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Grace United Church of Christ, Houston Texas

Clerical Comments 

Our congregation is blessed to have no less than ten ordained ministers participating in the life and ministry of Grace UCC. Each of these minsters offer a unique perspective on faith, the church, and current affairs. In the months to come, I hope many of the ministers will share their thoughts in this column. This month, the Rev. Stephen Loonam, a hospital Chaplin, has agreed to share. Thank you, Rev. Loonam.

Yours in Christ, Pastor David

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, ‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

“When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.’

“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.”

One of my supervisors in Clinical Pastoral Education (training beyond seminary that is required for professional chaplains) frequently reminded me and his other students that “words don’t have meaning; they have usage.” In recent times, a cultural understanding of the word ‘prophecy,’ and for that matter ‘apocalypse,’ has become the normal usage that is very different from its more traditional and ancient usage. Biblical prophets function less as predictors of the future and more as conveyors of divine will. The book of Jonah, which often reads as a satire of the other prophetic texts, highlights what we should do with prophecy. We should repent of our wrong-doings and change our ways to match God’s will for us. In changing course, we avoid the consequences of our unrepented wrongness.

Years ago, I delivered a sermon from the pulpit at Grace that defined ‘sin’ as ‘selfishness.’ It is a refusal to live for the other, to follow the Great Commandment of loving neighbor. I truly believe that many of our societal struggles and sufferings can be understood in terms of this sin. They are the consequences of our failure to heed prophecy.

These past 2 ½ years have been incredibly difficult for many people, if not all people. What I have seen in my role as a hospital chaplain, what this has done to so many health care workers, I am not ready to talk about…. which I realized again when I started crying as I tried to write this. What I can say, though, is that there were prophets, those who encouraged us to live for one another, to love our neighbor. As a whole, we did not listen. I can’t prove it because we can’t go back in time to do things differently, but one of the most painful thoughts I have about the pandemic is that, maybe, it was avoidable, at least the worst of it, if we, as an entire society, a whole world, had repented of our sin of selfishness and made different choices.

While we can’t change the past, there is hope. We can do better. We can make different choices and respond to prophecy by being the people that God is calling us to be. We can love our neighbors and live for one another. That is how we live into the full Great Commandment; it is through loving our neighbors that we love God. That is also how we will come together to make Earth like Heaven. While we are currently in one of the two liturgical seasons known as ‘Ordinary Time’ (the longest liturgical season of the year, ‘Time of the Church,’ growth, ‘Season after Pentecost’), I am reminded of the phrase that I say over and over again every year while imposing ashes throughout the hospital on Ash Wednesday, “Turn away from all that which separates you from God, and follow the Gospel.”

I want to close these comments with one more bit of prophecy, unrelated to the pandemic. Following the recent decision of the Supreme Court, I anticipate at least two consequences will be noticeable in the community hospital where I serve as chaplain (other consequences will be noticeable in other settings): 1) There will be more adoptions. 2) There will be individuals in ICU, and maybe the morgue, who did not want to be mothers.

Remember, though, when I use the word ‘prophecy,’ I am meaning the ancient understanding of the term, hopefully the one displayed in Jonah 3.

Peace, Stephen


 

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

July 03 - Hot Dogs and chips will be served after worship.

July 04 - Independence Day!

July 12 - Brigther Bites Food Distribution at Grace UCC

MISSION OPPORTUNITIES

Brighter Bites is Back!

Grace UCC has been asked to help with the distribution of food

  • Day of the Week: Tuesday
  • Dates: July 12th, July 19th & July 26th
  • Bagging Time: 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM 
  • Bagging Location: Fellowship Hall
  • Distribution Time: 3:30 - 4:30P 
  • Distribution Location: same location as the bagging project

We will bag the food from the Food Bank in the Fellowship Hall. Parents from Alexander have agreed to help. More details to follow!

This is a wonderful opportunity for the church to connect with our neighbors.

BACK TO SCHOOL COLLECTION FOR ALEXANDER ELEMENTARY

Start collecting now and bring the items to church on the first Sunday of August and we would sort the items out during/after the pot luck. Get more people involved.

Items that are needed by most grades:

 # 2 pencils

 Crayons

   pack of 24 large

   pack of 24 regular

   pack of 16 regular

 bottles of white glue 4oz.

 glue sticks

 tissues

 colored folders with brads

 Composition books wide-ruled

 Spiral notebooks wide-ruled

 3 hole notebook paper wide-ruled

 large pink erasers

 Box of colored map pencils

 8 oz. hand sanitizer with pump

 scissors

   5" blunt

   5" pointed

St. Peter United UCC Houston Shoe Drive

WHEN: May 15-July 31

WHAT: Gently used or New shoes of a monetary donation

WHY: to distribute to developing country entrepreneurs who need inventory to open a local shoe store to supply their family with income, provide employment to a community and place shoes on the feet of children and adults.

HOW: if your church will do a collection on a Sunday or two, we will find volunteers to come to you and collect them (or feel free to drop them by SPU on Thursdays or Sundays)

This is a great opportunity to clear out those gently used shoes to a wonderful cause. Thanks for joining forces to help us make a difference in the world!

If you have any questions just email us at 

SHOES@STPETERUNITED.COM

CCSC is also collecting for students returning to school.

Please Remember in Prayer

Please continue to remember Pastor Lina A, Lisa L, Mae Delle J, Jay P, Gene S, Martin W in your prayers. Prayers are also requested for Donna C's husband Tom. Thank you.

AUGUST NEWSLETTER

Please send all articles for the May newsletter by 7/15/2021, 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

JULY BIRTHDAYS

July 09 Pasha R, July 11 Isabella O and Ivan R, July 12 Paolo B, July 15 Ronda S

July 16 Dimples E, July 17 Jessie S, July 26 Luke P, July 30 Dmitry R

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Update Food Barrel Collections for 2022

Grace UCC members have been generous in bringing items for the food barrel.  Lisa Lum has been taking the items to House of Amos on Beechnut and Boone Road.  Since we also have a strong connection to CCSC (Christian Community Service Center) with volunteers in their Food Pantry on Bellaire Boulevard and financial contributions, Council has given its approval to alternating monthly collections for both locations.  January has been designated for House of Amos; February for CCSC Food Pantry on Bellaire Blvd; alternating the rest of the year.  Families in crisis situations may receive a distribution of food from House of Amos every 30 days. During this pandemic, CCSC is serving a bag of groceries to families as often as they need, with no restrictions on their zip code or the number of times they can come. Both locations ask the clients to complete an application form. Most needed items at this time are cereal, peanut butter, meat (tuna or chicken), fruit, hearty soups, pasta and sauce, vegetables. Thank you for your continued generosity in helping our less fortunate neighbors.  You can learn more about each organization at their website: http://www.houseofamos.org/ and https://ccschouston.org/

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!

Oxygen for ministry

Flight attendants instruct airplane passengers that if oxygen masks are needed, we should secure our own before assisting someone else. Why? If we aren’t getting enough oxygen ourselves, we can’t help another person for long.

The Holy Spirit empowers Christians for ministry — the work of loving and caring for our neighbors and God’s creation. But if we aren’t Spirit-fueled on an ongoing basis, we will soon lack capacity to serve. This may manifest as burnout, cynicism, exhaustion or even lack of faith. So how to ensure we’re breathing in the Spirit’s energy and guidance instead of poor-quality “air”?

By taking part in corporate worship regularly, immersing ourselves in the Scriptures (devotional reading and Bible study), praying “continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NIV) and spending time with Christian friends and mentors. Opening ourselves to the Spirit in these ways allows the Breath of God to flow into us, which in turn empowers us to reach out to others in love.

—Heidi Hyland Mann

The soul as soil

Gardeners who’ve dealt with inhospitable conditions can relate especially well to Jesus’ parable of the sower. Drought, invasive critters and thorny weeds often seem to conspire against growers’ efforts. Yet when seeds fall on “good soil,” the crop yield is abundant — up to a hundred times what was sown (Matthew 13:8).

That parable emphasizes the need for hearts to be receptive to God’s Word. But it’s also a reminder to plant Scripture persistently. Just as soil and weather conditions change, so may someone’s attitude toward following Jesus. Pastor J. Ellsworth Kalas writes, “Whenever we serve as witnesses to the faith, we must do so with all earnestness, because one doesn’t know the season in which the soul currently abides. That uninterested, distracted or unresponsive person may be nearer the Kingdom than we — or they — realize.” Kalas adds, “We dare not give up on anyone at any time — including ourselves.”

Parents are stewards

Striving to raise happy, well-rounded children isn’t wrong “unless those successes become the goal,” writes Jeffrey Reed in ParentLife magazine. For Christians, he says, the driving force of parenting should be helping kids follow God’s path.

“What if we parented as if we were temporary stewards of the greatest containers of godly potential?” Reed asks. “What if our goal for our children was to continually seek God's guidance on what it is that he wants for them and to help them pursue that goal on a daily basis?” He concludes: “In a hundred years, nothing we do will matter apart from the impact we've made in God’s kingdom on earth. Perhaps your children will be that legacy.”

Freedom

Each one of us is born most free

And we alone can choose

To do what God would have us do,

To use what God would use.

Or we are also free to seek

The proud and selfish way —

A life where other gods come first

To reign and hold full sway.

But when we follow where Christ leads,

We find that freedom’s place

Is really in God’s will for us,

And we have chosen GRACE!

—Peggy Ferrell, Prayers and Poems

UCC officers share prayer for Ukraine

by UCC Leadership | published on Feb 24, 2022

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”   Proverbs 6:16-19 

As the attention of the world turns to the ignored cries for peace from the people of Ukraine, we the officers of the United Church of Christ join our prayers with those of churches and people of faith all over the globe that the attack against Ukraine will cease. As a Just Peace Church, the United Church of Christ calls for the de-escalation of violence and a return to diplomatic negotiations, the only true way conflict ever ceases. We urge our members to pray...

Holy God, Hear our prayers for all those who will die today because of war in Ukraine and other war-torn countries all over this world. Grant them an end to the suffering of this world and eternal peace that is only found in You.  

We pray for the people of Ukraine, Russia, and all nations — that war and bloodshed can be avoided and a new, just peace can be forged out of this crisis. We ask God grant wisdom to the leaders of nations, calling them to end provocation on all sides and invest instead in “the things that make for peace” as called for in all our faith traditions (Luke 19:41-2). 

We pray for an end to the deep insecurity and mistrust on all sides, and call on leaders to build trust, based not on military might or alliances, but on the basis of our shared future and common humanity. Now is a time in which past harm should be acknowledged and addressed, and new partnerships can be envisioned. 

We pray for and call on our leaders to have the courage to take small, verifiable, and independent steps toward peace, inviting others to reciprocate. Now is time to invest in conflict resolution, diplomacy and international cooperation — not more weapons which only escalate tension in the region. 

Be with those suffering in ways that we cannot. Protect them from devastation in ways those positioned in authority will not. Shield and comfort them as they confront the terror of violence that surrounds them. Hold them close to your heart and stay the hand of the enemies against them. Give us the courage and the strength to cry aloud against wickedness in high places that dare to harm others made in your image. Comfort the children and heed their cries to be saved from harm in this world.  

Make us a people who love our children, all of our children, more than we love greed, power, and control. Overturn governments of tyranny wherever they are found. Disrupt the intentions of evil and give us power to stand against demonic forces of greed and control. Grant that peace and justice come to warring nations by the hands of those courageous enough to stand and study war no more. Let Thy kin-dom come on earth as it is in heaven, we pray.  

In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

The National Officers of the United Church of Christ

  • The Rev. John C. Dorhauer — General Minister and President
  • The Rev. Traci A. Blackmon — Associate General Minister

The Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson — Associate General Minister

 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