Conference planned to help congregations better serve and include people with mental health conditions

Mental health conditions are common everywhere, including in our churches. People are dealing with a variety of mental health and substance use challenges every day. Due to stigma, many people may be reluctant to either seek help professionally or to speak about it with their pastor or other members of their church. This cant be changed. Congregations can become places of belonging, where truly everyone, including those with mental health challenges, is welcome, no matter where they are on life’s journey.

Congregations are invited to explore becoming “WISE” – Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged – for Mental Health by attending a conference on March 2 at City of Refuge Church in Oakland, offered by the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network. The conference is an opportunity for church members and leaders to learn about mental health, explore how our faith communities can support those among us with health challenges, attend workshops, and begin the steps to become certified as a WISE Congregation for Mental Health (following the UCC resolution passed at General Synod in 2015).

To learn more about the conference and to register, go to All are welcome and encouraged to attend. If you have further questions about the conference, contact Robin Kempster, member of the UCC Mental Health Network, at

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Region plans mission trip to Puerto Rico this April

The 2019 Christian Church of Northern California-Nevada Regional Mission Trip will be to Puerto Rico, April 14-20. As most of us know, Puerto Rico sustained a direct hit by Hurricane Maria in September 2017, while they were still recovering from Hurricane Irma, which hit the previous month.

Because the island is much poorer than the mainland of the U.S., the residents have had a very difficult time rebuilding. Many people still live in damaged and substandard homes. Our hands-on labor and presence on the island provide evidence of our love and support to the people of Puerto Rico.

The basic cost, charged by the Disciples Office of Volunteering, is $300. There will some additional costs (still to be determined) charged by the Region. Participants are responsible for their own airfare and other incidental costs. The participants will be housed in the mountains, near Barranquitas, in bunkhouses at Camp Morton (an outdoor ministries site).

The Disciples of Christ have a very strong presence on the island, with more than 100 congregations. There is a need for people who have construction skills and those who can speak Spanish. All participants will meet at the San Juan International Airport, Puerto Rico, by 2:00 p.m. (local time) on Sunday, April 14. They will return to California on Saturday, April 20. Participants do not need a passport to go to Puerto Rico as it is part of the United States.

Registration forms were not available as of the press deadline, but you can check the mission trip page of the Region’s website,, for forms and lots (really, lots) more information. People interested in going should also contact the Regional office; a sort of group orientation meeting in being planned for March.

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Making Summer Plans? Consider attending a church meeting

Seriously. Consider attending a church meeting this summer.

Both the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ (which are commonly abbreviated as DOC and UCC respectively) are covenantally based. Each congregation lives in covenant with the other congregations and with the wider church.

Each denomination holds a general meeting every two years. The UCC holds a “General Synod” with representatives from the Conferences (the 37 geographic areas across the United States). The DOC holds a “General Assembly” with representatives from every congregation in the denomination. While the Northern California Nevada Conference selects just a handful delegates to represent us and the other UCC congregations in our Conference at General Synod, our church’s Cabinet selects our delegates to General Assembly. “Visitors” are also welcome at both General Synod and General Assembly. In addition to our two lay delegates to General Assembly, our pastors are automatically delegates – if they actually go.

Delegates and visitors participate in worship, workshops, and banquets. Only delegates get to speak and vote on the business items that come before the General Synod and General Assembly.

General Synod will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, June 21-25. You can learn more about it, registration, and costs at General Assembly will be held in Des Moines, Iowa, July 20-24. You can learn more about it, registration, and costs at If you decide to go to General Assembly, please let our Moderator or one of our pastors know. While we can’t help you pay for attending, we can officially appoint you a delegate, so you’ll get to vote.

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Expanded Nursery coverage now available on Sundays

The Ministry of Christian Education team has decided to staff the Nursery with workers that have passed a thorough background check and have been cleared to work with vulnerable persons, each Sunday morning starting around 9:50 a.m. and continuing through the worship service. This allows the parents of our youngest children to fully participate in the valuable time of worship, fellowship, and prayer.

There are now three options for the parents of nursery-aged children:

  • You are welcome to keep them in the sanctuary throughout the worship service.
  • You can keep them until Sunday School starts following the “Time With Children”
  • You can bring them to the nursery before the worship service commences.

Please see a MCE team member for more information.

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Moderated Musings – Homeless Shelter Project

Jim Thomas

The City of Fremont has received a grant to set up a small homeless shelter using temporary modular buildings. They are considering the possibility of using the unimproved portion of our property (AKA Squirrel Hill) as a possible site for this project. This section of our property would be graded and paved to allow the modular units to be placed there. The area will be fenced in and a new street light installed as well. There would be 10 to 13 mini-units, some of which would house City of Fremont staff. What is expected of Niles Discovery Church is to allow the city to use that property for five years, after which time we would regain that property.

During the Cabinet Meeting held on Monday, January 21, we discussed the impact this proposed project would have on our church. A significant list of questions was brainstormed that will be sent to the City of Fremont Human Services Department to be addressed. You can view the Cabinet’s list of concerns at:

We also would like to get your feedback. What are your concerns about this proposal? Please email your thoughts to me at There will also be a Town Hall Meeting on Sunday, March 10, after worship, to share what we have learned in the meantime and to gather additional ideas, questions, and comments.

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Jeff’s Jottings – February 2019

Pastor Jeff

What should be the requirements for membership and what should our expectations of members be?

That’s the question that’s been on my mind for a while now, and especially as we have moved into our sermon series on membership. Right now, our requirements are: a desire to join the church, having been baptized, and a willingness to reaffirm that baptism. Our expectations of members are, if I do say so, a pretty low bar: to worship with and/or contribute monetarily to the church at least once a year. Should they stay that way?

Because our current requirements include baptism, Pastor Brenda and I thought it would be worthwhile to begin our series with an historic look at baptism – generally and within our denominations. On a drive recently, as I was thinking about this sermon series, I thought about all the things we left out of those first two sermons on baptism. For instance, we didn’t talk about sacraments and their role in the church. We didn’t talk about covenant. We barely scratched the surface on community.

Then I reminded myself that the sermons in this series will total only two to two-and-a-half hours. That’s barely a couple class sessions, and I know from experience that one could study the sacraments for a semester and still feel like there is more to cover and discover. I sure hope you are spending time thinking about this subject in the time between the sermons, that you’re praying about this with an ear listening for what the Holy Spirit may be saying to you.

Next up, will be a sermon working on answering the question, What does it mean to be a church? (This sermon will have been preached by the time you read this, though I’m still working on its content). Then we’ll move to two sermons about what it means to join a church (one from Pastor Brenda and one from me). And then we’ll look at liturgy. Based on our (hopefully deeper) understandings of baptism and membership, what are the appropriate things for us to say and ask as part of a baptism liturgy and as part of a uniting-in-membership liturgy?

All of these sermons are being posted on the church’s website sermon page ( – hopefully both the manuscript and a video (if technology continues to work for us). I also post a manuscript of my sermons on my blog ( If you missed one, I hope you will catch up.

My suspicion is that the last two sermons really won’t be completed until the Town Hall Meetings that will follow worship on those two Sundays, February 17 and 24. I really wish I could tell you want to expect at the Town Hall Meetings, but because they will flow out of the sermons, and those sermons haven’t been written yet, I don’t know what to expect.

Nonetheless, I trust that our mutual discernment, our mutual listening to each other, to the inner, still, small voice, and to the Holy Spirit, will lead us into whatever the appropriate future should be for our congregation.

That’s one of the many things I love about this church: we are willing to listen. We trust one another and we trust ourselves and we trust God. And that makes all the difference.

Pastor Jeff

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Town Hall Meetings planned to conclude sermon series on church membership

As this edition of The Bell goes to press, our pastors are in the midst of a seven-part sermon series on church membership. “This series grew out of a question about our bylaws,” Pastor Jeff explained a month ago. “The bylaws say that uniting with the church as a member is a reaffirmation of baptism. Some have questioned whether or not that is still an appropriate understanding and requirement of membership in our congregation at this time in our world’s history.”

“We hope this series will help our congregation move toward a consensus on this overarching question: What should be the requirements for membership and what should be our expectations of members?” Pastor Jeff said.

The final two sermons will look at the liturgies we use and could use for baptism and for receiving new members. Those worship services will be followed by Town Hall Meetings to engage the congregation in discussions about those liturgies and their theological implications. Everyone is encouraged to participate in the Town Hall Meetings, and Pastor Jeff said he is hoping that childcare will be available.

Read more about the series and the Town Hall Meeting in this month’s “Jeff’s Jottings.”

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