Our Ministries

According to Staci...


Prayer in Violent Times

'God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble.'  Psalm 46:1 NRSV

God our Refuge, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They run to lonesome places, screaming an alarm
Calm our hearts so we can find you above the fear

God our Strength, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They race to revenge, pounding with anger
Calm our hearts so we can hear you above the hammering

God our Help, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They rush to human strength, grasping for control
Calm our hearts so we can hold to your way, your truth, and your life

Calm our hearts, so they may beat in unison with yours
So healing may flow over bodies and spirits broken by the chaos
So hope may fill families and communities devastated by violence
So compassion and peace and unity may rise up among all people

God our Strength, our Refuge, our Help
We entrust our lives to you. Amen.

Prayer for Violent Times © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia


Youthful Compassion

Compassion is often found in the small things.......

Below is the result of regular Sunday evening Youth Group.  Our conversation, thoughts, and prayer for Pilgrim Congregational in Anacortes that was recently burned by fires set to the building. How wonderful to be witness to our youth's sincerity and compassion for others.  But also the love they have for their own church and community.  I thought I would share:


Hi Rev. Sally, 

My name is Staci, and I am the Director of Faith Formation to Children and Youth at Richmond Beach United Church of Christ in Shoreline, WA.
This last Sunday, prayers were lifted up for your congregation in Anacortes and the loss of your church building during our regular worship service at RBCC-UCC.  Our youth were saddened by the news of what happened to your church and later had a great deal of conversation about it in our evening youth group.  I wanted to share with you the thoughtfulness that transpired that evening, as our prayer for you and your congregation. 
We started out with the question of the night:  What is the role of church in your life?
I personally thought, the youth would write down a word or sentence like....community, questioning, love, outreach.......
They surprised me by writing whole paragraphs about relationships, being themselves, acceptance, love, and a safe place to grow, question, doubt, and have fun. 
Interestingly, most all of the short paragraphs started with.......'A place where.....''    Then came the conversation about, what if there was no 'place' .  We talked about the loss of a church building and how that might effect a faith community, but in the end, the youth knew/know in their heart, that the faith community is the church. They then decided to write down their thoughts, and asked me to mail it to you.
I've attached their thoughts to you and your faith community that they wrote down, as well as a picture of their answers to the question, and a crazy picture of our youth group so you have some faces to go with their prayers. 
Our blessings of peace and hope to you and Pilgrim UCC, 
Staci and the RBCC Youth Group-- 
Hello Staci of the wonderful youth group!!

What an immensely thoughtful, fun, beautiful gesture. I loved reading of your sweet amazement with everyone's thoughtful responses-- what a heartening group. Truly they get 'church' --even when the word itself isn't always popular or can be misunderstood.

I shared the pictures with a couple members today. . .perfect.  What I especially would like to do is see about using a projector to get the images on a wall. . . One of the churches we'll be using (too much smoke damage in our building) has a projector I could hook up to,  If that doesn't work, I know there will be a children's message that will get the whole congregation's interest. . . Showing your pictures and reading your words.

Bless you, thank you, you all are a part of our healing and hope, a part of God's love on the loose.

Sally Balmer (Rev)
Pastor, Pilgrim Congregational UCC, Anacortes




God is There.....Helping Children Cope



Job Vacancy: Disciple

This last Sunday, the Jr. High Sunday school class mentored the 3rd and 4th grade class. They broke into small groups, shared joys and concerns, searched the scriptures for Sunday's story (Mark 10:34-45), and read aloud to each other.  They shared their thoughts about James and John's request of Jesus, and imagined what being a disciple in our modern day would mean.  

Our culture bombards young people with messages that are at odds with Jesus' teachings.  The world claims that leaders derive their power from wealth, fame, beauty, possessions, and popularity.  Jesus offers the opposite in his teachings, that power comes from serving each other.  Youth culture often creates an environment that defines young people by their status.  We can help free our youth from the notion that only the beautiful, powerful, and wealthy can be leaders, by offering our understanding of how difficult it is to be a servant in a status-obsessed world.  We can walk with them, and remind them, that we are all empowered by God's Spirit to serve together and that even the smallest acts can be quite powerful. 

The Jr. High group and the 3rd / 4th grade group, together, came up with a job description for a modern day disciple.  An idea of what it takes to serve each other in our world today.  Here are the qualities they identified........are you up for the job?

Job Title:  Disciple / Jesus Follower

Location:  Flexible. You will be a field worker, on the front lines, working in your local community.

Ideal Qualities:  A young, healthy, multi-tasker.  Strong willed, respectful, responsible, and educated. Willing to learn, be equal and fair, compassionate, willing to help others, able to teach, caring, kind, lovable, accepting, hopeful, faithful, not afraid to get dirty and happy to work hard. 








Genuinely Cool Youth Ministry

This summer, I was blessed to travel throughout the Mediterranean for a few weeks.  Asked by many, what my favorite place was, I can assuredly say, Istanbul Turkey is the place I want to return to.  I found Istanbul to be a surprisingly ancient yet modern city with amazing energy and friendly people. I loved the breathtaking mosaic tiles of the Blue Mosque,  the damp underground cisterns, the lively chaos of the Grand Bazaar, and the stirring calls to prayer heard through the city. 

The Grand Bazaar proved to be overwhelming as well as eye pleasing. So much cool stuff to look at.  So many Lira to be haggled.  Miles of shop stalls.  My son Parker, was pleased to negotiate a good price for a pair of 'Genuine Fake Ray Ban' sunglasses.  So many signs to lure passers-by in......'Cool Stuff' and 'Genuine Fake' were by far my favorite.

Since I have been home, I have had a chance to reflect on my trip as I prepare for a new year in Children and Youth Ministry. I am struck by how often we fall into the 'Cool Stuff' trap in ministry. Especially in Youth Ministry. 

How often do we fall prey to believing that what attracts middle school and high school students is “cool stuff”?

Like the shop stall attempting to attract passersby, sometimes ministries dangle “cool stuff” in front of our youth, using a whole year full of fun events to attract kids to youth group gatherings.  The problem is, more often than not, this approach to ministry simply doesn't work.

Sure, sometimes cool, fun stuff attracts kids. Yet, rarely does it make them stick.  If “cool” is what students are looking for, the church loses. Every time. We simply cannot compete (monetarily or otherwise) with the “cool” factor of other organizations, nor, I believe, should we try to do so.

Now don't get me wrong. Fun is not bad. In fact, I hope and pray that our church's youth ministry is fun. I value laughter. I value relaxation. I value silliness.  I value crazy fun. I believe each of these things is the Holy Spirit made known to us through being in relationship together.   I simply don't believe we need to use these things as bait to lure youth into youth groups.  After all, "cool stuff” is not what actually attracts youth to youth group.....

Genuine, caring and welcoming communities do. Relationships do.  Deep conversations do.  Safe spaces do.  Acts of service do.  These are things that in today's over scheduled, fast-paced world, many youth lack regularity in.  But, what we all crave and long for is, the 'Genuine Stuff' of God's Love!  

My personal approach to Children and Youth Ministry, is that all activities,  including the fun ones, should be seen through the lens of our Mission......Peace, Respect, and Love in Action.  Through fun fellowship activities, sharing and prayer, contemporary theology and acts of social justice and service; we as a community of children, youth and adults can grow together to find meaning and belonging in this world. Empowering one another to live out our faith by sharing the good news of God's Genuine love for all. 

Now that's Cool!



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