Thrift Shop News

Over the past several years, we as a congregation have had to re-evaluate our ministries and how we connect with and serve our community. We have added and changed programs and events to work toward becoming the church we believe God is calling us to be. It’s been a difficult but important task, and we have only been able to do it with the support of our members and community partners, knowing that the Spirit is leading us to “love our neighbors” in new ways.

In the spring of 2020, when the pandemic began, so many of our ministries had to stop in the interest of safety, including in-person worship, Sunday school, and committee meetings, to name just a few. Another ministry that was affected was our Thrift Shop, which has been an important part of AHCC for decades. For many months, we stopped operations altogether to ensure we were protecting our neighbors and volunteers through an unprecedented and difficult time.

In January 2021, we began holding monthly “pop-up” thrift shops in the parking lot during the Community Meal, in an effort to continue serving our neighbors. At the same time, the newly assembled Thrift Shop Task Force took on the job of looking at how the Thrift Shop might be modified to operate in the new world we were living in. Over six months, the task force met and discussed how to respond to the pandemic, to changes in the neighborhood, and to available resources both human and monetary. At the end of their work, the task force presented a report to the Diaconate which included suggestions on how to move forward, and the formation of an ongoing Thrift Shop Advisory Committee to provide insight and support for the next phase. Led by myself and Africka Hinds, this team included AHCC members Dean Amadon, Lila Pierce, Sally Tresselt, and Karen Hewes, and worked closely with Moderator Tory Chavey, and Helena Carvalho, Director of Operations. Since the summer of 2021, the advisory committee has met regularly to discuss new possibilities for the Thrift Shop, including how to respond to a flood in the basement, locating temporary storage for Thrift Shop inventory, and looking into off-site locations. The ongoing repair and construction in the basement made it clear that the original location of the Thrift Shop would remain unusable for the foreseeable future. After exploring the idea of moving the operations of the Thrift Shop offsite and researching what that might involve, the advisory committee concluded that it would be both too costly and logistically difficult. Additionally, we recognized that the monthly Pop Up shops in the parking lot are incredibly labor intensive and not financially sustainable.

At the same time as the Thrift Shop Advisory Committee’s work was performed, the AHCC Roadmap 2024 was created and presented to the congregation, and the Neighborhood Vision Task Force completed their work of connecting with and listening to our neighbors to learn how we might better work together to improve Asylum Hill for all. The Thrift Shop Advisory Committee, taking into account the aspirations and goals of AHCC Roadmap 2024, the report from the Neighborhood Vision Task Force, and the desire to work in partnership with these guides and initiatives, presented its recommendations to the Diaconate at its April meeting.

We believe that in order to best serve our neighbors, we need to be intentional about how we move forward and take the time to reimagine the Thrift Shop ministry. It is the recommendation of the Thrift Shop Advisory Committee that the Thrift Shop stop its operations in their current form as of June 2022. For the immediate future, this means we will no longer be accepting donations of items for the Thrift Shop and will hold more frequent Pop Up Shops in the parking lot to ensure we can distribute all the inventory currently on hand. Further, the Thrift Shop Advisory Committee suggests we continue to serve our neighbors by holding seasonal clothing events, such as a school uniform drive in August and a coat drive in the late fall/early winter, etc. We see these changes as a necessary and vital shift in ministry that balances the needs of the neighborhood and the limits of resources.

At the same time, it is important that we celebrate the many people who have made the Thrift Shop such a wonderful ministry over the years, including the incredibly dedicated volunteers who spent countless hours sorting, cleaning, and displaying items, and our current Thrift Shop Coordinator, Sue Powell. We are so grateful to these wonderful individuals who have given their time and hearts in support of the Thrift Shop as well as to everyone who has donated items to this ministry. We pray that over the next several years, as we reimagine our mission, you will continue to support whatever direction we take as we find new ways to love our neighbors.

These are important and transformative times we are living in. We have always been a congregation that believes our mission is to “love God and love our neighbor” through the many ways we serve our world. While this is a change to the way we exist in the neighborhood, I believe it will allow us to step back and listen to where the Spirit is leading us so that we can continue the legacy of service and justice that is a hallmark of Asylum Hill Congregational Church. Thank you for your continued support and partnership as we look toward the future to find the ways we can love our neighbors in this new world.

In love and grace,
Pastor Jordan Rebholz

Roadmap banner

AHCC Roadmap 2024 Update

Over the last year, we have been busy planning, working, and accomplishing together, using this roadmap as a tool to guide us as we emerge from the pandemic.

AHCC Roadmap 2024 has three primary components: Nurture and Engage, Pursue Justice, and Expand Our Impact. I have to share that as I read ALL that we have accomplished together – I felt so proud! Please take a few moments to read through this summary of how we have lived into this initiative even in these trying times. I’m sure you will agree that there is much to celebrate.

But our work is not done yet, friends! You can be involved as we keep traveling this road together and make a big, bold, positive impact on the world as we strive to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly, as a compassionate church community with resources to share.

I look forward to our continued journey!

Read the Neighborhood Task Force Report

Watch the

 

Call to the Annual Meeting

Sunday, May 22, 2022 immediately following the 10am worship service; in person at AHCC

The Board of Deacons of Asylum Hill Congregational Church hereby calls the Annual Meeting of the Congregation on Sunday, May 22, 2022, immediately following the 10am worship service.

The primary purpose of the Annual Meeting is to hear reports and to elect officers, deacons, and committee and subcommittee chairs and members. Additionally, you will be asked to approve the minutes of the 2021 Annual Meeting. The meeting agenda, slate of nominees, and 2021 Annual Meeting minutes are available here.

Please note: A sign language interpreter will be present. There is no childcare, but Faith Lab will be extended.

Please plan to attend the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Congregation. Thank you!

Tory Chavey, Moderator
Rev. Erica Thompson, Sr. Minister

Summer Plans at AHCC

To our amazing AHCC community,

In anticipation of Rev. Erica Thompson’s long overdue and extremely well-deserved sabbatical coming up at the end of May, we wanted to take a few moments to let you know some of the exciting plans we have for our time together this summer.

We are honored to serve as co-pastors and sharing responsibilities during the summer of 2022. We also can’t wait for you to see some of the speakers/preachers coming in to lead worship with us, including a special time of joyfully and enthusiastically honoring the voices of the LGBTQI+ community during the month of June.

Additionally, we are planning several fun and relational events where we can come together to get to know each other (again or for the first time!). There will be many different types of programs available, and we hope you will join us for one or all of them. Be on the lookout for a big announcement with all of the event dates. Come play and eat with us!

As we look forward to this time of reflection for Erica, we invite you to see it as a time of reflection for all of us too. We as a church community have been through a lot over the past few years and have so much to be proud of and look forward to. We are incredibly honored to serve as your associate pastors and can’t wait to spend time with you this summer.

In love,
Jordan and Tracy

Investment Subcommittee Update

For the year end 2021, the balance in AHCC’s investment portfolio was $21.7M.

In 2021, the economy continued to recover. And given accommodative fiscal and monetary policies, initially put in place to help blunt the shock of the pandemic, equity markets posted strong returns. For the year ended 2021, the S&P 500 returned 28.7%.  Yet with investors’ desire to own riskier assets, returns for traditional “safe havens” lagged. The Barclays U.S. Aggregate posted returns of -1.5% for the year.

AHCC’s portfolio returned 15.2% for the calendar year end 2021, ahead of the benchmark by 160 basis points (bps). AHCC’s endowment was able to best its benchmark due to allocations to small cap stocks, U.S. corporate bonds and real estate.

When assessing future returns, the Investment Subcommittee expressed concerns about inflation and potential actions by the Federal Reserve. With the expectation that the Fed would take steps to raise rates, the Investment Subcommittee lowered, not eliminated, the allocation to fixed income. We also established two new positions in real assets, an asset class which tends to offer more consistent performance in inflationary environments.

Finally, recall that each year a sustainable draw is taken from the endowment to support the operating budget of the church. In 2021, this was 5% of the average balance over the previous 20 quarters. For an introduction and overview, members can access a replay of November’s presentation on AHCC’s endowment on the Member Portal.

David Stevenson
Chair, Investment Subcommittee

Making Our Website New!

A significant priority at the church over the past several months was refreshing the website, and I hope you have taken a look at it. The redesigned website aims to make available a huge amount of information to our members and the public at large in an easily accessible and organized way, using pictures and colors to convey AHCC’s warm and welcoming atmosphere.

What are your first impressions?

My eye is drawn to the clean lines and uncluttered page layouts, the new AHCC logo, and features such as member stories. I have navigated around the new website to see what is there and familiarize myself with where I can find the information I need.

For example, I go to the website on Sunday mornings when I attend the worship service remotely, and now the “Livestream” button at the top of every page is easy to find. I also like to use the website calendar to see what programs and events are coming up, and the calendar, too, is readily accessible through the “Calendar” link at the top of every page. Also, each page has a link to “Log In,” which I use to reach the secure area of the website when I want to look at the member directory or check my giving history. (And, yes, I can attest to the fact it is easy to reset your password for the secure part of the website if you forget it!)

I really love how the new website includes some jolts of personality. Who noticed the picture of our three ministers’ shoes? Or how about the gorgeous close-up photo of our sanctuary organ? And the numerous member stories reflect the beautiful variety in our members’ backgrounds, faith journeys, and paths to AHCC.

Finally, I want to thank the entire staff for their hard work and dedication to creating the redesigned website, and special thanks to Director of Communications Rhonda Mitchell, who spearheaded the project, and to Director of Operations Helena Carvalho, who led the data integration aspect of the project.

Tory Chavey, AHCC Moderator

Mask Optional Policy

Since (re)reopening in mid-February 2022, we’ve been intentional in our approach to our COVID-19 health and safety protocols. As has been the case over the last 2 years, we continue to consult with professionals from within our community, consider the case numbers both nationally and locally, as well as CDC recommendations. We believe we have made decisions that have ensured the health, safety, and wellbeing of members and friends.

Therefore, amid declining COVID infection rates and increasing vaccination rates, as well taking the lead from many local school districts Asylum Hill Congregational Church will transition its face mask requirement to a mask-optional policy effective immediately. The exception to this will be Faith Lab on Sunday mornings. As soon as we are ready to announce changes to Faith Lab policies another communication will be issued.

While face masks will now be optional, we strongly recommend that you wear a mask indoors if you are unvaccinated, are at high risk for illness, have tested positive, or have been close to someone who tested positive for COVID within the past 10 days. We also ask that anyone with COVID-like symptoms stay home for the safety of themselves and others.

The other note we feel compelled to share is that absolutely no one should feel shame or encounter pressure or judgement of any kind for continuing to wear a mask. This has been a long, agonizing journey for all of us, and it’s not yet completely over. As we have said throughout the pandemic, emerging from this is going to be so much messier than it was going into it. As your pastors, we expect you will treat one another with respect, grace, and love – recognizing you may know nothing at all about another person’s journey.

A Time For Every Season

Shabbat Shalom! May the peace of God dwell within you.

In Genesis, we are told that immediately after God created the universe and every living thing within it, including human beings, God rested … and commanded that it be so for all creation.

In the book of Leviticus, God’s people were instructed to allow their fields to rest fallow for one year after six years of production. This sabbath rest gave the land time to recover as well as the humans who were tending the land.

Sabbatical comes from the word Sabbath – which means “to rest” or to “cease from working,” and from the very beginning was God’s idea.

This summer, I will be taking a much-needed sabbatical! I have postponed it twice in the last several years – first because we were working on putting together AHCC’s clergy team, and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. So, it is time! And with that, I want to be clear about what sabbatical is as well as what it isn’t.

What it is…

What it isn’t…

An extended and intentional leave/break/timeout An extended vacation or sick leave
A time for me and my family to reconnect A time to catch up on “chores”
A time to reflect (guilt-free) upon the past and present A time to respond to the daily deluge of emails and messages
A time to renew focus and vision for the future A time to pursue other ministry opportunities or an academic degree
A time to get off the treadmill and slow down
with the goal of recharging body, mind, and spirit
A miracle cure
Preventative maintenance – an investment A failing on the part of a pastor.  I am not weak nor am I doing this because I just can’t “hack” it.

In the upcoming weeks we will be sharing more with you about the specifics of my sabbatical, and you will be hearing from Jordan and Tracy regarding the scheming, dreaming, and planning they are doing to get ready for a Spirit-led summer, which will be full of joy and justice and will be a wonderful season for our community of faith to engage one another as we emerge from pandemic life.

Always,
Erica

A Prayer for Ukraine

As we move into March and celebrate women, and their contributions to history, I have been thinking about the millions of women, who right now, are courageously fighting for survival in Ukraine.

  • The grandmother who made the difficult to decision to take up arms in defense of her young grandchildren;
  • The teacher who has begun holding classes for children huddled in makeshift bomb shelters in the parking garage of an apartment building;
  • The student fleeing the bombing of her university

Women – mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, daughters … we see you, we hear you, we are praying for you.

In just 2 weeks, Jews the world over will celebrate to Festival of Purim … a festival that commemorates the defeat of an attempted genocide of the Jews of the Persian Empire in the fifth century BCE.

After a virtuous Jewish woman named Esther married King Ahasuerus of Persia, she and her Uncle Mordechai interrupted a plot by the king’s right-hand-man, Haman, who planed “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.”

At the eleventh hour, Esther revealed to the king that she was Jewish, meaning Haman’s plan would result in her death. And the king instead sentenced his friend to be executed at the very gallows he’d prepared for the Jews.

The most well-known lines from this Old Testament story are words Esther’s uncle shared with her:

If you remain silent at this time, liberation and rescue will arise for the Jews from another place, but surely you will perish. Who knows maybe, just maybe you have come into this place of power, for just such a time as this? 

Beloveds, it does not escape me that the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is Jewish.

That he had family members who were killed in the Holocaust.

And that he is now fighting not only for his own life, but for the lives and future of all Ukrainians, and for the soul of democracy.

President Zelenskyy … we see you, we hear you, we are praying for you.

Prayer for Ukraine:

Good and Gracious God, we ask you to hold the people of Ukraine deep in your heart.
Protect them, we pray …
from violence,
from political gamesmanship,
from being used and abused.

Give, we pray …
the nations of the world the courage & the wisdom
to stand up for justice and the courage too,
to dare to care generously.

Lord, in your mercy, take from us all the tendencies in us that seek to lord it over others. Take from us those traits that see us pursuing our own needs and wants before those of others.

Teach us how to live in love, and dignity, and respect – following your example.

In your name and for your sake, Amen.

Lent Gone Wild

During Lent, Christians remember Jesus’ experience of being tempted in the desert for 40 days. That wilderness time was critical, as Jesus recognized more about who he was and discovered his authentic self.

This Lent, we invite you to consider the “wild” not as being a physical location, but instead consider “wild” as being untamed, authentic, and the truest versions of ourselves. What does it look like to live our most authentic and untamed lives? What is it that God is calling us to do, and who is God calling us to be? How can we discover this individually and as a community of faith?

Wild things do not settle for what is, but instead courageously reclaim what is truth.

Wild things follow an organic and not-always-predictable path.

Wild things do not apologize for who they are and are not overly accommodating at their own expense.

Wild things do not settle or blindly comply, even if it means letting go of what is familiar or safe.

Wild things dare to imagine the future, even in the face of death and loss of the familiar.

To embrace the “wild,” we must ask ourselves hard questions like, “Why am I not satisfied or happy with this?” and “Is there more than this?” and “What is real and true?”

You are invited to join this wild journey as we discover who we were made to be.

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