Funeral Service for Jim Mikeska

Funeral services for Jimmy L. Mikeska will be on Thursday, July 2 at 10:00 a.m. here at St. John’s United Church of Christ.  Following the service will be the burial at Davis Greenlawn in Rosenberg and then a reception in the Parish Hall here at the church.

Visitation will be Wednesday, July 1 at Davis Greenlawn Funeral Home Chapel from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Unexpected Places at #GS2015

2015-Synod-UnexpectedPlaces
We are the 1%. No, we are not the super-rich. But our delegation of about 30 people from the South Central Conference made up about 1% of the total attendance of General Synod 30 in Cleveland, Ohio, from June 26-30. 3,000 UCC folks doing the business of the church, praying, learning and singing together is a powerful witness.

In one workshop I learned more about how to heal the invisible wounds of war. Warriors journeying home need a safe place to open up and sometimes PTSD can be triggered decades after they returned from WWII, Korea, Vietnam.

I also attended a workshop on breaking the silence about mental illness. One in four adults suffers through a period of mental illness in their lives. That is nothing to be ashamed of and opening up and finding help are crucial for all of us. The church has the sacred responsibility to help wounded souls heal.

General Synod coincided with the Cleveland Pride Festival and the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality has been celebrated in many ways. In our tradition marriage is understood to be a covenantal relationship: Two persons entering a covenant just like Christ has entered a covenant with his church. For that commitment all persons require God’s blessing because as human beings we cannot make that work on our own.

Our theme has been “Unexpected Places”. Where warriors heal, where mental illness loses its stigma, where love is just love, that’s where we can be surprised to find the face of God in unexpected places.

GMP_Rev_Dr_John_C_DorhauerGeneral Synod is the body of our church that gathers as sort of a nationwide family reunion. It’s also where business is done and elections are held: The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer is our new General Minister and President (GMP). In the UCC we do not have a Bishop neither are we autonomous. Our 5,000 congregations with 1,000,000 members are in a covenantal relationship with one another. The national setting does not speak for the church but to the church, just like our congregation speaks with the Houston Association and the South Central Conference. The church of Jesus Christ is fully realized in St. John’s United Church of Christ, however at Synod our South Central Conference amounts to 1%. We have a big and beautiful family all over the place.
To hear and see more about what was going on in Cleveland please find #GS2015.

Celebrating church life in huge crowds

I am fixin’ to attend the United Church of Christ General Synod 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio, June 26-30. Every two years delegates and visitors from all over the country convene for the business and celebration of our wider church family. A reunion of sorts representing 1,000,000 people. Like many attendees I will post regular updates using the hashtag #GS2015. Back in Germany the national setting of the church has a similar event that just concluded a couple of weeks ago. Here is a report that has been shared via the World Council of Churches:


Tens of thousands of people from Germany and beyond have converged on the city of Stuttgart for a five-day festival of faith, debates, music, worship and culture. Open-air services in different parts of the city marked the start of the German Protestant Kirchentag, or church convention, which began on 3 June and continues until 7 June.

The event is Germany’s biggest Protestant gathering, taking place every two years in a different German city. It brings together tens of thousands of participants, including personalities from political, economic and national life. The Kirchentag was founded in 1949 by Protestant lay people to strengthen democratic culture after the Nazi dictatorship and the Second World War. The Kirchentag also serves as a major forum for debates on such matters as nuclear power, climate change, and the financial crisis. Alongside such discussions, it offers opportunities for worship, music and culture. The event features 2500 individual events in Stuttgart.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, German President Joachim Gauck underlined the role of the Kirchentag in motivating people to tackle the major issues of the time. “Poverty, injustice, lack of peace, intolerance and environmental degradation affect people in many parts of the world,” said Gauck. “Those who live by faith do not want only to be spectators in the face of such developments. They are looking for responses that will help them to act.” Gauck was a Protestant pastor in the former East Germany and became active in the 1989 protests against communist rule that led to the unification of Germany the following year. Alongside Gauck, Chancellor Angela Merkel and former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan are scheduled to address the gathering.

Almost 100,000 people are registered for the whole of the five-day meeting. The assembly takes place this year under the biblical theme “That we may become wise,” based on a verse from the book of Psalms (90:12). The president of the 2015 Kirchentag, Andreas Barner, underlined the need for wisdom in “how we deal with each other, how we deal with our natural resources, and with our world.” At the same time, he said, “The sustainability of our society depends on the extent to which we develop the ability to create and to preserve peace.” Barner, a Protestant layperson and business leader, referred in particular to the continuing reports of people drowning in the Mediterranean as they try to reach Europe from North Africa. Such deaths must come to an immediate end, he said.

The Kirchentag has strong ecumenical links in Germany and beyond, with more than 5000 international guests at the Stuttgart meeting. They include a high-level delegation from Korea and large groups of participants from Indonesia and Nigeria. On 6 June, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, will take part in a day of events linked to the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, launched by the WCC following its 2013 assembly.

Happy Ramadan

Ramadan 2015 begins in the evening of Wednesday, June 17. Our neighbors at Maryam Islamic Center in Sugar Land will be observing this fasting season just like we do Lent. Maybe they are even more serious about it. As Protestant Christians we have for the most part forgotten how powerful the spiritual practice of fasting actually can be. Imam Tauqer H. Shah is the Religious Advisor in Sugar Land and has written the following piece as a reminder of our shared heritage and practice.
Blessings
Rev. Daniel Haas

Maryam

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is the month in which God revealed the Holy Quran to Mankind. In this month, Muslims fast throughout the day and offer special prayers at night. Ramadan is a month for increasing and achieving spiritual, physical and social health. Ramadan comes to erase bad habits/attitudes to replace them with those beneficial for mankind, through context-dependent repetition and obedience to God.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is obligatory for every Muslim, man and woman, who is sane and mature. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and an important act of worship and obedience to Allah (God). Fasting in Islam means abstaining from eating, drinking, and conjugal relations from dawn until sunset with an intent of observing the fast.

Fasting has been part of the universal religious tradition of mankind. It would be difficult to name any religion system of any description in which it is wholly unrecognized. The Quran affirm this continuity of tradition of fasting when it says:
“Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you”. (Quran, 2:183).

The act of fasting allows us to strengthen the idea of God’s sovereignty in the consciousness of man and its outward expression to such an extent that man submits his will and independence to the will of God, in all he feels and does. Exercising control over all parts of the body and mind and employing them with the knowledge and insight given by God for such ends that may produce the qualities of patience, steadfastness, endurance, and trust in God. One who fast begins to absorb these characteristics, and when he repeats this practice for a continuous thirty days, they become stabilized and become deeply rooted in his/her nature. Fasting is more than abstaining from food and drink. It includes abstaining from any falsehood in speech and action, ignorant and indecent speech and lustful thoughts. Therefore, fasting strengthens control of impulses and helps develop good behavior. This purification of body and soul harmonizes the inner and outer spheres of an individual.

Fasting is primarily an individual action but just as prayer is performed in congregation, fasting is turned into collective practice with all its advantages. The process of sharing meals, joining the congregation for the nightly prayers, increased reward for charity produces a society of righteous and God fearing individuals. This act of fasting is considered the pillar of Islam, for it is through fasting that each individual of the Muslim community gets the opportunity of his moral, spiritual, and social training.

At Maryam Islamic Center, we will start the festivities of Ramadan from Thursday, June 18, 2015. We will have regular nightly prayers and Iftar (Sunset meal) offered on the weekends and many more activities for the community. Every year, we also host the annual Interfaith Iftaar for our friends and neighbors. Details will follow soon. For further information, Please visit our website at www.MaryamMasjid.org

Multiplying your talents and leaving a legacy

The Endowment Fund for St. John’s United Church of Christ is there to maintain the assets of our congregation so we are free to do ministry. On Sunday, June 14th, 2015, right after church, they will be sponsoring a presentation on how to have your medical house in order through Texas Advance Directives.

What are church endowments good for anyway?
– Here an explanation from the Local Church Planned Giving Manual:
“Old First,” known as the “church of the open mind, the open heart and the open door” ministers in a deteriorated area of the city, where it has served for over 150 years. The surrounding community is ethnically diverse and economically poor. The membership of “Old First” has ebbed and flowed as immigrant groups arrived in the city and eventually made their way to the suburbs. Presently, under vital pastoral and lay leadership, the congregation is experiencing a renewal, attracting new members and reaching out again to the neighborhood. The ability of the congregation to be so engaged is due in no small measure to their endowment. For instance, it provides additional funds for an associate pastor to serve the community and engage in a youth ministry.
St. John’s, located nearby, is of similar age to Old First. It is known as an “ethnic” church, given its historic roots. It is served by a part-time pastor who gathers the elderly few in a cavernous Gothic sanctuary for worship on Sunday, which basically constitutes St. John’s ministry. The outlook of this declining congregation is one of survival. A small endowment, whose principal is dwindling, maintains the congregation. The members are determined to “keep the doors open” as long they live, or “until the money runs out.” Lacking is a sense of mission, an openness to the community, and a vision for tomorrow.
Some congregations question why we have endowments. Some church officers would even say it is not wise Christian stewardship, and perhaps even unbiblical. Some leaders feel that endowments are a deadly influence on the life and giving of a congregation, in the same way that too much capital reserve can lull a business into complacency. Jesus offers a perspective that does not condemn money, nor the accumulation of wealth, as long as it serves a worthy purpose and does not become the object of worship. Money, especially when invested, can tempt individuals and congregations to place undue reliance and trust in it, as with the rich young ruler (Mk. 10:17–31) or the builder of bigger barns (Lk. 12:16–21). In these scriptures, we hear the legitimate warnings and harsh judgments of Jesus. In contrast, the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14–30) has Jesus commending the servant who multiplied what he had been given, that it might serve an even greater usefulness.
(More on Endowments at http://www.ucc.org/giving/pdf/giving-manual-section-04.pdf)

VBS next week

We have four groups for different ages and we still accept registrations!

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Kids wonder how they fit in. They dream about what they will be when they grow up. At Camp Discovery, they explore God’s plan and purpose for them right now, right where they are in life. Every day is a new day and God gives us opportunities to help when we open our eyes. Kids learn they are the hands and feet of Jesus when they help their parents, siblings, friends, and neighbors. Camp Discovery teaches kids, “We love because He first loved us” 1 John 4:19.
THERE IS NO CHARGE TO ATTEND VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL. WE WELCOME CHILDREN 4 YEARS THROUGH 13 YEARS OF AGE EACH DAY FROM 9 AM UNTIL 12 NOON THE WEEK OF JUNE 8 – 12.

VBS registration 2015