First Congregational Church of Flagstaff
( A Covenant Church of the United Church of Christ )
740 North Turquoise Drive Flagstaff, Arizona 86001
Uniting Notes — January 2017
A PSALM FOR THE NEW YEAR
On social media, as 2016 finishes, there is no end of the sentiment “Thank goodness 2016 is over!” For the majority of American voters, it was the loss of an election, and at the same time many of our favorite artists passed away. At the same time, there’s a good deal of trepidation for the year ahead. Does Scripture have anything helpful to say about the coming of a new year?
At the start of a new year, it is fitting to reflect on the Psalm associated with the new year (Rosh Hashanah) in Judaism. For our Jewish sisters and brothers the new year will begin in September, but the concept of making a fresh start is similar to the broader culture’s idea of New Year’s day on January 1st. In synagogue services, Psalm 47 is read seven times before the shofar is blown, announcing Rosh Hashanah. And what might we at First Congregational Church glean from this psalm for the start of our new year?
Psalm 47 begins with the admonition “Clap your hands, all you nations, shout to God with cries of joy.” Whatever challenges we face as we begin the new year, we should desire to be joyful. This sense of gratitude and contentment with life can exist despite circumstances, for God is “awesome, the Great King over all the earth” (verse 2). For myself, I know I need to deepen my commitment to spiritual exercises, to be a new person suited to the new struggles and possibilities of the new year.
As a congregation, we likewise face both challenges and opportunities heading into the new year. Some of the members who have served our church long and faithfully are no longer able to contribute in the ways they have in the past, and our building will require considerable expenses to repair and maintain. At the same time, we have fresh volunteers with exciting and creative ideas to meet these challenges. Four times in verse 6, the Psalmist tells God’s people to “sing praises.” Singing God’s praises in the midst of being tested is a good way to remember that with God all things are possible—and our challenges can be overcome.
On the political scene, many in our church and in the nation are struggling as well. Our president-elect is the most controversial incoming leader in decades, and Americans are divided as never before. Advocates for earth care, and for social justice, are deeply worried. Yet Psalm 47 reminds us that “the kings of the world belong to God” (verse 9). That should encourage us in two ways: first, to pray for our president-elect and for all elected officials, as Scripture bids us. We can expect prayer to change things, and hope for God’s will to be done through our elected leaders. At the same time, if leaders fail to implement the compassion that God desires, we can expect God to raise up and empower a faithful opposition, bringing kindness and generosity to prevail.
Traditionally, revelers blow party horns at the stroke of midnight, ushering in the new year—similar to the blowing of the shofar announcing the start of the Jewish new year, “the sounding of trumpets” as verse 5 of Psalm 47 declares. At the trumpeting in of each new year, we can look forward with expectation, believing that whatever challenges the new year may bring, God is in our midst enabling us to bring forth God’s Beloved Community in the world’s midst.
Thank you for your words of guidance for the coming year, 2017.
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.
All things break. And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intension.
Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.
UCC Fair Trade Project
ALL DECAF COFFEE IS $2.00 OFF
Equal Exchange Coffee, Tea, or Chocolate is available each Sunday.
Coffee is one of the most heavily traded commodities in the world. Americans drink approximately320 million cups of coffee every day, 20 present of the world’s total coffee production. Some 20 million people near the equator depend on coffee for their livelihood, but for many the coffee trade keeps them trapped in poverty. With little access to markets, farmers often sell through middle men who offer the lowest price possible. With world coffee prices in constant flux, farmers have no guarantee of how much they will receive for their crop.
Thank you for your support of the Equal Exchange Co-Op and for all the Equal Exchange products!
FCCF Birthday’s in January:
Connie Huffman – January 7th
Tom Reid – January 17th
Susannah Carney – January 19th
Phil Daykin – January 19th
FCCF Anniversary’s in January
John and Janet Leung – January 30th
For the rest of the story, check out the websites listed below!
Be informed – Southwest Conference United Church of Christ In The Loop
Be informed – Keeping You Posted United Church of Christ
(Just key into your browser, enter and read)
Reflections from Christmas Eve in Iraq – 2016
The chapel is quiet right now. The only noise comes from the Black Hawks and Chinooks preparing to take off to destinations around Iraq. It is Christmas Eve. The rain is pouring and the ground is rapidly covered in a type of mud that is anything but festive. It bogs the mood of the camp, but the war effort does not slow. I have been here for every holiday this year. It never slows, not even in Taji, a place far from the thunder of the front lines.
In just a few short hours, the Australian Padre, fellow US chaplains and I will lead a candlelight service celebrating once again the birth of the Prince of Peace. We will sing traditional carols as military personnel and contractors from around the world pause to pay homage. It is a wonderful reminder. Men and women have looked to this event with hope-filled wonder for many years.
I think a great deal about peace these days. Whether it is Iraq or Syria, it is difficult for those who care not to watch with broken hearts. I feel fortunate to be part of an ongoing operation trying to do something about the tragedy we all see on our screens, but it never seems to be enough and it never seems to move fast enough. The destruction is indiscriminate and especially brutal to those most vulnerable: the elderly, women, and children.
As I unpack the candles for the service, I meditate on the last year. I’m getting ready to leave. The battles still rage to my north and probably will for some time to come. There is a certain guilt I cannot help but feel as I prepare to leave. I get to go home. I get to hug my wife and children and sleep in relative safety under the beautiful Tucson night sky. If I want, I do not have to even consider the war-torn events I am poised to leave. It is a strange luxury lost on most of our country. I am ill at ease with that reality. And so, I wonder and pray, what will PEACE look like for this part of the world?
One of the officers at lunch recounted the story of the Christmas Truce from WWI. I googled it when I returned back to my office. The story perfectly illustrates how, during the weeks leading to Christmas, tragedy becomes the paradox of God’s grace. The story has the feel of myth. As it goes, roughly 100,000 British and German soldiers were involved in an unofficial cessation of hostility along the Western Front. The Germans placed candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees. Both sides joined in singing Christmas Carols, shouting greetings across the way. They even made excursions across No Man’s Land to exchange gifts of food, tobacco, and alcohol.
How were they able to peer past their training and their reality to see the peace being celebrated in the birth of Christ? I think of the enemies we now face and I cannot imagine a similar scene. I cannot see the same opportunities of make-shift sacred space or a common understanding of humanity. During the Christmas Truce, there was a stalemate in the trenches. There was a space created in the impasse. The space was steeped in desperation and prayer. It became a sacred moment juxtaposed with the coming Christmas morning. There was time to actually consider the story of the one hunkered in the opposite trench. The soldier was drilled to believe that the enemy soldier is the enemy of all life and all future. But in the space in between, they saw a common humanity. They saw the image of God within the other. In a season where we celebrate hope, joy and love, peace overcame them, even if for only a short while.
In some respects, it is probably not completely fair to compare this current conflict with that one so long ago. As I hear the approaching steps of a chaplain, one cannot help but wonder, however. Have the last 13 years of war has created a similar type of stalemate? This deployment has created more questions than answers. Will we be able to take the tragic spaces created by war and make them holy? How will peace be possible if we are unable or even unwilling to see our own stories, sons, and daughters in the faces of our enemy? I do not know. In our candlelit circle, tonight, there will be no elements of the enemy. There will be no echoing songs coming from battle lines afar. No gifts. No sharing of photos of family. No laughter. After nine months, however, I can attest that the same desperation and prayer will be here tonight.
The problem of peace is nothing new. I had hoped that this problem would be one I would not have to pass down to my children awaiting my return. I imagine that same hope was a driving reason for the anticipation surrounding Christ’s birth so long ago. And so tonight we will sing. And we will pray. And we will lift the light of Christ high into the air. And we will welcome the Prince of Peace, trusting like those soldiers did a hundred years ago, that peace can be born in the most hopeless places.
(Owen Chandler is the Senior Minister of Saguaro Christian Church, an Open and Affirming Congregation, and is currently deployed to Iraq as the Battalion Chaplain of the 336th CSSB. He is a contributor to the Southwest Conference Blog, part of In The Loop. Whether in the pulpit or in his ACUs, Owen’s ministerial emphasis centers on discovering the healing, transformative power of the intersections between our story and God’s story.)
Black Eyed Peas and Greens
One of the most common foods consumed on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day is black eyed peas and collard greens. It is thought that by eating this dish it will bring you good luck and prosperity in the new year. The collard greens represent money and the black eyed peas symbolize good luck. Happy New Year!
Breakfast is the meal NOT to skip!
FCCF meets Thursday mornings at 8:00am for Breakfast at Coco’s on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month. That’s Thursday, January 12th and January 26th, 2017.
Come and celebrate the passing of 2016 and the starting of 2017.
Women’s Fellowship Luncheon
will be on Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Come and enjoy the fellowship
and the good food.
The Holidays are past!
The Prayer Circle will meet Tuesday, January 3, 2017 in the Fellowship Room at Noon. Bring something to share for lunch.
The Book Group is reading “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini.
The date scheduled is Sunday, January 22, 2017. You are welcome to join in!
Call the church office for the time and location.
Our prayers are for you……
David Cooper, Joyce and Michelle Neal, Meg Eastwood, Fleur Benjamin, Kay and Monte Poen, Phil Daykin,
Mary Drake, Marge Markel, Sylvia Lee, Dick and Katie Kilgore, Laureen Antes, Cyndi, Terry and Levi Cirre,
Rev. Bill Lyons, Rev. John Dorhauer.
In memory of Stirling Daykin.