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Council has called a special Congregational Meeting for Sunday, October 1, 2017 immediately following worship. The purpose is to request a one-time postponement of the constitutional requirement to present a proposed budget on the fourth Sunday of October. While great effort is proceeding on this document, Council wants to be sure we have a valid and clear budget presented for the first full-year budget of Community Congregational UCC.

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One of the blessings of the United Church of Christ is its presence when disasters strike. The needs during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey will be tremendous, and resources donated through the UCC, including Community Congregational UCC's appeal, will be needed to provide humanitarian and clean-up assistance to many.

A few years back, I was able to spend a few days on Long Island about two weeks after Hurricane Sandy struck. One of my clergy colleagues and good friends pastors a congregation near one of the very hard-hit areas, and FEMA used their social hall as a distribution point for "meals ready to eat", clothing, and other supplies. All of the box stores were sold out of basic needs, so he put out a call for a specific list of needed supplies. 

An Elyria clergy colleague, the Rev. Bob Gross, and I decided we would make a road trip and take a minivan filled with supplies to Long Island.  This was approximately two weeks after the hurricane devastated the New York City area. We put out a call for cash donations to our congregations, a few other congregations, and our Brothers and Sisters in the Order of Corpus Christi, thinking we would get a few hundred dollars to buy supplies. On the Saturday before we were leaving, we had gone to Sam's Club and Lowes and bought just under $3000 in toothpaste, toiletries, paper towels, socks, underwear, hazmat suits, mops, bleach, mold inhibitor, batteries, and similar items based on those contributions.  Below is about $1100 of the Sam's Club portion. 

01 Sams Club Sat

On Sunday, we received calls from congregations and individuals about further donations (including cash delivered to us), and so we stopped at a Lowe's in Dubois PA and added another $900 in cleaning supplies, arriving on Long Island at about 11 p.m. to unload. We thought we had taken a lot of stuff that would be very helpful. It was definitely helpful, but...

02 Lowes Sun

I spent the next two days in the social hall at Bethany United Church of Christ, East Rockaway NY.  The pictures that follow give you a sense of how much had been donated and the type of need that exists in an area serving just a few square miles of devastation:

04 Cleaning Supplies

06 Toiletries and Infant

05 Clothing

Many had responded. While clothing was in abundance, and there was a filled semi-trailer of FEMA clothing sitting in the parking lot that never was touched, it was the cleaning supplies, food and toiletries that were in highest demand. 90% of what we delivered at 11pm Sunday night was gone by 5pm Monday afternoon.

Donations continued to come in, even after our trip to Long Island, and we had four more deliveries from Lowe's sent to the church.  In total, the congregations and indivdiuals banded together to send almost $11,000 of desperately needed supplies to the East Rockaway area. Seeing the FEMA trailer loaded with garbage bags full of clothes that were never touched because of local donations has made me a firm believer that cash donations, to be put toward the greatest need, is the best way to help from a distance when there is no direct contact to be made. This is why we are supporting the UCC Disaster Ministries' appeal.

To give you an idea of the physical devastation from the storm surge just a few blocks south of the church, here are couple of pictures I took when my host gave me a brief tour of the area:

08 Down the Street

10 Through the house

Note in the picture above that you can see daylight through the window to the left of the door. Many homes were taken down to the studs because of mold and water damage. The inlet below is a short seven blocks from the church.

12 Drydock 2

13 Drydock Double Stack

I hope that my personal reminiscence about Hurricane Sandy gives you a vivid picture of the type of assistance that will be needed along the Texas Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. In asking you to donate generously to the UCC's disaster relief efforts through our congregation or to another appropriate relief agency, I leave you with the words of the Rev. Mark Lukens, pastor of Bethany UCC in East Rockaway, NY to let you know first-hand what your donations mean.

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VBS will be held June 26-30 at Congregational United Church of Christ from 9:00am to Noon.  Unfortuenatly. we have reached capacity and are unable to accept any additional students. Take a read to see what our youth will be learning during this fun and faithful week:  https://www.smore.com/bs10z

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Below you will find the news release about our merger with Lorain. Many people are putting in a lot of effort to insure the success of our transition from two congregations to one. Last week we had the first joint Council meeting, which was unofficial since the merger has not taken effect, as well as a workshop that began our journey toward a working vision statement. In the week this is written, we are holding a "Committee Extravaganza" in which the joint working committees will all meet on the same night to get to know each other and begin their mutual ministry conversations.

The Lorain congregation is experiencing a month filled with memories and legacies as they move toward the final worship service in their sanctuary on June 25. On July 2, the newly-merged congregation will have its first worship service in the Amherst sanctuary.

We are in the process of gathering suggestions for naming the merged congregation. Please submit any ideas on the bulletin inserts both congregations are using, or email by June 18 to office@amherstucc.org. Until we finalize a new name, which we anticipate will take place at a congregational meeting on July 23, we will use the commonality between our two congregations as our name: Congregational United Church of Christ. Until we have a new name, we will maintain Amherst's current staff emails, web addresses, Facebook page, and so forth - because we only want to change those things once!

Please be a part of the excitement this summer as the cocoon opens and a new butterfly spreads its wings!

-------------

         Over 322 years of ministry will join together when Congregational United Church of Christ of Amherst and First Congregational United Church of Christ of Lorain merge on July 1.

          Both congregations voted overwhelmingly on May 7 to become one. While the ministry will be centered in the Amherst building at 379 S. Main, the merged congregation will continue the Lorain congregation’s passion for ministering to people of need.

          Over two years ago, First Congregational Lorain began a formal process to change its course and determine a new future.  This process ultimately identified Amherst Congregational as its preferred merger partner, leading to the May vote.    

          “Each congregation brings different gifts and strengths to the other,” said the Rev. Brian Burke, who will serve as the interim minister of the merged congregation. “The Amherst congregation is filled with youth and vitality while the Lorain congregation brings a passion for mission outside the church walls. With similar worship styles and core values, the merged congregation will thrive.”

          Amherst Congregational was founded in 1840 and still worships in its original 1843 church building. In 1872, First Congregational Lorain came into existence. The two historic congregations will choose a new name to reflect its vision and ministry, and will retain its affiliation with the United Church of Christ.

          “The transition teams of both congregations have looked at church mergers that succeeded, as well as others that experienced significant challenges or failed,” Burke reflected. “They are doing their best to incorporate the positive aspects of these experiences and avoid the pitfalls to insure the smoothest possible transition.”

          The final worship service of the Lorain congregation in its sanctuary will be on Sunday, June 25, with the merged congregation holding its first official worship service on July 2, 178 years to the day that the Amherst congregation was founded.

 

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It. is. on.

On May 7, the congregations of Congregational UCC of Amherst and First Congregational UCC of Lorain voted overwhelmingly to merge into one congregation. Amherst's vote was 100% in favor and Lorain's was 85.5% positive, both greatly surpassing the two-thirds threshold each congregation required for passage.

What this means from a legal standpoint is that the Lorain church's last day of existence is June 30; and on July 1 the two congregations will officially become one. The first official worship service of the merged congregation will be Sunday, July 2 ... which is 177 years to the day that the Congregational Society of North Amherst, Ohio was formed.

What this means from a practical standpoint is that we have a lot to do between now and June 30 to prepare for merging into one ... like choosing a new name!  Some preparations have already taken place - the endowment and hospitality teams have met jointly, and the core transition teams have been in constant conversation. There will be additional teams created to move as nimbly as possible and as thoughtfully as possible to blend the different aspects of our congregational lives. We don't see this as a challenge (other than in the time frame); we see this as an opportunity to strengthen our place as a part of the Body of Christ at work in northern Lorain County.

In the months ahead, keep the current members of the Lorain church in your prayers. Some will choose not to follow the congregation to Amherst and separate themselves from seeing long-term church friends on a weekly basis. Some will mourn loss of a building that has been the church home for generations of family members. Some will grieve some of the symbols and items in the building that will be left behind.  Some will have some other attachment, memory or emotion that will give them pause at the church's closing. To be sure, we will be grieving some things that will change in our midst - but always remember the greater emotional cost to the Lorain folk.

Beyond simply holding them in prayer, reach out in a welcoming way to greet those who are now a part of us. We will be working on a common pictorial directory to help everyone connect names and faces. We will create name tags for all who need them - and please wear them. Frankly, there are people in the current congregation who don't know each other - and name tags on Sunday would be helpful!

Both congregations are in for some change. Some changes will be more major than others. Some individuals will handle change easily while others will experience difficulty. Patience, love, kindness and understanding is always the Christian way of being. Have a few extra portions of each in reserve as we navigate the near future together!

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One of the powerful ministries offered by the United Church of Christ in Ohio is its Outdoor Ministries program, specifically its summer camp program. Many long-time members of the UCC, including some of our members, have had their faith strengthened by their experiences at church camp. You'll find that Pastor Brian is a great proponent of summer camps and encourage as many of you who are looking for such an experience to participate in one or more opportunities.

Young children can get a taste of camp and spend time with their grandparents at one of three Grandparent-Grandchild half-week camps – Pastor Brian is the director of one of these sessions.  Children and youth can experience a broad range of traditional camp activities at Circle of Friends camp.  Do our children want concentrated experiences with sports, swimming, choir, or a mix of music, mime, arts, drama and dance? There are specialized camps in those areas. Would the family like an opportunity to be together? Consider the Labor Day Family Camp? Women, how does a long weekend of floating on canoes in the Mohican area sound?  Floating With The Spirit is just for you.

There is a broad array of camping throughout the summer at our picturesque Pilgrim Hills site in the scenic area between Millersburg and Mt. Vernon. We hope you will encourage our youth to take part in this wonderful opportunity for faith formation in an outdoor setting. For more information, go to www.ohioucc.org/outdoor-ministries/ or see Pastor Brian.

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The Advent and Christmas seasons are very busy ones in the life of any church and any pastor - and especially busy for pastors who begin their ministry on the first Sunday of Advent. Now that we are through the busyness of the season, we will begin moving forward on the tasks that are a part of every Interim Ministers' portfolio as well as the specific tasks that Council has added.  I'll share more about those as appropriate. In the meantime, here's how we can jump-start our efforts.

As a Church Vitality Coach in the Western Reserve Association, I was asked to coach a congregation as a part of the Association's Vitality Lab program. Ten churches are participating in four day-long sessions led by the Rev. Michael Piazza, the UCC's preeminent consultant on everything to do with church vitality. As a coach, I get to audit these sessions ... and ACUCC will reap some benefits of what I learn.  The two sessions to date have been on "Transformational Worship" (enlivening worship for millenials without losing the current congregation) and Management and Money (for 21st century congregations in which meetings, cash and checkbooks are obsolete).

vital vintage church coverWhen we have arrived at the time to create new mission, vision and core values statements, one of the books I will recommend in preparation for this conversation is Mike's book entitled "Vital Vintage Church".  ACUCC is certainly a vintage church, if one considers almost 177 years young to be "vintage". My initial observation is that it is also a vital church, filled with vitality while looking for ways to renew (read that as "re-new", or make new again) the ways that vitality is expressed. Not every idea that a consultant has, or publishes in a book, is appropriate for every congregation. However, there is much we can learn and adapt from Mike's experiences in pastoring two growing, vital congregations.

This link is to a YouTube video of a recent presentation he made ... the slides are the same as I saw in October.  It's about an hour and forty-five minutes long, and I hold no illusions you will watch the entire video. But I strongly recommend you take the time to look at the first twenty or twenty-five minutes in which he brings forward his initial analysis of vintage churches. It is the basis from which he shares his experience in creating vitality.

His book is in the same style you see in the video. He writes in very accessible language and uses very little "churchspeak". The ideas in it will provide starting points for exciting conversations about renewing the vitality that is a part of ACUCC. As a matter of fact, I may structure a series of conversations around the individual chapters in the book:

  • Bringing Worship into the 20th Century
  • Structured for a Wiki World
  • Removing the "Lead" from Leadership (with "lead" referring to the weighty metal)
  • Finding our Voice
  • Making "Welcome" an Active Verb
  • From Survive to Thrive
  • Liberating Generosity
  • A Metanoia Church ("metanoia" is Greek for "repent, to change direction")
  • Evangelism Is NOT a Four-Letter Word

Let's join together on a journey toward renewed and increased vitality as the new year opens our eyes to new opportunities and possibilities.

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A Starry Advent

Merry Christmas, Starry Eyed Momma!

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Christmas story this season of Advent. When I think about the birth of Christ, I am struck by three things: Wonder, Hope, and Kindness. The wonder of the enormity of God’s love for us - a love so big, he sent his son to us in the form of a wondrous baby boy. The hope that this one birth brought to an entire nation of people - salvation for all of God’s people. And kindness - we see kindness in so many in this story. Joseph, who determined to raise this boy as his own, the inn keeper who made room in the manger for these poor travelers, the shepherds and the Wisemen, all offering kindness. 

 

My hope for you is that you experience the wonder of this season with kindness and joy in your heart.

 

Love & Blessings of Wonder, Hope, and Kindness,

 

 

Krys

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Welcome to a New MOPS Year!

 

Dear Starry Eyed Mommas,

Welcome to a new MOPS year! Our Steering Team is so thrilled to start this new theme year, and we couldn’t be more excited about this year’s theme. Becoming Starry Eyed means looking for the light, even when the darkness is enveloping. It is an opportunity to hope recklessly and to witness God’s presence guiding things seen and unseen, comfortable and uncomfortable.

Our verse for this year’s theme comes from Jeremiah 33:3. “Call to me and I will answer you an tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

I have spent my summer searching for answers to questions, some of which I didn’t even know I had. And I adore that the three things we’re really focusing on this year are wonder, hope, and kindness. Who couldn’t use a little more of all of these in her life? And the amazing thing is the knowledge that we are each choosing these things!

We are so blessed to have you join us this year. I cannot wait to get to know each and every one of you.

 

 

So the question becomes,

When was the last time you felt fully alive?

The last time you were so swept up with wonder that it took your breath away?

That kindness made you feel powerful?

Or audacious hope unraveled fear?

This is the year to experience all of it. 

 

Love and Blessings of wonder, hope, and kindness,

Krys Mccaslin Mackowski

MOPS of ACUCC Coordinator

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We Are the Starry Eyed - MOPS 2016-2017

Sometimes we think we have to pick one, when in reality it is always both. Light and dark, hope and fear, kindness and risk, wonder and mundane. This is evidenced by the fact that we are people who are meant to live by both sunlight and moonlight. Our natural rhythms revolve around the circling of sun and moon. Yet often our tendency is to cling to one, the one that is more comfortable, forgetting that our fullest living comes when we embrace the swirly mix.

Starry Eyed means looking for the light even when darkness is enveloping. It is an opportunity to hope recklessly and to witness God’s presence guiding things seen and unseen, comfortable and uncomfortable. When we reflect back over our lives, this year is going to stand out. It will be the year that we decided to live fully by both sunlight and moonlight. Because audacity is rising in the deepest and wildest parts of our souls. And the best part is, we will experience it all together.

Join Us!

Wednesday, September 7 @9:30am and Wednesday, September 21 @6:00pm

ACUCC Fellowship Hall

The ACUCC Chapter is always looking for Mentor Moms and are always in need of any volunteers who would love to spend just three hours of time per month loving on our kiddos. For more information, please contact the church office at 440.988.9148.

MOPS meetings are always held the first Wednesday of the month at 9:30am and the third Wednesday of the month at 6:00pm (no evening meeting in December).

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Hello ACUCC families!!!

We hope this message finds you well and that you all have enjoyed your summers!! 

It's that time of year again...with school back in session, a whole new year of Sunday School starts back up!! So to kick off the 2016-2017 Sunday school year, we're having an Olympic themed Rally Day!!  We will GO FOR THE GOLDEN RULE!!  WHEN: Sunday, Sept 11th @ 10am!!  Please make sure your children wear tennis shoes and comfy clothes, as they will be active outside!

We are excited for a new year, as we'll get to work with your children on character traits and values reflective of God's Love for them!!

**PLEASE WEAR RED this day in support of our children and youth program** Then your whole family is invited for "Cupcakes & Coffee" following worship, hosted by our children/youth!!

*If you are interested in baking 1-2 dozen cupcakes for this, please let us know.* Thank you!!

A Halloween Party for all Sunday school families will be held on Sunday, October 23, 12-2:30pm in the social hall.   Pumpkin carving, games/activities & prizes. We'll also be serving pizza and drinks! Please feel free to bring a side like fruit, veggies, chips or pretzels, etc. Thanks so much!

If any parent is interested in helping out in Sunday school, teacher volunteers are always welcome! Please just let us know and we'd be happy to talk more about it with you! :)

We will have new 2016-2017 Sunday school registrations you'll need to fill out. They'll be available at church this Sunday and at Rally Day for you! Please fill one out for each child in your family! There will be some in the back of the sanctuary and with Missy in the front office as well.

Our Youth Group will be hosting our first fundraiser of the year with a CAR WASH at Marathon Gas Station on Rte 58 and Cooper Foster Park Rd on Sat, September 24th from 10-2pm!  Please let us know asap if your kid/s can participate. This fundraiser will help pay for our Orange curriculum for the 2016-2017 Sunday school year! If you'd like to donate sponges, car cleaning solution or buckets, please let us know. We appreciate any donations you may have!!

Our first Youth Group outing activity will be going to the Ghostly Manor in Sandusky on Saturday, October 29th from 2-4:30pm. Skating (roller skates or roller blades) and their 4D motion-simulated ride will be included for our group! Pizza and pop will be served as well! Cost is FREE!!!! Please let us know if you and/or your kid can come join this super fun time with their friends!

We are still working on a service project for our youth group to do in the Fall. Last year we went to Old Stone Methodist Church to serve their community meal and help clean up. If you have any other suggestions, let us know. We will still be doing our annual service project for all of the Sunday school families some time in December as well, just so you know. :)

Melissa’s Office Hours:

Church hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays  12:30pm-3:00pm I'm at the church these hours, however, please feel free to contact Brett or me via cell or email any time. We can meet with you and/or your children upon setting up a day/time to do so. If you have any questions/concerns about anything, please let us know :)

Looking forward to seeing all of you and your wonderful families for a positive and fun year!!

Peace, Hope, Love & Blessings,

Melissa & Brett Thompson

Co-Youth Directors

Amherst Congregational U.C.C.

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Dear Church Family,

Church Council met Wednesday, 8/17/16, to share thoughts regarding our path forward. We came together with love for each other and our church, and developed the plan outlined below.

The most immediate next step is calling a great full time interim minister who can help us heal, love, and move forward with a collective vision. Calling an interim minister takes time and Church Council is committed to taking the time necessary to find a great fit for our church.

From now until we call an interim minister, we are blessed that Rev. Bill Vanderwyden will work with us part time. Rev. Bill will be compensated for his

work which will include most Sunday services, handling any crisis situations and/or funerals, and offering guidance to Church Council and the Board of Deacons. Rev. Bill will do some visitations starting in October if we have not yet called an interim minister.

The Deacons will be responsible for the interim minister search process and has started receiving profiles. When the Deacons find a candidate who they recommend calling, the Trustees will work through the compensation package. The candidate and compensation package will be vetted by and voted on by Church Council. No interim call recommendation will be complete until approved by Church Council.

We are absolutely committed to healing, improving communication, and building an environment of love and will hold sessions focused on these topics starting in October. Our goal is to have a full time interim minister when the sessions start. If we have not called an interim by October, we will still start the sessions, as we believe the sessions are critical to us moving forward as a healthy and loving congregation. The search for a full time permanent minister will not start until the congregation feels it is ready.

Any comments, feedback & thoughts regarding this plan are very welcome and can be brought to any member of Church Council.

Blessings and love,

Bill Poplar, Moderator

Nelson Barnes, Co-Chair Trustees

Carrie Sechel, Chair Deacons

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