The Rules Change This Sunday

We’re back this week! The CDC has lifted much of the protocols for in-person worship — we can return to what we know and love. I’m excited, nervous, and a little scared. Just when we figured out how to operate under the terms of a pandemic, the rules changed, and we’re needing to adjust our sails!

This Sunday, June 20, masks will not be required in worship for people who have been vaccinated. Singing out loud will be allowed, too. Social distancing is reduced. You can sit where you want to sit.

All along I have said that we will not follow what a president or governor says but rather we will listen to the CDC. Well, the CDC has spoken. It is written down. And vaccinated people can return to normal practices within worship.

So, come as you are this Sunday — even if you’re like me and are excited, nervous, and a little scared. If you feel that you need to continue to wear a mask, you’ll get no negative judgment. Do what makes you feel safe. The Palms is a no-judgment zone! Sing out loud! Be the church!

Shalom, Paul

P.S. Last week I mentioned my top ten plus three list. A couple of you reminded me of other big, big things that deserve mention: 

  1. Our 50th anniversary celebration
  2. Creation of our Labyrinths
  3. Our chiller (a/c unit for the sanctuary, narthex, and King Hall)

So now, I guess, it’s a top ten plus six! It is wonderful to be a part of a congregation where there is so much going on that it’s hard to recall everything!

5th anniversary as Senior Pastor

This past week marked my 5th anniversary as Senior Pastor at The Palms. Thank you for all of the patience you have shown me – thank you for the grace you have demonstrated. Thank you for the love and support you have shown my family.

As I have reflected over this anniversary…

I am amazed at the ministry God has done with us – it’s not you or me – but God’s Spirit working through us.

Here’s a top ten (plus three) list (in no particular order) of highlights for me.

  1. The ordinations of Pastor Jim, Debby, and Shea!
  2. Bringing on Pastor Jim full-time!
  3. Solar Panels / Creation Justice Team!
  4. New organ!
  5. New doors and security system!
  6. Feet-N-More Shower Trailer!
  7. Flying the Rainbow Flag!
  8. Redoing the sign!
  9. I-Help Program!
  10. Becoming a WISE Congregation!
  11. Doubling our endowments!
  12. Social Justice Ministry!
  13. Leading the SWC in new members!

 And so many, many more!

That’s being the church!  Good job, Church of the Palms. I am so very proud of you. Now, what will the next five years bring?

Shalom, Paul     

Second Shower Trailer Site Begins in June

by Max Klinkenborg, Feet-N-More Shower Ministry

Beginning Wednesday, June 16th, FEET-N-MORE, the shower trailer ministry of Church of the Palms, will be providing showers at Santa Teresita Catholic Church in El Mirage. At the invitation of St. Vincent de Paul’s food distribution and feeding program at Santa Teresita, we will be there from 9:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of each month.

In addition to the feeding program, Circle the City, a mobile provider of healthcare, will also be at Santa Teresita on Wednesdays. The multiple offering of services to the homeless and poor will complement each other, as we all reach out to the community. With this location in El Mirage, in addition to Surprise on the second and fourth Tuesdays, we will be able to offer a shower to the homeless every week.

To launch FEET-N-MORE in El Mirage, the Christian Restoration Center in El Mirage with Pastor Larry Quilon will be helping with the expenses of the trailer. Pastor Larry has been a faithful volunteer at the Salvation Army Church when the shower trailer is there.

We are delighted to be entering into new ministry relationships with St. Vincent de Paul, Santa Teresita Catholic Church and Christian Restoration Center to serve needs within the City of El Mirage.

FEET-N-MORE to Serve June 19th at ‘Day of Freedom’ in Tempe

Day of Freedom is an annual event in the Valley on “Juneteenth,” celebrating the end of slavery in the United States and commemorating African-American freedom. Juneteenth is a state holiday in several states and is also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day.

The event will be held at the Tempe Corps Salvation Army and is to be a celebration with our neighbors in need. In addition to our shower trailer, there will be haircuts, COVID vaccinations, food, clothes, HIV testing, Hepatitis C testing, hygiene packs and entertainment.

The event will be on Saturday, June 19th from 7:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. at the Tempe Corps Salvation Army, 40 E. University Drive in Tempe.

Injustice In Our Justice System: The Stories of Mass Incarceration

by Nancy Nonini, Social Justice Action Team—Criminal Justice

Following Pastor Jim’s sermon on “The Facts vs. The Stories” about Jesus’ Resurrection, we’d like to follow up on our presentation on the facts of Mass Incarceration with some stories. One story is about someone who was wrongly convicted, but served over 14 years in prison. One story is about someone who served an inordinately long sentence for a relatively minor case of shoplifting. One story is about how incredibly young we start the School-to-Prison Pipeline. These are all Arizona stories.

As Christians, we are called to right these injustices. According to the UCC: “In the lives and faces of those who fall into the criminal justice system, we encounter Christ, even in the midst of profound brokenness. We are challenged to seek out the image of God in this complex and challenging context… Because we are followers of Jesus, we are called to be present as ambassadors of healing, restoration and justice in jail cells, courtrooms, booking rooms, prison yards and detention centers.”

Please join us for these stories and what we can do to decrease the Injustice In Our Justice System at Breakfast in Your PJs on Tuesday, June 15, from 8:30-9:30 a.m. This event is online at our Bridges page.

Awakening Racial Injustice: Arizona Indigenous Tribes

By Nancee Noel

Having lived in Arizona for 16 years, I am surprised how little acknowledgement and attention is given to the many indigenous people who also inhabit our state. There are actually 22 federally recognized tribes in Arizona. That’s a lot of people!

I won’t try to name the tribes, as anyone interested can Google that.

With the media emphasizing systemic white privilege and racial biases, indigenous people are gaining more political power necessary to deal with their issues. Many rural homes on the Navajo reservation do not have running water due to the difficulties and expenses of getting water to them in the desert area they inhabit. Not only is it a physical desert, but also a food desert with most people having access only to the gas station groceries. This means limited availability of fresh produce.

There is a great need for attention to infrastructure, including internet which is unavailable to many. Cases regarding the disappearance of indigenous women and girls often go unsolved. Still, the nations are making progress.

When the 116th Congress convened, it had four Native Americans which, from what I was able to find, is the largest number of native peoples ever in the U.S. Congress. For the first time in our history, a native person, Deb Haaland, is head of the Department of Interior. Arizona native peoples’ votes in the 2020 election were instrumental in turning AZ blue. Some had to drive 100 miles to cast their vote. Now, Arizona voter repression bills are making it even harder for them to vote. When COVID-19 struck, the native population was hard hit. However, according to the Navajo Nation President, Jonathan Nez, lockdown and mandated mask wearing stopped it in its tracks.

Native Peoples need all of us to get behind them. As Billie Fidlin, founder and president of Whisper N’ Thunder states, “To be the best ally, we take our lead from Indigenous elders.”

In October of 2020, the Southwest Conference passed a resolution to create an “Awakening of Racial Injustice” on the part of member congregations and individuals of our respective congregations. Soon thereafter the Church of the Palms Church Council adopted the 15 steps to increase the awakening of racial injustice. One of those steps is to “Provide information about, and the impact of racism on Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, through newsletter articles.” The article above was written by Nancee Noel, a part of our Social Justice Action Team and member of West Valley Center for Spiritual Living. Look for more articles addressing this topic in future Palm Leaf editions.

Social Justice Action Team—Criminal Justice hosts Breakfast in Your PJs

Tuesday, June 15, 8:30–9:30 am

Arizonans serve 40-percent longer sentences for drug crimes and twice the national average for nonviolent property crimes. These long sentences are not making Arizona any safer. Please join us for some of these Arizona stories and ideas on what we can do to decrease the Injustice In Our Justice System: The Stories of Mass Incarceration.

Breakfast in Your PJs is a Zoom-based presentation and can be accessed online HERE.

Hymn for Summer 2021

One of my favorite hymns is “I Am the Light of the World!” which is based on a Howard Thurman piece entitled, “When the Song of the Angels is Stilled.”

Here is my Summer 2021 version.

When the protocols have been stopped,
When the masks are taken down,
When family and friends can gather again,
The work of The Palms resounds:
          To welcome the refugee,
          To heal a broken planet,
          To feed the hungry,
          To build bridges of trust, not walls of fear,
          To share our gifts,
          To seek justice and peace for all people,
          To bring Christ’s light to the world.

Shalom, Paul      

W.I.S.E. in June

by Pastor Jim Alexander

June 2021 promises to be a month of continued healing and hope as we emerge from quarantine and return to in-person learning opportunities and worship at The Palms. There is excitement and joy as we do so. But, there is also a bit of anxiety and nervousness, too.

When you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed or overcome by the stress that the “return to a new normal” may bring, there are members of our WISE Mental Wellness First Aid Team standing ready to assist. They can be identified in the wearing of buttons as pictured above. This Team, along with Pastor Jim can provide a wide variety of tools and information that may bring relief and assurance that no one is alone on this journey. You will also find various Tools2Thrive materials available on the website.

Another Tool2Thrive beginning in June and lasting through this summer will be a meaningful devotional series presented by Kay Klinkenborg. Exploring Meditations for the Lazy Hazy Days of Summer is an immersion into Lectio Divina, Lectio Visual, and Lectio Musica. Video and Audio versions, along with printed materials, will be posted on our website and found in the Summer Devotions tab. A new devotion will be posted each week, with the idea that participants will practice and grow within each type of meditation that is presented. Each week within our June Order of Worship pages, you will find information regarding PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and PTRS (Post–Traumatic Racism Syndrome). It is important to recognize that trauma comes in many different forms. People with differing backgrounds experience symptoms associated with PTSD and PTRS above and beyond the general stresses of living in these days. Included in this series will be articles written by Kay, where she will provide her insights on the long-term impact this type of stress is having on our black and indigenous brothers and sisters. Andrea Stefanov will also have an article summarizing the history of Juneteeth.

Another highlight during the month will come as we observe Open and Affirming Sunday, June 27th. As a part of the day, Rev. Erika Allison, queer interfaith minister, spiritual counselor and author will share her story of recovery from conversion therapy. Rev. Erika’s book, Gay the Pray Away, is available now on Amazon.com. Conversion/ reparative therapy is based on the premise that homosexuality and same-sex attraction is a mental disorder, abnormal, or somehow unhealthy. If you or someone you know has been subjected to the harmful effects of reparative or conversion therapy, you may find the book, Rev. Erika’s printed article and video presentations helpful. These Tools2Thrive will be accessible during our OnLine worship service on 6-27-2021, in our Tools2Thrive page of the website. Pastor Jim also has several copies of Gay the Pray Away available for you to check out.

Finally, Pastor Jim will be attending (virtually) the Mental Health America 2021 Annual Conference from June 10-12. The theme this year is From Resiliency to Recovery. He will bring back helpful tools and tips related to:

  • How our faith community can address lingering mental wellness challenges after a pandemic
  • How our faith community can engage in the lives of those who experience mental health trauma
  • How our faith community can engage in meaningful mental wellness ministry of marginalized people
  • How our faith community can support and empower the caregivers of those who suffer from mental wellness crises

Thank you for your support and encouragement as we continue to become a WISE Congregation for Mental Wellness. If you are interested in joining the WISE Steering Committee, please contact Pastor Jim at 623.792.5295.

Congratulations, Shea!

Shea Darian is excited to announce that she has accepted a chaplain position at Phoenix Children’s Hospital beginning June 1st. Shea’s ordination is set for Sunday, June 27, 3:00 p.m., at Church of the Palms.

She has blessed this congregation through her grief counseling, her leadership in song and spoken word, and in her kind and gentle spirit. She is a gift to this world.

Read more about Shea’s ministry at sheadarianmdiv.com.

Due to Southwest Conference guidelines for conference events during the Covid-19 pandemic, attendance may be limited. Registration is required on a first come-first served basis. We will confirm your reservation with you before June 27. Register now at this link OR call our registration line at 623.748.3574. Thank you!

In-Person worship: Next steps

By John Durbin, COTP Moderator

The team helping us navigate the road to as much normalcy as possible as the pandemic subsides met May 23 after Sunday worship. Here is what they are requesting:

  1. This is not a time to be complacent. Remain cautious in your interactions with people whose vaccination status is unknown.
  2. If you are not vaccinated, please consider doing so. Contact Judy Jondahl, Steve Meoli or Bobbie Chapman for assistance if needed.
  3. Worship service in the sanctuary:
  • You no longer need to preregister your attendance for Sunday service.
  • Continue to wear your mask.
  • Follow the directions of the ushers. The entrance and exit patterns have been slightly changed.
  • No more need to take temperatures.
  • Hand washing stations are now optional.
  • Responsive readings can be done. But please speak very softly.
  • No congregational singing yet. But that day is coming!
  • Follow the directions of the ushers. After service, please do not linger in the narthex.
  • Please no handshakes or hugs. But that day is coming!
  • There will be no fellowship hour in King Hall for the immediate future. But that day is coming!
  • Remember to follow the directions of the ushers!

As a church family we have done well throughout this unprecedented time in our lives. Thank you for your faithfulness, thoughtfulness, and patience. We are a stronger church now than we were seventeen months ago.