Greetings from the little town of Bethlehem
The first time that I travelled to the Holy Land (2011), we stayed in Bethlehem, Palestine. We worshiped and then talked with Lutheran Palestinian Pastor, Reverend Mitri Raheb, who lives in Bethlehem and pastored Christmas Lutheran Church. He is a man who has devoted his life to making peace. My wife and I pray for and financially support his ministry called Bright Stars of Bethlehem.
I have adapted his 2022 Christmas letter for clarity. If you would like to know more about Reverend Raheb and his ministry, please contact me. I would be happy to answer any questions and tell you of my experiences there.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Greetings from the little town of Bethlehem. The Christmas story is a story about Bethlehem. It is that Christmas story that captures the imagination of the children with the shepherds, the stars, the magi, and of course the gifts.
Bethlehem today is a real city. It is a city of 30,000 people. Plus, there are over 200,000 people living in and around Bethlehem. It is a Palestinian City, located not in Israel but in the West Bank. It’s a city where people of different faiths, Christians, Muslims, and Arabs live together. It’s the city where half of the Palestinian Christian community lives.
It was the prophet Micah that spoke about the little town of Bethlehem. The birth of Christ changed the history of the town, transforming it from being a little town to a city buzzing with life today. It’s a city where there are 27 Christian schools, 3 Christian hospitals, 2 Christian Universities, 2 Christian colleges, and 15 scout groups. It was Jesus who transformed the economy and the skyline of our city. It is a city that lives 70% on tourism because Christians worldwide come to see where Jesus was born.
But it is a city that is struggling now. Surrounded from three sides by 25-foot-high walls. It’s a city that is surrounded by Jewish-Israeli settlements or colonies that have taken 86% of our land that is no longer under our control. It’s a city struggling because it is separated by the wall from Jerusalem. Yet, it is a city that is resilient. It’s a city that is still interested in telling the story of the babe of Bethlehem that transformed the history of not only our city but of the whole world.
When you think of Bethlehem in these upcoming days, please think of the real Bethlehem, of the real people of Bethlehem, and of the students who will go on to be the next generation of creative leaders in Palestine.
Please continue to pray for our ministry at Dar al-Kalima University and help us keep hope alive in the same place where Hope was born 2000 years ago.
Grace and peace,
Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb
A Madison resident and the organist at First Congregational Church of Madison were so moved by the stories of the “Living Stones” (the Palestinian Christians) during their trip to the Holy Land that they wrote these last two verses to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. Please ponder them and hold close our brothers and sisters during this holy time of year.
“O Little Town of Bethlehem”
Text vs. 2 & 3 by Herb Brokering, Donald J. DeBruin, Organ; First Congregational United Church of Christ, Madison
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dream-less sleep the silent stars go by;
yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
O little town of Bethlehem, the organs still do play,
of Jesus in a manger and angels on the way;
our music and our singing is louder than a gun,
and church bells in their ringing remind us we have won.
O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
your love bring down on David’s town; drive fear and hate away.
Awake the ire of nations, let justice be restored.
Rebuild the peace in silent streets where once your love was born.
We exist as a congregation to know Jesus Christ and to make Him known:
- To proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ so all may come to know and love Him;
- To nurture His people in joyful faith, fellowship, and commitment; and
- To demonstrate His way of love in service to the world.
We use the Connector to share news of the coming week and beyond, the activities that involve a wide range of ages and interests at FPC.
News and Announcements
Live Nativity 2022
Another fantastic Live Nativity is in the books! Dozens of volunteers came together to help recreate the birth of Jesus. Traffic through the Live Nativity was the most we have seen in years. Thank you to our volunteers for making this possible and to the surrounding community for your interest! Merry Christmas!
For the 7 PM Christmas Eve service please arrive at 6:30 PM when the doors to the sanctuary will be opened to enjoy the pre-service music by our pianist Ying Wang and the Joyful Noise.
The FPC building will be closed Monday, December 26 to Friday, December 31. There will also be no Kingdom Kids or Sunday School for children or teens December 25 or January 1, and no Youth Group on December 28 as volunteers and staff take time with their families.
Network 56 lights the candle of peace
This last Sunday Network 56 lit the candle of peace during Sunday worship.
Presbytery Per Capita Contribution: What Is It and How Does It Affect Me?
Every church member’s share of support for the Presbytery is called his or her Per Capita contribution. It is through this contribution that Presbyterians mutually share the costs of coming together to discern God’s leading for the church and in doing mission on a wider scale.
Each local Presbytery in turn sends allocated shares to the Synod (regional body) and General Assembly (national). This enables the far-reaching work of ministry, including PCUSA missions around the world, and here at home. All Presbytery budgets need your support to keep the mission of the greater church alive. First Presbyterian Waunakee was once a “mission supported church” supported by Presbytery Per Capita contributions. The fact is that our church might not be here today without our Presbytery’s support! John Knox Presbytery provided a great deal of support and guidance during our Interim Pastor search, and they will be very involved throughout the process to find and call our next Pastor.
How much is my Presbytery per capita contribution and where does it go?
The Presbytery per capita contribution for 2023 is $35.15 per member. Of that:
• $9.85 goes to the General Assembly – to cover the administrative costs and of Missions around the world,
• $5.50 goes to the Synod of Lakes and Prairies to cover administrative costs for education materials and workshops, and
• $19.80 goes to John Knox Presbytery to cover the administrative costs – some of which reach out to help struggling churches.
How do I contribute to the Presbytery per capita fund?
If you use offering envelopes, the first envelope in your envelope box is a blue envelope marked “Per Capita.” Please enclose your donation in that and drop it in the Offering box in the Narthex. You may also give online through our website (myfpc.org/donate), or mail a check to the church office (or place it in the Offering box) with a notation indicating it is for Per Capita.
It would be a blessing to many Presbyterians across the country and close to home, if each of us contributed our small share to the Presbytery per capita fund.
God’s blessings to you!
2023 Offering Envelopes
If you requested a box of 2023 offering envelopes, they are available to be picked up on a table in the Narthex near the Sanctuary entrance. If you would like a box of offering envelopes and don’t see one there for you, please fill out one of the forms on that table and place it in either the pledge or offering box, and I will prepare a box for you. You may also send an email to Sue Gade, Church Business Administrator, at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a box.
FPC’s Wish List
Did you know that FPC has a Session-approved Wish List? It’s a list of things that the church needs that aren’t able to be funded through the church’s regular budget. If you are ever in a position where you would like to make a special donation of any amount, please peruse our Wish List by clicking here and consider helping to provide an item listed. Thank you!
Lake Geneva Youth Camp: February 3-5, 2023
All 7-12 grade students are invited to join us this weekend that is full of fun games, great music, relevant messages, thoughtful discussions, delicious food, and more!
Regular price is $125
Sign up by Dec. 31st for a special price of $100!
Guatemala Mission Trip: Building Hope and Changing Lives
Students currently in 8-12 grade are invited to join us for an amazing, fun, and life changing adventure.
- The trip dates will be June 11-17, 2023.
- The trip fee is only $850 per student!
- Don’t let finances stop you as we have tools to help make this experience possible.
- Friends are welcome!
With current registrations, there are only 6 student spots available – so don’t delay and sign up today!
Once again we were able to send more than 50 dolls to the children of migrant workers, who are cared for by Sister Jean at the House on the Hill daycare / Head Start program in Goshen, NY. In order to continue this mission we need more dolls that we can clean and dress in new clothes for next year. Please place any unwanted or outgrown dolls that would be appropriate for young children in the bins in the Education Wing of the church. (No Barbies please!) Thank you so much!
Upcoming Music in Worship
December 24 – Ying Wang
December 25 – Ying Wang
January 1 – Ying Wang
January 8 – Mary Kay Burton
Sunday, January 15 – Contemporary Music Guests: Natalie and Derek Handley
Natalie and Derek Handley have been leading worship together since they met 2006. Derek started his musical journey at age 5 with the cello. He went on to study music, ultimately getting his master’s in performance at Northwestern. He is currently a member of the Madison Symphony and Quad City Symphony Orchestra, among other groups. He also enjoys leading worship on guitar and voice and is currently the Communications Coordinator at Covenant Presbyterian in Madison. Natalie is the Music Director at Pres House (2015-present) and recently concluded a position as Contemporary Music Director at Christ Presbyterian Church in Madison (2014-2022). She started piano at age 8 and went on to study voice at Northern Michigan University. She is currently studying full-time in pursuit of an MDiv degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and is an inquirer in the ordination process of the PCUSA church. They are both lifelong Presbyterians who love sharing their musical gifts with the church. They are also raising two energetic boys, ages 3 & 6 and enjoying getting outside as much as possible!
Coming Events | Dec. 25, 2022 – Jan. 14, 2023
Saturday, December 24 at 4 PM – Family Christmas Eve Service
Saturday, December 24 at 7 PM – Candlelight Christmas Eve Service
Featuring the FPC Choir and Joyful Noise. Communion will be available in the Chapel after the service.
Sunday, December 25 at 10 AM – Christmas Morning Service
Please join us for a Christmas Morning service. Feel free to come in your pajamas and enjoy a chocolate bar treat while we celebrate Christ’s birth together!
December 26 – January 2 – FPC Office will be closed
Sunday, January 8 – Bethel Bible Series Bible Study
Two new opportunities are coming for Bethel Bible Series Bible Study at FPC: in-person starting on Sunday January 8th at 9 AM and online starting on Saturday, January 7. Please email Adult Nurture and Spiritual Growth Elder Scott Legwold at email@example.com to let us know if you would like to participate in either Bible Study. We are prepared to conduct the in person Bethel Bible Series Bible Study starting on January 8th at 9am in our classrooms at FPC. Thank you.
Sunday, January 8 at 11:30 AM-1:00 PM – Epiphany Potluck and Fun
FPC Children’s Ministry and MOPs are partnering to host an Epiphany Celebration – which occurs after the 12 days of Christmas. This “Three Kings Day” celebrates the “Wisemen” part of the Christmas story. We will have a potluck with Three Kings activities and the famous “Kings Cake.” If the miniature baby Jesus is in your piece, you win a prize! Join together for Food and Fun!
Mondays – January 9-30 – The Light Team Meeting
The Light Team is comprised of women who want a chance to meet for fellowship and Bible study. We pray for each other and those in our church family and community. When possible, we extend ourselves in projects to help others. There is no homework and we include humor and laughter! We meet in the Gathering Place on Mondays at 1:00 – 2:30 PM. All are welcome to attend any or all of our sessions. From January 9 to 30th, the Light Team will finish the video of “How Happiness Happens” by Max Lucado.
Sundays at 9 AM – Graceland Student Ministry
7th-12th Graders, join us each week for a time of connection, Bible discussion, and prayer.
PLEASE NOTE: There will be no Youth Sunday School on Sunday, December 25 or January 1.
Sundays – During Service – Kingdom Kids
During the worship service kids can leave the worship service after the Children’s Moment and need to be picked up in room 202 after the service is over.
We offer Kingdom Kids for 3-year olds – kindergarten. Kingdom Kids offers a fun, unique time for children to explore their faith and form positive relationships with peers.
PLEASE NOTE: There will be no Kingdom Kids on Sunday, December 25 or January 1 as our volunteers take some time to be with their families. There will still be a Children’s message during those services.
Wednesdays at 7:00-8:15 PM – Graceland Student Ministry
7th-12th Graders, join the fun upstairs in the Youth Room for a time of connection, games, message, meaningful small group discussion with students your same grade, and prayer.
PLEASE NOTE: There will be no Youth Group on Wednesdays, December 21 or 28.
Save the Date | More Info to come
Wednesdays, January 25 – March 1 at 6:30-8:30 PM – ChristCare Small Group Leadership Training
FPC Waunakee is a congregation that reaches in and reaches out. We care for one another, help one another grow in faith, and equip one another for meaningful ministry. Then we carry the love we have received out into our world to bring Jesus’ care to people who are lonely and searching. We are Living Faith Together!
Healthy small groups are an excellent tool for those tasks. On January 25, our church will begin a six-week training for small group leaders. To sign up for this wonderful and enriching experience use the link below or contact Pastor Glen (firstname.lastname@example.org). We want to support and nurture healthy small groups here at FPC.
Wednesday, January 25 at 6 PM – All Church Family Bingo Bash
All Church Family Bingo Night! Wednesday, January 25 at 6pm. Come for pizza, prizes, and fun!
Saturday, January 28 at 8:30 AM–12:30 PM – Intro to Centering Prayer
Pastor Glen will host “Intro to Centering Prayer” in the Gathering Place. Follow-up meetings will be held from 6:30-8:00 PM on January 30, February 6, February 13 and February 21.
Sunday, March 19, 2023 at 2 PM – Organ Recital
Please mark your calendars! FPC will host an organ recital on Sunday, March 19, 2023, at 2 PM featuring highly regarded organist Dr. Andrew Schaeffer, Director of Music at the Luther Memorial Church in Madison. The recital will be dedicated to the life and service of Pat Ronspiez. Pat served as our organist for 46 years. She also played piano and accordion.
Our church features an historic 1890 Schuelke organ built in Milwaukee and rebuilt by Wahl Organ Builders of Appleton in 1992.
A Chicago native, Schaeffer holds degrees from St. Olaf College, Yale University and a doctoral degree from the University of Oklahoma. Andrew’s responsibilities include playing organ for Sunday services, directing the children, youth and adult choirs, various instrumental ensembles and overseeing the general music ministry of the congregation. He has been at Luther Memorial since 2018. Schaeffer is also editor-at-large of The Diapason, a nationally published organ and church music magazine.
Opportunities to Serve
Calling all Volunteers
Helping hands are needed to share bulletins and usher for the Christmas Eve 4pm, 7pm, and Christmas Day 10am services. If you are able and have some extra holiday joy to share, please sign up in the narthex or email email@example.com.
Help with the FPC Coffee Hour
Every Sunday after service FPC hosts a coffee hour for socializing and fellowship. Please consider volunteering for a shift or two, to help setup and/or take down the coffee supplies. Thank you!
Shelter From The Storm Ministries Needs Volunteers
Shelter From The Storm Ministries (SFTSM), located in Sun Prairie, is currently in need of crews that can clean rooms and prepare them for their next residents. Shelter from the Storm Ministries currently has three rooms vacant and is in the process of interviewing new families to move in and welcome. A crew of four (4) people volunteering to clean one room usually takes 2-4 hours. SFTSM is extremely flexible on dates/times. For any questions or to sign up, please contact Pastor Kent Van Horn from Shelter From The Storm Ministries at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (608) 535-0067.
Thank you! Your FPC Mission Team
Calling Vocalists and Instrumentalists (Piano, too!)
If you’d like to sing or play an instrument at a Sunday service, please contact Sam Robinson at email@example.com or call 608-949-9450. We have open dates on our music calendar for January through May. You are welcome to sing/play a special song or two, no matter what your skill level is. We have open dates when the Choir and Joyful Noise are not playing and would like to fill those with students and adults from our congregation whenever possible.
Stephen Ministry at FPC: Providing God’s Care to Hurting People
What is this ministry about?
Extensively trained and supervised Stephen Minister Caregivers provide high-quality, one-on-one confidential Christian care to anyone in need. They provide weekly visits and ongoing support as long as the care receiver needs. Should the care receiver have needs that are beyond the scope of a Stephen Minister Caregiver, they are referred to professional caregivers.
What kind of care is offered from a Stephen Minister?
- CRISIS CARE – For people experiencing change(s) that significantly challenge their ability to cope.
- FOLLOW-UP CARE – After the crisis event.
- CHRONIC CARE – For a person whose situation is unlikely to change.
- PREVENTIVE CARE – Providing care before a crisis occurs.
- SUPPORTIVE CARE – Care for the caregiver.
How can I find out more about this ministry?
Call the church office at 608-949-9445, or reach out to a pastor or deacon. Stephen Minister Caregivers don’t replace the care of pastors and deacons. They carry it a step further.
Want to receive an email notification when the weekly Connector is updated? Sign up here!
Connect with the Connector!
In an effort to streamline the process for submitting requests for event announcements in the Connector or spoken during the worship service, Communications has developed this easy-to-use online form to share all of your important information.
Click the link below to check out the form and if you have any feedback or questions, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Connector is available in print at the back table in the Lobby for those who would like a printed copy.
The Connector comes out at 4 PM every Friday. The deadline for submissions is noon, the Wednesday prior.