February 19, 2021

Dear Prairie Avenue Family,

The thermostat for deep freeze setting outside appears to be shifting to more seasonable in the next couple of days. As continued good news is reported with COVID-19 cases declining and additional vaccination clinics anticipated to be scheduled in the next couple of weeks, our hope rises that we can gather again safely soon.

We are now in the season in Lent. Lent is a 40-day season (excluding Sundays) of intentional discipleship, spiritual discipline, and self-examination of life and walk of faith. This Sunday begins a membership and baptism candidate class over the next six weeks at 7 pm. This membership and baptism candidate class will also have an online version that I am still figuring out. Next Sunday, following 9:30 am worship (see below those changes), we will begin a Stephen Ministry training class to help us improve our skills and talents for sharing compassionate Christian care for others. I hope you are considering how you can be more intentional in discipleship, spiritual discipline, and self-examination.

Speaking of gathering together, we are going to offer more than a few opportunities to gather for worship in 2021. Starting next weekend (February 27-28), we will shift our in-person worship schedule as follows:

Saturday evening at 5 pm
Sunday mornings at 8 am and 9:30 am.
Online (posted usually on the website by late week, and as a "Premiere" on Facebook).

I hope that this schedule will be helpful to you. It recognizes that sometimes we need a different time in order to participate in the life of the church. After many "confessions" that disclosed several attendees missing worship because they overslept and could not be ready for worship by 9 am, in addition to it being the most popular time someone may consider attending a worship service (not too early, not too late), I felt the disruption was enough to offer a new worship time.

Couple of notes about these services. At least for now, they will all be the same hymns, songs, scripture, and sermon. There is the possibility that these will change in style, towards praise and traditional services. The weekend message/sermon will not change. They will all be held in the sanctuary, although we are considering the choir rehearsal room as a small worship center in the near future for the Saturday evening service.

I hope this updated schedule will give you flexibility for your weekend obligations and activities. I also hope it encourages you to offer a warm invitation to those considering joining (or returning) to our worship community to find a schedule that works for them, whether Saturday evening or Sunday morning.

Worship This Week: What's Wrong with Religion? Why Not Get Rid of It?
During the Lenten season, I will do a six week series sharing insights about responding to bad religion with good religion. I am sure that we all have had an experience with bad religion. Whether it is young Muslim men and women making themselves living bombs to kill innocent people in the name of God. Or the ongoing revelations involving the sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests and concealed by their bishops. The protests of the Westboro Baptist church against LGBTQ+ persons, claiming that even God hates who they hate. It would be easy to just say enough is enough and it is time to get rid of religion.

The history of the twentieth century reveals several attempts at creating a godless, religion-free state or nation. The Soviet Union, Mao's Cultural Revolution in China, the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, as well as the regime of North Korea have declared an atheist status. Notably, these nations also proceeded to murder thousands of their citizens. It seems that choosing a religious or non-religious state is like choosing between being shot or being poisoned. Our very biological nature seems to need some purpose and meaning beyond our own interests or will.

Often it is not religion, but poor examples of religious people, who have driven away people from the Christian faith. The answer to bad religion is not no religion, but good religion. Bad religion seems to make all of the headlines, all of the scandals, all of the poor examples of Christianity. All believers are condemned as bigoted, anti-whatevers, fundamentalists and judgmental.

It is hard, sometimes to claim your faith. But we have a story to tell.

Perhaps you have someone skeptical about matters of faith, or critical of "organized religion." I encourage you to invite them to join us as we find answers to judgmental bad religion.

Jesus had issues with religious people, too. And he had answers to the problems involving religion.

Join me in worship on our website or Facebook at 9 am.

WEEK OF COMPASSION SPECIAL OFFERING FEBRUARY 21 & 28: Letter from Executive Director

Dear Friends,
In the coming weeks, many of our churches will receive the Special Offering to support Week of Compassion. I am grateful for your tremendous generosity that provides relief and offers hope to so many.  

We just completed the assessment of 2020 financial distributions for relief, refugee, and sustainable development programs. This gives us a sense of where the greatest needs arose, and how your gifts helped communities in the midst of a pandemic and other disasters. Because of your generosity, 2020 was our highest program distribution in over a decade. As the world was affected by the pandemic-- and the economic toll impacted our partners-- Week of Compassion stepped up and increased our resource support for disaster relief, refugee, food security and sanitation.
From wildfires that burned millions of acres on the west coast, to hurricanes in the Gulf and typhoons and earthquakes in Asia, you responded to the incredible needs and provided over $3.5 million in program support. This graphic reflects financial distributions in 2020 and shows your collective impact around the world.  

In spite of the overall increase in distributions, many challenges remain. Our support for global development was reduced by 30% compared to an average year because many countries were shut down due to COVID-19. It was difficult, sometimes nearly impossible, for our partners to provide critical support for sustainable development programs. This caused major setbacks in areas such as girls’ education and women’s empowerment that we have been supporting for decades. Thus, we anticipate these needs will be even greater in 2021, and that we will receive even more requests from partners to provide support for these vital programs.  
Even in the midst of a global pandemic, disasters continue to affect communities. At this moment, our prayers are with the people of Texas as they suffer one of the most severe winter storms in decades. Week of Compassion is responding, supporting our local Disciples congregations as they serve their neighbors during a time of crisis. We are working to help churches provide shelter and emergency aids to their local communities as widespread power outages cause unsafe conditions.

As always, we remain committed to our neighbors overseas as well. At this time, we are assessing the recent landslide in Northern India that killed several hundred people. We are also evaluating the earthquake that impacted Fukushima, Japan- the same place that was hit 10 years ago with an earthquake that caused a nuclear meltdown. Thanks to you, Week of Compassion has already engaged with our partners to provide immediate relief.  

Please know that your support is greatly appreciated, now more than ever, and we are able to continue this work in the coming months and years because of your faithfulness.  

Thank You,

Rev. Vy T. Nguyen, Executive Director

Stewardship Update
Thank you for your pledge commitments for 2021! If you have not sent yours in, please do so by mail, by e-mail, and in-person during the week. Your generous support is greatly appreciated always.

Nominations for Treasurer
The duties of the treasurer are currently being covered by the remaining Board Officers and Trustees. Since 2016, payroll and bills have been handled by Coffman Accounting. They provide us with regular reports and budget tracking. Responsibilities of the treasurer include handling the weekly deposits and the signing for bi-weekly payroll and bills, approximately 10-15 hours a month. If you would be interested in this position, please contact Les Ruffner 217-855-6361.

DISCIPLES BAPTISM STUDY GROUP A study group for baptism candidates to explore the teachings and identity of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will begin this Sunday February 21 at 7 pm. All those interested in joining Prairie Avenue Christian Church by transfer or baptism are encouraged to attend, with six weeks of planned lessons.

STEPHEN MINISTRY A training class to develop Stephen Ministry candidates will begin Sunday, February 28, 10:30 am in the Sunshine Classroom.

I look forward to seeing you all very soon,

Blessings to you all,
As a church family, we care for and pray for one another.

As a matter of online privacy, we will only disclose public sympathy to a church friend or family member whose passing has also been publicly disclosed.

If you would like prayer, please submit your prayer request online, and Pastor Jason and prayer team members will pray for you.
Prairie Avenue Christian Church | Website