We have a tradition on Christmas Eve of writing down our prayers on small slips of paper and placing them in the manger in our Sanctuary. This year we’ve moved the nativity scene outdoors and are inviting anyone in the community to join us throughout December. Please stop by the church lawn anytime after December 1st and before Christmas to leave your prayer. You can come as many times as you’d like! There is a plastic box with slips of paper, writing utensils, and a small stapler. After you write your prayer, link it to the other prayers and staple it to create a prayer chain. Together, our prayers will decorate the creche as we await Christ’s arrival. A big thank you to Bert Allen for creating our gorgeous prayer station!
What are star words?
The use of star words, also called “star gifts,” is a prayer practice connected to Epiphany and the new year that has been growing in popularity in Protestant churches for nearly a decade now. The idea is that a list of intention words, or guiding words, are written or printed on paper stars. These paper stars are then distributed at random. Individuals are often encouraged to place their star word somewhere they will see it regularly throughout the year to allow consistent reflection on how God has moved through, around, or in connection to that word.
If you are on our mailing list, you will receive a star word with your December newsletter in the U.S. mail. If you are not on our mailing list and would like a word assigned to you, please email the office and we'll send you one!
There Are Several Theological Statements Being Made in this Tradition:
1. The Magi followed a star, which ultimately led them to Jesus. Therefore, we too use all the resources we have available to us—including creative prayer practices and intention words for the new year—to move closer to Jesus.
2. We trust that God uses multiple ways to guide us and speak to us. Star words are one such lens that might provide us a way to look for God in our midst, both actively and in hindsight.
3. We trust that it is often easy to miss God in our daily midst. Having an intention word to consider both in present days, as well as to reflect on at the end of the year, allows for us to see God in ways we may not have seen God before. This is the greatest gift.
4. We know that the most common prayer practice for many involves speaking to God as opposed to silence or contemplation. We believe that star words invite a new prayer rhythm of reflection and review that can be a powerful new way to connect with God.
5. By receiving a star word chosen at random, we practice the spiritual task of receiving. It is not we who are in control in this moment. Instead, we trust that God is present, and we let go of our desire to cultivate or control.
Ideas for using your star word during Advent & Christmas:
You might display your star word in your home. Use a paperclip to add it to ribbon, a tassel, or tinsel—string this on your Christmas tree, into a wreath, or along your mantle. Or, bend open a paper clip, and use it to punch a hole in your star word to transform it into a simple Christmas tree ornament and add it to your tree. Get creative—seek beautiful ways to add your star words to spaces around your home so that you will continue to see them and think about them throughout the Advent season.
Prompts for using the star words for daily prayer:
A. Look up the definition of your word, even if it is a word you know well. You may even look into the etymology of the word and how its meaning has changed throughout history. If you drew a non-English word, do as much research as you can into the meaning of the word in its original culture.
B. What does this word remind you of? Does it recall any memories or experiences? How might God be speaking to you through this word?
C. See if you can find your word—or a synonym—in the Bible. What scripture passages can you find? How is the word used in these passages? Are there other scripture passages that remind you of your word?
D. Write or speak aloud a prayer using your word. (This is a fun challenge for children using the star words.)
SOURCE FOR THE ABOVE TEXT AND IMAGES: A Sanctified Art
Join us for a special Epiphany worship service on Jan. 3
Be sure to bring your star word to worship on January 3rd. We will gather via Zoom at 10:45 a.m. for worship (NOT on our regular Facebook Live platform). You'll find the Zoom login information here on our website before January 3rd. More details to come!
The Advent season brings the opportunity for you to provide poinsettias in honor of someone important to you as the church is decorated for Advent and Christmas. The cost to donate poinsettias is $10.00 per plant and we will share the dedications in worship on Dec. 13 and 20.
The Deacons will be providing a date for you to pick up your poinsettias before Christmas so you can enjoy a bit of First Congregational in your own home this year. Or perhaps you'll want to pick up your poinsettias and share them in a porch drop with a friend!
Order your poinsettia now by clicking the button to complete the online order form OR call the church office to place your order.
Advent devotionals are now available for pick up! Look for the plastic box outside the double doors that go into the office area at the church building. If you'd rather have one posted in the mail, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to request. Our devotionals are from A Sanctified Art and include poetry, art, scripture, and space for reflection.
Dear Church Family,
We know that soon you’ll be putting up your Christmas decorations for the coming season. For some of us, we’re a little afraid that we are putting up the tree and hanging the stockings but no one will see them. We want to fix that. Send pictures of your tree, stockings, holiday décor and nativity scenes to be used in our worship services and on social media.
Please upload them to our Upload Portal by December 4 (sooner if you can).
Looking for another way to quiet your mind during these challenging days? Try our labyrinth! A labyrinth is a meandering path with a singular path leading to a center point. The practice of walking a labyrinth is a way to use our bodies, breath, and spirit to connect with the Holy. You are encouraged to take your time moving towards the center and pause for a few moments when you reach it. Then you reverse your pathway to come back out of the labyrinth.
Canon Pastor, author and labyrinth expert, Lauren Artress says--
“Walking the labyrinth does not demand a great amount of concentration in order to benefit from the experience. The sheer act of walking a complicated path – which discharges energy – begins to focus the mind. The labyrinth experience sensitizes us, educates us and helps us distinguish superficial extraneous thoughts from the thought that comes from our soul level and that each one of us longs to hear.”
The temporary labyrinth created on our church parking lot is a classical 7-circuit design. Enter the labyrinth and choose to let all thoughts go when they present themselves in your awareness. Artress says, “You may find tears welling up, or a sense of peace. Your soul may want to be still and rest.”
Ready to try it? Walk our labyrinth weekday evenings after 5pm or the weekends when our parking lot is not in use. For an extra measure of comfort, pull the available caution tape across the lot. And then let go and simply listen – God is still speaking…
Prefer to try this practice at home or from a seated position? You can also print a labyrinth to trace with your finger at home.
Learn more about labyrinths here.
Coming to walk the labyriinth? Please be sure and follow our congregation's COVID Policies for gatheirng on church grounds. The nitty gritty is that you need to stay home if sick/quarrantined/isolating, wear a mask, and stay more than six feet apart from those you don't live with. You can read our COVID policies here.
The Rabbi Moti Rieber, executive director of Kansas Interfaith Action (KIFA), will be in our pulpit on Sunday, November 15th with an update about KIFA’s work. Kansas Interfaith Action is a statewide, multi–faith issue–advocacy organization that “puts faith into action” by educating, engaging and advocating on behalf of people of faith and the public regarding critical social, economic, and climate justice issues.
KIFA (pronounced “KEE–fa”) supporters are shaped by the values of our diverse faiths, which connect us to an age–old concern for justice, peace, and human dignity. Rooted in faith, we join hands across difference to work for moral public policy in Kansas.
You are encouraged to invite your friends to join us for worship on November 15th! Please visit https://www.kansasinterfaithaction.org/ to learn more about KIFA.
Rabbi Moti will also join us for Fellowship Hour on Zoom on the following Sunday, Nov. 22nd. Join us at 11:45 a.m. that day on Zoom to chat with Rabbi Moti and learn more about KIFA.
One of the tender things about this time is feeling like the Church has really gone out into the world and into our homes. We can join for Prayers & Fellowship from our back deck and have grown accustomed to worshiping from our couches and dining room tables. As we anticipate the arrival of Emmanuel - God with Us - in our homes this December, we want to invite YOU to share a bit of that homey feeling with the rest of us.
We are seeking two different types of video submissions. You don’t need to be fancy or polished and we can provide all the tech help you need to make it happen. We'd love to have you participate in one or both!
Home for the Holidays Video Challenge:
Choose a story prompt below and record your answer in 2 minutes or less. Bonus points for showing us your cozy holiday decor! We will be using these during worship services throughout Advent as we light our Advent wreaths and may share some of them via social media, too. Let’s warm each others’ homes together with
our presence this Advent and Christmas. Please contact Pastor Caela soon if you’re interested so we have time to work on the details.
Story prompts for the Home for the Holidays videos:
Christmas Carols Wanted!
Christmas Carols: you are invited to share your favorite Christmas carol with us to be used during our Lessons & Carols service on December 20th. If you or your family has a favorite carol, please consider making a short video of you sharing it. If you’re unsure, or want a piano accompaniment, or have any questions, please contact Gretchen Lewis for more information. It would be really lovely to see and hear from our beloved community in this way!
Service of Prayer, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 12:15p, 821 Poyntz
On Tuesday November 3, please join an ecumenical group of Manhattan Christians for a short service of prayer and communion. This will be an opportunity to join together in prayer for peace, unity, and God’s presence among us as we go through the national election together. We will meet outside at 821 Poyntz (next to MHS East) at 12:15 pm and the service will last less than half an hour, please wear warm clothing and a face mask and observe social distancing. In the event of snow/rain, canopies will be put up. Communion is an open table; all are welcome to partake in the bread and cup. The service will be led by local clergy with Rev. Liz Kocher of First Lutheran Church presiding over communion.
Online Prayer Vigil Hosted by Community UCC (Champaign, IL)
Our friends at Community UCC are inviting us to join them anytime between Noon on Tuesday until Noon on Wednesday for an online vigil. They will be sharing images, music, and quiet space to be with others in prayer. Go to https://www.facebook.com/communityucc/live to access the online vigil.
Interfaith Silent Prayer Vigil,
Thursdays, beginning Nov. 5 from 12-1pm in City Park
Beginning the Thursday immediately after the election, we will be gathering with others for a silent, interfaith prayer vigil in City Park over the noon hour. Come for one or all of these gatherings. Full details available here.
Zoom Prayers & Fellowship, Thursday at 7:00 p.m.
Join us for our regular Thursday evening prayer gathering on Zoom. We center ourselves with a little scripture and music and then pray together. You can stay after for conversation or head out if you need to!
Join us on Zoom at 11:45 a.m. for our November Congregational Meeting. All are welcome to attend and members will also be invited to vote. We will be previewing the 2021 budget and approving the slate of officers for 2021. Documents for the meeting will be e-mailed to all members no later than Sunday, Nov. 8th. If you are a member and you have not received your documents by November 8th, please check your junk mail folder and then e-mail Sandy if you still cannot find the documents.
ZOOM INFORMATION FOR THE MEETING:
Zoom room opens at 11:35 a.m. Meeting begins at 11:45 a.m.
Click to Zoom or call 1-669-900-6833 and dial meeting ID 606-107-240# at the prompt. Meeting password is 66502. Please note: long distance charges may apply if you use the call-in option.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE MEETING
According to Church By-Laws, Art. IV, Sect. 1, a congregational meeting shall be held each November for the purpose of approving nominations for elective officers and presentation of the budget to be voted on at the January meeting. The proposed budget and slate of officers will be sent to members at least one week prior to the meeting. They can also be viewed by signing into the Members area of the church website. This year, the congregational meeting, like nearly everything else, will be held via Zoom. It will take place on Sunday, November 15 at 11:45 a.m.
The meeting will open at 11:35 a.m. Upon signing into Zoom for the meeting, you will be directed to type the names of all voting members in the chat so that we have a record of the meeting. Those members who call in will be able to state their names, which can then be entered manually into the record by a host.
The meeting will be called to order. The slate of officers for the coming year will be presented and there will be an opportunity for open nominations to fill those positions which are still vacant. Then a motion will be presented to accept the slate. Upon seconding, we will proceed to discussion, and then to a vote. At this time, anyone in opposition to the motion will be invited to unmute their microphones and state their opposition for the record. Then all those in favor will unmute and say “aye”.
The vote will be recorded as approved or not. The next item on the agenda will be the proposed 2021 budget. There will be an opportunity for questions. The budget will be revised as needed in the months prior to presentation at the January congregational meeting. Following the formal business portion, the meeting will be adjourned and attendees will be invited to stay for fellowship.