Pastor’s Page

Dear UJCC family,

This past week, Rev. Rae and I gathered with United Methodist pastors from our Northern CA-NV Conference for the annual Bishop’s Gathering of the Orders. The theme was “Carrying the Cross in Today’s America.” Our guest preacher was an Arab Palestinian Christian man, Dr. Alex Awad, who reflected on the story of the prophet Jonah. He discussed the ways Jonah was privileged and also challenged. Dr. Awad drew connections between Jonah’s privilege and challenges and ours as Christian leaders in this time and place.  He spoke about what he calls the Ten Church Mandates: Spiritual Mandate, Evangelistic Mandate, Discipleship Mandate, Moral/Ethical Mandate, Devotional Mandate (worship, praise, liturgy), Economic Mandate (‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, give to God what is God’s’), Humanitarian Mandate, Environmental Mandate, Social/Societal Mandate, and Political/Prophetic Mandate.

In addition to several keynote speeches, we also heard updates from the Commission on the Way Forward as our United Methodist denomination continues to wrestle with critical issues of LGBTQ inclusiveness and the position of our Annual Conference. We heard reflections from diverse voices
regarding this discussion: the Wesley Covenant Association, the Uniting Methodists Movement, and the Queer Clergy Caucus.

On Sunday, January 21, UJCC was blessed to welcome Rev. Roger Morimoto to the pulpit to share the Good News! I can only imagine how glad you all were to see him again! I’ve already heard many reports of the wonderful energy and joy he and his wife Chris brought to our church family. Meanwhile in Palo Alto, I had the honor of preaching at Aldersgate United Methodist, the church
Rev. Roger currently serves. Their church family welcomed me so warmly and I was delighted to meet members with connections to the Valley and to UJCC.  This pulpit exchange was a fun adventure and, personally, a blessing for me.  Stay tuned for more as we continue to coordinate with other former pastors to share the Gospel with us!

It’s been fun being immersed in United Methodist World for a week and it makes me realize what a special and unique body UJCC is. Many people ask questions about our bi-denominational heritage and I’m always delighted to share how our congregation honors both our UMC and UCC heritages. Praise be to God!

This month marks the beginning of Lent for Christians. On February 14, we will commemorate Ash Wednesday and gather for a 7pm service at UJCC.  This year, we will worship together with our sister church, Community UCC.  Their pastor, Rev. Chris Breedlove; Rev. Rae; and I will be offering “Ashes To Go.” Please stop by on your way to work or as you run errands. Please invite your friends. We will be offering ashes (and biodegradable glitter, UCC style!) at Community UCC (on Fresno St. between Bullard and Barstow) from 7-10am and then at UJCC from 11am-1pm. Please stop by to remember your mortal nature and God’s immortal and never-ending love.

Our Lenten theme this year will be “The Tragic Gap: Between Reality and Possibility.” Inspired by Parker Palmer’s concept, we will explore how God is calling us to stand in this gap. Stay tuned for more during Sundays in Lent, beginning February 18! A Lenten Study will also be offered this season:  Thursdays February 22-March 22; 6:30-7:45pm. All are welcome. Please sign up in the Fellowship Hall or call the church office (322-0701).

Blessings, Peace, Love! Akiko