Ritual of Remembrance and Mourning
by Rev. Steve Poteete-Marshall
We held a luminaria remembrance for those who have died during the Covid time of social isolation. We have had 5 deaths only one related to Covid, but we also had people whose family or friends have died and we have not been able to hold services for these saints. So, we created a time of remembrance by having people put on the bags of people, pets, or even messages of prayer for those who are mourning. We ended up with almost 200 bags which circled our property. I included several of my clergy colleagues.
Then we had a blessing via Facebook, and then people drove around the property. Fortunately we have a loop lined with the luminarias. Some went around twice and one of the widows took time to take pictures of all the bags that honored her husband. Her family had decorated a few.
Learnings: people felt this was a meaningful way to honor those who had died, and were grateful for this ritual. Next time, we will have a longer period of time, and not wait until it is dark, because we learned several would have come but they don’t drive at night. And we might figure out how to spread out the time so there is not such a traffic jam at the beginning.
How we are churching this summer
by Rev. Melinda Dodge
What keeps coming to me? That God never ever stops showing up. Ever.
At Los Altos UMC, we offer a summer day camp ministry called Groundlings Summer Day Camp (named because we are “Grounded in God’s love”). This is our 7th(?) year now. Groundlings started very small as a re-envisioning of VBS for our community. We took time to listen in order to understand what our community needed and then, how we could respond as a church to the articulated need. We noticed low attendance, low energy … and then even asked the question: why are our “own” church families not participating in “their own” VBS?
I, for one, had to ask myself: what is the purpose of VBS anyway? I think that there was a lot of assumption that VBS had to happen because it “always had.” And I wasn’t even sure what the mission of it actually was … honestly? No one else seemed to know, either, to be very honest.
[It was my husband who actually explained it to me – probably because Johan’s mom was the Christian Ed Director for 1st UMC Long Beach when Johan was a child!!]
Anyway, this year, we are offering camp – in the pandemic. In the time working at home, I read and studied the CDC site (and CA and LA County and City of Long Beach Health Orders) and American Camp Assoc. info. I attended webinars and talked with a school admin./public health nurse from our church as well as the Rev. Berkey – again and again and again! From all of this work, I re-designed camp attentive to the COVID-19 precautions as best I could. I discussed this plan with our trustees and church council and formed and submitted the plan of action per your requirement. I invited our young adults and camp families to help me know whether to proceed or “let it go” this summer. They have ALL stepped up again and again. They have contributed time, wipes, money, and prayers.
This ministry is both a true modern-day, small miracle and as Shakespeare would name: “a labor of love.”
I share it with you to share the joy and the hope that I get to experience right now.
These young adults and children are showing us how this is done.
How we can fight back – be stronger together – with masks, 6’ apart and OBSESSIVELY hand washing and hand sanitizing and cleaning and disinfecting.
WE CAN DO THIS. And we ARE stronger TOGETHER.
This past week, our theme was “Christmas in July”: https://youtu.be/mZCjX4sjxQA
Two weeks ago, it was “treasure island”: https://youtu.be/vqNfEyzuc3k
One of our young adult staff is gifted in making videos and these are her work.
Our camp is a testimony to God’s love and God’s perseverance with us ALL. And that truly … God’s children lead us and can lead us, if we allow them — truly allow them — to.
New way to have worship
by Ruth Pemble
Please check out the Box Spring Cooperative Parish UMC’s YouTube channel. We started out kind of slow, each of the three churches having their own service on Facebook pages.
In April we switched to one Parish-wide service each week, taking turns shooting videos at the three different campuses. Pastor Xavier Torres is posting a guided Bible study each week. A “Be The Hope” devotional is posted weekly. We have a weekly Zoom Bible study (Tuesdays for Grace, Wednesdays for MVUMC & Highgrove) and we hold all of our committee meetings through Zoom. MVUMC also has a weekly Women’s Bible study that is still meeting through Zoom, lay person lead.
On the YouTube channel they are posting separately the children’s sermon (provided by the Finau offspring David, Anna or sometimes Rev. Martin Jr.), and virtual choir hymns, for those who only have time to watch shorter items. Our recorded services will be continuing after we are able to come back together, as some, including my 71-year-old husband, do not feel comfortable coming back to in person worship for some time. Those who do stay home will have a way to stay connected. Because of the services being posted online we are reaching a potentially and significantly larger audience than when we only held in-person services.
As the chair of worship at MVUMC I have requested that our praise team have at the minimum one song in the recorded service each week. Before it was only included for the Sunday’s recorded at MVUMC, every three weeks.
We have had two very significant deaths over the past couple of months: June 5th we lost Ralph Hogan, our certified Lay Minister, and just yesterday a MVUMC member, Mike Avooske. These gentlemen were both very active and were positive role models for all of us. Both had been in the military and were great supporters for all our church activities.
Thoughts on the shrinking Church
by Marlene Oaks
My life has been focused on spirituality since early childhood. I was ordained in 1978 in another denomination. I have a doctorate in Religious Studies. All this to give a bit of background. So here are some of my thoughts.
In general, the Spirit is missing. It’s sort of become warehouses for good people who want to do good things locally and in many missions. Doing good is of course fine, but it’s not enough.
Gatherings need to be meaningful, heartfelt, and life changing. People need to experience God, Oneness, The More. The gatherings should be centered not on dogma and information but on creating a space to know God, not just know about God.
I also think part of the decline is rooted in the dogmas that have developed over the years that are contradictory and inconsistent with what we know of Jesus’ teaching. Many educated people are turned off by teachings that don’t make sense. Modern theology and archeology need to be considered and incorporated.
Example: Substitutionary theology was not officially accepted until Anselm. Who can believe a God of love is going to burn us in hell for eternity, except he had His son gruesomely killed to substitute for us? It is beyond credulity. God is love except when God is violent and exhibits the worst of humanity. It’s ok for Him but not for us. So Hitler was evil, but God is love when He burns people for eternity?
Wesley UMC English Language Ministry
by Rev. John M. Lurvey
Multi-cutural Wesley UMC of San Diego’s English language ministry moved worship to the Turbobridge teleconference platform. Our attendance increased about 30 percent over previous in-building worship. We streamlined the service to about 30 minutes, even on Communion Sunday.