Monday, June 29, 2009

Wordle: An All-Encompassing Love

Here is this week's Wordle rendering of the sermon. For the full text, you can click here. Or to see a fullsized version of the graphic representation of the sermon then click on the picture.

I've been thinking about...

General Synod.

It is the every-other-year National Gathering of the United Church of Christ and it is going on RIGHT NOW in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The festivities kicked off on Friday afternoon with an Opening Celebration and will formally conclude on Tuesday night with Closing Worship.

We are fortunate to have seven wonderful representatives from throughout the Southwest Conference serving as our General Synod Delegates. It is their job to faithfully consider the opportunities, initiatives, and business items being presented at General Synod.

And it is our job to support them!

Below you will find the names of our seven Synod Delegates as well as their home churches. We prayed for them each individually at our Tuesday Prayer Group, and I would like for you to lift them up in your prayers this week. Pray that they might feel God’s presence at the Synod. Pray that they might faithfully discern God’s good work for the church. And pray that they might return home safely, bringing the energy and enthusiasm of Synod back to us in the SW Conference.

Please pray for:
Caryn Bird, First Congregational Church, Tempe,
Michael-Ann Veziroglu, Desert Palm UCC, Tempe
Susan Stevens Whitney, Casas Adobes UCC, Tucson
Pat Dunn, St. Paul's UCC, Rio Rancho, NM
Barbara Decker, Southwest Conference Staff
Alissa Marquis, United Church of Santa Fe
Davin Franklin-Hicks, First Cong. Church, Tucson

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Monday, June 22, 2009

Three Things from Deacon's

The Diaconate met on Sunday June 21, 2009. Here are the three things you need to know from that meeting:

1) We thoroughly discussed the policies and procedures for accessing the Deacon's Fund. Please know that the Deacon's Fund exists to "aid members of the Encanto Community Church in times of crisis or catastrophe". Please contact me directly for more information.

2) We went over the summer worship schedule, including the three Sundays in August (2, 16, and 23) when I will be out of the pulpit.

3) The Diaconate had their officer elections. Jane will serve as Chair, Betty will be Secretary, and Tom will serve as Treasurer of the Deacon's Fund. Thank you all for your dedicated service!

"In the Boat Together" Wordle

Here this weeks wordle rendering of Sunday's sermon, but unlike most weeks I'm going to post a whole slew of links along with it. It is because I dedicate several pages in the sermon manuscript to the upcoming UCC General Synod in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I also lead off the sermon by talking about the "Immerse Yourself" photo mosaic project. And since websites let you do things that sermons and pictures don't, I' m going to post several internet links here to supplement the text.

For the full sermon text, click here.
To see the fullsize Wordle, just click on the picture.

The "Immerse Yourself" Photo Mosaic

The UCC General Synod Homepage

To Follow General Synod Live from the comforts of your computer

To Learn more about Rev. Geoffrey Black, Nominee for UCC General Minister and President

I've been thinking about...

The Church Archives.

Or should I say, “The Recently Returned Church Archives.”
We owe a great debt of thanks to Phoebe Wilson (Gwen Vowles’ daughter) who has been housing and organizing our church archives for years. About two weeks ago Phoebe asked me if the church would be willing to take back the archives and house them inside the church building, and a couple of days later Phoebe met me here at the church with a car full of documents, pictures, and official records detailing the life and history of the Encanto Community Church. It is AMAZING!

Presently, the Church Archives are contained in five 12-gallon industrial plastic bins. That is 60-gallons of history! (Okay, fine, maybe you don’t measure history that way, but nonetheless it is a tremendous collection; heavy too!)

At Church Council’s consent, the five bins have been moved downstairs to the basement where they currently sit on the top two shelves in one of the closets. One of my goals for the summer is to go through those bins and finish off some of the good organizational work that Phoebe started. My hope is to catalog the contents of each of those bins so that we might know exactly what pieces of our history and heritage we have ready and waiting for us. I also hope to liberate some old photos and memorabilia to display around the church.

Remember, one of our Interim Tasks is “to take seriously the stories and history of the church.” What better way to do that than to sort through our recently returned archives! If anyone would like to give me a hand with the project, just let me know! Thanks for your help, and thank you to Phoebe!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Three Things from Church Council

Church Council met on Monday evening June 15. Here are the three things you should know from that meeting.

1) We will host our "Justice and Witness Ministries Listening Session" on Sunday September 20, 2009. This is a one-hour event that we will host at the church at the invitation of the Conference Justice and Witness Committee's invitation. We'll spend more time talking about the event over the summer and as we get closer to the date, but know that it comes out of a hope and desire from the Conference to build on the strength of our churches and discern our future together working for God's justice in the world.

2) Church Council will sponsor a "Faith and Family Night" outing with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday September 18th. Join your church friends for a fun night out as we root together for the Diamondbacks against the Rockies. See the sign-up sheet in Fellowship Hall for all the details.

3) The meeting was done in an hour! You've got to love a well-organized, largely report-free Summer-time meeting.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Growing in the Faith Wordle

Parables are those short stories that use earthly examples to display for us the very radical nature of the Kingdom of God. And they have a nature of turning our world upside down. Such is the case with these weeks sermon based on the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

So it only seemed fitting that this week's Wordle refelct the theme. Which is to say, "Yes, I know the picture is upside down."

For the full text of the sermon, "Growing in the Faith" then just click here. Or to see the fullsized image then click on the picture below. Or if you really want to have fun, then head over to and make your own images!

I've been thinking about...


Specifically last Sunday’s Youth Group Bowling Trip to Christown Lanes.
Our youth are using the summer as a time of fun and fellowship, and they have filled their calendar with all sorts of exciting events. And bowling was just the most recent.

After last Sunday’s Trustees meeting I popped in to see how things were going (okay, and to eat a plate a nachos; I can’t help myself, discount nacho cheese from a can is one of my deepest temptations!). There they were, taking up three whole lanes with bumper bowling for the youngest of the group, an observation deck for the spectating family members, and Vickie Bauer beating everyone (honestly, she bowled a 180 the first game, and was trying to talk me in to bowling a frame; I think she may have been trying to hustle me for gas money, but I’m not sure!).

It was great to see our youth, their families, and advisors hanging out, enjoying each others company, and sharing the kinds of bonds that we truly value as a church.

They will have several other upcoming fellowship activities this summer, including a Phoenix Mercury lock-in this Friday, a Movie on Sunday June 5, the Willow Lake Fishing Trip on July 11, Water Park Day at Big Surf on August 9. It is a full summer, and that is without even mentioning all the folks we have heading off to church camp this summer!

Our youth have a great summer if I could just find a way to get a plate of nachos at every event...

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Here I Am! Wordle

Here is a Wordle rendering of last Sunday's sermon, a homily really, based on Isaiah's prophetic vision in the temple. For the full text of the sermon, click here. For the full sized Wordle, just click on the picture.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Weekly Bibliography

I'm going to need to tweak the title of this recurring feature, since it isn't actually recurring as often as the title might indicate. Anyway, here are some of the things I've been reading (and doing) on-line lately.

New UCC News Feeds on the Encanto Website
I've added a news feed section to the website. It is a self-updating RSS feed, which means this page will change and upload new stories and links as soon as they are available. It is a great way for folks to stay in the loop with things going on in the wider world of the United Church of Christ.

UCC justice leader decries Tiller murder
Here is just one example from the UCC News Feed: Sandy Sorensen, the UCC's Washington-based Justice and Witness Ministries minister and team leader, has issued a statement regarding the killing of Dr. George Tiller.

Annual Report of the National Setting of the United Church of Christ
Speaking of the wider world of the UCC, here is the online version of the Annual Report from the UCC. It includes video clips, plenty of photos, and our denominational leaders telling you in their own words what they are up to in the name of serving the Lord. Make sure to click all the way to the end (about 5 clicks, really) for the invitation to share your own videos or stories about how the UCC has changed your life.

The Journey with Jesus: Notes to Myself
I have linked to Dan Clendenin's blog before, but since I opened the sermon with an extended quote from his essay, it feels right to link to him again. Bookmark his site and comeback often, or just check to make sure I didn't misquote him.

Immerse Yourself Photo Mosaic
Lots of UCC links today, but this one is my favorite. The UCC has created a photo mosaic for General Synod 27 in order to share all the ways that UCC members and friends immerse themselves in life, love, ministry, justice and more! Well...I'M IN THE MOSAIC! I can't tell you how excited I am! Right in the middle (the right leg of the second "M", second photo down) with Lee, Phil, Liana, and Barb at the Clergy-vs-Youth Softball Game. Just look for this photo, right here...

Three Things from the Trustees

The Trustees met early this month! Here are the three things you need to know from that meeting, which occurred on Sunday June 7:

1) We picked up several items of old business and were able to wrap them up. This included paying for the painting in Fellowship Hall (doesn't it look great!), renewing the lease at the parsonage, and a report from the burgeoning Facilities Rental Task Force.

2) After much discussion of costs and various plans, we settled on an annual maintenance plan for the office copy machine.

3) We elected officers. Del will continue as the Chair of Trustees and as such will serve as the Trustees representative at the Church Council Meetings (Jane will fill in for him on the times when he cannot this month!). Betty will step down as Secretary (and we owe Betty a great debt of gratitude for serving so admirably as our Secretary! Thank you Betty!) and Jill will step in as our new Secretary for the Trustees (thank you Jill!).

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pentecost Wordle

Here is a Wordle version of my Pentecost sermon, "The Blessing of Understanding." The miracle of the gift of the Holy Spirit (not just to the first disciples, but to each and every one of us ever since) stands directly in line with the gifts and blessings from the story of the Tower of Babel.

That's right, I said blessings from the Tower of Babel.

If God sanctified and blessed understanding through the story of Pentecost, then God sanctified and blessed the gifts of diversity and difference through the story of the Tower of Babel.

Want to read the full text, then click right here. Want to see a bigger version of the Wordle, then just click on the image below.

I've been thinking about...


Though it is a dated resource now, I do enjoy the way Kenneth Scott Latourette describes the significance of Pentecost for Christians in the first volume of his master work A History of Christianity.

The disciples, not only the eleven but also the larger circle who had been won by Jesus in the days of his flesh, were further strengthened and empowered by the fulfillment of a promise which had been given them by their risen Lord. On Pentecost, the Jewish feast which came fifty days after the second day of Passover, there came upon the group in Jerusalem...what they called Holy Spirit. It was that occasion to which a large proportion of later Christians looked back as the birthday of the Christian Church. The continuing presence of the Holy Spirit was regarded by Christians as an essential feature of their life and faith...The effects of the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples were and are of major importance. From discouraged, disillusioned men and women who sadly looked back upon the days when they had hoped that Jesus “was he who should redeem Israel,” they were made over into a company of enthusiastic witnesses.

Happy birthday, Church. Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian