Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Give Thanks for Wordles!

On Thanksgiving Sunday we lifted up the blessings that we are thankful for. Like Wordles!

For the full sermon manuscript you can visit the church website here. Or to see the entire Wordle image click on the picture below.

I've been thinking about...

The Doorway Prayer.

It is a simple spiritual discipline about thankfulness, and one that just might turn your assumptions about prayer on their ear. You see, prayer does not have to be something done in silence or quiet meditation; limited to those times when we can get away from the world, bow our heads, and close our eyes. Prayer can and should happen all the time. The Doorway Prayer is one way of doing that.

Here is what you do: Find a time when you are up and around and active. It can be when you are busy at work, cleaning the house, running errands, or even coming in and out of church. Just make sure it is a time when you are walking around and have to go from room to room.

Then, each time you go through a doorway say a quick word of thanks to God for something good in your life. Every doorway equals one thing you are thankful for. Make sure you are as specific as possible. Don’t just say “For my family” when you can name specific family members, or “For the weather” when you can say dozens of lovely things about cooler temperatures.

Do this for every doorway you go through, every time you go through it. If you go from one room, through a hallway to another room, that is two doorways and two quick words of thanks to God. If you walk through a doorway, forget what you were going to do, turn back around, then remember what it was and walk back through it again then that is three doorways and three quick words of thanks. Begin by doing this practice for an hour a day, then slowly add more and more time until eventually you are able to do it for an entire day. You will be surprised how many doorways you walk through, and how many things you have to be truly thankful for.

Yours in the Journey, Rev. Brian

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Transition and Transformation Wordle

Throughout my ministry at Encanto, I've periodically preached about the fundamental thing before us in our Interim Time together – change. Specifically the cycle of change, transition, and transformation. Today is another one of those days. A reminder of sorts, but one brought about by the new developments in the life of our church – the Search Committee formally submitting our Congregational Profile to the denomination, the advent of our Transition Fund, the lovely smiling faces of the new members we welcomed into full fellowship here at the Encanto Community Church last week. We've got change all around us, it would seem. So it seemed a good time to touch base again.

Here is the Wordle for this Sunday's Sermon. For the full text, visit the church website. To see the full sized Wordle rendering, just click on the image below.

I've been thinking about...

...“The Parable of the Trapeze” by Danaan Parry.

It is just long enough that the whole story won’t fit in this space, so here is how it starts. We’ll get to ending in today’s sermon.

Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I'm either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I'm hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.

Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I'm in control of my life. I know most of the right questions and even some of the answers.

But every once in a while as I'm merrily (or even not-so-merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It's empty and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts I know that, for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar and move to the new one.

Each time it happens to me I hope (no, I pray) that I won't have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar and, for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar.

Each time, I am filled with terror. It doesn't matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing I have always made it. I am each time afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between bars. I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. So, for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of "the past is gone, the future is not yet here."

It's called "transition." I have come to believe that this transition is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Three Things from Church Council

Church Council met on Wednesday November 11, 2009. Here are the three things you need to know from that meeting.

  1. The Search Committee formally submitted the Congregational Profile to the Southwest Conference Office today! Which means they move on to the next step of receiving and reviewing information from pastors interested in serving as the next settled pastor here at Encanto! Thanks for the hard work Search Committee. And keep it up!

  2. We received an additional $6000 toward the Transition Fund.

  3. We intentionally spent the majority of the meeting talking about the work, structure, and future plans of Church Council after hearing a presentation based on Don Brewer's "Taking the Bored Out of the Board Meeting."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Family of Faith Wordle

Here is the Wordle from New Member Sunday at the Encanto Community Church. We were thrilled to welcome five new folks into full membership in the church...and even more thrilled when a throng of young children attached to the new members came up with them.

On New Member Sunday we talked about family. The family of faith. The ways that we are connected with one another. The ways that trust, promise, and intentionality trump mere genetics and a shared last name when it comes to being family. For the full manuscript of the sermon you can go to the website by clicking here. For the full version of the Wordle you can click on the image below. Enjoy!

I've been thinking about...

Turkey Tickets.

Ron Caputo (member of the Church of the Beatitudes UCC right up the street from us, and a frequent visitor here at Encanto) organizes the Community Turkey Drive. Thanks to Ron’s hard work behind the scenes and years of experience putting this effort together, a $5 donation will assure a family or person in need a turkey this Thanksgiving.

I’m please to announce that the Encanto Community Church is proud sponsor of the 2009 Community Turkey Drive. Which means that we have our own stack of tickets to sell! For the low, low price of $5 a piece, each ticket helps to assure that a family or individual will receive a turkey to help them celebrate Thanksgiving this year.

100% of your donation will benefit charitable agencies including families and individuals living with HIV/AIDS, Homeless Outreach, Domestic Violence Centers, Child Welfare Agencies, and Displaced Families. Your donation is tax deductible.

Let this Thanksgiving Season be a time to give thanks and help others. Thanks for supporting the 2009 Community Turkey Drive!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Benefiting Charities Include:
AGAPE Network
Joshua Tree
Compassion in Action
Southwest Behavioral Services
Path Homeless Service
Once A Month Church
Ebony House
St. Joseph, The Worker
Interfaith Cooperative Ministries
Strengthening Families
Fresh Start Women’s Foundation
Sojourner Center
De Colores Center
Area Agency on Aging
Southwest Key
Crisis Nursery
Homeward Bound
AZ Adoption and Foster Care

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Transition Fund

On Sunday November 1, 2009 we launched The Transition Fund in the life of the Encanto Community Church. Our Moderator Cindy Walley kicked off the campaign with the following words during a Moment for (our) Mission at the beginning of worship:

Hello friends,
As many of you know, our Church Council and Board of Trustees met about a month ago to discuss the status of our church’s fiscal health. It was a wonderful meeting, full of insightful ideas and enjoyable fellowship. As we looked ahead to the exciting future we reminisced about the distance we’ve traveled in the past 14 months.

Was it only a year ago that we joined together for that first (after so many years) church workday that set in motion the breathtaking renovations that have made our fellowship hall a showplace? We all created that transformation. How about this past January during Church History month? How great was it to contribute our memories to the decades posters in fellowship hall? It was a fun and, for many of us newer members, educational way to anticipate our future by understanding our past. We all created that step in the transition. Can any of you think of a more active and vibrant Youth Group than the one we have here at Encanto? Clearly our adult leadership is second to none but how about these kids? They not only learn about what it means to embrace Christ’s teachings and understand the beliefs of others but they have a blast doing it. And even better, they graciously invite all of us old fogies to come along for the rid!.

We all grow together, we all change together.

Here’s one more, our Search Committee has done exceptional work preparing, inquiring, organizing and compiling the mountain of information necessary to recruit, call and hire our permanent pastor. It is important and meaningful work as they include us as we bring about this biggest transition of all.

We’ve made so much progress in a little over a year’s time and we are right on target to move to the next step in this exciting transition, but what an interesting time for us to take this on. As we all know, virtually every family, every community organization, every arm of government is struggling with the current economic challenges facing this nation. Encanto Community Church is not immune. Those of us who carefully read the Pilgrim have seen that our financial health is not as robust as it once was. We are currently running about $3000.00 under budget per month. That is a substantial deficit but we can do something about it. We can join together, just as we have to create a wonderful physical facility, a loving and supportive church family and a strong and sustaining spiritual climate! We can join together to improve our fiscal well being at this key time in our church’s history!

Beginning today we are introducing our new Transition Fund. During the month of November it is our goal to raise the $50,000.00 necessary to continue our progress toward a permanent pastor and ultimately toward the unique and important work we at Encanto are being called to do. Let us do our best and let us do it together.

You will be receiving a follow-up letter from the Stewardship Committee with more details about The Transition Fund. To give to The Transition Fund please make your checks payable to Encanto Community Church with the note “Transition Fund” in the memo line. We’ll be making weekly updates at worship each Sunday in November. If you have any questions please feel free to speak with Pastor Brian or any member of the Church Council or Trustees. Thank you for you commitment and generosity in this important time in the life of the church!

Wordle: For All the Saints

On All Saints Sunday we lifted up the saints that we have known in our own lives. Those individuals who passed on the Christian faith to us and stand as a sterling example for us. For the full manuscript, visit the church's website here. Or to see the full Wordle simply click on the image below.

I've been thinking about...


I’ve always been partial to the definition in the Harper Collins Bible Dictionary. It reads:

Saints, persons distinct because of their relationship to God. In the Old Testament, two different Hebrew terms are commonly rendered by this English expression. One, derived from the word meaning “covenant faithfulness,” suggests that those who are so designated are bound closely to their God in love (eg Psalms 31:23, 148:14). The other, derived from the word for “holy,” identifies those so described as set apart and dedicated to the service of God (eg., Daniel 7:27). In both cases, the faithful of Israel are in view, and their “sainthood” consists in the relationship they bear to the God who has destined them for righteousness and salvation (Psalms 16:3, 132:9, 16).
The same associations are present in the New Testament, where “saints” always translates the Greek term for “the holy ones”...Thus, in Romans 1:6-7, the phrases “called to belong to Jesus Christ,” “God’s beloved,” and “called to be saints” are virtually synonymous.

On All Saints Sunday we celebrate those “holy ones.” The people of faith that we have known and looked up to. The ones that have helped us to understand the love of God and passed on their faith to us. Today let us remember the saints that we have known, and celebrate the blessings they have shown us.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian