Sunday, August 29, 2010

Appeal for Pakistan Flood Relief

Today the United Church of Christ issued a special disaster appeal seeking $300,000 to support the emergency relief and long-term rehabilitation initiatives of Church World Service in Pakistan.

Situation

The torrential rains and flooding that have affected Pakistan in recent weeks continue, with at an estimated 1,600 dead and 17.2 million affected. Some 1.5 million people are now homeless.

The floods which began in the northern parts of country have spread to four provinces covering over 132,000 square kilometers, or about 82,000 square miles. (Pakistan's total square miles: 340,132.)

As the rains continue, the waters are moving downstream like a rolling earthquake affecting Punjab and Sindh provinces further south. In Sindh, villages in the area of Dadu and Mehar Taluka have been flooded. Thus far, some 186 villages in Sindh have been affected in seven local municipalities, affecting 38,656 individuals, according to CWS staff in Pakistan.

Response

CWS is coordinating a response in a wide geographic area, including the distribution of emergency food packets and shelter kits. Mobile medical clinics are providing emergency health care. Read More

Help

1. Pray for the people of Pakistan, their leaders, and all emergency response workers.

2. Please help the people of Pakistan by sending gifts payable to your congregation marked for "Pakistan Flood Relief" with the request they be sent through your Conference office on to Wider Church Ministries.

OR

Send gifts, made out to Wider Church Ministries and marked in the memo portion "Pakistan Flood Relief" to Wider Church Ministries; 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.

OR

Make a secure online donation to Pakistan Flood Relief.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

New Church for a New Age

Many churches are losing members and stuggling to thrive. At Faith, we are going to ask an important question. How can we be an exciting church filled with vitality - and members, despite the downward trend in many churches? In our rapidly changing world, church might have to look different than it did 10-20 years ago. Everyone is welcome to come to church this Sunday to explore ways that we can be the church in our age of Facebook and the Daily Show. Come join the discussion.

Our Scripture for this Sunday is Psalm 23. It's one of the most popular texts in the Bible. It's often used at funerals and in hospital chapels. But it's also featured in secular music and movies. Clearly it's a popular poem. If you want to do some early exploring, check out how Psalm 23 could help us image a new future for the church. Then come to church on Sunday to share your ideas. It's going to be a conversational sermon. Yup, you're going to be giving part of the sermon. It'll be fun. All are welcome.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fabricating Our Perception of Beauty

Dove produced a 74 second film that explores the process of modeling. A woman walks in. Makeup is caked on. Photos taken. Photoshop alters the photo. The altered picture is placed on a billboard. In the end, the girl on the billboard doesn't even look like the original model who walked in the door. No wonder our perception of beauty is so skewed.

Please watch this video. Then show it to a group of teenagers.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Open Letter About Cordoba House

I would like to cut through the spin of opportunistic politicians and profit-driven pundits in order to offer some reflections that I hope will help to show the beauty of the Cordoba House project, sometimes mischaracterized as “the Ground Zero Mosque.”

Cordoba House is protected by First Amendment of the Constitution of the USA. This Amendment protects the freedom of religion for all Americans – no matter our religious perspective – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist, etc. If the builders of Cordoba House, a Muslim community center, aren’t guaranteed this Constitutional right, then the freedom of religion for all people is threatened. This is something to take very seriously.

Cordoba House is being organized by Feisal Abdul Rauf, who works to improve relations between Muslim Americans and other Americans. In fact, in 1997, he founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement. Many people, including University of Iowa alum and progressive Muslim author, Reza Aslan, consider Rauf to be an important leader of Islam in the USA because of his commitment to pluralism and peace. Imam Rauf is a model for us all.

Cordoba House is being built by The American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, two organizations that seek to improve the relationship between Islam and the West. In the weeks after 9-11, we asked moderate Muslims to step forward and speak out. Now that they are coming forward in such important ways, we should welcome their efforts with open arms.

Cordoba House is named after Cordoba, Spain, a city where Muslims, Jews, and Christians thrived together successfully for many years. This name is significant because it reminds people that, in the words of Feisal Abdul Rauf, "Muslims created what was, in its era, the most enlightened, pluralistic, and tolerant society on earth." We should hold Cordoba up as an example for the USA. Our nation should be a place where all people, no matter their religion, can live together in peace and prosperity.

Cordoba House is a community center that will feature a fitness center, culinary school, childcare services, etc. It will also feature a prayer room. Such a building would be similar to a JCC or YMCA. These kinds of organizations provide services that are good for the entire community.

Cordoba House would share the neighborhood with a Mosque, Masjid Manhattan, that has been in the area for over 30 years. Clearly, Islam has been a part of the heritage of New York for a long time. Muslims are not exotic outsiders to be feared. They are friendly neighbors to be treated like we would like to be treated. The Torah and Gospels remind us to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” And that includes our Muslim neighbors.

Cordoba House is a product of moderate Islam. It has nothing to do with fringe, fundamentalist groups like Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is political fundamentalism that has declared war on everything and everyone that stands in the way of their political agenda. Conversely, the form of Islam that is promoted by the sponsoring organizations of Cordoba House would be committed to a spiritual and peaceful form of Islam. It's important to remember that Islam, like every other religion, has a lot of diversity. We must not hold all Muslims accountable for the actions of extremists that claim their religion any more than we would want to be held accountable for the actions of extremists that claim our own religion.

I support not only the Constitutional right of the building of Cordoba House, but I also support the moral imperative of standing beside people who work to build a more peaceful and pluralistic world. Supporting the construction of Cordoba House would honor the freedom of religion in First Amendment and the voice of moderate Muslims. In a world of ongoing misunderstanding and extremism, we could all benefit from the pluralistic work that could be done in places like Cordoba House.

Sincerely,

Rev. Brian Brandsmeier

WARC Events

The Women's Resource and Action Center (WRAC) at the University of Iowa will hold its annual open house on August 24th and music festival on September 16th-18th. Come to the open house to enjoy refreshments; opportunities to meet staff members and volunteers; and learn about the center's services and activities. Come to the music festival to check out voices like Janis Ian; Leslie and the Lys; and SONiA and disappear fear.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Harvest Dinner and Auction

On Saturday, November 6 (a non-home Hawkeye football Saturday) the Worship Committee requests the honor of your presence to a Harvest Dinner/Auction at Faith United Church of Christ. Festivities will begin at 6 pm.

After a wonderful dinner, there will be an auction to raise funds to purchase a projector to be used as an aide during worship services. Auction item ideas may include, but not restricted to: any service you can perform (sewing/mending, babysitting, card making, cakes/cookies/desserts/baked goods of any kind, motorcycle rides, etc. Let your imagination go wild!

Please put this on your calendars and get ready for a wonderful evening of food, fun, fellowship and down home goodness!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Intrigue. Mystery. Conspiracy. And God. This Sunday.

Intrigue. Mystery. Conspiracy. And God. Interested? Well, we might have just the thing for you. So-called "renewal groups" are trying to steal churches from progressive denominations and convert them to fundamentalism. It's called steeplejacking. There's a book about it. And pastor Brian has blogged about it. It seems like too much of a conspiracy theory to actually be happening. But it is happening. And it's hitting Iowa churches hard ever since the Supreme Court made marriage equality legal here. The "renewal groups" want to close or convert progressive churches so that we can't speak out for justice from our perspective. If you want to know more about these groups, come to church this Sunday. If you want to help build an alternative to this movement, come to church this Sunday. If you want to protect marriage equality, come to church this Sunday. We'll be discussing these topics, exploring Scriptural wisdom, singing songs of hope, and praising God for God's abiding presence in our lives. All are welcome to join us this Sunday.

We'll be looking at Psalm 72 and Amos 5:21-34, if you want to read ahead. It's some good, edgy Scripture. Amos is especially prophetic. He's kinda like the "Michael Moore" of the Bible. He's not afraid to do some bold and controversial advocacy through his writing. He's all about justice. So, Amos will help us find ways to "let justice flow like mighty streams." And in places where God's justice is not flowing very well (such as equal rights for the LGBT community), Amos will help us find ways to let the dammed river flow. Come check out God's edgy prophet for justice this Sunday.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Congratulations

Congrats to the 13 couples from Missouri who got married today at Faith. May your beautiful weddings lead to happy marriages. And may your marriages lead the way to a future where all gay and lesbian couples can get legally married all over the world.










Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Twain Backpack Stuffing Extravaganza

This Sunday, 15 August, please help stuff over 100 backpacks for students at Mark Twain. You have already assisted tremendously in purchasing supplies that go into the backpacks, you have helped sew the backpacks together, and this is just one more step in the process to give the Twain kids, our neighbors, what they need to begin the school year.

The stuffing assembly line will begin after church, and is a fun activity. Amazingly, it does not take all that long with many willing hands in the mix.

And if you are free on Tuesday night, the 17th, come help hand out those backpacks at the Mark Twain ice cream social for kids and parents. When the students pick up those bags, you will see very happy kids and very grateful parents. Talk to Pam Zehr on Sunday about Tuesday night details.

Mary MC

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Work of Ordinary Saints

Sara Miles believes that everyone can act like Jesus. It's not only ordained clergy who can do real ministry. And it's certainly not something that only "holy" people can do. Everyone is called and empowered to be a minister just by being a follower of Jesus. And in truth, every person can be a "holy" person because God's abiding presence is with all of us.

Sara’s new book, Jesus Freak, is about her conviction that ordinary people are “authorized and empowered to do Jesus’ work of feeding, healing and raising the dead.” The Holy Spirit moves through us all - so all of us are divinely empowered to do ministry each day. Ministry can take many different forms: serving the poor, talking with friends, welcoming a stranger, being a kind presence at work, etc. All of this can be done as part of God's work through us.

Sara is the director of the Food Pantry at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco. Each Friday hundreds of families gather at the Food Pantry to receive food. Some people also stay around to help serve others. It's all a part of the work of ordinary Saints. Sara says, “We are gathered around an altar and surrounded by saints. Everything is free and everyone is welcome. It's like a Farmer's Market in Heaven.”1

Check out her interview with Spencer Burke below:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A New Kind of Church: Anne Rice Is Welcome - And So Are You

Do you want a unique church experience? Want to praise God without being forced to adhere to certain doctrine? Want to go to a church that believes in disorganized religion? Want to hear some rap? Want to sing some songs? Want to explore Genesis 19 and Ezekiel 16? Want to discuss the real sin of Sodom? (Spoiler alert: it has nothing to do with homosexuality.) Want to explore ways to avoid the real sin of Sodom? (Spoiler alert: it has everything to do with hospitality.) Want to talk about the Marriage Equality Bus that is coming on August 13th? Want to watch the brief-yet-powerful documentary, Heartland Transport? Want to share in Holy Communion, even if you've been told you're not holy enough? Want to come to a church that would proudly welcome Anne Rice, especially after her recent Facebook posts? Want some yummy treats? Well, look no further! You can get all this and more by coming to worship this Sunday @ 9:30. All are welcome!

Marriage Equality Bus Schedule

Friday August 13th

04:45 am - Gather at Metropolitan Community Church, downtown St. Louis
05:00 am - Load bus and passengers
05:05 am - Leave Metropolitan Community Church
07:15 am - Stop in Hannibal Missouri for 15 minute break
07:30 am - Leave Hannibal Missouri
10:25 am - Arrive at Johnson County Administration Building
10:55 am - Leave Johnson County Administration Building
11:05 am - Arrive at Faith United Church of Christ, Iowa City
02:45 pm - Leave Faith United Church of Christ
02:55 pm - Arrive Devotay
03:00 pm - Eat Lunch
05:00 pm - Leave Devotay
07:00 pm - Arrive Hannibal Missouri for 15 minute break
07:15 pm - Leave Hannibal Missouri
10:30 pm - Arrive at Metropolitan Community Church, downtown St. Louis

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

August Letter

Dear Members and Friends,

We are facing a bit of a crisis in the UCC. It's a crumbling institution. Scores of members have left. Thousands of churches have closed. Denominational leaders are overworked and understaffed. Seminaries are laying off tenured professors and selling their buildings. The list goes on and on. "Mainline Churches" like the UCC have now become "Sidelined Churches." And the emergency is clear to many people. This time of crisis and transition needs to be addressed. If nothing changes, we will fail for sure. But if we act creatively and innovatively, we’ll succeed in some very exiting ways. So, it's time for an extreme makeover!

The task is upon us to join together in an effort to rebuild the Church into something more effective and efficient in our changing world. This seems like a big task. And it is. It’s going to take a group effort – and a whole lot of good conversation and hard work. But I am convinced that nothing short of the survival of the “Mainline Church” is at stake. A time of great transition is before us – and we need to find ways of addressing this transition in order to do effective ministry in the future.

The best way to address our crisis is to continue to reform the Church as each generation has done. Jesus started a reformation of Judaism. Martin Luther started a reformation of Catholicism. Now we need to start a reformation of the “Mainline Church.” We stand in a long line of faithful people who had to address changing times with deep reformation. Sound exciting? It is! The Church was never meant to be boring! The following five ideas are meant to encourage conversation about how we can engage in this exciting reformation.

(1) Sermons could be more conversational, giving space for everyone to contribute ideas.

(2) Encourage all people to be theologians (people who think about God), not just pastors and seminary professors.

(3) Enthusiastically engage in shared ministry, so we can all put our faith into action. We have the pleasure of being the Body of Christ in the world. This makes us part of a movement – part of something bigger than ourselves.

(4) Help the Church to be more fun through fellowship, humor, art, shared meals, special music, meaningful worship experiences, etc.

(5) Have an internet ministry. Not just a website, but an active online presence that inspires interaction and connection.

The list could go on and on. And I hope many different people add many other ideas. We need an effective list. The times are rapidly changing. So, we need to work together in order to realistically and faithfully face the revolutionary shifts that are taking place in our world, and explore ways to do effective ministry in the midst of that transformation. The Church needs an extreme makeover. So let the creative planning and relevant reforming begin!

Peace,

Pastor Brian