Press play to hear Pastor Craig’s message about Let Light Shine!

The beauty of our stained glass windows, though dimmed, adds to the richness of our worship life together.  We have grown accustomed to the dimming of the light, but we are now ready to Let Light Shine, unobstructed and brilliant. 

Capital Appeal Committee

Let Light Shine Capital Appeal Brochure

Let Light Shine Capital Appeal Letter

Ways To Contribute

Let Light Shine Capital Appeal Updates

Bovard Studio

Article in the Dispatch-Argus

September 28th | 4 pm – 8 pm

Join us for our first ever Oktoberfest.

Press play to hear Co-chair Joshua Dyer’s invitation to join us for Oktoberfest!

  • Free food for kids 10 and under.
  • Brats, German Potato Salad, Desserts, and more.
  • Bent River Beer and Wine.
    • Uncommon Stout, Oktoberfest, Mississippi Blonde, Undercurrent IPA, Daytrotter Pale Ale, Fruition:Mango Peach
  • “Squeezy” Wes Miller accordion music, magicians, FREE BOUNCE HOUSE.  

Volunteers Needed!

Help share the fun-loving joy of our congregation with our neighbors by helping to host the party (32 volunteers needed to fill 2 hour shifts) or contribute to support this important outreach to our community. Click the button below!

Save the Date! February 9th at 5 pm!

Once again we are setting the stage for the annual Valentine’s Dinner Theater! Plan to attend as the Youth serve you a delicious dinner, and then enjoy all the talent FCC has to offer. As usual, we will also have a 50/50 and door prize raffles. Silent Auction theme baskets will go on display during fellowship the morning of February 9th and will be open for bidding through the evening.

Sign up here!

Reserve your spot, register your talent act…

Donate Here

All proceeds from this event will go towards the summer youth mission experience and youth activities. If you would like to donate to FCC youth but are unable to attend this event, please click the donate button below. You can also donate silent auction basket items or gift cards by emailing Tami below.

Rev. Michael Swartz
December 29th, 2019
Matthew 2:13-23 | Bulletin


There are a number of ways to read and hear the Gospel account in Matthew read today of Joseph, Mary and Jesus fleeing a genocide in Judea and fleeing to Egypt for safety.

  • It cam be read in terms of prophesy fulfilled.
  • It can be read in terms of recurring themes of political dynamics and despots.
  • It can be read in terms of dramatic intervention of God to save.

A key way that Christians sometimes read and hear the stories of Jesus is to personalize them.  They see the accounts in terms of persons struggling for survival.  And ask, “How would I feel?”  and, “How would we would respond if we saw Jesus in this situation?”

At a later point in Matthew (25:25) Jesus preaching seems to take this personalized perspective:  I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat.  I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. As you did this to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you did it unto me.

+ + +

Religious traditions have dramatized the Holy Family in need of hospitality.  Las Posadas, popular in Mexico and Latin America, re-enacts in December the journey that Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of a safe refuge where Mary could give birth to the baby Jesus.   When they were unable to find lodging in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary were forced to seek shelter in a stable, where the Christ Child was born.

Each evening during the festival, a small child dressed as an angel leads a procession through the streets of the town. The procession is primarily made up of children dressed in silver and gold robes carrying lit candles and images of Mary and Joseph riding a donkey. Adults, including musicians, follow the procession, which visits selected homes and asks for lodging for Joseph and Mary. Traditionally, the procession is always refused lodging, though the hosts often provide refreshments. At each stop, passages of scripture are read and Christmas carols are sung[1].

Las Posadas asks, “How would we receive Jesus?”

In many Christian circles in the United States folks are asked to make a personal decision to “accept Jesus into their hearts and lives.”

+ + +

Here are two first hand accounts of people seeking refuge that I have heard personally in my travels with Illinois Maya Ministries in Guatemala.

Thurs. Jan.  11, 2018: Up in Huehuetenango, at the Hotel Zaculeu.  I am able to Facetime with my wife.  I see on Facebook that our friends Sonya and Dave have had their second child, baby Jack.  Great to be able to be in touch.  Send them “congratulations!” 

We travel to Chaculá, and ride with Vicente in his small Toyota SUV, of which he is proud.  We have one of those “in the car” (rearview mirror) recollections when we are passing near municipality of Nenton, and a village where his family had lived.  Was it Limonar? Vicente recalls walking with his family in the middle of the night to flee from the violence and go to Mexico; they were burning houses in his village that night, and they could see the glow on the clouds.  It is a low area and he remembers flooding and walking in water.  He was about five years of age and with his two older sisters and a girl who had been taken in by his family because her parents had been killed by the military.  His sister carried him part of the way when the water got too deep.  The family had only what they could carry with them. This was in 1981.  He was in refuge in Mexico for twelve years.  The family returned to Guatemala in January 1994. 

At first they were welcomed by a Mexican family who let them camp on their land.  Later some 40 families organized and made a camp together.  Vicente expresses his gratitude to Mexico, the diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas, and COMAR[2] – the refugee organization of the Mexican government.  At first it was individuals who offered generosity and let them stay on their land, later it was the Mexican government who concentrated the refugees in camps as time went on and offered education, among other things. 

Back in Guatemala Vicente graduated from college as a teacher, and later went to law school in Huehuetenango, commuting on weekends on a motorcycle, and is now an attorney.  He is doing well.

In contrast, here is a first-had account we heard in May 2019 that gave us a particularly challenging insight: 

Josefina is a Guatemalan mother of five.  Three of her children live in the US, which most of the people in her small hamlet know.  So when she one day received a threatening extortion letter, she was terrified, but not surprised.  There had been rumors of this sort of thing happening to others who have family members earning relatively good incomes abroad. 

Tearfully, she shared the letter with us.  Written in a crude, semi-literate hand, the obscene wording advised Josefina to pay an exorbitant sum to “certain parties”, without which “things would go very badly for you”, and, more frighteningly, for her 18-year-old daughter.  She was only too aware of what that meant.

A local judge quickly advised Josefina to leave Guatemala as soon as possible.  Her children sent funds for the journey.  “Things can be quickly arranged”, she shared, and within days, she and her daughter were in the hands of a local “coyote”, or human trafficker, bound for the US border. 

They travelled for ten days in dark vans and trucks, “all squeezed in” with dozens of others.  They slept in abandoned warehouses and sometimes in open fields.  They believed that the perils of the journey were better than the risk of the likely consequences in their homeland.

Josefina and her daughter were apprehended at the US border.  They were immediately separated and had no contact again until they were both deported months later.  The awful reality for us, as US citizens, was to understand that Josefina was clearly more traumatized by her experience in detention than she had been at any other time in the journey.

In three border detention centers, Josefina relates a story of seemingly intentional psychological breakdown.  Guards shouted at them in vile and abusive language.  Prisoners were forced to run, shackled to other prisoners, for 10-minute mealtimes, with breakfast starting at 3:00 and 4:00 am.  Insufficient food was provided and water was drunk from the toilets.  Josefina, who is illiterate, was forced to sign form after form, with no oral or written translation provided.  Cavity searches occurred with no explanation.  (As she related this she choked up and cried.)  Legal representation was an impossible hope.  Perhaps worst of all, she had no idea how long she would be in this desperate situation.

The humiliation worked. Increasingly traumatized, Josefina gave up hope of greater safety, and welcomed deportation:  “just anything to get out of there”.  Even the deportation process was delayed, and she was transferred yet again.  The final humiliation was the guard’s sudden change in behavior upon arrival at the Guatemala City airport.  Finally unshackled, as government officials and the public looked on, guards demonstrated solicitous care for the migrants’ well being.

Conclusion

Kindness is an act of rebellion – (Pink)

My understanding has changed as I have heard personal accounts of fleeing from one country to another.  I have come to think of refugees as individual persons and their narratives challenge me to ask, “What I would do?” 

The Hebrew scripture repeats often, “Remember that you were once enslaved in Egypt.” 

Jesus preaches, “what you did to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you did unto me.”

Amen and amen.


[1] from Online Britannica.

[2] (Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados – COMAR), is responsible for the recognition of refugee status. In addition COMAR, is in charge of the promotion and coordination of public actions, strategies, and programs, directed towards the protection and assistance of refugees.

Join us for Hallelujah Sunday!  We begin at 9:00 am in Fellowship Hall for Cocoa, Caroling and Blankets. While you sip and sing, help us put the finishing touches on fleece blankets to be donated to Closet2Closet, a local agency providing foster and homeless children current-trend, age-appropriate clothing and personal items.  

Then join us in worship at 10:00 am, featuring our Celebration Choir of 2nd-8th Graders and the Quad City Brass.  

Worship concludes with a congregational sing-along of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah, accompanied by Quad City Brass. 

Quad City Brass

Parking Lot – Christmas Eve

Dear Neighbor,

Christmas is next week, and we have a full week of special services to celebrate the birth of Christ. While we are glad to share our parking lot with you, we ask your cooperation to help make room for the many people who celebrate Christmas with us at First Congregational UCC.

While we know parking in the neighborhood is a challenge, we ask that your car be moved from our lot no later than 10:00 am on Tuesday December 24th. Cars remaining in our lot after 10 am will be towed at the owner’s expense. Please share this information with visiting friends and family.

If this request is a hardship or an exception is needed, please contact our office.

As a reminder our snow policy is as follows: By 7:00am the day after our parking lot has been plowed, please move your car to a plowed parking spot. This will allow us to move the snow left around cars so it does not become dangerous ice over the winter. Thank you again for your neighborly cooperation.

It would be a gift to us to have you join us for worship to celebrate Christmas this year. We have included a list of our worship services along with my business card. Should you join us, please introduce yourself–it is good for us to know our neighbors.

In Christ,
Rev. Craig Jan-McMahon

Window Restoration Update

Completion of our window restoration project will be delayed until January.  In the process of cutting the glass to cover our windows, the work crew discovered the remaining glass was defective when each sheet of glass broke in exactly the same place.  New glass has been ordered and will be installed January 9th-14th.  In the meantime, all the occluded Plexiglass has been removed, so we will achieve our goal of Letting Light Shine on Christmas Eve.  

You can check out pictures of the project on our Facebook Page!

Did you notice that we did not have an annual stewardship campaign this year?

A little over a year ago, we hired a consultant to visit the church and write a Health Check Report (fccmoline.org/healthcheck). This report compares our congregation to growing and vital congregations, highlighting the good things we are doing and identifying changes we need to make.  The report concluded with a list of recommendations that Council has been addressing this year.  

One of the key areas focused on our stewardship practices and included the following recommendations:

  • Create a year-round Christian education program for all ages on generous living as a core Christian value.
  • Transition away from annual pledges and expend the same effort throughout the year on encouraging automatic recurring giving. The goal is to convince 80 percent of the congregation to become automatic recurring givers.
  • Separate the budgeting process from the stewardship process. Supporting an institutional budget should not be the reason we expect people to be generous. When the budget is presented to the congregation, describe all expenses in terms of ministry support with specific mission-focused goals for the future. Celebrate past achievements and what you’re planning next.
  • Augment the website, add pew envelopes and other support collateral to inspire generosity and promote automatic recurring gifts.

This year, we are unlinking the stewardship and budgeting processes.  Next year during Lent, we will begin our effort to develop a year-round program focused on the spirituality of giving and generous living as central to who we are as Christians. 

As we transition toward healthy and vital stewardship practices, we encourage the congregation to: 

  1. Please continue your generous support of our worship, ministries, and mission.
  2. Consider increasing your pledge amount for the upcoming year.
  3. Become an automatic recurring giver by contacting Jennifer Dailing in the office.
  4. Pray for our congregation as we seek to live generous lives. 

Your Church Council

Mary Newcomb, Moderator | Wes Llewellyn, Vice-Moderator | Joshua Dyer, Building & Finance | Amanda Beck, Christian Education | Sara Wynn, Outreach & Mission | Nancy Lackey, Spiritual Engagement | Audra Bailey, At-Large | Desiree Grace, At-Large | Heather Carlson, Clerk

This year there will be two Christmas Eve services at First Congregational UCC!

On Christmas Eve, our stained glass windows will be restored, dark, occluding Plexiglas replaced with clear plate glass.  As we light candles and raise our voices in song, the light of Christ we celebrate shine out unobstructed into the silent, holy night, a star of hope burning brightly. 

Living Nativity and Celebration Choir | 5:00pm

Our children will lead us in a dramatic telling of the Nativity Story.  We have plenty of costumes, and no rehearsal is required. All children, including family and friends visiting for Christmas, are welcome to participate.  Costuming begins at 4:30pm in Fellowship Hall. 

This year for the first time, the joyful voices of our Celebration Choir will help us celebrate the birth of Christ.  

Music and Lights  | 10:00pm 
Our 10:00pm service of Music and Lights begins with a Christmas Carol sing-along.  This service of Lessons and Carols features a chamber orchestra, Campanella Ringers, and the Chancel Choir. In sacred beauty, we sing Silent Night by candlelight, and conclude with voices raised together, singing Joy to the World!

We are thankful to God for the gift of Christ and joy of sharing the beauty and worship of our Congregation with family, friends, and guests.  We invite you to remember our congregation at Christmas, offering a special gift to support our worship and ministries. Special Christmas Offering will be taken on Sunday December 15th.

Give Online by clicking the button below

Christmas Gift

You can also mail in a check with Christmas Gift in the memo line to:

First Congregational United Church of Christ
2201 7th Ave.
Moline, IL 61254 

Each year during December, in preparation for Christmas, the Giving Tree arrives in our library so together we can share the light of Christ with our neighbors. Sponsored by our Outreach and Mission Board. You are invited to select a name tag from the Giving Tree, purchase items on the tag, and return the gifts in gift bags to our tree. What a great way to spread the Holiday spirit!

  • Shop for Gifts Names available on tree starting Sunday, December 1st.
    – Check out a tag from the Christmas Giving Tree located in the Library.
  • – Shop for gifts
  • – Return gifts in gift bags and NOT wrapped by Sunday December 15th.
  • Sponsor a gift $75
  • – Give online by clicking the button below or
  • – Place your donation in the giving tree envelope on Sunday December 8th
sponsor a gift

***New this year – please return gifts in gift bags and NOT wrapped***

The organizations have asked for safety purposes that gifts be put in gift bags and NOT wrapped (we found out many of them unwrap the gifts to see what is inside before sending home with the recipients).  If you are looking to take multiple tags, please consider taking tags of siblings-they will be marked! Thank you!

Who are we serving?
 Jefferson & Logan Schools
The ARC of the QC
Active Day Center

Family Christmas Caroling | Wednesday, December 4th | 6 pm – 8 pm

Bundle up & ride the church bus caroling around town, then head back to the church & warm up with hot cocoa!


Advent Festival | Sunday, December 8th | 5 pm

Plan to attend our annual Advent Festival! Please bring a dish to share and CE Board will serve a Holiday Ham. After dinner, enjoy holiday craft stations with the children of First Congregational UCC. All are welcome at this wonderful family event, bring your friends, children and grandchildren to enjoy the festivities!