One of my favorite stories in our Bible is in the Gospel of John. In chapter 3 Nicodemus, a church leader, comes to Jesus under the cover of night to ask all the questions he was afraid to ask in the daylight. He asks Jesus what is meant when Jesus speaks about being born of the Spirit and being born anew. Jesus tells Nicodemus in verses 5-8:
“Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
I have always resonated with Jesus’ teaching on the action of the Holy Spirit. It moves me, and others in ways that I cannot predict nor understand. Each time it does, it brings new life in ways that I cannot muster with my fragile human will. It has done so once more in my life. I have been asked to serve as the Assistant to the Bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod and I have accepted the call.
Though my call will not be official with the synod until after their council meeting on June 19th, I wanted to share this with you now so that we have time to say goodbye before my last day as the Pastor of CGS on July 4th.
Please know, that I am leaving with a heavy heart. I have loved serving this congregation and you more than I ever knew I would.
In the next four weeks I hope you will come to the CGS campus so that we can worship together. I hope you will come to one of the events or activities we have planned (schedule on back) so that we can celebrate the past 7 years, and to say goodbye. If it is not safe for you to be at one of these events, I hope you will call, text, or email me so that we can arrange a time to get together. Though I might not be able to do this with everyone in the time we have, I hope to be with as many of you as possible.
While I will no longer be around after July 4th, it is my hope that in a year we can run into one another again at synod events and in shared ministry. Until then, let’s make the most of the time we have together.
In gratitude, love, and the peace of Christ,
It didn’t seem like a dangerous activity, but in the age of the pandemic, it could be one
of the most high-risk things to do. Seeing a choir perform in a group was a normal
activity over a year ago. And now, even with the easing of restrictions and being able to
gather in our sanctuary for worship, our CGS choirs will have to continue to rely on
technology to create music.
You kind of take it for granted after doing it week after week for over 13 years, but
when it gets taken away, you really, really notice the difference. I had to learn and
hone new technological skills and work hard to make it as consistent as possible for our
singers. Visiting choir members’ homes and hosting recording sessions in our own home
is now a routine to keep our choral ministry going and be part of our weekly worship.
The sound of our voices going though speakers is different than hearing it live, so to get
our choirs to sound like themselves using technology presents a different set of
Yet through these, I have beautiful things that I am able to take. Most notably, the
deeper relationships I now have with choir members. Spending one on one times and
talking about personal matters that affect our lives give us deeper understanding,
appreciation, and connection with each other. We share light conversations, lots of
laughs, and also heavy, serious talks, all of which help us build stronger connections.
And as we plan to resume live rehearsals and worship singing in September, I’m looking
forward to how our pandemic experiences will help us make even better music
together. Being able to sing together again in a room will be nothing else like the past
years, and I feel like it’s going to be a powerful experience to some, if not all of us.
I can safely speak for our choir singers that not even a pandemic can keep us from
Rey Lambatin, Choir Director
One of the things that makes Rebecca and me such good teammates is our approach to planning. Namely, Rebecca plans, and I don’t; but, having spent my entire career in the non-profit arts, I’ve become very good at adapting to change, often unexpected change. I roll with the punches; I’m malleable.
When we needed to switch to worshipping from home, I shrugged my shoulders and said “OK, how do we make it work?” While I knew I would miss being in the church, honoring my faith and making music in person with friends, I focused on the technological and logistical hurdles of bringing music to the CGS community through a screen. Our faith could be shared through cables and WiFi. Soon, it felt natural, if a little isolated.
So as we were preparing for this past Sunday, I approached it in much the same manner - focus on the process, worry about the details - without much thought as to how I would feel. There were so many more moving parts to think about - microphones, camera angles - actual non-family PEOPLE in the same room as me! We gathered to talk through the service, and suddenly it was 9:58 and I needed to play the prelude, and suddenly there was a hymn, and a sermon, and announcements, and communion, and suddenly it was over.
But there were moments when I could look up, not having to play, not having to mute or un-mute microphones - and I found myself awash in love and gratitude, sharing a sacred space with others. I saw that same love and gratitude in the faces of those who were there, and I imagined the faces of those who would soon also be able to join us. I stopped thinking about logistics and process, and allowed God’s blessings to overtake me.
To be sure, there were bumps and issues to work out, and I’m grateful to all of you for your patience and understanding. But this week’s service was a reminder that we are a community - a community who will soon be able to again share God’s love and peace with one another, face to (masked, for now) face. Change for the better!
May is a big month in my family, we celebrate my birthday, my son Tim’s birthday and Memorial Day, which always feels like the kick off to summer. This year I can add to the list of things to celebrate, a concrete move towards getting things more normal after surviving “unprecedented times”; we are moving towards getting our CGS family back into the sanctuary to worship again. At the Congregational Meeting we explained our plan, the worship leaders will begin leading worship from the sanctuary as of May 23 and when Santa Clara County moves to the Yellow Tier (or if tiers are gone, when the council reassesses that it’s safe) we will be welcoming a limited number of people back into the sanctuary to worship. After over a year of seeing everyone’s face on my computer screen the fact that I will be able to see some of you in person makes my heart so happy.
Over the past year, the council has spent much of our meeting time discussing our plans for bringing our church together in different ways. We all have grown tired of seeing our church family, Hollywood Squares style, on a screen and we all wanted to see each other “In-Person”. Our wanting to be together was constant, but keeping everyone safe was the most important thing to the Council. We heard from so many of you about wanting to come back, not wanting to come back, about not being sure how you felt about coming back. Before our April Council meeting, Pastor Manda and Alene took a lot of time and effort to map out a proposal with how we could start coming together. The council in turn spent a lot of time discussing the plan. As we talked, I tried to always remember that everything we do should reflect CGS’ mission to Proclaim, Welcome and Serve. To me serving our family means being diligent to protect each other. Following the county mandated regulations, like mask wearing and posting COVID-19 signage around the facility, is one of the ways we can love our neighbor and serve our community. I have heard from a few of you, that now that we are vaccinated, it is safe for us to return to our sanctuary and some of the restrictions we are putting in place are not necessary. We on Council wanted to be sure we were ready to welcome all, not just the people who are vaccinated. CGS has a long history of being welcoming of all and I don’t believe that will ever change.
God has walked through this pandemic with each of us individually and with CGS as a whole. I never would have expected that I would feel connected to our community through watching church online, but I’m happy to say, I have. Right now, I have a hopeful feeling that we will see the end of this pandemic in the not too distant future. More and more people are getting vaccinated and the term “herd immunity’ is being used more and more all the time. Thinking of the day that we open the CGS sanctuary for worship to our family makes my heart so full.
So, in the next couple weeks, my family will be celebrating birthdays and the upcoming holiday, but I want you to know that I am also celebrating our Church family, and what the future holds for us.
The God who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.
2 Corinthians 9.
Do you know the Altar Guild?
The Altar Guild is the name we give to the group of people who work between Sundays and behind the scenes to make our worship happen.
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.