Volume 5, Issue 2

From the Pastor

      First of all let me tell you how happy I am that you have called me as your pastor. The opportunity to serve you in that capacity is the culmination of a long journey for me. It fulfills a dream I have had for many years. I look forward to getting to know each one of you. I want to hear your hopes and dreams for our church, and I want to help you make those hopes and dreams a reality.

      I think we've gotten off to a good start. I've greatly appreciated the support and kind comments I have received from all of you whom I have had the chance to meet. We just completed a solemn Holy Week and a joyous Easter Sunday. The highlight for me was our own Easter service and the chance to preach to Good News of the Resurrection. It was an experience I will never forget. It was also a special delight for me to participate in the ecumenical services on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with our sister churches and their clergy from the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Special thanks to Keith Ruby and Manny Odom for representing our church in that ecumenical group, and to Keith also for his good work in helping to plan the services and in leading the wonderful music on Thursday and Friday evenings. Ecumenism is a big part of what the UCC is about. Here in Monroe, we are doing a good job of living our denomination's motto, "That They May All Be One." I hope we can develop and strengthen those ecumenical ties to these other churches, with whom we have so much in common.

      Although I am with you only part time, I want to be as available to you as I can be. If you have questions or concerns, or if you would like to meet with me for any reason, please call the church office. I am generally there on Sundays and Wednesdays, but you can leave a message any time. I will get back to you as soon as I can. If you have concerns, you can also contact Laurie Ide or one of the other members of the Pastor/Parish Committee, with whom I will be meeting regularly. If you have a pastoral emergency, such as a sudden hospitalization, a death in the family, or some other personal crisis, and you want pastoral support, you can call my cell phone number--206-234-2778--at any time. I have the cell phone with me and turned on most of the time. There is voice mail on that number as well, so if you don't get me, leave a message. I will return your call just as soon as I can. You can also reach me by e-mail at Tom@monroeucc.org.


From the Moderator

Spring. Resurrection. Rebirth.

      It's been a long wait for Spring this year. And it sure seems like the last couple of snowy weeks have been teasing us to the point of frustration! Yet today the wall thermometer on my deck reads over 60 degrees. How long has it been since we've seen such glorious warm weather? My clothes are hanging on the clothesline, and they actually have a better-than-even chance of getting dry. My sheep are acting energetic and kind of silly. I can hear robins singing when I wake and frogs chorusing when I go to bed.

      It's been a long wait for a Pastor, too. We are so excited to have Pastor Tom Sorenson become our new minister! He's already jumped right in and generated some serious energy among us. And not to force an analogy too much, but it does seem like it's a real opportunity for some rebirth around Monroe Congregational Church. While it's only been a matter of months (six or so) since we've had a spiritual leader, so many things have buffeted us so hard it seems much longer.

      We sure have had some good folks holding vigil around the fire during our dark winter, though! Davi Martin, as Moderator, did a super job of maintaining a pastor in the pulpit for us. I know that was a challenge! Plus she kept the business of the church organized. Betty Stewart continued to keep the office and our publishing online. Keith Ruby got us through the whole Advent and Christmas seasons without missing a beat (pun definitely intended). The Diaconate, with Sue Bell in the lead, kept our Communion and Worship Services focused, despite a new person leading the Sacrament just about every month.

      Rosella Roff and Ron Park drove us onward, by reminding us all of the importance of our evangelism and our consideration for building our membership via the Welcoming Committee. Ken Setzer, our very own "Fellowship Hall barrista", literally kept the home fires burning and the coffee hot. Joyce Smith just quietly did her job all the time. Did you ever wonder how the church would survive without her ability as Treasurer? I'm sure she's had to, well let's just say, "lighten Peter's load while helping out Paul," from time to time over the past few months.

      And then, there's Laurie Ide. What can I say?! As vice-chair of the Pastor Search Committee (and now "past" Search Committee Chair!), she did a yeoman's job of holding and/or slapping our hands, and doing the final negotiations for Pastor Tom. The whole Pastor Search Committee deserves a great deal of thanks! Here's to you, Sue Bell, Teresa Burns, Keith Ruby, Rosella Roff, Davi Martin, Laurie Ide! Oh and me, too, a little, I guess.

      I could go on and on about the contributions from so many good folk, and if this newsletter were at least a couple of pages longer, I would! But then I plan on adding a few more Hall of Famers next month! I just want to add that because of EVERYONE'S efforts, we held the church together through that long winter. Thank you to all of you!!

      Anyway, now with The Resurrection fresh in our minds, and with a few spring-like days, I suggest we take that Holy Spirit out for a ride, and with the top down, too! You all need to scoot over, `cause Pastor Tom is driving now!!

May God continue to bless you,


The question is:

      Is anyone interested in coming to church via conference call? I know at times we are home-bound due to illness, but that shouldn't stop you from coming to church if you want to. If you are interested in being "the first" to use a new conference number and helping us get this set up just right, please call Teresa Burns. The cost is 18 cents per minute x 60 = $10.80 for the whole hour.

Teresa Burns

Thank You

Thanks are due to many people for all their hard work during the past months:      

Joyce Smith and Karen Rich for taking care of the finances. That is an on-going process but vital.

Karen Rich for heading up the carpet and sanctuary face lift.

Kris Browne for keeping some of us focused on the living room.

Russ Browne for continuing to improve and try to establish a youth program.

Even without a pastoral leader, we had some good energy coming out of a good year with Diane Schmitz. She put a lot of heart into us and gave us the courage to continue.

Betty and Lee Hodo for sticking with us and taking on responsibilities with the Trustees and choir.

Fred Rosenzweig, Larry Vlasuk and Carolyn Boyes, who do so much to keep the physical plant going and looking good, taking care of lots of little details.

Jeff Van Horne for putting a new top on the table in the classroom.

Ken Setzer, who opens the church Sunday mornings, puts the sign out, turns up the heat, lights the candles, makes coffee and then cleans up the kitchen afterwards.

Joann Meeds for thinning and sorting the office files.

Ron Park for his steady attendance and careful attention to details.

Women's Fellowship for keeping the lines of communication with the greater Monroe community open.

Keith Ruby and all the musicians for the inspiring music each week.

Men's Group for another great Easter breakfast.

The pastors who supplied us during the interim. Wasn't it great to see Larry and Laurie Baker again?

All the people who serve as worship leaders.

And everyone else who worked to keep the church moving ahead!

Everybody, for hanging in there with prayers and support.

We're Having Guests

      Again this year we have invited the families of the Cooperative Pre-school which meets in our church for a "come as you are" potluck on Monday evening, May 6 at 6 p.m. Of course, we need to arrive earlier to be able to greet them.

      As hosts and hostesses at every table, we have much getting acquainted to do - much to talk about. Do we know how a cooperative preschool works? Do they know the "goings on" at our church? There are probably many talents and hobbies among the families. Are there special things they enjoy at the church they attend?

      The children may draw on the tables since they will be covered with butcher paper for this activity. We'll sing with the children (that will take us back a bit!). The children will have special treats.

      Mark this on your calendar as a special "get acquainted with your neighbor" night - a good time for all. Monday, May 6, 6 p.m.


The Welcoming Committee

About people. . .

Joann and Dave Meeds are in Cuba on a two-week trip. They had to fly out of Canada to get there.

Kris Browne had her back surgery in late March and is recovering at home.

Barbara Penniston fell on steps and injured herself

Joe Bynum's wife Ethel, died, Sat. 16th, 2002. They played in the string quartet which performed in the church for us several years ago. Joe's address is: 23716-150th St. SE. Monroe, WA 98272.



      After about seven months of searching, talking, driving, exchanging e-mails, praying and minimizing answers to questions from the rest of the congregation, the Pastor Search Committee finally introduced a candidate to the congregation on March 17, 2002. The response of the Congregation was overwhelmingly in favor of inviting Pastor Tom Sorenson to join our Congregational Family. He has accepted the invitation and his official start date was March 24, Palm Sunday. Everyone is encouraged to join us in welcoming him to our community.

      Kayleen spent many hours communicating with the UCC conference office. She worked tirelessly to keep the rest of the committee focused and on track. There were many frustrating times during this search. There were many silences when we would ask each other "well, what do you think, is this the one?" All the candidates had good qualifications, were sincere in their desire to serve the Lord and our community but we just could not come to a consensus on any of them. We picked out 2 candidates who seemed to stand out a bit from therest and arranged neutral pulpits where we could listen, watch and learn.

      Obviously Tom Sorenson was one of the two and the one who made the final cut. I truly feel that we as a committee were not allowed to see all of Tom's qualifications the first time we interviewed him because his was the first interview. It was so soon after Diane had left and the 9/11 disaster that no one would have measured up. Having several months and more interviews behind us, the shock and dismay of September were behind us. His sermon at the Northshore UCC was well received by their congregation and certainly had us sitting up in our seats! We had a bunch more questions for him and he agreed to meet with us the next day for more interaction. The poor man was grilled by seven excited, worried, frustrated individuals and one Search Committee. He came out smiling so we figured he would fit just fine.

Please come and celebrate with us.
Laurie Ide
Search Committee Chair.

A little bit about Pastor Tom Sorenson

      Just thought you should know a few more things about Pastor Tom! He and his wife, Francie, live in Lynnwood. They have two children, Mary and Matt. You may have had a chance to meet them, as they have been worshiping with us for the past couple of weeks. Nice folk! Please introduce yourselves to them if you haven't yet. They will be worshiping with us regularly and are very welcome into our church family here.

      Tom's hours will be all day at church on Sunday (well, you know...a business day!), plus he'll be at church on Wednesdays, coming in a bit later in the morning and staying a bit later into the evening. That way, he'll be available for those folk who work during the day (or maybe sometimes he'll want to sing with the choir or go to the Men's Group?!). He'll also be working some hours off-site, because as you know, crafting those good sermons requires a little solitude!

      His ministry with us has been a long time coming. While he's a "Cradle Congregationalist", his pursuit of the ministry has only (only, get that!) been taking place over the last eight years or so. He felt a strong calling to preach and has doggedly followed this call, receiving his Master of Divinity degree from Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry in December, 2000. Now mind you, that's while working and supporting a family, too.

      Pastor Tom will work part-time with us while he continues to work part-time at his attorney job. He feels okay with balancing these two components, as he indicates that he keeps the law job limited to just the required hours. Besides, he WANTS to work with us!

      No doubt there's much more to find out about him! I suggest you ask him any questions that you might have personally. As he has indicated, he'll be around all day Sundays, so drop in after worship, or call for an appointment. For those of you at home, give him a call at church, 794-7601, and set up a time for him to call.

      Look for information from Pastor Tom Sorenson in other parts of this newsletter.


      (This was originally written for the annual report in Feburary. Through some confusion, it failed to appear in the report. I've updated the figures somewhat for April.)

      Following the decision at the 2001 annual meeting to change the name of our church to Monroe Congregational Church, UCC, I created a new internet address for our website, MonroeUCC.org. The church website contains material on our worship schedule, Christian education program, history, music program, women's fellowship, a photo album, archive of sermons, and copies of the newsletters since April of 2000. In addition, there are links to send email to our pastor, the church office, the music director, and the webmaster.

      Recently, MonroeUCC.org has been receiving about 16 visits a day from around the world. After the main page, the most requested pages are the sermons index, the photo album, and the music page.

       Some recently added features of the church website are:

       As an outreach effort to the Monroe community, we sponsor the MonroeChurches.org website. The purpose of this website is to provide a location on the internet for information about Monroe churches, especially for information about events taking place in the churches of interest outside the sponsoring church. The site contains basic information (denomination, street and email addresses, worship times) for 16 Monroe churches. In addition, there is information about youth groups sponsored by the churches and about opportunities to serve in the Monroe area and there is a frequently updated listing of upcoming events such as music progra ms, special worship services, and fund raisers. Since its creation in March of 2001, about 118 church events have been publicized on the MonroeChurches.org Events page which receives about 5 visits a day. Recently, MonroeChurches.org was written up in the Everett Herald and in the Snohomish Tribune, resulting in some favor able publicity for our church.

Russ Browne

Music Notes

      It seems like we can all take a deep breath, now that our busiest time of year is past. I have lots to be thankful for and lots of folks to thank. There's not enough space to name all of you, so I'll try to corner you during our Fellow ship.

      I couldn't have taken on so many projects without those of you who helped and support me, and especially the ecumenical church's staff. They gave me so mu ch power during Holy Week. What an intense undertaking. I must say it was joyous and rewarding. Thanks to the choir members for jumping through hoops to keep us singing together, even with our tight schedules.

      Thank you, Tom for diving right in to help after just coming on board as our new Pastor, and I'll look forward to working with you for Pentecost and Trinity. I hope you aren't too overwhelmed. Oh yeah, folks, he even sings!

      There will be future ecumenical events. Stay tuned for a possible June Spiritual Concert and perhaps a Variety Show in October. My head is already spinnin g out of control for next Christmas.

      I'm grateful to have made it a whole year with our church (on February 18 , 2002). I'll look forward to another.

Your Music Director,
Keith Ruby

As I See It (Passing the Peace)

      Since this practice was introduced - twenty, thirty years ago - I have wo ndered why. What is the purpose of it? It seems to have been established in all the Christian churches with which I have been acquainted -- Lutheran, Catholic, Pr esbyterian, Methodist, and though I am not familiar with it, I have little doubt that the Episcopal church could also be included. But I still don't understand wh y. A stranger turns to me and says, "Peace be with you," then immediately turns t o the next person, repeats the phrase, and on and on. All of this is accomplished with a warm (you hope) handshake. Each hand shake recipient is expected to repea t the phrase, etc., etc. This goes on sometimes for many minutes at whatever poin t in the service is deemed appropriate.

      To me this whole process is meaningless and empty. In many churches this time is spent visiting with friends and/or conducting business. I'm sure that in the beginning this practice was introduced to force the people of the congregation to individually look at and touch with a single handshake a fellow human being, sincerely spiritually and with eye contact wish them peace in their lives. Is finding peace in our lives and guidance for living them not the purpose for being in our churches in the first place? Do we really need an intermission in the spiritual message we have come to hear? In one Presbyterian Church I visited, the "peace passing" lasted a good 20 minutes. I was greeted by two people in neighboring seats with those empty words before they rushed off to visit friends. I was a stranger who certainly never warmed their pews again. In the Catholic Church the "peace was passed" to immediate neighbors - 1 to 2 minutes - no moving around.

      When, why and how was this practice begun? Was it an edict of some ecumenical hierarchy foisted on all Christian churches? It was a real sales job since it's so all-pervasive.

      Greeting strangers is very important, there is no question about that. No one should feel alone in a church, because we're there to know we're not, that's what the sermon is all about. But do we really need an intermission? Should we not bring our visitors to our very nice fellowship hall instead?

Barbara Tuck