Monday, March 14, 2011

Fellowship Night

CCUMC’s 3 small groups hosted an open-to-all fellowship dinner at the church building.  Besides regular small group members, several new people showed up.  The evening was a fun time of conversation and getting to know each other a little more.
The 3 small groups convene in Castro Valley (Tuesdays), Union City (Wednesdays), and Oakland (Thursdays).  See the church calendar for the full details

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pacific Emergency

The United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR) is a worldwide organization that provides (among many services) emergency response to such disasters as the earthquake in Japan that struck on March 10, 2011.

UMCOR is often the first on the scene – far ahead of governmental aid.  The following is from their website:

UMCOR is connecting with our partners to assess the damage resulting from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. We are holding all affected in prayer. To support UMCOR's response to emergencies like this please give to Pacific Emergency, UMCOR Advance #3021317.

To donate online:

“In response to the Earthquake on March 10, 2011 that struck Japan, The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) will be working with local communities to rebuild. UMCOR is now better able to help when earthquakes and tsunamis or other disasters hit the area. UMCOR works in shelter and infrastructure reconstruction, water and sanitation, income generation, health and nutrition, education and community development.”


Margaret Fung’s 97th birthday

popoLong-time CCUMC member Margaret Fung recently celebrated her 97th birthday.  A special luncheon was given, and some members of her family traveled from out-of-town to attend.  Although Margaret’s health has required her to use a wheelchair, she faithfully comes to worship every week.  She remembers how a friend first brought her to church when she was growing up, and that’s how she came to know Christ.  Praise the Lord for Margaret – 97 years old!

Jenny Wong’s Confirmation

Jenny Wong has been attending CCUMC since she was a small child.  Her faith journey has had its ups and downs, yet she continued to seek the Lord in her life, with the help of the church.
At her confirmation, Jenny shared her faith story, and a small ritual was held to bring her into full membership.  The congregation then laid hands on her while she was prayed over.

Confirmation is not only a commitment between Jenny and God, but also the congregation.  They make a vow to nurture her faith, and keep her accountable.  Praise God for Jenny!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lenten Practice Invitation: Forgiveness

imageDuring the season of Lent, we are called to intentionally turn our hearts and minds back to God.  We can do this in a multitude of ways - from carving out time for intentional prayer, to fasting (from food, from electronics like e-mail and TV, or from negative thoughts), to volunteering an hour a week, or reading a spiritually uplifting book.  The possibilities are endless.  Individually, we will be invited during the Ash Wednesday Service and  in the first weeks of Lent to prayerfully consider which practices to take on for the 6-week period.

As a community, we will be exploring the spiritual practice of forgiveness.It might initially seem like an odd practice to be taking up.  Why forgiveness?  How is forgiveness related to Lent?  L Gregory Jones writes in “Practicing Our Faith” that
forgiveness has as its central goal “to reconcile, to restore communion – with God, with one another, and with the whole creation.” In other words, forgiveness - both extending it and receiving it - is a central way we turn our hearts and minds back to God...and to our brothers and sisters...and to the world that God so loved.   And if Lent is all about turning our hearts and minds back to God….well, you get the picture.

For some of us, this will be a brand new practice.  Forgiveness might be something you haven’t thought a whole lot about.  For others, this might be a challenging and timely practice.  Perhaps you are dealing with the need for or the lack of forgiveness in an important relationship right now.  And for yet others, this might be a scary practice, one we are hesitant and uncertain about exploring.  Forgiveness can be something that makes us feel incredibly vulnerable.  Wherever you are entering this conversation, I trust that there will be something for you.

But how will we be exploring forgiveness?
Each Sunday, after worship, we will gather in the Annex for S.O.U.P II - Sundays of Uniting Prayer II.   Over a warm, nourishing bowl of soup, we will listen to readings about forgiveness while keeping silence.   Afterwards, we will be invited into small groups of 3 or 4 people for a time of prayer focused on responding to the readings.  All in all, our time of S.O.U.P will not last more than an hour.   I hope you will take advantage of this special season and these special weekly gathering to re-connect to the life-giving spirit of God and to form relationships in this community.

Peace & Grace,  Pastor Emily

Forgiveness is something freely granted, whether earned or deserved; something lovingly offered without thought of acknowledgment or return. It is our way of mirroring the goodness in the heart of a person rather than raising up the harshness of their allows us to live in the sunlight of the present, not the darkness of the past. Forgiveness alone, of all our human actions, opens up the world to the miracle of infinite possibility.
— Kent Nerburn in Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace

Practicing Lent Together

My absolute favorite season of the year is upon us, the season of Lent.  I admit it’s a bit of an odd season to love.  It has none of the great anticipation of Advent, none of the tinsel, lights, or carols of Christmas, none of the bright stars or enigmatic wise men of Epiphany, and definitely none of the wooshing tongues of fire from Pentecost.  Rather, it begins with reminders of our mortality – “ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”  It calls us into the wilderness (for 40 days and 40 nights no less), invites self-reflection (something most of us don’t like to do), and asks of us a level of rigor in our spiritual practice that’s no easy feat.  That said, it’s precisely all of these things (and so much more) that I love.  It’s all of these things (and so much more) that help me notice where I’ve gotten off track of late, where there might be some hardness developing in my heart or murkiness in my sight, or just how thirsty and hungry I am for God’s goodness and grace in my life.   It’s all of these things (and so much more) that pull me back – firmly – into God’s overwhelming presence.  What’s not to love?
As you might know, Lent was a serious, intense time in the early church.  This was the time that new converts prepared for their baptism on Easter through intentional study, prayer and fasting.  The rest of the community joined in as a way to support the newbies but also to recall and remember their own baptisms.  Today, Lent is marked by the call to self-examination, to reflect on the ways we have turned away from God and others, and by intentional commitments and practices that lead us back.  Most traditionally, these practices are in the areas of prayer, fasting and alms-giving. This year at CCUMC, we’ll be “practicing Lent” in a number of different ways.  I hope that you will prayerfully consider each as life-giving invitations:
  • We’ll begin this journey together on Ash Wednesday – Mar. 9th – with a simple, contemplative service at 7:15 p.m.  This year, we’ll be joined by brothers and sisters from Lake Merritt UMC and Lake Part UMC.  This will be a meaningful time to rest in God’s presence and listen for the commitments that will carry you through this season.
  • Our worship order each Sunday will be a little bit different than usual.  Our songs will be simple chorus’ and chants that invite a spirit of meditation.  We’ll mark time together by extinguishing candles, knowing that this journey towards Easter takes us through Good Friday.
  • Our hospitality time will center around tea and coffee only.
  • Worship will be followed by SOUP II – a time for us to share a hot bowl of homemade soup while listening to a reading about forgiveness, a topic that I pray will be timely and meaningful for all of us.  (More on the forgiveness theme next week).  After lunch, we will gather in small groups for a short time of prayer.
  • And a new season will begin for the weekly small groups.
I urge each of you to consider participating in all the ways you can – to come to the special services, to be a part of SOUP II and to “try on” the new worship order.  If you have questions or would like to know more, please connect with me.  I’ll be happy to answer questions or encourage you to become  a Lent-lover too!  May you find the season of Lent to be as transformative and grace-filled as I have come to know it.

Peace, Pastor Emily