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Glad Tidings

St. Matthew UCC/ (504) 861-8196

The Newsletter of Central St. Matthew United Church of Christ

February 2012

New Years Revolutions

Im not a New Years Resolutions kind of guy. Sadly, I seem to fall into that large segment of society that either breaks or forgets resolutions by the beginning of February! Instead, I like to try to set goals for the coming year - - things to work on, explore, and try out over the next twelve months. As I near 1 year serving as your Senior Pastor, a handful of goals have emerged that I would like us to consider and explore over the next year. These goals are based largely on feedback I have received from you, the members and friends of this congregation. They also include items that have surfaced, so to speak, during my time with you all. I present these to you as ideas, proposals - - nothing set in stone. My hope is that you will give these goals some thought and seek out where and how you might want to be involved in making these goals become accomplishments. Initiate the Open and Affirming Process As you might know, some years ago the United Church of Christ created a designation for congregations and church entities that seek to fully include people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The Open and Affirming (ONA) designation communicates to members and visitors that no person shall be excluded from full participation in the rites, sacraments, governance, membership, or other areas of congregational life due to that persons sexual identity. Adopting the ONA designation also serves as a witness to the wider community. While it remains largely focused on sexual identity, many congregations who have adopted the ONA designation have broadened the scope to proclaim the full inclusion of people regardless of physical, intellectual, or psychological disabilities; socio-economic status; marital status; and race or ethnicity. It is essential to understand that simply engaging in the Open and Affirming process does not automatically determine an outcome. Presently, we describe ourselves as an open and inclusive congregation, and our blended membership attests to our diversity and love for each other across categories and characteristics. However, undergoing the Open and Affirming process will allow for sharing of values, beliefs, and opinions, and will serve to better educate the congregation so that we can make an as-informed-as-possible decision about whether or not to become an Open and Affirming congregation. This process will likely span over several months, and will require a dedicated group of members who will guide the congregation through the journey and will provide opportunities for feedback and education. Most likely, this group (or task force) would be convened by and would report to the Governing Council, making a recommendation at the close of the process. The decision of whether or not to become Open and Affirming would be brought forward for a congregational vote. Faith Formation Faith is a lifelong journey, ever-unfolding as we make our way through our years and encounter new people, places, and things in our lives. We are continually learning how to become better disciples. The process begins when we are children, and continues through all of lifes stages. We ought to have educational opportunities that reflect that reality. Presently, we have just a few young children of Sunday School age, and we are lacking in education for our young people who are in 6th through 12th grade. I intend to start a Confirmation Class for youth who are in 8th grade and above, culminating with the Rite of Confirmation on Pentecost. From this experience, we can determine the level of interest in any sort of future youth programming, and could potentially develop other youth education opportunities beyond Confirmation. For many adults, the Sunday worship service is the primary source of faith education. While we have had book and bible studies in the past, we must examine these offerings and determine the

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interest level of the congregation in future offerings. While bible studies tend to follow a regular calendar, I am proposing a series of several one-time educational sessions aimed at the interests and topics brought forward by the congregation. This idea is a direct result of brainstorming from our September leadership retreat. The concept is simple: you are saying to me, I Want to Know More About fill in the blank. Topics could include our denomination (the United Church of Christ), other faiths, particular social topics, themes in scripture, living out your faith - - most anything goes! But first, I want to know more about what you want to know more about! There will be an opportunity to share your ideas in the coming weeks. I look forward to hearing your ideas and questions, and am excited about what we will explore together. And if I cant teach about it, Ill do my best to find someone that can! There are two supporting (administrative) items that will strengthen our educational programming. First, we will be hiring an attendant for the nursery. In order to appeal to families with young children, we must offer consistent and quality care for those children so that parents might attend the worship service. The second is a bigger task. I - - along with several other members - - believe it is essential that we develop a Safe Church policy. This is a set of guidelines to reduce the risk of child abuse perpetrated by a person who is working with children through our programs. A strong safe church policy covers strict child-adult ratios, reporting procedures, and regular trainings. Some congregations have broadened their Safe Church policy to include members who visit homebound members, which might be a consideration for CSM. A Safe Church policy communicates to visitors and potential that we have undertaken steps to assure a safe, nurturing environment for their children. We might think that it could never happen here - - and, God forbid it, we pray that it wont. Yet, just because we are a small church and everyone knows everyone, we are not excused from taking the necessary steps to protect ourselves and others. Communication Communication seems to be an area that can always use some improvement. In this next year, I would like us to explore our communication between boards and committees, from boards and committees to the congregation, and the ways in which we communicate with the wider community. I believe this will take some adjustments to some of our governance structure, but will also involve an exploration of how we might better share the message of what God is doing here at Central St. Matthew. To spread this message beyond our walls, we need to tap into the expertise and creativity of our members and friends. Service & Mission Are we living out Christs commandment to care for others if we are not actively involved in making a difference in peoples lives? I have experienced this congregation as generous beyond its size when it comes to special offerings - - now we need to put our hands to work. With the Social Justice group of the Rebuilding and Renewing initiative seeking to determine the needs of the Bienville and Carrollton neighborhoods, we ought to work to establish ourselves not just as landlords for organizations that are doing great things, but as a community of faith committed to actively working for social change. My hope is that we can establish a variety of mission and service opportunities in which people of all ages and abilities could participate. If you cant swing a hammer, perhaps you could still wield a spatula or serving spoon. Where do you see yourself? I pray that one or more of these areas calls out to you. Maybe you see yourself on the ONA Task Force, on the Safe Church committee, in a communications study group, sitting in on a faith formation forum, or putting together some service projects. There will always be a way for you to be a part of this great faith community, and Id love to know where that is for you!
Blessings & Peace, Rev. Chris Mereschuk

PS: Many, many thanks for your kind, generous, and quite unexpected Christmas gift to my family!

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For the flock

Confirmation Class @ Central St. Matthew UCC
What is Confirmation? Confirmation is an affirmation of your baptism - - the chance for young people to claim for themselves the promises that their families made when they were baptized as children. Confirmation is the way by which young people join the church. Confirmation is an opportunity to explore your faith and ask questions about your faith. Confirmation helps provide the tools to navigate your lifelong faith journey. Who Can Attend? We will offer a Confirmation Class for all students in 7th through 12th grade. When is it? We will meet twice a month for 1 hour on Sunday following worship service, starting in March 2012. Confirmation Sunday will be held on Pentecost, Sunday, May 27, 2012. To sign up or for more information, please contact: Pastor Chris Mereschuk (504) 861-8196

Imagine Whats Possible: Rebuilding & Renewing to Serve All of Gods People!
The work of the Rebuilding & Renewing campaign continues, with the Steering Committee and sub-committees meeting regularly throughout the month. Social Justice Team: Continues to explore potential service agency partnerships and develop an evaluation tool to assess the needs of the Bienville and Carrollton neighborhoods. Property Team: A re-sub-divisioning of the Davis-Landix House (329 N. Tonti) has delayed our occupancy. We have contracted with a property lawyer to help us navigate this challenge. Finance Team: Follow-up calls to Quiet Donors and thank-you letters to campaign pledgers are underway. The team is determining the next steps for financing our projects, and is in search of a person (or persons) with successful grant writing experience. The displays from our December 13, 2011 campaign launch are now in the lobby at 1333 South Carrollton, and will be adapted for display on our website. If you have not done so already, please consider making a pledge, stretched over 5 years, to the capital campaign. Thank you!

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Vital Signs
Financial Update: Thank you for your generous gifts, tithes and offerings in support of our churchs ministry and outreach. When giving by check, please make them payable to Central St. Matthew UCC. Credit for cash donations will be given when money is in an envelope, identified, and designated. Envelopes are provided on the Welcome Table and/or from the ushers. If you have any questions, please see Carol Etter or Dale bonds, our Co-Treasurers. Year End 2011 Finances For the 2011 calendar year, our total budget was $273,575.50. Our actual expenses were $269, 537.60, with an actual income of $253,055.19 (Pledges, offerings, rental income). This leaves us with a deficit of almost $16,500. This deficit will be drawn against our savings. Mission Giving Plan (Budget) 2012 Our budget for 2012 was approved at our January 29, 2012 Annual Meeting. The approved budget is $290,450. However, our projected income (known and estimated pledges, offerings, rentals) is only $242,040 leaving us with a projected deficit of $48,410. The Trustees and Governing Council proposed this budget, which included a combination of increases (rental income, mission giving) and decreases (programmatic, facilities) in a number of areas, relying on the generosity of the congregation to address the budget gap. Members and friends are encouraged to prayerfully consider how they might help alleviate this situation: Can you pledge an additional $10-15 a week? Can you lead fundraising events? Are you an experienced Grant Writer? Can you fund a day of operations at CSM? Did You Know? It costs us $807 per day to operate Central St. Matthew UCC. Our tenant partners contribute $256 per day. As members and friends of this congregation, we must contribute $551 per day. At our current giving level, we fall short by $144 per day! Thank you for your contibutions toward the mission and ministry of Central St. Matthew United Church of Christ!

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Prayer List
Please continue to pray for:

Shirley Marie Evelyn Ethel Becky Marsha Martha Lisa Stephanie Laverna Gary Karen Verna Eddie Dan Kelly Melvin Freida For the families of Wilfred Lodrig, Jr. and all saints who have gone home to glory.

More for the flock

The commodity for the month of February is Evaporated & Powdered Milk Please remember your donations on Sunday
Recovery Work Teams still want to travel to New Orleans and help us rebuild! While the United Church of Christ may be closing the local Disaster Recovery office, the work will continue to rebuild this great city, and many groups are looking for a place to stay! We are looking for a few folks who are willing to help be the visiting work group liaisons - greet groups when they arrive, give keys to group leaders, be a contact if issues arise - and possibly host a dinner for the groups, if requested. Lets show these folks our gratitude and share some of our signature hospitality! Contact Pastor Chris to get involved.

Ash Wednesday Services Wednesday, February 22, 2012 There will be two opportunities to receive ashes at the Central St. Matthew Carrollton Campus (1333 S. Carrollton Ave.) on this day of atonement. 12 Noon 1pm A simple, contemplative drop-in option (Come anytime during this hour). 7-8pm A service of worship offered by the New Orleans Association of the UCC.

Worship @ CSM
Black History Month
Sundays in February
Our worship music will highlight spirituals and gospel pieces from the African-American tradition, with sermon messages reflecting on Black Liberation Theology and racial justice. Sunday, February 12 @ 10am The Reason Why We Sing The power of music to express the Black experience. Sunday, February 19 @ 10am The Color of God Communion Served How do racial constructs of the Divine influence our own identification with God? Sunday, February 26 @ 10am Guest Preacher: Rev. Cheryl Q.W. Cramer

Statements of Faith
We reflect on the United Church of Christ Statement of Faith, and hear testimonies of faith from members and friends of Central St. Matthew UCC. Sunday, March 4 @ 10am Holy Love Bring-A-Friend Sunday! Communion Served You call the worlds into being, create persons in your own image, and set before each one the ways of life and death. Sunday, March 11 @ 10am Incarnation & Salvation In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Savior, you have come to us Sunday, March 18 @ 10am The Christians Job Description Communion Served You call us into your church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship Sunday, March 25 @ 10am Gods Promise You promise to all who trust you forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace

Sundays in March

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More for the flock

Central St. Matthew Sermons-to-Go! CSM Sermon Podcasts

Listen to the Good News from Central St. Matthew UCC on your iPod, mp3 Player, or on your computer! Tune in to the CSM Sermon Podcast Series - - a new way to listen to and share words of inspiration and meditation from our Sunday services. What is a Podcast? Podcasts are free, downloadable audio recordings. New episodes will be published (posted) weekly. Presently, we are Podcasting our sermons, but future episodes could include special musical selections, bible studies, or other events. How Do I Listen? The Podcast episode can be downloaded to a portable mp3 player (such as an iPod), or you can listen to it on your computer from the websites below. Where can I find the CSM Podcast? To find our Podcasts, you can go to or listen on our website:, or in the iTunes store by searching for central st matthew ucc.

Publication Deadlines If you have something to submit for our newsletter or bulletin, please note these deadlines: Sunday Bulletin Thursdays @ 9am Monthly Newsletter 15th of the Month @ 9am Please send all submissions via email to Ms. Lisa McKnight:

The Door is Open! Want to catch Pastor Chris one-to-one? Have a comment, concern, or question? In need of prayer or spiritual reflection? All you have to do is reach out! Please know that Pastor Chris is always happy to meet with members and friends, whether it is at the church, your home, for lunch, or for coffee. Just drop him an email, give him a call, or hand him a note. If you or a loved one is ill, hosptialized, or in need of visitation, you may also reach him by cell phone for urgent matters: (860) 966-8055. Thank you!

Service of Installation for Rev. Chris Mereschuk Sunday, February 26th @ 2pm
Join us for this time of worship as we install Chris as our first Senior Pastor. This service is a confirmation and celebration of the covenant between Central St. Matthew and Pastor Chris, which reaffirms the covenantal relationship of all the churches in the New Orleans Association of the United Church of Christ. A reception will follow.

Central St. Matthew UCC

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Mailing Address: 1333 S. Carrollton Ave. New Orleans, LA 70118 Phone: (504) 861-8196 Fax: (504)861-8197 E-Mail: Church Office Manager: Lisa McKnight Tuesday thru Friday 10:30 am to 2:30 pm Pastor: Rev. Chris Mereschuk Wednesday, February 8th Thursday, February 9th Saturday, February 11th Sunday, February 12th Monday February 13th Wednesday, February 15th Friday, February 17th Saturday, February 18th Sunday, February 19th Monday, February 20th Tuesday, February 21st Wednesday, February 22nd Saturday, February 25th Sunday, February 26th

CALENDAR February 2012

Choir Rehearsal 7 8:30pm PFLAG Meeting 7:30 8:30pm AA Meeting 8:30 9:30am Choir Rehearsal 9am Worship 10- 11am CCA Meeting 6:30 8:30pm Choir Rehearsal 7 8:30pm Church Women United 10 10:30am AA Meeting 8:30 9:30am Choir Rehearsal 9am Worship 10- 11am CAN Meeting 6:30 8:30pm Office Closed Ash Wednesday Services 12-1pm, 7pm Choir Rehearsal 7 8:30pm AA Meeting 8:30 9:30am Choir Rehearsal 9am Worship 10- 11am Installation Service for Pastor Chris 2pm Sanctuary Lounge Library Sanctuary Sanctuary Lounge Sanctuary Lounge Library Sanctuary Sanctuary Library Sanctuary Sanctuary Library Sanctuary Sanctuary Sanctuary

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Sunday, March 3rd Sunday, April 1st Thursday, April 5th Friday, April 6th Sunday, April 8

Save the Date! Bring-A-Friend Sunday Palm Sunday Maundy Thursday (Meal of the Upper Room) Good Friday Service @ Bienville + Fish Fry Easter

CENTRAL ST. MATTHEW UCC 1333 S. Carrollton Avenue New Orleans, LA 70118