Pastor’s Page

Dear UJCC Friends and Family,

In her book, A Praying Congregation: The Art of Teaching Spiritual Practice, Jane Vennard tells this story:

“I was interviewing a number of people at a large church that had an active prayer ministry and asked one of the participants to tell me about the prayer program and what he had learned from it. He talked about becoming involved in a program of intercessory prayer [praying for others and the world] as well as meeting weekly with a small group for Scripture study and prayer. He told us how his personal prayer life had deepened through these experiences in community and how grateful he was to his praying congregation. I asked him how his life had changed since he became more involved in prayer. ‘Oh, my life has gotten much worse,’ he said. ‘I lost my job and my health insurance.  My wife is not well, and my daughter’s marriage is breaking up.’ He paused,
and then he smiled. ‘But,’ he said, ‘I have the courage to face these difficulties, because I know, without a doubt, that God is with me. God does not make our lives easy or good. God gives us the strength to live faithfully’” (12).

There are many ways to think about prayer. Is God some kind of Santa Claus or genie who’s “supposed” to grant our wishes whenever we ask? Or is God some omnipotent being who’s obviously uncaring because our prayers aren’t often answered immediately and in the ways we would like? Or is there another way to think about prayer…as a practice that leads us to God (and
leads us back to God), that helps us feel connected and grounded in times of chaos?

This year’s Advent Study is perhaps less of a study and more of a journey of exploration this year as we explore our understandings and past experiences with prayer as well as learn some new prayer practices to connect and ground us. UJCC’s Advent theme is “How Are We Missing Jesus?” What’s distracting us from Jesus in our midst? Learning prayer is one way to refocus ourselves
on his coming and prepare ourselves to invite him into the world. Learning prayer also helps us prepare ourselves to be his love in the world. It has the power to re-center our intentions and refresh our hearts as we prepare for the Christ Child.

Advent Study will begin Thursday, November 30, 6:30-7:45pm. We will meet every Thursday of Advent (November 30, December 7, December 14). We will wrap up on Thursday, December 21 with a Longest Night/Blue Christmas service, beginning at 6pm. (You can find details further along in the newsletter.) Please contact me if you have any questions or if you’d like to sign up.

Advent blessings to you all!

Akiko