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November 20, 2014

Friend or Follower?

   To the Sinners and Saints in La Grange and beyond, grace to you and peace from Carly, called to be a servant of Christ  among you. 

   One of differences between Facebook and Twittter is how one's "associates" are labeled.  On Facebook, one has "friends."  According to how one sets their privacy settings, friends can see most of what I post on my Facebook page, can write things on my "wall," read my responses to other friends, and interact with me through private messaging.  On Twitter, one has "followers."  These people can read what I post on Twitter, but the level of interaction is limited to hashtags (#), "retweets" (RT), mentions (@), and direct messages (DM). 

   I recognize that to anyone outside of the world of social media, the paragraph I've just written makes absolutely no sense.  Such is the digital gap in technology use.  I would liken this difference to the difference between a church member and a disciple.  In Jesus' time, followers were more important than friends.  Despite what the popular song says, Jesus never wanted friends.  He said, "Follow me." 

   Membership usually means to be a part of something such as a family, a group or a club. membership carries with it expectations of participation and rules by which to maintain one's membership in good standing.  These differ from group to group; the country club requires a stiff membership fee while the Kiwanis require regular attendance and fees. Some organizations regulate the expected behavior of members.

   What does membership mean for the church?  This proverbial question has caused great conversation within congregations. In the United Church of Christ, each congregation makes this determination for themselves.  Some churches require pledges, participation, and receiving communion on a prescribed level.  Others are more lax and request only that the person let the church office know when they no longer wish to be a member.  Membership is an administrative box into which a person is placed for the sake of maintaining an institution.

   More important to the Christian faith is being a disciple -- a follower or student of a teacher, leader or philosopher. Jesus asked that we follow him, not join him.  The most important part of being a disciple is having a desire to learn and grow in the knowledge and discipline of the Teacher. Rev. Carrie Call nicely worded it:  "The disciple listens, studies, practices, questions and follows. .... Instead, it is an attitude or orientation toward the teacher, one that includes devotion and openness."

   She goes on to say,

   What I have come to believe is that not every church member is a disciple, and not every disciple is a church member. That seems odd to say. After all, if people are members of a church, doesn't that mean they are disciples of Jesus? Not necessarily. .... Discipleship has costs and it is a process - sometimes a very painful one. Making disciples is one of our tasks as followers of Jesus: to share an invitation to a way of life, not just membership in a particular group[1].

   No one can force another to be a disciple.  It is a response to an invitation.  It develops and gains strength only through invitation and example. And it is recognized by its fruits - compassion, forbearance, forgiveness, kindness of spirit, generosity, gratitude and humility.

   I encourage you to ask yourself what the difference might mean for your life. When we invite others to join us, is it so they can become good church members? Or, is it an invitation to a life of discipleship?



[1] Rev. Dr. Carrie Call, Conference E-Pistle (Indianapolis: Indiana Kentucky Conference UCC) October 27, 2014.

Volunteer Opportunities
ST. BARBARA'S FOOD PANTRY COLLECTION
The product for the food pantry for November will be laundry detergent. Although not a food item, it is often requested at the pantry. Small containers are best.

JEWEL STAMPS MISSION
Our collection of Jewel stamps for Refugee One is into our third book! The box for stamps is on the table as you go into coffee hour or you can leave them in the Missions mailbox. We need loose stamps or filled books. The deadline is Sunday, December 7th.

2015 BACK BAY MISSION TRIP
Interested in being part of a team volunteering at Back Bay Mission? For the fourth year, we will be taking a group of adults to Biloxi on February 22nd to the 28th. If you have questions or are ready to sign up, please contact Marie Roche. We will hold an informational meeting after the first of the year.

GIFTS OF GRATITUDE
Do you like to avoid the holiday shopping rush? We put up the Gifts of Gratitude Tree early since Black Friday sales have begun! No hurry, as we have plenty of names on the tree. Gifts of Gratitude will be on Sunday December 14, during the children's pageant. Select an ornament or two from the tree for a child from Casa Central. Buy a gift between $20-$30 for the child you have chosen. If you buy clothes and want to include the gift receipt in case an exchange of sizes is needed, Target and Walmart are the closet stores to these families. Wrap or place the gift in a decorative bag (staple closed) and tape the tag to the package so it finds its way to the right child through Santa Claus at their holiday party.

LA GRANGE LIBRARY - CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS
La Grange Public Library is looking for volunteers to spend an hour per week adding RFID tags to items. Click here or call 708-215-3200 for more information.
In Our Church
COMMUNITY THANKSGIVING SERVICE
Let us gather with our Christian brothers and sisters to give thanks to God. Nine congregations and communities will gather at our church at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 26th for a Community Thanksgiving Service. There will be combined vocal choirs, children's choirs, and handbell choirs. Let's come together with others in our La Grange Area Churches to give thanks.

ADVENT STUDY SERIES
Our own Charlie Cosgrove will be teaching an advent series on "The Origins of Christmas and Its Earliest Hymns." The classes will take place on December 4th, 11th, and 18th at 2:00 p.m. in the Drawing Room. All are welcome.

COOKIE EXCHANGE
Want a variety of cookies on hand for the holidays? The Ministry of Nurture is organizing a cookie exchange. Bring 3 dozen of your favorite homemade cookies to the Founder's Room before church on December 14. We will serve one dozen of your cookies for coffee hour and send you home with at least two dozen assorted cookies.

THE HANGING OF THE GREENS
Advent is coming! Come join the Ministry of Worship tradition of decorating our church inside and out. It happens Saturday November 29, starting at 9 a.m. in the Sanctuary. Email John Hoo or call 708-352-5577 for additional information. Sign up here.

HOLIDAY WALK CAROLERS
Singers of all ages are invited to sing Christmas Carols on December 6 on the La Grange Road steps. Why sing in the cold? To invite the community to the s'mores pit and into the Founders Room for crafts and snacks and to learn more about our active, wonderful church! Please sign up with Ryan Cox.

CHRISTMAS EVE CHOIR
The candlelight service is one of the most beautiful of the year. Why not sing with the Chancel Choir and experience that beauty from a different perspective? Rehearsals will be on Thursdays, starting December 4 from 7:30-8:30 pm. Please contact Ryan Cox to sign up.

ALTAR FLOWERS
Is there a special anniversary or date coming up? We have a few 2014 Sundays available and plenty of dates in 2015. See the calendars in the Founder's Room. 
Music

TOWER CHORALE

The Tower Chorale presents their Christmas concert on Friday, December 5, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 7, at 3:00 p.m at Holy Trinity Church in Westmont.  You'll hear a collection of Christmas carols in a wide variety of arrangements. The 80-voice chorale will be accompanied by Dennis Zimmer on organ and piano, a brass quartet, guitar, harp, percussion, and flute. The Holy Trinity Children's Choir will join in as well -- don't miss it.  The Holy Trinity Church is located at 111 South Cass Avenue in Westmont. 

Get Involved with FCCLG!
- Bring in treats of your choice and serve beverages and snacks after worship.
Flower Delivery
- Deliver the donated altar flowers to home-bound church members after worship.
Ushers
- Arrive church at 9:30 am, pass out programs, collect the offering.
Greeters
-Arrive at church at 9:45 am, wear your name tag, and smile!
Laundry Superheroes
- Pick up the Saturday Meals Program laundry outside the kitchen after worship and return it clean before next Saturday.
Nursery Attendants
-Watch children during worship service.
AV Technicians
-Run the sound system and cameras and monitor broadcast to Plymouth Place during worship on Sunday. Training available - see John Hoo.

You can also sign-up in fellowship hour or by calling the church office at 708-352-0800.
TOUCH LIST
Your Cards and Prayers Will Comfort and Touch...

Jim Clayton.
Our thoughts are with LuAnn Hall's niece Jessica.
KC, Tina Happel's sister, as she recovers from emergency surgery.
Lois Hindman, who is house bound with a brain condition.
The family of Loretta Kotal (mother of Sherri Ries) who passed away. 
The Manning family, as they mourn the loss of Barb's mother, Barb Barta.
The family of Donald Olson, (Hellen) who passed away.
Pauline Wagoner, who is in hospice care.
Chet Won (Viola Clayton's son-in-law).
First Congregational Church of La Grange | 708-352-0800 | mainoffice@fcclg.org | http://www.fcclg.org
100 S. 6th Avenue
La Grange, IL 60525