Craig’s Corner 2022 January

As has been the tradition the past few years, our first Craig’s Corner of 2022 is taken from the Pastor’s report to our annual charge conference. Not everyone gets to attend, especially this past couple of years when we’ve had to limit attendance, and even though this report is available to anyone who asks for it, I know not everyone gets a chance to read it so here it is (with some updates from when I wrote it back in October). Please enjoy!

Pastor’s Annual Report

The journey of faith goes on…

Who would have guessed that a year after my last annual report we would still be doing virtual worship? The pandemic is still the backdrop against which everything else is measured in 2021. However, things have gotten better. With the vaccine readily available, everyone who wants it has been able to receive it. For that we are truly blessed. Although there are some out there who hide behind their Christianity to avoid getting vaccinated, there is no religious reason why a person shouldn’t do the loving thing and receive this gift. As a church, we have chosen to love our neighbors by getting vaccinated and helping to stop the spread, because we know there are many who cannot get vaccinated (especially children) or those who remain vulnerable despite the vaccine or who have genuine fears and doubts about it. We do what we can to help others in need.

Our reaching out to those in need this year spanned the gamut of very personal needs to worldwide needs. We chose last Christmas to help a specific family in need who were going through very difficult circumstances, and we were able to donate over $1300 to that family. In our neighboring community, we focused on food shortage as a mission outreach and gave over $300 toward Thanksgiving dinner meals and another $600 toward CROP Walk. As part of our desire to preserve the legacy of Day of Remembrance, we donated $270 to the Yonsei Memory Project. To help in the worldwide mission of our United Methodist Church, we donated over $1500 to UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief that does relief work across the globe. And to help support the village of Wadi Foquin in Palestine, and in honor of our friend Rev. Michael Yoshii, we donated nearly $1700 to the Friends of Wadi Foquin. In addition to our regular giving to the church, that’s over $5,600 of missional giving to help others!

Even in this pandemic year, we still tried to do outreach to our local community. As always, we handed out candy to the neighborhood on Halloween which was a big success. Crowds in 2020 were smaller than in 2019, but that was to be expected with the pandemic. Yet so many of you donated bags of candy and we were able to give every child a bag! We donated the extra to the Dorothy Day House and they were very grateful. This year, our Halloween outreach was even more successful and we handed out nearly 200 bags of candy to the neighborhood. We

actually ran out! Our Cookies and Carols event was a ton of fun in 2020. We didn’t have as many as we did in 2019, but again that was to be expected. Still, it was a fun program for everyone who participated. We did virtual cookie decorating and were led in song by a couple of Naomi Sanchez’ very talented friends (who are also professional singers). This year’s Cookies and Carols was hybrid – both in person and online, and we had 30 people in the room with us and another 22 online (15 on ZOOM and 7 on FB). Our Socially Distant Easter Egg Hunt was a big success and we reached about 50 people – almost none of whom were from our church! In addition, we did our Flowering of the Cross in the parking lot which attracted both people and questions which was fantastic. It excites me that even in the pandemic we found ways to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

We entered the world of hybrid worship for the first time! It took a lot of planning, a lot of work, and a lot of meaningful prayer and discernment, but I am so honored to work besides such a dedicated staff and group of volunteers. From our Trustees to our COVID Task Force to all the Worship Leaders, singers, performers, and pianists, you have been so willing to work together to get this done. And special thanks to our staff – Naomi, Jill, and (technically) newcomer Tak! Although Tak has been volunteering his time for the past year, we were able to bring him on board as our new Online Specialist. They have really stepped up and gone above and beyond to make worship something special each and every week. I am sure the time, effort, and energy will honor God in new ways.

Speaking of which, our team has worked hard to keep people engaged this year. As the pandemic wore on, ZOOM fatigue hit us all. Sunday worship has fluctuated recently as more people took “time off” from church. Hopefully, it’s been time well spent in renewal and reunion with family and friends. Despite the challenges, our church led the effort to do a joint worship service with other historic Japanese churches all over the country in our NJAUMC Day of Remembrance worship. Our own Bishop Roy Sano gave the inspired message and Naomi led our choir in a rendition of Paul Sanford’s song, “Never Again.” Many of you even participated in the all-church choir in addition to singing our song! And many of you are helping us out for the Virtual Choir Blast this year once more (as I write this its only days away).
I will be honest with you, it’s not all candy and roses. There have been challenges. There have been bumps in the road. Not everything has been smooth sailing. But I am so grateful to God for seeing me and seeing us through it all. I’m grateful to you for being on this journey with me and for those of you who have been praying for me and my family, for our health and well-being, I can’t express in words how much that means to me. Thank you for being understanding and caring and support. As it says in my favorite passage from John 13: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

I’m looking forward to where God is leading us all. It’s a time of change, but also a time for reunion. May God continue to guide our footsteps as we march forward. God bless you all as we head into Christmas and the New Year!
明けましておめでとうございます (Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!)

Peace in Christ,
Rev. Craig