Blanket the World with LOVE

And don’t forget to do good and share with those in need.”

Hebrews 13:16

The February special offering is for Blankets+. This offering goes to Church World Service, our ecumenical partner in coordinating and providing emergency relief globally. Through the Blankets+ offering, you help provide blankets to people who have been displaced from their homes because of natural disaster and violence. Some of the offering is used for other emergency and development programs of Church World Service. This special offering will be officially received on Sunday, February 2.

Imagine your family is forced to leave your home. It’s a dark night, and you’ve been walking on dirt roads for hours. You stop at a registration center, where you receive critical supplies to help your family before continuing your journey. Among those supplies are blankets, a hot meal, emergency food rations, and hygiene.

These gifts of hospitality are only possible because congregations like Niles Discovery Church support the CWS Blankets+ Program. Last year, congregational gifts from around the country provided over 100,000 blankets and kits to families impacted by hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and other crises (including homelessness and poverty).

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.

Thanks to your generosity, our January Special Offering to Tri-City Volunteers raised $883.50.

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US Census is Hiring

Our congregation has been contacted by the U.S. Census because they are looking for new employees for several positions as the country gears up for and undertakes the every-ten-years count of everyone who is in the country. These positions have a $22.50 to $27.50 per hour pay range. Learn more at www.2020census.gov/jobs.

And even if you aren’t interested in a job, make sure you fill out and encourage your neighbors to fill out the census when the time comes. Every person undercounted can cost us over $1000 per year for the next ten years in federal moneys allocated based on population.

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Ministry of Property Caption Contest Ends

There was a tie for the Ministry of Property’s caption contest. Mike Thompson submitted both the winning entries: “You wait until I get to the top of the ladder to tell me it’s not cordless?” and “What do you mean charging the vacuum is on NEXT month’s agenda?”

Mike wins a Starbucks card for the first caption and an invitation to join the Ministry of Property Team for the second and most insightful caption.

Thanks to all who participated!

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Pledge to Vote: Be a Faith Climate Voter

2020 is going to be the most consequential election ever for our climate and the future of our planet. As people of faith and conscience, we must speak out on behalf of the most vulnerable members of our society and the world, for those who are suffering the worst effects of climate change. In pledging to be Faith Climate Voters we are putting love into action for every living creature and every vulnerable community suffering the devastation of climate change.

That is why, as part of worship on Sunday, February 9, I will be inviting you to sign a “Faith Climate Voter Pledge” and to join me in dedicating our pledges to vote in the March Primaries. The pledges will say:

I pledge to vote with climate and Creation in mind. I am pledging to be a Faith Climate Voter to put love into action for every living creature and for every vulnerable community suffering the impacts of our changing climate, from sea rise, to extreme heat, to devastating droughts, to raging wildfires, to supercharged storms.

I believe our nation’s elected leaders and public policies should reflect our shared values. By pledging to be a consistent voter and vote with climate in mind, I am communicating the values of caring for God’s Creation and our children’s future.

People who are not eligible to vote can still participate by pledging to get a neighbor to make such a pledge. There will be extra Faith Climate Voter Pledge cards to take home and share with your neighbors.

Peace,
Pastor Jeff

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Singer-Songwriter Bobby Jo Valentine in Concert February 2

Niles Discovery Church is pleased to welcome singer-songwriter Bobby Jo Valentine in concert on Sunday, February 2 at 4:00 p.m., as part of a celebration of our Open and Affirming identity. Tickets are a sliding scale of $10-$50, and no one will be turned away.

Bobby Jo is a multi-faceted and sought-after speaker, songwriter and storyteller who grew up on the windy seaside of Northern California. He’s been called a hopeful, realist poet and a philosopher for the people. His songs are both earthbound and mystical, and speak to the gentle, everyday awakenings of an openhearted life.

His artistry crosses the lines of many genres, but his thoughtful lyrics and catchy melodies reach listeners on all paths of life. The authentic, heartfelt nature of his songs have won him Songwriter of the Year at both the West Coast Songwriter’s Association and the SoCo Songwriter Competition, the Nashville Next Level Songwriter award, and more. Bobby’s music has appeared on radio and television, including a commercial for the recent Ford Fusion, ABC’s morning show The Morning Blend, and the award winning film The Groom’s Cake. His songs have received airplay from KGO, KRSH, and other radio stations nationwide.

Born into a Baptist church of strict lines and sharp edges, and coming out of that culture to discover who he really is, Bobby is now a believer in a larger sense, in the wild, strange, mystical nature of the world and the beauty that can be found underneath almost any tragedy. Faith has come to mean something much deeper and more generous than where he started. Along with theaters, house concerts, and many other venues, spiritual faith communities around the nation frequently invite Bobby to perform. He has performed for The Wild Goose Festival, the national Gay Christian Network conference, the international Emerge conference, TEDx, the Kinship Festival, and UCC General Synod, among many others, and is ecstatic any time he can invite big questions, challenge easy answers, and inspire people closer to love.

Bobby is a proud supporter of equal rights and opportunities for all people. He believes that we’re all in this together; that “the arc of the universe is long but bends toward justice”; and that real justice means justice for everyone.

This is a great way to introduce your friends, neighbors, and family to Niles Discovery Church! Listen to Bobby Jo’s latest album on Spotify or Apple Music; watch his TEDx talk; and be sure to share our Facebook event (j.mp/bjvfeb2) with your friends and family.

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Town Hall Meeting Planned for February 2

Our Pastors will be leading a Town Hall Meeting on February 2, following worship and the conclusion of their “Open … Affirming … Alive!” sermon series. The theme of the Town Hall Meeting is “Keeping the Covenant Alive.” Learn more about it by reading “Jeff’s Jottings.”

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Jeff's Jottings

Town Hall Meeting and Concert

I blame Pastor Brenda. She’s the one who has encouraged me to embrace sermon series. I’m glad she did. Having several weeks to dig deeper into a topic and look at it through a theological lens has been fruitful for me. I have learned more, and I have grown spiritually because of this practice. I hope you have, too.

You will be receiving this just as we wrap up our four-part look at our Open and Affirming covenant. We are concluding this look with a renewal of covenant during worship on February 2 and a Town Hall Meeting to discuss how we can keep our covenant alive and invigorated. As of the press deadline, the exact format of the Town Hall Meeting hasn’t been decided (that’s up to Pastor Brenda and me), though we know what we hope the product of the Town Hall Meeting will be:  some bold and beautiful ideas of how to continue to live into our Open and Affirming covenant.

That afternoon, singer/song writer Bobby Jo Valentine will present a concert in our sanctuary. I love his thoughtful, spirit-infused lyrics and folk-influenced music. I’ve heard him at several church meetings, locally and nationally. I know there’s a football game that afternoon. If that’s important to you, record it. I promise: no football spoilers during the concert.

What Do We Do With The Bible?

On February 9, we will begin a three-part sermon series, “What Do We Do with the Bible?”–  though, depending on how you count, it might be a four-part series. I’ll be starting the series with a sermon titled, “By What Authority?” It will focus on what the authority of scripture is for Progressive Christians. Pastor Brenda will preach on, “No, the Bible Doesn’t Say That,” on February 16.

Then we have a special treat. I’ll be preaching at Temple Beth Torah at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 21, about “How Christians Read Their Scriptures,” and Rabbi Avi Schulman will be preaching on “How Jews Read Their Scriptures,” on Sunday, February 23 here at Niles Discovery Church. We are hoping we get people from both congregations at both services.

February 23 is the final Sunday after Epiphany. On Wednesday, February 26, the season of Lent begins with

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the season of reflection, prayer, learning, and service that leads to Easter. Since Easter is the holiest day of the church year, this time of preparation is spiritually significant.

Ash Wednesday focuses on reminding us of our mortality with the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” All of us are journeying to our deaths. All of us are journeying home. Behind this reminder is the question, Given that we are journeying to our deaths, how shall we live?

We will take this message to the street and we will offer simple, meditative service in our sanctuary on Ash Wednesday. We will offer “Ashes to Go” to the clients and volunteers at CleanStart (in our parking lot that afternoon). Then we will move “Ashes to Go” to the Union City BART station. Extending the blessing and reminder of the church to the community on the street has been a powerful experience for me over the past two years. I’m glad our Ministry of Spiritual Life Team wants to continue this outreach.

Pastor Brenda will be leading our 7:30 p.m. service in the sanctuary. It will be simple and meditative, and will include music, silence, a video for reflection, and the imposition of ashes, the ancient reminder of our mortality. I hope you will attend this service to begin your Lenten journey.

Peace,
Pastor Jeff

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