Whether you are a believer, a seeker, a person of faith, or one who has no faith at all, you are welcome here.

Keeping You Informed

Hello Friends!  Welcome to the first issue of a new publication, FCCSJ—Keeping You Informed.  We felt it was important to update you on what has been going on with our church community over the past several weeks.

The church no longer produces the newsletter The Spire. Instead, church staff now sends two weekly emails to the FCCSJ email list:

What’s Happening includes information about upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, birthdays, anniversaries, prayer requests, etc., for the coming week.

Sunday Links includes the links and the bulletin for the coming Sunday’s virtual worship service on Facebook, Vimeo, and YouTube and the Zoom link for Sunday Coffee Fellowship at 11am. It also includes the Zoom link for the Adult Forum at 11:30am for those Sundays on which a forum is scheduled

Are you getting FCCSJ emails?

What’s Happening and Sunday Links are sent out each Friday. Other emails may be sent out as needed. If you are not receiving these FCCSJ emails, please check your spam or junk folder. If you see our email there, then you’ll need to safelist our email address. Safelisting an email address ensures that emails sent from that specific address reach your inbox instead of being marked as spam or junk. Each email provider or security service has their own instructions for adding email addresses to a safelist [see Safelist an Email Address in an Email Client for instructions for most email providers]. Emails from the church will have one of the following addresses:

First Congregational Church of San Jose: [email protected]
Cindy Eckhardt: [email protected]
Rev. Dr. J. Thomas Gough: [email protected]

We are trying to minimize the large group emails by asking if there is a group in which you would like to participate or have a special interest. Please let the office know so that you can be included in that specific email group such as: Lectionary Bible Study; Wake Up & Knit; QiGong Wellness; Evening Women of Faith; or Good Grief Group. Please contact Cindy Eckhardt at 408-377-7121 or [email protected].

Rev. Penny Phillips enthusiastically reports “Happy to be on Staff!”

In late May I was called to join our church staff in a part-time (8-10 hours/week) ministerial position. This had been proposed in mid-January before I retired from my Hospice Chaplain ministry at the Palo Alto Veterans Hospital. As the Minister of Pastoral Care and Connections, I am here to support Rev. Tom in various ways and to connect with congregation members and friends. Pastoral care comes in many shapes, sizes and colors and there are so many wonderful pastoral caregivers in this congregation!

In these first 5 months I have initiated the Good Grief Group (2nd and 4th Thursdays via Zoom), assisted Tom with a memorial service, made four pastoral care home visits (outside with masks), assisted Cindy with What’s Happening, and have made many telephone calls. I have attended many church meetings via Zoom. I welcome ideas from you all about who might need a ‘connection’ with me. I am very happy and grateful to be here with everyone in this challenging time. We may not be in our lovely sanctuary, but we are very much an active church, filled with deep faith and love!  Contact: Rev. Penny Phillips [email protected].

FCCSJ’s 2020 Silicon Valley Safe Parking Ministry Team

Our church community successfully provided a safe place for people without shelter, who had been vetted, to sleep overnight in their vehicles in the FCCSJ parking lot.  Our church’s positive experience last year helped us provide safe parking for two months in 2020.  The highest number of overnight guests was 15, which included several families. Of those folks, 6 to 8 people were here both months.  Thanks to Amigos de Guadalupe, the two families were eventually housed using the hotel program. Our overnight guests expressed their gratitude to the 51 volunteers who cooked meals; served meals; baked cookies; provided snacks, bottled water, or first aid supplies; and conducted parking lot checks.

Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Recap

The congregation approved the 2020-’21 budget at our first virtual (via Zoom) congregational meeting on September 28, 2020. We anticipate some reduced income from facility rentals/events and some reductions in giving, compared to the previous year, due to Shelter-in-Place restrictions. In addition, the church’s overall expenses will increase slightly from the previous year due to a few part-time staff who will be employed for the entire year (vs. part of the year for 2019-’20).  This will result in a budgeted deficit of $16,791.29 that will be covered with funds from our Operating Reserves (savings).

School Partnership and Increased Campus Use

Our tenant, Springbridge International School, continues to be a good partner with our church. While they have not been able to meet on campus due to the Shelter-In-Place restrictions, they have continued to pay their rent on time. They have advised us that 90% of their parents stated they would prefer to continue tele-learning instead of rushing back to meeting in person. The school continues to grow and has a need for additional classrooms and expanded restrooms. The Board of Trustees continues to develop plans to support the school’s future needs.

Sanctuary Improvements

The Board of Trustees continues to make progress on plans for some needed modifications to the Sanctuary. Lighting improvements and the addition of video streaming/recording capabilities are in progress, with a goal of being completed by the end of 2020.  Funds for these improvements come from designated financial gifts bequeathed to the church by members who have passed away. The rest of the anticipated modifications (sound, video projection, additional lighting) will require permits and will carry into the new year. These modifications will allow live streaming of church services, so that when FCCSJ begins once again to hold in-person services in the Sanctuary with COVID-19 safety precautions in place, members, friends, and visitors may choose to participate either in person in the Sanctuary, or virtually via live streaming of the services.

In addition, the design team is working on the details for the full Sanctuary Renewal Project, as presented to the congregation earlier (March 2020), and hopes to have more pricing details ready for the annual meeting in January 2021.

The Silicon Valley Sponsoring Committee (SVSC) 

A number of church members representing FCCSJ have participated in meetings with SVSC, a non-partisan network of civic associations, faith-based organizations, nonprofits, and labor groups that develop the leadership capacity of their members to effect change on a larger scale than they could alone. The church is exploring whether FCCSJ might have sufficient interest and time to participate in this network, alongside other congregations and nonprofits to work together for social justice and the common good in Silicon Valley. The SVSC is affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), the nation’s largest and longest-standing leadership development and organizing network.

Northern California Nevada Conference (NCNC) of the UCC

This year the NCNC-UCC Annual Gathering was held virtually on Zoom for the first time, and voting was conducted via Zoom. FCCSJ sponsored four members as delegates to the day-long NCNC Annual Gathering on October 24, 2020.  To paraphrase Conference Minister Diane Weible, this Annual Gathering was notable with brave conversations and deep discernment.  Voting delegates passed four justice resolutions:  a) Standing in Solidarity:  Antiracism and Racist Justice Formation in Local Churches; b) Expanding our Commitment to Antiracist Conference Camp Programs and Outdoor Ministries; c) Antiracism and Racial Justice Training for Anyone Who Holds Standing in this Conference and Anyone Seeking Standing (Including Those Seeking Ordination) in the NCNC-UCC; d) Making Amends for a Colonizing Past:  Learning and Acknowledging Our Inherited History, Praying for Repair and Right Relationship, and Taking Courageous and Humble Action for Land Protection and Justice.

Bylaws and Church Meeting Modifications

In July, Church Council voted to temporarily suspend Bylaws Article XII, Section 2, which prohibited Meetings of the Church Membership (MCMs) from being held electronically. This change allowed the congregation to approve the church budget at the September MCM, which had to be held electronically to meet the County restrictions on physical gatherings.

The 2015 FCCSJ guidelines for using electronic communication (primarily email) to facilitate decision-making in church board meetings excluded MCMs, which involve larger numbers of people, and require that all participants can engage in simultaneous aural interactions and deliberations. Today, members have access to videoconferencing applications, such as Zoom, which do support the level of interaction required for reasoned deliberations and decision-making at MCMs.

This was the best option available to balance the need for the congregation to make important operational decisions with the need to suspend all physical, in-person meetings to protect the health and wellbeing of the congregation. The bylaw suspension will be re-assessed when we can once again meet in person.

Proposed Changes to FCCSJ Church Organization

Church Council is evaluating a proposal to re-invent the current church organization structure of Boards, Committees, and Ministry Teams (MTs). The primary goal is to reduce organizational meeting overhead and get more people actively engaged in projects to better support the mission and goals of the current congregation. This is a continuation of the structural streamlining implemented by the congregation at the January 2020 Annual Meeting.

The current proposal envisions creating three “governing boards” with the current boards and committees becoming MTs under the three boards. MTs are more flexible, making it easier for both members and non-members to engage in a wider range of service opportunities without requiring a multi-year commitment to monthly board meetings. A detailed proposal will be presented for discussion at the January 2021 Annual Meeting.

FCCSJ Online (Zoom) Spiritual Groups in Addition to Sunday Worship

Please contact the Church Office to get Zoom Links and/or further information about these groups and their facilitators: Contact Cindy Eckhardt at 408-377-7121 or [email protected]

  • Online Coffee Fellowship: Sundays 11:00 am
  • Adult Learning Forum: Approximately every other Sunday, 11:30 am–12:30 pm
  • Lectionary Bible Study: Tuesdays, 11:30 am–12:30 pm; & Wednesdays, 4:30–5:30 pm
  • Good Grief Group: 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month, 11:00 am
  • Wake Up & Knit: 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month, 3:30–4:45 pm
  • QiGong Wellness Class: Wednesdays, 9:30–10:30 am
  • Spiritual Exploration Group: 2nd Monday of each month, 3:30–5:00 pm
  • The Soul of Aging: Five Thursdays in 2020, 1:00–3:00 pm; five Thursdays in 2021
  • Dream Group: Mondays, 12:15–2:15 pm
  • Evening Women of Faith: 4th Wednesday of each month, 7 pm
  • Children & Youth Gatherings:  Sundays for children, periodically for youth
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