Pastor's Page

 

 

Periodic articles and reflections will be posted on this page.  Comments may be directed to peaceuccpastor@gmail.com

 

Posted 4/27/2017

Happy Easter!  I began worship with that greeting last week (the Sunday following Easter Sunday) as a reminder that Easter is not simply a day.  Easter is a season (that runs for Easter Sunday until the day of Pentecost 50 days later) and Easter is a way of life. 

Spring is upon us and spring reminds us of the renewal of life.  We use spring images to talk about Easter.  Trees budding; bulbs blooming; eggs hatching; the cycle of life continues. 

But Easter and resurrection are about so much more than what comes naturally. 

As Fleming Rutledge reminds us in one of her Easter sermons, “resurrection is the gift of the God who "calls into existence the things that do not exist" (Rom 4:17). Resur­rection means that something utterly new and unlooked for has been done by God in the midst of a dying world. . . .

Resurrection is an unlooked-for reversal of everything that human beings would have had any reason to expect . . .” (Fleming Rutledge, "Strange Ending, Unthinkable Beginning" in The Bible and the New York Times, William Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 35ff.)

Death?  YES; but then resurrection. 

And therein lies our hope.  Resurrection is not simply an event that took place 2000 years ago.  Resurrection is an invitation to a whole new understanding of life.  Jesus - who was dead and is alive again - is inviting us to meet Him in those particular real world places where we live our lives.  And He is telling us that there in those places is where resurrection happens.

The Easter story reminds us that our resurrection God is alive and well in this world – opening up the possibility of resurrection for us and for those around us. 

So do not be surprised to hear me greet you with Happy Easter - for Easter is something to celebrate not just for one day but every day and for a lifetime. 

 

Happy Easter!!  Grace and Peace, Pastor Marty 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted March 1, 2017

 

Psalm 15 is the appointed Psalm for January 29th.  It is printed below.

1Who can live in your tent, Lord?  Who can dwell on your holy mountain?

The person who lives free of blame, does what is right, and speaks the truth sincerely;

    who does no damage with their talk, does no harm to a friend, doesn’t insult a neighbor;

    someone who despises those who act wickedly, but who honors those
        who honor the Lord; someone who keeps their promise even when it hurts;

    someone who doesn’t lend money with interest, who won’t accept a bribe against any innocent person. Whoever does these things will never stumble.

Common English Bible (CEB)

As I read this psalm, I was struck by the part that talks about speaking the truth. There seems to be an awful lot of non-truth telling these days.  We live in a day of fake news, fake facts, and alternative truths.  It seems that if you say it enough, people will believe it whether or not it has any basis in reality.   

Yet not only the Psalms but Jesus call us to a life of truth telling.  And that means doing the hard work of fact checking; discerning what is true and what is not before we pass on what we read or what we hear.  That is certainly not an easy task and yet checking to make sure we have our facts straight and then speaking the truth in love – even when the truth flies in the face of what those around us want to hear - is what keeps us from stumbling – as individuals and as a society.   

As Jesus tells those who follow him, “The truth will set you free.” 

In the book of James we are warned that the tongue can be “full of deadly poison.”  (James 3:8) We are hearing not just a lot of untruthful speech but also a lot of inappropriate talk these days – sadly even from our elected leaders.  Maybe it is time for us all to listen to the voices of James and again the Psalmist who tell us that those who wish to be close to God “do no damage with their talk, do no harm to a friend, and don’t insult a neighbor.” 

And maybe it is time to stand up, hold those around us accountable for their lies and demand that truth be told for it is the truth, as Jesus says, that will make us free.  (John 8:31)

Grace and Peace,  Pastor Marty

 

 

Posted December 2016

 

We have begun – once again – the season that we call Advent.  As I say every year, Advent is the time we prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming - but not just for the coming of the baby whose birthday we celebrate.  We prepare for the coming of the grown up Christ who came to save the world and to make all that is wrong with our world right again. 

That seems like such a far-fetched expectation.   There is much right with our world but also so much wrong.  How do we believe something we can’t even see?  

We have heard it said that seeing is believing.  But that is the opposite of what scripture tells us.  Scripture tells us that believing is seeing.

So during this season of Advent we will read the texts that paint pictures for us of a whole new world.  We will read about turning weapons of war into instruments of peace.  We will talk about wolves and sheep lying down together and not waking up to devour one another.  We will remember the song of joy as the wilderness blossoms abundantly and sorrow and signing flee away and we will remember the promise that a young woman will bear a son and call his name Immanuel; God with us. 

We will do this because the more we hear it – the more opportunities we have to picture this new world the more we will see within our own world those places where it has already arrived.   

The message of ADVENT is that HOPE is real.  The new world IS coming.  The message of Advent is that PEACE is possible; that the PEACE that God helps us create with our neighbors is catching and will continue to spread.  The message of Advent is that JOY is erupting all around us and when JOY erupts it rains down on friend and foe alike.  The message of ADVENT is that LOVE is not only possible but LOVE is contagious and cannot help but spread. 

Believe it and see!

May you have a blessed Advent and a very Merry Christmas!

Grace and peace, Pastor Marty

 

Posted September 2016

 

Sabbatical allowed me time to do some reading.  One of the books I read was  “Quirky Leadership” by John Voelz.  I quickly discovered that this book was meant for multi-staff churches but there were a couple of gems that I would like to share. 

1.     Every church has a mission.  Jesus gave it to us.  

 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:19-20)

We just need to figure out what part we play in living out that mission in our particular context. 

When Paul and I travel we like to eat at different places so we experience different types of cuisine. We have tried Italian and Asian and Greek and Indian and a number of other specialties. I ordered buffalo scaloppini in Glacier and Paul and I shared elk sloppy joes.  But not every restaurant can cater to everyone’s tastes.  They must choose what they will serve. 

The church’s specialty is “serving” Jesus.  (Pun intended) That is what the church was created to do.  How we package the gospel in terms of both theological bent and worship style is something we must choose.  We sometimes give in to the temptation to try to be all things to all people; attempting to accommodate everyone’s individual tastes.  We cannot do that. We have to decide who we are and how God is calling us to “serve up Jesus.”

We will be engaging in more SHIFT conversations in the near future.  The purpose of these conversations is to help us in planning our “menu” and keeping it fresh.

2.     Every pastor has her particular quirks; those things that drive the work she does in the church.  It is helpful to define them so others know the reasons behind many of the things she does.

Here are some of mine.  I am sure that this is NOT a complete list so I reserve the right to add to them.

·        Worship is important.  It is the center of what we do together in the church.  Worship is a gift that we give to God and therefore we must prepare carefully and do it well.  Worship reminds us of the one who gives us life over and over again. It is not about me or about you. It is about God who loves us unconditionally and demands our best.  And when we give it our best we just might facilitate a sacred encounter with the Holy.

 

·        Relationships are important.  Our God is a relational God and God calls us to be in relationship with one another. That means taking care of one another and treating one another with respect.  It also means speaking the truth in love - to each other- building up one another in love and challenging one another when we are falling short of the goal. That means calling people to accountability (lovingly!!!) when their behavior is not respectful of others.

 

·        Jesus said that “the kingdom of God is at hand.” We are to live as if God’s kingdom is fully present.  We are to love as Jesus loved; act as Jesus acted; forgive as Jesus forgave; challenge as Jesus challenged; trust as Jesus trusted and sometimes even sacrifice as Jesus sacrificed. Living life as a follower of Jesus “is not something we merely talk about or think about or study; we live it.  We invest in it.  We invest financially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.” [Quirky Leadership page 175.]

 

 

·        Change simply for the sake of change can be a good thing. This helps form a setting that does not get set in its ways. It also encourages imagination and creativity.  We are created in the image of our creator God.  We are programmed to create and we need the freedom to do so.  And when we need to adapt to changing surroundings and re-package the good news for a new generation we need to be conditioned for change so we are more ready and willing to do so. [Of course all change should in some way serve the mission.]

 

·        The church belongs to God.  God chose an imperfect vehicle – the church (or the body of Christ to use Paul the Apostle’s metaphor) – to be God’s representative in this world.  That means we as the church are to be about God’s agenda - not our own personal agendas. [See number 1 about mission and the bullet point “Jesus said that “the kingdom of God is at hand.”]  This also means that the success or failure of a particular project is not the point. Some things will go well and others will not.  We are to stick with the mission; work and pray for the mission and leave the rest to God.

 

·        If you are responsible for something then take responsibility. If you are responsible for something, then do that something to the best of your ability. If someone else says he/she will do something and does not, then hold that person responsible or find someone else who will do it.  Being respectful does not mean settling for another’s sloppy work. We owe God our best.

 

·        Being Christian means being open to transformation. Transformation is a fancy way to say change.  The goal of “being Christian” or “becoming a disciple” is to become more like Jesus; to change our ways and substitute his ways. There are several ways the Bible talks about this.  Being “clothed with Christ” is one.  “Letting the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus” is another.  Jesus was in the transformation business and we should be too.  And that starts with me and with you.

 

The greatest take away from this book was confirmation that we are all different and we do things in different ways, but God can use us all in God’s mission.  We may have our quirks and foibles but God can use each and every one of us to serve God’s mission. 

So the challenge is to:

- look for the signs that God is placing before us and to follow those signs.

- pay attention to what God is saying to us in this time and this place and to make decisions based on our particular context.  

- surrender to the vison that God places before us; being willing to work and to sacrifice for that vision.

 

 - trust that God is guiding us along the way. 

 

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Marty 

 

Reflections on Sabbath and Sabbatical

Time away is good.  I knew that before I started Sabbatical.  Everyone needs time to rest and to spend time in places and activities that let us connect with the beauty of this world and the love of our God. 

It wasn’t until I was a few weeks in that I realized how much I needed this.  Time away is not only good, it is necessary and it is commanded.

The word Sabbatical is derived from the word Sabbath. 

Biblically, the concept of Sabbatical begins with the first story of creation. After creating the heavens and the earth, God rested.  “2And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work (literally – “ceased from labor’) that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:2-3)

This period for rest is picked up in the 10 commandments. 

Exodus 20:8-11

8Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.

We - particularly pastors - are notorious for breaking this commandment. Ultimately that is a sign of our lack of trust in God.  We feel the need to keep working as if God and the rest of God’s people cannot handle the work of the church in our absence.  Hence the need for sabbatical: to get away for long enough to let God be God - for the good of the church and for our own spiritual well-being.   

It is interesting to compare the way this commandment is re-stated in the book of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 5:12 to 15

12Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 15Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

The reason for Sabbath has changed. Now the people are told to keep the Sabbath as a day of remembrance of the mighty work God did in freeing the people from slavery in Egypt.  The point of sabbatical is to disconnect for long enough to rest and to remember where the power and inspiration for our work comes. Because of Sabbatical, I am more rested.  I am more relaxed.  I have had time to reflect on what my priorities need to be when I return and I have renewed confidence that God’s purposes will come to fruition in God’s good time.    

This time away has been good.  Still, in some ways it has been hard.  It is hard not to be there for the people I have grown to love.  It is hard to say no to invitations because “just showing up” places me once again in a pastoral role.  It is hard when I meet folks out and about and don’t know what is happening with family and friends.  And yet this is your ministry and God’s ministry and not just mine and that is a good lesson for us all.

As I complete this reflection, my sabbatical is nearing its end.  It has been good but I am feeling the pull to return and get back into a more normal routine. I will be back in the office on Monday September 12th.

See you in church!

Grace and Peace, Pastor Marty

 

 

Posted March 29, 2016

Children’s time on Easter Sunday began with a question.  “What day is today?” One child answered, “Easter!” and another looked at me - shaking her head said, “Are we going to hear THAT story AGAIN?”  On Easter we tell the same old story.  It varies a bit from gospel to gospel but in essence it is the same.  Jesus who was dead is now alive.  Jesus is risen.   

It is this story that defines us a Christians.  We are people of the resurrection; people on whom God’s Spirit has been breathed so that the dead places in our lives can be brought back to life.

In the picture at the left, you can see part of the “wall” that was near the cross at the beginning of worship Easter Sunday morning.  The wall represents those things that are death dealing in our lives; those things that hold us back from the potential that God has placed within us. 

Jesus’ resurrection represents the power of God to recreate and renew our lives.  God can take that “wall” and turn it into something new and beautiful.  In worship the wall became a cross.  Hate was turned to love. Fear was turned to trust.  Darkness was turned to light. Sadness became Joy.  Despair became hope and death was overcome by life.   

That was not simply an illustration.  It was a representation of what God can do in our lives and in this world.  God can re-create and renew us all causing our darkness to break forth into light, the closed doors of our lives to spring open and what we thought was dead to come alive again.  God can and does give us second chances helping us to see that what we thought was an ending was just an opportunity for a new beginning.

May God’s Spirit pour the power of the Resurrection into you! 

See you in church where the Good News will continue.

Grace and Peace, 

 

Pastor Marty 

 

 

 

Posted January 28, 2016 

Books I am reading and other Lenten plans. 

I rarely read one book at a time.  Most of the time, I am in the middle of a least two books and a magazine or two or three. 

There are two books that I am now reading and would like to recommend.  The first is “Real Good Church”, by the Reverend Molly Phinney Baskette. We read this book a year or so ago as a small group study so this is actually the second time that I am reading it.  It is interesting how many new things I notice the second time around.  The book is about a small dying urban church that “came back from the dead.”  It is a resurrection story of sorts and an easy and fun read – with some great ideas that just might enhance our ministry here at Peace.  

The other book is titled, “Gifts of the Dark Wood – seven blessings for soulful skeptics and other wanderers.”  It is written by the Reverend Dr. Eric Elnes who was our speaker at the WI Conference UCC Annual Meeting last summer. Eric talks about the trying and difficult times of our lives and how in these “dark places” we can be touched by God and moved to greater faithfulness.  Eric helps us discover that movement in our lives. 

I am inviting you this Lenten season to read with me.  Since it is so difficult to coordinate schedules for a book discussion, I invite you to e-mail your insights and God-sights to me and to one another – or share them following worship or in any other setting where we gather together.  If we get a large enough group I may even try to set up a blog! (peaceuccpastor@gmail.com)  Books are available at amazon.com

 

 

 

Lenten Worship Opportunities at Peace UCC: 

          Ecumenical Communion Service:

Sunday February 7, 2016 ~ 10:00 a.m.

      On the Sunday before Ash Wednesday each year we gather with the congregations of First Presbyterian Church of Shawano and First United Methodist Church of Shawano for a service of joint worship and celebration.  We celebrate the sacrament of communion that Sunday as an act of Christian witness to God's love and care for all people. 

 

Ash Wednesday

February 10, 2016 ~ 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Ash Wednesday acknowledges two realities.  We are mortal and “we all sin and fall short of the glory of God.”  The ashes we receive symbolize the fact that we are all “dust and unto dust we shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) The ashes also announce our desire to repent of our sinful ways and to return to God and God’s way for us. 

A Service of Wholeness and Healing

Thursday Evening March 10, 2016 ~ 6:30 p.m.

Wherever there is brokenness, there is also a longing for God’s wholeness and shalom.  We all have broken places in our lives.  This service acknowledges our brokenness and calls upon God to make us whole once again.  

See you in church!

 

Grace and Peace, Pastor Marty 

 

Posted November 23, 2015

Sunday November 30th begins the season of Advent.  As I told the folks at our Advent Fun Fair, Advent means coming.  Jesus is coming.  In four short weeks we will celebrate Jesus’ birth.  Advent is our time to prepare; to anticipate; to expect great things when Jesus comes again.

Most of us spend Advent thinking about the birth of Jesus.  We anticipate “the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay”.  We wait for the “dear Christ to enter in”.  We look forward to celebrating the “Love that came down at Christmas”.  We pray that Jesus’ love will be “born in our hearts” once again. 

Advent comes at a good time this year.  With the terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris and Mali we need God’s love to be born into this world.  We need to remember that the Christ who is coming has already come and seeks to turn the hearts of all people toward God and one another.  We need that hope. 

What we sometimes forget is that the season of Advent remembers two comings – the memory of the coming of Jesus as a baby and a second coming of Jesus to judge the world and set all things right.  During Advent we remember the promise that Jesus will come again - sometimes with anticipation and sometimes with foreboding. 

We know that there is much in this world that needs fixing; but we don’t always like to think about the upheaval that we may have to go through for it to get fixed. Yet that new world is needed and that new world is coming. 

The last two verses of the Christmas Classic “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” speak to this truth.

And ye, beneath life's crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow, look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing. O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing! 

For lo! the days are hastening on, by prophet seen of old, when with the ever-circling years shall come the time foretold when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling, and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing. 

 

May you with joy anticipate the coming of the Christ – as God’s very presence among us and as God’s power to make Peace among all people.

 

Grace and Peace,  Pastor Marty 

 

 

Posted October 24, 2015

 

Her name is Peggy.  She is about 80 years old and after worship she cornered me to tell me a story.  She had grown up in a family with six children.   The family had enough to live comfortably – but not enough for a lot of extras.  Each Sunday Mom and Dad brought the family to church.  They always tried to sit in the first or second row.  All but one child was given a nickel for the offering plate.  One special child got a dime.  The child who got the dime was the one who had behaved the best during the week.  The reward for good behavior was the privilege of giving more. 

We frequently think of a reward in terms of something we get for ourselves.  But Peggy and her siblings were trained to think differently.  Their parents helped them to understand that giving is a privilege and being able to give is its own reward. 

By now you will have received your estimate of giving cards for 2106.  Each year we are given the opportunity to reward ourselves by offering a portion of our income for the mission and ministry of this church.  On Sunday November 8th, we will have the opportunity to present those cards in worship.  The money you give allows us to proclaim the Gospel Good News of God’s love both within these walls and beyond.  The money you give helps us claim the future God has in mind for us.

See you in worship!!    Grace and Peace,

Pastor Marty

Everyone is invited to a celebration meal following worship on November 8th. Ham and Cake provided.  please bring a dish to share. 

 

 


   

 



 

September 2015

The Bible is in conversation with itself.  Let me explain.  Our Bible is made up of 66 books written over a span of hundreds of years.  Each book reflects the character of the era in which it was written; the culture, the social situation, and the politics. During September I did a four part sermon series on creation.  We read both of the creation stories in the book of Genesis.  The first story emphasizes the power of God. (Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a)  The second emphasizes the personal nature of God’s relationship with the creation.  (Genesis 2:4b – 3) If you read them closely, the order of creation differs – which gives us a clue that the order is not the point. They speak to the character of God and the need of people at different points in history to be reminded of a particular aspect of God’s character.

The Bible is in conversation with itself on how to treat “strangers and aliens”. When the people of Israel entered the Promised Land, Joshua was told to rid the land of its inhabitants. (Joshua 9:24).  Yet Ruth – a Moabite is included in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5) and she gets a whole book named after her.  Then in the book of Hebrews we are told “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  (Hebrews 13:2)
 
The Bible itself is a record of changing understandings of God, shifting customs, and competing religious practices.
 
That is one very good reason why we have so many differing interpretations of “what the Bible says.’  And that is one very good reason that we need God’s Spirit to help us sort it out as we have conversation with the Bible and one another. 
 
During our Adult Forum this fall we will be having a conversation about marriage; marriage as we experience it today; marriage in the Bible; and marriage equality. 
 
The outline for the course is as follows:

 

A Four part Conversation about Marriage and Marriage Equality

Part 1: Opening the Conversation – Sunday October 4th

Creating a healthy/safe place for sharing and learning

Discussion of Pre-session reading material:  “Talking About Tough Stuff …such as marriage”, by Peg Slater

An exercise: How did your family deal with conflict or controversy?

Taking the Bible SERIOUSLY

Why do people get married?

Pre session reading material: 

“Talking About Tough Stuff …such as marriage”, by Peg Slater

 

 

Part 2: Marriages in the Bible – Sunday October 18th

Creating a healthy/safe place for sharing and learning: review

Looking at marriage and family in the Bible. 

How has marriage/family life changed? 

A Biblical Ethic for Marriage

          Pre-session reading: Marriages in the Bible – a list of scripture readings

 

Part 3: Marriage, Yesterday and Today – Sunday October 25th

Creating a healthy/safe place for sharing and learning: review 

Marriage in the Christian Era

What is the appropriate role of the church concerning marriage?

Pre –session reading material:

A Brief History of Marriage in the Christian Era

How Marriage Changed in the 20th Century

 

Part 4: Equality in Marriage – Sunday November 1st

Creating a healthy/safe place for sharing and learning: review 

Discuss “There’s More to Marriage than a License.” 

Important values to healthy, lasting, committed relationships

Issues concerning the church’s blessing of same gender relationships

Pre-session reading material:

There’s More to Marriage than a License, by Mitch Albom

This is a difficult and emotional subject for some of us, therefore this will be a structured conversation.  We will stick to the outline!!  Please pick up the pre-session reading from Pastor Marty or from the church office. 
 
Whether or not you join us for this conversation, I ask your prayers; prayers that we will be able to listen to one another and to the movement of God’s Spirit. 
 
Grace and Peace,  Pastor Marty
 
 
If we need more time for our conversation we will schedule accordingly.  If a group would like to have the conversation other than Sunday morning – please talk to Pastor Marty.  
 
You may have noticed that there is no marriage conversation on October 11th. That day we have scheduled a guest speaker to talk about SAM 25 – the new homeless shelter here in Shawano.
 
(Posted 9/24/2015)  

 

Sometimes It Rains

We had planned a church picnic with worship and games and art and music and fun at Kuckuk Park.  We had been announcing it for weeks and planning it for months.  And then it rained. 

Sometimes it rains.  But that didn’t stop us. 

We moved the worship to our sanctuary.  Kris and Nathan played music as background for after worship conversation.

 

We kept the art projects in the art room.   The kids blew bubbles in a Sunday school classroom and we ate in the fellowship hall.

Sometimes it rains and it doesn’t dampen our fun at all. We just adjust and keep on going and laugh a bit at the inconvenience. 

But then sometimes it rains.  The stock market gets crazy just when you had planned to retire.  A loved one dies and you can no longer hug that person who was not only loved but also your friend.  You marry the love of your life and that love turns into a nightmare.  Your health fails and all those plans for the future must be put on hold.

Sometimes it rains. 

Our Bible tells us that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”  (Matthew 5:45)

Sometimes the “rain” in our lives is caused by what we do, but many times it just rains and we must come to terms with the messiness. 

That is when we need a bit more than the positive attitudes that prevailed on our “picnic” Sunday.  That is when we need Jesus.  Not that Jesus is a lucky charm who will make all our troubles disappear.  He never makes that promise. But he does promise to be with us in the midst of them. He promises a Holy Spirit who gives us strength and courage.  And he promises eternal life when we place our trust in him.  He promises that in this life we will catch a glimpse of what it will be like when all things and all people and the whole earth is made whole once and for all.    

See you in church!

 

Grace and Peace, Pastor Marty  

(Posted August 27, 2015)

 

Posted July 2, 2015 

Tidbits from Annual Meeting 2015

Insights from the Reverend Eric Elnes:·      

1. Uncertainty is a place to find something wonderful about yourself and God.

2. Religion does us few favors when it promises certainty.  The Biblical characters struggled to find/ follow God.

3. We all think we want certainty.  What we really want is trust.

4. When Jesus says, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” he isn’t talking about sin.  He is telling us to change our way of thinking

5. Heaven isn’t somewhere else.  Heaven is right here in the heart of the struggle.   

6. Give people JESUS.

7. You can drive a 1000 miles in the darkness only seeing 100 feet ahead. 


   

Insight from Ben Guess (executive minister UCC Local Church Ministries)

·       You can’t go through deep change and remain unchanged.

 

I invite conversation about any of these “insights’.  E-mail, call, stop by the office, or catch me following worship.  Pastor Marty 

 

 

Posted June 19, 2015 

The Division of Church and Ministry of the Northeast Association of the United Church of Christ invites you to the Ecclesiastical Council of David Heckman on July 12 at 3:00 at St. James United Church of Christ, Newton, WI.

So WHAT??? Is an Ecclesiastical council????

 

An Ecclesiastical Council is an official meeting of an Association for the purpose of authorizing ministry.  David seeks ordination for ministry in the United Church of Christ. He has completed seminary, written his ordination paper, and has fulfilled all the other requirements of our Association except for his Ecclesiastical Council.  At this council he will stand before the members of our Association, lead a short time of worship, have conversation about his ordination paper and answer any questions posed by members of the Association.  (That is us!) We will then vote to authorize “ordination pending call” or not.  Assuming the vote is “yes” he can then circulate a profile seeking a church who wants to call him as their pastor. 

Ecclesiastical Councils are called meetings of the Association and therefore require a quorum. According to the Association bylaws Peace Church is allowed 2 delegates.  I will be attending this meeting but as clergy, I DO NOT COUNT TOWARD THE QUORUM. 

Anyone wishing to be a delegate or simply to ride along is welcome.  Copies of David’s ordination paper are available for you to read in advance.  This is your opportunity to witness first hand part of the process for preparing men and women for ordained ministry in the United Church of Christ.  It is also our opportunity to cheer on a man who has worked long and hard to answer his call to ministry.  

Grace and Peace, Pastor Marty 

Outdoor Ministry Matters

Many of us have memories of church camp; a time in the woods with new and old friends; swimming in a clear lake; campfires; silly games, conversations late at night and an experience of God’s presence that we don’t seem to sense anywhere else.  Whether it is a week or a weekend, church camping experiences are formative for our faith and for our friendships. 

We are privileged in the Wisconsin Conference UCC to have two wonderful camps; Moon Beach and Pilgrim Center.  These camps have provided sacred space for thousands of children, adults and families to gather, celebrate, and grow in faith for many years.  We enjoy Moon Beach every winter for an inter-generational retreat.  Individuals from our church participate in quilting, golf, confirmation, youth and other camps.

Our Outdoor Ministry has continued to flourish because of its welcoming environment and the fact that we have opened our doors to all who want to experience our unique spiritual settings.  In recent years, our Outdoor Ministry Program has expanded programming and partnerships in some new and exciting directions, including families impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorders and Muscular Dystrophy. Our camps operate year-round, offering many opportunities for individuals and communities to come to places that provide ministry and respite.

Because our camps want to continue their excellent ministry and to be sustainable into the future, they have begun a Campital Campaign.  

Our camps, in partnership with the WI Conference UCC, are attempting to raise a minimum of $3,000,000 (intermediate goal $5,000,000; challenge goal $8,000,000) over the next 3 to 5 years. 

This money will keep the current facilities useable and up to date, significantly increase the endowment that allows us to keep camping fees affordable and allow the construction of new year round facilities at both camps including a sensory room to support programming for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders at Moon Beach.   

Each UCC church in Wisconsin has been asked to set a funding goal for this campaign.  You will be receiving more information and pledge cards over the course of the summer.  Paul and I have already made a substantial 5 year commitment to this campaign.  We hope that you will do the same.  

Further details on how these funds will be used are posted in the Great Room along with information on this year’s camping program.  (Also available at UCCI.org)

Enjoy our camps.  They are a treat.   

Grace and peace, Pastor Marty 

 

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About MISSION at Peace United Church of Christ

(Summary of our Mission Sunday Presentation – 3/22/2015)

Covenant is a root theme in scripture.  We remember the rainbow covenant with Noah (Genesis 9), God’s covenant with Abram to bless him and make of him a great nation, (Genesis 12 and beyond), the covenant of the law (generally known as the Ten Commandments) and God’s covenant with Jeremiah to write God’s law upon our hearts.  (Jeremiah 31)

So what is a covenant? 

Covenant is a promise to be in relationship in a particular way.  It is a promise to act together for the good of the whole. 

And what does Covenant have to do with mission? 

In the United Church of Christ, Covenant is the word we use for the relationship that we as individual churches have with the other churches in our denomination and with our Associations and our Conference.  We promise to be in relationship with one another; to be gracious toward one another; to listen to and interact with one another. (That does not mean we agree all the time.) But we do promise to stay in relationship and to do some things together. 

Doing those things together requires a financial commitment.  That is where OCWM (Our Churches Wider Mission) comes in. 

OCWM funds the work we do in the Conferences and in the national and global church. OCWM funds are invested in programs, resources, and tools needed to keep local UCC churches strong, effective, and growing.  These funds help provide pastoral placement and education for church leaders; worship materials and theological interpretation; resources and training for stewardship and fundraising; and allows us to be present where help is needed around the world. 

During our Mission Sunday presentation we showed a helpful video that explains OCWM and how it relates to us.  Click here to play the video.

In 2014 our church gave $8,765.50 to OCWM. Our goal for 2015 is $8,500.

Unlike the video, we do not send a percentage to the Conference, but rather a dollar amount based on a suggested goal given to us from the UCC Conference.

This goal of $8,500 will come from our offering envelopes.  When you fill in a dollar amount under the category of Missions on your offering envelope this is where the money goes.  That money goes to fulfill our Covenant Commitment to be in relationship; to work alongside in ministry and mission other churches in the UCC.

In addition to the money given through your weekly offerings, there are 4 other special offerings that we are asked to contribute to each year. 

0NE GREAT HOUR OF SHARING (OGHS)

One Great of Sharing – the refugee, relief and development offering of the United Church of Christ – transforms lives through health, education, agricultural, refugee, and emergency relief initiatives in 138 countries, working alongside our international partners.  Most congregations receive One Great Hour of Sharing on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

STRENGTHEN THE CHURCH (STC)

STC is an offering to reimagine and build the future of the United of Church of Christ.  Shared 50-50 between the conference and national setting, STC largely supports youth ministries, developing their spiritual gifts and leadership skills for the church of the future.  Funds also support fill-time leaders for new churches in parts of the country where the UCC voice has been heard, along with grants to help churches communicate the “God is still speaking,” message. Most congregations receive the Strengthen the Church offering on Pentecost.

NEIGHBORS IN NEED (NIN)

The NIN special offering supports the ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States.  One-third of Neighbors of Need funds support the Council for American Indian Ministry, and two-thirds of the offering is used by the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries to support a variety of justice initiatives, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects.  Most congregations receive the Neighbor in Need offering on World Communion Sunday in October of each year.

THE CHRISTMAS FUND

The Christmas Fund (formerly Veterans of the Cross) and the Emergency Fund provide direct financial  assistance to individual UCC clergy and lay employees – those who have served or currently do serve our beloved Church.  Each year, the Christmas Fund provides ministerial assistance to more than 1,600 persons, including Christmas gift check, monthly pension supplementation, quarterly health premium supplementation and emergency grants.  Most congregations receive the Christmas Fund offering during Advent.

With these offerings we are a 5 for 5 congregation – meaning that we support all five of the Mission Offerings. 

                      In 2014 we gave:

                               OGHS - $273.00,

                               STC - $227.00,

                               NIN - $288.00

                               Christmas Fund - $288.00. 

We just received 2015’s OGHS offering.  We have $224.00 as of 3/22/2015. 

The Mission Committee wants to thank you for your generous support.

Yet those offerings are just the beginning of our mission giving.  Besides what we collect for OCWM, we have a Mission Fund and from that fund we give to specific missions of our choice. 

The groups and agencies to which we have donated over the last several years include: 

Shawano ChemFree Party; Bonduel ChemFree Party; Cassandra Whitehouse DI Trip; Wolf River Habitat for Humanity; Doctors without Borders; Shawano BackPacks for kids; Shawano Child Safety; Shawano Special Olympics; Christmas Project; Lakeland College; Holy Joe’s Café; Chicago/United/Eden Seminaries; Guest House of Milwaukee; Peace Church Art Program; Pieces by Peace.

The money donated to these projects comes from our Missions savings account, which presently (February 28th)  has a balance of $16,917.76.  

The mission that receives the most from our local giving is SAFPARC – Shawano Area Food Pantry and Resource Center.

Since our Peace Church food pantry joined with other organizations approximately 10 years ago to form SAFPARC, Peace UCC has been giving $200 each month to that charity.

In 2014 we contributed $2,200.00 to SAFPARC, as well as special offerings from SOUPER BOWL OF CARING, $115.79, SOUNDS OF THE SEASONS, $173.00 as well as 3 carts of groceries, a loose offering from the ECUMENICAL COMMUNION service, and Sunday School Turkey Feather Mission $79.00.

The Mission Committee would like to recognize Percy Schwerke who was instrumental, along with others in forming the food pantry at Peace Church and then following it over to SAFPARC. Percy has surpassed 18 years of service as a food pantry volunteer and has set 20 years as his goal.  Percy has recently joined our Mission Committee and has many fresh ideas as well as valuable information

We are currently looking for fundraising ideas to boost our Mission income.  In the past Missions received 50% of the chili dinner profits.  But now those profits are going to our  general fund.  If you have any great ideas of how to raise some Mission dollars, please let one of our committee members know.

The Mission Committee is:

Stephanie Harkey – Council Representative
Sheri Balke – Committee member
Ron Skalmuskey – Committee member
Percey Schwerke – Committee member
Mary Bohm – Committee Chairperson

We meet the 4th Tuesday of the month at 4:30.  Everyone is always welcome to attend.  We would love to hear new ideas.

All of the above is what we do through our Mission Committee.  But this is NOT all the mission we do.  There are all the other things that YOU do through and beyond the church that is Mission.  THANK YOU.  The Mission Committee. 

 

From January 2015 newsletter 

You may have seen these signs around town and wondered what they are all about: 

 

 

These signs are meant to get us talking about alcohol use - particularly excessive alcohol use* and its costs. We know that life is better when we are healthy.  Alcohol, used in moderation, does not detract from healthy living, but alcohol used in excess has many costs, some obvious – others hidden.   
 

I have been part of the Shawano County Alcohol and Other Drug Workgroup for almost two years.  The goal of our group is to increase awareness of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption (particularly binge drinking) and to promote healthy drinking habits. So I am inviting you to be part of this conversation.  In my office is a discussion guide to help us begin that conversation.  (Please ask me for one!)  

A Discussion Guide is also available online.  Simply click the image below.

 

 

 

 

For December Shawano Leader article, click this image: 

 

 

 

 
Below is a sampling of questions from the conversation guides: 
 
Wisconsin has some deep and long-standing traditions involving alcohol at local events and activities such as tailgating and community festivals. Alcohol is sold in grocery stores, drug stores, and convenience stores. Wisconsin has more binge drinkers than any other state!
 
Questions:
What can be done to turn this around?
How does our past experience influence drinking behaviors? 
How appropriate is it to sell alcohol at an event held for children or teenagers? 
 
Talk to your friends and neighbors – drinking isn’t just something we do in Wisconsin to pass the time during the games, festivals or events.  It is a long-standing tradition that defines Wisconsin.
 
Questions:
Self-care and a natural support network are essential for all of us. How can we exercise moderation in alcohol use and still have fun with friends?
What does “responsible drinking” mean to you? 
 
The responsible use of alcohol as part of a healthy lifestyle is an ongoing conversation.  Watch for other community efforts and conversations that  will be taking place in the near future.  
 
Have a wonderful, safe and alcohol responsible New year.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Marty  

 

* A drink is defined as: 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof alcohol

Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.  Any alcohol used by a pregnant woman or a person under 21 years of age is considered excessive alcohol use!  Binge drinking is defined as 4 or more drinks in a row for women and 5 or more drinks in a row for men.

 

 

 

December 2014 newsletter 

On Sunday November 30th we will begin the season of Advent; the season of the church year when we prepare our hearts and lives for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. I hear much moaning these days about the secularization of our Christmas celebrations and many laments about the hurriedness of the Christmas season. Often these complaints reflect longings for the fulfillment of our need for a more meaningful Christmas. We long for the perfect Christmas; a feel good Christmas.  And Jesus wants for us that perfect Christmas; perfect as he defines perfect.   He wants to give us the gift of an encounter with the living God; God who was born among us that first Christmas night. 

 
Christmas is quite often a complicated mixture of Christian, cultural, and family tradition. Sometimes we need help sorting through the traditions and the complications.  Last Sunday evening we started a study group.  We are calling it “Preparing for a more Christ-Centered Christmas.”  The conversation began with questions about Christmas past.  What was the best Christmas you can remember?  What made it wonderful?  
 
For the first ten years of my life (except the first 6 months) our family lived in Michigan.  We were surrounded by family; grandparents; aunts and uncles; cousins.  Then we moved west. After a year in Washington State we moved to California. 
 
Those years we didn’t go to Grandma’s for Christmas.  But in California my Dad had an Aunt – who 50 years earlier had answered an ad in a Lonely Hearts Club Magazine and had moved to California as a “mail order” bride.  She lived only 300 miles away (as opposed to 2500). We sent her a bus ticket for Christmas and she joined us in Santa Maria.  I remember her singing in church with us – completely out of tune - but with joy at being with family she had never thought she would meet. It was a wonderful Christmas.  
 
As we told our stories that evening they had little to do with the gifts under the tree.  They centered on family; togetherness; the gift of unhurried time with one another; loved shared; faith renewed.     
On the very first Christmas, Mary and Joseph cradled a newborn baby in their arms and loving him realized that their lives would never be the same. I am sure that they longed for a “normal” life, but that was not to be.  As Eugene Peterson puts it, that night “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” That night Mary and Joseph encountered the living God.  
 
Whatever we long for at Christmas, Jesus longs to come to the celebration.  He longs to come when there is joy and to rejoice with us.  He also longs to come into the dark and scary places of our lives and shed the light of truth and hope; grace and peace. Not just for us, but for the whole world. He longs to give us an encounter with the living God; an encounter with the light that shines through all the darkness in our lives and all the darkness in our world; light that will never be put out.  
 
There are a number of things happening here at Peace in the coming month designed to give you time and opportunity to focus more on Christ this Christmas.  Join us!! 
 
Grace and Peace, 
Pastor Marty 

 

 

 

Posted November 1, 2014

We started a book discussion in October.  The book we are reading is “Real Good Church” written by the pastor of a growing United Church of Christ congregation in Somerville, Maine.

The pastor tells one church’s success story; how one church “came back from the dead”. 

There is no cookie cutter model guaranteed to produce growing, faithful churches.  But it is helpful to place our story alongside another story.  We learn from each other’s successes and failures.  We are using this book to prompt conversation and generate ideas that might be helpful in our journey here at Peace. 

The book starts with this declaration:

 “There are plenty of churches out there for people who want things to stay exactly the same, for people who hate disruption and innovation . . . .

What there aren't enough of is churches that are open, welcoming, flexible, playful, and forward-moving.”  (Page 1 – “Real good Church” by Molly Phinney Baskette)

We are not a dead church.  We are not a dying church – even though we do a few too many funerals! We have lots going on here. And some of the things we have done and are doing are right out of Molly’s book or at least a variation on the theme. 

But there is always room for improvement.  And since our niche as a congregation in the United Church of Christ is to be one of those churches that is “open, welcoming, flexible, playful, and forward-moving,” that is the direction we will continue to follow.    

One of the things that churches that are open, welcoming, flexible, playful, and forward-moving do is celebrate, say thank you, and brag a bit about the good things they are doing.  We want you and the community around us to know about all the good things that are happening here. 

Sunday November 2nd is Consecration Sunday.  On Sunday we will celebrate the offering of our financial commitments to the good and faithful ministry of this church.  We will celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion with a table open to all who choose to accept God’s gift of nourishment and new life.  Our Sunday school children will offer a playful invitation to join them in collecting money for turkey’s for this communities hungry families.  And on the screen before and after worship will be pictures from October’s Confirmation retreat at Moon Beach and the Messy Church – Lord’s Prayer event. 

You can help us in the celebrating.  Start by joining us this week for worship.  But then as you see things that the members and friends of this church are doing well, let them know.  We all

need to be appreciated.  And when it is something that someone you know might enjoy, invite them to participate.  Brag a little for the sake of the gospel and the sake of the church.  Help us continue to make Peace United Church of Christ open, welcoming, flexible, playful, and forward-moving.

Grace and Peace, Pastor Marty  

 

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Posted 10/1/2014

In January of 2013 I was asked to join as a faith representative a group of community leaders called the Shawano/Menominee CHAT group.  (Community Health Action Team).  CHAT has been meeting monthly ever since working on health issues that effect our community.  As we talked about and explored our community, the health issue that came to the forefront was the excessive use of alcohol. 

Because of our work, ThedaCare agreed to fund a project that began with a community summit at the Shawano Presbyterian Church almost a year before the CHAT group came into being.  The project is a social marketing campaign to increase awareness of the adverse effects of the overuse of alcohol.  Before the campaign is unrolled, a pre-survey is being conducted to assess current attitudes and knowledge about drinking habits. 

It would be very helpful if you would participate in this survey and encourage your friends to do the same.  It takes about 5 minutes.  The link to the survey is listed below.   

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/shawanocounty

 

Thanks for your help.  Pastor Marty 

 

September 2014 Newsletter 

 

It has been a rough summer for our country and our world – so rough that I needed to stop listening to the news for a couple of weeks just to catch my breath.  Russia has taken over Crimea and is now advancing into Ukraine.  Tension over racial profiling and discrimination came to a head in Ferguson, Missouri with the police shooting of Michael Brown.   ISIS continues to march through Syria and Iraq using mass executions as a way to terrorize those who oppose them.  Israel and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire, but many of the problems that led to the fighting still remain.  The children keep coming to our southern borders begging for safe sanctuary.  And this list does not even include all the personal trials and tragedies that have befallen our families, our friends, and our neighbors.

In times like these we sometimes wonder where God is hiding.  Why and for how long must God’s people suffer?    

When we ask these questions, we often turn to the book of JOB.  Personally, I think the book of Revelation is more helpful and far more hopeful. 

We may not know why there is so much suffering or how long it will last, the author of Revelation tells us, but in the end good overcomes all evil.  In the end God wins.  God who is “the Alpha and the Omega” – the beginning and the end has a plan for this world.  And that plan is to create a new world where God dwells and God reigns; a world where death is no more, where mourning and crying and pain are no more. The plan is for healing - not just for individuals but for the nations. 

I personally like that plan.  But that leaves us here in the midst of all the suffering that goes on in our world.  What do we do in the mean time? 

The answer from the book of Revelation is simple: worship.  Worship and honor God and that will get us through.  Worship, for in the act of worship we draw near to God.  In the act of worship God reminds us that good truly is stronger than evil.  God is stronger than evil and God is stronger than all those things that would drag us down. 

There are plenty of opportunities for worship and prayer and scripture study here at Peace UCC.   Join us!    Grace and Peace, Pastor Marty 

 

 

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May 2014 Newsletter - Easter Surprises

 

On Easter Sunday I used an empty bird’s nest to talk with the children about surprises.  I am always surprised by the number of babies that hatch from the eggs laid in the nest that rests on the flood lights above our deck each spring.  Sometimes it is three.  Sometimes it is four.  Sometimes the birds lay a second set of eggs in the nest after the first batch of babies has flown away.     

Easter was full of surprises for the followers of Jesus.  There was a great heavy stone that just rolled away.  There was an empty tomb where a body should have been.  There were angels who told an incredible story about Jesus rising from the dead.  There were appearances to the women and to the other followers.  One gospel writer records an earthquake, another tells of Jesus being recognized as he broke bread with two of his followers, and a third speaks of Jesus coming through locked doors to offer peace and to breathe the Holy Spirit upon his disciples. Easter is full of surprises.

I was surprised following worship this Easter Sunday when I went to retrieve my empty bird’s nest. It was no longer empty.  Someone had added 3 turquoise plastic eggs! 

Even though we know the Easter story; even though we tell each year of the one who died being raised from the dead, Easter still comes with its surprises.   Maybe you were surprised by the drum roll on the tympani that opened our Sunrise Service.  Maybe you were surprised by an old friend who showed up for worship and sat down beside you on Easter Sunday.  Maybe there was an Easter basket with something special in it that you did not expect.  (I got an engagement ring in my Easter basket many years ago.) Easter comes with its surprises.   

But the real surprise of Easter is God’s ongoing power to surprise us – to surprise us with grace; to surprise us with love; to surprise us with life. On Easter, we remember that God has raised Jesus and life wins. Life wins over sin. Life wins over suffering.  Life wins over death.  Life simply wins.   

No matter how many times I hear the Easter story, I am continually surprised by the audacity of our God who says YES in the face of the world’s NO.  And I am continually surprised at how God can "gather up the fragments of our lives and create new possibilities."

But maybe I shouldn’t be.  This Easter story has been around for 2000 years.  I suspect that it has lasted because it is true.  Our God is the God of life.  Surprised or not, that is great good news.   

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Marty 


April 2014 Newsletter - Messy Church

 

It started with song.  “Jesus Loves Me” and then a couple of silly songs – “Love Your Neighbor” to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Love One Another” to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”. Silly, but not so silly.  Silly tunes to get us to think about a very deep subject; the depth of God’s love. 

Then there was the story – Moses going up the mountain to get for the people instruction on how to live. 

The subject of our Messy Church was the Ten Commandments - “The 10 Best Ways to Live”.  God, through Moses laid out 10 ways to live our lives that honor God and honor our neighbor.  God gave us these “ways to live” as a gift because God wants the very best for us.  God gave us a way to live in community that keeps the community together and gladdens Gods heart.  “Love One Another” is not just a silly song.  It is the best way we can live.

Our Messy Church workshops were all about hearts.  How to fill God’s heart, how not to break God’s heart, how to fill our own hearts so that they overflow with goodness and love. 

You would think that if God gave us such a great gift we would honor that gift and walk in the way God has laid out.  But we don’t always do that.  We get tripped up.  Something happens and we lose faith in God. Or we allow ourselves to be led away from God’s way.  Yet God never gives up on us.  God pursues us with goodness and mercy and love. 

We are now in the midst of the season we call Lent.  Lent is the season in the church when we prepare for Easter.  In Lent we remember how God reaches out to us showing us the depth of God’s love – particularly through Jesus.  We see God’s love in Jesus’ life as he reaches out to all the people he meets.  We see God’s love in Jesus’ insistence that God’s kingdom – God’s reign of love and justice is for all people.  We see God’s love in Jesus’ willingness to go to the cross – to die - rather than betray his love for God.   

Fortunately for us, God’s love does not die with Jesus on that cross.  Beyond the cross is Easter – resurrection – new life.  Jesus is raised and lives again.  Easter is God’s “yes” to the “no” of the world.  Easter is the guarantee that God’s love will never die. 

You are invited to make the Lenten journey with us as we continue our look into the some of the most profound prayers ever written – the book of Psalms.  You are invited to participate in the celebration of Holy Communion as that act calls us closer to the heart of God. You are invited to journey with Jesus through holy week.  And you are invited to celebrate with us on Easter day.  See you in church!!!

 

            Holy week – (April 13 – 20)

                        Palm Sunday – 9:00 A.M. WORSHIP

                        Maundy Thursday (evening service with communion at First Presbyterian 7:00 p.m.)

                        Good Friday – 1:00 P.M. WORSHIP

                        Holy Saturday PRAYER VIGIL – 10:00 a.m. to noon (chapel)

                        EASTER SUNRISE – 6:30 A.M.

                        EASTER RESURRECTION CELEBRATION – 9:00 A.M. 

 

 


 

A Christmas Portrait

2013 Sunday school Christmas Pageant

(picture by Gretchen Whitehouse)  

 

 


The following article appeared in the November 2013 Peace UCC messenger

Wisconsin is a drinking state.  Alcohol consumption is part of our cultural landscape – like the wine that Jesus made from water at the wedding in Cana (John 2).  It is normal for us to have alcohol at the center of our get-togethers and celebrations.

But when alcohol consumption turns to excess, there are costs.   

1.     The annual economic cost of excessive alcohol use* in Shawano County alone is $46,700,000.00. ($47.6 million) This includes lost productivity, healthcare costs, costs incurred by the criminal justice system, and costs from motor vehicle crashes and other consequences.

2.     Underage drinking leads to arrested brain development – effecting the parts of the brain that deal with self-regulation, judgment, reasoning, problem-solving, and impulse control.

3.     Drinking during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, still birth and serious health issues in infants and children.

 

For many adults a drink or two is not a problem.  But when drinking turns to excess, there is a problem and here in Wisconsin excess is all too common. 

You may wonder why I am talking about a subject that I know will offend some of you.  I talk about it because people are getting hurt; physically, emotionally, and financially.  And our children are getting hurt as well as getting the wrong impression.  Excessive drinking is not an excuse for inappropriate or risky behavior.  It is one of the causes.

I have been meeting with a group of people from Shawano and Menominee Counties for over a year now who share my concern about the growing abuse of alcohol and other drugs.  This group includes law enforcement personnel, social workers and health care professionals, elected officials, pastors, school district employees, parents, and concerned community members.

We are looking to do something very difficult.  We are looking to change the cultural norms around alcohol use.  For adults, a little is O.K.  Excess is not O.K.   For children and teens even a little is too much.  That means not providing alcohol for the kids and sometimes curtailing what we drink in order to set the example.  That is not a popular message but it is a necessary one.

Biblically, drinking is not forbidden.  At times it is even encouraged – BUT excessive drinking and drunkenness are prohibited.  There are numerous stories in our Bible where mischief and sin are perpetrated when someone has had too much to drink.  Alcohol still leads to inappropriate and dangerous behavior.  That has not changed.

Our AODA (abuse of alcohol and drugs) group is working to make this a safer and healthier community.  One of our first tasks is give folks the facts – the social and economic costs of excessive drinking - and to make it known that our lenient views on alcohol use here in Wisconsin are not shared across our country.  We are the exception – not the rule – and not in a good way.  That is not a comfortable task, but it is a necessary one if we are to become a healthier community and a healthier state.

To put it in Biblical terms, we must let some things die (in this case our love affair with alcohol) in order to live more healthy and productive lives. 

So why do we do anything in excess? Why drink too much or eat too much or party too much or spend too much?  Typically, it is to fill a void - so we can forget for a time that something or someone is missing in our lives.  Yet after the excess, nothing has changed.  We must still put one foot in front of the other and keep on living. 

The task at hand is to find healthier ways to get on with life.

If you want to get involved in this effort, call me.

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Marty

 

*Excessive alcohol consumption includes:

- binge drinking (5+ drinks/occasion for men; 4+ drinks/occasion for women)

- heavy drinking (average >2 drinks/day for men, average >1 drink/day for women)

- any alcohol consumption by youth under age 21

- any alcohol consumption by pregnant women.

Facts and figures from:

1.     “The Burden of Excessive Alcohol Use in Wisconsin” March 2013 produced by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

2.     http://www.toosmarttostart.samhsa.gov/families/facts/brain.aspx 

3.      http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/alcohol-during-pregnancy.aspx