It’s been said that each of us has a “God-shaped” hole inside, a hole that we can spend a lifetime trying to fill. We may try to fill it with possessions, with food, with chemicals, with money, with power, with certainty, with fame or hubris, even with shame. None of these will completely fill a hole that is “God-shaped.” Only God’s agape love can fill that hole.
During Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, February 22, we will go on a journey “Lookin’ for LOVE in all the right places.” The Christian scriptures offer many images of where grace, forgiveness, righteousness, and healing – all aspects of God’s agape love – can really be found. It turns out, as we’ll discover, that we don’t find these in the “usual” places. The “usual places” don’t offer us the deep sense of wholeness and happiness we seek, for they offer only temporary good feelings and transient satisfaction.
Lent is a wonderfully reflective time to assess where we can find meaning and purpose. We’ll move through some stories of Jesus to help us on our journey, “Lookin’ for LOVE in all the right places.”
Lent is probably the most reflective season of the church year. It begins on Ash Wednesday, which this year is February 22. A special, multi-church worship service will be held at Niles Discovery Church, 36600 Niles Blvd., at 7:30 p.m. The pastors of Niles Discovery Church and United Church of Christ Fremont will be leading the service. Members of other area United Churches of Christ are invited to attend. If you plan to attend this service in person, please register at bit.ly/inpersonsignup. This service will also be streamed to a special Zoom “meeting,” which you can register for at bit.ly/AshWed2023Reg. People worshipping at home via Zoom are encouraged to have a dish with a little bit of dirt that they can use as ashes when, during the service, the imposition of ashes is offered.
The prayer time will include a time for individual reflection. In-person worshippers will be provided with paper and pens (and possibly crayons) for this reflection. People worshipping via the live stream are encouraged to have some paper and a pen/pencil ready to use at that time.
The pastors of United Church of Christ Fremont and Niles Discovery Church are already making plans for multi-church services on Maundy Thursday (April 6) and Good Friday (April 7). While the planning for these services is still in the early stages, Pastor Charlene (of United Church of Christ Fremont) says, “We know the Maundy Thursday service will include dinner!” Keep an eye out for more information.
Islamic Networks Group and the Tri-City Interfaith Council are cosponsoring this interreligious panel to coincide with World Interfaith Harmony Month. This event will be held on Zoom on Saturday, February 25, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Panelists from major world religions will discuss how to be a good guest at your neighbor’s house of worship, how to be a good host when welcoming people of other faiths into your house or worship, and teachings and traditions of hospitality from their religions. The program will include break-out groups for the audience to discuss and reflect upon these themes based upon their own experiences. Throughout the event the panelists will entertain questions and have a discussion with the audience.
If you would like to attend this event, please email ING’s Education Director Zachary Markwith at email@example.com. You will receive the Zoom meeting link from him.
After the Japanese Empire’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, The United States entered World War II. As a result, a wave of anti-Japanese sentiment consumed the country, reaching all the way to the White House. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, forcibly removing approximately 112,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast of the continental United States to held in American relocation camps and other confinement sites across the country. Two-thirds of those relocated were US Citizens.
Americans of Italian and German heritage were not subject to this order.
Premiering in 2017, Resistance at Tule Lake tells the long-suppressed story of incarcerated Japanese Americans who defied the government by refusing to swear unconditional loyalty to the U.S. Though this was an act of protest and family survival, they were branded as “disloyals” by the government and packed into the newly designated Tule Lake Segregation Center. The film, directed by Konrad Aderer, gives voice to experiences that have been marginalized for over 70 years that challenge the nationalist, one-sided ideal of wartime “loyalty,” and re-conceptualizing the idea that Japanese Americans were a passive “model minority” during the war.
Join us for a special screening of this documentary and discussion on Saturday, Feb 11 at 1:30 p.m. You can register for this screening and others by visiting bit.ly/SSDSZoom.
The February Special Offering is for the Church World Service (CWS) Blankets program. CWS is our ecumenical partner in coordinating and providing global emergency relief. Through the Blankets offering, we help provide blankets to people who have been displaced from their homes because of natural disaster and violence. The offering is also used for other emergency and development programs of Church World Service. Through the generosity of CWS partner organizations, congregations and individual supporters, our most vulnerable neighbors around the world can feel safe and keep warm with fresh linens and clean sleeping quarters.
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 nilesdiscoverychurch.org and click the “donate” button at the top of the page, go to the “special offerings” section and choose “Blankets+” from the dropdown menu.
Niles Discovery Church receives a special offering each month. With so many opportunities for special giving, you may need to choose which ones are most important to you. You may view the complete list of special offering opportunities for 2023 at bit.ly/NDCSpecialOfferings
The Ministry of Hospitality and Fellowship Team invites you to share the love with your Niles Discovery Church family by joining us in the third annual Secret Valentine Exchange. Please sign up at bit.ly/secretval2023 by January 29 to be part of this fun event.
It’s easy to join the fun:
1. On or before January 29, 2023, go to bit.ly/secretval2023 to register. Everyone who
signs up will be assigned as the Secret Valentine to someone else and also be on the receiving end for Valentines from someone else.
2. You will receive an email with your Secret Valentine’s name, a little bit about them and
their address around February 5.
3. Send or drop oft a card to them without letting them know it is you.
4. Feel free to do a little something extra for your Secret Valentine, but it is not required. That something extra might be two cards instead of one mailed a few days apart, flowers, candy or a little gift to brighten their day. Get creative!
5. Your goal is to mail or deliver a Valentine card to your Secret Valentine no later than Saturday, February 11.
On Sunday, February 12, all Secret Valentines will be revealed in a special celebration following our
morning worship. Please help us fill February with love and friendship for each other. If you have any questions, contact Marilyn Vermazen 563-608-4931 or Amy Gunnarson 301-693-6397.
As in previous years, new additions to the Sunday School curriculum have been sponsored by members of the congregation. On Sunday, February 5, members of the congregation will be offered an opportunity to serve our children by sponsoring books to replace those that have disappeared from the curriculum boxes. Sponsors may add their names to the special bookplates in the books. Please come to the fellowship hall on that day, or contact the Ministry of Christian Education Team at firstname.lastname@example.org to participate.
Last month the Ministry of Social Concerns Team informed the congregation that we had directed $1000 from the congregation’s “Making Amends” Fund to the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area. The Muwekma Ohlone Tribe is made up of individuals whose ancestors were indigenous to the San Francisco Bay region, who trace their ancestry through the Missions Dolores, Santa Clara, and San Jose, and who were also members of the historic federally recognized Verona Band of Alameda County. The Muwekma have many local activities and their present overarching goal is to be an “officially recognized” tribe.
Muwekma Chairwoman Charlene Nijmeh has said, “The process they created in 1978, called the Federal acknowledgment process (FAP), was only created to acknowledge those tribes who had never been recognized by the government, or those that were recognized but had their status officially terminated. Muwekma was recognized by Congress in the early 20th century and our tribe was never officially terminated so it never made sense that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) would ask us to go through the FAP process which was designed to acknowledge the existence of a tribe. But we did not need to be ‘acknowledged,’ the BIA had already conceded that we were recognized by Congress and never terminated so why is it not obvious? We are still here.” To learn more go to: http://www.muwekma.org/index.html
For a podcast on how indigenous children and adults were treated in early California history by laws that allowed them to be effectively “owned,” check https://www.aclunc.org/sites/goldchains/index.html Email email@example.com if you would like these sites sent to you by email.
What feelings are evoked when you consider your relationship with money? Probably not serenity, harmony, truth, compassion, and joy. For far too many of us the primary feeling is anxiousness. That may especially be the case when we look at the finances at church. With the market downturn over the past quarter, the congregation’s reserves have dropped substantially – as have the savings of many in the congregation. Pledges for the new year are down as well.
In response to this reality, our pastors are going to take us on a spiritual journey for four weeks, January 8, 15, 22, and 29, with a new worship series called, “A Wonder-Full Life.” In preparation for a new worship series, we will have a community screening of the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life on Sunday, January 1, at 6:30 p.m., on Zoom. Register at bit.ly/IAWLreg. Breakout rooms will be open to talk about the social and spiritual implications of the movie following the screening.
“In the classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life,” Pastor Jeff explained, “a money crisis creates vastly diverse reactions from several characters. Their reactions can help us look at our own relationships with money. Our looking during this four-week series will be compassionate. My hope is that doing so will offer more depth of meaning, healing, and wholeness, and help us see that more of the wonder that fills our lives.”
A copy of the proposed budget for 2023 will be previewed and discussed at a Town Hall Meeting on Sunday, January 15, following the worship service. The meeting will be held simultaneously in the sanctuary and on Zoom. This will also be an opportunity to ask financially related questions in preparation for the Annual Budget Meeting, which will be held on Sunday, January 29, 2023 after worship. Annual financial reports will be available in the church office in time for this Town Hall Meeting. If you need one emailed to you, please contact Cecilia by January 10 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The proposed budget will have a substantial deficit and the Personnel Committee believes the congregation needs to discuss programing priorities and related staffing. A plan to facilitate this discussion will be presented at the Town Hall Meeting. You are encouraged to attend this meeting on January 15 – and, of course, the Annual Budget Meeting on Sunday, January 29.