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The Congregationalist March 2023

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MARCH 2023 VOL 175 NO 1 Join the Pilgrimage to MILWAUKEE CHILDREN OF THE LIVING GOD Christian Published by UNITY www naccc org thecongregationalist

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Table of CONTENTS ON THE COVER Features 4 5 RETIREMENT MAY NOT BE YOUR HIGHEST PRIORITY RIGHT NOW 10 16 WE KNOW IT S OURS 18 20 When you re called to serve the concerns of others are often more important than your own Especially when it comes to thinking about your retirement 21 MMBB looks out for your concerns We specialize in planning ahead for clergy and church staff We do all the work preparing for your future Our kind of financial expertise makes MMBB an indispensable partner for pastors and churches 110 years and counting 22 25 THERE S NO BETTER TIME THAN NOW LEARN MORE MMBB org what we offer Supporting your calling is our calling The 2023 NACCC Annual Meeting and Conference to be held in Milwaukee Wisconsin Paul s Question to Them by Rev Dr Ashley Cook Cleere A Listening Tour by Rev Dr Ashley Cook Cleere Join the Pilgrimage to Milwauke AMC 2023 by Rebekah Barsch and Art Ritter Lay Ministrry by Polly Bodjanac The Meaning of Christian Unity by Dr David W T Brattston Baseball and Faith by Rev Dr Michael Gidden Come Again Please Jesus by Bill Rhoads Children of the Living God by Bob Hellam Reflections from Alaska by Amana Mbise Departments 10 20 21 26 27 NEWS NEEDS AND PRAYERS OF OUR MISSIONS ALONG THE WAY NECROLOGY PASTORATES AND PULPITS CALENDAR EDITORIAL STATEMENT All content in The Congregationalist appears by the authority of the editor We reserve freedom of expression to our authors and freedom of opinion to our readers Except for service information clearly sponsored by the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches NACCC or its component parts content does not necessarily reflect policies and opinions of the NACCC Neither The Congregationalist nor the NACCC has a creed or holds positions on social or theological issues but we recognize the authority of each local church to do so for itself if and as it wishes and we encourage thoughtful and respectful discussion of our agreements and differences

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GETTING TO KNOW YOU From the desk of Our NACCC Executive Director A F I F T H C E N T U R Y P E R S P E CT I V E Paul s letter to them is the New Testament epistle with the most Old Testament quotations By Reverend Dr Ashley Cleere T his question was the final clue during a recent Tournament of Champions Jeopardy match Two of the three accomplished contestants replied What is Hebrews The other asked What is Romans When the game show host deemed Hebrews the correct answer fans went wild filling social media with opinions While Hebrews is the New Testament epistle containing the most Old Testament quotations scholarship challenges whether the work is authentically Pauline The form and theological orientation of the letter are inconsistent with other writings attributed to Paul On the other hand Romans claims widespread support for Paul s authorship Jeopardy critics faulted the TV program s administrators for posing a question fraught with ambiguity CNN MSN USA Today and other media outlets picked up the story The Jeopardy producer and a senior researcher weighed in when it comes to Bible categories because there are various versions of the Bible we have taken it upon ourselves as a show to use the King James Version of the Bible as our Bible of Bibles so to speak The KJV attributes authorship of Hebrews to Paul Their response heightened the outcry Some opposed the selection of any Bible of Bibles Others thought the KJV a poor choice disavowing 400 years of scholarship The controversy prompts reflection on biblical interpretation in the Congregational Way The Bible of Bibles of our forebears on the Mayflower was not the King James Version Instead they read from the Geneva Bible a translation completed in 1560 by English Puritans living in exile in Geneva This text was nicknamed the Breeches Bible alluding to Genesis 3 7 Then the eyes of both Adam and Eve were opened and they knew that they were naked and they sowed figge tree leaves together and made themselves breeches Although I could not verify it legend suggests that breeches replaced aprons or coverings as a Puritan nod to modesty Marginal notes and explanations comprised another distinguishing feature of the Geneva Bible Particularly notable was the commentary on Exodus 1 19 which supported disobedience to kings This annotation so enraged King James that he persuaded over 40 translators and scholars to produce another Englishlanguage translation without marginal notes His eponymic Bible published in 1611 has influenced four centuries of language literature and culture Publication of the Geneva Bible was curtailed in 1644 having gained recognition as the Bible of choice Executive Director National Association of Congregational Christian Churches for Oliver Cromwell William Shakespeare John Bunyan and John Milton along with William Bradford of Plymouth Colony When worshipping with NACCC communities online and in person in 2023 I ve heard readings from multiple translations of the Bible In contrast to the Jeopardy stance identifying a Bible of Bibles for our theologically diverse association runs counter to our tradition I suspect many local churches have a Bible of Bibles the translation they use most often if not exclusively The Pilgrims traveling in 1620 nine years after the introduction of the King James Bible did not use that prevalent text When making that significant decision among others they acted according to their faithful convictions Twenty first century Congregationalists share that freedom and responsibility P A Listening Tour rior to the holidays Ashley continued her listening tour of NACCC churches in the Northeast She described her visits November 16 brought dessert and conversation with Connecticut s North Branford Congregational Church a provisional member church that will be formally received into the NACCC at the annual meeting in June A trivia contest introduced interesting historical facts For instance centuries ago a call from the pulpit led 60 men to serve as troops under General George Washington The congregation was busily preparing for their annual Holly Fair Members are growing in faith through a weekly discussion of The Chosen television series The congregation s ecumenical outreach efforts include volunteering at a local shelter and providing essential items to individuals released from prison In December they will host an ecclesiastical council of the vicinage as a step toward ordination of their preacher Rev Wendy Tarry November 18 started with a ferry ride to Long Island New York to visit Wading River Congregational Church another provisional member of the NACCC Friday is one of the days that the thrift shop is open Donations of clothing and household items make this resource an expansive effort of the church involving many As of July 1 2022 the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches comprises 312 congregations and 28 715 church members In July Ashley Cleere NACCC Executive Director kicked off a listening tour with the goal of visiting every NACCC church over the next three years volunteers from within and beyond the congregation Over dessert they reflected on past experiences in youth ministry and their strong presence in the local community Recently the congregation updated the meetinghouse to be more accessible to wheelchairs As a new member congregation they were eager to learn more about the NACCC In recent decades both new member churches raised up individuals who were called to seminary and ordination Blustery winds on the Connecticut shoreline whooshed in the background as I enjoyed apple cake more sweets yum with the strategic planning team of Stony Creek Congregational Church Like their neighbors in North Branford the church was abuzz with preparation for their holiday fair The two NACCC congregations planned to encourage fair patrons to attend both events held in the vicinity of one another on the same day The congregation collects donations to support a local food pantry and supplies for migrant children and their families A high point of the year is the community Christmas pageant with seven outdoor nativity scenes and live animals The strategic planning team reflected on how their outreach engages people in various settings not necessarily on Sunday morning Plymouth Church in Brooklyn New York hosted a Saturday night gala harvest celebration as one of many special occasions to mark their 175th anniversary Their storied history includes an identity as the Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad The Plymouth Hymnal which was the first to include words and music on the same page was compiled by Plymouth s first minister the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher It was published in 1855 as The Plymouth Collection of Hymns and Tunes for the Use of Congregational Churches During the COVID 19 lockdown members wrote essays about Congregationalism as a means of staying connected and compiled them into a book Fifty Pandemic Blessings After extensive commentary on the apple pie baking contest submissions and dancing into the evening members returned for breakfast and conversation on Sunday morning Living history is a vital expression of ministry for Plymouth Their Underground Thrift Store shares its proceeds with organizations that fight human trafficking At the worship service that followed I was honored to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for Plymouth at the pulpit where I had served as a seminary intern from 1988 91 My journey to ordination as a CFTS fellow was shaped by Plymouth a church that is now part of my Listening Tour through the NACCC For more information go to https www naccc org the listening tour NOVEMBER 6 Mendota Heights United Church of Christ Mendota Heights MN NOVEMBER 16 North Branford Congregational Church North Branford CT NOVEMBER 18 Wading River Congregational Church Wading River CT Stony Creek Congregational Church Stony Creek CT NOVEMBER 19 Plymouth Church Brooklyn NY 4 5

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QUIET CALLING ALL CONGREGATIONALISTS JOIN THE PILGRIMAGE TO MILWAUKEE By Rebekah Barsch and Art Ritter Milwaukee skyline at night Photo by pabradyphoto C ome join your fellow Congregationalists from across the country June 2427 for The Daring Endeavor of Being Church the 2023 NACCC Annual Meeting and Conference to be held in Milwaukee Wisconsin at the Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel Plans are well underway for a program you won t want to miss with thought provoking speakers engaging workshops and memorable fellowship activities Attendees will hear from inspiring and thoughtful speakers at our Annual Meeting and Conference s plenary sessions Our 2023 speakers include Tapping the Potential Debie Thomas author of Into the Mess and Other Jesus Stories Reflections on the Life of Christ who will move hearts and minds toward a greater understanding of Jesus Debie is also a columnist and a contributing editor for The Christian Century Justin Berkobien actor producer writer and minister at Oneota Congregational Church in South Pasadena California will expand on his contribution to the September issue of The Congregationalist magazine The Next Congregationalism Justin will reflect on the question How do we get young people to come to our church Meredith McNabb Associate Director of Education for the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at Indiana University s Lily Family School of Philanthropy will speak about the big picture trends and practical strategies of faith and giving in her talk Engaging the Shifting Landscape of Religious Generosity Meredith Your Best Self will address the times in which churches and church leaders feel that they don t have the resources or answers to the situations and problems they face Our business meeting sessions will begin with music and prayer Throughout our Annual Meeting and Conference we will share moments of Being Church celebrating various ministries in churches across the country Of course we will enjoy the opportunity to hear from our supported missions and missionaries As we celebrate the Daring Endeavor of Being Church we will open ourselves to God s spirit as it moves through us and our churches offering us new possibilities of being the Body of Christ today The host committee will arrange transportation options from Milwaukee General Mitchell Airport MKE 17 miles from the Sheraton will introduce a fall course available on religious fundraising available to all our churches taught by the Lake Institute and sponsored by the Congregational Foundation In keeping with the theme of the conference the events that we have always known as workshops will be called Sharing Endeavors Delegates and attendees will have opportunities to choose from presentations that will offer new information and inspire hope Topics will include technology worship music and church culture Our plenary speakers will also lead a Sharing Endeavors session Two Sharing Endeavors will be led by Arlen G Vernava of the Interim Ministry Network In Between Time will focus on holy opportunities and sacred moments in the beginnings and endings and transitions of the faith community Stuck on Pause Live into The riverwalk extends along the Milwaukee River Photo by Dave15957 Beer flights are a great way to sample Milwaukee brews Photo by Kristen Prahl 6 7 Friday night fish fry a Milwaukee tradition Photo by Jen Tepp or attendees can fly into Chicago O Hare ORD rent a car and drive to the hotel 86 miles The member churches of the Wisconsin Congregational Association will be your hosts for the meeting and are excited to welcome you and show off our beautiful city on the shores of Lake Michigan The following optional tours outings are in the works Thursday June 22 Milwaukee Brewery History Tour Friday June 23 Milwaukee Milkmen Baseball Game Monday June 26 Tour and Dinner at the Harley Davidson Museum Mark your calendars for The Daring Endeavor of Being Church Stay tuned via the NACCC website naccc org for registration details DAY 2023 T By Rev Dr Charles Packer he Rev Dr Barry W Szymanski will be the Retreat Guide for the Quiet Day Retreat on Wednesday June 28 2023 from 9 00 am 3 30 pm asking questions that will be examined in the silence Is God asking for modern day prophets What are you called to do Did the age of Jeremiah end with his death This time together in reflection and prayer will lead us to understand how Jesus shows followers how to live a joyous life in a world of turmoil Rev Dr Szymanski was ordained in 2006 following graduation from seminary and has served as a Retreat Guide for offerings of the Congregational Retreat Society as well as for the churches he has served In addition to ministry he practiced law for 47 years and has worked in law enforcement as a sworn officer for local state and federal police agencies The event will take place at the Fox River Congregational Church N34W23575 Capitol Drive Pewaukee Wisconsin less than a 15 minute drive from the Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel and featuring 23 wooded acres including an inspirational Faith Walk an outdoor worship area two ponds walking paths gardens and a gazebo Begin the registration process by emailing drcapacker gmail com and put Quiet Day 2023 Registration in the subject line A form will be sent in response The cost is 15 per person to cover lunch and other expenses Paid registrations with completed forms must be received by June 1 2023 and need to be sent separately from all other Annual Meeting and Conference registration material as indicated on the form Plan to meet in the hotel lobby on June 28th at 8 15 am to depart for the retreat facility 7

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JOIN THE PILGRIMAGE TO MILWAUKEE Continued The Congregationalist has been published continuously since 1958 by the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches ENSURE THE TRADITION CONTINUES Meredith McNabb Established in 1849 The Congregationalist has been a notable presence providing resources for local churches promoting just causes defining and shaping the Congregational Way AMC Plenary Presentation S ponsored by the Growth Ministry Council the Plenary Session is Engaging the Shifting Landscape of Religious Generosity bigger picture trend pieces as well as practical strategies for clergy and lay leaders in their particular contexts The speaker is Meredith McNabb Associate Director of Education for Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at Indiana University s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Meredith is an ordained United Methodist clergyperson and previously served as the Director of the Center for Clergy Excellence overseeing clergy formation and continuing education for over 1600 United Methodist clergy in the Virginia Conference In her early career Meredith was an attorney working primarily with low income victims of domestic violence and on end of life planning along with resourcing local nonprofit organizations She is a graduate of the University of Virginia Washington Lee School of Law and Emory University She and her family make their home in Indianapolis DONATE TO THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CONGREGATIONAL CHRISTIAN CHURCHES Please cut and send to The Congregationalist NACCC PO Box 288 Oak Creek WI 53154 Yes Please use my our gift to support the Congregational Way through The Congregationalist Editor s Round Table 1 000 Henry Martyn Dexter Society 500 999 Edward Beecher Society 250 499 Elias Smith Connexion 100 249 249 Sustaining __________ Other A check is enclosed made payable to the NACCC Please Charge my credit card Mastercard Visa Amount ____________________ Card Number_______________________________ CVV Code ____________ Expiration Date _______ _______ Name _______________________________________________________________________________________________ Address _____________________________________________________________________________________________ City ___________________________________________________ State ___________ Zip ________________________ Phone ________________________________ E mail Address ________________________________________________ Church ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Thank You For Your Generosity All Gifts Are Tax Deductible To The Fullest Extent Allowed By Law 9

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News Needs and NACCC MISSION OUTREACH CONTACT request from our Serving Christ through Global Missions To nurture fellowship among Congregational Christian Churches and to support ministries of the local church in its community and to the world all in the name of Christ A CHRISTIAN MINISTRY IN THE NATIONAL PARKS ACMNP COLORADO From Amy Kennedy Your prayers are requested As we closed out the calendar year 2022 we looked back with awe and gratitude at how we saw God move in and through our team members in the parks this past year Lives were changed hard work was done and people came to know the love of Christ We are already making plans for an impactful ministry season in 2023 As we move forward please pray over the 18 young men and women serving in national parks If you d like to be a prayer partner or send a care package their way please let us know We are beginning to place our summer 2023 teams and are actively recruiting If you know of someone who might be interested encourage them to apply at www acmnp com apply Thank you for your ongoing prayers and support We are beyond grateful ASOCIACION CIVIL CRISTIANA CONGREGATIONAL ARGENTINA From Rev Dr Harding Stricker In conjunction with the Ministry of Education the mission is offering its school room facilities to give classes of assistance for children with learning comprehension issues An inspection by a governmental office has successfully been completed Such inspections will repeat quite often in the future because our mission is receiving funds from outside the country We were able to adapt the performance of the mission to its financial possibilities without giving up any of its services Please pray for encouragement for everyone participating at our missions activities especially for the mission board FOR MORE INFORMATION ON NACCC MISSIONS OR TO DONATE PLEASE CONTACT Missions Administrator Julie Robie at 800 262 1620 or 603 642 7270 or email jrobie naccc org National Association of Congregational Christian Churches Missions and Outreach Ministry Council PO Box 288 Oak Creek WI 53154 For a complete listing of NACCC Mission Projects or to donate please visit our website www naccc org and click on Missions and Outreach CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF MYANMAR MYANMAR From Rev Sa Do Our Grace school in Chakhai village has been running with 37 children Yangon Grace home children are doing very well for their educations and our outreach ministry of home cell churches is actively sharing the Gospel every Saturday and Sunday evening Bible Class for church children and Grace home children have been reopened and at least 28 children are joining the class The Mission Secretary was able to visit mission fields a number of times Okkan Home Church Myanmar ECHO FLORIDA From Abram Bicksler PH D ECHO President CEO ECHO is eternally grateful for all the people who have volunteered their time and donated ACMNP Staff Retreat Enduring Love Psalm 107 1 their resources over this past year You have helped to tangibly improve the lives of small scale farming families around the world Thank You Give thanks to the Lord for he is good his love endures forever Psalm 107 1 NIV CHRIST TO THE VILLAGES NIGERIA From Matthew Oladele We thank God who has blessed us with such a great responsibility to care for children In rural areas available teachers just try to keep the children busy so the adults can have itch free worship When we are in the villages we gather the children together and my wife Mary who was trained by Child Evangelism Fellowship C E F a few years ago teaches them The children are always happy to receive us They listen with much interest and ask questions a lot Gifts such as cookies are given to encourage them Some of the children only listen from afar because of their parents who are not Christians or because they are shy Our conviction is that Jesus loves and cares for all the children and so do we Children s Ministry 10 11

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News Needs and request from our Little boys learning at Love Worth Sharing Continued LOVE WORTH SHARING HAITI FISHERS OF MEN MEXICO From Julie Claassen By God s grace Fishers of Men was able to hold two Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades during this last quarter The first crusade attended to the needs in two villages in the state of Morelos just a few hours south from our headquarters here at Refuge Ranch Despite the crusade lasting only four days the team was able to provide 596 attentions and 47 individuals prayed to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior The closing service was a joint service among several Local congregations with whom we joined forces for the crusade and our team What a beautiful time enjoying the body of Christ HAPPY LIFE CHILDREN S HOME KENYA From the Happy Life Directors The third quarter of 2022 was peaceful but busy at the Happy Life Mission especially for the children in our schools as they prepared for end of year exams Some are in the last few months of Elementary School education Others who are in the new Kenyan curriculum that is competency based finished Grade Six and progressed to the Junior Secondary School in January 2023 We have also continued rescuing more children while re uniting others with their relatives The Jesse Kay Hospital 12 FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF KINGSTON KINGSTON NH Fishers of Men provides much needed dental attention From Rev Dr W David Thomas Minister of Caring Bob Morse Pastoral Care Chair Gwen Citarella Director of Youth Ministries A Thanksgiving project at First Congregational Church of Kingston New Hampshire brought ministry groups together to make Thanksgiving remembrances The biggest plus was teaming up with the youth fellowship to share ideas information and pizza and the big job of putting together the fruit baskets As the items were delivered by members of the congregation time was spent visiting with each recipient There were smiles all around From Rev Jim Owens At the time of this writing Haiti had been on lockdown for two months with large demonstrations taking place almost every day but the people who are desperate to find food have begun to challenge the lockdown We are the people who suffered the country s lockdown said a banana seller For several weeks we the poor were stuck in our homes But it s with the day by day activities we carry out in the streets that we find our livelihood that we survive Buses used for HOSANNA INDUSTRIES PENNSYLVANIA From Katie DeJournette As of September 2022 Hosanna Industries had completed 72 projects with a market value of 650 000 In addition to our daily operations of completing home repairs for needy families the Gibsonia campus offered a variety of creative and spiritual development commuter transport were seen in smaller numbers With gas skyrocketing in price and being scarce a few drivers managed to get a gallon for 5 000 gourdes about 39 US Still some people said staying home was a sacrifice People were suffocating at home said a soft drink vendor at the Carrefour Airport intersection along the Delmas Road We are all waiting for this moment of calm to start running our little business again Through it all God is in control and His word is being taught even as the country struggles to survive Please keep Haiti in your prayers Blessings and love to you all classes for the community Summer club lasted six weeks for youth ages five and up where they grew learned created and imagined Thoughtful Spot in depth discussions continue to be held on theological philosophical biblical social and cultural topics once a month Cooking Class every other Tuesday throughout the school year students ages eight and up will learn to cook and eat dinner together They learn safety and skills in the kitchen cooking basics and dining etiquette all while having fun A Hosanna before and after has also continued to grow with more patients receiving services As the effects of drought continue to be felt we have noticed more older children being abandoned some neglected and abused physically and emotionally School boys having fun at Happy Life Teaming up for Thanksgiving memories 13

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News Needs and request from our Exploring her new home Word Alive Mission WORD ALIVE MISSION GHANA AND IVORY COAST Continued Grace Reaches Out to Columbiana MISSION SCHOOL OF HOPE CAMEROON From Rev Charles Sagay Schools resumed officially on September 5 In our community many of our Baka children enjoy spending time with their parents in the forest during the long vacation They are quite at home in the forest as they enjoy climbing trees eating wild fruits and herbs imitating the sounds of wild animals hunting gathering and more Our teachers and staff have understood their way of life and our intention is not to disrupt their lifestyle which is greatly attached to the forest but to educate them so they can maximize and positively use and preserve what they have and what God has blessed them with Our teachers are very patient and give catch up classes to the late returnees However once school begins classes also resume effectively School supplies were distributed new benches were bought to replace broken ones and for the new classroom It was wonderful to see the children after a long time New school supplies Mission School of Hope PANAMERICAN INSTITUTE MEXICO From Laura Ramirez Our School welcomed our students with joy as all of them are now attending in person classes Students and staff are taking care of themselves we have had no recent COVID cases as we continue to wear masks and protect each other Along with your cash donations and items donations we have been able to continue helping our students and improving their lives We appreciate your support through the difficult times SEAFARER S FRIEND MASSACHUSETTS hobbies are shore leave bicycling and hanging out with other Seafarers He chose this seafaring life because his uncle worked as a seafarer for 30 years He misses his girlfriend and his brothers His earnings help to pay for bills back at home Adonis shared that on his second ship he faced turbulent waters which made him sick In moments like those he resorts to prayer On average an OS averages about 1100 per month His prayer requests are for his girlfriend and family From Executive Director Ida MacRae Seafarers Friend now offers Get to know a Seafarer which will be featured in our newsletters and on our Facebook page Adonis from the Philippines is a 23 year old seafarer with four years of experience who works as an Ordinary Seaman OS on the ship New England His family consists of a mother father two brothers and a girlfriend His goals 14 MORGAN SCOTT PROJECT TENNESSEE From Crystal Tompkins Morgan Scott Project serves the needs of those in rural Morgan and Scott counties providing services to those in need through generous donors and outstanding volunteers The New Light Educational Support program helps offset some of the expenses related to continuing education whether it be vocational school community college or university testing fees uniforms travel expense equipment books This year we also awarded a 500 scholarship to every high school in Morgan 4 and Scott 2 counties We serve eight to 10 students a month Ongoing services include the Backpack Program Camp in the Community Home Repair Good Earth seed program Thrift Store emergency help with utility bills food pantry food line help on Fridays averaging 75 families per week and gathering Christmas toys for 700 area children God is good GRACE CHURCH OF COLUMBIANA OHIO From Jolane Day Little did a small group of enthusiastic Grace Church members calling themselves GRO Grace Reaches Out know that an event they planned in September of 2008 would become a tradition that continues today 14 years later We called it the After Parade Warm Up Party The title was more informative than creative The party would be held after the Christmas Parade that the village of Columbiana Ohio held every year on a mid November evening The parade route ended directly in front of our church on Main Street where cold parade goers could enter our front doors into the warm dining hall where they immediately were welcomed with a smorgasbord of free Christmas cookies and cups of hot chocolate loaded with marshmallows The tradition has continued although the faces have changed and other groups have stepped in to help The number of guests vary from year to year too but estimates are between 100 to 150 revelers We are grateful to the congregation who eagerly donate dozens of cookies This year s estimate was 75 dozen That is 900 if you did the math Despite some inclement weather and a year off for Covid the party continues The menu remains the same cookies hot chocolate and a warm and inviting church a reminder for the Christmas season that God s love warms us Open the door and come in From President Rev Charles Nyane We at the Mission give glory to God for the many years of service and are very grateful to the Lord for using the Word Alive Children s Home to accomplish great things for humanity Raising and nurturing children and helping them develop into great individuals are hallmarks of the Word Alive Children s Home which falls under the Social Services Department of the Mission Currently we have children from the Home that are in Senior High School Technical Institutions and Technical University In the past few months the Mission has received four new entrants into the home all brought by the Social Welfare Department of Ghana Every child brought to the Home becomes an opportunity to serve humanity love a child show kindness and raise a child in the fear of God We are grateful to all for helping us run the orphanage home to the glory of God Adonis was served by Seafarer s Friend 15

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January Peavey Polly Bodjanac Program Administrator Lay Ministry Training Program T he Lay Ministry Training Program LMTP has a new modernized and virtual look and feel In September 2022 LMTP launched its second cohort with six new students eager to learn what God has in store for them They have answered the call to begin studies on Level 1 Discipleship for those who are saying to themselves I want to deepen my walk with Christ Let me introduce our Cohort B students January Peavey 2nd Congregational Church of Warren Warren Maine I am in the LMTP for a few reasons First and foremost God has called me to His Ministry as an answer to prayer and one of the ways that I can serve Him and His kingdom Second as an only surviving parent and business owner I do not have time to attend nor access to a seminary Third our churches are in need of pastors and ministers in order to keep the churches open and sharing the word of God The ability to be an Interim Pastor is one more way that I can help and personally grow closer to YHWH Sherrye Bailey First Congregational Church of Wayne Wayne Michigan I felt a calling to enter the Lay Ministry Training Program although I am not sure what God ultimately has in store for me I teach Adult Bible Study and wanted to know more information that I could incorporate I have Biblical knowledge however I felt there was so much more that I wanted to know and the Lay Ministry courses offered would assist me I was looking forward to reading researching and acquiring new 16 Lisa Brown Sherrye Bailey Richard Martin Daniel Livingston Rev Dr Dewey Gierke By Polly Bodjanac insights that I could then share with others I am encouraged by my local mentor Rev Cooper my instructors classmates and congregational members My expectations have been exceeded in this program and I look forward to future courses Lisa Brown First Congregational Church of Marshfield Marshfield Massachusetts With God s grace I am very excited and blessed yes always wanted be in ministry even as a little child As Congregationalists we are all ministers Prayer music and worship with Christ has always kept ministry in my goals We are all God s children who are found by serving in ministry with God s grace Gracious God Loving God may you genuinely guide me with acquiring achieving quality ministry education NACCC lay ministry training program certification May your embracing word with meditation guide me in our congregational church our ministry in Christian community amen in Christ Richard Martin Warden Community Church Warden Washington I ve always been interested in LMTP Now that I m part of the program I m glad I participated One of my expectations was the opportunity to share the scriptures outside my circle of friends Although our church also has Bible study twice a week I always desire to learn from others outside the Pacific Northwest We have some long reading assignments which is the one difficulty to set aside time to read We are challenged to write down and share topics the instructor has for us In our cohort we can pick the topics we will write about and present a report We then share a short presentation with the rest of the group I don t know if I have a good analogy regarding the program It s like trying to jump on a fast moving train because once you re on you re in for a ride The lessons are well thought out and very insightful The recommended readings will expand the personal library and have value outside the course I m truly blessed to be part of the program and I highly recommend it Tammy Spicer Horton Congregational Church Horton Michigan I am taking the Lay Ministry Training Program because I want a deeper understanding and relationship with God I wish to serve my congregation pastors and community I have filled in for our pastor not only in the pulpit a few times but also Bible study and help with junior church I have also been a guest speaker at Arbor Grove Congregational Church while they search for a new pastor God has blessed and guided me through many trials in my life and I would like to serve others and let God guide my life where He wants me to serve and use me for His glory Thank you so very much for this opportunity Daniel Livingston Mt Hope Congregational Church Livonia I am honored to be a part of the LMTP to help better serve my community and to help others ascertain their relationship in Christ It is my vocation to be a shepherd through discipleship and to serve selflessly by putting myself last It is by sacrifice to lay down my life for the salvation of all people through love hope prayer and actions This program is helping me give my life to Christ and give freely what has been given to me through salvation from total depravity For whoever would save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it Luke 9 24 ESV The LMTP Structure Students are grouped together in a cohort to help them learn together and support each other Each student is paired with a local mentor who can encourage the student answer questions and provide opportunities for experience In addition each cohort has a mentor a pastor or retired pastor who helps students navigate the program and thrive as they learn Year 1 includes Hebrew Scripture New Testament Scripture Church History Theology Missions and Evangelism and Spiritual Formations All Level 1 instructors have returned to teach again this year and we appreciate their commitment and willingness The Level 1 instructors are Rev Dr Charles Packer Rev Norm Erlendson Rev Dr Sue LeFeber Rev Chris Surber and Rev Dr Stu Merkel Each instructor brings a breadth of knowledge and experience to their topic and students enjoy a rich variety of backgrounds and perspectives Cohort B is the second cohort to begin the virtual LMTP Cohort A students are beginning their second year of the program Level 2 Lay Leadership designed for the individuals who want even more skills and training and to serve more fully in leadership capacities in their local church The Lay Ministry Training Program is created for individuals who wish to gain skills with a goal of helping their local church and its ministries It s purposely designed to give students flexibility to open up training opportunities for students and churches across the country and to undergird them with support and encouragement Registration for Cohort C next year s Cohort will begin in early 2023 and perhaps you know someone wanting to go deeper in their faith so they can better serve God in your fellowship Please pray for all our LMTP students and instructors as they continue in their studies The time commitment for students is approximately 25 30 hours per month in studies and class time Pray for students to find the provision to pay for classes and for time in their schedules to devote adequate attention to their studies If you have questions about the program or would like more information on how to become a part of a future Cohort group please contact Polly Bodjanac Program Administrator pollybodjanac gmail com or Laura Wright NACCC Staff lwright naccc org First Congregational Church SEEKS MINISTER SALT LAKE CITY UTAH The core of our ministry is worship We seek an articulate and dynamic speaker to provide thought provoking and relevant sermons and opportunities to explore our faith outside Sunday worship Our minister must be able to embrace a theologically diverse congregation that values individual judgement on matters of belief and Bible We have sold our building and are settling into our new worship space Our financial security creates exciting new possibilities as we continue to honor the foundation that our 158 year history has given us We look forward to our continued Christian presence in the Salt Lake valley Are you the one to guide us on our faith journey as a welcoming faith community of love tolerance and inclusiveness Additional church information is available at naccc org For inquiries or to apply contact Ken at kwrockwell yahoo com 17

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The Meaning of Dr David W T Brattston is a retired lawyer residing in Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada who has been a self directed student of authoritative Christian texts since a teenager His articles on early and contemporary Christianity have been published by a wide variety of denominations in eleven countries CHRISTIAN UNITY By Dr David W T Brattston W hat is Christian unity in the Biblical sense Is it merely two neighboring congregations of the same denomination sponsoring a joint meal Or two congregations of different denominations doing so Intercommunion agreements Cooperation in the World Council of Churches and similar national and local organizations Or did Jesus and His first followers mean nothing less than the thoroughgoing structural union of two previously independent denominations Does Christian unity require a complete structural merger from different denominational families such as Presbyterian with Congregationalist Jesus called for unity among Christians as indicated in John 10 16 and His oft cited prayer in John 17 but these do not tell us exactly what Christian unity is or how we can know it exists in a particular situation or community We must therefore examine the Bible and the earliest non Biblical Christian sources to see what unity means and how we can work towards it As an aid to interpretation of the New Testament the present article looks at the writings of Christians from 18 the era when memories were still fresh with the unwritten teachings and Bible interpretations of Christ and could recall what He and the apostles did in practice before there was opportunity for the gospel to drift far from its roots Consulting the earliest post Biblical sources enables us to ascertain the meaning of such unity in the practice of the apostles and how unity was understood in the next few overlapping generations In John 17 Jesus prayed that Christians be united in the same way that He and the Father are united Not knowing the mechanics of heaven we humans are little assisted by this statement in determining the quality and extent of unity except to observe important later in this article that the Father and Son are Persons in constant or perpetual contact with each other The essence of Christian unity later in the first century AD was the considerate treatment and mutual accommodation among Christ s followers at the congregational level on a frequent basis Romans 12 4f 1 Corinthians 1 10 Ephesians 4 3 and Philippians 1 27 and 2 2 The contexts of all these Scriptures are a single local church in a single city Also in the first century while some apostles were still alive the congregation at Rome wrote to that at Corinth a long letter urging the Corinthians to reinstate congregational office bearers they had unjustifiably unseated resulting in a rift in the congregation The letter encouraged restoring the office holders in order to re establish peace love and unity among Christians who were in at least weekly contact with each other In both Biblical and non Biblical first century letters the contexts assume a single local church in a single city or town and do not speak of relations between the addressees and Christians in other congregations let alone other denominations such as the Gnostics Shortly before his martyrdom in AD 107 Bishop Ignatius of Antioch encouraged Christians to be united to God and also to the apostles and each congregation s clergy In the early third century a church manual stressed unity of clerics among themselves in a congregation Both Ignatius and the manual pressed for greater consolidation and comity within the existing ecclesiastical or congregational structure to improve relations between Christians who had daily or weekly interactions with each other In AD 197 the church father Tertullian wrote of Christian unity as being the gathering together of Christians in local public worship and sharing this world s goods as a voluntary unity of property Preached about AD 249 Origen s Homilies on Joshua saw effective unity in two or three Christians agreeing in prayer on a joint request Matthew 18 19 and in the apostles praying with one accord Acts 1 14 These examples are of persons in each other s presence co operating towards a common spiritual goal Origen was the foremost Bible scholar teacher and preacher of his own time and for centuries afterwards For confirmation of this view as to what the ancients meant by Christian unity let us look at what the above authors classed it with as desirable Christian traits peace love gentleness compassion courtesy meekness lowliness longsuffering forbearance hospitality and recognition of the spiritual gifts of other Christians According to the same authors Christian unity is incompatible with strife jealousy dissimulation arrogance overthrowing congregational leaders wisdom in one s own conceits repaying evil for evil and thinking too highly of oneself All these are attitudes qualities of character or modes of interacting with people or conditions of relating to people with whom one is in personal contact In the Biblical sense unity is thus a pattern of mind and behavior a method for conducting interpersonal relations among Christians with who come into frequent contact and which fosters Christian peace love and harmony at the neighborhood level Not mentioned in the Bible although Christianity had divided into different sects by the first century formal interdenominational mergers contribute to Christian unity only to the extent that they promote these local objectives Shared Holy Communion in each other s house of worship is one of these objectives for it enables us to gather together pray together accept each other as equals in Christ and share together in a foretaste of heaven Join the Conversation The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches recently launched a dedicated discussion forum exclusively for individuals of member churches This resource enables users to interact on current topics in congregational life Areas of interest have been established to heighten connectivity The Member Forum is a place to share ideas ask questions gain knowledge make suggestions provide guidance or simply to connect www naccc org member forum 19

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Come Again Please Jesus THE Along WAY By Bill Rhoads Easter 2022 REV J R MCALILEY III This past October the Alabama Georgia Association of Congregational Christian Churches elected Rev J R McAliley III Moderator and Executive Secretary of the association Rev McAliley is Pastor of Center Congregational Church in Atlanta and active in the NACCC Respectfully submitted Pastor Marilyn Danielson First Congregational Church Lake Odessa Michigan Faith BASEBALL W hen I was growing up in the 1970s my father was an avid Red Sox fan Dad grew up in the Great Depression and still remembered the last great Red Sox team in 46 Whenever I mentioned Williams Doer or Pesky his eyes would light up He once shared with me that he had a baseball signed with all the Red Sox greats that year who went on to the World Series against the mighty St Louis Cardinals Dad was proud that the 46 Sox were American League champions The Red Sox were part of his blood I remember many Sunday afternoons when Dad would have a transistor radio outside listening to his favorite nine I can remember hearing Ken Coleman calling the plays and the crack of the bat from Jim Rice Our television could only get a few stations The only sports team that was on our TV was the Toronto Blue Jays And I could get a little glimpse of the Jays after my dad would spend a few minutes atop our trailer twisting our TV antenna in multiple positions to get a clear picture I became a fast fan of the Blue Jays 20 in 1977 It was their inaugural year It never bothered me that the Jays would finish in last place year after year I just loved them Unconditionally They were my team While every other kid in Calais as well as my father wore a Red Sox hat I wore a Blue Jays hat thanks to my dad who bought me one after his trip to Boston I think I wore it out I wore my Blue Jays hat with pride in school I was the only Blue Jays fan in Calais In a sea of red I wore the blue Imagine having a school picture with the boys all wearing Red Sox hats while I was the lone outlier wearing my beloved bird on my head That period in my childhood reminds me of what it means to be different an outlier to not march in sync with everyone else Sometimes we are meant to take a different path or maybe just wear a hat different from others My dedication to the Blue Jays helped me learn what it means to be loyal My dad was loyal to his Red Sox whether they won or lost and I too was learning what it means to be loyal even if it were to something else I was cut from a different cloth It wasn t until the Blue Jays entered their 25th year of existence that they The Reverend Dr Michael Glidden is Minister at North Deering Congregational Meeting House in Portland Maine He has been pastoring since 1993 Rev Glidden earned his Master of Divinity Degree in 1995 from Bangor Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in 2002 He was ordained in 2000 Mike lives in South Portland with his wife Rhonda finally won a World Series Ironically I was in seminary that year just beginning to pastor a small student church The Jays had finally grown up to be quite a powerhouse in the American League East and I was just beginning my own journey learning how to preach and still feeling like a kid at heart Life soon got in the way of childhood obsessions as love of God and sharing that love became my passion After graduating from seminary and after pastoring for 30 years I happened upon a new Blue Jays hat in a lids store in New Brunswick Canada My new hat is special because it reminds me of sunny days outdoors with my father as we listened to the radio comradery with the boys at school as we played our childhood games and discovering my own unique path as I became an adult Jesus our Lord and Savior Come in man s hour of need Man has again fallen in deep sin Ruled by power lust and greed While evil force surrounds us Christians hold fast to your vow That you would return to us someday Jesus how we need you now Some haven t known your love Lord Others know not your name Some can t believe that you re God s own son Or that to save man s soul you came Forgive them please Lord Jesus If you still see good in men Give us one more chance to learn your love Lord please won t you come again CHORUS Come again now please Jesus Come to us here today Please don t give up on us Lord Jesus Come again and light our way Heavy the war clouds gather Dire the innocent s plight Tyrants use fear and hate as tools Trying to twist their wrongs to right Only your love lights darkness Come as you did before You are the way the truth and the life Come light our way forever more CHORUS repeat COPYRIGHT 2022 BILL RHOADS 26181 KITT ANSETT DR SUN CITY CA 92586 951 301 6169 Roland Sutton Jr Sutton passed away on November 4 2022 in Naples Florida at the age of 92 He is survived by his wife Nancy and his children and grandchildren He earned a B S degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University and worked for Burgess Norton Mfg Co in Illinois before serving in the Korean War He and his family moved to Maine where Sutton co founded Machine Products Company and became active in the First Congregational Church of South Paris and participated in the NACCC When the family moved to Florida he helped establish the First Congregational Church of Naples A member of NACCC s 1620 Society he also served in many leadership roles including Division for Ministry 19711973 Executive Committee 1975 1979 Financial Stewardship 1988 1992 and Moderator 1981 1982 Rev Richard Bower Bower passed away December 29 2022 in Burbank California at age 83 He had served the Congregational Church of the Chimes in Sherman Oaks as well as churches in Bound Brook New Jersey and Kewaunee Wisconsin and was an interim at the Congregational Church of the Messiah Los Angeles Sutton was active in the NACCC leadership His service included Christian Education 19651968 Executive Committee 1973 1977 Moderator 1982 1983 Nominating Committee 1991 1992 and Program Committee 1998 1999 Reverend Gregory Ellcey Rev Gregory Greg Alvord Ellcey 85 of Marshalltown Iowa died January 15 2023 As a young man he attended Johnson Bible College and later Concordia Theological Seminary During his career he served the Christian Church in Denver Illinois Wataga Congregational Church in Wataga Illinois and retired in 2002 from the First Congregational Church in Marshalltown Iowa Ellcey combined his love of the church and nature by leading church camp for many summers Even in his retirement He continued to serve churches in need in a part time capacity and never truly stopped working He is survived by wife Barb daughter Beth Ellcey Holt brother Allan Delores Ellcey his grandchildren and great grandchildren Bill Rhoads legally blind is a retired US Army veteran and has been a singer songwriter all his life Bill a member of the Congregational Church of Menifee CA 21

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GUEST EDITORIAL Excerpted from a sermon on Hosea Chapter 1 CHILDREN of the Living God I t was tough to be a prophet In their real lives they were commanded to do symbolic things that were difficult painful or absurd One of the most disturbing of all in my opinion is poor Hosea who was commanded by God to marry a wife who would be unfaithful This raises questions doesn t it If you were a prophet called to speak for the Lord you couldn t very well do your job if you didn t obey everything God commanded no matter how hard it was Is at least part of the message here that we need to obey God no matter how difficult obedience might be This story is not just a parable but a historical account of events in the time of Jeroboam II one of the many evil kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel The symbolic meaning may be more important than the mere historical facts but first let s look at the facts Did God make Gomer be unfaithful I don t believe that I think that God knew Gomer s character so He knew she would prove to be unfaithful Later in the book if we read on we would see that Hosea eventually forgives his wife and takes her back That is a historical fact but of course it is also symbolic Right after God commands the marriage He signals the symbolic meaning behind the true fact of the marriage Israel the Northern Kingdom that had fallen into idolatry at its very beginning right after the death of Solomon was acting like an unfaithful wife or like a prostitute Hosea s first child is called Jezreel The Reverend Dr Robert Hellam is senior pastor at Church of the Oaks in Del Rey Oaks California In addition he served as a chaplain captain with the California State Military Reserve from 2011 through 2015 with prior active duty as an enlisted man in the U S Navy Bob earned his BA in English and his teaching credential from San Jos State University his Master of Divinity degree from Western Seminary and the Doctor of Ministry degree from Trinity Theological Seminary Bob is a member of the Monterey Bay Colony of the Society of Mayflower Descendants the Nims Family Association the Plapp Family Association and American Legion Post 591 He lives in Seaside California with his wife Connie By Bob Hellam usually translated I will scatter This name ends up having two different meanings in this chapter or maybe three When the baby is first introduced to us we are reminded of that at the place called Jezreel Jehu who would become king of the Northern Kingdom paved his way to power by destroying the entire family of evil King Ahab and also destroying the Baal worshipers So far so good God had predicted this through His prophets But Jehu went too far He also killed the king of Judah the Southern Kingdom which in that time and still in the time of Hosea was in God s favor So God would eventually ordain the death of Jehu s last ruling descendant And a few decades after that the Assyrian invasion would finish the Northern Kingdom for good This is all predicted in the Lord s words telling Hosea to name the baby Jezreel In other words I will scatter means that the Lord would scatter many of the residents of the Northern Kingdom into various parts of the Assyrian Empire while at the same time He would scatter foreign settlers into Israel The names Israel and Jezreel sound similar in the original language Possibly this is God s way of warning every time He uses the name Jezreel in a negative way that the same denunciation applies to Israel That is a possible meaning of the name but there is still another one Before however notice the second child to Hosea s marriage a girl named Lo Ruhamah This is Hebrew for No Pity or No Mercy God uses a child s strange name once again to predict the destruction of the Northern Kingdom He will have no mercy on them and they have by now hardened their hearts against Him to the point where they cannot repent and therefore cannot be forgiven Gomer s second son was Lo Ammi which means Not My People Again his name bore a message Israel was not God s people and He was not their God This is the complete contradiction of the sentence that is central to every repetition of the Covenant in the Bible I will be your God and you will be My people The Israelites had managed to cancel their covenant their marriage certificate with God and for them there was so far no reconciliation But the prediction goes on to say The number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea which cannot be measured or numbered This is meant to remind us of God s promise to the patriarchs like the sands of the sea the stars of heaven are also uncountable God promised Abraham Look toward heaven and number the stars if you are able to number them So shall your offspring be Genesis 15 5 And God says it will be no more Not My People because the far descendants of these Israelites will once more be His people And of course it is implied that where there was no mercy for them there will once again be mercy Hosea s prophecy is looking to the time of the return from exile And we know that after the people of Israel and Judah came back from all the places where they had been scattered few people remembered anymore which tribe they came from The children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together And they shall go up from the land for great shall be the day of Jezreel Here is the other meaning of Jezreel God is saying I will scatter my people like a sower of seed once more in My land of Israel the Promised Land The children of Israel would be gathered together again By Jesus time the Israelites and the Jews mostly saw themselves as one people and they mostly called themselves just Jews literally meaning a person from Judea as their biological descendants still do today even if they are not from Judea Hosea predicts They shall appoint for themselves one head This has a near fulfillment and a far fulfillment Right after the return from exile Zerubbabel a descendant of the kingly line was their leader though never called a king But he was an ancestor of the ultimate King So the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy is at the end of time when our Lord comes back and establishes the new heavens and the new earth All of the new Israel all of us faithful Jews and Gentiles will live there eternally with one Head the Lord Jesus Christ So we haven t just been talking history We looked at the literal meaning of this passage and we also see many things that are revealed or predicted symbolically But what s the main teaching here Again one thing we are taught here is that the people of God have to obey God Even though God will probably not demand that we marry someone who we know will be unfaithful He might want us to tell a total stranger about Jesus Probably many people in our churches would find that difficult How many have faced ridicule from family members who think our faith is only superstition who suspect that we are just self righteous hypocrites who like to sit in judgment on other people How many have been in workplaces where people are not supposed to admit that they believe in God God knows these things will happen And He still wants us to persist But is the lesson here really about individuals After all Gomer symbolizes the nation of Israel which will be conquered by the nation of Assyria and we know that Israel s sister nation Judah will be conquered by Babylon Assyria and Babylon were both idolatrous and very cruel nations But God was able to use them as His weapons against His own chosen people when they became unfaithful So do we apply the lesson here to the United States of America If we do the supposition behind that is that the United States is or is supposed to be or used to be God s new Chosen People George Washington sincerely believed that the birth of the United States of America was due entirely to the intervention of God Many Congregational preachers and later on the Presbyterians and the Baptists too were convinced that America either was or should be or would be God s new Chosen People in God s new Promised Land We know this passage was quoted by Christ s Apostles Paul and Peter along with words from a later chapter of Hosea Paul s Gospel teaching was that the destruction of the old Israel was God s act of mercy in creating the new united people of God the Church composed of Jews and Gentiles Notice that Paul begins by speaking of real nations but ends by speaking of what could be called a nation only symbolically God s Church The Apostle Peter addresses what is probably a mixed Jewish Gentile congregation with the words Once you were not a people but now you are God s people once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy I Peter 2 10 I would suggest that whenever God speaks to His people in the Hebrew Bible the message for today is addressed to His present day people the Church Israel completed its mission by producing their Messiah and ours Jesus God does not have two chosen peoples but only one His Church We individual members of the Continued 22 23

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GUEST EDITORIAL CHILDREN of the Living God Church need to obey God no matter the consequences losing ourselves in obedience to Jesus and we cannot be unfaithful to God as if we were the wayward wife of a good husband And of course we want our country the United States of America to be a godly nation But the main message here is to the Church as an organic whole Is the Church a faithful wife or has it in many ways become like Gomer Many of our churches seem to have another loyalty sounding like Republican churches or Democrat churches How many American churches closed down completely for in person activities during the Covid panic in violation of what the Bible says in Hebrews 10 25 Almost all of them We are currently searching for the right person to move us forward and grow our church St Jacobi Congregational Church is located in the beautiful Kettle Moraine in a suburban community just north of Milwaukee Wisconsin We have a strong foundation of hard working and diverse members united by faith in the Gospel of Christ We are seeking a part time Senior Pastor to lead our close knit and welcoming church family Learn About Us Access our Church Information Form at naccc org For Additional Information Email our Search Committee Chairman Bob Laubenheimer at sjccsearch yahoo com 24 Continued Excerpted from a sermon on Hosea Chapter 1 What about denominations that have had wholesale victimization of children and women that they tried to cover up This is not just the Roman Catholic Church or cults like the Jehovah s Witnesses but also the Southern Baptist Convention and others Many churches fly the Rainbow Flag a perversion of the sign of God s covenant with Noah Should churches be agreeing with the outside world that boys can become girls and vice versa or that sin is just really some kind of neurosis or that your truth is true for you but maybe not for anyone else and there s probably no such thing as absolute truth and that s OK And let s not complacently criticize other Christian communions Connie and I decided not to attend the NACCC Annual Meeting this year We usually enjoy those meetings and they are a good chance to have great discussions with fellow believers from around the country and around the world But this year we decided that the scheduled speakers did not sound like born again people In The Congregationalist for March one of this year s speakers at our Annual Meeting is described as having been praised by Marcus Borg a so called Bible expert who can t bring himself to believe that Jesus bodily resurrection was literally true Marcus Borg said once in a magazine article that a video camera if it could have been placed in the cave where Jesus body lay waiting expectantly for the moment of resurrection would have seen nothing and that the real miracle was not any alleged bodily resurrection of Christ but that all the Apostles somehow convinced themselves and others that something that probably didn t really happen actually did happen Another of the speakers was a Presbyterian minister who has written a book called Outside the Lines How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith You see why we didn t want to go So we should ask about the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches as we ask of the American church in general is today s Church still God s faithful wife WHO IS MISSING Amana Mbise is a member of First Congregational Church of Anchorage Member of the NACCC RJTT and serves on MOMC Re ections from Alaska A by Amana Mbise question I m asked often is are there Black people in Alaska This is usually a nice conversation starter But when the same question comes up in professional settings such as a conference full of health professionals then I begin to take it seriously My response has always been yes you are talking to one Then I go on to state that Black people make about 4 of the population of Alaska The 2020 census ranked the state of Alaska as one of the most diverse in the nation with a 62 chance that two people chosen at random will be from different racial and ethnic groups1 Anchorage Alaska s largest metropolitan area has one of the most diverse school districts in the nation where more than 100 languages are spoken 2 Yet to a lot of people outside the state of Alaska Black people do not exist they are missing This missingness doesn t end there At the height of COVID 19 when it became clear that people of minoritized background in the United States were dying at a higher rate and experiencing worse symptoms one only needed to look at the Alaska state COVID data to realize a glaring mistake For example as of July 18 2021 approximately 34 of all Alaska s COVID 19 cases were labeled as unknown race under investigation multiple races or other race Such ambiguous categorization made us question where Black people were in these numbers Were Black people the other or the unknown group The ones under investigation or the ones with multiple races Not only were these categories ambiguous and made it difficult to accurately identify health challenges that Blacks in Alaska experience but they also sent a message that Black people do not exist in our state That official data was not recognizing an important part of the Alaska community was particularly alarming This prompted the Alaska Black Caucus the largest agency fighting for the constitutional rights of Black people in Alaska to approach me in order to lead the first health needs assessment of Black Alaskans Celeste Hodge Growden the CEO and President of the Alaska Black Caucus said to me if they don t have our numbers we will bring ours What followed was a six month research exercise to collect data on the health status and needs of the Black community of Alaska What has this got to do with The Congregationalist you wonder The fact that an entire state and official data had ignored the presence of a large group of minoritized community challenges us to question the many ways we might be taking for granted those in our own midst A famous French Philosopher Michel Foucault challenges us to always ask who is missing During one of our data dissemination workshops outside Anchorage we were greeted by a common refrain we don t have Black people here or we don t really see color These responses are not new and often sit alongside well meaning and open people But to what extent do they truly help us to create an inclusive community Are we truly bringing in everyone by assuming they don t exist I believe the journey to inclusion begins with recognition of one s existence and calling them by their names By calling we draw them into the fold of God and our community As Christians we are familiar with the analogy of casting the net to fish for people into serving God While I was writing this piece a member of our congregation Jim Walker had given a sermon centered around Matthew 4 12 23 where Jesus is calling us to ministry by being fishers of people Jim who carried an actual fishing net to the altarreminded us that sometimes fishing for people need not look too far Sometimes they are our neighbors and the homeless person that we see every day right outside our churches 3 My interpretation of that sermon led me to see the act of casting a net as one of also recognizing our blind spots and how they can obscure the reach of our cast The events of 2020 and the mass movements that followed the murder of George Floyd were a reminder to critically reasses our blind spots and assumptions of inclusion to ask ourselves yet again who is missing And to re cast our nets of inclusive ministry Within the NACCC I ve had the privilege of serving on the Racial Justice Task Team which offers a safe space for dialogue and critical introspection I appreciate that the NACCC saw to establish this worthy structure to help us have these dialogues and provide resources to local churches I also appreciate the swiftness of the NACCC to establish the Task Team This is important because acting is critical to the work of inclusion Perhaps like the state of Alaska 1 2https www census gov library visualizations 2021 dec racial and ethnic diversity index html Farrell C R 2018 The Anchorage mosaic Racial and ethnic diversity in the urban North In J K Barnett I C Hartman Eds Imagining Anchorage The making of America s northernmost metropolis pp 374 391 University of Alaska Press 3 You can watch Jim s sermon here https youtube com live 24oXEQVqLX4 si EnSIkaIECMiOmarE Continued 25

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Re ections from Alaska Continued WHO IS MISSING you have told yourself and your church that we can wait until that time when we are ready to reach out and include others perhaps you are stuck in the under investigation category waiting to gather more data and evidence or waiting until that time when everybody is comfortable to take on the necessary work of self introspection The work of building an inclusive community is never too early nor too late It is always now and ongoing As a member of the Black community of Alaska I have seen what it means to be invited in by a welcoming congregation While the state data may have had me under an Pastorates PULPITS Recent Calls Rev Johnathan Jones Locum Senior Minister First Congregational Church Anchorage AK Rev Brian McGookey Senior Minister Pilgrim Congregational Church Bloomfield Hills MI Pastor George Mays Senior Minister First Congregational Church Sullivan OH Pastor Andy Trowbridge Senior Minister First Congregational Church Vermontville MI Rev Dr Marisa Egerstrom Pastor Florence Congregational Church Florence MA Rev Dr Dino Pedrone Interim Minister Stuart Congregational Church Stuart FL Installation Rev C Edward Milam First Congregational Church Greenville MI November 13 2022 Rev Robert L Cooper First Congregational Church Wayne MI October 23 2022 Rev Julie Sheridan Smith Senior Minister First Congregational Church Wauwatosa WI January 28 2023 Ordination Rev Wendy Tarry North Branford Congregational Church North Branford CT January 7 2023 26 unknown category a small church opened its doors and saw me as a part of their community I don t say this because I m Black but because everyone feels good to be seen I therefore challenge you to look around and ask yourself How can we cast the net beyond the four walls of our churches and comforts of our familiar places What opportunities are there to reach out to those we may not always congregate with Who is missing In Search Senior Minister First Congregational Church Anchorage AK Third Congregational Church Middletown CT Tinley Park Community Church Tinley Park IL First Congregational Church Emporia KS First Church in Pembroke Pembroke MA Dixfield Congregational Church Dixfield ME Congregational Church of East Sumner Sumner ME Arbor Grove Congregational Church Jackson MI First Congregational Church Royal Oak MI First Congregational Church McCook NE Campton Congregational Church Campton NH First Congregational Church of East Bloomfield Bloomfield NY First Congregational Church Little Valley NY Cambria Congregational Church Lockport NY Oakwood Heights Community Church Staten Island NY Wading River Congregational Church Wading River NY Congregational Christian Fellowship Church Winchester VA Heritage Congregational Church Madison WI St Jacobi Congregational Church Richfield WI Licensed Minister Enterprise Congregational Church Enterprise OR First Congregational Church Salt Lake City UT Associate Minister The Congregational Church of Summerfield FL Interim Minister Arbor Grove Congregational Church Jackson MI CALENDAR 2023 Subscriptions Policy One subscription is provided free of charge to each individual requestor who is a member of a church in fellowship with the National Association One complimentary Newcomer Copy will be sent to any person one time only upon request by a church in fellowship with the National Association SAVE THE DATE A subscription to The Congregationalist is provided free of charge to each church in fellowship with the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches and one to each accredited theological seminary on the magazine s mailing list March 30 2023 Building Transition Support Zoom Meeting Contact drcapacker gmail com Single copies may be purchased from the National Association office for 3 75 plus 3 20 to cover shipping and handling June 24 27 2023 69th NACCC Annual Meeting Conference Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel Milwaukee WI Contact https www naccc org events 2023 annual meeting 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each issue is noted in the previous issue s Calendar section Letters to the Editor are welcome All letters may be edited for clarity and length We regret we cannot publish or respond to all letters The NACCC reserves the right to refuse any advertisement 2023 The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches All rights reserved To discontinue receiving the magazine contact Tracy Bernhardt at 800 262 1620 ext 1615 or email naccc naccc org Non NACCC Church Associate Minister Plymouth Congregational Church Miami FL Non NACCC Church Senior Minister First Congregational Church UCC Mountain Home ID 27

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