Straight to the Point
December 1, 2020
Mike’s Markings - Life at the Intersection of Contemplation and Action
Being the Church During a Pandemic
This is a repeat from last week, as it contains a lot of important information and we encourage all to participate fully in our upcoming events.

If the coronavirus has taught us anything, it is that the church is not a building. A building might locate us, serve as a “church house” for gathering us, and a helpful resource for us and the community to do a variety of ministries, but the building is not the church. It is important that we be clear on these distinctions. The church is the people who are committed to follow in the way of Jesus and who have been drawn together by the power of God’s Spirit to be the Beloved Community and the Body of Christ for each other and for the world. We have closed our building to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but we, as the church, are open for business. God is still with us. Our commitment to follow Jesus is unwavering. The Spirit of God is still stirring among us as we prepare with great intention and thoughtfulness to reimagine our vision, reestablish our mission, and reengage our purpose to promote vitality, increase our witness and promote the effectiveness and reach of God’s love and justice in the world. 
So, during this time of social distancing, as we hunker down to keep healthy, to stop the spread of COVID-19, mourn our dead, grieve the losses and disruptions that have affected us all, and to wait for the vaccines to begin clearing the air of this damn virus, I want to call us to attend to the work of the church in these winter days. I am asking that we focus on some practices of essential church life.
Like sports and the performing arts, the practice of our faith is crucial. To practice our faith means we give it the time and attention needed so that as we go about our lives, we are centered in God, our Source of Life, and that we are embodying the meaning of God’s Love and Justice more deeply and expressing it more fully as we go. Practice. Practice. Practice. It may not make us perfect, but practice will certainly enhance and empower us in ways both savvy and sensitive, to shine as the Beloved of God: Beloved. Be loved. Love!
So, with this in mind, I invite you to engage and strengthen your faith around these four practices:
THE PRACTICE OF WORSHIP: Live Streamed on Facebook and recorded
We come to the service of worship as a practice session. We come to seek clarity and insight. By this practice, we hope to be provoked and inspired to love more deeply and to act on that love by doing good deeds, pursuing justice, and scattering kindness. 
We will kick off the season of Advent this coming Sunday. Our theme is LIGHT IN THE SHADOWS. As the darkness increases around us (in both a literal and figurative sense), Advent calls us to pay attention to the Light that is always present, always shining, even in the darkest of night. It is this Light that shines forth hope, peace, joy and love.
We are now up and running to Live Stream our Sunday morning worship service via the church’s page on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings. Each service is recorded and then available to play at a time that is convenient for you. If you need help in figuring out how to access the worship service via Live Streaming or to view the recorded services, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or Tiffany, our church administrator. We will be happy to show you and teach you how to use this resource
THE PRACTICE OF LEARNING: Three Zoom learning sessions each week
This time of social distancing and staying well and warm indoors, it a great time to engage your mind in learning, to do some theological reflection, to ask some hard questions about God and life, and to test our embedded theology to see if that is where you are now, or where you want to be . A Rabbi once said, “When I pray I talk to God but when I study, God talks to me.” As we prepare to relaunch our church in early 2022, I hope to engage you in learning more about progressive Christian theology. I want to help you become conversant and aware of what this progressive Christianity looks like and what it might mean for you. I thought we might begin this important education effort in early 2021, but COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to do it now.
Todd Seikfer and I are going to team up and facilitate a time of education, discussion, and reflection on the meaning and celebration of Christmas. There will be three sessions to the study and we will be reading the book THE FIRST CHRISTMAS: WHAT THE GOSPELS REALLY TEACH ABOUT THE BIRTH OF JESUS by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crosssan, who are two outstanding biblical scholars. You can purchase used copies of the book very cheaply on or you can stop by the church office where we will have some of these used books available for purchase for $10.
Beginning the week of Sunday, December 6 you can participate in one of three weekly Zoom learning sessions:
Session One (Reflecting on Pages 1-78 of the book THE FIRST CHRISTMAS
  • Sunday, December 6 @ 9:30 a.m.
  • Wednesday, December 9 @ 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 10 @ 10:30 a.m.
         Session Two(Reflecting on Pages 81-167 of the book THE FIRST CHRISTMAS):
  • Sunday, December 13 @ 9:30 a.m.
  •  Wednesday, December 16 @ 6:30 p.m.
  •  Thursday, December 17 @ 10:30 a.m.
         Session Three(Reflecting on Pages 171-255 of the book THE FIRST CHRISTMAS):
  • Sunday, December 20 @ 9:30 a.m.
  • Wednesday, December 23 @ 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 24 @ 10:30 a.m.
Being a community of care and grace to one another is an essential quality and experience of church that we expect to happen in meaningful, supportive and life-giving ways. As your new pastor, I have not been organized in this important ministry among you. I have been attending to many other concerns and needs of the church and have failed to give this matter of importance the time and attention it deserves. I also sense that many of you are feeling disconnected and/or unaware of the concerns, struggles, and joys that your fellow church members are experiencing. It is hard to offer our compassion, care, and support if we don’t know what is going on. So, to help each of us care for one another better and to be more supportive, I will be convening two Zoom prayer chapels each week, where we will enter into a time of prayer and each person present will have the opportunity share their personal concerns and joys, make others aware of those in our community and beyond in need of prayer and support, and/or simply tell what’s been going on in their lives. So, fix you some hot coffee, tea or cocoa and log-in to a Zoom Prayer Chapel each week. It will be like sitting at a table with friends and sharing a little something of our lives. Let’s not let COVID-19 hinder us from deepening our sense of community and friendship.
Beginning the week of Sunday, December 6, the Zoom Prayer Chapel will be in session for one hour twice each week:
 December Prayer Chapel Week One:
Sunday, December 6 @ 11:45a.m. – 12:45 p.m. (Following the Live Streaming of Worship) Wednesday, December 9 @ 7:45 – 8:45 p.m. (Following the Learning Session)
December Prayer Chapel Week Two:
Sunday, December 13 @ 11:45a.m. – 12:45 p.m. (Following the Live Streaming of Worship)
Wednesday, December 16 @ 7:45 – 8:45 p.m. (Following the Learning Session)
December Prayer Chapel Week Three:
Sunday, December 20 @ 11:45a.m. – 12:45 p.m. (Following the Live Streaming of Worship)
Wednesday, December 23 @ 7:45 – 8:45 p.m. (Following the Learning Session)
THE PRACTICE OF VOCATION: Advancing the Work of the Church by Serving
There are many ways to get involved in the work of our church. There are a number of short-term committees getting under way to get our church organized and structured for what is to come next. We will be laying a foundation on which we will relaunch our church’s presence and witness in early 2022. We will be establishing the processes and means by which we will make important decisions, do the work of the church, and function in ways that are clear, healthy and promote the flourishing of our life together. Here is a list of the ways you can get involved and participate in the ongoing work of the church. You can be in touch with me, or the person’s name in parenthesis, for more information about work being done.
Maximizing our Welcome and Impact via Live Streaming
Open and Affirming (ONA)Committee (Jay Rosenberg)
Establishing a Congregational Behavioral Covenant (Dick Owens)
Constitution ReView Committee
Developing a Financial Policies and Procedures Manual (Lois Darrow)
Updating our Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual (Barb Knepper)
Facility Use Policies and Procedures Manual (John Kiernan)
Our Wedding and Funeral Policies and Procedures
A Closing note about ZOOM:
If you don’t have the ability or the equipment to use Zoom or Facebook to participate in the practices I have named, please talk with me or call the office. We will be happy to work with you in order to find a solution that will enable you to fully participate in the life of the church during this time of pandemic We don’t want people feeling excluded or feeling isolated from our church community because of the challenges or barriers of technology.
Online Giving

We now have a new way to give online through the software that the church office is using! It is now very easy for our friends and congregation members to give financially to the church. Simply click on the link HERE, and input your information. You can give once or set up continual giving this way. If you have signed up for our online directory through Realm you will then be able to track your giving and will be able to receive a report for tax deductions at the end of the year or anytime you would like to where you are at.

We also now have TEXT giving. If you would like to utilize this easy way of giving, you can text FirstCongo to 73256, followed by your gift amount, to give online through text.

Remember to Support FCUCC Financially During this Time!
Updates from Church Treasurer

During this COVID-19 event, having no in-person services has impacted our normal income. Thank you to those who have mailed in checks!

FCUCC Finances for October 2020

Giving in November amounted to $13,362.00, all from mail-in and online giving.


Due to the widespread coronavirus in our area, we have closed our building to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to our congregation. The council has voted to close the live - in church services beginning on Nov 29th until further notice. We will continue with the live streaming of our church service online.
If you have any questions call Lois Darrow at 712-490-5969 or the church office.
Staff Christmas Gifts

We would like to honor our Church Staff this holiday season. If you would like to donate toward a gift to our staff, please send your donation to the church and note "Staff Appreciation." The funds received will be prorated and distributed accordingly to the staff member's scheduled hours. Please make sure to get any donation you may send in by December 20, so that they can be distributed before Christmas. For questions, please contact Lois Darrow, Council President or Barb Knepper, Personnel Committee Chair.
Fall Pledge Campaign

Our Fall pledge Campaign "Beloved, Love" has ended, Sunday, November 22nd. For those who may still have their pledge cards to send in, you are still welcome to mail them to the church office, we ask you to do so by Christmas.
Our Giving Tree
 Submitted By Donna Popp

Giving holiday gifts to the clients of Siouxland Mental Health has been a longstanding tradition at First Congregational UCC, and a great way for us to share the spirit of Christmas.
Thank you for participating! Here’s how:
Because of the current pandemic situation, we will be doing our gift giving for clients of Siouxland Mental Health a little different this year.
Instead of having items identified for certain clients, we will be providing $25.00 gift cards from Wal-Mart and the caseworkers will distribute them to the clients and those who do not have transportation or who need help in shopping will be helped by the caseworker.
Therefore, the Missions Committee is asking that if you want to participate in this important mission project you send a check to the church for $25.00 or multiples of $25.00 and identify in the memo line that it is for “The Giving Tree”. The Missions Committee will then purchase the gift cards and get them to Siouxland Mental Health on Monday, December 14th.
If you have any questions, please contact me:
Donna Popp, or 712-251-5535.
Thanksgiving Fund Drive
(Submitted by Ginger France)
We may not have been able to have our Children's Closet or Fall Rummage/Bake Sale, but our area agencies will still get their annual support from FCUCC. Because of your generosity to the Thanksgiving Fund Drive, we raised $4950. An additional $88 was contributed through the takeout turkey dinner for a Fund Drive total of $5038! Thanks be to God for His faithfulness through you! We thank you for your support so that FCUCC can continue our support of the eight area agencies who help so many in our community. 

Thank you from your Missions Committee,
(Ginger France, Peggy Hofmeyer, Ruth Holder, Jan Nowlen, Donna Popp, Todd Siefker)
Time to Save Receipts
Submitted by Ginger France

Please save:
*HyVee grocery receipts (dated Aug 23 and after)
*Boxtops for Education
There’s a collection box wrapped in balloon paper in the narthex near the office.
Thank you~These will be donated to a local school and shared with Mayflower Congregational’s preschool.
Managed by Tiffany Watts, Church Administrator

We are using new church management software in the office, which is called REALM by ACS Technologies, and this includes a digital directory. Tiffany sent out those invitations by email, if you need assistance please call or email her in the office.

Please inform the office of any directory updates that you would like to include for yourself or your family. You can also pick up one of the directory update forms on the table outside the church office or find it on our website.

Instructions on how to access our new directory can be found by clicking HERE. Please call or email the office if you need to be re-sent an invitation to join/access our directory.
Sanford Center
Submitted by Jan Nowlen

The after school program at the Sanford Center could use donations of the following items:
Chicken Nuggets
Hot dogs and buns
Individual packaged servings of chips,
Treats (no peanuts),
Fruit cups
Juice boxes
Large cans of Nacho Cheese
6 pack boxes of macaroni
  (These two items can be purchased at Sam’s Club)
Large cans of chicken noodle soup

You can drop your donations off at church or at the Sanford Center. If you would prefer to send a monetary donation, please send it directly to the Sanford Center and mark it after school meals. Thank you!

Jim France (double knee replacement)
Audrey Ercolini's Family
Madison Darrow
Jan Nowlen
Tyrell Tanner and Family
Sandy Gregory
Katherine Trautman
Bud Ziebell
Cameron Mower & Family
All Teachers and Students

Open and Affirming Status

We now have a committee that is dedicated to help us along the path to becoming an Open and Affirming church. We are working dilligently and look forward to bringing a proposal to the Annual Congregational Meeting, which is scheduled for January 24th, 2021.

The people on this committee are: Jay Rosenberg (chair), Suzanne Johnson, Penny Fee, Ellen Shaner, Kelley McCarthy, and Pastor Mike.
Thank You, Volunteers!

A big "thank you" goes out to our volunteers who have helped with Sunday Services this week. These were:

Worship Leader - Nan Cord
Live Stream - John Kiernan & Jim France
Sound/Lighting - Kevin Knepper
Screen - Jerrod Kiernan
Moving-On Box Ministry
Submitted by Ginger France

MOB Needs:
Glasses (plastic, if possible)
9 x 13 Cake Pans
Cookie Sheets
Dish Soap
The Warming Shelter

The Warming Shelter is one of the local agencies that we try to support. If you would like to donate to them, their currents needs list is below:

Cash to pay utilities and security staffing
Granola bars of any kind,
Tube Socks,
Brown Jersey Gloves (inexpensive ones 10/$10)
Men’s and Women’s underwear( Medium and large sizes).
The Soup Kitchen
Updates from Jan Nowlen

The Soup Kitchen has been hit hard with the expanded need of families and individuals needing food assistance during COVID-19. They have been serving well over 3000 meals per month and are runing critically low on some items and are completely out of others.

Current Needs:
Milk, in individual cartons
Red & Green Bell Peppers
Paper Towels

Erik's Closet Needs:
Athletic Shoes
Hand Warmers

You can drop donations and gift cards off at the Soup Kitchen or Mail them to:

717 W. 7th Street
Suoix City, Iowa 51103

They also have Venmo and Paypal for those who would like to donate through that method. Here is the info from them:

If you are wanting to make a donation please use the following:
Venmo : @siouxland-soupkitchen
PayPal :
All donations can be issued a receipt for tax purposes.
Rummage Sale
Updates from Jan Nowlen

At this time we have postponed the Rummage Sale, however, those of you who are cleaning and de-cluttering your home during this time, there is plenty of room to store things you wish to get rid of. 
Church Office Hours
While the church is currently closed due to COVID-19, our church administrator has been keeping the office going. If you need access to the building, please call the office or Lois Darrow.

Church Staff:

Rev. Dr. Michael Castle, Pastor

Tiffany Watts, Church Administrator

Todd Siefker, Intergenerational Coordinator

Rick Darrow, Organist

Jessica Orr, Nursery Coordinator
Church Contact Information

(712) 239-3385
4600 Hamilton Boulevard
Sioux City, IA 51104
(712) 239-3385