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6/28 "Trumpet" Stuffing 9:15 am
6/28 Prayer Group 6:30 pm
7/4 4th of July Office Closed
7/5 Office Closed
7/5 Prayer Group 6:30 pm
7/6 Book Club 6:30 pm
7/7 Office Closed
7/9 AM Choir 9 am
7/9 Summer SS 9 am
7/9 Youth Group 10:30 am
7/10 Retiree Brkfst 8:30 am
7/10 Council Mtg 7 pm
7/11 Staff Mtg 10 am
7/11 Vitality Mtg 6:30 pm
7/11 VBS Training 7 pm
7/12 Office Closed
7/12 Prayer Group 6:30 pm
7/15 Crafters Corner 9 am - 8:30pm
7/16 Summer SS 9am
7/17 VBS 6-8 pm
7/18 Staff Mtg 10 am
7/18 Oak Hill Terrace 3:15 pm
7/18 VBS 6-8 pm
7/19 Office Closed
7/19 VBS 6-8 pm
7/12 Office Closed
7/19 Prayer Group 6:30 pm
7/20 VBS 6-8 pm
7/21 VBS 5:30-8:30 pm
7/23 Summer SS 9 am
7/25 Staff Mtg 10 am
7/26 "Trumpet" Stuffing 9:15 am
7/26 Prayer Group 6:30 pm
7/28 Hot Dog Roast 6 pm
7/30 Summer SS 9 am

7/31 Wom Fellowship 6:30 pm


Check out calendar for further details on listed events





To see the output from the solar panels on our south facing roof.

Click here to watch a video that explains the We Energies Graphs.


 

  • 7/3 Office Closed - 4th of July holiday
  • 7/4 Parade (possible help handing out cookies/lemonade)
  • 7/8 Council Meeting
  • 7/11 Crafters Corners 9 am - 8 pm
  • 7/12 AM Choir performs 
  • 7/12 Summer Sunday school
  • 7/13 Senior Breakfast - 8:30 am
  • 7/13 VBS Begins and lasts through 7/17 -  6-8 pm
  • 7/19 Youth Group 10:00 am
  • 7/20 Trumpet Articles Due
  • 7/21 Regular Election
  • 7/21 Oak Hill Terrace 3:15pm
  • 7/26 Summer Sunday school 9 am
  • 7/29 Trumpet Stuffing 9:15 am
  • 8/2 Summer Sunday school - 9 am
  • 8/3 Women's Guild Meeting 6:30 pm
  • 8/7 - 8/8 Youth Mission Weekend 1 pm Fri - 8pm Sat
  • 8/9 Summer Sunday school - 9 am
  • 8/9 AM Choir performs
  • 8/9 Ugandan Kids Choir 7 pm
  • 8/10 Council Meeting 7 pm
  • 8/16 Last Summer Sunday school - 9 am
  • 8/16 Brewer's Game - tailgate after church for 1:10 game
  • 8/17 Trumpet Articles Due
  • 8/18 Andrew Club 2:45pm
  • 8/20 Youth Noah's Ark Trip - 8 am - 8:30 pm
  • 8/26 Trumpet Stuffing 9:15 am
  • 7/3 Office Closed - 4th of July holiday
  • 7/4 Parade (possible help handing out cookies/lemonade)
  • 7/8 Council Meeting
  • 7/11 Crafters Corners 9 am - 8 pm
  • 7/12 AM Choir performs 
  • 7/12 Summer Sunday school
  • 7/13 Senior Breakfast - 8:30 am
  • 7/13 VBS Begins and lasts through 7/17 -  6-8 pm
  • 7/19 Youth Group 10:00 am
  • 7/20 Trumpet Articles Due
  • 7/21 Regular Election
  • 7/21 Oak Hill Terrace 3:15pm
  • 7/26 Summer Sunday school 9 am
  • 7/29 Trumpet Stuffing 9:15 am
  • 8/2 Summer Sunday school - 9 am
  • 8/3 Women's Guild Meeting 6:30 pm
  • 8/7 - 8/8 Youth Mission Weekend 1 pm Fri - 8pm Sat
  • 8/9 Summer Sunday school - 9 am
  • 8/9 AM Choir performs
  • 8/9 Ugandan Kids Choir 7 pm
  • 8/10 Council Meeting 7 pm
  • 8/16 Last Summer Sunday school - 9 am
  • 8/16 Brewer's Game - tailgate after church for 1:10 game
  • 8/17 Trumpet Articles Due
  • 8/18 Andrew Club 2:45pm
  • 8/20 Youth Noah's Ark Trip - 8 am - 8:30 pm
  • 8/26 Trumpet Stuffing 9:15 am

Grace, Mercy and Peace

On the journey . . .

July 2017 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

I had the opportunity to participate in the Youth Mission Trip in June. Our partner there was the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches. We participated in one of their Urban Immersion Service Retreats. The pictures on this page are from that Mission Trip and you’ll be hearing much more about it from the youth themselves. Hopefully without stealing their thunder, I want to share here some of my experience.

For me, the key word was – partnership. Each day, Urban Immersion sent us out to provide volunteer service at one, or more, of their partner organizations. At Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Burnsville, MN, we helped sort clothing donations for their Mission Outpost where they provided food, clothing and dental care to guests from their community and distributed food to other guests at their Farmer’s Market.

At Feed My Starving Children, Eagan, MN, we prepared nutritious meal packets for starving children in Honduras. Finally, at ARC Value Village, St. Paul, MN we sorted donations for a thrift store that raised funds to serve developmentally disabled persons in their community.

Each of the places I went had a solid core of volunteers who could, and often did, the tasks of ministry on their own. Yet, their structure was flexible enough to allow us to come alongside and help. Through partnerships we were able to influence the lives of many we could not have reached on our own.

This experience made me grateful for our mission partners here at home. Places like the Hope Center, the Women’s Center, the Food Pantry and the list continues to grow. More so, I am grateful for the members of this congregation who volunteer their time to make a difference in the lives of others, to extend the light and life of Christ from our sanctuary to the world. Thanks be to God for partners who make it possible to be channels of God’s love.


June 2017 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

With the weather warming up, I start to think about my summer reading list. Not so long ago, I began reading about people’s lives. Not biographies, memoirs because they are more personal. They speak in the author’s own voice. Memoirs are filled with stories that often inspire me, challenge me, and, sometimes, I find my own story reflected in their story.

It started with, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. It was a short book, which focused on the tragedies and triumphs of her early life. By itself it would have been enough, but it hooked me. I went on to read several of her other memoirs.  In All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes, Maya tells the story of how she travelled to Africa hoping to connect with her African roots. I immediately connected. It reminded me of my own trip to Italy, trying to connect with the Italian side of my heritage. It seems we came to the same conclusion. We were both glad for the journey and the recognition that we are more American than whatever our roots may be. Although we have lived very different lives, we’re not so different after all.

I recently shared a story from Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far, where Amy Grant writes of her life as a performer and as a parent. In the story, her young daughter, Millie, is struggling to ascend a climbing wall. A stranger asks Amy the child’s name and then calls out “Reach for it Millie, reach for it!” When I find myself struggling, I hear that stranger calling out to me, “Reach for it!”

It didn’t take long before I made the shift from memoirs to spiritual memoirs. The Spirit was at work in my previous reading, she is just a bit more overt in my reading since.

Take This Bread: The Spiritual Memoir of a Twenty-First-Century Christian chronicles a time in the life of Sara Miles, a self-professed atheist and lesbian, who walked into St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco on a random Sunday morning and received Communion. In that moment, she understood a call to Christian ministry. Miles saw a connection between the Communion table and feeding the hungry in their community. She worked with that congregation to begin a food pantry and was later baptized. Today, she directs that pantry which distributes fresh produce to hundreds every Friday. Reading her story, I was challenged to be more Christ-like, to be more open of others and to find ways to connect what I do in worship with how I live in the world.

This summer, I’m reading Healing Spiritual Wounds:  Reconnecting with God After Experiencing a Hurtful Church by Carol Howard Merritt. Let me be clear here: I do not experience E&R as a “hurtful church.” I have, however, been part of congregations that were “less than helpful.” I am also aware that there are many people who are leaving congregations because they found them to be hurtful places. I believe that sensitivity to hurtful histories can help me, and us, to be open to ministry among the spiritually wounded.

Well, that’s some of what I’ve been reading. What’s on your summer reading list?


May 2017 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

I truly enjoy taking a midday walk. Yes, if I’m at the church, that usually includes stopping somewhere for lunch which includes opportunities to make connections in the community. That’s all important and could happen if I were to drive somewhere. But driving isn’t the same as walking. When I walk, I’m engaging my whole body. I’m not sitting, I’m moving. I get the endorphins flowing and I feel better. When I walk, I find that I can think. I can work out challenges that are troubling me. I can imagine new opportunities. When I walk, I’m traveling slower than in a car. I notice buildings, cars, the condition of the sidewalk, and most importantly, I notice people.

In fact, the Mayo Clinic[i] reports that regular brisk walking can help:

·         Maintain a healthy weight.

·         Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

·         Strengthen your bones and muscles.

·         Improve your mood.

·         Improve your balance and coordination.

My experience walking, would add another point to that list. As I walk, engaging my body, thinking, noticing the people and world around me, I often find myself praying. That’s right, the practice of regular walking may improve your prayer life. Yet, I think there’s more.

The gospel of Luke tells us, on that first Easter Sunday, “two of them were walking to the village [of] Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened,” (Luke 24:13-15 MSG). Well, not quite “all these things that had happened.” You see, they didn’t yet know about the resurrection. Further, they were so clouded with grief they didn’t recognize the resurrected Christ who began walking beside them.

When Christ inquired about the topic of their conversation, one of them, Cleopas, replied, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?” (Luke 24:18 MSG) Cleopas went on to tell of how Jesus, the one they had hoped would be their liberator, had been betrayed and executed. They had followed Jesus. They imagined a new life for themselves and the world around them. Then, with Jesus, their hopes and dreams were destroyed. It didn’t go as they had planned and so they were headed home to go back to life as it had been.

Does this story sound familiar? Have you ever had your hopes dashed, through no fault of your own? Did you give up and go back to life as usual?

Christ responded to them, and responds to us, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said?” (Luke 24:25 MSG) Then Christ went on to explain, in short, sometimes when everything seems to be falling apart, it’s actually falling into place. They knew what they were hearing was truth, but still they did not recognize Christ. It was only, when they had arrived in Emmaus and they sat down at table that they recognized Christ in the breaking of the bread.

Friends, get out and walk. It will be good for your health and well-being. It may improve your prayer life and you just might encounter the risen Christ in the people you meet along your own Emmaus Road.

[1] Mayo Clinic, Walking: Trim Your Waistline, Improve Your Health, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/walking/art-20046261, captured April 24, 2017.





April 2017 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

Several years ago, a friend of mine, the Rev. Martha McMane, shared an experience with me that I think is worth repeating. At the time, she was the Senior Pastor at First Congregational Church of Boulder, Colorado. It was on an ordinary Saturday during Lent that she went out grocery shopping. She didn’t have a lot of time. Martha wanted to run into the store and pick up what she needed and make her way home. On her way back to her car, she felt accomplished. Her cart was full and it didn’t take any more time than needed. Then it happened. She made eye contact with a member of the congregation.

The woman walked over and, after the usual pleasantries, they began a conversation. The women asked if the church was having an Easter Pageant that year. Martha replied that, no, they would not be conducting the pageant.  The woman thought that was a shame and commented that her younger son had wanted to play a part in it. Martha wondered which part the child might desire. Could he want to play the lead, Jesus? Perhaps Peter, one of the other disciples, or a Roman Guard? So, she asked, “What part did he want to play?”

“The stone,” replied the woman.

“The stone,” echoed Martha, not sure she heard correctly. “Why did he want to play the stone?”

“Then he would be the one to get out of the way and allow the resurrection to happen.”

Over the last few weeks we’ve been engaging God, the Bible, and one another through our shared study of the book, Unbinding Your Heart. In worship, small groups and in through a daily prayer journal we’ve listened to the wisdom of scripture, united our hearts in prayer, built community and shared our faith. This has been a very fertile time.

As we move forward, the challenge before us is to follow the example of the stone. We need to get out of the way and allow Christ to be resurrected in and among us. How do we do that?

Here are a few beginning steps:

If you haven’t read the book and would like to catch up, let us know. We still have a few copies.

Begin or continue the practice of daily prayer and Bible reading. For some of us, the daily part isn’t perfect. That’s why it’s called a “practice.” Keep at it.

Participate in worship. Bring your whole selves, your joys and your concerns. Lift the voice God gave you in song and unfettered praise. Listen with open mind, heart and body.

Make it a point each week to shake a hand, share a greeting, and get to know someone new a little better. As you get to know folk, introduce them to others.

Some of you have built new relationships during your time in small groups. Don’t forget each other. Check-in and continue to support each other. You may want to share a coffee or other beverage and find out how each other is doing. You may ask each other how your prayer time is going. The goal isn’t to be the “prayer police.” It’s to support and nurture one another.

Share your faith with others. Keep talking about what God and the church mean to you. The more you do it, the easier it will be.

Invite others. You can invite another member of the church, a member of your family, a friend, neighbor, hairdresser, the server at your favorite restaurant, the person who changes the oil in your car to worship. How about an invitation to worship on Easter? You could invite someone to come for breakfast and stay for worship.

God is in the resurrection business. It’s time to get out of the way and let God lead.

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

Resurrecting God, you call us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Help us to get out of the way so that you can work in us and through us. Give us faith to go out with courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ, the firstborn from the dead. Amen. (adapted from Book of Common Worship: Daily Prayer ©1993 Westminster John Knox Press)



March 2017 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor


One parable of Jesus keeps coming to mind. It’s a short parable, a story attempting to describe the kingdom, or beloved community, of God. It goes like this

 “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32).

 

I decided to read it at the funeral for Frieda Hart. It seemed an apt metaphor for Frieda, a farm girl to the core. It was rooted in nature and in growing to support the lives of others. Though small of stature, Frieda had a tremendous reach – over 900 piano students plus the countless Sunday school children and adults she accompanied at the piano. Though soft of voice, Frieda’s generosity and grace will be heard by generations yet unborn. Frieda’s life, like that tiny mustard seed, achieved its fullest potential through, as Frieda put it – “94 good years!”

 

When Mary Ann Proffitt and I took our youth to Pilgrim Center for their annual Faith Formation Retreat. The theme of the retreat was “journey” and I was surprised to hear this parable again. There are plenty of biblical stories of journeys, (we would later explore some of those). Why start the retreat with this parable? Because this would be a retreat about the journey of spiritual growth.

On Saturday of the retreat, we had some time to explore various spiritual disciplines. I chose to walk the labyrinth on the floor of the chapel. For those who are unfamiliar, a labyrinth is like a maze, except there is only one way in, one path to walk and one way out. I began, silently reciting an ancient Christian mantra, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner.” I repeated that over and over in my head. Other thoughts would come, I would acknowledge them and return to the mantra. While walking, I really couldn’t see how I would get from the entrance to the center and back out again so I focused my gaze upon each next step. One moment I would be on one side of the circle and then on the other, first closer to the center and then further out. Sometimes, the path seemed to be doubling back on itself.

I thought about the mustard seed and my own rings of growth in my life of faith. I thought about the lessons I have learned, and relearned so that I might apply them to new situations. And then I would return to my mantra. I acknowledged my desire to take a short cut to end more quickly, and returned to my mantra. The mantra and the boundaries of the path were there, like a community encouraging me on the path and holding me accountable.

During my time on the labyrinth and over the course of the retreat, I was reminded how faith is not something we just receive once and move on. What begins as a tiny seed, grows within us and through our actions. Before long, we’re supporting the faith of others. That’s why I’m so excited that we have roughly half of our adult Sunday worship attendance participating in Unbinding Your Heart. It’s an opportunity to grow your faith, strengthen community and invite others to share this life of faith. It’s not too late to join us. Just send Brigette an email (EandRoffice@gmail.com) and we’ll get you a book.

I am still walking that labyrinth, not worried how I will get where I’m going. I’m focusing on one step at a time, knowing that each step is growth. I still get side-tracked and lose focus. I’m thankful that I’m not alone. Christ and this community of faith give me strength. Will you join us? 



On the journey . . .

February 2017 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

Last month I invited you to participate in our congregation-wide study of Unbinding Your Heart. Registration has begun and I certainly hope you will join us. I understand that you may have some questions so I compiled this list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Is this E-vent about “evangelism”? Yes, and no. No, it isn’t the word ‘evangelism’ most of us have come to associate with this word. It isn’t about pressuring people toward God. It isn’t about increasing our church membership. It isn’t about putting a new coat of paint on an old building. Rather, it is about taking our faith seriously. Yes, it is about experiencing a genuine connection to the One who created us. It is about re-kindling our love for God and one another. And finally – it is about what naturally springs from experiencing a deeper relationship with God which is the desire to tell others – in plain words, who God is and what God has done in your life.

I have to do a lot of reading? There is one chapter for each of the six weeks – easily read in one setting, but better enjoyed over the course of each week.

What are the requirements for participation? The level of your participation is entirely up to you. Each Sunday's worship will be the culmination of the reading and devotional theme of the week leading up to it – but a person will not have to read the book or participate in a small group to enjoy or be inspired by our worship. For those who chose to participate fully, the things we believe need to be present include: an open and willing heart, mind and spirit; a copy of Unbinding Your Heart; participation in a small group; and daily prayers and devotions, (provided in the book).

How much time will it take? The small groups will meet for 1-1.5 hours once a week for six weeks. Daily prayer will take 15-30 minutes. You’ll be encouraged to talk to one other person, your prayer partner, once a week. To help make space for our spiritual lives we ask that all other meetings of church committees not be held during Lent. Getting closer to God and growing with one another will be our priority.

What if I am shy? We hear you! Shy people are most welcome to sign up and to take part as they are comfortable. We’re finding that the groups build trust and most people have something to say that we all need to hear. Take it one step at a time.

I feel guilty because I don’t get to worship often. Can I join? YES! We are waiting for you with open arms!

Is there a cost to participating in the congregation-wide study of Unbinding Your Heart? The cost of the pre-purchased books is $10 per copy. We budgeted this money and have paid for these books because we want everyone to participate – regardless of their financial position.

Why is Unbinding Your Heart important? It is important because not only do we need to be re-vitalized in our own walk with God – but because there are others who desperately need God’s healing and wholeness in their lives and we may be the very ones God is calling to make that happen. Our church will certainly be blessed by Unbinding Your Heart – but more importantly, you will be blessed personally!

Will there be a variety of opportunities for me to be in a small group? Yes. Small groups will be meeting at different times and places and will consider the needs of those participating. Let us know what days/times work for you and we’ll do our best to find a group that meets your needs.

I’d like to pray daily but the group won’t work for me this time. Can I still participate? Yes. You are welcome to get a copy of Unbinding Your Heart and do the daily prayer journal. Talk with a member of the Vitality Team if you would like a companion to encourage you on the journey.

How do I sign-up? There are sign-up on sheets at the welcome table and as a bulletin insert each Sunday. Tell us the best times for you to take part in a group and if you need childcare. You may also call the office at (262) 547-2424, or email, eandroffice@gmail.com,  and Brigette will add you to the list.

Note: We are deeply indebted to the original writers of these Frequently Asked Questions which have been adapted from newsletter articles by Rev. Diane Blanchard at Carlisle United Church, Ontario, Canada and by Rev. David Turner at Central Christian Church in Kettering, Ohio. Thank you for sharing!


On the journey . . .

January 2017 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor


This congregation is extremely generous. We live out scripture verses like, Genesis 12:2, “I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.” We know that we are blessed to be a blessing. There is something about that which concerns me. It comes up, time and again, in conversation about our benevolence giving (financial support to important social service ministries in the wider community). The phrase I hear repeatedly is, “That’s why we’re here.” It begs the question within me, “Is that why we’re here?” The more I thought about it, I concluded, “Yes and No.”

Certainly, we should share the many blessings God has showered upon us. However, is supporting other ministries the only reason we’re here? I think not. Our mission is to foster the spiritual growth of a community of devoted followers of Christ.

Our mission begins with spiritual growth. How do we grow spiritually? We grow through practicing disciplines like prayer, bible study, worship, giving our resources and sharing our faith. Our maturity is evidenced in our lives through a myriad of ways like love, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, humility, encouragement, forgiveness and readiness to learn.

Our goal is to be a community of devoted followers of Christ. What that means to me is that we are each in our own way working together to fulfil Jesus’ commission to his followers, “Go . . . make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

I want to encourage you to make spiritual growth one of your New Year’s resolutions and I want to help you achieve it, but first a bit of back story.

In the spring of 2016, I led the Vitality Team through an 8-week small group experience – reading, and praying our way through, Unbinding the Gospel by Martha Grace Reese. It didn’t take long before I could see spiritual growth in the way we were each opening-up to each other and what God was doing in our lives. The Vitality Team was so moved, they led three small groups through the book. In total, 25 people have deepened their faith in God and strengthened their relationships with each other. We were so enriched that we’d like to share our experience with the entire congregation.

We are inviting you to participate in an all church study during Lent this year. The resource we’ll be using is called Unbinding Your Heart: 40 Days of Prayer & Faith Sharing (UYH) also by Martha Grace Reese. It’s a six-week, experience of prayer and faith sharing. UYH is designed to enrich church community life; help individuals grow their face-to-face encounters with God and teach congregations how to talk about their faith. We think Lent, a season of introspection and intentional spiritual growth, is the perfect time for UYH.

Lent may seem a long way off, you may be reading this with your Christmas tree still up. We are so excited we can’t wait. You’ll be hearing more about this in next month’s Trumpet, Beyond Sundays, announcements and a sermon to kick-off our registration period on January 22. For now, as you’re considering those New Year’s resolutions, we hope that spiritual growth will be on your list and that you’ll be part of Unbinding Your Heart. It will help us grow as devoted followers of Christ. Isn’t that why we’re here?



On the journey . . .

December 2016 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

When things get hectic, and Decembers often do, it’s easy to compartmentalize our time.  We tend to think about Jesus on Sunday morning and perhaps on Christmas Eve.  Otherwise, there’s shopping, decorating, cookie baking, and presents to wrap. Amid it all, don’t lose sight of the most important gift.

A friend shared this poem by an unknown poet. I now share it with you.

 ‘Twas the night before Jesus came,

and all through the house

Not a creature was praying,

not one in the house.

Their Bibles were lain

on the shelf without care

In hopes that Jesus

would not come there.

 

The children were dressing

to crawl into bed,

Not once ever kneeling

or bowing a head.

And Mom in her rocker

with the baby in her lap

Was watching the Late Show

while I took a nap.

 

When out to the east

there rose such a clatter,

I sprang to my feet

to see what was the matter.

Away to the window

I flew like a flash

Tore open the shutters

and threw up the sash!

 

When what to my wondering

eyes should appear

But angels proclaiming

that Jesus was here.

With a light like the sun

sending forth a bright ray

I knew in a moment

this must be the day!




The gift of Emmanuel: God with us – is that God is always present. The challenge for us all in this Advent season is to be open to that presence, to prepare ourselves for the message and mission that presence brings. 

I invite you to take a few moments every day, put on some soft instrumental music to block out sounds that will distract you, light a candle, sit still and just breathe. Be aware of each breath. Invite God in as you inhale and exhale any tension or pain. Then open a Bible and read about God’s relationship with humanity throughout the ages. Take some time to pray, refreshing your own relationship with God.

“Don’t have the time,” you say. Christmas will come whether those cookies are baked or not. Jesus was born in a barn without a Douglas Fir decorated with glass balls, multi-colored lights and tinsel. Don’t know what to read? Why not start with the gospel of Matthew? We’ll be hearing a lot from Matthew this year. You can get a head start. Run out of things to pray for? Thank God for all your blessings and then take some time to listen. Worried about gifts?  Receive the greatest gift of all – God with you, then share that gift with others.

Whether at home or at church, Christ’s coming should never surprise us. There is an old Celtic phrase, “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” We need only open ourselves to that presence. May it be so for you and your family, this Advent, this Christmas and for eternity.

Merry Christmas!



On the journey . . .

November 2016 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

I’d like to introduce you to a friend, Katheryn Glover. She had not always been a church-goer. Katheryn credits her granddaughter for bringing her to church. They were out walking one day when her granddaughter asked, “When are you going to take me to church?” To which Katheryn replied,

“How about on Sunday. Which church would you like to go to?” Her granddaughter answered,

“That one,” pointing to the tower of the church where we were members. 

“A little child shall lead them” Katheryn would say, quoting the prophet Isaiah.

Her granddaughter was an adult by the time that I met Katheryn. On any given Sunday morning, a half hour before any morning program, Katheryn could be found in prayer at the church building. She would pray for the needs of the world and especially for the congregation, the pastors, our time of worship and our common life together. It was on the church calendar and open to all. I sometimes joined her in prayer. There were rarely more than two or three others. It didn’t matter, Katheryn was there and she would pray. Katheryn was a prayer warrior.

When she came to visit our apartment, she stopped outside the door to ask for God’s blessings on our home and for our wellbeing. Here’s the key, she didn’t just pray alone. She let us know she was praying and invited us to join her in prayer.

Katheryn’s gone to be with God and we’ve moved three times since then, yet I still sense her prayerful blessing upon us.

There is power in prayer and even greater power in prayer that’s shared. It is for this reason that I have begun sending notes to members of the congregation as I pray through our church directory. I appreciate knowing that others are praying for me and expect that others would too. It is my hope that my prayer will encourage your daily life, as well as encourage your prayer life. I know that many of you are prayer warriors, people who regularly take time to offer God your praise, confessions, supplications and thanksgiving. You also take time to listen to God’s still speaking voice. Thank you, thank God for you! Without your prayer, our common life would be significantly diminished. 

I want to encourage such prayer. Beginning mid-November, we will include in our weekly email, Beyond Sunday, a few names of individuals and families from our directory each week so that you may include those persons in your prayer. They will be shared because they are a part of the church family and not because anything is “wrong.” We will also include any specific requests we receive in the office. If for any reason you do not want your name shared in this way, let us know and we will remove you from the prayer list.

German theologian, Meister Eckert, once said, "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough." In that spirit, for prayers that are offered, thanks! For lives that are shared, thanks! For God who hears, responds and leads us forward, thank you, thank you, thank you!



October 2016 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

Thanks to the gift of technology, I am writing this article from the comfort of a hotel room in Cleveland. I am here to attend a conversation, with other pastors from across the United Church of Christ, about the sacraments. I am honored to have been invited and grateful to be allowed to take this brief time away in order to attend. I’m so excited to be here, it’s hard to focus! There’s not much time before we begin, so I best get down to business.

The rain is gently falling outside my window and I’m reminded of the “big splash” that almost happened. I am referring to the attendance challenge that was issued for September 11. Our goal was to invite our friends, neighbors and family to attend worship so that we would have more than 179 people in worship. We came extremely close. The count that morning was 174. From what I could tell, we had more guests present than the last time we did an attendance challenge. Thanks to each of you who opened yourselves up to share your interest in faith and the church by bringing someone to worship with you. I am aware that others invited but did not get a positive response. Kudos to you as well!

In the end, however, there was not a goal setting attendance. I stayed dry and warm. I’d rather have taken the ice bath. That’s why we’ve extended the attendance challenge. That’s right, you have another opportunity to watch me get dunked with a bucket of ice water on October 2. This time, I believe more than ever, you can do this!

Why do we have these challenges? Our faith is deeply personal, but it is not private. It’s meant to be shared. We read, at the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Let me be clear about what I’m not asking. I am not asking you to baptize anyone, nor am I asking you to do extensive Bible study with them, and I am certainly not asking you to fan the fires of eternal damnation in an effort to scare them into church. I am asking you to extend an invitation.

How do you do that? Pray about whom you might invite, ask God to reveal someone to you. Think about what it is that you like about the church. You’ve told me that you appreciate the sense of community. Invite others to share that community. You’ve told me about our wonderful children’s ministry. Invite someone to Sunday school. You’ve told me that you appreciate the music in worship or my sermons, tell someone outside the congregation about them and invite them to come listen for themselves.

On October 2, we will celebrate World-Wide Communion. We will gather in fellowship with Christians around the globe to share the joyful feast of the people of God. In the brief time between now and then, I challenge you to gather others to share that feast. Can’t make it this Sunday, invite them for subsequent weeks. In the end, it’s not about the challenge. It’s about being faithful followers of Jesus. As you engage the Great Commission, don’t forget those parting words, “I am with you always.”

Now, did I mention technology earlier? Come see the new video displays in the sanctuary! Come share the community! Come share the singing, the prayer and the sermon! Come share the living Christ!



September 2016 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

Have you seen the new marketing campaign for Downtown Waukesha? Perhaps, you’ve seen people wearing red t-shirts with the logo at the center of this page on it, or posters with the words, “Rock Out, Dance Off, Eat Up, Buy Stuff, Get Inked, Make Art: Downtown Waukesha.” I commend City Hall for all it has been doing, and continues to do, to draw businesses and people downtown. For me, the campaign captures much of what Downtown is about. Since the list, (Rock Out, Dance Off . . .), wasn’t intended to be exclusive, I’d like to add another action to the poster. It is, simply, “Grow Faith.”

We occupy one of several houses of worship in Downtown Waukesha. I don’t know as much about other congregations, but I do know that growing faith is at the heart of our common life. We read in the twenty-ninth chapter of Jeremiah, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” It seems to me that at least one mark of spiritual maturity, is seeking the wellbeing of others, including our city. ERUCC is expressing such maturity.

We take faith development seriously. It’s right there in our mission statement, “to foster the spiritual growth of a community of devoted followers of Christ.”

This summer there were several opportunities to participate in faith formation experiences. Together we shared in the baptism of five infants, marking the beginning of their life of faith and pledging our support to help them grow to make that faith their own. On a few Sundays I started on the second floor, with our summer Sunday school. While there, the children would show and tell about something that reminded them of God or the church. Apart from worship, there were opportunities to put work clothes on our faith. Some of us joined the youth filling stock boxes at the Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee, painting finger nails and playing Bingo with residents at St. Camillus Assisted living, purchasing and wrapping birthday gifts for disadvantaged families, or preparing a meal for Richard’s place, a residence for persons living with HIV/AIDS in Waukesha. Those same youth led our worship following their “work camp weekend,” inspiring us with glimpses of hope, their maturity and faith. Others of us helped build a Habitat for Humanity home and, still others, served a hot meal at the Hope Center.

Yet one more sign of growth to maturity is the ability to reproduce. In Genesis, God commands us to “be fruitful and multiply.” In Matthew 28, Jesus commands us, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

Our program year kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 11. I hope that you can be there. It’s the first Sunday of Sunday school and I’ll be starting a sermon series on Growing Faith. It’s also an attendance challenge Sunday. At our last attendance challenge, there were 178 present and a bucket of ice water was dumped over my head. The bucket dump goal this time is to top that number. I’m convinced we can get over 200 here. I believe that because we are a community of growing faith, who live that faith in our community. Bring your friends, neighbors, family and even that ornery old codger down the street who needs a friend! We promise to provide a meaningful worship experience and get you out in time for that other kick-off.

Downtown Waukesha, it’s not just “live” on Friday nights in the summer. It’s bursting with new life on Sunday mornings and all week, all year long. Come on downtown, Grow Faith!


August 2016 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

It was pure joy to participate in the Waukesha Parks and Recreation Independence Day Parade. The congregation was well represented by a fun-filled float with hand waving kids and adults and folk like me, who walked alongside sharing lollipops and Tootsie Rolls with spectators along the route. It was a wonderful expression of unity in our community and nation. Thanks to Mary Ann Proffitt’s capable leadership and her many helping hands!

I wish expressions like that parade were more commonplace. When I watch the news, read the paper, or engage in conversation I sense a greater spirit of individualism that isolates and insulates us from one another. Each group singing their own rally chant. Yes, “Black Lives Matter.” Yes, the “Thin Blue Line” must be supported. Yes, LGBTQ folk have a right to express their pride in who God created them to be. When we only talk in quiet circles with others who think like us we exacerbate the problem rather than helping to solve it.

Yet, all is not gloom and doom. While watching the memorial service for the five slain police officers in Dallas, I saw a glimpse of something better. There is hope

First, former President George W. Bush said, "At our best, we practice empathy, imagining ourselves in the lives and circumstances of others. This is the bridge across our nation’s deepest divisions. And it is not merely a matter of tolerance, but of learning from the struggles and stories of our fellow citizens, and finding our better selves in the process.”

"At our best, we honor the image of God we see in one another. We recognize that we are brothers and sisters, sharing the same brief moment on earth, and owing each other the loyalty of our shared humanity."

Then, President Barack H. Obama stood at the podium and said, “In the end, it's not about finding policies that work; it’s about forging consensus, and fighting cynicism, and finding the will to make change.”

"Can we do this? Can we find the character, as Americans, to open our hearts to each other?  Can we see in each other a common humanity and a shared dignity, and recognize how our different experiences have shaped us?  And it doesn’t make anybody perfectly good or perfectly bad, it just makes us human.  I don’t know.  I confess that sometimes I, too, experience doubt.  I've been to too many of these things.  I've seen too many families go through this.  But then I am reminded of what the Lord tells Ezekiel: ‘I will give you a new heart,’ the Lord says, ‘and put a new spirit in you.  I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’”

Hearing these speeches, I am reminded of the words of Jesus to us, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

There is hope when we practice empathy; when we see the image of God in one another; when we recognize that we are all brothers and sisters sharing the same brief moment on earth. There is hope when we find the character, as Christians, to open our hearts to each other.


Can we do this? Can we be a beacon of hope in Waukesha? Can we engage in holy conversations that transcend human division? Can we be who we are, as a congregation, as followers of Christ, bridge builders of God’s Beloved Community?

I hope so.


July 2016 "Trumpet" Newsletter

Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

I am so happy to finally have my family under one roof at our new home in Waukesha. One of the blessings with this house is the wonderful garden on the property. There are all sorts of flowers: two different lilacs, lavender along the entry walk, daffodils, roses, hydrangeas and potted geraniums along with two majestic crimson maple trees. We have at least four species of lilies, one that I’m told will grow to seven feet tall! The variety of plant life is complimented by the wildlife. There are chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and a variety of birds. Each of these are reminders of God’s love of diversity. We are blessed.

And yet, it’s not quite paradise. All of those plants need tending. If I don’t want to actually live on a prairie, the lawn needs to be mowed and the beds need to be weeded. Mary tells me she uprooted 80 thistles the first day she was out weeding, and another 30 since. There’s a forsythia bush that’s significantly overgrown. In fact, it’s oppressing some of the lilies. I’ll be out there pruning it.  No complaint. Gardens need to be tended. That’s a task God gave us to do, Genesis 1:28, 2:15.

The society around us is much like our gardens. There is a variety of people: White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native-American, taller or shorter, brown, blue, green or hazel eyed, gay, straight, bisexual, and transgendered.  Each with their own life experiences; each differently abled. Each with their own social, economic, political and theological perspectives. Each a unique creation. Each a child of God.  All of us are reminders of God’s love of diversity. We are blessed.

And yet, it’s not quite paradise. The senseless violence which occurred during the early morning hours of June 12th at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, where 49 were slaughtered and 53 others injured simply for being gay, is just the latest incident. In the week that followed we remembered the Charleston 9 who were killed a year ago during a bible study at their church, simply for being black.

We’ve draped the cross in the sanctuary with a multi-colored cloth in remembrance of the Orlando 49 and all those who have been killed, or in some way negated, simply for being who they are. We’ve offered our thoughts, hopes, hugs and prayers for all those affected by senseless acts of violence. What now? Is there something more we can do?

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “The world suffers a lot. Not because the violence of bad people. But because of the silence of the good people.” It’s time to speak up. It’s time to begin a conversation about what it means to be open to and affirming of persons regardless of race, class, abilities, sexual orientation or gender identity. Why? Because Sunday morning is still the most segregated time of the week. Because children are being bullied in playgrounds. Because teens are being kicked out of their homes and others are committing suicide. And, yes, because people are being killed simply for being gay. Our silence makes us complicit in these acts.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he consistently transcended social barriers teaching us to live with and love one another. As followers of Christ, our job is to see Christ in the faces of the lost and lonely, the “least of these,” to build God’s beloved community on earth as it is in heaven. As a congregation, our mission is “to foster the spiritual growth of a community of devoted followers of Christ.” Are you willing to grow toward fuller inclusion of all God’s people? Are you willing to open yourself to “other?”

That’s a task Jesus gave us to do, Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27, John 13:33-35, Acts 1:8, so that one day we might be gathered with “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” singing our eternal praise to God. (Revelation 7: 9-12)

Will you join the conversation?

Now, to trim that forsythia & make room for resurrection . . .



June 2016 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

Showers of blessing! Someone asked if it was cold having that bucket of ice and water poured over me. I said, “No, it chills the body but not the soul.” My heart was overflowing with warmth. I was warmed by all those who took up my challenge to fill every seat in the sanctuary for worship. There were 178 persons with us in worship. Some of whom, were those you invited. More than anything, that warmed my heart. It said to me that extending God’s extravagant welcome and sharing this congregation is important to you. We didn’t fill every seat, but we did set a record for a “regular” Sunday. That was more than worth a temporary chill.

Upon seeing one of the photos taken of me getting doused with ice water, someone commented that it reminded him of the stained glass window of Jesus’ baptism in the sanctuary. If this photo reminds you of Jesus, thanks be to God.

After a quick change, I was in the Fellowship with everyone else, sipping some warm coffee, while Erik Olson was making a presentation about some stained glass windows of a different kind.  For centuries, the church has used stained glass to tell the story of the Gospel. It’s no different in our sanctuary. Over time, however, technology has changed. No longer do stained glass windows have to be static. They can be full of bright color and able to change with the click of a mouse. I am talking about electronic video displays (or TV screens). Our current screens aren’t working and we have the opportunity to upgrade to a system that will function immensely better while being physically smaller and less obtrusive.

Why do this? Let me quote an older gentleman who provided funds for his 150-year-old sanctuary in Minnesota to purchase video screens, “I want my grandkids to come back to church, and every time I see them their face is buried in a screen of some sort. When I was a kid my face was buried in a book. The world has changed, and the church needs to change with it.” If we are serious about welcoming others we need to find ways to communicate with them in the way they need to hear/see/learn/feel the Gospel.[1]

I commend the Church Council for their leadership on this endeavor. Yes, it will cost a lot of money. Total expenses for this project will come in somewhere just shy of $40,000. The Council, and I, think it’s an investment worth making. I hope that you will support this effort with your vote on June 5th and with whatever financial support you can provide. Gifts have already come in. Will you add your support?

If you’re feeling a bit of sticker shock right now, you are not alone. Know this, it only feels cold for a little while. Sharing the Gospel, extending God’s extravagant welcome will warm you from the inside out. Others just might look at your action and be reminded of Jesus. Let the showers of blessing come. Thanks be to God!


[1] Piazza, Michael, Vital Vintage Church: How Traditional Congregations Thrive, Copyright © 2016 Michael S. Piazza, p. 41.



May 2016 "Trumpet" Newsletter

Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

The Cleveland Plain Dealer had an ad campaign, “When you miss a day, you miss a lot.” Well, that is certainly true of Evangelical and Reformed United Church of Christ. It seems there is something going on seven days a week. This past Sunday was no exception. Still giddy from the laughter of Comedy Sportz the evening before, at the Women’s Fellowship “First Annual” Spring Fling, we had nearly a full house for worship. With Rueck at the organ and Tony and Aly providing special music the stage was set. The preaching, singing and praying were all heartfelt. The highlight, for me, was the joy of welcoming five new members into our congregation, Heather & Mark Bartolotta, Kerri Bender and Allen & Sue Buyatt.  Let me tell you a bit about why I am so excited they’re here.

Heather & Mark Bartolotta are the parents of Charlie who was baptized here right after they joined the church. They both enjoy the great outdoors including fishing, 4 wheeling and motorcycle riding. Heather and Mark look forward to participating in church activities and working in the community.

Kerri Bender enjoys sewing, beading and reading. She hopes to participate in church activities that will give her an opportunity to give to others what God has given to her.

Al & Sue Buyatt both enjoy bowling and playing all kinds of card games. They have a fifth wheel and love camping, and they love riding their Harley. (Anybody up for an after worship group ride?) Al & Sue love dogs, including their Golden Retriever, Lucy. They would love to continue to strive to bring more young people into church.

Such great people! If you haven’t met them yet, join us for worship this Sunday and introduce yourself.

The Holy Spirit is alive and active at 413 Wisconsin Ave and beyond! Come, be a part of all God is doing in and through the Evangelical and Reformed United Church of Christ.

P.S. The Renewal of Marriage Vows, scheduled for June 12, has been rescheduled for June 19.



April 2016 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

Alleluia! Christ is risen! This is the good news we hear at Easter and we respond, “Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!” Why am I writing about Easter when we celebrated that in March? Because, like Christmas, Easter is more than a day – it’s a season. Throughout the ages, the Christian church has set aside 50 days to celebrate this feast. In fact, every Sunday is a “little Easter,” a reminder of the good news of resurrection for our everyday lives. I believe that Easter is something more than an historic event, an annual remembrance, a season or a weekly reminder. I believe Easter is a way of life.


For me, this way of life began on that first Easter. The Gospel of John tells us that “early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed.” When she saw that the stone from Jesus’ tomb had been rolled away and Jesus’ body was not there, she went to tell Peter and another disciple. After the disciples checked it out, they went home.  Mary remained. As she sat there weeping, she encountered the resurrected Christ and went to tell the others, “I have seen the Lord.”

Mary was the first to share the good news of Easter. This is the Easter way of life: God does something good, we tell others. This brings us to the “E” word. No, not Easter but, rather, Evangelism. I realize this word may leave a bad taste in your mouth, hence the “E” word. Some of you have been driven to go door to door attempting to share your faith with total strangers, only to have the door shut in your face. Others have been harangued by well-meaning Christians who are convinced we are going to hell and want to get us saved. Still, sharing the good news is at the heart of Christianity. If only we could find ways to be “salt” without rubbing it in and “light” without blinding people.

Evangelism is proclaiming, in word and deed, the good news of Jesus Christ and inviting people into faith in Christ, into fellowship with the church and to live as disciples in the world. Everything we say and do is a testament to our faith. In the same way our failure to speak out and hide behind our actions, hides the light of Christ under a bushel basket. Let your light shine.

The best way to share the good news we have experienced is through our relationships with people closest to us, our family, friends and even casual acquaintances. Yesterday afternoon, during a lull between lunch and dinner I was talking with the chef/owner of a favorite restaurant. At the table was the dishwasher. It turns out he’s a student studying Eastern spirituality. After the chef went back to the kitchen, we continued to talk. We each shared our perspectives of God and we explored our common ground. I invited him to worship.

Social Media is another way you can share the good news and extend the invitation. When you’re in the building, check in on your favorite social media. Do you know the church has a Facebook page? If you’re on Facebook, stop by and “like” the page. A number of you are liking our posts, and some of you are sharing them. Sharing posts lets your friends know that you are interested in E & R church. It helps to share the good news. You can also write a review of the church on the page. Do you tweet? Why not tweet a sound bite from a sermon, or song in worship? Or share it as your Facebook status? Our web presence is growing, let’s keep it up!

Mary’s proclamation was the first ripple in a wave that reaches to us today. Through our words and deeds, it extends to countless generations to come. Be a part of the movement, Share the good news. Alleluia, Christ is risen!

P.S. Here are a few upcoming events to which you can invite others to accompany you.

Spring Fling on April 23, 5-8 pm. There’s plenty more about this first-time event. I encourage you to attend and bring people with you. I guarantee you and your guests will laugh and have a great time or your money back! Okay, it’s free, come anyway. Can’t join the pot-luck? No worries, arrive for the performance at 7!

Super Bowl Challenge on May 22 at 9 am. You know what happens when a team wins the Super Bowl, the coach gets doused with a bucket of Gatorade. Well, fill every seat in the sanctuary for worship and I’ll take a bucket over my head. If each one brings one or two, we can fill that space. Wear your team colors! Come on down!

Marriage Vow Renewal on June 12 at 9 am. Marriage is a sacred covenant between to spouses and God. During worship we will celebrate that covenant by inviting all married couples to stand and renew their vows to one another. Don’t wait for 25 or 50 years. No matter how long you’ve been married. Bring your spouse, bring extended family and friends to witness the celebration of your love and commitment.  


March 2016 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor


Ten years ago this month, Mary and I were in Siberia; Chita, Russia to be exact. We were there to complete the adoption of our son, Daniel. This was our second trip in about five weeks. It wasn’t easy. We had to leave Sarah, five years old at the time, and fly just a bit beyond half way around the world. (Yes, it would have been shorter to fly the other way around, but flights were easier through Europe to Moscow and then on to Chita.) The weather was cold, -30 F, and the buildings were all overheated.

It wasn’t all bad. We shared a lovely apartment with two other couples who were also adopting. We had a friendly guide/translator, Katia, and a chauffeur, Nicolai, who, no matter where we were going, always seemed to find a parking spot right in front of the door. None of this was as important as the reason we were there.

After an overnight flight, we were taken directly to the Chita Children’s Home. When we arrived, we headed directly to the parlor where we would visit with Daniel. He and his caregiver were already there. Before we had our coats off, Daniel had run towards us and Mary picked him up and we shared a group hug. I’m not ashamed to say my eyes were more than a little moist. It wasn’t official yet, but we were already family.

The next morning, we went to court to finalize the adoption. Present there was also a representative from the Russian Department of Education, that oversees international adoption, and a Social

Worker who had observed our interaction with Daniel at the Children’s Home. Most importantly, we were all there to stand before the judge who would decide our fate. There on the desk in front of her were the sixty documents that I had typed, in triplicate, all originals with no corrections, taken to have notarized, to the county court to be certified and then to the Ohio Secretary of State to be Apostilled.  The judge examined each and every one of those documents. She asked questions of the Department of Education and the Social Worker and then she questioned us. She asked about our jobs, home life, Sarah, and our hopes for Daniel. She even asked if I wanted Daniel to follow me into the ministry. Then she stepped out and we had to wait.

It felt like the longest five minutes in history. Everything seemed to go well, but the judge could still deny our petition. Then she returned. We all stood. The judge said, “Yes!” What joy filled our hearts. It was as if those words had come directly from God. In a short time, Daniel would be back in our arms and part of our forever family.

As I ponder those events in the midst of Lent, with Easter fast approaching, I am reminded of Paul’s letter to the Romans: “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’” (Romans 8:15 The Message).

Life is an adventure to be lived with God and one another. God brings us together in all sorts of ways. It may not always be easy, but God calls us forward. This Lent, I challenge you to remember a time in your life when you sensed God particularly close. Celebrate the presence of God, share your memory with somebody. Then at Easter, greet God with a childlike, “What’s next, Papa?” 


February 2016 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor


When the Cottage Meetings began, I promised a summary report here in The Trumpet. Well, the time has finally come for that report. What follows is a brief summary of the most common answers to each of the questions we discussed. If you were not part of one of the Cottage Meetings, I invite you to read the questions, in bold, and then pause before reading on to consider your own answer to the question.

Reflect on your entire time at E & R Church. Tell me about a time when you felt most alive, most motivated and excited about your involvement.

People shared stories about coming to the church from diverse religious traditions and life experiences and the welcoming acceptance they received when they arrived.  There were countless stories that included aspects of worship. Most of those answers included involvement in some aspect of music, especially singing in a choir or being part of a praise band and those who appreciated their music. There were also stories of baptisms, weddings and funerals. Overall, the most common response to this question had something to do with Sunday school, Bible study, confirmation class, youth group or a mission trip, whether as a child, youth or adult.

What are the most important things our church has contributed to your life?

Here people spoke about the sense of community at the church, that we were more like an extended family. They also shared about the opportunities they had to offer their talents and abilities to engage in service or mission. I heard about experiences of teaching Sunday school, singing in a choir or performing in a praise band. I also heard about caring for homebound members or friends and opportunities like Loaves and Fishes.

What are the most valuable ways you contribute to our church?

Many of these answers were mirror answers to the previous question. I heard from teachers, musicians, as well as those who volunteer at the Food Pantry, Loaves and Fishes, and caregivers. I also heard from cooks and bakers, those who enjoy committee work and those who make others feel welcome.  I also heard from those who enjoy giving financially to the church, those who organize events like Women’s Retreat and Community Christmas, along with those who can do little more than take a seat at worship on Sunday.

When have you known the most significant spiritual growth for yourself and/or for the church?

At one point or another, there would be mention of Dec. 4, 2005, the fire. It was most often mentioned here, as a time that helped the membership to look past their individual wants to work with others for the common good. We also spoke about Christian Education participation as well as times of personal health crisis and the care provided by the congregation.

What are the essential, central characteristics or ways of life that make our church unique?

I was told that visitors comment that they felt welcome, that E & R is a place where there is deliberate inclusion of and accommodation for children with special needs. We are a church with a history and a new building with opportunities for future ministry.

Make three wishes for the future of the church. Describe what the church would look like as these wishes come true. 

Every group spoke about a desire for more youth and young adults. I heard a desire for greater diversity, that is ethnic diversity and music diversity (want to hear choir more, more of Ali & Tony). People would like to have Sunday worship recorded (CD and/or DVD) and possibly live streamed on the web. There was also a desire to see a rotation of people in leadership.

When I asked this question to a group that was comprised totally of youth, they had these to add: More accepting of new ideas – more open to change, more opportunities for people to come to the second floor and see all that goes on there, to decorate the main level with more joyful colors, different worship start times, additional worship opportunities, perhaps Saturday night, to get people more involved and more current music.

Well, there you have it. I hope that the conversation will continue as we work together to “foster the spiritual growth of a community of devoted followers of Christ.”


January 2016 "Trumpet" Newsletter

Bob Gross, Senior Pastor


As I sit to compose this column, it’s the fourth day of Christmas. In the spirit of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and those “four calling birds,” I offer four songs I’d like those birds to sing. The first would be a song of thanksgiving. A pastor’s first year with a congregation is filled with “firsts,” not the least of which is “first Christmas Eve worship.”  It’s a time filled with tradition and sometimes competing expectations. It’s not easy to get everything just right. I am thankful for a fabulous staff, both professional and volunteer that contributed to two wonder-filled Christmas Eve worship experiences.

At Christmas Eve worship we heard again the story of the birth of the Christ child as a prequel for our lives. The second song I’d like those calling birds to sing would be one that continually invites us to open ourselves more fully to the story and, more significantly, open ourselves to Christ. I pray that the lives we live might flow from that first birth so that we follow Christ with ever-increasing devotion.

At Christmas we gather with family and friends. We often share gifts and a meal. Mostly, we share love expressed by our presence more than our presents. The busy-ness of our daily lives sometimes distracts us and causes us to forget the importance of others. The third song I’d like those calling birds to sing is one that reminds us of the love that binds us together.

Christmas, even without the gently falling snow, is a time of wonder and joy. As we move from Christmas to the season of Epiphany, I would like those calling birds to sing a fourth song that like a star in the sky leads us beyond the familiar to Christ in unexpected people and places.

These four songs are my gift to you on this fourth day of Christmas. Let’s sing them together

P.S. Bible Study is moving to Thursdays! Beginning on January 14th, I will be leading Bible Study at 1:30pm and 7pm. I am excited about a new series titled, “An Odd Couple, Jonah and Ruth: Lessons for our Fractured World.” We will spend four weeks with Jonah, take a week off and then begin five weeks with Ruth. Come at 1:30 or 7, we’ll cover the same material at both sessions. Come for Jonah, Ruth or both. Here is a brief summary of the focus for each book.

JONAH - The book of Jonah uses the character of an outrageous excuse of a prophet to show the leaders and people of Judah just how foolish they looked with their insistence on isolationism and the exclusion of "the other." It asks the question, "If God loves the outsider, shouldn't we?"

RUTH - The book of Ruth is an idealized story of what life would look like if God's people treated each other with His loving-kindness—insiders and outsiders alike. A key understanding in Ruth is that God uses these acts of the loving-kindness of people to demonstrate that which God gives to all, whether they realize it or not.   

Come, study, grow with us as a community of Christ’s followers.



December 2015 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor


I had the pleasure of participating in a Prayer Walk around downtown Waukesha with members of the church’s Vitality Team. The purpose of a Prayer Walk is to open our eyes, ears and hearts to what it is God is saying to us through our community. This is important because when faced with the opportunity to move elsewhere, E & R Church decided to remain downtown. We believe that is where God has placed us and called us to do the work of God.

Even so, there is a disconnect between the congregation and the surrounding community. Very few of us live within walking distance of the church building. Most of us drive ten or more minutes to the church. We drive in, either park in the lot or on the street near the church, go inside and then come out to return to our cars and travel home.

t was the day before the Christmas Parade, so we decided to walk some of the parade route. We walked west on Wisconsin and then turned onto Main St. We walked east to Barstow St., turned north to Wisconsin, and then west to the church. While the streets were very familiar to me. I normally walk to Main St. for lunch and sometimes dinner. Yet, with an attitude of prayer, I saw them differently.

Passing the Veterans Memorial, I thought about wars and rumors of wars. I offered a prayer of thanksgiving for all who have served and then I prayed for the healing of their scars on their bodies and on their spirits. I prayed that the services they need might be provided to them.  I prayed for an end to war. Turning the corner, I saw a low income, perhaps single room occupancy building across the street from brand new loft apartments. I prayed for the widening gulf between the “haves” and the “have nots” in our nation. I prayed for Planned Parenthood and walked past the shops, including those favorite lunch spots, and still empty storefronts. As I prayed, I was reminded of the importance of supporting the local economy. Perhaps I can find some Christmas gifts on Main St. Perhaps you can too. I prayed for the phone company, the watch repair shop and the Social Security office. I prayed that the presence of Christ, through the reach of our congregation might be felt within that little circle we walked.

I invite you to take a prayer walk as well. It doesn’t have to be a cold Saturday in the snow. It could happen wherever you happen to be, as you go from work to the grocery store, from school to the piano lesson or from the Bridge game to the bank or post office. If necessary, you don’t even have to leave your house. As you go, think about the places you visit regularly and the people you interact with. Remember their stories, the situations they find themselves in, and offer a prayer on their behalf.

This month, I will continue to pray for that patch of downtown we walked. I will also be praying for each of you and the Prayer Walks you will take. I will be praying that God will show you people and situations to pray for. I will pray that God will show you ways you can engage those you meet. And I will pray that the presence of Christ might be experienced in your circle.

In the end, that’s what Christmas is all about. Yes, it’s about the baby Jesus. In Jesus, God left the security of heaven to walk among us, to invite us into relationship with God and one another so that the love of God might be known in and through our lives. Amen. May it be so.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. In the spirit of invitation, I encourage all of you to participate in our weekly exploration of the Bible. I am excited to introduce a two-part study called An Odd Couple, Jonah and Ruth: Lessons for Our Fractured World.  We’ll begin with Jonah on January 12th and then Ruth on February 16th. Watch the bulletin and Beyond Sundays for more details.



November 2015 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

There’s a sentence I heard twice this past weekend. It was uttered by two different people in two different settings, miles apart. I don’t know whether either speaker have ever met, yet I heard them both speaking the same sentence within 24 hours of each other. I tend to think of such occurrences as more than serendipity. I consider them as, possibly, God trying to get a message to me. What was that potential word from God uttered in a single sentence?  “It’s not 1955 anymore.”

In 1955 the “Field of Dreams” mantra was true of the church, “Build it and they will come.” In 1955, the church and the wider US culture were one. On Sunday mornings Christians went to church. (We like to believe that everyone went to church, but the truth is that – even in 1955 – not everyone was Christian and not every Christian was in church on Sunday morning.) It is true, however, that on Sunday mornings there were no youth sports activities, stores were closed and the only alcohol you could find was in a Communion cup. This was because Christians dominated the boards that controlled these schedules and they made sure that nothing conflicted with their going to church.

In the 60 years since, the culture has drifted further and further from the church. There are several tensions that contributed to this separation: the war in Vietnam and the opposition to it, the struggle for equal rights of Blacks and other people of color, the sexual revolution and the equal rights of women, ongoing global conflicts and the US’s participation (or lack of participation) in them and the civil rights of persons with other than heteronormative         sexual identities and orientations.

In the meantime, Christians – in diminishing numbers – have continued to go to church. The end result of this separation is that something like 80% of all Americans under the age of 30 have never set foot in a church building. They may say that they are too busy, but the truth is that they simply do not perceive the church as having any relevance to their lives. 

I see this as good news. This means that the world around us is much more like the world of first century Palestine. The church is in a place not so different from when the church was born. We read in the book of Acts how the disciples gathered people together to share their faith and daily people were added to their number. It’s not first century Palestine today any more than its still 1955, but there is something we can learn from the early church. When we share our faith, in word and deed, the church grows. In fact, surveys have shown that if asked 80% of those “unchurched” would attend worship.

Friends, it’s time to stop just going to church. It’s time to start being the church. Many of you have told me how much you appreciate worship. As you thanked me, you used words like “meaningful” and “powerful.” I know that I am one part of a dynamic team on Sunday morning. On behalf of the entire team, I thank you. Hearing your responses encourages all of us, musicians, liturgists, techies, greeters, deacons, hosts, support and custodial staff.

Here’s the challenge: If you were touched by something in worship, there is someone in your life that needs to hear that message. Share it. Pray that God will reveal the person who needs to hear a word from you. Then listen and observe the people around you. Perhaps you will see someone going through a rough time and you can ask them about it, listen to their story. If it seems right, you may be able to share with them about a time you were going through some difficulty and you found some hope or peace or direction through our time in worship. Then, invite them to come to church. Offer to pick them up and then take them to lunch afterword.  Your relationship is not dependent on their experience in worship.

This isn’t a project to get people into church. It’s about being the church in the world. It just may be that as we grow spiritually and live our discipleship in the world, that like the early church, a byproduct may be the increased vitality of the congregation and perhaps a reverse in the decline since 1955




October 2015 "Trumpet" Newsletter

Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

Evangelical and Reformed United Church of Christ is a vital community of faith that loves God and is working to make a difference in the world. It’s great to be here. I remain eternally grateful for the work of the Search Committee and the affirmation of the congregation extending a call to me. I am enjoying getting to know each one of you.  I’ve had conversations with several of you in my office, before and after worship and at committee meetings. I’ve also had the delicious pleasure of meeting some of you off campus, whether bumping into you at Friday Night Live, or sharing coffee or a meal at a restaurant or your home. Keep the invites coming!


Cottage Meetings . . .

A significant part of my task, during our first months together, is to help you explore where we go from here.  To that end, I’m working with Sue Manzke and Gary Giese to organize a series of cottage meetings with groups of 8-10 of you at a time. Our agenda will be simple, we will share some informal “getting to know you” time, and then I will lead a more structured time where I will ask a few questions to guide our conversation. I will be asking the same questions at each cottage meeting so that I can look for trends in the responses. When we’ve completed all of the cottage meetings, I will provide a report of what I’ve learned to the council and share a summary here.

My hope is for every member of the congregation to participate, especially those in or near Waukesha County. A congregation is only as strong as every participating member. So, here’s a challenge. Would you be willing to attend a cottage meeting? Further, would you be willing to host such a gathering in your home? How about hosting, Dutch treat, in the private room of a coffee house, restaurant or pub? 

Do you have friends in the congregation with whom you regularly visit? Bring them together for a cottage meeting. Would you like to get to know new people? Sign up to attend a meeting or offer to host and we will help pull together groups for cottage meetings. These gatherings are “one-time” events. Of course, you may find that you like each other so much that you’ll want to get together again. If you have any questions, or concerns, Sue, Gary and I are happy to chat with you about it. More importantly, if you’d be willing to host a cottage meeting, or are interested in attending one, sign up after worship on Sunday or give us or Brigette a call to schedule your gathering.

I look forward to chatting with you as, together, we explore the congregation’s next steps.

On the journey,

Bob



September 2015 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

Dear Members and Friends of E & R Church,

While in high school our Boy Scout troop formed a bowling league comprised of members of the troop. One year, the team I was on earned first place. The trophy sits on my dresser to this day.


Our teams were intentionally random so that we were not competing in our usual patrols. We noticed that several of the other teams had members that were looking for personal gain. They wanted the patches for “High Game,” “High Series” and such. Our team took a different approach. We decided to support each other and simply bowl our best. That’s the year we earned first place. I’ve kept that trophy because it reminds me of the value of teamwork.


I am energized and humbled that God has called me to serve as your Senior Pastor. I look forward to getting to know and working with each of you. To help make that happen, I want to issue a few invitations:


o   I invite you to worship. Through worship we learn, grow and are formed into community. I’ll be leading worship       beginning on September 6th.

o   I invite you to make an appointment to stop by the church for a chat, or meet me at the Steaming Cup for coffee and conversation. I welcome invitations to come to your home, or workplace, as well.

o   I invite you to pray for me, as I have been praying for you.

This is an exhilarating time for the Evangelical and Reformed United Church of Christ. I believe that through our shared ministry, God will be at work deepening our faith, broadening our vision and expanding our service in Waukesha, the State of Wisconsin and beyond.


It’s not my goal to earn any first place trophies. I’d rather build a team and give the glory to God. As, together, we foster the spiritual growth of a community of devoted followers of Christ we will contribute toward building God’s beloved community.


On the journey,

Rev. Dr. Bob Gross


August 2015 "Trumpet" Newsletter

A word from Tom . . .

Summer reigns and the living is easy or something like that. It is the time when flowers are in bloom, vegetable gardens offer up their abundance – it is truly a glorious season so let me offer some “preacherly” advice – celebrate and enjoy it but also seek to assure that we do so in a “faith-filled” manner. We respond to God’s call to celebrate all creation recognizing that we are also called to “subdue” it.

Now that sounds pretty scary if we think of subduing as somehow or other simply bending something to our will. And it often seems when one considers how we’ve treated the earth that this is exactly what has been done and done in a manner which makes no provision for those who come after us. Global warming is a reality which effects all of us. If we are truly stewards of the earth, of all creation, then we need consider how we can “steward” it in a manner which reflects God’s call to do justice. Environmental steward ship is a reflection of our faith and a witness to our belief that this is God’s creation. To allow its degradation or misuse is to ignore that call. 

I’ve invested in a rain barrel to water our vegetables and flowers.  In part because of the above but, just between you and me, in part because it saves us money on our water bill. Rain water is free. Water from the faucet costs money and believe it or not is limited. It does take a bit more effort the haul the water but it makes me feel a bit more responsible as well as knowing it isn’t costing me any money. Water from the faucet also has been sanitized for drinking.

God calls us to care for as well as enjoy the earth. May we respond to that call with joy, hope, creativity, and energy.

See you in church or sometime soon I hope. 


July 2015 "Trumpet" Newsletter


A word from Tom . . .


I am excited and humbled to be your Interim minister. As we move ahead doing ministry together, I want to keep in mind the “Five tasks of Interim Ministry”. They are: Coming to Terms with History, Discovering a New Identity, Managing Shifts of Leadership, Rethinking Denominational Linkages, and Commitment to New Leadership and a New Future. I hope you will join me in recognizing these tasks as ones in which we participate together.  

The E and R UCC has a wonderful and proud history and your traditions are ones which have enabled this congregation to prosper and grow as well as reach out to and effect the community beyond the walls of the church building. However, as with any institution, we need consider those traditions that our life as a congregation can continue to be relevant and impactful for both members and the larger community.

God calls us, speaks to us in the moment and, though we interpret that presence in terms of our history, we should not be limited by that history.  Traditions are a foundation but not an anchor.  They provide us with a place to stand but also a place upon which to build a new vision, new understandings of what it means to be God’s people today and tomorrow. As we move into our future together, we should be open to the changes called for as well as the preservation necessary that we might truly continue to be known as people seeking to respond to God’s presence.

I look forward to doing ministry with you and continuing the work and ministry of this congregation even as we embrace the novelty and new ways of living out God’s presence to which we will be called. See you in church or sometime soon I hope.




June 2015 "Trumpet" Newsletter 

Getting to know Thomas L. Williams

A brief biography . . .

I was born not in a stable nor a log cabin but a small town in Kansas, sort of the Lake Woebegone of the Sunflower State - Marysville. My faith journey was never to Damascus but always in a community of believers as I was raised in the Presbyterian tradition and privileged to learn among and from farmers, teachers, bankers, mail carriers, and housewives what it meant to believe and to be Presbyterian. With a slight but very impactful detour to Vietnam where I sojourned as a light weapons infantryman, I followed the “normal path” of the small town child, graduating from high school, attending and graduating from Washburn University in Topeka Kansas. From there, I headed southeast attending and graduating from the denomination’s most progressive and best seminary in Louisville where I won the prestigious award for community involvement (that means they were glad I finally got out of there and they wouldn’t have to listen to me again – it should have gone to the faculty for their patience).

I was ordained in 1976 as the Executive Director of South Louisville Community Ministries by the Presbytery of Louisville (a union Presbytery so you can blame both denominations). I have spent most of my “career” doing tent-making ministries in Milwaukee serving small congregations as a part-timer while working full time for various other businesses. I have served as the Interim Minister at Sun Valley Presbyterian Church in Beloit, First Presbyterian Church in Fond du Lac, Covenant Presbyterian Church in Madison, North Shore Presbyterian Church in Shorewood, St. John’s United Churches of Christ in Slinger and Hartford, all in Wisconsin, Trinity Presbyterian in University City, Missouri, and Oswego Presbyterian Church in Oswego, Illinois.

On the personal side, I am married to Jennifer who is the Circulation Supervisor for the Whitefish Bay Public Library (a northern suburb of Milwaukee). While two of our children have moved away going as far east or west as possible (one in NYC designing clothing for Macy’s and one in Aberdeen, Washington restoring salmon habitat for the Quinault Indian Tribe) our youngest after completing two masters degrees at Badger U (the University of Wisconsin-Madison) went only to the eastern mountains of California to work near Yosemite National Park – sometimes we wonder what we did wrong . . . or did we get it right? And of course, there’s Duchess the cat, who is truly queen of all she surveys, as she continues to allow us to live with her but for how long is anyone’s guess

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