I find myself speaking these words frequently these days: “Please tell me your name.” What a joy it is to learn your names, friends and members of First Congregational UCC, Appleton! This past weekend, 23 women of our church, enjoyed a long-standing FCUCC tradition. We journeyed three hours North and West to Moon Beach Camp, located on Moon Lake in St. Germain, WI.
We returned home knowing one another a little better than when we first arrived. It was a perfect time to chat and relax; a perfect location to glean insight from a gifted spiritual director, Julie Garber. She “gathered us in God’s name; and guided us to grow in God’s love, play in God’s creation and pray as God’s people.” We did a lot of praying and thinking and laughing! Ask any one of us about it.
What a blessing it has been to be among you for these seventeen days! As I think about the many questions that I have been asking: “Where is this…? What is that? How do we do this? How do I get to…? Where is that located?” it has occurred to me that you have graciously answered each one. Thank you! Throughout these days of transition, God has been whispering in our ears and has been nudging us as we all are beginning to get to know each other, some for the first time and some once again.
You might be sick of hearing it, but, COVID has managed to change each one of us. It has separated us from each other; it has made us fearful of one another; it has made us weary and leery of many things and activities that we once took for granted. It is time to un-do and renew; time to come back “home” knowing that what we had “before” has not been lost. It is the “prodigal story” being re-lived by every one of us. (Luke 15:11-32).
We get that feeling when we have been away at camp or on a vacation; or have gone on a mission trip or have been in rehab. “Coming back home” is such a blessing. Someone in the family makes a special dinner, your dog runs to you with a favorite toy; it’s just so good to be home. You can’t wait to begin the projects and tasks that were left behind.
We gathered around the Communion Table at Moon Beach as the words of the liturgy were spoken and Communion elements were served on Saturday night during worship: crusty bread, dipped in grape juice. All of us were invited to share in the sacred meal, whoever we were at that moment, wherever we found ourselves on our life’s journey.
I invite you to “come home” on Sunday, November 6 at 9:30 AM, when we, as a church family will gather together around the Communion Table once again. You will be welcomed, as you always have been since the first day that you came through the doors on E. South River Street…just as you are, whoever you are and wherever you are on your life’s journey…as brothers and sisters in Christ. Your church family awaits you!
It is time that we look around, look into our hearts and decide to… as the ABBA song that just came to my mind proclaims: “Take a chance on me.” (Listen to it on YouTube.) Take a chance on each other. Take a chance on introducing yourself to someone you do not know. Take a chance on offering your time and talents to the missions and ministries of our church. Take a chance on what First Congregational United Church of Christ is offering to us. Take a chance on walking through these “open doors” with thanksgiving in your heart. Take a chance on the new things that God is doing in our midst!
I admit that most of these words are not in the song, but they are a challenge to you from me to make up your own lines! We can be sure that God knows us each by name and is waiting for us to take a chance on what God has planned for First Congregational UCC, Appleton. We are all in it together. Please tell me your name again until I know it by heart.
Pastor Mary Jo
This was such a loving welcome letter, Pastor Maryjo! Thank you for being you! You’ve already captured our hearts in the brief time you’ve been part of First Congregational Church. Thank you!