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 February 4, 2016
Behold! I am doing a New Thing!  

Do you perceive it?    

With the streamlining of office procedures, we have migrated our volunteer opportunities to our ACS Access site.  This is now accessible through out church website,
By using our church database software, we are better able to match members interests, abilities, gifts, and graces with our needs for volunteers. 

To sign up for volunteering, go to the church's website, . Click on "Connect with Us" and choose "Member Login" from the drop down menu.  After you log in, click on the tab that says "Serving" and the drop down menu that says "Search Opportunities."  This will bring you to a list of areas that you may choose to volunteer.  Click on any of these and specific roles and dates to serve will open.  When you click on "Interested," the person coordinating that area of ministry will receive an email indicating your interest.  You will receive an email from the church office when you have been added to the schedule for that day.

If you have questions or cannot remember your Member Login information, please don't hesitate to contact the church office.

The Links to all the Serving Opportunities are also listed to the left!
Touch List

Your Cards and Prayers Will Comfort and Touch...
The Balz family.
Arnie Doerfert, Kim Bart's father, who is undergoing tests.
Joan Eckner who has continuing health struggles.
Our thoughts are with LuAnn Hall's niece Jessica.
Lois Hindman, who is house bound with a brain condition.
The family and friends of Josephine Welsch, the mother of David Kasnick who died on January 28th.
The family and friends of Camilla Norby, who died on December 21st. Her funeral plans are pending.
Petra Palmer's granddaughter's friend Summer who has a possible diagnosis of leukemia.
Helen Pancner, Viola Clayton's daughter who has continuing health struggles.
Jennifer Powers as she deals with health issues.
Ron Sander, Erik Sander's father, who is in hospice care.
The family of Michael Smith and the residents of Brookfield rocked by gun violence, random and too close to home.
Susan and daughter dealing with the Zika Virus.
The family and friends of William C. Van Horne Sr., the father of Bill Van Horne, Jr. who died on January 29th.
The family and friends of Pauline Wagoner, who died on January 7th.
Dear Friend, 

Grace and peace from one called to be the pot-stirrer, flame-lighter, hand-holder, travel-guide, and comforter among and with the saints, stalwarts, sinners, and stuck of La Grange and beyond. As we enter into the season of lengthening days and shorter times of darkness, let us journey together through the season of sacred discontent toward redemption and resurrection.

The sounds like an oxymoron: Sacred Discontent. How can being dissatisfied, unhappy, restless, or disgruntled be holy? Why would we bless, revere, or consecrate discomfort?

In his novel, Davida's Harp, Chiam Potok describes living in the tension and anger between what is and what should be as being "possessed by sacred discontent" (Balantine Books, 1996, p 370). Lent is an ancient season of the church when followers and initiates of the Way place themselves into the sacred discontent between their living and how God's realm will be. As they moved from Ash Wednesday toward Easter, followers of the Way engaged in six weeks of intentional introspection and internal house cleaning as a means of preparing for new life in Christ that Easter offers.

Sacred Discontent is the theme of our Lenten Journey this year. Our Sunday morning adult class, worship and informal mid-week gatherings will focus upon times and circumstances of discomfort and discontent. We will seek to live with an awareness of this sacred tension between the reality of our world and lives and the dream of what they should be as we move toward the celebration of resurrection.

Sunday worship will focus on the Gifts of Sacred Discontent. Sunday class and Mid week gatherings will focus on the Grief of Sacred Discontent. Both promise to be interesting explorations of how we move through times of change, doubt, loss, and awe.

A schedule of our Lenten Journey and Oases is below. Won't you join us in Sacred Discontent?

Church News and Reminders
Have You Heard Rumors of
Potential Church Renovations?
Members of our congregation have been hard at work developing plans on how to make our church the most attractive venue to outside groups and individuals. We want others to appreciate and utilize our lovely church for special occasions such as weddings, baby & bridal showers, special family gatherings, organization meetings, training events & seminars, birthday and holiday parties, and recitals & concerts. By accomplishing this goal, we will be able to generate funds that will enable us to maintain our beautiful facility. We have met with different event organizers to gain an outside perspective on how we can freshen up our church to create broad appeal. We have also determined that the most important areas for focus are the Founders' Room, Sanctuary and common areas such as hallways, vestibules and bathrooms. Most recently we met with a variety of contractors and tradesmen to get estimates for completing our list of projects.

Where will we get the funds to do this work? The Building Projects Fund was created by the sale of the 113 S La Grange Rd property and $250,000 of these funds have been set aside towards making our church an attractive venue for others to use. Below you will see an outline of the recommended renovations and the associated estimated costs for each. Our goal is to begin this work within the next few months.
Founders' Room
Install air-conditioning                                         $41,000
Replace plastic chairs & buy 4 additional round tables $1,635
Replace carpeting                                                 $1,700
Move sound system to sanctuary,
      add one to Founders Room                             $45,451
Fix ceiling leak and repair area                              $5,000
Update kitchen to make suitable for catered events   $36,000
Cost                                                                $130,786

Install air-conditioning                                          $80,000
Replace carpeting                                                  $7,500
Replace pew pads                                                  $1,700
Update lighting system                                           $15,000
Cost                                                                 $104,200

Common Spaces
Replace carpeting in vestibules &
    hallway to drawing room                                   $3,300
Paint and repair upper and
     lower vestibule areas east of sanctuary              $4,750
Paint and repair bathrooms on 1st  
       and 2nd floors                                              $4,440
Cost                                                                 $12,490
Total Estimated Cost                               $247,476
The next Messy Church will be on February 5th at 5:00 p.m. We will explore what it means to be a new creation in Christ. We hope to see you there!

Try something new in 2016, join us at E vening Book Club.  We will meet Tonight, February 4th at 7:30pm in the Chapel Family Room.  We will discuss "The Burgess Boys" by Elizabeth Strout.  A timely story involving immigrants to the United States and the small town that struggles to assimilate them.  The book is available through the local library system and can be shipped to the library of your choice!

Start the New Year out right and join us as we knit and crochet for charity. Beginners are welcome - we will be glad to give instruction. We meet every Monday except the first Monday of the month in the Family Room off the Chapel at 7pm 

We know it when we've found a place where we feel "at home," where we've made connections and built relationships. And when we've found that "sweet spot" we feel like we belong. In the language of faith, we say we are all part of the body of Christ and individually members of it. We share a common vision and work toward common goals, and it feels quite familiar.

If you have this sense of belonging, come and explore the next step in the life of the congregation: covenanting to grow together in faith and work toward our common goals. This is a way to formalize your affiliation with First Congregational Church.

You're invited to attend two events that will take place in the coming weeks. These are informal and informational gatherings:

Sunday, February 28 - Following worship, a tour of the church building and the ministries of the congregation, then gathering for coffee and snacks in the Drawing Room.

Saturday, March 12 - 3 - 5 p.m. Wine and Cheese at the Parsonage (105 S. La Grange Rd). We'll share our stories, our hopes, our dreams; and we'll explore what "belonging" means.

Then on March 20 in worship, we will covenant with one another in our mutual support.

If you are interested in exploring belonging, please contact Carly and put these dates on your calendar. 
     click here for calendar. 
Ministry Opportunities
St. Barbara's food pantry shelves are in need of supplies. They can use toilet paper, soup, beans, peas, corn, jelly, tuna,   chili, spaghetti sauce, pasta, and hamburger/tuna helper. I f you wish to donate, receptacles for the food are outside the sanctuary. Your donations are much appreciated!
Lent 2016  Worship Opportunities

Worship in Lent: Sacred Discontent: the Journey toward Redemption and Resurrection

February 10 - Ash Wedn
esday -4:30 - 7:30, "Open House" style of meditation with Imposition of Ashes-- 
Where We Find Ourselves -- Matthew 14:22-33,    
This Lent we will explore what it means to be in the moments of sacred discontent in our lives. We are not going to talk about just how to get out of it, as if life is good only when we are not there. We are going to explore what it might mean for our lives to recognize the gifts of sacred discontent. What if times of uncertainty, failure or emptiness are opportunities for spiritual awakening? 
Sunday, February 14 - Lent 1 - The Gift of Uncertainty- 1 Corinthians 13:11-12
Sacred Discontent is about "seeing life through new eyes. When we allow ourselves to accept the journey within the holy tension, the God tends to nudge us, awaken us, to a fuller life. But life is messy. Life is uncertain. Rather than a problem to be solved, what if we saw uncertainty, failure, emptiness, and loss as gifts? What if we saw how these uncomfortable times can actually help us let go of all we cannot know so that we can live more wholeheartedly?

Sunday, February 21 - Lent 2 - The Gift of Emptiness - Mark 15: 22-38
Many of us sometime feel empty inside and we fear that there is nothing there of worth. But what if we let go of our obsession with worthiness and released into the idea that if we want to be filled-to find God-getting empty is the best way. God will find us! In our journey this Lent toward the Cross, we know even Jesus felt empty despair... and it was at this moment that God's possibility of life beyond that pain was revealed.

Sunday, February 28 - Lent 3 - The Gift of Being Thunderstruck - Job 37: 1-5
Ancient civilizations and religions all metaphorically describe the voice of the divine coming through thunder and lightning. We often describe experiences of insight as a "sudden flash," "seeing the light" or "rocked my world." Storms of life can make way for moments of insight, like the sun radiating in a clearing in the woods, that can offer us direction, helping us to negotiate life's path and see our unique place in the world. Our Lenten journey of discernment and introspection invites us to open our senses to the be thunder-struck by rays of sunshine that peak through in the midst of the clouds.

Sunday, March 6 - Lent 4 -Choral Sermon  
Sunday, March 13 - Lent 5 - The Gift of Tempta tion - (Baptism) - Corinthians 5: 16-19, Luke 4:1-13 
The gift of temptation may bring images of resisting evil-sometimes in seriously dangerous form or as seemingly benign as the pastry in front of you. But instead, the temptation for this week is following the "shoulds" dictated only by logic, outside expectation or shiny "rewards" instead of following the path our intuition and imagination suggest is right for us-the path that helps us bring the best of our energy and joy to the world. Our Lent journey invites us to face the temptations that erode our fullness and steal us away from our wholeheartedness.

Sunday, March 20 - Lent 5 - Palm/Passion Sunday -(Receiving New Members) - The Gift of Misfits -
Luke 19: 29-42a 
As our exploration of the Gifts of the Sacred Discontent begins to come to a close, we look around us to acknowledge the realm and kin-dom of God-the family-that has always and is already right here with us. Sojourners in holy tension do not go it alone but are blessed with the presence of others who help us see, reflect with us and discover together with us the riches of a life lived with intention. As Jesus comes into Jerusalem at the beginning of that fateful week, he is surrounded by those who will live the uncertainty, temptation and emptiness right alongside him.

March 24 -7 p.m. Maundy Thursday - The Gift of Dar kness - Readings and hymns of the last supper and the darkest of nights. 
March 25 - 7 p.m. Good Friday - Gift of Disappeari ng
Days of Sacred Discontent are those times when uncertainty, emptiness, lostness and temptation become compani ons. No one is immune from these aspects of life. Even Jesus. Indeed, the story of Jesus' final days in this human life is a story of a journey through a dark night of the soul for all those that surrounded him.

[1]  Series based on Gifts of the Dark Wood by Eric Elnes. 
Lent 2016: Small Groups

Oases on the Journey toward Redemption
and Resurrection
Refueling and Reimagining Discussions: Sunday 8:30 - 9:30 a.m. in the Drawing Room; repeated, if there is interest, Wednesdays 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. at The Corner Bakery.
Between Movement and Settlement -- Genesis 12:7-9 (Sunday Feb 14/Wed Feb 17)
The history of God's covenant with us has carried us through periods of both settlement and wilderness wandering. The story continues. We keep building stone foundations; and God keeps beckoning us back into the wilderness to hear the pure word of truth, to be fed by ravens and angels, and to discover who and whose we are. Let's look at how God keeps nudging us out of our comfort zone into Sacred Discontentment.
Groaning in Labor --Romans 8:22-25 (Sunday Feb 21/Wed Feb 24)
With change come grief and loss, sadness and anxiety. The world carries on around us while we seem stuck in time. Where is God in the midst of this?
Which Path? - Numbers 14:2-9 (Sunday Feb 28/Wed
March 2)
We're faced with lots of choices. How and when do we express trust in confidence in the future when times are tough?
Letting Go and Moving On -- John 12:24, Acts 27:18-20 (Sunday March 6/Wed March 9)
Of what do we let go? Upon what do we cling? What offers hope, and what drowns us? To what path is God leading us?
Seven Last Words -- the traditional Last Words of Christ (Sunday March 13/Wed March 16)
The last words of Christ show us how to say good bye. How do we let go, walk away, and not forget? How do we forgive?
New Wine for New Wineskins - Luke 2:21-22, Hebrews 12:13-16 (Sunday March 20/Wed March 23)
Who are we? What is our purpose? Does that change in more than form and function? Can we reinvent ourselves.
Children and Youth News

Edisto Work Trip 
The Zackleys will be going to Edisto Island for their annual work trip! We will be leaving on March 26th and returning on April 3rd.
Some dates to remember...
*Parent &Participant Meeting: February 21st (@ 6:30 in the Chapel)
*Stock Sales: February 28, March 6, March 13, March 20 (10:00-Noon, Sanctuary/Founders Room)
**Registration Due Date with payment: Sunday March 6th
Trip Cost Before March 6th: $ 200
Trip Cost After March 6th : $250
*Final Participant Meeting: March 13th (chapel)
*Work Trip: March 26th (5 am) -April 3rd (late afternoon) (Departure and arrival in church parking lot)

The Yzals group (grades 6 to 8) continues to meet the 2nd and 4th Sunday of every month at 6:30. 
The Zackleys group (grades 9 to 12) continues to meet on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month at 6:30 pm.