“When the music fades, all is stripped away and I simply come.
Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart.
I’m coming back to the heart of worship,
and it’s all about you, all about you, Jesus.”
By Rey Lambatin, Choir Director
These are lines from the song “The Heart Of Worship” by Matt Redman, and it’s one of my favorite worship music to sing. It speaks to me, and I connect to it. If you sing it and give attention to the words, although the word “love” is never mentioned even once, you are singing a love song to Jesus. This song somehow brings me back to a place and time in my faith when everything was raw and simple - no full band of instruments, no colorful banners and decorations, no bright lights. Just me in my 8’ by 8’ room in the Philippines, singing worship songs to Jesus, with just my voice and my heart. This is my “place”. I often ask the choir, before we sing a song in worship and as the piano starts playing the introduction, to put their selves (heart and spirit) in a place where they can connect to the music. I believe that if we’re connected to the song we’re singing, it helps us deliver its message to the congregation more effectively, and in most cases, get ministered to at the same time. I can remember a number of instances when while conducting, I had to control an overwhelming emotion brought out by the song. As much as I have loved to get lost in the song’s message and go to my “place”, the task at hand was to direct the choir and minister. This is also a reason why we end each choir rehearsal with a prayer. After a couple of hours of learning notes, singing in harmony, and joyful fellowship, I believe that praying together at the end not only gives the chance to lift up our church family who are in need, but brings as back to reconnect with God. That raw and simple place where we can come with just a heart of worship.
Postscript: If you know me well, as most of you do, I DO love full band of instruments, colorful banners and decorations, and bright lights (occasionally). Just every once in a while, I like to step back and go to my “place” to reconnect and, in a way, recharge. - Rey
By Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
One of the best-known stories from the days following the Resurrection is that of the Apostle Thomas, who could not bring himself to believe that Jesus had risen until he had seen Jesus in person and placed his hands on Jesus’ wounds. Jesus says to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29). The idea of faith, of believing without seeing, is central to our Christian identities.
Our son is at the age where he is absorbing worlds and stories that he sees in books, movies, on television, and in his interactions with families and friends. Star Wars is a particular favorite (it’s our own fault - a few months ago we played the beginning of one movie to test the speakers on our new television, he came in and said, “what’s this?” and ten minutes later he was hooked). With its fantastical space battles, alien creatures and mystical powers, there’s a lot that we have to explain are just stories. And yet, because he’s like many toddlers learning about authority and boundaries and power, he likes to identify with the Empire (he marches down the hall with his “blaster” singing the Imperial March). And when we explain that the Empire is the “bad” side, that they don’t win, and that there are consequences for their “naughty” behavior, he tells us that he knows it’s just a story, that he “won’t believe it when he’s 10, because 10 is grown-up, and grown-ups don’t believe those stories.”
At the same time, we struggle with the inescapable presence of (spoiler alert!) fictional commercialized characters that are tied into some of the holiest of Christian days (was I vague enough?) - we don’t want to lie to our son, but we also know that their presence is everywhere during those seasons, and we don’t want him to “narc” to the other kids, for whom that may be a cherished part of their holiday seasons. We’ve tried (so far, somewhat successfully) to explain that they represent the spirit of the holidays (of giving, of joy, of rebirth), but we know (especially as with each year the anticipation of presents becomes a more powerful desire) that this will be an uphill battle.
So when our son is in church, or Sunday school, and he is told about the life and teachings of Jesus, and as he begins to understand the events of the Passion and the Resurrection - how do we instill the love and the faith that holds us to this miracle, when so many omnipresent creations of man need to be defined as fiction?
I don’t have a good answer yet, and perhaps I never will. But I do think it starts with how the miracle manifests itself in a million smaller miracles each and every day: the kindness of strangers, the act of forgiveness, the strengthening of communities, loving your neighbors as yourselves. Many of these may go unnoticed, and are very often overshadowed by events - real and fictional - that exude darkness and conflict and defensiveness. For a child, these tiny acts of good may lack the visceral or emotional response of a light saber battle, or finding an egg filled with chocolate. And for an adult, these tiny acts of good may lack the visceral or emotional response of accumulating wealth at any cost, or using the vilification of those who don’t look, or love, or pray like we do to cover our own insecurities or vulnerabilities.
Our job as parents - and as neighbors, as citizens, as Christians - is to celebrate those daily miracles, to raise them up, and to perform those miracles ourselves. To truly believe that these small acts can and will hold back the tide of darkness, of intolerance, of indifference, often without seeing the direct or indirect impact. To believe without seeing; to have faith.
By Jerry Clark
Greetings CGS’ers! At our March council meeting, we have agreed that CGS should be a Safe Car Park in the Willow Glen rotation. Chelsea Byom, Sarah Janigian, and Pastor Manda attended the meeting held here at CGS along with other faith organizations as part of the Winter Faith Collaborative; to discuss the existing need for a segment of the homeless population living in their cars or RVs.
This proposal is a way to make use of our parking lot for overnight parking in a more formalized process than we do now, which requires pre-screening and sign-in action. Those who would use our lot must first work with Amigos de Guadalupe as part of the screening process. As part of the program, we would need to provide restroom facilities (i.e. porta-potty) and garbage facilities to be maintained in accordance with the Safe Car Park program and aid in keeping our grounds safe and clean. The people who can be safe car park guests would be at the discretion of the congregation. CGS would set the days and hours of operation, when the lot would be available and for how long a duration, i.e. number of weeks, months or terminating our participation. We would need a point of contact or team of volunteers to help support any other services we might consider providing, such as morning coffee, snacks or possibly an evening warming hour.
Samuel Pinkston from Bellarmine College Preparatory gave a powerful presentation during the Winter Faith Collaborative meeting. He mentioned this is the second year Bellarmine has participated in the program. It has proven to be successful and without any incidents.
This would be a big step for CGS to make a positive impact on a big and growing homeless problem in our community with low financial impact to us. Let's put our available space to God’s good work, providing a little security and a welcoming place to stay for those that don't have one. If you feel called to be our primary coordinator or a part of our volunteer team, please contact a member of council (such as myself), Chelsea Byom, or Pastor Manda.
by Rey Lambatin, Choir Director
I love and am passionate about being involved in the choir, be it to sing or direct, and I’m proud to say I’m a choir geek. And I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all, choir directors are choir geeks. I would even go as far as some choir singers are choir geeks. And, if comic geeks have Comic Con, computer gamers have Gaming Con, California Choral Directors Association have its own conference, and it happened on March 14th to 16th this year here in San Jose. It’s a convention for California choir geeks, directors and singers, where we gather and connect, share and learn new music and techniques that’ll help us and our choirs achieve the level of musicality we aspire for our purposes or ministries. Choir directors from schools, churches, and different communities from all over California gathered together for 3 days and immersed ourselves in everything that’s choir related.
We had Reading Sessions where we sang through a number of music and had a feel of how different songs go, and determine if it’s a music that we could use in our own choirs. We sang arrangements for vocal jazz groups, school and community show choirs, and advanced SATB and TTBB groups. There were also different Interest Sessions like “Teaching to Millennials and Generation Z,” “The Sound is the Vowel,” and the one I found most helpful and informative, “Between the Beats: Are You Showing What You Want?” led by Dr. Jonathan Babcock, a professor and clinician from Texas State University School of Music. In this session, Dr. Babcock discussed about different factors that go beyond the movements of the arms that help us conductors be more effective in conveying what we want our choirs to do while singing - the way we stand and move our bodies, facial expressions, even the slight movement of eyebrows and where our eyes look. These information helped me be more aware of what I do while conducting, and I actually wished the session was longer. When we were not learning, we were treated to outstanding performances by different choirs in the acoustically wonderful Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph. Groups that especially stood out for me were the College of the Canyons Chamber Singers, iSing Silicon Valley Girls Choir, and CSU Long Beach University Choir. I regrettably had to miss the performance of the award-winning Fog City Singers because of choir rehearsal, but I’ve seen one of their concerts before and they were amazing.
All in all, it was a fun and very informative first CCDA Conference for me, and I’m looking forward to next year when once again, the choir geeks unite.
By Pastor Manda
What would you do if CGS ceased to exist? I mean, if our building burned down to the ground or we lost our articles of incorporation or something drastic – if CGS no longer existed in the world as an entity, what would you do?
This is what I think about when I consider the people of Christ Community Church.
As much as we like to think of CGS as a family or a network of friends who worship together, the truth is that we are a 501(c)3 non-profit religious organization. If we were just friends getting together, we’d be at Janet’s house or Susan’s pool singing songs around the living room and eating potluck on the back deck. Our reach would be limited and we’d probably not have a website, that’s for sure.
Instead, we have a place to come together which is neutral ground, we have a whole operating structure that turns that family feeling into a public ministry. Because we have the gift of an established church, the ministry of our lives can have political influence in our city as well as in remote parts of the world – and serve more than ourselves. We have the ability to pool our resources for the benefit of those in need and to receive the tax benefits and resources available only to an organized congregation.
While Christ Community Church is a church just like us, they do not have access to these privileges and abilities. It has been their hope to one day incorporate themselves as a congregation and gain access to the responsibilities and privileges of a recognized worshipping community. They’ve chosen to explore this future with the ELCA thanks to the support and partnership of CGS over the last year and a half.
How does one become a congregation of the ELCA? You can read the history of how CGS did that on our website. But these days it’s quite different. The first step is to become a Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community (or SAWC – pronounced SOCK). This step begins a covenantal relationship between at least three parties: the ELCA, the Sierra Pacific Synod, and the congregation. It means that together, goals for growth are set, there is a mutual understanding of theology and practice, and support is given. Most notably, the support that Christ Community Church will receive is to receive a grant from the ELCA. This grant, along with their own offerings will provide a wage for Pastor Jared to work part-time as the pastor for their congregation (something he was doing between two jobs up to this point). He will be called their mission developer and he will lead the development of this new mission.
One benefit that the ELCA and the Synod saw when they were considering investing in this new mission was the partnership of CGS. Seeing the benefit of our relationship between congregations and knowing that Christ Community had support, made it possible for them to believe that this new mission might be what God is raising up in San Jose.
We are helping to plant a new worshipping community of the ELCA that does not exist here in San Jose. This is a BIG. DEAL. When we said that we were called to Proclaim God’s love to the world – did you know that it would turn out to look like this? Like planting a new congregation for people who have been marginalized in other Lutheran congregations? What a way to welcome all people. Certainly not what we had in mind when we were talking about our LGBTQ+ history!
I am immensely proud that this past month, our leadership on council voted to make CGS the fiscal agent of the new Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community that is Christ Community. By doing this we’ve committed to ushering the finances of the newly developing church until they are able to incorporate themselves and stand on their own financial feet.
I hope that as we move forward in partnership to give birth to this new mission you will join us in celebrating the opportunity Christ Community is giving us. Because they have answered God’s call to be here, we have the opportunity to fulfill our own mission to welcome them with generous hospitality. Please congratulate them on their SAWC status next time you see them.
The Beyond the Building committee has continued to meet and gather team members as we find people with the skills and time for this big project. Steve Weirauch is our chairperson and leading the team forward in their work. People who have joined the team and contribute work to the process are: Theo Olson, Skye Gordineer, Rachel Visscher, and Pastor Manda.
The team has found a wonderful architect, Susan Jones, to partner with for future planning and projects. She has extensive experience bringing new life to mid-century modern church buildings. We encourage you to look her up online and see some of her work!
While we're excited to begin with her, there is a lot of work to prepare first. We have found that our current understanding of our property is severely lacking. For an architect to be useful, we need to know the current (exact) dimensions of our spaces, the state of our electrical, structural, and mechanical systems. It is more affordable for us to contract with engineers for each of these specific tasks (as opposed to having an architect contract out for them).
As you may recall, we've set aside $20,000 in our budget for Beyond the Building this year. This line item is funded by the excess rental income we collected from Carden in 2018. Our plan is to do this necessary work first, and then, when we are ready, to assess our financial situation and how best to move forward with an architect. Knowing that our team is all volunteer, we expect that this will take quite awhile to arrange and complete. While it would be exciting to begin with an architect as soon as possible, we believe this slower and more careful approach will be better stewardship of our resources.
Meanwhile, we know that the Council will continue to lead the congregation in growing into our newly freed spaces of classrooms, parking lot, and parsonage. There is a great deal that can be done without renovating or rebuilding. We'll leave this work to them (and you) as we Proclaim, Welcome, and Serve with what we have. One way that you can help the committee is by getting involved in mission with the council and the new ministries that grow in our new spaces. Seeing where CGS is growing will give us a better picture of where we might invest in future rebuilding or remodeling. If you are someone who is interested in finding contractors, arranging meetings and walk-through's at CGS, or doing budgeting and figures for future plans, please contact Steve about serving on the committee. More hands make light work and there's plenty of work to go around!
By Daniel Thomas, Church Musician
In our ever-increasingly frenetic world, silence has become a precious commodity. People now speak of “me time” as if it’s a reward for making it through their daily toils and tribulations. Parents bemoan the loss of a quiet evening at home as their kids practice jumping from the coffee table onto the sofa. And yet, we continue to assail ourselves with constant connection and communication - television, radio, and certainly the internet and social media. All of these hours that we stuff chock-full of friend-stalking, celebrity-bashing, and falling down the rabbit hole of web site comment sections - these could just as easily be filled with silence, with quietude, with - gasp! - meditation.
One of the unfortunate byproducts of this constant social motion is that people are now uncomfortable with silence, particularly in public situations. When a group of people share a quiet moment, it only lasts a brief interval before the nervous shifting and coughing begins - and nowhere is this more apparent than in worship. More and more, congregations struggle when asked to sit, to reflect, to be calm, to be silent - and even when we are silent, more than likely the voices in our heads continue to prattle - thinking about a million other things, planning, worrying, arguing with ourselves - even the prayers and lamentations in our heads take away from the silence and the calm.
"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.”
Our Lenten liturgy this year features music from the Taizé Community in France. Founded in the mid-20th century, this monastic community gathers people from across both Catholic and Protestant traditions and focuses on living in the spirit of kindness, simplicity, and reconciliation. As their traditions have spread throughout the world, one of their most enduring practices is the use of beautiful but highly simplistic and repetitive music. This music is meant to bring a meditative calm to the congregation - this is best explained on their web site:
"Singing is one of the most essential elements of worship. Short songs, repeated again and again, give it a meditative character. Using just a few words they express a basic reality of faith, quickly grasped by the mind. As the words are sung over many times, this reality gradually penetrates the whole being. Meditative singing thus becomes a way of listening to God. It allows everyone to take part in a time of prayer together and to remain together in attentive waiting on God, without having to fix the length of time too exactly.”
We have also incorporated repetitive bell tones in place of some sung liturgical sections - these are also meant to create space for silent reflection and meditation. Since we know that this is new and potentially uncomfortable for some people, we have eased into this practice by still incorporating “traditional” hymnody in the worship. But starting this week, we will have a full service of meditative, repeated music. It is our hope that our congregation will embrace these fleeting moments to live in the silence - and to connect with each other, and with God - without saying a word.
By Rebecca Thomas
So Daniel, Joshua and I are in the process of moving. Fun, right? You know the drill: you start going through your current house, making a game plan for how you are going to pack. Logically, it should be a simple endeavor of just moving all the things you have from one space to another. I mean, this is all OUR STUFF, after all; we should know what everything is, when we got it, why we still need it, and where to put it in the future. (I can tell you are already smirking.) Even if you haven’t moved before, you must know that feeling of “where did all of this come from?” as well as, “but we can’t just get rid of it, can we?” and “where is all this supposed to go?!" Coincidentally, this reminds me so much of where CGS is with our constitution right at the moment.
Last year, the council and Pastor Manda started working together to update our CGS constitution. We had a great plan to make it completely up to date, accurate, and address our current congregational needs. As it turned out, we were instead confronted with a little bit of “where did this come from?,” a dash of “do we still need this?,” and a helping of “can we just get rid of it?” Just like with moving, updating an institutional document is never as simple as one would hope. We found numerous details that needed more focus and debate than anticipated - not to mention grammatical errors, numbering issues, and all those little tidbits that can make your eyes cross. Yes, we could metaphorically just shove everything into a box, store it in the attic, and hope we can find it later when we need it…but that is not how we want to handle this. We want our constitution to have no inconsistencies, no errors, and no room for misinterpretation. It is sad to say that through his work with the Synod, Randy Presuhn has witnessed other congregations at battle within themselves over minute details or omissions in their constitutions. We want our constitution - we need it to be - accurate down to the nth degree to be certain we are protecting the members of CGS, our mission, and our goals as a community.
Thankfully, patient and detail-oriented Randy is willing to help us out and make sure we do this well. Over the next couple months a few designated council members will have open meetings with Randy in which we will hash out the details, decide on changes in the way we define ourselves and operate, and make preparations for our future. If you want to be a part of the decision making process or want to discuss the options that we're choosing, we hope that you'll join the meetings. The plan is to have a draft before November, when we gather again to vote.
We waited a little too long to tidy up this part of our congregation and like packing up our house, the job has grown bigger than we anticipated. We hope that this plan satisfies our need for an open debate while also honoring our time and energy in a congregational meeting. And next time, we won't wait so long to do this spring cleaning and hopefully we won't be frustrated again. Thank you for your patience!
One of my earliest childhood memories, from when I was five or six, is singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" for my aunts and uncles in my grandmother's living room. I couldn't remember how the song ended, so I just kept repeating the first verse. By the time they finally told me to stop, it was too late. I already had my first taste of the thrill of having an audience!
At age twelve, I joined the elementary school choir, and continued singing in school choirs through the end of my time at university. Since I wasn't athletic, I didn't have a sports team to bond with. But the choir welcomed me, and it was my "tribe."
When Keynote Vocal Group formed around the end of 2010, I was happy to join them. For me, singing in a choir is a spiritual experience. It lets me listen to my tribe, to adjust my tone and volume and vowel sounds, and to connect. When I'm surrounded by people who are singing a lot like I am, my self-focus fades a bit and "we" are making beautiful music. We are serving anyone who is listening.
I certainly hope I'll be able to carry a tune for another 20 years or so. But you never know, bodies change, things happen. So, while I still can, I'm so happy for the opportunity to sing in a choir at CGS.
“I have some definite views about the de-Christianizing of the church. I believe that there are many accommodating preachers, and too many practitioners in the church who are not believers. Jesus Christ did not say “Go into all the world and tell the world that it is quite right.” The Gospel is something completely different. In fact, it is directly opposed to the world.” C. S. Lewis
It seems that when I talk to people in the world about churchin’, the only conversation we have is a version of the same thing: the decline of the Church. I understand why we’re having this conversation over and over and my heart has deep compassion for the grief that many people are experiencing. Simultaneously, I’m eternally grateful to the movement of the Holy Spirit that I currently get to pastor a congregation that is thriving on transformation.
This last year we made HUGE strides toward being a community that Proclaims, Welcomes, and Serves. It hasn’t always left us feeling jubilant and carefree. But consider: In a year that wasn’t a banner year for the economy, civics, or social capital, we followed through on our plan to dedicate our property to our mission and end our financial dependence on a tenant. We didn’t pull back on our generosity, but started new big service projects and responded to each disaster and crisis that arose.
I have seen people be transformed by the work we are doing together and I give thanks to God that we are a community of faithful people who are open to the Spirit’s movement in our lives. Thank you for a wonderful 2018!
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.