Community UCC eNews
April 2, 2020
Community UCC is an inclusive and progressive Christian Church doing social justice, environmental faithfulness, interfaith collaboration and 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 Palm Sunday, April 5, Pastor Ara will deliver a sermon titled “This is Getting Us Nowhere,” based on John 12:12-19. See below for details of how we will "do church" for now.

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.

This allows more interaction in our service than Facebook Live, which is a one-way broadcast out to viewers.

Lisa will continue to provide Facebook Live on Sundays at 10:30 a.m., by capturing her computer screen during the Zoom worship.

Zoom can be used on a computer, via a website, or on smart mobile devices via an app. You can sign up for a free account. Go to from a computer or laptop or get the app in your phone's app store and create a free account. Make a note of how you signed up which email and password you used, or if you joined via your Facebook account.
Palm/Passion Sunday, April 5
And the Celebration of Communion

Because we are meeting virtually, via Zoom and Facebook Live, we will each provide the elements for the common meal wherever we are. As you worship, please have some bread and small glass of wine or juice prepared, as we will celebrate Holy Communion together.
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. In this edition, Elizabeth Davis-Russell tells her story. We will feature her husband, Thomas Russell, next week.

To read other Meet Our Members profiles,  visit our website .

Tell us about yourself, Elizabeth:

I was born in Harper City, Liberia in west Africa. I was in school there until the ninth grade. Then I went to a Baptist mission school in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. From there, my parents sent me to school in England, and then my brother convinced me I could go to a university in the United States. 

What university did you attend?

I came to Oakland University near Detroit, Michigan, and graduated with a degree in psychology. Then, I earned a master’s in educational psychology from New York University, a doctorate in counselor education from Yeshiva University in New York, and a PhD in clinical psychology from New York University.

Tell us about your career:

I started as a faculty member at The City University of New York, where I spent 16-17 years and earned tenure. Then Thomas and I moved to Illinois for family reasons. We were there for seven years, but I got tired of the cold. So we moved to California, where I started as an associate professor with the California School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles. 

What brought you to Fresno?

Thomas got a job with the Clovis Unified School District as coordinator of community relations. So we moved here, and I got a job as an associate professor at the CSPP campus in Fresno, working there from 1989 until 1999.

What was your next professional step?

In 1999, I was appointed a fellow with the American Council on Education, and I spent my fellowship year working with Dr. Marvalene Hughes, the president at CSU Stanislaus. It was grooming me to become president of a university. From there, I became provost and vice president for academic affairs at the State University of New York at Cortland. 

While in New York, I was part of an educational team that visited Liberia to assess that country’s higher education system after 15 years of civil war. During that visit, Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, asked me to please return and help rebuild their higher education system. In 2008, I retired from Cortland and came home to Clovis for about two months.

Two months?

Yes. I then went to Liberia and was appointed to rebuild a college that had been totally destroyed. All that was left were some concrete walls and the bare earth. First, we rebuilt facilities, then we accepted students, and finally we turned the school into a comprehensive university, with six colleges.

What was it like to return to the nation of your birth?

I felt like a stranger. Except for some relatives, all of the people with whom I had grown up had left the country or had been killed during the war years.

Returning must have evoked many memories. Could you share one?

One day a man planning to return to the U.S. came to see me and handed me a book he had authored. He told me had it not been for my grandmother and great-grandmother he would not be where he is today. He said they had left the comfort of their homes to go into the hinterland and taught him and many others to read and write.

Rebuilding a university literally from the ground up posed challenges beyond belief. Could you tell us about that?

There were two major challenges: financial and human resources. I spent the first year traveling abroad to recruit faculty, staff, and administrators, and also raising money from international partners. They included various branches of the United Nations and foreign governments in Morocco, China, Egypt and other nations. (I have a Power Point presentation that I made to the Breakfast Group, if anyone is interested in viewing it.)

You stayed in Liberia to see the first three classes graduate. That had to be so gratifying:

It was extremely gratifying, especially to see the pass rates of the nursing classes on the national certification exams those first three years – 100%, 98% and 97%.

What was it like to return to Clovis in 2016?

I had this vision that if I sat still I would vegetate, and that’s not me. There were four things I wanted to do: church; the Tubman University Foundation, which supports Tubman, and particularly women’s education; my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, which is service oriented: and the National Association of University Women, another service organization. So that’s what keeps me busy. 

How did you and Thomas meet?

We were both working at The City University of New York. Thomas was a director of financial aid, and I was a counselor and then a member of the faculty, teaching psychology. When I was a counselor, we had offices in the same building. His office was at the end of a hallway that led to the parking lot. He set his sights on me as I tried to sneak by on my way to the parking lot (laughter).

Tell us about your children:

Our daughter, Allison, is a physician. She and her husband and their three sons live in La Jolla. Our son, Scott, is an artist who supports himself as a waiter. He lives in Tahoe City.

What brought you to Community UCC?

I was raised in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Thomas was raised Baptist. We tried both of those churches in Fresno, and neither was right. Then colleagues invited us to People’s Church. The pastor preached a sermon entitled “Woman Is the Root of All Evil.” He took the text from Genesis that Eve tempting Adam was the root of his downfall. I thought, “I can’t sit here and listen to this.” Our friends pleaded with us to give it another try. The next Sunday, the pastor said he was grateful the church could send missionaries to places like Africa “to bring heathens into the light.” (Thomas, chuckling: “I had to pull her back from going up on the stage after that.”).

What happened next?

We almost gave up finding a church. Then I went to a conference and the keynote speaker was Gail McDougle (co-pastor of College Community Congregational Church, as CUCC was then known). Thomas had heard her at another function, and we decided we should visit this church. It felt good – the theology felt right.

What church activities are you involved with?

I am currently chair of the Mission and Social Justice Team. Last year I served as moderator. Prior to that I served in several roles: vice moderator, Elders, Worship Planning, Pastoral Relations, and choir for many years.

What do you find special or different about Community UCC?

Gail’s sermons had a sense of scholarship, and they stimulated me intellectually. There wasn’t any talk of fire and brimstone. I also appreciated the church’s commitment to social justice. Those factors attracted me and have kept me here and made me give my time and money to help enhance those programs.

What’s your vision for the church?

Our emphasis on social justice shouldn’t just be a checklist – such as: “Oh, we’ve done the environmental thing. We now have solar and a xeriscape. Check off that box.” We need to stay true to our commitment so it’s steady, continuous, and long term, rather than doing things episodically. 

What’s one thing about you that would surprise people?

I am introverted, and people don’t see that. I’ve worked hard over the years to deal with that. When I get before a class, people see this person who’s engaged in the material. But put me in the midst of a social situation, and it’s different. Cocktail parties are deadly for me. I feel like a fish out of water trying to make small talk. 

How would classmates in high school have described you?

One of my classmates told me recently: “You always had your head in a book, and you still do.” Growing up, I read Perry Mason legal thrillers, and professionally, Freud’s original works were important to me. In terms of black literature, two favorite authors are Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. I also love the poetry of Emily Dickinson, and I’ve read almost all the crime thrillers written by James Patterson. I also like romance novels. People look askance when I say that. So you can see I have widespread interests.

As Moderator Ann Scott announced in worship on March 15, I will conclude my interim ministry on Easter Sunday, April 12. It will be the most unique Easter that I have ever celebrated. 

As I separate myself once again from a beloved community, I think of all the small deaths I have faced. And I think of Lazarus. We have been hearing scripture and sermon on stories and signs of Jesus.

One of the great and bold signs was the resurrection of Lazarus. I have never heard a sermon preached on Lazarus’ curse: He had to experience death twice.

I have been intimately involved in nine congregations in life. I have been a congregant in three and served as pastor in six. Each time I left, I took a deep breath and grieved the end of physical presence with people I loved dearly and deeply. Then after two weeks to four months, I began loving and serving with a whole new set of people.

It has been a great joy to live and work amongst you, Community. My physical presence will no longer be among us, but life goes on, and I would not trade a moment of the past 20 months.

We are in a moment of real fear in our world. The one gift that we will always enjoy is the loving relationship we share. We are loved by God and we are able to love one another. I have great friends from my first church that I attended from age 4 months to age 7. I spent time with my friend, Steve, this past October. We had seen one another for over 40 years. He even drove me to the airport: Logan in Boston if that is not love...

So do not be afraid, you are loved. Lazarus was able to share love again with his sisters, with his friends and with Jesus again. I will have new folks to love soon and I will be loved by people who have not met me yet. They will love me first. Then they will get to know me, by then it will to be late. They will keep on loving me. You will have the same blessing very soon. Meanwhile, we hold one another close in prayer and in spirit.
Pastor Ara

Note: The circumstances are extraordinary (We would love saying goodbye face to face and with a handshake or hug), but we will contain to observe the ordinary farewell as the relationship between pastor and people is dissolved. I will not be available to this congregation or its members after April 12, 2020. You will have the opportunity to call a settled pastor in the very near future. So the need for the pastor will be fulfilled faithfully and beautifully. 
Our interim minister, Pastor Ara, will end his time with CUCC soon. Easter Sunday, April 12, will be his final service with us.  

It is the United Church of Christ policy that the outgoing pastor not participate in any church activities, or have contact with any church members or affiliates for a period of one to three years, and after that, only with permission of the current pastor.

Since we cannot have a farewell party for Pastor Ara because of the COVID-19 pandemic, please say goodbye to him by phone, email, or mail before Easter Sunday. We know that saying goodbye remotely, rather than in person, is not what we want, but there is no other choice.
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 Wednesday, April 8, 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 you 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.
A Pastoral Letter in a Time of Pandemic

As leaders in our beloved United Church of Christ, we write to speak a word of tender care to our congregations, our clergy, and our members.
We are sensitive to the grief and loss that many of you are experiencing. Most of us have never seen anything like this. The pandemic has interrupted our lives. Some have suffered the premature death of loved ones, while others live through and with severe pain and suffering. People are losing their jobs. Many of us have been placed under orders not to leave our homes and to shelter in place. In most of our communities, orders have been given to limit gathering in public spaces. This has been hard for all of us. Continue reading at the website .
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