Dear Friends

“Believe what you see, see what you believe and become what you are:
the Body of Christ.”
– Augustine of Hippo

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
– Jesus

When I was a student in Cambridge, I frequently attended services at a monastery www.ssje.org nestled on the banks of the Charles River. Students and faculty of every faith from all over the university (including the historically Unitarian Harvard Divinity School where I was matriculated) flocked to this little island of medieval spirituality for its quiet beauty. I remember before communion we would pray a simple prayer of St. Augustine: “May we become what we receive.” This prayer helps make sense of the mystical discourse we read in this week’s gospel from John 6:51-58 in which Jesus invites us to “eat of his flesh.” Of course. it is poetry, and Jesus’s invitation to live eternally gives us solace when we face the trials of this life.

Rather than shy away from the strong language, I want to really dig into it and reconsider how we become the Body of Christ in the world today when we struggle for justice. To that end I hope you will join us in person (masked, of course) or in spirit for our March for Racial Justice in Central Park, San Mateo, on Sunday afternoon from 1 to 3 pm. Rev. Dr. Penny Nixon will be our keynote speaker, and we have about a half dozen inspirational speakers planned before our one-mile loop along El Camino Real and back into the picnic grounds. The event is sponsored by the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition of which our church is a principal sponsor, with generous support from the Silicon Valley Foundation.

Come join this Interfaith Witnessing of the Spirit of John Lewis. Hope to see you there!

Yours in faith,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Please join us Sunday (we’re back on Zoom only) as we welcome a friend of our congregation and a distinguished Bay Area theologian, Rev. Sandhya Jha. It is especially appropriate that she addresses us as the founder of the Oakland Peace Center this Sunday as we commemorate the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a special service of Prayer for Peace. Sandhya has been working this year with the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition with our Anti-Racism committee and was a recent panelist for our Religious Responses to Anti-Asian Violence program. She’s a great preacher, and I know we will have an inspiring service.

It was great to have a good online as well as in-person attendance last week. Let’s keep the numbers up and stay connected on Zoom for the remainder of the summer.

Praying with you for peace,
Rev. Jim Mitulski 

Dear Friends

Please plan to join us for worship this Sunday, August 1, for in-person worship, but only if you feel comfortable doing so. It is mask mandatory for everyone. (We’ll also have some sort of Zoom presence). We have as our guest preacher a distinguished theologian, pastor, and seminary professor, also a UCC minister, whom I have known for almost 35 years. Dr. Justin Tanis is going to preach about the Good Samaritan story as related in Luke 10:25-37.

We won’t be singing hymns this Sunday yet, though we may have a soloist do this for us: “Were you there when I needed a neighbor” by the same composer of other familiar favorites like Lord of the Dance and in the same style. The words to the hymn are a modern retelling of the story, and many churches will be using it:

1. When I needed a neighbour, were you there?
When I needed a neighbour, were you there?

Refrain:
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

2. I was hungry and thirsty, were you there, were you there?
I was hungry and thirsty, were you there? [Refrain]

3. I was cold, I was naked, were you there, were you there?
I was cold, I was naked, were you there? [Refrain]

4. When I needed a shelter, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a shelter, were you there? [Refrain]

5. When I needed a healer, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a healer, were you there? [Refrain]

6. Wherever you travel I’ll be there, I’ll be there,
wherever you travel I’ll be there. [Refrain]

One way to prepare for worship this week is to read the text like a prayer a few times and to listen to one of the many versions available on the internet. Here’s one: https://youtu.be/pXiHcpsMJxs.

I look forward to seeing you Sunday, in person or on Zoom.

Yours in faith and hope,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. Every member’s birthday is important to remember, and there’s been a little slippage in our celebrations during Covid time, I want to draw particular attention this week to Lee Lamkin on her birthday (July 28th). She is truly a remarkable pillar of our church, and we want to especially wish her many more birthdays! 

Dear Friends

You are a light. You are the light.
Never let anyone – any person or any force – dampen, dim or diminish your light….
Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge.
Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle to overcome evil is already won.
 – John Lewis (1940-2020)

As summer progresses, we continue to lift up the example of the late Congressman John Lewis. In studying this month, I learned about the theological basis of his passion for social transformation. His favorite theologian is one we claim in our liberal Protestant tradition: Walter Rauschenbush (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Rauschenbusch).

This week in my sermon I’ll look at John 6:1-21, the feeding of the 5000, a classic text for those who espouse the Social Gospel. Join us if you can this Saturday at the Latter-Day Saint Church in Foster City at twilight for an outdoor showing of the John Lewis documentary Good Trouble or watch it on Amazon Prime or other platforms. Plan to join us if you are able on August 15 for our small march (about a mile) through and around Central Park in San Mateo in the spirit of John Lewis, in conjunction with the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition.

At the NAACP meeting this past week we heard firefighter Joseph Echema (Redwood City firefighter files harassment lawsuit | Local News | smdailyjournal.com) about the current racist treatment he continues to experience in the Redwood City Fire Department. And this week somebody removed our Black Lives Matter church banner (not that easy to do) from the corner of Balclutha and Comet. These banners are found on many UCC (and other) churches throughout the country. It’s unfortunate to think that Foster City might be the kind of place where we can’t display one.

Jesus maintained a relentlessly optimistic mood about how faithful people can make a practical difference in bringing justice and equity to society. Join us on Sunday as we gather to pray to be in that company.

Hope to see you on Sunday on Zoom!
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Join us this Sunday as we commemorate the life of John Lewis, whose year’s mind is July 17.

I’ve been reading a newish biography of John Lewis by presidential historian Jon Meacham. A lot of it focuses on Lewis’s faith and spiritual motivation, from his childhood years and throughout his life. I think the passage of a year has revealed even more the significance of Lewis as a spiritual as well as a human rights leader. This is a tie-in event to the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition activities being held this month and next in his honor.

Join us this Sunday for some inspiration!

Yours in faith and hope,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Last week we gathered for the first time in over a year. The joy of being together was incredible. We had some technology challenges, so there is no recording available. We were happy to be together and enjoy the instrumental music, the fervent prayer, and the excellent company. In the extended prayer time, people shared what they grieved over the last year (“touch”) and what they were grateful for (“Zoom”). We’ll do it again on August 1. We hope you’ll be with us.

I learned we need two laptops to achieve all that we want because one is insufficient. So I am looking for two volunteers – one to run screens in the room and one to run Zoom and record. If you are willing to be one of those people on August 1, please let me know.

Join us this Sunday, back on Zoom, as we pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to guide us in our regathering and re-establishing Island United Church as a public presence in Foster City. I will talk about the “chariots of fire” story in 2 Kings 9:1-15 and what it means to pray for a double portion of God’s spirit.

Hope to see you all.
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

We invite you to join us in person this Sunday for worship as we experiment with our first in-person gathering in over a year. Please wear a mask, whether or not you are vaccinated. The format will be simpler than usual. We intend to broadcast the gathering on our usual Zoom link. The most important thing will be gathering.

I’ll preach on Mark 6:1-13. Thank you to Ed Grohe, who has thought through a lot of the logistics. The choir has some special music planned. Pray for our church, scattered and gathered, that we might all feel the unity of the Spirit.

Next Sunday we will resume our current Zoom routine for now. Looking forward to seeing you!

Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Please join us this Sunday as we conclude our Pride Month services on the day that LGBT Pride Day is traditionally commemorated with parades and other observances around the country. It’s also the Sunday when the United Church of Christ celebrates the Open and Affirming Church movement, of which we are a member.

We have two special worship leaders. Our preacher is church member Vickye Robertson, who has completed all the requirements for UCC ordination and is discerning how to put her gifts to use; she has a particular interest in chaplaincy. Peninsula Multifaith Coalition co-president Diane Fahrner will share a personal testimony about being the “proud mother of two gay sons” while remaining a faithful member of a religious tradition that doesn’t approve.

While Pride Day is political, it is also deeply spiritual. Be sure to join us, and invite friends to join us this week.

Happy Pride Day with faith and pride,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

As the nation prepares to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday for the first time, we will continue in our annual celebration of this event so rich in spiritual meaning. Our service will include a sermon by Rev. Gwynn Fuqua and special music by Rev. Dr. D. Mark Wilson.

Foster City also recognized Juneteenth this year with a special proclamation, as well as one for Pride Month. Click here for the link to the Juneteenth proclamation. Click here for the link to the LGBTQ Pride Month proclamation.

Join us as we celebrate the Spirit of Liberation all around us. Hope to see you.

Dear Friends

Pride Month is underway, and we have some great services planned that dovetail with the intersection of LGBT pride and other liberation movements and also underscore what our United Church of Christ distinctive identity means. We will commemorate two significant events that took place this week in the past few years:

* the killing of 9 Black people by a young white supremacist in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17, 2015 during a Bible study, and

* the shooting death of 49 people on June 12, 2016 at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando.

Last Friday, a California judge ruled that assault rifles cannot be banned in our state (the place with the largest number of mass shootings of any state over the last 20 years) because he said these weapons are no worse than “Swiss army knives.” That prompted a lot of coverage for our modest anti-gun violence vigil at the Leo J. Ryan Park Amphitheatre in downtown Foster City last Saturday, though we had planned it a week previously in response to the VTA shootings in San Jose. Our church was a principal organizer, and it gave us an opportunity to testify to our values. I especially want to thank both Ed Grohe and Alexis Lewis for making this possible. With pride comes the necessity to make connections and to stand in solidarity as part of our spiritual lives.

Join us this Sunday as we look at Jesus’s words in Mark 4:26-34, which could have been written directly to us as we move toward gathering in person again and the re-invention of our church.

Hope to see you,

Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. Join us for prayer and check-in time tonight and every Thursday at 7 pm. We will likely continue this on Zoom even when we return to in-person Sunday worship.