting Angry Wordle

Another sermon preached, another Wordle document on the blog!

Here is a Wordle of March 15's sermon. Remember, you can see the fullsize image by clicking on the picture, or you can read the entire sermon by clicking on this link.

I’ve Been Thinking about...

...One Great Hour of Sharing.

It is our annual special offering on behalf of the UCC to carry out God’s mission of love and hope throughout the world. We will receive our OGHS offering next Sunday. Here is what their website has to say about OGHS...

Through One Great Hour of Sharing, United Church of Christ members reach out in the name of Christ to:

* Build sustainable communities. OGHS supports self-help programs in more than 80 nations to build sustainable communities that enable people and communities to stand against and rise above hunger, disease, illiteracy, and other forces of injustice that deny and destroy dignity.

* Respond to disasters. OGHS provides emergency and long-term assistance to people in the aftermath of hurricanes, tornados, storms, floods, tidal waves, fires, explosions, technological disasters, civil strife, war, or other natural or human-caused events. On average, OGHS responds to a disaster once every 2.5 days.

* Minister to refugees. OGHS responds with advocacy and help, hope and hospitality for people who have been uprooted from their home of origin. More than 30 million of the world's people are uprooted at any given time.

Thanks for your support of this special offering!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Clean-up day!

My thanks to everyone who helped make our most recent All Church Clean-up Day so successful. From the basement to the upstairs to the cradle corner and everywhere in between folks were working hard to reclaim our space!

Now that the Academy has moved out of our Education Wing, we have the ENTIRE building back, and are busy making the space our own again. How exciting! Here are a couple of photos of just a little bit of the work that went on:

Carolyn and Ruthann scrub down the back nursery.

Ted and Matthew do some heavy lifting in the old playground.

Jill and Cindy scrape up glue and debris from the newly de-carpeted basement floor.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I've been thinking about...


Round Rock, Texas and Dallas, Texas to be more geographically precise.

I’ve been in Texas this past week on vacation; visiting family, seeing old friends, and enjoying some time away to recharge and rest up.

It has me thinking about how thankful I am for the many blessings God has rained down upon me. Here are three:

I am thankful to the congregation for granting me this time away...especially this particular week. My niece Julia celebrated her third birthday and her baby brother Daniel celebrated his first. I am so glad that Susan, Henry, and I were able to celebrate it with them!

I am also thankful for the Rev. Skip Hughes who will be bringing the word this morning, and preaching the gospel from the pulpit.

I am also thankful for Lyle Riley who led our Tuesday Prayer Group. It does my heart well to know that the ministries of this church are shared and fulfilled by so many gifted and willing saints of God.

I will be returning late in the afternoon on Monday, around 5PM if all things go as planned and we don’t run into unexpected delays. I’ll be leading the Tuesday Prayer Group and preaching next Sunday’s sermon. I hope to see you then, if not before!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Remember Your Baptism Wordle

I'm doing some catching up after a week's vacation in Texas. It means this sermon is about 2 weeks getting up on the web. Sorry for the delay.

Here is a Wordle of March 1's sermon. Remember, you can see the fullsize image by clicking on the picture, or you can read the entire sermon by clicking on this link.

I've been thinking about...

...My Wii Fit.

Don’t know what that is? It is a videogame system. Yes, that is right, your Interim Minister is thinking about Video Games. And don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have plenty of other things to think about or that I don’t have plenty of work here in our interim time together to keep busy.

You see, the Wii Fit is a particular kind of video game system….one that actually uses your own body’s movements to control the characters on the tv screen as much as (honestly, more than) the mashing of buttons on some handheld controller.

It is the latest craze, and it is a lot of fun, and what’s more, it actually does what the name implies: It helps to keep you fit. As in, in shape and exercising. Which is just what I need, because I’m using this space to publicly commit to my own Lenten Devotional for the these next 40-days — I’m going to give up a significant chunk of my time every single day in order to workout. And the Wii Fit is going to help me!

Lenten Devotions are not a new thing. The tradition derives from Christ’s time of prayer and preparation in the wilderness before the start of his public ministry. But a more modern twist on the practice has been actually taking on something that is good for you over the forty days rather than just giving up a vice that is bad. Personally, I rotate year-by-year, giving up something one year and taking on something new the next year. This is a “taking on something new” year and I’ve decided it is going to be exercising every single day.

So what are you committed to for Lent? What will you be giving up, taking on, or working on during the next 40-days that you too might be prepared for the joyous celebration of Easter Sunday?

Yours in the Journey, Rev. Brian