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.
Dear Plymouth Family,
Here we are on the day after Thanksgiving... probably already bombarded by advertising for "Black Friday." Of course, there is more to the season than consumer excess. On December 3, we we begin the season of Advent, a time when we watch and wait and wonder. In many ways, Advent is the curative tonic we need during the holiday mayhem that our culture encourages. Even as some encourage us to "put the Christ back in Christmas," the cool thing is that faith hasn't been extracted from this season that leads us into celebrating the nativity of Christ.
We have some offerings for you in this season to help deepen your journey: everything from craft night to short reflective films to worship to hanging the greens to Facebook Advent photos to Longest Night.
I hope that you will join us as we celebrate this quieter time of spiritual deepening. It's also a great time to invite friends and family to join you at Plymouth on a Sunday or at another event.
With so much turmoil, greed, war, violence, and incivility in the world, it’s good to have a place to recharge your spiritual batteries
Rather than a written devotional booklet, this year we are offering you three short films from The Work of the People. You might watch one for each of the three Sundays of Advent (the fourth Sunday is Dec. 24 this year). Watch them with friends or family or your fellowship group at Plymouth.
Just click on the video images on the Advent page, and you'll go to the Work of the People website. We've made special arrangements to view these without the need for an individual subscription from 12/1/23 -1/2/24.
P.S. See all the events at plymouthucc.org/advent
For 18 years, the Sleepout has been a stalwart event in the life of Plymouth, our youth, and the Fort Collins community. In 2023, the youth have decided to reinvent this great event in hopes of broadening their reach and their impact.
We will still be partnering with Neighbor to Neighbor in hopes to benefit the homelessness prevention program, but with “Youth for Change,” the community will be invited to join us for education and spiritual practices that are intended to affect change in Fort Collins. Instead of hosting a community vigil, the youth will be organizing a fundraising event that will invite voices from our community to teach on the complexities of homelessness in Fort Collins.
The youth have also moved the event from the first weekend in December to the MLK weekend in January. We are talking with N2N about how this might impact their end of year financials, and we also know this might shift some of our big donors’ ability to give. If you would prefer to give your donation before the end of 2023, you can do that! We will hold onto it and count it as part of our totals when the event happens in 2024.
Our youth have been floating around some amazing ideas – silent auctions, lighting talks, local artists, breakout groups, workshops, and more. I hope you will join us for the brand new version of the 19th annual event on January 13th, 2024. And I hope you will join us for the youth-led worship and Q&A forum the following Sunday.
Get Jan. 13th, 2024 on your calendar and stay tuned for details!
Many of you have met my friend Queen over the last few weeks. Queen founded New Eyes Village (NEV), a faith-based community focused on gathering and liberating Black folks through fellowship and formation. NEV met at Heart of the Rockies Christian Church for the last five years until HRCC started their construction projects. Now, NEV meets at Plymouth on Sunday afternoons and Friday evenings.
NEV is “nesting” in our building, and we are hoping that they can feel fully at home in our space. On Sunday afternoons, Queen and some other NEV members come in to cook lunch for their worship service. Their youth often hang out in the youth room, playing games with us like Hide and Seek tag or Exploding Kittens. On Friday evenings, a small group of women gather for the Hearts & Roots womxn’s group.
The Christian Formation Board chartered a ministry team that is focused on walking with NEV during this “nesting” process. Our hope is that in their first year with us, we can build and strengthen our partnership through relationships. My dream is to see NEV feel fully at home in our shared space. We would love you to volunteer your time in getting to know this community! I invite the whole church to introduce yourself to Queen and NEV whenever you see them at Plymouth, but I also invite anyone interested in joining us in this work to reach out to me or the ministry team.
As we were forming the team, one of our members who works closely with FFH talked about the importance of trauma-informed care when working with marginalized populations. As a predominantly white congregation in a predominantly white town, it is our job to make ourselves safe people and to make our church a safe space. In the future, the Christian Formation board hopes to offer opportunities for our church to explore together what this can look like.
Desmond Tutu wrote, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Silence - as you know - is violence. And I am so glad to be journeying with a congregation that refuses to be silent. I know that our congregation wants to be engaged in social justice and loving our Fort Collins community and responding to their needs. Partnering with New Eyes Village is an opportunity for us to practice extravagant welcome and radical hospitality.
This Sunday at Plymouth we will do something we’ve only done three times in the past 20 years: install a settled associate minister. An installation is a big deal, when a minister, a congregation, and the wider UCC come together to make covenant promises to one another, ritually marking the creation of a new relationship. And we rely on God as a full partner in that covenant.
You’ve probably entered other covenants, perhaps a marriage vow, sponsoring a child at baptism, or when you join a church. A covenant forms a new whole…it is far deeper than a contract.
And even though the congregation voted to call my colleague, the Rev. Dr. Marta Fioriti, as our associate minister, her installation on Sunday at 11:00 seals the covenant. It’s as if we’ve been living together for eight months, and we’re finally saying, “I do.”
Covenants are especially important in our UCC tradition, in fact they are the glue to joins us together as a people of faith. Episcopalians are joined by their liturgy. Methodists have the Book of Discipline. Presbyterians have the Book of Order. Lutherans have Luther’s Small Catechism. In the UCC, we have none of these; instead, we are guided and bound together by covenant.
The Salem Church Covenant of 1629 is how that congregation came together in relationship. “We Covenant with the Lord and one with another; and doe bind our selves in the presence of God, to walk together in all his waies, according as he is pleased to reveale himselfe unto us in his Blessed word of truth.” That simple statement of relationship, that covenant, is critical in the development of who we in the Congregational and the United Church of Christ traditions understand ourselves to be as a gathered church.
I encourage you to join us on Sunday at 11:00 (one service only) when our congregation will join in covenant with Marta, the UCC, and with God. Worship will be a celebration, and whether you are with us in person or join us online in our “virtual balcony,” your presence will grace us all.
May this and all our covenant promises be blessed!
It’s Halloween! As a parent of young children, it’s hard to ignore the fun and excitement that comes with this holiday. My kids, in particular, spend most of every day being imaginative, creating their own magical worlds, dressing up in whatever random capes and wings they can find in our costume box, and for this one, incredible day, everyone else also participates. For Halloween this year, for the first time ever, Eric and I were roped into a family costume. Honestly, I’ve loved it! Who wouldn’t want to be the Queen of Hearts?! But no matter how good my kids costumes are it's always relatively easy to see through it and know who is underneath.
Transparency is a word I’ve heard a lot in the last few weeks (shout out to Marta’s sermon a few weeks ago!) Transparency is really the opposite of costumes and dress up. It’s having an open book, with accessible information; it's about seeing who we really are, underneath the extra layers. As moderator, in my speeches, conversations, and reflections, I haven’t hidden the fact that times are changing in the church world. As a church, we’ve had a lot of conversations about stewardship and budgeting and all the difficulties we may (or hopefully may not) have to confront with our upcoming budget.
In the face of all of these things, I remain very hopeful. The stewardship campaign has been astoundingly successful – but a friendly reminder to anyone who hasn’t pledged, please do so! With the increased early participation in pledging, the Budget and Finance Committee has a much clearer picture going into the budgeting process. Their job will be more transparent, if you will. Boards and Committees are working to submit requests, meetings are being held to crunch numbers, and we will all be gearing up for the annual meeting after the New Year. During that meeting, as a congregation, we will discuss the financial situation of Plymouth for the year to come, including the good, the bad, and the ugly.
If you have not spent time on our website, you may not realize that there is an entire area dedicated to budget information (plymouthucc.org/budget). The Church financial picture is available to review at your leisure. We have wonderful volunteers and staff who have dedicated countless hours to putting this information together and making it easily accessible and transparent. Do you have more questions? As I tell my children, you can never ask too many questions! So, if you do have questions or want more information, please ask! If you want to discuss the budget or the budgeting process, we’re available. Most people abhor discussing finances and being asked for money, but as a thriving church community, it is imperative that we have these conversations. Transparency is a two-way street. It is also important we remember that we are in this together. The people volunteering their time to work on the budget, the church administrator (Phil Braudaway-Bauman) responding to emails on his nights and weekends, those serving as board chairs and on committees - these people all care enormously about this Church. We all care and together we can continue to be a shining light in our community. So when you have questions, I’m always happy to answer them or connect you with someone who can. I’ll be the person in the heart crown, so it won’t be hard to find me.
Heather Siegel, Moderator
Ministry Highlights for Oct. 2023
This past Sunday was Consecration Sunday, when pledges were turned in. We celebrated with a breakfast and raffle between services. Kids Will Sing! sang at both services.
Youth Retreat at LaForet. At the Rocky Mountain Conference Fall Youth Retreat last weekend, youth spent time with UCC friends from all over Colorado learning about the cosmos, the Divine, and our place within them.
Music Ministry Potluck
To celebrate the beginning of a new program year, a Music Ministry Potluck was held on Friday, 9/29 at the home of Anne and Bill Thompson. About 20 ringers & singers gathered for a few hours of good food, good drink, and good company.
Blessing of the Animals 10/8
The cookie table at the Diana Butler Bass event, 10/1.
A beautiful and delicious offering. Thanks to all who contributed.
The Plymouth Talent Showcase on 10/15. We made a joyful noise! (Lots more pictures in the website gallery.)
More moments from the past month...
Laura Nelson -- and therapy dogs Ollie & Anni -- led a Blessing of the Land and Animals in Sunday School.
Do you have a ministry highlight to share?
Be part of the 4th Tuesday email. Visit plymouthucc.org/shine
I’ve just returned from visiting two of our elders, one at PVH and another at a rehab facility. It feels wonderful to bring love and light from our congregation into the rooms of people struggling with illness and injury. God’s love is often transmitted by people helping to reflect a little glimmer of divine light into places that some find shadowy. Many of those people, lay and ordained, gather at Plymouth.
There has been a lot in the news lately about the rapid post-pandemic decline of the church and synagogue and the ever-increasing number of “nones,” who have no particular faith, but many of whom believe in God, a higher power, or a force in the universe greater than any of us. But they are scared of church in part because of the way American mainstream media often portrays us is that we are pedophiles, homophobes, hypocrites, anti-intellectual, and very judgmental. (Clearly NOT what we see at Plymouth.)
Ironically, we also read a lot about the epidemic proportions of loneliness, especially among elders. Has anyone ever suggested joining a church? One that welcomes and honors the beliefs and perspectives of its members? I see Plymouth volunteers provide a warm, home-cooked meal with a program each month for our seniors. It’s awesome.
I also read a lot that people today hunger for community. Churches like ours are about the only place to find intergenerational community in our country today. Community is not unlike a marriage: they both take work. None of us should expect to have ready-made community served to us on a silver platter with no effort. Community takes work and commitment.
So, who needs church? Lots of people. Folks who want to find ways to connect with the Holy, who sense a call to put faith into action. People who don’t want to feel isolated. Young adults who want to have fill-in grandparents that their children adore. People who have found that consumerism and self-centeredness are morally vacant. And folks who have discovered that being part of a church community is really rewarding (and sometimes really fun)!
Church is not a commodity. It is not bought, traded, or sold. It is possible to come to Plymouth and slip out the door without anyone noticing. It is possible be a member of Plymouth for years without serving on a board or council. It is possible to let the offering plate pass you by and decide not to pledge. Here’s the rub: You are not going to have a fulfilling experience if that is the approach you take. That isn’t how communities are built and thrive. Each of us must shine!
We are all in this together. It isn’t my church or Marta’s. It isn’t the UCC’s church. It’s God’s church entrusted to us to love and nurture. We are stewards of a fantastic church, and we should not take it for granted. How are you shining the light of God’s love? If we all share a little glimmer, we can vanquish some of the shadows that fall over the world.
I hope you will join me this Sunday — Consecration Sunday — at Plymouth as we dedicate our pledge commitments for 2024 and ask God to bless them and our congregation. You can pledge online anytime at plymouthucc.org/pledge or you can bring your pledge card this Sunday.
The Stewardship Board is providing breakfast at 10:00, so if you typically attend the 11:00 service, I encourage you to come an hour early and enjoy great food and fellowship. And if you have pledged (or even if you plan to pledge at 11:00), you will be entered in our raffle, and the winning tickets will be drawn at 10:45. (Prizes include a week in Steamboat Springs, a beer tasting for you and five friends, $100 to spend at Simmer, a great nearby restaurant, tickets to see Jesus Christ Superstar.) See you there!
In the spirit of God’s abundance,
Last Sunday in worship, the Chancel Choir offered the anthem "I Believe" by Mark Miller. The text is an excerpt from an anonymous Jewish poem found scrawled on a cellar wall in Germany near the end of World War II. The music beautifully expresses the author's unwavering faith and radical hope even in the most uncertain of times.
I selected this piece in light of our stewardship focus this month and the message that faith and hope can lead us as a church into greater abundance. We just have to listen intently to that still voice within. And believe. And these words became an even more poignant prayer with the tragic events unfolding in Israel and Gaza this week.
Below is the full text by this unnamed author who over 75 years ago expressed his or her faith and dreams of hope under the most dire of conditions. May it inspire and remind us that God is always there.
I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
Mark Heiskanen, Dir. of Music/Organist
Read Mark's Music Minute
Check out Plymouth’s Immigration Ministry Team (below) and listen to my podcast episode called: #peaceisdisruptive
#peaceisdisruptive features Sarah Jackson and Hannah Martin. Sarah is the Executive Director of Casa de Paz and the director of Volleyball Internacional which helps fund Casa de Paz, and she authored the recently published book: The House that Love Built. Hannah Martin coordinates the accompaniment team and trains volunteers for the Accompaniment and Sanctuary Coalition of Colorado Springs. The Sanctuary Coalition is a group of faith communities who advocate for the rights of immigrants in our city and nation.
The Immigration Ministry Team offers education and community outreach opportunities for the congregation, networks with the UCC and national faith-based immigration organizations, and studies and advocates for issues around immigration and refugee resettlement.
Presently we're accompanying two families as they resettle in Fort Collins. One is an Afghan refugee family of six members who fled Kabul in August 2021. Their photos and stories are featured on the Immigration Ministry page linked above, and on a bulletin board in the Fellowship Hall. They will be offering hospitality at the World Cafe at The Missions Marketplace on Nov. 4-5 and funds raised will help support their family.
Our second family with three members arrived a year later from Palestine. Team members have assisted these families with securing housing, enrollment in school and healthcare systems, English tutoring, employment, financial planning, transportation and community engagement.
We could use help with transportation, reading with the children and overseeing middle and high school homework. The children (ages 3, 10, 12 and 17) would appreciate getting together with other kids and getting to know our community's many parks and cultural highlights.
Additionally the Team works with faith and community allies, including Interfaith Solidarity and Accompaniment Coalition (ISAAC). We endeavor to:
Recently we participated with ISAAC in the Winter Gear Collection for immigrant youth and appreciate the support of Plymouth with contributions of material items and financial donations.
For more information contact ministry team lead, Linda Mahan.
Ministry Highlights for Sept. 2023
Gun Violence Prevention Weekend
Plymouth hosted a weekend of experiential education and witness to be one part of the puzzle in ending gun violence. Friday night was a community gathering for all ages, featuring a panel including Mike Martin of RAWtools, a blacksmith demonstration of gun dismantling, a labyrinth walk in solidarity with survivors and victims, and ice cream sundaes. Saturday morning was a gun buyback. Photos by Marilu Theodore were then displayed in the gallery space at Plymouth, and can also be seen on our website gallery.
CAM Takes Action
The Climate Action ministry team collected hard-to-recycle items and delivered them to FoCo Trash Mob. They will continue to collect the following items at the Eco Station in Fellowship Hall and transport them to CHaRM in Boulder each month or so:
Jubilee Sunday Involvement Fair
Boards tabled Fellowship Hall with information... and entertainment (as Congregational Life demonstrates) to explain what they do and invite participation. Missed it? Find contact info here. Not sure what ministry would be the best fit for you? Take a 3-min survey here.
More moments from the past month...
Do you have a ministry highlight to share?
Be part of the 4th Tuesday email. Visit plymouthucc.org/shine
One of the amazing opportunities I’ve appreciated in our congregation is getting to meet and hear some of the great voices of progressive Christianity, right here at Plymouth. Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, John Bell, John Philip Newell, and others have been Visiting Scholars here.
You are about to have the opportunity to hear someone whom author Anne Lamott describes this way: “Diana Butler Bass is one of only a few modern Christian writers who can absolutely blow me away with both spiritual insight and beautiful writing. She is a brilliant scholar and a wonderful storytelling, charming and devout, erudite and deeply human.” (I would also add that she has a great sense of humor.)
Diana and I met at Ring Lake Ranch many years ago when we were both attending a session with Marcus Borg and Dom Crossan, and we’ve kept up over the years. She often works with Brian McLaren, and the two of them will be back at Ring Lake Ranch next summer. She also preached a sermon at the Wild Goose Festival that went viral last year.
Here is the cool thing: you don’t have to drive seven hours and pay lots of money to hear Diana, because she is going to be with us at Plymouth in less than two weeks!
Some of our members are reading Diana’s wonderful book, Grateful, on Sunday mornings with Bruce Ronda. It delves into the roots and benefits of gratitude, which can be a life-changing practice. I encourage you to read it, even if you’re not in the book group. In fact, you can find it as an eBook or and audiobook through the Poudre Library District.
Diana will be with us, preaching at our 9:00 and 11:00 services on Sunday, October 1. (This is a great opportunity to invite your friends who might be looking for a progressive church — or who have given up on ever finding a church — to join us!)
Later that Sunday, Diana will be offering a workshop (again, invite friends!) on gratitude at 6:30 p.m. in our sanctuary. We are offering this with a freewill offering and suggested donation of $20, which will replenish our Visiting Scholar reserve fund.
I think that voices like Diana’s are essential for us to hear and to share. She is an astute commentator on the history of American religion, trends in the American church, and on contemporary theology.
We will have copies of Diana’s most recent books, Grateful, Freeing Jesus, and Grounded available for purchase on October 1, when Diana will also sign copies for you.
Please be sure to join us on October 1, and invite a friend!
This week is my second anniversary at Plymouth! In some ways, we’re still getting to know each other. I’ve noticed that I get a handful of the same questions on Sunday mornings. So, I figured I’d write up a quick little FAQ list for you.
Q: Where are you from?
I’m from here! My family moved here when I was seven years old, and I grew up in Fort Collins schools. I love it here.
Q: How do you have so much energy?
Well, there's a reason you almost never see me without a coffee in hand. But also, it helps that I love what I do. When the work is life-giving, you want to keep doing it. That said, the spiritual practices I lean into the most are Sabbath-keeping and rhythms of rest. I don't pour from an empty cup.
Q: What were you doing before you came to Plymouth?
I got a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media communications from CSU, but then I started working in full time youth ministry. I fell in love with it and started pursuing a graduate degree so I can feel like I know what I’m talking about.
Q: Wait, you’re in school?
Yes! This week, I officially started my last year of my grad program at Iliff. I’m getting a master of arts in pastoral and spiritual care because I get the most excited about spiritual health and the way it touches our whole selves. Spiritual formation is a huge piece of that pie, which is why I love what I do so much. I’m going to graduate on May 31, 2024.
Q: Are you working towards becoming a pastor?
That’s the plan - I’m officially becoming a Member in Discernment with the Rocky Mountain Conference of the UCC (the local governing chapter of our denomination). That process takes about a year, and then hopefully I will be getting ordained next fall. Cross your fingers!!
Q: Can we nail your feet to the ground so you never leave?
This is a real question I have been asked, and I need you to know that I don’t plan on going anywhere. Like I said, I love Fort Collins. My whole family lives here. I love Plymouth, and I am so grateful to feel that Plymouth loves me back.
I love all your questions, so please never hesitate to come talk to me while I’m running around on a Sunday morning - or anytime during the week! I’m super excited to be starting my third program year with Christian Formation, and we kicked it off with a huge burst of great energy on our Jubilee Sunday. We have lots of great stuff ahead of us, and I look forward to celebrating many anniversaries with Plymouth.
Yesterday [Labor Day], I ended up spending too much time on social media.
I got sucked in by the buzz of conversation about church life and ministry in the clergy world of Facebook. It got me thinking about why my role as a pastor is so important to holding space for all the expressions of Christian faith. Often, I return to those first years of church-going in my life. What was it that truly compelled me to want to be a part of a rag-tag group of people who were not a part of my school group or my extended family?
One of the first words that popped into my head is "intentionality." I needed some kind of structure and container to help me live a life of intentionality. I needed church, AND for heaven’s sake, I think the world needs it too.
I’ve been sitting with the Climate Action Ministry Team (CAM) in the past few weeks. This team falls under the Board of Outreach and Mission. We have told stories together, shared ideas, and wondered aloud. It has been so fun getting really creative and visionary. This fall, 2023, you will start to notice small intentional practices within our church from the CAM. They may not be significant, but rather a loving posture toward a ‘green’ church in the hopes of caring for God’s creation. Big things are coming for this ministry team, but keep your eyes peeled for the small but very intentional nods toward climate justice.
When you come this Sunday for JUBILEE SUNDAY (a celebratory return after the summer months) you will notice a lot of activity in our Fellowship Hall. There are so many ways to get engaged and connect to one or more groups. Be intentional. Wonder where your gifts might fit. Discern your place at Plymouth this Fall.
We hope you stop by the CAM Eco Station. You can’t miss it! It’s the one with the big green plant. Here is what the team invites you to consider toward a life of intentionality for the earth and its creatures:
What do used prescription bottles, block Styrofoam, clamshells (those plastic things that we buy berries in), and single-use contact blisters have in common? They are all "hard to recycle" items.
Due to massive changes in the recycling industry, there are currently just FIVE plastic items that are accepted in our recycling bins. Pay no attention to the triangular "chasing arrows" symbol! They are a ploy by the fossil fuel/plastic industries to keep us buying their plastic!
We will be collecting the 4 items listed and take them to FoCo Trash Mob's "Hard to Recycle Event" on Sunday, September 17th after the second service!
We hope to see you in the fellowship hall!
As I snuck into church on Sunday, a few minutes late, I was elated (and also a little embarrassed) as I found myself gently nudging into a spot in the front row. The pews were packed, leaving very little room for those of us who spent more than a few minutes wrangling small children. My usual spot is in the back left, so the front row was a new experience. And from my prime seat, I was struck by one of the questions for the Instant Sermon – Why go to church?
The reality is that Sunday morning is just one opportunity for us to “go to church.” A very important part of Plymouth involves Sunday worship, but that is just a blip of what Plymouth is about. As Moderator, I am the head of Leadership Council. That title may be meaningful to some, but prior to my time in this role, I didn’t even know the role of Leadership Council or Plymouth’s Moderator. What many people may not realize is that Plymouth is a seemingly endless web of opportunities to engage in “going to church.” Leadership Council oversees six boards and five committees. Each board has countless ministry teams, and on any given day, there are a handful of meetings and opportunities to help Plymouth, our community, and communities abroad.
There is nothing wrong with being a back pew Plymouth member. I have quite enjoyed the many hours spent with that view. But Plymouth is so much more than Sunday mornings. Plymouth is an amazing network of volunteerism, which breathes life into our congregation. But don’t fear! – whether you just need a brief reminder of what Plymouth has going on, or if the words “boards,” “communities,” “council,” and “ministry teams” are completely foreign, now is your chance to learn and engage!
On Jubilee Sunday, September 10, Plymouth is having an Involvement Fair between services. So if you’re ready to “go to church,” in a different way, please come see all the opportunities to get involved. Oh, and did I mention you could win a fresh-baked pie?