Archive for Pastor’s Blog

UMC Clergy Statement of Solidarity January 6, 2021

We, as United Methodist Clergy in the Central Coast area of California, stand in solidarity against today’s violence at our nation’s capital, and hereby reaffirm the statement of Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church:

Today is when the Congress of the United States certifies the votes of the people. This duty fulfills Congress’s constitutional role in the democratic process.

The peaceful transition of power is a pillar of representative democracy.

Even as we affirm the right to peaceful assembly, nothing must disrupt this democratic process.

We condemn the rhetoric from leaders inciting violence and division. We call on all to work for justice and the common good of the country and our democracy.

We continue to pray for the healing of our nation. Join [us] in praying these words from the Prayer in a Time of National Crisis (from the United Methodist Book of Worship, # 517):

May leaders be led by your wisdom;
May they search your will and see it clearly
If we have turned from your way,
Reverse our ways and help us to repent.
Give us your light and your truth, let them guide us;
Through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of this world, and our Savior.
Amen.

We also reaffirm the message of Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño of the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, who professed:

On this Day of Epiphany, Christians remember that the Magi guided by a divine light visited the Christ Child bearing gifts and their souls.

Let us pray for the divine light of Christ to manifest the fullness of his righteousness in this our moment of darkness.

The protests against the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris that have escalated to violence at the US and at the California state capitals are truly an expression of darkness based on deception and fear-mongering.

As people committed to a civil society and a democratic process of governance, this is not the way to express differences of opinion. It certainly is not the way to be as people of faith.

Let us pray for our broken society and recommit to being followers of Christ who is the Light of the World.

Gabriel House (Aptos),

Clyde Vaughn (Boulder Creek),

Luke Ham (Carmel),

Patrick Davis (Morgan Hill),

Hwapyoung Kang (Gilroy),

Karla Lundin (Hollister),

Angel Rivero (Marina),

Sanghyun Lee (Marina),

Steve Lundin (Salinas),

Jay K. Pierce (Santa Cruz),

and Robin Mathews-Johnson (Watsonville)

 

Building Faith Brick by Brick…New Lego Sunday School via Zoom

“Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 

Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 

He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” Exodus 3:1-6

In the fall of 2016, our former intern Sydney Ota (who is now a college student entering nursing school,) with my support successfully launched Lego Sunday School for the kids at church, many of whom had never been exposed to Scripture.  The curriculum is based on Building Faith Brick by Brick, by Emily Given, a dynamic and innovative approach to teaching Bible stories and Christian faith to children from kindergarten through fifth grade.  Sydney ordered our needed Lego bricks and other supplies for us, and recruited participants.

The concept is simple; hear a bible story, such as Moses with the burning bush, and then make it out of Lego bricks.  And they did!

Fast forward to 2021, and we’re still in the midst of this pandemic.  With the vaccines coming, we see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel is long.  How do we reach our youngsters and teach them our faith in this radically new context?  I can tell you!  We’re hoping to launch our own Zoom version of Lego Sunday School.  The weekly “events” will be short enough (we hope) for young attention spans, and we invite everyone with children this age to sign up.

How can you help?

To experience the full range of creativity, we will need large quantities of Lego pieces.  We are looking for hand-me-downs from families, online auction sites, etc.  Ask your kids and grandkids if they have a set to give, or donate the funds to purchase them.  Lots of extra body parts/people/figures are definitely needed, too.  Each child will be given a “baseplate” to build on, and a bowl of Lego bricks with which to build their creations, and once we settle on an agreed upon time, we’ll be ready to go.  We pray this effort will help foster an environment that invites a deepening relationship with Jesus by the children as well as the youth helpers we’ll supervise to teach it.

By God’s grace, it sounds like a win-win situation to me!

Shalom,

Pastora Robin

Online Worship Schedule

Online Gatherings are available anytime on our Facebook or YouTube pages!


A Generous Undertaking

“Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.” 2 Corinthians 8:7
 
Don’t let it be said that the members of this church, when it comes to giving, stop at nothing. 
 
Of course, we’ve got to keep an eye on things around here; you never know what might happen. I heard that Leadership Circle might also consider sending a letter to parishioners who didn’t watch our Consecration Sunday Online Gathering, or who haven’t filled out a 2021 pledge card yet—either a printed one or the new online version.
 
This is what it might say: “Dear Members and Friends: We missed you on Pledge Sunday. Since you were not present to fill out your pledge card, we’d like to make it easy for you. We’ve gone ahead and completed a pledge card in your name. Thank you for being so generous. Signed, Leadership Circle.”
 
Remember my friends that generosity is a mark of God’s people. Not everyone can give regularly, and that’s ok. But if you can, be sure to do it with joy and thanksgiving.
 
It is said that there are ten reasons for pledging. (Jorgen Lissner) Number 1, it’s an act of faith performed for the sake of personal integrity and an expression of a personal commitment to the more equitable distribution of God’s resources. Number 2, it’s an act of self-defense against the mind—and body—polluting effects of over-consumption and greed.  
 
Number 3, it’s an act of independence from the achievement neurosis of our high-pressure, materialistic society. Number 4, it’s an act of solidarity with Christ’s people everywhere. Number 5, it’s an act of sharing with others what has been given to us.  
 
Number 6, it’s an act of celebration of the riches found in creativity, spirituality, and community. Number 7, it’s an act of loyalty, given from a deeply held sense of love for our church and community. Number 8, it’s an act of anticipation of the many ways we can work together in ministry and mission when we pool our resources.  
 
Number 9, it’s an act of advocacy to begin to change the economic fate of our brothers and sisters who are in such dire need. Number 10, it’s an exercise of following God’s vision, and to go where we should go as a community of Christ.
 
As one preacher so aptly described, “Every time I come to church,” she said, “I turn just a little. I turn toward who I was meant to be. Just a little more of who I really am and where I am supposed to be headed.”  
 
You my friends are headed in the right direction, and I am so grateful. Thank you for your generosity! Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  
 
Shalom, 
Pastora Robin

National Night Out 2020 Went (Mostly) Virtual 

 
Despite the many challenges and hurdles we’ve faced this year from COVID-19, the City of Watsonville at Pastor Robin’s urging still found a way to bring National Night Out (NNO) to our community.  Usually held on the first Tuesday in August, this year the event was moved to Tuesday, October 6th.  City staff led by the Recreation Department, with help from several local school principals, offered a series of online public safety videos.  
 
Watsonville PD gave an inside look at how their K-9 unit is trained to sniff out the bad guys, how advanced technology is being used to keep officers safe during some of the most dangerous situations, and the dos and don’ts for pedestrians and drivers.   In addition, the Fire Department offered an exclusive tour of Fire Station 1, including a peek at one of the largest fire trucks you’ll see around town.  An online quiz for the kids resulted in many gifts and prizes.  
 
Over 2,500 people viewed this video series across the city online platforms
In addition, our church jumped in to offer 200 free “to-go” homemade Mexican dinners that night in a drive-through giveaway to some of our neighbors and friends, assisted by officers from both the Watsonville Police and Fire Departments.  What a great opportunity to serve our community! 

Politics is Not a Dirty Word (Usually)

“Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.  Anything more than this comes from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37

I’ve always figured that politics was strictly taboo in a church setting, didn’t you?  We United Methodists are a free-thinking and definitely non-partisan denomination that welcomes just about everybody into the fold.  Our mission is making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and we’ve been working on it as a congregation here in Watsonville since we started on the banks of the Pajaro River back in 1852.  Unlike others, we’d never in a million years—at least in my lifetime—tell you how you must mark your ballot.

So, what does politics have to do with our faith, anyway?  A lot! 

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but here’s what historians say.  The people called Methodists have been actively involved in social and political matters from their founding in 18th century England.  Methodists were among the primary advocates for the abolition of slavery across the British Empire, the organization of labor unions to protect workers from dangerous working conditions, the ending of the debtors’ prison system, and the creation of new systems of care for poor children.  (umc.org)  Cool, huh!?

Given this heritage, we Methodists have continued to advocate for other social or political issues since that time – women’s suffrage (i.e. right to vote,) temperance (abstinence from alcohol,) civil rights, health care and care for the environment, to name a few.  In other words, believers like us have been stirring up political trouble for a long, long time!   And I believe that’s a good thing.   

As one preacher puts it, politics, (or política in Spanish,) is about people and the relationships between people or groups of people.  Life itself is political, and there is virtually no decision we can make, nothing we can say, no action that we take that does not have political consequences, for we do not live in isolation from other people.  When I sneeze, my neighbor catches cold.  Or the coronavirus.   

Honestly, the way I see it, there’s no part of our lives that isn’t concerned with politics, one way or the other.  And when I say politics, I don’t mean mud-slinging or other vicious rhetoric.  I mean exercising our democratic right and privilege to vote our conscience.  In my mind, it’s another version of asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?”  (WWJD)  

And maybe, just maybe, with this approach we can make this whole presidential election season better than it is. 

Let’s keep in mind the advice that John Wesley (founder of the UMC) wrote in his journal on October 6, 1774 in reference to the British Parliamentary elections held in the fall of that year: “I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy: 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against: And, 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

Sounds like a plan to me! 

As Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary, General Board of Church of Society of the United Methodist Church explains, “Voting is a matter of faith, citizenship and democracy.  It is a kind of prayer and faithful testament to the belief that every citizen bears a responsibility and equal right to determine the future of governance in society.” 

I think they’ve got it right.    

Shalom,

Pastora Robin 

Blessing of the Animals Online Gathering

It’s time for the Blessing of the Animals Online Gathering, premiering on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020 at 10:00 am, and available thereafter, on our Facebook and YouTube pages. I love this service and hope you do, too. It’s clear our task is to project and care for the animals–even the wild ones. Or to put it another way, we all have a place in the choir–or congregation! If you have a pet and want to join along, please do. We are also offering free “Certificates of Blessing” for those who are able to bless their animals with us. Just let us know the details of your animal–name and date you join in. 

I leave you with this blessing:

“God, the Divine Eagle, is strong enough to care for you and me. The mighty Creator of this vast universe has wings strong enough to save you – from your fears, from your present trouble, from your weakness, from yourself, and from your sins.

All of us have sins which enslave us, that hold us captive in weakness. But this God, who majors in strength, bursts asunder the chains of our bondage. So strong are the wings of our Eagle-God that even [God’s] name carries deliverance for us.”

I pray you are delivered by the Holy One. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Peace,
Pastora Robin

“This Is God’s Holy Ground”

“When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.  The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and [the Lord] brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”   Deuteronomy 26:6-9

The Old Testament of the Bible includes a book of law called Deuteronomy, which gives the history of our Christian faith and how we should live.  It includes the history of Jesus’ ancestors, the Jewish people, and how they suffered terribly.  The people of Israel were deported, taken into slavery, ultimately exiled, and roamed, lost in the desert. 

Dealing with the fires in this time of pandemic is making our lives, and the lives of many others, extremely challenging.  Some of us feel lost, too! 

This of course is why we need each other now more than ever.   It’s why these days we worship God virtually through our weekly Online Gatherings, and witness to God’s saving grace in whatever creative ways we can come up with.  It’s why Jesus makes all the difference, especially now.  Our lives include hard times, and we need help—holy help that is!  These Bible stories of faith give us courage to face these disasters.  In God’s love, we can begin to leave our pain and messed-up selves behind. 

No wonder this Scripture from Deuteronomy speaks to us.  We could use a land flowing with milk and honey about now!  Not in excess, but at least enough to get by and share with our neighbors.  Which brings us to our survey. 

Reopen Church Survey Results In! What Happens Next?

Thank you to the 50+ people who responded to our Reopen Church Survey about returning to in-person worship and programs.  Our leaders will be meeting to review the data, offer their feedback, and lay the groundwork for our next steps.  Here are a few highlights of our survey results:

  • We had survey respondents in every age category from Under 18 (11%) to 75+ (26%).
  • 100% of you who’ve worshiped with us online indicated that this experience has met or exceeded your expectations.
  • When we asked when you would feel comfortable coming back to in-person worship, 10% said “Immediately,” 6% said about now (August or September,) 52% ranged from later this year to April 2021, and 26% said longer than a year from now.
  • 64% who took the survey indicated they would not return to an in-person worship service until there was a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 becomes widely available.

This week, Governor Newsom announced that California has a new “Four Tier” blueprint for reducing COVID-19 with revised criteria for loosening and tightening restrictions on activities, as directed by the California Department of Public Health.  Our Bishop Minerva Carcaño has also confirmed that our Cal-Nevada Conference protocols for reopening are still in place, and all local church plans must be approved before implementation. 

We will adhere to these guidelines. 

In the meantime?  This is God’s holy ground, and God’s holy church.  And whether you realize it or not, we are God’s holy people.  All of us.  A broken, lost people, in need of redemption, and God’s help. 

We have much to be thankful for, even in this time of fires, evacuations, the pandemic, and other disasters.  We have each other.  And what about the riches of our lives?  What are we to do with our bounty?  Share it with others, that’s what!  Starting with the first fruits.  They go to God. 

This is the promise and affirmation of salvation.  This is what we mean by a land flowing with milk and honey.  You my friend are standing on holy ground.  Thank God! 

Shalom,

Pastora Robin

 

Evacuation! God is My Rock and My Salvation Online Gathering

In light of the fires raging in California, we’re inviting you to join us for Evacuation! God is My Rock and My Salvation, Sunday, August 23, 2020, premiering at 10:00 am, and available thereafter at our Facebook and YouTube pages, as I tell the story of how I have been evacuated from my home. As the Scripture says: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from God comes my salvation. God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1-2) The question is whether we really believe it.

River Fire, August 16, 2020

Do you want to help? Here are suggestions from the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County:

If you’re in the Santa Cruz County area, you can:
1. GIVE SUPPLIES
Due to COVID-19 considerations, the County requests that all donations be in new condition. Please bring all donations to the Santa Cruz County General Services Warehouse at 1082 Emeline, Santa Cruz.

SHELTER ITEMS: Large, family-sized tents, Sleeping bags, sleeping pads, Blankets, Pillows, & Tarps
WATER AND SNACK ITEMS: Bottled water, Granola/energy bars, *Other food donations may be brought to Second Harvest Food Bank
PERSONAL ITEMS: Hand sanitizer, Personal hygiene products, Toiletries, Large plastic storage bins, Coloring books, crayons, *Clothing and other personal item donations please bring to the nearest Goodwill
HYGIENE SUPPLIES: Surgical masks, Empty spray bottles (for county-supplied bulk disinfectant)

2. DONATE TO THE FIRE RESPONSE FUND
Any donation size will help. Make an online donation to the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County here. 100% of donors’ gifts will be used for grant making. All donations are tax-deductible.

And if you’re in the area:
3. VOLUNTEER
Volunteer at a Fire Shelter in Watsonville, Santa Cruz or Soquel. Learn about opportunities through the Volunteer Center. Help pack and distribute food with Second Harvest.

I want to add something else. We definitely need your prayers to cope with this disaster. Please keep ’em coming!

I Will Not Let You Go! w/Communion Online Gathering

It’s time for communion and another Watsonville First Online Gathering on YouTube and Facebook, linked at this website. This week we’re focusing on Jacob wrestling through the night in Genesis 32:22-31, with the theme: “I Will Not Let You Go!” We’ve also got new special guests and surprises in store. Be sure to get your bread and juice ready–or whatever food you have at hand, so you can join in.

As the words for communion so aptly put it: “Among the living you made and called humankind imprinting upon us your image, to be bearers of your glory in the world.  Though we failed to shine, and hid your image within us, you continued to call us into fellowship with you and to fulfill your mission for us through prophets, scriptures, priests, and a people you redeemed for yourself.”
  
What are you wrestling with this week?  God’s calling!  How will we answer?  Let’s worship God together in the name of Jesus Christ!