monthly breeze

online newsletter

We update this page at the start of each month with articles and updates.

Pastor Tom's Missive

February 2021 Breeze

Dear Members & Friends,

I'm sitting down to write on February 1st as I wanted to be able to comment on yesterday's congregational meeting.  The big news for those of you who were able to access the zoom meeting (and we did have a quorum!) is the decision to expand Andrew's (Ponder Williams) role to include coordinating our Sunday School program!  That decision was the result of the good/hard work of two Task Forces and three congregational brainstorming sessions, so thanks to everyone who took part in the process.

Looking forward we're hoping to begin live-streaming sometime during the upcoming season of Lent.  So those of you who have become accustomed to watching the worship service at different times of day may want to continue slowly returning to a Sunday morning worship.  But fear not: the live-streamed Sunday morning service will be recorded.

In the meantime it's back to Groundhog Day as we continue to wear our masks and socially distance.  But folks are beginning to get their vaccines so there is light at the end of the tunnel.  As usual let me or Maria know if you become aware of anyone in need and/or need some help yourself.  As our sign out front still reads: WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS.  



Pastor Tom


Randy pemberton


 February 14 may be Valentine’s Day, and in the United Church of Christ, it is also designated Racial Justice Sunday, and the theme across the denomination is Compassionate Community.  It is well established that experiencing racial discrimination often leads to mental health problems that detract from quality-of-life over the course of a year or even a lifetime.  For example, a report in 2012 of the Journal of Counseling Psychology, reviewed 66 studies (total sample size of 18,140 across studies), published between January 1996 and April 2011, on the associations between racism and mental health among Black Americans. A positive association between perceived racism and psychological distress was found, with a moderate effect for anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric symptoms.  Another report, published in a 2013 meta-analysis article in Social Science and Medicine, conducted a review of 121 studies of racial discrimination and health outcomes in youth ages 12-18 from various minority groups (African-American, Latinx, and Asian-American).  Mental health problems of anxiety, depression, and PTSD were the most prominent health outcomes noted in 76% of these studies. 

Racial discrimination is seen in the diagnosis of psychiatric syndromes.  African-American men, in particular, are four times more likely go be diagnosed with schizophrenia than their white male counterparts, largely because they are under-diagnosed for depressive disorders.  African-American females, on the other hand, are more likely to be depressed than white women, yet are less likely to seek treatment. 

Another area of discrimination is the lack of awareness by physicians of how racial groups differ in how medications are metabolized by the liver.  There are many types of enzyme families in the liver that breakdown the food and drugs consumed by humans, and medications are formulated according to the average rate of enzyme metabolism.  Genetic testing is being refined for how individuals metabolize medications.  Nearly 7% of the Swedish population and 1% of Chinese are poor metabolizers of the CYP2D6 enzyme, meaning that medications which require that enzyme in the liver are going to build up and up in the bloodstream longer than expected.  This can lead to more severe adverse side effects and become toxic.  One other example refers to enzyme CYP2C19, in which 15 to 18% of Asians and 3% of Caucasians are poor metabolizers.  Several of the antidepressants and mood stabilizers need these enzymes in order to be metabolized and eliminated from the body.  If you have tried several different psychiatric medications with poor results, then ask your physician to order genetic testing of the liver enzymes.  Most insurance plans will authorize it, and then the test results can point to the medications that are well metabolized by your liver, not too fast or too slow.

I believe we are making progress in reducing the stigma of mental illness in the general population.  It behooves us to extend this progress to people of all races and ethnicities so that biases in diagnosis and accessibility to treatment are eliminated.  As members of DPUCC, our witness to the community is that everyone is welcome here.  In the words of the Apostle Paul:

If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way.  No, it’s because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention.  All they have eyes for is the fashionable good of darkness.  They think he can give them what they want, and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see.  They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.  Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master.  All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you.  It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.  (2 Cor 4:3-6, The Message)

Template Letter to Ice field office regarding new enforcement priorities

Good afternoon,


During his first week in office President Biden has taken significant immigration policy actions. (also attached)

  • Commitment to Preserve and Strengthen DACA
  • Rescinding the Muslim and African Bans
  • Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities and 100-Day Pause on Certain Removals
  • Extension of Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians and Improved Processing of Liberian Relief and Fairness Act Applications
  • Census Inclusion of Immigrants
  • Termination of Border Wall Construction
  • DHS Statement on the Suspension of New Enrollments in Migrant Protection Protocols
  • DAY ONE IMMIGRATION BILL: U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021

These actions are consistent with actions for which people of faith have called in their advocacy on behalf of migrant families and the pursuit of justice. They are consistent with UCC General Synod and Southwest Conference resolutions calling for the just and respectful treatment of our neighbors and for immigration policy reform.


As encouraging and important as these steps are, people of faith need to encourage local Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Department of Homeland Security officials to implement the new policies and to support them as they do so.


The Immigrant Legal Resource Center has provided a letter template for faith communities, faith leaders, and people of faith to send to local ICE officials requesting their immediate compliance with the President’s policies. (also attached) Copies of the letter can be shared with DHS officials, local Sheriffs and jail administrators and Congressional representatives. I invite and encourage all of our local congregations and faith leaders in the Southwest Conference to write (letters and emails) to local ICE and DHS officials reminding them that we are watching their response to these new policies and that we will support them as they take these actions. Please, make your voice heard!


For your convenience the addresses of local field offices throughout the Southwest Conference are provided below my signature to facilitate your letter writing campaign. It is important to remind these officials, “You have our support as people of faith when you treat our migrating neighbors with dignity and respect and extend to them the extravagant welcome the law allows and our faith demands.” To that end I have added that sentence as the final line of the letters I will send on behalf of the Southwest Conference to DHS and ICE officials. None of the names of field office officials are available from ICE or DHS; our staff called all of the contacts listed here and were told the names of directors, legal counsel and other officials was not available. The template letter will need to be adjusted accordingly.  


I hope you will share with me the actions your church and your congregation members have taken in this letter writing campaign. We want to share the story of our collective action with the wider church inviting them to join us in this witness.


Also, please know that I have established a regular line of communication with our UCC Washington staff regarding both White House and Congressional immigration policy progress. As information become available I am glad to share it with you.


May God continue to bless you and your congregation in your pursuit of justice and peace on behalf of our neighbors.



Rev. Dr. William M. Lyons

Click on these links to download docs. 

SWC UCC Immigration Letter Template

SWC UCC Immigration Letter Campaign Address List


Women's bible study

Sunday Group

Sunday, February 28, at 3 pm for a discussion from Matthew: “Pilate’s Wife,” p. 381-384.

You do not need to have attended in the past to join us now!

Please contact Pat Speer ( if you wish to be added to the email list to receive the Zoom link.   



Thursday Morning Group


Do you like to read and discuss fiction? Do you have an interest in the topics of racism, class, and worldviews regarding religion? If so, we would love to have you join the Thursday Morning Women's Bible and Book study group. We are reading a series of short stories and listening to how God speaks to us through them and each other. Each week covers a "stand-alone" short story, so regular attendance is welcomed but is not required.


On 2/4/21 (a date palindrome:) at 9:30 am, we will meet via zoom to discuss Flannery O'Connor's short story Revelation. And we will continue to meet every other Thursday at 9:30 am. Contact the church office or Sue Henderson at for the zoom link, and contact either Sue or Ellen Colangelo at for questions.


Dates are:

February 4

February 18

March 4

March 18

We are starting a new book in January, so this is an excellent time for new folks to join us. Our next book is Listening to God, Volume 1. Picture and link below. If possible, please obtain the book and read the introduction and the first story by Flannery O'Connor - up through page 36. If you can't get the book or do the reading, please JOIN US ANYWAY

New folks and visitors are always welcome! Contact Sue Henderson at or the church office for the zoom link. 

our church's wider mission (ocwm)


"Why Having a Denomination is Good"

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their

word, that they may be one.  As you, God, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me….and have loved them as you have loved me.”

John 17:20-23.


Some say we live in a “post denominational” world---that people don’t care anymore about Presby-terian vs. Lutheran vs. Episcopal vs. United Church of Christ.  Maybe we should sell all our property,

dissolve our individual identities, and become one church, as the old UCC slogan goes and as Jesus

once said, “That they may all be one.”


This is unlikely to happen.  What is more like to happen, most, if not all, denominations will

continue to contract and some will disappear altogether.  Some churches will leave their

denominations in a huff, and go it alone, keeping everything in the offering plate for them-



However, going it alone can be lonely and hard.  These are things you can’t do when you’re

alone, as an isolated church community, like joining a pool for insurance and health care

coverage, or find decent Bible study resources, or a safe and loving camp.  Having a denomin-

ation makes us strong.  It pools our resources so we can do big things, and allows us to do more of God’s work with less money as we benefit from the economy of scale.


By being a part of the UCC denomination and contributing to Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM) we are able through out UCC (SWC) Conferences to resource pastoral search

committees in local churches; through our Wider Church Ministries we respond to disasters

and human tragedies; through our Justice and Local Church Ministries we take stands for justice and peace and support clergy in their ministries; through our Office of the General Minister and President, we plan our General Synod; and through our Pension Boards,

we care for our retired clergy and spouses and retired laity personnel.


Personally, I am grateful to be part of a wider church that I can call home and I hope you are


(Excerpts from Stillspeaking Daily Devotion by Molly Baskette).

                                                                              Jo Vredenburg

                                                                                                                               Marie Parsey                                                                                       


andrew's ponderings



We are offering a special new program on Zoom for all our children on the second Sunday of each month at 10:00am. On the second Sunday all our kids of all ages will gather together for Children's Chapel with scripture, stories, and activities.  On all other Sundays we will continue to offer Sunday school at 10:00am for kids in grades 1-4 and at 10:45 for kids in Kindergarten and younger.

andrew's ponderings

youth update

Our youth are meeting weekly at 3:30pm every Wednesday. All youth are welcome! Contact Andrew for the

Our youth will not meet on March 10 as Andrew will be on vacation.

We are using our Zoom youth group sessions to plan an intergenerational pilgrimage (for post pandemic) through the south for us all to learn more about civil rights and to commit our lives to dismantling racism. More soon! :)

andrew's ponderings

asu update

Our campus ministry continues with a weekly zoom small group Thursdays at 6:30pm, a monthly LGBTQ Interfaith Forum on the second Thursday of each month at 7:30pm, and monthly worship on the third Tuesday of each month at 7:00pm.  All young adults are welcome and Andrew is also available for supportive conversations and pastoral care.

Andrew has also been preaching across our SWC for online worship services at our sibling UCC congregations.  This is resulting in new forms of support to bolster our efforts at Desert Palm.  What a joy to experience the way we at Desert Palm is bringing our Conference together around a new and exciting ministry.