Week of Nov. 22 , 2020
Gratitude is a Responsibility
I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing. – Genesis 12:2

God blesses us. We are given this life in order be a blessing. As a child I was captivated by the Thanksgiving stories of friendship, gratitude and counting blessings. I loved making pilgrim hats with construction paper and tape. Colorful turkey feathers adorned the projects I would bring home for my parents.

In many ways, to be American is to give thanks. I learned this as a child. Thanksgiving Day is the one occasion of prayer that is not universally prescribed around the world – it is American. It is a moment requested by leaders of our nation that seeks our local prayers in a spirit of gratitude and perspective.

When I served as a pastor in Arizona, my eyes were opened to a new perspective on Thanksgiving. Over years, I built deep friendships with my Native American colleagues across the southwest. (You may remember that my dear Native American leader and friend, the Rev. Martha Sadongei, preached at my service of installation.) Listening to my friends exposed an American legacy of theft and dislocation that took place over many generations. Even more difficult to hear was the way that our well-intentioned Presbyterian missionaries left a mixed legacy of both care and cultural disorientation. Because I listened to these stories, Thanksgiving has become a moment of deeper reflection for my life.

Many of your know how very proud I am of my seminary alma mater, Princeton Theological Seminary. The seminary, located in a northern state, took a careful look at itself – the oldest of Presbyterian seminaries in America – and discovered some hard history about its relationship with slavery and race in America. You can read about it here: https://slavery.ptsem.edu/. The conversations this fostered have made the occasion of a national holiday counting blessings into a moment of deeper reflection for me.

I suppose that we all these days are thinking more deeply about who we are in this land. We are reflecting upon our responsibility as Christians and as people with so many privileges. So I turned to the story of Abraham this season. I’m thinking about the way God offered blessings. God was impressed by the faith of Abraham. But the blessing was unmerited grace. That grace came with a responsibility. Blessings are meant to be shared.

I know most of us are thinking about what we do not have this Thanksgiving amid so many restrictions. (We will offer a devotion with music on YouTube for Thanksgiving Day, but there is no “gathering together” – we’ve even cancelled our community’s annual Interfaith Service.) But I encourage you to shift your thinking. Count your blessings. And as we count our blessings pray about the ways we all can commit to a life of sharing blessings. I wonder, what will that require from each of us?

Brian Paulson
Pastor
Sunday Morning Worship
Join us on Sunday at 10 a.m. for online worship. The Rev. Kara Smith-Laubenstein is preaching. Her meditation is Have You Written It Down?
The video will premiere on YouTube. You may also access the link on our website. Please sign the Fellowship Pad so we know you've join us in worship!
Anti-Racism Forum on Sunday

Join us after worship on Sunday at 11 a.m for a 45 minute Zoom forum hosted by the Anti-Racism & Equity Task Force. It will be an opportunity to hear from task force leaders about the work we’re doing and future opportunities for you to participate, and there will also be time in small breakout groups for you to share your own celebrations, concerns, and questions about our anti-racism ministry at First Pres.
 
If you are not able to join the forum on Sunday, but you’d still like to give feedback or ask questions, you can fill out this form by November 24. The Zoom link is available in our private Facebook group and in the version of this newsletter that is emailed directly to subscribers.

In Person Worship Update
Due to continued rising Covid-19 positivity rates in Lake County, we will not be holding an in-person worship service this week. While we are unable to worship together in person, we invite you to join us for our online Sunday morning worship at 10 a.m. on YouTube.

As ever, we are committed both to make a priority of worship in our life of faith and to ensure that same priority is safe for our congregation and community.
First Pres Online Advent Giving Tree 2020
Gifts given through the Deacons Giving Tree program provide hope and love to those in need through several partner organizations. The need is especially great this year and your support, as well as prayers, will be greatly appreciated by the recipients.

To select a recipient, click the button below and your will be directed to our online Giving Tree. We suggest you keep gifts in the $25-$30 price range, maximum.

**Please bring your packages to the church on Saturday, Dec. 5 or Saturday, Dec. 12 between 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. The Deacons will be standing curbside on Maple Ave. to collect the packages in a safe, socially-distanced manner.**

The deadline for gifts is 12 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12

NOTE: The gifts do not need to be wrapped, but please make sure the code for the gift is clearly marked on the outside of the package so our Deacons can make sure they get delivered to the right person.
Hope Persists
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. ~John 1:5
As Christmas draws near and the pandemic drags on, many of us are beginning to feel the disappointment that we won’t be able to enjoy some of our favorite Christmas traditions. But one thing we can still do is decorate for the season. We can put up Christmas trees and lights, nativities, and other decorations that bring a spark of hope to our community. And First Pres wants to turn your outdoor Christmas decorations into a project we’re calling Hope Persists.

What is the Hope Persists Project?
Hope Persists is a project to bring tangible signs of hope to our community during a socially-distanced Christmas season. First, we want to scatter “Hope Persists” signs all over the community. And second, we want to publish a driving-tour map of Hope Persists homes for people to visit and be inspired by our sense of hope.

How can I participate?
  • Pick up a Hope Persists sign to put in your front yard or window during Advent. They will be available for pick-up next weekend (Nov. 28 and 29 between 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.) outside the church.
  • Sign up to be a Hope Persists home
  • Take the self-guided tour between December 18-25

What do the Hope Persists homes need to do?
Those who sign up to be a Hope Persists home will be a stop on the driving tour. They will decorate the outside of their homes/front yards for the tour dates — December 18-25. Between those dates, people will drive by your home (staying in their cars) to enjoy your display. Displays can include traditional Christmas lights and decorations, but the idea is that at least some aspect of the display speaks to the theme of Hope Persists. To put it another way, the displays answer the question: What gives you hope this Christmas season?

Each home will provide a brief description of what gives them hope. Each home is responsible for its own decorations, but the church will provide some design materials and other technical support.

When will the tour happen?
Hope Persists decorations will be on display between December 18-25. The church will publish a map of the homes with instructions for a self-guided driving tour. Questions? Email Rev. Ryan Wallace.
Advent for First Pres Families
Is your family looking for ways to get into the spirit of Advent/Christmas?!

Click the button below to learn more or to sign up for our Advent wreath kits, creche kits, participate in our upcoming Hope Persists project, or to be part of an Advent wreath lighting video.

The Advent wreath kit will come with everything you need to create your own Advent wreath at home, along with a booklet of short Advent devotions for your family. The creche kit includes everything you need to craft the next (or very first) character in your family's creche set.
Advent Devotional
Would you like to receive a daily devotion during Advent and Christmas?

Sign up to receive a daily devotion Let Us Light Candles from Presbyterians Today in your inbox.

Each week’s Advent and Christmas theme will be a stanza from a poem written by pastor-theologian Howard Thurman, followed by a reading from Scripture, a short meditation, an image, and a closing prayer.
Light of the World: A Beginner's Guide to Advent
Advent is a season of waiting with joyful expectation for God’s Light to come into the world in a new way. Join members of all four FIDE churches -- Libertyville, Arlington Heights, Deerfield and Lake Forest -- as we experience the Christmas story together this year. We’ll learn from renowned biblical scholar Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, and pastors from each of the four churches will take turns teaching and leading the discussions. Each session will be a combination of live teaching, video, and small group discussion.

Two different times will be offered each week:
Sundays from 8:30-9:45 a.m. (Nov 29, Dec 6, 13, and 20)
Wednesdays from 7-8:15 p.m. (Dec 2, 9, 16, and 23)

All sessions will be held on Zoom.
Soul Cinema
Films have the power to stir our souls and inspire us to change the world.

Join us on Saturdays from 7:30 p.m. - 8:45 p.m., beginning Dec. 5. We’ll gather on Zoom to watch and discuss scenes from documentaries and films that will help us examine race and our faith in new ways
First Light: A Service of Hope & Healing
Join us on Thursday, Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. for the online premiere of our First Light service. First Light is a comforting evening vespers that brings hope and healing at the darkest time of year. The service moves us from our loss and lament to the light of God’s love that shines in the darkness. The Rev. Amy Heinrich will be assisted by Stephen Ministers in leading the service. Chapel Music Team leader Charles Murphy will provide music.
 
This years’ service is designed to be participatory, so Rev. Amy invites you to have the following items available when the service begins:
  • Four rags or other pieces of fabric (or paper) with a scissor cut on one side. Tearing the fabrics symbolize the Biblical practice of rending garments
  • A marker for writing laments on the fabric
  • Paper and a pen to write a confession;
  • Candle and matches (or a lighter) for a candle lighting ritual.
 Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe. - Proverbs 2:11.

Stewardship Update
Please remain safe during these unusual times we are living through and continue to give Glory to God. He has a plan. And thank you for all you give to First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville.    
 
First Fruits – Returned to God. 
When we first consider all that God has provided for us, it becomes a blessing and joy to return our very best to God. Please remember to meet your 2020 pledge by year-end and submit your 2021 pledge if you have not already done so. It’s not too late. https://firstpreslibertyville.org/giving/
Other Ways to Give
Appreciated stocks, bonds and mutual funds are just a few assets that help sustain the mission and ministry of FPC Libertyville - and may offer you tax benefits. Please contact Cynthia Churchwell at cchurchwell@boxp.net to learn more.
Endowment Giving
Did you know you can extend your financial support to future generations through the FPC Endowment Program? For a confidential discussion about legacy gifts and tax benefits, please contact Bill Chapman at 847-456-8647.

Sunday School: Faith at Home Together

Each week, we're providing a short, simple, interactive lesson that will help you engage your kids in meaningful conversations and activities that connect to our faith. The links are posted in our Facebook group and sent to families via email. Contact Mrs. Boyce to sign up.
Elementary School: Gather Round
Calling all Kindergartners - 2nd graders (or anyone who likes a good story). Mrs. Boyce will be reading bedtime stories on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. Sign up for the Children and Family Newsletter to receive the Zoom links.
Young Children: Family Tunes & Tales
Join us Thursdays at 9 a.m. for Tunes & Tales. This program is appropriate for young children between the ages of 3 and 5. Older children are welcome as well. Sign up for the Children & Family Newsletter to receive the Zoom links.
After School Zoom Club
Students in 3rd -6th grade are invited to join Mrs. Boyce for After School Zoom Club on Thursday afternoons at 4:30 p.m. Sign up for the Children & Family newsletter to get the weekly Zoom links.
Junior High & Senior High Fellowship
Our Covenant Groups of JHF & SHF students are getting underway. Email Rev. Kara Smith-Laubenstein for more information.
This community is a great way to connect with the church while we are physically separated!

This is a Facebook group for parents, students, and families.

This Instagram page is a central location for information for our Senior High activities, plans, times, and more!

Update your Realm account

Realm is our church information management system and every adult member has their own log in and password. Log into your account using the email address we have on file for you to manage your online giving, update your contact information, and access information about groups. If you've forgotten your password or you're having issues getting access, please email office@boxp.net. Our administrative and program staff will be happy to help you!
How to contact us:
Phone: Call 847-362-2174 and leave a message. Your call will be returned between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Email: Office@boxp.net (emails go to a member of the administrative team).

Pastoral Emergencies: Please call 847-367-6460 and leave a message. A pastor will return your call as soon as they are able.