Thursday, July 23, 2015

5 Ways the Church Can Build Strong Families

One of the first ways I connected with First Congregational Church was Wednesday night dinners. My three year old, Isaac, looks forward to eating dinner at the church each week. He loves to sit with Tom and Patrice Ott, Toby Haughey and other friends. He especially likes the end of the serving table that usually holds cookies, cake or ice cream.

I love watching my son interact with friends of all ages. Our church has been a place where I have found support and love as a parent of a toddler. Parenting is a mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically exhausting journey. One night a week, I got to have a break. I didn’t have to think about what to make for dinner. Other people wipe Isaac’s face, ask him about what he did at Garden of Dreams Child Care during the day and just love on my son.

Wednesday night dinners are an example of how our church can build strong families. We feed many, many people from the community. Attendees from both services in our faith community attend. Families with children can connect with one another. The sound of little feet and laughter fill the Courtyard.

The Church has the opportunity to build strong families that can greatly influence a child’s life long term. Hosting space such as Wednesday night dinners, provides natural opportunity for church members to take an active role in building strong, resilient families. There are no lesson plans to prepare. It isn’t “children’s ministry.” You don’t have to have special training or certain spiritual gifts to participate in this ministry. You offer yourself, your presence and your love. You show up.
In the Battle Creek community, a group of service providers who work with families with young children convenes each month. We have been talking about five specific ways that we can help build strong families. As we have been discussing these, I have been encouraged by the opportunity that our church has to truly embrace these five ways of building strong families. 

The Church can:

1. Build parental resilience by helping families exercise flexibility and develop inner strength.
2. Assist parents in nurturing social and emotional competence as they give children teach their children to effectively communicate and interact to build positive relationships.
3. Host space for parents and children to make social connection through friendship. These social connections build a support system.
4. Encourage parents to be come their children’s expert. Parenting is part natural instinct and part learned skill.
5. Show parents where they can get concrete support in times of need. Connection to community support and resources increases resilience.

I am so thankful for how members of our faith community have showed up and helped make my family stronger. My son and I are stronger because of you. I hope and pray that other families in our community can view the local church as a place to find to strength and resilience.
—Jaimie Fales-Brown

Pastor Emily Joye July 2015 Congregationalist

I got back from General Synod less than a month ago. My body is finally starting to settle back in from the trip to Cleveland where I spent day after day listening, discerning, voting, and engaging as a delegate on behalf of the Michigan conference. It was my second time as a delegate, and no less charged with passion, responsibility and frustration than the first. Synod is an unparalleled gathering in the life of our denomination: many people, many tasks, lots of worship, time for study, shopping, mingling and very little time for sleep. It was good to reconnect with friends from seminary, to see people from the UCC summer camp I attended as a kid, to see fellow youth group members I grew up with at Claremont United Church of Christ now serving on the denominational Board of Directors as adults. It was good to see a resolution go in front of the national church for the South Dakota Conference to make reparations to the Lakota people by returning land. 

It was even better to see the Synod body vote in almost unanimous favor of that resolution, to watch the wrongs of history being righted before my very eyes. It was powerful to witness the collective body wrestle with language in addressing the human rights violations in Palestine. It was disheartening to hear folks who know very little about what they were talking about stand at the microphone with religious conviction, using God's name as if they were experts needing to address the crowd. Synod is a lot of things but boring isn't one of them!

One of the things that hasn't left me since coming home is how grateful I am to be your pastor.. When I tell people from around the country what kind of ministry we are doing at FCC/Koinonia, people let me know in no uncertain terms just how lucky I am. I don't say that with vanity. I say it with a humble acknowledgment that somehow I've landed the best gig there is. That we are a risk-taking congregation when it comes to worship and social witness, that we are seeking to be actively anti-racist and in solidarity with communities of color as a historically white church, that disability justice is becoming more of a priority, that we are open and affirming without apology especially regarding transgender people, that we engage in ministries of compassion and justice for those on the margins of society, that we have innovative, artistic expressions that fill our worship services with vitality, that children are at the heart of our Koinonia community, that emotional health and care are visibly seen and palpably felt in our membership, that intellectual honesty and theological challenge are core values of our faith--all of this stirs up such pride in me. I can't help but talk about this place with a sense of passion and gratitude.

I know this isn't the church for everyone. I know some folks have had to walk away because our church was/is too progressive or "too political" (whatever that means--though I suspect it has something to do with privilege being challenged). I know some people take issue with pastoral leadership for personal reasons. There is pain in that for me, for us. Truth be told that pain can get louder than the pride for me on some days. But all I have to do is talk with my colleagues and friends around the country to be reminded of just how good we have it here.

I'm grateful to be back home. I'm grateful this church is where I live, move and have my being. With you. 

Pastor Tom Ott July 2015 Congregationalist

For the past few months we’ve watched the water stains spread across the sanctuary ceiling and the plaster loosen as rainwater infiltrated the roof.  After finally paying off the $6.5 million mortgage from the church renovation, it has been a bit heartbreaking to see the beauty of our sacred space marred.

But as homeowners, we all know that facility maintenance and upkeep is never completed.  It requires our ongoing attention and investment.  The same is true of our church facility.  At our congregational meeting on June 10th we authorized the facility team to replace the roof over the sanctuary.

The facility team has received bids from several different contractors and has chosen the one they believe will provide the best solution to our roofing needs.  They have also chosen a contractor to do the plaster repair on the sanctuary ceiling.  We anticipate the cost of replacing the roof and repairing the plaster to be approximately $120,000.   We are currently in the process of applying to the United Church of Christ Cornerstone Fund for loan to provide the funds necessary to complete the work as quickly as possible.

During the months of August and September we will be asking for everyone’s help to cover the cost of replacing the roof.  It isn’t an expense that we can cover from our operating budget and will need additional funds.  I know that is a big ask, especially since we just completed a third capital campaign to pay off our mortgage, but needs to be done and we can make it happen with everyone contributing what they can.

In August we’ll send out letters informing
everyone of the details of the scope of the work and the costs incurred.  On September 13th we’ll kick off our fund drive to “raise the roof” and on September 27th we’ll celebrate the gifts that we have received.

Thank you in advance for your deep commitment to support the work of our church.  I’m excited about all of the inspiring moments we will share together Under This Roof.