A Word from Our Pastor 2018 June

The last newsletter article.

Another milepost on the completion of my ministry at BMU. . . Twenty-one years. . .I have written probably 250 newsletter articles, which many of you have read. There is no simple way to summarize our journey together.

I remember the first month after I came to BMU. The most striking thing was that there were several people who quite openly mentioned their concerns to me about having a woman minister. Well, there was nothing I could do about the fact that I am a woman, and was appointed as their minister. A couple of them said it had to do with the Bible not approving women in church leadership, but for others, it was just a novelty that they were unused to. But there was Jean Kita, who said (whenever the opportunity presented itself), “I’m glad she’s a woman. It’s about time.” That seems so long ago now.

Back in the beginning, I used to preach without notes. Even though I didn’t use notes, part of my preparation was a detailed outline. But I didn’t keep those outlines. As a result, I don’t have the sermons written down, so I don’t know what I preached about back then. I would be curious to know – how has it changed over the years? What were we concerned about, how did we spend our time together in fellowship and in ministry? Perhaps some of you remember.

For me, some of the most vivid memories include people who have passed on. So many people that I miss. I officiated at about 150 funerals and burials. I looked at the years that we suffered a lot of loss: in 1998, the year that began 6 months after I arrived, there were 11. And again, in 2003, there were 12. In 2008, 11. In 2012, there were 15. We have endured the passing of almost an entire generation. Many of you attended those services, and helped out with set-up, with ushering, with food or in some other way. We have lost many friends and loved ones, we have served and comforted them and their families, and prayed them into the next great adventure.

I am also so grateful for the wonderful support I have received from staff and interns we have had over the years. Most of all, for Jill Israels, who has been church secretary for more years than I can count. She has gradually taken on more and more responsibility, and anticipates things that need to be done before I (or others) can even think of them. She has been so faithful, every Sunday at church and during the week. It has also been a pleasure watching her children grow up at church. . .as they are still doing. I am so blessed to have worked with her.

When I first came to BMU, I was told that people were desperate for a Youth Minister. I believe we started with John Oda for a year. I don’t remember the exact order – perhaps Rev. Mike Yamauchi was next, or maybe Lisa Kawamura and Kevin Takeuchi. Then there was Marchie Miyashiro Sims, Eric Eide, Young Mi Jung, Stefanie Suzuki and Jake Takahashi, and for the past five years, our beloved Chaitanya Motupalli. We also had a couple of interns – Akiko Miyake-Stoner and Mary Cheng. We also have our own Deacon Mike Friedrich. And our music staff! Stephen Varney was with us for 15 years, if I count correctly, followed by Toyomi Yoshida and now Naomi Sanchez, who had also been on staff during a good chunk of Stephen’s tenure. Our choir has grown so much in many ways – spirit, skills and numbers. It is a vital ministry of our church, and we are all so grateful for the leaders we have had.

We have certainly been richly blessed by the many and quite varied ministries of these people. They have each left their “stamp” on us as individuals and as a community and enriched my life and helped me to be in ministry to and with you all.

Of course, all the work of our church rests on the members who run its committees, who manage our programs, our property, our funds and most of all, our dreams. You have all been an irreplaceable part of what makes BMU the wonderful community it is. I will never forget our dancing, (“Born this Way,” “Every Praise,” “Draw the Circle Wide” and “We Resist”) or our music, “Okazu” and Choir Blasts, as we moved from
performing music to expressing our faith in more direct ways. BMU has been a church that serves the community and its own members with joy, love and faithfulness. It has been a privilege to be with you for the past 21 years. My prayer for you is continued vibrant life and connection to one another and to God.

Vaya con Dios,

Rev. Naomi