Cleaning House

Dear CCOV Family and Friends,

Here we are almost at the end of Lent, and I find myself wondering, how is this church season going for you?  Did any of you adopt a Lenten discipline this year or adopt Sandi’s “helpful household hint” (and her own 2019 Lenten discipline) of going through closets and donating to charity things no longer used or worn anymore?  I challenged myself to find one article of clothing for each of Lent’s forty days but ended doubling that so far.  I’ve made three trips to Goodwill and will make one more before Easter.  My closets look great and I don’t miss anything!

One of the greatest themes of the Christian life is that we are blessed in order to bless.  We are healed in order to heal.  We are restored in order to restore.  In fact, Jesus’ miracles in the gospels follow this pattern.  The multiplication of the fishes and the loaves made sure everyone ate.  When Jesus’ healed the bleeding woman, he ended her isolation and she was restored to community.  When Jesus opened the eyes of two blind men, they went out and spread the news about him.  When we are gifted with abundance, it is for sharing.  Some even rise to the highest challenge of giving sacrificially.

Two Sundays ago a woman came by the church during early-morning choir practice.  She was in tears and on the way to visit her father, who was suffering from cancer.  She needed gas money.  I was so heartened to see choir members who had cash in their pockets give to her.  One hugged her and comforted her because she too knew what it was like to battle cancer.  What joy it is to belong to such a deeply Christian family marked by generosity!

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday and hearing Pastor Dick preach Part III of his sermon series, “Seeking a Better Way to be Christian, from Lost to Found” (Jonah 3:1-2; Matthew 4:18-22).  The following week I will be in the pulpit for Palm Sunday.  The scripture will be Luke 19:28-40.  In the meantime, prayers for the remainder of a meaningful Lent!  It’s not too late to clean house and give, whatever that may look like for you.

Peace,

Pastor Sandi

Lent 2019

Friends,

We find ourselves once again in the church season of Lent.  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.  In recent years it has become more popular to do something extra, like offer special service to someone or even give things away.  This year I heard of yet another Lenten practice that follows this vein, which seems to be gaining momentum, at least on Facebook.  That is, some folks are combining Lent with spring cleaning.  The suggestion goes as follows: “Instead of giving up something for Lent this year, why not try the 40-day-40 items challenge?  Each day of Lent, remove one item from your house which you don’t use or wear anymore and place it in a bag.  At the end of Lent, donate these items to a charity shop or to a homeless shelter.  They’ll be shared with those who really need them.”  I rather like this idea.  Sometime we just accumulate too much, and there is so much need in the world.  I look forward to seeing you all on this first Sunday of Lent.  The scripture will be Luke 4:1-13, and we will talk about growing stronger even during the wilderness times of our lives.  See you in church!

Blessings,

Co-Pastor Sandi

Lots of Good Energy!

Dear CCOV Family,

Wasn’t there lots of good energy in worship last Sunday?  I am so grateful that you voted at our annual meeting to give Dr. Dick Wing and I an opportunity to co-pastor for the next few months.  And I heartily hope this will turn into a permanent arrangement.  He certainly brings a lot of new energy to the pulpit!  And wasn’t the music was absolutely spectacular?  We were blessed to get to know yet another FOL (Friend of Larry) as we do the first Sunday of every month.  I’m glad we had such a crowd to hear both Larry Loeber and Lan Qui, who offered his invigorating violin music that celebrated Chinese New Year.  Adding to the crowd and energy were the Boy Scouts from Troop 649.  Each year CCOV UCC looks forward to our joint worship celebration when we get to see and hear these fine young men and their leaders and thank them for all they contribute to the life of our church.

Troop 649’s recent contributions involved coordinating our joint collections of coats for refugees and nonperishable food items.  Clint and I stuffed dozens of coats in our car—all donated by you and Troop 649—and drove them to Tucson on January 27.  We gave them to members of Casa Adobes UCC who are leading the drive there so that no border refugee goes cold.  Casa Adobes UCC will take all collected coats to Catholic Charities, who will ultimately distribute them.   Additionally, there were so many nonperishable food items collected that the Boy Scouts had to call for a truck from St. Mary’s Food Bank to come haul everything away.  Over the past few weeks I kept thinking to myself when I walked into the narthex, which was overflowing with coats and food: This is one thoroughgoing Christian church here!  We have truly heard Jesus’ words from Matthew 25:35-36: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” 

Let us continue living lives marked by such well-directed energy and generosity.  See you Sunday!

Grace and Peace, 

Pastor Sandi 

Happy New Year!

Dear CCOV Family,

I hope you all just celebrated a wonderful Christmas!  On Sunday, January 6, 2019 I am excited for you all to hear Rev. Dr. Dick Wing preach a sermon entitled “Ten Things to Do before You Die” from Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2, 6-12.  Pending your approval at our upcoming January 27, 2019 annual meeting, you will get to hear him every other week!  To get to know him better, please take a look at his introduction, which follows.

Happy New Year!

Rev. Sandi 

A Short Autobiographical Introduction by Dr. Richard A Wing

Greetings to all of you members and friends of Congregational Church of the Valley.  I come to join you in an experiment of sharing ministerial leadership with Rev. Sandi Anthony who has served you so well over the last three years.  I begin January 6, 2019.

Shirley and I bought a place in Scottsdale 2 miles from CCOV in 2016. I retired in March of 2017 from First Community Church of Columbus, Ohio after serving there 23 years.  Your church was kind enough to provide me with an office outside our condo, for which my wife is eternally grateful! The “rent” for the office space was to preach when Sandi needed me. I have filled in twice in her absence. 

From October 2017 to the end of 2018, I have served as the interim minister at First Christian Church of Scottsdale, a Disciples of Christ Church.  I grew up in the Disciples of Christ and served churches in Pomona, Long Beach, Woodland Hills, Concord and San Diego. All in California.  In 1994 I was called as the Senior Minister of First Columbus, Ohio, a UCC congregation. I have held dual standing in both denominations since going to Ohio.  My main calling is preaching, spiritual direction and pastoral care. 

The main work of the church today, is to ask these questions:  1. Who are we? (not who were we?) 2. What is God calling us to do now? And 3. Who is our neighbor?  I worked for 10 years with Dr. M. Scott Peck as a leader of Community Building Workshops under his direction.  I most recently completed a 3-year course with Richard Rohr with the School for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico.  I am working with World Neighbors out of Oklahoma City. Currently, World Neighbors has programs aimed at self-sustenance in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

                I am interested in what it means to be a Christian in dialogue with other religious traditions. 

When I say, “I am a Christian,” that DOES NOT eliminate other pathways to the Divine.

                I believe that religion without humor is deadly.

                I don’t think God cares what we believe, but cares where our feet take us in service to the entire human family.

                I don’t believe that God was more available to people in the past as God is available to us right now.

                I believe that our culture is dying for what we lack in silence.

                I believe that the UCC is not an answer church but a journey church. Not a judgment church, but a grace church. And for both of those virtues I am grateful.

                I believe that the first miracle of our Lord turned the water into Red Zinfandel wine. Don’t ask me how I know these things. And let’s share a glass.

                I thank Sandi for inviting me to an adventure. An adventure by its very nature means we don’t know exactly where we are going, but we know that we travel with good people who make all the difference on the journey.  You may contact me at any time now through the church.  You will soon find my calling cards on the narthex table. 

Blessings and thanks,

Dick

Dr. Richard A. Wing

Moving Through Advent

Dear CCOV Family,
Only two more Sundays until Christmas! This Advent season is going by so quickly. For those who like to read ahead, I will be preaching this Sunday on Isaiah 12:2-6 and Luke 3:7-18. Continuing in the same vein as last week, I will focus on part 2 of John the Baptist’s message of repentance and change, which prepares our hearts for the babe in the manger. The following Sunday I will preach on Micah 5:1-5a and Luke 1:39-56, and you will hear all about Mary’s Magnificat, which is actually a fairly subversive utterance. As usual, we will have a beautiful Christmas Eve service with an outstanding soloist, Ivana Martinic.

On Sunday, January 6, 2019 Rev. Dr. Dick Wing will be preaching. His scripture will be Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 6-12 and his sermon title will be “Ten Things to do Before You Die.” Don’t miss hearing the first sermon of the new year given by an energetic and fun-loving preacher! I want to correct one thing I told you about him in November. His large church in Ohio was UCC, not Disciples of Christ. He served First Community Church of Columbus, Ohio for 23 years and retired from there in March of 2017. I am sure we will enjoy all the gifts he will bring to our setting. You will get to read more about him in our next newsletter as he has prepared a short autobiographical statement for us.

I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday. It’s exciting to welcome back our winter members who are trickling in! For those who won’t be with us this season, be assured of our prayers.
With Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love,
Rev. Sandi

First Sunday of Advent: Hope

Dear CCOV Family,
Here it is Advent already, the beginning of the Christian liturgical year! The word Advent is derived from the Latin adventus, which means “coming” or “arrival.” Over the next four weeks, you will hear the motifs of expectation, pregnancy, and living in the tension of “times in between” running throughout our Advent worship at CCOV. For those who like to read ahead, I will be preaching this Sunday on Jeremiah 33:14-16, which recounts the hope-filled prophecy that a “righteous Branch will spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” This is good news for all of creation, which needs hope in every generation.

One way you can continue to bring hope into people’s lives is to give to the Veteran’s of the Cross Christmas Fund, which is one of our two Christmas mission projects this year. You will find envelopes in the pews. This UCC-wide fund benefits retired clergy and church staff who find themselves in times of need. Our other mission project is to continue giving to disaster relief through the UCC website.

I look forward to a meaningful Advent season with you!
With Hope, Peace, Joy and Love,
Rev. Sandi

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear CCOV Family,
Happy Thanksgiving! During this season of offering thanks, I am reminded of all I am grateful for! One of the things for which Clint and I are most thankful is our CCOV family and the close friendships we have made over the past 11 years. It has been my greatest joy to serve as your pastor since December of 2015. As I have told you before, the only drawback is that we have to continue to live in Prescott, over 100 miles away, at least for another ten months or so until Clint can retire from the VA. It’s not that I don’t like Prescott-I really do, but what I regret is not being able to be a part of church life outside of worship and the few visits that I can make on weekends. I would love to be able to go to UMOM with you, offer a Wednesday night study, or just be able to get together more often and be close to the church during the weekdays.

Two springs ago, Rev. Dr. Dick Wing visited our church one Sunday, newly retired from his Disciples of Christ mega church in Ohio. The Disciples of Christ is a denomination enjoying complete reciprocity with the UCC. Council was pleased to offer him the office in the sanctuary, where he continues his writing (he has authored a number of Christian books). In return he has filled our pulpit twice when I have gone on vacation and has been on call for any pastoral emergencies that might arise when I am gone or just can’t get to fast enough. For nearly a year now he has served as the interim pastor at First Christian Church in Scottsdale, a position that ends at the end of December. As he and I developed a friendship, we began discussing ways we could use his experiences as a large-church pastor to enhance the life of CCOV and also relieve a bit of Clint’s and my driving burden.

Most of you know that I went to seminary and completed a chaplaincy formation program because I first I believed my ministerial call was to be a chaplain. During those years I developed my strengths in pastoral care and preaching, but I never pursued a course that would help me grow a church or equip me for leading one. These are skills and experiences that Dick has. I thought of the idea of co-pastoring with him when his interim ends in December, and he became very excited. I proposed the idea to council: that Dick and I would split my part-time salary and he and I would alternate preaching on Sundays. I would still be with you in worship (and choir) but would stay home only the first Sunday of the month so Clint and I could get a break from all the driving. Dick would be a weekday presence at the church, and between the two of us, we would lead Sundays in the summer and relieve those of you who have worked so hard at maintaining our summer program. I have listened to Dick’s enthusiastic ideas: foreign missions (he has Guatemala connections), a wine-tasting evening fundraiser for new sanctuary windows, website enhancements, book studies, visiting everyone on the rolls to get to know folks, and so on. Council voted to give Dick a three-month trial pending a congregational vote. Because we are a Congregational Church, you may vote at our end-of-January Annual Meeting on whether or not you want the arrangement to continue on a trial basis for three months. By then you will have had the opportunity to hear Dick preach twice. We will revisit the issue after the first three months. If you vote yes, Dick and I will be your co-pastors-two for the price of one! I can’t help but think that this is a win for CCOV in that we benefit from Dick’s expertise and experience, it is a win for Dick as he has a place to put all of his incredible energy and desire to minister, and it is a win for Clint and me because we get a little break from driving on I-17.

I wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving. The scripture this week is Mark 13:1-8 and my sermon title is “The End, Again.” See you all in church!

Many Blessings!

Rev Sandi

 

October Already!

Friends,
Here it is October already! By the end of the month, I will have completed my fall preaching series on the Book of Job. Starting Nov. 4, we get into the busy season of church holidays. On Nov. 4 we will celebrate All Saints’ Day with our customary candle lighting in the memory of loved ones. Next comes Thanksgiving weekend, which includes Reign of Christ (also known as Christ the King) Sunday on Nov. 25. This special day marks the last Sunday of the Christian calendar year, and then we get into Advent. Before long it will be Christmas! I think of my mother’s words long ago, “The older you get, the faster life seems to go.” How right she was!

If you would like to prepare ahead of time by reading scripture for the next two Sundays, please take a look at Job 38-42:6 for Oct. 21 and Job 42:7-17 for Oct. 28. We will talk about how God comes to us in the whirlwinds of life this week and about Job’s restoration the week after. As always, I look forward to being with you all in worship.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Sandi

World Communion Sunday

Dear CCOV Family,
This Sunday we join Christians all around the world by celebrating World Communion Sunday. World Communion Sunday is a tradition originating in 1933 at the Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA and was subsequently adopted by the US Presbyterian Church in 1936. The idea quickly spread to other denominations. In 1940 the Federal Council of Churches (now called the National Council of Churches) endorsed World Communion Sunday and began to promote it to Christian churches worldwide. During communion and throughout our service on Sunday, we will be blessed by the music of violinist Grant Johnson. I will continue preaching from Job of the topic of suffering for the next three or four weeks. If you are reading through the book, for Oct. 7 focus on chapters 11-13 and for Oct. 14 focus on chapters 32-37.

Besides participating in World Communion Sunday on Oct. 7, we will also take up the final collection for our Neighbors in Need offering. Envelops continue to be available in the pews and on the narthex table. Neighbors in Need is a UCC special mission offering that supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout our country. Two thirds of the offering is used by the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries to support and variety of justice initiative, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects through grants. The rest of the collection goes to the Council for American Indian Ministry. By giving, we support the UCC’s on-going efforts to address systemic injustice. I look forward to being with you on Sunday!
Blessings,
Rev. Sandi

Exploring Biblical Suffering

Dear CCOV Family,
It is great to be back in regular sanctuary worship again! Join us Sundays at 10 AM as I continue preaching through select passages from the Book of Job. This Sunday you will hear all about how NOT to be with someone who is suffering as we explore the different types and understandings of suffering in our own Bible. Hint, there is no “one size fits all” for biblical suffering explanations. You may want to read through the first six chapters of Job, but pay particular attention to Job 2:11-13.

While it is not appropriate to impose our own theology upon people regarding the reason they suffer, it is appropriate to rend aide when we can. In the wake of Hurricane Florence, please see the link in our newsletter to donate. Also, October 7 is the UCC’s annual Neighbors in Need Sunday, and you will now find envelopes in the pews and on the narthex table. This special offering supports the UCC’s ministries of justice and compassion throughout the US. Love of neighbor is a central theme of our denomination and one we read about throughout scripture. See the poster hanging in Hayden Hall for more information. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!
Warmly,
Rev. Sandi