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ANNUAL GATHERING – – Who, What, and Why?

Dear friends,

First a quick thank you to everyone for making our big day on Sunday a success. In the afternoon, we shared worship with some residents at Casa, and then we celebrated Pentecost with special trumpet music and five different languages during our regular 5 pm worship. I’m grateful to all of you who participated and helped welcome our visitors (among the visitors were my parents, who had a blast).

In a few days, Carol, Sue Ann, Larry, Kathie, and I will journey up to Sonoma State to take part in the 2017 Annual Gathering of the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ. That’s a mouthful!

You may be wondering: what is Annual Gathering, and why is it a big deal? Annual Gathering is the chance for every church to practice an important value: the value of covenant.

You may have noticed that we privilege autonomy in the United Church of Christ. Our local leaders make our own decisions. We don’t have to deal with a lot of hierarchy, or some church leader from far off telling us what to do.

But the flipside of this independence is the freedom to seek relationship with other churches and other people. Autonomy, in other words, leads to and empowers covenant. It has always been so among our churches — when they banded together to form some of our nation’s first colleges, when they stood up against slavery, when they fought for women’s rights, when they voted to ordain the first openly gay pastor in the United States.

Over this next weekend, your representatives of First Church will join nearly a hundred other local UCC churches. We will worship God together. We will attend workshops on a variety of topics including justice, music, church administration (I’m teaching a workshop on “Poetry and Protest”!). We will vote on four proposals related to the future mission of the Conference.

It’s easy just to be independent. It’s harder, and more valuable, to seek relationships that nourish and stretch us. That’s part of why we allot funds to have our church well-represented each year at Annual Gathering.

Pray for us as we do our best to represent this body of Christ. And look forward to hearing more, once we return!

Serving with you,

Nate

Rev. Nate Klug

 

Today’s Newsletter

 

Enthusiasm, Pentecost, and Saying Thanks to Andrew

 Dear friends,

What an exciting month we have to look forward to here at First Church. As I write this, eleven of us are preparing to visit the Pacifica Institute in Sunnyvale, to learn from their Muslim community, and to share an Iftar dinner. An amazing opportunity — and you know what? It all stemmed from a conversation we struck up during the Redwood City 150th Anniversary Festival downtown.

On Sunday, June 11, at 2 pm I’ll lead a worship service at Casa de Redwood, and we’ll visit with our friends there. Then, at 5 pm, we’ll gather at First Church to celebrate Pentecost. In many ways Pentecost is my favorite of the Christian holy days, and it’s a totally modern one.

Pentecost is all about diversity, and enthusiasm. Pentecost commemorates the moment when the Holy Spirit filled the followers of Jesus, and equipped them to preach the Gospel in their own native tongues. When we say we welcome you just as you are, that’s part of what we mean.

We’ll have at least five languages represented in worship on Sunday — can you guess which ones? There will also be special trumpet music, and another unique communion table design (thanks, Joyce!) to look forward to. You’re invited to join me in wearing red, to symbolize the fire of God’s Holy Spirit.

Sunday will also be a time to say thank you to Andrew Jamieson, who has served as one of our piano accompanists for over two years. Andrew has done a terrific job leading us in song, wowing us with postludes, and showing flexibility and good humor at all times. Please let him know how much he has been appreciated.

Andrew will still fill in for us in the future, but as we grow and expand our worship experience, First Church is hiring at part-time Minister for Music. Starting in mid-June, we will no longer have a rotating cast of accompanists, but rather a single, talented, experienced individual to plan and lead our worship music. Needless to say, I’m excited about this, and I will introduce our new Minister for Music in next week’s newsletter.

This Sunday, we lift up Andrew — who, amid his many other commitments, has been there for First Church through the highs and lows of the last few years.

* * *

I mentioned we have an exciting month (and indeed summer) ahead of us. I want to end my note by giving you some highlights to look forward to.

Please mark your calendars!

 

June 15-18   Five of us are representing First Church at the Annual Gathering of the Northern California Nevada Conference of the UCC, held at Sonoma State.

 Sunday, June 25 During worship, we welcome seven New Members into our church family!

Sunday, July 9 Movies That Matter (“Being Mortal” with Dr. Atul Gawande), 3 pm.    Worship at 5 pm.

Sunday, July 23 Our Annual Meeting at 3 pm. Rev. Nate Klug installed during worship at 5 pm.

 Sunday, August 13 Rev. Polly Moore (College Heights UCC), guest preaching.

 Sunday, August 27 Soul Sparks class returns at 3:30 pm, with a fall series entitled “Who We Are.”    Worship at 5 pm.

Thanking God for you,

Nate

 Rev. Nate Klug

 

Today’s Newsletter

LOVING the STRANGER

Dear friends,

Imagine that you are taking a commuter train. Lots of bodies of different sizes and colors. You’re doing your best to relax and settle your thoughts. But out of the corner of your eye, you see a man who seems to be acting inappropriately.

You edge closer to get a better look. Soon it becomes clear that this man is verbally harassing two young women, saying racist things, intimidating them. Some of what he’s saying sounds familiar — you’ve heard language like this during the Presidential campaign.

The women are trapped. The man’s voice is only getting louder. Other people look around at each other, wondering what to do. But no one moves yet.

Moments like this — racist, violent action against women, people of color, immigrants, and religious minorities — have been on the rise in our country during the last year. Last week, in Portland, Oregon, a man was harassing two women on a train. Three other men tried to intervene, and the harasser stabbed them, killing two and injuring the third.

So many things frighten me about this story. As a resident of the Bay Area, I’m in crowded, public places all the time, around people whom I don’t know and can’t fully trust.

And yet I know that, as much as I might be troubled, for people of color and religious minorities, entering into those public spaces must feel entirely different. I can’t ever fully know what it’s like for them, but I can listen to their experiences and try to learn from them. (A group from First Church will be doing exactly that on June 5, as we join other UCC congregations in attending a Ramadan Iftar dinner at the Pacifica Institute in Sunnyvale.)

We seem to have entered a moment where some of the basic tolerance and acceptance that was taken for granted in our country has eroded. Perhaps it was never really there, or not as prevalent as I’d like to think.

“Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” These words come from the Book of Deuteronomy, an oft-neglected but actually pretty interesting part of the Hebrew Bible.

God’s commandment to the Israelites to love the stranger reflects the fact that they were strangers, once, and will be again. The message is simple. I try to remind myself that it is a commandment, not a suggestion.

Serving with you,

Nate

Rev. Nate Klug

 

 

Today’s News

Testimonies

Dear Friends,

This Sunday evening, we will gather and hear the story of the Ascension — the moment when the Resurrected Jesus leaves the earth and ascends to heaven, to the astonishment of his already-astonished followers. If Jesus’ leaving seems like a strange thing to celebrate, well, yes and no.

On the plus side, Jesus didn’t leave us alone. He left us with the Holy Spirit, that sneaky, surprising third person of God’s Holy Trinity. (More about that on Pentecost in June.) And before he left, Jesus entrusted his followers to be his “witnesses…to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1).

So, how do we live out Jesus’ request? How do we bear witness to Christ’s manifestations in our lives, big and small?

Just from my few months of knowing you, I can tell that our congregation is full of amazing witnesses to God. I’ve already heard stories of grace amidst illness, resilience and recovery, unexpected romance, and every-day acts of justice from many of you.

On Sunday, we will begin an occasional series during worship that I’m calling “Testimony.” Towards the beginning of worship, one person will stand up and tell a simple, two-minute story of a moment where they were surprised or moved by God’s grace.

It’s my hope that having an occasional time for Testimony helps us know each other better, and in a different way. I have a few folks in mind who will kick off our first few Testimonies. But it’s my hope that, eventually, every one who has a story to tell will feel like sharing. If you have a story that would make a good Testimony, please let me know! I will help you craft it to be worship-ready.

It takes courage to get up in front of other people and tell a story of where God touched your life. And yet — if we take Jesus seriously, this was one of his final wishes and instructions before he ascended.

In what way are you witnessing, this week?

God’s peace,

Nate

Rev. Nate Klug

 

Today’s News

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Mental Health Sunday

 Dear friends,

Though we won’t be gathered for worship, this coming Sunday marks Mental Health Sunday in the United Church of Christ

calendar. This is a Sunday when we are invited to pray for, and think about how we might support, the mental health of

ourselves and those around us.

I love how this theme comes fast on the heels of Easter. When we think about the Resurrection and Ascension, mental health might not be the first thing that comes to mind.

But remember the people whom Jesus heals, and instructs to “take up your bed and walk.” Remember Mary, weeping outside the tomb. Remember Jesus himself, in a moment of doubt on the cross. It’s safe to say that mental health and Christ’s ministry are closely related.

The theologian Paul Tillich says that, in our modern era, Christian faith gives us “the courage to be.” Our modern world is distinguished by anxiety, irony, and the fear of meaninglessness. Into this void, Tillich says, comes God when all other powers and forces have failed. “The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God disappears in the anxiety of doubt,” Tillich writes.

The God whom we know through the resurrected Jesus did not come back for our perfect, flawless selves. God came back for our whole selves, that we might be healed, and that we might be non-anxious sources of comfort and strength for other people.

Maybe you know someone who is struggling with depression, anxiety, addiction, or some other mental demon. Maybe that person is, or has been, you. Today, know that God is on your side. Know that the resurrected Jesus loves you, is patient with you, and cares for you.

Know that things can get better. For this is the Good News.

God’s peace,

Nate

Rev. Nate Klug

 

 

Today’s News