Thursday, December 17, 2015

Whiteboard: Almost There

We'll celebrate Christmas Sunday at First Christian Church this Sunday!

There will be singing, praying, words of Holy Scripture, and...THE BELL CHOIR! It is going to be an amazing worship service and I hope that you are able to join us.

This Sunday is the Fourth (and final) Sunday of Advent, which means it is the Sunday of Love. Advent is the season of preparation -- the time of getting ready, recognizing the the things that we are lacking, and working to make them real as we eagerly anticipate the celebration of Christ's birth.

So this season we have talked about Hope and Peace and Joy and now this Sunday we get the biggest reminder yet of what the Reign of Christ and the Kingdom of God is all about...Love!

Christ came down to Earth to reveal the fullness of God's love for creation. So this Sunday we will celebrate the love of God as we prepare our hearts once more to welcome him through the celebration of his birth at Christmas!

Photos: 2015 Christmas Cantata

There are so many people to thank, so here we go…

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Last Sunday’s Christmas Cantata was absolutely incredible! In a remarkable year for our church the Christmas Cantata was a true highlight.

So we need to say “Thank you!” to Sandi Defeo, our Director of Music Ministries and the driving force behind the entire Cantata.

“Thank you!” to the Chancel Choir members who have been rehearsing the Cantata since August and have been rehearsing overtime for the last two months (literally, our Wednesday Rehearsals have been longer these last several weeks so that we could keep working on our parts).

“Thank you!” to our 11-piece orchestra (Tavit, Al, Max, David, Isidora, Patricia, Xiaolin, Maria Luciana, Dominique, Kate, and Parker), with an extra “Thank you!” going to Tavit for helping to recruit so many of those amazing musicians thanks to his connections at ASU.

“Thank you!” to Scott Eubanks for being our narrator, Carrie Phillips for staffing the soundboard during the worship service, and Melissa Lehrer for running sound production during the Canata itself.

“Thank you!” to everyone who attended worship on Sunday – it was so great to see the sanctuary completely filled for a Sunday morning worship service – and an extra “Thank you!” to everyone who shared the word about the Cantata by inviting friends, neighbors, colleagues and family members. 

"Thank you!" to Marilyn Lagesse and John Johnson who took so many wonderful pictures of the day. You'll find a small sample of them below. You can see the entire album on the Church's Facebook page or by clicking here

One last special “Thank you!” to Jacque Musser who stood up at the end of the service and testified, “I’ve been a member of this church for 50 years and that was the most inspirational service I’ve ever seen!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Whiteboard: Cantata

This Sunday marks the Third Sunday of Advent which makes it the Sunday of Joy!

And what a great joy it will be to share our 2015 Christmas Cantata with the congregation during our worship service!

We will be singing the story of Christ's birth through "Let the Whole World Sing" a beautiful Cantata written by Joel Raney. The Cantata will feature our Chancel Choir who will be joined by an 11-member orchestra all under the direction of Director of Music Ministries Sandi DeFeo.
"We Celebrate the Christmas Season united as one kingdom of believers. Enjoy the music from a Celtic lilt, to African rhythms, through the Caribbean style as well as the traditional to create an interesting and fresh retelling of the Christmas story."
See you Sunday! Trust me when I say: You don't want to miss this one!

Three Things: Annual Congregational Meeting

The Members of First Christian Church Scottsdale met on Sunday December 6, 2015 immediately after the Worship Service for our Annual Congregational Meeting. Here are "The Three Things" you should know from that meeting.

  1. Our Slate of Officers, Ministry Chairs, and Elders was unanimously approved!
    I am grateful to our Nominiating Committee, their prayerful process, and their tireless work in putting together such an excellent slate of leaders for our church for the coming year. Thank you to everyone who answered the call to service in our congregation and on behalf of the Lord. I am equally overjoyed to share the good news that we filled every single position in the leadership structure of our church!
  2. Our balanced Budget for 2016 was unanimously approved!
    What a blessing that our Stewardship Campaign has fully funded a growing budget for our congregation! As I shared on Sunday, our budget is growing because our ministries are growing. The 2016 Budget now includes line items for the Summer Adventures In Learning Program, pay increases for our church staff and musicians, and increased dollars to help us continue to communicate our church's story with our members. Last year we dreamed big dreams at FCC Scottsdale and in the year to come we'll be living into that dream together!
  3. The Church that Prays Together, Stays Together!
    We closed the meeting with a word of prayer and I hope that you will continue to keep our church, her leaders, and our budget in your prayers. Please pray that all that we do and all that we are will truly be done to the glory of God and in service to Jesus Christ. The blessings that we have are gifts from God and our deepest hopes and ambitions as a church family are to be in line with God's hopes and dreams for us. So keep praying for our congregation in the coming year that we might be blessed in order to be a blessing. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Whiteboard: The Sunday of Peace

We need this Sunday now more than ever.

The Second Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Peace, and in a world that feels anything but peaceful right now, we need this Sunday more than ever.

With political rhetoric ratcheted up to surreal levels, recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, the largest refugee crisis since World War II, and this very morning news of a mass shooting in a community center in San Bernadino, California it is fair to say that peace is the last thing on our minds.

Our thoughts are filled with anxiety and fear; too many conversations are laced with animosity and indifference.

In the midst of this dark and broken world, we dare to strike a match for justice and light an Advent Candle for peace.

Advent is that season of preparation. It is the beginning of a new year for us in the worship life of the church. A year that does not begin with the revelry and celebration of Christmas or with the cosmos reshaping events of Easter. No, our year begins with preparation because faith is about the journey as much as it is about any end destination. So we carve out this time to get ready, to prayerfully consider our preparation. What do we need to do to steady our hearts and steel our wills as we eagerly anticipate the birth of Christ once more in our hearts and in our world?

This Sunday we will gather. We will pray. We will sing. We will the old, old stories and join our hearts with the dreams that God has for us today. We will prepare our hearts and talk about peace. Because it is into a world just such as this that Christ Jesus came to reveal the fullness of God's love, the promise of God's forgiveness, and the opportunity of a life truly worth living.

Come and light a Candle of Peace with us this Sunday at FCC Scottsdale.


Luke 3:1-18 The Proclamation of John the Baptist

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’

And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Photos: The Fifth With First

What a great Sunday!

November 29, 2015 was the fifth Sunday in November which means...The Fifth With First!

Our Workship Crew gathered at Chaparral Park at 9AM for a brief prayer service (we were joined by three visitors, by the one, including one who came all the way from Canada!) and then we headed out for a morning of work partnering with our friends in mission at Operation Fix-It. We were paired up with a local homeowner who is dealing with significant illnesses while her adult son (and care taker) is losing his sight. They needed us to help xeriscape their front yard, trim a large tree, and trim their hedges. It was hard, fulfilling work and the family could not have been more excited and appreciative. In fact, they have already called over to the Operation Fix-It office to rave about our Workship Team!

Meanwhile, back in the Sanctuary, we had a Jesse Tree Service that was led by our Elders followed by a Christmas Bag Assembly Line in the Fellowship Hall organized by our Outreach Team. The bags (with supplies and donations collected during the S.A.I.L. Program this summer) will be given out to children who receive services from the Piute Community Center here is Scottsdale.

Here is a small sampling of pictures from the day. To see more head over to the church's Facebook Page at

The Workship Crew gathers for a brief Prayer Service.

Xeriscaping the yard means one thing:
Moving THREE TONS of gravel to replace the grass yard!

Yep, more gravel!

The 32 members of our Workship Crew
celebrating a job well done!

The Before Picture: A dirt yard with only patches of grass,
an overgrown tree, and impassable shrubs. The family had been
unable to enjoy their front yard for some time. 

The After Picture: A xeriscaped front yard, a tree trimmed high
enough that the legally blind son can walk safely under and around it,
and hedges that allow for easy access to the walkway.
Why, even the sky was bluer after we were done working!
 Meanwhile, back on the church campus...

The Assembly Line is all ready for preparing
The Christmas Bags for the Piute Center.

Lovingly prepared by the members of FCC Scottsdale.

Our Outreach Co-Chairs getting everything ready.

Members packing the bags!

Jean with (some of) the Christmas Bags that were prepared.

Photos: The Hanging of the Greens

A HUGE "Thank You!" to everyone who helped with the Hanging of the Greens at the church on Saturday. The buildings and grounds look beautiful having been fully transformed for our Advent and Christmas Seasons here at FCC Scottsdale.

Here are several photos of the hard work that went into making all things beautiful!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Whiteboard: The Fifth With First

This Sunday is The Fifth With First!

A quick refresher: The Fifth With First is our church-wide shorthand for “The Fifth Sunday with First Christian Church” and on those months with an extra Sunday (it happens four times a year) we use that additional Sunday to put our faith into action in our local community. We do it by having two services. We have a Worship Service in the Sanctuary that is followed by a Mission Project opportunity in our Fellowship Hall and we have a Workship Service (see what we did there!) where I lead a team of volunteers from the church in a brief prayer service at Chaparral Park before we head out to do direct service with one of our ministry partners.

On November 29 we have special things lined up for both services!

For the Workship Team: We’ll meet at Chaparral Park at 9AM for our prayer service and then we’ll head out to partner once again with our friends from Operation Fix-It. We've been working with Operation Fix-It for three years now. This Sunday we'll be helping one of our local Scottsdale neighbors get their house back up to code by doing needed yard work.

For the Worship Folks: We have a special worship service planned in the Sanctuary. We'll be doing a "Jesse Tree" Service. Based on the Biblical promise that "a shoot shall come form the stump of Jesse" (Jesse is the father of the great King David) and our faith that Jesus is the one who brings God's promises to fruition, the Jesse Tree Service is an opportunity for us to hear and reflect on several different stories from our biblical tradition. Oh, and we get to decorate a tree too! After the Worship Service the Outreach Team will have a "Christmas Bag Assembly Line" ready for you in the Fellowship Hall where you'll have the opportunity to put together gift bags to benefit the children and young people from Vista Del Camino.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Whiteboard: We Give Thanks

On Thanksgiving Sunday we will gather to...well, to give thanks obviously!

As we prepare our hearts for Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday, come worship with us at FCC Scottsdale as we take the time to give thanks to the Lord for the rich blessings we have received.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."

So this Sunday we'll gather in the strengthening bonds of community to give thanks to God. Come and join us!


John 18:33-37 The Eternal Kingdom

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ 

Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ 

Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ 

Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ 

Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ 

Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’

Three Things from Administrative Council

Administrative Council had their last regularly scheduled meeting of 2015 this past Sunday immediately following the Worship Service. Here are the "Three Things" you should know from that meeting!

1) Nominating Committee
The Nominating Committee presented a full slate of leaders ready and willing to serve our congregation in 2016. The Administrative Council unanimously approved the slate that will now go to the Annual Congregational Meeting (scheduled for Sunday December 6) for final approval. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Nominating Committee for their prayerful, tireless work on behalf our congregation. Thank you to Judy Kares for chairing the committee and to Ron Prast, Donna Blakely, and Jean Decker  for serving on the Nominating Committee this year. Thank you as well to all of the church members who have accepted the invitation to serve in 2016.

2) Stewardship Season's Blessings
Administrative Council was appreciative of the hard work of the Finance Team and our Pastor in putting together an excellent Stewardship Season. This was our second year of working with the Narrative Budget framework and it was such a joy to spend four weeks talking about the Worship, Mission & Ministry of our congregation alongside of our Dreams.

3) Outreach Ministry Recognitions in our Community
Rev. Judy lifted up a long list of Outreach accomplishments for our church in the month of October. That list included:
  • The Pumpkin Patch, our major fundraiser, was a great success thanks to all the 350+ volunteers.Nearly $5000 was raised for the community!
  • The Healthy Packs distribution has increased to include all seven Title One elementary schools in Scottsdale!
  • We partnered with Scottsdale Congregation UCC as they hosted homeless families on behalf of Family Promise. We helped by preparing and serving dinner on two nights as well as by leading activities after dinner. 
  • We gave 35 pairs of glasses to the Lions Club.
  • Monthly we donate to Vista Del Camino food bank and to Family Promise.
  • We were invited to join city, faith communities, businesses & non-profit leaders from all around Scottsdale for the Mayor’s “Our City” Task Force to help with the needs and concerns of Scottsdale citizens. It is an important gathering of leaders from all around our city, and our church was specifically invited to be there!
  • Rev. Judy was asked to deliver the prayer at a recent Paiute Community Center Fundraiser.
  • At a recent the Interfaith Breakfast Meeting Rev. Judy was one of three featured presenters that morning, where I had the chance to talk about Healthy Packs.
  • Several of our members screened families for Adopt a Family.
  • More than 20 Church members participated in the East Valley Crop Walk.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Whiteboard: Dedication Sunday

This Sunday we complete our four-week Stewardship Season with Dedication Sunday. We'll be receiving and dedicating our Pledge Cards for the coming year all while celebrating the abundance of God's love and the possibilities that the future holds for us.

Once again we've built our Narrative Budget on the tri-fold purposes of our church from our Mission Statement: Worship, Mission & Ministry. For the last several weeks I've been writing those words out on The Whiteboard and sneaking a heart (or hearts!) into each picture. Well, this week I couldn't help but rearrange the equation. Instead of tucking a heart (or hearts!) into each word, I tucked the words inside of a heart. The truth is that Worship, Mission & Ministry stand at the heart of who we are and what we do at First Christian Church Scottsdale. It is every time we gather in the sanctuary on Sunday morning, every time we celebrate The Fifth With First, every Sunday School class and Small Group Meeting, every work project and outreach partner we support. Worship, Mission & Ministry defines us as a people, and is only made possible through your generous support of our church. 

If you want to learn a little bit more about FCC Scottsdale and how your stewardship dollars are put to use then check out these clips from our YouTube Channel.

If you want to know a little bit more about our focus for dedication Sunday then read Psalm 126 below.

Psalm 126 A Harvest of Joy

When the Lord restores us,
we are like those who dream.
Our mouths are filled with laughter,
and our tongues with shouts of joy;
then we said to the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for us.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with a harvest of joy.

When the Lord restores us,
we are like those who dream.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

During the third Sunday of our Stewardship Campaign we'll talk all about Ministry.

Here is how we describe Ministry at FCC Scottsdale:

Ministry is walking hand in hand with a brother or sister in Christ.

Ministry is sharing your faith.

Ministry is following God’s call on your life.

Ministry is journeying together in service to God.

For the purposes of our Narrative Budget, Ministry describes the ways that we extend the love of Christ by taking care of one another right here in the church.

We see this in every hospital visit by an Elder, every Prayer Shawl that is lovingly knitted, every Pastoral Call, and every Prayer Chain email. This is every warm smile at the Visitor’s Center, every Fellowship Luncheon, every Youth Group Lock-In, every Summer Adventures In Learning Session, every New Member welcomed, every Lenten Study Session and every Sunday School Class.

Ministry is you and me working together to share God's love!


Psalm 89 God’s Covenant with David

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, for ever;
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established for ever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

You said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to my servant David:
“I will establish your descendants for ever,
and build your throne for all generations.” ’

Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord,
your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord?
Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord,
a God feared in the council of the holy ones,
great and awesome above all that are around him?
O Lord God of hosts,
who is as mighty as you, O Lord?
Your faithfulness surrounds you.
You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, you still them.
You crushed Rahab like a carcass;
you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours;
the world and all that is in it—you have founded them.