All Saints Sunday October 28

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World!

Sometimes it is hard to see the light. With the holidays coming up there will be all the more occasions to miss the ones you have lost to death and remember the wonderful times you had together.

It is this season of the year, when the days get shorter and it seems like darkness would be able to overcome the light that the church has always reminded itself that All Saints are resurrected to eternal life. The Sunday before All Saints Day is a reminder that the light will cast out every darkness, a reminder that life will win over death.

Please join us at St. John’s United Church of Christ on Sunday, October 28th 2018 at 10 a.m. to celebrate the memory of loved ones who have passed on. Everyone is invited to light candles in memory of people they have lost. Members of our congregation who died since last All Saints Sunday will be lifted up by the entire congregation and next of kin are specifically invited to light a candle for them.

Whether we live or whether we die we will always be in God’s loving hands. May our God be with you also as you are adjusting to a life without having the ones who died around.

Church, Vets, or Pets?

Between my wife and I we juggle three jobs, two major educational programs and three kids each with a different sport. Our schedule is crowded and we embrace it. However sometimes it is hard to set priorities. I am inviting you into a glimpse of my Saturday schedule for this coming weekend.

For about six months I had planned to attend the Fall Meeting of the Houston Association of the United Church of Christ. Our denominational family has 16 congregations in the Houston area. We meet twice a year. 5 lay members plus the clergy of all our churches are invited to come and live our covenant commitment with one another. This meeting is being hosted by St. John UCC, located at 4606 Mangum Road, Houston, TX 77092. Lunch will include spaghetti, salad, kimchi, garlic bread, and dessert and will cost $5 per person. Please RSVP to Registration begins at 8:30 AM and a short worship begins at 9:00 AM. Following worship we’ll have a business meeting that will include approval of the minutes from the Spring Meeting, a 2018 Financial Report, the 2019 Budget, and a presentation about the grant given to the association by Bethel UCC. St. John will present a program entitled “Local Church Leadership Points.” It will deal with a variety of leadership needs within the local church and include questions and discussion from those present. The association meeting will conclude with lunch. This is an inspirational time and for me also a professional obligation. High priority on the scheduling scale.

As a military chaplain I make it a point to stay involved with veterans organizations in the community. Our local VFW Post 3903 also has a good portion of our church membership in its ranks. They are my second option for this coming Saturday: VFW Post 3903 will be having a breakfast for Veterans 7-10am at 1903 1st St., Rosenberg, Texas 77471. All veterans in the greater Fort Bend county area are welcome to join them for a time of food and fellowship. With free food and good company, this one is hard to pass by. Also there will be booths from other vet organizations educating about benefits. This one is sure to be yummy and important.

Finally there is Bark in the Park. A church member is heavily involved with the local arts community and she is in charge of the dog festival in downtown Rosenberg. Besides the dogs in the park, this event will feature a street fair with lots of live music, food trucks, vendor booths, art cars, art receptions, puppet shows, jugglers, and special appearances by both an autumn faerie and an autumn queen. I find it crucial to get involved with our thriving downtown community. It’s such a fun place to be.

To be honest, I haven’t decided where I’ll be yet. Discernment is an important spiritual exercise as Paul reminds the Corinthians, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) It almost sounds like Paul would be pressuring me into the following madness: Be at the VFW at 7 am to eat breakfast. Rush into Houston to make it on time for the Association meeting. After lunch head to downtown Rosenberg and relax with the puppies. If I wanted to please everybody I could try to pull that of. But honestly, I would not be fully present anywhere because my mind would always be in the car already, driving to the next thing. So I’ll stick with Paul’s first phrase there, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” I will probably do one thing and do it right – to the glory of God. I still haven’t decided which one. But where are your priorities: Church, Vets, or Pets? I look forward to seeing you on Saturday wherever that may be!

Neighbors in Need 2018 Offering

At St. John’s we will receive the Neighbors in Need Offering this Sunday, October 7th.

Are you ready?
Neighbors in Need supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States and abroad.
One-third of Neighbors in Need funds support the Council for American Indian Ministry (CAIM).
Two-thirds of Neighbors in Need funds go to grants from the UCC’s Justice & Witness Ministries (JWM) to support a variety of justice initiatives, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects.

In 2017 two recipients in the South Central Conference benefited from your generosity:
Slumber Falls Camp / Twill Do Accessibility Project
Friends Congregational Church / Interfaith Network: Building Sanctuary

The Neighbors in Need offering is a part of making our congregation 5 for 5
Thank you for helping your neighbors. And thank you for your support!

Be a Responsible Citizen

The deadline for voter registration in Texas is fast approaching on October 9th. Please check with the secretary of state that you are properly registered. Why would a pastor have to remind me of that? Church is not supposed to be political! Well, I am following the example of the Apostle Paul reminding the Romans to be responsible citizens:

“Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear. Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live. That’s also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.” (Romans 13, The Message)

The greatest danger to our system of government is when citizens do not do their part and the most formidable thing you can do to fulfill this commandment is to vote. You know the consequences of what happens when you don’t:

There is a biblical example of that as well. If you don’t follow Romans 13 and check your voter registration you may end up with worse than Taco Bell – the beast of Revelation 13:
“The Beast had a loud mouth, boastful and blasphemous. It could do anything it wanted for forty-two months. It yelled blasphemies against God, blasphemed his Name, blasphemed his Church, especially those already dwelling with God in Heaven. It was permitted to make war on God’s holy people and conquer them. It held absolute sway over all tribes and peoples, tongues and races. Everyone on earth whose name was not written from the world’s foundation in the slaughtered Lamb’s Book of Life will worship the Beast.”

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Holidays at Settegast Heights Village

200 families live in our church owned, low-income housing Settegast Heights Village. We provide them year-round with a safe and clean living environment along with plenty of opportunities for personal learning and growth. One of the more recent additions is a library. There are many ways to get involved through volunteering. With the holiday season fast approaching here is what you can do:

1. Show up for the Christmas party! That is a wonderful opportunity to tour the facilities and meet residents. The party will be at 7373 N. Wayside Dr., Houston, Texas 77028, on Saturday, December 8th, from 11am to 2pm. As you go, please consider bringing cookies and kid-friendly sandwiches.

2. Give a Thanksgiving Feast to a family in need! Since Settegast Heights is HUD assisted housing the residents do not have an easy time putting together a wholesome Thanksgiving Feast. That is why we ask members of our 16 Houston area congregations to step up to the plate (literally). The goal is to have $25 for each of the 200 families. That means each of our 16 churches should come up with $325 which breaks down to 16 people per congregation. Be one of the 16 and give $25! At St. John’s we will be collecting Turkey bucks every Sunday in October.

UCC Disaster Coordinators watch, wait, pray as Tropical Storm Florence floods North Carolina

Written by Connie Larkman

In the 72 hours since Florence, now a tropical depression, made landfall in the Carolinas, it has not stopped raining somewhere. The tremendous amount of water, with more than three feet of rain expected in parts of North Carolina before this sluggish system moves on, is making it almost impossible for United Church of Christ disaster coordinators to get an accurate handle on how Churches and congregants are faring in this storm. Power outages, flash floods and washed out roads are still commonplace.

“Wilmington is surrounded by water; people can’t get in or out. It’s too dangerous to do damage assessments, and it’s almost impossible to get information right now,” said Jon Wallace, conference disaster coordinator, UCC Southern Conference. “We can get information from our representatives, specific to where they are. But until it’s safe for people to move around, it’s going to be a while yet before we have a real solid damage assessment. Major interstates in the southeast part of the state – like I-95 in Lumberton – have sections that are closed. State roads have completely collapsed in some spots. Right now, we need to minimize exposure to deadly situations.”

As of Monday, Florence has left 18 dead, tens of thousands in shelters, more than a million without power. The wettest tropical storm in North Carolina history has shattered rainfall records, and triggered historic flooding. The storm’s high winds have brought down power lines, uprooted trees, ripped roofs off buildings and blown out windows.

That’s very evident in Beaufort. The Rev. Carlton Davis, pastor of St. Stephens Congregational Church, UCC, said the former Washburn Seminary, now the church fellowship hall, will need major repairs.

“When the storm came through it blew out five windows in the fellowship hall,” Davis said. “Two of them blew completely out – right into the building. The storm blew the paneling right off the walls. The room flooded, and the floor will need to be replaced.”

He and his wife have been sheltering in place, without electricity, since the middle of last week when Florence’s winds first came ashore. They’ve got a tree laying in their front yard, which fortunately missed their home.

“We’ve been without power since Wednesday, and based on what I hear now, if we get it back by Wednesday it will be a miracle,” Davis continued. “Just about everywhere people are starting to scramble and get what they can. The lines at the grocery store and the gas stations are wrapping around the building and down the highway. We’ve had storms before, but this one is bad. People say this one is worse than Hazel (in 1954). We’ve never been this long without power, but we’re managing. Just praying. We still have hope.”

Davis said his sisters evacuated to Raleigh, but with the rising rivers still expected to crest, they are uncertain how and when they will be able to return home.

“This is the worst,” Wallace said. “Florence is a slow moving disaster pulling rain up from the ocean. It’s probably going to surpass any disaster that this state has had. (Hurricanes) Floyd and Matthew didn’t do that, they came in and left – and the magnitude of moisture is just catastrophic. Recovery here is going to take years and years. We are not a resources-rich state. Every dollar will count and will make a difference. That’s where the fellowship disaster partnership comes in. We are consolidating our efforts, but we can’t yet know what the need is.”

The Southern Conference has initiated a partnership effort with ‘formula of agreement’ denominational partners. The Rev. Edward Davis, SOC Conference Minister, has reached out to Bishop Tim Smith, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; Bishop Valerie Melvin, North Carolina Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); and the Rev. Jim Fisk, Presbyterian Church USA. Wallace said the group has identified three opportunities for work and have begun to explore and discuss and plan initiatives for collaborative ministry in response to Florence.

“We are now compiling all of our inventory within the Conference such as those churches that will provide shelter for displaced victims, distribution centers for collected items, and clergy and laity who will serve as volunteers,” said Davis. “We all have to wait now to start the recovery process. The First Responders are in place. I continue to keep all of you in my prayers.”

UCC Disaster Ministries, which is also encouraging continued prayer for all the families, individuals, first responders and emergency management staff in the region, has already established a 2018 Hurricane Relief response to expand current capacities and assist through established relief networks and partners in the impacted areas.

“UCC Disaster Ministries for its part continues to collaborate with the conference, offering up financial resources, guidance and expertise,” said Zach Wolgemuth, executive, UCC Disaster Ministries. “Right now the best thing people can do is to continue to be in prayer and give financially. We know the recovery from this storm will be long-term and we are committed to being in it for the long-haul.”

“The United Church of Christ’s motto, ‘that they may all be one’ describes the tempo of Florence response in North Carolina just now,” Wallace said. “Neighbor helping neighbor, neighbor praying for neighbor, neighbor rescuing neighbor, neighbor being Jesus to neighbor. May it be so for the long period of recovery. Lord, hear our prayers.”

Give to the UCC 2018 Hurricane Relief Effort in church on Sunday or online here.

Bringing Caribbean Flair To Rosenberg

Nearly twenty children participated in the 2018 Vacation Bible School at St. John’s United Church of Christ in Rosenberg. We were about the same number of adults who planned and delivered a Bible-based curriculum. Embrace the Fruits of the Spirit was developed by Global Ministries, a cooperative including the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ.

The Fruits of the Spirit curriculum is based on Galatians 5:22-23 “…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” That sentence became the chorus to a song we sang daily. Each day the boys and girls learned a different song to emphasize a gift of the Spirit. Vacation Bible School songs often include motions which make them easier and more fun to learn and sing. We played Caribbean music, too, and walked under a Limbo stick. (How low can you go?)

Children worked daily on a canvas which included symbols from each day. Oil pastels were used to create a visual for each of the gifts of the Spirit. Students helped one another make bracelets with buttons and string. Then, we worked to tie them around our wrists. Cisco Tucker made leather and clay character necklaces for each VBS child.

During the week at Vacation Bible School, young and old worked and played together in family groups. People discovered it wasn’t always the youngest who needed a hand. There were opportunities for listening and doing, watching and reading, writing and drawing, there were so many things to do. We drew cartoons to tell Bible stories. Everyone used their colorful maps to locate the Caribbean countries. Flags from the six nations hung near the sanctuary; we were often stumped trying to match the nation and its flag.

Prepared in our kitchen, daily snacks reminded the children we were studying Caribbean countries. Smoothies, fresh fruit including watermelon, wafer sandwiches and cookies were served during snack time. The mid-morning break was a learning experience thanks to the planning and the working in our kitchen!

Caroline, cousin to Ben, Phoebe, and Marie, was very helpful. She participated with a regular group during the week and on Friday she read a picture book from Colombia to everyone. Each day we looked at the life of a child in a different Caribbean nation: Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Colombia. Abigail, Marie, Makenzie, and Cisco read letters from island children. All the children loved using the microphone as we reported our thoughts to the large group.

Three mission coworkers from Colombia and Jamaica spoke via Skype to our students. We asked questions about where they lived and what they did in their mission work. Students asked questions about daily routines, food, weather, and pets. The coworker in Colombia shared the screen with his large cat. We learned local church missions in the Caribbean host Global Ministries coworkers who work in successful local programs.

Vacation Bible School is always rewarding for children and adults who participate. Promise yourself to be involved next summer!

Global Mission Church

Our church’s first name is St. John’s: Johanniskirche, Jan kostel, Iglesia de San Juan, St. John’s Church… That’s what we call ourselves. We are part of a loud tradition of St. John’s churches all around the world. People of every generation in every nation have been inspired by this grunting prophet. In movies he usually looks like a descendant of Samson, the fine arts depict him as a sophisticated messenger. According to the Gospels he has one purpose: “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” It takes a trailblazer to open peoples’ hearts and minds. That’s the mission of St. John. That’s what we are here for. The first article of our by-laws spells it out: “It shall be the purpose of this organization to establish in its community a Christian Congregation for worship, to promote the Christian life, and to advance the Kingdom of God by all available means, both at home and abroad.” How do we do it?

With so many members celebrating their German and Czech heritage, with God’s hands holding the whole world in the parish hall, with the congregation supporting Church World Service through the CROP walk, and giving to all five UCC offerings I think St. John’s is a global mission church. This summer we participated in Global Ministries’ Caribbean Initiative by utilizing their VBS curriculum. During that week three mission coworkers from Colombia and Jamaica spoke via Skype to our students. We asked questions about where they lived and what they did in their mission work. Students asked questions about daily routines, food, weather, and pets. The coworker in Colombia shared the screen with his large cat. We learned local church missions in the Caribbean host Global Ministries coworkers who work in successful local programs. It is amazing to feel our own church at work all over the world. In everything we do St. John’s connects with the wider church and is out there to help the world, making the Lord’s paths straight.

Building on the excitement that was sparked by our VBS experience I invite you to take a look at the process outlined by Global Ministries to officially designate our congregation as a Global Mission Church. It is a five-step process:
1. Gather a team to coordinate the Global Mission Church process
2. Learn about UCC global mission understandings and commitments
3. Evaluate your past and current global mission involvement
4. Create your new action plan for engaging in God’s global mission
5. Commit to carrying out your plan in covenant with Global Ministries

On Sunday, October 16th 2018, right after worship, please gather in Parish Hall for a Table Talk. If you are excited about getting more involved in the Global Church you may even consider joining a coordinating team should we decide to gather one.
Also, on that same Sunday, right before church there will be a makeup session for our spiritual summer reading meeting. If you have not caught up on all of Augustine’s Confessions that’s fine. Books 2 and 5 will probably at the heart of our conversation.