Category Archives: News

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.

Jesus.

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.

Amen.

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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2017 Lenten Study Groups

Liberation Theology Study Group Sundays at 3 pm

Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God

Liberation Theology Study group is currently discussing Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God by the womanist theologian Kelly Brown Douglas. Local activist T. Marie King is co-facilitating the book discussion with Rev. Jennifer. All are welcomed to join the discussion!

 


Bible study Wednesday nights at 6 PM
Plenty Good Room: A Lenten Bible Study Based on African American Spirituals

This unique short-term Bible study combines an in-depth look at Scripture, American history, and the music and lyrics of six African American spirituals. The six-session study provides biblical, social, and historical analyses of  ‘Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit,” “This Lonesome Valley,” “Bow Down on Your Knees,” “Plenty Good Room,” “Ain’t Dat Good News,” and “Were You There?” Bible Study facilitated by Rev. Sally Harris at Beloved, Wednesday nights at 6 pm.

 

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Photos from our February 12th Installation Service

Sunday, February 12, 2017, Beloved Community Church UCC celebrated the installation of Rev. Jennifer Sanders, the second minister to serve as head pastor of our congregation since our founding in 2000.

rev. jennifer

The service of installation celebrated the covenant between Rev. Jennifer, Beloved Community Church, the United Church of Christ and the wider community.

Continue reading Photos from our February 12th Installation Service

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Beloved Community annual meeting Sunday, February 19th

Join us this Sunday after the 5 pm service to vote on our budget and plan for the year ahead. All are welcome and invited to attend to the business of the church.

If you are not yet a member of Beloved, please make your membership (covenant) official to be eligible to vote! Read our church covenant, which is the basis of membership in our community, and talk to Rev. Jennifer to learn more about this commitment!

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“In the Company of the Poor” study group Sundays at 3 pm

Our Liberation Theology study group is working our way through In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez.
Farmer is the founder of Partners in Health while Gutierrez is one of the founding voices of the concept of liberation theology.
Reading schedule:
February 5th: chapters 3-5
February 12th: chapters 6-7 and the afterward
Anyone is welcome. Our goal is to both make sense of the material together and to make sense of it in our own personal and communal contexts.

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Christmas Eve Service, Christmas Potluck + Worship

All are welcome to come as you are.

Saturday, December 24th, 5 pmChristmas Eve Candlight Service with carols from Beloved Community Orchestra.

candlelight-service


Sunday, December 25th, 3 pm: Creative potluck – bring food, a musical instrument, poetry to share  – these are the gifts we bring!

potluck

Feel free to come to the potluck only – whether we have seen you before or not, come alone or bring the whole family! – but also, feel welcome to stay for our worship service at 5 pm.

christmas-worship

See you for Christmas at Beloved!

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Advent and Christmas Worship Series- Sunday nights at 5

Join us each Sunday in December for Advent messages about love, joy, and peace followed by Advent concerts with Beloved Community Orchestra and special guests!

Sunday, December 18th, 5 pm: A message on the meaning of love in  a turbulent world, with music from Christ Will Enter In & Roscoe Robinson!

christ-will-enter-in-and-roscoe-robinson

Continue reading Advent and Christmas Worship Series- Sunday nights at 5

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South African Preacher Rev. Alan Storey at Beloved Sunday, December 4th

Alan is an ordained minister of the Methodist Church of South Africa and is presently ministering at the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town.

Alan believes the following: To take the whole Bible literally is an absurdity; Jesus would much rather be taken seriously than worshiped; the division of the world into “saved” and “un-saved” is hate speech; the holy land is not a place to visit but every place to value; there are around 7.2 billion chosen people in the world; the day will come when all guns will be turned into ploughshares (he chairs Gun Free South Africa); the Church must ask the Queer community for forgiveness for its bigotry and exclusion as a matter of urgency; inequality is a weapon of mass destruction.

Alan’s faithfulness to the peacemaking Christ was tested early in his life when he faced conscription into the apartheid regime military. After spending a year of discernment abroad, he returned to South Africa, declaring he would never fight in the apartheid army – or any army. He was arrested and faced trial with a six-year prison sentence as the likely outcome. Alan’s trial was surprisingly abandoned midway, and he became the last conscientious objector to be tried in apartheid South Africa.

Alan will be leading an Advent retreat this weekend with Mary’s House before joining us to preach on Sunday night.

Be sure to join us Sunday night at 5 pm to hear a brilliant theologian & preacher! (Note: Rev. Jennifer will be present as well!)

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God is in the Midst of the City – a Sermon on Psalm 46

The sermon from Sunday, November 20 on Psalm 46

Some churches celebrate today as Christ the King Sunday. While I embrace the idea of a realm of God wherein we model our lives after the example of Jesus, because language is what it is, I’m not so excited about using the hierarchical language of royalty and kingship to help us understand the message of Jesus.

Now it’s fine if you do that or believe that or if some other church wants to preach that. It’s not just what I’m going to preach up here. We do a lot of things differently around here – and we have, for us, good reasons for that.

(and just in case anybody here is worried the whole thing, let me point out that the observance of Christ the King Sunday has only been around since it was put into the liturgical calendar of the feasts of the Catholic Church by Pope Pius XI in 1925. This was not inscribed in stone tablets.)

Anyway, some people preach this – Jesus – as a different type of kingship and I can see that – but the traditional associations we have in our mind are mighty, mighty hard to shake. I would argue that Jesus came to up-end the way we think about authority and in doing so the way we think about one another. And that’s what we try to live out here in community.

So instead I want to begin by talking about a man by the name of Mark Zwick, who died this past week. Anybody ever hear of him?

Continue reading God is in the Midst of the City – a Sermon on Psalm 46

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