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Auburn’s First Congregational Church shining Christmas light

Hope, joy, peace and love a focus during celebration of Christ’s birth
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn Churches at Christmas

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth and final installment in a series of question-and-answer feature stories that highlight Auburn’s “Churches at Christmas.” Today, the Journal takes a look at the First Congregational Church of Auburn. Rev. Daniel Spacek is pastor. Other churches featured this past week were: Bell Road Baptist, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sierra Foothills Unitarian Universalists and Parkside Church of the Nazarene.

 

 

1.  In what ways does your church focus on the birth of Christ? 

Every year, advent leads us into Christmas, with a focus of “Already and not yet.” We recognize that Christ has already been born into the world and the spirit of Christ exists in the world. Christmas is that symbolic reminder to remember the possibilities of new birth in our hearts and the world that God has promised. In the midst of the darkest month in the calendar year it is such an important reminder that no matter how dark things get, the light will come and the darkness will not overcome it. It’s partly what we try to preach as we name in authentic ways the places of hope, joy, peace and love in the face of that darkness.

2.  What are you offering, in terms of traditional and innovative experiences for church-goers at this time of year? What has been on your church’s calendar leading up to Christmas, including Christmas Eve?

We offered an advent spiral service on Dec. 9, similar to walking a labyrinth, and using candles for a walk to show how light is born in our lives and how it is a reflection of the light of others and the light of God. In general, we try to make services at this time of year a multi-generational experience. We have tried to provide messages in our Christmas pageant (this past Sunday) and youth services that are accessible and meaningful to all ages that our deepest experiences with God are not always in the solemnity of the moment. The deepest sacredness can be when we can experience joy and laughter – experiencing Christmas maybe like a young kid would.

3. How many members does your church have? What is your church address? How long has your church been serving the community? 

Our membership is about 260. Our address is 710 Auburn Ravine Road. We’re celebrating our 50th anniversary of being in this location Jan. 13. The church used to be located where the Wells Fargo Bank (formerly Placer Savings Bank) is in Downtown Auburn. We’re hoping to incorporate some of the elements from our building’s first service on Jan. 13. We’ll also be celebrating the time line of the church beyond those 50 years, to tell stories of folks throughout the history of this church.

4. In what ways does your church and its members serve the needy in our community?

It’s something we are very involved with, in terms of the Gathering Inn, which is a huge focus. Our involvement also incorporates different events, including raising money at this time of the year with the Salvation Army. Increasingly, we are looking for ways to help out with situations at the Placer County Jail, working in conjunction with other churches doing good work. As someone who is new here, I’m still getting a sense of what lights the fire in the folks here, because there’s so much to be done in connecting with people in need in the community.   

5.  The retail side of Christmas seems to be seeping into our lives earlier every year. What are your thoughts on the commercial side of Christmas?

In some ways, the commercial narrative has somewhat overtaken the narrative of giving and of really receiving the gifts of the birth of Christ and what that means. But it can also been seen as a separate story. You can fight it. You can rail against it. Or you can celebrate the ways that, despite all the things we can throw at it to distract us, God breaks through. So we trust that. God works through it all. That’s our job and that’s our focus.