Letter To Editor: Catholic Charities

Our church, Grace United Church of Christ, is located directly opposite the proposed new Catholic Charities site on 3rd Avenue. We have been a part of this neighborhood for 120+ years and have witnessed it’s “transition” several times. Indeed, the faces of our congregation have changed along with the neighborhood.

We happily welcome Catholic Charities as our new neighbor. Grace UCC is not a social service agency, yet we have tried to meet some of the many needs in our neighborhood.   Because our administrative and financial resources are limited, we have always thought that the presence of a true social service agency in this part of Wausau would be a true blessing.  We anticipate the arrival of Catholic Charities with rejoicing and with hopeful anticipation.

We share some of the concerns that have been expressed, but we welcome the use of our property by those waiting to enter the warming center.  Many clients of Catholic Charities are people already in this neighborhood. These folks come to us looking for many things that we cannot provide and may amble past the church frequently, often pausing to use our picnic tables and benches. This has not caused any serious problems. Additionally, we have recently learned that there have been no problems for the neighbors in the current location of the warming center, surrounded by more businesses than those that exist on 3rd Avenue.

Catholic Charities has reached out to Grace UCC and other neighbors in the area beyond what they are required to do. They have assured us that they will monitor the situation and make changes in their schedules and procedures as necessary, working with neighbors to address any concerns. Catholic Charities has already held two open houses and we are confident there will be more opportunities for questions and answers as this move progresses.

Grace UCC is blessed to have ALL of our neighbors and willingly cooperate with all of our neighbors in any way we can. We believe that Catholic Charities will be a good neighbor. Our shared beliefs and the faith we confess demands nothing less.

Rev. Wayne C. Drueck

Pastor Julie Goranson

Cindy Larson

Julie Alft

Pastor Julie “Adopted” by Grace UCC!

Pastor Julie
Pastor Julie

This morning, 5/12/13, during our 10:30 a.m. worship, Pastor Julie Goranson, our Licensed Lay Pastor was officially “adopted” as a “Daughter of Grace!” It was a fun and festive day. Pastor Julie’s picture was placed on the wall where Grace’s pastors are displayed and a special reception was held. In addition, 55 trees were planted in Julie’s honor through Mission 4/1 Earth! All in all, a great day!

The “Adoption Liturgy” written for this occasion, recounts Julie’s journey and her presence at Grace UCC, Wausau. It is here for your reading. Pictures will follow this next week.

Julie “Adoption” Liturgy

Julie, when you came to Grace United Church of Christ, we were strangers. After your first visit with us you decided that we were worth another chance and that is when the dance began.

It started out slowly and the steps were cautious. We offered hospitality and you responded with your continued presence. Yet we knew little about you and certainly not the path you were following. Not at first. But slowly you told your story and step by step people drew you out, proved to you that this was a safe place and invited you to come and dance a little closer.

We heard your story, we learned about your call to ministry and your studies at UTS and we realized that somehow in a most Holy Coincidence the mysterious Spirit of God had led you to our door and that Grace would now become a part of your journey. The dance continued to spin its pattern.

With your willingness and the openness of this congregation, we covenanted together, received the blessing of the wider church as you were licensed, and we prepared for your leadership during Rev. Wayne’s Sabbatical. Now the dance was moving along at an exciting pace and new steps were created as both you and the church grew into your own leadership and ministry.

Today the dance takes yet another turn as you look to the next year of Clinical Pastoral Education and finishing seminary. Although you came to Grace later in your journey, this congregation has rejoiced in your presence and has taken you into its heart. Some people become sons and daughters through birth. Others become sons and daughters by love. All of us were adopted by God in our baptism. God claimed us as God’s own and God clings tenaciously to God’s own. Julie, God has claimed you as God’s own child. In the same way, we at Grace claim you as one of our beloved children.

Julie, today we celebrate and re-affirm your adoption as a daughter of Grace United Church of Christ. We want you to know that as you move into the next part of discerning your call to ministry that we are your family of faith, your full partners on this journey. You do not travel alone.

Julie, do you accept and celebrate that you have been adopted by Grace church and that you are loved here?

If so, answer, “I celebrate your love and my adoption as a Daughter of Grace.”

Do you promise that you will share worship and ministry with us as you can, and in your absence pray for Grace church, keeping in touch with the congregation so that they can share your journey?

If so, answer, “I promise that I will keep Grace church in my prayers, and I will welcome you as partners in my journey to ordained ministry.”

Congregation of Grace United Church of Christ, do you acknowledge and celebrate the adoption of Julie as a “daughter of Grace,” as she discerns her call to ministry, and do you accept the love that Julie has for Grace church?

If so, answer, “We accept Julie’s love and celebrate her adoption as a daughter of Grace!”

Do you promise that you will pray for Julie, stay in touch with her and continue to support her in every possible way?

If so, answer, “We promise to pray for Julie and to support her in any way we can.”

Let us pray.

God of the prophets and martyrs in every age and land, we thank you for those in our generation who hear and answer your call to prepare for the ordained ministry of your church. Grant your Holy Spirit to Julie that she may grow in faith, be filled with courage, and increase in love. Confirm in her the call to ministry you intend, that she may find in service to you the liberty that comes to those who give themselves for others; through Jesus Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve, and who served you even to death for our redemption and adoption as Your children.




Suffer The Children

Rev. David Moyer, Conference Minister of the Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ was asked, along with other clergy, to share some remarks at a recent Candlelight Vigil held in Madison, WI that brought together faith and community groups who wish to witness to peace and to a lessening of the culture of gun violence in our country.

The following is a draft of Rev. Moyer’s statement at the Vigil:

Grace, mercy, and peace be with us all, as we live into God‘s great hope for the whole creation.

My name is David Moyer. I am the Conference Minister of the Wisconsin Conference, United Church of Christ, a gathering of 224 congregations of this Protestant tradition in the state of Wisconsin.

One day when Jesus was teaching in a public place, a group of children was brought to him. I suspect they were noisy and eager to find their way into the center of things, as children are, and Jesus’ assistants shooed them away. But Jesus as a teacher had time not only for the advanced theology lessons for adults, but also for some primary lessons to children (with adults clearly part of his target audience in “overhearing” the Good News).

Indeed, in welcoming the children, Jesus made a radical statement in saying that it is ultimately to children, or those with the courage to live with childlike trust and hope, that the reality of God’s intended reign belongs.

Those who seek to follow a way of justice and peace have an obligation not only to guide and protect children, but to learn from them how to welcome God’s love, mercy, and purposes, made new every day.

Safe places for children to live and learn; to play and love; to be fed in body and spirit is a significant obligation of not only faith communities but also the entire community. It is an essential part of our social compact.

As people of faith, we work for children to have opportunity, education, and safety. As I experience the news of the murder of children at their school desks, in places of worship, in city parks and streets and in their own homes, I am haunted by Jesus’s words that it is to children that the reign of God is entrusted.

My heart goes out in grief, compassion and prayer to the parents who trustingly sent their children off to school in Connecticut and so many other places, never to have seen them again.

I am left absolutely brokenhearted with the Chicago mother who last week lost the last of her four children, every one murdered.

I feel the abject pain of the funeral director from the south side of Chicago who, a couple years ago was interviewed as his staff was helping a family bury their son; the 75th young man’s funeral this single funeral home had handled that year. All murdered.

I think of the pride of parents as their daughter marched in the parade honoring the inauguration of our President, and then, only a few days later, had to lay her to rest, murdered while with friends in a city park shelter.

I have little to contribute to the understanding of these unthinkable events, to explaining them or providing a theology that preserves the goodness of God in the face of this tragedy, and, yes, evil.

What I do believe I can affirm is that the heart of God is breaking at the violence that we human beings commit against one another when each of us is a precious child.

I believe I can affirm that the Jesus who welcomed children, intended for them to have the chance to experience the fullness of God’s love and the opportunity to grow into all God intended for them.

I believe that I can say without reservation that the proliferation of violence in our society in this country, increasingly through the use of guns, is contrary to God’s purposes and falls far short of the best that we as a great nation can provide for our citizens, our children.

I experience life that has necessary and accepted boundaries on all variety of my personal behavior and my individual rights and yours. All kinds of ways that the greater good of the greater number of my and your fellow citizens are insured by reasonable qualifiers on my individual freedoms. I not only accept these things, but I welcome them as essential and foundational to life in human community.

It is my hope that tonight and in many other places we will light candles of change that will allow us to take small, practical, hope-filled, faith-guided steps to reduce the chances that children of any age and of any race or religion or economic state will die by gun violence.

I understand the human condition, and I entirely accept that we cannot make life for anyone entirely safe or secure. The universe incorporates chance and the human creation has been given choice. But we can, and daily do, try to expand the gracious aspects of these gifts and reduce their dangerous and destructive potentials.

I ask my church to pray daily for strength and comfort to the families of victims and of those who have lost that which was most precious and to pray that we will return to our senses and do all we are able to do, within the law and with great moral purpose, to “suffer the children” to come into the fullness of God’s intent for them, and for their clear role in our future.

With the greatest of hope and in the grace and love of God who is seen most clearly for me in Jesus.

Third Sunday Of Epiphany 1/27/13

Readings for Revised Common Lectionary, Cycle C

From Contemporary English Version © 1995, American Bible Society.

January 27, 2013

The Third Sunday after Epiphany

FIRST READING: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10

           1-2On the first day of the seventh month, the people came together in the open area in front of the Water Gate. Then they asked Ezra, who was a teacher of the Law of Moses, to read to them from this Law that the LORD had given his people. Ezra the priest came with the Law and stood before the crowd of men, women, and the children who were old enough to understand. 3From early morning till noon, he read the Law of Moses to them, and they listened carefully.

5Ezra was up on the high platform, where he could be seen by everyone, and when he opened the book, they all stood up. 6Ezra praised the great LORD God, and the people shouted, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed with their faces to the ground and worshiped the LORD.
7After this, the Levites went among the people, explaining the meaning of what Ezra had read.
9The people started crying when God’s Law was read to them. Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher, and the Levites who had been teaching the people all said, “This is a special day for the LORD your God. So don’t be sad and don’t cry!”
10Nehemiah told the people, “Enjoy your good food and wine and share some with those who didn’t have anything to bring. Don’t be sad! This is a special day for the LORD, and he will make you happy and strong.”

PSALMODY: Psalm 19

 1The heavens keep telling the wonders of God, 

       and the skies declare what he has done.
2Each day informs the following day;
each night announces to the next.
3They don’t speak a word,
and there is never the sound of a voice.
4Yet their message reaches all the earth,
and it travels around the world.

In the heavens a tent is set up for the sun.
5It rises like a bridegroom
and gets ready like a hero eager to run a race.
6It travels all the way across the sky.
Nothing hides from its heat.

7The Law of the LORD is perfect; it gives us new life.
His teachings last forever,
and they give wisdom to ordinary people.
8The LORD’S instruction is right;
it makes our hearts glad.
His commands shine brightly, and they give us light.

9Worshiping the LORD is sacred;
he will always be worshiped.
All of his decisions are correct and fair.
10They are worth more than the finest gold
and are sweeter than honey from a honeycomb.

11By your teachings, LORD, I am warned;
by obeying them, I am greatly rewarded.
12None of us know our faults.
Forgive me when I sin without knowing it.
13Don’t let me do wrong on purpose, LORD,
or let sin have control over my life.
Then I will be innocent,
and not guilty of some terrible fault.

14Let my words and my thoughts
be pleasing to you, LORD,
       because you are my mighty rock and my protector.

SECOND READING: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

          12The body of Christ has many different parts, just as any other body does. 13Some of us are Jews, and others are Gentiles. Some of us are slaves, and others are free. But God’s Spirit baptized each of us and made us part of the body of Christ. Now we each drink from that same Spirit.
14Our bodies don’t have just one part. They have many parts. 15Suppose a foot says, “I’m not a hand, and so I’m not part of the body.” Wouldn’t the foot still belong to the body? 16Or suppose an ear says, “I’m not an eye, and so I’m not part of the body.” Wouldn’t the ear still belong to the body? 17If our bodies were only an eye, we couldn’t hear a thing. And if they were only an ear, we couldn’t smell a thing. 18But God has put all parts of our body together in the way that he decided is best.
19A body isn’t really a body, unless there is more than one part. 20It takes many parts to make a single body. 21That’s why the eyes cannot say they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say it doesn’t need the feet. 22In fact, we cannot get along without the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest. 23We take special care to dress up some parts of our bodies. We are modest about our personal parts, 24but we don’t have to be modest about other parts.
God put our bodies together in such a way that even the parts that seem the least important are valuable. 25He did this to make all parts of the body work together smoothly, with each part caring about the others. 26If one part of our body hurts, we hurt all over. If one part of our body is honored, the whole body will be happy.
27Together you are the body of Christ. Each one of you is part of his body. 28First, God chose some people to be apostles and prophets and teachers for the church. But he also chose some to work miracles or heal the sick or help others or be leaders or speak different kinds of languages. 29Not everyone is an apostle. Not everyone is a prophet. Not everyone is a teacher. Not everyone can work miracles. 30Not everyone can heal the sick. Not everyone can speak different kinds of languages. Not everyone can tell what these languages mean. 31I want you to desire the best gifts.

GOSPEL: Luke 4:14-21

          14Jesus returned to Galilee with the power of the Spirit. News about him spread everywhere.15He taught in the Jewish meeting places, and everyone praised him.
16Jesus went back to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and as usual he went to the meeting place on the Sabbath. When he stood up to read from the Scriptures, 17he was given the book of Isaiah the prophet. He opened it and read,

18“The LORD’S Spirit has come to me,
because he has chosen me
to tell the good news to the poor.
The Lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners,
to give sight to the blind, to free everyone who suffers,
19 and to say, ‘This is the year the Lord has chosen.’ ”

20Jesus closed the book, then handed it back to the man in charge and sat down. Everyone in the meeting place looked straight at Jesus.
21Then Jesus said to them, “What you have just heard me read has come true today.”

Baptism Of Jesus 1/13/13

January 13, 2013

The Baptism of our Lord/First Sunday after Epiphany

FIRST READING: Isaiah 43:1-7 

Descendants of Jacob, I, the LORD, created you
and formed your nation.
Israel, don’t be afraid. I have rescued you.
I have called you by name; now you belong to me.
2When you cross deep rivers, I will be with you,
and you won’t drown.
When you walk through fire, you won’t be burned
or scorched by the flames.

3I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel,
the God who saves you.
I gave up Egypt, Ethiopia, and the region of Seba
in exchange for you.
4To me, you are very dear, and I love you.
That’s why I gave up nations and people to rescue you.

5Don’t be afraid! I am with you.
From both east and west I will bring you together.
6I will say to the north and to the south,
“Free my sons and daughters!
Let them return from distant lands.
7They are my people I created each of them
to bring honor to me.”

PSALMODY: Psalm 29 

1All of you angels in heaven,
honor the glory and power of the LORD!
2Honor the wonderful name of the LORD,
and worship the L
ORD most holy and glorious.

3The voice of the LORD echoes over the oceans.
The glorious LORD God thunders
above the roar of the raging sea,
4and his voice is mighty and marvelous.
5The voice of the LORD destroys the cedar trees;
the LORD shatters cedars on Mount Lebanon.
6God makes Mount Lebanon skip like a calf
and Mount Hermon jump like a wild ox.

7The voice of the LORD makes lightning flash
8and the desert tremble.
And because of the LORD,
the desert near Kadesh shivers and shakes.

9The voice of the LORD makes deer give birth
before their time.
Forests are stripped of leaves,
and the temple is filled with shouts of praise.

10The LORD rules on his throne,
king of the flood forever.
11Pray that our LORD will make us strong
and give us peace.

SECOND READING: Acts 8:14-17

          14The apostles in Jerusalem heard that some people in Samaria had accepted God’s message, and they sent Peter and John. 15When the two apostles arrived, they prayed that the people would be given the Holy Spirit. 16Before this, the Holy Spirit had not been given to anyone in Samaria, though some of them had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17Peter and John then placed their hands on everyone who had faith in the Lord, and they were given the Holy Spirit.

GOSPEL: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

          15Everyone became excited and wondered, “Could John be the Messiah?”
16John said, “I am just baptizing with water. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I am not good enough even to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17His threshing fork is in his hand, and he is ready to separate the wheat from the husks. He will store the wheat in his barn and burn the husks with a fire that never goes out.”
21While everyone else was being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. Then as he prayed, the sky opened up, 22and the Holy Spirit came down upon him in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven said, “You are my own dear Son, and I am pleased with you.”

Festival Of The Epiphany 1-6-13

Readings for Revised Common Lectionary, Cycle A-B-C

From Contemporary English Version © 1995, American Bible Society.

January 6

The Epiphany of Our Lord

FIRST READING: Isaiah 60:1-6

Jerusalem, stand up! Shine! Your new day is dawning.

       The glory of the LORD shines brightly on you.
2The earth and its people are covered with darkness,
but the glory of the LORD is shining upon you.
3Nations and kings will come to the light
of your dawning day.

The LORD said:
4Open your eyes! Look around! Crowds are coming.
Your sons are on their way from distant lands;
your daughters are being carried like little children.
5When you see this, your faces will glow;
your hearts will pound and swell with pride.
Treasures from across the sea and the wealth of nations
will be brought to you.
6Your country will be covered with caravans
of young camels from Midian and Ephah.
The people of Sheba will bring gold and spices
in praise of me, the LORD.

PSALMODY: Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

1Please help the king to be honest and fair

       just like you, our God.
2Let him be honest and fair with all your people,
       especially the poor.
3Let peace and justice rule every mountain and hill.
4Let the king defend the poor, rescue the homeless,
and crush everyone who hurts them.
5Let the king live forever like the sun and the moon.
6Let him be as helpful as rain
that refreshes the meadows and the ground.
7Let the king be fair with everyone,
and let there be peace
until the moon falls from the sky.
10Force the rulers of Tarshish and of the islands
to pay taxes to him.
Make the kings of Sheba and of Seba bring gifts.
       11Make other rulers bow down and all nations serve him.

12Do this because the king rescues the homeless
when they cry out,
       and he helps everyone who is poor and in need.
13The king has pity on the weak and the helpless
and protects those in need.
14He cares when they hurt,
and he saves them from cruel and violent deaths.

SECOND READING: Ephesians 3:1-12

Christ Jesus made me his prisoner, so that I could help you Gentiles. 2You have surely heard about God’s kindness in choosing me to help you. 3In fact, this letter tells you a little about how God has shown me his mysterious ways. 4As you read the letter, you will also find out how well I really do understand the mystery about Christ. 5No one knew about this mystery until God’s Spirit told it to his holy apostles and prophets. 6And the mystery is this: Because of Christ Jesus, the good news has given the Gentiles a share in the promises that God gave to the Jews. God has also let the Gentiles be part of the same body.

7God treated me with kindness. His power worked in me, and it became my job to spread the good news. 8I am the least important of all God’s people. But God was kind and chose me to tell the Gentiles that because of Christ there are blessings that cannot be measured. 9God, who created everything, wanted me to help everyone understand the mysterious plan that had always been hidden in his mind. 10Then God would use the church to show the powers and authorities in the spiritual world that he has many different kinds of wisdom.
11God did this according to his eternal plan. And he was able to do what he had planned because of all that Christ Jesus our Lord had done. 12Christ now gives us courage and confidence, so that we can come to God by faith.

GOSPEL: Matthew 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in the village of Bethlehem in Judea, Herod was king. During this time some wise men from the east came to Jerusalem2and said, “Where is the child born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

3When King Herod heard about this, he was worried, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem. 4Herod brought together the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses and asked them, “Where will the Messiah be born?”
5They told him, “He will be born in Bethlehem, just as the prophet wrote,

6‘Bethlehem in the land of Judea,
you are very important among the towns of Judea.
From your town will come a leader,
who will be like a shepherd for my people Israel.’ ”

7Herod secretly called in the wise men and asked them when they had first seen the star. 8He told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, let me know. I want to go and worship him too.”
9The wise men listened to what the king said and then left. And the star they had seen in the east went on ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10They were thrilled and excited to see the star.
11When the men went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they knelt down and worshiped him. They took out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and gave them to him. 12Later they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and they went back home by another road.