Archive for Pastor’s Weekly Message

Dear Friends

Hello, Beautiful People of God,

It was wonderful to meet so many of you in person last week as we said “au revoir” and blessed Rev. Jim as he moves to Duluth, Minnesota.  I am looking forward to our time together and the marvelous things ahead. And, the coming rains….

This Sunday, Island United will be blessed with the presence of Rev. Kristi Denham.  Rev. Kristi will be reflecting upon Mark 10:46-52 (The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus) in her sermon “All Shall Be Well.” She has chosen wonderful hymns to accompany the sermon. You are invited to sing, masked, as you are comfortable, from the New Century Hymnal. As John Wesley said, “Sing lustily and with good courage.”

I will be with you again on Sunday, October 31. I invite you to join us for Thursday evening weekly prayer check-in on Zoom at 7:00 pm.

With God’s Love,
Rev. Michael Cronin

Dear Friends

Lech Lecha: Go Forth

Lech Lecha, Go.
Leave what you know.
Leave who you have been.
Leave the old habits and ways
That have defined and shaped your life.

Take your strength, your support and what inspires your love
And go.

The destination is unknown,
But as you travel the path will appear.

And the goal of the journey?
The reason to leap,
To risk, to let go,
Is to be a blessing,
To discover anew the good that you are
And the many ways the Divine can come through you into the world.

It is difficult to leave, to let go and begin
And we are called to make this journey again and again.
There will be challenges along the way,
Heartache and pain
We will make mistakes,
We will rise,
We will fall,
And we will rise again.

Messengers will guide us.
Gifts will appear.

And even as fear arises
And doubts assail,
Let us not be deterred,
Because the ways we journey through this
Not just for us
But for all those who will call us ancestor.

I met this week to say goodbye (for now) with my dear friends of almost 40 years – Don and Patrick. They shared this prayer with me, and it has been with me all week. They commented that it reflected how I come and go and be part of communities at crucial times and then I go somewhere next.

That’s how I feel about our time together. From a spiritual perspective, I believe we were “assigned” by divine prompting and providence to travel through Covid19 together. I am so proud of all that we did accomplish: most remarkably that we are emerging through this period with an intact community, financially solid, visible in the community, and having cared for each other through an historically unprecedented pandemic. I especially credit the Council and Staff and also all of you for your faithfulness and commitment and flexibility.

In talking with my UCC colleagues doing ministry in this period, we have all noticed how the intensity of the period required something different from other interim periods. We were both interims and also more like settled pastors as a result of Covid, and not just in the length of tenure. We have embodied stability and continuity too. I have loved our Zoom services, the Reading Group, which grew quite a bit, and the intimacy of Thursday night prayer. As we transition in this period to both Zoom and in the room worship, I urge you to try out Thursday night prayer as a way of maintaining some of the connection that Sunday worship doesn’t provide.

We have retained new staff in this period. Darryl will be our new tech person to help us maximize technology to make our activities more accessible and our worship more contemporary. You will enjoy working with Rev. Michael Cronin between now and January while the Council makes longer term plans for 2022. Michael is thoughtful, creative, spiritually grounded, and most importantly trustworthy.

Keep tuned for a new Zoom link. Keep coming to church and Reading Group and Thursday night prayer and choir. If you’ve been away for a while, come back! If my mistakes or just my style have troubled you, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. Please know I have always believed in you and in your future and will always pray for you.

If you can, join us in person (masked!) or online Sunday (same Zoom link this week) to say goodbye. Eppie Encabo from the NCNC UCC will be our guest to lead a liturgy of farewell, and Diane Fahrner, President of the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition, will also help us lead worship, and you can meet Rev. Michael Cronin in person too.

Think of me on sunny days in the colder climate of Duluth, Minnesota, and send a warm thought. I’ve worked with five congregations during my cat Keats’s lifetime, and yours is the only one he attended regularly. We will both miss you.

Take care,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. Here is an article about the medical marijuana interview with Rev. Jim that airs on Friday, October 15, on KALW 97.1 FM Bay Area. Warning: adult content. https://www.ebar.com/news/latest_news//309687 or at https://www.outinthebay.org/ anytime. 

Dear Friends

Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone…. With human beings, it is impossible, but not with God, for all things are possible with God.
– Jesus

I look forward to seeing you in person or on Zoom this Sunday. I’ll be talking about the variety of sometimes confusing advice Jesus bestows upon the disciples (and on us) in this week’s Gospel, Mark 10:17-30. I’ll also be using a passage from the current Reading Group read, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

We’ll be observing Indigenous Peoples Day and National Coming Out Day. For the time being, we are observing the same safety protocols. Please wear a mask and be vaccinated to attend in person. The choir is wearing special singing masks. I hope you can join us if you feel comfortable.

With faith and hope,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friend

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life
.
– Prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (whose special day is October 4)

We will celebrate World Communion Sunday, along with Christians around the world. Even though we might mean different things about the meaning of the sacrament, we intuitively sense as a spiritual movement that it represents unity and solidarity. And our world needs this common bond right now. Join us as we pray for the unity of all.

We also celebrate Saint Francis of Assisi, whose great wide-open heart makes him still a great role model. It was just a few years ago that the Vatican declared him the Patron Saint of Ecology. He talked with the animals, and, more important, he listened, which is the only way we can hear the voice of God, who is still speaking. Francis was committed to interfaith relations at a time when religious intolerance was the norm. He was never reluctant to call leaders to accountability. We need a spirit of Francis in the churches and in the world today.

After church we will gather for a rally to remember Chinedu Okobi, who was tased to death by San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies for jaywalking on El Camino exactly three years ago. https://guardian.ng/life/family-of-chinedu-okoli-nigerian-american-tased-to-death-our-hearts-are-broken/

Last fall his mother Amaka spoke at our church and asked us not to forget her son and the others who have endured similar deaths. And so we will gather in communion, in solidarity, to call attention to the ongoing scourge of white supremacy and for the need for police reform. I am sure Saint Francis would have been at this rally. Chinedu Okobi was a person, not a statistic, so we will listen also to a poem he wrote and let it be our call to action this weekend:

Only God Knows
By Chinedu Okobi

I’m in tune with the cosmos
And only God knows
The future of lost souls
Searching for peace on broken roads

I feel despair in the air
When the wind blows
The world is cold
Nevertheless I try not to get too high
Or get too low
As my story unfolds

I’m dealing with drama
Struggling to stay alive in the jungle
Still dreaming of a better tomorrow
Experiencing joy and sorrows
But like the rose that grows
Through the concrete
I’m a miracle
And only God knows all
That I been through

And only God knows all
That I been through

I hope to see you throughout the weekend.

With love,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. Perhaps you read recently of the death of Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong. I was honored to be interviewed for this remembrance of him because he was a friend of mine and an important mentor to me: https://www.ebar.com/news/latest_news/309018

Dear Friends

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Prayer for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels)

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love entrusts me near, ever this day be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule, to guide. Amen. (Childhood prayer)

I am looking forward to being with you this Sunday and for the next four Sundays in a row. Last Sunday I preached at All Saints Episcopal Church in Saugatuck, Michigan. The priest reminded me that this week is also the day in the Episcopal Church that celebrates angels. I know it’s not an observance in the Puritan tradition that we belong to, but I bet I am not the only congregationalist that believes in angels. So I’m veering off the lectionary this week and asking you to think about who your angels have been or are, by your definition, human or celestial. Bring pictures or representations if you like to Zoom church. My sermon is “Send me an Angel!” Here’s a little secular inspiration: https://youtu.be/0R6WIbx8ysE.

Please note we are back on Zoom again this week. In October we’ll likely go back to in-person worship. Please be sure to wear a mask. On October 17 we’ll have a “room and Zoom” community conversation to talk about finances and future plans. That’s my last Sunday. We’ll line out what the last of this year will look like, preserving the continuity, and maybe what 2022 might bring. We’re doing room and Zoom to ensure the participation of as many voices as possible. We’re monitoring the trajectory of Covid19 carefully. We might not always do business or church this way, but we’re still in Covid time, hopefully coming out of it. Don’t come to church if you aren’t comfortable, or if you’re not feeling well, or if you’re not vaccinated. We will enable your participation virtually.

Save this date: Some of us are planning an observance/protest for Sunday afternoon on October 3 in memory of the third anniversary of Chinedu Okobi’s death. Details to follow. https://www.kqed.org/news/11751421/family-of-black-man-who-died-during-arrest-sues-san-mateo-county.

I can’t wait to see you on Zoom on Sunday!

With faith and hope,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. Our next book for the reading group is The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. It’s short, beautiful, and highly readable. Treat yourself and join us in reading even if you can’t come to the discussions.

Dear Friends

Hello, Island United and Friends,

I pray this finds you and yours well. I look forward to being with you again this Sunday. Joy abounds.

This week, I will be reflecting upon the Gospel of Mark 9:30-37. In this moment, Jesus tells the disciples (us) of his death-to-come as they jockey for position of power. He, as always, bestows a teaching of how to be in this world so they might bring about the Realm of God.

And the human condition continues….

It is easy to point toward the larger socio-political events of power-jockeying and say, “There… over there…THERE.” However, I invite you to drill down and think about what it means to bring about the Realm of God into our lives that we might be that in a world that so desperately needs it.

With love,
Rev. Michael Cronin

And …

Dear Friends

We had a lovely service last week, with about equal numbers in person and on Zoom. The choir using special masks for singers provided exceptionally beautiful music, as did our soloists Lauren assisted by Darryl. We are not going to resume congregational singing quite yet. I trust you will understand that this is to ensure the safety of all.

We decided to go back to Zoom-only services for the remainder of the month, evaluating the latest Covid19 information carefully. We will resume in person on the first Sunday in October – the 3rd.

I also announced that my last day with you will be October 18, and my last Sunday October 17, after which I am relocating to Duluth Minnesota, to be the intentional interim pastor of Peace United Church of Christ. on the snowy shores of Lake Superior – https://www.peaceucc.org/ or @peace.church.duluth on Facebook. By prior commitment I will be preaching and leading workshops at All Saints Episcopal Church in Saugatuck, Michigan on September 19 – @allsaintssaugatuck on Facebook.

Next Sunday, September 26, I’ll give more detail about my changes and more importantly what will happen next at Island United Church. The Board already has plans to assure continuity and a smooth transition.

With faith and love,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

– Jesus

As we re-gather this Sunday in person, safely distanced and masked, I will preach on Jesus’s question to the disciples – “Who do you say that I am” – by reflecting with us on a similar question, “Who will people say that we are?”

As we begin to come together in person, as well as continue to gather for meetings during the week online, we have an opportunity to begin in a new way to write the next chapter of Island Church’s history.

Please make a special effort if you feel comfortable to join us this week, or to tune in. I also have a special personal announcement to share with you in person.

I hope to see you for Homecoming Sunday, Welcome Home Sunday, Rally Sunday, as it has been variously called.

Yours in faith,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Pray you all are well!

I have missed seeing you and am looking forward to being in worship with you this coming Sunday.

For our text we will be using excerpts from Exodus 15 and 16. The story of the Israelites after they escape Egypt and are starting their journey to the promised land, is very rich and may give us some insight in navigating our own journeys. I invite you to re-read the story and allow yourself to imagine what it must have been like for the Israelites to walk into a completely unknown situation. Please note that some grumbling was allowed….

I hope you will join us.

Kindly,
Rev. Elisabeth Middelberg

And …

Dear Friends

Thank you to those who joined us last week for worship at Congregational Church of Belmont, either in person or on Zoom. We were very warmly received. If you weren’t able, please watch the video and let us know if you have any feedback.

We are so glad to welcome back Rev. Elisabeth as our guest preacher this weekend. I look forward to seeing you all next Sunday, if not before, in the reading group or the prayer time and check in.

Yours in faith,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

This is the Sunday we are going to worship with Congregational Church of Belmont. They are quite close to us geographically, and there may be other things we have in common as well. They too are in a period of transition, about to embark on the important “who are we now, who are we next” questions. If you feel comfortable, mask up and join us in person, stay for lunch, and get to know them a little better.

You can also watch the service on Facebook Live. You don’t need to be a member of Facebook to watch. Just click on the link at 10:30 am.

I will be preaching on this week’s gospel, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23, and our human capacity to ascribe to God what is in reality a human bias or construct. We will celebrate a great event in American history, the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. We’ll recite as a group some of the most famous lines from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech that day (https://youtu.be/_yOBncaiito).

Hope to see you Sunday!

Yours in faith and hope,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.
– John Lewis

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.
– John 6:68 (from this week’s gospel)

Thank you to everyone who supported or participated in last Sunday’s Rally and March in Central Park. We were well represented in the turnout, and several of you told me that you joined in prayer. To me, the most moving speech (and there were many) was hearing Mercy, Rev. Penny Nixon’s teenage daughter, describe her experience of being a student in public high school currently and a resident of City of San Mateo as a young black woman today. She is a person close in age to Emmett Till, whose life we will remember this Sunday.

I hope to have a video of Mercy’s speech to show you on Sunday. We will also have a specially commissioned for us musical piece by one of our favorite guest musician/pastors, Rev. Dr. D. Mark Wilson. I’ll preach on the gospel for this Sunday, John 6:56-69.

Please join us for what I know will be a powerful service and invite your friends. For everyone’s safety, we continue on Zoom for the time being.

Yours in faith,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. Please keep the US personnel conducting evacuations and the whole people of Afghanistan in your prayers using your own prayers or this one, as an example, from The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church:

Eternal God, hear our prayer for the peoples of Afghanistan. There is a profound humanitarian crisis. Countless people, mostly women and children, are now fleeing and vulnerable. The lives of many are now endangered. The hopes of many are forgone. Send your Spirit, Lord, to rally the resolve of the nations of the earth to find pathways to save human lives, protect human rights, and to resolve the hardships of those seeking refuge, asylum, and safety. Hear our prayer for the peoples of Afghanistan. This we pray as followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.

P.P.S. To read more about Emmett TIll’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, and her actions after the death of her son, read this article: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/emmett-biography-mamie-till-mobley/ or watch these interviews: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvijYSJtkQk.