Reflection: Strengthen the Church Offering

BELOVED OF GOD, GREETINGS! Each Pentecost, we celebrate the church as we have known it, the church we are, and the church that we can be, together. We lean on the story of connecting across difference and listen to the languages of hope spoken in the name of God. We are so grateful to be connected with your church in covenant, each of us seeking to build a just world for all, leaning closer to the world that God imagines for our communities. One of the ways our covenant is lived out tangibly is through the Strengthen the Church offering! Your past support of the Strengthen the Church offering is greatly appreciated. Through this offering, your congregation contributed to the continued expansion and revitalization of the United Church of Christ. As called for by the General Synod, 50 percent of your offering stays in your local conference, and 50 percent is sent to the national work of strengthening the church universal: through grants towards new church starts, inspiring youth and young adults into leadership, and equipping pastors for ministry in the 21st century. Please join us in common mission, vision, and purpose by taking up the Strengthen the Church offering on June 9th, 2019! Your promotional materials are enclosed. Additional resources can be ordered through UCC Resources and found at www.ucc.org/stc.

WE HAVE CHOSEN TO ACT ON THE BELIEF the Church is most like the Church when it is rooted in the gospel, remembering the worship in the sanctuary and present in the streets, the City Council chambers, the State House and the places of power witnessing to the message of Love and Justice. Your support of our ministry emboldens, empowers and allows us to step out in faith. We are grateful beyond words—both for the money and for the faith and prayers the money represents, without which we would not be able to do our work. Thanks be to God! — Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel, Center for Sustainable Justice at Lyndale

Reflection: Military Chaplaincy: Numbers and Testimony

This week, a new post by the Rev. Stephen Boyd, Minister for Chaplains and Ministers in Specialized Settings, and Ecclesiastical Endorser, a member of the Ministerial Excellence, Support, and Authorization (MESA) Ministry Team in the national setting of the UCC.

In these challenging times, the Endorsement Office of the United Church of Christ finds itself stretched as we work to serve the many men and women who are looking into ministry in specialized settings, those ministerial settings beyond the Local Church. Ecclesiastical Endorsement may come through a Committee on Ministry for certification by a professional organization or as a recommendation by the COM to the endorser for ministry with a government agency. The Ecclesiastical Endorser for the UCC works with ministers who are interested in becoming chaplains for our nation’s military, in addition to VA chaplains and chaplains serving in the Federal Prison system. An endorsement for chaplaincy in government service or for professional agencies can only be granted to an ordained minister, not to a Member in Discernment or an individual with Lay Ministerial Standing.

Currently, the Ecclesiastical Endorser works to accession ministers into the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The needs are great as the demography and the composite of our nation’s Armed Services is changing radically. The United Church of Christ endorses 50-55 military chaplains – men and women who have decided to serve in the military as chaplains, ministering to the needs of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coasties as well as their families. These ministers offer an incredibly difficult pastoral role day in and day out. They represent the United Church of Christ and are dedicated to serve with integrity and faithfulness to the UCC Core Values. Our nation’s service members find themselves in some of the most challenging, difficult and vulnerable times of their lives and chaplains are called upon to step in, to guide, to counsel and console.

Source: http://www.pixabay.com

UCC military chaplains find themselves in some of the most thought-provoking and difficult times as they are called to provide and perform ministry to all service members and their families in what is now a very demanding ministry landscape. Today chaplains are called to minister in a highly diverse and pluralistic environment. This diversity not only includes service members with a variety of religious, and no religious beliefs, but also providing ministry to our LGBT neighbors who are serving their country’s military. As one of the few denominations to ordain women and can openly serve the LGBT community, the need for qualified UCC military chaplains is especially great. Women service members and our LGBT service members find it difficult to find and secure pastoral counsel that respects their lives and holds their confidences. As a former Army chaplain, I find this shameful as the diversity within the ranks of the Army, Air Force and Navy is growing and the need for a good, gifted and professional ministerial presence increases daily.

More and more, chaplains are faced with issues of Post-Traumatic Stress, Moral Injury, family separation and spiritual care at the end of life. It is a challenging, rich and rewarding ministerial setting and not everyone is cut out for it.  But, hopefully, more and more of our ministers and ministerial candidates will entertain the possibility of military service. In the years that I served, I met some of the most incredible, faithful and devoted men and women I had met in my over 34 years of ministry.  There is something to be said about going one on one with someone when they are half a world away from their family and loved ones. Something can be said about the trust, the vulnerability and the honesty of facing some of life’s most difficult moments with a person who is willing to trust you and willing to walk with you.

If you or someone you know may be considering a call to military chaplaincy, please be in touch with Rev. Stephen B. Boyd, Ecclesiastical Endorser for the United Church of Christ at boyds@ucc.org.

Resurrecting Hope an Easter Message

by Rev. John C. Dorhauer General Minister and President

I walk through the world, opening myself up to the daily vagaries of life’s unanticipated joy and sorrows. I find myself grateful for a faith that orients itself around one foundational belief: resurrection.

Death did not destroy Jesus. That is my grounding fundament. Like every disciple of the risen Christ, I hear and take to heart the words of Paul who wrote that because of Him “we do not grieve as others who have no hope.” (I Thess. 4.13).

To be sure, we grieve.

We worry.

We fear.

We grow anxious.

We are not immune from any of these powerful and life-altering emotions. In the face of what life can throw our way, we too will succumb to experiences that mitigate our joy. Death, disease, hunger, poverty, injustice, fear, warfare, oppression, famine, natural disaster, climate disruption, political crisis, mass shootings all have their way with us. They consume our attention.

They steal our joy.

They strip us of some of the happiness and pleasure that would otherwise be ours but for the sufferings we endure in their presence and aftermath.

There is one thing, though, they cannot do: destroy our hope. The simple belief that death did not contain Jesus grounds us firmly in the horizons of hope. It is perhaps the singular vocational responsibility of the Church, the Living Body of Christ: to procure hope in the face of life’s most disruptive and destructive forces.

Hope calls us to play the long game.

The long game of hope believes that the wars in Yemen and Syria can end.

The long game of hope believes that peace between Israel and Palestine can come.

The long game of hope believes that our children and grandchildren will again breathe clean air.

The long game of hope believes that the immigrant and the refugee, the strangers and aliens in our midst, will find a new home and be greeted with hospitality and freed from the cages they’ve been placed in.

The long game of hope believes that entire cities in Zimbabwe and Mozambique and farms in the Midwest destroyed by floods can be rebuilt.

The long game of hope believes that colonial empires can see more joy in restoring equity through reparations than in hoarding wealth accumulated on the backs of enslaved black bodies and displaced indigenous communities.

The long game does not see death as our destiny. It believes that though suffering may endure for the night, joy cometh in the morning. Some new dawns may not arrive as early as others, but we do not lose hope that new dawns are ever before us.

This is where my Easter joy is found: the orientation of hope. It is found in the beating heart of every disciple of Jesus who, once again, will rehearse the remarkable story of his rising from the dead. The miracle of hope in the heart is my Easter joy.

May it be yours as well.

Rev. John C. Dorhauer

Funeral Service for Delores Hartfiel Wleczyk

Funeral Services for Delores Hartfiel Wleczyk will be on Friday, April 12th at 1:00 p.m. at Garmany & Carden Funeral Home located at 1201 Fourth Street in Rosenberg. Viewing will be Thursday, April 11th from 6:00-8:00 p.m. A reception will follow the service and interment on Friday at St. John’s United Church of Christ in the Parish Hall.

Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

Funeral Service for Nelda Gutowsky

It is with sadness to announce the death of Nelda Gutowsky. Funeral Services will be on Wednesday, April 10th at 10:00 a.m. at St. John’s United Church of Christ with viewing for family and friends on Tuesday, April 9th 5:00-7:00 p.m. also at St. John’s UCC.

Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.