First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Rev. Toby Jones, Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Weekly Newsletter- May 21, 2020

First Congregational U.C.C. Charlevoix –

Weekly Newsletter May 21, 2020

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Welcome to our weekly newsletter!

With the changes in our life because of the COVID 19 virus, we need to develop new ways to communicate to replace what used to happen naturally when we gathered together. So, we are giving a weekly newsletter by email a try! We will post this to our web page and email it out to all of our members. Please be patient as we figure this new thing! If you have suggestions for improvement or notes you’d like added, let us know!   

Pastor Greg Briggs and Leah Dice.

The next Church Council Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 26th at 5:15 p.m.
To view the church calendar click here, 

Should Churches Return to Worship in Their Sanctuaries?

May 19, 2020

A Pastoral letter from the Leadership of the Wider United Church of Christ   

InPerson-pullquote.jpgAs the country debates how, when, and under what circumstances life might return to normal, leaders in every setting of the church are deliberating about returning to their sanctuaries for worship.

As leaders in the United Church of Christ, we want to send a clear and strong message to congregations who are considering going back to meeting in person: We urge you to wait until ALL safety concerns have been addressed. We want to offer what guidance we can about issues you should consider in your deliberations.

We are sure that, like us, you have been inundated with materials about the COVID-19 virus. Some of it seems to be contradictory at times. Much of it is being and has been politicized. Discerning fact from fiction can be tricky. We would like to share the with  you’re the resources that we have found helpful in our own deliberations, as well as any wisdom we have that could be useful to you. 

Among the most impactful articles we have seen is “The Risks—Know Them—Avoid Them,” by Erin Bromage. The article talks in great detail about how the virus is spread and mentions in particular how church life which we experience as normal could prove to be a threat to our worshipers. We strongly encourage you to read this as a part of your decision-making process. Here is the link to that article.

Of all the things we could say, we lead with this principle: Please make every decision based on how it will affect the most vulnerable among you. Many of us will be able to attend services and activities as fully healthy, low-risk individuals. Others, though, will come out of a deep love for and obligation to their church, deciding to take a risk in order to be back with their church family. We urge you to keep that in mind as you process your decisions.

Conference leaders have sent guidance to their churches about the process of deciding how and when to return. We, as national and regional leaders are encouraging churches to consult their Conference website for materials relevant to their setting for ministry.

In a recent email, the Rev. Nigel Uden, Moderator of the United Reformed Church (United Kingdom), offered his prayerful support. In it, he wrote about a deacon of the church in Coventry. That deacon was trying to persuade a young pastor to serve that church in the decade that followed not only the Second World War, but the utter annihilation of the city of Coventry at the hands of the Germans. Their precious church was laid bare. What the deacon said to the young pastor convinced him to come and serve: “There is nothing in this church that cannot be changed as long as the Gospel is preached and the Kingdom of God extended.” 

Those words have proven to be quite precious and prescient. They have reminded us that when the world forces change upon us, and with it the tremendous burden of grief and loss, our task remains but this: preach the Gospel and extend the Kindom. No matter what we decide in the coming days, even if it means sheltering in place a while longer, the gospel will be preached and the realm of God will grow through our efforts.

In the words of Julian of Norwich, written from her cell at the church in Norwich that was built as her own shelter in the time of the Plague: “All shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of thing shall be well.” 



The Council of Conference Ministers United Church of Christ

The National Officers of the United Church of Christ

The Rev. Dr. John C.  Dorhauer
General Minister and President              
The Rev. Traci Blackmon
Associate General Minister, Justice and Local Church Ministries
The Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson
Associate General Minister, Wider Church Ministries

Graduates, Send In Your Videos!

May 31 is Graduate Sunday, and we’d love to feature all our church graduates in worship!

We would like a short video from each graduate: stating their name, where they are graduating from, what their future plans are, and something that has inspired them. We encourage wearing cap and gowns, or wearing clothing from their alma mater and\or future plans.

You can email the videos to  We also want to encourage church members to send graduation cards, so pass along your address as well. We will not post it on any blog or social media accounts, only email it to members.

If you need help recording the video, or would prefer to record it via Zoom, email Pastor Greg to set up a time. Please have all videos in by May 27th.  Thank you and congratulations graduates!!!!

Can’t Hold Back by Pastor Greg Briggs

I’m guessing you all have been dreaming about what you will do when the pandemic passes as much as I have. Top of my list is hugs. Big, long, bear hugs. As a pastor, I have to rein it in and tone it down (for a variety of reasons) but with family and longtime friends there is often lifting and spinning involved. Only a few of these hugs have led to any serious injury, but you need to understand the potential level of squeeze involved. Hugs are also my go-to gesture when not seeing people for a long time.

Yet, this is also makes me sad, because hugging people will be one of the last things that I’ll be able to do in the near future, yet it is one of my first instincts. I don’t often think about it, if I know the person is a hugger, I just go in for a hug. So, restraint is hard.

I don’t remember the last hug I gave, but I remember my worry about it we all physically worshiped together. I remember the conscious vigilance I had in place, too. I do remember the last person I shook hands with, though. I remember it like I was winning the board game “Clue.” It was Jack MacKenzie, in the sanctuary, welcoming him back just as worship was starting. It was that same Sunday. Seeing Jack, up here after so long, all my vigilance fell away. My hand automatically shot out and his automatically met mine. I realized what I’d done just after I’d done it. Even when resisting one temptation, I fell prey to another. I even noted in my welcome to worship that his hand was the last I’d shake for a while, and so far I’ve kept that promise. But it’s a lot easier to say that when social distancing.  I don’t know how I’ll do when seeing people I know again.

This is one of the gut wrenching things that so many of us are struggling with. Even when restrictions start to lessen, we won’t be able to do some the things we most crave right away. One of my colleagues, Bridgit Monson Stevens shared a similar story on her facebook page, and then added this reflection:

I am so worried about our church people (including me) who long to see each other. It may be more painful to be close enough to touch without being able to touch. And our bodies don’t always pay attention to our minds. And our minds don’t always work fast enough to correct our bodies. It’s just so fraught and the consequences are so potentially devastating. I’m praying.

While I can’t predict the future, I can lament what I struggle with, even if I can’t solve it right away. Just the sharing of the struggle makes it a little easier.  And, to let you know that you all are being hugged by me, at least in my mind.

Exactly – stillspeaking Daily Devotional

Written by Quinn Caldwell

Photo Credit: Leah Dice (Jordan River Valley, MI)

My son and I hike along, looking for the next flash of color. Those who knew the way through this forest have gone ahead of us, painting blue blazes on the trees to lead us in right paths.

I think of the ancestors who set aside this state forest, the ones who blazed the trail. What did they think we’d be using this for? Did they know that one day we’d be out here because we had nowhere else to go except the living room? That we’d be walking their path in search of virus-free air?

What about the ones who built the local library? What would they say if they knew the building was closed, the books inaccessible … but that the library was going strong, doing a rip-roaring business restoring people’s souls with books downloaded from the sky?

How about the founders of your church? What would they say about the still living waters God and your pastors are pouring through your screen each week despite the shuttered sanctuary? Would they recognize you as their church, worshiping there in your jammies in the living room?

Maybe hiking in the woods to escape lockdown isn’t what the sylvan ancestors envisioned. Maybe accessing your library on your phone isn’t what the bookish ancestors planned for. Maybe church on the computer isn’t the kind of thing the charter ancestors would have wanted.

Or maybe it is, exactly.

For the gifts of the ancestors, for the paths they blazed and the institutions they started, and for your Spirit, showing us new ways and purposes for using them, thank you. Amen.

ddcaldwell_2014.pngAbout the Author
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.

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The Church Office will be Closed Monday, May 25th in observance of Memorial Day