Newsletter – November 14, 2017

November 14, 2017

Pastor’s Letter – November 14, 2017

This Sunday, we will lift up our national celebration of Thanksgiving, a vitally-important holiday centered on the goodness of life: we remember what is good, and we are thankful.  It is a day that affirms creation and the central role that our relationships play each day in bringing to reality the kingdom of God.

I hope that you will be here, and keep in mind all for which you are grateful.  This Sunday is also the culmination of our stewardship campaign for the new year, which has a theme of “It is in giving that we receive.”  Please take a moment to carefully and prayerfully consider your 2018 commitment to the St. Mark’s community of faith.  Bring your completed pledge card to church this Sunday, when we will bring them forward to consecrate them to our work together.

At 4:30 Sunday afternoon, enjoy some high-energy bluegrass music, as the St. Mark’s Concert Series presents the popular San Diego band High Mountain Road.

Immediately after church this Sunday, Rev. Jeri will lead an all-church conversation on the United Methodist Church’s “Call to End Gun Violence” (Book of Resolutions No. 3428).  This resolution is based on “Jesus’s call to his followers to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), [which] is tied to intimate relationship with God, and [which] echoes God’s dreams for peace for all creation as expressed in Micah 4:1-4:”

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples,
|and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
but they shall all sit under their own vines
and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

See you in church.

Craig

Newsletter – November 7, 2017

November 7, 2017

Pastor’s Letter – November 7, 2017

It is with sadness that I write this letter in the wake of another mass killing of innocent lives. This past week has been devastating as we heard about the deaths in New York following the rampage of a man with a truck and the shooting in a house of worship in Texas. These events, as well as other acts of violence, cause raw emotions in us, fear, rage, anguish, retaliation. We blame systems and people for why these things happen. We want answers how to stop this carnage. These answers may not come soon, if they come at all.

Some will say there is no hope, we’ve come too far, there is no way to bring healing, but I don’t agree. God calls us to continue to work for hope, peace, and healing in our land. God calls us to work intentionally in the face of opposition. Just as God called Jeremiah to buy land during the exile, Jeremiah prayed for understanding and then God revealed God’s plan. (Jer. 32)

Today, I believe God is calling us to work intentionally with hope for peace and healing. This begins with being open to God’s call, not our own voice. Today, we must continue to pray for the victims of violence, their families, and friends. Today, we must begin looking for ways to reach out to one another and seek solutions rather than blaming systems or people. Today, we must be willing to examine our own hearts as we seek God’s peace for all people, here and abroad. Today, we must be willing to work for tomorrow.

On Sunday, November 19, at 11 a.m. in the Social Hall there will be an all church conversation on the United Methodist Book of Resolution 3428, “Our Call to End Gun Violence”. In this conversation we will examine how we can work with intention to be peacemakers. If you want more information on the Resolution, you can find it on line at http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/gun-violence . I invite us all to begin thinking of how we can be peacemakers in these times and look forward to sharing conversation with you in the future.

Jeri

Special Veteran’s Day Offering –THIS SUNDAY

This Sunday St. Mark’s will be collecting a special offering to support a wonderful program offered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs called From Warriors to Soul Mates. Please consider supporting our veterans with a donation to this worthy program.  Please use the special offering envelope in Sunday’s bulletin to make your contribution.

Newsletter – October 22, 2017

October 22, 2017

Pastor’s Letter – October 22, 2017

We had a very stimulating and constructive discussion after church last Sunday.  We were following up on two previous after-church conversations reflecting on race in America in the wake of the demonstration by white supremacists in Charlottesville in August.

Sunday’s discussion wound up being an example of the saying “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”  Discussion leader Carol Brown had gathered resources, including a video for us to watch, and had prepared questions and suggested topics to stimulate conversation.  As things turned out, we didn’t use any of it.

There were about 14 people gathered around two tables in the Social Hall.  Carol asked if everyone was ready to begin and someone said they wanted to share something.  This led to a conversation about why so much attention is being given in news reports to relatively unimportant matters, when there are vital matters that need our attention.  Several people voiced agreement, and others began talking about more-urgent issues that need attention but are being mostly ignored.

I think the church needs to be a place where each of us can be heard.  Each of us can have the willingness to both listen and speak with compassion.  We in the church can provide a safe place for people to express their deepest concerns, whatever they are, and for there to be the kind of loving listening that feeds our innate desire to come together to make the world a better place.  Stay tuned for more opportunities for conversation.

This Sunday will be grand and glorious at St. Mark’s!  We celebrate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, which changed both the church and the world.  We’ll have a brass quintet playing the favorite Martin Luther hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and other special music.  We will also launch our 2018 Stewardship Campaign, with a theme based on St. Francis’ statement “For it is in giving that we receive.”  After church, members of the choir will bake fresh soft pretzels and serve root beer and ginger ale, to raise money for their trip to Carnegie Hall next month.

See you in church!

Craig

Newsletter – October 18, 2017

October 18, 2017

Pastor’s Letter – October 17, 2017

I was at a restaurant the other day when a large extended family came in to be seated.  There wasn’t a large enough table available, so the family was split between two tables.  At one table, three women sat down and were talking while looking at their menus.  It’s what all of us do when we sit down at a restaurant.  I turned my attention back to the friends at my own table.

A little while later I looked over and noticed that all three of the women at the table were deeply focused on their phones.  And a couple of minutes later they were still at it.

It got me to thinking.  First I thought gee, what a shame, they should be talking to each other.  Then I realized what a fast and easy judgment that was to make, and how often I make that judgment.

The fact is that over a short period of time, our technology-enabled constant connection with each other has been woven into our cultural fabric.  It’s not just a fad involving people using fancy gadgets.  It’s a change in how we live, what we expect, and what is possible for us in each moment.  We live daily, and hourly, with a huge number of choices.

Having more choices is a good thing, but we face a challenge.  Going back to the restaurant, think about sitting down and being handed a six-page menu with 30 meals to choose from.  Do you also want a salad?  Which of the six salads do you want?  Oh, look, here’s a menu with specials on it.  It can be overwhelming.  It’s so much easier when there are no menus and the waiter just says, “Here are the three things we are making today.”

Or the experience Merrie and I had in a restaurant that was enthusiastically recommended by friends.  The waiter noticed that we were overwhelmed by our menus, so he took them, saying “We’ll take care of you.”  What followed was one of the very best and most-fun meals we had in our life together.

On the one hand, we want more choices.  On the other, to make them requires something from us.  More choices mean more work for us, and more stress.  It may not seem to be a lot more stress, but it’s there.

The average American checks their email 74 times each day.  According to research cited in an excellent in-depth article in The New York Times Magazine last week, young people are being adversely effected by constantly trying to measure up to their peers on social media.  That article is entitled Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?

As I reflected on seeing three people sitting at a restaurant table, each concentrating on their phones, I thought of the possibility they had to create a moment they would all remember.  Imagine if they really looked at each other, and paid attention to each other, and began to speak and listen about what is important to them.

See you in church, as we continue the Season of Gratitude!

Craig

Newsletter – October 10, 2017

October 10, 2017

Pastor’s Letter – October 10, 2017

St. Mark’s is now in the Season of Gratitude but for some gratitude can be difficult.  As a nation we have experienced loss and emotional stress due to death, storms, violence, and political uncertainty in our world.  It can be difficult to find a sense of gratitude and hope in turbulent and uncertain times.

I have talked to some of you about your feelings and I know there are some who are sharing their stories with others as they’ve tried to sort things out.  I’m grateful that you are coming together, that you are talking, that you are trying to find a sense of gratitude, of hope, and perhaps even peace.

Kris Nieder, our Intergenerational and Youth Director recently shared that our Youth Group has 15 Jr. and Sr. High students coming together on Wednesday nights to learn and practice how to release stress in their lives.  This is wonderful news; not just that students are seeking ways to deal with stress and finding solace in community, but that our Youth Group has seen a 60% growth from last year.  This growth is a result of Kris’s work building relationships in the community and here at church.  Her work is inspiring youth to look to the church for ways to find comfort, peace, and a sense of gratitude.

I read an article lately by Scott Chrostek, pastor of Resurrection Down in Kansas City.  He describes their church’s environment as safe and welcoming for emerging generations through hospitality, authenticity, and being creatively open to holy mystery and a sense of personal privacy.  These environments create an atmosphere allowing for emotional, relational, spiritual, and theological connections with God and with one another.  A place to come together and find wholeness.

Pastor Chrostek sites five facets to building this type of connectedness: Hospitality, Anonymity, Authenticity, Mystery, and Creativity.  He says in his article, “Hospitality is where emerging generations seek out environments where they are noticed, welcomed, and made to feel at home.  This looks like having multiple encounters where people can say, “Hello!”, offer their “Good Mornings!”, and remind others multiple times throughout the hour, “We’re so glad you’re here.”  Being made to feel welcome and included is imperative because when you are made to feel at home, you will be more likely to be open and available to have an experience of God.”

This means not only greeting each other in church, but extending that greeting before church and on the patio following the service, making sure people know they are seen and made to feel welcomed.  I invite you to share what St. Mark’s in doing in the community with those you are in relationship with outside of church.  I invite you to be aware of those you talk to before church and during our coffee time following church.  Are they the same people you have talked to or have a current relationship with, or are you introducing yourself to new people?  I invite you to begin building relationships with those you don’t currently know and find out why they are here and what they are interested in.  I invite you to make them feel this is a safe and welcoming place so they might have an experience with God.

Over the next few weeks I will share other components of Pastor Chrostek’s article with you in the Messenger.  I invite you to share your thoughts with me, Rev. Craig, Kris, and others how we can continue to build relationships here and in our community.  Through our relationships I hope we can discover gratitude and God’s peace during all the seasons of our lives.

I’m grateful for each one of you.

Jeri