Condon & Ferguson: A Response

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November 25, 2014

Dear Friends:

As I move from store to post office to lunch counter I pause periodically to greet my neighbors, friends, and parishioners. This is a joy of living in our small town. It seems a universe away from the unrest in downtown Ferguson.

Like many of you — and the prophet Habakkuk — I have complained to God about the violence unfolding on our televisions and social media streams.

Lord, how long will I call for help and you not listen
I cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you don’t deliver us.

Why do you show me injustice and look at anguish
so that devastation and violence are before me?
There is strife, and conflict abounds. Habakkuk 1:2-3 CEB

Despite the friendly faces of our law enforcement, our children as they safely ride their bicycles to local businesses to buy after school snacks, and the beauty of sage and wheat that surrounds us, the images of my hometown linger and refuse to be repressed. I think about my years attending the Ferguson-Florissant schools. I think about my siblings and father who still live in the area.

Yes, we are miles apart but we are also not so different. Mothers and fathers love their children. Men and women work hard to support their families. Some in Condon and some in Ferguson struggle with poverty, food insecurity, and addiction. People in our rural community don’t always make the right choices nor do those in Ferguson.

My family, friends, and former colleagues — some white, some black — with whom I remain in contact are even more distressed than you and I at the few who seem determined to destroy in the wake of their grief and the shooting death of an unarmed teen.

A risk in all of this is our distance-induced inclination to attribute the acts of a few to whole groups of people. When we assume that the actions of those who have burned and looted are representative of the whole community, when we accept the dramatic media coverage as the whole story, it becomes too easy to lose focus on the core issues of racial tensions in our country.

Just as I, a relative newcomer to Condon, do not fully understand the experiences of growing up here, those of us who are white do not understand what it is to grow up a person of color. In my nearly two years here, I have tried to listen to the lived experiences of others, to believe you, and to withhold my own biases. Sometimes I’ve been successful; sometimes I have made mistakes. Like you, I am imperfect.

For those of us who are white, the same approach is necessary if we are to understand the experiences of our African American sisters and brothers. We must listen with open minds, with loving hearts, and with a willingness to believe.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to stand with the oppressed and poor. I think that in this situation, that means we listen more than we talk. We believe that our law enforcement and legal institutions are imperfect and have too often failed those of color. As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

Please join me in continuous prayer for an end to the violence, for changes that prevent racial injustices, and for a listening spirit of grace as we move forward.

In Service of the One,

Tim Graves
Pastor
Condon United Church of Christ

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Searching Is Theme for Advent at Condon UCC

The Condon United Church of Christ announced special music, weekly worship, Bible Study, and special services for Advent, the start of the Christian calendar and the season of preparation leading to Christmas. The focus of services and studies will be “Searching”, according to Rev. Tim Graves, pastor of the United Church of Christ.Advent 2014 at Condon UCC flyer

“All of us are on our own spiritual journeys with the Divine One,” explained Rev. Graves. “Our theme of Searching reflects this truth about human existence during this season of preparation for Christmas.”

Advent at the UCC begins Sunday, November 30 with a Hanging of the Greens worship service featuring special music by local artist and musician Dan Robinson. Scripture readings, Advent and Christmas hymns, prayer, and multimedia are interspersed with decorating the sanctuary.

“At the start of a Hanging of the Greens service, the sanctuary is bare. By the end of the service it is decked out in seasonal decorations and liturgical colors,” said Rev. Graves.

Each Sunday morning, as is the practice at the local UCC, begins with Bible study at 9:15 and worship at 10:30. The traditional themes of hope, peace, joy, and love will be incorporated into the searching theme on each of the four Sundays leading to Christmas.

The second Sunday of Advent, December 6, will feature special music by Russell Thompson, grandson of Patti and Dale Thompson.

A Longest Night service will be Sunday evening December 21 at 5:00 p.m. Sometimes called Blue Christmas, many Christian churches now recognize the sadness inherent in the Christmas season for many people.

“The service affirms that not everyone is as happy as our culture tells us we should be at this time of the year,” says Rev. Graves. “The holidays, especially Christmas, are often times when people feel the loss of loved ones, hopes, and dreams. Those searching for work or living in poverty often feel the pressures of spending money they do not have. Even those who appear to have it all, often struggle with depression or blue feelings as the long nights of winter press on.”

The traditional candlelight Christmas Eve service will be at 8:00 p.m. on December 24.

Remembering the Saints

Remembering the Saints

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 1.06.04 PMWe remember the strengths and faults,
of the saints of our lives on this All Saints Sunday.
We learned from them in easy ways and hard ways.

We remember the One who journeyed with each of them.
We focus now on the One who journeys with us still.
(from the Call to Worship at Condon UCC on November 2, 2014)

Watch Remembering the Saints video at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/fonqtyveai9lzme/Remembering%20the%20Saints%202014m.mp4?dl=0