Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rally To Restore Civility

Are you tried of being told to pick sides? Liberal vs. Conservative. Moderate vs. Extreme. Democrat vs. Republican. Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice. Pro-War vs. Anti-Military. Communist vs. Capitalist. Mainline vs. Evangelical. Protestant vs. Catholic. Christian vs. Muslim. Mac vs. PC. Are you tried of these false choices? Are you tired of the shock jocks like Sean Hannity and Michael Moore making it seem like we have to hate our friends and family on the other side? Are you tired of the loudest, most divisive voices taking up so much space on TV? Are you tired of some cable news choosing soundbites over nuance? Are you tired of the lack of civil discourse? The good news is that you're not alone!

Jon Stewart is tired of all that too. So he's going to host a Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington DC on 10/30/10. The rally is meant to gather people together who want to get beyond the overly simplistic and overly divisive "sides" that are often presented by politicians and the media. In the end, the event is supposed to rally people around ideas like civility, dialogue, and a more sane approach to real issues. Because of that, some people are calling it the Million Moderate March.

Faith UCC is going to host an Iowa City chapter of the Rally to Restore Sanity. But we're going to call it the Rally to Restore Civility. The purpose is the same: rally people around radical ideas like civility and respect.

We're going to explore Galatians 3:23-29 and its message for us today. Apostle Paul provides us with an excellent example of how to bring different "sides" together.

All are weclome this Sunday at 9:30am.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It Gets Better Prayer

Holy One, we recall the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph was a teenager who was bullied, beaten, thrown into a pit, and sold into slavery. He knew what it was like to be knocked down by everyone in his world. And, thankfully, life got much better for him. So we pray that life does, indeed, get better for every young person who faces difficulty, harassment, or violence.

May life get better for the young people in special education. The young people who are intimidated and recruited by gangs. The young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered. The young people with disabilities or mental illness. The young people who are pregnant – and have to think about adoption, abortion, and other decisions that are way too heavy for someone so young – yet they have to make these decisions even as they feel ostracized.

Dear God, we pray for all of the young people in our neighborhood, country, and world. And we pray that life does get better for them, no matter what they face. Being a teenager is hard enough without all the extra “stuff.” The tough stuff. So, we pray that life gets better for all of them.

But don’t let this prayer simply be an empty platitude to make us feel better on a Sunday morning. Things don’t always easily get better. Sometimes these teens are given more than they can handle by the world. And they need our help. So, we pray for you to help us, to help them.

Help us to build a world that is more inclusive of and accessible for young people who need special education. For some of us, this is easy. For others, it’s not. When we don’t know what to say or do, inspire us with words and actions that can help bring smiles and remove stigma. In everything we do, may we empower and love them like every other child.

Help us to provide a sense of community, belonging, and safety for young people, so they aren’t intimidated by or recruited into gangs. This will take creativity in our community, as we witness an upsurge in gang activity – especially on the SE side of Iowa City. So, we pray to you, Creative Creator, to help us find a way to make our streets safer and children happier. And may places like “The Spot” offer secure and fun alternatives for them.

Help us to overcome the religious stigma against LGBT youth. Prejudice in the name of Christianity is a strong force in our world. So we, as Christians, have a special role in overturning this discrimination in the church and wider society. Give us the wisdom to listen to, stand beside, and support LGBT communities. And give us the courage to be a public witness to your love for each and every one of your perfectly designed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children.

Help us to offer a welcoming and safe place for youth with disabilities and mental illness. Not to feel sorry for them, or to treat them like helpless children, but to empower them to achieve their greatest potential despite their difficulties. May these young people, like all young people, know they are loved and created by you – and will be loved and cared for by us.

Help us to offer empathic ears and welcoming arms to pregnant teenagers. May we support them during their difficult decisions, and help them to find organizations like United Action for Youth, Faith Aloud, and Avoid the Stork. Plus, Holy God, may our schools offer our youth comprehensive sex education so that they can be empowered to make judicious decisions with the best information available. In the end, we pray for a dramatic drop in teen pregnancy – an end of teen pregnancy – so that every family can be started at a time that makes sense for them.

Holy God, may all the young people who face difficulties, like Joseph, find that life truly does get better. For every single one of them. No more prejudice. No more bullying. No more beatings. No more suicide. Just better. Every day. Because of you. And because of us. And because it’s the right thing to do for kids. May there be more fun. More smiles. More inclusivity. And more empowerment.

Like Joseph and his family, help to make life better for all of us, Gracious God. Amen.

This prayer was inspired by the It Gets Better Project.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This Sunday: Effective Communication, Jesus Style

Any time two or more people are gathered together there is potential for conflict. All you have to do is go to a family reunion to know the reality of that. Families, like offices or teams or churches, are collections of diverse people. And here's the kicker: Almost everyone has a different perspective than almost everyone about almost everything. It's just the way things are. Everyone is unique. And that uniqueness presents a challenge and an opportunity. The opportunity is that diversity can help us grow and develop beyond "the box" of our individual perspectives. The challenge, then, is to use diversity in productive ways.

This sounds easier said than done. And it is. Despite our best attempts, there will still be conflicts. Thankfully, in Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus gives us ways to handle conflict in effective and healthy ways. This Sunday, we'll explore the tips that Jesus shared. So if you'd like to know how to get along with others - even when there is conflict - come to church this Sunday. We're going to explore how the wisdom of Jesus can be applied to our daily lives.

In the end, we'll discover three important things happen when we transform conflict into something productive through healthy communication. First, we feel better. Second, we lose an opponent and gain a partner. And, third, we realize that Jesus truly is present when two or three people are gathered together. It's not magic. It's just the message of Jesus!

All are welcome to join us for worship this Sunday at 9:30.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Successful Aging Events

Balanced Lives: Best Policies for the New Economy
October 20-22, 2010
The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
This conference, co-sponsored by JCLC, examines the most effective ways to provide job security, family time, child care, quality education, retirement security, preventive health care, sufficient leisure, community engagement, economic safety nets, access to nature, nutritious food and other key ingredients of happy lives. The conference includes a series of panel presentation by policy experts and distinguished speakers. For more information and to register, click here.

Creating the Second Half of Your Life: Intelligent Planning for Midlife Change
Thursday, November 4, 2010
The Kirkwood Center, Cedar Rapids, IA
JCLC, along with Kirkwood Continuing Education and other area sponsors, invites you to attend this one-day conference designed to help you make intelligent midlife decisions that will lead to greater personal fulfillment and satisfaction in the years ahead. The Creating the Second Half of Your Life brochure includes the conference schedule and registration information.

Live Well – Plan Well: For You and Your Family
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Hotel Vetro, Iowa City, IA

The focus of this seminar, co-sponsored by the Iowa Insurance Division and the Iowa Department on Aging, is on consumer and financial protection and education for older Iowans. Sessions are scheduled to include: Fighting Financial Fraud; Advance Directives for Health Care Decisions; Choosing Facility-based Care; and Accessing Services to Stay at Home. There is no cost to attend the seminar series. Lunch will be provided and the Live Well Plan Well events are open to the public. For more information or to register, click here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ask Boldly, Live Justly

This Sunday we'll look at Jeremiah 31:27-34 and Psalm 119:97-104 as we explore ways to ask boldly and live justly. Plus, we'll enjoy music from Godspell, Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, etc. Intersted in more? Join us this Sunday at 9:30.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bill McKibben in Iowa City

World-famous environmentalist Bill McKibben will be at the Englert Theater in Iowa City this Wednesday, October 13th at 7:00pm. The event is free and open to the public. He will be speaking about creating a sustainable world. For more info click here. Or for his recent article in Newsweek click here.

McKibben's new book, Eaarth: Making A Life on a Tough New Planet, is described by Publishers Weekly in these words:
"The world as we know it has ended forever: that's the melancholy message of this nonetheless cautiously optimistic assessment of the planet's future by McKibben, whose The End of Nature first warned of global warming's inevitable impact 20 years ago. Twelve books later, the committed environmentalist concedes that the earth has lost the climatic stability that marked all of human civilization. His litany of damage done by a carbon-fueled world economy is by now familiar: in some places rainfall is dramatically heavier, while Australia and the American Southwest face a permanent drought; polar ice is vanishing, glaciers everywhere are melting, typhoons and hurricanes are fiercer, and the oceans are more acidic; food yields are dropping as temperatures rise and mosquitoes in expanding tropical zones are delivering deadly disease to millions. McKibben's prescription for coping on our new earth is to adopt maintenance as our mantra, to think locally not globally, and to learn to live lightly, carefully, gracefully—a glass-half-full attitude that might strike some as Pollyannaish or merely insufficient. But for others McKibben's refusal to abandon hope may restore faith in the future."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Think Pink Service

Think pink and wear pink this Sunday. We're going to have a Breast Cancer Awareness Service. We hope to raise awareness and hope. We'll have upbeat music, relevant preaching, pink prayers, etc. The prayers will focus on the women we have lost, the survivors, and our hope for a cure. We'll also explore Psalm 3 and its message for the battle against breast cancer. Plus, Pastor Brian and Sara will play their song, "Victory," which is about one woman's connection to Psalm 3 as she battled cancer (and won!). All are welcome. Sunday at 9:30 AM.

Update: The Cedar Rapids Gazette did an article about the service here. Hopefully articles like this and services like ours will help us in our battle against cancer - and our journey toward victory.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

1 a Minute Live in Iowa City

1 a Minute Live: Supporting Susan G. Komen for the Cure
Wednesday, Oct 6th at 7:00pm
Marcus Sycamore Cinema 12, Iowa City, IA

The night begins with a LIVE panel discussion about breast cancer survival and hopeful advancements. Included in the discussion will be Melissa Etheridge, Olivia Newton-John, Jaclyn Smith, Namrata Singh Gujral, and Barbara Mori. The panel will be broadcasted live from LA.

Following the panel discussion, there will be a special viewing of the docudrama 1 a Minute, written, produced and directed by Indo-American actress and breast cancer survivor Namrata Singh Gujral and narrated by Kelly McGillis. The story portrays one woman’s journey through the various phases of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Click here for more info or to buy tickets.

Friday, October 1, 2010

October Worship Events

October 3rd

World Communion Sunday. Join us for a hymn sing that will focus on songs from around the world. Plus, we'll explore the Great Feast in Luke 14:12-23 and what it means for us today. Sunday at 9:30 AM.

Installation Service. Celebrate the official start of the collaborative ministry between Faith UCC and Pastor Brian. There will be upbeat music, exciting preaching, guests from the wider community, and food afterward. Sunday at 4:00 PM.

October 10th

Breast Cancer Awareness Sunday. We'll explore Psalm 3 and its message for the battle against breast cancer. Plus, Pastor Brian and Sara will play their new song about Psalm 3. Sunday at 9:30 AM.

October 17th

Shared Ministry Sunday. Paula Forest will be preaching and leading worship. Come explore the intersection of Scripture and real life. Sunday at 9:30 AM.

October 24th

Details Emerging. But do not fear. It will be an experience of the-ordinary-meets-the-holy. Sunday at 9:30 AM.

October 31st

Civility Sunday. Jon Stewart is hosting the "Rally To Restore Sanity" in order point out the importance of civil discourse in our nation. This Sunday, we'll be hosting a local branch of this rally for the same purpose. We'll explore Galatians 3:23-29 and how this Scripture invites us to be more civil and united in our church, nation, and family. Sunday at 9:30 AM.

October Faith Happenings Letter

Dear Members and Friends of Faith UCC,

We continue to journey boldly together into the Fall season – and into the future. While the media shares things about deceitful rhetoric about Islam, polemic political campaigns, and other deflating topics, we share many exciting things ahead as we continue to follow God-in-Jesus.

First, we have an exciting online presence at faithucciowacity.blogspot.com. On this website, you will find pictures, updates, weekly announcements, Faith Happenings, spiritual reflections, Scripture for the upcoming worship services, links to our online discussions, messages of support for our Muslim neighbors, etc.

Second, adult education is back in full swing. During the month of October, we’ll be engaging in spiritual creative writing. Join us after worship as we explore and experiment with different kinds of writing as a spiritual practice. These sessions will be relaxing, encouraging, and fun. Come for all the sessions - or come for just one. All are welcome.

Third, we have new art in the sanctuary that comes directly from artists in Central America. This beautiful, fair-trade art serves to remind us of the creativity of God’s people and our connection to the world-wide Body of Christ.

Fourth, we’ll be having a fun-filled Harvest Dinner and Auction on Saturday, November 6th. The festivities will begin at 6pm with a delicious dinner. After the meal, we’ll be having an auction to raise money for a projector for our church. The projector will be used to show reflective, spiritual videos/images during worship as well as used to show movies and documentaries that will help us explore faith through film. Come for the food, stay for the fun!

Fifth, it’s my pleasure to announce that world-famous author and theologian, Brian McLaren, is coming to speak in Iowa City on March 4th, 2011. People often travel across the country and spend their hard-earned money to hear him speak. But we get to hear him for FREE. So be sure to come and listen to McLaren speak about following Jesus in the 21st Century.

Like I said, we’ve got a lot of exciting things going on at Faith UCC. We’re a smallish church, but we’re mighty! And if all this sounds good to you, please begin thinking about how you would like to be involved in our financial stewardship and shared ministry as we continue to journey boldly into the future. God is doing exciting things through our Church!