First Congregational Church of Rockford

A Message for You

June 14, 2012 // 0 Comments

God’s grace evident in a stranger by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church, Rockford “Whad’ya think?” I asked my husband after we read an article in the paper. It gave a brief bio on a couple of exchange students who still needed host families to make their dream of studying in America come true. We had both talked about serving as a host family before, but weren’t actively looking at the time. Somehow I had been drawn to read the article in which young people from far away vulnerably described their gifts and their hopes. One jumped off the page at me and, as my husband read about her, seemed like the right fit to him, too. We called the number listed to make a preliminary inquiry. We checked with each of our kids to see how they felt about opening our home to a stranger. They each gave their blessing and we had signed on the dotted line within two weeks of casually perusing that newspaper! Somehow we knew that this decision was not simply our own, but that God was at work. We made the necessary preparations and welcomed her at the airport last August. What a wonderful year it has been! How can you grow to love a complete stranger who moves into your home? The starting point is prayer: channeling God’s love to this new family member. Being open-minded and flexible are critical qualities when sharing space with a newcomer. Expecting to learn from them even as they learn from you will bring untold gifts your way. Berenice has broadened the world of my children. We have been reminded that we are pretty much the same around the world. We are all God’s children! The State Department underwrites the Foreign Exchange Student Program as they believe this is one of the great ways to bring peace to our world. This national priority shows great insight! The Hebrew people are reminded in Deuteronomy 10:19, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Jesus praised the righteous believers by saying, “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” We have learned that in a beautiful way this year in our own family. We will mourn […]

Metropolitan Choir of Praise returns to Rockford

April 5, 2012 // 0 Comments

Ready to re-energize your spiritual life? Join the Metropolitan Choir of Praise and First Congregational Church of Rockford on April 15 for an evening of sacred music guaranteed to get your toes tapping and your spirit soaring. The 70-voice Metropolitan Choir of Praise is a mixed chorus based in Grand Rapids. Its members are men and women from numerous vocations and professions, from many churches in and around West Michigan. First Congregational Church is pleased to welcome the choir to its sanctuary for an unusual return engagement. The choir began performing concerts of sacred music in 1963, sharing the joy of salvation and the love of Jesus Christ with audiences across the United States and around the world. First Congregational Church is Rockford’s oldest church, established before the town became the City of Rockford. The charm and simple beauty of its sanctuary, which dates back to the 1870s, make it one of the city’s historic gems. The concert is a perfect opportunity to visit for those who have never been inside. A reception of cookies and punch will follow the performance, and all are welcome. The concert is free, but a freewill offering will benefit First Congregational’s education wing expansion project. The Metropolitan Choir of Praise will perform at 6:30 p.m. The church is located at 192 E. Bridge Street, at the corner of Fremont Street in Rockford. For more information, contact the church at (616) 866-2412.

A Message for You

September 8, 2011 // 0 Comments

Brighten people’s days  by REV. LAUREL TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church of Rockford She had never had children of her own but she knew every child at the church. The college kids would come home for the Christmas Eve service and she would greet each one by name. Her fiancé had died decades earlier and she had lived alone her whole adult life. But she made a community wherever she went. She sang in the church choir until she was in her eighties. She worked her way through coffee hour, asking people how they were doing and commenting on something about their lives. Over time she became stooped almost to a 90-degree angle. She had to leave her home for a retirement facility. She had lived in the same place for 40 years. How do you begin to make new friends at that age? The answer is quite simple: you keep trying! In no time, she was greeting her new neighbors by name. I marveled over how she could know new people whose faces she couldn’t even see! Her stooped posture cast her gaze to the floor. If she really cranked her neck up, she could maybe see your waistline. How did she already know who was who in this bustling retirement home? She recognized their voices… and their shoes! In no time she was brightening people’s days by noticing them and affirming them—just as she had done in every other setting her whole life. With the start of a new school and program year we reinvest in activities. There are always opportunities to go in new directions and to meet new people. If we worry about how others will like us, we may not venture beyond the places where we are already known. When we go into a setting trusting that God has brought us there for a purpose, we will interact in a different way. Rather than waiting around for others to welcome us, we will greet folks in an effort to make them feel more at home. We will do whatever it takes to treat them as beloved children of God. If Jean could get to know them from their shoes, we have no excuses! If God’s eye is on the sparrow, God […]

Metropolitan Choir of Praise to perform in Rockford

March 17, 2011 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL The greater Rockford community is oftentimes recognized for its many quality-of-life advantages such as educational excellence, strong family values, and an all-abiding and ceaseless giving nature. Perhaps the greatest virtue of all is that, first and foremost, Rockford is a community of faith. The Rockford area is home to 38 vibrant and growing churches of most every denomination. All play an integral part of the excellence we frequently take for granted here in Rockford. One such church is the First Congregational Church of Rockford, which will break ground this summer to add a Christian Education Building wing adjacent to the sanctuary in downtown Rockford. Many years of fundraising have brought this dream to reality in 2011. Perhaps the last fundraiser before anticipated construction begins in August will be a performance by the Metropolitan Choir of Praise. Rockford resident Jessica Kooiman is a member of the Metropolitan Choir and also a member of First Congregational. “I wanted to help raise money for my church’s building addition and immediately thought of bringing the Metropolitan Choir to Rockford,” said Kooiman. Performing concerts of traditional and contemporary sacred music for the past 48 years, the 60-member choir, representing many churches in and around West Michigan, has performed across the U.S. and around the world. Under the direction of Dr. Mark Taylor, the choir most recently held two concerts at Meijer Gardens this past December. Kooiman said, “I am really excited about this opportunity and hope anyone who is interested in good choral music will attend. The performance is open to everyone. There is no charge for admission, however a free-will offering will be taken with all proceeds going toward the building fund.” As an aside, this multitalented and accomplished musician (Kooiman) possesses a beautiful second soprano voice and is also a consummate pianist who offers piano instruction to children using the Suzuki method. She prides herself on teaching children to love music. This very special evening of music is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Sunday, March 27 at the First Congregational Church of Rockford, located at 192 Bridge Street in downtown Rockford. For more information, contact the church office at (616) 866-2412 or Kooiman at (616) 866-6427. One can also get a taste of the […]

A Message for You

March 3, 2011 // 0 Comments

God is with you in every moment by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church, Rockford The ashen remains of our house stood for three months after the fire. Often I had to meet the insurance agent there to further process our claim. It was always difficult to go “home.” Though the shell of the home still stood, the life we had lived within its walls seemed long past. Every now and then, beneath the layers of soot, I found an item that could be salvaged. There was a bronze cross my parents had given to me that hung by the back door. Underneath the charred remains of our lives, I found it. Now it hangs in our new home, a reassuring link from the lost past to the joy of the present moment. Those of you who have loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s know what it is like to lose the past. Your mother looks the same but her eyes are vacant. As the disease progresses, your husband no longer recognizes you. How difficult it is to make a trip to see them. Everything about the loved one’s “shell” reminds you of a wonderful past you shared with them. But there seems to be no connection in the present. Your love leads you to continue to visit them in spite of the heartache. Every now and then there is a treasure to be found in that present moment. She knows you are her daughter. He says your name. He refers to a moment you share from the past. You carry that moment away with you as a gift. Sometimes we are reminded that all we have is the present moment. We try to pin down our future, drawing on events from the past. But what we have is the present, and it may just hold a surprise for you—a treasure you carry forward. No matter what you have lost, trust that God is with you. Even when the future looks uncertain, trust that God will bless you in the gift of each moment. And that is enough!

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