Pastor Emerita offers Anniversary Greetings

Bell & Palm trees

The Rev. Dr. Sally S. Smith sent greetings from her home in the Sierra foothills to the congregation on the occasion of our fifth anniversary. Here’s what she sent:

Greetings and congratulations!

“Behold I am doing a new thing” God declares in Isaiah. “Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19) Yes, in merging two congregations and two denominations, God has indeed created a new reality, a new community. Together, you have built and are building this church. You have made and are making many discoveries about deepening faith, strengthening hope, and expanding Christ’s love here and beyond your walls.

May your ministry and mission grow, and thrive, and long continue as you journey into God’s future together. Travel in the spirit of Dag Hammarskjold’s beautiful prayer, “For all that has been, thanks, and for all that will be, yes!”

In Christ’s love, and in joyous memory of Walter’s and my ministry among many of you.

Rev. Dr. Sally Stevens Smith, Pastor Emerita

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“After Spring” Documents Struggles of Syrian Refugees, Aid Workers

after-springTents stretch as far as the eye can see on a dusty plain in Zaatari, Jordan, the largest of the camps for Syrian refugees.

“After Spring,” the October Second Saturday Documentary Series offering, follows two refugee families striving to preserve their dignity and the aid workers struggling to keep the sprawling camp operational. The free film will be shown October 14 at 1:30 p.m. at Niles Discovery Church.

The 80,000 residents of Zaatari, the fourth largest “city” in Jordan, are improvising ways to avoid despair in what is now the sixth year of the Syrian war. Director Ellen Martinez and Executive Producer Jon Stewart point out in the film that more than half the camp’s population is under the age of 18. More than 5,000 babies have been born since the camp opened in July 2012.

After the screening, a moderated discussion will be led by Janah Kadah, a Syrian American student who recently returned from visiting refugee camps in Greece, Italy and Lebanon.

The Second Saturday Documentary Series is co-sponsored by Niles Discovery Church and the San Jose Peace and Justice Center. Learn more about the series at

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New glass in doors increases child safety

glass in doors

Thanks to the craftsmanship of John Hollowell, there are now glass panes in the doors between Rooms 3 and 4. “The goal is to allow a teacher or program leader in either room be an extra set of eyes for the other room,” Pastor Jeff explained. “We really think this will enhance the safety of our children.”

The congregation’s “Safe Church Policies” call for there to be two adults present when working with younger children. The glass in the doors now means that an adult in one room working with one set of children can be the second adult for the person working with children in the other room.

Many, many thanks to John for making this modification to our doors and increasing safety and program flexibility.

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Jeff’s Jottings

Why do you give money to the church?

I suppose there are lots of reasons out there, maybe as many as there are people giving money. I suspect all of those reasons fall into one of these categories: Some people give out of a sense of habit. Some people give out of a sense of obligation. Some people give to keep the institution alive. Some people give out of a sense of guilt (I wish I could figure out a way to stop this one). Some people give because they see it as a way to act like Jesus. Some people give to create a sense of investment in the church and what it stands for. And some people give to further the mission of the church.

I was going to say that I give to the church for the last two of these reasons, but if I’m honest with myself, I also give out of a sense of obligation. The church is important to me and so I feel an obligation to contribute to keep it going. I don’t know how spiritually healthy that is, but it is honestly one of the reasons I make a pledge each year to support the church financially.

I also give in part to connect myself more deeply with the church. I know I spend money on the things that matter to me (food, for instance), so giving to the church makes me feel more invested in the church. But the most important reason I give is that I care about what our church is doing.

Following the example of Jesus, Niles Discovery Church welcomes all people, grows in our relationship with God and each other, and serves our neighbors near and far.

That is how we have articulated our mission as a church. That is how we have said we embody and carrying the great commandments – to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We tend to think of love as a feeling, a feeling connected to romance. But love (at least as I understand these commandments) is a decision to act, to act for the good of another person or the community. Love is an action that asserts the worth of the other. In some cases, the actions of love – actions for the good of others – may be motivated by tenderness and compassion. In all cases, the actions of love are centered in a choice, a sometimes painful choice, to act for the ultimate benefit of other individuals and the community.

We’ve said that Niles Discovery Church carries out this love by choosing to welcome all people (and “all” really does mean all), to grow in our relationships with God and each other, and to find opportunities for service to our fellow human beings.

Jesus demonstrated this kind of love, a generous overflowing love. And he calls us, his disciples, to love in the same way – with generous, overflowing love. Which gets us to the theme of this year’s pledge campaign: The Generous Way of Jesus. The invitation of this pledge campaign is to choose, as stewards of the resources we have access to in our lives, to use them to be more generous with our love as lived out in the mission and ministry of Niles Discovery Church.

Jeffs Jottings

Pastor Jeff

In the coming weeks, you’ll hear sermons and testimonies about the Generous Way of Jesus. You’ll receive letters and emails about the Generous Way of Jesus. And you will be invited to make a financial pledge of support of the mission of our church in 2018 that we hope will draw you more deeply into the Generous Way of Jesus. I hope you will join us on this journey.

Peace, Pastor Jeff



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Pledge Campagn Launches October 1

The pledge campaign for 2018 launches in worship on October 1. The campaign will include sermons by Pastor Jeff, Pastor Brenda, and Regional Minister LaTaunya Bynum; letters; emails; and personal testimonies. It will culminate on October 22, when we will receive pledges during worship and celebrate with a special coffee hour.

The theme for this year’s campaign is “The Generous Way of Jesus.” Read an introduction to the theme in this month’s “Jeff’s Jottings.”

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Special Offerings Support Social Justice

be reconciled (2)

The October Special Offering will be split between two denominational offerings that focus on social justice and the legacies of racism. The Reconciliation offering of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) funds the Reconciliation Ministry, helping congregations address racism. One-third of the Neighbors In Need offering of the United Church of Christ supports the Council for American Indian Ministry, and the other two-thirds of the offering is used by the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries to support a variety of justice initiatives, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects through grants. You can learn more about these ministries of the wider church at and

NiN posterThe offering will be formally received on Sunday, October 8. As with all our special offerings, you are welcome to give at any time (always make checks payable to Niles Discovery Church). You can also give online: go to our church webpage, click the “donate” button at the top of the page, and select the appropriate special offering.

Niles Discovery Church receives a special offering each month. With that many possibilities for special giving, you may need to choose which ones are most important to you. You can see the schedule of special offerings at or call the church office and we will mail you one.


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Update on Building Beloved Community Through Reconciliation Project

Beloved Community

Looking for ways to transform your concerns about “otherism” and increase knowledge about privilege? Would you like to join the group designing ways to effectively engage our church and wider community in difficult, fascinating and healing conversations and activities that lead to resilient community? Bring your curiosity, concern and creativity to an organizing meeting for this project to be held in late September!  Contact Joy Barnitz ( to be added to the Doodle being used to select date and time for the initial meeting.

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