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

Gratitude from Molly

 

Change and transitions are an inevitable experience of life and they come with mixed emotions. Fear and hesitation, the “what if’s” and the excitement of the unknown, of something new or different. I think back to when my friend, Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber reached out to me in February, asking me if I needed an internship gig for seminary. He said he could connect me with a church in Portland, Seattle, or Alaska. After the initial excitement of an opportunity to go to the Pacific Northwest, I started to question myself and my abilities to work for a church. I was in a place mentally and spiritually where I was taking a break from church and organized religion. I know that sounds ironic coming from a seminary student, but I knew I needed space as I was healing from church hurt. I was also in the process of deconstructing and trying to reconstruct my own faith.

Because of schedules and life circumstances, Dr. Barber and I didn’t reconnect about the internship until May. At this point, I had already told myself that my summer in Seattle would not happen this year. I told myself I would be in a better place spiritually and emotionally to work with a church next summer. Apparently God had other plans for me. On June 8th I had a zoom call with Dr. Barber, Dr. Jess Bielman, and Pastor Paul. That call put everything in motion. It was just a matter of finding a place for me to stay and getting a flight to Seattle. A month later I would be boarding a plane.

The four weeks in between that zoom call and getting on the plane, I went through all the emotions. First was the excitement for the adventure and working with a church who had queer folks like myself in leadership and being able to go to Seattle, a place I’ve wanted to go to for years. Then there was the fear of ‘Am I going to make friends while I’m there?’ (Community has always been really important to me!) Will I live up to the expectations of Pastor Paul? (not that he had put any on me; I put them on myself. Darn perfectionism creeping in.) What will I be able to contribute to this ministry in just six weeks? Preaching scares me, and facilitating small groups hasn’t always gone well for me. I was up for the adventure, though, and I was willing to say yes.

These past six weeks I have learned a lot about myself and a lot from you all. I am grateful for the way you all have embraced me. I’m grateful for the words of encouragement and constructive feedback to help me grow as a preacher, a leader and a person. I learned that I actually like preaching, it’s not as scary as I thought it would be. I have been a part of leading two small group sessions and I have really enjoyed that. I was reminded of my love for writing and being able to share my thoughts and ideas. I have also felt really connected to the community here. In many ways I feel like I am just getting to know you individually and as a church community. I am sad to have to say “goodbye for now” but I am looking forward to the time we will reconnect.

I am grateful to have been a part of this church community at this moment in time– a time of transition and change for your community. I’ve been able to witness and be a part of the way you all have come together in thinking about where the church has been in the past, where it currently is, and your hopes and dreams for the future. I know this can be a time of mixed emotions as well, but I have witnessed y’all embracing those feelings and emotions and saying “yes” to where God is leading you as a congregation. I encourage you to continue to trust the process. Trust God, Pastor Paul, and each other as you go through this time of change and growth and embrace the adventure of the unknown.  I look forward to seeing where y’all are next summer, as my plan and hope is to return and continue in ministry with University Gathering.

With sincerest gratitude,

Molly Collier

Finding Equilibrium

“Hope and fear is a feeling with two sides. As long as there’s one, there’s always the other. …Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a feeling of poverty.”  -Pema Chodron.

Friends,

I write to you today at the beginning of a new month and in a moment of transition for our church. Summer is winding down. Kids will be getting ready to go back to school soon and programming will pick up at a steadier pace.  We have just come off of a month collaborating with Acts on Stage and Townsend School of Music in a worship “experiment” that was a welcome collaboration by some and others may have felt a little hesitant. Looking back on the month and the experience, I think we learned a lot as a congregation. Some of you may be wondering where we go from here. What happens next?

I imagine there are hopes of what a changing worship style might look like but as the quote by Pema Chodron says, if there is hope there will also be fear. I have found in my own life, that in moments of transition and change, I have often felt the feeling of hope and excitement for what could be but also the fear of the unknown. As Chodron says, “Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a feeling of poverty.” ‘What are we lacking?’ you may be asking yourself. As we move through these moments of transition, Pastor Paul and I will be preaching and teaching on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral suggests that we are most fully alive when we are equally informed by scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. As congregations and individuals, we may lean more heavily on one or two parts of the quadrilateral and be lacking in other areas. Join us, in person or online, the next four Sundays as we learn how we can use all parts of the quadrilateral to inform our spiritual lives as individuals and a church community. Having a balance in all four areas will help us as we move forward as a church, into the changes God is calling us to.

In Christ,

Molly Collier