Week 69 July 4th, 2021
Dear CCLJ,I hope you are preparing for a wonderful holiday weekend. I am sending your worship email out early in case some of you will be on the road, traveling, or otherwise occupied. I hope you are taking time to reset, connect, and breathe!
This week’s video, I hope, helps us center July 4 on what is most important: justice. It is at the center of who we are and what we do. The link to this week’s video is here, but before you do, read through the rest of this email so you know about the two other clips I’d like you to watch as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-muGtT9r4M
There are 2 videos that I am asking you to watch as part of worship this week. In my YouTube video there will come a time when I ask you to pause the video and go watch these two short clips. The links will be in the video description on YouTube, but I will also put them here for your convenience.
The first is an interview from 60 minutes: (Trigger warning: genocide) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZHTtfTXjrA
The second is a short clip about Buffalo II, one of Robert Rauschenberg’s most famous pieces. There is no more American painting than this one, featuring a large portrait of John Kennedy and iconic images of 20th century culture I think it helps us center ourselves on the many and often complex meanings of this American life. : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmFZ4_y3_ME
The reopening survey is still open! If you haven’t had a chance, please do:
I will be compiling this data this week and I want your voice to be heard!
Continue to stay well and healthy.
In the name of the justice we celebrate on July 4,
Week 70 July 11th, 2021
Our worship emails this week–and next week–is going to be a bit different from the usual. The reason is because this week is General Synod 33 of the UCC! As part of my commitment to the Next Generation Leadership Initiative, I am required to attend General Synod and participate in conversations with my cohort colleagues from across the denomination. Typically, General Synod is held in a convention center in some city, however this year it is all online. A monumental undertaking, indeed. The UCC is spread across 6 different time zones from Hawaii to Maine. So, this week will certainly present our wider church with challenges. Your prayers are coveted.
If we were under typical circumstances, I would be away at this event today and all this coming week and you’d have a guest preacher. However, since we can still gather around this digital table together, I have put together resources to offer you a contemplative moment, share with you the results of our reopening survey, and also connect you to some of the events going on at General Synod 33. And I, get to take 2 weeks rest from the labor of video production! Yay!
This week you will find more music than a typical week would include. Last week you didn’t hear anything from Nina because she graciously let me hold off so that we could hear more from her during these next two weeks. She also has included more information about the music than usual. Enjoy this time of getting to soak into Nina and Bronwyn’s music. Because my email server is not allowing me to attach audio files, you will be receiving the musical component in a separate email.
I also love to take the opportunity to teach folks about the structure of the denomination of which we are a part. The General Synod of the United Church of Christ is our national decision-making body that meets every 2 years. It consists of elected representatives from each of our various conferences. The General Synod of the United Church of Christ is a historic body in that its decisions led the UCC to be the first denomination to endorse same sex marriage in 2004. In 2007, then Senator Barack Obama, was the keynote speaker at General Synod. Barack Obama was then a member of the United Church of Christ himself and was the first UCC president since Calvin Coolidge.
Also, I am going to begin sharing General Synod resources with you both this week and next. I hope you will take this chance to step out of our local church and to experience the diversity of the wider church. Here is a video where you can hear from the 3 main leaders of our denomination:
The UCC is not ashamed to be political in the name of the Gospel. Here is a brief testimony of one pastor who is walking from Chicago to DC to bring awareness to systemic violence:
Speaking of which, I co-hosted an event this week, on Saturday July 10, at the La Jolla Bike Path with Molly Bowman Styles that invited La Jolla community members to come together and write chalk-art messages on the path in support of voter access, community diversity, and the power of us. We set up a post-card writing station to Senators Feinstein and Padilla to encourage them to do everything they can to reform the Senate’s rules and to work with their colleagues to defend the sacred right to vote. It was a great event. I hope you enjoy some of the photos I’ve shared with you. San Diego City Council Member La Cava, his wife, and his staff attended as well!
As General Synod gets started, I will share more resources with you. And next week, I will invite you to watch the closing worship service of General Synod as our worship for July 18.
Lastly, I want to share with you the results of our reopening survey! The broad take away is that the majority of you (86%) will be ready to return to church this fall around the time of our Blessing of the Animals service. However, some of you won’t be ready (13%). That is ok. We will continue to do our best to reach out to you in new ways.
The rest of the data presents a more complicated picture. 48% of you prefer to come to church unmasked but 28% plan to wear a mask and 24% are still not sure. 60% of you are ok coming to worship if unmasked people are there but 20% of you aren’t comfortable with that, and 12% aren’t sure. 60% of you are ok being in church with unvaccinated people, but 24% are not ok with that and another 16% aren’t sure. 84% of you will come to church even if there is no social hour. 12% of you won’t and 4% aren’t sure.
Nina shared with me an illustrative example from a recent National Association of Teachers of Singing webinar she attended that featured a Boston based epidemiologist who said that he was going to the cultural and theater opportunities that he’s been craving in New York now because he is unsure where we will be pandemic wise in the fall. That said, where we are continues to look optimistic. Let’s all pray for a continuation of California’s health and progress.
Meanwhile, 43% of you are interested in some form of drive by communion station in the park this summer…. so, stay tuned. This result I understand, driving into La Jolla on a weekend evening is daunting… 🙂
Enjoy exploring General Synod 33. Here is the website for the event in case any of you are fellow church nerds who want to explore it:
And most importantly, enjoy letting Nina and Bronwyn’s musical talent wash over you and fill your spirit this day and forevermore.
Week 71 July 18th, 2021
Just a reminder that worship tomorrow is General Synod closing worship. It is at 3-5 PM Pacific and you can tune in on this link: https://www.generalsynod.org/worship-services-july-18/
If you miss it or are busy during this time, I will be sending out the YouTube link of the recording tomorrow night.
Week 72 July 25th, 2021
NOTE: My message is found in a YouTube link because the audio file was too large to attach to the email. You can find my message by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGtCU6ZswXY
Also, the General Synod worship service was finally posted to YouTube. If you didn’t have a chance to experience General Synod worship you can do so here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGzdAJyHHxs&list=PL6VgfHt6zEy5-WhXcb13kvHo29PfEE5Xt&index=4 The musical components are found as audio files attached to this email. You will also find a PDF guide, similar to our original format for doing church virtually.
Wednesday Worship Special Edition General Synod – YouTube
WEDNESDAY WORSHIPWednesday, July 14 at 8 p.m. ET | Led by Rev. Michelle HigginsLive chat is disabled for this event. Join the conversation on Facebook! https…
This week our worship format returns to a familiar style. This week we celebrate all things United Church of Christ. This past week I spent attending General Synod 33. This is the top legislative body in our church. It sets the vision, direction, and mission for our life together. We passed all of our resolutions. We stood in solidarity with the colonized peoples of Hawaii, we said no to the cash bail system, we proclaimed racism as a public health crisis, and we voted 99% to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ persons. We affirmed the good work of our national officers and will see each other again in 2023 in Indianapolis.
This week our worship focuses on this denomination that we are a part of. Nina has curated musical pieces by composers who were a part of our denomination. The scripture reading is from the part of the Gospel of John that contains the source material for the UCC motto, “That they may all be one” which is under our historical logo and which you can find on the cover page of the PDF.
I have populated the PDF with pictures of key moments and figures in our history. Today our identity and vision statement is “a just world for all.” That is at the heart of everything we do and strive to be as church. That informs the work I do among you and on behalf of you in the wider San Diego community. We do not act alone; rather, we are guided by a history long in the making.
I also included two field trips for you that show you highlights of the 2019 Synod, the last one to be held in person. Also, I included then Senator Barack Obama’s address to General Synod in Hartford back in 2011. Barack Obama was the first president since Calvin Coolidge to be a part of our church.
I hope you enjoy this opportunity to learn about the United Church of Christ and to celebrate our unique expression of living the faith.
With grace and hope for a just world for all,
Week 73 August 1st, 2021
Here is a burst of light to lead us into August. Since we are currently struggling with the pandemic and getting variants under-control, it seems like this is never ending; likewise, it feels discouraging to see our hard work be for nil in light of those who have refused vaccination. When we experiencing these overwhelming emotions it can be easy to slip into anger. Which is why my worship themes in August will be centered around “stepping into August with love.”
We need a burst of brightness and hope. We need God’s light now more than ever. Which is why worship this month will focus on the good, the delightful, and the hopeful among us. I have curated a collection of pictures taken (mostly( this past week by renowned photo journalists from CNN and the Washington Post that capture humanity in its diversity, beauty, and brilliance.
I hope you will join me in stepping into August in love. We continue to allow the pslams narrate our journey. May we read their wise and ancient words alongside images that capture contemporary beauty in all its forms.
Note that this email contains the PDF, Scripture, and Message. The music will come seperately.
Week 74 August 8th, 2021
Attached you will find the worship elements for this week, August 8, 2021. Please note my message will be contained in a second email as it is a larger file.
We are also at work on planning our Blessing of the Animals service — which we are praying will be our first in person event since 2020. We have commissioned our very own Melissa Melchor to create the designs for a banner for the front of the church and for our advertising materials.
Please continue to encourage your friends and family who are unvaccinated to get vaccinated. This is a community effort. We are praying that these next two months bring us healing and progress.
Also, if you need to be in touch with me this week, please do so via email. Some of you email me through my Harvard.edu email. Since it has now been four years since I have had a Harvard affiliation, they will soon retire that account. So, please be sure to email me at email@example.com. I am slowly moving everyone over to this email account.
I am also in the process of upgrading phones so if you have text or called me in the past couple days I probably did not get it. Please email me or leave a message for Bronwyn if you need to be in touch or you did not hear back from me! I want to make sure I don’t miss anything!
I am looking forward to all that we have ahead of us. Thank you for being a part of it.
Week 75 August 15th, 2021
As we continue to step into August with love, we might step together into a moment of quiet worship and reflection for this Sunday, August 15.
This week you will receive 3 emails. The first containing the PDF and scripture reading, the second the musical components, and the third my message. We split it up like this because otherwise the email is too large for many of your email accounts and it would be rejected. This way I make sure everyone receives it and is not left out.
Please please continue to be careful. Hospitals in my home state of Montana are out of beds. I know I am preaching to the choir here, but encourage your friends, associates, and acquaintances to get their vaccine. I am so looking forward to blessing your pets, animals, cats, dogs, birds and all of YOU this October. May all of us do our small part to heal our community so this might be the start of a return to our beautiful home on Cave Street.
Week 76 August 22nd, 2021
Here we come to our Aug 22 edition of worship. This week we turn our eyes to Afganistan. We offer an earnest prayer not only for the people there but also for all of those who have sacrificed so much over the past 20 years to bring change, hope, peace, and transformation.
As you all know, I believe religion without contemporary application is irrelevant. Our scriptures must be read in the light of our day. The pslams, which we have spent this summer studying, were made for such a time as this.
Also, as we continue to keep our eyes on the pandemic situation I offer here an article that was shared with me my others in the UCC. It offers us an important look at our present situation:
Week 77 August 29th, 2021
I hope this beautiful summer week finds you healthy and well. I have been squeaking out the past 2 weeks worship packets on an ill computer (again!) which I sent off to repair on Tuesday evening. It should be back tomorrow. When I mentioned to the Apple technicians how much I use my computer they asked what I did for work! And they were very surprised how much of ministry has taken place this past year on my little computer. I use it an average of 10 hours a DAY! Gasp! But if you consider the fact that I have multiple Zoom meetings, dozens of emails, and am making videos and recordings and PDFs for our worship, then it all adds up and makes sense.
Also, this week begins orientation for me! I am beginning a part time Doctor of Ministry degree at the UCC’s seminary in the Bay Area, Pacific School of Religion. This is a program designed for career pastors to pursue while they continue to work in their congregations. Don’t worry, I only have to be in Berkeley 2 weeks a year! The rest I do right alongside all of you here. I will appreciate your prayers as I begin this new journey and pursue the most advanced form of study in ministry.
Since I am not able to record for you this week, I want to share with you a modern prophet of our time. If you are involved in the progressive Christian movement, you will sooner or later come across the name Rachel Held-Evans. She was a star of progressive Christianity. She was a bold and fearless preacher who made our faith relevant for our time today. She was someone we all admired. She died in her mid 30s very unexpectedly a few years ago. I hope that you will get to know her. She has several books which are also refreshing and brilliant. I almost picked one for our book study we did in 2019. When we regather and restart such things, I may select something from her for us to work through together.
This is a sermon like video from Irvine Congregational Church UCC (a church in our local UCC association) from 5 years ago shortly before Rachel’s untimely death,
I additionally invite you to then enjoy the musical selections prepared for this week.
Speaking of music, we also have a special announcement from Nina. She says:
Let’s do another collaborative sound project! In honor of our upcoming Blessing of the Animals, I would like you to send me animal sounds. That is, actual animals making those sounds, please! They can be your dog(s), your cat(s), your parrot (do we have any parrots among us? chickens?), or animals that you hear (my resident cricket is hoping for another solo, for example). Birds outside? Other people’s pets? I’ve saved all the sounds you’ve sent me from previous projects, so I already have a small collection. Since the animals will be the focus this time, if you’ve sent me an animal sound already it would be lovely if you could send me more.
Deadline: let’s say two or three weeks, and I’ll fine-tune that date as I brainstorm what the project will be. I’m thinking of something like our Easter project—we build a back-up track and have the choir sing something relevant on top of it.
How to send me sound: see the attached PDF that people found helpful last time, called HowToRecordAndSendOnYourPhone. It’s fun and silly and non-intimidating! Please email your sounds to firstname.lastname@example.org. You’re welcome to contact me with questions too.
Please find a “how to” attachment from Nina attached to this week’s email.
Nina Gilbert, music director and pianist
Bronwyn Allen, office manager and soprano
Attr. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), Sonatina in F major
Published during Beethoven’s lifetime, this sonatina is now considered possibly not by Beethoven.
There in God’s Garden
Original Hungarian words by Pécselyi Király Imre, c.1641
Translated and adapted by Erik Routley, 1974
Music by K. Lee Scott, 1976
Translator, composer, and musicologist Erik Routley (1917-1982) was an English Congregational minister. Educated at Oxford, he became an influential Professor of Church Music at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. He imported contemporary British hymns to the U.S., and is considered responsible for the elimination of the singing of “Amen” at the end of each hymn.
Claude Debussy (1862-1918), Prelude No. 10: “The Sunken Cathedral”
Inspired by the legendary (i.e. fictitious) Cathedral of Ys that was submerged under water as punishment for the sins of some of its members. Occasionally the cathedral rises and then sinks again. When do you think that happens during this piece?
Week 78 September 5th, 2021
The entire worship experience for this week is contained in a video on my YouTube channel. This was certainly a labor of love for me! I am featuring California modernist Agnes Pelton. This past Sunday I drove to Palm Springs and back so that I could visit the retrospective of her work at the Palm Springs Art Museum. This is the first major show of her work since 1995. She was born in Germany but came to the United States as a child and by 1932 settled in Cathedral City. She spent her life exploring spiritual themes and she was most certainly a spiritual seeker. She was interested in transcendental meditation, esoteric thought, and theosophy. She was always on the quest for deeper meaning. I think there is something in here for us. She felt called to exist in the desert. And the difficult conditions of desert living made her feel that there was something to be gleaned by those who were hearty enough to handle it. She built herself a small cabin in Cathedral City and to earn income spent her time painting desert landscapes. But her true passion was in her modern, surrealist, desert paintings that attempted to convey the essence of the complexities of desert life.
I have always been mystified by the desert and I am not alone. Our scriptures were set again the backdrop of desert harshness. The prophets of our faith were desert dwellers. What is it about the desert that is so challenging but so irresistible?
If you are in the Coachella Valley anytime soon I would highly recommend you visit this exhibit. The Palm Springs Art Museum is one of my favorites. It was made what it is today by one man, late interior designer Steve Chase, who exemplifies what it means to leave a lasting legacy as a patron of the arts.
Also, I would like to draw your attention to an attachment to this email from Nina Gilbert! She has provided us with a friendly and helpful guide that lays out how you can participate in our next special music project.
Wherever you may be, enjoy this little bit of time in the desert!
Click here to access this week’s video: