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The Phoenix Flamings

Phoenix Community Church UCC
Friday, December 11, 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

Merry Christmas from Phoenix Community Church!
 

This holiday season is going to be unlike any other we’ve ever experienced. In the midst of a worsening pandemic, it’s best for everyone’s health if we skip some of our usual traditions this year, such as holiday parties. But maybe we can look forward to this spring or summer when we might be able to safely host a party again. It will be a wonderful celebration when we’re able to come together once more. We might even day dream about it a little, maybe even start planning for that first party. And parties do need planning, right? It often involves a lot more than opening up the front door and welcoming people. We have to prepare: plan a menu, send invitations, shop for groceries, clean our house. There’s lots to do to get ready for a party. In the Gospel stories, this is kind of what John the Baptist was doing. He was preparing for an exciting event, the coming of Christ. He was laying the groundwork and issuing the invitations.
 

This is also what Advent is, a time of preparation. We're expecting an exciting event, the birth of Jesus, the celebration of God's love come into the world. We’re getting ready for the Kin-dom of God, but it arrives only through our preparing for it. John invited those who had strayed from God’s path, who were estranged from the Divine, to turn away from their old ways of living and turn toward God’s Way. To use a garden metaphor, John was a tiller. He was turning over the soil of our hearts so Jesus could come and plant the seeds of God’s Kin-dom. Each Advent our tradition is to light a candle every Sunday to lift up what I think of as the seeds of the Kin-dom: hope, peace, joy, and love. This past Sunday we lit a candle for peace.
 

The dictionary says peace is tranquility and mutual harmony, freedom from strife or dissension. But peace does not mean complacency. It doesn't mean to sit back and calmly accept whatever happens. Peace comes from trust: knowing that God is with us and that the Holy Spirit is nurturing us in our growth. It comes from knowing that the doing is being done and that the preparations are being made, that we are walking God's path. Peace means paying attention to our fears (i.e. acting smartly and safely), but not letting fear control us. When love and compassion rule our thoughts and actions instead of fear, that to me seems to be peace.
 

How can we nurture peace in our hearts? Find what works for you, but perhaps practicing things like mindfulness and meditation might help. Maybe deep breathing and a little silence when anxiety seems to feel threatening. Maybe a walk in nature or naming the things we are grateful for even in a very trying year. Because peace is about trusting the Divine, whatever helps us feel God’s presence around us can help us nurture that sense of peace. And, when we nurture peace within ourselves it will also nurture and open a way for peace to grow around us in the world. Like John the Baptist, we are also called to shout our good news in the world’s wilderness, to be tillers, calling the world to turn to God’s Way of love and justice through the example of our lives. That happens through not only what we say but what we do to help those in need in our hopeful anticipation that God is about to do something new and wondrous. May the peace of God take root deep in your heart and soul, providing you with a serenity and calmness that fills your life and overflows until the world itself is filled with peace.
 

Blessings,
Rev. Ken Arthur
 

P.S. This reflection is inspired by the sermon from December 6, 2020, “Prepare the Way.” Video and/or audio recordings of this and other past sermons can be found at https://phoenixchurch.org/home/phx-sermons/.

 

Tis the season to be generous! Often in years past Phoenix Community Church has done a special Christmas project as a community. This year, we are suggesting an offering to the UCC’s Christmas Fund. The Christmas Fund has been caring for active and retired clergy and lay employees of the United Church of Christ for over 100 years, providing emergency grants, supplementation of small annuities and health premiums, and Christmas “Thank You” gift checks each December to our lower-income retirees. Over the past nine months, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the emergency financial needs of many who serve the church have increased dramatically. In such a time as this, the need for the Christmas Fund is more urgent than ever. For more information about the fund visit https://www.pbucc.org/index.php/christmas-fund-home. If you are able to make a contribution, you can send a check to Phoenix Community Church and write “Christmas Fund” in the memo line. To give directly use the “Donate” button on the web page listed above.
 

Online Giving is now available! As always, donations to Phoenix Community Church can be mailed to the church office (the address is below). But, if you prefer, you can also give online. Simply visit our website and click on the "Give" button in the right hand column or visit https://tithe.ly/give?c=2821191.
 

Join us for Spirit Talk on Monday, December 21, at 7 pm. We’ll meet online via Zoom for this 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.
 

Christmas Eve Worship will be an online experience this year. On December 24, we’ll gather at 5:30 pm on Zoom to hear the Christmas story and enjoy a few Christmas carols as we celebrate the arrival of God’s love come into the world. If you receive Pastor Ken’s worship reminder emails every Friday, then you’ll also get the Christmas Eve connection information a few days before. Otherwise, please let us know you’d like to join us for this special service and we’d be happy to send you the information too.
 

Book study will take a holiday break, not meeting on December 24 or 31, and then begin a new book (which one is to be decided) when we resume January 7. You don’t need to purchase the book to join us as we read together during our 3:30 pm online gatherings every Thursday. The connection information for meetings is the same as for Sunday worship.
 

The Flamings newsletter will not be published on its regularly scheduled date of December 25. The next issue will be published January 8, 2021.
 

Pastor Ken will be on vacation from December 26 through January 1. If you need assistance during this time, leave a message at the church office phone and someone will try to direct you to the proper resource.
 

Steering Committee’s next meeting is Friday, January 8, at 7 pm via Zoom. Anyone is welcome to attend. The connection information is the same as for Sunday worship.
 

We’re Open and Affirming. Now what? Phoenix Community Church is hosting an online discussion, “Life After ONA,” at 7 pm on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 so our Southwest Association churches can share our collective wisdom on how we are living out our commitments as Open and Affirming (ONA) communities of faith. Seven of our 19 Association churches have officially declared themselves ONA. But what happens after that official declaration? How has it changed our church (if it has)? What are we doing to reach out and welcome the LGBTQ community? How do we affirm LGBTQ people who are already part of our church? Where have we fallen down on our commitments? How can we renew our energy for making an inclusive and expansive welcome? These are just some of the questions we’ll talk about on January 12. Note that there won’t be a presentation. We’re hoping instead that we’ll each bring the wisdom of our own experiences to share and learn from. If you would like to attend, email the church office for the connection information.
 

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are not ready to re-start in-person services yet. Our Steering Committee continues to re-evaluate on a monthly basis. In the meantime, continue to keep in touch with each other via phone, text, etc. and be sure to join us for Sunday Worship online! Thank you for your continued patience and support!
 

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: https://www.kalcounty.com/hcs/covid19.php.

 

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

For December please remember:

  • First Congregational Church, Constantine, MI and Rev. Kathy Schuen

  • Pilgrim Congregational Church, St. Joseph, MI and Rev. David Stout

  • Our UCC clergy who are 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 victims of racism and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)

  • For those who live in privilege, that we may have the courage and compassion to fight racism

  • 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, health care workers, and the hospitals and organizations they work for

  • For those that work in situations where they are at heightened risk from Coronavirus

  • For all of us as we navigate the questions and issues of living through a pandemic

  • For students, teachers, school staff, and parents in the midst of a pandemic

  • For all whose employment has been affected by the pandemic

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

  • For the future of our nation, that we may be united in compassion for each other

  • For the victims and perpetrators of violence

If you would also like to make a personal prayer request to be included in the Flamings, please email the request to office@phoenixchurch.org. 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 Friday with a short summary and discussion time during Sunday worship. Check https://phoenixchurch.org/home/phx-sermons/ for new reflections and to view older ones.

 

Phoenix Community Church UCC
2208 Winchell Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Phone: 269-383-3222

Office Email: office@phoenixchurch.org

Web Site: http://www.phoenixchurch.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PhoenixChurch  

Peer Ministers for 2021 are Linda Cross, Arlene Scholfield, and Marvel Spencer. Please contact a peer minister if you need assistance or just a listening ear.

If you are trying to contact a particular person at the church for more information on any of the items in this newsletter, but don’t have their contact information, please call the church office phone for assistance.

 

 

Also see our online calendar at: https://phoenixchurch.org/home/calendar/. Most events are currently being held online via Zoom. 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 the connection information for an event contact the church for more information.

 

Recurring Events

Sundays, 6 pm: Worship

Thursdays, 3:30 pm: Book Study

One-Time Events

Monday, Dec. 21: 7 pm, Spirit Talk
Thursday, Dec. 24: 5:30 pm, Christmas Eve Worship
Monday, Jan. 4: 7 pm, Spirit Talk
Friday, Jan. 8: 7 pm, Steering Committee
Tuesday, Jan. 12: 7 pm, Life After ONA
Monday, Jan 18: 7 pm, Spirit Talk
 

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