Straight to the Point
September 30, 2020
Prayer for the Week

The time for healing of the wounds has come.
The time to build is upon us...
We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people...
There is no easy road to freedom...
None of us acting alone can achieve success.
We must therefore act together as a united people,
for reconciliation, for nation building,
for the birth of a new world.

-Nelson Mandela

Mike’s Markings
Life at the Intersection of Contemplation and Action
TIME FOR A DEEP BREATH * September 29, 2020

In case you didn’t hear, the congregational meeting that was scheduled for last Sunday, September 27, happened…and then it didn’t. I feel it is important for me update you on what has been going on.  

As your newly called pastor, I arrived in Sioux City on August 5 to get moved into my house and to set up my church office. I was here but a week when I was made aware that 13 members of our church had constitutionally called for a congregational meeting to address concerns. This was a surprise to me and a clear indication that there was a serious conflict present in the congregation. I asked the Church Council to postpone the scheduled congregational meeting to on or before September 27 so that I could have time to better understand what was going on, and to see if I could help facilitate a reconciliation and peace between the clashing sides. This conflict could not be avoided if this church wants to grow to be a healthy and vital congregation that would enable all of the congregation to move forward. Wisdom says that healing the present divide was of utmost importance to me because as I have heard said: “you cannot drive a car safely if you are always looking the rear-view mirror.”  

Since then, I have been asking a lot of questions and doing a lot of listening. I conducted three meetings where I met with the two opposing sides who gathered together in the same room to directly talk to one another. These meetings were painful at times, for I saw first-hand the lack of trust and the raw animosity that both sides expressed, most of which was directed to the leader of each side. But there were also moments when understanding was deepened and a broader perspective was gained. Last Sunday’s scheduled congregational meeting was an opportunity for me to report to the congregation that after meeting with the two opposing sides I had identified 10 things that needed to happen in order for both sides to stop fighting and start working together in order to move our church forward.  

One of the 10-points of the plan to move forward was to conduct a service of Healing and Reconciliation. This brief service was to be part of the congregational meeting this past Sunday and was ordered so that the people intimately involved in the conflict would be able 1) to name their hurts, angers and resentments and, 2) to give and receive forgiveness from one another and, 3) to put down, let go, and walk away from the heavy baggage of those past grievances that had been weighing them down, causing enmity between fellow church members and disrupting and damaging the church’s life and witness. Both sides had agreed to do just that.

I had come to church on Sunday fully expecting that that was what we would be doing. But there was a problem: the leaders of the two opposing sides, unbeknownst to me, or the others who participated in the effort to bring healing and peace, decided not to show up. Why did they do this? I can’t say for sure, but my most direct and succinct answer is this: They were not ready to forgive. They are still too angry and too hurt. This, of course, blew up the planned congregational meeting. As for the service of healing and reconciliation, I cancelled it. Without both leaders from the opposing sides being present, the very ones to whom practically all of the anger and resentment had been directed, it made no sense to carry on without them. 

Unfortunately, that leaves the leader of each opposing side clinging on to the baggage and resentment. That leaves the rest of us with some choices to make. It seems to me that it would be a crying shame to see church continue its downward spiral and remain distracted from a strategic mission due to a couple of church leaders who would rather prove they are right and disdain their fellow church member -- an ugly, distorted way that leads to no good end -- than practice the costly way of love marked by a sincere humility and a generous forgiveness that offers new life and new beginning.

So where do we go from here? What do we do next? I don’t know. That is my simple, honest answer today. Right now, just breathe! Keep breathing, taking in the air that gives life and sustains us, letting go of that which needs to exit our bodies and our minds. Keep breathing steadily so as to center ourselves in the presence of God who is with us and who is the pulse of a life. Breathe, refraining from any more gossiping or blaming or lashing out, refusing to add any more hurtful and injurious behaviors. Please. Stop! Just breathe! Take time to breathe! Keep breathing. You will be well served by this centering practice and your deep, timely, and renewing breaths will serve to heal what is toxic and the brokenness in us and in our church. Right now, just Breathe! Keeping breathing in the air that sustains and heals. Keep breathing out the toxins that hurt and destroy. Just breathe.

While we pause to breathe, I will be convening your elected Church Council this week to begin the process of sorting out what happened (and didn’t happen) last Sunday. We will hold each other accountable to lean even more deeply into the Love that has claimed us and calls us as this Beloved Community of Christ. As the Church Council begins to do its work debriefing and evaluating, sharing insights and observations and discerning next steps, I invite you to offer any wisdom, perceptions and ideas that you may have as well. Your input will be graciously welcome and received. As your pastor, I will keep you posted as to what we hear and discern the movement and guidance of the Still Speaking God who is with us and among us still provoking us to love and good deeds. And please, keep your church in your prayers.


The Nurture Committee is looking for volunteers for greeters. You would need to be present from 9:15 until church starts at 10:30. One person will need to take temperatures starting with those that come for the adult class. The other person will need to hand out name tags. After church the name tags will need to be sanitized.

If you are interested in helping please let Ginger France or Jan Nowlen know.

Streaming Update!
Live Streaming Project:

First Congregational UCC has embarked on a live-streaming project, and Sunday we recorded and live-streamed the worship service on Facebook (FB) Live. Hope you got to see it! – either in real time at church or watched from home. Now, I would ask that if you have not watched the video on FB, you take time to watch it this week. We want your feedback and recommendations as we move ahead. Here’s some of the information about the project…
  • Paul Ebsen of Vermillion SD has been our “leader” in this project. He is a director at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and has lots of experience and training in broadcasting. Additionally, he is a member of the Vermillion Congregational UCC and responsible for their live streaming programs from Vermillion.
  • Five members of our congregation have participated in a training session and are now working with Paul to get “hands on” experience.
John Kiernan                Jim France
Jerrod Kiernan             Todd Siefker
Dave VanBerkum
This group will assist on Sunday mornings. Anyone interested in helping with the broadcasting should consider attending a training session in the future. Contact the church office or talk with John Kiernan or Jim France. We would be glad to have you as part of our group.
·        The audio (sound version) of the worship service is also being recorded and available on your phone. You will be able to listen to the audio “live” on Sunday mornings and if more convenient, call into the system later and hear a recording of the service.

Haven’t much experience with Facebook Live or using your phone system to listen to the worship service? There’s more information in this STTP on how to do that!! You can always call the church office for assistance, as well.

In the future…
  1. the video version will be available on YouTube Live for those of you who are familiar with using that platform.
  2. ZOOM will be added to our efforts to communicate with the congregation and others. Watch for the start of a “Touching Base” feature on ZOOM following the worship service. People can join and spend time sharing with others about the service and what is happening in their lives. Many of us have enjoyed this as part of our ZOOM worship services during COVID and we want to continue this sharing in the near future.

We will make sure to announce when both the YouTube Live and ZOOM “Touching Base” feature are available for use.

To utilize our Call-In phone system, you can call 844-485-8226 at any time. If asked for a PIN it is 9959. Once you call you will be asked if you would like to sign up for a phone call that will be automatically sent to your phone each time that the church is streaming in the sanctuary and you can listen in real-time. The prompts make it quite easy to get signed up.

If you have missed a service that we have streamed and would like to catch up, recordings of our church services are also on this phone system and are easy to access. It will automatically play the most recent one, but you can follow the prompts to listen in on older church services as well.

Stay tuned! Good things are happening! If you have questions, call Tiffany at the church office or send her an email ( with your questions or ideas.

Time to Save Receipts

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.

Book Club

The book club has resumed meetings. Here are the upcoming meetings and the books they will be reviewing:

-Thursday, Oct 8 at 9:30 AM - Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup Authored by John Carreyrou

-Thursday, Nov 12 at 9:30 AM - Death Comes for the Archbishop
Authored by Willa Cather

These meetings are to be held in the church library, but can also be accessed by ZOOM. Please contact Barb Knepper if you would like to join the meeting via ZOOM.

Sanford Center

The Sanford Center is looking for part-time help—2:30 to 6:30 Monday and 3:30 to 6:30 Tuesday thru Friday. Applicants need to be at least 18 years old. If you know anyone that would be interested, please have them call Gina at the Sanford Center for more information. Her number is (712) 252-9005.


The Missions Committee has been in contact with the Sanford Center about helping to supply food for the meal the students in the after school program are provided with before they go home for the evening. They could use donations of the following items:

Hot dogs and buns
Individual packaged servings of chips, treats (no peanuts), fruit cups, etc.
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.


We are using new church management software in the office, which is called REALM by ACS Technology, and this includes a digital directory. Please expect to receive an invitation email from Realm or ACS Technologies. Tiffany will be sending out those invitations by email today and tomorrow (9/30/2020 and 10/1/2020)

Please email or call Tiffany in the office with any directory updates that you would like her 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 Tiffany if you need to be re-sent an invititation to join/access our directory.


A note from our friends at CROP Walk:
The Sioux City CROP Walk will look a little different in 2020, but our goal is still the same! To help fight hunger locally and around the world. The safety of our walkers is our number one priority, therefore this year the Sioux City CROP Walk will be virtual. 

Please visit their website for more information.

They are mostly asking for online donations but food donations are still accepted as well. Details abou how to donate online, and where to donate food items are all on the above website. If you would like to donate cash or checks, please send them to the church and make them payable to CROP Walk.

Remember to Support FCUCC Financially During this Time!

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 August 2020

Giving in August amounted to $7210.00, all from mail-in and online giving.

You can help us stay on track by mailing in your check or setting up an automatic payment from your bank. You can also contribute through a simple app called is our online, app and web-based giving system. is convenient because it:
·        Accepts debit, credit or bank account info
·        Can be set up for a one-time payment, or automatic regular payments
·        Can be changed at any time (there are no contracts or commitments)
Go to to sign up online, or download the app on any iPhone/Apple or Android device.

Keep the Connection -- Join us on “Zoom”
Todd Siefker will be sending out an invitation link right before each event.

6:30 pm Wednesday – Weekly Reflection Time
9:30 am Sunday – "Admiration Series" Study Session

ZOOM Meetings – Remember to Invite Others!
Invite your friends to attend the Wednesday night or Sunday morning Adult group gatherings.
Each of us knows people who need connection during this time. You can send your friends the invitation link or send their emails to Todd so he can send them the invitation. This is a way to reach out and enlarge our caring community!
Before each Zoom session, you will receive an email invitation to the session. By clicking on the link included in the invitation, you can join the session.

You can join online with your computer OR by phone.
Follow the instructions that come in the email.
On Wednesday evenings, at 6:30 pm Todd Siefker will lead a reflection time.
Sunday mornings will be a 2-part session from 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. 
  • At 9:30 a.m. Todd Siefker will lead the Admiration Series.  

You can join in at any time during the morning by using the Zoom link.

Steps on how to work around a zoom meeting that has a password (passcode)
1.   Setup your own account with zoom
2.   Get link that is sent by the church in email
3.   Click on link it will open the zoon app once you log in to your account
4.   You will see "start new meeting" or "join meeting" click join
5.   This will bring a meeting ID screen - enter the meeting ID that is found in the email from the church
6.   Enter the meeting ID in the meeting ID feild - this will connect you to the meeting
7.   If the passcode is required enter the passcode that is found in the email from church
8.   Click "OK" after you enter the passcode
9.   You should now be in the meeting
The Schwerin Family
Jan Nowlen
Pastor Al Hohl
Antony Allyn Wyckoff -Rosenberg
Tyrell Tanner and Family
Dick Owens
Sandy Gregory
Katherine Trautman
Bud Ziebell
The Bilka Family
Anne Cleghorn
Cameron Mower & Family
The Willmott Family
All Teachers and Students

Thank You, Volunteers!

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

Ginger France - Worship Leader
Nan Cord - Usher
John and Jerrod Kiernan - Sound, Lighting, and Screen Display
Jim France and Paul Ebsen - Live Streaming

Office Hours for Next Week

Tiffany will be out of the office from October 7th through the 12th and Barb Knepper is arranging for someone to fill in for her a couple of hours per day. Please be aware that if you do not have access to the church and need it during these dates, you may need to call ahead to make sure someone is available to open it. Normal office hours will return (M-F 9a.m. to 5p.m.) on the 13th. Thank you for your patience.

Take Some Time to Check in With Each Other

Remember to “check in” with the person(s) before you and after you in the current church directory. Let's make sure everyone is connected during this time!

Moving-On Box Needs

Dish Soap
Window Cleaner
Spray Bottles of Kitchen/BAthroom Clorox
Fry Pans
9x13 Cake Pans
Paring Knives


We are finding that our newsletter is only being opened by about 46% of the people who receive it by email weekly. Make sure you share the news that we have updated it to this new platform and that is is also posted to our website weekly.

The Soup Kitchen

Council has voted to halt our in-person services to assist at the Soup Kitchen due to the dangers of COVID-19 and will revisit the project at the beginning of the year. If congregants would like to volunteer on their own, please contact the Soup Kitchen directly at their office number: (712) 279-3199.

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. Here is the list of current needs. The items in all CAPS are the ones that they are completey out of at the moment.

Tater tots
Individually wrapped snacks
To go containers
To go soup bowls with lids
Fruit/Jello/Pudding cups
Food service plastic wrap
Plastic silverware (no knives)
Dinner napkins
Italian dressing
Coco powder
Baking powder (just a small amount)
Instant mashed potatoes
Chicken broth and base
Individual coffee creamers
Styrofoam coffee cups with lids
Hand soap
Frozen vegetables
Oven cleaner
Paper towels
Toilet paper

Erik's Closet Needs:
Tennis shoes
Toilet paper
Shaving cream
Tampons and pads
Body and baby wipes
Body wash
Foot powder
Shampoo and conditioner

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
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. Just bring them to church when Tiffany is in the office and she will open the doors upstairs for you to bring your things in.

Sharing Our Community Memories and God Moments
In the spirit of Pastor Al Hohl's book on Prayer we've been talking about the importance of Remembering. To Pastor Hohl, forgetting is not the opposite of remembering. He says that DISmembering is actually the opposite of REmembering. He writes, " not remember is to tear apart. What we tear apart runs the risk of being scattered in our imaginations" (Hohl 2020, 172). I believe we would rather not run this risk. 

We are starting our own Story Corps Project. We would like your story about how this faith community has benefited your life in written, audio recorded, or video recorded format. Please send them to Todd at or back to Tiffany at our church email at In case you need some prompts from Pastor Anne to get started, here are a few that might help:

  • I came to FCUCC because . . .
  • The person or group here who has made the most difference in my life is _____ because . . . 
  • I learned something new here that deepened my faith when . . .
  • I was able to make a difference in the community/wider world through FCUCC when . . .
  • A time I met God through FCUCC was . . .
  • A favorite memory I have of my time with FCUCC is . . .
Church Office Hours

Monday - Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Church Staff:

Rev. Dr. Michael Castle

Tiffany Watts, Church Administrator

Todd Siefker, Intergenerational Coordinator

Rick Darrow, Organist
Church Contact Information

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