A Pastoral Word moved

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Come One, Come All

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Church to Help Get Residents to Help Plant Trees

Join members of the Niles Discovery Church Green Team in a Canvass Training Zoom class on Thursday, October 14, at 7:00 p.m., and then knock-on Fremont residents’ doors on Saturday, October 16, starting at 10:00 a.m., to offer them free 15-gallon trees.  The trees will be planted by volunteers later this winter.

The trees, valued at $100, will grow into shading, carbon sequestering, climate action heroes. This is a collaboration of the City of Fremont, the Tri-City Urban Forest Alliance, and the Niles Discovery Church Green Team. Sign up for the class at https://bit.ly/3CcaMKb and for the canvassing at https://bit.ly/39jzllp. Spend a few hours volunteering with a partner, get some exercise, and make a difference for the climate.

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A Pastoral Word – September 27, 2021

This Week’s Prayer

Lord, the day is cold;
Warm it with your presence.
The way is dark;
Lighten it with your Grace.
Our hearts are empty;
Fill them with your love.
Our minds are fearful;
Strengthen them with your hope.
Our lives are sinful;
Guide us in your way.
Lord, we are yours;
Be with us evermore.

~ by David Adam, Glory of Light

A Pastoral Word

I received word a couple weeks ago that the class I was deeply looking forward to in October was cancelled. It was a class on Celtic Christian Spirituality and Theology, part 2 of a 3-part series of classes taught by John Philip Newell. I was planning to travel to Virginia for the class, I was so excited about taking it. Alas, because of the pandemic, John Philip can’t get into the country and the class was cancelled.

My plan had been to tack a week of vacation to the week of study leave and to be a tourist after the class, visiting Shenandoah National Park and perhaps some Civil War ear historic sites. The touristy thing isn’t going to happen either.

To say I’m disappointed, is an understatement.

Instead of taking a class, the Cabinet has agreed to let me take a week for reading. This is something I did in August and it was very rich. My reading list for this week is longer than I will accomplish. In addition to getting caught up on a stack of professional journals, I plan to read Diana Butler Bass’ Freeing Jesus (in correctly named Saving Jesus in the email version and a book that many in the church will be reading over the next couple months) and Katharine Hayhoe’s Saving Us. If I get through all that, I’ll add James Martin’s Learning to Pray, which I hope can be the basis of a class in 2022 or 2023 (I know it will have to wait until after Confirmation Class, which runs from October 2021 to June 2022).

Instead of exploring part of the Appalachians, vacation will include a visit to my dad and stepmom. My stepmom’s health deteriorated over the early summer and she decided that she’s not going to the hospital anymore, so I am feeling the urge to connect with them as much as possible.

Because Pastor Brenda works half-time and has extra responsibilities while I’m away, there won’t be any issues of “A Pastor Word” for the next two weeks. You’ll hear from me again in this form on October 18, and I’ll be preaching on Sunday as we conclude our Season of Creation worship series, “Beguiled by Creation.”

Working for a positive peace,
Pastor Jeff

P.S. If you have a photo you want included in the “Blessing of the Animals” video (expanded to include all of creation), please send it to me before you go to bed tonight.


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“Freeing Jesus” – Another Exciting All-Church Read

Daytime Fellowship has chosen the book Freeing Jesus by Diana Butler Bass as our next All-Church Read. We are hoping that many of you will join us. If you are in need of assistance in purchasing a book, please contact Helen Boyer at helenjboyer@yahoo.com.  

In Freeing Jesus: Rediscovering Jesus as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence, Diana Butler Bass explores the many different images of Jesus we encounter and embrace throughout a lifetime. There is discussion regarding the six ways of approaching Jesus, six ways that Christians have spoken of Jesus, and most importantly, six ways Christians have experienced Jesus. In particular, Bass uses her own life story to explore how over the last 60 years she has related to Jesus — from being a young child, to being an aspiring academic, and onward to today. This is the same journey many of us have taken. 

All of us have had teaching and experiences that have shaped our varied understandings of our Christian faith, and here at Niles Discovery, wherever you are on your faith journey, you are welcomed.  Readers are invited to explore and integrate the ideas in Bass’s book to help relate to Jesus in new ways.  

The exchange of views and ideas in the discussion groups will help us to know each other better and expand our faith.  The discussions will be in November and hopefully will be completed before Thanksgiving. 

If you would like to join the reading group, please order your copy of Freeing Jesus now and start reading. Contact Marilyn Singer at robertsinger993@comcast.net to let her know that you would like to join a group. Invitation calls will be made soon to help get the word out. Participants will be contacted by group facilitators who will establish discussion times that are convenient for all. 

Let’s read and learn together. There is always More Light! 

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Confirmation Class Begins October 24

Additional Students are Still Welcome

Every so often, Pastor Jeff offers a Confirmation Class, a class offered to people 8th grade and above (adults are welcome to take the class, too,). The purpose of the class is to give the students what they need (information, experience, and time of reflection) to choose whether or not this is the time in their lives to confirm their identity as Christians. 

Each student has their own, unique story about their spiritual journey. For some students, a Christian identity was claimed on their behalf by their parents when they were baptized as infants. These students may use the class to help them decide if they want to claim that identity as their own now that they are maturing into adulthood. Some students come from families that are new to church and they use the class to learn more about Christianity and if it’s right for them. For other students, this is a time to discern if they want to claim a Christian identity through the sacrament of be baptized. Those who choose to confirm their identity as Christians do so through the rite of Confirmation. 

The class begins on October 24. It will meet most Sundays at 2:00 p.m. through May of 2022. It will include a few movie nights, some special worship services, a half-dozen or so meetings with a mentor, and a couple field trips during the course of the year. Confirmands (that’s the fancy church word for Confirmation Class students) will also have assigned spiritual practices to explore between classes and some reading assignments. 

If you would like to join the class, please let Pastor Jeff know right away. 

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A Future with Hope

Fall Pledge Campaign Launches in October

Many people have experienced this time of pandemic as a kind of exile, and so this year’s pledge campaign turns to the Prophet Jeremiah, who preached about a future with hope in the midst of exile, for our inspiration. 

Experiences of separation are at least as old as the ancient stories of the Garden of Eden, the Israelites’ exile in Babylon, and the parable of the Prodigal Son. And yet, those stories of separation include the seeds of hope, for they all end with some sort of return, some sort of reunion. In fact, that hope is central to the Christian story: Jesus and his followers were separated by betrayal and death, and then reunited by forgiveness and newness of life. Even on our most “normal” days (whatever those are), our lives are a rhythm of gathering and dispersing, coming together and going apart, calls to worship and benedictions. 

Here’s what to expect. You’ll be receiving three letters, beginning in mid-October inviting your reflection. Beginning on October 24, our worship services will focus on our theme, “A Future with Hope,” and will include interviews with members of our congregation. Pledge Sunday, the day we dedicate our pledges of financial support of the ministries of our church, is November 14 (pledge forms and instructions will be included in the second letter mentioned above). 

Amid the uncertainty we are feeling as the pandemic continues, let us build a future with hope. 

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October’s Special Offering: Striving for Love

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12

This year, our October special offering will be split between three organizations supporting racial justice initiatives. The offering will be received throughout the month of October. As with all our special offerings, you are welcome to give at any time. To do your giving online: go to our church webpage and click the “donate” button at the top of the page.  

One part of the offering will go to the Disciples of Christ’s Reconciliation Ministry. This ministry is a church-wide mission fund that supports programs and program partners that enable full human flourishing for everyone in every community. The theme for this year is “Revealing God’s Justice: The Time is Always Ripe to Do What is Right.”  For more information, please visit reconciliationministry.org 

The second part of the offering will go to the United Church of Christ’s Neighbors In Need Offering. In 2021, Neighbors in Need “Unfailing Love” offering is focused on supporting organizations and projects that are serving homeless and immigrant neighbors or communities. One-third of NIN funds support the Council for American Indian Ministry (CAIM). Two-thirds of this offering is used by the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries (JWM) to provide funding grants to UCC churches and organizations leading justice initiatives, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects in their communities.  If you would like more information, please see www.ucc.org/nin.   

The final part of the offering will go to our congregation’s “Making Amends Fund.” Recognizing that our church is founded from a legacy of European colonizers, Niles Discovery Church has established a “Making Amends Fund,” dedicated to the church’s wider work of making amends to the Indigenous People of the area now called “Fremont” and “the Tri-Cities.” We don’t yet know what this will look like. If people would like to be involved in research, education, and brainstorming of how to best use these funds, then should contact Alta Jo Adamson, the chair of our Ministry of Social Concerns Team. 

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/2021specialoffering.  

Many thanks to all that participated in our September special offering to Heifer International. At the time of press, we had collected $660.  

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October’s Documentary: Let’s Make Money

Most of us don’t know where our money is. However, one thing is for certain, it is not in the bank to which we entrusted it. As soon as we open an account, we’re part of the worldwide finance market – whether we want to be or not. 

As part of our Second Saturday Documentary Series, Let’s Make Money will be shown via Zoom Saturday, October 9 at 1:30 p.m. There will be a discussion immediately following the film led by Justine Burt, the Program Lead for the Future of Work at Manzanita Works, a non-profit in Silicon Valley focused on improving the quality of life for workers and their families. Prior to this, she spent 20 years consulting on sustainability behavior change for alternative transportation, energy efficiency, and waste prevention programs. Clients included NASA, Congress, local governments, businesses, universities, and non-profits. She is the author of The Great Pivot: Creating Meaningful Work to Build a Sustainable Future. You can register for this screening and other films in the series at bit.ly/SSDSZoom

More than ever before, it has become clear that the markets affect us all. Produced by Erwin Wagenhofer, Let’s Make Money follows the trail of our money through the worldwide finance system. We customers have no idea where our debtors live and what they do to pay our interest fees. Most of us aren’t even interested, because we like to follow the call of the banks to “Let your money work.” But money can’t work. Only people, animals or machines can work. 

This documentary investigates the development of the world-wide financial system, showing that elitists economically exploit the rest of society, especially in the developing world. Using the savings of a typical depositor as a case study, the film moves around the global system, showing exploitation at many levels. There are several interviews with investment managers, politicians, economists as well as homeless people and workers who give their take on the system and its impact. 

Spanning the globe from Burkina Faso to Jersey, Let’s Make Money reveals the perverse economic logic which has culminated in a global financial and environmental crisis. 

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A Pastoral Word – September 20, 2021

This Week’s Prayer

Holy One,

We hold in your light …
… our human siblings who suffer from storms and droughts intensified by climate change.
… all species that suffer.
… world leaders delegated to make decisions for life.

We pray that the web of life may be mended through courageous actions to limit carbon emissions.
We pray for right actions for adaptation and mitigation to help our already suffering earth community.
We pray that love and wisdom might inspire our actions so that we may, with integrity, look into the eyes of our siblings and all beings and truthfully say, we are doing our part to care for them and the future of the children.

May love transform us and our world with new steps toward life.


A Pastoral Word

We are halfway through the Season of Creation, and I hope you are finding our worship services as meaningful as I am. I’ll tell you a secret: I love how much I get out of writing a sermon. My soul is fed; my assumptions are challenged; my eyes are opened. It’s a wonderful spiritual practice.

One highlight of our worship services has been the Kairos Moments, reflections about our environment and how we can participate in its healing. Patrick Jurney gave us a wrap-up of our summer-long Green Challenge. (Remember that the Fremont Green Challenge continues and you can still join in.) Yesterday, Bee Newell challenged us to be “water warriors,” sharing all kinds hints on how to reduce our household water usage, something that is very important as the exceptional drought (the highest level of drought) continues in the Bay Area and in about half of the rest of the state.

Eight days ago, Lynn Miller spoke about all that Tri-City Urban Forest Alliance (TUFA) is doing and how our Green Team is supporting that work. In fact, supporting TUFA’s work is the current focus of our Green Team, and there are many ways each of us can be involved. A Zoom class will be offered in October on successfully selecting and planting trees. On November 6, you can join in a tree planting at Sabercat Creek Park. And at some point, the Green Team hopes to be planting five Coast Live Oaks on the church’s property, between the large parking lot and Niles Blvd.

The Green Team is inviting people to help get homeowners in Fremont to plant more trees. There is a 7:00 p.m. training on October 14 and a door-to-door canvassing on October 16. People how sign up after the canvassing will receive free 15-gallon trees, which will be planted by volunteers during the winter quarter.

Want to get paint on your fingers instead of dirt under your fingernails? Watch for information about a Green Team sponsored Zoom Tree Painting watercolor class.

And in January 2022, members of the church can join the Green Teams “seeds to seedlings” project to get oaks and buckeyes started. These seedlings will eventually be planted around the Tri-Cities. Contact the Green Team if you want to be involved in any of these activities.

And finally, I want to remind you about the actions that are happening this Friday. Fridays For Future is calling for a Global Climate Strike this Friday, September 24. Here info about some of the local actions:

  • 10:00-2:00 at Embarcadero Plaza, San Francisco
  • 10:00-noon at Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland
  • 10:00-3:00 at San Ramon City Hall (there may be an additional strike, 3:30-4:30)
  • Noon-1:00 at Sunnyvale City Hall
  • Noon-1:00 in Mountain View, a protest march on Rengstorff Ave to Hwy 101 crossover bridge

Learn more about the Global Climate Strike demands and other details at here.

These are just some of the ways you can take action to help move our leaders to take meaningful action on the climate crisis. I hope you’ll be involved.

Working for a positive peace,
Pastor Jeff


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