Monday, April 27, 2009

Prove It! Wordle

Here is the Worlde version of this past Sunday's sermon on faith and doubt. For the full text visit the church's website, and to see the full sized Wordle just click on the image!

I've been thinking about...

...How God has blessed us.

At the Southwest Conference Annual Meeting this weekend each congregation was asked to present a brief statement about the ways God has blessed them in the past year. Here is the statement I presented on behalf of the Encanto Community Church:

At the Encanto Community Church God has blessed us with the strength and perseverance to not only wade into the Interim Process, but to dive headlong in and swim around in the renewing and transforming waters. We are busily about the Five Interim Tasks as we learn more about ourselves and discern the path that will lead us to the bright and vibrant future that God is preparing for us.

We have much that is new and exciting happening at our congregation; some as new as the latest technology like our beautiful new website and pastoral blog, others as old and deeply rooted as our faith itself like our Tuesday Noon Prayer Group that meets to pray for our church, our community, and our world. We marched in the Phoenix Pride Parade with our brothers and sisters from the UCC for the very first time, and it won’t be the last. We have seen tremendous congregational participation in our Work Days, our affirmative answers to our Nominating Committee, during January 2009 which we designated as “Church History Month” and in the exciting work of reclaiming our Education Wing and Stage.

This Easter season we are celebrating God’s gifts of life and love and witnessing to the power of new life that is all around us. Indeed we are thankful that resurrection is possible even for you, even for me, and especially for all the ways we are seeing it at the Encanto Community Church.
Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Three Things from Church Council

Church Council met on Monday April 20, 2009. Here are the three things you need to know from that meeting:

1) In an effort to keep people more informed and "in the loop" about the church's finances we will begin running a new regular feature in the newsletter that lists the monthly dollar amounts received and disbursed from the General Fund.

2) Kathy, Jane, John, and myself will serve on a Facilities Rental Task Force, in order to determine ways to "put our church building to use" in our community. You can expect to hear back regularly from this new group.

3) In preparing for our brief (ie two-minutes or less) presentation at the Conference Annual Meeting we answered the question, "How has God blessed the Encanto Community Church in the past year." Answers included: Getting our Fellowship Hall and Education Wing back, Calling Rev. Brian as our Interim Minister, Taking on the challenges and opportunities of the Interim Time with perseverance and strength, Two large financial bequests, Marching in the Phoenix Pride Parade, Tremendous congregational participation, and a New Website and Blog!

Phoenix Pride Parade 2009

It was the first time ever that the Encanto Community Church marched in the Phoenix Pride Parade. And it cannot be a coincidence that it was the first time that UCC Churches in the Southwest Conference all banded together to march side-by-side in solidarity with our GLBT friends. We had four folks from Encanto join up with another three-dozen or so fellow UCC-er's to march down 3rd Street and celebrate Phoenix Pride 2009. Here a handful of photos!

Here are the four of us (please note our hats, sunglasses, and bottles of water!) ready to march. Plans are already underway for next year and we know that we'll need: 1) An Encanto Banner; 2) A Float; and 3) More folks from the church! Thanks to John, Eric, and Jane for coming out and walking!Check out some of the great "God is still speaking" signs that the UCC marchers proudly displayed during the parade, including "Jesus didn't turn people away, neither do we", "All the people, all the time", "Gay and Christian", and of course a rainbow-colored comma.

As the parade ends at Steele Indian School Park (you can see the rainbow-colored balloon archway) the sidewalks are jammed pack with people coming out to support Phoenix Pride. It was a huge celebration filled with cheers, love and support. I couldn't be prouder of Encanto Community Church for being a part of it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"A Theology of Money" Wordle

Here is the Worlde version of Loyalty Sunday's sermon. For the full text visit the church's website, and to see the full sized Wordle just click on the image!

I've been thinking about...


On Loyalty Sunday we are committing to sharing our blessings (our finances, prayers, time, and talents) with the church and with the world. And when I think of all things theological, I turn to Frederick Buechner, a theologian, author, and humorist who writes:

The word 'blessing' has come to mean more often than not a pious formality such as ministers are continually being roped into giving at high school graduations, Rotarian wienie roasts and the like, and to say "God bless you" to a person, unless that person happens to have just sneezed, is generally regarded as pious eccentricity. It was not always so. In the biblical sense, if you give me your blessing, you irreversibly convey into my life not just something of the beneficent power and vitality of who you are but something also of the life-giving power of God in whose name the blessing is given. Even after old, half-blind Isaac discovered that he had been hoodwinked into blessing the wrong twin, he could no more take the blessing back and give it to Esau again than he could take the words of it out of the air and put them back into his mouth again.

This morning let us commit to sharing our blessings, and in so doing let us covenant to share the "life-giving power of God" that we have been so blessed to know and to be good stewards of.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Three Things You Should Know: Diacaonate

The Diaconate Board met on Sunday April 19th, and here are the three things you should know from that meeting.

1) We will celebrate May as "Identity Month" at Encanto Community Church that will include a four-part sermon series based on the church's mission statement -- Caring Christians Joined in Faith.

2) We reviewed all of the events and worship services from Holy Week and the Lenten Season.

3) In preparing for the Southwest Conference Annual Meeting, we answered the question "How has God blessed your church in the past year?"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"New Life" Wordle

Here is a Wordle rendering of my Easter Sermon. You can click on the pic to see the full sized image, or you can go to the Encanto Community Church website to see the full text, or if you are feeling really frisky you can go to to make your own!

I've been thinking about...

The Easter Prayer from the UCC Book of Worship.

And I’d like to use this space to share it with you, in hopes that you will make it your prayer as well.

God of ceaseless new beginnings, we rejoice that through your powerful love Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. In the resurrection you have shown that neither trouble nor persecution, hardship nor poverty, danger nor death can separate us from your love. Free us to trust in you that we may live in the confidence of your children.

In the resurrection you were victorious over sin, violence, and oppression. Free us to risk ourselves in the struggle for justice and peace that we may be your partners in restoring all creation to your will.

In the resurrection you have opened the gates of eternal life. Free us from the fear of death that we may serve you with courage.

In the resurrection you bring new possibilities out of hopeless situations. Free us from all despair that we may bring your hope to those who have lost heart.

Through the presence of Jesus Christ among us, draw us into a community of freedom, hope, and love. Work your new creation among us that we may serve you without fear. God Most Holy, God Most Loving, God Most Knowing we praise your name forever. Through Jesus our risen Christ and Savior. Amen.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Weekly Bibliography

UCC Leaders Hail Iowa Court Decision
Last week the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously decided to reject the ban on same-sex marriage in the state of Iowa. Find out what prominent United Church of Christ leaders had to say in support of the court's decision.

Who needs facebook? myUCC officially launched!
The United Church of Christ officially launched myUCC last week, a social networking site for UCC members. And yes, I am on it. Check out the article to learn more and get signed up.

The World God Loves
UCC General Minister and President John Thomas' Holy Week reflection on the love of God.

Earth Day Invitation for IPL
Interfaith Power and Light is an ecumenical campaign mobilizing a national religious response to global warming and promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation. They have branches in 29 states...and Arizona is not one of them. At least, not yet. Here is an invitation to take part in one of three statewide meetings with the hope of establishing Arizona's very own IPL chapter.

I've been thinking about...

Holy Week.

We are rapidly bringing our Lenten Observations to a close this week. Over the past few Sunday’s Christ has drawn closer and closer to Jerusalem, and finally today he arrives. Over the course of this week we will trace his steps in Jerusalem from his Triumphant Entry, to the Last Supper he shared with his Disciples in the upper room, to his death on the cross, and resurrection from the tomb.

Today we will observe the tradition of Palm/Passion Sunday. It is a combination of the Palm Sunday celebrations and the Passion Sunday tradition of liturgically anticipating and remembering Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. The UCC Book of Worship helpfully defines it like this:

Palm/Passion Sunday is the gateway to Holy Week. It is appropriate that both Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the full account of Christ’s passion, death, and burial be commemorated in the principal worship of the congregation of this day. Where this is not done, Christians are deprived of adequate preparation for the events of Holy Week, and those who attend only Sunday worship will experience a distorted transition from the triumph of Palm Sunday to the victory of East devoid of the reality of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.
So let us enter into this time of Holy Week, faithfully, prayerfully, and hopefully.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian