Criminal Justice / Prison Reform

For I was hungry and you gave me food… I was in prison and you visited me . . . truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of My family, you did it to Me.  Matthew 25:36

One of the issues being addressed by our Church of the Palms Social Justice Action Team is criminal justice/prison reform. Can you imagine that just receiving a letter at mail call can make you feel special and give you hope for a second chance? Sharing a short letter with one of the women in the AZ State Prison Complex at Perryville lets her know that she is not forgotten.

Red Mountain United Methodist Church in Mesa has the Matthew 25:36 Prison Ministry that includes a pen pal program with women at Perryville. The letters may be short but offer encouragement, hope, and an opportunity to share one’s faith. Just this small interaction can make a difference in the possibility of staying out of prison once released. According to American Journal of Criminal Justice, the normal recidivism rate is 40%, but for people who have penpals, it is only 5%. What a gift! 

We are building a pen pal program here in the west valley at Dove of the Desert United Methodist Church in Glendale. If you are interested in finding out how you might be able to give hope to a woman at Perryville and hopefully start a program at COTP, please contact Nancy Nonini (member of our Social Justice Action Team) at nancy.nonini@cox.net.

Also, look for additional information in upcoming Sunday bulletins on this topic and other issues being addressed by the Church of the Palms Social Justice Action Team.

Seeking Justice through Prayer Action Love Ministry & Support (PALMS)

Ecumenical & Interreligious Retreat

September 3 – 6, 2019 at Chapel Rock Conference Center in Prescott

This year’s retreat will focus on:

  • God’s creation, the evolving universe, and how our traditions instruct us to interact with it.
  • Mysticism, angels, spirits, and their relevance in our individual lives and the lives of our traditions.
  • Interreligious dialogue, understanding, tolerance, and acceptance (brotherhood and sisterhood).

The Retreat includes 3 nights lodging, 3 dinners, 3 breakfasts, and 2 lunches in the cool pines of Prescott. The surroundings are beautiful, and the food is fantastic!  Our featured presenters (see below) are well respected members of their temple, churches and mosque communities. 

In times of extreme stress and polarization in our society it becomes increasingly important to come together as people from different faith traditions to develop a deeper understanding of others and inoculate ourselves against the fear and prejudice that is gripping so many people. Our presenters are well-known and respected in their respective faith traditions for seeking this end. This retreat is a great way to seek brother- and sisterhood and spend the hot late summer days in the beautiful cool pines of Prescott.

Rabbi Nina Perlmutter
Rabbi Emerita, Congregation Lev Shalom Faculty Emeritus, Yavapai College Adjunct Instructor, Prescott College

Rev. Michael G. Hegeman
PH.D, Princeton Theological Seminary Director, Fran Park Center for Faith Life at Pinnacle Presbyterian Church, Lecturer in Religion, Spirituality & Humanities

Imam Anas Hlayhel
Serving the southeast valley teaching and coaching Islamic self-help, Quran exegesis, and youth coaching. Contributing author to Muslim Matters, a popular Muslim blog in English.

Rev. Jim Alexander
Associate Pastor and Music Director, Church of the Palms UCC, Graduate of Grand Canyon University, Founding Artistic Director Valley Women’s Ensemble

Cost of the retreat this year is $295 per person (double occupancy). Extra charge of $65 for single occupancy rooms (limited available).

Complete the registration form for the retreat and return it promptly to Church of the Palms to guarantee your spot.

For more information contact Rev. Jim Alexander jim.alexander@thepalms.org.

Back-to-school is sooner than you think!

Our service to the homeless high school teens served by Hart Pantry dedicates July to gathering school supplies for back-to-school. Here’s the list being assembled:

backpacks
3-ring binders
filler paper (college ruled)
subject dividers
2-pocket folders
composition books
calculators
geometry kits (protractor, compass, ruler)
highlighters
erasers
glue sticks
planner
index cards

The collection deadline is July 31st.

Yes, It Takes a Village

One cannot miss hearing about the U.S. immigration problems—especially in Arizona—as information is on every news medium daily. Who are these immigrants? Why are they here? What is our responsibility for them?

Members of our Social Justice Team (SJT) have been involved in working with asylum seekers (asylees) at the Revolution Church in Tolleson. The Reverend Raul Salgado and his parishioners have been providing food; at least one or two nights’ shelter; showers; clothing and travel arrangements for these men, women and children who have been given approval to seek asylum. They are here upon acknowledgment of a legitimate fear of persecution and have been forced to flee their country because of that persecution, war, or violence. They are brought to this church, and many others in the Phoenix area, in preparation for their continued journey to a relative or friend while waiting for approval of asylum through the courts—which may take from 6 months to several years.

But who are they? Those that we have worked with are from mountain areas of Central America’s Golden Triangle—Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. 90% of those who seek shelter at Revolution Church are from Guatemala and 10% from Honduras. Most speak no English (or very little). They are single mothers and single fathers traveling with one or more children, including infants. They arrive in groups of 50 to 100 disheveled, in need of a shower, and hungry. It’s primarily members of that church who can communicate with them, but unfortunately, they are so very busy preparing food, finding clothing that fits, and arranging transportation to their next location, there is little time for just conversation. Our SJT has provided clothing and incidentals; sorted bags and boxes of clothing by size, gender and purpose; after the shower, searched for clothing that fits the recipient; served food; provided and packaged small packets of food to be taken with them on their next journey; and provided transportation to the airport or bus station.

But, we and about 50 of Rev. Selgado’s church members, are not the only ones who provide help. Volunteers from several churches and volunteer health workers check for fevers and provide meds as necessary while looking for any serious health problems. In addition, several retired doctors bring donuts for them.

Though we do not speak their language and they do not speak ours, it is evident that they proud, thankful for our help, and respond with smiles, hugs, and “gracias” (thank you) for all that is being done on their behalf. Those we have seen are loving towards their children The children are typical of those we all know—fun-loving, can’t resist a ball, and often cling close to their parent. Yes, it takes a village and more, it takes a nation to resolve this problem in a humanitarian way.

…inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. –Matthew 25:40

God willing, may we continue to be a part of the necessary village.

50th Anniversary celebrations update

Thank you for supporting the fundraising events hosted by the 50th Anniversary Committee.  Our events and donations have allowed us to construct the Labyrinths, add the Peace Pole, and have the beautiful lighted cross added to the sanctuary.  How blessed we are!

The goal of the Committee is not only to celebrate our past, but to embrace the future of Church of the Palms. It is the Committee’s hope that an Associate Pastor Endowment Fund can be created with the proceeds (after giving 20% to Mission).

There will be additional fundraising events in the fall. Our Harvest Fair on October 19th is one of the events,  but we are now gearing up for the culmination of our 50th Anniversary Celebration. Mark your calendars now for Sunday, November 3, 2019. Our worship service will begin at 9:30 that morning. The choir will perform a specially commissioned piece and there will be honored guests. Following worship, we will process to the Sun Dial Auditorium for a celebration luncheon.

We’re looking for sponsors to help make this day memorable. The cost will be about $3000.00 for table settings, programs, tickets, centerpieces, decorations, music, and more.  If you would like to donate, please make a check to COTP and in the memo put “celebration donation.”

We’re also looking for table sponsors:

A full table of 6 is $1000.00. This amount pays for 6 meals and 6 anniversary DVDs. As the sponsor, you’ll receive the centerpiece as well. You can use all 6 seats for you and your church friends, or donate some of the seats for members who could use financial assistance to attend. Payments of $250.00 in June, July, August, and September can be made. Please make your checks payable to COTP with table sponsor in the memo.  Attach a note with the number of seats you would like to donate.

A half table sponsorship of 3 seats for $500.00 is also available. Payments of $125.00 in June, July, August, and September can be made.

Contact a 50th Anniversary committee member if you have questions.

Letter of gratitude from HART Pantry

I wish to express my gratitude to your committee and your church for the 36 graduation gift cards you provided. They have been delivered to the schools and will be presented to the respective students at the time of their graduations.

Church of the Palms continues to step up and support our at-risk and homeless teens on a continuing basis, and I know from the school administrators that it is appreciated. As you know, we never know the names of our recipients, but they are made aware of who is helping them and they are grateful. Your desire to help HART Pantry is very important to us. We value your support of our mission to help homeless and at-risk teens in our local west valley high schools. Your donation is a major addition to our ability to keep providing extra student support to our kiddos.

We are aware that there are many good and responsible nonprofits in our community and we are humbled and blessed that you chose HART Pantry. Your continuing support of our youth is so important as they face the adult world; an education is necessary for them to prosper.

Thank you again; we are well aware that without the support of the Church of the Palms, our nonprofit would not function at the level we desire and need.

Sincerely,
Ruth H. Langford, Executive Director

HART Pantry

Community labyrinths

Come walk, pray, reflect, and return to the world, different.

We have created two labyrinths, recognizing the diversity that is embedded in our church and community. One is long, and one is short; please make use of both. The longer one will follow the traditional meandering path that has been used for centuries. Recognizing that that path is simply too far for some, a second labyrinth was designed to meet the needs of those who require the assistance of walkers.

The beautiful new peace pole, created by metal artist Dawn Delaney, is installed in our large labyrinth! Its solar panels will enable it to glow from within at night.

We hope this tool for meditation and reflection can help all of us find meaning right here, right now, in our lives. We invite and welcome all in the community beyond our doors to experience this spiritual practice.

Church of the Palms UCC peace pole and labyrinth

 

 

 

 

 

The Labyrinths at The Palms dedication plaque the peace pole at The Labyrinths at The PalmsThank you to Max Klinkenborg for coordinating this project and to the many volunteers who came to build it.

image credits: Rev. Paul A. Whitlock, Senior Pastor, Church of the Palms UCC, and Nancy Tsuchiya

Thank You for Being the Church: Benefits of a Rummage Sale

Church of the Palms lives its mission statement: “Sharing God’s Unconditional Love, Justice and Extravagant Welcome.” This is evident in many ways, but no more so then in the Rummage Sale. What are the benefits of all that hard work and who really benefits from a Church of the Palms Rummage Sale? Here are some of the beneficiaries: New Life Shelter (domestic violence victims), HART Pantry (homeless teens), Justa Center (homeless seniors), Disabled Veterans, Downtown Phoenix homeless shelter, Solutions Church (African refugees), Asylum Seekers from Central America, CASA, Navajo Reservation, Children First Academy, Charity Recycling (supporting Boys & Girls Clubs). Oh, by the way, don’t forget: 20% of the proceeds of the sale go to our Board of Mission and Outreach and all the other organizations they support.

But what are the direct benefits to the Church of the Palms? The Rummage Sale, like our Community Thanksgiving Dinner, allows us to “Be the Church.” These events build and strengthen the sense of community that permeates the fabric of our church. These activities help us make new friends and build relationships. But what about the money? Well, 80% of the $19,000 in sale proceeds, or about $15,000 this sale, stays with our church and is used to maintain and improve the building in which we all gather to worship God and share fellowship experiences together.

Oh, it’s just a rummage sale. Hardly!! Thanks to the “donaters,” the workers, the buyers. We love you all!!

Lifelong Learning – Mondays

Your Board of Lifelong Learning is beginning a new class for those of you who are wondering what it is that we call “Progressive Christianity” and/or might be questioning the things you were taught as a youngster. What are we “supposed” to believe? Would you like to explore all those questions you have with others who are asking similar questions? If so, you are invited to attend our new class offering, “LIVING THE QUESTIONS.”

This class will be taught by Linette Stenberg beginning May 6 and will have 12 sessions. It is scheduled for Monday afternoons from 1 to 2:30 pm. We will watch and discuss the presentations on the DVD “Living the Questions” You will receive a handout packet of information about the content of the DVD and a bibliography of books that might interest you.

It’s a Long Road

Volunteers from Church of the Palms and Dove of the Desert UMC ( 14 thus far) are continuing to travel weekly to the host church in Tolleson (about 20 minutes away) where 150 asylum seekers are dropped off each Monday and Tuesday. We sort clothing to provide a clean set of clothes after the visitors have had a shower – usually their first in several days. We also package snack items for onward travel which are given to each traveler. On occasion, we will help serve a meal. Drivers from our church use the church bus to take groups to the bus depot or airport for their onward travel. We do whatever is needed.

As you may recall, from last month’s article, the hosting church has a very small space in which to welcome 100 people. One of the things on their “wish list” was a large tent in which they could feed the visitors, and offer some protection from extreme heat and cold. We wrote a grant to the national United Church of Christ offices for assistance in paying for such a purchase. The grant was funded and a 30’x50’ tent has now been erected in back of the smaller building.

There is no sign that we are at the end of this journey. So, If you’d like to travel with us, please come. We guarantee you will meet inspiring, and faith-filled people. We carpool from our church in groups of three to six each Monday and Tuesday. Our current schedule is Mondays, 10:00 – 1:30 and Tuesdays, 9:30 – 2:00. If we can place you on a regular schedule (weekly, bi-monthly, monthly etc.) that helps us to let the host church know how many will be coming to assist. Please contact Kurt or Linda Hoffman (KoH39@hotmail.com) to indicate your interest)

In addition, there is a box in the narthex labeled “Donations for Asylum Seekers.” If you wish to contribute, any of the items listed below are welcome:

Clothing for men, women, children, and infants in sizes small and medium ONLY:
Tops (t-shirts, short sleeve tops, sweaters, jackets, shoes, pants / slacks
New underwear and socks for men, women, and children (again, smaller sizes)
Please NO large or extra large sizes, no dresses or skirts

Staples:
toilet paper
paper plates
utensils
styrofoam cups

Hygiene items:
toothbrushes
toothpaste
soap
shampoo

Food / snack items individually wrapped:
cheese or peanut butter crackers
applesauce cups
bottled water

As our friend Daoud Nassar from Tent of Nations outside of Bethlehem in the West Bank of Palestine says: “The road seeking justice for all is a long one.” There is no guarantee that we will see the end of the road, only that God will walk with us.