T O U C H S T O N E  -  A  M i d W e e k  B u l l e t i n

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost   
July 9, 2017  

Our Core Values: 
Spiritual Growth. Welcome. Justice-seeking


Ken Biery celebrated his 90th birthday with family, FCC members and friends in the church parlor.

Reflections for Worship . . .

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
"Jesus, the Heart of God"

Barbara Ehrenreich, in her 2001 book on economic inequality, Nickled and Dimed wrote about going to a tent revival in Portland, Maine. The preacher spoke to a mostly impoverished audience about Jesus on the cross and the importance of believing in him to go
to heaven. She thought:

"It would be nice if someone would read this sad-eyed crowd the Sermon on the Mount, accompanied by a rousing commentary on income inequality and the need for a hike in the minimum wage. But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say. Christ crucified rules, and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth.

"I get up to leave, timing my exit for when the preacher's metronomic head movements have him looking the other way, and walk out in search for my car, half expecting to find Jesus out there in the dark, gagged and tethered to a tent pole."

Many followers of Jesus focus exclusively on his Divine nature as the Son of God, offering salvation for humanity in the hearafter. But many in so doing, miss out on the humanity of Jesus and his mission on this earth, which has implications for all of us, right here and now.

Marcus Borg is our conversation partner this summer; many of us are reading his book  The Heart of Christianity , which is a primer on Christianity from a progressive perspective. He argues that it's important to understand and seek to follow both the pre-Easter Jesus AND post-Easter Jesus. This Sunday, as we read Matthew 11: 16-19 & 25-30 we will reflect on Borg's insights about the nature of Jesus... as the Heart of God.

-Andy Schwiebert
Ways to Get Involved!
Join a Union Station meal team. Sign up for Summer Habitat build day. Bring non-perishable food for Friends in Deed. Buy and fill a Friends in Deed backpack. (see article below for details) Contact the church office or speak with a pastor for more info.

Worship Leaders 
Rev. Andy Schwiebert  
Thom Meyers
Kathie Arscott
Jeff Levison
Jim Maddox  
Stacy Thomas           
Pianist   &  Music Director 
Connie Washburn 
Church School Teachers
F or summer we have a single church school class for children and youth in the youth lounge - the teachers for this week are Meagan VanDeventer and Elizabeth Lanski.)
Church Nursery (for infants - K) :
Jaquelyne Rodriguez  &  Serena Van

Nursery opens at 9 :15 a.m. for early birds and then everyone comes to worship at 10:00 and stays through the Children's  Time and then heads to the nursery with caregivers and parents.  

Nina Kung   
Visit us at:  uccpasadena.org

Sermon Podcast

D id you miss a worship and want to hear the sermon? Please visit uccpasadena.org and select 'podcasts' from the menu on top of the home page or click below


Office Hours

Mon. - Thurs.

9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Lunch hours:

12:00 p.m. -1:30 p.m. 
Tel. # 626.795.0696
Fax # 626.795.0698

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In this Edition...

Summer Happenings!!
Small Group on Spiritual Practices
Thank you note from Kellers 
SIGN UP now for Habitat for Humanity 7/29
Friends in Deed Summer Backpacks Needed
Reserve you Hollywood Bowl Ticket Aug. 27th
Reflection from Andy about visiting prisoners

Summer Happenings!

This Summer at FCC we will try and slow things down with a break from committee meetings for July and offer some outings/activities/small groups that help us enjoy the pace of the Summer months. Join us for any or all of our planned activities:
Sundays June 25-Aug. 6th join your preachers in exploring basic theological themes from a progressive Christian perspective. We will be using the book The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg and exploring a chapter each week both in our preaching and with the children/youth in our combined church school class. The first theme on June 25th was "the Bible" (chapter 3). We have books for sale at $10 each or you may purchase your own and read along with us. We will let you know what chapters we will be using and when. July 2nd was "God" (chapter 4), and July 9th will be "Jesus: The Heart of God", chapter 5. The intent is to increase our biblical and theological literacy with this overview of several topics and themes. Speak with Pastor Marlene if you wish to help staff our Summer Church School.
Saturday July 29th
Habitat Build 8-11:30 a.m. followed by a pool party and barbecue and Barb Bonzo's house starting at noon. Speak with John Gamber Thompson for Habitat details. Sign up for food for the barbecue after church with either Kim Story or Lu Burd in the next few weeks.

Every Other Wednesday Small Group on Jewish Spiritual Practices starting July 19th led by Pastor Andy. See article below for details 
Sunday Aug. 27th Hollywood Bowl Picnic and Concert. We have five extra tickets to see Pink Martini in concert. This eclectic musical group is fantastic. The concert starts at 7 p.m. and we will be picnicking ahead of time starting around 5 p.m. Come and join us and bring a friend! You must reserve your $25 seat by July 4th before all extras are released. Speak with Pastor Marlene to join the group. 
Check out their eclectic style in these two links. www.youtube.com/watch
Small Group on Spiritual Practices

Many of the topics of our recent small groups have been focused on social justice issues. We also recognize the need to ground ourselves in our daily and weekly spiritual practices to sustain us, whether in our work for social justice or in dealing with the daily challenges of life. 
You are invited to spend time with a small group as we work through a book on spiritual practices entitled,  Mudhouse Sabbath: an Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline (study edition) by Lauren F. Winner. The author is a convert to Christianity and has
deep roots in Judaism, so the book is a reflection on the best of Jewish
spiritual practices that might also be life-giving for Christians.

We will try out these spiritual practices together over 4 sessions beginning
Wednesday July 19th, meeting every other Wednesday  
evening from 6:30-8. Please let Andy know if you are interested.

-Rev. Andy Schwiebert 

Thank you!!!

Dear Church Family,
We felt honored to have so many of you show up to help us celebrate our 70th birthdays. We had a wonderful time seeing you all. Your generous donations to support the Pearls of Africa Children's Fund to honor us filled our hearts with gratitude.  We'll keep you updated on the children as they mature and move on with their lives.
Warm regards,
Irene and Peter Keller
Sign up for Habitat For Humanity build in Pasadena on 7/29 at 8-11:30AM

Discipleship is sponsoring a service day on  Saturday 7/29, helping to build a home in Pasadena. Volunteers need not have construction experience and must be 16 years or older (with 1:1 adult accompaniment or 1:5 adult accompaniment for 17 year olds). Can you help us build an affordable home for a low-income neighbor?
Only 10 spots are available, so if you are interested, please sign up ASAP. Here's how: click on this link

Then, click on "New Volunteer Registration", and follow the prompts to input your information. If you can manage to connect with our group while you register, great. The name of our group is, "First Congregational Church of Pasadena". If you cannot manage to find the group during your registration, don't worry, just complete it and you can find the service day after the fact. 
During your registration, you will be asked to walk through the orientation, which includes watching a couple of videos and reading some materials, and answering some quiz questions, which takes about 10 minutes. 
Then, you will need to navigate to the "Volunteer Opportunities Calendar" and look for the July 29date, and click to be added to the First Congregational Church of Pasadena date. 
If you have any questions, please contact Andy or John Gamber Thompson.

2017 Back-to-School Backpack & School Supply Drive!    
Dear Friends,
Summer vacation is here for the young people in our community.  While they are enjoying some time away from the classroom, we are thinking about the upcoming school year.  Starting the first week of August, we will be holding our annual Back-To-School Backpack & School Supply Drive.  
This is one of our biggest and most important events of the year.  The start of the new school year can be exciting, intimidating, and scary.  It can be all of that, and more, for the students that may not have the much needed, and necessary, backpack and school supplies.  
Most of the families in the Friends In Deed community already deal with the issue of making ends meet every month. Add in the new school year, and the expenses that go along with it, like new clothes and shoes for their ever growing children, fees for school programs and projects and a backpack and the essential items to fill it, and a family's stress level and financial concerns increase. Kids always compare themselves to other kids, and our goal is for them to feel confident that they at least have the school supplies they need for a successful and enjoyable new school year.  We count it as a blessing to be able to help so many by providing backpacks, already filled with school supplies, to children in our Friends In Deed community.  
Of course, we aren't able to make this happen all by ourselves.  Every year, we come to you, our Friends In Deed supporters and family, to make the Back-to-School Backpack & School Supply Drive one of which we can all be proud.  Last year, we gave out almost 300 backpacks full of supplies to our Friends In Deed school-aged children.  This year we expect the number to be the same.  We hope that you will join us in this effort!
If you would like to contribute, here are some things to consider: 
  1. Backpacks should be sturdy enough to handle the rigors of a student's day and the crazy amount of books they heft around, especially for our high school students.  
  2. Please avoid all red and all blue backpacks
  3. The supplies needed are recommended by the Pasadena/Altadena area schools and the list is attached. 
Please deliver empty backpacks and any supplies to Friends In Deed, by Wednesday, July 26, 2017.  We will fill them and distribute them the following week on Tuesday, August 1, Wednesday, August 2, and Thursday, August 3.
If you have any questions, contact Tim at the Food Pantry:
pantry@friendsindeedpas.org or 626-797-6072.  
Thank you for helping us to make sure the students in our community have a great start to their school year!
In service and with gratitude,
Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater
Executive Director

Friends In Deed is a DBA of the Ecumenical Council of Pasadena Area Congregations,  a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  Donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.   Tax ID: 95-1644608.  We respect your privacy. 
Back to School Supply List 2017-18
3 Ring Binders - 1"- 3" (Prefer with Clear View pocket on front)
Tab Dividers for Binders
College ruled notebook paper (this is used more commonly than the "Wide-ruled" paper)
Spiral notebooks
Copy paper (for printing on computer)
Composition Notebooks, hardcover
Pens; red, blue and black
Pencils, including #2 yellow 6-sided for younger grades; mechanical pencils Erasers
Pencil-top Erasers
Zipper pouch for pens and pencils (3 holed to go in binders)
Dry Erase Markers
Colored Markers (NO Sharpies or Permanent Markers)
Highlighters, all colors
Colored Pencils
Sharpener for colored pencils (must hold shavings)
24 Colors Crayons (prefer Crayola Brand)
2 Pocket Folders (prefer poly folders)
Student scissors (such as Fiskar)
Rulers (metric & customary)
3" x 5" index cards
Glue Sticks (many schools prefer the sticks to bottles of glue)
As you can see, school start-up is an expensive proposition for low income families. Thank you for easing that burden and assuring that all students get an equal start on their critical journey of education.
Summer Hollywood Bowl Outing - 5 tickets remaining!

Membership Ministry has selected the date of Sunday Aug. 27th for our Summer Outing to hear Pink Martini. They are an eclectic group of performers and musicians and are not to be missed! The concert begins at 7:00 p.m. and our discounted group tickets at $25 each. See Lu Burd or Pastor Marlene to sign up and pre-pay for your tickets. We have about five tickets left in section L-1 and will plan to picnic together before the event. You must include $25 with your reservations. Any unused tickets will be released July 10th so get your tickets soon!
Faith Reflection: "For I was in prison and you visited me..." (Matt 25:36)
This past Sunday I offered a brief reflection in worship and the Pomeroys asked me to also share it via touchstone for those who missed it. One thing I forgot to mention was our encounter with a white supremacist group, so see below.

Last Wednesday 6/28 I joined a group of faith leaders and community members from across LA on a pilgrimage to the Adelanto detention facility, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement holding facility run by GEO--a private corporation-- near Victorville. Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (my other employer) partnered with the ACLU, the Coalition for Humane Immigration Reform of L.A. and other groups to organize the 5 hour round-trip drive because two  weeks earlier, a group of 9 Central American asylum seekers began a hunger strike protesting inhumane mistreatment.

That group of 9 Central Americans entered the US together at the border, presenting themselves as refugees, asking for help. Now, several weeks later, they are protesting their delayed imprisonment while awaiting a court hearing as well as rotten food and no or limited access to medical care. Upon delivering their concerns to prison officials, the 9 were beaten by guards and pepper sprayed in the face and genitals, put into hot showers to exacerbate the pain of the pepper spray, and put into solitary confinement. A week prior to our visit last Wednesday, another caravan of 60 faith leaders attempted to visit the group of 8 (1 was deported), but were turned away by prison officials as the facility was locked down. Unfortunately, all family members-- all of whom were unrelated to the 8 and had traveled 2+ hours to visit loved ones-- were also turned away that day.

On our visit, to prevent a similar lockdown, a small group of 3 from our group went ahead of the others to try to visit the 8, but they were told the visiting hours for that group is on a different day. I was part of a 2nd smaller group that went in after them, to deliver a letter of concern to the warden, signed by several human rights and immigrant rights groups in L.A. Our group was told the warden would not see us, and the guard would take our letter. We told her we would let the media outside know and proceeded to exit. The guards locked the doors to our exit for a good 10 minutes, saying, "we have to secure the building before you can exit". It felt like they wanted to send us a message that they did not care to hear our concerns.

At the detention facility's exit, where we joined the rest of our group of 25-30 people, we encountered a small group of white supremacist counter-protestors of 4-5 people, with bullhorns, American flags and red Trump MAGA hats and holding "We support ICE!!" signs. From across the street, they yelled racist and hateful things at us (that I don't care to repeat here) in an attempt to drown out our prayers, songs and chants. One thing they chanted at the clergy in the group was, "What would Jesus think about you being here!?!?!" Indeed. I felt like asking the same of them, but we all refrained from engaging.

Meanwhile for about an hour, our group sang songs of peace like "we shall overcome" and "De Colores", and chanted things like, "what do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" Two family members of the hunger strikers shared testimony and we prayed for them.

All of us were deeply concerned about the treatment of not only these 8 detainees who here in this country fleeing violence-- whether political or gang-related--but all 2,000 detainees who are being held there awaiting some court hearing. Instead of being met by welcome and support, these refugees are treated inhumanely. And it's especially concerning that the facility is run by a for-profit corporation.

I felt called to respond to the invitation to take part in this pilgrimage, because in many ways on events like this I find myself closest to following the way of Jesus. Remembering Jesus' statement that when we do to "the least of these brothers and sisters" we do it to Jesus, it feels like an encounter with Jesus-- and the living God-- to visit the prisoner. Most especially when we visit those who have committed no other crime than to present themselves at the border asking for help. May we all discern ways we might follow this call of Jesus in Matthew 25 and respond in concrete ways to the needs of the stranger, imprisoned, naked, hungry, thirsty and sick.

-Rev. Andy Schwiebert