Blog News

Take Joy! (Philippians 1:1-18a)



IF YOU DON’T READ ANYTHING ELSE, READ THIS: David Telfort is preaching at Plymouth this weekend (5:30 Saturday Night and 11:00 Sunday morning). Don’t miss it!


Now we return to our regularly scheduled blogging.

What is joy? Where does it come from? Does it ever seem elusive?

In our text for this week, Paul finds joy in a jail cell. If joy is still eluding me, maybe I am going about this in the wrong way.


Philippians 1:1-18a

1Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6I 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. 7It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

12 I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, 13so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; 14and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.

15 Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill.16These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; 17the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. 18What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.


As we close in on the end of the program year, the Narrative Lectionary takes a turn into the Epistles. This last section of the New Testament consists of letters –some written to individuals, but most (like this one) to entire church communities.

Since we will spend a couple of weeks with Paul’s letter to the Philippians, it will probably help to know a little about the ways that letters work in the 1st century Greco-Roman setting of Paul’s ministry. Letter writing and letter reading were cherished pursuits in the ancient world. Letter writers were expected to adhere to certain stylistic conventions –which Paul clearly knew, employed and exploited in his own writings. Paul was an itinerant. He would move into a new community, start a new church, stay just long enough to get the fledgling young community on its feet and then set out for the next town. But letters allowed him to keep in touch with his churches after he had moved on.

What I find so interesting about reading this particular letter at this particular point is that Paul is writing to the church in the town where he had a rough go of it –as we heard just two weeks ago. Also: Paul is writing this letter from prison –probably at the end of his life.

He has many good reasons to be bitter, to be anxious, to vent the resentments and grievances that he has nursed these many years.

But Paul’s Letter to the Philippians has one overriding theme: joy! Joy in a jail cell! Joy on death row.

Facing the end of his own life, Paul is just joyful?


I’m not preaching this weekend (DAVID TELFORT IS!), and I’m not really a “three points and a poem” preacher, but I can’t help observing three sources of Paul’s joy in this opening chapter:


  • Joy comes from relationships (I thank my God every time I remember you…). Paul remembers the Philippian community with great fondness. And their continued presence in his life serves as a source of joy. When I read this, I am reminded of how much more rewarding it is to invest in my friends and family than Twitter and Facebook. Relationships serve as a source of joy.


  • Joy comes from trust. (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.”). Things do not look so good for Paul, with the whole “imprisonment and imminent death” scenario. But the letter reveals his deep trust in the purpose of God. Even if he cannot see how God will make a way, he trusts that God will make a way. And so he has joy. (The disclaimer, of course, is that this could lead us into the tall theological grass of divine providence. This could highjack the blog post so, let me simply say this: I don’t believe that God controls everything or makes everything happen according to a predetermined plan. I do, however, believe that God is one hell of a chess player –that God is infinitely resourceful and always working for the good all around us. Is that enough? Some days, yes.). Joy comes from trusting in God.


  • Joy comes from maintaining a sense of perspective. (“…others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. 18What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way…”). I so admire Paul’s incredible generosity of spirit in this text. He has enemies –people out to get him, to mess up his life’s work. Their motives are suspect, their work contrary to his. But Paul doesn’t let any of that bother him. What matters is that Christ is proclaimed. He is taking an incredibly long view here and it serves him well.


I so often act like joy will be mine once I…what? Finish this project. Solve that problem. End this program year. Resolve the current crisis. So joy is always just over the horizon.

But Paul finds joy in a jail cell.

Fra Giovanni said it better than I ever could:

“No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within reach, is joy. Take joy!”


Blog News

Rev. Traci Blackmon to Preach at Plymouth Church!


Join us for worship on Sunday, April 29, when Plymouth welcomes nationally-recognized preacher and activist the Rev. Traci Blackmon into our pulpit.

Rev. Blackmon serves as Executive Minister of Justice and Local Church Ministries for the United Church of Christ and Senior Pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ Florissant, MO.

A featured voice with many regional, national, and international media outlets and a frequent contributor to print publications, Rev. Blackmon’s communal leadership and work in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown, Jr., in Ferguson, MO has gained her both national and international recognition and audiences from the White House to the Carter Center to the Vatican. She was appointed to the Ferguson Commission by Governor Jay Nixon and to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships for the White House by President Barack H. Obama. Rev. Blackmon co-authored the White Privilege curriculum for the United Church of Christ and toured the nation with Rev. Dr. William Barber of Moral Mondays and Repairer of the Breech, Rev. Dr. James Forbes of The Drum Major Institute and pastor emeritus of The Riverside Church in New York, and Sister Simone Campbell of Nuns on the Bus proclaiming the need for a Moral Revival in this nation.

Rev. Blackmon will preach on Sunday, April 29 at both services and speak at the Fellowship Forum (in the Greenwood Room) between services. All are welcome!

Blog News

Good Question; Bad Sitcom (Acts 16:16-34)



It’s one of my favorite questions -and one of the 80’s more mediocre sitcoms:

Who’s The Boss?

That is also what this reading from Acts is all about: Who is in charge and why does it matter?

Acts 16:16-34

16One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” 18She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. 19But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. 20When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” 22The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods.23After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. 24Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.


25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”31They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

Last week we heard about a critical moment in the spread of early Christianity: that time when a man named Saul had his life forever changed on the Damascus Road. Long story short, Sau becomes Paul and spends the rest of his life engaged in a kind of missionary enterprise: spreading the Gospel and starting churches around the Roman Empire.

In Acts 16, Paul and his companions are trying—mostly failing—to do their missionary thing in the Roman colony of Philippi. They have had a hard time of it. And things are about to get much much worse. It’s a story about who is in charge and why that matters.

The story unfolds in three scenes.

I find the first scene terribly sad. On the streets of Philippi, Paul encounters a slave girl Possessed by spirit of divination; she tells fortunes and makes money for her owners. This girl is twice a slave: owned by the men who exploit her and afflicted by the voices in her own head.

Look how bad things can get when the wrong people take charge of a life.

But her madness gives her a kind of genius.  The voices in her head offer insight that others do not possess. She knows exactly who Paul and his companions are: “These men are slaves of the Most High God.” That’s what the slave girl says. Guess it takes one to know one. (As Lawrence W. Farris observes, everyone in this story is enslaved).

How does Paul feel about all of this? Annoyed. “Very much annoyed.” So annoyed that he turns to her and drives the demons out. Now, that might seem like a good outcome. But I’m not so sure. Her owners are not happy. Their hope of making money from her is gone.

So we come to Scene Two. To be slaves of the Most High God puts Paul and his friends on a collision course with the Roman authorities. Angered at their financial loss, the slave girl’s owners drag Paul and Silas into court. But they don’t accuse them of interfering with commerce. Instead, they charge them with several vague sounding somethings: “disturbing the peace,” “advocating foreign customs.” The charges are kind of nebulous. (David L. Tiede takes it a little farther. He says the charges are “spurious”).

And they’re not actually convicted of any crime. The authorities in Philippi have them stripped, beaten and “placed in protective custody,” which is to say, shackled in the deepest corner of the darkest dungeon. For their own good, of course.

Hard to say what they did wrong, but this much is clear: Paul and Silas’ allegiance to God Most High renders them suspect in the eyes of Rome.

And that brings us to Scene Three. Right around midnight in the Roman jail, Paul and Silas make a holy nuisance of themselves –praying and singing hymns to God. But suddenly a violent earthquake shakes the foundations of the prison. Every door flies open. Every chain falls off. Free at last!

But one man’s jail break is another man’s career disaster. The jailer is having a bad day. Waking up, seeing what has happened, he prepares, quite literally, to fall on his sword. Think about this: in response to a situation he could not have prevented—a literal act of God—this jailer would rather take his own life then talk it over with his supervisor.

You think you have a bad boss? Try running a Roman jail.

But before he can do the deed, Paul calls out: “Do not harm yourself. We are all here.”  The jailer calls for light, rushes in, falls down trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas.

Sirs, “he says, “what must I do to be saved?”

Except…that isn’t what he says. Not exactly. Like Spanish or French, in Greek the word for “sir” and the word for “lord” are the same word. So look what happens here: His old boss has treated him badly. So he submits to Silas and Paul, figures maybe they can be his new bosses. “Lords,” he says, “what must I do to be saved?”

 Maybe you can be the boss of me?

But Paul and Silas don’t want to be the boss of anybody. The jailer calls them “lords,” but they talk to him about “The Lord, Jesus Christ.” Believe in him, trust in him and you will be saved. And then they speak the word of The Lord to him.

So the jailer takes them home, washes their wounds, receives baptism at their hand. Then they gather around a table, share some food.

Rome does not run his life anymore –but neither do Silas and Paul. In his life, from now on, Jesus Christ is Lord.

The jail will be closed indefinitely. The jailer is under new management.

Blog News

Meet Me on the Damascus Road



The blog is back!

I took the week after Easter to do…very little. Mary Beth and I took a trip to Mason City to do a little Music Man tourism. I binge-watched a Norwegian political thriller. I baked my very first pound cake, which was not very good, and my second ever pound cake, which turned out pretty well.

I *think* I am rested, but the February-esque weather is doing its best to convince me otherwise.

I know this much: I am thrilled to think about the next several weeks of worship at Plymouth Church! In the Easter season, you will be hearing a lot about Fruitful Change, our campaign for the future of Plymouth’s Transition into Ministry Program.

One especially exciting aspect of this campaign will be welcoming some familiar faces back into the pulpit of Plymouth Church. At all three services, The Rev. Corinne Freedman Ellis will preach.

Her text tells of one of the best known stories of the early church: the time when Saul of Tarsus met the Risen Christ on the Damascus Road.

Acts 9:1-19a

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.6But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”7The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”17So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus.

There is so much to love about this story! But, first, we have to cover the vast tracts of land we skipped over to arrive at this point in the story.

Last week we heard how the Risen Christ appeared to the disciples, including Thomas. This week we move forward in time quite a bit. And here is what happened in between: Jesus’ disciples form the core of what became the early church: a movement devoted to following in the way of Jesus. The Book of Acts recounts the growth and spread of the early Christian movement.

Saul of Tarsus enters the story, initially, as an enemy of the church. He sees the early Christians as heretics deserving imprisonment or even (in one notorious instance) death. Saul is so devoted to his project of persecuting Christians that he takes the show on the road –traveling to Damascus (in Syria) to round up and imprison the Christians there.

But on the road to Damascus, for Saul, everything will change.

My teacher, the late Jim Loder, likened spiritual transformations to something called “the figure ground reversal.” As with certain optical illusions, so in the encounter with the Risen Christ, Saul suddenly sees everything exactly the same and completely different.

You can, I think, reconstruct all of Paul’s theology from the shattering insight he has on the Damascus Road: the crucified Christ—the very one who was rejected and died under a curse—is God’s chosen Savior, through whom God is working to heal and help all things.

Think of the person, the ideology, the movement you are MOST CERTAIN is not only wrong but evil.

Now: imagine in one moment hearing the voice of God tell you that person, that ideology, that movement is God’s chosen instrument.

Imagine how different the world would look in that moment. And you may have some small sense of what it was like to be Saul outside Damascus.

But, for my money, Saul is not the hero of this story. After all, he does not do very much. But Ananias? He steps up in a big way. Where would we be without Ananias? He has been warned that Saul is coming to hurt him and to hurt the people he loves. But how does he greet his enemy?

“Brother Saul.”

What a difference those two words make!


BONUS: You know the best thing about a blog? No word count!

Probably the most controversial sermon I ever preached was based on this passage. It was the Easter season –April of 2010- and I was experimenting with something called “incarnational translation.” I wanted to see if I could convey what I believe to be happening in this story –not by explaining it as preachers usually do, but my telling the same story in a different way.

This was my attempt, preached at Plymouth Church on April 18 2010. I entitled it “Ready for Easter?”



No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life’s journey, you are always welcome here.

 We say that a lot around here.  Last week, we said it twice. I hope you aren’t sick of hearing it yet, because we certainly aren’t sick of saying it.  I don’t suspect that we will be anytime soon.  But it is one thing to repeat some slogan.  It is another thing entirely to live it –to practice the kind of radical hospitality that really can welcome whoever may happen to walk in our door.

Because you never know.  Our text for today suggests that, when the Easter God is on the loose, anything can happen.

The question for us is simply this: are we ready?



The Rev. Dr. William S. Hicks—“Saul” to his friends—usually needs no introduction.  As senior pastor of the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he preaches in person, every Sunday morning, to a flock of 10,000, and to millions more through the congregation’s television and radio broadcasts.  As a founding figure of the Christian Coalition, he has advised Presidents, counseled congressional leaders and made countless appearances on Larry King Live. 

But just lately, Dr. Hicks has grown apprehensive about the state of our nation; he has watched, anxiously, as the forces of wickedness gained a foothold right here in the heartland.

On Sunday, April the fifth, 2009—the first Sunday after the Iowa State Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of marriage equality—Dr. Hicks told his congregation, in a solemn tone, that dark days had come for all who love the Lord.  He said (in his best pulpit voice) that, in the face of such an egregious injustice, good people could no longer stand idly by.  So he pledged himself, his congregation, and all his vast media empire to work without ceasing until the state of Iowa should be brought back to its senses; until traditional marriage was upheld in the Hawkeye state.

The reaction in Iowa was both swift and predictable. The Unitarians rolled their eyes.  Many of the Methodists did not know what to think.  And conservative leaders from the Missouri to the Mississippi rejoiced to have such a champion. He started making frequent trips to the state, speaking at rallies and appearing at press conferences alongside Chuck Hurley and Bryan English from the Iowa Family Policy Center.  He became a regular guest on Jan Michelson and Steve Deace’s radio programs.  Before long, he established his place as the de facto leader of the “pro-marriage” movement in Iowa.

And then…he took it up a notch.

In the early months of 2010, The Rev. Dr. William S. Hicks caused quite a stir.  Although (he said) he preferred to stay above the fray of partisan politics, desperate times call for desperate measures, so he announced his intention to endorse a candidate in the race for Governor.  The media was all atwitter, speculating endlessly and breathlessly: which candidate would it be? Would his endorsement effectively end the race? What did all of this mean? Where is David Yepsen when we need him? An entire state waited with bated breath.

But Iowa ended up waiting a long, long time.

A funny thing happened to the Rev. Dr. William S. Hicks on the way to make his much-anticipated endorsement: he fell and hit his head.  In a men’s room in the Memphis airport, as he waited to change planes, a freshly-mopped floor brought the big man down. Although he briefly lost consciousness, and although paramedics were summoned to the scene, he managed to catch his connecting flight and arrived in Des Moines on time.

But he just did not feel like himself. He canceled the press conference, refused to return phone calls from his friends and, after consulting with a local physician, he checked himself into Methodist Hospital.  He presented perplexing symptoms: no appetite, no energy and some unusual issues with his eyesight. (He said something about “scales”).  Test after test was ordered, but nothing proved conclusive.  The doctors scratched their heads.

Three days after he had arrived in town, a small group of medical students from Des Moines University was accompanying a doctor on rounds.  One of those students—a young woman named Anna—recognized Dr. Hicks right away.  She whispered swiftly to her friend, “This is the guy.  This is the guy who came all of this way to impose his religion on the rest of us, the guy who thinks we should write discrimination into the state constitution. I hate this guy.”

Or, at least, she thought she hated him.  But as the doctor quizzed them about his symptoms, her mind began to wander.  She found herself starting to feel kind of sorry for this strange, sad man, stuck here in a hospital room so far from his home.  And all the rest of that day, she kept recalling a line from one of her favorite novelists, Graham Greene, something about how, when you look at someone carefully, you cannot help but feel pity, because you can always see the Image of God within them.

Pity brought her back to that hospital room when her shift had ended –pity and some nagging sense that this was the right thing to do.  It felt painfully awkward.  They spoke, at first, of superficial things –of the weather, and Sooner football.  (She had a cousin at the University of Oklahoma).  But as the shadows lengthened, and they settled in, something strange began to happen: he started to open up; to share some of the confusion and doubts that had dogged him these last three days.  And when he finally trailed off into an embarrassed silence, wondering if maybe he had said too much, she was surprised to hear herself say, “You know, Saul, if you plan on staying in town for awhile, maybe you would like to visit my church some time.  I think maybe you would like it.”

And that is how the Rev. Dr. William S. Hicks found himself in the third pew from the front, pulpit side, for the 11 o’clock Sunday morning service at Plymouth Church.  People tried very hard not to stare.  (Mostly they failed).  They whispered about him in Waveland Hall at the coffee hour: he applauded enthusiastically for the KinderChoir, someone said.  I thought he was glaring at the lesbian couple in his pew, said another.  Call me crazy, said a third, but I think he really listened to the sermon.  And someone else said they saw him talking, at length, with one of the deacons after the service.

After that Sunday, things got weird.  Without any public statement, he resigned his pulpit in Tulsa, sold almost all of his stuff and moved into a little house on Cottage Grove.  He started showing up most Sundays at Plymouth, went through the Discover Plymouth New Member class, even nominated himself for the Board of Christian Social Action.  When he volunteered to carry the Plymouth Church banner in the Pride Parade, some said this was getting a little ridiculous.  Some said this had gone too far.

But all the while, there he sat, almost every Sunday morning, three pews from the front on the pulpit side.  And every single time, he heard someone say: No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life’s journey, you are always welcome here.

I guess he must have believed that.  I guess Saul took us at our word.



It isn’t just a slogan.  It is a question, one that we should always be asking ourselves: are we prepared to welcome whoever will walk through our door? Or, to put it another way, are we ready for Easter?

You see, Easter isn’t over.  It never is, because Easter isn’t a one-time thing; Easter is an ever-repeating event.  Easter happens -over and over and over again.  Every time the Risen One comes barging into someone’s life to highjack it for the purpose of God, Easter occurs.  So long as the wild and reckless God of the Gospel is on the loose, any day might be Easter Day.

We have to stay on our toes.  It is not up to us to decide when or where or how it will take place.  We can never control the Easter event; we cannot make it happen or manage it once it does.  All that we can do—all God ever asks us to do—is get ready for Easter to happen.

Because it will happen.  Just ask Ananias.  There he is, minding his own business, in the workaday world of Damascus, when the Easter God suddenly shows up and whispers this crazy idea in his ear.  Saul is on the way, “breathing out threats and murder,” with a warrant in his hand to round up all the Christians and toss them in the clink.  But the Spirit suggests that God has got some other plans for Saul: “I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  Saul will never be the same.  It is about to be Easter again.


But only if Ananias plays along.  This altogether minor disciple—a man we have never heard of before and will never hear from again—this minor disciple has a major role.  He has to go to Saul, has to lay his hands on this man, has to call him his “brother.”   That is how Easter will happen for Saul.  Ananias cannot make it happen, but God does not intend to have it happen without Ananias.


Of course, the story is so significant because Saul becomes Paul –apostle to the Gentiles, tireless missionary, author of 2/3rds the New Testament.  But all of that begins—all of that can only begin—when Ananias embraces him, when the church in Damascus baptizes him, when the first generation Christians welcome him at their table -no matter who he is, no matter where he is on life’s journey. 


They knew the part they had to play.  They were ready for Easter.  


Are we?



Plymouth Welcomes Nikira Hernandez-Evans to TiM Program


The Transition into Ministry Committee is pleased to announce and welcome Nikira Hernandez-Evans as the newest Associate in the TiM program. Nikira will join us at the beginning of June and this will be her first time living in the Midwest.

She grew up in California but did attend undergraduate school at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Nikira can see and experience snow in the California mountains but that requires she go to visit it rather than snow’s regular visitation with us in the Midwest. We gave her a good taste of Iowa winter and snow during her interview weekend of February 9-11 this year.

Nikira is a graduate of Pacific School of Religion, where she earned the Master of Divinity in 2016. She has been engaged in The Chaplaincy Institute since her graduation; as well as a year of Chaplaincy internship with the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco.

During her telephone interview, Nikira responded to the question about what has surprised herself so far in life by saying “Becoming a Christian.” She went on to explain that she had to accept and build a relationship with Jesus and, in doing so, learn to give up anger and distress.

She has since begun to assess and merge the similarities between her Paiute ancestry and Christianity. Nikira wrote in her UCC Profile that “my Native American (Paiute) spiritual practice tells me that (Holy) Spirit is in all things: the rocks, the animals, the trees, the water, the birds, the fish, the soil, and the humans. We are in covenant with all of creation to care for one another.”

Certainly seems like God’s exhortation and reminder to humans of God’s creation, our covenant with that creation and each other as well as with God. A good reminder, Nikira, and we welcome you and your wife, Marissa.


Memory Cafe


Memory Cafe happens 10-11 a.m. the first Friday of the month (April 6 this month) in Plymouth Grounds Coffee Shop. If you or someone you love is living with memory loss, come join us for a coffee or tea and a social hour in the coffee shop. It’s not a support group, exactly, but we do support each other and get what it’s like to live with memory loss. Come meet some folks who understand what you’re going through. Contact LeAnn Stubbs at for more information.