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Our June Calendar of Events
I do not remember the names of my high school music or arts teachers. And they don’t deserve to be remembered. They told me I wasn’t good at music or arts and I believed them. To this day I don’t trust that I am a creative person, at least as far as formal arts and music are concerned. You may be the greatest artist or musician or you may be challenged as I am. Regardless of your skill: creative expression is important for developing and maintaining resilience. I have been part of the Fort Bend Recovers working group for emotional and spiritual health since Hurricane Harvey hit our community. Working with these dedicated leaders and helping our community get back on its feet is very rewarding. There is a lot of resilience that needs to be showcased and celebrated. And that is exactly what we are going to do:
Fort Bend Recovers … with Creativity’s vision is to celebrate our community’s restoration and resilience by promoting healing and recovery through original works. Fort Bend Recovers …with Creativity’s first project will be to present “The Harvey Experience – one year later”. This is the title of the anniversary event. We plan to hold the event on August 25th 2018. We are formulating our call for submissions, developing creativity categories which include both visual and performance art. The call for submissions will be worded to encourage residents of Fort Bend County (young and old) to tell their Harvey story – in writing, poetry & essay, in paintings, in music, in dance, etc. We hope that we will get a Harvey quilt, a Harvey rap song, and many Harvey paintings and drawings and photographs. “Art has a way of transforming hard truth, ugliness, and heartache and turning it into something beautiful. We believe that creative works will be healing for the creators as well as the observers/participants.” — Dr. Amy Harkins, a psychologist with Easter Seals Greater Houston
Fort Bend Recovers…with Creativity is working to finalize the details for The Harvey Experience. The details for the creative works will be posted soon. But don’t let that stop you from starting to create. Express your Harvey experience and share your process. We are not looking for the next Mozart or Van Gogh. My high school music and arts teachers are not invited to the event. You are free to express yourself and find your own voice.
Our congregation has a big veteran population. We take them on field trips like recently to the Lone Star Flight Museum. We offer presentations by the Texas Veterans Commission and others. On June 3rd, 2018 we will bring the Vet Church experience to our Sunday morning worship at 10 am. Vet Church is a community of nearly 3,000 veterans who share life on Facebook and in the real world. The driving force behind it is Matt Williams.
Retired Army Chaplain, The Reverend Dr. Matthew Owen Williams (Matt) was medically retired in 2013 at Ft. Campbell, KY. Matt has chronic pain and struggles with PTSD and Moral Injury. He is now a singer songwriter who is working through his own pain while encouraging other Veterans and Military Families to actually ‘BE’ all that they can be.
“In a world of Virtual Reality, Virtual Friends and Virtual Connection, I had a simple Idea. I would travel around America and play songs to the folks I went to Afghanistan and Iraq with. So many people liked the songs that I just kept singing, writing and playing that guitar. I am just trying be- a face-to-face encouragement. I am trying to be real in a world of virtual. As a Veteran so much about life is surreal. I just want to be real. These songs are me and my military experience: happy, sad, angry –all of It.” –Matt Williams
Matt keeps singing and playing and in this way blesses communities all over the country with his guitar and songs. On June 3rd he will lead our worship service alongside Rev. Daniel Haas so we will all have a chance to extend the love of Christ to those with pain and problems. Vet Church is a bit different than normal church in that it is a virtual community designed specifically for Veterans and those who struggle with PTSD, Moral Injury, Depression, Anxiety, Physical Pain and other Stuff. Please join them online and please join Matt live in Rosenberg on June 3rd.
The 2018 South Central Conference Annual Meeting is coming, are you? Where has the past year gone? It seems as if the 2017 Annual Meeting in Dallas was just a few weeks ago. This year we will be meeting at Camp Allen near Navasota, TX., Friday, June 1 at 12:45pm to Saturday June 2 at 3pm, with the meeting being hosted by our Heart of Texas Association. During our first day together we will hear from our General Minister and President, John Dorhauer preach at the Conference Minister installation. We will also participate in workshops in subject areas reflecting the 5 priorities of our conference:
1. Spiritual Renewal
2. Planting new congregations
3. Re-vitalizing older congregations
4. Living the Gospel according to Jesus Christ
We will have a presentation from Joshua Lawrence and Amariee Collins, our Disaster Ministries Coordinators on the hurricane recovery effort. Aside from the business of our conference, there will be fellowship times, clergy dinner, wonderful music and worship. Sisters and brothers, this is our time to gather as a family of faith…it is important. Come, let us worship as a family of faith. After all it is Moral Monday…stand up and be counted.
Peace and Grace,
PS: You do not have to be a delegate to attend. The presentations and workshops will be uplifting even if you don’t have a vote in the business meeting!
PPS: If you can’t make it to Camp Allen, you can strengthen the church in another important way. This Sunday, May 20th, is Pentecost, and on Pentecost at St. John’s UCC we receive the Strengthen the Church Offering. During this season, I’m writing to ask you to support the Strengthen the Church Special Mission Offering. This offering supports the expansion and vitality of the United Church of Christ. The first half of your gift funds ministry within the South Central Conference while the second half goes to strengthening the church nationally! Our beloved denomination needs your support to fulfill on its commitment to creating a just world for all by investing in new ministries and practices that meet the emerging needs of local communities. Please prayerfully consider making a gift. Thank for your support.
I am excited! I ordered 9 free tickets for my wife, my kids, my in-laws, and myself. We are going to the annual INTERFAITH Iftar of Ramadan at Maryam Islamic Center in Sugar Land on May 31st, 2018. Here is what is going to happen there:
6:30 PM – Arrival & Socializing
7:00 PM – Program Begins
8:15 PM – Fasting Experience/Iftar
8:40 PM – Prayer followed by Dinner
Amina Ishaq is the Lead for Maryam Islamic Center’s Interfaith Team. Which brings me to the question: Who is the lead of St. John’s Interfaith Team? How come we don’t have an Interfaith Team? Anyway here is her introduction on the importance of the holy month:
“Ramadan is a special and holy month of the Islamic lunar year for over 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. It is a time for inner reflection, contemplation, discipline and devotion to God. As we fast and sacrifice food and drink during the daylight hours, we are reminded of Gods blessings upon us and are encouraged to be charitable.
Ramadan is a month of giving and sharing. It is an opportunity for friends and family of diverse faiths to understand one another and to show kindness to those around them. It is a time of renewal and recommitment to bettering oneself. It is a time for one to become closer to God through sacrificing ones most basic need in order to become more patient and disciplined. The holy Quran was also revealed in the month of Ramadan.
The month of Ramadan ends with the celebration of Eid-ul-fitr or the celebration of the breaking of the fast. On Eid muslims pray to God, greet one another happily, exchange gifts, eat delicious food, visit family and neighbors, give charity and have fun.
It is our hope that this Ramadan & Eid brings a sense of peace and hope throughout the world.”
So, don’t miss out. Please join me and my family this Ramadan. Get your free tickets over here. If you can’t make it this time, then at least talk to your church council members about getting an Interfaith Team started at our church. I’d love to help!
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We count how many people attend church every week. But that’s not all: we also keep a membership roll of who “belongs to the church”. Then we also look at how much money ends up in the offering plates every month. How big is your church? We answer that question in terms of Sunday attendance, membership and income.
In all honesty, the three measuring sticks of attendance, membership and income are not as accurate as they used to be. Originally the idea was that members attend “their” church regularly and give regularly to “their” church. That is hardly the case anymore. My own son went to preschool at a United Methodist Church. We attended chapel there regularly. I go to spiritual direction in a Roman Catholic Community. My wife serves a Presbyterian congregation and I join them for special services as time permits. In many patchwork families children attend services with mom one week, dad another and grandparents on a third weekend. We have children in our own Sunday School who are part-time Baptists. A lot of children hit every Vacation Bible School in town. Faithful church members of our own congregation – now in their 70s – tell me that was commonplace even when they were little. We went to a First Communion Service last Sunday. It was a great moment for our friends. But the reality is the kids had had communion at our UCC church for years – only on the Catholic side of their identity can they call it “First Communion”.
Bottom line: Everybody is wearing multiple hats. Hardly anybody “belongs to” one particular church. We show up in places. We give when we find meaningful ministry that deserves support. For most people church does not fit into their life at all. So for those who show up and give, let’s celebrate them and not give them a hard time that they don’t abide by some rule of exclusivity. The church as the body of Christ belongs in all incarnations to the one God. Let us wear our human reflections of that lightly.