Starry Advent and Epiphany Nights Adorn Sanctuary

The “Starry Advent and Epiphany Nights” series of quilts are mostly purple, blue, black, and white fabric representing the starry nights that covered Mary and Joseph as they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Egypt. Purple and blue are the liturgical colors for Advent and Epiphany. They represent the royalty of the holy family. The imagery at the bottom of the quilts are meant to suggest the desert dunes, hills, oases, towns and pyramids seen by the Holy Family, shepherds and three kings along the journey.

This is not the actual quilt.

These quilts are reversable. On the back is the “Rainbow Pathways” series for Ordinary Time. These fabrics are intended to represent blue sky above, flowers creating a rainbow, a dirt path or boardwalk, and water below. This series is intended to symbolize our spiritual journeys, earth, and LGBTQ+ justice, and any seasons when flowers bloom. These quilts are original designs created by Alta Jo Adamson, Marilyn Singer, Cindy Sojourner, Sandy Thomas, Riki Twist, and Carrie Williams. The quilting was done by Sandy Thomas. 

The Liturgical Art Special Ministry Team works closely with the Ministry of Spiritual Life and Ministry of Property and includes a number of members who enjoy the work of creating, caring for, installing, and occasionally constructing ways to display the decorative arts that add so much to all of the events in our church. To join the team, contact Joy Barnitz at jbarnitz@nilesdiscoverychurch.org

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Mobile Hygiene Unit

Exciting things have been happening with the Mobile Hygiene Unit. New services have been added to help our neighbors in need. We have been offering services to mend clothes, groom hair, and listen to our client’s stories. Donations of travel kits, travel mugs, underwear, blankets, socks, and food have been well received. We now are providing shoe vouchers that clients can take to the Fremont Family Resource Center to get a pair of shoes. Both the Abode Services Hope Van and the Tri-City Health Center Mobile Medical Unit are talking with us about providing medical services as well. If you have a service you’d like to provide, please contact Jim Thomas or visit https://nilesdiscoverychurch/MHU for more information.

Many of the clients that visit the Hygiene unit lack the usual items needed for cleaning and grooming. If you would like to donate items to the endeavor, here are a few things that are always helpful: baggies with bandages and other first aid items, tooth brushes and dental floss, combs/brushes, underwear and socks, nail clippers, disposable razors, and travel size toiletry items.

The City of Fremont’s Clean Start Mobile Hygiene Unit provides shower and laundry service at Niles Discovery Church on Wednesday and Friday afternoons from 1:00 pm till 4:00 pm. To volunteer to help with the Mobile Hygiene Unit, please send an email to specialprojects@cityserve.org.

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Calling all of Santa’s Elves!

The Tri-City Volunteer’s Toy Distribution and Kid’s Party will be on Saturday, December 21, 9:00 a.m. -1:00 p.m. at Niles Discovery Church. This year, parents will choose toys while children attend the party. Parents will be given a staggered time-frame to shop, so the kids will be coming to the party throughout the morning. Lots of volunteers will be needed for tasks including setting up on Friday and cleaning up on Saturday afternoon, and acting as Santa’s helpers, popcorn poppers, face painters, craft table organizers and helpers, and more. In addition, donations of old Christmas cards would be greatly appreciated. This is a wonderful intergenerational opportunity, and high school volunteer hours are available. For more information or to volunteer please contact Beth Armstrong at baarmstrong1@aol.com.

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December Special Offering

“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his deed.” — Proverbs 19:17

The December Special Offering is in support of the Niles Discovery Church Homeless Ministries, with oversite by the Homelessness Study Group. This money is used primarily to support the Abode Services Home Warming/Rapid Rehousing program helping families to move out of homelessness into a home. The money is used to purchase much-needed household items, as well as first month’s rent and security deposit that pose an initial barrier to moving in. Other uses of the money support projects approved by the Homelessness Study Group to help mitigate homelessness. For more information about the Homelessness Study Group, send an email to homelesshelp@nilesdiscoverychurch.org. This offering will be officially collected on Sunday, Decmber 1, 2019.

Niles Discovery Church receives a special offering each month. With so many possibilities for special giving, you may need to choose which ones are most important to you. To see the complete schedule of special offerings, please visit bit.ly/2019specialoffering.

Many thanks to all that participated in our November special offering to Puente de la Costa. We were able to raise $2,246.

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Jeff’s Jottings

For the liturgical (church) calendar, Advent is the beginning of the year. And since Advent begins on December 1 this year, Happy New Year!

The word “advent” means “arrival” and is typically used in English to refer to the arrival of an important person, thing, or event. In the liturgical calendar, Advent is a whole season that starts four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve.

During Advent, we prepare for and anticipate the coming of Christ. For many, this means preparing for the celebration of Christmas, the celebration of the birth (coming) of Christ. For many others, this means preparing our hearts for Jesus to be born again within us so that all Jesus promised in his first coming can be fulfilled in us.

Our worship begins around the Advent wreath (a relatively recent addition of the liturgy of the season) as we light a candle. Each candle has a theme – hope, peace, love, and joy. The color for Advent is traditionally purple, though some churches use royal blue. We tend to alternate colors, so this year, we will be using blue during Advent.

You will also notice a new liturgical art installation. The banners are connected to the Advent theme, “Following Your Guiding Star.” You can read more about the liturgical art installation on page _.

There are some additional changes to the order of worship that we’re making – beyond starting our worship service around the Advent wreath. Some of these have to do with responses to the changes we’ve be experimenting with in our prayer time.

In the survey we conducted at the end of October and beginning of November, some people noted that the most recent style of praying invites them into the quiet, and encourages them look within and see what is truly on their hearts. Several people said that the fact that prayers are not being repeated makes them feel more comfortable praying aloud and that the prayers (silent and aloud) feel more directly connected to God.

People also noted in the survey that they missed being able to hear what others were praying. I interpret this to mean that people are missing the sense of intimacy our prayer time has built in our community in the prayer style when Pastor Brenda or I would repeat the prayer.

I found it interesting that several people noted both of these things, that they appreciate the intimacy with God the quieter way we’ve been praying together lately and that they miss the intimacy with the community the repeated prayers brought. Upon reflection this doesn’t surprise me. Both intimacies are important for our journeys. In fact, they are both in the same line of our mission statement: “growing in our relationships with God and each other.”

Though the survey comments coalesced around these to ideas, there were several other comments that I think are worth sharing. For instance, a few appreciated how the more recent format for prayer has kept them from becoming announcements. Some noted that the more recent format takes less time (repeating prayers essentially takes twice as long). A couple people said they missed saying, “O God, hear our prayer,” together.

Pastor Brenda and I have talked about how to meet both of these desires for intimacy. We think the “echo chamber” (as we call the repeating of prayers) gets in the way of intimacy with God and the quiet murmuring of prayers (what we’re doing now) gets in the way of intimacy with each other. We’re hoping that the format for prayer we’re going to try out starting in Advent does something for both desire for intimacy.

Here’s how we hope it will work: Everyone will be invited to pray, aloud and silently. Prayers that are offered aloud won’t be repeated. This means that some people may hear you and others won’t if you’re praying aloud, and it means that you won’t hear everything others pray aloud. That’s okay because the prayer is primarily addressed to God. Trusting one another, we will respond to each prayer, whether we understand what was said or not, with “O God, hear our prayer.” We will conclude with the Lord’s prayer.

This prayer format does ask two additional things of you: (1) If you want people to know the content of your prayer, write it on the green attendance sheet and check the box that asks for the prayer to be included in the weekly prayer requests email. (2) If you want to know the content someone’s prayer that you didn’t hear, you can ask them directly and/or sign up for the weekly prayer requests email.

Finally, there is one other change you will notice starting in Advent. The prayers will come before the offering. Practically, this change will allow the children to return from Sunday School for communion during the offertory (rather than needing to add a hymn to the liturgy). The change also allows us to embrace an ancient Christian practice when the communion elements were the gifts brought from the congregation to the table.

Justin Martyr (who died around 165), describing second-century Christian worship, wrote, “When our prayer is ended, bread and wine with water are brought forth, and the president offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability.” Worship at that time was typically held in someone’s home. This act of bringing the communion elements to the table eventually would lead to people bringing additional gifts to the communion table during worship. Their gifts included bread and wine and food stuffs for the clergy and the poor. Later, donations of money were collected during worship to assist the poor and the Church, rather than food and other items.

Thank you for reading all the way through this column. I know it was longer than my typical column. Sharing all this information with you necessitated it.

Now, let’s get into the celebration of Advent, a time filled with hope, peace, joy, and love.

See you in church,
Pastor Jeff

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Devoted to Generosity

Annual Pledge Campaign brings impressive results

“Once again our congregation is showing just how devoted to generosity they are,” Pastor Jeff said when he heard the intermediate results of the fall pledge campaign.

As of the press deadline, church bookkeeper Cecilia Le reports that pledges received so far total $211,866. She also said that there are around a dozen pledges that she suspected would renew at some level, and if they renew at 2018 levels, the pledge total will be over $230,000, up around 5% from last fall’s pledge total.

The Finance Committee is using the pledge total to draft a 2020 budget for the Cabinet to review, potentially revise, and present to the congregation for a vote (after further discussion and potential revision) at the congregation’s Financial Annual Meeting, which will be held January 26, 2020, following worship.

If you have not made a pledge and would like to do so, you can go to bit.ly/ndcpledges and fill out the online pledge form or scroll down and print a form. Or you can call the office and a form will be mailed to you.

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Longest Night Service: A service of Light in the Midst of Darkness

For many, Christmas time is a bittersweet time of year. For people who are dealing with grief, significant life changes, sobriety, family dysfunction, and other challenges, this time of year can be especially difficult.

“This is also the time of year with the longest nights,” the Rev. Jeffrey Spencer noted, “so on the longest night of the year our congregation offers a special meditative worship service that makes time for remembering, sharing our hurting places with God, and preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ.”

This “Longest Night Service” will be held at Niles Discovery Church on Saturday, December 21, at 7:30 p.m. The service includes special music, scripture, silent reflection, and healing prayer. The service will be followed by a simple time of fellowship for those who wish to participate. Childcare is offered during the service.

“Attendees will be invited light candles during the service as a quiet response and act of prayer,” Pastor Jeff explained. He said that he hopes that the service will provide a space for people “to release their anger, face their emptiness, have a good cry (if that’s what they need), and know that God cares.”

“This is our ‘pre-Christmas’ gift to the community,” he said.

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