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November 25, 2015

Grace and peace to those who sense a belonging to the community of faith at First Congregational Church of La Grange, from Carly who is called to be teacher, leader, prophet, and preacher among you.
Walter Brueggeman used to tell us in class that the role of the pastor is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. This article will do the latter. Stop reading now if you don't have the fortitude to be challenged in your thinking about "church."
Servant Leaders: to the secular world, this is an oxymoron: the words seem to be opposite one another like "jumbo shrimp." But to the follower of Jesus, this is the way of life.
I've heard it said many times. "I'm a member of this church. I should be able to (or not have to) __________" You can fill in the blank. Some folks object to having to pay for the use of space (as though having ones name on a list makes that space cost nothing to provide), or insist that they should have use of a specific space even it's been previously reserved by an outside group (as though having one's name on a list gives one the cut in line). Some want certain services provided. Some consider their membership to be a paid-up life insurance policy that can never be cancelled. In other words, some believe that being a member of the church comes with privileges.
Scripture disagrees. Being a part of a faith community has no privileges; it has only responsibilities:
  • to continue to grow in the faith,
  • to serve others,
  • to work to bring God's grace, hope, extravagant welcome, and radical hospitality to a world in need.
Jesus did not say, "Come join my church and we'll have a great time." Jesus said, "Come follow me." Jesus invites us to a relationship. Membership is an institutional concept from an era when congregations were a "religious version" of clubs and fraternal orders; in our time, relationships are more meaningful than rolls, and making a difference in the world is more important than "joining" an institution. The concept of membership is by design a method to include some and exclude others; in a community that has as its mission "Accepting All," this approach is not acceptable. Following Jesus is a lifelong process, not a "once and done" deal.
Jesus did not make church members. Jesus made disciples. Disciples are students; they never stop learning or growing. Jesus taught by word and deed. He challenged his followers' understandings of how the world around them functioned. He showed them how to help others, include others, heal others, work for the justice of others. Jesus wants us to be growing in the ways of faith through action, learning, growing together, and working together to bring in God's "will on earth as it is in Heaven." One's name in a book in some church office will not buy faith or salvation. It is just ink on a page or ones and zeros in a database, not a non-cancelable insurance policy.
Being a follower of Jesus has to do with belonging. Membership is about what is on paper. Belonging is emotional. Membership is rational. Belonging is about what is in one's heart. Membership is a contract that provides quid pro quo. Belonging is a covenant of relationship build upon respect. We sense a feeling of belonging because we care and feel cared for, even and especially in all our diversity. We grow in grace and faith by caring for one another, seeking to understand one another, living in the midst of our God-created diversity.
And belonging does not have privileges; it has responsibilities.
  • "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all." (Mark 9:35)
  • "...when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place..." (Luke 14:10)
  • "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,....." (Matthew 28:19)
  • "Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you." (Luke 10:8-9)
John F Kennedy was known for saying something like, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Belonging to a faith community is the same: we belong so that we can be a part of the movement of God's realm, participate in changing lives and transforming the world, and experience the peace and grace of our Still Speaking God.
As we move into Advent, I challenge each of you to look around and see how you can make a difference in the lives of others - especially those who are on the edges of society. Instead of looking for the next Christmas activity or for a laundry list of gifts, look for the face of the Christ child.
Molly Phiney Baskette has graciously shared this advent calendar with us. Use it as a guide to find your way to peace this Advent season.
Church News and Reminders

Join us for our next Messy Church meeting which will be on Friday, December 4th! Click here for the current flyer.


is a very special time during worship where children are the focus, but adults can better understand the scripture as well. The Ministry of Worship and staff invite you to share in leading this part of worship. We will provide you with fabulous resources for your preparation. Please let Ryan , Sylvia , or Carly know you are interested and we can schedule a Sunday for you.
During morning worship on December 6th, we will be welcoming guests and visitors into the covenant of belonging. If you feel this is where God is calling you at this time, you are encouraged to complete the invitation form available at the Welcome Table in the East Foyer or from the church office. Your questions and concerns are always welcome and even encouraged; please talk to Carly following the worship service, or by phone or email. 
Volunteer Opportunities

Winter is coming and the Property Committee needs your shovel! For the past three years, we have relied on the congregation to clear snow and provide a safe entry to the building. Unfortunately the number of volunteers has shrunk and we need a larger pool of winter warriors.
Please contact Erik Sander or the office to volunteer yourself (or your spouse or children) and be sure to include your cell phone number to receive snow alerts texts. This is not an obligation to clear snow each week. A larger number of contacts increases the chance of more help, which is especially critical with the mid-week snowfalls that are not so convenient with our personal schedules.
Did you know...
  • By relying on volunteers, the Church saves $4k every year that would have to be spent on a snow clearing service.
  • Eight volunteers can have the church grounds cleared in less than an hour. With one or two volunteers, it takes much longer.
  • Clearing snow as a group actually makes for great Fellowship. Seriously!
  • We have traded the troublesome tractor for a new, cool, and powerful snow thrower that is much easier to operate. We will add a second new snow thrower to shorten the time it takes to clear the parking lot and driveway.
  • Everyone can help, even those who can't shovel -       operating the snow throwers and salt spreaders are noble and essential deeds.

Pillars is offering two trainings in December and January for volunteers and/or professionals interested in becoming Crisis Advocates. Attendees will learn to provide medical and legal advocacy to victims and their families affected by sexual violence at local hospital ERs and police departments. Contact the office or go to calendar for more information.

Ministry Teams 
Ministry Team members wanted: What makes your heart sing? Do you long to change the lives of God's children? Have a heart for mission? Is hospitality your gift? Are you a leader? As the year comes quickly to a close, our ministry teams are looking for your gifts and graces. How will you serve God? See Chris Moe or Pastor Carly if you want to make change happen.
Honey Do List at Churc h 
The Property Committee seeks your help in doing maintenance and repairs around the church! Please take on what ever makes your heart sing!  We need all skills -  from carpentry to electrical to planting to sorting to hauling to cleaning and organizing.  Although the date says November 30, please sign up and complete this at your convenience. Sign up here   or our Opportunity Board during Fellowship Time.
Laundry Heroes 
Sign up to be a laundry hero. This is a simple, eco-friendly and meaningful project. Just pick up the laundry at your convenience, from outside the kitchen and bring it back the Saturday morning that follows by 7am. If you have any questions, call the church office or email Marilyn Russell  

We need Sun day greeters at the east door o f the church at 9:45 am to welcome all who come. Please sign up on Sign-Up Genius, in the Founders Room after church,
                                             or call Ann Fish at  
In Our Church

This Sunday, November 29th, is the last day to pick a Casa Central client's name from the Gifts of Gratitude tree in the sanctuary. Now it is time to purchase a gift from the ideas given or a gift card from Walmart or Target (suggested gift price $20-30), wrap the gift or place in a gift bag and SECURELY tape or staple the name ornament to the gift. Please bring the gift to church on or before December 6. If you will not be in church December 6th, the gift must be received in the church office during office hours by December 4th. Casa Central will be picking up the gifts and if there is not a gift for a client, the Missions committee will have to go out and purchase one for those names that are missing on Sunday. Thank you so much for your support in this worthy mission to make someone's holiday a little brighter and happier!  

It is time for you to find that favorite Christmas Cookie recipe to bake and bring to the annual Cookie exchange. Please provide three dozen cookies on December 20th, one dozen of everyone's to be shared at Coffee Hour. Nurture will provide you with a delicious plateful of each participant's baked goods. Your container will be returned to you that day. Happy Holiday Baking!

Tim e to order Poinsettias to decorate our sanctuary for  Advent! The cost is $13 per plant and you are welcome to take them home after the 5:30 p.m. family service or the 11:00 p.m. Christmas Eve service. Place your order in the Founders Room after worship or in the church office during the week.
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!

A basket located at the back of the sanctuary ho ld s prayer squares that have been blessed. They are sized to   f it in a pocket or purse. Please take one a s a tangible symbol of G od's love and grace when you are in need of comfort.   
The FCCLG website has a link to Access. Just go to, click the Connect With Us tab and then click on Member Census Data.
Music News
AMAH L AND THE NIGHT VISITORS , the one-act opera that premiered in 1951 on television, will be presented live on December 20 during 10am worship. Amahl is our very own Dylan Bart. Professional soloists including Zackley alum Sam Dewese will be accompanied by orchestra comprised of First Conservatory teachers and students as well as additional professionals. The Chancel Choir and children will be the shepherds. Invite friends and family to this truly int ergenerational community event!
ANGELS, LAMBS, LADYBUGS, AND FIREFLIES will be occupying the sanctuary at 10am on December 13th. These are not left-over plagues from our summer musical about Moses. These are among the animals who will be telling the story of Christ's birth from their perspective and sharing the good news. Performers are primarily our children under 13. However, there will be a few "mature" lambs...
The same afternoon, we are taking the show on the road to Plymouth Place. The performance will be in Dole Hall at 2pm and is open to the public.
CAROLS FOR ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS makes its debut in the pews on November 29. The Ministry of Worship approved the creation of a new carol book that would include more carols i n traditional language than the previous edition. The book contains all of the most popular, as well as some less performed carols that have stood the test of time. It is also much easier to read, with larger, clearer, font, and cleaner music printing. Compilation and editing of these public domain pieces were done by Ryan Cox and the books were copied, folded and stapled in-house for less than $1/book.
CYD News

Christmas Parties
The Zackleys will travel to Chicago for their Christmas party on
December 6th at 1 p.m. We will visit the christkindlmarket
and see the Christmas displays downtown! Then on December 20th after church the Zackleys will go out to lunch to help fill them for their finals the next week! Please contact Sylvia with questions.

The Yzals' Christmas party is December 13th from 4-6pm. There will be food, games and crafts! Parents are welcome and are encouraged to help with organizing! Please contact Sylvia with ideas for games and crafts!
Save the date
The Zackley retreat will be January 29th-31st at Tower Hill. More information to come!
The Yzals group (grades 6 to 8) continues to meet the 2nd and 4th Sunday of every month. 
The Zackleys group (grades 9 to 12) continues to meet on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month at 6:30 pm.   
Adult Education

Let's Start at the Beginning

Maria, from "The Sound of Music" reminds us to "start at the very beginning-a very good place to start." In that spirit, Carly will offer a Confirmation Refresher Course. This is an introduction/review of the faith traditions of Western
Christianity. Everyone is invited! 

We'll be using Martin Copenhaver's book, To Begin at the Beginning. This is an informal, conversational gathering. We will meet in the Drawing Room from 8:30 to 9:20 on Sunday
Mornings. There will be coffee!

The book is available at the local bookstore, on Amazon,, or a limited number of copies from Carly . It is an easy read, but each week will require that you read the chapter before class. We'll follow the outline of the book in sections, taking a break between each section.
Part Two: The Church as the Body of Christ: Nov 1-Dec 13.
               November 29: No class (Thanksgiving weekend)
                  December 6
Baptism with Water and the Spirit
                December 13: Eating at Christ's Table
Part 3: What Is Promised, What is Required Jan 10-Feb 7
            January 10: Conversing with God
            January 17: Resurrection to Eternal Life
               January 24: Doing Faith
               January 31: Sharing the News
               February 7: The Invitation

Looking Ahead

Annual Reports  
Heads up to all Team Leaders, Committee Chairs and Officers: Very soon you will receive a letter informing you that you are responsible for submitting a report to be published in the Annual Report. If you receive it and are NOT the person responsible for your committee report, please make sure you either inform he other person, OR let Ginger or Daniela know who is responsible! November and December are very busy for EVERYONE. Time gets away from all of us so don't put off until tomorrow what you can do TODAY!  
Church Calendar Events 
November 28th at 9:00 am: Hanging of the Greens
December 6th: Gifts of Gratitude
December 20th: Christmas Cookie Exchange 
Touch List

Your Cards and Prayers Will Comfort and Touch...
The Balz family.
Rita Baumann, Mary Cooper's aunt who is recovering from surgery.
Tom Dewese as he recovers from heart surgery.
Deb Gardiner and Dan Zigulich's niece who's recovering from a liver transplant.
Jenny Geist's mother, Bonnie, who is recovering from surgery.
Our thoughts are with LuAnn Hall's niece Jessica.
Olivia Hein's grandmother, Dorothy Woods who died on November 7th.
Lois Hindman, who is house bound with a brain condition.
JoAnne Konkle, who needs healing.
The family of Kathleen McConnellogue who died on October 21st.
The family and friends of Jack Middleton, Carly Stucklen Sather's brother in law.
Camilla Norby.
Helen Pancner, Viola Clayton's daughter who is receiving chemotherapy.
Jennifer Powers as she deals with health issues.
Euvon Radel, Ceil Bolton & Priscilla Laff's aunt, who is in the final stages of colon cancer.
Sandra Sayles, who is recovering at home.