Baking is living

Jesus is called the bread of life. You may have heard that before. But do you know what implies: Baking is living! On Sunday, St. John’s UCC will once again host a fundraiser for the Souper Bowl of Caring. Basically it is a month-long push to support our local food pantry. We do that by sharing a meal of soup and auctioning off all kinds of fun things. It all starts with a worship service that also includes holy communion. Bread and wine symbolize Jesus Christ, the bread of life. This year we are going to take it a step further: We are going to make bread during our worship service! The kids will knead the dough and toss it onto griddles. In effect we will create a bread that is pretty similar to what Jesus actually ate at the last supper with his disciples.

The act of preparing bread is a profoundly worship-like experience. At first you gather, like the congregation does. You gather your ingredients and equipment. You are getting ready. Then you start preparing your mind – you literally meditate on what you are about to make, what it is going to look like, what it is going to smell and taste like. You craft your recipe like you ponder scripture. Then comes the time for mindfulness. That’s when your hands hit the dough. You are in the middle of a creative mess. The phone can ring all it wants, you can’t answer right now because you are literally stuck to the project at hand. You are forced to be present to the dough, with body, mind, and spirit once the kneading has commenced. A church service tends to last longer than the 22 minutes an average person can focus on an average TV episode. Baking is the same way. It forces you to practice patience. Your dough has to rise. Can you handle it when you can’t do anything? All your effort does not make a difference, the yeast does as it will. Isn’t that what makes faith so hard – to surrender control? And once the bread finally comes out of the oven you get to share it. Eating alone doesn’t taste nearly as good as sharing does. The virtue of altruism comes into play here, the giving. That is what we are trying to inspire through the Souper Bowl of Caring: A profound spirituality that leads to an extravagant generosity. Enjoy.

SFC 2019 Work Camp Volunteers Needed

This past year, groups have led retreats, campers enjoyed the summer programming, and visitors continually commented on the beauty of Slumber Falls Camp. One of my first remarks after thanking them for their kind words is to tell them that this is a ministry that love has built. Each year volunteers give of their time, energies, and skills to shape the facilities and programs offered here. Without volunteers, this camp would not be what it is today.
In the past two years, we have collated comments from groups, researched other facilities, and formulated a strategic plan on keeping Slumber Falls Camp in good working order with amenities to enhance our groups’ programming. Work Camp is one of the events that has the most impact in the year, and it sets the stage for what our guests will experience.
This year, we have a long list of potential projects ranging from dead tree removal, bunk bed construction, camp store updating and inventorying, painting projects, tree trimming and flower bed construction and maintenance, observatory maintenance, cleaning and building updates to highlight just a few. If you or your church has noticed a project that you would like to take on, we would love to chat with you to talk logistics. If you are skilled in a particular area, let’s talk about possible projects!
The cost for this event is only $15 to help cover some of the food expenses. Registration is open online or you may click on the registration link below.
Please join us for this special event that means so much to us and we hope to all of you!
Rev. Jeremy Albers,
Director of Outdoor Ministry

Sing and Pray for Christian Unity

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a time to come together to pray in common and encounter one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. It is an opportunity to recognize the richness and value that are present in each other as we join Christ’s prayer, “that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” John 17:21 For Greater Houston the 6th Annual Ecumenical Prayer Service During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will be held on Thursday, January 24, 2019. The Ecumenical Prayer Service begins at 7 P.M., but you are cordially be invited to be there at 6:15 P.M. for a gathering with a light meal. The 2019 Host Location is ChristChurch Presbyterian 5001 Bellaire Boulevard 77401.

The Liturgy for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2019 has been prepared by Christians from Indonesia. With a population of 265 million, 86% of whom are reckoned to be Muslim, Indonesia is well known as having the largest Muslim population of any country. However, about 10% of Indonesians are Christian from various traditions. In terms of both population and the vast extension of the country Indonesia is the biggest nation in South East Asia. It has more than 17,000 islands, 1,340 different ethnic groups and over 740 local languages and yet is united in its plurality by one national language Bahasa Indonesia. The nation is founded on five principles called Pancasila, with the motto Bhineka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). Across the diversity of ethnicity, language and religion, Indonesians have lived by the principle of gotong royong which is to live in solidarity and by collaboration. This means sharing in all aspects of life, work, grief and festivities, and regarding all Indonesians as brothers and sisters.

Help us demonstrate Christian unity by ministering with us as an interdenominational choir for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’s Prayer Worship Service. Prayer Service Choir Rehearsals will take place on Tuesdays, January 15th & 22nd, 2019 @ 7:00 p.m. @ ChristChurch Presbyterian 5001 Bellaire Boulevard Bellaire, Texas

New Year, New You

The new year lays freshly in its diapers in front of us. How the New Year will turn out to be has yet to be determined. Everything is possible. New year’s resolutions are made, some might already be broken. The New Year is a symbol of new beginnings. For Christians the new calendar year started in the middle of the Christmastide. We just remembered God’s Word made flesh dwelling among us. We found hope that God became one of us so we humans learn to understand that we are beloved children of God without fear, forgiven and free.

As we continue the journey into the New Year, create it, live it and mold it we should not forget that God has always loves us and that there is not one single moment in our lives that we have not been loved. Also, we should not forget that in this Word made flesh we are a new creation. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” In Christ we have every day, every hour, every second the chance to start anew and fresh. We do not need a New Year to change. Christ welcomes every moment we change to become better and grow in Him. God does not need the new year to love us. God does this every nanosecond of the world’s existence.

So really, we are not starting a NEW YEAR these days. The big thing that God promises this season is a NEW YOU. You don’t have to be the same you have known. You are a new creation. I hope that you experience many moments during this year where you hear, see and feel the love of the Triune God at work in your life, causing and initiating within in you a change for the better.

May your New Year be full of Love and Change!

Confirmation Class 2019-2021

The body of Christ is bigger than your local church. Most families are used to having family members attend multiple places of worship and that’s fine. Recognizing this reality, we are offering a joint confirmation class with our sisters and brothers in Christ at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Needville, TX. This is a different approach. The age range is going to be bigger than usual. Every youth between 11 and 18 is welcome to join us. It is going to be a two year program, starting in February of 2019 with Confirmation in January 2021. Classes will be held on one Saturday per month from 9am-noon. There is a total of 18 sessions for a curriculum of 12 sessions. That gives us enough time to do fun and meaningful fieldtrips, like beach cleanup and funeral home.

So if you know any youngsters that might be interested, please join us for worship on Sunday, January 13, at 10 am. Right after church there will be an informational meeting with more details and the opportunity to sign up.

Remember the power of love

In his Christmas Message, United Church of Christ General Minister and President the Rev. John C. Dorhauer urges the wider church to use the power of love to overcome the divisions that exist in our world.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace and glad tidings to all.”

So said the angel to the shepherds, asking them to go to Bethlehem and find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Of all the lines from the Christmas narrative, I think this is my favorite. The coming of the Christ-child was a gift from the heavens meant to usher in the reign of God’s peace. This is the gift we have all longed for – a return to God’s vision of Shalom. Let us beat our swords into plowshares, our spears into pruning hooks. Let us no longer learn the ways of war. Let us see the lion and the lamb together. Let there be no more warring between nations on the mountain of the Lord.

If Christ came for anything, it was for this: the peace that passes understanding. His entire life was a rehearsal for us to examine what walking a pathway dedicated to love of neighbor looked like. It looked like a turning of the cheek, the walk of a second mile, the unfathomable love of neighbor, the kindness from and to the stranger best exemplified by the Samaritan on the road.

It didn’t look like two Christians unwilling to talk to each other again because of who they voted for in the last election.

It didn’t look like Christians on the left thinking Christians on the right just don’t understand the real Jesus; and Christians on the right thinking Christians on the left are heretical and hypocritical humanists.

Divisions are intensifying.

Relationships are being shaped and defined based on political points of view.

All that should make for a very merry Christmas when the family gathers this year.

But, like my family, which agreed to put aside personal points of view — we need to remember that love comes first. Though we have spent more than five decades together living and fighting with each other — we know what love feels like.

I invite us all to remember what love looks and feels and acts like. Support for righteous causes matter, but they ought not come at the sacrifice of family, church, and fellowship.

As the United Church of Christ, we come from differing backgrounds, but we are committed as one church to living into the hope brought into the world with Jesus. Working for peace, building a just world for all of God’s people.

Christmas has often been a time to set aside differences and remind us all about the power of love to overcome them.

May it be so again this year.

John C. Dorhauer
General Minister and President