Pastor’s Letter 2023 July

Greetings from Annual Conference Session (ACS)

Lay Members to ACS Paul Iwahashi, Olivia Iwahashi, & Rev. Pam

We are writing to you post-2023 Annual Conference Session (ACS).  We want to share with you some of the highlights we witnessed and experienced

One of the newest items to come out of ASC this year was a vision statement for the Cal-Nevada UMC developed by the CORE team.  The CORE team, comprised of four main areas, oversees the implementation of the mission and vision of the annual conference, and follows up on decisions made at the annual conference session.

The vision statement developed is Follow Jesus; Thrive in Community; Healing the World. Bishop Dyck said, “A vision statement can help us in our daily living, decision making, behavior and witness… help us find our bearing in direction and momentum in this uncertain time of the church.”

Bishop Dyck said of Following Jesus: What does it mean to follow Jesus in today’s time?  To know this we need to learn, and relearn about Jesus, so that we can live like him in this time and in this place. Bishop shared that God is built in community and that the church cannot be without community; and, a neighborhood needs a Thriving church Community in order to fulfill its best potential. Our best ability to Heal the World is done in community, in full relationship with God and with one another.  Every one of us has a part in healing our fragmented part; without one part, we are hindered from doing all our parts.  “We”, Bishop Dyck said, “are exactly what the world needs.”

We were richly blessed with the music of the vocal band The Many who come out of Chicago, where Bishop Dyck is from. They have led worship at several ACS around the United States of America.  If you aren’t familiar with them, we strongly encourage you to listen to their music and watch their music videos on YouTube.  We also heard that the CNUMC has paid out our 100% apportionment to the General Conference for the last six years.  This is highly celebrated, for this occurred even through a pandemic that caused significant harm to many local churches, yet we are thriving today. The ACS also accepted the creation of a Conference committee on Tongan ministry, one of the larger growing ethnic ministries in the CNUMC

We gave deep blessings for our current DS, Staci Current, who has completed 8-years as DS and was appointed to Temple UMC, San Francisco as pastor, and received our new DS, Kristin Stoneking, who has been lead pastor at Epworth UMC, Berkeley.  

Three personal highlights (for Rev. Pam) were the ordination of my friend and colleague, Rob Herrmann and the licensing as Local Pastor of one of my former parishioners, Saini Opeta.  Rob was my Administrator at and member of Lake Merritt UMC, while studying at PSR.  He graduated, was appointed to Lake Park UMC, then to a two-point charge of St John’s UMC and Petaluma UMC.  Saini first came to Hope UMC in SSF, with his family after prayerfully discerning that they could grow more with the UMC.  He was a wonderful lay leader and clearly God nurtured him toward this new ministry area for him.  My heart was greatly warmed by welcoming these two persons in the UMC clergy ministry. Finally, I was deeply blessed to be reappointed to Berkeley Methodist United Church, with Paul and Olivia as our two lay members, laying hands on me as Bishop prayed over us.

On Sunday morning, we were led in a deeply moving worship, remembering and celebrating Juneteenth, June 19, 1865 – the date that the Federal Government finally went into Texas to declare  African-Americans, still enslaved by the state, two and one-half years after the President freed all African-Americans from slavery.  Bishop Warner Brown gave witness to the legacy of hope even as we face hindrances today and the trauma of unspoken stories.  He said, “We need courage to tell each other the truth and courage to listen.” He encouraged us, the Conference, to see one another as worthy of love. “Love is the key and we have to get over ourselves and recognize the beauty in each of us.”

To summarize, the theme of the 175th Session of Annual Conference was “Witnesses of a New thing” from Isaiah 43:19.  Here are some statements made by some of the speakers:

  • Bishop Dyck focused on moving forward:  “Let’s be United Methodists! …Last year, I told ‘to do your job’ because you can’t just stop and wait for something to happen… we always have to keep going, listening to God in the context of today.”
  • Conference Lay Leader Michael Pope: “Social justice action is God’s work.  I am witnessing a new thing…we need to pivot to another way of being with each other! We have to change and create pathways and bridges… be willing to embrace something we don’t know what it is… Get back out there, my siblings, the world is waiting for you!”
  • United Women of Faith president Sally Wenzel:  “we may stumble over pronouncing our new name but our mission and purpose remain the same.”
  • Rev. Ella Luna-Garza:  “history matters, your testimony matters, your witness matters—it all becomes transformational… and it’s amazing what can happen when the saints know what they are about…things are still happening! Are we ready to move forward and witness new things?”

Key note speaker Rev. Rebekah Simon-Peter spoke on Creating a Culture of Renewal: “Dream Like Jesus” to help congregations and pastors open hearts to a new way of thinking including five surprise elements of dreaming like Jesus:

  • Expands assumptions of what is possible;
  • It’s bigger than you are;
  • It scares you;
  • It’s more focused on the growth of Beloved Community than the survival of the institution;
  • It inspires and unifies.

Faithfully submitted by:

Rev. Pam Kurtz, Paul and Olivia Iwahashi

Update from Our Worship Team

Worship outside July 2, with a potluck fellowship.

Our worship team has been actively planning for worship for the remainder of the Pentecost season.  We want to welcome in summer with an outdoor worship on July 2, followed by a potluck outside as well, in the spirit of past BMU picnics.  We will be worshiping in our corner parking lot at McGee & Carleton.  Please bring whatever food or drink you desire to share in a container ready to be placed outside.  We will have complete compostable place settings.  But do bring serving utensils with your potluck dish.

We are also planning several topical worship series which include such matters as:

  • when to forgive and when not to,
  • worshipping other gods,
  • the matters of busyness and rest,
  • the value (or lack thereof) of guilt and letting people ‘should on you,’
  • and a few more.

We are also working with our Missions & Outreach Team on their next mission service project of building school kits/backpack kits.  This worship/mission service project will be held outside, Sunday, August 6, in our corner parking lot.  Be sure to keep up with the weekly announcements that our Secretary, Jill Israels, puts out to know what to donate for the school kits.

We look forward to seeing you in worship each Sunday.  Blessings.

Rev. Pam with the other members of our Worship Team: Jill Israels, Tak Israels, Lee Marrs, Naomi Sanchez

Adult Faith Formation Class Beginning, Utilizing The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

I look forward to beginning a new faith formation study in July, using the classic masterpiece of religious satire written by C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.

This classic book is a story told by letters from Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to the devil, who is call ‘Our Father Below’ while God is referred to as ‘The Enemy.’  Screwtape’s letters are written to his nephew, Wormwood, who is on earth to distract a particular human from becoming a following of God (‘The Enemy’).  The letters aptly look at the ironic foibles of human life.

There is a free study guide we will use as we study both scripture and the book. You will truly be engaged the accounts of temptation, and triumph over it, and have plenty of opportunities to group reflect and self-reflect on our own human frailties and foibles.

Please join me either Sunday after worship (online or in person) and/or Tuesday evenings online.  We will begin Sunday, July 9 and Tuesday, July 11, respectively.

You can purchase the book online, from one of our local bookstores or borrow it from the Public Library.  Please do contact me if you need assistance, financially or otherwise, in getting this book.  I will email you or print out for you the PDF study guide.

I look forward to our active engagement and deep faith reflections using The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis.

Shalom, Salaam,

Rev. Pam