The Board of Mission has concentrated its activities on food insecurity and encouraging COVID vaccinations during the summer months. Our Second Helping numbers are higher than they were a year ago, and we are continuing to serve meals on a take-out basis. We seem to be seeing more families with children. Our participation in Common Table continues, and Board member Martha Mather represented our church as part of the Common Table display at the Every Body Counts event at the Douglass Center on August 8.
At the encouragement of our own Kendra Kuhlman and the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation, we applied for and received a $2000 grant from the Kansas Beats the Virus initiative to incentivize COVID vaccinations at our Second Helping meal. We advertised that folks receiving the Johnson and Johnson shot would receive gift cards from Walmart at two separate events. The Riley County Health department administered 6 vaccinations on August 8, and 11 vaccinations on August 22, for a total of 17 vaccinations to previously unvaccinated folks. We would have liked more, of course, but that is 17 people who are now protected against the virus who were not previously protected, and that is a good thing!
Thanks to the Riley County Health Department for sending nurses out on a Sunday evening. Thanks also to Second Helping Meal Coordinator Linda Thurston, who provided ice cream bars and lemonade as a further incentive. I would also like to add a heartfelt thank-you to the Mission Board itself. Shari Tedford, Jean Steiner, Mary Ellen Titus, and Carolyn Hodgson represented us in person at the vaccination events, and Martha Mather would have been there had we needed her. Everyone worked hard to publicize the event, as we needed to guarantee at least ten vaccinations for the second event. Thank you!
Gretchen Lewis, PO, Board of Mission
This fall we will have our campaign for you to make a financial pledge to First Congregational for 2022. Our thoughts will turn to questions like: Why is First Congregational important to me? Why do I give to the Church? How do I feel about pledging and giving? Can I do more? Let me take this opportunity to add another question to your thoughts: Why Care About OCWM? The following is an article prepared by Mayflower United Church of Christ in the Minnesota Conference.
“What is OCWM?” could well be a question in a United Church of Christ trivia contest, a question many of us at First Congregational might not be able to answer correctly. Acronyms aside, OCWM (Our Church’s Wider Mission) is an important part of the covenant which binds individual members, congregations, Conferences, and the National setting together to form the United Church of Christ.
OCWM is the annual contribution congregations make to the UCC to fund all the ways we strive together to make a more just world for all. OCWM dollars fund the wide range of resources and services that undergird the ministry we do together at First Congregational from providing the foundation for the search and call process that brings us our clergy leaders to nourishing and eventually authorizing our members preparing for ordained ministry, from developing and making available a wide variety of resources for justice work and faith formation to providing training and support for those using the resources, from raising up prophetic voices on the state and national level to facilitating structures and alliances that amplify the justice work of First Congregation’s members.
As a congregation rich in resources, both financial and human, First Congregational could find it easy to minimize its relation to the wider church and be a beacon on our own little hill, but by maintaining a strong commitment to the UCC, both by strong support of OCWM and by the efforts of individual members actively engaged in wider church ministries, First Congregational honors its covenant. With the assistance of OCWM, members of the UCC gave scholarships to 32 theological and medical students in China and Africa, offered 87 mission trips within the USA (attended by 3,354 volunteers), developed the White Privilege: Let's Talk curriculum that was downloaded 3,475 times from the UCC website, endorsed and credentialed 55 military chaplains, provided micro-loans in Africa that assisted 350 families and so much more. OCWM reflects the wisdom that “In isolation, no single UCC congregation can be the church the world needs today. To be that world-changing church, we work together through Our Church’s Wider Mission to support and inspire each other.”
Other special offerings (Neighbors in Need, One Great Hour of Sharing, Strengthen the Church, The Christmas Fund) provide opportunities for individual members to contribute to the work of the wider UCC and its ecumenical partners, OCWM is the vehicle for First Congregational as a congregation to live out its covenantal promise of support. So when you see OCWM as a line item in First Congregation’s budget, rejoice both because you know what OCWM is and, more importantly, because you belong, through First Congregational, to a much larger and world-changing church, the United Church of Christ.
Dale Stearns, member of our Stewardship committee
It has been a while since I have had a chance to sit and chat with you all and give an update on the building status and a noteworthy change to our beloved sacred space. I hope everyone is well, and that you’ve had a good summer. I can say, for me, working through this pandemic has been all over the map. I’ve spent days scared, anxious, worried, angry, and many other unpleasant feelings that still surface every now and again, but as time went on, I developed a deep sense of calm about the situation. Knowing that times like these have occurred in our past and the earth kept spinning and folks worse off than us suffered very trying times yet humanity persisted has helped. Mostly I think my connection with you all, my work within the church building, and the Facilities Board has brought me a sense of peaceful purpose and has helped me pass the time. But enough of that, this is about you, this is about the building and our Church.
Earlier this summer we said goodbye to some very good friends. Nancy and Jenny Holmes, who have cleaned our building for many many years have moved on to devote time to other interests. They have provided years of outstanding service to our congregation cleaning our spaces which helped us achieve the friendly, welcoming atmosphere that greets us and our guests when walking through the doors. I hope you will all join me in a heartfelt thank you to the Holmes ladies for their hard behind the scenes work. True unsung heroes of our operations staff.
Nancy and Jenny were gracious enough to stay on as we sought a replacement cleaning contractor, this provided the much-needed time for us to a seamless transition to our new friends. Marta’s and Son Inc. has been selected to fill the big shoes left by Nancy and Jenny. They are a well-respected company, with an ever-growing footprint in the area and I am grateful for the time Cesar spent with me during the bidding process. making me comfortable and confident that he and his crew will provide outstanding professional service. So, if you see new faces in our halls, working feverishly to provide a clean and tidy church environment feel free to say hi, and most importantly welcome them into our First Congregational family.
If its one thing that I’ve learned this past year it is that change is inevitable and its how we react to that change that determines the outcome. I will be providing more frequent updates to the building related changes now that we have resumed some in person activities. Stay tuned for some very exciting news! (they wont all be plumbing related I promise)
Yours in service
Steve Bishop, PO, Board of Facilities
Choir safety update
We had sincerely hoped to bring the choir back to our Sunday morning worship, beginning in September, but the resurgence of the COVID pandemic, and the particular virulence of the Delta strain, has put a hold on that activity. While we seem to be doing okay with quiet congregational singing in the pews (one hymn a Sunday, alas!), the prospect of rehearsing and performing as a choral ensemble in an inside space is not yet a safe one. Our church’s COVID Task Force will re-evaluate the situation in October, and we’ll see if we can reassemble later this fall.
If we can’t sing, we can play handbells! We have a beautiful 3-octave set of Malmark Handbells that have been under-utilized for the past fifteen years or so, and now seems to be a great time to try to start a handbell choir. If you are middle-school aged or older, can read music reasonably well, and know your right hand from your left, this could be the musical opportunity you have been waiting for!! Please let Gretchen Lewis know if you’re interested, or if you think you could be interested, in learning to ring handbells. It’s lots of fun, and it’s a great opportunity for fellowship and music making. See Gretchen at church or email. Tentatively, I’m planning an organizational meeting and introductory rehearsal on September 12, after church at 12:15 up in the Conference Room.
How about percussion?
In early July, I attended the biennial Conference of UCC Musicians, which was held virtually from Hartford, Connecticut. The event began with a music reading session on Thursday evening July 8, and ended with a concert on Saturday afternoon. The first workshop I attended featured the amazing 80-something year-old Miriam Therese Winter, poet, song-writer, and member of the Medical Mission Sisters, who shared some of her songs with us. Other workshops I found stimulating included some huge puppets by Sue Aziz, an exploration of global hymnody in North American worship led by Patrick Evans, and my personal favorite, a presentation on the use of percussion ensembles in worship, led by Michelle Horsley. She offered very practical advice on starting a basic inter-generation percussion ensemble in the local church, and I’m mulling over the possibilities of beginning one here at First Congregational later in the fall. If you’re interested, talk to me, either at church or by email.
Gretchen Lewis, music coordinator
Bill Penzy, the awesome CEO of Penzy’s Spices, that he intended to “loot” his own store in Kenosha and give away spices and seasonings to food pantries. “Property can be replaced”, he said, “life can’t.” In our church kitchen, you may see bumper stickers, magnets and dish towels that say “Heal the world, cook dinner tonight” or “Love people. Cook them tasty food.” Those are from Penzy’s.
Second Helping welcomes newly trained cooks: Rachel Whestone, Mechelle Martinez, Lucas Shivers, and Les Kuhlman. They join a truly committed cadre of volunteers who cook, serve, and make lunches and desserts for our Sunday Supper guests. So far this quarter, Second Helping has provided 1,591 meals to the community. This includes the 623 Sunday supper guests who pick up to go meals and lunches. The number also counts 638 sack lunches, 105 second helpings, and 225 meals to other community groups.
HELP NEEDED: Sunday supper volunteers and desserts, homemade cookies for lunches, prayers for this mission, cash, pantry items such as breakfast bars, oatmeal packets, pasta, canned goods, and FRESH produce (let Linda know about the produce so we can plan it in the meals!)
We have new stoves! Look for more about donations, volunteers, and kitchen updates in the next newsletter!
“Part of cooking encompasses the science of taking care of others and hand washing is where that begins.” Bill Penzy
Linda Thurston, 2H Meal Coordinator
More about the book from the publisher:
Valarie Kaur — renowned Sikh activist, filmmaker, and civil rights lawyer — has ignited the hearts of millions around the globe, making “Breathe and Push!” a mantra in movements for social change. Now in her stunning debut, Kaur declares revolutionary love is the call of our times, a radical, joyful practice that extends in three directions: to others, to our opponents, and to ourselves. It enjoins us to see no stranger but instead look at others and say: You are a part of me I do not yet know.
Drawing from the wisdom of sages, scientists, and activists—and her own riveting journey as a brown girl growing up in California farmland; as a young adult galvanized by the murders of Sikhs after 9/11; as a law student fighting injustices in American prisons and on Guantánamo Bay; as an activist working with communities recovering from xenophobic attacks; and as a woman trying to heal from her own experiences with sexual assault and police violence – Kaur discovers practices of revolutionary love to bring us longevity, resilience, and joy.
See No Stranger is a practical guide to changing the world, a synthesis of wisdom, a chronicle of personal and communal history—all joined together by a story of awakening. Revolutionary love is medicine for our times. It just might be our best chance for our collective future. (Source)
Once upon a time, Jesus’s friends asked him, “How should we pray?” For once, he answered the question instead of just posing more questions, and followers of Jesus have been praying that prayer in many languages and versions ever since. Join us worship online or in-person from August 8 through September 5th as we explore The Prayer of Jesus. We’ll be unpacking it bit by bit and we hope that this series will give you a sense of freedom as you explore your own prayer life as summer comes to a close.
Wright, N.T. The Lord and His Prayer.
Crossan, John Dominic. The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of The Lord's Prayer.
Do you have other resources to share with us? Use the "click to share with us" button and let us know!
Compiled versions of the Lord's Prayer from Rev. Angela Menke Ballou
Compiled versions of the Lord's Prayer from Rev. Phiwa Langeni (with a couple additions by Pastor Caela)