While we are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and have ceased in person worship for the time being, we are still gathering our hearts and minds for worship as a church. Each week our staff produces and emails an at-home worship packet with words, art, and music. You can find previous weeks’ worship packets here. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to request to be added to the weekly email list to receive these in your inbox.
If you have pastoral requests or concerns please email email@example.com
March 15th, 2020
Hello CCLJ Family (and Friends far and wide):
Today we make history. Today we join our hearts in worship from our own homes. We are still very much a functioning, living, breathing church. This is evidence of that. We are doing something that has never been done in the history of our church.
Below you will find Home Worship Guides. During the next weeks of at home worship we will be reflecting on what this means. Can we be significant staying at home? What does it mean to contend with illness? With an infirm world? Can we change the world from our own homes? Let’s explore these questions together by looking to the past and looking to our sacred scriptures. For this week, our worship focuses on French painter Henri Matisse who spent the last fourteen years of his life largely at home due to complications of a surgery to remove cancer. Some of his best work was created during this time, including what he considered to be his masterpiece. We will spend more time reflecting on this later. You will even have the opportunity to take a virtual tour of his masterpiece.
Please open the at home worship guide below by clicking on it. It should open with ease. Start on page one and read through the guide. There are four audio files that you will see in this email as well. Don’t listen to the audio files until the guide instructs you to. They are listed clearly as “Audio File 1,” “Audio File 2,” “Audio File 3,” and “Audio File 4.” This is to make this as simple as possible. Keep this email open as you work through the worship guide so that you can easily access the audio files when necessary. When instructed by the guide to listen to an audio file, simply click on the audio file that the guide instructs you to.
Also, please read all the way through the worship guide. Your staff put in an incredible amount of time in getting this together for you with short notice. There is a fun homework assignment too. Please send us a photo. This can be a selfie of you at home today, or a photo of the place you choose to worship, or a photo of something that is currently inspiring you. When we come back together we will use these photos in a special way.
So, get cozy and comfortable. This is still very new for us and we put it together in just over 24 hours. Any wrinkles will be worked out in the coming several weeks.
Rev. Tim Seery, Minister
Dr. Nina Gilbert, Music Director
Bronwyn Allen-Kaeser, Office Manager, Soloist
Week 1 March 15th, 2020 Henri Matisse
PDF Instructions: AT HOME WORSHIP KIT 1 08.52.28
Week 2 March 22nd, 2020 Isaac Newton
PDF Instructions: AT HOME WORSHIP KIT 2- March 22, 2020
March 29th, 2020
Here we are already with the third week of our at home worship. Your staff has enjoyed the challenge of working to make these better each week. Originally we had planned for 4 weeks of at home worship. With this being week 3, that would mean that we would also have next week as well. However, as events continue to develop, it appears that local and state stay at home orders will not be lifted by then. Therefore we will come out with further correspondence in the coming week about the future of at home worship.
Also, the current economic state of the world is being felt in all institutions of all sizes, including our own. Our renters’ businesses have come to a grinding halt, and so has their need to rent from us. In addition to this, we feel the squeeze of the global economic downturn on our investments, the income from which we rely upon to meet our operating budget. As a church that makes due with a deficit budget under normal circumstances, this year could prove to be a challenge for us. But I am choosing to see this a simply a “bump in the road” – there is still much road yet to be traveled on the other side. That said however, it is critically important that we continue to support the church as we normally would if we were meeting in person. You can send your offerings and pledges to the church. I am checking the mail a few times a week so your checks will be processed in a timely manner.
Also, it has been such an honor to receive your “homework” each week. The stories and pictures you have shared with me have been amazing. This week I want you to send me a photo of something that is giving you life during this stressful time. I think that we can all share in each other’s inspiration while continuing to stay connected to each other.
Thank you to each and every one of you for the gift that you are to our community.
Week 3 March 29th, 2020 Frida Kahlo
PDF Instructions: AT HOME WORSHIP KIT 3 – MARCH 29
April 5th, 2020
Here is the worship packet for our forth week. This is also Palm Sunday which means we are heading into Holy Week next week. I will talk a little bit more about this in my recorded message to you so I won’t explain too much here. I am so grateful for you continuing to write in with updates about your lives and pictures that you want to share. Several of you have even written in a few book recommendations as well. Keep it coming! Your contributions and stories and ideas are what make these worship packets special. This week I hope some of you will be moved to send me a photo of something that is inspiring you these days. What is giving you hope? Where are you finding beauty?
You are all in my prayers. Stay healthy and safe,
Week 4 April 5th, 2020 The Quilters of Gee’s Bend
PDF Instructions: AT HOME WORSHIP KIT 4 – APRIL 5
April 9, 2020
Today we begin the days when we normally would be coming to the church several times for several different services to mark Jesus’ last earthy moments. I miss gathering around a table with you and sharing dinner as the lights gradually go dim. How do we remember a meal gathered around a table together when we are not able to even do anything close to that for the health and safety of our world? Nina has offered us two musical selections to guide our prayers and medications this night and tomorrow. You will find them attached to this email with the concert notes prepared below. I hope that you can listen to this music and find a way to remember Jesus’ final gathering with his disciples in the comfort of your own homes.
As you all know I find God in art and so I thought I’d share with you a piece that reminds me of not only Maundy Thursday and Good Friday but also of where we are as a society right now. The one thing I keep in mind is that we have the luxury of knowing how the story finishes. We come to church on Maundy Thursday knowing full well we will be back on Sunday morning. We know the sorrow does not last long. But for those who were participating in this story 2,000 years ago, they did not know this. Imagine how Good Friday would feel if you didn’t know how the story ended? If you thought that was it. If you didn’t know when the pain or loneliness would end…
Where we are now is in some ways a small taste of this. We don’t know what will happen next week let alone tomorrow. The world has had to become ok with not planning ahead very far. We aren’t sure how the story will finish, though we have faith in a God of new life and resurrection, like those who accompanied Jesus, we don’t know when exactly this will happen.
The piece of art above is one in my own collection by Felix Gonzalez Torres. I used this as the bulletin cover last year on Good Friday. Felix Gonzalez Torres lived and worked at the height of the AIDS crisis. Much like COVID-19, there was a lot of mystery around this virus and how and why some people were getting sick and dying. There was no cure, no vaccine, and only marginally effective mitigating drugs. In the mid-80s a diagnosis with this was effectively a death sentence. However, unlike COVID-19, society did not stop. There weren’t press conferences every day updating the country, there was no White House task force or billions of dollars spent on treatment. Instead there was largely, silence. Why? Because AIDS mostly impacted a segment of the population that society did not want to shed light on or acknowledge the humanity of. Those who had the virus or who knew others who did were hidden, silenced, and ignored by the government that was supposed to protect them.
Getting an HIV diagnosis in 1986, the year this piece was made, was like facing crucifixion. People were sentenced to a silent, scary, and lonely death because of who they were and the fear around the disease almost marked them as lepers to the wider world.
Felix’s partner Ross Laycock was diagnosed as HIV+ in 1986 and out of despair, Felix created this work, “Untitled” (Crucifixion) 1986. Felix and Ross had to sit in this Good Friday-esque space for a long time. It would be 10 years until HIV became survivable. It would be half a decade until the government took the issue seriously and dedicated its resources to research and development. The blue hue of this image is thought to reflect the color of the hospital gowns that Ross had to wear. Ross ultimately died of complications due to AIDS in 1991.
I look at this image and I am reminded that we face true Good Fridays in our lives but we all know how the story ends. Jesus didn’t stay this way long and his lifeless body on this cross is the most extreme act of protest that history has ever seen. The most powerful kings and empires nor death itself could keep his love from shining onward.
Onward we go,
Maundy Thursday: Claude Debussy, Arabesque No. 1
Good Friday: J. S. Bach, Andante, from Italian Concerto, BWV 971
While Bach’s music is precisely notated, he is creating the effect of a harpsichordist improvising over a steady bass line. Debussy admired (and perhaps imitated) what he called the “wonderful arabesque” quality of Baroque music, a line shaped by nature.
April 12th, 2020
PDF Instructions: AT HOME WORSHIP KIT 5 – EASTER
April 19th, 2020
Christ is risen! This is something we ought to continue to remember as we embark upon the 50 days of Easter. Even if it doesn’t feel like it some days, the tomb is empty and new life is among us. It is hard to believe we are already at our sixth week of at home worship kits. The response we’ve been getting from these has been wonderful – and our congregation is growing and expanding each week in ways it normally otherwise wouldn’t. It seems, based on my conversations with UCC leadership, local colleagues, and staff, that we will continue to worship this way for quite some time. This is a journey and it is unfolding. As the weeks progress, we will continue to think of ways to keep our worship packets fresh, relevant, and engaging.
This week we will celebrate what is called “Holy Humor Sunday.” This is traditionally the Sunday after Easter. This is the first time that I have celebrated this with you and you will find out why when you listen to my reflection.
As always, please keep sending me photos of your lives, your at-home adventures, and the ways that you are finding God during these times.
PDF Instructions:AT HOME WORSHIP KIT 6 – HOLY HUMOR
April 26th, 2020
Here is Week 7 of our at home worship. This week we have made the conscious choice to lift up female artists and musicians. The theme is “action painting” — the art and the musical selections complement this notion in ways that we are sure you will enjoy.
I continue to be grateful for your messages, photos, notes and book recommendations. Please don’t hesitate to send me something you’d like to share with the congregation: a recipe you like, a good book, or a picture of you! We haven’t seen each other in a while and it looks like it will still be some time before we do. Staying connected is good and healthy. We are continually looking for ways to expand, perfect, and grow this idea of taking church into digital space.
Week 7 April 26th, 2020
PDF InstructionsAT HOME WORSHIP KIT 7-Action Painting Lifting up female artists and musicians.
May 3rd, 2020
The weeks are moving by rapidly. Here is Week 8 of At Home Church. I have been engaged in a lot of conversation with the staff, our moderators, our Southern California Nevada Conference UCC leadership, as well as colleagues across this region about all the ways our ministries have had to change and adapt over the past 8 weeks. It looks like our ministries will continue to adapt. The Southern California Nevada Conference of the UCC just announced that our Annual Gathering in July will now be exclusively virtual. We in this church are also beginning to chart a long term vision of what our immediate future will look like too. I will be covering this further in my message to you next week. Because we are in this for the long-haul, we will be adding some more opportunities for connection, including possibly a virtual book discussion club this summer as well as a bi-monthly virtual happy hour over Zoom for those who are familiar with this platform–and over the telephone for those who are not familiar with Zoom. Both options will be offered. More on this later.
No matter what, our world has changed. So too has our church and the way we will have to be moving into this new future. If there is one thing I can tell you, it is that I am extremely hopeful about what that future will bring. All of you continue to be in my prayers.
Week 8 May 3rd, 2020 Weathering the Storm
PDF Instructions:AT HOME WORSHIP KIT 8
Several of you emailed me letting me know that the 4th audio file in this morning’s worship packet did not work. This was a piano duet that Nina took great care to bring to us this week. We want to make sure you hear it. That is why she has uploaded both of today’s piano pieces to youtube. The link is here: Piano solos #1 and #4
If you just want to hear the piano duet (the part that did not work properly) then you can listen by clicking this link: Piano solo #4
Thank you to all of you for engaging with our worship packets! Please continue to send me photos for the virtual fellowship hour! Your fellow CCLJ-ers love to see what is going on in your lives.
May 10th, 2020
Here is the at home worship packet for our ninth week. Our theme this week is “interiors.” I ask that we reflect on and appreciate the rooms of our homes which have become our new sanctuaries. I selected pieces of art that come from many different artists and stylistic periods. Though all of them are representations of interiors of one form or another. We are fortunate to have a special addition to the end of this week’s packet: Nina has summarized for us the main take-aways from a 2.5 hour webinar about the science and safety of singing in a COVID world. There are several implications that this information will have on the way that we move forward as a church. Additionally, my homily reflection will talk a little bit about our continuation of the worship packets into the future.
I continue to appreciate your emails and check ins. It has been a joy hearing from each of you. Please keep sending photos of your lives to keep us all connected.
Week 9 May 10th, 2020 Interiors
PDF Instructions: AT HOME WORSHIP KIT Interiors 9
Direct link to file 4, the “Living Room Music” for found percussion:
May 17th, 2020
Week 10 is here! This week I share with you the work of David Hockney, a British born artist who has spent his life capturing the spirit of California. I hope you are enjoying receiving these as much as I (along with Nina and Bronwyn) are enjoying making them.
Last week I mentioned to you some of the challenges that our post COVID world will bring to church. Most churches of the United Church of Christ and other mainline denominations are beginning to dream up new ways of worship and connection in light of the information we have been receiving. Coffee hour, singing hymns, communion, and passing an offering plate are some of the main things that will have to wait until a time well into the future. As with any loss, we mourn. But part of mourning includes making meaning. And I believe that we can use this time to foster deeper, more authentic, and creative connections than ever before.
This is why I’d like to hear from you. Would you be interested in trying out a digital, online fellowship time? For those of you who don’t have a camera on your computer or aren’t familiar with Zoom video conferencing, you can simply dial a number on your phone and then automatically be put into a conference call with all of us! As long as you have a phone you can participate!
With worship packets carrying us through the summer, it might be nice to begin some connections through digital space. Our new normal will require us to begin to connect with each other in new ways. Perhaps we can fellowship with each other through the summer this way, connected in ways that are life giving and healthy for all of us? Let me know!
Week 10 May 17th, 2020 Swimming Pools
PDF Instructions:AT HOME WORSHIP KIT 10 – May 17 Swimming Pools