We update this page at the start of each month with articles and updates.
January 2021 Breeze
Dear Members & Friends,
As we turn to face the New Year from our various
pandemic bunkers, I want to toast you all for being so faithful and responsible
during this time of global crisis. I’ve been deeply impressed with the efforts
to make sure that we do our best to stay safe (thanks, Ethel, for your wise
guidance); that we remain connected (thanks, Connections Task Force); that our
worship service is available on the website and FB (thanks to Marc and Andrew);
and that all the bookkeeping and administrative activities are being tended to
so that the entire operation remains afloat (thanks Maria, Pat Quinnett, Ethel
Utter, Harry Felker, Judy O’neill and though she has officially stepped down,
Paula Teichman). And here’s to Bob Carver, our Moderator, who has done such an
incredible job steering the church through this very challenging time. What an awesome
community we are all part of!
So, let’s take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief that 2020 is behind us. Let us be strong in our resolve to follow the guidance of the medical experts, even as we wait with great anticipation for the coming vaccines. And as people of faith, let us draw on the boundless and sacred sources of faith, hope, love, and peace to sustain us in the work ahead.
Grace and peace,
Rev. Tom Martinez
In my reality, worry is not a good thing. It rarely has any effect on whether bad things happen or not. And so, like a lot of people, I try not to worry.
COVID has certainly increased worry!
That's why on November 14, I was glad to attend a workshop called "Anxiety, Depression, and Grief during COVID" as part of the virtual UCC WISE Conference on mental health hosted by the Indiana/Kentucky Conference. (I missed the one that the SW Conference hosted in Phoenix in 2019. So thanks to COVID and ZOOM, I was able to attend this one. By the way, WISE stands for Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, Engaged, and refers to mental health challenges.)
Dr. Vicki Harvey, a psychologist in Diamond Bar, California, said there are three stages of COVID:
The Beginning Stage began in March and went on for several months. There was a lot of talk about it being short-lived. We believed that if we just hung in there a couple of months, life would get back to normal. That hope reduced some of the anxiety of the initial shock.
The Middle Stage is where we are right now. The anxiety that we have wonders, "Are we overreacting or under-reacting? Should I isolate or not isolate? Do we give into COVID fatigue?" We want to have more involvement, but the risks have not changed. (As it turned out, since the workshop, the risks indeed changed due to the spike of COVID. And there were lots of anxious moments surrounding the holidays.)
The Future Stage will have re-entry anxiety. This will be especially true for the introverts who have been quite content to stay at home. J As the vaccine becomes more and more available, people will have to figure out when and where they feel safe. Again, there will be the questions of "Should I? or Shouldn't I?"
Dr. Harvey made the following suggestions to help with anxiety and depression:
1. Do something creative.
2. Be comfortable with your brain.
3. Journal as if you are your best friend.
4. Schedule a time to worry. Write down your worries, put them in a shoebox, and designate a future time when you will look at them.
5. Practice gratitude. Make a list of things you are grateful for.
6. Avoid alcohol.
7. Stay connected. Reach out to other people.
8. Grasp the reality of who you are:
You are deeply rooted, Loved by God,
not subject to the whim of outside events.
I found many of these to be helpful. And some of them affirmed what I was already doing. I hope at least one or two are helpful and affirming for you!
May God be with us as we begin a new year together during COVID-19.
Thank you to everyone who donated to the Justice and
Witness Drive for El Buen Pastor Church through the East
Valley Church Network. The collection taken during the first two
weeks of December will provide food and other necessities through an assistance
program at El Buen Pastor.
The East Valley Church Network supports immigrants seeking refuge in the United States. With a new administration coming on board on January 20th, we anticipate a major change in the current immigration policy. Correcting the situation as it now stands, plus the addition of more asylum seekers crossing the border will make our support of the East Valley Church Network more critical in the coming months.
Please continue to pray for those currently living at the border, and for those being held in facilities in the US, awaiting the filing of their immigration paperwork.
The J&W Team
Sunday During Coffee Hour (11 am), January 24th.
Believe it or not, it's time for me to begin planning my 2022 sabbatical, as the deadline to apply for a Lilly grant is April 21, 2021. I'd like to open up to any ideas members might have as to how to make this a mutually enriching experience. My goal is to build the sabbatical around our WISE ministry and the encompassing practice of spiritual direction.
Having a specific topic for coffee hour seems to be working so mark your calendar for Sunday, January 17 at 11am and our topic will be Sabbatical Brainstorming! Just for your information, if we do are so fortunate as to secure sabbatical funding from the Lilly foundation, we would possibly have as much as $30,000 to work with. A portion of that is earmarked for any expenses incurred by having to fill the pulpit, provide pastoral care, etc. The bulk of it is intended to cover food/travel/lodging and related expenses during my time away. Andrew has graciously offered to help out so we would naturally want to consider seeing that his added responsibilities are recognized and that his rate of compensation during my time away would reflect his added responsibilities.
The strongest proposals benefit both the pastor and the congregation. Given that I'm focused on our WISE ministry and spiritual direction, one question to consider is what special activities the church may want to engage in to simultaneously enrich our WISE ministry here at Desert Palm. For example, we could schedule a special event or two, should there by interest, while I’m away. Perhaps we could bring in a special guest speaker (Sarah Lund, who has a new book out, comes to mind), have a local spiritual director like Rev. Amanda Peterson preach or run a group, etc.
So, mark your calendars for Sunday, January 17th and join the discussion!
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Tom Martinez
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you wish to be added to
the email list to receive the Zoom link.
Thursday Morning Group
The Thursday Morning Women's Bible Study just
concluded our study of the Parables. As part of our study, we were encouraged
to create our own parables. The women created some very powerful and creative
parables. Here are two for your enjoyment. In January we begin looking at
contemporary short stories through a literary lens. Please join us!
The Parable of Tunnel Vision
By Amy Gibson
One day not long ago, two friends, Rufus and Annabelle, were riding in a car on a busy street. Rufus was driving while Annabelle was enjoying the ride. The car in front of them was driving slowly, and Rufus was getting irritated. Then the car turned on their left turn signal and started to move towards the left, then immediately switched direction and crossed some lanes and turned right.
Rufus was yelling and screaming at the driver calling the driver names. He turned to Annabelle and said, “I hate snowbirds! They don’t know how to drive.”
Annabelle just listened and didn’t comment either way.
A couple of days later, Rufus and Annabella were riding in a car again. This time, Rufus was driving the two of them to a friend’s house neither of them had been to before. They were driving down a 3 lane street in the far right lane. While Rufus was driving, they were enjoying each other’s company and only half listening to the GPS. Rufus kept slowing down in the right lane looking for Jasper Avenue to turn onto. Then the GPS said "Turn Left at Jasper now". Rufus immediately crossed over 3 lanes of traffic to make the left turn.
In the meantime, the car behind them kept honking at Rufus and Annabelle, and the driver was yelling names at Rufus. Rufus turned to Annabelle and said, “can’t that guy behind us see we are lost and looking for a street?" I wish other people would be more patient.
Annabelle chuckled a little bit to herself, and she said, “Rufus, do you remember a couple of days ago when that car in front of us kept driving slowly and then crossed lanes to turn the opposite direction of his signal? Rufus said, yes, I recall.
Annabelle simply said, maybe that driver was following directions and was lost. Rufus was silent for a few moments.
When they arrived at their destination, Rufus finally says, "Point taken. I get so focused on myself I feel like I have tunnel vision sometimes, and I don’t allow for other people’s perspective. The only person I have control over is myself. I will strive to be more patient on the road, and give other people the benefit of the doubt.
Thus ends the parable of Tunnel Vision!
There was once a family with four redheaded children. Their clothes weren’t quite in style and their parents kept a rather messy house, it was said, and the kids seemed different than the rest. The teachers in the school liked these four children. They were nice kids and usually did their work just fine.
One teacher had never had a child from this family, so when she saw Kevin on her class list, she was happy and could not wait to learn what was special about this family. She quickly learned that Kevin was not real popular with the boys. He was not athletic and, could you believe it, he had never played a video game, and his family did not even own a TV. Kevin did have a special passion, though; he loved maps, globes, and anything to do with locations in the world. The librarian filled the teacher in a bit about the family. Everyone in the family was an avid reader. They did not have a lot of money, but they spent their extra money visiting museums and going to orchestra hall and seeing various cultural events that came to town.
The teacher often rewarded her students when they cooperated and did their work quietly or clean up properly or treated a substituted well. It was funny, Kevin never accepted these rewards. She wondered why. Eventually she asked Kevin. He told her he didn’t need a reward for things he was supposed to do. Ah, thought the teacher, what a special boy.
As the school year drew-to-a-close. The principal told all the teachers that next year they would get all new globes, because so many new countries were added to the world when the Soviet Union broke up. The old globes would be collected in a few days and destroyed at the district office. How sad thought the teacher. The old globes would still be fairly useful to someone. Aha, thought the teacher. She quietly asked Kevin the next day if he would want an old globe. He lit up. The teacher confided that she was probably not to give one of the globes in her room away, but she said she would call Kevin’s mom to see if she could come after school in the next few days to take a globe home. His mother happily agreed and they decided to discreetly have her park by the teacher’s outside door when she came.
It would be dramatic if the teacher actually got in trouble, but she didn’t. She was sneaky, yes, but happy to finally reward Kevin.
Morning Women's Bible Study will meet next on January 7, 2021, and meet every other Thursday from 9:30 - 11:00. The zoom link is the same every time, can be found on the church calendar or by contacting the church office or Sue Henderson at email@example.com
Dates are: January 7 & January 21
ASU is on Winter Break early, but we continue to have some zoom gatherings and are supporting students with their needs during this break. We are delighted to share that even in the midst of a break we have two new students that have joined our zoom groups. Our main group meets weekly on Thursdays at 6:30pm. All young adults are welcome!! Contact Andrew for the links and more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We had a wonderful online Christmas party for our youth and all our adult co-hosts. We have been blessed that so many wonderful members of our church family have been willing to get to know our youth. Andrew dropped off a gift bag to every youth household and the youth got to open their gift bags and share what they got-some of which was similar to one another, and some completely different.
Our youth will be meeting weekly at 3:30pm every Wednesday beginning January 13. Contact Andrew for the link (email@example.com).
All youth are welcome!!
Thank you to everyone who joined us for our online intergenerational zoom gathering. It was a joy to share stories of Christmas with each other.
A podcast is an audio program series hosted by individuals or organizations. We are excited to launch this program to share with students and with our Desert Palm UCC congregation and churches across our conference. We have incredible students contributing content and their production skills.
I take it as a sign that God is moving among us that we’ve got a growing group of folks who are feeling God’s call on their lives. In the SW Conference, those feeling a call to ordained ministry enter into the Member in Discernment process (so we call them “mids”). Right now, we officially have three people in the process (Kelly, Andrew, and Hailey). Sonja Haller will soon be added to that list. She’s begun her journey by enrolling in seminary, initiating a vocational change from journalism to Chaplaincy. Of course, not everyone needs to be ordained to serve the church. The local church can also affirm the gifts of its members by commissioning them to particular ministries. Here at DPUCC, talking about commissioning Marc to be our Minister of Creative Arts, affirming his many gifts and blossoming ministry here with us.
For those who feel called to ordained ministry, the journey begins with the formation of a local church Discernment Committee. They work with the MID to explore the nature of their call. Sometimes it may become apparent that the person is called to serve in ways that don’t require ordination or who need to spend more time in preparation. Those who advance toward ordination are recommended by Council to the SW Conference’s Committee on Church and Ministry (or COCAM). COCAM assesses how well the candidate’s gifts and background fit with the identified “marks of ministry,” working with the MID to come up with a learning plan. All candidates must complete a rather exhaustive battery of psychological tests with an approved provider familiar. The MID must also complete a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (or “CPE”) and demonstrate sufficient educational preparedness—a Master’s of Divinity degree is no longer a requirement, though mids usually complete some graduate-level academic work, including the UCC polity course. The whole process leads toward the writing of the ordination paper and its presentation at an Ecclesiastical Council.
If you’ve never attended one of these (all virtual at the moment, of course), I highly recommend you do. This is where the candidate presents their story, along with their basic theological orientation. These are often quite compelling and a precious window into the hearts and minds of the next generation of leaders.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Tom Martinez