SWA header image
December 2016

Our Churches Reflected
on the Election and  Gave Thanks
in a Variety of Ways

Looking back on November, at least four of our churches gave their members an opportunity (in addition to Sunday sermons and prayers) to prayerfully reflect on the outcome of the presidential election. Knowing that many of their members are aware of persons who feel threatened by deportation or hatred, Memorial UCC, Fitchburg,provided a special evening time of gathering in their sanctuary. Orchard Ridge UCC, Madison, used the occasion to have a special labyrinth candlelight walk.  Middleton Community UCC had a Service of Lament and Hope.  Mazomanie UCC called attention to an article that appeared in United Church News. See separate article below.

Special Thanksgiving services, in many cases ecumenical community services, were held by these Southwest Association congregations: First UCC, Sauk City; Plymouth UCC, Dodgeville; Swiss UCC, New Glarus; Zwingli UCC and Washington Reformation UCC, Monticello; Congregational UCC, Evansville; Trinity UCC, Endeavor; Mazomanie UCC; Salem UCC, Verona; and Community of Hope UCC. Madison.

At their annual Thanksgiving dinner for the community, First Congregational UCC, Madison, served almost 700 meals,
including almost 200 home-delivered meals!  
The food
was cooked and 
donated by members, with 180 volunteers helping in various ways.

The Tuesday Night Fellowship of Middleton Community UCC had a "Season of Gratitude," in which members discussed ways they give thanks for their blessings, and they were invited to begin a gratitude journal.

First Congregational UCC, Janesville, had another Community Meal in November. Indian dishes were served.

Plymouth UCC, Madison, has invited the other Madison UCC churches, along with eastside ecumenical partners, to help settle refugees in their area.  They will work in conjunction with Lutheran Social Services and Jewish Social Services, which will be settling about 160 refugees in the coming year, many from the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq.

First Congregational UCC, Janesville, has followed up the Wisconsin Conference's invitation, reported in the November Shalom, re Becoming an Immigrant Welcoming Community.  They have begun a study of on what the Bible has to say about hospitality and justice.  Christians at the Border, by Daniel Carroll, is one of their resources. .

 Shoes that Fit is a national program whose mission is to build the self-esteem of school children in need by providing them with new shoes.  First Congregational UCC, Fort Atkinson, in in their tenth year of participating in partnership with the Jefferson County Head Start Program to help local children.

In their 175th anniversary year,  1st Congregational UCC, Fort Atkinson, 
is inviting their members to see their anniversary display at the Hoard Historical Museum.

The Madison Christian Community, of which Community of Hope UCC is a part, has for the past 12 months created 176 quilts from fabrics donated by the congregation.  They were distributed by Lutheran World Relief to persons in Angola, India and Georgia (part of the former USSR).

Congregational UCC, Edgerton, observed the National Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, remembering persons who have lost their lives due to violence and intolerance.

A guided meditation session is offered each Monday night at McFarland UCC.  Quiet Reflections Worship is offered each Wednesday night by 1st Congregational UCC, Madison.
Accessibility signs have replaced the "Reserved for Elderly and Handicapped" signs next to 1st Congregational UCC, Madison .  The new "Reserved for Persons with Limited Mobility" signs reflect the emphasis on the person, not the disability. The new 
logo displays an active, in-motion version of life with a physical disability, instead of the traditional symbol showing a static person.

In another of Memorial UCC, Fitchburg's series of learning about other religious traditions, leaders of the Sikh community visited their church, and members are invited to attend a Sikh Temple prayer service.

See related article about a Wisconsin Council of Churches resource below

Finally, it's a look back at October.  At McFarland UCC, Rev. Kerri Parker uses her creativity in having a Halloween theme in the worship closest to October 31.  It not only includes costumes, but features spooky stories from the Bible, e.g. A Spirit from Beyond (1 Sam. 28:3-25), Dancing Skeletons (Ezek. 37:1-14), The Writing on the Wall (Dan. 5:1-30), and Drop-Dead Afraid (Acts 5:1-11)!

A Pastoral Letter to a United
Church in a Divided Country

Noting that he was aware of the feelings of anger, grief and fear that many have in the aftermath of the election, Rev. Franz Rigert, our Conference Minister, called attention to this  Pastoral Letter  sent by the UCC national officers and the Council of Conference Ministers.  For one thing it highlighted what a deeply divided people we are.

Presidential Inauguration
Trip Planned 

Clergy leaders and our Conference Minister are coordinating a bus trip to Washington, DC, January 19-22, for the purpose of witnessing to the gospel values of dignity, equality, justice and compassion for all of God's people.

The trip will include worship, peaceful demonstration (including the Million Women March) and interfaith/ecumenical discussion. Further details will be available on December 6.

Timely Presentation by
Southwest Association Pastor

Rev. Phil Haslanger, pastor of Memorial UCC, Fitchburg, gave a presentation at Lakeland University's Mission House Lecture in October, as reported by our Conference e-newsletter of November 17.

"The tension between religion and the public authorities goes backs to the  earliest days of Christianity. But what does that mean for us today, living in a democracy, where resentment seems to be the coin of the realm this year?"

And Some Advent Events
in Our Churches...

Community of Hope UCC, Madison
, will launch the season of Advent on November 27 with Christmas Around the World--a cross-generational event.  They will explore some global Christmas traditions through song, food and crafts. Included are Norwegian Krumkake, Indian garlands, German Advent logs, global hymns, Latin American tamales, and more.

On December 17, at 7:00 p.m., Middleton Community UCC choir will present a Christmas cantata, featuring original sacred songs and beloved carols.

Radical hospitality...
         passionate worship...
   intentional faith development...
         risk-taking mission...
              extravagant generosity...

Though not new, these are practices that many UCC churches around the country and in our Conference have intentionally embraced--providing a helpful focus and renewed energy for their ministry.

The Wisconsin Conference's Church Renewal Program seeks to help churches renew and grow their congregations by teaching churches these Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.

It starts with your congregation recruiting a team made up of at least three lay members and the pastor. The teams attend a kick-off meeting at the Trost Center in DeForest on January 28, 2017.  Then each team organizes six study sessions back home, facilitated by an outside trainer and using the resources of these Five Practices.

Register for this important program by January 9.  Find more details here.  You can also access a f lyer about the event to share with others.  And here is the link for online registration.

Lessons and Carols for Advent
Supports Palestinian Ministries

The Lessons and Carols for Advent, in support of Bright Stars of Bethlehem, will be on Sunday, December 4, 7 p.m., at Christ Presbyterian Church, 944 E. Gorham St., Madison.

In its third year, the event will benefit Dal al-Kalima University College in Bethlehem.

Join individuals, leaders and musicians from 10 congregations to celebrate Advent with lessons and carols.

Becoming the Beloved:
An Advent Kettlewood Retreat

Rev. Holly Whitcomb, Director of Kettlewood Retreats and UCC minister, author and spiritual director, will lead this Advent Retreat on Friday, December 9, 9:30-3:00, at Cedar Valley Retreat Center near West Bend.

In Advent we anticipate the birth of God's Beloved, Jesus Christ. We know that God invites each of us to also be the Beloved. How do we live each day being faithful to this core spiritual identity?  In this Advent retreat we will explore the graces and expectations of living as God's Beloved.

To register for this retreat, send a $50 check to Holly at 2095 Elm Tree Ct., Elm Grove, WI 53122.  Deadline to register is December 3. For more information call Holly at (262) 784-5693
Youth to Bring Climate
Activism to Social Media

A new collaborative endeavor of youth from the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has been launched.

As part of this endeavor, youth groups from across the country will adopt a specific month during which they will create social media posts that raise awareness about climate change and encourage action. The name of this joint denominational project is Generation Green.
The primary social media platform used by Generation Green will be Instagram. People of all ages, however, are encouraged to follow Generation Green and share its posts.    
Youth groups that would like to participate in Generation Green should contact Environmental Justice Minister Brooks Berndt.  Read UCC article.
'"Loving Our Interfaith Neighbors:
A Study-Action Guide"

The Wisconsin Council of Churches has produced this timely resource and is sending it to all member congregations.

This grew out of a remarkable day of dialogue co-hosted by the Council and the Islamic Society of Milwaukee on the 10th anniversary of September 11th.  More than 250 Christians and Muslims shared in conversation.

If you are a lay leader/member of your congregation, and are interested in exploring the use of this resource, speak to your pastor. Here is a link to the email of Rev. Scott Anderson, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches.
Out of Office Hours
of JoanneThomson

Wednesday, December 7, 10:00-11:30, at the Coffee Bean Connection, 701 Oak St., Baraboo.
Installation of Rev. Blair Hull 
on December 11

The Congregational UCC, Whitewater (133 S. Franklin St.)  will welcome clergy and laity from the Southwest Association as the Association installs Rev. Rev. Blair Hull as pastor of their church on Sunday, December 11, 2:00 p.m.

Pastoral Transitions and News

Rev. Kim Moeller, Swiss UCC, New Glarus, has been hospitalized, and we offer our prayers for Kim, her family, and Swiss Church.

Rev. Bonnie Van Overbeke is recovering well following surgery.

Rev. Jon Schultz is undergoing a series of six chemotherapy treatments for mantel cell lymphoma. He reports that the prognosis is good, but the side effects of the treatments are physically and spiritually draining. Your prayers are welcome.

Immanuel UCC, Darlington, has called the Rev. Barbara Brakey as their new pastor.  She will begin her ministry in Darlington on December 4.  she comes comes to us from the Maine Conference.  Please join in making her welcome!

Rev. Larry Balleine ends his interim ministry in Darlington November 27.
A Word of Special Thanks
from Our Association Minister

In the days following the hospitalization of Heide Hackman, the congregation of First UCC, Belleville, has been in need of special care. I want to lift up the ministry of Laura Crow, as well as that of Petra Streiff, who have served that church on Sundays mornings following the crisis.

Laura, especially, has been a consistent presence in worship and has brought great sensitivity to her leadership role.

A note of thanks is due as well to Community UCC, Middleton, where Laura leads the Sunday afternoon service, for sharing her with First UCC this fall.

There are also colleagues to thank in Monroe.  Rev. John Jewell and Rev. Tiff Bates have pitched in to assist Rev. Kathleen Rinear at St. Johns UCC.  Rev. Sara Rabe has been providing pastoral care to the Belleville church, and Rev. Kim Moeller has also been present.

I remember saying to many of you last year as I began this ministry that "We are all in this together." The support and care offered by so many of our colleagues has been a testimony to our common life and common hope during this difficult time.

General Synod Is Coming
to Milwaukee in 2019!

The 2019 General Synod of the United Church of Christ (June 21-25) will be held in Milwaukee!

Our Conference Minister, Rev. Franz Rigert, and Board Chair Rev. Kerri Parker, gave a compelling video presentation to the national Board of Directors.  It explained that ours is a leader in the United Church of Christ in terms of membership and giving to the national church.

It added that our conference is full of enthusiasm and is more than ready to provide the large tasks of hospitality. Further, that Milwaukee has the hotel/conference center infrastructure; has noteworthy attractions; and is a prime example of the many issues, such as high unemployment, poverty and racial disparity, that plague the nation.

Plans are already underway to prepare for our responsibilities as host.  Here is Franz's announcement.

Deadline Extended for
Bethlehem Partnership Trip

You can still sign up for the ninth "sacred journey" to Israel-Palestine April 20-30, 2017, as the deadline has been extended.

The trip will include visits to Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem and more.  It will go beyond the traditional tourist experiences.  Time will be spent with some of our Global Ministries partners and other organizations and people, both Palestinian and Israeli, who are living the violence and suffering, yet finding hope.

Cost of the trip is about $3000. For more information and/or to sign up, contact Bonnie Van Overbeke at bonnievano@aol.com or (608) 274-1859

The trip is a part of the partnership of the Southwest Association and Wisconsin Conference with Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem.

Youth Retreat Opportunities
at  Pilgrim Center 

Jesus Core Retreat for high school students January 6-8 at Pilgrim Center.

Experience faith in community, meaningful worship and great music, silence and time for prayer, getting to know new people and hanging out with friends.

Rest from the stress of school, listen to God's word, connect with yourself and others, and find satisfaction in silence and in fun activities.

Be inspired by the songs of musician Andra Moran, by the beauty of God's Creation on Green Lake, and by workshops and discussions with adult leaders and your peers.

It is asked that there be at least one adult leader for every five youth from a congregation.   Register here by December 22.

Youth Faith Formation Retreats of the Wisconsin Conference are geared toward those in confirmation, but open to any in grades 6-12 who wish to explore their faith and learn more about the United Church of Christ--

    February 24-26 at Pilgrim Center
   March 3-5 at Pilgrim Center

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Children & Youth Service Day
January 16

First Congregational UCC, Madison, is host for this annual Day of Faith/Service/Education for those in grades 1-12.

Children will spend the day at the church rotating through various stations designed to help better understand the importance of the day, and the life and work of Dr. King.

Children (grades 1-6) will explore subjects such as:

Taking a Stand,
   Then & Now;
   What  Can I Do?
The Music of the
Hands-on Service
   and Art Projects

Youth (grades 7-12) will have the opportunity to work at service projects around the community (wear work clothing).

Parents are asked to drop off their youth between 8:30 and 8:50 a.m. Cost is $10/person, $20/family.  Bring a bag lunch (include name).  Register at the church's website.

Social Concerns Division
Invites Grant Applications

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Southwest Association,
With the concerns of our times we are likely to see gaps in social justice that our congregations can help fill.  The Southwest Social Concerns Division has money left in the 2016 budget to grant to requests.  What does your congregation want to do to help fill those gaps?  Do you need some cash to get your project off the ground?  Get your grant request in by December 12.
Application forms are found here   
To learn more about Social Concerns Grants, click here.
Reply to Susan Taylor (staylor@wcucc.org) with your completed grant request attached.
The Social Concerns Division
Help Wanted Ad:
Director of Youth Ministries

The Mt. Vernon UCC is looking for a part-time Director of Youth Ministries. Our new director will work with our Christian Education Team to expand and enhance educational opportunities for children--both in our congregation and in the surrounding community. We are looking for someone with a heart for kids and a progressive understanding of the Christian faith, one who is creative in designing programs and able to inspire the volunteers who will carry them out.

Mt. Vernon is a small, growing, religiously diverse,  Open and Affirming congregation.  Find a full job description, and additional program and application information here.

UCC Disabilities Ministries
Seeks Nominations
for Board of Directors

The UCC Disabilities Ministries Board's Nominations Committee is seeking people who are passionate about disability ministry who would like to serve on their Board. It is made up of people with disabilities, professionals who work in the disability field, and family members of people with disabilities.

Their mission is to encourage our denomination to create worship and meeting places, programs, and leadership that are accessible to all (A2A) and welcoming and inclusive of all persons with disabilities. Nominations must be received by December 9.  More information.

Women Authors
Reading Group

The group will meet on Thursday, December 15, 1:00 p.m., at Windsor UCC.  They will begin their study of  The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right, by Lisa Sharon Harper, with forward by Walter Brueggemann, reading to page 52.
Contemporary Theology
Book Group

The group will next meet on Tuesday, December 20, 2:00 p.m., at Plymouth UCC, Madison, discussing The Word That Redescribes the World: The Bible and Discipleship, by Walter Brueggemann, thru page 137..

Not Receiving Shalom?

If you, or someone you know, is not currently receiving Shalom, and would like to, please email Roger Brooks at swacommunications.com.. Please provide the email address, church affiliation and town.
Check Out Our New
Association Website!

The involved process of changing our Conference and Association websites to make them consistent and user friendly has been completed!   Check out ours and use it frequently!
 Southwest Association
Pulpit Supply List

The current Pulpit Supply List can be accessed through our Southwest Association website. Click on Information for Pastors.

Associate Conference Minister  
608-630-2992 (cell)
608-846-7880 (conference office)



Rev. Mark Yurs 



Petra Streiff



Beth Voigt



Rev. Jim Iliff


Division on Church & Ministry: 

Rev. Phil Haslanger, Acting Chair


Social Concerns Committee

Rev. Lois Rosko, Chair

Shalom Editor:

Roger Brooks


Southwest Association | swacommunications@gmail.com
4459 Gray Road | PO Box 435 | DeForest, WI  53532 | 608-846-7780