Community UCC eNews
April 16, 2020
Community UCC is an inclusive and progressive Christian Church doing social justice, environmental faithfulness, interfaith collaboration and spiritual formation to help ourselves and others grow in faith, hope and love.

The Church and Office will be closed until the City of Fresno's "Shelter in Place" advisory is lifted.
Sunday Sermon — Zoom and Facebook Live (not at church, for now)  

On Sunday, April 19, Julia Penner-Zook will deliver a sermon titled “Keyless Entry,” based on John 20:19-31. This sermon will be Julia's "call sermon," as we consider her as our next pastor. See below for details of how we will "do church" for now and also how to cast your vote for Julia.

Worship on Facebook Live will begin at 10:30 a.m.
Instructions for Zoom worship

For upcoming worship services, we will do a Zoom meeting, so we can see each other's faces even as we are apart. Zoom is a videoconferencing interface available for video and audio conferencing, chat, webinars and more.

Links to the Zoom worships will go out each Wednesday in a separate email just to church members, to ensure security. Look for "Zoom links" in that email subject line.

Lisa will continue to provide Facebook Live on Sundays at 10:30 a.m., by capturing her computer screen during the Zoom worship.
Voting is now open for our pastoral candidate

Dear Congregation,

Here is the link for you to vote on-line regarding Julia Penner-Zook following her call sermon this Sunday, April 19. If you are unable to access the service, you can still choose to vote based on your knowledge of Julia as a member of our church and her past sermons. You also received a letter with a tear-off vote that you can mail in. 

Mail-in votes must be received by April 27 . Thank you all for your participation in this important process during these difficult days.

Your Search Team
For this recurring feature in eNews, Doug Hoagland, a longtime Fresno Bee reporter, interviews members of our congregation so we can get to know each other better. New profiles run about once a month. Recently we shared Elizabeth Davis-Russell's story. Today, we feature her husband, Thomas Russell.

To read other Meet Our Members profiles,  visit our website.
Tell us about yourself, Thomas:
I was born in Gaston, Alabama, but after a few months, my family moved to Buffalo and then to New York City, where I grew up in the Bronx. I was brought up in the Baptist Church because of my grandmother. She said, “We  will  go to church.” And we said, “Yes, ma’am.” I was never tied in. It was just the church I attended. I went to a couple private undergraduate-graduate schools in New York City.

What was it like growing up in New York City?
I was very fortunate to be raised there because I had access to people who spoke about freedom for blacks. Every Saturday at a speaker’s corner in Harlem, we heard different people – including Malcolm X – talking about oppression and inequality. As I listened, I realized how oppressive the country and people can be, and I looked for a way to get involved and affect change. It fueled the fire in me, so to speak, and I got involved in the civil rights movement. I was only one person, but every person counts. 

Tell us more about your involvement:
In 1961 or ’62, I took a bus with a friend from New York to Virginia. The farther south we went, the greater the segregation became. The bus would stop for meals, and we’d go into a restaurant. But a police officer would come in and read the state law that they didn’t have to serve African-Americans. We were asked to leave, and we did. Long story short, I ended up working for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1962 to 1968.

Dr. King was the first president of the SCLC – an African-American civil rights organization.
Dr. King personally trained us on how to peacefully engage in civil disobedience, which was foreign to me because I was from the South Bronx, where you deal with an eye for an eye. Actually, you punch the other guy’s eye first. 

What did you do with the SCLC?
We worked with different organizations on voter registration. We would go into cities and towns to educate African-Americans on their right to vote and devise strategies about how to do that. For example, it was best to vote when white folks were at work so there’d be less of a crowd to threaten and harass you.

Anything else?
We worked to desegregate lunch counters. We’d go in and ask to be served, and if they didn’t serve us, we’d raise hell – a nonviolent hell – and they would arrest us, and we’d spend a night or two in jail – on trumped up charges, of course. In jail, the rule was: don’t eat the food and don’t drink the water because you don’t know what they’ve done before it gets to you. We always had attorneys who bailed us out. 

What other memories do you have of that time in the South?
One day, a police officer picked up a whites-only trash can and threw it at the car I was driving and arrested me for damaging city property. You couldn’t fight them. Your best bet was to surrender, and say “O.K. Yes, officer” – the same thing we have to tell our young people to do today. There is no difference, except today we have cameras on our cell phones.

How did you manage this work while going to college?
I had a wonderful agreement with all my instructors. I’d say, “Give me the syllabus at the beginning of the year, and I’ll get your work done.” It took me two extra years to graduate, but that’s O.K. Greyhound knew me well – I’d be on that bus like mad between New York and the South.

You told me earlier you don’t often speak of those days.
I worked with a lot of people who I respected, and who had the same values I had. Many of them were older than me. As I grow older – I’ll be 79 in May – I’ll read that one of them has died. They are people I demonstrated with and went to jail with. It’s a painful thing because it brings back memories, and it’s a type of post traumatic stress, if you will. These are people who got hit with bricks and were spat upon – as I was. But that was part of life in terms of what we wanted to achieve, and what we did to achieve it.

Tell us about your career:
I’ve been a stockbroker, a banker, an educator, a K-12 administrator and a university administrator. I’ve been employed at six different colleges and universities – I can’t hold a job (laughter). I retired in 2008 as coordinator of community relations for Clovis Unified School District.

How is retirement?
I love the outdoors and belong to the Sierra Club. I also participate as an athlete in the Senior Games. I power walk. I ran track and field when I was younger. But my doctor took a look at my knees said I needed to take up another sport – like checkers (laughter). Elizabeth and I also go to La Jolla to see our grandsons – “my guys” – as often as we can.

How did you two meet?
We had offices in the same college building, and I had a wonderful secretary – Florence Stoller. She was a grandmotherly Jewish woman I absolutely loved. She was my spell checker before there was spell check. Florence was my lookout. When she saw Elizabeth coming, she’d knock on my door, and I’d rush out and throw myself in her path. 

What brought you to Community UCC?
When we were scouting for a church in Fresno, we looked at the values and concerns of different churches. Some say one thing, but there’s a hypocritical side, quite frankly, which contradicts what they profess. I did not find that at this church. We were welcomed with warm smiles, and I liked the sermon topics, the church’s liberal leaning, and its working to improve the community. 

What church activities are you involved with?
I don’t chair anything or lead anything. I go to meetings sparingly – I had enough of those professionally. I support my wife totally wherever I can in what she wants to do at church. 

What do you find special or different about Community UCC?
About once a month, I go to another church – small churches, large churches – to see how I’m welcomed. When I go back to our church, I appreciate it so much because of our values. It’s always good to come home.

What’s your vision for the church?
That we constantly move forward, constantly try to reach new people, and expand upon our values. Elizabeth calls it social justice, and I pretty much agree with my wife – as usual (laughter). It’s safer that way.

What’s one thing about you that would surprise people?
My chief hobby is learning, understanding and appreciating black history. Since I was a teenager, I’ve always been fascinated with what black people have contributed to the world. About 40 years ago, I started looking at that history before 1619 (the year Africans were brought to the English colony in Virginia). Many people think the African-American experience began when black people hit this country, but study will tell you more about the involvement of black people globally. For example, the Greeks learned mathematics from Ethiopians. That fascinates me.

How would classmates in high school have described you?
I’m in contact with seven or eight of my friends from high school. I’m assuming they would describe me as being successful in high school. I was a good athlete – basketball and track and field. I was Athlete of the Year. I think they’d also say I was a nice guy and outgoing. 
Stewardship Campaign 2020: Four Great Loves

This year's Stewardship Campaign – Four Great Loves – kicks off on April 26 and will culminate on Stewardship Sunday, May 17. Each week will feature a different theme and different speaker:
  • April 26 – Love of Creation, featuring Sharon Powers-Smith
  • May 3 – Love of Neighbor, featuring Janet Capella
  • May 10 – Love of Children, featuring Doug Hoagland
  • May 17 – Love of Church, featuring Julia Penner-Zook

Community UCC conducts an annual Stewardship drive each spring to ask church members and supporters what they will bring to the mission of the church by completing a financial pledge form and Time and Talent sheet for the following fiscal year, from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.  

Look for more details in next week's eNews!
#FindingCommunity video now online

"Finding Community" – the video program we've produced to promote our church – is now being broadcast in Fresno and Clovis by CMAC (Community Media Access Collaborative).

The program features an interview with Felicia and David Rocha, focusing on their love for CUCC. Felicia and David also share about themselves. They do a wonderful job telling others about our church. Amy Kilburn hosts the program. She brings the same warmth and welcoming spirit she displays when giving announcements at church.

The 12-minute video was first broadcast on CMAC 1 public channel on April 9.

Here's how you can view it anytime you wish: Go to:

You'll find a picture of a little boy, his father and baby sister. Click on the play button and you'll see the entire video. (The children – Camelia and Amin – are the grandchildren of Mike Smith and Sharon Powers-Smith; the father – Mehdi -- is married to Mike and Sharon's daughter, Carsen.)

In the box below the video, you'll see the next time CMAC will broadcast the video on its platforms. The next date is in the box labeled "Airing." You can view that broadcast by:
  • Tuning in to Comcast Xfinity Channel 93
  • Tuning in to AT&T U-verse Channel 99
  • Live streaming at CMAC 1 public channel. Here’s a link:
  • Going to Roku and Apple TV on the "Cablecase Screenweave" app. Navigate on the app to find the CMAC Fresno channel

We hope to produce other videos in the future.
Share your announcements with us

These are strange times in our world and we grieve the loss of being able to come together as a congregation to share special milestones. If we can announce your special news during our weekly announcements at the beginning of worship – a birthday, graduation or even more somber tidings – please contact Amy Kilburn to let her know.
Women's Book Discussion Group

Beginning on Tuesday, April 7, our next Women's Book Club Discussion group (via Zoom) will study "Bread and Wine" by Shauna Niequist . If you are interested in participating, contact Robin Carlson for the Zoom invitation. See below for info on our book choice. You will need to order the book on your own. 

'Bread and Wine' by Shauna Niequist

Author of the New York Times bestseller "Present Over Perfect," Shauna Niequist provides the perfect read for those who love food and value the community and connection of family and friends around the table.

"Bread and Wine" is a collection of essays about family relationships, friendships, and the meals that bring us together. This mix of Anne Lamott and Barefoot Contessa is a funny, honest, and vulnerable spiritual memoir. "Bread and Wine" is a celebration of food shared, reminding readers of the joy found in a life around the table. It’s about the ways God teaches and nourishes people as they nourish the people around them. It’s about hunger, both physical and otherwise, and the connections between the two.

With wonderful recipes included, from bacon-wrapped dates to mango chicken curry to blueberry crisp, readers will be able to recreate the comforting and satisfying meals that come to life in "Bread and Wine."
In each week's eNews, we include a news article from our larger denomination,  United Church of Christ ,  to show the faithful work being done in other places.
First UCC-wide online service draws prayers from everywhere

It was a simple, one-hour service, but it bore the full emotional weight of a Palm/Passion Sunday in a season of  COVID-19 .

Words of welcome and prayer were shared from many time zones on April 5, throughout this first-ever online service for the whole United Church of Christ. Live music invited reflection during transitions. And dozens of written prayer requests poured in via the "Q&A" feature of the webinar platform Zoom. Among them:

  • "For those who have lost jobs and haven't received any assistance yet."
  • "For the local nursing home with many, many positive COVID-19 cases, and more than 15 deaths in the past two weeks."
  • "For those whose shelter-in-place home is anything but safe."
  • "For my Mom, who is hospitalized for leukemia. No visitors allowed due to COVID-19."
  • "For medical workers, teachers, grocery workers and farmers." … "For journalists and those who help us to be informed." … "For all hospital chaplains." … "For our health care workers at United Church Homes and all Council for Health and Human Service Ministries member communities of care."

Led by UCC ministers from New England to Hawaii and points between, the interactive "Call to Prayer" kicked off what will now be a regular series of such Zoom gatherings on a variety of themes each Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. They will be opportunities "to lean, to love and to learn together," said Rev. Traci Blackmon, UCC associate general minister for Justice and Local Church Ministries, which is hosting them. Continue reading at .
Happy Birthday and Anniversary to all who are celebrating this month!

April Birthdays
1 Sharon Powers
2  Elise LeBeau
4 Sierra LeBeau
5 Megan Fazio
7 David Wall
8 – Rosie Hinojosa
9 Niki Ruffin
10 Nancy Tackitt
11 Everette Newport
17 Katharine Chaffin
21 Leland Virag
24 EJ Hinojosa
25 Jake Tilley

April Anniversaries
3 Steve and Marie Edwards
16 Jeff and Cheryl Jones

Did we overlook someone's birthday or anniversary for this month? Please let Marilyn ( ) and Lisa ( ) know so we can get you in next week. We never intend to leave anyone out.
Upcoming Church Events

  • We will resume listing events after things get back to normal. For now, events have either been cancelled or will be rescheduled.
eNews deadline is 10 a.m. Wednesdays

CUCC eNews is a weekly publication distributed every Thursday. Deadline for submitting announcements is 10 a.m. Wednesdays (and earlier is appreciated). Please send your announcements to Marilyn at . Lisa Boyles (, 559.244.9502) is the eNews editor and communications liaison for our church.
We've updated our Joyful Giving page to reflect the many ways members can help support our Church's missions and operations, especially needed in these critical and uncertain times.

The Church and Office will be closed until the City of Fresno's "Shelter in Place" advisory is lifted.

Phone: 559.435.2690