Blog and Church News

Slowing Down Global Warming: #10-#13

Bible Verses, Practical, and Personal Change

By Rosalie Brown

My God will meet all your needs
according to the riches of his
glory in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

Certainly, food is one of our basic needs.

#10. If possible, eat as a vegetarian or vegan or at least cut down on the amount of meat you do eat. Providing beef and milk results in lots of methane gas, which is even more polluting than carbon dioxide. Save the meat and the milk for the kids. The way animals are raised is suspect for a pandemic. Holidays present the possibility for an exception. A plant-rich diet does have enough protein and there is less of a chance of heart disease and cancer for you.

#11. Food waste is the third biggest contributor to global warming (Drawdown). Rotting food gives off methane. It is very helpful to have food banks.

#12. Grow all or some of your own fruits and vegetables. ‘Slow’ food takes much less transportation. You will know for sure that your food is organic and you’ll be able to skip the packaging.

#13. Keep your weight down. You’ll consume less food.

Free Food Saturday

Written by Dale Buchanan

The August 22, 2020 Big Red Church, Drive-thru Food Distribution is now History. It is my pleasure to call it a success. In an earlier announcement I spoke of doing church in the Age of Coronavirus, yours truly was secretly skeptical perhaps even a little bit cynical about the chances of this totally new ministry Turning out well. I was wrong! In spite of some anxious moments everything fell into place.

In rough numbers there were: boxes of shelf-stable foods and  bags of fresh vegetables and fruit for everyone. I am reminded of the parable of the loaves and fishes. There were 139 households representing 566 individuals fed.  Also receiving food from our giveaway on Saturday were ten families from the Headstart that meets on the Big Red campus. We had lots of volunteers from Big Red, twenty young people from Teens That Care, and seven from Mike Gostanian’s Lions Club.

Before I forget the HEAD START, which meets on the Big Red Campus, was also served full portions.

Sometimes when everything works out I use the slang expression,  it  clicked into place. And that is exactly what happened on Saturday every thing just clicked!

Sometimes yours truly forgets.  Forgets that ours is a ministry of faith. When Jesus commissioned his disciples to feed the multitude, they replied, “we can’t.” Imagine how foolish the disciples must have felt as they started passing out that paltry handful of bread and fish. In essence they began with nothing  and finished with more than they started with.

Thank the good Lord that there are at Big Red, disciples willing to believe that they can turn  a trifling sum into a feast. “ I believe help thou my unbelief.”


Remembering Bruce L. Morris on his 100th Birthday

Bruce L Morris, former First Congregational Church Fresno moderator, Sunday School Teacher, Circle of Friends Childcare & all-around FCCF Volunteer and Fresno City College instructor would have been 100 years old on August 12th.

In honor of his service to FCCF, his love for the Sierra Nevada and devoted volunteer at Camp Tamarack we are making a special appeal for Camp Tam in cooperation with his family and the Morris Trust. Camp Tamarack is closed for this season due to Covid-19. Annual maintenance and repairs are being performed by those who believe in the Camp Tam experience as much as Bruce. Their goal and ours is to ensure a viable camp experience for future generations of Tam Campers.

Bruce may well have started his affection for his beloved Sierra Nevadas during a 2-week trek with his parents, Professor Frank R and Lotta Ray Morris to the Summit of Mt Whitney in 1930. Bruce was the 2nd youngest to sign the register at age 10.

Bruce’s parents were stalwart First Congregational members from the day the family joined when it was located at Divisadero & San Pablo. At the awkward age of 14 and needing to expand his social and spiritual experiences, the Morris family soon became pillars of FCCF.

A summary of Bruce’s Sierra Nevada experiences include:

  • Fresno State College Summer School, Huntington Lake – 1930’s -’42
  • Family Camp Freso, Dinkey Creek – 1950’s
  • Millerton Park Summer Ranger – ’50’s
  • Camp Manager, YMCA Camp Sequoia ’50s
  • Morris Cabin Shaver Lake 1960–

All donations will benefit the maintenance of Camp Tamarack or Camperships to provide the physical and spiritual experience Bruce felt while surrounded by the natural beauty of his beloved Sierras.

All who wish to donate or pledge a donation can do so by:

  • Check made out to FCCF
  • Donation made via Givelify, specify “Bruce L. Morris 100 Camp Tam”
  • In-kind donations, contact Penny Peterson in the FCCF office at [email protected] or by calling 559.227.8489

Please mark all donations: 

CAMP TAMARACK, Bruce Morris 100

Your personal notes & reflections of Bruce and Camp Tam experiences are welcome with or without a donation.

Slowing Down Global Warming: Suggestions #5-#9

Bible Verses, Practical, and Personal Change

By Rosalie Brown

And so we contemplate: God and I and Time
Laughing quietly, accepting, hoping
For even this cantankerous Race
Shows promise 

 Half Dome, Yosemite
Frank Saxton

#4. Drive the smallest vehicle you can, preferably hybrid or electric. Avoid single drivers in vans or large pickups.

#5. Take the nearest parking spot.  Circling around parking lots uses up gas, promotes pollution.

#6. Don’t use AC or heat while sitting in the car; more energy lost,more pollution.

#7. Organize errands to save gas and time. Need one other ingredient for that recipe? Find a substitute in your kitchen. You might invent       something new.

#8. Take one (or two or three) days a week off from using your car; less traffic on the streets and a calmer you.

#9. Walk or bike instead of driving as much as possible. We’ve heard this many times and it looks to me like more people are doing this.      Thank you.

Some or all of these suggestions may make you feel like you’re being asked to give up too much. However, the health and safety ofour children (and grandchildren) depend on it.

Slowing Down Global Warming: Support the building of wind turbines.

Bible Verses, Practical, and Personal Change

By Rosalie Brown

For if God leads us into wind and rain, It is for us to be cleaned and refreshed.
–Mount Shasta, Northern California
                Frank Saxton


There are 314,000 (probably more, my statistics go up to 2017) which supplies nearly 4% of global electricity. In the 1920’s and 30’s, farms across the mid-western U.S. were dotted with wind turbines as a dominant energy source, ‘simple’ windmills, which we still see in the countryside, but are no longer used for the intended purpose. So as the US went from family farms to agribusiness, these smaller sources of energy were lost.     One of the drawbacks to the new very large turbines is that birds get slaughtered.  Another is that they change the view of the natural landscape  (I’d rather see them than not) Hopefully technology can find some way of protecting the birds.

Is there some way to bring back a smaller scale wind turbine, even in the suburban environment? Could they be included for new home construction, on vacant lots, PUD’s  and apartment complexes?

Family farms had been the most efficient way to produce food, vegetable and animal. By nature small farms wouldn’t be growing a monoculture, and because of that, would not require as many pesticides. And with fewer crop dusters, we’d have cleaner air.

As the countdown to bigger climate changes looms in our future, we need to be asking more questions of our elected officials.

Source: ‘Drawdown’ edited by Paul Hawken copyright 2017.

DOING CHURCH IN THE AGE OF CORONAVIRUS

Written by Dale Buchanan

The BIG RED FOOD PANTRY is back in business. Someone has suggested that the only constant is change and this bit of wisdom has assumed the status of a truism.

As the name suggests the primary mission of the, “Big Red Food Pantry,” has been and is, to deliver free food into the hands of the disadvantaged of our community. The CORONAVIRUS struck our community, state and our nation like a biblical plague,leaving us in disarray but like a truism it is forcing us to see change as the great constant. After months of quiet we met on June 18,2020 and a great spirit of change was moving amongst us. We assembled virtually via Zoom. COVID 19 had forced us to do some things differently. We tentatively agreed to change FREE FOOD FRIDAY, to FREE FOOD SATURDAY. Before the week was over it was obvious that Saturday would bring more volunteers. This ministry is labor intensive and this forced change will relieve the pressure on our senior volunteers. 

We met again on July 23 and other structural changes  happened to make the pantry work even more evenly distributed. The need to “Social Distance,” led us to instigate a ,” Drive-thru food distribution. This led to a partnership with Central California Food Bank  where they supply free boxes of assorted shelf-stable foods. The partnership with Food Bank sent our leadership to, “TEENS THAT CARE,” these teenagers have volunteered to load the food boxes into the automobiles.

The first Free Food Saturday will be a Drive thru Food  Distribution  And will happen  Saturday August 22, 2020, 9 am -12 noon.

This is not a call for money. It is an appeal for volunteers young and old. Just a bit of your time can open doors of service. For more information and to sign up call Mike Gostanian 930-6165 or Randy Oftedal 348-3365 .

Discernment

This is an exciting time in the life of our church, and for the whole United Church of Christ of which we are a part. One of our own, Chris Williams, has become a Member in Discernment (MID)! Now, you may find yourself asking, “What is a Member in Discernment?,” but I think an even more pressing question we should be asking is, “What is Discernment?” 

One of the key pieces of our identity and tradition in the United Church of Christ, and the historic Congregationalist Churches from which we come, is our conviction and embrace of the Priesthood of All Believers. Whenever someone joins our church through Baptism or by remembering and affirming their baptism, we remember and affirm that every one of us gathered together in the church is called to ministry. We are all called to live faithfully, resist evil and oppression, and to work towards a just world for all of Creation. We all have our own pieces of this work that go with us into every part of our lives, and which also come together in the ministry of the church. We all have our own functions as members of the body of Christ and we are all called to minister to others, but some are called to ordained positions, in which we serve specific functions of the church. Some of these functions include supporting and nourishing the community by leading worship and administering the Sacraments, preaching, teaching, pastoral care, leadership and administration within church community, and leading the church to be a prophetic witness among the larger community. 

In the UCC, when someone begins to sense that they are called to this work, and wish to pursue it further, they enter a process with the support of the local church and its conference (for us, the Northern California Nevada Conference of the UCC), and become a Member in Discernment. This can be just a little misleading, because they are never alone in this time and work of discernment. In fact, discernment is communal in its very nature, and is impossible to practice as an individual in isolation. 

Discernment is an important, yet often overlooked spiritual practice and discipline. When we neglect it, which is all too often, we neglect an essential question: What is God doing in this present moment? We have the library of sacred stories held in our Bible where we see some of the ways God has moved among our forebears in faith. We also have the traditions handed down through the history of the church to develop and train our capacity for opening ourselves to God’s presence. Sometimes we get distracted and turn these stories and traditions into their own ends and goals, and try to capture something we think we have lost. But what we think we have lost is actually waiting for us in the present moment. These histories, stories, teachings, and traditions are not ends in themselves, but rather are gifts from those who came before, from those who witnessed God’s presence and redemptive action in their own times, given to us so that we might take their wisdom and knowledge and join for ourselves into the presence and action of God in our present moment. 

Discernment is only possible in community. It is never an individual act, conviction, or revelation. We are community-dependent created by a God who is the very nature of connection and community, so it only makes sense that we most clearly discern the ongoing creative and wholeness-making work of God when we do so as a community. Discernment requires a lot of us. It requires individuals and the groups they discern with to have imaginations shaped by the stories of Scripture and trained by tradition, to be prayerfully attentive to the present moment, to be intimately aware of and willing to suspend their personal wills, desires, motives, and certainty of what is and is not possible, and to be open, patiently listening and watching for the movement of God, where-and- who-ever it may come from. 

A new Member in Discernment in our church is an exciting time, not just for the individual, but for the whole church that is a part of the journey. This is especially true for us, as Chris Williams has become our second member in the MID process. Our own Kim Williams (yes, relation) is also a MID. This is an exciting time, not just for their own emerging ministries and understandings of their callings, and our pride in claiming them as our own, but also because they are providing us with opportunities to practice the discipline of discernment for every other occasion, decision, challenge, and invitation to meet God in the present moment that we encounter. 

To get to this point, Chris had many discussions with his family and with me, he presented a narrative of his spiritual journey and understanding of calling to ordained ministry to our Church Council, who voted to recommend him to the conference Committee on Ministry, who, after receiving a lot of information and meeting with Chris themselves, voted enthusiastically to grant him the status of Member in Discernment. Next, he will be forming a Local Church Discernment Committee with a few members of our church to support and journey closely with him through this work of discernment, beginning seminary classes at the Pacific School of Religion at Berkeley, and further exploring opportunities in the church to begin getting a clearer sense of his gifts, interests, passions, and areas for growth and development for ministry. Please join me in congratulating Chris, in praying for him and his journey of discernment, and in keeping our eyes open for where God is moving, speaking, restoring, and creating next. 

Pastor Raygan

Our Family Finances: Mid-Year Report

By Peter Wall, CFO

The first six months of 2020 (maybe even seven, by the time you read this) are done and gone. That means I have enough information to give you a mid-year financial report for our church.

So where do we stand? 

Let me start with a broad recap of the budget that you the congregation approved at our annual meeting on January 26, 2020, way back in pre-pandemic times. First, there was a theme for the budget, which was “investing in the children.” Based on that theme we budgeted to hire a paid director of Christian Education, and to pay for classroom assistants. Second, we budgeted to set aside $7,000 in anticipation of the sabbatical that is written into the call of our Pastor. Those were the significant “new” things in the budget. Overall, we budgeted income of $353,026 (including $186,500 in pledged giving, $31,000 in identifiable giving, and $11,950 in loose offerings and other giving; $63,700 from facility use fees; $27,575 in endowment transfers; and $14,100 from fundraisers), and expenditures of $352,796 (which is a difference of $230, allocated as “Reserves”).

Starting from the approved budget as a baseline, there is bad news and there is good news. 

The bad news you probably already know: this year has not gone the way any of us expected. Because of the pandemic, we were not able to hold our major fundraiser, Jazz on Van Ness, and facility use fees are way down (but Head Start and Amazing Grace Ministries are both continuing to pay as agreed, and as budgeted). Because of those two things, income for the first half of the year (January through June) was $23,121 less than we budgeted. 

The bad news continues on the expenditure side. Because our in-person activities have ceased, it has been a struggle to figure out how best to serve the children. We still do not have a paid director of Christian Education, and we have not needed to pay classroom assistants. As well, most of our Ministries have not been spending at the rates they expected. Overall, expenditures for the first half of the year were $29,105 less than we budgeted.

Before moving on to the good news, however, I want to pause and acknowledge the seriousness of the bad news, particularly on the expenditure side, and particularly given the budget theme of “investing in the children.” We should all be concerned about the kids right now. Their opportunities for healthy social engagement are significantly reduced, and we as a church have struggled to find ways to overcome that problem. All of the children, all of the people who work with children, and Candice Blair, the chair of our Ministry of Christian Education, and Tracy Bright, who is chairing the search committee for the paid director of Christian Education, need our prayerful support in this difficult time.

But here is some good news: giving remains strong! During the first half of the year, pledged giving, totaling $97,111, was 100.63% of what we budgeted and identifiable giving, totaling $15,547, was 100.29% of what we budgeted for that period. Despite all of the bad news, that strong giving means that, for the first half of the year, we were $12,523 to the positive (in other words, that much more came in than went out). And those numbers do not include more than $15,000 that was given or raised to feed the hungry, both through the pantry and with home-cooked meals. We also don’t yet have the final numbers for Creativity on Virtual Van Ness, the fundraiser intended to help replace Jazz on Van Ness—but I can say preliminarily that you will be impressed.

Finally, there are a couple more things to report. First, to help ensure that the congregation’s wise decision to set aside money for the pastoral sabbatical will be honored in future years, we now have a separate account at the bank for that money, and we are transferring $583.33 into that account every month. The balance at the end of June was $3,500, which was right on track with budget. Second, because the money coming in and going out to feed the hungry has been significant, and to provide greater transparency, we also have a separate account at the bank for the pantry fund. The balance at the end of June was $16,712. In addition to those balances, our general cash balance at the end of June, which basically is our operating funds, was $17,760, and that good position has been holding steady. We have not yet made any unbudgeted transfers from endowments.

That good news is not a reason to stop or slow your giving. The second half of the year could still hold expensive surprises. As well, we are still in the process of purchasing new video equipment to improve the quality of our online services, and we are still working to hire a paid director of Christian Education. We could still get to the end of the year and find that expenses were far greater than expected. And, as I have said before, we need to be well-positioned to spring back into a wounded world. 

We have lots of challenges, and our own practice of generosity helps to lay a strong foundation for meeting them. In mid-July, giving progress statements were mailed to everyone who both pledged and had given during the first half of the year, together with a letter from the chair of the Stewardship and Sustainable Growth Committee. Please review those things carefully and consider how you can best continue to support the work of our church.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at [email protected]

Hard Questions Happy Hour

Church Family, 

We need to talk. 

Is it just me, or does it seem like the line between reality and satire is getting blurrier? The other day I came across a social media post that said something to the effect of, “Future historians will have to specify which month of 2020 they specialize in.” While this was probably meant as a joke, I think the humor in it comes from the possibility that it may very well be true one day. So many significant yet unpredictable things seem to be happening in out world at the same time, that it is difficult to discern how we as individuals and as the church are being called to respond. 

One of the questions that has been rolling around my mind for the past few months has been, “What does it mean for us to be the church when we are not able to be at the church?” Or, related, yet slightly different, “What does it mean to be this church in this place in this moment?” This moment may feel chaotic for us, but that doesn’t have to deter our working ministry. 

On the first Sunday in June, our text in worship was the seven day creation story in Genesis 1. Our God creates and has always created out of chaos (the literal meaning of the word usually translated “void”). God creates, by God’s own initiative, but God also gives us authority and responsibility to care for, be fruitful with, and multiply God’s creative work. What might God be creating in this moment, and how is God calling us to participate in it? As a global pandemic has disrupted almost every area of our lives, and as tensions rise over what life amid a pandemic should look like, what new and renewing ways of life are becoming possible? As conversations about race and white privilege become more common, open, and cautiously optimistic in the wake of new and centuries-old grief, what do wholeness, healing, harmonious living, and shalom look like? If things that were once unimaginable are now our reality, or what once would have been considered an exceptionally big news day is now just an average Tuesday, what good things might be worth doing and trying, that were once thought unimaginable? 

These are hard questions that have no easy answers. However, I think one of the most important things we can be doing right now is wrestling with the hard questions that come up from the world around us, and discerning what they mean for us and how we as the church are called to respond. 

These are not just big, difficult questions, I believe they are also especially exciting questions that have the potential to lead to wonder-filled conversations. I also think that we can have a lot of fun along the way. To that end, let’s get together for Hard Questions Happy Hour, Wednesdays in July from 5-6pm on Zoom. Bring your own beverage (with or without alcohol), questions, and imaginations. Everyone is welcome, and whoever shows up are the right people for the conversation. If you don’t have the right equipment for Zoom video meetings, you can also call in by phone. 

Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83224125795 

Meeting ID: 832 2412 5795

One tap mobile

+16699009128,,83224125795# 

Dial from any phone:

        +1 669 900 9128 (will need Meeting ID: 832 2412 5795)

See you there, 

Raygan 

Slowing Down Global Warming: Air Conditioning

Bible Verses, Practical, and Personal Change

By Rosalie Brown

Walk, gentle in my world.
Let it flow through your becoming.
Lift up your soul,
And sing in a strong voice.

        With Indian Paintbrush near Tamarak Ridge, CA             
        By Frank Saxton

AC is the single largest cause of global warming. (The hotter it gets the hotter it is going to get)

Change #1:   Raise your thermostat a few more degrees.                   

  • Augment or increase the use of fans.
  • Turn the AC off for a short time in the morning while you open your doors and windows and let the cool air in.
  • For new construction, consider one of the modern ‘coolers’. It’s comfortable and you’ll save on your electric bill.

Change #2:   Keep thinking all the time about ways to save the planet. Share your ideas.