Guest Post by Cory Gibson: Youth Mission Trip

On our trip down to the Morgan Scott Project in Tennessee, we had to take a twelve hour drive down.  Depending on which car you were in, you either arrived early, in the middle, or late.  We grouped up with the youth group from United Evangelical in Canton, MD.  Once we were down at the Morgan Scott Project, the boys and the girls separated and decided on the bedding situation.

There were seven boys and nine girls.  Once the bedding arrangement was figured out, we had our evening devotions.  After that we had our evening meal and did our assigned jobs.

Before bed every night we all had “down time” where we all did our own thing whether it was playing on our phones or playing cards or talking or whatever we wanted to do.  We all slept with lights out at 11:00 EST.  We woke around 7:00 the first morning and we all got ready for church.  We attended Deer Lodge Congregational UCC for the 9:00 to 10:00 service and the 10:00 to 11:00 bible study.

After church on Sunday we went to swim at a swimming hole. We went to one of the state parks and went on down to the river.  We stayed at the river from 1:00 to 4:00.  We then went back to the Morgan Scott Project and showered off and got ready for dinner.  After dinner we had our evening devotions where we started the story of Jonah.  After Evening devotions we had down time and did our chores.

We woke up at 6:00 the next morning to a rather cold Morgan Scott building.  Today would be our first work day.  We all ate breakfast and made our lunches.  We then would have our first morning devotions.  We all set out do go do our jobs.  Six people went off to the house of a hoarder.  They had to repair the floor boards in the bathroom and add an extra support beam.  Those of us who stayed either worked on cleaning up the thrift store and the Morgan Scott building or helped clear the shrub from the side of the project.

Four of the remaining ten of us worked on burning the shrubbery which burned for a massive total of seven and a half hours. (The ash pile would help us light our bonfires later in the week)  The other six worked on cleaning the thrift store and the project.  Three of us also went on to look at possible job sites.  We then repeated last night’s schedule, and had a bonfire.

We woke up Tuesday, did the morning schedule, and went off to our job sites.  Today people went back to the hoarder house and painted the bathroom walls.  At the other site we cleaned the gutters, built the deck railings, and painted the bathroom of someone’s house.  We then got ready and went to a swimming hole, and repeated the night schedule.  We did the morning schedule and them either A.) Went to build a railing for someone’s deck, or B.) Put down flooring for someone.  We then went to a swimming hole, ate dinner, and got ready to go to church that evening.

The church we attended was Ms. Ella’s (the Director of Morgan-Scott), and we got to sing songs with the boys from a preparatory school and the other Morgan Scott groups.  We then stopped for ice cream on the way back.  We woke up on Thursday, did the morning routine, and then went to work.  The few who were installing the floor went back to finish the job while the rest of us either A.) Repainted the deck, or B.) Sorted out the warehouse of supplies.

For Thursday evening we had dinner and devotions and then went to Ms. Ella’s homestead.  We learned about her life, the Wompus cat (ask someone on the trip), and how to whittle.

On Friday morning we woke up, had morning devotions, and got ready to go climb a mountain.  We went to the state park and waited for the rangers. We hiked up the mountain and got ready to climb.  There were three climbs, a large one, a medium one, and a small one.  When we were all done climbing, we thanked the rangers and ate lunch.  After lunch we swam in the river and then went back to the project.  We got ready to go to Mr. Bob’s house where we sat, talked, played with the dog, chased the cows, got chased by the cows and went down to the lake.  On Friday night we packed up and went to sleep. On Saturday we took the twelve hour drive back to Baltimore, saying our goodbyes to the Morgan Scott project.  And that was our trip to Tennessee.

Submitted by Cory Gibson

A Spirit of Power and Love

God gave us not a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love… Today I am listening to speakers on the future of the church. Today I am considering the resolutions that have come before our national gathering here at Synod– two examples are the Central Atlantic-sponsored resolution against bullying and discrimination, and the one to which I was assigned on repudiating the historic Doctrine of Discovery, still in use to appropriate American Indian land and resources.

Synod is difficult to explain, it is an experience much like a large family reunion, that feeds body, mind, soul and spirit. It reminds us that St. John’s UCC is one of many, many churches sharing the Good News in this world, welcoming every person to the Table. And it is wonderfully empowering to find sisterhood/brotherhood with the great diversity we find in our denomination!

Today I also had a brief conversation with Rev. Geoffrey Black, the UCC General Minister and President. Today he is up for re-election for another four-year term. I met Geoffrey years ago when we both served in the New York Conference– I was a newly-ordained pastor, he was Conference Minister. I invited him to be a part of St. John’s 150th Anniversary, coming up in 2017. It’s not too early to plan such a milestone for our church, and his schedule fills up fast!

Our upcoming anniversary brings me around to the speaker I just heard: St. John’s UCC will be a thriving place 4 years from now if we continue to be BOLD in spirit and in love, and if we continue to welcome all God’s people to the Table. Our extravagant welcome is unique, it is not found in every church. The freedom of thought and exuberance of faith we encourage, the gathering of every age (our babies just born to our oldest member at age 97), the mix of people from every walk of life… this is our gift– and it is a gift we are called to share with the world!

Please pray for safe travels as I return to Maryland on Thursday morning, and keep everyone in our church family in prayer as we grieve the loss of two of our beloved members, Loretta and Mary.

God be with you all,
Rev. Jenn

Feeling Far Away… Yet Still Connected

It was bittersweet news yesterday when I learned that our friend and fellow church member Loretta finally went to Glory with Her Lord. I felt a bit helpless that I am so far away, and could not be there at the end. Yet I will be home to share with her friends and loved ones this coming Friday, July 5th at her memorial.

I feel thrilled to see all the rave reviews of this year’s Vacation Bible School! I know everyone worked so hard, and my own exhausted children are evidence of what a good time everyone had! Mark came home one night and explained to me how he believed in God and wanted to help his neighbors– I’m not sure as a parent you can get any better than that!

Here at General Synod everyone is enthusiastically exchanging scarves and talking about the action part of our Anti-Bullying Initiative. I am trying to gather some information to share when I get back home. There are so many scarves we are sharing them with everyone we meet– and reminding everyone to treat all with LOVE!

God Bless everyone– and I’ll see you all soon!
-Rev. Jenn



St. John’s Friends, you are invited to join us for BINGO this Friday night at our sister church United Evangelical UCC. DOORS open at 5pm, BINGO begins promptly at 6pm

Basket Bingo is being run by the Youth of UE UCC to raise money for their mission trip to the Morgan-Scott Project in Tennessee.  Our Youth will be joining them on this trip, so all the fun you have at BINGO will benefit St. John’s Youth Trip as well!  Raffles, food available, fun… join us!

Here’s the Details: 
Doors Open at 5pm, Bingo begins at 6pm
United Evangelical Church YOUTH BINGO (for all ages, hosted by the youth)
3200 Dillon St  Baltimore, MD 21224
(410) 276-0393

Rainbow Scarf Blessing THIS SUNDAY June 23rd!

General Synod 29 sent out a call to churches across the country to take a stand against bullying by bringing 3000 rainbow scarves (knitted, crocheted, quilted, etc) to the Annual Meeting of the United Church of Christ.  The movement took off, and crafters got busy, and many more scarves have been created than we ever imagined.

Those who attend General Synod— delegates and visitors of every age– will be challenged to sign a pledge to take a stand against bullying in their community.  Those who sign a pledge will receive a scarf as a reminder of their pledge.  The scarf can be kept or even given to a young person you know who faces bullying in his/her life.

St. John’s UCC will bless their scarves on June 23rd during worship, and Rev. Jennifer will be taking the scarves with her to General Synod.  And YES… Rev. Jenn plans to sign a pledge against bullying!

Thanks to everyone who has been working on a scarf!