Brown Bag volunteers needed Wednesday, June 21st

Volunteers are needed to help with brown bag hospitality on  Wednesday, June and Saturday, June 24th for our neighbors who stop by for brown bags. This program provides a bag of non-perishable food to 48 local neighbors in need. Bag packing lasts from 5-6 pm Wednesday, and hospitality lasts from 10-11 am Saturday. We serve food and fellowship with guests as they arrive.

Contact Molly Merkle to volunteer!

2017 schedule Wednesday pick-up Saturday distribution
June 21 24
July 19 22
August 16 19
September 20 23
October 18 21
November 15 18
December 13 16

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Liberation Theologies study group: The Cross and the Lynching Tree

Join the liberation theology study group Sunday afternoons at 3 pm to discuss James H. Cone’s seminal work, The Cross and the Lynching Tree.

The cross and the lynching tree are the two most emotionally charged symbols in the history of the African American community. In this powerful work, theologian James H. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in the history and souls of black folk.cross lynching tree

Our study will begin Sunday, May 21st, 2017 at 3 pm with a discussion of the intro and chapter 1.

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A Faith Worth Dying For: A Sermon on Acts 7: 54-60

The sermon from Sunday, May 14, 2017 on Acts 7: 54-60

Let us back up a bit because this story appears to come out of nowhere.

As we discussed last week in a reading from chapter 2, early Christians were building community with one another and extending grace into the world.

We continue in the chapters that follow to hear about how the apostles fed and healed and confronted corrupt power.

Continue reading A Faith Worth Dying For: A Sermon on Acts 7: 54-60

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Broken Hearts, Broken Bread: A Sermon on Acts 2:42-47

The sermon from Sunday, May 7, 2017 on Acts 2: 42-47

I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve spent a good bit of this week angry and sad about the world. I have been heartbroken and angered over and over again.

  • Climate change and the persistent denial of scientific consensus and the failure to enact necessary changes to protect the planet
  • Cultural appropriation and racist caricatures on Cinco de Mayo by partying people who have no interest in Mexican culture, no desire for relationships with actual Mexican people, and no concern for the country of Mexico
  • The intentional disregard for human life in the name of privatization and profit in the American HealthCare Act, which passed the House of Representatives this week
  • The signing into Alabama law legislation that allows discrimination against LGBTQ prospective foster and adoptive families.
  • The passing in the state House and Senate of a bill banning the removal of Confederate war monuments
  • The murder of Jordan Edwards. The murder of Jordan Edwards.

That’s not near all, but a fair sample. There is every rightful cause for moral outrage. Continue reading Broken Hearts, Broken Bread: A Sermon on Acts 2:42-47

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On Journey and Revelation: A Sermon on Luke 24:13-35

The sermon from Sunday, April 30, 2017 on Luke 24: 13-35

First of all, let’s back up a minute and look at where we are with this text. We’ve been working from Matthew and John – and then here we are at Luke. Last week’s story of Thomas came from the Gospel of John. The text given to us for this evening is from Luke. Let’s go back and here Luke’s account of the Resurrection –

The writer of Luke has told the story of the crucifixion and now we have this –

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

We have confusion. Once again we have the women bearing first witness and we have doubt. Then we come to the story we read tonight. Continue reading On Journey and Revelation: A Sermon on Luke 24:13-35

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The Great Faith of Thomas: A Sermon on John 20:19-31

The sermon from Sunday, April 23, 2017 on John 20: 19-31

I don’t know about y’all but I think I’m hardwired to avoid disappointment. Anytime in life I ever took a test, I came out of saying something between – “Oh man, I totally failed that.” and “Well, I guess we’ll see. Maybe that went okay.”

I don’t think I’ve ever walked out going “YES!” Ever – and I’ve taken a lot of tests in my life. More often than not it was actually okay (well, except in high school geometry), but I was afraid to let myself hope.

Any of y’all ever suffered a sorrow in life? This is a real question. Have you been let down by someone? Especially maybe when you were young? Can you still taste that grief, that disappointment?

I know I can.

Continue reading The Great Faith of Thomas: A Sermon on John 20:19-31

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Beyond the Tomb: An Easter Sermon

The sermon from Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 on Matthew 28: 1-20

Christ is Risen!

But it would be so much simpler if Jesus stayed dead. That would make it a straightforward story.

There are good guys (and women, though the writers of the Gospels keep their presence low-key).

There are bad guys.

There was life and hope and revolution and the bad guys crushed it.

They won.

They won – those powers of empire, that cult of corruption – and that is a cult with many devotees across history, across religion, across nationality and language.

The cult of corruption worships human power. They may mask it with something else. But the raw reality is a love of human power and what comes of the exercise of it.

When we look at the last 3 days, when we consider the crucifixion, we see what the dealers of death can do.

They beat and whipped Jesus and hung him with wood and nails and they killed him. We’ll talk in weeks ahead about the meaning we can make of the cross itself. We’ll come back to that. But we know that he died and that he died a miserable, excruciating death.

That could have been the end of a sad and too-familiar story.

Continue reading Beyond the Tomb: An Easter Sermon

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Radical Love: A Good Friday Short Sermon

Rev. Jennifer participated in  a Seven Last Words of Jesus Good Friday worship service at Talladega First Congregational Church in Talladega, Alabama.  Her  assigned text for a 5 minute sermon was the 3rd word, John 19:26-27 – 

“Woman behold thy son! Behold thy mother” –

There he goes again.


Making room – in the midst of death – for love.

Teaching us how to live even as he faces death.

Life for a woman alone in first century Judea was perilous at best.

A woman alone was an outcast, removed from the graces of proper society, without status.

Elder women alone faced both stigma and starvation.

Jesus, on the verge of death, makes certain that his mother will be cared for, that she will have a home and food and love, that even in losing a son, she will gain a son.

An act of radical love in the very face of death.

An act – yet another act – of making sure that the vulnerable – the most vulnerable – are cared for.

Two thousand years later do you think we are still in need of the witness of radical love? Are we any better today at ensuring the well-being of vulnerable and marginalized – those people whom Jesus continually cared for?

Yesterday, the midst of Holy Week, on Maundy Thursday, that celebration of love and friendship, we drop what is obscenely being called the Mother of All Bombs on one of the poorest countries in the world.

Yesterday, I sat by the side of the road with a young woman who had just been in a serious car accident.

As I wiped the blood from her face, I heard her tell her story to the police officer. She was leaving her job at one fast food restaurant on her way to pick up her friend, who worked at a different fast food restaurant.

The two of them shared the car – the car that was now a heap of crumpled metal – to get to and from work and their apartment in an area of the county that has no public transportation.

She had no car insurance, could not afford car insurance on her salary even while working full time to support herself. For that, as she sat in the back of an ambulance preparing to ride to the emergency room, she received a ticket.

Yesterday, as I was walking through Avondale Park after a planning meeting for the Easter sunrise service, a woman called out to me to come help her.

I crossed the grass to discover that she was trying to pull a homeless man from the creek.

He lives in that park and has long-term, serious medical issues. I do not know how he had ended up in the creek, but he could not get himself out.

He was soaked and swollen and dead weight. We managed to get him to safety. He refused the offer to call 911, but I worried that this unmoving man might end up – yet again – face down in the creek.

I asked the fire fighters down the street to quietly check on him because I knew of none other that would care for him in that late afternoon moment.

Yesterday, a homeless friend asked me for some clothes. He might have been drunk. He might have been sober. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Either way, he had set down the backpack that contained all his earthly possessions on a bench in that same park – and then it was gone. “I just need a change of clothes, preacher,” he said to me.

The Mother of All Bombs cost 300 million dollars to develop. Each individual bomb costs an estimated 16 million dollars.

I sat last night thinking about that bomb – and all the people who get rich from bomb-making and bomb-dropping in this world.

I thought about that bloodied young woman who, though lucky to be alive, now has no way to get to the job that doesn’t even pay her a living wage, but is her sole source of support.

I thought about this man who is quite literally dying in the park and our failure as a nation to ensure that he has a humane and dignified place with clean sheets and warm food and loving hands to tend his final days.

I thought about my homeless friend who deserves a decent place to live, where his clothes don’t get stolen, whether he is sober or not.

And I thought about these words of Jesus, who speaks life and love even into death.

We have no shortage of death in our world.

We have a shortage of love in the world.

In this midst of unimaginable physical suffering, in the middle of dying a horrible death, Jesus still teaches us to care and to love.

In his  reminder we find a constant call on our own lives.


The image is “Cross-Eyed” by J.J. Jacobs

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Holy Week at Beloved

Palm Sunday processional Sunday, April 9th, 4:45-5 PM
Religious procession in Avondale with Beloved and The Abbey

Maundy Thursday service at Beloved, April 13th, 6 PM

Joint UCC service with our fellow UCC churches (Covenant Community UCC, First Congregational UCC and Pilgrim Church UCC).

Good Friday – Stations of the Cross – Linn Park, 12 PM

Starting at noon at Linn Park and ending by 1:30 at Kelly Ingram Park, this pilgrimage involves 15 blocks of travel on city sidewalks. Wear comfortable walking shoes. Sponsored by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Greater Birmingham Ministries, First Presbyterian Church and Church in the Park.

Good Friday – Seven Last Words of Jesus Service – 12 pm at Talladega First Congregational UCC

202 Martin Luther King Jr Dr N; Talladega, Alabama 35160

7 last words service

A powerful service with 7 UCC pastors reflecting on Jesus’ last words. Contact Jennifer to RSVP.

Sunday, April 16th, 7 AM at Avondale Park (4101 5th Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35222)
Joint Easter sunrise service with our neighbors at Avondale UMC and Saint Junia. In case of rain, will move to Avondale UMC at 500 40th St S, Birmingham, AL 35222.

Resurrection Sunday at Beloved!

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Along the Way: A Sermon on John 11:1-45

The sermon from Sunday, March 26, 2017 on John 11: 1-45

Someone I was talking to a few days ago mentioned the parallels between this story and the Easter story.

Indeed this is an interesting foreshadowing of death and resurrection to come. My interest here this week however, is not in the parallels between this story and the Easter story as in the conversations Jesus has along the way.

We don’t know why Lazarus falls ill and ultimately dies. There were limited measures in that era for treating acute calamity or chronic condition. We don’t know what sickness befell him. We just know that when this news comes to Jesus, that we really get a sense in this story of Jesus in deep relationship with those around him. His friends, Martha and Mary, send for him, in hopes that they will save their brother, whom Jesus loves. There is deep friendship and care in this story.

Continue reading Along the Way: A Sermon on John 11:1-45

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