The Phoenix Flamings

Phoenix Community Church UCC
Friday, April 24, 2020

A progressive Christian experience...
Welcoming and affirming the LGBT community...

As a spiritual community following Jesus Christ we are called by the Holy Spirit:
  • To create meaningful, inclusive Community;
  • To be God’s voice and hands in Service to our neighbors and Creation;
  • To be a Witness of God’s love in and for the world;
  • To deepen our relationship with the Divine through Worship.

Food For Thought

Every year, Easter is a celebration of God’s promise of new life – in both the cosmic sense, life after death, but also in a more everyday sense. It means that in the little deaths of life, in the struggles, the lost jobs and broken relationships, in the tragedies, in the pandemics, there is still the promise of new life, the potential for growth, the seed of something new and wonderful to be discovered even as we grieve over what has been lost. Some years to celebrate Easter we’ve decorated with balloons. Most years we ritually reclaim the cross, a symbol of death and torture, as a symbol of new life by decorating it with flowers. But this year the celebration has been more subdued. We didn’t hang balloons, we didn’t flower the cross. Instead, we came together on a conference call, each from their own home, to proclaim that Christ is risen and offer our alleluias.

This year it feels to me that we might have to look a little harder for the Risen Christ than we normally do. The darkness of Good Friday feels a little more real this year, a little more pervasive – and it’s not only the coronavirus pandemic, but also the corruption in the federal government, racism, poverty, lack of health care for far too many people. All of which have been realities for a long time but are so highlighted by this current crisis.

I wonder if Mary was feeling similar things on that first Easter morning: grief, anger, fear… maybe finding it a little bit harder to think and concentrate. After all, Jesus had been murdered by the State. In a week that started with a triumphant parade and ended in tragedy, the promise of liberation and salvation seemed to have been lost. Then Mary went to the tomb to mourn, perhaps seeking closure, looking for a last connection with her friend and teacher Jesus. Perhaps she went wondering what would happen now, how would she go on. And she finds the tomb empty. Tragedy upon tragedy.

Mary begins her search for new life by looking to the grave. She thought all had been lost and the grave is where she expected to find Jesus. But there she encounters the gardener and the gardeners calls her by name, Mary. In that instant she realizes this is not the gardener, but Jesus himself. Not dead but alive. Not in the tomb but in the garden, a place of growth and new life. Jesus calls to all of us by name, not from a tomb, but from a garden with the promise of growth and new life. And he goes on to say: don’t hold on to me. Don’t cling to the past, to what was, but instead let new life come.

Where are we looking for Jesus this Easter season? Where do we find the risen Christ today? In this strange year we are doing more than celebrating Easter – we’re living it. Jesus isn’t in a tomb but in the nitty gritty of every day life. Jesus isn’t in some far away heaven waiting for us. Jesus walks with us every day through the struggles, through unemployment, poverty, and illness. Jesus walks with us to lead us to new life, to resurrection.

We all have resurrection stories, stories of new life, to tell:

  • creating a garden

  • remodeling an old house

  • planting trees in an over-logged forest

  • revitalizing a neighborhood

  • overcoming an addiction

  • a religious conversion or rebirth

  • a professional rebirth or career change

  • a story of coming out. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a coming out of one’s sexuality either but anytime we discover something new about ourselves and share that with others, making ourselves vulnerable, it is a coming out of sorts.

Our personal resurrection stories remind us that new life is possible but they also remind us that we have to do our part as well. We might need to lay some groundwork. We certainly have to open our hearts and minds and be willing to let change happen, not clinging to the past. We have to listen for the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Where are we looking for Jesus this Easter? We can look for Jesus in the stories of our own lives, in the story of the first Easter and in the garden of life. Wherever hope and love and justice are needed is where Jesus will be found.

Pastor Ken

P.S. This reflection is inspired by the sermon from April 12, 2020, “Looking for Jesus.” A recording of this and most other sermons can be found online at


Due to the ongoing guidelines regarding the current COVID-19 pandemic, all Phoenix Community Church in-person activities are suspended until further notice. We are not closed, we’ve just moved online for now. We look forward to the day, hopefully soon, when we can resume in-person gatherings. But, in the meantime, it’s best for everyone if we do what we can to keep each other healthy at this time. It’s difficult being apart so let’s try to keep in touch with each other via phone, text, etc. That is especially important for those who aren’t able to join the online gatherings. Our current calendar of events appears below and online. Both have been updated to reflect online meetings via Zoom through the month of May. Note that if you don’t have a computer, you can also call in to Zoom on a phone (connection or long distance charges from your phone service may apply). If you need help connecting contact the church for more information.

The annual Phoenix Rummage Sale originally scheduled for Saturday, April 25, has been canceled and will be rescheduled for later in the year.

The ONA Team Meeting / Lunch originally scheduled for April 28 has been canceled and will be rescheduled at a later time.

Future movie nights are suspended for the moment. Once we can meet again in person, we’ll discuss whether to reschedule.

Let’s have an online party! If you’re getting bored staying home, we’ll host a social time to just chat with friends or maybe try to figure out how to play a game together online… who knows? Wednesday, April 29, at 7 pm via Zoom. The connection information is the same as for Sunday worship.

Join us for Spirit Talk on May 4 at 7 pm. We’ll meet online via Zoom for this more open discussion time. This is a great opportunity to talk about whatever spiritual questions have been on your mind. The connection information is the same as for Sunday worship.

Steering Committee will meet on Friday, May 15, at 7 pm via Zoom (Note that this is a change. The meeting was originally scheduled for May 8). Anyone is welcome to attend. The connection information is the same as for Sunday worship.

Donations to Phoenix Community Church: Many have asked how they can continue to give when we are not meeting in-person and we are grateful for that. Even though we’re doing church differently at the moment, the normal costs of a community continue. If you are able to make your usual, or even additional, offerings at this time it would be much appreciated. Checks can be mailed to the church office (address below). Some might want to set up “bill pay” with your bank so that your offering is automated. At this time we don’t have a mechanism for making online donations. Thank you so much for your continued support of our community!

One Great Hour of Sharing was not observed as planned this year due to the suspension of in-person gatherings. This is an offering we collect once every year and the money goes to disaster relief. If you can still give a little extra for those in need, send a check to the church office and clearly mark it “For OGHS”. For more information about how funds are used or to give online visit

Pastor’s Office hours are now by appointment until further notice. Meeting online is preferred via phone, FaceTime or Zoom. In-person meetings will only be considered in emergency situations.


Covid-19 Information: For those in Kalamazoo County, here is a helpful link from the county Health Services:


Please remember the churches and people of the Southwest Association, Michigan Conference, United Church of Christ, in your prayers.

For May please remember:

  • First Congregational Church, Kalamazoo, MI, and Revs. Nathan Dannison and Sarah Schmidt-Lee.

  • Portage UCC, Portage, Michigan, and Revs. Mary Kay Schueneman and Kyle Tade.

  • UCC Clergy serving churches outside the UCC: Rev. Julie Kline (First United Methodist Church, Kalamazoo) and Rev. Ruth Moerdyk (Skyridge Church of the Brethren, Kalamazoo)

Also remember and pray:

  • For those who are ill, whether it be Coronavirus or another ailment

  • For those in at-risk categories such as the aged and those with compromised immune systems

  • For caregivers and health care workers

  • For hospitals, that they may receive the supplies they need

  • For those whose jobs have been lost

  • For those that continue to work and are thus more at-risk, such as grocery store staff

  • For those who are struggling to feel connected to others

  • For our leaders, that they may act wisely and compassionately for the good of all

  • For churches and their leaders struggling to be community in new ways

If you would also like to make a personal prayer request to be included in the Flamings, please email the request to Do not include information unless it is ok to make it public.


Worship begins at 6:00 pm on Sundays via Zoom. While we’re meeting online communion will be observed every Sunday. If you wish to participate, have something to eat and drink with you as we gather together online. Sermons will be posted online on Fridays with a short summary and discussion time during Sunday worship. Check for new reflections and to view older ones.


Phoenix Community Church UCC
2208 Winchell Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Phone: 269-383-3222
Office Email:
Web Site:

Peer Ministers for 2020 are Linda Cross and Arlene Scholfield. Please contact a peer minister if you need assistance or just a listening ear.


All events are at 2208 Winchell unless noted otherwise. Also see our online calendar at:

Weekly Activities:
Sundays, 6 pm: Worship
Thursdays, 3:30 pm: Book Study

Other Events:
Wednesday, April 29: 7 pm, Online Party!
Monday, May 4: 7 pm, Spirit Talk
Friday, May 15: 7 pm, Steering Committee
Monday, May 18: 7 pm, Spirit Talk


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