Rev. Dee Lundberg of Casper UCC on offering light and hope in dark times.
Article submitted by Rev. Dee Lundberg of Casper UCC (Casper, WY)
Hope = LifeWe spend a good deal of time saying—praying—”Thank God it didn’t happen to me / my family / my church.” But, ultimately, things happen in our life that call us into action.
Suicide is one such tragedy, and when it strikes, we are left with all of the questions: “Why? What did I miss? What could I have done?” And sadly, many times, there are no clear answers. Sometimes, we do everything we can, and it still ends in tragedy. There is no room for guilt trips if we are to make any headway!
For some of us, suicide has entered our minds, whether fleeting or serious. Many others are faced with a loved one who has ended their life (or tried). Maybe it was a friend or a mere acquaintance, church member, or coworker. Maybe you didn’t know them at all, but it struck a nerve—and indeed, you prayed that prayer, “Thank God it didn’t happen to me.”
Sadly, most of us will be directly or indirectly affected by suicide at some time in our life, hence a motto I share: “Suicide is everyone’s business!” I know it’s a grim sentiment, but it doesn’t have to be. Our “business” can be in prevention. Each of us possesses something that is essential to lowering the risk of suicide in anyone, even strangers. And that something is called “hope.”
A person will not take their life if they have but an ounce of hope. While it is true that we may never be able to prevent every suicide, you would be amazed at the power each of us possesses to fight this epidemic. Most times, it will not be the grand save you might imagine. Instead, it will happen in ways you take for granted, like kind acts at just the right moment. Many folks describe small things as the thing that made them decide to keep on living. A smile from a stranger, an opened door for them at a store, simply being asked “How are you? Are you OK?”
You might think, “What if they tell me to mind my own business?” Well, then, they asked you to mind your own business… but at least you asked. At least you didn’t miss an opportunity to help.
In writing this piece, I’ve approached it from several angles. There are the disturbing statistics that put the Intermountain West at the center of the suicide epidemic. There are disturbing websites that encourage self-harm as a game, or that challenge our children to do the unthinkable. (Please educate yourselves!) And, of course, there’s the disturbing amount of everyday cruelty unleashed on Facebook. I could talk about warning signs and how to respond. Each of these topics is an article in and of itself.
But this is a conversation that has to start and end with HOPE. Suicide is everyone’s business, and each of you can save a life. To put it in Church talk, we (especially) need to be people of the resurrection, not the crucifixion. We need to instill hope and possibilities for new life with all whom we encounter. That is the place to start this conversation. With HOPE!HOPE = LIFE
In Memoriam: Rev. Thomas Clayton Pexton
Submitted by Rev. David Bahr, Pastor at Park Hill UCC (Denver)
Rev. Thomas Clayton Pexton—ordained UCC minister, lifelong advocate and bridge-builder, and beloved church member—has passed away. He was 88. Tom was born on December 15, 1930, in Dayton, OH.
His life was shaped by building relationships across the divides of race and religion. Tom served in Cleveland and Dayton, and then as pastor in Springfield, Missouri. In 1962, he co-founded a local chapter of the NAACP, and served as its Vice President. He spearheaded the first integrated Vacation Bible School in Springfield, bringing together children from two black and three white churches. He also managed to become a Protestant on a Catholic hospital board. Tom and his wife Connie moved to Denver in 2012 to be close to their daughter, the Rev. Elizabeth Pexton, and became members and participants at Park Hill Congregational Church. He died at Dayton Place on March 28, 2018.
Climate Summits & Lectures in the RMC Once again, our churches offer a multitude of ways to learn and grow in our faith!
Below are just a few of the opportunities available this Spring to learn and grow in our faith!
Global Climate Summit: April 22 (Earth Day) Kirk of Bonnie Brae UCC—Denver
This simulation of a Global Climate Summit, held from Noon to 2:30 p.m. on Earth Day, will bring ecojustice advocates and local youth together to explore the intricacies of changing our energy policies on a global scale. There will be a bean and rice meal, and childcare is available upon request. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the Facebook Event Page. Miroslav Volf (JWW Lectureship Series): May 5 & 6 First Congregational Church—Colorado Springs
This May, the James W. White Lectureship Series will bring Miroslav Volf to First Cong. Church and the RMC. Volf, the Founder and Director of Yale Center for Faith & Culture and the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School, will speak, answer questions, and sign books on Saturday, the 5th at 7 p.m. He’ll then offer a guest sermon for both services on Sunday, along with a panel discussion. From the event flier:
“We live in the time of ‘fake news’ and suspicion. No society can survive for long on a steady diet of such poisoned fruit. We will explore the way in which entrusting our lives to Christ, who came to bear witness to the truth, can sustain a culture of truth-speaking and trustworthiness.”
Inspiring Ways to Serve
New opportunities to volunteer in the RMC
Looking for ways to serve the RMC and its mission? Look no further! First-Annual La Foret Work Week: April 6–11, 2018
Come one and come all and lend you hands, skills, and talents to an exciting week of volunteer work at La Foret! Our staff does a great job, but the need is great and the tasks are overwhelming. There is a great need for your volunteer help! Skilled and unskilled, Jack and Jills of all levels are needed. Planned projects Include:
Housekeeping & Sewing
General Clean Up
The work week will begin after breakfast at 9 a.m. on Monday, the 6th. We will wrap up work after lunch on Friday. Lodging and meals will be provided! Even if you cannot stay all week or work a full day, your help will be appreciated.
To register, please fill out this form and return to Operations Manager Brad Carroll at email@example.com. You can also contact Brad with any questions at the email above, or at 719.49.2743.
Berkeley UCC Community Dinners: Every Wednesday
Berkeley Community UCC (Denver) has begun a new Community Dinner ministry with their “In the Mud” Grant, and they are seeking volunteers to help! If you are interested in volunteering, please fill out this Google Form to indicate your interest and availability. Then, they’ll reach out to get you on the schedule.
The actual commitment is very easy and brief: Once a month (for as many months as you are comfortable with), you’d simply prepare a dish (such as salad or pasta) for about 35 people and bring it to the church for dinner on a Wednesday night. You’d then spend a few minutes setting up before eating together as a community, and then spend a few minutes afterward cleaning up. That’s it!
Do you have members who love to cook or bake, and want to serve? Are you looking for volunteer opportunities for your youth group? Please forward this invitation to them, and please share it far and wide! For questions, please contact their Pastor, Rev. Lizka Randall, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spring Brings New Life
We’re excited to announce these new developments in the Conference.
Installation of Rev. Heather Haginduff in CO Springs
On April 22 (Earth Day) at 3 p.m., First Congregational Church of Colorado Springs will install their new Lead Pastor, Rev. Heather Haginduff. All are invited to attend, and clergy are encouraged to wear robes and green stoles in honor of Earth Day. The guest preacher will be Rev. Jerry Herships, and a reception will follow the Installation in the Founders’ Room. Heather, who previously served in the RMC at First Congregational Boulder, was called to FCUCC last year, and began her ministry with them on January 1.Plymouth UCC Votes to Become an Immigrant-Welcoming Church
From their Press Release (read in full here):
“Over the last two years, members of the Immigration Ministry Team at Plymouth Congregational UCC in Fort Collins became increasingly aware of and deeply concerned about the effects of the new, expansive levels of enforcement by ICE in the immigrant community of Northern Colorado.
“We heard Dreamers (DACA participants) speak of their dramatically increased fears as their futures became more jeopardized. We listened to the anguish of families whose breadwinners were deported, leaving them terrified and anxious about their future. We learned about children being separated from their parents at detention centers with the admitted intent of intimidating immigrants into voluntary deportation. We visited with and supported an immigrant in Sanctuary in Fort Collins. During that time her partner/husband was also targeted by ICE and detained.
“Clearly, a catastrophe was occurring among immigrant families throughout the U.S. Largely unseen by the non-immigrant community, the consequences of the increased enforcement against non-criminal immigrant neighbors is very real and frightening.
“We are called to live fully the Gospel announced and lived by Jesus. We accompany, advocate for and stand with the least among us, our most vulnerable neighbors: immigrants.”
Metal-Health First-Aid, O.W.L. Training Classes
Mountain View United & First Plymouth Congregational offer classes for their communities.
Mental-Health First-Aid Training in Aurora, CO
Mountain View United Church is offering its second FREE Mental Health First Aid Certification training for faith community members on April 28, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Between their “In the Mud” grant from the UCC RMC and donated services from the Aurora Mental Health Center, they will be able to offer breakfast, lunch, and the class to every attendee at no cost!
All pertinent details on are on the event flier. There are only 25 spots available, so please contact Amy Petré Hill ASAP at email@example.com you’d like to register.O.W.L. Facilitator Training in Englewood, CO
First Plymouth Congregational Church will be offering an Our Whole Lives (O.W.L.) Facilitator Training, to take place April 20–22, 2018 (Three Days).
Implementing the nation’s most highly regarded sexuality education curriculum is a big responsibility. Training prepares facilitators to succeed in their role, and enables your faith development team members to understand their own and others’ sexuality within the context of United Church of Christ values. Read more here. LOCATION: First Plymouth Congregational Church UCC—3501 S. Colorado Blvd., Englewood, CO LEVELS: For those desiring to facilitate O.W.L. sessions for Grades 7–9 and Grades 10–12 COST: $180 REGISTRATION: Alix Wright: firstname.lastname@example.org /// 303.883.6414
“In the Mud” in Vernal, Craig, and Longmont
Grants from the RMC continue to make a real impact.
Longmont UCC: “The Felon Next Door” Screening
We believe every person has dignity and potential to transform, redeem, and restore their lives, reconcile their family, and renew our community. But one in four American adults has a criminal record, which limits their access to education, jobs, housing, and other vital services and resources need to reach their potential. They are locked up and then locked out of society. On Friday, April 13 from 6 to 8 p.m., you are invited to join us for the screening of “The Felon Next Door,” and learn more about the problems facing, and solutions addressing, the second prison while also tasting some recipes created behind the prison walls! View the event flier here.Craig UCC: “Building a Healthy You” Program
With their “In the Mud” grant, Pastor Deanna Armstrong and the Craig UCC have implemented a program for middle-schoolers, helping them navigate issues of overall health, sexual education, and self-esteem. So far, they’ve served 37 middle schoolers and their families, and are looking to introduce the program into schools! Their next goal is reduce Craig’s teen pregnancy rates by half, which would bring it down to the state’s average.Kingsbury UCC (Vernal): Mini Food Pantry for Big Change
Kingsbury UCC in Vernal, UT has created a (quite adorable!) mini Food Pantry for its community, and people are already using it! Pictures are below.
If you are interested in donating, you can put food directly in the box, or contact Sheryl Crow with the church at email@example.com to donate.
Check it out below—amazing!