URBAN VILLAGE BLOG

UVC Podcast

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03 Mar 2014
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Podcasts, Sermons

Sermons from all 4 sites are uploaded weekly to the podcast. For scripture references, sermon descriptions, and site information you can listen on Podbean or subscribe on iTunes.

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#UVThanks 2017

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15 Nov 2017
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Evangelism

Instead of rushing to Christmas or that favorite Thanksgiving dish, we want to pause for a bit and really focus on thankfulness. Before Giving Tuesday, Black Friday, or Cyber Monday, we want to place some emphasis on Thankful Thursday. Tomorrow, we’ll have photo stations across the city sharing what they’re thankful for. Follow along and participate using the #UVThanks tag! Read below for a list of station locations and times.

Morning

  • Daley Plaza(8:00-9:00 am)
  • Division Blue Line Station (8:00-9:00 am)
  • Bryn Mawr Red Line Station (7:45-8:45 am)
  • Garfield Red Line Station (8:30-10:00 am)

 

Afternoon

  • University of Chicago campus (12:00-1:30 pm)

 

Evening

  • Roosevelt Station (5:00-6:00 pm)
  • Logan Square Blue Line Station (5:30-6:30 pm)
  • Berwyn Red Line Station (5:30-6:30 pm)
  • Harper Court (53rd & Lake Park) (5:30-6:30 pm)

 

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JOB OPPORTUNITY – Co-Worship Leaders at Edgewater

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06 Nov 2017
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Uncategorized

Urban Village Church: Edgewater, a bold, inclusive, relevant congregation on the Northside of Chicago is looking for two Co-worship Leaders (10 hours) or one Worship Leader (20 hours) to facilitate and energetically lead praise and worship during the Sunday service. An ideal Leader will incorporate a variety of elements and styles that focus on welcoming and inspiring the church community to create Jesus-loving inclusive communities that ignite the city.

Reports to: Site Pastor

Status: Part-time, 8-12 hours/week

Essential Functions

  • Communicate with pastor(s) on theme/sermon content for the week to create a well planned and prayerful worship service, choosing songs to complete “set-list” that would feed people most effectively and respond to God’s word and presence.
  • Recruit/audition new band members, make frequent invitations to serve; increase size and diversity (gender, racial/ethnic) of the band
  • Coordinate and oversee rehearsal with band members; ensure band members are adequately prepared for worship (e.g. distribute music in advance)
  • Make sure all music is properly loaded into ProPresenter; check-in with Stage Manager about order, etc., before worship
  • Lead music during the service, including opening, offering, communion, and closing songs
  • Work with Stage Manager to monitor set-up, tear-down, and maintenance of musical instruments and A/V equipment.


Other Responsibilities

  • Participation in Site Staff meetings and meetings with Site Pastor(s)
  • Connecting, being available for meeting or answering questions/taking suggestions of lay people
  • Arranging, writing, transcribing recordings/writing out chord charts as necessary


Minimum Qualifications

  • Formal or informal musical training (can range from self-taught, to private lessons, to college degree with a music background)
  • At least 1 year prior experience leading worship in a congregational setting preferred
  • Ability to lead songs vocally and instrumentally if needed
  • Knowledge of a wide range of Christian/spiritual songs that are relevant for a church context
  • Experience training and organizing musicians
  • Comfort speaking and performing publicly with a commitment of seeking to grow in that area
  • The ability to create quarterly/yearly goals and vision for the music team


Physical Requirements

Often must lift boxes, music materials and sound equipment weighing up to 50 lbs.

Core Competencies

  • Detail-oriented Passionate/Inspirational
  • Entrepreneurial Developing a team
  • Process management
  • Developing relationships

 

Interested candidates should submit a cover letter and resume to our Director of Operations at [email protected] The application deadline is Friday, December 1st, 2017 at 5:00 pm.

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JOB OPPORTUNITY – Children’s Ministry Coordinator (Edgewater)

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20 Jul 2017
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Job Opportunity

A Children’s Ministry Coordinator is a paid, part-time position (~10-15 hours per week) serving as a member of the Children’s Coordination Team, which is responsible for implementing the goals set by the Discipleship Strategy Team. Children’s Coordinators contribute to the creation of an inclusive and engaging discipleship experience for the entire family by overseeing the children’s church and events of the weekly worship service at their site. This role is located at our Edgewater location.

WHAT YOU DO:

  • Receive 1:1 discipling, coaching, and support at least 3x per year from the Children’s Coach
  • Organize, recruit, and train teams, leaders, and/or volunteers in whatever manner is appropriate for your worship site’s context to conduct the weekly tasks of the Children’s Ministry. These include:
    • Teaching and Child Care – Providing weekly teaching curriculum that is age-appropriate for the context of your worship site and child care for children under 5 years-old
    • Events / Special Worship Services – Planning various children’s events both within and outside of the weekly adult worship service
    • Family Gatherings – Planning gathering for the entire family to participate (e.g. monthly brunches, holiday get-togethers, etc.)
  • Organize and facilitate team meetings for the leaders and/or volunteers who support the Children’s ministry to check in, share ideas, solve problems, build team camaraderie, etc.
    • The cadence and length of these meetings is up to your discretion. Consult with your Children’s Coach for guidance.
    • Recommendation: Quarterly or bi-monthly meetings (occasionally include brunch or other fun team activity as part of these meetings).
  • Disciple, coach, and support folks whom you organize to support Children’s Coordination tasks via 1:1 meetings
    • You may meet with whomever you’d like at whatever cadence is appropriate for your ministry’s context. Consult with your Children’s Coach for guidance.
    • Refer to “Urban Village Church Coaching Guidelines” document for details
  • Attend bi-weekly Site Staff check-in meetings led by the Site Pastor
  • Participate in Children’s Coordination Team meetings 3x per year. Meeting purpose:
    • Develop and stay accountable to a plan for implementing annual Discipleship goals developed by the Discipleship Strategy Team
    • Share best practices and resolve issues that arise for coordinating children’s ministry
    • Brainstorm future events, activities, etc. to continue to integrate children into the life of the church
  • Attend semi-annual UVC Leadership Conferences and semi-annual site leaders gathering
  • Maintain assigned portion of Breeze database (if applicable)
  • Adhere to Safe Sanctuary policies and any other church policies related to the care of children


GIFTS DESIRED:

  • Values/Passion
    • Passion for and knowledge of UVC’s bold, inclusive, and relevant gospel vision
    • Commitment to a church without walls (anti-oppression, anti-racist)
    • Dedication to the spiritual growth and development of children and families
  • Leadership
    • Strong verbal and written communication
    • Proven ability to lead and mentor others
    • Aptitude for empathetically listening and resolving conflict
  • Technical
    • Background in education or child development (2-3 years)
    • Creativity in teaching children in simple and engaging ways
    • Exceptionally organized & strong follow-through


HOW TO APPLY:

Please email your cover letter and resume to [email protected] by 5:00 pm on August 7, 2017 for fullest consideration.

Urban Village Church is an Equal Opportunity Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, veteran status, or disability.

 

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4:44 As Confession

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18 Jul 2017
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Reflections

It’s truly providence that 4:44 was released on June 30th, just before Urban Village Church begins our sermon series on Confession. On its face the album reveals that Jay-Z cheated, he and Bey worked things out, and he doesn’t care for the new wave of “mumble-rappers”. But as with any confession, there are deeper spiritual messages hidden in the confession of sin, and there is truly something powerful about witnessing someone publicly repent and demonstrate that they have been changed.

There’s a lot to investigate in the album, but I’ll be focusing on the title track itself.

Look, I apologize, often womanize

Took for my child to be born

See through a woman’s eyes

Took for these natural twins to believe in miracles

Took me too long for this song

Jay-Z opens up the song with a confession: He admits he is a womanizer, and that it took his daughter being born to examine his own toxic masculinity. He confesses that he took way too long to reach the point of confessing wrongdoing.  But this is a general apology, he is offering an apology for his social sin, the sin of patriarchy.

I don’t deserve you

I harass you out in Paris

“Please come back to Rome,” you make it home

We talked for hours when you were on tour

“Please pick up the phone, pick up the phone”

Said, “Don’t embarrass me,” instead of “Be mine”

That was my proposal for us to go steady

That was your 21st birthday

You mature faster than me, I wasn’t ready

So I apologize

Mr. Knowles-Carter gets specific and apologizes to his wife. He takes ownership for his shortcomings. He accepts that as an individual he is at fault, he can’t blame systems or social sin for his individual actions.

Rather than getting into the details of this particular confession we can use it as an opportunity to reflect on the gift of Confession in our tradition. Since the earliest days of the church, Christians have been confessing sin as a way of seeking God and their community’s forgiveness for wrongdoing. Not meant to be used as a tool of shame, confession was a means of growing in discipleship, for in confessing shortcomings to the community one gains a team of people willing and able to hold us to a higher standard of living in love and grace. In 4:44, Jay-Z models this gift of confession that has been passed down through the millennia in the Christian tradition so that we could inherit it today.

By publicly admitting that he womanizes, Jay-Z has invited people to hold him accountable.

By publicly admitting that he is struggling to keep his wedding vows Jay-Z has asked the Christian community to live up to the vows they made to him at his wedding – something like, “Will all of you, by God’s grace, do everything in your power to uphold and care for these two persons in their marriage?” He invites community accountability.

By publicly confessing that his parenting is struggling he invites the Christian community to remember that vows it made when Blue Ivy was baptized, “Will you nurture this child in Christ’s holy Church.”

Confession reminds us of who we are: People that screw up, but that try and work together so we screw up a little bit less, and reflect God’s love a little bit more.

AND

Confession is also a statement of faith. It isn’t just saying “I was wrong” it requires a follow up, “Here’s how I’m going to be better”. Confession is the first step in a process towards true wholeness, both for self and community. This process requires the risk of vulnerability, trust in the community, and an inviting of the Holy Spirit to continually work on us in our weak areas.

Rightfully so, cultural writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris of the New York Time’s podcast Still Processing highlight where Jay-Z’s confession stops short in this process. Jenna states, “I buy that he’s sorry. I buy that he’s not going to do this again…But, in this song in particular…he’s just stating it. He’s not really owning it yet…There’s a way in which this song really embodies the like, halfway-ness of wherever he’s at emotionally. He’s sort of like, ‘Yeah, I admit it, I got caught.’ He doesn’t even say I’m not going to do it again. He’s just like, ‘I was an idiot. I want you.’ He could repent more.”

Merely stating to people or communities the ways we’ve gone awry (a.k.a. sinned) isn’t enough by itself. Accepting the need for change and taking steps to make that change bring life to a confession. That life is what makes it real for oneself and others, opening the door for 360-degree wholeness. We practice the uncomfortable act of confession not just because of what we are at risk of losing (a relationship, money, stature) but, more importantly, because of what we stand to gain once reconciled to God and one another.

It is also important to keep in mind the people harmed or left behind before we reach our 4:44 moments, Candice Benbow addresses this in her autobiographical reflection 4:43. Many people in life won’t get to see us reach our 4:44 moment and we won’t get to see theirs. Confession helps us remember that truth and calls us to live in a way that we cause less harm.

As we embark on this new sermon series I invite you to think, “What do I need to confess?” “Who can I trust to hold me accountable?” “How can I lean on my church family in a way that makes me better?”

(The lyrics that were quoted in the article are the property of Shawn Knowles-Carter; The baptismal language used came from the UMC Baptismal Covenant I; The Marriage Covenant used was copied from the UMC Service of Christian Marriage I)

Co-authored by Jarell Wilson and Grant Crusor. Jarell is a theologian, Beyhive gate-keeper, and incoming PhD student at Chicago Theological Seminary. Keep up with him here. Grant is a vinyl record addict and Director of Operations at Urban Village Church. He can show you better than he can tell you here.

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Welcome Church Planting Fellow, Taylor Smith!

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05 Jun 2017
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Announcments

We are pleased to announce that Taylor Smith will be serving at UVC as a Church-Planting Fellow in 2017-18. As part of an arrangement with the North Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, Taylor will be spending 12 months with UVC learning best practices in urban church planting and then will return to his home conference with the possibility of planting a new church in the Dallas area.

“Urban Village is known in our denomination as a leader in urban church planting and we’re looking forward to working with them this next year,” said Jim Ozier Director of New Church Development and Congregational Transformation for the North Texas Conference. “We’re grateful that Taylor will receive valuable experience with an innovative faith community like UVC so that he can continue to learn how to creatively share the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ in 21st century.”

Taylor grew up in McKinney, TX, received his Bachelor of Arts in Religion from McMurry University, a small United Methodist University, in Abilene, TX. While at McMurry, Taylor was active in campus ministry and served for a year as the Youth Director at Clyde First United Methodist Church, just outside of Abilene. Around this time (2013), Taylor met his (now) wife, Katie May Smith.

In 2014, Taylor and his (then) fiancé moved to Durham, North Carolina where he attended Duke Divinity School in pursuit of his Master of Divinity. His wife finished her Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Studies through the University of North Texas and put her degree to good use while working at Threshold Clubhouse, a non-residential facility for adults with severe mental illness. Over the past two years, Taylor has served as the Student Associate Pastor at Pittsboro UMC, in ministry with youth and adults. When not studying or at PUMC, Taylor also served as a Crossfit Coach at Bull City Crossfit – an experience he claims was a form of ministry in itself!

Taylor and Katie’s family resides in North Texas, where they will return after his fellowship with Urban Village Church. In their free time, Taylor and Katie love to explore local cuisine, cook (basically anything with food!), experience the outdoors, endure Crossfit workouts, and hang out with their fur-baby, Luna – who is certainly their pride and joy!

They excitedly anticipate Chicago life and look forward to meeting people – especially if its over good food!

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Be brave my friends…

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08 Feb 2017
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Service|Justice

From UVC Theologian in Residence, Carolyn Roncolato:

Like many of you, I am full of worry, rage, and grief over the recent executive order banning immigrants and refugees from Muslim majority countries. In light of this and a host of other policies, plans, people, and practices coming from the White House I am reflecting this week on the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran Pastor who led a significant Christian resistance against Hitler and the Nazi Party. Because of this resistance, Bonhoeffer was executed in Flossenbürg concentration camp one month before the end of the Third Reich.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I have long loved Bonheoffer’s theology. I had hoped that his life and work would not become so acutely relevant for our own context. In light of our own President’s orders for religious discrimination and bigotry, I turn to lessons that Bonhoeffer offers for this moment.

First, you may have heard of Bonheoffer’s concept of costly grace. Bonhoeffer argues that the grace of God shown to us by Jesus cannot be gained “cheaply” and requires a “cost.” This does not mean that we have to “pay” or “suffer” in order to earn God’s grace or love. It does mean that following Jesus’ way is hard and requires us to act in the world in ways that make us uncomfortable. As we come to know and follow Jesus we see the world in a new way and are compelled to act in ways that take energy and bravery and risk. This means that if the fight against oppression feels hard and like it costs you something – energy, time, comfort, your privilege – then you are doing it right.

Second, Bonhoeffer was a firm believer in the importance of community. He argued that we need community to sustain us, give us rest, help us hold the burdens, and learn the powers of resistance. This moment in US history offers us the opportunity to build community in new way, with new fervor, and with new people. I think of the widespread protests at airports around the country when the Muslim ban was announced. People cheered for Muslims as they prayed. One sign read “We are all Muslims now.” Bonhoeffer reminds us to continually seek community in which we find strength and joy, rest and comfort, challenge and accountability.

Third, we are not born brave. Bravery takes practice. Bonhoeffer did not intend to become a revolutionary, an activist, or the leader of resistance. He became a Christian pastor and theologian who was convicted by the life and message of Christ and changed by encounters and relationships with those who were different from him. I heard a recent Ted Talk on bravery and the primary thing I took away from it was that bravery takes practice. It’s a muscle and the more we flex it, the easier it gets. We are getting practice now, practice by calling our senators and representatives, practice by marching, practice by having hard conversations with friends, family, colleagues and neighbors. Unfortunately, the struggle for human dignity, the fight against massive forms of oppression is ongoing and we are going to need our bravery for the days ahead.

The presidential order against Muslim immigration is an act of religious prejudice and bigotry that has been defended with Christian claims. It is our responsibility to also draw on our Christian convictions to call for welcome, understanding, and service to and for our Muslim siblings. Be brave my friends you are doing the work of God.

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JOB OPPORTUNITY – FTE Internship

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13 Jan 2017
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Job Opportunity
Ministry Exploration Internship

Urban Village Church is excited to have received a substantial grant from the Forum for Theological Exploration to help further what we’ve already been doing – raise up creative, imaginative, sound leaders of faith who want to help further gospel-shaped transformation in this world. Through our internships, we seek pair those who share this vision with the practical skills and experience necessary for effective outreach, worship planning, preaching, pastoral care, and community building necessary to make it happen.

We are currently receiving applications for a Ministry Exploration Intern. Please see below for details on the internship and how to apply.

 

Ministry Exploration Intern

Duration: 1 year
Time commitment: 6-8 hours/week
Compensation: $6,000
Number of Openings:  1

The purpose of this internship is an opportunity for individuals to explore the possibility of ministry as a vocational path. There is a great deal of flexibility and space for interns to “stretch their legs” and try new things for the purpose of gaining insights and opportunities for reflection around vocational discernment.

Learning Opportunities/Program:

When we invite individuals to join our team as interns, our approach to mentorship and vocational discernment tends toward the permissive – exploratory, experimental, and imaginative – within the bounds of our vision/mission and the needs of the ministry/congregation. We seek out individuals who are committed and passionate about congregational ministry and outreach, and who desire to develop skills for entrepreneurial approaches to ministry. In the past, as folks have demonstrated these characteristics, we have increased opportunities for them to take on leadership. Previous interns have shared their appreciation at the high level of trust and generous space for exercising substantive ministry during their time as interns.

As a Ministry Exploration Intern, you’ll have a great deal of flexibility on how your time is constructed as the focus and purpose is vocational discernment. Below are examples of how you might to learn and grow with us:

  • Preach, with specific evaluation given from supervisor and select congregants.
  • Conduct one-on-one conversations. (This is at the core of UVC’s ministry style. Training will be offered.)
  • Be responsible for leading (or being on a team that leads):
    • ONE Meta-Church/all-Church level project: Blue Christmas, Good Friday, Maundy Thursday, “Got Ashes” outreach, Birthday worship service.
    • Site ministry/project: a small group or specific ministry section (e.g.: fellowship, justice, service, outreach/evangelism, local arrangements, etc.).
  • Lead something related to discipleship (e.g., small group or yet to be determined discipleship group or effort – based on individual interest of the interns and the needs of the site in which they serve)
  • Participate in site specific activities: Team meetings (Vision Team, Ministry Team), Sunday morning activities, evangelism/outreach, community building
  • Participate in all-UVC staff leadership gatherings:, all-UVC staff meetings (approx. twice a month), monthly intern cohort development/“theolab,” training and team-building

Optional opportunities for further development include:

  • Church-planting bootcamp
  • Community organizing training
  • Spiritual direction

In many ways, this is the “skeleton” of the program year. Interns are encouraged to make their time “their own,” pursuing areas and forms of ministry that they are passionate about and intersect with the needs and vision/mission of their ministry context.

Supervision Approach

Interns build their closest mentoring relationship with their specific supervisor (whether a site pastor or director), meeting weekly for theological and vocational reflection. Our supervision style is practical and focused on working toward excellence with grace. We seek to provide opportunities for personal growth for individuals at all levels, helping the student grow more into the person that they were created to be, to draw them out and help them to articulate what is happening within them as they process and reflect theologically on their experiences. In addition to the weekly supervision, all of the interns will meet monthly with other interns, student pastors, and residents, as a cohort for continuing education, reflection, and peer relationship building.

We take supervision, mentoring, and theological reflection very seriously. Sometimes articles or books are incorporated to enhance the conversation, whereas circumstances and ministry questions drive the conversation. That supervisor is also available, of course, throughout the week for briefer check-ins.

TO APPLY:

Confidential applications should be sent to [email protected] (please specify which internship you are applying for in the subject field). Applications are due February 17, 2017 and screening will begin immediately. Candidates must submit responses to the following questions (250 words max. for each) as an attached Word document or PDF:

  • How do you hope serving as an intern at UVC will help you discover and develop your gifts for ministry?
  • Name two strengths and two “growing edges” that you would bring to your internship.
  • Please tell us about a recent experience that has significantly affected your sense of identity or purpose.
  • What is one question that you wrestle with as you consider your potential for leadership in a faith community?
  • What do you do on a regular basis that sustains you spiritually as a leader in your church, organization, or community?
  • Share about a time that you started something.
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Yes, But Why?

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19 Dec 2016
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Stewardship

We’ve talked quite a bit throughout our It Starts Here stewardship campaign about the good things God is doing in and through our UVC community. As they connect to giving, it’s helpful to provide some tangible markers of how giving makes and impact in the lives of those who make up Urban Village Church. Below are some of those voices and experiences. Have an experience of how God as moved in your life from being a part of UVC? Feel free to share yours in a comment below!

“I give because to whom much is given much is expected. We haven’t just found a church in UVC we have found community. Hugs. Laughter. Small groups. Love. I am tired right now. But UVC was the balm I needed the Sunday after the Presidential election. There is hope in this world.”
-Leslie & Jennifer Henry (Andersonville)

“We love this community, a space where people can feel accepted and honest about their questions and is a space for open discussion and free flowing thoughts.”
-Felix Huang & Josh Lau (Hyde Park | Woodlawn)

“I give because time and time again UVC has nourished me, educated me about my own white privilege in this country/world, and taught me how to be more Christ-like and a social justice advocate.”
-Jeff Jones (South Loop)

My husband, John, and I give to Urban Village because we believe they are truly doing God’s work in the community.  They have shown us a church home that is open to everyone, no exceptions.
-Caitlin Zeien (Wicker Park)

“My family grew this year and my church community was our foundation.”
-Lina & Deangelo Armstrong (Hyde Park | Woodlawn)

“I give because I have been supported by the leadership here and I want others to experience the same joy.”
-Doug Riccio (Wicker Park)

“I am grateful for the warm welcome in the weekly sermon/email. While I have not yet found out god’s purpose during this difficult time, thank you for being there.”
-Gina Vu (South Loop)

“The church has allowed Nyela and I to journey together in a safe space, with acceptance for where we are on the journey.”
-Michael Hendrix & Nyela Basney (Andersonville)

“Because trusting God with our finances is a tough but logical first step in trusting God with our lives. We also truly believe in this community and have reaped so many benefits in being a part of it.”
-Keith & Janell Bjorklund (Andersonville)

“We give because not only have we grown in our faith here at UVC, but we can proudly declare our faith by showing people the love and support we experience while attending service. We are so grateful for all the ways that UVC has challenged our beliefs and made us much more aware of the God created world around us.”
-Renee Costanzo & John Farrand (Wicker Park)

“I’m blessed by this community…I support this community for what it stands for in spirit.”
-Samuel Mercado (Andersonville)

“To support God’s vision for our community.”
-Nida Prukpitkul (Andersonville)

“UVC fundamentally changed the way I help discern vision, equip leaders, and organize new community. To say that it changed my life is trite but utterly true.”
-Trey Hall (Co-founder)

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Dare to say “Yes”

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07 Dec 2016
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Reflections

The opening scenes of Luke’s gospel describe the purpose of the narrative: faith and God’s redemption. Zechariah – a man of faith – practices his priestly duties. His son will be a holy man of faith, holy in the sight of God. God performs wondrous works to enter into the world and fulfill scripture. In fact, these wondrous stories sound familiar. John’s birth announcement echoes that of Samuel as both are born to women with trouble conceiving and both promised in service of the Temple. Similarly, just as Samuel, the prophet, preceded God’s reign through David, John will precede Jesus as one bringing life and truth into the world.

But faith and saying yes to God is not always easy. Zechariah enters to offer incense, a sacrifice which was offered twice a day. A list was compiled of all the priests who had never entered the inner sanctuary (a most holy place) and lots (like dice) were cast to determine which priest would bring the next sacrifice to the altar and clean off any remaining ashes. The lots fall to Zechariah. This is the his big moment. Zechariah reaches the highest honor of his priestly life when he is selected – and yet it is a common practice. People gathered outside the Temple twice a day for this common ceremony. Only for Zechariah is this moment special and new. He enters the solemn space for the first time anticipating holy silence, which is interrupted by the voice of the Inhabiter who resides there. The gospel writer heightens the drama of the story by including dialogue, Zechariah’s delayed exit from the sanctuary, thus causing the crowds outside the Temple to worry while they await him, and Zechariah’s forced holy silence. The story tells of faith and shock when God intrudes on the mundane.

Much like Hannah, Samuel’s mother, many other women of the Old Testament relate to a sudden, late life pregnancy. In early stories of Jewish faith, God enters through stories of redemption via closed wombs like that of SarahRebekah, and Rachel. Elizabeth joins the lineage of women in faith through whom God shows power and redemption. Her cousin joins the chorus of women miraculously pregnant with hope when the same angelic being approaches Mary, who knows nothing of her cousin’s state. The narrative of a long history of women takes a sudden turn to  contrasts Elizabeth and other women before her (elder, married, struggling with fertility) with Mary (younger, unmarried, not trying to get pregnant). Gabriel appears for the first time in the story to a man who prays fervently and in the second time to a woman going about her daily chores. Mary is called “favored,” which is no small title especially for someone who is exceedingly aware that she will not be favored by many should she become pregnant. And yet, Mary – not Zechariah – says yes to God’s redemption.

Questions for Reflection

  • The angel silences Zechariah. In contrast, the gospel author records the voices of the women in the story. How do you compare Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary? With whom do you most identify?
  • Even the faithful grow dull in their expectation. How do you remain fervent in your prayers/actions for expectant hope?
  • Describe a time when God revealed God’s self in mundane activities. How did you respond to God’s presence?
  • Does Mary say yes to the angel’s announcement? How do you interpret Mary’s response to Gabriel?
  • Who in your life needs peace?
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Is God’s hope naive?

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05 Dec 2016
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Reflections

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The Christian church follows a strange calendar that begins in November. No one pops champagne and promises change at the opening of this calendar year. Instead, the Christian new year begins with darkness and memories of the past. Christians call this season of new year Advent, which means arrival. It is a season of expectantly waiting the arrival of the Messiah, the one for whom the world has hopefully waited. In present times, we await a second advent, the arrival of when God gets everything God wants.

This week Christians gather around wreaths and light candles to reflect on the hope of the God of the past and the hope of the future. Advent symbols include a wreath and the candles of hope, peace, joy, and love to signify how God carried God’s people through grief and exile in the past. By reflecting on the past Christians remember that God will continue to provide a hope filled way toward the future that is not cursed by war, grief, injustice, and death, but, instead, revived with peace, joy, justice, and life.

At the beginning of our Advent season at Urban Village Church we read words from the prophets, ancient folks who spoke difficult truths to God’s people in times of broken or lost identity. The prophets call the people back to their faith and asked for a recommitment to God’s ways of living in order for hope to be restored.

In this passage from Isaiah the prophet speaks to a people in exile, torn from their homeland and forced to forget the faith of their family history. While in exile, Isaiah reminds the people of the promises of God, that one day cosmic changes will happen like mountains brought high and valleys low. Those in power will be brought low and the oppressed will be raised. All will stream to the mountain – both oppressor and the oppressed. All will wish to see this transformation and worship the God who can transform all things. And what will happen at this gathering? God will judge. And spoiler alert! We already know the outcome of God’s judgement. The only ruling of this judgement is disarmament and peace.

Questions for Reflection

  • Does the streaming of folks to God’s mountain mean all will be happy? Is there room for grief and doubt at the mountain?
  • When the prophet says, “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord” this is a promise of hope. The Hebrew word for light (אוֹר) used here is the same word used in Genesis story of creation. Is the prophet’s call to the hope of creation a command or an invitation?
  • Is God’s hope naive?
  • What needs to change in your life so that you can walk in the way of hope and peace?
  • Who in your life needs hope?
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