Lenten Sermon series

Doubt:   A Sign of Faith and Life

When we think of the disciple Thomas in the gospel stories, what comes to mind?  What is he most often called? Doubting Thomas. The one who didn't believe like the others. The one who wondered; who questioned. Over and over, in countless sermons and Bible studies, Thomas is typically portrayed as the one we shouldn't be like. The one who didn't get it. The one who was right there with Jesus and still didn't believe. The one we should be cautious of becoming.

But what if Thomas had the right idea all along? What if his honesty is something to be emulated? That a better name for him is Honest Thomas?

There's a message in this simple story that needs reframing, not only for us personally but also for the wider church.  

The message that has been engrained into so many of us is that at the first sign of doubt or questions that challenge formerly held beliefs we enter into to a place of "Something must be wrong with my faith, or, more importantly, wrong with me."  But what if doubt is not the opposite of faith, but rather a very important part of it?

The philosopher Voltaire says, "Doubt is uncomfortable, certainty is ridiculous."  Yet, so many Christian systems rely on the false comfort of certainty and do whatever they can to buoy themselves against doubt.

But yet the giants of the faith doubted.  We all doubt.  To say different is to be inauthentic. In this Lenten series, we’ll hear from some of the most influential theological voices of our time and what they have to say how their faith has been formed and shaped through times of doubt.

Join us as we struggle with -- and grow through -- our doubts during this sacred season of Lent.

Get Connected! Small Group interest survey

At the recent congregational meeting, Russ Peterman, our pastor, laid out his ministry emphasis for our congregation in the year ahead.  One of the main elements he put forth was the call for us to find ways to engage with one another outside of the Sunday morning worship hour. 

He pointed out that people who eat chocolate together live longer than those who eat broccoli alone.  Relationships with God and with others make a huge difference in our lives.

So as we work to create small groups and activities, we want to know what interests you?  What types of things would you like to be a part of?

We’ve put together a short, online survey to see what piques people’s interests.  You can take this survey – which will only take you a few minutes to complete – by clicking here.  We’ll use the results of this survey to formulate small group options in the coming days.

Thanks so much for your willingness to be a part of a community of faith that understands that we are all a part of one another, and that our lives are better when we share it with others.

Lenten Study Series to Begin

During the season of Lent, Rev. Dr. Russ Peterman will be leading a study series on Thursday evenings looking at Diana Butler Bass’s book, Grounded: Finding God in the World-A Spiritual Revolution.  This book observes and reports a radical change in the way many people understand God and how they practice faith, and invites us to participate in this emerging spiritual revolution.

Bass unpacks how people are finding new spiritual ground by discovering and embracing God everywhere in the world around us—in the soil, the water, the sky, in our homes and neighborhoods, and in the global commons. Faith is no longer a matter of mountaintop experience or institutional practice; instead, people are connecting with God through the environment in which we live. Grounded guides readers through our contemporary spiritual habitat as it points out and pays attention to the ways in which people experience a God who animates creation and community.

This group will meet Thursday evenings, March 9 – April 6 @ 7p in the Plambeck Room.  Copies of the book will be available for purchase for $10.   Email Russ with questions or to sign up by completing the form below.

Name *
Name
I will need a copy of the book *

Wheels of Compassion: Update #1

Hope & Scott Attenhofer Riding for Disaster Relief and Recovery

Our own Rev. Hope and Scott Attenhofer have begun their incredibly journey riding their bicycles from San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FL to raise funds and awareness for the domestic disaster responses of Week of Compassion, our denomination's arm for disaster response and humanitarian aid. Through this ride they hope to raise $25,000 for Week of Compassion!

This fundraising ride, which they are calling Wheels of Compassion, will take them through several states that have been affected by severe storms and fires over the past few years - from wildfires in California and floods in Texas, to tornadoes in Mississippi and hurricanes in Florida. As they ride through these places, Hope and Scott plan to share the stories of how Week of Compassion is here in times of need.

They left San Diego on Monday, Feb 13, and as of today, Thursday, they have left California and are making their way through Arizona!

We invite you to follow Hope and Scott's journey at www.wheelsofcompassion.org or on their Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/wheelsofcompassion

Go Hope and Scott!  You are in our prayers!

An Invitation to Help Family in Need

Our dear, sweet Maria, a precious 4-year-old in our congregation, is back in the hospital battling her 3rd case of meningitis in the last 14 months. With an upcoming surgery and 21 day course of IV antibiotics, she'll be there at least three weeks.

A family friend has started a GoFundMe page to help offset some of the costs they have accrued (and will continue to accrue in the next several weeks).  You can visit this page and donate here.

The church will also be helping the family through our Helping Hands fund.  If you'd like to contribute to that fund, please make checks out to First Christian Church with Helping Hands in the memo line (but please don't list the family's name anywhere on the check).

Here's a tangible way that you can support this wonderful family in the midst of these difficult times.  

Thank you for your generosity and your prayers!

Over 400 People Attend the Health Care Town Hall

We were thrilled to be able to host a Health Care Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Multi-Faith Action Coalition and the #OneContraCosta coalition on Saturday, January 28 that brought together people committed to preserving quality health care for all.  Congressman Mark DeSaulnier and Retired Congressman George Miller, along with Contra Costa County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, joined the #OneContraCosta movement to fight the current threat of the dismantling of our health care system. The #OneContraCosta coalition and Contra Costa County are leading the way by creating long-term solutions for all residents, regardless of immigration status, to have access to a primary care. Yet, thousands of Californians are at jeopardy of losing their health care coverage, which can possibly put thousands without preventative care services.  

See the story covered by KRON4 News here.  

Over 400 people committed to to preserving quality health care for all attended this event! 

If you missed it, but want to hear how you can get involved, the event will be rebroadcasted on CCTV (Comcast channel 27, Astound channel 32, and AT&T U-verse channel 99) at the following times:
Sunday, Feb 12 at 6p
Monday, Feb 13 at 10a
Wednesday, Feb 15 at 1p
Sunday, Feb 19 at 6p
Monday, Feb 20 at 10a
Wednesday, Feb 22 at 1p

 

Wheels of Compassion: Hope & Scott Attenhofer Riding for Disaster Relief and Recovery

Two cyclists, 3 thousand miles, 50 days, one prayer: to promote compassionate presence in the wake of disasters.

Beginning next month, our own Rev. Hope  and Scott Attenhofer will be riding their bicycles from San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FL to raise funds and awareness for the domestic disaster responses of Week of Compassion, our denomination's arm for disaster response and humanitarian aid. They were inspired by Week of Compassion's commitment to provide immediate relief and long-term recovery support. Through this ride they hope to raise $25,000 for Week of Compassion!

Their fundraising ride, Wheels of Compassion, will take them through several states that have been affected by severe storms and fires over the past few years - from wildfires in California and floods in Texas, to tornadoes in Mississippi and hurricanes in Florida. As they ride through these places, Hope and Scott plan to share the stories of how Week of Compassion is here in times of need.

Hope has said when she rides, it is like prayer. The rhythms of her pedaling, the rushing sound of wind, and the steady movement onward are meditative. "I ride with intention," she says, finding that in the solitude of a ride, she feels deeply connected to God and to others. On this ride, as they make their way across the southern United States, Hope and Scott carry in prayer and intention the thousands of people affected by disasters every year in the United States.

As Hope and Scott undertake this journey, we celebrate the ways we, as church, are able to be here for each other and for our communities - by our gifts, by our prayers, and sometimes by our bikes. We invite you to follow Hope and Scott's journey at www.wheelsofcompassion.org.  You can also donate to their campaign at this link!

Go Hope and Scott!  You'll be in our prayers!

Christian Women's Fellowship to Hold a Diaper Drive

In conjunction with the Christian Church in Northern California/Nevada's Disciples Women, the Christian Women's Fellowship of FCC Concord is starting a month-long disposable diaper drive.  The diapers collected will be given to local organizations who serve low-income families, many of whom spend over $100 a month for each child wearing diapers (about 6 per day).  This is a great stress on an already small budget.  In addition, food stamps can't be used to purchase diapers!

You can help out either by purchasing diapers, or if you'd like to make a financial donation, CWF will purchase diapers through jet.com, which has an inexpensive way to buy diapers.

Checks should be made out to Christian Women's Fellowship with 'Diaper Drive' in the memo line.  

There will be a table in the Narthex to deposit diapers and monetary donations.  If you have any questions, please contact Cecelia Ambach, 925-687-9531.

Church to Host Town Hall Meeting on Preserving Health Care for All

We are thrilled to host an event on Saturday, January 28 from 10:30a - 12n that will bring together people committed to preserving quality health care for all.  Present at this meeting with be Congressman Mark DeSalunier and recently retired Congressman George Miller, as well as Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, among many others.

Come be a part of a statewide movement to find out how we can work together to ensure that all residents are covered and have access to life-saving health care.

Please join us!

 

In addition, we'll be looking for volunteers to help host this event.  If you are interest and able to help out, please complete the following form to let us know we can count on you!

I can Help!

Name *
Name
Phone
Phone

Dismantling Racism Workshop Wonderful Success

We had over 43 people show up -- physically, emotionally and spiritually -- for our Dismantling Racism Workshop on Sunday, November 20. We spent four hours going deeper into our exploration around racism. It was hard, difficult, sometimes painful work, but also enlightening and hopeful. A huge thanks to our facilitators for this event, Rev. Shayne Flowers and Rev. Bentley Stewart of the Reconciliation Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), who did a tremendous job in leading us and engaging us in these essential conversations. 

This is just the beginning, but a great initial step.

Watch for news soon on our next steps in this process.  

Church to Participate in Winter Nights Program

For the 9th year, we will participate in the Winter Nights shelter program, an interfaith program that provides a warm place to sleep for up to 30 homeless family members in the East Bay. 

We will be co-hosting with the Lafayette United Methodist Church which means that we will be providing dinners and after school activities for four nights.
 
Please check your calendar. We will need volunteers to help prepare the dinner for the evening of November 21, 25, 26 and 27.
 
Contact Diane Maltester if you are interested in supporting this program.

Advent Sermon series: Unwrapped

Unwrapped: The Surprising Gifts of Advent

The theme for this Advent season is “Unwrapped.”  We will focus on some surprising gifts that come to us if we are able to be patient, still, and pay attention.  

Traditionally, when we think of Advent we immediately call to mind Mary, Joseph, and the angel Gabriel.  But in the Gospel of Luke, Zechariah and Elizabeth are the first two people we meet in the Advent narrative.  They’ll be our guides in this journey through Advent and will teach us about the living in the pain of unanswered prayers, the power of silence and simplicity, the blessing of life-giving relationships, and the promise of God to make a way, even when it seems no way is to be found.  

Nov 27
Unanswered Prayer
Luke 1: 5-7

Dec 4   
Silence and Simplicity
Luke 1: 8-23

Dec 11   
A Sense of Belonging
Luke 1: (26-38) 39-45, 56

Dec 18    
The Promises of God
Luke 1: 57-64 (67-80)

 

A Prayer for the 2016 Election

O God of all peoples, lands and nations, we join with the nations to sing our celebration of our homeland.  We praise you for the gift of this great country and the freedoms and privileges we have here.

We offer our thanksgiving for all our ancestors who envisioned these freedoms, expressed their passion for freedom, and sacrificed for freedom.  They did not give up.  They did not cease to struggle or abandon hope.  They did not forget that one day they would be free at last.  We ask in the midst of the week ahead that you will move us with the same courage that they witnessed.

Remind us, O God, as we enter the polling places that before we are democrats and republicans that we are children of God, called to seek justice and embody kindness and humility. 

Remind us, loving God, that while it is good to have political convictions, that we need to recognize and remember that there are people of faith all over the political spectrum, and that just because someone may different convictions than we do that it does not make them any less of a child of God.  

We confess that this election has not always brought out the very best in all of us or the very best in our nation.  We pray that moving forward we might find ways to be united in our common good, that we might be undivided and that we might seek liberty and justice for all.

Amen.

Church blesses dogs, cats, and a chicken!

We had a great turnout for our annual Blessing of the Animals service on Sunday, our largest one yet! People brought their pets or pictures of them to receiving a blessing.  We even blessed a chicken! Thanks to all who came out and brought their furry and feathered friends. We gave thanks for all of the beautiful creatures that enrich and enhance our lives.

There was also a time of remembrance for pets loved and lost. 

The blessing is a tradition in many Christian churches, and usually held near the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, celebrated worldwide on Oct. 4.  St. Francis is known for his generosity towards the poor or ill, however he is widely remembered for his love of animals.

An offering of unopened dog and cat food was taken that will go A.R.F. who will make sure it gets to low-income pet owners.

SHARE receives $2500 grant through the Bridge Club!

As you know, this summer we began renting our Fellowship Hall to the Contra Costa Bridge Center, the local branch of the American Contract Bridge League.

As their members played their bridge games, they noticed people walking on campus empty-handed and leaving with bags of food. Curious, they discovered that SHARE, our resident food pantry, was doing wonderful work making sure that hungry residents of Contra Costa County had enough food.

But one of their members took it a step further. 

It turns out that each year, the American Contract Bridge League gives grants to charitable organizations. This member put together a proposal extolling the terrific job that SHARE was doing, the local bridge club board approved it unanimously and sent it to the district for their consideration, and SHARE was selected to receive a grant of $2500!

But it gets even better: the grants are normally given out in January, but our local club convinced the folks distributing the grants that SHARE would be able to make sure that their clients would be able to have nice holiday meals if they received the grant early.

So on Saturday, October 1, members of the Bridge Club board of directors, representatives of SHARE, and members of our Admin and Ministry Councils met in the Fellowship Hall to celebrate this generous grant!

Also, SHARE informed us that because of the agreements they have with various organizations, they only pay 18-cents per pound of food. That means that this grant could pay for more than 13,000 pounds of food for needy families!

We join both the Bridge Club and SHARE in celebrating this wonderful and generous grant that will go a long way towards helping hungry families in our community!!!

Church to host Dismantling Racism workshop

Dismantling Racism workshop

Sunday, November 20
11:30a – 3:30p

Following the recent onslaught of violence and hate that seems to permeate our culture – most of it fueled by racism, homophobia and fear – our congregation came to the realization that our prayers for peace are no longer enough.  The time has come to do something.  As people of faith we must find appropriate ways to respond to curb this culture of fear, violence and hate.

But what should we do?  Where do we begin?  Many of us feel called and convicted to act, but are at a loss of what we should do.

Together we agreed to enter into a program of education and discernment.  We began by reading together a book about racism, Pre-Post-Racial America: Spiritual Stories from the Front Lines by Sandhya Jha. 

Our next step will be to host a Dismantling Racism workshop in which we will be going deeper into our exploration around racism.  This workshop will be led by Rev. Shayne Flowers and Rev. Bentley Stewart, both trained facilitators within the Reconciliation Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The event will be held on Sunday, November 20 and is open to all who are interested in learning more about the root causes of racism and what we can do to combat it in our own lives and the community around us.

More information, including how to register, will be coming soon.  In the meantime, please save the date and plan to attend this incredibly important event.

 

Special Offering: Reconciliation Ministry

On Sundays, September 25 and October 2,  we’ll be receiving one of our six over-and-above Special Offerings that go directly to support ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  This Special Offering is for Reconciliation Ministry.  The theme of this offering is “Be Reconciled: Move, Heal, Bound Together.”  These are simple words describing incredibly worthwhile and hard work.  The message of Christ consistently beckons us toward each other, pushing our notions of what it means to live as the one body of Christ.   “…First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 24)  Throughout our faith tradition, Christians have been called to move against our nature to be at enmity with one another. We are admittedly a counter-cultural movement.

Your giving to Reconciliation Ministry is one way to help move us toward wholeness and empowers the Church to advance healing in our communities through safe and intentional dialogue. Through training and granting programs together we move from debate to dialogue. We as a church must live and act to demonstrate the love of God to a world so desperately in need of a Beloved Community.  Let us take action and move in ways to show that love is stronger than hate.

For more information about Reconciliation Ministry, go to www.reconcilationministry.org