Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The August Sunday worship service at Zion's United Church of Christ, Hanover and Chestnut Streets will be at 9:30 a.m. in the sanctuary.  There will be no children's or  adult Sunday School until September.
Volunteers will serve the noon community meal Friday, July 25 at Emmanuel Lutheran.
Jesus, the Welcome Mat, and the GOP 
Rev. Dr. Ivy Beckwith

Several months ago, the Church House hosted a group of our members in discernment people heading toward some sort of authorized ministry with the United Church of Christ. As part of their visit they were invited to participate in a scavenger hunt as a way to learn more about the various ministries and departments of this denomination. As they met with people on the various floors of the building, one of the questions they asked of us was "What do you like best about the United Church of Christ?" When my turn came I answered, "Extravagant welcome." Inevitably, each group's response to me was "we're hearing that a lot." So this seems to be part of our DNA that people are attracted to that rings true to people of what the church ought to be about. 

And a welcoming demeanor should be a characteristic of any church, because the Jesus I'm familiar with in the Gospels demonstrated extravagant welcome over and over again. He ate meals with people from the wrong side of the tracks. He went to a party at a hated tax collector's house. He welcomed children when his disciples thought he was too busy for them. He got physically close to people living with leprosy. He spent a water break with a maligned Samaritan woman who'd had far too many husbands. He told stories about extraordinarily wealthy people inviting the poor and the disenfranchised to over-the-top parties. He invited the criminal dying on the cross next to him to be with him in Paradise. And he asked God to forgive those who had abused and beaten him. And while he called out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the day, he never shunned the everyday Jews and Gentiles who followed him, or thronged around him to hear what he would say or see what he would do. He didn't ask the 5,000 on the side of the hill where they stood on certain theological and social issues before he fed them. No one can out "extravagant welcome" Jesus. But those of us who say we want "to live in the way of Jesus" ought to be as welcoming as possible to everyone, and the United Church of Christ puts it right out there: "We offer you an extravagant welcome." 

But these days, it seems that churches and church-affiliated organizations have a difficult time offering extravagant welcome to those who stand outside of what is believed to be the sanctioned party line of their particular tribe. This week, I was dismayed to learn that my alma mater a Christian college had signed on to a letter supporting a religious exemption to the forthcoming federal regulations banning anti-gay discrimination. Now, this school is a theologically conservative place, but when I was a student there, I also saw it as a welcoming place and a place open to entertaining ideas and welcoming those who did not completely fit into the "conservative Christian college" mold. They were open to allowing students to think for themselves and make up their own minds. Times have changed and the boundaries have been drawn tighter. The welcome has become conditional polarization reigns. And this has not only happened in conservative circles. 

Now you may be thinking we're the United Church of Christ. We're not like that. We're progressive. We believe in extravagant welcome. But the thing is that to the average unchurched person, Christians are all the same. They don't really see the difference between Christian right and left, or understand "open and affirming." They just know what they read on the internet or see on the news that Christians say they are all about God's love, but then refuse to hire gay people, don't want women to have contraception, and won't bake cakes for same sex weddings. So somehow, the United Church of Christ (along with other progressive denominations) needs to stand up and say, "We're different. We believe God's love is for everyone and we show it through our extravagant welcome." Then we need to back it up with action. 

And here's an action (and challenge) that is worth thinking about. Last week, the city of Cleveland learned that it will be the setting for the 2016 Republican National Convention. The UCC national offices at 700 Prospect Avenue are a block or so away from where the action will be. There are many of us in the United Church of Christ who don't agree with Republican political stances and legislative initiatives. There is no question that this convention will be an opportunity for the Church to speak God's truth to power but is it not also an opportunity to show extravagant welcome to those who oppose many of our beliefs? How will we choose to do that? How will we offer a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus during the hot summer of 2016? As the old camp song goes: "They'll know we are Christians by our love."

The Rev. Dr. Ivy Beckwith is the Faith Formation Team Leader for the United Church of Christ. Ivy and her team want to hear your stories about the transformative ideas your church has implemented in the area of faith formation. She can be reached at or at 216-736-3875.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Rev. Ann Cormier will serve as guest minister at Zion's United Church of Christ, Hanover and Chestnut Streets for  8:15 and 10:45 a.m. worship this Sunday.  A graduate of Lancaster Theological Seminary , she was ordained in 1998.  After serving six years in congregational ministry, Rev. Cormier now enjoys a private practice as a psychotherapist amd spiritual director.

The annual church picnic will be held Sunday July 13 at Earl Township Park from 2:30-7:00 p.m.  Bring a lawn chair and enjoy games for "children" of all ages.  A cake walk will follow dinner of bar--b-que and hot dogs.  Bring a side dish to share.  Longacre's ice cream will be a dessert treat.  See you there!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Last week we were blessed at Zion's in two different ways: First PECO discovered the electrical system in the church building was over heating and before it did any damage they came and turned off the power. The electrician changed the plate where the power connects and today we were able to worship in the sanctuary with air conditioning and all. So yes it is a good day to give thanks.

Last week was also VBS and we were blessed with the energy and vitality of 24 children and another dozen youth helping around the church each evening. Together with the adults who created the event our church was a lively happening place. We give thanks for each person who helped from Zion's and St Paul's as well as the young people from the neighborhood.  What a joy to do good ministry together.

Monday, July 29, 2013


        Adler & Hearne Live at Zion's

Nothing speaks to us more intimately and spiritually than music.  We tap our toes,  we clap our hands, we cry and we smile.

So circle Sunday, August 18 on your calendar because you will want to share in the 10:45 a.m. worship service and attend an evening concert by songwriting team Lynn Adler and Lindy Hearne.  The duo tours nationally with well-seasoned and road-tested original songs in a genre they call "FOLK-JazzBLUES-grass."

They met in Nashville while on solo musical journeys.  Years later in Texas their paths merged and they formed the duo Adler & Hearne as well as their label Spring Hollow Records.

IN 2009 they made their recording debut with "To the Heart" and in 2010 were named among the Top 20 releases by the Folk DJ community.  They released "Adler & Hearne Live at Eddie's Attic"  in 2012 and are in the planning stages of a release scheduled for early 2014.

Their formative years share common experiences  in folk, gospel and classical music.  Their live sets range from crooning songs of love and longing, losing and finding to modern day spirituals steeped in dry wit.  They pride themselves on their multigenerational audience appeal.

Adler & Hearne's favorite places to share their songs include house concerts, community concert halls,church coffehouses and Sunday morning church services, festivals, schools, libraries and venues of all descriptions that provide an opportunity to have a meaningful connection with a listening audience.  That also includes campfires, backyards, cruises, skyscrapers and towns coast to coast and worldwide!

The concert will be August 18 at 7:00 p.m. in the Christian Education Building.  Tickets are $15.00 for adults, $10.00 for Seniors and Students and Children 8 and under free.   

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Candlelight Memorial

I know when you saw those word you likely thought of remembering the tragic loss of 26 people in Newtown, but before that occurred plans were in the way for memorial for those who have died in the homeless community.

You are invited to join us at Smith Plaza,100 High Street, Pottstown
5pm on Thursday the 20th of December

The trauma of homelessness takes its toll on the body and often leads to people aging prematurely and dying prematurely. When people in the community die there is often not opportunity for memorializing at the moment due to cost. Therefore we will gather on the day next to the shortest day of the year for a time of remembrance for all in Montgomery County and the surrounding area who have been part of the homeless community  and have died.

Chrismas week plans

Mary will be the focus throughout Sunday's worship services at Zion's United Church of Christ, Hanover and Chestnut Streets,.  Pastor Linda Higgins brings to life "The Story of an Unwed Mother."  Acolytes for the Advent wreath are confirmands Mackenzie  Hoffman  8:00 a.m. and Nathan Camacho 10:45 a.m. services.  There is no contemporary service.

All members are invited to a light breakfast at 9:30 a.m. in Fellowship Hall during the Sunday School hour.   A special reading of "Saint Francis Celebrates Christmas" by Mary Caswell Walsh will be presented by Debra Brauner, Director of Christian Education.  The lighting of the Advent wreath will be told in story form from the point of view of the candle and illustrated by art work from the Pre-K through Grade 4 classes.  Stanley Emery will provide piano accompaniment for Christmas carols.

The Family Christmas Eve Service at 7:00 p.m. will feature Eric Mitchell and Mackenzie Hoffman in "Matt and Lucy's Version Births," a comparison of the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke  when  Matt and Lucy express confusion about the two different versions of the story.  During this reading all children present will participate in making a nativity scene.  Tori Young will sing "Silent Night" in German accompanied on guitar by Sydney Schollenberger.  Jacob Young will serve as acolyte.

Prior to the 11:00 p.m. Candlelight Service Karen Huss, Doris Miller and Tori Young will offer sacred music beginning at 10:30 p.m.  Jacob Young will be acolyte.  The sermon will note that the shepherds, the least amon men, are invited to the birth. The culmination of the worship will be the candle lighting ceremony and the singing of "Silent Night."

Members are reminded to sign up in Fellowship Hall for Christmas Day and/or New Year's Day to share Christmas traditions with our shelter guests.  Bring a meal, a movie, a game, snacks...

There is no game night Monday December 24, but it will return New Year's Eve from 8:00--10:00 p.m.