A Word from Our Pastor 2016 September

A Word from Our Pastor
September is always a busy month at BMU, and this year is certainly no exception.

We are beginning with Rally Day on September 4, the traditional kick-off for Sunday School — games for the young people and a wonderful “Welcome Back Staff” potluck to follow. We always look forward to the deliciousness and the variety (especially the ethnic variety) of our potlucks, BMU’s take on the grand Methodist tradition of food.
Also on that day, we will have a special guest speaker, Kazu Haga, a Japanese-born, long-time peace activist, founder and Coordinator of the East Point Peace Academy. Kazu regularly conducts trainings for youth, incarcerated persons and activists; he will be talking to us about Black Lives Matter. The topic of BLM is currently being discussed by our Choir, and we want to expand the discussion to the entire congregation.
The theme for our Choir Blast this year is “Draw the Circle Wide,” a wonderful song that highlights the teaching of Jesus. The words, in part are: “Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still. . .no one stands alone. . .”
I love the image of “draw it wider still. . . ” because when we have become comfortable with diversity, we are challenged by God to be even more inclusive, to draw the circle wider than it is now. . .and so the BLM movement challenges us to draw the concerns and struggles of the African American community into our “circle” of community, our “circle” of faith.

The Choir Blast is also a time for many of us to meet our new Choir Director, Toyomi Yoshida. Toyomi recently completed a certificate in Spirituality and Social Change at the Pacific School of Religion; Toyomi’s undergraduate degree from Lewis and Clark College was in music composition. With this rich background, Toyomi has put together a Choir Blast program that is wonderfully diverse, with traditional spirituals, Japanese folk songs and Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.”

Lots of fun ahead, and importantly, an opportunity to present the message of “Draw the Circle Wide” musically! There will also be clips of choir members reflecting on the meaning and experience of community and a specially choreographed “ondo” (dance) for EVERYONE to participate in. We hope that you’ll be humming the song as you leave. . .
Of course, we will also have our happily anticipated Japanese food sale, with wild caught teriyaki salmon, yakisoba (pan-fried, sauced chicken, veggies and noodles), BBQ teriyaki chicken (Sunday only) and other “from scratch” goodies, all made with love.

The Choir Blast will be held Saturday, September 17 at 3:00 p.m. and September 18 at 10:30 a.m.
The following weekend, September 25-26 a good-sized group from church will be at Monte Toyon for our annual All-Church retreat. This year’s theme is “Mission Impossible,” a reflection upon the challenge of being a Christian disciple. As usual, the program will balance music, fun and games, skits, times for faith reflection and relaxed conversation in a beautiful redwood setting. Our hope is that retreat participants will grow closer to one another and deepen their understanding and experience of God. If you are interested in going, please contact Minister Chai or Rev. Naomi — there’s plenty of room. . . Also, we will make sure that there will be a program at BMU on Sunday, so that those who are staying home, and visitors will be welcomed.
That’s September! We pray that you will take the opportunity to participate in the programs that will bring you hope, renewed faith (or new faith!) and deeper experience of God’s kingdom, right here, right now. . .
But even more in October. . .We are planning a couple of Sundays on contemporary understandings of gender. We are learning that God has created us as wonderfully complex creatures, but many cultures, including our own, have set up standards that force people to conform to just two categories of “male” and “female.” Most of us (but not everyone!) are biologically either male or female, but emotionally and spiritually we may have more complex feelings about our gender. Young people (primarily) are challenging these “standards,” by identifying themselves as “in between” male and female (using terms such as “genderfluid,” “genderqueer,” “bi-gendered/pan-gendered/agendered.”) Native Americans may use terms such as “two-spirit,” that reflect their traditional indigenous understanding of gender.

There are also people who identify as “transgendered,” which indicates that they identify with a gender that is DIFFERENT than their biology (“born in the wrong body.”) This may seem confusing to many of us, but it is important to remember that these terms are new, and so there isn’t just one, or a couple of commonly accepted terms — that will come, perhaps, in time. In the meantime, as we draw the circle wide, we must do our best to listen, and use the terms that others find most authentic to who they know they are created by God to be. (By the way, gender is different from sexuality: gender is one’s understanding of one’s own gender identity; sexuality refers to sexual or romantic orientation (“gay,” “straight,” “bisexual,” etc.) Patience! It is a demonstration of love when we strive to acknowledge each other’s full and complex humanity, a gift from God!
In November, we are planning a program on dementia, that will feature practical ways to support our family or friends who are challenged with dementia; it will feature an
expert guest speaker, who will address dementia and Alzheimers-related dementia. Look for more information as the date is settled, and invite others to engage the variety of experiences and topics we will have in September and October!

Rev. Naomi