The San Jose Mercury News (April 4, 2021) published a viewpoint written by Leonard Pitts Jr., which stated that religious Americans who attend an organized church have dropped significantly. According to Gallup polls taken recently only forty-eight percent of people today are members of a church, synagogue, or mosque. Pitts goes on to state that there are numerous reasons why church attendance has declined. While he acknowledges that many people no longer associate with a specific organized religious group, belief in God is still strong!
As Pitts goes on to write almost eighty-seven percent of Americans have faith in God, that's good news, which got me to thinking, why do I or others go to church? Why is attending church important to us? How does attending Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church strengthen our faith? Attending church strengthens my faith by hearing God's word through scripture. “The Lord is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation” (Exodus 15:2). I also love how Pastor Manda explains the history involving the bible passages. Receiving the bread and wine, that is the real presence of Christ through holy communion, lifts up my spirit and fortifies my commitment to love and to treat others with kindness. Hearing the choirs and instrumental musicians perform each week fills my heart with joy. Going to church builds us as a community and I love how we get together during coffee hour after Sunday service and check-in, laugh, joke, comfort, encourage, and tease each other. I am so thankful we are a Reconciling in Christ congregation who welcomes all including LGBTQIA+ people. I am grateful that we are working on becoming an anti-racist church through education and listening to and learning about other people in our community.
These are just a few of the many reasons, I belong to Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Do I think our church is perfect? No, we are still broken and imperfect, both saints and sinners. We are all loved just as we are today. We are constantly changing and growing in our faith as we journey through life on earth. As stated in 1Corinthians 12:27: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
Why do you go to Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church?
~ Susan Duran
It is a truth universally known by all Christians that we are called to serve those in need. Which is why we are consistently fundraising, collecting donations, and volunteering for events such as our wonderful Safe Car Park. We understand the importance of serving others in the practice of living out our faith. We know what to do because we’ve seen those that came before us do it. There are flyers encouraging us to donate warm clothes, food, and funds. We saw Jesus himself serve and care for the sick, the poor, and his own disciples.
As a cradle catholic who attended Catholic Schools until I was 18 I was very familiar with service projects, service trips, and donation drives. But it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I came to understand what it meant to have a heart of service.
Yes, we are called to do acts of service for our brothers and sisters and to be extra mindful of serving those that are less fortunate and in need. But we are not called to simply perform acts of service, but to have a heart of service. And it is my opinion that to have a heart of service is to see the individuals we serve as just that, as individual persons.
Five years ago, I had the opportunity to exercise having a heart of service when I participated in a feed the homeless walk in San Francisco where everyone made sandwiches and then went out into the streets to feed the homeless, but we had specific instructions. We were to take two sandwiches, one for the person we would be feeding and one for ourselves. Once we found someone who accepted our sandwich we were to sit with them and eat with them. We were instructed to be able to come back and tell the organizer the person’s eye color, favorite food, and something we had in common with them.
How often do we look those we serve in the eye and take time to be in companionship with them?
I am so often guilty of being single-mindedly transactional in my acts of service. I’ll lead with the desire to be of service and to have a large quantitative reach, rather than leading with my heart and the desire to be in communion with those I encounter.
So, Church, I invite us to reflect on what it means to have a heart of service? I invite us to reflect on the whole individual persons we encounter when serving, fundraising, or donating. Even if we don’t meet those we will be serving, we can still pray and care for the individual and say a special blessing over our donated items.
~ Aline Santos
The number of people in our congregation who are getting their vaccines is starting to grow and this is a joyful occasion! This is a big milestone on our way to gathering in person once again. Thanks be to God!
For the past year, the council has been voting on our COVID protocols in short time spans, one liturgical season at a time. This has kept us nimble and able to adjust our way of being together as circumstances shifted. We voted in January to remain online for worship and to not host any indoor gatherings at the church building until Pentecost.
As our situation once again changes the council will be discerning protocols for gathering after Pentecost Sunday. They will be consulting guidance from the Sierra Pacific Synod, Eccumenical consortiums of Christian leaders, Santa Clara County health department, California State health leaders, and of course the needs and vulnerabilities of the people in our community.
If you would like to like to see some of the resources that inform the council’s discussions you can read along with them through the links below.
If you have concerns or hopes for what future gatherings look like, please reach out to your council. You can reach them by emailing email@example.com or contacting any individual (current council members can be found here).
Resources that will inform how we move forward:
Let my prayer rise up like incense before you.
I have now listened to two of the Holden Prayer Services and I am reminded powerfully each time of many things. I am reminded that this very service sung every Wednesday at a Lutheran Church in Oxnard was one of the major reasons I joined the Lutheran church. I remember how simple the service is. How little needs to be present for profundity to reach out and touch us. Some singers, a piano and some readings and I am again transported to the breadth and depth and height of my God.
The lifting up of my hands as an offering to you.
The song that disrupts my thought processes and causes tears to streak down my cheeks is the one sung like a canticle. The chorus is the above two headings “Let my prayer rise up like incense before you. The lifting up of my hands as an offering to you.” Somehow these words and music must have been put together under special spiritual dispensation to reach right into my soul and stop all my dithering and my to-ing and fro-ing and make me sit at God’s feet and listen.
I have for many years now used this song to reenergize me to what is important.
Choir, readers, musicians – Thank you for this re-gifting of the Holden Evening Prayer Service.
God of mercy, hold us in love.
-Bob Blough, CGS Council
Just in a few days, March 20 will mark one year since Governor Newsom declared a lockdown throughout the state of California. It was when I officially felt that the pandemic was real and that we are all, in one way or another, going to be affected by it. One year. Back then, I remember feeling helpless and uncertain. I never imagined that something like this could pass in my lifetime.
However, a lot of other things have happened since then. Some good and wonderful things. We, as a church, have proudly risen up to the challenges of this pandemic. We persisted and endured. We stayed together as a community and as a family, and supported each other even more than we would normally do. We have shared time when we can, within our bubbles, delivered food and essentials to members who couldn’t go out and get the items themselves, continued to give financial offering, and outstandingly remained consistent in holding our worship and sustaining our different ministries.
As choir director, music remained a constant influence for me to press on, and helped me maintain a sense of normalcy through this challenging situation. I’m very grateful for our musicians and choir members who stepped up and stepped out of their comfort zones to continue to be involved in our ministry. With the surging of everything virtual, I realized that not everyone was comfortable singing and recording in front of the camera. And yet, our singers did it, and shared their musical offerings in our worships.
By doing so, and with the help of technology, we’ve reached more people in sharing and proclaiming God’s message. Congregations without the ability to have online choir have used our choir’s offerings in their own worship. People who have found our music on social media have told us it that it proclaimed God’s grace to them.
It’s amazing that because of everyone’s dedication, despite the struggles, our singing continued, music remained, and ministry grew. As a verse goes in the hymn - Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear the music ringing. It finds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?
In this season of Lent, I see this pandemic as our time in the wilderness. A preparation for our ministry with new perspective, inspiration, and renewed enthusiasm, as we wait with joyful anticipation the time when it is over, and we can gather once again to celebrate the Resurrection.
- Rey Lambatin
CGS will be hosting the Safe Car Park in April, and once again your help is needed. COVID protocols are still in place, and we have modified our guest services. Volunteers will be needed for check-in and check-out, and donations will be needed for snacks and meal gift cards
Volunteers are needed for evening check-in (6:30 p.m.) and morning check-out (7:30 a.m.) HERE is a link to the sign up sheet
HERE is a link to the volunteer instructions (which we will go over on 3/28)
A volunteer orientation (via Zoom) will be held on Sunday March 28 at noon.
HERE is a link to the volunteer orientation.
There will be no meal preparation for the guests this time around. While we love this way to show our hospitality, the schedule for our guests and the COVID limitations have made this hospitality not as useful as we anticipated.
Instead of meals, donations of restaurant or grocery gift cards will be gladly accepted and distributed to the guests. The gift cards that we notice get the most use are for fast food restaurants like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Panera, Chipotle, and Subway. The grocery gift cards that are most useful are for Safeway.
If you would like to donate gift cards please mail them to 1550 Meridian Ave. San Jose, CA 95125. Alternatively, you can leave them on the table outside the church office, or hand deliver to one of the team members listed below.
Also, donations of snacks will be gladly accepted in the bins outside the church office. A mini fridge, microwave, and toaster oven have been donated and will be placed outside for guests to use. In the past, our guests have been grateful for these take-and-go options to supplement their meals.
Good ideas for snacks include:
crackers or chips
individual peanut butter
deli lunch packs
hard boiled eggs
Remember, individual sizes and packaging are the safe and useful option for our guests. There is packaging available in the church kitchen if you would like to split up bulk purchases.
Please feel free to contact anyone on the team if you have any questions. The team leaders are: Chelsea Byom, Sarah Janigian, Kevin Visscher, Rachel Visscher and Aline Santos. Their information can be found in your Breeze church directory or by calling the church office at 408-266-8022.
We look forward to together making CGS a warm and welcoming place for our guests!
Aline Santos, our new Community Coordinator.
Aline (pronounced Ah-lee-nee) Santos will start Monday, March 1 as our new Community Coordinator.
This is a new position at CGS, responsible for communications at CGS, providing worship support and ministry support, and doing facility management. There will be virtually no aspect of activities that her position will not touch as she interacts with Pastor Manda, Church Council, church committees, church staff, and all members of CGS.
An alumna of Sonoma State and San Jose State, Aline comes to us with a background in motivational speaking, as an extended care supervisor at St. Joseph’s church in Cupertino, and, before that, as Director of Youth Ministry and an instructional assistant at St. Simon’s parish in Los Altos.
Aline will start by working afternoons and Sundays until June when she may also be available weekday mornings. An important part of this new role on CGS staff is that Aline will be working on flex time just as our other staff people do. This means that she will work as events, committee meetings, and other ministry dictates.
We welcome Aline to CGS and look forward to having her as a member of our community. After March 1, 2021 we will find safe, socially distant ways that you can introduce yourself and welcome her to the CGS family.
CGS continues to participate in the Silicon Valley Safe Park, providing people who are living in their cars a safe place to stay. The network of faith communities and Bellarmine College Prep work on a monthly rotating schedule. April will be CGS’s first hosting month in 2021. The CGS team leaders: Chelsea Byom, Sarah Janigian, Kevin Visscher, Rachel Visscher and Pr. Manda have begun to plan for our April guests.
We learned in our previous hosting experiences that the CGS community plays an important part in how we extend welcome and hospitality for this ministry. COVID restrictions are still in place, and we follow the county guidelines for the safety of everyone. That has certainly limited the hospitality that we are able to offer but we have been able to create a welcoming and safe place while our guests are with us.
We will not offer cooked food to our guests this time (as that has not proven effective for their needs) but instead we will have snacks available throughout the month. Donations of restaurant or grocery gift cards, and/or grab and go snacks will be greatly appreciated. You can drop off snack donations to the table by the church office. Please mail, leave in the office, or hand deliver to one of the team members gift card donations.
Volunteers will be needed for morning check-out and evening check-in. More information about signing up will be available soon. If you are interested in volunteering, save the date of
If you have any questions or would like to make a donation, please contact any of the team members by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know it’s a topic that’s been covered so many times in pretty much anything – sermons, songs, poems, movies, tv shows, art and even games – you name it, and yet we can’t seem to get enough of it.
This is evidenced by the popularity of romantic movies like Love Story (1970), Titanic (1997) or La La Land (2016), and chart-topping hit tunes such as Can’t Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley, I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston or All Of Me by John Legend. And I’m pretty certain that the list will only continue to grow as more romantic movies get produced and love songs get composed.
We know how to love because GOD IS LOVE.
I believe love is an inherent trait in us as creations of God because our Creator is love’s ultimate source. We know how to love because GOD IS LOVE. As we all know, February 14 is Valentine’s Day, but coming up on February 17 is Ash Wednesday, which signifies the start of the Lent season. In my mind and heart of faith, nothing is a greater confirmation of God’s love to us than what this season brings, a remembrance to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our salvation. God provided and made us stewards of all creation - the grand mountains, the vast seas, the wide fields, and everything in it. And yet, we still sin. And even when we sin that set us away, God made the way to bring us back. She sent her begotten Son because she so loved us.
So, my hope is that we make this Lent season a season of love. That we take this time as an opportunity to spread more love, especially in this unusual and challenging days we’re in. Call, reach out, check in, and reconnect, and let the light and love of our Creator shine through us.
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.