Pr. Manda Truchinski
I remember the first year I was working with families experiencing homelessness. All my friends were working in similar jobs, with people who were surviving, not thriving. It was usually hard to muster hope for the people we worked with. Doing so was full of risk. It could be painful, fearful, and make us vulnerable every day. We would regularly lean on one another for mutual consolation and support. There were long happy hour gatherings, heartfelt phone calls at lunch, and more than one trip out of the city where we could distance ourselves and process what we experienced.
We naively thought that Christmas would be a relief, but for many of us we experienced the other side of Christmas charity for the first time. That's when the hopelessness that threatened our relationships with our clients grew to include the generous givers. Our organizations would get an utter flood of presents in December. Gifts like bicycles, clothes, vehicles, furniture, and more gift cards than you could shake a stick at. Such an overwhelming amount in a short time sent our people into a tailspin. Kids would have bikes but with no home it wasn't possible to keep them. Individuals would be gifted more clothes than they could carry on their back. One family that I worked with got a new home at Christmas from a well-known TV show and lost it a month later because there was no long-term plan to keep them there.
All the well-meaning charity that revolved around material goods and short term feelings undermined the already difficult system of assistance that our clients had to navigate. New treasures became liabilities. There was increased fighting within and among families. There was more anxiety and magical thinking than usual. It gave everyone a reason to abandon long-term goals. And all the careful structure of support that we'd been working on throughout the year crumbled like a building after a fire.
If it wasn't for the support of my friends, and the veterans who had been through it before us, I know that many of us would have quit out of despair. We worked so hard to have hope in a desperate situation and then even charity made hope more difficult.
Every year we wait with joy, knowing that Christmas will come. It always does. But those who first waited for Christ waited in faith, not certainty. They had to hope in something that they had not yet seen happen or known was possible. And hope can be painful, fearful, vulnerable, and full of risk.
Today we also wait for Christ with hope. We yearn for a fix to the problems we see around us: poverty, injustice, racism, xenophobia, corruption. Sometimes when we can't find a solution, we say "Nothing will change until Jesus comes again." And those words guarantee that the world keeps burning. They let us off the hook because if only God can save us, what use is our hard work?
But what if God is waiting for us? What if God needs us because God is unwilling to do it alone? What if we - doing the good work God has already called us to - can help God's saving work to be revealed here and now? Our stories, our songs, our service, our shelter might be the very things that welcome in the world we long for.
This is where we need one another. We need one another for the support to keep on doing what God has called us to do. We need one another to celebrate and mourn the stops of our journey. We need one another to fan the flames of hope that a better tomorrow is possible. That which we await is not yet fully here. So we keep watch, holding on to one another so we don't buckle under the world's pain.
I started singing at a very early age because there was always singing in the family, and I remember singing in a trio with my sister, Margaret, and a cousin, in an Indian Reservation close to where I grew up. Then probably when I was in 7th or 8th grade, I started getting involved in our church choir, and continued until when I was in high school. When I moved to California in 1991, I auditioned right away to sing with the Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale (which used to be the “choir in residence” for San Jose Symphony Orchestra), and that went on until I retired from the group just this year. That makes 28 years of singing with SSVC! When I started coming to CGS, some of the congregation members told me that they could hear me sing good, and that I should join the choir. I think it was Joy and Janet who finally convinced me last year, 2018, so I started coming to rehearsals and started singing. I love singing in a group because of the beautiful harmony that the different voices create, and the joy of being able to sing words that deliver a positive message to those who need it. And I particularly love singing in our CGS Mixed Choir because of the closeness that I haven’t felt in a long time… and the director doesn’t howl at me!
Rey’s (Choir Director) note: It is a blessing and an inspiration for me to direct a choir with Carol in it. Despite some health issues, she is very committed and comes to every rehearsal whenever she can, and it’s very apparent to me that she loves singing. This commitment and love bring so much positivity to our group that brings even more joy serving in our ministry.
On Sunday, CGS had a congregational meeting. Here's what happened:
Dear fellow CGSers,
I am honored to present this most worthy Christmas project. Your generosity these past years have been overwhelming!
This year the project will be in support of the LGBTQ Youth Space, a safe space for youth in downtown San Jose, and Encompass Ministry for the homeless in Santa Clara County. The Biology Department at Stanford University will again be partnering with us in this project. These two organizations are thrilled with what we are able to give them.
There is a Giving Tree in the Narthex that have tags on it so you can choose one or both organizations to donate to. If you donate to both organizations please place them in separate bags or boxes. Please return your donation back the Narthex and place them around the tree.
Here are some ideas for the Youth Space:
Here are some ideas for the Encompass Homeless Ministries:
Travel size preferred, all sizes used:
These donations are used throughout the year by these organization, so having your gifts turned in before Christmas is not a must.
If you would like to give a check please make the check out to The Youth Space or Encompass Homeless Ministries. They will send you back an acknowledgement of your check. Please turn checks into me or Laura Rinde.
Please if you have any questions do not hesitate to call me or email me!
Peace and love,
By Daniel Thomas, Church Musician
Another year is rolling up to its close, and once again we prepare our hearts and minds for the anticipation Advent and the coming joy of Christmas. And once again, we prepare our ears and voices for the abundance of music that the season provides.
What does music mean to you? What role does it play in your life, both inside and outside of worship? Whether we recognize it or not, music is an omnipresent part of the human experience. It is a universal language, and even the smallest snippet of music can trigger the strongest emotions. Music can simultaneously represent the shared experience of all humankind and the most personal experience of one individual. One cannot imagine a world without music any more than a world without color, or smell, or taste.
Within both the spiritual and secular Western traditions, Advent and Christmas are the most celebrated seasons and holidays of the year. Within them you find the most ritualized social practices, and they are the time, more than any other, when people at least give voice to our shared humanity and our wishes for peace, love, and unity. So it is no coincidence that music – the one performing art that can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, anytime, that can be both celebratory and introspective, that can give voice to the individual while still embracing the whole of humanity – plays such an important role in these seasons.
It is also no coincidence that the music of the season – both religious and secular – brims with those same themes – peace, love, and unity. As we move through Advent and Christmas, I hope we all can reflect on music’s power and beauty – not just the art form itself, but the role it plays in nourishing our minds, our bodies, and our souls. And if your favorite Christmas song comes on the radio, don’t be afraid to sing along!
MEANWHILE, in my last article I wrote about the skill for self-promotion that most artists must possess to be a success in their field, and mentioned that I am a reluctant participant in that area. So naturally, this month I’m going to do some shameless self-promotion.
Rebecca and I will be performing with two of our dear friends as The MistleTones at the Gateway Theatre in San Francisco on December 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, and 17 at 7:30 PM. What are The MistleTones, you might ask? It’s a little tricky, but here goes:
We’re a vocal quartet who plays handbells doing holiday-themed parodies of classic rock and pop songs.
It’s a niche market, I know.
So, what can you expect from The MistleTones? Music, laughs, and holiday spirit for the whole family. Four-part harmony and handbells. New takes on songs by everyone from The Beatles to Styx to Lady Gaga. A five-minute version of the Claymation classic “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” And some lovely versions of actual Christmas songs as well.
So if you’re up for a jaunt to the city, come check us out! Tickets are just $25 and available at www.42ndstmoon.org.
(end shameless plug)
By Rey Lambatin, Choir Director
The season of Boos and Trick or Treats have passed, and before we know it, the Thanks and Gobble Gobbles will be gone, and then it’s time for Ho Ho Hos and Hallelujahs.
In the past few years here at CGS, it has been part of our Christmas celebration to help spread the spirit of the season with a concert. Traditionally, the event, while showcasing the rich and diverse talents with which our church has been blessed, also helps raise funds for a church ministry or an organization that we believe carries or in line with our church’s mission. It is, additionally, an opportunity for us to invite people in our surrounding community to our church, and share the good news of our Savior’s birth in a setting that’s different from our usual worship service.
I’m specially excited about this year’s concert. Not only we will hear performances from our own Keynote Vocal Group, CGS Mixed Choir, CGS Band, duet and solo singers, but also from the Monte Vista High School Choir, Variations. You will hear favorites like Jingle Bells, Silent Night, Silver Bells, and O Come All Ye Faithful, and some new melodies that, I’m sure, will soon be added to your “good” list.
This year’s concert will be held on December 7, Saturday, 7:00 PM, in our church sanctuary. There are no tickets to purchase to see the show, but free-will donations will be collected to benefit the Mt. Cross Ministries. I hope that you’ll come, and bring friends and family, to our event for a worthy cause, while celebrating the joy of the season with music!
One of the joys of my vocation is that I get to walk with each of you through your own faith. While there are many similarities between each of the people who worship and serve at CGS, you each have your own baggage, gifts, and (best of all) quirks. It really is my pleasure to hear your pains and fears and share your joys. Most of all though, I love discovering and questioning with you.
I wish that I had the infinite bandwidth to sit with each of you on a regular basis and dive into scripture, or untangle holy mysteries. I long for more time to listen to your thoughts and untangle your ideas about God. But alas, I too am human and not all is possible. This is why I struggle to know what I can do when a season like Advent approaches.
In my ideal world, I would take time to walk with each of you through this holy season while you sit in the pregnant pause before Christmas and wonder what it means for God to be in your life. Since that's not possible, this year I'm going to try the next best thing. I want to set you up with the resources and tools that I and others have found helpful.
Attempting to practice a regular spiritual discipline in a liturgical season is a gift that keeps on giving. In my own spiritual life I have balked at the idea that prayer, or reading, or focused practice could have a meaningful effect on my day to day life. When I was challenged to try anyway, it turns out that I was (yet again) wrong. Daily practice of my faith has shaped my mood and my life over time.
I want to share the same challenge with you that was once given to me. I want to encourage you to attempt a regular practice for the season of Advent. Or Christmas. Or both. Since I can't do this with each of you personally, I hope that you'll let me make some suggestions.
Please click here to tell me what kind of resource would be helpful to you. I will sift through my many resources and get back to you with a couple suggestions. Then, you can attempt them, or save them for another year when your heart is ready. Either way, Jesus is coming to be in your life. Blessed Advent preparation whatever form it might take!
GIVING AT CGS
For many years I was known as being cheap. Just ask John Haselden. I still am a bit, but not as much. I have always tried not to be that way with my Church Community. My parents always gave their 10% to the Catholic Church where my family attended. There were many special projects at the church that needed extra funding beyond the 10% as well. My parents gave till it hurt sometimes (their words not mine). As a child I did not have a good concept of money except for what I made cutting neighborhood’s lawns and delivering the local newspaper.
When I was a young teen my mother died and after that my dad had large amount of medical bills that needed paid, he also made sure the church got their share of his salary. At that time my Dad told me if I wanted to continue at my Catholic High School where I was a freshman, I would need to get a part time job to pay for my tuition. I still don’t know if it was because of money being tight or dad didn’t want me goofing around after class unsupervised because mom wasn’t around. I learned a lot about the value of money during that time.
In my 20s and most of my 30s I didn’t go to church with any regularity. When I did maybe a couple of bucks was given as an offering. John and I started to go to the Metropolitan Community Church, (MCC). I loved the church and eventually was giving my 10% and then some. They, like CGS were living on a couple large gift funds that people had left to the church. Of course, people gave but not nearly the amount needed. We lasted that way for about 8 years until we had to shut the doors it was a very sad day and I pray I will never have to repeat.
Here at CGS I fear we could be going in the same direction as MCC. We are different because there are a number of households at CGS that have the financial ability to give enough money to sustain the mission and the ministry of our church. We each just have to make the decision to give; to sustain with our dollars what we say we want in our church.
For example, I love that we want to remodel the men’s bathroom and make the kitchen more usable. However, I believe we should not begin a large project until we have the dollars to do so. In my opinion we have become too complacent with the funds we have. If we continue the way we are going, we could end up like MCC.
Please try giving more. You can try the 10%, if it hurts too much at first, start with a smaller percentage and maybe gradually work yourself up to 10%, or as my mom and dad would say “until it hurts.”
Or if you are already giving as much personal income as you can, maybe you can help us figure out ways to generate revenue with our valuable property. We have inherited a wonderful gift of property and facilities from God and our founders for generations to come, it can’t stop with us. With this wondrous gift comes daunting responsibility. I know I am very willing to help where I can, are you? To continue our mission, CGS needs each of us to contribute. With your and God’s help we will.
In God’s blessings
Merriam-Webster defines stewardship as the conducting, supervising or managing of something. The careful and responsible management of something entrusted in one’s care.
But what does stewardship mean in the Bible?
In the macro, it’s the same, but in managing all the resources bestowed upon us by God. And it is our responsibility as God's collaborators, to maintain and manage this gift. You can think of this as something we do at CGS through our ministries.
So how does our mission and vision relate to us being good stewards?
You know that our mission and ministries at CGS can only happen because of our spiritual will and financial gifts. These generous offerings are the resources that propel our mission. And yes, it is real money and time that help to provide our spiritual things!
As a follower of Jesus, shouldn’t it only be an "option" to give a financial gift?
Well ... the practice of generosity is a faith discipline. And, growing in generosity deepens our connection to Christ.
Proverbs 18:16 "A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great."
When we give, it is all about the community in which God created us to be active participants. As a community we lift each other up, and God knows we need each other. Giving, reminds us of God's great generosity and love for one and other.
Our financial contributions make a difference in the lives of so many people. As individuals that make up the CGS family, we seek spiritual growth and fulfillment, but also to make a difference in the world around us.
My own giving story happened in August, when Chapel of The Flowers contacted me to help settle the burial fees for a friend lost to cancer. I’d not been in much contact for the last few years, so it was a shock to me about her passing. The last time we had contact was a couple years prior when she needed financial assistance with her son’s funeral.
As sad as this situation was, and unplanned expenses for myself, I was glad and blessed in many ways to help. It was the right thing to do, and a freeing experience for me. I know both Judy and her son Lenny are now in a better place.
Giving can be a sacrifice for many in the congregation living on tight budgets, it takes us out of our comfort zone, it’s not easy, financially or giving of ourselves in other ways. Your time and energy can be a wonderful and rewarding way of tithing, supporting any of the CGS ministries. So maybe skip that latte, or movie night and put that bit of money or time into serving God.
We are all included in God's abundance. We are co-creators and stewards of that abundance. We are transforming lives, so let's share the good news of Jesus through our giving and proclaiming the abundance of God.
I pledge an extra $100.00 towards our 2020 budget goals and invite you to do the same if you are able.
By Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
One of the core strengths of most performing artists is a knack for near-shameless self-promotion. Thus, my social media feed is clogged with mostly actors, but also directors, musicians, and designers posting – not just when they have a show opening or running, but about the first rehearsal (“first day of school,” they call it), the announcement that they got hired for a project, or even when they simply audition for something (regardless if they get the gig or not). And like any good Insta-Twitter-Booker, the hashtags are copious: #actorslife #workingactor #blessed etc., etc., etc. As a producer and sometimes artist, I participate in these posts myself, albeit not without some reluctance.
Recently, someone posted a picture of a cast for an upcoming local production of a musical, taking a break at rehearsal. It was less promotion, more casual – just a group of people relaxing, bonding. And it was this photo, surrounded by carefully curated posts of “come see meeeeee in my shooooowww,” that created a small firestorm of controversy in the theatre community: in 2019, in the Bay Area, the entire cast was Caucasian.
More and more, theatre producers have been struggling with this topic, and in many ways, it is a reflection of a national conversation: as the population continues to diversify, how do you ensure that diversity is reflected in both your artists and your audiences? There’s a lot to unpack there: until the last 20 years or so, musical theatre had been mainly created by white men of privilege for an audience that largely reflected their worldview; thus, much of the work now considered “iconic” or “classic” didn’t speak to more diverse artists or audiences, and a vicious circle ensured that is only now truly beginning to be broken.
One of the show’s producers echoed a sentiment that I’ve heard before: they cast based on who shows up to audition – if only white people show up and/or are the best people for the roles, what are they supposed to do? (To be fair, this company has a solid record on diversity apart from this particular production.) It was a defensive stance that was not met kindly. Ultimately, the thread settled into a respectful and thoughtful discussion about what can be done moving forward. How can producers and directors be agents of change – to reach out, to embrace, to be active partners in making art accessible – and relevant – to all, rather than just opening the doors and hoping people come in? How can we do better?
I write all of this not to kvetch about my job, but I find it to be a useful parallel for the church today. As many in our congregation read the book “Dear Church,” the conversation is had about diversity and inclusiveness, and the struggle for equality and social justice in the ELCA and beyond. The call in that book is to not just open the doors, but for those of us inside those doors to walk outside into the world and be an active participant in God’s covenant – it is not enough for us to proclaim, welcome, and serve the same 100 people each Sunday. The modern church, much like musical theatre, is largely a construct of white men of privilege. Many millions of people, inside and outside of the church, have been both actively and passively marginalized by that construct. And while CGS can point to many successes in breaking that cycle, there is still a long way to go before all God’s children can truly feel like they are, in fact, all God’s children. How can we do better?
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.