Pastor’s Message

We are grateful to have our five Congregational CareMinisters (Jean Hart, Lee Marrs, Flora Ninomiya, Carolyn Soto, Naty Uno), whohave been reaching out to grieving family members and offering support andfellowship. However, EVERYONE inour 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 withothers. We all need love,don’t we? So, in this particularlyheavy time of loss, it is the perfect opportunity for each of us to reachout.

Unfortunately, there is another aspect to this kind of lossthat also affects all of us. Ourmembership is gradually shrinking, and this year is particularlydevastating. The loss is, aboveall, emotional. We know that ourgatherings will be very different when certain persons will not be with us – wewill miss the ways in which they made our community feel “whole.” There will be many reminders when weare together for worship or for choir blast, or for other events, that someonewe love is “missing.” We need tobe 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 tomanage – 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, weare 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 visionstatements, because we knew that the Issei/Nisei mission for our church wasfulfilled, and it is time to discover our path into the future. With the losses of the past year, it iseven clearer that we are being called now to trust in God, and work to createour future.

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

We are also working to support you by thinking of ways tomake 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 takenon two interns for this year, who will help us to expand our programs. Mike Friedrich will be primarilyworking with ministry to adults and Mary Cheng with spiritual formation.

In addition, we are planning some changes to our worshipservice. 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 wayour worship service is right now (because you have said so), but we have tofind ways to make it more appealing to visitors. For example, we have to introduce ourselves. (It is toughfor me to remember to say my name every Sunday from the pulpit, but think aboutit 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 whatis happening in the service, with simple but clear explanations. It is estimated that more than 70% ofyoung people in California have NEVER been to a church – so if someone comes tovisit, there is a good chance that we have to help them understand what achurch service is all about.

The biggest change you will probably notice will be with themusic. We have been experimenting during Wacky August, so you have had a preview of what is to come. Stephen, Naomi and Okazu members willopen our services by leading us in singing about three songs together, to helpget everyone in the worshipful mood. We will be singing new music, but the traditional hymns will also have aplace. 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 ina slightly different order. Thesermon will be close to the end of the service, rather than in the middle. Of course, we are just tryingthese things on, to see how well they “fit.” So after we have given them a try, please let us know yourreactions.

I am sure that many of you also have ideas about how to makeour church more appealing to new comers. I hope you will talk about it with each other, with me, and with other leaders. We need everyone to worktogether to create a new future for BMU! This will be both a test and a proof of our faith: God will help us to fulfill our dreams,whenever those dreams are an expression of faithfulness and love. I am looking forward to what God willdo to bless our efforts!