Sundays in the Summer

Dear CCOV Family,
We are already moving into the hot summer! Many of our seasonal members have departed for their cooler summer homes, and many of our year-round members are looking forward to beating the heat on their summer vacations. Sunday, May 27th will be the last regular sanctuary worship until we resume again on Sunday, September 16th. For those who are around Sundays this summer, you are sure to be blessed by our more intimate gatherings at 10 AM in Hayden Hall. Folks recall fondly this format from last summer. Bring a snack or breakfast item to share around the table and enjoy discussion, fellowship, and programs that you may even feel the Spirit moving you to lead! If you have something to share or a discussion topic to lead, please speak with Dorie, who is coordinating Sundays in the Summer. You may also sign up to host the morning, which involves making the coffee and cleaning up afterwards. Ideas for programs include: My Faith Journey, My Experience with Grief Recovery, My Experience/Understanding of God, Coping with Change and Crisis, Dreams for CCOV, Sharing of Stories of Forgiveness and Reconciliation from our Lives, or possibly anything you may be thinking about. Feel free to bounce ideas off of me. I will be present Sundays June 10 and August 19 to lead an informal Hayden Hall worship service that will include communion.

This Sunday, May 20th, is Pentecost, the birthday of the church. For those who like to read ahead, our scriptures are Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Acts 2:1-21. As I draw upon the accounts of Ezekiel and Luke’s Pentecost account in Acts, you will hear all about how Spirit-enjoined prayer is a powerful means of “calling forth.” Indeed, the Holy Spirit, with which we are filled, makes all things possible. The Spirit makes dry bones get up, it enables understanding, restores, brings together, empowers, changes our lives and makes the unexpected happen. And then on Sunday, May 27th, we celebrate Trinity Sunday and will explore the mysteries of the Trinity, God’s model of community for us. Our scriptures May 27th will be John 3:1-17 and Romans 8:12-17. I look forward to our coming Sundays together!
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Sandi

Southwest UCC Annual Meeting 2018

Dear CCOV Family,
Happy May! Three of us just attended the UCC Southwest Conference Annual Meeting at Rincon Congregational UCC in Tucson as your delegates this year. I want to give you a brief recap of what we learned, and I hope you will talk to us in person if you have more questions.

Faith-Rooted Organizing:
All day Thursday, April 19, 2018, I attended a workshop entitled Faith-Rooted Organizing, led by Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra, a national leader in the areas of poverty and immigration. She is a Lutheran pastor with more than 35 years of experience in community ministry and co-author of the book, “Faith-Rooted Organization: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World.” I want to read her book, and I highly recommend that you do too, because what she has to share is of utmost importance to the kin-dom of God. Rev. Dr. Salvatierra provided an excellent theological framework for God’s people to organize to defend the poor and marginalized and advocate for social justice, based on Luke 9:14: “…organize them into little communities.” With the premise that all of us want abundant life for ourselves and others, no matter where we are on the political spectrum, she shared that we need to have a vision for a just world, and that we can work toward this when we organize our gifts and mobilize for action. I hope to incorporate much of her thought into a sermon later this May.

ALICE Training:
We attended ALICE Training together on Friday, April 20, 1918. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Counter, Evacuate, and it is offered by the ALICE Institute to protect institutions from active shooters. While the odds of something happening at CCOV are statistically very low, shootings in churches as well as schools and workplaces are on the rise. The tragic events last fall at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas remind us that horror can unfold anywhere. Our council and congregation need to have conversations about how we would handle an active shooter during worship. There are indeed ways to increase survival. I’ve been giving a good deal of thought to this regarding our sanctuary’s set up. Please be reminded that there is a door behind the organ should there ever be need of evacuation. Additionally, distraction is a good technique—folks can throw hymnals, etc. to distract a shooter so that someone could take him or her down. We have much more to talk about, and a blurb like this is not really appropriate or adequate.

The UCC Constitution:
We also attended the breakout session on proposed changes to the UCC Constitution. Our conference’s executive board voted not to ratify these changes, and delegates to conference agreed, voting overwhelmingly not to ratify them. This means we will continue to be in discussion about any changes. In short, this session dealt with clarity and inclusion language in the ministerial authorization section, full communion with UC-Canada, and governance changes. I do not have the space to discuss them all here, but you can read further at http://www.swcucc.org/conference-office-blog/2018/4/3/07rep4ylii5ebd5a6zaf45n40xuto4. If you do read this, keep in mind that covenant and autonomy have always been in tension in the UCC and that we have resisted the hierarchal polities that govern many other denominations.

Please note that there will be no formal worship in the sanctuary starting June 3. We will resume regular sanctuary worship Sunday, September 16. Between June 3 and September 16 we will meet in Hayden Hall for potluck breakfasts accompanied by informal programs and worship. As always, I look forward to all of our times together!
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Sandi

Seasons

Dear CCOC Family,

I hope you are all enjoying your first 100 degree day down in the Valley!  It’s very springlike here in Prescott.  The fruit trees are covered in pink blossoms, and I hear quail calls from sun up to sun down.  Springtime is a reminder in the natural order that God is always at work making all things new.
Speaking of seasons,  I continue the Easter theme this Sunday of God at work resurrecting all things.  I will be preaching on Ecclessiastes 3:1-15, and the choir will be singing “Turn, Turn, Turn” based upon this well-known scriptural passage.  Come and hear about how all of us move through life’s seasons, some that are unpleasant and some that are pleasant.  I will talk about the contrast the writer of Ecclesiastes sets up between life lived “under the sun” and life lived “under heaven” and what a world of difference living life “under heaven” can mean for the believer!
Until Sunday,
Rev. Sandi

Making All Things New

Dear CCOV Family and Friends,
Prayers for a blessed, faith-enriching Holy Week. I look forward to seeing you all Easter Sunday when the sanctuary will be fragrant with Easter flowers and filled with the beautiful music of Katarzyna Honsberger and our own Larry Loeber! My Easter sermon’s title is “God’s Work: Resurrecting All Things,” and the scripture readings are John 20:1-18 and Revelation 21:1-6a. I encourage you to read ahead. You will hear all about how God is actively at work in nature and in our own lives, making all things new and resurrecting all things—both in the present and for all eternity.

Don’t forget that the following Sunday is Holy Humor Sunday, so please get your (clean) jokes ready to share during worship. In the same vein as Easter Sunday, I’ll endeavor to preach (humorously) on how God is actively at work even amid all the brokenness we see and experience and why we can always have hope. One such example is how the Spirit is working through this church in the repairing of air conditioners, sidewalks, roofs, and plumbing. I so appreciate all you are doing to keep the campus safe and comfortable for our congregation and for the Montessori School that we are soon to host!

I look forward to celebrating the resurrection with you!
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Sandi

Using our Building in a Missional Way

Dear CCOV Family,
Wasn’t it great having all of that youthful energy in our sanctuary last Sunday? Boy Scout Sunday leaves me feeling so energized each year, and I’ll bet all of you feel the same way. I am grateful for the special, reciprocal relationship we just celebrated with the fine young men of Troop 649 . We give them a home, a meeting place, and they take on projects around our church. In so many ways, God has blessed us with a beautiful building and has given us the means to maintain it.

In the same vein, I want to thank all of you who are working so diligently on getting the Pre-school building ready for the Montessori School. Our preparations of getting the roof repaired and the air conditioners running well will be a great welcome to the children and staff who will once again inhabit our campus during the week. It is my prayer that we will always be able to use our beautiful church in a missional way for the benefit of our greater community. God has given us this asset for a good reason!

Finally, I want to give you a forecast of our worship services in the coming weeks. This Sunday, as I continue our Lenten Series entitled In the Upper Room: Jesus’ Final Lessons for His Disciples, I will preach on John 15:1-17 and talk specifically about abiding in God, pruning, and producing good spiritual fruit in our lives. On Sunday, March 18, don’t miss Rev. Dr. Dick Wing who will be preaching on Luke 7:36-50 in a sermon called “The Willingness to Become Uncomfortable.” Clint and I will be in Hawaii that week—Clint for a medical conference, and I will fill the time doing a lot of ocean swimming. We will be back for Palm Sunday, March 25, and I will preach on John 12:9-19 in a sermon called “The Fickle Factions.” Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing you all Friday night at 7 PM for our Evening of Extraordinary Music entitled “The Great American Songbook.”
Peace,
Rev. Sandi

Join us for Annual Conference in Tucson!

Dear CCOV Family,
A few of us from CCOV have the exciting opportunity to attend the UCC Southwest Annual Conference, hosted by Rincon UCC in Tucson, from April 19-21. We have money in the budget for three or four of us to attend, so please let me know ASAP if you would like to be part of our church’s delegation. We will then will join our sister churches, hear what they are doing, and learn how we can better be the Church of Jesus Christ together. On Thursday, April 19, Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, a national leader in areas of poverty and immigration, will offer two “Faith Rooted Organizing Workshops” that provide a theological framework for faith-rooted organizing and social justice advocacy. We will learn all about strategies to engage fellow faith followers and community leaders and find out what the next steps are for action on specific public policy issues in Arizona. The conference proper is on April 20 and 21. As a delegate from CCOV, you will have a vote, participate in worship in a large-scale setting, and attend general, business, and break-out sessions. Rooms at the Radisson are reserved for us (April 18-21), and a number of meals are included. See me if you would like to go or want more information, and check out the annual conference page on the conference website: www.swcucc.org.

At church this Sunday we will continue with our Lenten series entitled “In the Upper Room: Jesus’ Final Lessons for His Disciples.” That night in the Upper Room was the last time Jesus would have with his disciples, so what he is saying to them is of utmost importance. Maybe you have been with someone in their final hours before they have died. Perhaps in those hours that person told you the things they too wanted you most to know. This week I will be talking about the practice of self-examination in light of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. To preview the scriptures ahead of time, you can read John 13:12-38 for this Sunday, February 25th, and John 14:1-27 for March 4th (Boy Scout Sunday), when I will be talking about the untroubled heart. As always, I look forward to seeing you in church!
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Sandi

In the Upper Room: One Last Night with Jesus, A New Lenten Preaching Series

Dear CCOV Family,
Each Lent I buy a devotional-type book to guide me through the church season preceding Easter. Last year I studied “The Miracles of Jesus: Meditation and Prayers for Lent” by Wessel Bentley, which inspired and helped to resource my 2017 Lenten preaching series on the Miracles of Jesus. This year I bought the book “With Jesus in the Upper Room: A Workbook on His Final Lessons for Today’s Disciples” by Rev. Dr. Maxie Dunnam. Rev. Dr. Dunnam served as the president of my seminary from 1994-2004. I attended the Florida Dunnam Campus of Asbury Theological Seminary, which he founded in the late 1990’s. Perhaps best known as the world editor of the Upper Room Devotional Guide (1975-1982), Rev. Dr. Dunnam has significant insights about the importance of what Jesus communicated to his disciples on their last night and supper together. I am using his book to guide my 2018 Lenten preaching series called “One Last Night with Jesus,” and during the Sundays in Lent before Palm Sunday, you will hear all about Jesus’ last words to his disciples in the Upper Room. I think you will find that Jesus’ actions and words on this night were as monumental for his twelve disciples as they are for us today. If you want to read ahead for Sunday, February 18, take a look at Luke 22:24-27 and John 13:1-11. I will be preaching on the servanthood of God. I hope you will consider following a devotional guide of your own choosing this Lent as well.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Sandi

Our Church’s Collective Lenten Project

Dear CCOV Family and Friends,
The season of Lent this year begins on February 14 with Ash Wednesday, which is also Valentine’s Day. The UCC Book of Worship defines Lent as “a penitential season of self-examination, prayer, and fasting that precedes the observance of the Triduum (Maundy Thursday evening, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter, which begins on Saturday night)” (Book of Worship, pp. 21-22). Lent is the season in which we reflect on the life, suffering, and death of Jesus, and what his giving of himself on the cross means for our lives. Some follow a Lenten devotional guide. Some participate in intentional prayer and study. Others give up something. One year in the mid-1990’s, for example, I gave up internet chat rooms. If you plan on giving up chocolate this year (as some people do), it is good to know ahead of time that the season begins on Valentine’s Day.

Another thought, however, is that we could add something to our lives or give something extra rather than taking, say, chocolate away. This year our church is continuing our Healthy Packs mission project as an outreach to hungry children living in the margins in our greater community. We will run this project through Lent, and it will be our church’s collective Lenten discipline. You can read the blurb about Healthy Packs in our latest newsletter, written by our moderator. I encourage all of us to do some healthy self-examination and participate, perhaps even upping our contribution level from last year. It will be good for our souls.

May we always reflect the great love of Christ, who loves us so much that he endured the cross for our sakes.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Sandi

Our Busy Time of Year

Dear CCOV Family,
We are moving into our busy time of the year at CCOV! Here’s a forecast of some upcoming opportunities. First, council has planned a potluck fellowship meal for right after worship on Sunday, February 11. So dig out your best recipes and fire up those crockpots! Beverages will be provided. Did you ever notice how when people eat together, the bonds of community always get strengthened? Also, stay tuned for forthcoming information about our church’s mission projects including Health Packs and our UMOM dinners.

Additionally, I want you to be aware of some denominational and interfaith opportunities. The National Council of Churches (NCC), a covenant partner with the United Church of Christ, is calling the nation to heal from the wound of racism on the National Mall, April 4, 2018 in an event called United to End Racism. If you are interested in joining a delegation from the Southwest Conference of the UCC and going along, please let me know. Otherwise, we can all participate by praying for the end of racism. In preparation for this event, Sharon Watkins, Director of the NCC Truth and Racial Justice Initiative, is calling upon all of us to pray every Thursday morning at 7 AM (in our own time zones). One other local event you may be interested in at the Islamic Center of the North East Valley is an Interfaith Dinner invitation for 5-8 PM on Sunday, January 28, 2018. You can register now for the event at http://icnev2018.eventbrite.com and join our own Dorie, who is planning to attend. The topic of the evening is “Similarities among Abrahamic Religions.” There is no cost for this educational event. Also, anyone interested in attending the Annual Southwest Conference of the UCC in Tucson from April 19-21 should let me know soon. We can fully fund several of us to attend and represent CCOV.

Finally, I want to give you a preview of what is coming up in worship. After spending the fall focusing on scriptural passages about women of the Bible, I am moving into men of the Bible—and I don’t have to stray far from the lectionary to do this. This week you will hear all about Philip and Nathanael. Upcoming weeks will include Simon and Andrew, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, and the unnamed leper of Mark 1:40. Our knowledge of biblical personages is going to continue to increase. What life lessons and inspiration we can derive from them! Please feel free always to express ideas and wishes for our Sunday worship to me. This is a congregational church, after all!
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Sandi

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Dear CCOV Family,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I can still say “Merry Christmas” because Christmas lasts for 12 days! That’s why on Sunday, Dec. 31st we will continue to sing Christmas carols, ones we didn’t get to sing on Christmas Eve. Because we are going to spend some time this winter and spring talking about some of the more obscure men of the Bible, you will hear this Sunday all about Simeon, also a figure in the Christmas story. Simeon was an old man who had been waiting a lifetime to see the Messiah. When Simeon met Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus (who was just 40 days old) in the Temple, he saw the baby and broke into an inspired song starting with, “My eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Simeon’s words are what we call the Nunc Dimittis, which you may enjoy hearing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing on You Tube. Simeon declares Jesus to be the means of salvation for all people, Jew and Gentile alike, and he sings of the light that has come into the darkness of this world. He and the old prophetess Anna, who both recognize the baby to be the Messiah that day in the Temple, are themselves representatives of all of Israel: two old people, one male and the other female, poised in anticipation of a new era.

In many ways we too stand on the cusp of something new: a New Year! This time of year we look backwards and forwards. Some are anxious to put 2017 behind them; others find comfort in the familiar. Some embrace 2018 with much hope, but others are still waiting for breakthroughs and answered prayer: peace on earth, a clean bill of health, and a hopeful future. Like Simeon and Anna, we also live in a time-between-times. We are not yet at the consummation of all things, but we are active participants in the coming Kingdom of God. Therefore, let us greet the New Year with hope: The light has broken into the darkness. We have a good God who came to us as one of us, and we have the love and fellowship of one another. See you in church!
With Hope,
Rev. Sandi