Any human enterprise can succeed or fail. Silicon Valley startups, marriages, mall stores, schools, and churches — there are no guarantees, no reliable formulas, no ideal preparation.

The recipe for failure tends to be predictable. Conditions change, but for reasons ranging from sloth to distraction to inadequate resources, leaders don’t change with them. Early success teaches the wrong lessons. Leaders dread failure more than they want to learn from it. Worthy ideas implode from lack of support, while bad ideas develop loyal followings.

It can be maddening. It can leave many wondering why they try.  I promote best practices as the key to leading a church. I have named those best practices and led church folks in learning and deploying them. But still success seems elusive. The unexpected happens, the reliable leader loses heart, a sizable cadre prove uninterested in success, especially if success means change.  Here is what I have learned:

First, the paradigm is the wilderness wandering. It is scary out there living freely and following God. It seems safer to go back to bondage. Even when God feeds and leads, discomfort and uncertainty drive many church leaders to lose heart. Going forward, however, is the only reasonable and faithful choice. Sometimes it takes a heavy/handed Moses to drive the sheep onward. I think we should be less afraid of strong leaders. Lay leaders should focus less energy on keeping clergy in line.

Second, the wise leader tends to be nimble. He or she can see an opportunity and move swiftly to embrace it, or see an obstacle and react to it. Churches take far too long to change direction.

Third, the rich and powerful shouldn’t be in charge. They tend to worry too much about saving face and avoiding failure. They mistake the church as theirs, rather than God’s. They cater to their own kind and fail to imagine others as having different needs or even validity. They don’t want to hear the Gospel, because its message to the rich and powerful is painful to hear. So they muzzle preachers and extol less-than-Godly attributes like tradition and facilities.

Fourth, failing churches misapply their energies. They tend to pour their energies into what they do best and find most enjoyable, rather than pouring energy into what God wants done and into what people outside their walls need. Thus, they focus on Sunday worship, when more and more people want community. They do mission as charity — noblesse oblige — when more and more people want deep commitment of life. They worry about gender and sexuality, when more and more have moved on to other concerns like income inequality, global climate change, and work-life balance.

Fifth, healthy and promising church communities show consistent attributes. They tend to be playful, irreverent, willing to try new things, tolerant of diversity, patient with their leaders, and not overly concerned with tradition or with money. Those are healthy attributes for any person and any community, of course. Maybe that is the point. Healthy leaders enable healthy enterprises. Churches, like any enterprise, should spend more energy on recruiting healthy leaders, training them in best practices, and protecting them from the crazies.

About the Author  Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal

priest based in New York. He is the publisher of Fresh Day online

magazine, author of On a Journey and two national newspaper columns.

His website is Church Wellness – Morning Walk Media.


Today’s Newsletterhands making cross


Sunday, August 28

4:00pm to 5:00pm

Here at First Church, Redwood City

Learn about the whole house approach

to energy efficiency and comfort

and find out how simple it is to qualify for rebates.

Learn about LED lighting

and new technologies for your home.

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A weekly commentary from the United Church of Christ

I have to check my privilege quite a bit these days. I am constantly observing my actions, words, and behaviors while processing what my being white has done to affect certain responses and outcomes. The same is true of observing how others interact with me. How does my being white affect what they say and do to me, and how they behave around me?

It is an important part of my commitment to actively dismantle the white skin privilege that persists in America today. While I remain much invested in the ongoing work of deconstructing institutional injustice and systemic racism, I am also committed to being hyper-aware of and hyper-sensitive to how I am manifesting and/or receiving privilege. I believe justice requires both. I also believe I can’t condition myself to see or to rebel against institutional privilege if I can’t first see them in myself.

I don’t pretend to be able to notice or catch all of my privileged behavior, and recognize that this is going to have to be a lifetime commitment. Getting it right today doesn’t end my investment in whiteness; nor does it guarantee that whatever getting it right today gained won’t be lost when I forget tomorrow to repeat those behaviors.

In this ongoing discourse with myself and with others, I can’t help but notice a division that is emerging between privileged whites and traumatized black leaders. Specifically, I refer to reactions to the Black Lives Matter movement, which itself is a response to an increasingly militarized police force whose proclivity for racial profiling is costing black and brown lives.

Privilege is the divide that distinguishes the responses of one community from the other. On the white side of the divide, community leaders not only conditioned by but also rewarded for their white privilege operate with a foundational assumption that police are there to protect us, and that we should not jump to conclusions – even in the face of overwhelming evidence – about a police officer’s criminality. Palpable grief and concomitant rage erupt in the black community as one life after another is snuffed out under circumstances that do not seem to occur when the law officer and the suspect are both white.

Privilege doesn’t engender that kind of rage and grief in white leaders. It inoculates whites from feeling the kind of trauma that has black and brown parents fearing for their children’s lives. At best, white leaders mobilize as advocates not from the gut punch that rage produces, but from a commitment to live in a better, more just world. Their participation in the Black Lives Matter movement is important, it may even be necessary – but it comes from a very different place.

As America is forced to come face to face once again with its ongoing investment in whiteness, I hope and pray that white leaders everywhere watch, listen, and conform to the needs of those whose stake in this are far higher than their own – and do so with awareness that it will compromise their privileged status.

~ John C. Dorhauer

General Minister and President

of the United Church of Christ



Today’s Newsletter

racism is


~ Ron Buford

I thank my God every time I remember you.

Philippians 1:3-11

phil 1,3 colors

When those close to us die, simple things remind us of them—a smell, a song, a flower, the gathering of family and friends.  And we remember…

Sometimes the memory breaks in on us like an intruder, without ample time for us to prepare and brace ourselves.  And so, we cry.  We miss them.  At other times we laugh.  Either way, it is a good thing to not hold back.  Experience your range of emotions but do not stop there.  Give God thanks for having had them in your life.  Acknowledge their presence as a gift from God this will always put your heart in the right place.

Sometimes we are like children who want more ice cream.  “We did not have them long enough,” we say.  And that is always true of those we love most dearly—especially those who had, from our perspectives, untimely deaths.  Let us instead give thanks that we had them, remembering, we have them still.  They were never our possessions.  They were companions God placed into our life’s journey…for a while.  Best of all, they surround us now, so many as to be like the stars of the Milky Way, a cloud, all witnesses to love, to faithfulness, to the hope and mystery that we shall see them…again.

PRAYER:  Gracious God, Sometimes I miss someone so much I cannot seem to bear it.  Still, I thank you for placing such a great person in my life.  I remember her perfume, his crazy laugh, the way eh looked at me that let me know I was loved, for the great things she accomplished, for the things we saw together.  Thank you for these special lives and times, and for ways they helped shape me to be the person I am today.  Give them blessed rest and peace and confidence in knowing they left us well and continuing on with life until we meet them again.  Amen.

Ron Buford is the former coordinator 
of the UCC’s “God is Still Speaking” campaign.  
He consults with UCC churches across the nation 
and is currently the pastor of 
our neighboring UCC church in Sunnyvale.
This reflection was written for the 
God is Still Speaking 365 Daily Devotionals.


Today’s Newsletter HERE

phil 1,3 flowers


bobby jo valentineFREE CONCERT

Sunday, August 7 ~ 4 pm

Reception and food to follow

College Heights Church

1150 West Hillsdale Blvd 

San Mateo, CA 94403



Yup, this is a concert at a church. But this isn’t your father’s church music. Progressive churches around the nation frequently invite Bobby to offer stories and songs that inspire us to question our beliefs, challenge easy answers, and move closer to love.

Bobby has been recognized far and wide. He’s twice been named songwriter of the year by the West Coast Songwriter’s Association. LA Weekly praised his “witty wordplay” and called him “the nicest guy to ever pick up an acoustic guitar.”
Learn more about Bobby and see videos at—and please join us for this special evening of music and community.

PS: A lot of great congregations are co-sponsoring this concert, including us!

PPS:  If you are interested in ride sharing, contact the First Church Office.


Feeling the Badge

This came from a friend and former colleague (through Facebook).  I wanted to share it with you as it seems like a very simple concept that everyone of us can support with our local police department.

This week in San Diego has been trying and difficult. We lost SDPD Officer Jonathan “JD” DeGuzman in a senseless shooting that has us reeling, reacting and looking for answers. The questions are difficult to answer and answers difficult to find. People are talking, condolences and love being shared by his fellow officers and their close community family. We’ve all given thought and felt the pain. After visiting with cops at the crime scene on Friday and Saturday at their Skyline Division Job Fair, this is what took place and what thoughts followed.

A few months ago, on the same block of this week’s shooting and in nearby neighborhoods, I’ve volunteered and seen firsthand how much effort our SDPD, led by Chief Zimmerman and Mayor Faulconer, have done to engage and communicate with communities and neighborhoods. I had a conversation with one of our city’s finest who has become family at these events and others. He, like so many of his fellow SDPD officers, goes the extra mile every day. He related that on the night of the shooting he spoke emotionally at a community forum about his commitment – how he was a former knucklehead who became a peace officer to make a difference and do good works. Our conversation had us agreeing that all the good works and efforts have not been enough and that more dry dialog from this side and that side won’t move the dial and would most likely die on the vine (this was not from community tension – it was a fool who should not have had a gun). We also determined that because of local relationships, attitudes and conditions, we are not faced with dire situations, tensions and poor communications that other cities do at least in part because of the positive policing our city works to maintain.

We discussed the need to find a place and more room for a bigger US and to find simple, lasting actions. After our conversation, wherever I was in town I began randomly shaking hands, honking, waving and giving thumbs up to cops I encountered. They knew and appreciated the gesture immediately, just as the dozen or more cops I spoke with over the weekend appreciated the words of condolences, respect, love and thanks we shared. I am going to continue these courtesies.
I want to ask others to join me in FEELIN THE BADGE (1st two words borrowed) – by thanking, thumbs up, fist bumps, noting and acknowledging cops committing acts of courtesy or carrying out their very public work well.  Whenever I see a cop being thoughtful, professional, courteous and carrying out protective activity, I believe we can express our support and gratitude, post it on social media and otherwise let these women and men know we respect, admire and appreciate the good they do, even outside of 911 calls.

FEELIN THE BADGE could become a habit, right here in San Diego – where we set the tone for the rest of the country when it comes to community building, community relations and a loving community. It’s up to each one of us to make “Peace be with you and with our peace officers” our way of life.
NOTE: Successful community policing is neither partisan nor political. We all lost a family member in Officer DeGuzman who worked and died for us. We all lost a family member.

Richard Ybarra

August 1, 2016

Ybarra Company Public Affairs


YES!  We CAN do this in Redwood City and our other local communities. 

Give it a try and let us know your results…


Today’s Newsletter HERE

police and boy, norman rockwell