Friday, March 13, 2015

Weekly News 03-13-15

March 15

This week’s road in the GOSPEL HIGHWAY series is The Hard Road (Matthew 7:14). Mark’s sermon will try to convince us that though the road of authentic discipleship is hard it is worth the taking because God stands at the end of it. The Handbell Choir will be playing this week, and the time with children will explore the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer.

MARCH MADNESS . . . Selection Sunday

The Mission Committee’s March Madness Food Drive begins this week with Selection Sunday. The goal this week is to collect 68 items for the Verona Area Needs Network food pantry. That is one item for every team selected for the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Help us reach the 68-item goal by having every member of your family bring their favorite non-perishable food item to the church.

UNWRITTEN CHAPTERS

The March 18 midweek Lenten service will focus on the men who did not throw stones (John 8). Come hear about people Jesus inspired to change for the better. A story like this can be full of insight, especially for days like these when angry crowds quickly gather. The service begins at 7 in the fellowship hall and goes for about 45 minutes.

TENEBRAE READERS for MAUNDY THURSDAY

Four more readers are needed for the Maundy Thursday Tenebrae Service, April 2. Please let Mark know as soon as possible if you are interested in being one of these readers.

FAITH ON THE MOVE: Mapping Our Future

The challenge goal for our 2015 stewardship drive is $295,000. Just imagine what reaching that goal could mean for the life of our church! Missing the goal will only get us as far as we have gotten so far, and that is still short of where we believe God wants us to go. Return your pledge sheet if you have not already done so, and be part of a stronger, more effective, and farther reaching Salem. 

SHOWER

Sherrol and Laura Yurs invite all the ladies of the church to attend a baby shower for Lena (Yurs) Woodis to be held on Sunday, March 15, at 2 in the afternoon in the fellowship hall. Lena and Adam are expecting Rya Isabel at the end of April – or the first week of May, if Grandpa has any say. (The Yurses wish to clarify this is a shower Rya’s grandma and aunt are hosting, not the Fellowship Committee; those showers are for church members currently active.)

DONKEY

Will you help keep an eye out for a donkey? March 29 is Palm Sunday and the donkey who has led our procession in recent years in no longer available. Can you help us find one?

MORE PALM SUNDAY

We will be walking through all of Holy Week on Palm Sunday. Following the procession in the streets, re-enacting Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, those returning to the church will find our building transformed into a series of stops along the way that tell the story of the last days of Jesus on earth. All this will take place during the Sunday School hour March 29. All are invited, both young and old. Bring your friends. No story is more important than this, and the church lives to speak it or it does not live at all.

SOUTHWEST WISCONSIN ASSOCIATION ANNUAL MEETING

The Annual Meeting of the Southwest Wisconsin Association of the United Church of Christ will be held Saturday, April 11, at First Congregational Church in Madison, starting with registration at 8:15 AM.  The day begins with worship led by the Reverend Franz Rigert, our new Wisconsin Conference minister.  Following worship, we have a day full of presentations by representatives of SW Association congregations.  Come hear about McFarland’s “Messy Church”; Paoli Zwingli’s experience with Appreciative Inquiry; Dodgeville Plymouth’s Multicultural Outreach Program; and Platteville/Zion’s work with homeless families in rural southwest Wisconsin. Registration deadline is March 28.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Weekly News 03-06-15

NEW ZEALAND

Doug and Barb Smith spent a year living, working and worshiping in New Zealand. The Smiths will tell us about their year this Sunday after a potluck supper at the church. The potluck will start at 5 PM and the presentation will start about 5:45. Bring a dish to pass and come ready to learn about life in New Zealand. Our mission committee is sponsoring this night of global awareness.

UNWRITTEN CHAPTERS

The March 11 midweek Lenten service will focus on the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20). Come hear about a man filled with demons but who got his life back with the help of Jesus. A story like this can help us get our lives back when they seem taken away by a mob of duties, responsibilities, worries, challenges, and all the rest. The service begins at 7 in the fellowship hall and goes for about 45 minutes.

FAITH ON THE MOVE: Mapping Our Future

Our 2015 stewardship drive material – FAITH ON THE MOVE: Mapping Our Future – has gone out to all of our members. The challenge goal for this year’s stewardship drive is $295,000. Dr. Seuss’s birthday was last Monday (Mar. 2). Many will remember his poem “Oh! The places you’ll go!” That spirit of excitement can be alive in us as we take on the route of faithful stewardship. Won’t you return your pledge sheet, and won’t you help get behind the wheel of this promising and exciting ride? 

SHOWER

Sherrol and Laura Yurs invite all the ladies of the church to attend a baby shower for Lena (Yurs) Woodis to be held on Sunday, March 15, at 2 in the afternoon in the fellowship hall. Lena and Adam are expecting Rya Isabel at the end of April – or the first week of May, if Grandpa has any say. (The Yurses wish to clarify this is a shower Rya’s grandma and aunt are hosting, not the Fellowship Committee; those showers are for church members currently active.)

DONKEY

Will you help keep an eye out for a donkey? March 29 is Palm Sunday and the donkey who has led our procession in recent years in no longer available. Can you help us find one?

SOUTHWEST WISCONSIN ASSOCIATION ANNUAL MEETING

The Annual Meeting of the Southwest Wisconsin Association of the United Church of Christ will be held Saturday, April 11, at First Congregational Church in Madison, starting with registration at 8:15 AM.  The day begins with worship led by the Reverend Franz Rigert, our new Wisconsin Conference minister.  Following worship, we have a day full of presentations by representatives of SW Association congregations.  Come hear about McFarland’s “Messy Church”; Paoli Zwingli’s experience with Appreciative Inquiry; Dodgeville Plymouth’s Multicultural Outreach Program; and Platteville/Zion’s work with homeless families in rural southwest Wisconsin.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Laura's Border Blog, (Cont)

Tuesday, February 22, 2015

Our day began with conversation with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer, Frank.  Frank is a first generation Mexican American who has worked for the Border Patrol, spent many years as an undercover officer, and now is a supervisor in the Tucson and Nogales, Arizona ICE offices.  Throughout the course of our morning together, several clear themes emerged.  First, was the overall complexity of immigration law and enforcement, which seems to be always changing in its interpretation, subject to funding and political winds.  Second were the very real concerns about the influence and power of the Mexican drug cartels,  and their encroachment in the US:  the drug trade, human trafficking, kidnapping, and weapon smuggling.   Photos demonstrated cartel ingenuity, and extreme cruelty.  Frank feels that the biggest factor empowering the cartels is US demand for drugs, and that the only way to effectively disrupt their influence is to reduce consumption.

This afternoon, we journeyed to the US Federal Courthouse in Tucson, a beautiful new building that was to hold a jarring experience for many of us.  Fellow group members  posted the following apt description on the ORUCC facebook page:

Today the group witnessed a Tucson Federal Court proceeding where 68 men and 2 women (Mexican and Guatemalan citizens) were "processed" as part of Operation Streamline. This effort is intended to deter "illegal immigration" by increasing criminal convictions and prison time.
These young men and women, shackled at their ankles and wrists, were brought in front of the Federal judge in groups of 8. Through a translator, each person was charged with felony illegal re-entry and misdemeanor illegal entry. Each person pled guilty to a plea-bargained charge of misdemeanor illegal entry and was sentenced to between 30-180 days in prison, depending on undisclosed circumstances. Each group of 8 was then removed from the courtroom and then next group brought forward.
This experience has had a profound effect on the group, generating a lot of discussion about the disparity of power in the courtroom, the problems of language and lack of education on the part of the defendants, the dehumanizing effect of the process, and the efficacy of this strategy.
We have only been here two days and we are already deep into the issue, gathering information and experiences that, again and again, remind us of the complexity of immigration in the U.S.

Wednesday, February 23
A fascinating morning with Lupe, a historian who gave us a history lesson of the borderlands from the wider perspective of native indigenous people, sharing the rich and layered history of the region.  It has been only recently that the Border between Mexico and the US has become so tightly controlled:  where once families moved back and forth across both sides, and adjoining communities celebrated festivals from both countries, now there is a wall and a strong, militarized US presence.

This afternoon we crossed the Border, 60 miles south of Tucson at Nogales. 
Crossing into Mexico, we descend into a man-made canyon by a road that twists and turns below high red earth walls, peppered with speed bumps and barriers.  To enter Mexico, requires no passports or custom checks. 
We emerged on the other side to be met by Ceci, our Mexican guide.  Taking the wheel of the van she drove us through steep streets to the  colonia (neighborhood) where we were to stay the night.  Our hosts were warm and welcoming, and we enjoyed time together, with the assistance of our capable translators – getting to know one another over appetizers of cactus salsa, guacamole and tortilla chips.
The conversation continued well into the evening at the home of Rosa and Juan where three of us were staying.  Over a lovely dinner of rice, beans, chicken and vegetables we exchanged stories of family and community from both sides of the border. 


Friday, February 27, 2015

Weekly News 02-27-15

SECOND SUNDAY in LENT

This Sunday we will continue our journey along THE GOSPEL HIGHWAY: Lent and Easter in Terms of New Testament Roads. This week’s road, found at Matthew 7:13, is one we are warned not to take: The Easy Road. Mark’s sermon will point out some contemporary easy roads which lead nowhere but which many find inviting. Are you on one of these roads?

THIRD WEDNESDAY of LENT

On March 4th we will continue our studies in UNWRITTEN CHAPTERS:    The Gospel in Stories Not Told. This time we will imagine the testimony of the little girl who was raised to life in her room. These Wednesday services are held in fellowship hall at 7 PM.

MEN’S FELLOWSHIP

The March meeting of the Men’s Fellowship will be this Tuesday, March 3, at the home of Nathan Bahr. The gathering time is 6:30 PM.

WOMEN’S GUILD

The Women’s Guild will meet at 1:30 on Thursday, March 5. The Guild will give serious thought to its future at this important meeting. Prior to the business meeting, Rev. Jerry Hancock will be present to speak to the Guild about the jail ministry the women of the Guild support.

TENEBRAE READERS for MAUNDY THURSDAY

At least 8 readers will be needed for the Maundy Thursday Tenebrae Service, April 2. Please let Mark know as soon as possible if you are interested in being one of these readers.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Laura's Border Blog

On February 22, I am embarking on a journey to the Border
A more apt description of my destination would be the borderlands, the places upon and adjacent to each side of the Mexican -American border,  near Tuscon and Nogales, Mexico.
I am privileged to travel with members of Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ, and together we will be hosted by Borderlinks (Borderlinks.org) whose purpose is to educate people about the history, challenges, and humanitarian crisis in our midst through the many perspectives of people and institutions that are a part of this complex tapestry.
I journey knowing that the people l shall meet, and the stories they have to tell, will have much to teach me.  My prayer is that I will listen with an open heart, grow in understanding, and discover how I might faithfully respond to the needs of immigrant people, and all others who live in borderlands places, not only those in the Soudthwest, but within our own community.

Sunday, February 22
My day began in the bright, chilyl morning of Wisconsin winter, 3 degrees Fahrenheit.
Arriving in Tuscon, it was partly cloudy and 73, and as soon as I left the airport I began shedding layers!  It is a quiet Sunday afternoon in Tucson, and our group is trickling in to the Road Runner hostel, a few blocks from the heart of downtown.  There has been time to wander and wonder at the colorful flowers, brightly painted stucco, and historic architecture, the most magnificent of which was St. Augustine’s cathedral. 

There is always something a bit surreal when we change climates and cultures in just a half day’s time.
My journey here, by airports and taxi, was one of relative ease.  For those crossing the desert, the journey is far longer, and much more treacherous.   

Monday, February 23
This morning, we were met at the hostel by our Borderlinks guide, Grace.  It is an apt name for this lovely young woman who is doing a one year internship here through the Presbyterian Church USA's Young Adult Volunteers.  After settling into our dorm rooms at Borderlinks, we spent the morning in conversation and orientation under Grace's gifted leadership.  The history of immigration across the Mexican-US border is a fascinating one.  Over the last forty years each decade has triggered a different impetus for border crossings.  In the 80's, the abusive dictatorships and civil wars of Central American countries caused many to flee their homeland.  In the 1990's, the NAFTA trade agreements contributed to a massive shift in the agriculturally based Mexican economy, making family farms unsustainable, and encouraging many to come to the US seeking work. After 9/11, US border security tightened, and with increasing vigilance, tensions around the border escalated.  In recent years, the Mexican drug cartels and violence in both Mexico and Central America have spurred many to flee for their lives.  Throughout this time, there have been many changes in border policy and public sentiment towards Central American and Mexican immigrants.
Our group has made a covenant for our time together, and our learning will be guided by three words:  "seeing, thinking, and acting". It is important to know and understand how we shall be in relationship with one another as we journey.

This afternoon we traveled to Green Valley, about 30 miles south of Tucson.  Green Valley is known as a retirement community, but it is there that we meet Chura, co-founder of the Green-Valley Samaritans.  Their mission is to provide water and humanitarian assistance to immigrants who are crossing the desert.  Chura is an incredibly energetic woman who is passionate about her desert ministry, and deeply compassionate towards all those who suffer.  We spent over two hours in her home of brightly multi-colored stuccoed walls, as she shared stories of her work over artifacts that she had found in the desert.  It was difficult to see the evidence of people's lives who have crossed the desert - water bottles, family pictures, prayer beads and make-up bags, and a little mickey mouse jacket that couldn't have belonged to a child much older than three.  The stark reality is that many people die in their desert crossing, others are victimized and left behind by their guides, and women are especially vulnerable to assault.  A desert crossing can take well up to 7 days, in heat of up to 130 in the summer.  Often, people are told by their guides - the coyotes - that the crossing will only take a few hours.  It is not physically possible to carry all the water you need for the journey.  And so often, death comes.

We walked into the desert with Chura at the end of her street.  The cactus were beautiful, the earth red and sandy.  But as we walked, we began to see signs of hymn life - a sweatshirt, a backpack, a shoe, a water bottle.  Hardest, was the discovery of a child's shoe, laying on it's side in the scrub.  We can only hope that child survived the journey.  It was troubling to be walking in the paths of immigrants on a harrowing journey, only a few minutes from an affluent desert community.
The contrast between these worlds - the newly built homes, homes, the beauty of the desert, and the desperate journey of people who are hidden from our view was difficult to absorb.

After dinner we attended a vigil at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tuscon, a congregation which has been long active in the sanctuary movement.  There, we met Rosa, an undocumented immigrant woman who has been living at the church for the past 6 months, offered sanctuary by the church congregation  facing deportation.  Rosa has lived in the US for many years, is married with two sons, 8 and 11.  There is a vigil and worship held each night with Rosa present, and many who stay with her.  We had the gift of sharing in worship with these folk, in prayer, reflection, and song, and hearing Rosa's story.



Saturday, February 21, 2015

Weekly News 02-20-15

FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT

THE GOSPEL HIGHWAY: Lent and Easter in Terms of New Testament Roads is the theme for Mark’s Sunday morning sermons during this season. The first road we will think about is identified from Mark 10:32-34: The Road to Jerusalem. This is a much-traveled highway today, and not just one from first century Palestine. The Barry Robinson Chorus will be singing during worship.

WEDNESDAY’S MIDWEEK SERVICE

On February 25 our midweek Lenten service will be in the fellowship hall. Mark will continue his series UNWRITTEN CHAPTERS: The Gospel in Stories Not Told with a biographical sermon on the mother-in-law of a disciple.

SEARCHLIGHT TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF ISLAM

A five-week Monday night class in Islam is set to begin this Monday, February 23. The opening topic is The Life of Muhammad. This session will help us gain an understanding of the founding of Islam. The class will meet in the Conference Room at 7 and go for about an hour.

SONS WILL BE BOOK DISCUSSION TOPIC

Pearl S. Buck’s Sons will be the book discussed at the February meeting of the Book Discussion Group. The meeting will be at 7 PM on Monday, February 23.

FAITH ON THE MOVE: Mapping our Future

Do you have your 2015 stewardship materials? If not, be sure to pick yours up when you come for worship Wednesday night or Sunday morning. Do you have your materials? Have you completed and returned the envelope? Salem is poised to move in significant ways this year, but, under God, it all depends upon the contributions the church receives from people like you.

WOMEN’S GUILD

The Women’s Guild will meet at 1:30 on Thursday, March 5. The Guild will give serious thought to its future at this important meeting.

TENEBRAE READERS for MAUNDY THURSDAY

At least 8 readers will be needed for the Maundy Thursday Tenebrae Service, April 2. Please let Mark know as soon as possible if you are interested in being one of these readers.