Community UCC eNews
January 23, 2020
Community UCC is an inclusive and progressive Christian Church doing social justice, environmental faithfulness, interfaith collaboration and and spiritual formation to help ourselves and others grow in faith, hope and love.

Sunday Sermon  

Sunday, Jan. 26, Pastor Ara will deliver a sermon titled "There is a Reason for Everything — It's a Long Story," based on John 9:1-41 .

Jesus: Stories and Signs 
The sermon texts from Jan. 19 through March 29 will be a parable or a miracle inspiring us to revel in the mystery, open to possibilities previously dismissed or ignored, and emboldened to act with courage, conviction and LOVE.

Worship Service Each Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
NOTE: We broadcast our Sunday Worship service on Facebook Live beginning at 10:30 a.m. We want to make service accessible to members or friends who can't be with us on Sunday mornings. The camera captures the front of the Sanctuary and the first couple of rows of seats.
For this recurring feature in eNews, Doug Hoagland, a longtime Fresno Bee reporter, interviews members of our congregation so we can get to know each other better. New profiles run at least once a month. To read other Meet Our Members profiles,  visit our website .

Felicia and David Rocha, members since 2017

Tell us about yourselves:
Felicia: I was born and raised in Fresno. I’m a preschool teacher, mother of two, wife to David and a lover of this church. I graduated from McLane High School at 15 and had a scholarship to go away to college. But I was too young to leave Fresno, and if I had, I wouldn’t have met David. Everything has a way of working out.

David: I was born in Puebla, Mexico, and came to the U.S. when I was 1½. My mom worked in the cotton fields and she met my stepdad – who I call my dad. They had eight children so I’m the oldest of nine kids. All my brothers and sisters have blond hair and blue eyes, but they’re my family, and I’m very blessed to have such a big family. I graduated from Clovis High School, and I work at Valley Children’s Hospital in the imaging department. I’m blessed to help children medically.

How did you two meet?

Felicia: We actually have a funny story. We met on Valentine’s Day, and I was on a date with another guy. David walked up to us, shook the hand of my date and said, “I’m so sorry to do this to you. But if I don’t do this now, I’ll never forgive myself.” Then he asked me out. 

David: She was wearing a Bjork pendant with really colorful beads. I’m a huge fan of Bjork, and the pendant was my cue. I’d seen Felicia around Fresno City College, but we’d never talked.

Felicia: When David asked me out, I turned to my date and said, “I am  so  sorry.” And I left with David.

David: We had so much in common and immediately had this beautiful conversation. I knew she was my soulmate.

What brought you to Community UCC?
Felicia: We both grew up Catholic, although David had a little more of a mixed background. As adults, neither us went to church. We ran wild for a little while and then settled down and had a family. Our daughter, Aravis, is 13, and our son, Rossi, is 12. 

David: But the Lord was always in our hearts.

Felicia: Some friends had a come-to-Jesus moment, and they wanted that for us, too. We felt the presence of the Lord when they were praying with us, and it was life-changing. We ended up at People’s Church, and we had a great time there. It was great for our kids – they have such a good children’s program. But after a while, we were biting our tongues. 

David: They’re not open to the LGBTQ community, and they weren’t open to progressive thinking. We’re very supportive of the LGBTQ community, and it’s a big part of our lives. 

Felicia: So we stopped going because it just didn’t feel right. We tried other churches, and we couldn’t find a fit. All this time, we were living across from Community UCC, and I walked by every day taking our kids to school. One day I saw the rainbow flag flying here, and a light bulb went off in my head. What it said on the church website spoke to me. We came one Sunday, and we left saying, “This feels like home.”

David: We felt so welcomed, and our children felt so welcomed. It was perfect. It was meant to be.
What church activities have you been involved with?

Felicia: I’m currently vice moderator. I have been chair of the Missions and Social Justice Team, and David and I are youth group leaders.

David: I’m also on the Building and Grounds Team.

What do you find special or different about Community UCC?

Felicia: This church speaks to my heart. I didn’t realize growing up that I’m a natural-born advocate for social justice. I spent my childhood, teenage years and young-adult years arguing with people, saying: “How do you not understand we’re all supposed to be advocates for justice?” When I came here, I realized that maybe I don’t have to argue with everybody. I can make a difference by being in this church. It’s everything I want for my kids.

David: One of the most beautiful gifts you can give your kids is a love for God, and I’ve felt that love here like I’ve never felt it. I almost get tearful thinking of the beauty this church brings into our lives. We’re so glad to finally find a place that speaks to us, is progressive, and has a beautiful relationship with the Holy Spirit and God. 

What is your vision for the church?

Felicia: I would love for us to grow. There have to be people out there who’ve walked away from religion, and I want us to spread the word to them and say, “Even when you think there’s no home for you, there is here.”

David: There’s a millennial community that’s not aware of the beauty this church offers. I want us to reach out to them, and when they come, this church will change their lives in ways they can’t even imagine. 

What’s one thing about you that might surprise people?

Felicia:  I have pretty bad social anxiety. The strange thing is, it never seems to manifest itself when I do anything church-related. God is awesome.

David: I’m a bisexual family man, and I live openly. I want others in the LGBTQ community to know the Lord loves them and they’re welcome here.

How would classmates in high school have described you?

Felicia: Wild (laughter). I was in high school during the ’90s. I was all about raves. I was a party girl.

David: I was a hippy.

Tell me about a favorite musician:

Felicia: David Bowie. I have a David Bowie tattoo on my arm. He has a partner relationship with us. (Laughter)

David: Absolutely David Bowie. When we got married, our wedding song was his “As The World Falls Down.” We have a David Bowie closet in our house. 

Felicia: The Bowie Closet has a huge woven tapestry of Bowie that covers the main wall. We have memorabilia, action figures, posters, you name it. It’s like a shrine without the praying (laughter).
New Year Resolutions Recovery Kit Raffle

Each month, a different church team presents a church fundraiser. For January, the Charitable Gifts & Endowments team, along with the Personnel team, want you to celebrate the achievements and failures you survived in 2019. We also hope to inspire you to continue dreaming big as you work towards your own self-growth.

Too often we are afraid to take risks for the fear of failure. With this basket, we want you to know that it’s okay. It’s okay to dream big. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to stay the same. It’s okay to be YOU!

Whether you’re a dreamer living life in the fast lane, or enjoy the slower pace of life to truly embrace the beauty it has to offer, this basket has something for you!

Is this a comfort basket to ease the setbacks you encounter? Is it a celebration basket to enjoy your accomplishments as they’re achieved? Or perhaps it’s simply a basket of goodies just to celebrate you? You get to decide!

Tickets will be on sale in the breezeway before and after worship this Sunday. D rawing to be held at noon on Jan. 26 . Tickets are $10 each. To learn more about what's in the basket, check out our Facebook event .
ICYMI (In Case You Missed It): It appears that Pastor Ara's contacts were compromised by someone who is attempting to contact people in a fraudulent way. On Monday, Jan. 20, several church members received text messages from a number purporting to be him. In addition a member of our congregation received an email a few weeks ago that seemed to be of a similar fraudulent nature. Pastor Ara has reported these incidents to the authorities. Members of Wesley and Big Red, as well as Pastor Chris' new congregation in the Bay Area received similar messages (not necessarily all claiming to be Pastor Ara).

If you receive a text message or email from someone asking you to purchase a gift card to help someone going through a difficult time, be very caution in determining its source. Pastor Ara's cell phone does not begin with a 415 area code. His true email addresses that he uses are  pastor@communityucc.com  (the email address for our church pastor) and  badarg@me.com  (a personal address).

The pastor and church have a policy and funds for helping those in need, and will never reach out to members in such a manner. Be on the alert. Please contact the church office on Tuesday if you have any questions.
Men's Book Study Group

The men's book study group, led by facilitators Rod Zook and Chad Hayden, will continue their study of "Naked Spirituality" by Brian McLaren at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27 , in Room 3. The group will discuss the introduction to Section 4 and Chapter 22.
NEW TIME: The Women's book for January and February will be "Holy Envy, Finding God in the Faith of Others" by Barbara Brown Taylor. We study at 4 p.m. Tuesdays in the Conference Room.  

Upcoming reading assignments:
Jan. 28 Ch. 4 and 5
Feb. 4 Ch. 6 and 7
Feb. 11 Ch. 8 and 9
Feb. 18 Ch. 10 and 11
Feb. 25 Ch. 12 and Epilogue
 
Living the Questions 2.0

Below are the upcoming topics (subject to change) and theme for January and February.

Theme: RECLAIMING THE WORLD 

Jan.  26 The Prophetic Jesus
Feb. 2 Evil, Suffering & A God of Love
Feb.  9 The Myth of Redemptive Violence
Feb.  16 Practicing Resurrection
Feb.  23 Debunking the Rapture
Saturday Morning Breakfast Group
Saturday, Feb. 1
Conference Room
Breakfast at 8:45 a.m.,
talk begins at 9 a.m.

On Feb. 1, Phil Fullerton will discuss "Eight Years in Provence; a look at French Culture." Pastor Ara has agreed to provide breakfast. 

On March 7, Gary Walker will talk about "The Life and Legacies of Leonardo da Vinci.” Breakfast host for March is still to be determined.
Interfaith Scholar Weekend
Feb. 21-23

As part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, one of his grandsons, Rajmohan Gandhi, will be the speaker for the 2020 Interfaith Scholar Weekend event Feb. 21-23 . For more information and to register, see the website www.interfaithscholar.org or pick up a brochure in the Narthex.
We have many ways for you to pray here at Community UCC, and ways in which we can lend our collective strength to your individual prayer requests.

We have a table in the Narthex (the entry area outside of the Sanctuary) where you can light a candle for yourself, someone, or a place that needs prayer. We have paper and pencil where you can write down your prayer and put it in the container and our confidential prayer team will pray for you for thirty days. We also have a prayer book where you can write down your prayer and it will be lifted up during worship.

Our newest way, you can submit a prayer request through our new dedicated prayer requests web page. Learn more here .
In each week's eNews, we include a news article from our larger denomination, United Church of Christ , to show the faithful work being done in other places.
UCC abolishes $12.9 million in medical debt in St. Louis, continuing national initiative

More than 11,000 families in St. Louis will soon be learning that their outstanding medical debt has been forgiven through donations from the United Church of Christ.

Contributions from local churches, regional bodies, the national office and inspired individuals, matched in part by a generous investment from the  Deaconess Foundation , have wiped out almost $13 million in debt for low-income households in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County. UCC leaders shared the news Jan. 18 at  Christ the King United Church of Christ , in Florissant, Mo. That congregation birthed the idea that triggered this effort, to honor their pastor’s 10th year of leadership, and raised $15,450 for the cause. Continue reading at the UCC.com website .
A Q&A from Progressing Spirit

Question: Why do we still pay attention to the Bible in 2020?

Answer: By Rev. Fran Pratt

Dear Reader,

I consider the Bible to be the story of one particular segment of world culture's interaction with the Divine over time. The story begins with one insular clan relating to the Divine in all the ways complex and fallible humans do, getting some ideas right and misunderstanding others. It has traditions, assumptions and rituals surrounding its understanding of higher power; some of which is timeless, others hopelessly limited. The clan grows into a tribe, then into a nation, gradually fractalizing and spreading across places and cultures; all the while struggling to connect with and understand the Divine, and never quite realizing that the Divine is within them all along. There's a grand search for moral truth threading through the whole story - humans asking how best to be in the world? How best to live wisely? And we can see the Divine pointing the way and remaining compassionately present when its guidance is rejected or scorned. 
 
Then a Person emerges from the community who is able to sum up the story and speak Divine Truth with humanity's own voice. In this Person the Divine is wholly present; the best is fully embodied. This Person is so compelling that his brief physical presence on the earth changes the course of history in innumerable ways. He embodies Divine Love and Light, and believes that ordinary folks can do the same. He’s the catalyst for a whole new branch of the world's Wisdom Tradition, and inspires many other Saints and Sages in history and in much of today's compassionate work. 
 
So, yes, I consider the Bible to be a very special and authoritative piece of world literature. The stories it contains, and the overarching story it tells, inspire and guide us still. We’re more enlightened because it exists. To me, this is good enough reason to read it. I don't need it to serve as scientific or historical Truth (although I do think it points to *some* of that), or a rulebook. To me, the story of the Christ's emergence from that particular Hebrew/Judaic wisdom tradition speaks to the character of the Divine. I'm grateful the Christ helped clear up so many of humanity's misunderstandings of the Divine. And the story of the people's movement from insular clan to the "community of heaven" speaks to the Divine's bent toward Oneness.
 
I have problems with how the scriptures have been misused to justify oppression and greed, and with how the Canon was solidified (reinforcing Patriarchy, erasing women's contributions to the faith), but that's humanity for you. I'm free to read whatever was left out, plus the wisdom literature of other world traditions, with gratitude and curiosity. Humanity is far from moral perfection, but the Biblical scriptures have contributed to our being collectively closer to it than we ever have been. I attribute much of that to the legacy of the Christ recorded in scripture. I think the Christ is a trustworthy representative of moral truth. He embodies Love, and Love is universal moral truth. 

About the Author: Rev. Fran Pratt is a pastor, writer, musician, and mystic. Making meaningful and beautiful liturgy to be spoken, practiced, and sung, is at the heart of her creative drive. Fran authored a  book of congregational litanies , and regularly creates and shares modern liturgy on her  website  and  Patreon . Her prayers are prayed in churches of various sizes and traditions across the globe. She writes, speaks, and consults on melding ancient and new liturgical streams in faith and worship. Fran is Pastor of Worship and Liturgy at Peace of Christ Church in Round Rock, Texas.
Happy Birthday and Anniversary to all who are celebrating this month!

January Birthdays
2 Theodore Dutton
4 Lonna Walker
5 Stacy Fazio, Paige Newport
6 Mike Mighaccio
11 Kellin Chaffin, Nancy Parks
15 Jeff Jones
16 Helen Winkel
17 Joseph LeBeau, Patty Parks
19 Joel Van Patten
21 Betty Lundberg
24 Sue Hipp
25 Ben Parks
29 Carter Reynolds
31 Roger Wall
January Anniversaries
No anniversaries in January.

Did we overlook someone's birthday or anniversary for this month? Please let Marilyn ( office@communityucc.com ) and Lisa ( lisamboyles12@gmail.com ) know so we can get you in next week. We never intend to leave anyone out.

Upcoming Church Events

  • Thursday Evening Worship weekly at 7 p.m., we hold a weekly contemplative, interactive, spirit-filled worship service in the Sanctuary
  • Sundays at 9 a.m. Adult Education in the Conference Room
  • Feb. 1 Saturday Morning Breakfast Group, 8:45 a.m., Conference Room (see article above)
  • Feb. 2 Recycling Sunday, first Sunday of the month
  • Feb. 6 Council meeting, 5:30 p.m. Conference Room

Keep up to date with our Church's online calendar!
eNews deadline is 10 a.m. Wednesdays

CUCC eNews is a weekly publication distributed every Thursday. Deadline for submitting announcements is 10 a.m. Wednesdays (and earlier is appreciated). Please send your announcements to Marilyn at office@communityucc.com . Lisa Boyles (lisamboyles12@gmail.com, 559.244.9502) is the eNews editor and communications liaison for our church.
We've updated our Joyful Giving page to reflect the many ways members can help support our Church's missions and operations.

Phone: 559.435.2690 
Email: office@communityucc.com