Annual Pledge Campaign brings impressive results

“Once again our congregation is showing just how generous and committed they are,” Pastor Jeff said when he heard the intermediate results of the pledge campaign, “What Shall We Bring?”

As of the press deadline, church bookkeeper Cecilia Le reports that pledges received so far total $208,620. She also said that there are a half-dozen pledges that she suspected would renew at some level, and if they renew at 2018 levels, the pledge total will be around $232,000, up around 5% from last fall’s pledge total.

The Finance Committee is using the pledge total to draft a 2019 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, held in late January or early February.

If you have not made a pledge and would like to do so, you can go to 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


White Candles Burning in Dark Church.

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 will offer 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 Friday, 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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Happy New Year!

This greeting isn’t a month early. For the liturgical (church) calendar, Advent is the beginning of the year. And since Advent begins on December 2 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 start 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. For Christians who believe that Christ will come again in some dramatic, apocalyptic event, Advent is a time of preparing for that arrival.

Typically, each week has a theme – hope, peace, love, and joy (in some order or other). The color for Advent is traditionally purple, though some churches use royal blue. This year, we will be using purple during Advent. There will also be a new liturgical art installation.

There are also a few changes to the order of worship to help mark the season. The most noticeable change is how worship begins – with the lighting of an Advent candle in the Advent wreath on the communion table.

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Two services planned for Christmas Eve

The results from the October surveys were confusing. When asked what possible times for Christmas Eve services would work best for people from four options, the one that was certain to work well for the largest number of people (11:00 p.m.) turned out to be the time that was certain to work least well for the largest number of people.

“It’s a challenge to interpret results like that,” Pastor Jeff said.

Recognizing that no time would work for everybody, the Ministry of Spiritual Life Team decided to schedule two worship services this Christmas Eve, at 7:30 p.m. and at 11:00 p.m. The choir will sing at the 11:00 p.m. service.

The 7:30 p.m. service will include an “instant pageant.” An ‘instant pageant’ is pretty much what it sounds like,” Pastor Jeff explained. “We will tell the Christmas story in word and song and people from the congregation, who will be recruited at the beginning of worship, act it out. There are no lines to learn, or even say, since the ‘acting’ is all done as pantomime. Overly simply costumes are provided. It’s just a bunch of fun.”

The 11:00 p.m. service will focus on the beloved Christmas carol, “Silent Night.” “It’s the song’s 200th anniversary,” Pastor Jeff explained, “so we’re going to tell some stories about the song and what it means to us today.”

Pastor Jeff said that both services will include candle lighting. He also said that he would like to include children and youth in the leadership of the service, be that reading one of the lessons or making a special music offering. Parents are asked to let him know by December 10 if their kids want to help out.

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SF Jazz Outing

Join your friends from Niles Discovery Church at the Monday, December 19, showcase concert presented by the SF Jazz Center Monday Night Band (a group that includes our own Ben Gunnarson). The venue is the Miner Auditorium, 201 Franklin Street in San Francisco. Show time is 7:30 pm. There is no cost for tickets, but they must be ordered in advance.

Now into its 12th season, the SFJAZZ Monday Night Band has become one of the most in-demand community groups in the Bay Area, attracting a range of talented musicians – from retired pros to emerging young artists. Directed by acclaimed Bay Area musician and bandleader Adam Theis, the Monday Night Band is open to intermediate and advanced level instrumentalists and vocalists.

To reserve your space, contact Amy Gunnarson at or 301-693-6397 before November 30. She will order tickets. You are also invited for “pre-performance snacks and conversation” at Tom and Amy Gunnarson’s home from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. We will carpool from there to the event.

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Special Offerings

November’s special offering is for Homelessness Ministries. The Cabinet decided to adjust this offering so that it can be used to support the Home Warming program of Abode Services and for projects that our congregation’s homelessness study group may develop. If you’d like to be part of the homelessness study group, contact Jim Thomas.

The offering will be formally received on Sunday, November 11. 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 and click the “donate” button at the top of the page.

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 we will mail you one.

Thanks to your generosity, The October Special Offering raised $1,032 for the social justice ministries of our denominations through the Neighbors In Need and Reconciliation special offerings.

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Evangelism? Really?? In 2018???

by Mark McConville

The Ministry of Evangelism Team is the newest ministry team at Niles Discovery Church. It has the charge of finding ways to spread a progressive, 21st century faith in Jesus outside the walls of our church. Something of a tall order if you think about it.

Our first project is working on “elevator speeches”, one- or two-minute responses or conversation starters to situations we may find ourselves in.

For example, suppose you and an acquaintance overhear someone giving a heavy-handed “come to Jesus or go to hell” diatribe. Your acquaintance says, “I really dislike organized religion. How about you?” How would you respond?

Or suppose you are in a coffee shop, reading the Bible because you are the liturgist next week. Someone at another table says, “Pardon me, but can you tell me why you read that?” How would you respond. Having an elevator speech can be helpful in situations like this.

We’d love you to join us the second Monday of each month to help us wrassle with this and similar issues. The next meeting is November 12 at 7:00 p.m., at the church in Room 1. We need all the help we can get.

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