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Noteworthy Moments, 2019 - 2020

For many of us, Easter Week 2020 was the COVID wake-up call.  Forgoing traditional worship during this most holy time was unprecedented.   Over the spring and summer, we continued to improve our online services and were thrilled with the number of viewers we were reaching and where our message was being heard.  Just before the Covid spike in the fall of 2020, we did reopen for limited worship in September, only to shut down a few weeks later.  Yet despite the COVID shutdowns, we held strong in our beliefs that we were continuing to share the word of God and to do his work.  Caring Friends started Caring Circles to keep in touch with a wider group of congregants.  We still donated over a hundred short sets to the Punta Gorda Women's Club Clothing Drive in April 2020.  Our Social Justice Ministries Team met regularly throughout the pandemic, and contributed to the Alliance for Fair Food.  Our Endowment Fund provided grants to several local entities, including Crossroads Hope Academy, Edgewater Bicycle Ministry, the Military Heritage Museum and the Peace River Botanical and Sculpture Gardens.  The second of the major projects of our 2019/2020 Capital Campaign (the first being a new roof which was completed pre-COVID), was a handicap accessible entrance.  What better time to do reconstruction of our entrance?  Inspired by the urging of two young ladies who have grown up in our church and have come to love our holiday tradition, we decorated our sanctuary for the holidays.  Members generously donated to the Giving Tree.  We had our traditional Christmas Eve service, but we limited the number of participants, and stringent COVID precautions were in place.  More people watched that service than any time in the history of this church.  It’s just that they weren't sitting in the pews.  And as 2020 came to an end and the COVID vaccines started to come available, we prayed that it would only be a matter of time before we could meet again.

April 5 - April 12, 2020 - Easter Week Services

Easter Week 2020 was unique for our world, our country, our church and our faith.  At CUCC-PG, we connected with our congregation and extended families and friends via social media as we presented Palm Sunday, Maunday Thursday, Good Friday and Easter services via the internet.  We performed an affirmation of faith for five new members, witnessed by a small part of our congregation, and we welcome our new members:  Mary Cassidy-Anger, Scott Anger, Dennis Danner, Jessica Danner,  and Linda Harkness.   All of us look forward to embracing our new members when we return to worship in our sanctuary.  To view any of our Easter Week services, click on Weekly Services, Select 2020, and choose the videos of interest to you.

January 27, 2020 - "I Never Saw Another Butterfly"

On World Holocaust Remembrance Day, nearly 60 students from the North Fort Myers Academy For The Arts presented the one act play, "I Never Saw a Butterfly," at CUCC-PG.   Prior to the performance, a full house of members of the congregation, Crossroads Youth Program and the public heard the remarkable story of Max Weisglass, a Polish Holocaust survivor, who personally shared his experiences.  It was a wonderful yet sobering experience.  Click here to see a brief video from the play.

January 26, 2020 - Musical Fundraiser

Both the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition and the Animal Welfare League of Charlotte County were the recipients of the proceeds of a fundraiser presented at the CUCC-PG by Deb Grenzow and Jerry Oscarson.  Their performance of folk songs, hymns and original music was enjoyed by members of the congregation, family and friends.  It was a delightful afternoon and supported two great causes!  Click here to enjoy a sample of the concert.

January 25, 2020 - Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Terry Root Visits Again

Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Terry Root was back at CUCC-PG again this year.  Her 2020 presentation provided an update on the state of climate change since her 2018 visit. This is the third time in as many years that Dr. Root has visited us, and over the years, she has stressed the importance of mankind's impact on climate and the environment.  Click here to watch her 2020 presentation. Click here to see prior year's presentations.

November 9, 2019 - Capital Campaign Kick Off

Saturday afternoon, church members gathered to kick off our capital campaign, Building our Legacy:  35 Years of God's MISSION, FAITH and JUSTICE.  A photo montage from that last 35 years played across the screen accompanied by background piano music by Isaac James, Music Director.  Kathy Frantish, chair of the Capital Campaign Team, provided an overview of the selected projects (a new roof, improved handicap access and a reserve fund for air conditioning repairs).  The campaign goal is $200,000.  Bill Ringlestein, who headed the Lead Gift Team, reported that almost $50,000 had already been pledged by lead givers.  

November 3, 2019 - Start of a Choir Season

Our choir started the new season with a new look:  beautiful navy and white choir robes and several new members!  Practice on Thursday evenings has been underway for several weeks, and the choir delivered a knock out performance of "Holy Manna," arranged by Joel Raney, as their first anthem of the season!  

October 27, 2019 - Reaffirmation of Faith

Five individuals were welcomed into our church family:  Marjorie Bruns, Tom Cartwright, John Casey, Juanita Maher and Stan Smith.  We are so pleased that they have chosen to take this step in their faith journey.  Pastor Mike is fond of saying that once you have visited our church, "You are family."  Their joining our church affirms that relationship.  

October 13, 2019 - Laity Sunday

Every October, our pastor gets a reprieve on Laity Sunday and doesn't participate in the worship service.  Instead, members of the congregation take to the pulpit.  This year's Laity Sunday offered a look at the origins of three well-known hymns and featured our Music Director, Isaac James, on the organ.  

September 29, 2019 - Welcome Back Breakfast

Instead of our usual fellowship hour following the service, members of the congregation were treated to a fabulous breakfast prior to the service.  The stated purpose was to welcome back our snowbirds, but in reality, any pot luck is a great way for our members to showcase their cooking and baking skills!  Many thanks to all who contributed, including those who helped with the set up and the clean up.  

July 12, 2019 - Lights for Liberty Candlelight Vigil

In conjunction with Indivisible Action Southwest Florida, CUCC-PG hosted a "Lights for Liberty" vigil to end the detention of immigrant children.  Our vigil had about 70 attendees participating in the evening’s program which consisted of a first person testimonial about her visits to Homestead, solemn readings of immigration lawyers’ quotes from children who had been interviewed, a reading of the names of the children who have died in US custody as they came to America for a better life, and finally, a candlelit moment of silence to reflect on the predicament of the people who are incarcerated across the country.  For a detailed account of this event, click here.

June 6, 2019 - Social Justice Moment

Glenn and Linda Weaver discussed the plight of unaccompanied minors living at the detention facility in Homestead, Florida, and asked members of the congregation to protest at events like those being organized by Venice and Southwest Florida Indivisible, to write to your congressional representatives and senators, and to pray for a resolution of this situation.  To learn more, click on the link from the Miami Herald:  The photo here is from the Mothers' Day protest that was held in Homestead and attended by Sandy James-Nogaj.  

April 28, 2019 - Social Justice Moment April 2019

April's Social Justice Moment was presented by Linda Weaver and Sandy James-Nogaj.  They reviewed the work the committee has undertaken since its inception in 2017, presented the mission statement, and also provided a list of the many books in our library that focus on social justice To check out the book recommendations, click here.  To learn more about our social justice ministries, click here.


Our congregation also welcomed Christine Varcoe from the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition (CCHC).  Music Director, Isaac James, presented the CCHC with a check representing the proceeds from our March 17, 2019, benefit concert (see below).  Ms. Varcoe offered the CCHC's thanks for the contribution on behalf of the many constituents who will benefit from this donation.  

April 16, 2019 - Refugee

Last September (2018), one of our younger "members" attended the play, Refugee, at the Florida Rep in Fort Myers, Florida.  The play was adapted from a young adult novel, Refugee, by Alan Gratz and focuses on young refugees from different countries and time periods--Germany, Cuba and Syria--as they face the developing violence in their home country and their attempts to flee to America and a better life.  Our young member was so touched by this play that she decided to take steps to have the play performed at her school.  To raise the funds for the performance, she sought the help of her CUCC-PG church family and sponsored a bake sale that raised the necessary funds to underwrite a performance at her school.  On Tuesday, April 17, members of the church traveled to Fort Myers to attend the performance, along with classmates, faculty and staff of the school.

Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019 - Reaffirmation of Faith

On Palm Sunday of 2019, our church grew by 13 through the reaffirmation of faith of Ann Barker, David Cramer, Deb Grenzow, Isaac James, Jean Mann, Brook March, Grace March, Val Moran, Jerry Oscarson,  Beth Pitcher, Elizabeth Pitcher, Chrystal Reichard and Barb Smith.  We welcome these individuals into our church family and thank them for sharing their time and talents with us.  Please take a moment to introduce yourselves to them if you have not already had a chance to do so.  

April 12, 2019 - Innocent Victims: Impacts of Plastic on Wildlife

Nobel Laureate Dr. Terry Root's research while at Stanford University addressed how plants and animals are changing with the changing climate.  Her presentation encouraged us to use less plastics, especially single-use plastics, because of their impact on wildlife and, ultimately, us.  The CUCC-PG Social Justice Ministries promoted this event with other environmentally-conscious groups, including the Citizens' Climate Lobby (Port Charlotte-Punta Gorda Chapter), Environmental Indivisible (a sub-group of Indivisible), Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, Peace River Wildlife Center (which displayed some rescue birds), and The Last Straw.  Though each of these groups had its own focus, their commonality was concern for and care of our environment and the creatures that live there.  The event was well received with 125+ attendees, who appreciated the message, door prizes and refreshments.  Our thanks to the CUCC-PG Endowment Committee for their financial support of this event.

Need ideas on how you--as a consumer--can use less plastic?  Follow this link:

March 28, 2019 - Hearing Loop Install

We are excited to announce that CUCC-PG recently installed a T-coil hearing loop system.  The project was championed by several members of our congregation, and once the idea was floated among our members, we were able to raise the needed monies very quickly.  The funds for the system came solely from member designated donations as well as a grant from a private individual.  We hope this system will enhance the worship experience for our hearing-impaired members and visitors.

Short Sets for Head Start

Each year, the CUCC-PG partners with the Women's Club of Punta Gorda to provide short sets for Baker Center Head Start students.  This year, members of the congregation donated 121 girls' short sets to the students!  

March 24, 2019 - Annual Church Picnic

This year's picnic was held at Punta Gorda's Laishley Park on the banks of Charlotte Harbor and the Peace River. This was a new location for us, and everyone was happy with the venue:  beautiful view, plenty of parking and RESTROOMS CLOSE BY.  The weather was perfect, and the pot luck was a big success.  Many thanks to Jan Tulk, our FellowshipTeam chair; Guy Greenfield who moved tables from the church to the park; and all our members who contributed by helping with set up, clean up or brought a "dish to pass."  

March 17, 2019 - Opera to Broadway

January 1, 2019, Isaac James debuted as the Music Director at CCUC-PG.  His expertise as a concert organizer was an added benefit to his skills as an pianist, organist, and choir director.  March 17 was CUCC-PG's first benefit concert organized by Isaac.  The concert featured Isaac and tenor Skip Potter in an afternoon of musical delights.  The two collaborated on a broad range of music, from opera to art songs to Broadway show tunes, with Isaac at the piano and Mr. Potter as the vocalist.  When the benefit was proposed, the Leadership Team was tasked with selecting an appropriate organization to receive the funds and chose the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition.  A total of $2,710 was raised.  The concert received financial support from the Paul Simpson Memorial Fund, a fund that was formed in 2015 in honor of the husband of Rev. Jean Simpson, the interim pastor at CUCC-PG from 2014 - 2015.

March 15, 2019 - 4 for Four Fair Food Alliance Protest, Gainesville, Florida

Pastor Mike Ford and Social Justice Ministry member, M.E. Steele-Pierce, boarded a bus in the wee hours of the morning to travel to the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville.  They and the other occupants of the bus were part of a protest planned by the Alliance for Fair Food/Immokolee Farm Workers to heighten awareness of the plight of farm workers, here in Florida and elsewhere in the U.S.  The protest, 4 for Fair Food, focused on four universities (U of F, University of Michigan, The Ohio State University and the University of North Carolina) to "Boot the Braids."  The fast-foot giant, Wendy's, is one of the few companies in the industry that has not pledged to support the Fair Food Program which works to improve the wages and working conditions of farm workers.  Members of the congregation and the CUCC-PG's Endowment Fund donated $1,410 to underwrite a portion of the cost of the bus trip.

February 10, 2019 - Volunteer Appreciation Sunday

The Leadership Team chose this Sunday before Valentine's Day to acknowledge how much we appreciate and rely upon our volunteers and to highlight volunteer opportunities.  We have three paid staff:  our pastor, our music director and our administrative/finance assistant.  Our Leadership Team is an all-volunteer group as is our Endowment Team.  Our choir and our member musicians are volunteers.  All of you see our greeters and readers and experience our after-service fellowship each Sunday.  Guess what:  they are all volunteers!  We have all sorts of people working behind the scenes providing the Sunday media slides, copying the Bulletin, preparing monthly communion, leading our educational groups, visiting our sick and shut-ins, maintaining our building  and grounds, sending birthday, anniversary, sympathy and get well cards, counting the weekly contributions, volunteering in support of our Social Justice, Ministries, our library, our men's and ladies' ministries, and maintaining our social media presence.  If none of these opportunities resonate with you but you have a skill set that you would like to share, please reach out to Pastor Mike, the Leadership Team or the office.  We love our volunteers, and we can always use more. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019 - Martlin Luther King, Jr., Community Breakfast

The CUCC-PG was a proud sponsor of the 13th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Community Breakfast, which was held on Saturday, January 19, 2019.  Members of the CUCC-PG congregation also donated their time and talents in judging the essays that were submitted for various awards.  

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