Reaching Heights December 2023
Reaching Heights December 2023
Links to this month’s news:
- Advent Worship
- Adult Study
- Mid-week Bible Study
- Kate’s Cogitations
- Administration Ministry
- Mission Ministry
- Wednesday’s Together
- Book Group and Meditative Arts Group
- Gift Cards for the Holidays
- Social Media
See the Serving Schedule
For the Advent and Christmas season this year we will again be using materials developed by A Sanctified Art, with the theme of “How Does a Weary World Rejoice?” As they write in the intro,
“Joy is often a companion to many other emotions. We can feel joy in addition to feeling many other things at once: grief, anticipation, anxiety, excitement, disappointment, exhaustion. Perhaps many of us live with the myth that joy is not something we deserve – or that it is wholly out of reach. But our joy is rooted in the truth that we belong to God. Can you tether yourself to that deep truth? You deserve to feel joy – fully. The world needs your joy, even if you are weary. Our joy is better when it is shared. … And so, this Advent, we will hold space for our weariness and our joy. We will seek a “thrill of hope” in our hurting world. We will welcome joy – even and especially if, like the prophet Isaiah, we cry out for comfort (Isaiah 40). In this weary world, may we find many ways to rejoice.”
December 3 The First Sunday of Advent
Luke 1:5, 8, 11-20 (Zecharaiah and Elizabeth are promised a child)
Message: “We Acknowledge Our Weariness”
As Advent begins, we start by acknowledging the weariness, grief, rage, and hopelessness we carry—and we also affirm that we are made for joy. We start the season with Zechariah and Elizabeth; they have battled infertility and have lived many years. Perhaps they feel the weight of hopes and dreams unattained. The angel comes to Zechariah with a promise of good news, but Zechariah can’t fully receive it. Sometimes weariness can harden us and prevent us from living fully.
December 10 The Second Sunday of Advent
Luke 1:24-45 (Gabriel visits Mary, Mary goes to Elizabeth)
Message: “We Find Joy in Connection”
In community, our joy expands. When we can’t rejoice, we can carry each other’s joy. That is what Elizabeth and Mary do for each other. The good news begins to take shape in Elizabeth’s womb, but scripture tells us that she stays secluded, hiding her pregnancy from others—that is, until Mary arrives at her door, also pregnant. Perhaps Mary’s arrival is the inbreaking that changes everything for Elizabeth, for in that moment, her child leaps in her womb and she is filled with the Spirit. She can’t help but to rejoice. Her joy is contagious and wraps around Mary like a hug. Through the prophet Isaiah, we hear God speak tender words of comfort; this is the comfort we can give to and receive from each other during this season.
December 12 (Tuesday Noon) Blue Christmas service with Plymouth
(In the Chapel and on Zoom)
Join us for a brief, meditative time to reflect on the promise of Advent amidst the sorrows and stresses of the season. Music, scripture and prayers will accompany the chance to light a candle and have a moment of prayer with Rev. Matt, Pastor Dillon, or Dr. Kate.
December 12 (Tuesday, 7:00 pm) Ecumenical Blue Christmas Service at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights
Members and leaders from HCC, Plymouth, Church of the Redeemer UMC, Church of the Savior UMC and Fairmount Presbyterian will gather in candlelight for a “Service for the Weary” with combined choir, familiar hymns and Taize, poetry, reflective prayer, and a brief meditation by Dr. Kate.
December 17 The Third Sunday of Advent
Luke 1:57-66 (The Birth of John)
Message: We Allow Ourselves to Be Amazed
After Elizabeth gives birth, her neighbors and family celebrate with her. When it comes time to name the child, Zechariah affirms the name given by the angel and by Elizabeth. In that moment of affirming the promise, Zechariah’s speech is restored. Everyone is filled with awe. How often do you allow yourself to be amazed? Wonder is all around us—can we recognize it? As we learn how to rejoice in a weary world, can we live in a wa8y that allows amazement and wonder to surprise us often?
December 24 ( 11:00 am) The Fourth Sunday of Advent
Luke 1:46-55 (Magnificat) I Luke 1:57-80 (Zechariah’s Song)
Message: We Sing Stories of Hope
As soon as Zechariah’s voice returns, his first words are gratitude and blessing. He sings a story of praise for God’s protection and promise, and then he showers a blessing on his newborn son. He sings a story of hope. After Elizabeth exclaims blessings upon Mary, Mary sings: “My soul magnifies God; my spirit rejoices in God.” Mary sings about a God of liberation who pulls the powerful from their thrones and lifts up th8e lowly. Mary sings a story of hope, one in which justice and joy are interwoven. As we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, may we also sing stories of hope, justice, and joy.
December 24 (7:30 pm) Christmas Eve
Luke 2:1-20 (Nativity Story)
Message: We Make Room
Luke’s Gospel tells us that when Mary gives birth to Jesus, she lays him in a manger, for there was no place for them in the guest room. Scholars argue about where, exactly, the birth occurs. Regardless of where the birth occurs, we know that Christ is born in a crowded, unlikely place. And yet, God makes a place here anyway. God draws the circle wider as shepherds and unexpected guests arrive. This Christmas, let us also make room—for strangers and neighbors alike. For this is good news of great joy for all people.
This traditional service celebrates the joy of Emmanuel (God-with-us) with story and song, and includes candlelight, carols and communion.
December 31 First Sunday after Christmas
Luke 2:21-38 (Jesus is presented in the Temple)
Message: We Root Ourselves in Ritual
Mary and Joseph return to the temple in Jerusalem to enact the sacred rituals of their culture and tradition. While they are doing what is customary, the unexpected occurs. A man named Simeon is led by the Spirit into the temple to proclaim Jesus as the “light of revelation.” Then, a prophet named Anna suddenly approaches them; she praises God and speaks about Jesus to everyone longing for redemption. Rituals mark sacred turning points in our lives. They can help us make meaning of celebrations, losses, and transitions. How do our sacred rituals root us and help us live into new chapters with courage?
From the staff
Prepare the Way
I have long appreciated the season of Advent – the time of preparation and anticipation before the celebration of Christmas. Whether following the lectionary assigned passage of scripture, or singing advent hymns like Come O Long Expected Jesus, or focusing on the four themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love — each of these provide a focus on the longing we all feel for a closeness with God and a yearning for the world to be peaceful and bright. While the message is ultimately hopeful, Advent does not shy away from the less positive thoughts and feelings that we experience as well. We have a chance to sit with our disappointments and losses, to acknowl8edge our loneliness and exhaustion, and to honor our deep desire for good news. All of our emotions and yearnings are allowed, even as we await the coming of Christ into the world.
That is part of what I appreciate about this year’s worship materials by A Sanctified Art. The theme How Does a Weary World Rejoice? holds the tension between the world we find ourselves in and the promise of God’s abundant Kin-dom. We can be weary and joyful, sorrowful and expectant, stressed and filled with delight. And we are always looking toward the light – anticipating the day when God’s kin-dom is fully realized and the entire world knows peace and joy.
I hope you enjoy the music, visual art, and poetry of the season as we observe Advent together again this year.
Listening and Partnering Together
As we continue to explore possibilities for our future together, I invite the congregation into a season focused on com8munity engagement, collaboration, and discernment. From January to June 2024, we will strive toward 5 goals to help us discover what God may be up to in our corner of the Kin-dom and how we might join in. Please consider how you would like to be involved, and contact me with questions, concerns, and suggestions. More details will be available in January.
Goal #1: Increase HCC’s community engagement, get to know our neighbors, and build connections.
Invitation: for each member of HCC to attend at least one community meeting or event each month, primarily to listen, to learn, and to increase our visibility.
Goal #2: Learn from our neighbors and identify opportunities for partnership.
Invitation: for you to meet with someone in the community for a 30-45 minute one on one conversation where we ask them:
1) What do you appreciate about this community/neighborhood?
2) What top 3 community issues matter most to you?
3) How might we partner to offer a response to those issues?
4) What should HCC know as we discern our role in this community?
Goal #3: Hear from HCC members about their perspectives on HCC our past, present and future.
Invitation: for you to meet with congregants to hear their views on HCC –to ask them about their experience with and involvement in HCC, and what they hope for HCC’s future
Goal #4: Experiment with some “action items” and events —
Invitation: for ministry team members and others to propose small events for HCC to host (or help with) that allow us to interact with and learn from the community.
Goal #5: Discern next steps based on all we learn through listening, partnering and experimenting.
Invitation: Hold congregational meeting(s) where we share what we have learned, as we hold space for creative imagining together.
News from the Board of Trustees
At its November meeting, the Board of Trustees authorized two donations from the monies set aside in our budget for mission. These monies were established in the budget from the proceeds received when we sold the building on Van Aken.
This month, the Board voted to donate $1,000 to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Week of Compassion f8or the increased needs for humanitarian relief in war-torn areas. In addition, the Board authorized $1,000 to be donated to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Cleveland, Ohio Field Office. Several members of the congregation had attended a presentation by this group in October which described the work the group does in resettling refugees and immigrants in the Cleveland area. There may be opportunities for HCC to provide other donations, supplies and volunteer services to this group.
Please remember that any member of the congregation can present a request for a donation to a worthy mission-related cause or organization. Feel free to speak with any member of the Board of Trustees if you wish to make such a request. There is $3,500 set aside each year for local mission and another $3,500 for global mission. Any monies not disbursed in a calendar year are returned to HCC’s savings and investment accounts. It is our goal each year to expend all funds available to further HCC’s mission work in our community and further afield.
The Administration Ministry has planned and led the 2024 Stewardship Campaign over the first three Sundays in November. You received 3 letters of correspondence and there were special activities during Sunday Morning Worship regarding the Campaign, including a Reflection by Nikki Crosby and photos of our mission and ministry together. The theme for this year’s Campaign is, “Because of You Our Church Changes Lives”. Commitment Sunday for the next Pledge Year was November 19th. Please submit your pledge cards as soon as possible to aid in our planning for next year. If you have questions, please speak with Mike Singerman or Larry Watson. Thank you for your support of our work together!
Word from the Worship Ministry
We are re-instituting donations of flowers for our church services. If there is a special occasion someone would like to acknowledge, they can bring a flower arrangement or flowers in a vase to be in the front of the church. We ask that the flowers not have a scent or at best not an overwhelming scent in consideration of those with allergies. Please let Kese know in advance so that names and the occasion for the flow8ers can appear in the bulletin. She should be notified by the Tuesday before the Sunday the flowers are being donated.
~The Worship Ministry
Sunday Morning Adult Study 9:30-10:30 am in Chapel and on Zoom.
During the first three weeks of Advent (December 3, 10, and 17) we’ll take a close look at some of the assigned Scripture readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. While we will consider the background and historical context of each of the readings, our emphasis will be on what these readings say to us in our own lives and the life of our congregation. We’ll include a different form of prayer each week to help us respond to the Spirit teaching us through the Scriptures. All are welcome to any and all of these sessions. Each will stand on its own.
Dec. 3 Isaiah 63-64 and Psalm 80
Dec. 10 Isaiah 40 and Psalm 85
Dec. 17 Isaiah 61 and Luke 1:46-55
Mid-Week Bible Study On Zoom
This group meets on Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. will be reading and discussing the book, Stay Awhile, Advent Lessons in Divine Hospitality by Kara Eidson. The publisher provides the following description:
While the world tries to rush us into Christmas, decorating the day after Halloween and packing it all up once the gifts are opened on December 25, Advent is a season of preparation that—like our holiday gatherings themselves—takes time and care. Think of the anticipation that comes with hosting loved ones for Christmas dinner: We begin by extending an invitation. We make plans, and as the event draws closer, we begin our preparations. Ultimately, we open the door and welcome our guests, and that is when, finally, we celebrate. Advent should feel the same way, a time to make ready for the long-awaited event of Christ’s birth.
In Stay Awhile, pastor Kara Eidson presents a banquet table of inspiration for Advent, including weekly reflections for personal and small group use, brief daily devotions, and ideas to involve the whole congregation.
This book will be a good follow-up to th8e worship theme we have been exploring this fall. The study will run for 4 Tuesdays, beginning with the last Tuesday in November, November 28th, then continuing on Tuesdays December 5th, 12th and 19th.
This study will have different individuals leading, each taking one or more weeks. Dr. Kate Gillooly, Carolyn Troha and Valencia McMillan will lead.
Come and join us as we try to center our Advent this year on the idea of preparing and waiting for an exciting event! We would love to have you at the table!
Advent Craft Kits
will be available for families to take home as of the first Sunday in Advent, December 3. There will be a craft for each week of Advent to help observe this season of preparation at home.
Neighbor Night convenes year-round on the last Tuesday of the month. All are welcome. This month the date is December 26 from 6-8pm. The place is Stephani Tubbs-Jones building. Consider attending. Often a person from Food Network rescue delivers produce which is available to those who want it.
Family Promise – The holidays can be a stressful time of the year for many, but especially for the population served by Family Promise in the shelter for a designated length of time. This year, Heights Christian will provide a little holiday cheer to the parents and children they serve as well as follow up support for the families who have recently moved into a permanent home.
Thanks to Grace for her usual hard work of putting wish list gifts on ornaments for the tree located in the rear of the sanctuary. You are invited to choose an ornament with a gift on it. Please bring your NEW, UNWRAPPED GIFT OR GIFT CARD to church on December 3rd and 10th. We will deliver gifts to Family Promise by December 13th.
Here is the link to our amazon wish list https://a.co/atny22N
For those who would prefer suggestions…Gift Cards (Walmart, Grocery, Gas, Target, Amazon), housewares and anything off our much needed list, bath and beauty products, warm clothing, PJ’s, boots, games, African American dolls and barbies, sporting goo2ds, Cleveland Teams merchandise (Browns/Cavs), superhero toys, toys for baby and toddler, arts and crafts, blocks, legos, dinosaurs, gifts for tweens/teens, gifts for moms Popular Characters: Spiderman, Cocomelon, Barbie, Sesame Street, Mickey and Minnie, Frozen, The Little Mermaid. And, of course, financial donations that will go where needed most are always needed. (Please no nerf guns or anything of that nature).
Adult Faith and Life at Plymouth UCC: Heights Missions Team support community partnerships and will continue to meet to find ways to join our partner however we can as they reach out and stand up for those who are marginalized locally and throughout the world. To that end, Plymouth is sponsoring a Pilgrimage to the Southern Border in January 2024. Prayers for their safe travels and blessing for their courage.
A panel discussion on Saturday, December 2, Building Safer Communities For All, will be held at Disciples Church at 3663 Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights. Beginning at 10 a.m., when the doors open, a light continental breakfast will be offered. Lunch will also be provided. The program will begin at 10:30 sharp. Due to lateness to register, please contact sponsors for more information:
Sponsored by The Community Church of Chesterland, Social Justice Advocacy Ministry of the Federated Church in Chagrin Falls, and Racial Equity Buddies. It is funded in part by a grant from the Outreach Committee of the Presbytery of the Western Reserve.
As we enter the holiday season. contribution to Plymouth/Heights church’s collection of essays celebrating the holiday of Kwanza.. We’re calling the collection “Kwanzaa Reflections.” The AF&L/ARE committees plan to have the collection available for church services Sunday December 17th.
If you are interested in joining Plymouth volunteers at the Food Bank, contact Paul Qua; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations to the Little Free Pantry are available for non-perishable food at any time. It is located just off the parking lot here at Heights Christian and Plymouth Church. Stats from Cleveland Food Bank: Do you know that 1 out of 5 children live in poverty. 1 in 7 people are food insecure while there is about 40% of food in U.S. is wasted.
HCC’s weekly update has information that is current each week.
Remember to visit the clip board in Narthex to sign up for community engagement events.
Continuing subjects to be explored with community partners: These were generated from interviews with Shaker residents prior to HCC move and/or from everyday interactions with citizens: Spring Festival; topics for seniors; are their needs being met; “Listen to Me, I Have Story” Everybody has a story, a cup of coffee.
Plymouth Church, UCC and Heights Christian Church are both blessed to call our building at 2860 Coventry Road home. This coming year, both congregations are looking forward to growing friendships between our members, as well as discerning what ministry opportunities and events we can embark on together! One way we will seek to expand our relationship is through sharing “Wednesdays Together.” On the first three Wednesdays of each month, we will share8 in fellowship and formation with one another. We look forward to seeing many folks from HCC and Plymouth at each gathering!
On First Wednesdays, join us for Book Group. Come and be in conversation around a different chosen book each month. You’re welcome even if you haven’t read the book to enjoy the discussion together.
On Second Wednesdays, join us for Meditative Arts Group. We will provide projects or you can bring your own. Everyone is invited to color, doodle, draw, paint, knit, sew – whatev8er fits your interest and provides soothing quiet for you. We will gather with fellowship, then listen to calm, soothing music while we break out our pens, crayons, colored pencils, and knitting needles.
On Third Wednesdays, join us for Lunch Club. We gather for a homemade meal and fellowship, and then listen to a speaker from the community or one of our churches. We will occasionally take a field trip out to a destination in Northeast Ohio, so be on the lookout for where we will meet each month. There will be a suggested donation amount for lunch each month. RSVP to Pastor Dillon at email@example.com, which is necessary for food preparation.
This Month’s Lunch Club
Wednesday, December 20 at 12:30 pm
In Fellowship Hall and Chapel @ Plymouth Church
Join us for lunch and fellowship, as well as what has become a festive yearly tradition. Diane Julin Menges will present a holiday music concert in the Chapel following lunch, and lead us all in singing in a few carols and Christmas standards. This year, she’ll be joined by Dillon Shipman at the piano. The suggested donation for lunch is $10. RSVP to Pastor Dillon at firstname.lastname@example.org, which is necessary for food preparation.
The Book Group will meet – Wednesday, December 6th – 11:30 am at Burntwood Tavern in Lyndhurst for this year’s luncheon. Please let Nancy Carpenter know if your are able to attend so that the restaurant can have an accurate number.
Meditative Arts Group
Meditative Arts Group will meet at 1:00 pm December 13th in the Atrium. We will provide projects or you can bring your own. Everyone is invited to color, doodle, draw – whatever fits your interest and provides soothing quiet for you. We will gather with fellowship, t8hen listen to calm, soothing music while we break out our pens, crayons, colored pencils, etc.
Gift Cards for the Holidays in 2023
Christmas shopping has started. Retailers are advertising early sales in the hopes of earning your purchase dollars with good prices. But is that what your giftee wants?
Try gift cards! Gift Cards let you avoid the crowded stores and the post-season credit card bills. And your loved ones can spend the card(s) where you know they shop or eat. They are good in person and for internet buys. Don’t know what store card to buy? Amazon and Target are easy choices. Grocery cards, like Heinen’s or Giant Eagle, can make the holidays brighter. Many restaurant cards, like Panera or Starbucks are available. And gas station and airline cards can help pay for family to join you for the holidays.
The earlier you shop for gift cards, the sooner you can sit back and relax. We have a Special-Order Form (available in the Chapel). Special orders are accepted through Sunday, December 10th. We will then place a consolidated rush order so we can get your cards to you on or after Sunday, December 17th. We can arrange delivery if needed. Don’t see what you want? Please ask – our vendor has Disney, airlines, restaurants, and other cards too numerous to mention.
Support Heights Christian Church while you shop. Get your shopping done early. And make your life less stressful. Gift cards are easy and appreciated. (Cash or check only, please)
Social Media outreach
HCC is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and You-Tube and Linked-In! Several recordings of special worship services have been uploaded to our channel on You-Tube. If you see something you like, share it on your page! This will increase our reach and may draw in our next visitor!
3 – Andrena Jones-Sharp 7 – Val Sgro 10 – Bernadette LaGuardia
16 – Bridget Peterson-Droszcz 23 – Doug McWilliams 26 – Roger Osgood
27 – Aliyah Benson 29 – Lloyd Ackerman
23 – Nancy Newman 28 – Madison Durham 30 – Allen Harris
We are glad to share the birthdays we have on record each month and encourage members to reach out with greetings. We apologize if someone’s name has been omitted – please call Kese in the church office to share your birthday if we don’t have it in our list. We want to celebrate you!