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Congo Beat
December 12, 2013

First Congregational
United Church of Christ    

1000 S. Cooper Street
Memphis, TN  38104
fax: 901-725-8553

Look at this full crowd - the icy weather failed to delay this year's Congregational Potluck and Annual Meeting!  We had yummy food, enjoyable reports, and we were able to pass a budget and elect an exciting slate of new officers & committees for the next two years!  Good job First Congo members!

We worship on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. 
We Believe - 

*  That God created the world - and that every single one of us has good work to do in life.

*  Our "good work" has to do with living in ways that reflect God's agenda of love, joy, compassion and hope for the world and all its creatures, even in the midst of struggle. 

*  Jesus showed us how to do this.  He had radical trust in the Goodness of God and our ability to share God's agenda of life for the world.  We can have this trust and share this agenda, too, by following in his way.

*  We feel more alive when we're living from our sense of connection - with God, with each other, and with life itself. 

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This Week at First Congo 




Thursday, December 12:       

  • Loaves & Fishes Closet & Luncheon: 2:00 - 3:15 p.m. in Cafe Congo  


Friday, December 13:       

  • Food Distribution:  2:00-2:30 p.m. in the Food Distribution Room  



Saturday, December 14:  

  • Global Goods Fair Trade Store will be OPEN from 9:00 - 5:00
  • Vocal Choir Rehearsal:  11:00 a.m. in the Choir Room behind the Sanctuary.  If you are interested in joining our music program, contact Dennis Whitehead at
  • Handbell Choir Rehearsal:  Noon in the Choir Room 
  • First Saturday Club Christmas Party:  2:00-4:00 pm in the Fellowship Hall (rescheduled from last week) 

Sunday, December 15:

  • Global Goods Fair Trade Store: Open before and after church
  • Nursery:  We have childcare available for babies & toddlers in Classroom B (across the hall from the ladies restroom) from 9:45 a.m. until noon.      
  • Children's Sunday School, Grades K - 6:  Parents may bring their children to Classroom C (across from Pastor Cheryl's office) at 9:45 a.m. until time for church at 10:30.  There will be a children's sermon early in worship, after which our childcare staff will take the children (4th graders and younger) to the children's fellowship room where parents may pick them up after church.  
  • Adult Sunday School Class:  "Bible Headliners"  Our class meets at 9:45 a.m.  Everyone is encouraged to some to the large Conference Room at 9:45 Sunday.  Emily Holmes will lead the class postponed from last week: a discussion of Mary with slides showing the historic development of Mary's place in Christian theology.  Please join us even if you haven't come before.
  • Cafe Congo Fellowship serving Fair Trade Coffee:  9:45 a.m. till 10:30 a.m.   
  • Worship:  10:30 a.m. in the Sanctuary   
  • Hospitality Committee & Volunteers Meeting:  After church in Cafe Congo 
  • Newcomers Luncheon with Pastors & Staff:  After church in the Conference Center 


Monday, December 16:

  • Food Distribution:  2:00-2:30 p.m. in the Food Distribution Room 
  • YOGA Class:  7:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary 


Tuesday, December 17:

  • Loaves & Fishes Closet & Luncheon:  2:00-3:15 p.m. in Cafe Congo
  • Sung Prayer & Silence:  6:00 pm in the Sanctuary


Wednesday, December 18:

  • Food Bank Delivery #2 for Food For Families:  about 9:00 in the breezeway.  If you'd like to be on the phone text list to be called when the truck arrives in case you're nearby and can come help out at the last minute - just reply to this email with your name and phone number and Molly will send you the text on Wednesday.
  • Food Distribution:  2:00-2:30 p.m. in the Food Distribution Room



Thursday, December 19:    

  • Loaves & Fishes Closet & Luncheon: 2:00 - 3:15 p.m. in Cafe Congo


 For more information about any events on our calendar,  

just REPLY to this newsletter with your questions!




An Advent Reflection from our Associate Pastor: 
Use Your Power!
God's timing is amazing!  Many significant liturgical and secular seasons are emphasizing and celebrating the power and gift of light as a time for introspection, encouragement, enlightenment, engagement and excitement.  God and Nelson Mandela chose the Seasons of Light for his long anticipated exit from the human stage.  Mr. Mandela's life is a global beacon of light for generations now and later.  The pinpoints of his lighted life illuminate paths to perseverance, steadfastness, determination, integrity, reconciliation and peace for our private or public lives.  Thanks be to God for his calling and his response.



 The entry flowers for our worship service this Sunday
have been given by Tony Mitchell
in memory of his mother, Thelma Mitchell,
 and his grandmother, Willie B. Pierce.
Our Annual Advent Fundraiser  
for Heifer Project International
It has become a tradition at First Congo to share our Christmas generosity around the world by purchasing food-producing animals for communities in need of food and income.  You may purchase chickens, bees, goats, even tree seedlings through Heifer Project International for the four weeks of Advent - and all your gift dedications will be printed in our Christmas worship bulletins & newsletter for everybody to enjoy!

Christmas Gifts for 
Red Robin's Academy
"Red Robin" has been a shared-space partner for more than 10 years, and we decided to "adopt" this precious school as our focus on education for local children!  We're raising funds to purchase new stroller buggies (which can cost between $600 - $1200) and reading books for all class levels.  You may offer dedicated gifts that will be printed in our Christmas worship bulletins & newsletters!  Just reply to this newsletter or come to the gift table in the sanctuary.       

December's Food For Families  has been given anonymously "in the spirit of Christmas with acompassionate heart."
(right) Nicole Davila helped unload the food truck on Wednesday because our next Food For Families is on Sunday, December 22nd.  We expect a large number of households, and will need lots of help:
  • 2nd food delivery on this Wednesday (December 18) morning at 9:00 
  • Food sorting on Saturday (December 21) at 10:00 a.m.
  • Final preparations on Sunday morning (December 22) at 9:00
  • Stay after church to help distribute food to more than 300 households
  • Offer rides to help folks get home with their boxes full of food!


There are only two weekends left!
Do your Christmas  shopping at Global Goods.  Delight your friends and family with beautiful handmade gifts - all the more beautiful because their creator was paid a fair price for her/his work!  We have special gifts for everyone in your life.  Open Saturdays 9 to 5 and Sundays after the church service.  



    Christmas Events & Services: 

    Children's No-Rehearsal Christmas Pageant 

    December 22 morning worship

    This has become a wonderful tradition at First Congo.  Bring your child to the church by 10:00 am and we'll get them costumed and ready to go for a delightful pageant which will be shared at the beginning of worship. 


    Longest Night Service, Remembering Our Losses

    December 22nd at 6:00 p.m.

    For many of us, this time of year is charged with difficult feelings along with our hope for a meaningful celebration and our moments of joy.  Grief, regret, difficult memories . . . they all intrude into our Advent and Christmas season.  But are they intrusions or are they really the heart of the Christmas story?  On this night, we remember that Christmas is scheduled quite deliberately near the longest night of the year.  Grief, violence, pain . . . they are a legitimate part of the observation of Christ's birth int he world.  This is a beautiful, quiet, contemplative service which lasts for about 30 minutes.  An opportunity to walk the labyrinth will follow. 


    Christmas Eve Candlelight Services

    December 24th at 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.

    These two services are quite similar.  The 5:00 service is shorter (about 30 minutes) and includes a Children's Sermon.  The 10:00 service is a traditional "Lessons and Carols" format where the Christmas story is read, alternating with anthems and carols.  


    New Year's Eve Labyrinth Walking & Meditation

    December 31st - time to be announced



First Congo Staff:

Senior Pastor:
Rev. Cheryl K. Cornish
901-278-6786 ext 1

sonia staff shot
Associate Pastor:
Rev. Sonia L. Walker


Director of Mission:
901-278-6786 ext 3

Office Manager:
Debbie Odom

Minister of Music:

Dennis Whitehead



 Minister of Visual Arts:   

Mary Button




Food Justice Ministries:
Molly Peacher-Ryan
901-278-6786 ext 4

butch for newsletter


Butch Odom



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Pianist & Choir Accompanist 
Mark Ensley



Madelene Lundy




Maintenance: Mark Allen

Custodial Assistance:
Bradley Roberts

Maintenance Assistance: 
David Weinrich    

Who did the Congo Camera Catch This Week? 
(left) Bill & Cindy Tupis lit the first candle of Hope and the second candle of Peace as the congregation prayed, "Gracious God, through Jesus' coming You have declared that your kingdom is among us.  Open our ears to hear it; Our hands to serve it; Our hearts to hold and share in this new world!  Allow us to say "yes!" when your Spirit calls.

(right) Pastor Sonia offered a parting blessing to Emma Swales, who is graduating from Memphis College of Art and moving this week to Indiana to be married and begin seeking work in her field of photography.  We send her with our love & prayers for joy & peace!

(left) The children always enjoy hearing what Muley the Mule (Kevin Williams) has to say, and last Sunday he shared the Christmas Story in his own special way.  As you can see, Jasper Vaughn totally enjoys our monthly visits from Muley!

Janet McCraw and Caroline Rubenstein welcomed a visit to First Congo from their friend, Natalie Isaac.

(left)  Nice to see Brian Darling and David Wicks in our choir this week!  (right) Here's a darling photo of Anne Hagler and Sandy Smegelsky at the Annual Meeting!

   Thanks to Minister of Music, Dennis Whitehead, (left) going over the anthem with Catherine Dixon, for the lovely Advent music we're enjoying each Sunday.  This is a wonderful season to get involved in the music program - singing, handbells, drumming, instruments - just contact Dennis at for more information!

 During our Annual Meeting, two of our Pilgrim House Hostel RA's, Danny Grubbs and Tim Allen, showed us a map with push-pins illustrating how our 5000+ guests are coming from all over the world!  Another super report came from Cindy Tupis, chair of the Usher's Committee and shown above in the photo of the Advent candle lighting.  It was SO enjoyable that we're sharing it again (THANKS, Cindy!):

Ushers' Committee Report - December 2013

We started out in January,
With the status quo.
It wasn't long, till Cheryl said,
"I think we need some more -

Greeters in the sanctuary,
Greeters in the halls.
Greeters on the steps,
And inside Caf´┐Ż Congo's walls,

Ushers and communion servers,
Some to be police."
"Hold on just a minute,
We need some training please!"

We now know how to quash a fire,
And defib a heart.
Who'd have thought when we volunteered,
We'd get so dad-gum smart!

Our job is an important one;
We're the face of First Congo.
We don't want first time visitors
To not come back, you know!

How do we do it, you may ask -
On the wings of a snow white dove?
Well, maybe, but we think it's 'cause
We are consumed by love --

For First Congo, and for Memphis,
But most of all for the Lord.
And if you'd like to join us next year,
Hop right on aboard!



 First Congo Quick Links


Make Your Donations Online: 


Map to First Congo 


First Congo Website: 

Cafe Congo Sign-Up: 
Cafe Congo Sign-Up

First Congo FB Link 

 Food Justice Ministries: 
VolunteerSpot for Loaves & Fishes

Freedom Journeys: 
Freedom Journey Civil Rights Immersion Experiences

Pilgrim House Hostel & Retreat Center: 

Cooper-Young Conference Center:
  contact Julia Hicks at 278-6786 ext 3 

Global Goods Fair TradeGG on Facebook 


The Pilgrim Center for Counseling:  901-844-HELP (4357)   901-278-6786 ext 8



 Revolutions Bike Co-Op:    



Cooper Young Community Farmers Market:   This week at the Market 





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