Sunday, September 30, 2012



Learning about our Jewish sisters and brothers................What can we learn from them about our faith today?

Half the Sky | Independent Lens | PBS

Half the Sky | Independent Lens | PBS

Don't forget!! Check it out tomorrow night!


Today We'd Put Them on Reality TV

Excerpt from Acts 2:42-47

"All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need."

Reflection by Lillian Daniel

I love my church but I find it difficult to imagine all of us emptying our savings accounts and dumping them into a common pot. I can't picture us all selling our cars, so that everyone gets the same vehicle, be it a bike, a Chevy, or a skateboard. I'm in awe of the early church in the book of Acts, where they shared it all in common. Today, we would talk these people into doing a reality TV show. We'd film them squabbling over who brought the most bread or wine to this giant ecclesiastical yard sale. In other words, I don't believe this was actually easy for them.

I see this scripture as a goal. And at church, we come closer to living it out than we do at work, or school, or the sports arena. At least every week in church, we do share some of what's in our pockets. For this reason, I am in favor of always putting something in the offering plate when it is passed. You may pay most of your pledge by check through the mail, but that weekly act of taking something out of the wallet that is "mine" and putting it in the plate that is "ours" is a spiritual discipline. It reminds us that none of what we have is really ours.


Generous, God whether I need to share my money, my time, my feelings or my thoughts, help me to imagine a more generous way of life. Amen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

In Whom We Live

It seems to me that we have made God a being instead of Being itself. Both John Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas said “Deus est Ens,” or “God is existence itself.” That is the first name of God in the Book of Exodus (3:14), which could rightly be translated “I am Am-ness,” or perhaps as Acts of the Apostles puts it: “God is the one in whom we live, and move, and have our being” (17:28).
Being, or naked existence, is the one thing that we all are a part of. It seems the essential religious problem is that human beings suffer almost universally from a massive case of mistaken identity about their radical union with God. If we can break away from the illusion of our separateness then the rest follows rather clearly, and we can reconnect with our core identity. We are each a manifestation of that Universal and Divine Being, which then takes the form of angels, humans, animals, trees, water, and Earth itself. Until we recognize that inherent and shared sacredness, we have no philosophical or compelling basis for nonviolence.
R. Rohr

Mom's Retreat and More

Please take a moment to read this email - we have some very exciting events coming up! I encourage you to forward this email to a friend, too, inviting them to participate in one or more of these great ministries. 1. Registration is officially open for our Fall Retreat! The retreat will be November 2nd and 3rd. Friday will simply be a fun dinner out. Then, on Saturday we will gather at church from 10am-4pm for Christian yoga and a program brought to us by the authors of Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People. Please note this is an event hosted by Moms in Faith but open to all moms. Feel free to invite friends! The cost for Saturday is $35/person and will include yoga, lunch, and all program expenses. Please register online and send/drop off your check (payable to First Congregational Church, Memo: MIF Retreat) by October 20th.

The Foods Resource Bank Harvest Festival is on October 7th in Mazon, Il. It is a great fall event, particularly for young families. A family friendly worship service, live music, great food (local pork and more delicious desserts than you can even imagine), petting zoo, combine rides, a pie auction... a little slice of farm life, only an hour away, and no crowds! I believe there is a free will offering for lunch, and a few opportunities to give in support of the wonderful work FRB does.

Save the date for another great fall event, the CROP Walk. Here's a word from Wendy G., a Moms in Faith member who also chairs the Mission and Outreach Committee:

Welcome to the CROP Hunger Walk!
Hunger is an issue that is very important to the First Congregational Church of Western Springs and we are getting involved! We are walking in our area CROPHunger Walk and we need your help.
Please consider participating with your family in the 2012 Crop Walk on October 21st. Strollers are welcome. The 3 mile walk begins at the First Methodist Church of Western Springs. Registration begins at 1pm and the walk begins at 1:30.
Our donations will support life-saving programs around the world and in our own neighborhood. Join me and our family and friends as we work together to solve this world-wide challenge.

Jan F. will be placing the order for the God's Big Story Cards this week. The cards are designed to help facilitate faithful conversations at home. They do correlate with our First Congo Sunday School program, but they also stand alone if your kids attend religious education classes elsewhere. The cards cost $10 and you can pay when the order comes in.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Death is Real, Not Poetic

Excerpt from Colossians 3:1-11

"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."

Reflection by Donna Schaper

In his poem appropriately named "Sunday Morning," Wallace Stevens says, "Death is the mother of beauty." What he means is that limitation and inevitable loss infuse the living moments with their beauty. Fair enough. If life were endless, I would not care so much about learning how to grow sweet peas. Because life is not endless, I know I only have 80 or so - max - seasons in which to try. Stevens also refers to the "complacencies of the peignoir," and "coffee and oranges in a sunny chair." He wants us to be grateful to death for helping us enter the moment. Death may be the mother of beauty but it is also the thief of beauty. Death is real, not poetic.

Hospice chaplains love to tell us what their days are like. Instead of being dramatic encounters with universal truths, hospice chaplains are often sent out to find the kind of chewing gum that the dying person really likes. Or to play cards. Or to stare out windows. The last hours for many people are long, boring, incoherent, yielding to a kind of blurry unconsciousness, not a heightened consciousness. The dying may want to set their minds on things above but they join Stevens in matters regarding oranges or sweet peas.

What makes the most sense in this text is that word "hidden." We are to set our minds on larger things, like poetry, or Christ, or oranges held up to a glimpse of immortality. But we probably won't. And that is when we will find ourselves once again, hidden in the incarnation of the higher and lower, the human and the divine, the eternal so skillfully embedded in the ordinary.


Blessed Jesus, Son of Human and Son of God, you who hide death in life and life in death for us, draw near and let our living and our dying resemble yours. Amen.

International Day of Peace 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How Will We Teach About Sikhism After the Tragedy? | (A)theologies | Religion Dispatches

How Will We Teach About Sikhism After the Tragedy? | (A)theologies | Religion Dispatches

Bread for You

“Contemplation,” or meditation as it is called by some, became more popular in contemporary times through the writings of Thomas Merton. The word most Christians were more familiar with was simply “prayer.”
Unfortunately, in the West prayer became something functional; something you did to achieve a desired effect—which puts you back in charge. As soon as you make prayer a way to get something, you’re not moving into a new state of consciousness. It's the same old consciousness. “How can I get God to do what I want God to do?” It's the egocentric self still deciding what it needs, but now often trying to manipulate God too.
This is one reason religion is in such desperate straits today. It really isn't transforming people, but leaving them in their separated and egocentric state. It pulls God inside of my agenda instead of letting God pull me inside of his. This is still the small old self at work. What the Gospel is talking about is the emergence of “a whole new creation” and a “new mind,” as Paul variously calls it. - R. Rohr

Yoga at First Congo

We are pleased that "Yoga from a Christian Perspective" will be returning to 1st Congregational Church of Western Springs this fall. Classes will be held on the following dates, from 9:00 am - 10:15 am, $10 per person.

Saturday, September 15th
Saturday, October 13th
Saturday, November 17th
Saturday, December 15th

Thursday, September 6, 2012

UCC Peace and Justice

International Day of Prayer for Peace
International Day of Prayers for PeaceSeptember 21st join people of faith worldwide for the 2012 International Day of Prayer for Peace. This year’s theme is “Praying for Ceasefire” and the UCC has signed on with On Earth Peace to encourage churches to host vigils and tweet for peace using #peaceday.

Stages, Phases & Places: The 2012 UCC African American Women in Ministry Conference

African American Women's retreatOctober 11-13 at the Franklinton Center at Bricks (Whitakers, NC) - Join other sisters in ministry (ordained, commissioned, youth ministry, missionaries, in discernment) for a spirit-filled conference to explore more deeply God’s call to you to serve in ministry. Featured preachers are Rev. Susan K. Smith, Dr. Delores Carpenter, and Rev. Neichelle Guidry Jones. Get more info and register.
New UCC Environmental Justice Trainings Scheduled
Environmental Justice Training April 2012The UCC Environmental Justice Center at Pilgrim Firs in Port Orchard, WA will sponsor its second and third training events October 16-18 and November 16-18, 2012. The first event will be for those unable to come on weekends, and the second will be for young adults. The $175 cost includes meals, lodging, and materials. To register, click here. For more information, contact Meighan Pritchard at 206-370-4142.
World Food Day and Food Week of Action
World Food DayWorld Food Day(10/16) & Food Week of Action Oct. 14–21: World Food Day and Food Week of Action are times to celebrate God’s Creation and highlight the role of small farmers and cooperatives in improving food security ending hunger. Join with people and churches around the world in praying and advocating for just food systems a world in which no one hungers.
Missionworks and MMI training
Mission WorksRegister for the Global Ministries ¡Missionworks! 2012 Conference, October 25-27 in Cleveland, OH, followed by an optional Ministries and Mission Interpreters training, October 27-28. Deepen your engagement with global partners, including advocacy with partners on international justice issues.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lovely prayer......

Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me. And what you want to give me is love— unconditional, everlasting love. Amen.
A prayer by Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

UCC Justice and Peace Network

Take action to combat human trafficking!
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) is a comprehensive piece of legislation which underwrites U.S. efforts to end all forms of human trafficking. First passed by Congress in 2000, it has been unanimously reauthorized – and strengthened –in 2003, 2005, and 2008. When the TVPRA (s 1301) was introduced in Congress more than a year ago, partisan politics blocked reauthorization and the TVPA expired on October 11, 2011. S 1301 is now moving again through the Senate and a National Call-In Day to advocate support will occur on Tuesday, September 4th.
Urge your Senators to support the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (S 1301).
Human TraffickingThe TVPA has provided critical support around the country to put in place protections for victims of human trafficking, coordination among various law enforcement and social services, educational programs to train officials, business owners and the public to recognize the signs of trafficking, and much more. As a result, a growing number of UCC churches are engaged in their own communities to stop modern-day slavery, promote slavery-free products, and support advocacy efforts aimed at stopping these violations of human rights.
The TVPA has helped the U.S. become a global leader in addressing trafficking in persons which has become one of the most lucrative illegal businesses in the world. It ranks in the top three of such enterprises along with the illegal small arms and drug trades. More than anything, poverty and a lack of opportunity to make a sustainable living are the driving forces behind the exploitation of persons. In addition to addressing these driving forces, reauthorization of the TVPA is needed now more than ever to prevent and prosecute modern-day slavery operations worldwide.
The failure of Congress to reauthorize the TVPA is shameful and dangerous, especially for those victimized by such exploitation. Join the National Call-In Day on Tuesday, September 4th and ask your Senators to support the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (S 1301). They need to hear from you!

Monday, September 3, 2012

"We cannot be ourselves unless we know ourselves… We cannot begin to know ourselves until we can see the real reasons why we do the things we do, and we cannot be ourselves until our actions correspond to our intentions, and our intentions are appropriate to our own situation."
- Thomas Merton

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Bread For You

"[God] removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit."
- John 15:2

Dear God, I pray that your love for me allows me to bear more fruit of kindness, compassion and faith. Amen.

For Our Teachers

Please take a few minutes to think and pray over the teachers in your communities as they prepare for a new school year.