FIRST CONGREGATIONAL UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST – OUR OPEN AND AFFIRMING GREAT FALLS CHURCH WHERE EVERYONE IS WELCOME!
LOOKING AHEAD… Advent and Christmas Schedule
December 10 – Joint Worship Service at 10:00 A.M. Combined Choir Cantata
December 17 – UCC Worship at 9:30 A.M. Christmas Pageant
December 21 – Ecumenical Blue Christmas Service, 7:00 P.M., UCC/CUMC Sanctuary
December 24 – Joint Worship Service at 10:00 A.M.
December 24 – Christmas Eve Candle light services at 6:30 P.M. and 10:00 P.M.
December 31 – Joint Worship Service at 10:00 A.M.
January 7 – UCC Worship at 11:00 A.M.
A MUSICAL DREAMTIME JOURNEY Saturday, December 16th, 7:00 P.M.
Lawrence Duncan and Michael Marsolek (of the Drum Brothers) will once again hold a special concert event in our sanctuary celebrating the season of lights and winter solstice on a variety of wind instruments including: didgeridoos, ethnic flutes, bassoon, saxophones, drums and percussion instruments, harp, Tibetan bowls, voices and other musical surprises. The concert is held without applause, in the round, and by candlelight. Tickets will be available at Planet Earth (116 Central Ave.) or online at www.drumbrothers.com. For ages 10 and up. Bring a blanket and pillow, and dress comfortably!
BLUE CHRISTMAS SERVICE
This is a worship service held on the longest day of the year for those who may struggle with the joy and happiness around them. It is for those who are grieving, are experiencing loss or trial and those who need for their challenges to be acknowledged in the midst of all that is happy and joyous. This service is an effort of the Great Falls Ministerial Association and will be on Thursday, December 21st at 7:00 PM in the sanctuary. There will be a blue candle that you can take home with you to remind you that “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.” Please tell your friends and family about this service. It is a blessing for many.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS!
The combined Chancel Choirs, with instrumental accompaniment, will be presenting the Christmas portion of the Messiah on Sunday, December 10th. This is a combined worship service at 10:00 A.M. The performance will feature instrumental accompaniment. Don’t miss this memorable musical event!
DARKWOOD BREW COMING SOON!
Darkwood Brew is a small group ministry program which uses guided episodes, video, discussion questions, and interviews with well-known contemporary religious thinkers to consider topics as wide-ranging as forgiveness, religious diversity, the environment and the Lord’s prayer—to name just a few. The episodes are hosted by Dr. Eric Elnes who earned a degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and who is the minister at Countryside Community UCC in Omaha, NE. The program is discussion based, with questions designed to spark great conversation. The Christian Education board will sponsor a lay-led Darkwood session beginning in February. Stay tuned for more details! In the meantime, check out Darkwood Brew online at darkwoodbrew.org!
OUTDOOR MINISTRY NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT
Outdoor Ministry has been an important part of the mission of the Montana-Northern Wyoming Conference for many generations, and is a major focus right now for our Conference. For many people in Montana-Northern Wyoming UCC, outdoor ministry experiences happen at Camp Mimanagish through retreats and camps for folks of all ages. Rentals to outside groups are an important source of financial support of the epicenter of Conference outdoor ministries. To make camp more attractive to outside groups, the facility needs upgrades in restroom and shower facilities, new mattresses, and some cabin renovation. Jerry Nye, the moderator of Community Congregational UCC in Columbus, MT, has announced that Columbus has pledged to donate $5000 to Camp Mimanagish and challenges all other congregations to do the same! This is an exciting opportunity to be part of one of the most transformative ministries in our conference. Many people, including a large percentage of ministers, have felt the profound impact from being part of an Outdoor Ministry program. Please help the Conference improve Camp Mimanagish so people from our own denomination and beyond will have the chance to feel God through nature. If you would like to help First Congregational in Great Falls meet—and even exceed—this challenge, please mark the memo line on your check “Camp”. With support from all of us, outdoor ministry at Camp Mimanagish will continue for many generations to come!
OUR WHOLE LIVES (OWL) PARENT INFORMATION MEETING- SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10th, 11:30 A.M.
Parents of 7th & 8th Grade Youth are invited to meet in the Parlor for an informational meeting about OWL in general and the specific course we are offering (we may need to shift to one of the Sunday School rooms). The course itself will begin with an Orientation for parents and youth on Sunday, January 7th from 4:00-6:00 P.M. There will be an opening lock-in for youth on January 12th at 6:00 P.M. through January 13th at 12:30 P.M., followed by weekly sessions on Sundays (beginning January 21st) from 4:00-6:00 P.M. There will also be a mid-course lock in at the end of February or early March and a closing lock-in May 4th-5th.
OWL models and teaches caring, compassion, respect, and justice. It helps youth address their attitudes and values, their feelings about themselves and their sexuality, as well as their attitudes about the sexuality of others. Participants are guided by trained adult facilitators through an engaging curriculum that addresses topics typically excluded from sexuality education and health classes. The program that is being offered is a joint effort with First Congregational United Church of Christ and Christ United Methodist Church and is seen as an important way that we can live into our Open and Affirming status. The program is being offered to youth in the Great Falls Community and has a limit of 15 participants. Parents of church 7th & 8th graders are encouraged to let us know if your child plans to participate so we can give them priority in registering.
For more information, please contact any of our trained OWL facilitators: Rev. Lynne Spencer-Smith, church office; Carol Shipley, (406) 868-9138; Kelly McKeehan, (406) 599-8742; Abbie Thompson, (406) 465-5640
FROM THE PASTOR
I first knew Bill as the father of one of my high school church youth group friends. As I became an adult and started participating in the leadership of the church, I got to know Bill as a friend and someone I admired. He was an astute businessman. He was a wiz at finances. He loved the church and provided leadership both locally and in the conference. After I moved away to go to seminary, Bill took a new job in the national offices of the United Church of Christ to help oversee the move from New York City to Cleveland. After that was done, he took another job with the United Church of Christ to help oversee the business end of the restructuring of the governance of the denomination. After that was done, he took one last job with the national offices. He oversaw the remodeling of the physical offices of the denomination so that they would better reflect our polity. The Amistad chapel would remain on the ground floor and open to the public. The officers would have their offices on the second floor (rather than the top floor) in order to better reflect our non-hierarchical polity. It was while he was in the middle of blueprints and construction that I last saw Bill. He was happy and excited about what he was doing. As he was showing me around, he paused and told me that every job he had ever had in his life had prepared him for this. This was what he was meant to do and he understood that his entire life’s journey was to prepare him to complete this one last task. He was almost 70 years old at the time.
Prepare. We so often want our preparations to be quick and easy, almost instant. We want to just add water to our days, pop our lives into some sort of microwave of fulfillment and in 30 quick seconds be all ready to move into our life’s purpose. But, we really know it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes that which God needs of us takes a lifetime. But we get bored. And we get impatient. And we get impulsive. And we get distracted. And we get lost. Because God’s time takes longer than we think it should. But God has a way of making things come about just when they need to and in the way they need to. The hard part is, we tend to think we’ve got a better handle on things than does God.
So as you move into this next week of Advent, remember that our preparations for the coming of God’s reign of peace, love and justice are more about watching for how God might be preparing us to do our part. While we prepare for the daily coming of Christ, we are also preparing for the bigger picture, the lifelong journey, the eternal in-breaking of God’s realm. May your preparations be blessed with hope and peace.