The Joy of Worship

The late Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist for racial justice and LGBTQIA+ rights and former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town was known as a person of deep joy. In fact, Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama co-authored The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World as they reflected on a spirituality of deep joy in the face of the violence and oppression.

Last week we began our new series, The Heart of Worship, and we considered the real presence of Christ available to us in corporate worship, especially when we gather for Communion. This coming Sunday, we will consider how that encounter can ground us in a deep and lasting joy. This joy is not a circumstantial happiness, nor one that ignores the suffering of the world, but rather one that can root and empower us during changing circumstances. Join us as we explore the joy of worship.

I hope to see you this Sunday, in-person and online!

Alongside you,

Re. Paul Ortiz

The Heart of Worship

What does it mean to be in awe of something or Someone outside of ourselves? How does coming together as a spiritual community to worship on Sunday mornings make a difference in our lives and in the world? During this time of transition, as our church searches for a new Worship Leader, we will take time to reflect on the heart and meaning of worship. Join us Sundays, Sep 4th – Oct 9th, in-person or online!

Worship Leader Search Team

Kindred in Christ,

I’m excited to introduce to you the search team for our future Worship Leader! These are the folks that will prayerfully discern a candidate to lead us in song and worship in the near future. Starting on the top left in the picture above, please meet: Jemina Marasigan, Kirsten Yellin, Keith Eisenbrey, myself (Pastor Paul Ortiz), Joey Chin, Kim Chin, Sharon Fisher, Doug Seto, and Jillian Pyle.

I truly believe that the emergence of our church’s future lies in the spaces where long time members and new folks to the church come together to share power with one another in creative openness to the leading of the Spirit. This holy practice of sharing power has led us to make meaningful steps forward in the past, such as updating our name to University Gathering UMC to better reflect who we are being called to be in the present.

You are invited to be part of this process, too! Firstly, join us for our new sermon series, The Heart of Worship, where we will explore what it means to “worship” God, and the difference it makes in our lives and in the world. Secondly, read over the job description for our new Worship Leader position and hold it in prayer with us. And finally, please fill out The Worship Leader Survey to share some of your thoughts and hopes with the search team and be part of this important communal discernment.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz

Lift Up Holy Hands

Kindred in Christ,

My ministry coach, Beth Estock, who is also the co-author of Weird Church: Welcome to the 21st Century, has influenced me to practice embodied prayers. As a way of growing from a posture where I was often swayed too easily by the fleeting circumstances of life (which is something I identified I wanted to work on), she offered me the imagery of The Way of the Grounded Oak Tree. The Oak Tree, Beth reminded me, is an intricate part of the rest of the forest life, deeply rooted among its fellow trees and connected to all living things simply by its being. It can weather a storm and is not easily moved, for it is deeply connected to the earth and its true value.

More than reflecting on this concept in my head, Beth offered me a somatic prayer practice where a few times a week I stand in wide legged mountain pose. Ground myself in the earth and feel my feet rooted in the ground and imagine power rising up through my body. I raise my arms up over my head in v shape to the sky and imagine I am drinking in the light and love of the universe.

At first, I found this practice to be weird and slightly uncomfortable. But the more I practiced it, the more I experienced freedom on a bodily level. This eventually translated into freedom in my emotions, mind, and spirit.

Last week we were joined by our friends from Acts on Stage and Townsend school of Music and Arts for our first Sunday in our worship collaboration series. We were led to practice worship in ways that are new and more embodied to some. Yet witnessing our hands raising and clapping, people dancing, and experiencing the energy and joy in our worship space, I know that we are being led to greater freedom. Freedom from the things that have kept our church and ourselves from being fully alive in the present moment. And freedom to Choose the Change God is offering us to make for the sake of relevant ministry in the U District.

I invite you to join us in-person this coming Sunday as we continue to explore the change God is calling us into and discern new ways to worship God together.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz

Choosing Change

Kindred in Christ,

I am very excited to partner with Acts on Stage and Townsend School of Music & Arts, for our upcoming worship series Choosing Change. Often, we only think of change as something that is thrusted upon our ordinary, unchanging lives. But the truth is that change is the only real constant to our lives. And God is inviting us to choose the change that will bring greater flourishing for us and our neighbors in the particular time and place we find ourselves in.

Not only will we be reflecting on a spirituality of change-making, but our collaborators will help bring innovation and change to our regular Sunday worship. I hope you will join us in-person during the weeks in July, as we explore and participate in the change God is calling us to make in ourselves, our church, and the world.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz