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Pastor Leigh Ann’s Monthly Blog

Refine Our Goals and Make Our Intentions

Refine Our Goals and Make Our Intentions
Pastor’s Ponderings – Aug. 2019
 
We are a church looking into the future. We are continuing to refine goals and make our intentions for serving God known. Our Outreach grant program strives to make a difference locally and globally. As we make plans for our future facility, we do so to serve God and care for our neighbors. Every time we worship, or study the Bible, or pray with and for one another, we are making an impact today and with God’s help, into the future. I wonder what it will be like in Vista in 50 years.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing by Apollo 11 and watching the coverage from that weekend in 1969 is inspirational but also leaves us with a challenge. The dream and goal of landing on the moon was bold and brave and maybe even a little alarming. Who would dare to have a vision that shattered the ceiling of human life? What was it like to consider such a thing? Some of you remember and know the conversations in the years leading up to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins taking that amazing flight.
Margaret Hamilton was a software engineer who developed the on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo Moon missions. She was born in 1936, in Indiana and earned a BA in mathematics from Earlham College in 1958. Ms. Hamilton shared in an interview that during her work at NASA on the development of software for the space missions she was asked who was taking care of her child at home and why wasn’t she there. When I studied American history, women were left out of the story, aside from Betsy Ross and the wives of early presidents. It is only in the last few years that a few women have begun to receive the recognition they deserve for contributions to science and much more. Ms. Hamilton was bold and brave, pushing back against a society that diminished women’s capacity and intellect. Her talents were a surprise to many.
One truth I believe about God is that God is full of surprises. The Bible is filled with God challenging humanity to justice and to care for those who are deemed powerless, unworthy and meager. It is absolutely surprising that God doesn’t just go for the smartest, most beautiful and richest among humanity to preside over the planet. And about the planet, it is defined as God’s creation and given to humanity to care for. Bees and fungi are good examples of small, sometimes annoying things in creation, but without them humanity wouldn’t have food or modern medicine. What a surprise that the least of creation makes such an impact. I’m certain we could make a list that went on and on about God’s surprises in our life, and all of creation, and in the church.
Isaiah 43:19 says, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 65:17 says, “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” And Revelation (21), the bold, forward-looking vision of God, says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” God turns things over and around, and the least expected is often the most powerful leader or teacher in the story that God writes.
Sometimes we water down our vision and our dreams for our community and making a difference. Sometimes we see the troubles all around us and become numb to the pain of our neighbors. Sometimes we struggle with judging others and want to tell them just to get up and do it differently and blame them. Humanity struggles to trust God and lean into God’s surprising ways, but can you imagine what would happen if we did trust God?
Where shall we be as a faith community in 2069? What can we do now to make an impact and keep making an impact? I can think of lots of challenges along the journey but when I think of God’s steadfast and strong nature, I’m certain this church is meant to be doing the work we are doing to build a future of God’s making! Let us dream bold dreams and lean into God’s beloved community!
Grace and peace,
Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw

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Return from Annual Conference – July 2019

Return from Annual Conference 
Pastor’s Ponderings – July 2019
 
 
The California Pacific Annual Conference met last week. Attendance was high as we dove into the challenges we face! It was a lot of work! The weather was better than it usually is this time of year but still hot. The days of conference start early and finish late. Barbara Mitchell, Gary Lamb and Pastor Frank were committed and absolutely represented you with panache. I want to give you a little highlight reel of what unfolded in Redlands.
As you may know, our General Conference (a gathering of delegates from across the world) gathered last year and approved something called the Traditional Plan which enhanced requirements and punishments for denying the full participation of LGBTQIA persons in the life of our United Methodist Church. Our regional leadership is generally in agreement that the Traditional Plan is unfaithful to God’s commandment to love God and love neighbor as yourself. Although we have different understandings of gender and sexuality, we believe all people are welcome and beloved in God’s kingdom and any participation should not be evaluated based on who you love or how you identify your gender. NO DECISION was made but the members of the conference made it clear that we will not evaluate leadership, including candidates for ministry, based on sexuality or gender.
Beyond the conversation about sexuality, we also did a lot of regular work including voting on delegates to the next General Conference to be held in 2020 in Minneapolis, MN. Three Laity and three Clergy delegates from our Conference were elected. There will be a Jurisdictional Conference where new Bishops to our Western region will be elected, so eight additional Laity and eight additional Clergy delegates were elected. Jurisdictional Conference could elect as many as three new bishops with three of our current bishops planning to retire. This work of electing delegates took much of our time on Friday. We passed a new Conference budget that represented a reduction of $1.3 million dollars. The Bishop has been steadfast in urging a reduction in budget across our region for the last three years. We approved recommendations to discontinue eight churches in our annual conference including Big Bear Lake UMC. While these recommendations were approved, there was grief for the action. And we voted to affirm all but two resolutions on our consent calendar including a resolution in support of reproductive health care, rights and justice (Res 19-08). We also read the names of and affirmed 210 candidates who are called to be local pastors, and other ordained or set apart leaders for ministry.
We worshiped, sang and ate together. Opening worship was led by the LGBTQIA task force with three clergy sharing poignant of the morning. We held a special worship to honor those retiring from ministry, and a special worship for those who’ve passed away this last year. Rev. Don Diegleman was honored at the memorial service. Barbara and I were invited to plant seeds in remembrance of Don’s life. There was a service to remember your baptismal covenant and a service to ordain and commission new clergy. We shared communion everyday (with gluten free bread).
All of this and more can be looked up on calpacumc.org/secretary. Although it was exhausting and at times frustrating, I’m grateful for the ministry of our church. The relationships of our region create a network for the ministry we do in Vista. The work of our Cable Outreach Grant and our conversations about expanding our facility and everything else we do is because of our connectional church. We support one another in prayer and wisdom and vision, even when we don’t always agree about the Bible or faith. We remain committed to living our lives with Jesus as our model, brother and guide.
Thanks be to God for those who offer leadership, financial support and prayer to our church! Together we are the Kingdom of God reaching out into a broken world. Amen!
Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw

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Busy Faithful Christians – June 2019

Busy Faithful Christians
Pastor’s Ponderings – June 2019
 
There is a lot going on! Our local church is looking to the future, making plans for expansion of our facility and celebrating our loving, empowering God. We are very busy faithful Christians who care for one another and our neighbors! At the same time that we are doing God’s work in Vista, our denomination is going through some seismic changes. Perhaps you’ve heard some news and wondered what it means.
Let me try and break it down… Our congregation is a part of the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. A jurisdiction is a collection of conferences, which is a collection of local church congregations. The big work of a jurisdiction is to elect Bishops who serve in leadership to the conferences. With the on-going conversations about justice and the application of Biblical teachings, our Western Jurisdiction is taking a larger role in visioning our future. Our current Bishops have spoken out about the decisions of the special-called General Conference in Spring 2019. For more on our jurisdiction there is a helpful website with information at westernjurisdictionumc.org for you to research and learn more.
March 2019, leadership in the Western Jurisdiction gathered and wrote down agreed upon values and shared an emerging vision statement focused on discipleship. The vision for our church looking toward 2020 states that we are called to be:
“A home for all God’s people, gathered around a table of reconciliation and transformation: The Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church is multicultural and inclusive, engaged in the life of its communities, with confident, effective lay and clergy leadership who, in diverse ministry settings, form disciples who live out the Good News of Jesus as global citizens.”
As we look into the future, it is likely our denomination will be going through a major reorganization, but the work that God calls us to continues to be crystal clear. God’s call for Christians has always been to love God and to love our neighbor as ourself. We have always been challenged to care for the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed. We have always been expected to be the hands and feet and voice of Jesus and proclaim the Kingdom of God with all that we do. Despite the changes and challenges nationally and globally, our work in Vista will continue to be at the forefront of our church life together.
To clarify, there is a place at the Vista UMC for all people. Although we are not all in agreement about theology, or the application of the Bible, we all do share a love for God and conviction that we serve God’s grace in this community. Justice, Faith and Hospitality are the cornerstone values this congregation has named as our goals in ministry. We will continue to look for dynamic partnerships to be Christ’s hands and heart to the world. We will continue to offer worship and praise to God who created and gives us life. Let us remember that the work of God happens person to person, and in small groups.
The connections of this congregation continue to be extensive: Beth Hallock and I met with the Executive Director, Dana Bristol-Smith, of Leap to Success. We talked about the work that they are doing to lift up and empower women. I’ve still got a newsletter and thank you note from North County LifeLine in my box that I want to read and respond to. Their work helping victims of sex and labor trafficking become survivors is powerful and humbling. Two of our missionaries, Paul Jeffery and Katherine Parker, have been and will be in our area to share with us about their work around the world. (Special thanks to Sue Humphrey and Jacque Howard for all they do for missions and missionaries!) On Easter Sunday our attendance in worship was 419, with almost a 50-person increase in first service from 2018! On Mother’s Day our attendance was 221, with our amazing children singing in worship! The church choir is making final preparations and practice for their Ireland trip coming up for the summer. Our Boy Scout Troop and Crew continue to raise strong young people and regularly share their great appreciation for the support of this congregation! So many connections, so much faithful ministry and all because of YOU responding to God!
Trust that God will make a way and we will grow together into God’s future for us! Our faith will carry us! God bless you today and everyday!
Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw

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Join us for one worship service each Sunday morning, through the month of August at 10 a.m.
 
Back Pack Blessing –  Sunday, Aug 18 at 10 a.m. Have your students bring their backpacks, lunch boxes, or other school item for a blessing in our yearly tradition to kick off the school year.