A Word from Our Pastor 2012 September Changes


This has been a difficult season for us at BMUC – we have lost a lot of friends and members. Some were people that we haven’t seen too much of in recent years, and others were our Sunday in – Sunday out stalwarts. Here is a list of those who have passed away since the beginning of 2012:

Bill Fujita
Ron Kihara
Katsumi Mifune
Richard Watada
Dane Olsen
Shinko Obata
Aya Ishizuka
Marsh Tekawa
Michi Sakamoto

We are grateful to have our five Congregational Care Ministers (Jean Hart, Lee Marrs, Flora Ninomiya, Carolyn Soto, Naty Uno), who have been reaching out to grieving family members and offering support and fellowship. However, EVERYONE in our congregation can take part in the ministry of comfort by writing notes, calling and checking in with those who are grieving. If you feel “nudged” to contact someone, don’t put it off. . .those “nudges” are God’s way of encouraging us to share God’s love with others. We all need love, don’t we? So, in this particularly heavy time of loss, it is the perfect opportunity for each of us to reach out.

Unfortunately, there is another aspect to this kind of loss that also affects all of us. Our membership is gradually shrinking, and this year is particularly devastating. The loss is, above all, emotional. We know that our gatherings will be very different when certain persons will not be with us – we will miss the ways in which they made our community feel “whole.” There will be many reminders when we are together for worship or for choir blast, or for other events, that someone we love is “missing.” We need to be sensitive to each other, knowing that the loss will be felt by each of us differently, at different times.

In addition, our congregation will be more difficult to manage – fewer opinions about how to solve problems; fewer people to help out, to pay the bills, to make the gatherings seem festive. In the midst of our grieving, we are also being called to act with hope. Loss is not the only option: we can call upon God to help us find a new beginning.

In the past year, we have revised our mission and vision statements, because we knew that the Issei/Nisei mission for our church was fulfilled, and it is time to discover our path into the future. With the losses of the past year, it is even clearer that we are being called now to trust in God, and work to create our future.

Each of us is part of this effort as we invite new people to come to our church. This is the most important task: our church is not in a very good location for people to discover us by chance. Each of us has to make the effort to encourage people looking for a warm and joy-filled community to come and visit. We are not going to make any visitor uncomfortable by pressuring them about religion: we are a place where ANYONE who is seeking is welcome.

We are also working to support you by thinking of ways to make our church more accessible to newcomers. Lindsay Hiratzka is organizing us to create a new website, so that people looking for a church online will be able to find us easily, and get a good idea about who we are and what we have to offer. We have also taken on two interns for this year, who will help us to expand our programs. Mike Friedrich will be primarily working with ministry to adults and Mary Cheng with spiritual formation.

In addition, we are planning some changes to our worship service. There is lots of research now about the best way to do worship, and we are trying some new ideas. I know that many of you love the way our worship service is right now (because you have said so), but we have to find ways to make it more appealing to visitors. For example, we have to introduce ourselves. (It is tough for me to remember to say my name every Sunday from the pulpit, but think about it from the point of view of a first-time visitor. They will wonder whom it is that is talking. . .) We have to help people understand what is happening in the service, with simple but clear explanations. It is estimated that more than 70% of young people in California have NEVER been to a church – so if someone comes to visit, there is a good chance that we have to help them understand what a church service is all about.

The biggest change you will probably notice will be with the music. We have been experimenting during Wacky August, so you have had a preview of what is to come. Stephen, Naomi and Okazu members will open our services by leading us in singing about three songs together, to help get everyone in the worshipful mood. We will be singing new music, but the traditional hymns will also have a place. There will be another song or two near the end of the service. We will be doing most of the same things that we have been doing, but in a slightly different order. The sermon will be close to the end of the service, rather than in the middle. Of course, we are just trying these things on, to see how well they “fit.” So after we have given them a try, please let us know your reactions.

-Reverend Naomi