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Pastor Leigh Ann’s Monthly Blog

Church STOP


Lent is the season of repentance and preparation for Easter.  We confess our life fails and reboot our heart because Jesus offered his life for us, because he loved and loves us.  Lent is a season of cleaning out for a new start.  We do this work during Lent in order to grow closer to God. 

I wonder if the Church, as a Church community should also be honest about our fails and clear our heart-space to get a clean start in Easter.  I assume here that you know the church messes up from time to time and needs forgiveness just as much (maybe more) than individuals (you and me).  If this is news to you, I’m not sure where you’ve been or if you missed that history class in school.  Over the millennia, the Christian church has messed up a lot and certainly needs to repent for the ways in which we’ve done harm.  Without getting into a historic diatribe about Christian failure, I wonder if there are specific ways we, at UMC Vista, could do a little Lenten work to heal some of these relationships right now. 

Here are 5 things that Rev. Ben Gosden, an associate pastor at Mulberry St. UMC in Georgia, says that the church could quit doing for Lent and start healing relationships and growing closer to God as a community of faith.  1) Stop working people to death.  Is it time to quit expecting church members to attend 3 to 5 committees a month and free up time for families to study and pray together?  If we reduced the church work load, perhaps we could offer rest time or service time for getting outside the walls of church to do the work of God in the world.  2) Stop viewing visitors, especially young families, as investments for the future of our church.  We do it all the time.  Folks come and we view them as a potential worker-bee for our future.  Maybe we could stop viewing visitors as people who could give the church something, and start connecting them with new faith friends and grow joyful relationships. 

3) Stop thinking young clergy are the key to bringing in younger members.  Young clergy have energy, but they shouldn’t been expected to carry the burden of being a magnet for young people.  It’s the job of the whole congregation to engage and welcome families.  And if a more mature pastor is your leader, maybe stop giving them the guilt of not being a young adult anymore.  4) Stop being so inwardly focused.  Yes, yes, we watch over one another with love and affection.  We are the incubator of faith but Jesus was all about getting out and getting around to the ones in need.  So, the carpet needs to not be a trip hazard, AND we need to get out and about to share faith and offer Jesus-like compassion.  5) Stop being petty.  We don’t mean to be but churches can be mean and petty and just cruel to one another.  Because the symbols of our faith and our investment in our activities mean so much to us, sometimes churchy folks are a little less than receptive to change or new ways of being.  Maybe the church shouldn’t be treated like Fort Knox but more like the test ground for regenerative joy! 

I didn’t make these 5 things up and I’m not saying they are all on point.  But perhaps this is a starting list for thinking about what the church should stop doing during Lent.  Perhaps we shouldn’t just tell each other and people outside our walls to ‘give something up’ for Lentmaybe we should consider, as a Faith Community, what we should ‘give up’ for Lent.  For more on this check out Ministry Matters online and the article 5 Things The Church Should Stop For Lent.  What would you add to the list, as we seek a new relationship with God and all of Creation? 

God Bless you today and everyday! 

Pastor Leigh Ann  


Introducing the GAP Team

Pastor’s Ponderings – February 2018
I loved the GAP when I was in High School. At the back of the store there was a wall of multicolored sweat clothes: pink and blue and red and orange sweatshirts and sweatpants and hoodies (although we didn’t call them that then). The jeans were great, but the pretty colored clothes on the wall were soft and inviting. This is NOT the kind of GAP I’m talking about.
The Building Inspiration team was activated during 2017 to discuss issues about building a building and new ministries at the church. They recommended hiring a church consultant to guide our congregation in developing a 3- to 5-year ministry plan which may or may not include building another wing for our church structure. With that hire, the Building Inspiration team completed its goals and was dissolved. A new task force was created to partner with church consultant, Mary Scifres, called the GAP TEAM.
The GAP TEAM is a cohort of people in our congregation with different perspectives, and experiences. Their goal is to bridge the GAP between the past and our future, our dreams and an action plan, our anxiety and our service to God. They will work with the congregation to bridge the GAP through deep listening, prayer-grounded reflection, truth-telling and financial maturity. Any ministry plan for our congregation’s future looks to draw the best wisdom from a consensus-oriented model.
I have a vision of our congregation in the future, with children and families growing in faith, safe in a secured facility and having fun together. I have a vision of our congregation that engages senior people, offering good coffee, great musical programs, quality bible study and worship and never forgets their wisdom and contributions. I have a vision of this congregation getting out into the world, advocating for justice by caring for the homeless, protecting the environment, reaching out to the marginalized and volunteering in many organizations. I have a vision of this congregation as a touchstone of mainline Protestant Christianity in our neighborhood where people of all differing opinions and perspectives challenge and pray for one another. I love this congregation and believe YOU are critical to the well-being and healthy future of Vista and our region. YOU make a difference NOW and I can’t wait to see how you make a greater impact in the future.
During the months of February and March, the GAP team and I will be scheduling home meetings to have conversations about the future of our ministry together. Please watch for those dates, places to pop in, and sign up and come! Your prayerful vision for our future brings us all closer to the Kingdom of God in our midst!
Grace and peace to you, as we look forward to our Lenten Season and our Season of defining our Dreams for our future!
Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw


Pain and God

Pain and God

Have you ever had pain… maybe pain in your neck, pain in your back, pain in your knees or hips?  I’ve visited my doctor for a recurrent pain in my neck that crops up at the most inconvenient time.  It began in my thirties and has gotten progressively more intrusive.  I wake up some mornings and sitting up hurts.  It takes time to flex and move, get up and get going.  I suspect many of you know what I’m talking about.


Pain is a real fact of life.  A senior lady with a walker in my last church said to me, ‘getting old isn’t for wimps!’  She was a long time church member, who had done missions and children’s ministries and still showed up for book studies at the church.  She occasionally closed her eyes during worship, but she was always at church on Sunday and throughout the week.  I knew she prayed and came to church because it made her feel better, not just emotionally, but also physically.  There is something about having a faith and faith community that helps deal with physical pain and suffering. 

Aristotle (4th century B.C.) described pain as emotion, being the opposite of pleasure.  In the middle ages, pain was considered a religious matter, even punishment for sins or evidence of demon possession.  Some modern people still believe that suffering is our human ‘cross to bear’.  Hindu, Islam and Buddhism all include religious perspectives about pain/suffering as the result of personal actions and may be punitive or the cost of human experience.  There is a long history of world religions weighing in on the cause of pain and suffering. 

In the 1960’s a wave of interest in spirituality and consciousness brought a new perspective on pain, medicine and religion.  Postmodern thinking began to create openness to diverse medical systems and the empowerment of individuals.  Medicine returned to a mind/body/spirit, holist therapies which continue to include meditation, biofeedback, hypnosis, acupuncture, social and spiritual practice, even reiki, message and aromatherapy. The means of confronting our physical pain and suffering is profound and almost limitless. 

According to an article I read, called Spirituality and Religion in Pain and Pain Management, (Dedeli, Ozden, and Gulten Kaptan. “Spirituality and Religion in Pain and Pain Management.” Health Psychology Research 1.3 (2013): e29. PMC. Web. 26 Jan. 2018.)  ‘Religious people are less likely to have pain and fatigue… They obtained data from 37.000 individuals, 15 years of age or older, with fibromyalgia, back pain, migraine headaches and chronic fatigue syndrome, and those who are spiritual but not affiliated with regular worship attendance are more likely to have those conditions. They also found that those with chronic pain and fatigue were more likely to use prayer and seek spiritual support as a coping method compared to other people. Pain sufferers who were both religious and spiritual were more likely to have better psychological well-being and use positive strategies.’


Physical pain and suffering is nothing new to the human experience.  I do not believe it is inflected by God to teach us a lesson or punish human beings but is a part of living in skin.  How we deal with it is our journey in life.  I will keep using modern medicine, and homeopathic modalities to manage any pain I experience and I hope you will too.  Please know that if you have pain, you are not alone.  Every Sunday I see you and know that it takes a lot of effort to come to church.  Please know that I pray for people struggling with constant pain and ask God to bring you relief.  If it feels faithful to you, I hope you will join me in prayer for those people walking in constant pain, and related fatigue. 


God bless you with peace, comfort and moments free from pain. 

Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw


“Make A Difference” Community Partner Faire Join us in between services or after the 11:00 a.m. service on Sunday, Sept. 29, for an opportunity to visit with our Community Partners.