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Pastor Leigh Ann’s Monthly Blog

I SEE A NEW CHURCH, part 2 Oct. 2019

I See A New Church Part 2
Pastor’s Ponderings – Oct. 2019
 
John Wesley wrote, “though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?” We are in a season of “seeing a new church,” but in all ways this visioning should be guided by the love of God.
 
To see a new church or a new community of faith is to have vision and insight. It is a brave act to trust God’s promptings and to trust that you are hearing God. The work of visioning is the work of God’s faithful people. Stories of brave people who vision are all over the scriptures. Noah had a vision of a boat and how to gather God’s creatures on the boat. Abraham and Sarah had a vision of a great people. Isaiah and Jeremiah and Micah had visions that challenged injustice. Zachariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph all had visions of children who would grow up to save people.
 
The work of seeing should come with a caution. It is truly only work for people who are brave and understand that things aren’t always going to be easy. God doesn’t promise a smooth path. The book of Revelation at the end of the Bible depicts some amazing visions. The author, John, conveys brutality and mystery, as well as hope and redemption. The book is written to the seven churches that were in Asia Minor, to strengthen the faith of the members. The goal was to offer assurance that the goodness of God would deliver them from the evil powers of the world. In the midst of challenge and evil, somewhere, somehow, God reminds us of God’s steadfast promise of this eternal relationship.
 
Our connection of United Methodists in Southern California and throughout the West are in a season of visioning and listening for God’s revelation about what is next. Our Bishop, Rev. Grant Hagiya, has invited all the churches of our region to discuss our vision for the future. I’ve invited the Church Council to give feedback and the entire congregation will be invited to a multi-church meeting on October 26th to share too. (Watch for more of this information later.) Last month I shared guiding questions from our Bishop. This month I want to share some thoughts for Rev. Adam Hamilton, the founding pastor of the Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City.
 
Rev. Hamilton shared his vision for a new church in his regular blog from September 18, 2019. Hamilton writes, “My hope is that the next United Methodism removes the language and policies that exclude, harm, or alienate LGBTQIA persons and their friends and family. I pray that we make room for faithful, thoughtful, compassionate, and caring United Methodists who may disagree, drawing upon the spirit of Wesley who said, ‘though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?’ I hope for a United Methodist Church where my children’s generation (millennials) and my granddaughter’s generation no longer shake their heads wondering how a church whose central ethic is love continues to practice what they perceive as bigotry and discrimination against their LGBTQ friends.” Rev. Hamilton presents the centrist view of leadership in our church making space for all people.
 
I confess, this is a hard conversation to have. I grew up with the understanding that polite conversation demands we talk about the weather and avoid politics and religion at all costs. Maybe you find it hard too. Even though our congregation has members who hold many different views on human sexuality and what the bible says about it, we have worked to focus on mission and fellowship and acting in faithfulness. We’ve held the work of God before us. In so many ways we truly exemplify John Wesley’s call to ‘love alike,’ even as we don’t agree. I trust you will continue to be a model of looking into the future, with our eyes on Jesus’ work, and have the hard conversations we must have because of the time we are living through.
 
I’m so excited for the continued conversation about the next part of the building, and the powerful ministry and mission YOU have in your future! It is an amazing time to be at Vista as you truly serve as a model of generosity, compassion and focus!
 
Pastor Leigh Ann Shaw

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“I See a New Church” Sept. 2019

“I See a New Church”
Pastor’s Ponderings – September 1, 2019
 
Our denomination and church are in a time of change and visioning. The scripture from Genesis 32 about Jacob wrestling with God comes to mind. The story tells that Jacob took his two wives, two maids and 11 children, and lots of animals and servants. He sent all of them ahead of him on their journey and spent time alone. Jacob, alone in the night, wrestled with “a man”, who is described in some places as an angel and some places as God. In the morning, as day was breaking, the man did not prevail against Jacob, but put Jacob’s hip out of its socket. At the conclusion of the altercation, the man gave Jacob a new name. From this event forward, Jacob would now be called Israel. Israel told this story as a time of wrestling with God and surviving.
Jacob became a new creation! He met his adversary in the night and overcame the challenge. In the morning, before Jacob returned to his family, he had a new name, a new vision and a new identity. I believe our church is wrestling just like Jacob did. I trust that in the morning, as light breaks before us, we will have a new name, a focused vision and a new identity! “I See a New Church” as we become a people who claim hospitality for all, the love of God for all and the power of God to make all things new.
“I See a New Church” was the theme for our Annual Conference 2019 and the Bishop has asked for input from churches as we look into the future. He wants to hear from you: What is the new church that God envisions for people of the Wesleyan tradition of Christianity?
We have already done a lot of this work. We worked on our Ministry Action Plan in 2018 and have carried it forward for discussions about the new building during 2019. I’m so excited about the extra space to extend our homeless meal ministry with “and Two Fishes”, and gathering as a congregation and small groups in the fellowship hall. There is a music suite redesign with an open concept work space for music leadership; extended space for ministry staff, and classrooms for our children to stay upstairs on Sunday mornings. The youth space is getting a redesign to create more space, and of course, their room will have direct access up the stairs to the new fellowship hall and the sanctuary. Faith, Justice and Hospitality are the key words and issues you have focused on with the Ministry Action Plan.
The work of praying and envisioning God’s call is a constant relationship. We have to continue to stay present to the unfolding call of God that is alive and powerful among us. The Bishop is asking specific questions on the theme of “I See a New Church” to encourage us to keep thinking and to get our input. The questions are these.
  1. What central mission and purpose is your church called to at this time?
  2. What is the central need of your neighborhood and surrounding community?
  3. How can your church fulfill its purpose in ”making disciples for the transformation of the world?”
  4. What compelling missional message would relate to the non-churched people living in your community?
  5. Who is God calling your church to be?
 
There is a dramatic movement of the Spirit in our Church, both UMC Vista and the United Methodist Church. Like Jacob wrestling in the night, we are looking toward a new day. As we move into fall, our stewardship team is filled with hope that our ministry is expanding and growing. Our theme for fall will be “I See a New Church” to engage us in this conversation and fund our vision for ministry.I look forward to the fall and our future ministry together and hope you do too!
Grace and peace, Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw

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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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New Member Class and Luncheon New Members’ Class is scheduled for Oct. 6 and there will be a Luncheon on Oct. 13 (downstairs, at 12:15 p.m.).  For more information, call the church office,
 
Reading Buddies at Breeze Hill Elementary School! The Eduction/Discipleship program is partnering with Breeze Hill Elementary to start a reading buddy program. Adult volunteers would be needed one to two hours per week to work one-on-one or in small groups assisting students in reading and comprehension. We will have an interest meeting between services in the Chapel on Sunday, October 13. For more information, please see Margene Haase or Beckie Henselmeier.