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Congo Beat
February 9 , 2017

First Congregational
United Church of Christ 

1000 S. Cooper Street
Memphis, TN  38104 

Our classically trained worship pianist, Brennan Villines, is offering the music of black women composers during this Black History Month.  Last Sunday he shared "Mothers Sacrifice" by Viola Kenney (2006), and he is currently learning "Troubled Water" composed by Margaret Bonds (1967) to play either this Sunday or next - as Brennan says "It's a VERY difficult piece so I may need an extra week!"  The poet Maya Angelou described this as one of Margaret Bonds' masterpieces.  Based on the Negro spiritual "Wade in the Water", Ms. Bonds conveys the power, and the emotional history in the communication used between slaves.  

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.
A Note from Our Senior Pastor:

Love is the most revolutionary power in the world.
It is difficult to spend more than a few days in our building without seeing the love that is present in so many people and so many gestures.  I am touched by how many volunteers make time, out of busy schedules(!), to bring food, to send notes, to count money, to generate ideas, to sort clothes, to sing, to dialogue, to organize . . . 

I've seen church congregations where these tasks are done out of a sense of duty - or in some cases, even fear of criticism or fear of reprisal from God or other church members!  What a different energy is created when we do these tasks because we WANT to do them, because they are grounded in a sense of love for each other and for sharing the gifts God has given us.

In the past month, we've seen so many transformative acts.  I've watched two same-gender couples exchange marriage vows, despite family opposition or criticism.  I've see n so, so many First Congo people at the two large marches this month, providing leadership and presence as we stand together for women and for immigrant/minority group rights.  I've watche   d the Workers' Interfaith Network and Fast15 stand up for fair wages for workers.  Playback Memphis has brought police and citizens together in constructive dialogue.  Joel Chapman organized a Cabaret to share fun and community.  I've seen Sterling Owens at work, helping folks get their income taxes filed.  We've visited the National Civil Rights Museum together, read Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail ... We've served hundreds of meals, provided clothes and groceries for even more.  I watched the Children's Church leaders rally to make new space for our children to make sure that their Sunday morning experience was positive.

How does St. Paul put it, even if I sacrifice much, "If I have not love, I have nothing!"  I am grateful for the joyful, warm and welcoming spirit by which these ministries take place.  They are healing - not simply exercises in duty. 

Love is the foundation and the power that fuels transformation in the world.   

A n n o u n c e m e n t s 

 Last TWO DAYS to Register Your Trivia Teams! 
Doors open at 6:00 pm to the Fellowship Hall 

REPLY to this email to Register your Teams of 6 players 
or let us know you'd like to join a team. 
$20 per player - you can pay when you arrive. 
Bring your own picnics & beverages!

Invitation to Join a "Freedom Journey" on February 20 - 24 
First Congo has hosted Freedom Journeys for thousands of students and adults from around the U.S. for nearly 20 years!  These journeys utilize the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis to center our conversations & explorations about our personal call to activism today.  We have a small group of adults from Oregon coming for a journey on Feb 20 - 24 and so there's room for First Congo folks to join this upcoming Freedom Journey!  The cost is $150 per person, and we need your reservation no later than this Tuesday - Feb. 14th.  Contact Julia by replying to this newsletter if you have questions or would like to register.

Adult Sunday School 
For the next two weeks Gail Murray will lead our Adult Sunday School Class on "A Prophet for Today" with readings from the Prophet Amos.  Our class meets on Sunday mornings at 9:45 am in the Conference Center.

Thanks to our Children's Church volunteers! 
They stepped right up and prepared this temporary Nursery & Sunday School space (above) for our children while we undergo renovations after our fire!   

Attorney Sterling Owens held her first evening of providing free and professional assistance at First Congo for folks needing help with filing their taxes.  She reminds us that the IRS will delay refunds this year in an effort to cut down 
on fraud, so we are encouraged to file our returns EARLY!
Tuesdays at 4:00 - 8:00 pm 
Saturdays by appointment only 
February 7 - April 11 
For more information or to make an appointment, email  THANKS, Sterling!

CONGRATULATIONS to Memphis & the work of our Revolutions Bicycle Co-Op!

Memphis was chosen as one of ten cities to participate in the new  PeopleForBikes project:  The Big Jump!  As a City, we previously participated in a PeopleForBikes' Green Lane Project.  While the Green Lane Project concentrated on individual, landmark infrastructure projects in its participating cities, The Big Jump is all about the greater network and the people who use it.  The Big Jump should make it even easier for all of us to get around by bicycle, in Memphis!

This special musical program will be happening in our Sanctuary NEXT Saturday and is sponsored by our long-time shared space partner, Joe Murphy of Music for Aardvarks.  It's at a family-friendly time of day ... Joe says the music will be outstanding and you'll be free to dance to some of your favorite tunes! 

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This Week at First Congo:  
(left) Caroline Parker is a weekly volunteer who comes to the church quite early on Sunday mornings to prepare our worship bulletins with the inserts of the day!


   (right) Last Sunday's worship candle lighter was Kevin Williams, and (below) our layreader was Judy Drescher.

(below) Butch Odom offered our children's sermon.

And to hear the worship music that was video-taped by Roger Courts, click on these links:
Walk for the Water  with Lee Taylor, soloist (left), who is a member of First Congo who currently lives & works in New York City. 
We Shall Overcome


, (right) who has earned the incredible title of Salutatorian of her graduating class at Whitehaven High School!  Anitra has been an active member of our Youth Group for 6 years, and is a staff member of the church as one of our Sunday morning child-caregivers.  We are SO proud of you and your accomplishments, Anitra! 

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:
Office Manager:  
Brenda Nichols
901-278-6786 ext 107 

Nikki Jones

Director of Food Justice Ministries:  Mark Ratay

Revolutions Bicycle Co-op  
Director: Sylvia Crum    

Art & Design Ministries:
Sam Griffin
Minister of Music:
Dennis W. Darling

Music Ministry Team:
Tamar Love

Music Ministry Team:   
Brennan Villines  

Music Ministry Team:   
Chris Burgess

Music Ministry Team:
Lisa Gaddy
Custodian: Juan Salter   
Maintenance: Mark Allen

Events Assistant:
Danny Grubbs 

Custodial Assistant: 
Bryant Wilhite

Minister of Child Care:
Kenitra Higgins

Sunday Child Caretakers: 

Xan Lester  

Anitra Higgins

Pilgrim House Hostel Staff:  
Kim Kamga
River Park
Dalton Jones
Ron Marion 
Jamie Jones
Parks Dlugach
MaryPat Harris
(right) Pastor Sonia offered a blessing to Andy Cohen as he was leaving this week to go back out on the road until he returns in May.  Andy is a wonderful Blues musician who shares his music all over the country ... as well as his deep heart for peace & justice tunes!  

(left) Caroline P
Thanks to our photographers & videographers, Roger Courts & Mark Ratay!

. Look what's
happening @

Our free Community Lunches are served at Cafe Congo on weekdays at 11:00 am till 1:00 pm.
    • The Food Pantry is open on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays during lunch hours.
  • The Clothes Closet is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays during lunch hours.
If you'd like to help provide groceries:
The following items are regularly needed for preparing the Community Lunches.
If you can pick up a couple of these items during your own grocery shopping - and then drop them off at The Hub on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. or bring to church with you on Sundays,  this is a VERY helpful way to contribute.

- white paper dinner napkins  
- liquid chicken and beef broth  
- roasted chickens  
- stick salted butter 
- Blue Bonnet 48 oz tub butter   
- organic 2% and whole milk  
- iceberg lettuce
- Romaine lettuce
- tomatoes
- celery
- green and red bell peppers  
- cucumbers 
- green, white, and yellow onions 

It takes many volunteer hands to serve our Community Lunches - like Antonio Cannon (above) who often sets the tables before we open at 11:00 am each weekday.  If you'd like to become one of the folks who offers your loving help through our Food Justice Ministries, you can contact Mark Ratay at, or just reply to this newsletter!

 The Food Justice Ministry for February
has been given by a generous and anonymous donor. 
The food and supplies for our Food Justice Ministries is entirely provided by the gifts and dedications of our church members and friends!  At this time we have received contributions for the months of January, February, April, May, and June. We are, however encouraging gifts for March and the second half of 2017.  Please consider choosing a month to honor or remember a loved one. The total needed to fund an entire month is $750, but $350 would cover Food Pantry needs and $400 would cover Community Lunch needs.

Also located in The Hub ...
Fair Trade Store
is OPEN on Saturdays
9am till 3pm
and after church on Sundays. 
The Week Ahead at First Congo 

Friday, February 9:
  • The Hub is OPEN for Cafe Congo and the Food Pantry:  11:00 am - 1:00 pm
  • MAGY Meeting:  7:00 - 10:00 pm in the Fellowship Hall
Saturday, February 10:   
  • Global Goods Fair Trade Store is OPEN:  9:00 am - 3:00 pm in The Hub
  • "No Hungry Seniors" Food Pick-up:  9:00 am at the back entrance of The Hub
  • TRIVIA NIGHT:  Doors open at 6:00 pm for payments & settling in - Game begins at 6:30!
Sunday, February 11:    
  • Adult Sunday School:  9:45 am in the Conference Center
  • Children's Sunday School:  9:45 am (new temporary location on 2nd floor)
  • Nursery:  Childcare is available for babies & toddlers in new location on 2nd floor from 9:45 till noon
  • Coffee & Fellowship:  9:45 am till 10:30 am in the Commons
  • Worship:  10:30 a.m. in the Sanctuary
  • Children's Church:  After the children's sermon at worship, our leaders will take the children to their classroom where they will have their own "church" and activities.  Parents may pick up their children here after worship.
  • Global Goods Fair Trade Store is OPEN: after Church in the Hub
  • Newcomers Gathering & Lunch:  gather after church in Pastor Cheryl's office
  • Open Shop in Revolutions Bicycle Co-Op:  2:00 - 6:00 pm
  • Women's Bike Chat:  2:00 pm in Revolutions Bicycle Co-Op
Monday, February 12:

  • The Hub is OPEN for Cafe Congo and the Food Pantry:  11:00 am - 1:00 pm
  • Open Shop in Revolutions Bicycle Co-Op:  6:30 - 9:00 pm
  • Open Art Studio:  6:30 - 9:00 pm
Tuesday, February 13:
  • The Hub is OPEN for Cafe Congo and the Clothes Closet:  11:00 am - 1:00 pm
  • Free Tax Assistance:  4:00 - 8:00 pm in the Hub (come to the front door on Cooper Street)
  • Tuesday Evening Prayer:  6:00 pm in the Sanctuary
Wednesday, February 14
  • The Hub is OPEN for Cafe Congo and the Food Pantry:  11:00 am - 1:00 pm
  • Vocal Choir Rehearsal:  7:00 pm in the Sanctuary
Thursday, February 15: 
  • The Hub is OPEN for Cafe Congo and the Clothes Closet:  11:00 am - 1:00 pm
  • Revolutions Bicycle Co-Op Open Shop:  6:30 - 9:00 pm
  • Open Art Studio:  6:30 - 9:00 pm

Looking a bit Further Ahead -  

Mark Your Calendars for these upcoming events in the next few weeks & months :
    Congregational Quarterly Meeting & Potluck Lunch   
    Sunday, March 19th after morning worship in the Fellowship Hall

    Pastors' Birthday Celebration! 
    Sunday, April 9th

    Easter Sunday (with Children's Egg Hunt and bringing our favorite flowers!)  
    Sunday, April 9th


First Congregational Leadership 2017:


....   ....     ....       

     Moderator,                     Co-Moderator,                      Secretary,                       Treasurer,          Assistant Treasurer, 

    Teddy Crum                    Kevin Williams              Angela Richards                  Joe Pfeiffer                 Bill Tupis                                       


Committee Chairs:
 Ushers                       Hospitality               Finance                Christian Education         Facilities                Nominating
 Caroline McCraw     Angela Moore       Janet McCraw            Joe Hawes              Sammye Hudgens      Carla Orr
  Rubenstein                                             Rubenstein 

Mission Development Committee:
   Judy Drescher   Cecelia Johnson-Powell    Joe Pfeiffer     Carla Peacher-Ryan    Jackie Nerren         Keith Norman

Special Ministries & Program Coordinators:
vernessa sonia marsha
Sung Prayer & Circle of Trust, Rev. Catherine Dixon
Good Books Good Friends, Sue Westmoreland
Global Goods, Jackie Nerren
The Pilgrim Center Director, Dr. Joel Chapman
Children's Sunday School, Dr. Marsha Walton
Yoga for Everyone - Nicole Davila
MAGY (Memphis Area Gay Youth) Interim Advisory Board Chair - Tim Combs


  First Congo Quick Links
First Congo Website & Online Donations: 

First Congo FB Link   

Freedom Journeys: 
Freedom Journeys for Youth, College & Adult Groups 

Pilgrim House Hostel & Retreat Center: 

Cooper-Young Conference Center:
Global Goods Fair TradeGG on Facebook 
The Pilgrim Center for Counseling:  901-844-HELP (4357)   901-278-6786 ext 8
 Revolutions Bike Co-Op: 

MAGY (Memphis Area Gay Youth)  MAGY on Facebook
Cooper Young Community Farmers Market:

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