Newsletter – April 18, 2017

April 18, 2017

Pastor’s Letter – April 18, 2017

One of the recurring dramas on home remodeling TV shows begins when the owner wants to freshen up a room—maybe make it look new again.  She decides to choose a new color and paint the room.  It’s not a huge room, so it should take about a day.  She thinks for a while about the right color and considers several options.  She asks the opinion of her friends, and does a little online research.

After choosing the color and buying the paint and rollers and other supplies, she begins to wipe off the walls, and sands or scrapes some rough areas.  You know what happens next.  While scraping in a corner, she discovers a place where the wallboard is soft—she can just about put her finger through it.  Then she sands around the spot and uncovers water stains.  She decides she needs to see what’s going on behind the wall, so she pokes through a few times with a screwdriver and looks through with a flashlight.  She can’t see much, except that it is clearly wet.

She is frustrated and worried, and thinks of a friend whose wife is a busy contractor.  Maybe one of them can help.  So they come over that evening, and her contractor friend bangs a bigger hole, revealing rotting wood and something that looks like mildew or mold.  It seems to be behind a long section of wall, and around the corner.

The contractor continues to investigate and she finds that a water pipe is rusted through and likely has been leaking for quite some time.  She recommends a plumber, a mold remover, a carpenter, and a drywall installer who can repair the damage.  As things turn out, the homeowner winds up with brand-new plumbing throughout her house, two new walls, and a new floor.

And it all started with a desire to freshen things up—to make the room look better.

John Wesley just wanted to invigorate the Church of England by bringing its support and its message to those who most needed it.  He didn’t want to start a new church, but over time that’s what happened.  And here we are, the United Methodist Church.

Martin Luther wanted to “freshen up” the church by reaffirming the principles upon which it was founded.  He was frustrated that those who most needed it were excluded.  He didn’t want to break away, but over time that’s what happened.  And here we are, the Protestant Church.

Paul wanted to remove the layers of legalism that were obscuring the heart of the Jewish tradition.  Like Jesus, he fervently wanted to share its message and support with the Gentiles.  Neither of them wanted to start the Church.  But here we are, the Christian Church.

In this Easter season when we think of refreshing and renewing our lives, there may be much more and much better in store for us than we realize!

See you in church!


Newsletter – April 11, 2017

April 11, 2017

Pastor’s Letter – April 11, 2017

During this Season of Lent, we have taken time during each week’s staff meeting to hold in prayer each person who filled out an attendance card the previous Sunday. We hold each of you in our hearts.

I think part of the unwritten job description for any church staff member is worrying. Yes, it’s true that we are supposed to have faith, and in my experience, our faith is strong. But we still worry. About people in the churches we serve who are sick or struggling, and about the churches themselves. Will it be possible for a church like this to grow again? Can we attract younger and more-diverse people into our ministries?

While doing a little worrying during this Holy Week, I’ve been looking again at census data for areas surrounding the church. Here are three facts about those living in the 92117 zip code, compared to the total U.S:

  • College graduates 92117: 37%; U.S.: 24%
  • No faith involvement 92117: 50% U.S.: 35%
  • Largest lifestyle group 92117: Young singles and couples in the beginnings of their career life.
  • Largest lifestyle group U.S.: Classic middle-America.

Looking toward the hope of resurrection in our life together, I hope we can take time in these coming months to think about, and pray about, ways to engage our considerable strengths to intentionally and effectively grow this ministry.

I am looking forward to celebrating Easter with you this Sunday! There are two services, at 8 a.m. and 9:30 am. One of you has shared with me that you’re bringing your family who will all be wearing hats, following a long cultural tradition at Easter! I wasn’t planning on wearing a hat, but who knows?

We have some wonderful Easter traditions at St. Mark’s. Here are three:

  • On Easter we ask those coming to church to bring one or more short-stemmed flowers to place on a flower cross just before church, in memory of a loved one. The cross will be brought into church as part of our Easter procession.
  • At the end of each service, our choir and musicians invite everyone to join in singing the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s “Messiah.”
  • After each service, all are invited to enjoy traditional hot cross buns and coffee on the patio, generously arranged by the Higgins family.

There are also Holy Thursday and Good Friday services, at 6:30 in the sanctuary. And the Easter Egg Hunt, Saturday morning from 9 to 11! See you here!


Newsletter – April 4, 2017

April 4, 2017

Pastor’s Letter – April 3, 2017

Preserving Our Heritage, Preparing for the Future

Last Sunday morning we celebrated the culmination of the St. Mark’s 2017 capital campaign, as members and friends presented their three-year pledges at the end of the service.

And, WOW! Right now, thanks to the generosity and vision of so many of you, our pledge total is 90% of the $300,000 goal!  This is very good news, and we also know that some of you have been intending to make a commitment but simply haven’t gotten around to it.  Help us go over the top!  Please put your pledge card in the mail today, or bring it with you to church and put it in the offering.  Any amount you can give will help a lot.  If you need a pledge card, or want more information, please let us know!

The money raised in this campaign is over and above annual gifts to the church operating budget, and will enable us to complete a number of projects to sustain and upgrade the church’s facilities.  A list of these projects was mailed out a few weeks ago, and we appreciate the input and suggestions we’ve received–some additional projects have been suggested, as well as some possible changes in priorities.

It’s exciting to think that, as soon as we reach our goal, we will begin to see repairs, improvements and upgrades.  Some will be obvious, such as replacing our organ console, which will put the sanctuary organ out of commission for a few weeks later this year.  We’ll be researching and purchasing comfortable new chairs for our social hall, and adding an up-to-date hearing-assistance system to the sanctuary. We also hope to be noticing the absence of termites after the sanctuary is tented.

Perhaps the highest priority will be invisible to most of us, and that is the establishment of a much-more significant Major Maintenance Reserve fund.  Right now, we are able to allocate $45,000 a year to this fund, which is an increase over last year.  We plan to increase this allocation each year, as much as possible.  This seems like it should be adequate, but our facilities are glorious, unusual, complex, and aging, which means that these funds are regularly depleted, leaving nothing in reserve.

Right now, it is very difficult for us to cover both planned and unexpected major repairs.  That’s why the capital campaign includes $75,000 to be added to our Major Maintenance Reserve fund.  This amount will certainly help us sustain our facility over the longer term–especially since our finance committee and trustees have a long history of prudent resource management.  In a real way, pledges to the capital campaign are direct gifts to the sustenance of the ministry of St. Mark’s into the future.

Thank you for your generous, supportive, and continuing stewardship of our ministry together, as all of us “Inspire the world as passionate followers of Jesus Christ, so that all may experience God’s life-giving love.”

See you in church!



Newsletter – March 28, 2017

March 28, 2017

Pastor’s Letter – March 27, 2017

“One of the greatest hindrances to imagining possibilities is perceptual distortion.  Obstacles appear larger and more ominous than they are, keeping us preoccupied

with trying to avoid danger rather than discerning alternatives.”

–Veronica Miles

As we make our way toward Holy Week and Easter, we reflect thoughtfully on how we see the world.  For example, imagine if the only way we could see life was in a funhouse mirror.  We’d look at the world and things would be misshapen, and either bigger or smaller than they really are.  When we needed to move, it would be hard to see where we’re going.

More important, over time we would get used to walking or navigating through life by looking in the funhouse mirror.  Over more time, how things looked in the funhouse mirror would become normal to us.  We would come to think that how things looked in that mirror was how they really were.

We would also become unable to see more than about 20 feet in front of us.  Thus we might begin to live such that nothing more than 20 feet away from us really mattered.

This is how our assumptions work.  They begin as a helpful way of making sense of what we see and experience.  Over time, they become the way we see and experience the world.  As life goes on and the world around us changes significantly, our assumptions become our own version of a funhouse mirror.  They distort our view of reality.

At the same time, they can become such a part of who we are that we value them more highly than being able to see the world as it is.  Our assumptions may become more important than the truth.  We can get very attached to the image in the funhouse mirror!

The Bible is chock full of assumptions.  One of the most common is that people (such as Abraham, Moses, David, Ruth, Jesus, and Paul) will and should behave according to cultural expectations or social standing.  Often in the gospel stories, the disciples use this assumption.  They seem to have their own funhouse mirror.

This Sunday’s text is the story of the raising of Lazarus.  It presages the resurrection, which shatters all funhouse mirrors.  We will share communion, and we will present our pledges to the St. Mark’s 2017 Capital Campaign “Preserving Our Heritage, Preparing for the Future.”

See you in church!


Newsletter – March 14, 2017

March 14, 2017

Pastor’s Letter – March 14, 2017

It was great to see so many people at the after-church presentation last Sunday.  Jack Carpenter announced that we are starting a capital campaign entitled “Preserving Our Heritage, Preparing for the Future.”  Jack chairs the task force that has been looking at facility needs across the church.

The goal for phase one of the campaign is $300,000 over three years.  Jack announced the very good news that, thanks to the extraordinary generosity of several St. Mark’s members, more that $100,000 has been pledged so far.

The task force began with a list of maintenance and improvement projects that had been carefully assembled by the Board of Trustees.  Church leaders were then consulted about needs, costs, and priorities.  The list of projects is a compilation of these priorities, approved by the Church Council.

As you might expect, any list like this is at best a snapshot.  Both the task force and the Council understand that needs, costs, and priorities will change over the three-year period of phase one.  But the list gives us an excellent place to start work on ensuring the future of  St. Mark’s.  You will receive it in the mail soon, and your questions or suggestions are welcome.

A big thank you goes to our Board of Trustees and chair Stan Watson.  And, most especially, St. Mark’s is forever indebted to both Bob Hout and Bill Williams, who every day oversee maintenance big and small.  Because of our size and age, there is always something that needs attention–and we can always count on Bob and Bill.  And I mean always.  What these men give to this church is both incalculable and inspiring.

When you see them, be sure to say thanks, or hug them, or give them a thank-you note.  Wait a minute, they don’t like attention.  Forget I said that.

See you in church!