Have you heard about the orthodox Christian tradition of icons? I'm sure you have seen them. Icons have been used since the earliest days of the Christian faith. They are painted images, sometimes with silver or gold. And they are images of religious figures, of biblical stories. Icons are mostly of Jesus and of course his mother, Mary.
Christians who use these do not worship the wood itself or the paint or the gold. Instead they pray with their eyes wide open so they can take in the mysteries of God revealed in the icon. Icons are called "windows into heaven" and "windows into the divine." The hope is that praying with icons might provide just a glimpse of the throne of heaven, just the tiniest sound bite of the choirs of angels.
Praying with images might seem uncomfortable, different or weird. But go ahead and open your eyes. See what beauty God is revealing herself in.
What you will need:
• Images, photos, paintings
• Quiet environment
• An open mind and open eyes
• Need an image? Find some here!
1. Find an image. Traditional icons are great, but don’t be held to just that. The world is full of icons that can open the eyes of our hearts. Stained-glass windows, old Christmas cards, a setting sun, and even human beings can all be used as icons. Creation is full of divine images.
2. Pray and get lost. North American Christians may feel uncomfortable with keeping their eyes open during prayer. Many of us have memories of our grandmother’s stern look when she caught us looking around with our eyes open during worship. But trust yourself. Open your eyes and begin to move throughout the image. Invoke God’s name as your eyes examine the beauty, the colors, the details. Get lost in it.
3. Imagine. As you move through the icon, imagine yourself there—within the icon. Feel the water splashing your face. Smell the burning candles. Imagine the life of the person depicted. Give yourself permission to let your mind wander and expand.
4. Reflect. Once you have finished dwelling with God in the image, reflect on what God was saying to you. What did the experience of meeting God in an image reveal about you, about God? How are you living as an icon? How is your life giving glory to God?
This is the season of the cradle, not the cross, but we need the cross now. The cradle is bathed in too much light from Star and Angel. Radiant beams only hurt our eyes, which have recently become unwillingly accustomed to deepest dark. For now, we need the cover of night.Read more
(Editor’s note: Any of the following could also be used as “reader’s theater”
experiences in Youth or Intergenerational Activities. Be sure to allow time for
discussion and reflection afterwards so that concepts are understood.)
#1: “Take It Back”
by Gwendolyn J. Kandt
Gwendolyn J. Kandt is a homeschooling mother of two in Sioux City, Iowa.
She has coordinated drama ministries at three different congregations and
writes sketches and plays for her church and homeschool drama program.
Usher: The dramatic storyteller, determined to make Man (or Woman) “feel the joy.”
Man: (or Woman) An everyday parishioner who doesn’t think about this stuff much but gets very caught up in Usher’s storytelling.
Man is sitting at the end of a pew. Usher approaches and holds out offering plate. Man rolls his eyes, sighs, then grudgingly pulls out a dollar and puts it
in the plate.
Usher: Take it back.
Man: (Looks up, confused.) What?
Usher: I said, “Take it back!”
Man: What – my money?
Usher: Yeah, your money. (Points in the plate.) You can take that piece of lint you left in there, too.
Man: But . . . but why?
Usher: (Sarcastic.) Well, obviously it’s a terribly trying and burdensome thing to give up that dollar bill, so by all means – take it back!
Man: (Looking around, a little embarrassed.) C’mon, man – it’s only a dollar. We don’t need to make such a big deal about it.
Usher: Well, that’s exactly what I would’ve thought, but the look on your face told me otherwise.
Man: The look on my face ... ?
Usher: Yeah! (Imitates him, exaggerating.) The rolling eyes – the deep, heaving sigh – good grief! Do you really think God wants your money when you’re such a grouch about giving it up?
Man: (Takes money out of plate again.) OK, OK – Look, I’ll do it again. (Smiles a fake, cheesy smile and puts the money back in the plate with a flourish.)
Usher: Oh, now you’re just patronizing me.
Man: Well, what do you want from me?
Usher: How about a little genuine joy? – Some grateful feelings about giving back to the God who’s given you so much?
Man: I’m grateful! I’m very grateful!
Usher: Well, alright then! Let’s kick that attitude of gratitude into gear and do some cheerful giving!
Man: OK, OK. (Takes the money back again, puts on the same cheesy smile, and looks up to the ceiling.) Wow! Thank you, God! (Puts money in plate and looks at usher for approval.)
Usher: (Pauses; sighs.) This is all very new for you, isn’t it?
Man: (A little embarrassed.) Yes. Yes, it is.
Usher: (Hands him his dollar, motions him to scoot over and sits beside him.) OK, I’ll give you a crash course here. Now, the money you put in this plate: where’s it going?
Man: Uh, I thought you guys took it to the conference room back there and counted...
Usher: (Interrupting.) No, no – after that. The One Great Hour of Sharing offering – what’s this money going to do eventually?
Man: Well, it’s going to help people, I guess.
Usher: Sure, it is! It’s going to help a lot of people! People who don’t have enough to eat each day; people whose homes have been destroyed in earthquakes or fires and such; people who can’t get their sick kids to doctors... Hey, you’re a parent, right?
Usher: So, imagine this: (Gestures to imaginary girl in front of them as he speaks.) You’ve got a little girl – one, two years old?
Usher: Three! Oh, that’s a precious age. A three-year-old little girl. She’s a beauty, isn’t she? (More gestures.) ...Little dark curls, sparkling eyes, a laugh that just makes your heart sing.
Man: (Getting caught up in the image, smiling dotingly.) Oh, yeah. She’s adorable. Looks just like her mother.
Usher: Well, she would have to if she’s that adorable. (Back to imaginary girl.) But now, imagine that your precious little girl is sick.
Man: (Face falls.) Oh, no!
Usher: Terribly sick. High fever, listless, won’t eat or drink. And she’s so tiny, you know?
Man: (Distraught.) So tiny!
Usher: She’s not going to make it if she doesn’t get some medical help.
Man: (Looks at Usher.) We’ve got to get her to a doctor!
Usher: Yes, yes... but – Imagine that there is no doctor. (Man gasps.) Yousee, your community has no doctor. In fact, there’s no doctor anywhere within seventy miles, and you have no means to transport her to the nearest medical facility.
Usher: (Both are looking sadly at imaginary girl.) It’s a terrible thing, isn’t it?
Man: So sad!
Usher: Heart-breaking. (Points with a surprised look to imaginary person coming from a distance.) But look! Who is that? Is that a doctor?
Man: (Looking with him.) Is it?
Usher: It is! (Man’s face brightens.) A woman doctor! With her stethoscope and thermometer and medicines! Coming to help your beautiful little girl!
Man: (Slobberingly tearful.) Oh, that’s so wonderful!
Usher: Yes. Yes, it is. This woman came from her home far away to your community to help your child and other children like her, and do you know why she came? (Man looks at him.) Because God sent her. And do you know how God sent her? (Points to Man’s money.) Through this dollar.
Man: (Slowly, still looking at him.) Oh. That’s beautiful, man.
Usher: Now, how does it feel to know that your dollar is saving the life of somebody’s precious little girl?
Man: (Pulling out wallet to get more money.) It feels fantastic!
Usher: But, wait! There’s more! (Stands dramatically, looking slightly upward. Man joins him.) Now, imagine God looking at you with that wallet. That same God gave you a family, a home, a job... That same God has watched over you, guided you, protected you, comforted you... (Looks at Man.) Hasn’t God done a lot for you?
Man: God’s done SO much for me!
Usher: (Looks up again.) And God looks down on you, a precious child, giving the money so that the doctor can go save that little girl, and you know what God feels?
Man: (Hesitant.) Well... I hope God’s happy...
Usher: Happy? God is THRILLED! OVERJOYED! “That’s my boy!” God’s telling the angels up there! Isn’t it great to know you’ve made God happy?
Usher: Makes you feel happy, too, doesn’t it?
Man: (Excited.) Yeah!
Usher: Makes you want to give others joy, too, doesn’t it?
Man: (More excited.) You betcha!
Usher: (Grabs offering plate.) Quick! Now! While you feel the joy! (Man scrambles to get out a couple more bills and put them in the plate;
Usher puts an arm around his shoulder.) Ah! Now, that’s the way to give, isn’t it?
Man: (With a contented sigh.) Oh, yeah! That was a lot better!
Usher: Good work, son. (Walks away.)
Man: (Calls after him, opening his wallet again.) Wait! Wait! I’ve got money for the youth service project,* too!
* Substitute any other service fund of your congregation.
by Mary Helfrich
Mary Helfrich is a retired high school English teacher and a 40-year member of the Columbia City Church of the Brethren. She has written a number of plays for women’s groups and in district gatherings.
4 readers, junior high or older
All: As you sow, so shall you reap.
1: (Do not spell words here, just speak them) Sew?
2: Not that sew. Sow, meaning plant.
1: Bush or tree?
2: Not that plant. Plant, meaning to put in the ground, like planting flowers.
3: Reap? As in I “reaped mah” shirt?
4: No, reap as in harvest, gather in.
All: As you sow, so shall you reap.
1: So this saying is for farmers and gardeners and landscapers.
4: No, this is for all of us.
2: How so?
4: What you plant, you harvest.
3: You mean if I plant beans, I won’t get corn. I’ll only harvest beans.
2: No, you will get weeds, too.
4: But if you want beans, you have to plant beans. You can’t just stare at the ground and expect a bean plant to appear. You have to plant the seed. Then you have to pull the weeds and water the soil.
2: And the more seeds you plant, the more they’ll produce, and the more you’ll harvest!
1: But I don’t plant anything.
3: I haven’t put in a garden in years.
1&3: We buy what we need at the store.
2: Yes, but you still plant seeds...
4: seeds of kindness, patience, humility, goodness, generosity...
2: or seeds of discord, cruelty, selfishness, or just plain indifference.
2&4: Whatever you sow, that’s what you’ll reap...
4: or someone down the line will reap because of you.
3: So we’re all farmers?
2&4: We all plant and we all harvest what we’ve planted.
1: So if I want to be treated kindly, I have to be kind?
3: If I want to be forgiven, I have to forgive?
1: If I want to have friends, I have to be a friend?
3: But what if I am kind, and I still get treated cruelly, unkindly, unfairly? What then?
2: That happens. Sometimes others make different choices.
3: Then can I be cruel and unkind and unfair in return?
2: God is not mocked.
1&3: What does that mean?
2: That means you can’t trick God. God knows what you’ve planted, and what you’ve planted will sprout and grow sooner or later, like it or not,
in God’s time.
1: I don’t like it. I want to get better than I put in – Harvest the good stuff, you know, without the hard work.
3: Yeah – Two-for-one!
1: On sale!
2&4: God is not mocked.
1: But God has other things to worry about.
4: Yup. God isn’t going to worry about how this works. God will provide an abundant harvest.
3: As we sow, so shall we reap?
1: So I can’t pull any fast ones?
1: I can’t let someone else do the work?
1: I can’t throw a tantrum when things don’t work out the way I think they should?
3: So even in sad times if I plant joy, I’ll experience joy in return?
3: So even in hard times, if I share the good things I have with those who need them, I’ll experience blessings in return?
2&4: Yes! Blessings in abundance!
4: Doing the right thing,
3: being kind, gentle, patient, and good,
2: faithful, self-controlled, and generous
2,3&4: are always good seeds to plant that will be harvested in abundance.
2: We need to plant our best seeds and tend our lives as best we can –
3: to be generous in thought, word, and deed –
4: to love our neighbors –
1: no matter how we’re treated in return.
All: Because in the end,
2: God has promised us:
All: What we sow, we will reap abundantly.
#3; Sharing the Gift of Giving
by Leigh B. Gillis
(Editor’s note: This interpretation can also be used as an offering reminder.)
The Rev. Leigh B. Gillis is Associate Executive Presbyter for Congregational Vitality of Heartland Presbytery in Kansas City, MO. Leigh is a native of
Norfolk, VA and attended Union Presbyterian Seminary. She has pastored churches in Virginia and North Carolina.
PROPS NEEDED: coins, cell phone, offering container
SETTING: Sunday morning; Teen Brother’s room
CHARACTERS: S = Teen Sister (phone in hand, texting), B = Teen Brother
(This can be adjusted to be played by older kids or young adults in a dorm room.)
(Teen Sister enters Teen brother’s room when she hears the sound of coins rattling.)
S: What are you doing? (texting while she talks)
B: Putting coins in this container for One Great Hour of Sharing
S: That thing from church? How much you got in there?
B: I dunno. For the past month, ever since they announced this year’s offering at church, I’ve saved all the coins I get back when I pay for something with paper money. It really adds up.
S: Why are you giving it to that offering instead of using it for iTunes or something?
B: What they said in Minute for Mission that Sunday and each week since then – about God loving a cheerful giver and that those who sow bountifully will reap bountifully – just really hit me. I mean, I would have just used the change for junk anyway.
S: What did they say it goes for, and how do you know it really does?
B: Don’t you ever pay attention in church? Are you too busy texting?
S: (Rolls eyes, looks at phone display) Oh... Hayley says to tell you “hi”…No, just tell me, OK?
B: It goes for lots of things, like food, shelter, medical clinics and clean water for folks in disaster areas, and education and job training to help them in the future. It also helps refugees driven from their homes. Did you know that millions of people all over the world LIVE on about $1 per day and can barely scrape that together? Look at all this change I have that’s just extra and gets lost in our couch or rattles around in
S: (Puts phone down, wide–eyed) A dollar a day? No way! I spend more than that just on my cell bill! Not to mention the junk food I eat, gas for our car…
B: MY CAR…
S: Yeah, and all the other stuff we need to live – stuff for school, hair products, gum…
B: Sounds like you’re getting the point.
S: (Picks up cell phone.) Lemme go check the pockets of MY jeans to see what I have, and I wanna throw in that $5 grandma sent me in that card the other day. I woulda spent that for junk too. (Wanders off stage, still reading the phone and texting. Says over her shoulder…) Hayley says she’s checking around for some money she can give, too.
B: (To audience) Wow, I thought I just might make a little difference for the people who would get this with what I could gather to put in this container myself. (Grabs his cell phone and starts to text.) I didn’t realize others might want to help! Lemme text all the guys to see what they can bring. And, I’ll put it on Facebook, too…
Children’s Sermon 1
by debbie w parvin (lower case intentional)
debbie w parvin is a Quaker poet and writer. She wrote church school curriculum for the Christian Board of Publication for over a decade.
I want to tell you a brief story about a family outing:
One day a mother treated her two sons, Steve and Kevin, to ice cream cones. Steve got a cone of mint chocolate chip, and Kevin got one of Rocky Road. Yum! The day was hot, and after the family strolled outside a short distance, the ice cream got soft. Suddenly Steve gasped, and when Mom and Kevin turned to look, they saw that Steve’s ice cream was lying on the hot pavement. “Oh no!” Steve cried in shock and frustration. The ants and flies were already on their way to the scene. Instantly Mom turned to Kevin and asked, “You’d be willing to share your ice cream with Steve, wouldn’t you?”
Kevin looked at his cone. Rocky Road was his favorite flavor, and he didn’t get to eat desserts often because Mother was big on health and low-sugar diets. He stared at the chocolate scoop, the nuts, the marshmallows... “I was being careful,” Kevin said. “Steve must have been clowning around to drop his ice cream on the sidewalk like that. It’s not fair that I have to give up some of mine!”
Mom gave a little lecture (as moms often do at a time like this). She talked about how brothers should share with one another because they are family and because it’s the right thing to do. Then she instructed Kevin to offer some of his ice cream to Steve. Kevin didn’t move. He just stood there. Finally, Mom scooped some of the ice cream from Kevin’s cone and put it into Steve’s. Kevin began to cry. The End.
Well… that was a great story about sharing, wasn’t it? – Or was it? There’s a place in the Bible – in the book of Corinthians – that tells us that God loves a cheerful giver.
It’s obvious that Crying Kevin doesn’t fit that description. He also didn’t really share, because his ice cream was actually taken from him by his mother and given to his brother. That’s not sharing.
Now I want to rewrite the story so that Kevin is a cheerful giver. This time, when Mom asks Kevin to share, Kevin smiles, and with enthusiasm says, “Sure, Mom.” Even better, what if Mom never has to ask? In our revised story,let’s have Kevin think of sharing by himself! Let’s have him volunteer to give some of his ice cream to Steve!
So: On “take two” of our story, when Steve looks down and sees the yucky ice cream with the ants and flies, Kevin pops up and says, “Hey bro, don’t stick out that lip of yours and be sad. Stick out your tongue and lick some of my cone! I’ll share with you.”
Wow! How do you like this version? Kevin’s happy; Steve’s happy; and Mom, who is VERY happy, has probably passed out from the shock of it all.
In story number one, Steve receives ice cream, and in the revised story, Steve receives ice cream, but, what’s the BIG difference? The outcome may be the same, but the spirit is totally different. According to standards set in Corinthians, version two of the story is “right on” when it comes to describing the cheerful giver that makes God happy.
Mom can force Kevin to give up ice cream, but she can’t force Kevin to be happy about it. He has to be the one to make that decision. Sometimes love is a decision. Steve’s loss of spilt ice cream was a tiny loss. There are many children in the world who have lost basic needs. Some live in places of war where life is dangerous and frightening. Some are refugees fleeing from danger, and
separated from their parents. These losses threaten people’s lives.
Our global neighbors matter because we are all family. We may not live under the same roof, but we live on the same earth, and we’re brothers and sisters, because God is the parent of all of us. So choose kindness and give generously, but give from a happy heart and with a smiling face. It will make all the difference, because it will please God.
Children’s Sermon 2
by Mrs. Fe Malayang-Pia, member of the United Church of Christ
Mrs. Fe Malayang-Pia recently returned from the Philippines and shares this story with church folks who will benefit from being aware of what the worldwide church does when calamities occur in other parts of the
Good morning children! Have you ever heard of a country called the Philippines? No? Then, I will show you where it is on this globe. It is a small country made up of 7,100 islands.
On one of its islands, there is a school founded by American missionaries, named after Horace Silliman who gave $10,000 to start a school that will teach kids and young people about Jesus. This school is Silliman
University, established in 1901, and located in Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental. In December 2011, and again in February 2012, Dumaguete was hit by a typhoon and then an earthquake which destroyed a lot of roads, houses, businesses and yes, churches. Many people were hurt.
But, you know what? People from all over the world helped by sending money, medicines, water, food and other necessities to the individuals and communities who survived the storms. Our church sent money through the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. All these were prepared and distributed by students, faculty and staff, and church folks of Silliman University.
I am telling you this true story because it shows that when people share what they have, it brings joy, not only to those who were affected but also to those who gave. Most of all, it makes Jesus happy to know that we are loving our neighbors, even if they live far away from us, and even if we don’t know who they are. Let us pray: Thank you, Jesus, for giving us the opportunity to help others in need. It makes us all a happy, loving, big family. Amen.
Children’s Sermon 3
by Charlotte Carpenter, a member of Central Christian Church, Waco, TX
• smiley-face stickers for the children
• offering envelopes of some sort, or the One Great Hour of Sharing coin box.
Good morning children. Do you know the book about Mr. Grumpy, or the song, “Don't be Mister Grouchy Face?” I’ll sing words that are good for both boys and girls, then you sing it with me. (Tune: “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”) Don't be grumpy Grouchy Face, grouchy face, grouchy face! Wear a happy smiley face; pass on a smile today. What are some things that make you happy or make you smile? (Allow time for answers.)
Have you ever wondered what makes God smile? (Possible anticipated answers: being kind, helping others, obeying our parents, etc.) Something that makes God smile is when we help people – even people that we don't know, because in God’s eyes, they are God’s children, too, just like us.
This week is a special week in our church. With smiling faces, we give an offering to help people in our country and around the world who don’t have what they most need. Maybe their town was hit by a tornado, or maybe a fire destroyed their homes or church. Maybe they don't have enough food because of drought, or perhaps fighting in their village or town meant they had to move away from their home. So, through our church, we can send food, or medicine, or we can help someone dig wells for clean water, or rebuild houses. Our money in this special offering goes with other money to send helpers, or food, or seeds, or blankets where they are needed, all year long. Each time we help God’s other children, God will smile, especially if we share with a smiling face.
Take this special envelope (or coin box) today and return it (next week) with some money you can share with a smile. Use these stickers to show that you are cheerfully sharing with others. Together, let's all put a smile on God's face.
Let's pray together: Dear God, we thank you that your love makes us smile. Help us put smiles on others’ faces and make you smile too. In Jesus name, Amen!
Children’s Sermon 4
“You Do the Math” by Kristyn Y. Reid
Kristyn Y. Reid is the Worship Department Chairperson at First Christian Church, Midwest City, Oklahoma. She is a poet who also works part-time as a substitute teacher. The mission statement for our Worship Department is, “lex orandi, lex credendi: how we worship reflects what we believe.”
Supplies: 8 oz. glass, a gallon milk jug, filled with water,
Oh, you know what? (Hold up a clear, 8 oz. glass.) My glass is empty. Could you go [across the hall to the kitchen, or wherever is appropriate…or you could have a pitcher of water nearby] and get me more water, please?
Did you know that water is one of the things human beings need to live? What else do we need to stay alive? [air, food, companionship, shelter…] Thank you,______, for getting my water.
Children need 6-8 glasses of water each day and adults need more. Here is a gallon of water. (Hold up the plastic milk carton filled with water.) It takes 16 of these (Hold up 8 oz. glass.) to fill one of these [gallon container]. So this gallon holds about enough drinking water for 2 people for 1 day. How many of these would your family need for a whole day? [answers]
But we use water for other things, too…right? Like what? [cooking, cleaning, gardens, shower/bath…] How much do you think you use in a day? [answers] The average American uses 176 gallons of water per day compared to 5 gallons per day for the average African family! [www.water.org] We just walk to a sink or a hose, but they often don’t have running water in their house, either. The average distance a person travels to get water in a developing country—like most African countries—is 4 miles!
Here—pick that up [gallon] and bring it over to_______ [someone else in the congregation who is about 20 feet away]. Do you think you could carry that 4 miles? (You could have a few others try it, too.) How many times a day would you need to go get water? (Wait for answers.)
One Great Hour of Sharing provides water wells and other help to people in areas all over the world that are wrecked by disaster, war, or poverty and need a hand to survive. If something awful happened to your neighborhood, like a tornado or fire [whatever is appropriate for your area], and suddenly you couldn’t go to the kitchen every time you wanted a drink of water, where do you think you would go? (Wait for answers.)
One Great Hour of Sharing brought water, food, and blankets to tornado victims in Joplin, MO [or name someplace that is close to you - See Your OGHS Dollars at Work]. The offering also helped people affected by floods, fires, wars, hurricanes, droughts… those disasters that happen at times all across the world. (You could name specific instances in which areas near you were helped in a time of disaster.) The Bible tells us that people will praise God when they see you sharing with others. (from 2 Corinthians 9:13)
When we give money to One Great Hour of Sharing we are truly Jesus’ disciples. This is a great way we can be more like him and help our worldwide neighbors!
Let’s say a prayer.
God, thank you for giving us a world with water. We know that sometimes though, people have a hard time finding enough clean water. Help us to help our neighbors around the world have the clean water they need. Amen.
"I will pour down rain on a thirsty land, showers on the dry ground. I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring and my blessings on your children. They shall spring up like a green tamarisk, like poplars by a flowing stream." —Isaiah 44:3-4
The promise of God's blessings for children has been affirmed down the generations of faith from the time that God first promised to Abraham and Sarah that their offspring would be as numerous as the stars. Jesus not only welcomed the child, but asked everyone to enter into the eternal realm of God's blessings as children. Children are not only invited, but show us the way.
Children have the right to develop spiritually, intellectually, physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally, and to live in conditions of freedom and dignity. Because children are powerless and often live with adults who are poor and have little voice, there is a tendency not to see or hear them. Too often, their basic needs go unfulfilled.
The United Church of Christ has a long tradition of affirming public policies that generate and distribute resources in ways that provide all people, including children, with the potential to live healthy and productive lives. The covenant of God is with all children of our nation and the world, not just with the children who share our church life.
Homegrown Faith and Justice: Conversations on Faith Formation at Home
What is the unique role parents and guardians play in the faith formation of their families? What are the joys and challenges parents encounter as they try to raise children with faith, empathy, a sense of fairness and the courage to act justly? How is the church supporting them, and how might we further support their efforts? Join us for this conversation with a panel of colleagues on the intersections of faith formation, justice advocacy, and the unique role of parents as the primary faith teachers of children in day-to-day life. Learn about Homegrown Faith and Justice, a use-at-home resource for families that's been published thanks to a sponsorship from the United Church of Christ Minnesota Ashley Endowment Fund.
Bullying and What We Can Do to Stop It
Bullying is a form of abuse of power, when one young person or a peer group abuses a vulnerable young person over a period of time. Bullying happens among young women and young men, among boys and girls. It can be physical or emotional.
There is evidence that a community or a school or a church can take steps to create a culture of respect that reduces bullying significantly. As people of faith we are called to help our communities reduce bullying. Learn more.
Tracking Child Poverty
Our 2012 Message on Public Education explores, in depth, how poverty impacts children's performance at school.
Additional UCC Web Pages that Address Justice for Children
Community organizing has long been recognized as an effective way to improve lives and bring justice to places where it is lacking. For churches, community organizing offers a tangible means for being disciples engaged in the public square while strengthening their congregational life and mission.
Congregation-based community organizing (CBCO) is community organizing rooted in faith bodies that come together in answer to God’s call to love our neighbors, stand with the marginalized, and work with God for a more just society.
Numerous UCC congregations around the country are members of local CBCO efforts. These ecumenical or interfaith networks of congregations work to address the needs and injustices present in their communities. Pastors report that participation in CBCO can be a transforming experience for congregations, individuals, and communities. Congregations gain new vitality and, often, new members.
According to research, participation in CBCO:
- equips church leaders to more powerfully engage with their congregations and communities for the sake of justice and on behalf of all that God is creating;
- strengthens participants’ leadership skills in ways that benefit both their congregations and communities;
- teaches organizing skills and ways to use these to build strong congregations and religious organizations;
- sparks renewed vitality both within congregations and the larger community; and
- provides a way to work together ecumenically and across faiths to transform our communities, states, and nation to more closely reflect God’s vision for God’s people.
Read a UC News report from March, 2016, about Plymouth Congregational UCC's experience (in Lawrence, KS) with a newly formed CBCO organization.
The collective impact of CBCO efforts is a powerful reshaping of communities and wider society, according to the Building Bridges, Building Power report published in 2012. The study found that currently, organizations comprising institution-based community organizing in the U.S. include “approximately 3500 congregations and 1000 public schools, labor unions, neighborhoods associations, faith –based organizations and others (and) collectively represent over 5 million Americans.” Community organizing, according to the report, “has the organizational capacity to make a powerful impact on democratic life, especially if best practices spread across the field.”
CBCO is a natural fit for UCC congregations given our strong commitment to justice as well as to ecumenism and interfaith work. While many UCC congregations are already engaged in CBCO, countless others would benefit from participation in this method of developing leaders and building congregations while simultaneously increasing the presence and power of our values in the public square.
There are four larger CBCO networks and two smaller ones that support local interfaith or ecumenical coalitions across the country. The networks provide training opportunities for congregations and organizers, and facilitate work among the local coalitions. There are many valuable resources on their web pages.
Direct Action and Research Training Center (DART) : 20 organizations in six states, primarily in the Midwest and FL, based in Miami.
Gamaliel Foundation : 60 affiliates in 21 states, based in Chicago, IL. (Barack Obama worked as a community organizer with this group)
Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF): 57 affiliates in 21 states, based in Chicago.
People Improving Communities Through Organizing (PICO) : 50 Federations in 17 states based in Oakland, CA. Also works in rural areas.
Intervalley Project : 7 affiliates in New England, based in Newton, Mass.
Other Resources on CBCO
The Unitarian Universalist Association has an excellent webpage on CBCO with many good resources.
In Praise of Faith-Based Community Organizing by Heidi J. Swarts in Shelterforce, Fall 2008, the journal of the National Housing Institute (“The journal of affordable housing and community building”)
Saul Alinsky goes to Church, March/April 2000, Sojourners Magazine
Barack Obama’s 1990 article on community organizing
Pentecost, Year B
Easter - Year B
Lent - Year B
Epiphany - Year B
Worship Ways: a variety of prayers, liturgies, and "how-to" articles for use on Sundays, Festivals, and special UCC calendar days. These resources come from all settings of the UCC; they are written by pastors, educators, musicians and covenanted ministry staff members. Many are based on the Sunday readings found in the Revised Common Lectionary. We encourage you to use the material "as is" or to take it and adapt it for your local setting.
Worship Ways Archive:
None lectionary based / Special occasions
Further please take the time to explore "Sing! Prayer and Praise" the new praise song book.
Creating the Beloved Community: Invocation, Confession and Assurance of Pardon For Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend
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Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives. - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
O God, all people are your Beloved,
across races, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations
and all the ways we are distinctive from one another.
We are all manifestations of your image.
We are bound together in an inescapable network of mutuality
and tied to a single garment of destiny.
You call us into your unending work
of justice, peace and love.
Let us know your presence among us now:
Let us delight in our diversity
that offers glimpses of the mosaic of your beauty.
Strengthen us with your steadfast love and
transform our despairing fatigue into hope-filled action.
Under the shadow of your wings in this hour
may we find rest and strength, renewal and hope.
We ask this, inspired by the example
of your disciple, Martin Luther King, Jr.,
and in Jesus’ name. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
O God, we long to co-create with you the Beloved Community
which looks to the common good; privileges all equally,
and creates societal systems
which celebrate the humanity and the gifts of all.
And yet we focus on our differences, envy each other’s gifts,
devalue manifestations of you, O God, that are not like our own.
Perhaps our sin is a slow wait for justice:
We allow the voices of brothers and sisters
who do not look like us, love like us, or worship like us
to be silenced.
We have told them to wait for freedom, justice and equality.
We foster in them a denigrating sense of nobodiness. Lord, have mercy.
Or perhaps we have kept silence ourselves
in the face of their struggle for full human life.
For it is not solely hateful words and actions,
but also appalling silence that follows the path of oppression. Christ, have mercy.
Perhaps our sin is to give in to weariness, discouragement, bitterness:
You have called us to be drum majors for justice, peace and righteousness,
Yet the work of peace and justice overwhelms us at times,
To build with God the Beloved Community seems impossible,
and we grow weary.
We cry, “Peace, peace,”
but there is no peace within us or around us.
We find ourselves on the path
of hatred and oppression, violence and war. Lord, have mercy.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON (Isaiah 62:1-5)
Sisters and brothers, God is at work in us and with us!
God has promised:
“I will not keep silent and I will not rest
until the vindication of my beloved people
shines out like the dawn and their salvation like a burning torch.
My people shall no more be termed ‘forsaken’
and their land shall no more be termed ‘desolate.’”
We remember that you have given your Beloved people a new name:
“My delight is in them.”
Thank you, God for delighting in us even now,
for forgiving us our slow action, our silence and our weariness,
for empowering our work
and inviting us once again
to create with you the Beloved Community you long for.
Phrases from the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. have been woven into the prayer texts. They are identified by italics. Texts of King’s work are available in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by James M. Washington; © 1986 Coretta Scott King. A brief essay on King’s understanding of the term “Beloved Community” is available at http://www.wilpf.org/mlksbelovedcommunity.
Creating the Beloved Community: Invocation, Confession and Assurance of Pardon was written by the Rev. Dr. Cari Jackson, Senior Pastor of First Congregational Church, Stamford, CT. It was originally published in Worship Ways, volume 9 number 1, © 2010 Local Church Ministries, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team, United Church of Christ.