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Grace United Church of Christ, Houston Texas

COMMENTS FROM GRACE UCC MEMBER IN DISCERNMENT BRENDA FLUITT

What do you do when you see a stranger? Do you look away? Do you just stare through the other? Do you say hello with a smile? My immediate response is to wonder. Looking into the face of anyone and choosing that they are a part of who I am even though I do not know them yet. Wonder is the wellspring of love. When wondering about someone-anyone, it determines the stories we hear and whose happiness and anguish we share. These are the ones we weep and hold during grief. These are the ones we stand with and stand for. When we all can wonder about each other and the other, we start the process of fighting for and standing with those for change and freedom. Standing shoulder to shoulder with those we wonder about is love and solidarity.

I want to introduce you to a woman that shaped so many lives, mine included. Sally Miller-Gearhart (April 14, 1931 – July 14, 2021) was a lesbian activist, author of books including "Loving Women/Loving Men: Gay Liberation and the Church." She fought anti-gay policies alongside Harvey Milk, wrote influential books, including science-fiction, and founded a women-only refuge in the woods.

In the mid-1970s, Ms. Gearhart was co-chair of the Council on Religion and the Homosexual. This organization offered a variety of speaking events and literature to educate followers on the Judeo-Christian tradition. It also educated legislators about LGBTQ people and the issues that they faced. Ms. Gearhart worked with Milk on the 1978 defeat of Proposition 6, a California ballot initiative that sought to exclude gay men and lesbians from teaching in public schools. During the Prop 6 campaign, Ms. Gearhart and Milk debated then-state Senator John Briggs, the author of the anti-gay initiative. Terry Beswick, a gay man who is executive director of the GLBT Historical Society, states, "Sally's contributions to LGBTQ history and culture were immeasurable," Beswick stated. "She was a courageous fighter for equality at a time when it made an indelible difference then and now."

The Stonewall Riots, also called the Stonewall Uprising, began in the early hours of June 28, 1969, when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City. The raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents as police roughly hauled employees and patrons out of the bar, leading to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar on Christopher Street, in neighboring streets, and in nearby Christopher Park. The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world. A man that I met many years ago participated in the riots that were happening. This man also hid many of the folks in his apartment, Dr. Reverend Troy Perry, a man I met, shaped, and changed my life. For a while, I wondered about what he and I had in common. Troy and I became antagonists for each other. I, not unlike today, challenged him on his stance of "open and affirming." My issue was about, the same today, women in the pulpit. Troy Perry was the founder of what many know today as MCC (Metropolitan Community Churches). While we were antagonists for each other, we both grew from that relationship. The fact that I am still speaking of him today speaks to how "wonder" has an impact on people's lives.

The March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation was a large political rally that took place in Washington, D.C., on April 25, 1993. Organizers estimated that 1,000,000 attended the March. Gail and I were part of that 1,000,000+ in attendance. This action came from the initial "wondering" about a person we see and have a chance to impact many lives with. The change took place on June 26, 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalized it in all fifty states, and required states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses in the case Obergefell v. Hodges. Gail and I were able to marry in our home state of Texas, in our home church, Grace United Church of Christ, by our pastor Reverend David Pantermuehl, with family in attendance, the members of Grace UCC, and Gail's biological family.

I wonder about how we as a family of Christ can impact Black History, as our nation struggles against two pandemics: COVID-19, the respiratory disease, and COVID-1619, the disease of racism that has plagued us since the first slave ships arrived on American shores in 1619. The history of Black America is one of resilience, activism, and triumph. We need to wonder about the black bodies we make eye contact with. Maybe we need to dig deeper into the vibrant tapestry of Black culture in wondering how we can change symptoms of that disease: voter suppression, racial disparities in health care and housing, and gross inequities in jobs and justice.

What I have learned about myself while wondering about the other is: (1) Loss comes to us all, but so does grace. (2) We can disagree and still be together. (3) Kindness is the greatest treasure I have to give away. (4) We are all healed, even if it does not happen on our timeline. (5) Imagination is a form of prayer.

What is among your 'mountain of obstacles' preventing your heart from where it needs to be?

"There seems to be a mountain of obstacles preventing people from being where their hearts want to be. It is so painful to watch and experience. The astonishing thing is that the battle for survival has become so "normal" that few people really believe that it can be different...Oh, how important is discipline, community, prayer, silence, caring presence, simple listening, adoration, and deep, lasting faithful friendship. We all want it so much, and still, the powers suggesting that all of that is fantasy are enormous. But we have to replace the battle for power with the battle to create space for the spirit." - Henri Nouwen


At our congregational meeting last month, the congregation voted unanimously to call Grace UCC Member in Discernment, Brenda Fluitt to be Grace UCC Minister of Evangelism and Outreach! With the Houston Association pending approval, Brenda will be ordained as a UCC minister hopefully next month. Details to follow. Congratulations Brenda!

 

 Upcoming Events 

THIS TRIP HAS BEEN RESCHEDULED to Oct 18. Special Bus Trip Invitation (offered by the Silver Sneakers)

Greetings all! It's been over a year since we've gone on a bus trip together. Many of you have been asking me about when we were going to begin again. Finally. we have a trip scheduled! A bus will be provided by Harris County Precinct 3 for senior citizens 55 and older, and they provide an experienced bus driver. Since we are again in a pandemic, they are making sanitation even more important, and encourage the use of masks. They have also lowered the minimum number of passengers from 15 to 10. There is usually good ventilation in the bus as well.

When: Wednesday, September 15th, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

To where: The Sea Center in Lake Jackson and then lunch at the Seahorse Bar & Grill on Surfside Beach. 

Cost: A donation, usually $1, to help pay the bus driver's expenses, plus whatever you want to spend for lunch. There is no entrance fee at the Sea Center, but they would appreciate donations.

Schedule: 9:00 a.m. Board the bus in the parking lot of Grace UCC, @ 8515 Brookwulf Dr, Houston, TX 77072. The church is located about a block south of the intersection of Dairy Ashford and Beechnut. There's a nursing home on the corner where you turn on to Brookwulf. Here's a link to the Google Maps site: ttps://goo.gl/maps/Ku2xVWLhyXvMie7R6

10:30 a.m. We tour the aquarium at The Sea Center in Lake Jackson. Website: https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishing/sea-center-texas/

12:00 Lunch @ The Seahorse Bar & Grill on Surfside Beach. You can view the menu on this website: http://places.singleplatform.com/pirates-alley-cafe-0/menu?ref=google

2:00  Board the bus to return to the church. We should be back there by about 3 p.m.

Please reply to this email if you want to "sign up" for the trip, or if you have any questions, and provide me with your address, phone number, and emergency contact. I need that for the bus form. Also, you can bring guests. Just let me know. 

If you don't want to receive these invitations anymore, just simply reply STOP. Looking forward to being together again and having fun! 

Wishing you peace, Donna C  713-591-7164  houstonviamexico@comcast.net

Special Invitation from St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church.

The church is invited to a performance of Tolton: From Slave to Priest, an original one-man live drama performed by actor Jim Coleman and produced by Saint Luke Productions. The story is of the first African American Catholic Priest. The performance will be at St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church, 13350 Ashford Point Drive, Houston, TX 77082, on Thursday, September 9. at 7 PM. Admission is a Free Will Offering. Suitable for ages 10+

SEPTEMBER BIRTHDAYS

Marigold D 3, Simeon J 4, Rosita M 6, Gilliw R, & Lenelle J 8, Lemjun B, Noah B, Brenda M 15, Anna L, Eli W 16,   John H 17, Marilyn R 20, Karen P 22, Stephen L 25, Jay P/W 28

Happy Birthday!

THANK YOU TO ALL WHO CAME TO THE LAST ALL CHURCH WORK DAY. We were able to accomplish a great deal thanks to your help!

Update on Church Building

The church building repairs are in full swing. The Fellowship Center, has been repaired and the kitchen and the classrooms in the Education Wing should be done within the next two weeks. The new preschool is scheduled to begin this month. Brenda Fluitt has been working tirelessly with the contractor and workers. Thank you Brenda and the Church Council for all your hard work! A special thank you to all those who have been unpacking a mountain of boxes - Lee, Juli, Laura, Lenelle, and Esther. If you would like to help, please contact Brenda.

Please Remember in Prayer

Members: Marissa B and Family (her father Jamie). Donna C, Barbara C and family (her son Bruce), Rose F, Perla F, Brenda F, the family and friends of Elaine H, Gail H, Mae Delle J, Bola K and Family (her mother), Lisa L, Cyd N and family (her father), Halima P and family (her mother), Jay P, Tatiana R, Valerie R, Jessie S, Millie W, Martin W. Aster F-Z and family (her father).

Friends: Leah B (Laura B), Barbara & Milas D (Juli K), Rick J (Laura B), Dick S (Juli K) 

OCTOBER NEWSLETTER

Please send all articles for the September newsletter by Wednesday, 9/15/2021, to graceucchouston@sbcglobal.net

Contact Information: Grace United Church of Christ

8515 Brookwulf Dr., Houston, TX 77072-3838 

281-575-7866 

Website: graceucchouston@sbcglobal.net

Labors of love

Thomas Merton, an American monk, writer and social activist, said, “It is in the ordinary duties and labors of life that the Christian can and should develop his spiritual union with God.” As the United States observes Labor Day, may we find meaning not simply in marking summer’s end but in celebrating the ways nearly all “duties and labors of life” can empower ministry and faith.

Whether as a dentist, parent, artist, teacher, mechanic, gardener, city councilor, farmer, day laborer, attorney or anything else, a Christian can begin each workday or shift by praying for opportunities to serve whoever they’ll encounter. We also can pray for and seek ways to grow in “spiritual union with God”: cultivating spiritual fruits; actively loving God and neighbor; seeing Jesus in the vulnerable; practicing humility, gratitude and praise.

In Labor Day, may we find inspiration to make all our labors loving and faithful!

A cheerful what?

Guideposts editor Mary Ann O’Roark recalls hearing the phrase “cheerful liver” so often in church as a girl that she asked her grandmother what a liver is. “It’s a part inside you, like your stomach or your heart,” Grandma replied.

Rather confused, O’Roark tried to figure out how to be cheerful from the inside out. Then during Sunday school one week, a classmate explained that God loves a cheerful giver, not liver. Years later, however, O’Roark realized that her younger self wasn’t too far off the mark. After all, God does indeed love someone who lives cheerfully, spreading the hope and joy that he longs for all people to know!

After all, it was Jesus who said, “I came that [all] may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, NRSV).

When God crosses our paths

Pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.” Last spring, the whole world had plans canceled, first by Covid-19 and then by God “sending us people with claims and petitions.” Some needed prayers for healing or for coping with grief. Medical staff, teachers, pastors and others serving long hours needed support: meals, check-in calls, “thinking of you” cards. Parents working remotely while helping kids with distance-learning needed encouragement. Crucial nonprofit work still required donations.

Pre-pandemic, you may not have realized that staying home or wearing a face mask could be a ministry. Or that sending a card expresses love in Jesus’ name. Or that buying takeout from a local restaurant can be a gift to the owners. When our calendars empty, God “crosses our paths” in new ways — both to be with us and to nudge us toward others (even if virtually, or 6 feet apart!).

Power in weakness

In the late 1970s, Henry Smith was struggling to find work after finishing his education. He also lived with a degenerative disease that caused him to become legally blind. But one day he heard a pastor explain that Jesus became poor so we might become rich through him. This idea inspired Smith to craft a song of thanks for God’s gift of Jesus. Though Smith wrote more than 300 songs, only this one became widely known (sometimes labeled “author unknown” or misattributed, but finally rightfully credited to him).

“Give thanks with a grateful heart,” the song begins exuberantly. One of its most poignant lines urges, “Let the weak say, I am strong … because of what the Lord has done for us.” Across two millennia, Smith’s words and faith echo the apostle Paul: “[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NRSV).

Christian Community Service Center - COVID-19 Update:


CCSC is open & helping those in need. CCSC is continuing its work and mission, while taking the necessary precautions with our staff and volunteers.  The CCSC food pantries are essential services - serving as a grocery store to our clients - in compliance with the "Stay at Home, Work Safe" order issued by the City of Houston.  Your assistance is needed now more than ever. CCSC continues to closely monitor recommendations from local and national officials and experts regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. After significant consideration, we have made the following adjustments to program operations:
*The Emergency Services sites (3230 Mercer and 6856 Bellaire Blvd) are focused on providing food to those in need. We have modified operations to get clients served quickly - foregoing interviews and supplying a preassembled grocery package. Thank you to Donna Cardinale and Jane Eixmann, who continue to volunteer to help serve clients during this pandemic.
We are conducting phone interviews for financial requests for help with rent or utilities for residents living within our zip code range. If you need financial assistance and live in one of these zip codes: 77002, 77003, 77004, 77005, 77006, 77007, 77010, 77011, 77012, 77019, 77020, 77021, 77023, 77025, 77026, 77027, 77028, 77030, 77031, 77036, 77046, 77056, 77057, 77072, 77074, 77081, 77096, 77098 and 77401, please call for an appointment--713-8719741.

 
The community can help by donating nonperishable food items or making a donation.  Go to ccschouston.org and click on the "Make a Contribution" button.
*JobNet is primarily serving clients via phone, e-mail, and online tools. In person appointments may be scheduled for limited services, based on need. New and existing clients are encouraged to call JobNet at 713-626-8320 to receive ongoing virtual support during this time.

*Scheduled Martha's Way classes are postponed until further notice.
 

There are two convenient ways to make a donation:  Donate on-line by visiting our secure website www.ccschouston.org OR Mail a personal check to CCSC, PO Box 27924, Houston, TX 77227 (Please make checks payable to CCSC with "Back To School" written in the notes section.)  Donations needed and accepted year-round!

 to all our guests!

    Soaring With The Spirit

    Grace

    UNITED CHURCH O F   C H R I S T
    8515 Brookwulf Drive
    Houston, Texas 77072
    PH: 281-575-7866

    Worship 10:00 AM Sunday School for all ages 11:30 AM