December 2016 Newsletter


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December 2016 Newsletter

Notes from West Mountain

 What I love about Christmas…

“The light of the world…”

Christmas comes but once a year. It is so true. When I think of this I am reminded that “once a year” used to be a week or two prior to Christmas through New Year’s Day. While in recent past it begins in a real way around Halloween and lasts a full two months. And this does not take into consideration the families and homes that somehow manage to still have the decorations displayed into February.

It is easy to criticize the blurred lines between the sacred message of the birth of Christ, its power and its meaning, with the rampant and unapologetic commercialization that bombards us. On the one hand we find purpose and depth in the birth narrative and the radical reality it promotes. While on the other hand, marketers would have us understand that this is the time that we are to buy, buy, buy…Mercedes Benz “sales events”, the newest hand held Nintendo game, jewelry, clothing, what have you.

It is just that blur, between that frenetic cultural vigor and the more solemn underlying celebration that engages my heart and soul. It is the reflection stemming from God’s in breaking nature with us, incarnate, here and now…with us, that draws me in. It is the near cacophony of energy and enthusiasm that accompanies all this merchandizing and sales that draws me in. It is the incredible effort made in homes all over the place to decorate with lights and colors illuminating the night’s darkness, fending off the winter solstice with gaudy and frivolous displays that spin electric meters like tops.

It is the reminder throughout all of this that our message in proclaiming the birth of Christ, and the life, miracle and ministry we share, is counter cultural and centering. As the season of Christmas occupies one sixth of the year it provides all the more opportunity to examine the ways in which our faith both unites us and sets apart. One sixth of the year we see firsthand how revolutionary our claims are and consider the challenges that these claims truly present. Merry Christmas!

Amen and Peace,

Mark

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ADVENT ACTIVITIES AT FLAGG ROAD UCC

Family Advent Night & Supper

Sunday, December 11th 5:30-7:00 p.m.

The Board of Deacons invite “any and all” to Family Advent Night. The evening will include the retelling of the Christmas Story, singing carols, creating our crèche and sharing a light supper. Children and adults are invited to come in their PJ’s. Families are asked to bring a plate of sandwiches or a dessert. Soup and beverages will be provided.

2016 Sunday School Christmas Pageant

Sunday, December 18th 10:00 a.m. Worship Service

All are welcome to participate. Rehearsal will be on Saturday, December 17th at 9:00 am.

 

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

Saturday, December 24 at 7:30 p.m.

What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.   -John 1:4

Out of the darkness, light…A service of special music, scripture and sacred story on the eve of this special day! Come and share in the celebration of Christ’s birth.

Note: In addition to our usual sharing of the light of Christ during the singing of Silent Night, the Deacons invite all who are willing and able to bring a self-supported (either standing on their own or in a candle holder) from home to our Christmas Eve service. We will place our candles all together on the Communion Table and use their light to enhance our service.

 Christmas Day

There will be no 10:00 a.m. worship service on Sunday, December 25th

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                                                 YOUTH GROUP DECEMBER EVENT

 The Youth Group will be offering a babysitting service on December 16th, from 5:00-8:00 pm. Parents are invited to drop off their children and enjoy a night out without the kids! There is a sign up in the Lounge for youths AND for children so we can plan for dinner (Bertucci pizza and rolls) as well as activities for the evening.

Youth members and their friends are invited to the annual Youth Group Sleepover at the church, immediately following the babysitting service. The sleepover will end when the Pageant Rehearsal begins, on Saturday morning, December 17th, at 9:00 am. Youths are asked to please stay and help with/participate in the Pageant Rehearsal. Any questions, please ask Linda and Liz!

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BOARD OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE DECEMBER 2016 FOCUS

Second Mile Offering

Christmas Fund for the Veterans of the Cross

Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.

                                                                                    – John 13:34 (Common English Bible)

For 115 years, the Christmas Fund for the Veterans of the Cross and the Emergency Fund has been a tangible expression of God’s love. One of the four Special Mission Offerings of the United Church of Christ, the Christmas Fund provides UCC congregations and members an opportunity to reach out in loving compassion, providing assistance to those who have so faithfully served our Church and who now find themselves facing

unexpected financial needs. In 2015, UCC congregations and members generously contributed $1,528,481 to the Offering. This enabled the Pension Boards’ Ministerial Assistance program to provide, on behalf of the whole Church, Pension Supplementation, Health Premium Supplementation, Emergency Grants, and Christmas “Thank You” Gift Checks to individuals and families in need.

In 2015, gifts to the Christmas Fund enabled:

  • Small pension supplementation for 464 retired clergy and lay employees – $1,500,203
  • Health benefits supplementation for 235 retired clergy and lay employees – $452,561
  • Emergency grants for 58 individuals and families – $91,694
  • Christmas “Thank You” gift checks to 528 retired clergy and lay employees – $211,200

Your gift in 2016 will be combined with the gifts of others to continue this vital mission. Thank You!

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DISCUSSION GROUP UPDATE- WHITE PRIVILEGE, LET’S TALK

Our guided study regarding White Privilege continues on Sunday, December 4th following coffee hour. On November 27th we had a field trip to the Bow Tie Cinema 17 to see the movie Loving. It is the factual account of an interracial Virginian couple in 1958, who married, violating the Commonwealth’s laws. (Spoiler alert: This eventually played out with them being the lead plaintiffs in a Supreme Court case against Virginia overturning that law and others that had been in force since the time of slavery.) Given our current dialogues concerning race it was a most opportune time to take in this powerful movie.

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NEWS FROM THE KNITTING GROUP

The knitting group will meet at Ruth Rankin’s Cottage (M) on December 6th and 20th from 1:30 to 3:00 pm. The group will continue to work on scarves, hats and mittens for the Chase the Chill project. If you are not able to attend, and would like to knit at home, yarn is always available. Please contact Ruth to make arrangements.

Chase the Chill is an annual graffiti/yarn bombing event that distributes scarves in public places so that those in need—regardless of income and without any qualifiers—can help themselves. Chase the Chill combines art, charity, and yarn bombing. The mission is to celebrate the art and beauty of knitting and crocheting, building community, generating positive interest in a location, and sharing with others. Flagg Road UCC knitted contributions will be due by December 29th.

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FLAGG ROAD UCC WOMEN’S FELLOWSHIP 

Gathering all women at Flagg Road UCC! Please join us on Sunday, January 29th from 5-7 pm for a mini-retreat to nurture, restore and renew ourselves in each other’s company away from the busyness of our lives. Bring a favorite inspirational quote, book and candle along with a simple snack or drink to share. We will sit by the fire, talk, eat, drink and share a simple arts and crafts activity! Any ideas or questions, please contact Kyoung-Hi Dickson at knr90@hotmail.com or 860-206-6360.

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A FRIENDLY REMINDER ABOUT PLEDGE CARDS

If you have not done so already, please return your pledge cards to the church office.

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THE GIVING TREE

Once again Flagg Road is participating with Family Life Education to bring Christmas cheer to their clients. We will be receiving the names of 30 children with suggestions for gifts. The focus of Family Life is to make sure all of their children have warm clothes for the holidays, so they have asked parents to request clothing items. We expect to have the names by mid-November and as soon as we do we will let the church members know. The gifts need be at the church by Sunday, December 11th.

If you will not be in church to choose name and wish to participate, please all Sally Williams   (860-561-3479) or Susan Azano (860-236-3927) and we will choose a child for you. Blessings to all and thank you.

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WORSHIPPING WITH MUSIC-A NEW MUSICAL INITIATIVE

Collecting songs of our time that speak to us spiritually and express our faith.

“One of Us”, Joan Osborne… “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”, Pete Seeger…

“Imagine”, Jon Lennon… “Hallelujah”, Leonard Cohen…

Music moves the heart and soul in ways too deep to thoroughly describe. From generation to generation music engages us and draws us in and provides an opportunity to participate communally with voice and instrument in something beautiful that is greater than our selves. We are a culture that expresses itself in music. Music can unite us through taste and appreciation while at the same time music can offer pathways to the sense of wonder and the sacred.

There are a great many modern songs that express elements of our faith that were not written for worship. Some speak to the power of love. Some address the sense of wonder and awe in response to our creation. Some songs are content to explicitly raise religious questions, others seek to provide answers.

What music speaks to you?

What songs, sung by popular artists, poets, or rock and roll legends, provide a glimmer of the wonder of life? What songs that you know, do you find yourself wondering, “Why don’t we sing that one in church?” Following New Year’s we will begin collecting modern songs that have meaning to us. Our hope is to create a musical collection of these songs and to go through the proper steps to be able to reproduce them to be shared in worship together. MORE TO COME!

A bit of background:

Since the Protestant Reformation, hymnals have traditionally been the source of nearly all church music. One of the first was the Genevan Psalter collected by none other than John Calvin in 1537. You might say, “My, that is a long time ago!” (Go ahead, say it, “My, that was a long time ago!) Our hymnal, The Chalice, is far newer than that! Its copyright is 1995.

“From Heaven Above” is a Christmas hymn, number 146 in our hymnal. It is not a hymn as generally recognized as say, “Away in the Manger” or “O Come All Ye Faithful” which follow immediately after “From Heaven Above”. But it has a sweet flowing melody and is easy to sing. Its first verse goes, From heaven above to earth I come to bring good news to everyone! Glad tidings of great joy I bring to all the world, and gladly sing.” What may be surprising to some and not to others, is that the words were written by Martin Luther in 1535 and the music four years later, credited to Valentin Schumann. Hmm…you might say, “My, that is a long time ago!”

Compiling more contemporary music is not new to us. Martin Luther is known to have taken popular music of his time and create sacred hymns using their melodies. The tune of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” was popular as a drinking song in taverns prior to becoming a hymn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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