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  • 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 2018 "Trumpet"  Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

Jesus commands us, “love your neighbors,” Mark 12:31. Our Welcoming Task Force is helping us wrestle with what it means to be a welcoming community of faith. At the same time, the plight of Asylum Seekers has taken center stage in our nation. We are called to love these neighbors, as we love our selves.

Despite what some may say, this is not a political issue. It is a moral one. It is a spiritual one. It is about how we live our faith in the world. How will you respond?

I invite you to look deeper than the headlines. Every news source has a bias. As best you can, dig for truth in the pile of falsehoods. Study what the Bible has to say about immigrants and all those we label, “other.” Here’s where you can find a list of scripture texts that address immigration and God’s call to love the stranger:

If you’re reading a paper copy, you will have to type the link above into your web browser or give the church a call and we will print out a copy for your use.

I invite you to talk with others about it. I am happy to be part of the conversation. Give me a call, send me an email, let’s set up a time to chat. 

I invite you to pray. Seek God’s guidance for your life, for the lives of those persecuted, and for their persecutors. Pray for our congregation and for our national leadership. That we might be led to do what is right in the sight of our neighbors and in the sight of God. Pray that we might have the courage to act.

Finally, I offer, for your reflection, an expression of Christian faith, through the perspective of an immigrant.

The Immigrants' Creed

I believe in Almighty God, who guided the people in exile and in exodus, the God of Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon, the God of foreigners and immigrants.

I believe in Jesus Christ, a displaced Galilean, who was born away from his people and his home, who fled his country with his parents when his life was in danger, and returning to his own country suffered the oppression of the tyrant Pontius Pilate, the servant of a foreign power, who then was persecuted, beaten, and finally tortured, accused and condemned to death unjustly. But on the third day, this scorned Jesus rose from the dead, not as a foreigner but to offer us citizenship in heaven.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the eternal immigrant from God’s kingdom among us, who speaks all languages, lives in all countries, and reunites all races.

I believe that the church is the secure home for the foreigner and for all believers who constitute it, who speak the same language and have the same purpose. I believe that the communion of the saints begins when we accept the diversity of the saints.

I believe in the forgiveness of sin, which makes us all equal, and in reconciliation, which identifies us more than does race, language, or nationality.

I believe that in the resurrection God will unite us as one people in which all are distinct, and all are alike at the same time.

Beyond this world, I believe in life eternal in which no one will be an immigrant, but all will be citizens of God’s kingdom, which will never end. Amen.

"The Immigrants’ Creed" is excerpted from The Book of Common Worship: 2018 Edition. © 2018 Westminster John Knox Press.

June 2018 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross Senior Pastor

The Easter season may be over, but the work of resurrection continues. In her book, In Search of Belief, Joan Chittister writes,

"I believe that the Resurrection goes on and on and on forever. Every time Jesus rises in our own hearts in new ways, the Resurrection happens again. Every time we see Jesus where we did not recognize him before -- in the faces of the poor, in the love of the unloved, in the revelatory moments of life, Jesus rises anew. But that is not all. The real proof of the Resurrection lies not in the transformation of Jesus alone but in the transformation awaiting us who accept it."

This, my friends, gets at the heart of the gospel. To explain what I mean, please allow me to rewind and replay the story. We won’t have to go all the way back to the beginning, just far enough.

God was in Heaven and humanity walked the earth. After centuries of trying to reach out to humanity with only limited and temporary results, God decided to enter our time and space and was born in Jesus. In this way, God could model for us a way to live and be at one with God. Jesus is often remembered for his personal acts of healing, feeding and teaching. There is something else, however, that Jesus did which provides a clue to living the post resurrection transformed life. 

Jesus collaborated. Jesus interacted with others. Jesus did a lot of things on his own, but he was no Lone Ranger. Do you remember how John protested that Jesus should baptize him rather than the other way around? Jesus submitted himself to John’s baptism.  When Jesus healed the man with the crippled hand, he told the man to stretch out his hand – Jesus invited the man to assist in his own healing. It’s no different when he said to the man who was lame, “Take up your bed

and walk.”  Jesus also collaborated with his disciples and through them to others.

When the people were hungry, Jesus asked the disciples what they had. They offered a boy’s basket of five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus blessed this offering and told them to feed the crowd.  They did, and thousands were fed. When the time came for Jesus to enter Jerusalem, he rode a borrowed donkey, and after he was crucified he laid in a borrowed tomb.

Since the resurrection, Jesus lives on through our lives. Perhaps you are familiar with this quote from Teresa of Avila,

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

As we open ourselves to the presence of Jesus in, and through our lives, our faith grows, and we become more like Jesus. As we open ourselves to Jesus, Christ is resurrected in us.

Where is the resurrected Christ alive, and active, in you? How is Christ living through you? Where can you be the hands, feet, and eyes of Jesus?

My prayer for you is that you will find that place where Jesus is resurrecting you, the place where your gifts, talents and passions align to make a difference in this world. So that, together we might build God’s beloved community “on earth as it is in heaven.”

May 2018 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross Senior Pastor

As I type this, the sun is shining through my window and, I pray, the last of winter has left us for at least a few months. I am reminded of the second verse of the hymn, Pass It On:

What a wondrous time is spring when all the trees are budding. The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming.

Hearing those words in my head, I’m taken back to the spring of my junior year in high school. I attended a retreat that was put on by our Roman Catholic diocese for high school boys. They called it a Cursillo or Christian Awakening. Over the course of three days I listened to talks about various aspects of faith, discussed what we were learning in small groups and individually with a Spiritual Director, in addition to time for worship and quiet personal reflection. It was a time of significant transformation for me.

In a talk titled Sacraments, after outlining the traditional seven Roman sacraments, Fr. Doug Brown spoke of an eighth sacrament – The Sacrament of the Present Moment – Jesus alive and active in your life every moment of every day. Later that day, in a dimly lit chapel, I spent some time reflecting on the idea that I could invite Jesus into my life, to walk with me and guide me on life’s path. The more I thought about it, I knew there was a step I had to take. I had to acknowledge Jesus, who had been there all along. That’s just what I did, alone in that chapel and, although I didn’t recognize it at the time, I moved from faith inherited to faith owned and that made all the difference.

I found myself more actively engaging in worship as a participant and not merely a spectator. My prayer life blossomed and I began reading the Bible on my own. At the same time, I found myself looking for ways that I could serve others as an expression of my faith and thanks to God for all I had. I helped our youth group conduct a similar retreat so that others might experience what I had encountered. I suppose I’m in ministry today because of that experience and the effect of an ongoing relationship with Jesus.

Several of us are working through the daily devotional, Catch Fire in 50 Days and have been examining our own relationship with God and finding ways to fan into flame the faith within us. How about you? Can you remember a time with faith was new, when you opened yourself up to a relationship with Jesus? Can you remember a time when you wanted to go to worship, not because that’s what we do on Sunday morning, but because the gathered community nurtured your faith and understanding of God? Can you remember wanting to tell others about it?

As you remember that time, or open your heart to Jesus now, think on it, cherish it, but don’t get caught in nostalgia. I challenge you to tell someone about it. I challenge you to do something about it.

That's how it is with God's love, once you've experienced it: You want to sing it's fresh like spring, you want to pass it on.

April 2018 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross Senior Pastor

Have you ever had God speak to you? I’m not referring to an audible voice, although I believe that is possible. What I’m

asking about is a series of events that just seem to be God trying to tell, or teach, you something. Have you ever heard

God communicating in that way? It seems, that God is often trying to get through to me in that way. Stick around and let

me explain what I’m talking about.

Throughout the season of Lent, I have been preaching a sermon series on Sunday mornings and Wednesday

evenings based on the book, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster. Written 40

years ago, the book is still the “go to” book on spiritual disciplines. (If you missed them, most of the Sunday sermons

are available on our YouTube channel.)

One Wednesday evening I was to preach on the discipline of service. I thought I might engage those gathered in a

service project. I had a growing scrap pile of five-inch squares of fabric. I thought that I would invite the congregation to

select 4 squares and place a pin through them. In the time between Wednesdays I would sew them into a quilt that

we would donate to the Women’s Center or Jeremy House. We were averaging 24 people and I needed 35 squares. I

said that if anyone wanted to do an extra one it would be okay. My plan was to add sashing to the top so that each of

the squares would be framed by a neutral fabric and so that each of person could see the square they contributed.

Well, that’s not what happened. A few over-achievers matched up all the remaining squares. This meant that I had 54

squares. I had two options, I could keep the pattern the same, use 35 squares and leave the remainder for another

quilt. Which squares would I omit and, more importantly, who would I exclude? What would you do?

I chose to scrap the sashing and a boarder to include all the squares. It meant I had to make an additional 9 so that

the dimensions would work out right. Then I began to assemble the quilt and I began to hear what God was trying to

teach me. 

My original pattern would have accentuated the individual squares; but the church is more than a collection of

individuals. As I attempted to arrange the squares patterns began to emerge across the squares. I noticed families

and individuals. Some of the squares were disabled, (their size was not uniform with the rest), and I had to make

accommodations for them. One had an accident, (there was a problem with the sewing machine and I had to rip out

one of the seams. In the ripping, I accidentally tore a hole in the fabric. I performed surgery to repair the hole, but a

scar remains).

It seemed God was saying, “Isn’t that just like the church? Families, individuals, people interacting, gathering around

common interests, and opposites attracting are all present in the church.” Don’t we all carry scars? Are any of us truly

uniform? Isn’t it our joy to make accommodations for each other?

These questions caused me to think about the process of sewing. When you sew with a machine, there are two

threads. One comes down from the top, and the other up from below. In the church we have the thread of faith that

comes from above and the bonds of community which come from below. Together we are united in the church.

Then it hit me. My original pattern would have accentuated the individual. The plan I ended up with illustrates the

church. When I displayed it the following Wednesday, everyone was able to see their individual square and the whole

of the quilt, with no sashing buffering them from others. They could see the patterns that were formed in community

with no boarder, open to others who will come. I wanted organization, God showed me organism. This is the church.

This Easter season we will be embarking on another series, Catch Fire in 50 Days. If you haven’t done so already,

sign-up to receive a daily devotional and, if you’d like, a small discussion group. I’d love to hear what you’re hearing

from God and what you’re learning. Together we form beloved community, blanketing the world with love. 

March 2018 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross Senior Pastor

Very early one morning, I was gazing through the window in the Rev. Ralph P. and Ruth Ley Chapel at Pilgrim Center looking at a very frozen Green Lake. Everything appeared grey, the ice on the lake, the sky, and even the barren trees. I thought of this season of Lent, this time of introspection, that in this season of dormancy life might spring anew. I thought of people I know, unsure of God’s presence in their lives, their pain, their hopes. Then I remembered this poem, by Steve Garnaas-Holmes:

Some folks are sure there’s no God there –

the one, of course, who never was.

Abandon proof of what you know to be imaginary.

Instead: Have you ever known love?

Have you ever felt the wash of a stream

flowing through you from the impossible?

Has water ever flowed unexpectedly?

Have you ever followed a silent Voice,

from a dry rock drunk deeply?

Don’t argue over someone else’s fantasy.

Believe, not in the treasure in someone else’s field

but the gem you stumble on in your own.

What mystery allures, believe in that.

What deep root sustains, believe in that.

What births love in this world, believe in that.

You may doubt you have been provided for –

but are you here? Are you breathing? Are you –

your hand, your thoughts – not a work of wonder?

Ignore the idea that has nothing to do with you.

Turn to the One who draws you into wondering,

who gives you this thirst, who is this asking.

Drink plenty from this deep—welled strangeness.

Throw your life into the fire of love

and whatever catches fire, follow that,

and believe in the fire.

I pray that this season of Lent will bring you through the shadows, to the dawn of resurrection, renewed and reborn to live the fullness of a life with faith in God.

February 2018 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross Senior Pastor

I am very excited about the congregation’s participation in the Readiness 360 survey.  Forty-nine persons took the survey. They were a mix of staff, key leaders and active ministry participants. I’ve been working with the Vitality Team to wade through the mountain of information we gained from the report. It will take a while for us to sort it all out. In many ways it’s like eating an elephant, we’ll go at it one bite at a time. Still, we didn’t want you to have to wait any longer than necessary for us to share some of our gleanings. What follows is a summary of the results and what next steps we are taking.

In short, the survey assesses our congregation’s spiritual and practical readiness for faithful and effective ministry in the 21st century. It does this by looking at four critical areas of church life: Spiritual Intensity, (how brightly the flame of faith burns within us), Dynamic Relationships, (the strength of our relationships with one another), Missional Alignment, (how well we sense where God is leading us), and Cultural Openness, (how well we relate with the community outside of our building). Working from a “building on strengths” perspective, the survey offers areas where we can enhance our shared ministry effectiveness. These suggestions, in the words of Chef Emeril, help us to “kick it up a notch.”

Where we scored the highest is in Spiritual Intensity. In fact, we scored above average for mid-America, White, mainline congregations. Encouraged by Paul’s admonition to Timothy to, “rekindle the gift of God within,” We decided to start with opportunities to increase our Spiritual Intensity. There are three places where we are focusing our effort.

1.      We are now offering a Question for Thought, and one or two daily prayers, on the back cover of the bulletin. The question is something to reflect on during the week and the prayers can be used daily. In this way we are all reflecting and praying together, even when we are apart.

2.       During the season of Lent, I will focus my Sunday sermons and Wednesday reflections on Spiritual Disciplines. Why? Lent is a season of self-examination, an opportunity for us to adjust our lives so that we follow more closely in the way of Jesus. Spiritual Disciplines are exercises which help us achieve that goal.

3.      Building on the success of Unbinding Your Heart and The Shack, we will embark on a journey to ignite the flame within during the season of Easter. We will have Catch Fire in 50 Days books available for your daily devotions. Sunday sermons will focus on the themes of the week’s devotions and there will be opportunities to participate in small group discussions.

That’s a lot for now. We’ll keep you posted as we progress. If you have any feedback with regard to these initiatives, please let me or any member of the Vitality Team know, (Sue Kuhtz, Trish Bakalars, Jamie Knoll, Ron & Toni Knutson), and we will be happy to discuss it with you.


My prayer is that through the weeks and months ahead we will continue to grow spiritually so that we might be a community of more fully devoted followers of Christ.

January 2018 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross Senior Pastor


Writing during final preparations for our celebration of Christmas, I pray this note finds you well. May you find hope, love, joy and peace at Christmas. May 2018 be filled with opportunities to grow spiritually and stronger in community. May the Spirit of Jesus be present in, and amplified through, your life.

Happy New Year,

Pastor Bob

Pastoral Care

With the retirement of Pastor Schultz, we are examining our pastoral care and procedures for the interim, until we hire a new Minister of Pastoral Care, and beyond. In the process, there are a few things of which we want you to be aware.

1. In the case of a pastoral emergency, please call Pastor Bob, 440-506-3258. This is his cell phone and you will get a response much more quickly than if you left a message on the answering machine in his office.

2. With the HIPPA laws at the hospitals, we can no longer rely on them to make us aware of admissions. If you, or a loved one, is admitted to the hospital, please contact Pastor Bob, via his cell phone, if less emergent, call the office, 262-547-2424, or send an email at or

3. When Pastor Bob is out of town, there are two ways you may access pastoral care. The first is an outgoing message on Pastor Bob’s email will include contact information for an emergency back-up pastor. Brigette will also have that information. If you are unable to access pastoral care in either of these two ways, call Pastor Bob’s cell phone.

4. If you are aware of someone who has been ill, let us know. We don’t mind hearing from multiple sources. That’s better than not knowing. Further, if you are concerned about someone, send them a note to express your care. It means so much to the person without burdening them.

We hope that you will be well and not need this information. However, in case you do, please keep this contact information handy.

Bible Study

Who are we?  What are we to do? Who is God?  What is God doing? These are important questions. Join us for a powerful study on a timeless document Beginnings: A Study of the Call of God in Genesis, where we will explore these important questions. According to author M. Thomas Norwood, Jr., “Genesis is not just addressed to the people of Israel of many centuries ago; it is also addressed to you and your church. Be prepared to be confronted and challenged, nourished and encouraged.” This bible study will meet on Wednesdays at 1 pm and Thursdays at 7 pm. A sign-up sheet is available at the Hostess Table.

December 2017 "Trumpet" Newsletter

Bob Gross Senior Pastor

Reflecting on a walk through the church building, one Tuesday evening, I was reminded of one of my earliest Christmas memories. My mother and I were watching a program on our old black and white television. There, in our living room, Mahalia Jackson was singing the gospel song, No Room at the Inn. The chorus goes like this:

There was no room at the inn.

There was no room at the inn.

When the time had fully come for the Savior to be born,

There was no room at the inn.

For all the years after that, every time we heard the phrase, “no room,” it brought a smile to our face. It still does for me, even as I reflect on the church building that night. Not because there wasn’t any room, but because there was so much room and still room for more.

In the sanctuary, Pastor Maria Vazquez was leading Centro de Adoracion y Alabanza (Centro) in their mid-week worship. As the congregation was singing their spirited praise, the Savior was being born and borne in their faith. There was room at the Inn for Centro.

In the gathering space, member Jeff Brisk was hosting a Dart Ball league. As men and women built community through sport and conversation, could the Savior be far away? There was room at the Inn for Dart Ball.

At the same time, there were special needs children from the community teamed up with youth and adults from our congregation participating in Baking Buddies. Under the leadership of Mary Ann Proffitt these teams were baking cupcakes and decorating them as Thanksgiving turkeys. In their laughter and appreciation, I think I could hear the faint cry of a new born Savior. There was room at the Inn for Baking Buddies.

My walk led me down to the Library, where the Vitality Team was meeting. There we discussed The Shack series, the Readiness 360 survey and our plans for the Waukesha Christmas Parade. There, in our deliberation, there was the beginning of fresh expressions of the incarnation, God with us. There was room at the Inn for the Vitality Team.

While all of this was going on upstairs, Circle of Friends was in the basement. Under the leadership of Heidi Pagel, they were working their fingers into a frenzy as they tied off quilts that will go off to the Women’s Center on December 10. These quilts will be a reminder of God’s presence beyond the church building as those who receive them take the pieces of their own lives and make something beautiful. In their resurrection, a Savior is born. There was room at the Inn for Circle of Friends.

There’s plenty going on here and there’s room for more. Most importantly, there’s room for you.

My prayer, this Advent and Christmas, is that you will clear space in your schedule to slow down and join us at 413 Wisconsin Avenue as we follow the star to Bethlehem so that the Savior of the world might be born again in you. That our celebration of Christmas this year might renew our faith and empower our service to the glory of God.

Merry Christmas! 

November 2017 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross Senior Pastor

The Vitality Team serves the congregation as they explore, encourage & engage tools that enhance our common life. They have been active in leading the Unbinding Your Heart initiative & The Shack discussion groups. As they were considering what might come next, they learned about Readiness 360, an online survey that will help us learn about the congregation’s strengths. With that information, we can work together to discern where Christ is leading us as a congregation. 

Elsewhere in this Trumpet, you will find an article from The Vitality Team inviting you to participate in the survey, Readiness 360. I thought it best to use this space to share some information about the survey. What follows is adapted from

Readiness 360 helps us understand how our congregation is uniquely wired, what real strengths we bring to the table, pointing to specific ways that our foundations can be developed, where we can find encouraging quick wins & where we need to wait for now.

It will help us measure & strengthen the four strands of multiplication DNA in your faith community to make the leap from church maintenance to Gospel movement. The Readiness 360 measures a congregation’s current capacity to multiply disciples who multiply disciples. These four strands are present in faith communities that multiply leaders, ministries, worship & even new faith communities. Readiness 360 has been designed to give useful feedback for congregations who are thinking about creating new places & ministry initiatives for new people in a wide variety of approaches.

Spiritual Intensity. All of the great church movements worldwide are intense spiritually, marked by a deep love for God & a surrendering to what God is seeking to do through human beings. Understanding the degree to which a spiritual fire burns within the hearts & souls of those leading & participating in the life of the church is critical. Are we driven by our passion for Christ?

Missional Alignment. The degree to which we consistently prioritize investment of our resources (time, talent, treasure) according to a biblical vision & mission indicates readiness in this dimension. It is critical that our church’s plans, major initiatives & pruning of ministry stem clearly from a biblical vision/mission & drive for fruitfulness instead of from habit. Does our activity flow from our stated values?

Dynamic Relationships. Good habits & skills for leading new persons into a deeper relationship with God through Christ is vital. Healthy congregations work as a system to accomplish this. Our relationships with others directly impact the strength of our evangelism muscle. How dynamic & healthy are our relationships with those inside & outside our church?

Cultural Openness. Since the first century, effective churches have been reaching across cultural boundaries to share the Christian good news with diverse people, who begin with different experiences, perspectives, & stories. Churches that exhibit fortress behaviors or who spend excessive time mourning social change often have difficulty sharing life with new kinds of people. Does our congregation exhibit a capacity for embracing people from diverse cultures?

Readiness 360 will provide a wealth of information for our planning. A high-level summary of the results of the survey will be shared in a future Trumpet. I hope you will check out the article from the Vitality Team. More importantly, I hope you will set aside 20 minutes to take the survey. Your input is valuable to us as, together, we chart a course into God’s preferred future.
The Vitality Team serves the congregation as they explore, encourage & engage tools that enhance our common life. They have been active in leading the Unbinding Your Heart initiative & The Shack discussion groups. As they were considering what might come next, they learned about Readiness 360, an online survey that will help us learn about the congregation’s strengths. With that information, we can work together to discern where Christ is leading us as a congregation.

Elsewhere in this Trumpet, you will find an article from The Vitality Team inviting you to participate in the survey, Readiness 360. I thought it best to use this space to share some information about the survey. What follows is adapted from

Readiness 360 helps us understand how our congregation is uniquely wired, what real strengths we bring to the table, pointing to specific ways that our foundations can be developed, where we can find encouraging quick wins & where we need to wait for now.

It will help us measure & strengthen the four strands of multiplication DNA in your faith community to make the leap from church maintenance to Gospel movement. The Readiness 360 measures a congregation’s current capacity to multiply disciples who multiply disciples. These four strands are present in faith communities that multiply leaders, ministries, worship & even new faith communities. Readiness 360 has been designed to give useful feedback for congregations who are thinking about creating new places & ministry initiatives for new people in a wide variety of approaches.

Spiritual Intensity. All of the great church movements worldwide are intense spiritually, marked by a deep love for God & a surrendering to what God is seeking to do through human beings. Understanding the degree to which a spiritual fire burns within the hearts & souls of those leading & participating in the life of the church is critical. Are we driven by our passion for Christ?

Missional Alignment. The degree to which we consistently prioritize investment of our resources (time, talent, treasure) according to a biblical vision & mission indicates readiness in this dimension. It is critical that our church’s plans, major initiatives & pruning of ministry stem clearly from a biblical vision/mission & drive for fruitfulness instead of from habit. Does our activity flow from our stated values?

Dynamic Relationships. Good habits & skills for leading new persons into a deeper relationship with God through Christ is vital. Healthy congregations work as a system to accomplish this. Our relationships with others directly impact the strength of our evangelism muscle. How dynamic & healthy are our relationships with those inside & outside our church?

Cultural Openness. Since the first century, effective churches have been reaching across cultural boundaries to share the Christian good news with diverse people, who begin with different experiences, perspectives, & stories. Churches that exhibit fortress behaviors or who spend excessive time mourning social change often have difficulty sharing life with new kinds of people. Does our congregation exhibit a capacity for embracing people from diverse cultures?

Readiness 360 will provide a wealth of information for our planning. A high-level summary of the results of the survey will be shared in a future Trumpet. I hope you will check out the article from the Vitality Team. More importantly, I hope you will set aside 20 minutes to take the survey. Your input is valuable to us as, together, we chart a course into God’s preferred future.

October 2017 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

Beginning October 8th, I hope you’ll join us for a sermon series on in the major motion picture, The Shack. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll notice God portrayed by an African-American woman, a White woman & a Native American man. We first see God, as Papa, played by Octavia Spencer. Jesus is portrayed as a young carpenter of Middle Eastern descent & Sarayu, the Holy Spirit, in the form of an Asian woman.

Let me encourage you that these characters are not meant as literal portrayals of God or as a theological statement on the gender or race of God. Instead, they are an artistic way of presenting the different aspects of God’s character in each member of the Trinity. They are creative representations of God’s transcendence & goodness. God is above & beyond all earthly limitations & in God’s goodness, God desires to break down all boundaries in order to reach us with God’s compassion & saving grace.

That’s what we see God doing with Mack. In the context of the story, Mack has rejected God in the past, but God is reaching out to him. Early in the movie, we see that Mack & his mother were abused by his alcoholic father. This naturally shapes Mack’s view of God as a father & is a big part of why Mack rejects God. In the movie, we hear Papa tell him, “After what you’ve been through, I didn’t think you could handle a father right now.” Papa knows what Mack needs & longs to heal him & Papa reaches out to Mack in a representation he can relate to. In fact, later in the film, God appears as Wisdom, a White woman & still later, God appears as a Native American man & tells Mack that a father figure is what’s needed for the challenge Mack has to face at that time. In much deeper ways than gender, God is not at all who or what Mack expected.

While the movie is fictional, the artistic representations of God through these characters are a powerful picture of the Holy One. The appearance of God in different characters echoes the truth of the Bible that God is three in one & that God is not limited by our earthly concepts of the Divine. This is true throughout many accounts in the Bible, where we see God taking on various forms in order to meet with those God loves. For Moses, it was a burning bush. To the Israelites escaping Egypt, God appeared in the form of a pillar of cloud & of fire. Elsewhere in the Bible, God’s presence was manifested in & through a rushing wind & God’s message came through angels & even a donkey. Even Jesus Himself, who had a human body, was not what some people expected of the Messiah.

And in case you feel taken aback by the portrayal of God as a woman, don’t forget that there are places in the Bible where God’s character is described in female terms. Hosea compared God’s love for Israel to that of a mother: “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek & I bent down to feed them” (Hosea 11:4). Isaiah echoed this idea of God comforting Israel like a mother: “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you & you will be comforted over Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:13). And in Luke 15, Jesus told a parable of a woman who lost & then found a coin, comparing her diligent search for & joy over finding her coin to God’s rejoicing over a sinner who repents.

Are these passages claiming God is a woman? No. And neither is The Shack. But God is in the business of disintegrating our assumptions & expectations & replacing them with an invitation to trust His goodness as He works in our lives. He will stop at nothing to draw us closer & demonstrate to us His love & goodness.

It feels a bit like Aslan, the great lion in The Chronicles of Narnia. On first hearing that the true king of Narnia is a lion rather than a man, one of the main characters, Susan, responds, “Ooh, I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” Her host, Mr. Beaver, replies, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”[1]

C. S. Lewis wasn’t teaching that God is a lion. And The Shack isn’t teaching that God is a woman. What we find in both are powerful elements of storytelling & beautiful depictions of God’s character & God’s relentless love & pursuit of each of us walking in the earthly constraints & brokenness of this human life.

I hope you will join us.

On the journey . . .

September 2017 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

September is often a time for homecoming. I pray your summer has been filled with rest and re-creation, because we have an event filled fall in store for all.  Our official kick-off will be Sunday, September 10, when Sunday School will start and Vitality is hosting a Volunteer Fair where you can learn about various ministry activities at the church and in the community. There’s so much more. Check out the pages of this newsletter.

The Bible’s most popular story of homecoming is The Parable of the Prodigal Son. I hope you will find this re-telling, by the Rev. W. O. Taylor, to be as amusing as I did. He calls it, “The Final Fixing of the Futile Fugitive.”

Feeling footloose, fancy-free and frisky, this feather-brained fellow finagled his fond father into forking over his fortune.  Forthwith, he fled for foreign fields and frittered his farthings feasting fabulously with fair-weather friends. Finally, fleeced by those folly filled fellows and facing famine, he found himself a feed flinger in a filthy farm-lot.  He fain would have filled his frame with foraged food from fodder fragments.

"Fooey!  My father's flunkies fare far fancier," the frazzled fugitive fumed feverishly, frankly facing fact.

Frustrated from failure and filled with forebodings, he fled for his family.  Falling at his father's feet, he floundered forlornly. "Father, I have flunked and fruitlessly forfeited further family favors . . ."

The faithful father, forestalling further flinching, frantically flagged his flunkies to fetch forth the finest fatling and fix a feast.

But the fugitive's fault-finding frater, faithfully farming his father's fields for free, frowned at this fickle forgiveness of former falderal. His fury flashed, but fussing was futile.

His foresighted father figured, "Such filial fidelity is fine, but what forbids fervent festivities? The fugitive is found!  Unfurl the flags!  With fanfare flaring, let fun, frolic and frivolity flow freely, former failures forgotten and folly forsaken.  Forgiveness forms a firm foundation for future fortitude."

Whether you’ve been faithfully farming your father’s fields or have frittered away your farthings feasting fabulously, it’s time to come home. Let the festivities begin! Let Christ’s followers form a fabulous fellowship, forging ahead in faithful witness to God’s forgiveness and unfailing love.

On the journey . . .

August 2017 "Trumpet" Newsletter
Bob Gross, Senior Pastor

Life is full of challenges. How we face them says a lot about who we are. This week I was reminded of two people who faced significant challenges. One I found while reading an obscure biblical story for Vacation Bible School and the other in my Facebook newsfeed. I was encouraged by both characters and hope you will be as well.

You can read all about the first person in 1 Samuel 25. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version: David was not yet king. He had been anointed and had slain Goliath but Saul still had the job. David would have to wait. In the meantime, David led a band of Robin  Hood  type outlaws. They protected shepherds and their flocks as the sheep grazed. David became aware that one of the owners of a flock, Nabal, had brought his sheep in to be sheered. David sent a few men in to see if Nabal would share some meat and provisions with his police force. Nabal wanted no part of sharing his wealth, no matter that he benefited from David’s protection. David got upset and took most of his force, intent on killing Nabal and all his servants.

Enter Abigail, the first of my encouragers. One of the servants, aware that Nabal had angered David, went to inform his wife, Abigail. She took matters into her own hands and met David on route with bread, wine, butchered sheep and other supplies. Her peace offering did more than save the life of her husband, their servants and her own life, it also helped David to realize that in his anger he was about to sin and she kept him from doing that. During VBS, we spoke of Abagail as a woman of purpose and as an example to us all to live our own purpose.

Doing so is not always easy. Enter the second of my encouragers, Jim Thorpe, pictured here. Look closely at the photo, you can see that he's wearing different socks and shoes. This wasn't a fashion statement. It was the 1912 Olympics, and Jim, an American Indian from Oklahoma represented the U.S. in track and field. On the morning of his competitions, his shoes were stolen. Luckily, Jim ended up finding two shoes in a garbage bin. That's the pair that he's wearing in the photo. But one of the shoes was too big, so he had to wear an extra sock. Wearing these shoes, Jim won two gold medals.

Abigail and Jim were clear about their purpose. What’s your purpose? How are you growing spiritually and becoming a more devoted follower of Christ?

They both faced challenges. Our heroes looked not on what they didn’t have, but rather, on what they had. This, it seems to me, is key to facing challenges. Rather than lamenting, “I don’t have enough time, enough money, enough status, enough this or that,” asking ourselves, “how can I make it work with what I do have?”

On Sunday, September 10 the Vitality Team will be hosting a Volunteer Fair following worship, with various committees and groups presenting their ministries. It's a wonderful opportunity to learn about all the great activities going on around the church. We'll be serving brunch. There will be games and prizes too! Look for more details in next month's Trumpet.

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

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,, 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 ( 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,,  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,


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