Ministry Highlights for Feb. 2024
The traditional soup supper and service on Ash Wednesday (2/14/24) started Lent this year. (More Ash Wed. photos in Gallery.) On most Sundays in Lent, folks in grade 4 and up have gathered between Sunday Services to Pray with Colors, using our Lenten Devotional linking the art of Henri Matisse to Lenten themes. Feb. 18 was green and Feb. 25 was blue. This Sunday we take a break for Resurrection Gardens (look for info in your Overview Thursday!) and return to Praying With Colors on March 10.
Youth Visit Estes
Our youth group had an outing to Estes Park with the youth of First Cong. Greeley.
Marta Speaks at FC Council Meeting on Israel/Hamas War
Rev. Marta was #54 out of 169 speakers at the Fort Collins City Council Meeting on 2/20 at which the council considered a ceasefire resolution. The previous Sunday, youth made hearts for Plymouth members to wear at the meeting.
Plymouth Celebrates Verley Boulton's 90th Birthday
There were candles and cake on Sunday, February 11 between services as our community celebrated Verley!
ISAAC Love in Action Fundraiser
Plymouth folks attended the Interfaith Solidarity and Accompaniment Coalition event featuring internationally-known speaker Father Greg Boyle, author and Hilton Humanitarian Prize recipient, with a message of radical kinship, exquisite mutuality and infectious hope.
Annual Meeting 2/4/24
Festive worship at 10 a.m., followed by a potluck and the annual meeting. More photos in Gallery. Did you miss the Annual Ministry Highlights presentation? View it here.
It’s good to be entering the season of Lent with all of you. I consider this season a time of curiosity. I am in awe of the beauty of our separate and shared lives. I am glad to be journeying with you and this congregation this year.
I love joining you in homes, breaking bread together, sharing our lives, taking ourselves and our values into the public square, and engaging in important local issues. It’s fun to share stories about our personal lives- our favorite T.V. shows, what makes our professions important, and talking about what Jesus means to you!
Who is Jesus to you and how does he show up in your faith? I think about this a lot.
Jesus often invites and calls me into community. Sometimes, it is a familiar community and sometimes an unrecognizable one- but it is always community.
INVITATIONS for you into Community this Lent:
The Immigration Ministry Team invites you to join the Fort Collins community at the City Council Meeting on Tuesday, February 20. We will be rallying for peace and love and asking for a Cease Fire Resolution to be passed so that our city can join the list of other cities in the U.S. asking for the same thing. We will meet in the parking lot at 5:40 pm at the City Hall [the patio outside the main door of the City Council Chambers, 300 Laporte Ave].
I have signed up to talk at the Rally. The youth group will be making us large red hearts to wear around our necks as a sign of solidarity as we all witness the horror that is happening in the West Bank–Palestine–Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and others - our vision must be to protect and love and call for peace here and around the world.
The Interfaith Council of Fort Collins invites you to join a suicide prevention event on Thursday, March 7, 9-10:30 am at Plymouth!
I also invite you to reach out to me if you want to have coffee or sit together and explore your faith during this time of Lent, this time of deepening. I am easy to find. My email is email@example.com and my cell phone is: 719-306-4037
If you have any questions about these events don’t hesitate to contact me.
Love and Peace this Lenten Journey,
A couple of weeks ago, I shared a few thoughts with the Chancel Choir about our music ministry at Plymouth. It is helpful to step back and reflect on one's role in the greater mission of the church. The result is often one of rejuvenation, a healthy recalibration and a more profound appreciation of music's healing and life-giving power. This time was no exception. Allow me to share with you then the fruits of this reflection.
I view our midweek rehearsals as so much more than a time to just "get things done." It is a midweek communal oasis in our often busy lives and one path to put faith into practice by giving back to the church in such a purposeful, beautiful and uplifting way. It is inherently a spiritual experience combining beautiful music thoughtfully selected to illuminate the message of our worship services. And it certainly is also a space to grow musically and vocally as choral singers as well. The progress we make together in our weekly explorations and practice allows for quality and inspired anthems to grace Plymouth's worship life. It is a gift of service we can offer to the church. And as choristers know all too well – for ourselves.
These thoughts apply to all of Plymouth's music ensembles as well of course.
It is clear to me that the intention behind our service is well understood by the Chancel Choir, the Plymouth Ringers and the 9:00 a.m. service musicians. There is joy in our music-making and time together! We have a happy and selfless group of volunteers who generously give their time and talents to Plymouth's music ministry. And I invite you to join us as well in whatever capacity you have available to you! There is never an all-or-nothing commitment.
If you enjoy singing, consider sitting in with the Chancel Choir for the Third Sunday "Pick-Up Choir" dates including this Sunday, February 18! Rehearsal is at 10:10 a.m. The music will be very accessible and we'd love for you to join us.
The Plymouth Ringers meet on Wednesdays from 6:00 - 6:45 p.m. in the Forum Room. No prior musical experience required. All you need is a desire to have fun and perhaps even to ring!
From the youth, Kids Will Sing!, led by Liz McGrew, bring their offerings to worship on occasion with much fervor and joy. Expect a visit from them on Sunday, February 25 at the 11:00 a.m. service! Also coming this spring will be a restoration of a youth hand chime choir. More opportunities abound for youth participation in Plymouth's music ministry! Stay tuned.
I have greatly appreciated the value Plymouth places on music in worship over the years in all its wondrous diversity. The universe speaks in mysterious ways whether it be in the grandeur of an organ postlude on a familiar hymn tune, the beauty of an expressive choral anthem, the esoteric sounds of bells in our hallowed space, or the universal message of peace and love in a classic song by The Beatles. With a little help from our friends, we can can ensure a lasting presence of intentional joyful service in Plymouth's music ministry for years to come.
Mark Heiskanen, Dir. of Music/Organist
As promised, we’ve lined up some great offerings to help enrich your spiritual journey during Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday…in just a week! We begin on February 14 with a simple soup supper at 6:15 and a service at 7:00 that includes the imposition of ashes, a sign of penitence.
I invite you to join us in several ways during this season:
PLYMOUTH READS the Gospel According to Mark
This is a perfect opportunity to dust off your Bible and encounter the earliest of the four gospels. It’s also perfect for you if you consider yourself a biblical newbie!
You’ll receive a bookmark in your bulletin this Sunday with the reading schedule.
Each week, Marta and I will craft a Wednesday email for you with some focus questions on the week’s reading, a visual image, and some suggestions for spiritual practice. We also invite you to join Plymouth’s Facebook group, where we will have online discussion: http://facebook.com/groups/plymouthconnection
If you’d like an online Bible, here are two recommended translations:
LENTEN DEVOTIONAL: Henri Matisse and the Colors of Lent
This wonderful resource from SALT Project invites you into the experience of visual theology through the lens of Henri Matisse. We’ll be sending you both the adult and family-friendly versions of this devotional booklet by email soon. (We’ll also have some printed copies at the church.)
Sue Rutherford and the Forum team will be using this devotional as the basis for forums during Lent, and there will be an intergenerational component to this as well.
I hope to see you on Ash Wednesday, as we begin our Lenten journey together!
One of the truest blessings of my mornings recently has been the sunrises. For anyone who hasn’t witnessed the incredible light show each day, it is actually difficult to put into words how amazing sunrises have been. Pinks, purples, reds, yellows, blues - it is almost like God is painting with the brightest oils available. Even this morning, it took my breath away as I drove to my office in Old Town. After what felt like an eternity of freezing cold weather (which was actually only a few days), the sunrises have ushered in a renewed sense of hope for me; an assurance that winter won’t last forever and spring will certainly come.
That hope has also been with me during the last few months of being Moderator. As I've sat through Leadership Council meetings, attended the Congregational Conversation, and been a fly on the wall during other budget conversations, the news for our Church has generally been full of hope and joy.
This coming weekend is our annual church meeting, where we will preview a little of what the year has in store, celebrate the volunteers who dedicated so much time and talent in 2023, and welcome those who are jumping in for 2024. We will also discuss the budget, which is probably not everyone’s favorite topic. For many, discussing money is fraught with stress and anxiety. It isn’t always comfortable to talk finances, but what I have taken away from the seemingly endless conversations that have been had, is that we are so BLESSED. We are blessed to have a congregation that is involved and cares; a congregation that asks questions and makes suggestions; a congregation that values each other. And what I ask as we approach the annual meeting is that we keep our blessings in mind.
May we continue to value those who dedicate so much to our Church, and those involved in important decisions that impact Plymouth, and those who strive to understand. Because we are in this together and 2024 is going to be an amazing year! Also, who doesn’t love a church potluck? Thank you for being part of Plymouth and part of our amazing community. I look forward to seeing everyone on Sunday!
Plymouth's 2023 Moderator
Ministry Highlights for January 2024
Our first ever Youth for Change was a huge success.
We had over 160 people in attendance, including representation from six faith communities and 13 different groups working against housing injustice.
We are so grateful and proud — Plymouth showed up!
1/21 at Prost Brewing, Plymouth Social club = Gen X, Millennials and older Zs. Quite the range but super fun!
Our cross-generational Epiphany service on 1/7 included a pray-ground with "aha" stars.
The Colorado Bach Ensemble performed on the afternoon of 1/21, preceded by a lecture.
Do you have a ministry highlight to share?
Be part of the 4th Tuesday email. Visit plymouthucc.org/shine
Here is the link to Adult Christian Formation.
Please take note of an upcoming book study: Who Will Be a Witness by Drew Hart. To begin, you can listen to the Jesus Has Left the Building podcast episode Get Your Blue Jeans On! [9/26/2020] You can access the podcast on Spotify (earlier link) or Apple podcasts. The group will gather on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. in the Forum Room and we hope you join us.
Don't hesitate to reach out if you need help getting the book or listening to the podcast. I'd be happy to get you set up.
Stay warm and cozy and light that candle!
Over the last several months, I have been working with the youth on an amazing, transformed venture, rooted in the deep history of compassion and love that Plymouth has displayed for decades. This weekend, all of that work is culminating in our Youth for Change weekend.
What is Youth for Change?
The Youth Board, comprised of 12 students from middle school and high school, have reworked the annual Sleep Out to End Homelessness into a homelessness prevention symposium. These students agreed that the educational component of the Sleep Out was the piece they wanted to center for the whole community. So they are hosting a dinner, catered by FoCo Café, and a program featuring presenters from our community, breakout sessions for people to engage, and a silent auction. All funds will still benefit Neighbor to Neighbor. For more details, you can visit plymouthucc.org/youthforchange.
This weekend, we will be joined by several different faith communities and nonprofits, and every little element has been so intentional about supporting other groups who engage the complex work of fighting housing injustice. You can see all of our partners on our website or you can meet them in person this Saturday at the event.
The same group of students has planned a deeply beautiful worship service that will not only ground our community with a spiritual foundation for this area of biblical justice, but it will also offer space for our worship experience to be re-imagined by our future leaders. This whole weekend is about giving the youth a chance to envision a future that is better than what we have now. I hope our whole Plymouth community will show up in supporting the hard and impressive work these young people have done.
It’s January 2, 2024.
Are you one of those people who make New Year resolutions, or do you avoid doing so because they endure for about a week, leaving you feeling guilty, frustrated, and ashamed?
I’m in the second category. It just seems like there is always something that gets in the way at this time of year. Perhaps it is fatigue from the Christmas rush or maybe it’s that there seems nothing especially “special” about the coming of a new year that necessitates making changes. (Do I sound like a New Year Scrooge? Humbug!)
If you’ve launched a resolution this week, please don’t let me deter you!
Though perhaps a few intentions (not resolutions!) are worth considering. I’m not necessarily good at these, but here are some ideas I’m toying with:
For me, a key time for personal transformation is the season of Lent, which is coming up in about seven weeks, on February 18. (It’s definitely early this year!) Lent is a fixed period that invites us into a time of spiritual reflection. Unlike New Year’s Day, it gives us a five-week span to reflect on ways we need to follow Jesus more closely. It isn’t a day, but rather a whole season. And it provides an annual reminder to ask ourselves what is of deepest importance to us and how we want to bend and shape our lives to a more Christlike form.
Jesus has an amazing 40-day wilderness quest to help him clarify his mission and ministry, and during Lent we, too, can use intention to do the same. We have some interesting opportunities for spiritual growth that we’ll be sharing with you as Lent approaches.
In the meantime, hang in with your resolutions if you’ve made them. And if you haven’t, don’t worry; you’ll have your chance for change in seven weeks’ time.
As we transition from Christmastide into Epiphany may the light of Christ shine within you and all around you, and may you catch a glimpse of the light emanating from others as well.
Ministry Highlights for December 2023
Christmas Eve Services
We had over 500 worshipers on Christmas Eve at three services: 11 a.m. and 5 & 7 p.m. (More pictures on the Gallery page.)
Longest Night Service
The annual Longest Night Service took place on December 17th this year.
Advent Services featured lighting of candles in the Advent Wreath, as well as the traditional dolls representing prophets and the Nativity scene.
About 40 people of all ages enjoyed making Advent crafts and eating pizza at the annual Advent Craft Night on 12/9.
The Sunday forum and book group combined in December to read What Does God Think? Transgender People and The Bible, led by Plymouth's own Kris Campbell. (Photo from 11/26 intro forum.)
At the Get-A-Grip Christmas Party on 12/10, 22 people enjoyed a potluck supper and a gift exchange.
Do you have a ministry highlight to share? Be part of the 4th Tuesday email.
I know that art is perhaps the strongest means we have to recall the moment of God's touch, and to affirm the profound, private message of faith we are given when we touch God. I believe it is the artist's job to make pieces that are vehicles for the "moment of the touch."
- Composer Libby Larsen in her forward to the choral anthem “Lord, Before This Fleeting Season”
Last Thursday I presented a program on carols to the First Name Club following their monthly luncheon. It included select examples from both the Advent and Christmas seasons (yes, carols aren’t always about Christmas!) which we engaged in with stories of their creation, listened to, and even sung for good measure. What I came to viscerally be reminded of was the value of ritual for humanity. Specifically, the need of a song for every season.
Whether it be carols sung in December, Christmas music delivered through grocery store speakers while shopping, or the often impromptu performance of “Happy Birthday” to an unsuspecting recipient, we not only have a song for just about any season but we tend to insist upon its use. But sometimes, songs with messages that challenge us can be greeted hesitantly. Once we allow them in though, we can be changed. We can gain new perspective. We can even potentially have that "moment of the touch" in the realm of God.
I leave you with an encore sharing of the following Advent poem text set by composer Libby Larsen in her sublime anthem “Lord, Before This Fleeting Season.” It reminds us beautifully of perhaps what we don’t especially wish to hear this busy time of the year —the message of Advent. To slow down. To prepare our hearts for transformation in God. To embrace the promise of hope, peace, joy, and love. And perhaps even to have “a leaning to hear carols.”
Lord, before this fleeting season is upon us,
Let me remember to walk slowly.
Lord, bless my heart with Love and with quiet.
Give my heart a leaning to hear carols.
Grace our family with contentment,
And the peace that comes only from You.
Lord, help us to do less this busy season;
Go less; stay closer to home; kneel more.
May our hearts be Your heart.
May we simply, peacefully, celebrate You.*
*“Simply Celebrate You — an Advent poem” by Mary Ann Jindra, Permission to print: Christian Copyright Solutions #11133
Advent is a glorious time of year when we anticipate the birth of Christ within us all by celebrating Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. And ironically, it has become a time within our congregation when we seem to get stuck in a December rut each year, trying to create a budget and realizing that we still have a sizable number of members who haven’t pledged. A number of folks in our congregation sense fear, anxiety, and doubt about our finances, and their angst can become contagious.
We need a new advent, a new approach, a new calling, at Plymouth that will help us to appreciate the abundance God has entrusted to us. We need a new pattern for sharing God’s wealth that doesn’t give way to scarcity thinking and scrambling to gather late pledges and cobble a budget together.
Advent is a season of spiritual transformation. Two beloved stories of the season involve profound changes of heart that turn into action. After visits from three Christmas ghosts, Ebenezer Scrooge has a miraculous change. Scrooge is reborn as a kind, generous man. “His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him.”
In a more recent story of December transformation, Dr. Suess writes, “And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.” Both Scrooge and the Grinch become happier in their transformed lives, and everyone around them is warmed by their newfound joy. That can happen for us, too!
Transformation is at the heart of the Christian journey. This is metanoia, a Greek word that Marcus Borg says means to “go beyond your own mind and your own heart.”
There is so much to celebrate about Plymouth. So many lives are touched every day by the mission and ministries of your church. Your giving means that pastoral visits happen, little kids have an amazing education program, teen programs are growing, worship on Sunday inspires not only those in the sanctuary, but those in our “virtual balcony” as well. It also means that you support UCC seminaries, homelessness prevention, lobbying for LGBTQ rights in Washington.
Our church community of faith needs our hands and hearts, and that means giving our time and our gifts. May each of us sense our hearts grow in this season, and may we as a congregation continue to be a blessing not only to ourselves, but to neighbors near and far.
Ministry Highlight for November 2023
We installed Marta as our associate minister on Sunday, November 12, with a festive service and reception!
The Missions Marketplace
On November 4 and 5, more than a dozen groups and organizations representing families and communities from Northern Colorado and around the world gathered at Plymouth to share their stories and offer opportunities for you to support their life-sustaining work. More pictures in web Gallery.
Plymouth Music Series: NOCO Singers
On November 10, the NOCO Singers entertained folks from Plymouth and the larger community. Look for more Music Series events to come.
Barb Gregory's Retirement Dinner
On November 9, members and friends gathered for a dinner to honor Barb's 15 years of service.
In preparation for Christmas Eve, a handbell polishing party ensued on Wednesday, November 15. Food, beverages, and good fellowship were most definitely included.
We can't share pictures with you, but did you know about Plymouth's Calling and Caring Ministries?
Do you have a ministry highlight to share? Be part of the 4th Tuesday email.