Observations of Easter

I confess to having many sleepless nights leading up to Easter morn. The “what if” detail questions kept bubbling to the surface. What if this…what if that? Then there were the “will the” questions. Will the set up go smoothly? Will people actually show up willing to sit outside in the sun? Will the visitors find a welcome place to gather? The answers were clearly: Yes! Yes! And Yes! It was a wonderful day to be on the church grounds.
 
Because we are a resurrection people, quarantine didn’t break our church, but it taught us (again) to lose our fear and go up on the roof and out into the streets with our ministry and mission.
 
It taught us…Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed!
 
Shalom, Paul

The stone is rolling away!

I have literally been waiting for this moment for a year! It broke my heart to have to go from in-person worship to video; I know you join me in missing our in-person gatherings. I truly believe that I will never, ever, take for granted the blessing of being able to gather in our sanctuary! The good news is that we are almost at the end of our extended stay of being locked in the tomb. The stone is rolling away this Easter!

I am so excited to be able to gather for in-person worship on Easter Sunday. We will gather for worship outside on the patio by the fountain for a 9 a.m. worship, which will be less than 45 minutes in length.

We’ll gather, but we still do need to observe some protocols. Mask up. Please refrain from hugging, etc. The church is also a “No Judgment Zone.” That is, we respect the decisions that individuals will be making for their own safety. Some may, for example, need to stay home for a while longer. We want people to make up their own minds on what best fits their health and safety needs – and then feel good about that decision. Whenever you make it back, I hope you can rejoice with me!

Check out these other Holy Week Worship Opportunities:

  • Maundy Thursday, April 1 on our Bridges platform on the webpage. Our sister congregations of Desert Garden UCC, Sun City Christian DOC, and United Church UCC will be joining us. It will be available starting at noon and be up for your watching anytime on Thursday.
  • Good Friday, April 2 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Labyrinth Walk. Outside at our labyrinths. Easter Sunday, April 4 at 9 a.m. In-person worship at the fountain patio. Call by April 1st for reservations at 623.748.3574. or click on this link.
  • What will the Sundays after Easter look like? I don’t know exactly. But I am glad to be journeying with you. See you soon!

Shalom, Paul

It is an exciting time for us at The Palms

It is an exciting time for us at The Palms. Before we rush head on into the joyous celebrations of Easter, let’s pause and reflect why we have Easter in the first place.

At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us a mandate to love one another. Then washed the feet of the disciples. Soon afterwards, he was broken. We will journey with him in our Maundy Thursday service in which we are honored to host Desert Garden UCC, Sun City Christian, DOC, and United Church UCC and their leadership. Today, April 1, at noon, a worship service will be available on our website. It will move from the Last Supper to Jesus’ praying, arrest, trial, and crucifixion. I hope you make a special effort to watch it.

Then, on Good Friday, April 2, from 1 to 3 p.m. we invite people to come and walk our labyrinths, meditate, reflect, and pray.

Easter Sunday will happen outside around the fountain patio at 9:00 a.m. Visit the website to register or call the church office and let us know that you are coming. While here, please wear your mask and observe social distancing.

It is an exciting time for us at The Palms.

Shalom, Paul

It is the right thing to do

It is the right thing to do.

The sun is beginning to shine more and more these days. As our temperatures rise, so do our electric bills for cooling down the building. But this year will be different at The Palms.

It is the right thing to do.

We started with just a dream – to lower our carbon footprint not only as individuals but as a church. Folks gathered to discuss how we could bring into action one of our three great loves: love of creation. After inspecting the building, having an energy audit, and conversations on the topic, a plan began to emerge. It was just a dream – a dream blessed by God – seed money was donated to be able to put the dream into action: $50,000. That gift will cover approximately one-half of the costs. Now, the light shines on the rest of us to finish the dream. We’re off to a good start. As of this writing, we have raised $12,000 bringing the total to $62,000. 

It is the right thing to do.

Whether your gift is large or small, it is going to take all of us doing our part to make this happen. I hope you can join us in this ministry.

It is the right thing to do.

Shalom, Paul

This list is astounding

It is not when it is smooth sailing that our merit is tested, but rather when things are falling apart. We are approaching the one-year mark of the quarantine and no in-person worship at The Palms. And this anniversary I give thanks for you and the ministry you have done, are doing, and will do!

A colleague recently asked me what The Palms had done during quarantine, adding they felt their church hadn’t done much. As I look back, I was astounded at all that God has done through us at The Palms this past year…

  • Installed camera equipment for videoing worship
  • Added a third screen in the sanctuary – one dedicated for those leading worship
  • Produced Social Justice videos on BLM
  • Bought a sanitizing machine for when we return
  • Purchased a shower trailer and contracted with multiple municipalities for its use to help the homeless
  • Installed a new organ
  • Expanded our prison ministry
  • Install new doors on both sides of the narthex
  • Redid the storage doors in King Hall
  • Adapted our in-person Thanksgiving feast to $4600 in feeding the hungry of our community
  • Fortified our electronic giving
  • Installed new doors for the office / King Hall entrance
  • Became a Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, Engaged (W.I.S.E.) Congregation for Mental Wellness
  • Added new members
  • Installed a new security system
  • Ordained Debby Stinton
  • Secured a gift to reduce our carbon footprint by adding solar panels
  • Held more Life-Long Learning classes than ever
  • Installed a washer/dryer at the church
  • Gave more money to charity than recent years
  • Maintain our I-Help ministry
  • Help register people for their Covid-19 shots
  • Supported Shea Darian towards her ordination
  • Built our website up to allow winter friends and others to watch our worship and attend our meetings and learning opportunities in a safe environment no matter where they reside
  • Plus a whole lot more!

Wow! Review that list. I’m sure I forgot something! It’s been an amazing spirit-filled year of being The Palms of Jesus! I would have been thrilled in a non-pandemic year to have the church do those things. We did them in a pandemic. When things fell apart, you were The Palms. Thank you for your ministry (your gifts of time, talent, and treasure) which makes it all possible.

Shalom, Paul

Need help getting your vaccine?

I consider myself a competent human being…most of the time! I recently encountered a situation with which I struggled. I couldn’t handle the registration process of the Covid-19 shot forms. I had to ask for help. Maybe you can relate with my struggles.
 
Three people within our congregation stepped forward to help individuals like me get registered – literally dozens of folks have already been helped. Sometimes the caring took the form of managing the computer registration or providing transportation for one or both shots, or just a sympathetic ear to listen. I am proud of these individuals within our congregation and others who are making this a kinder, gentler world. Thanks for being part of the resolution Judy, Steve, and Bobbi and others. Thanks for being the face of the church.
 
If you need help managing the computer part of registration, or need help in transportation, or need a listening ear, call the church office and we’ll be glad to recommend a caring soul in your time of need.
 
 Shalom, Paul

How we express our love of creation

Love of creation is part of the “3 Great Loves” that our denomination is focusing upon. Can you name the other two? Right: neighbor and children. Much of our efforts these last couple of years has focused on love of neighbor. We are to love thy black, poor, differently-abled, immigrant, Islamic, and atheist neighbor. Much of our social justice ministry has been designated to loving the diverse people around our church and in the surrounding metropolitan area. That love includes children with our ministry with the Hart Pantry and others. We hope to continue with our involvement in these important ministries.

This year, we’ll be paying attention to our love of creation. How can we be better stewards of our natural resources on our journey through life? That takes many forms—from recycling to walking the labyrinth to putting solar panels on our roof. If you’re interested in creation justice, we have a group that is challenging us to new and exciting ministry opportunities: Our Creation Justice Task Force. They’re always looking for new people to help turn dreams into action and honor creation.

Shalom, Paul

It’s Been One Year

March 22 marks the one year anniversary. Some anniversaries are celebrated joyfully with cake, cards, and presents. Others are remembered quietly, somberly, with great reverence. This anniversary falls to the latter. March 22, 2020, we did not meet in our sanctuary (God’s house) for worship at The Palms; we started videoing our worship because it was not safe to worship in-person for large groups. It’s been one year.

I think I can say without reservation that it has been one of the most challenging years of my life – professionally and personally. Who would have thought it would go on this long? Who could have anticipated the sacrifices people made! Who could have imagined the death toll?

The year apart from in-person gatherings goes beyond worship and church – It crossed over into personal: No graduation ceremony for Ruthie; no birthday celebrations for me or Wendy; no family reunion and 70th wedding anniversary for my parents; no trip to see my out-of-state kids; no funeral gathering for my uncle Paul and then my father; no 30th anniversary celebration of my ordination. More times than I can count, I have felt deprived, longing to reconnect, and broken this year.

This past year has broken many things – but not your church! For I have also felt inspired by the teamwork from my colleagues on staff and the lay leadership at The Palms. I have been amazed at the faithfulness at our membership giving of time, talent, and treasure. Our mission of sharing God’s unconditional love, justice, and extravagant welcome didn’t stay locked within the sanctuary but went out on the streets. We adjusted our sails and God blessed us with a year full of ministry opportunities.

The lectionary text that first Sunday that worship went to video was Psalm 23 – arguably the best known of all the Hebrew scriptures. We have walked that valley of shadows and death this past year. We have not pitched our tent intending to stay but rather are on a journey THROUGH this valley of deep shadows. We shall continue our journey with no fear. God is with us; God’s provisions endure the worst circumstances. When it will all end, I have no clue. But I do know God is on this sojourn with us until we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Shalom, Paul

We have a ‘fob-u-lous’ church!

John Durbin first used the term – “We have a ‘fob-u-lous’ church!”
 
We are “fob-u-lous” in so many ways: people, talent, leadership, resources, and blessings. And now even in security. Yep.
 
The key code entrance near King Hall has changed; no longer are there codes to enter. If you are leading a group or meeting and/or need access outside of normal business hours, you will need a key fob (thus the “fob” comment). Fobs will be given out in the office to folks who need them. Most folks, coming during business hours, won’t need them—there is a buzzer that you push and office personnel will respond and unlock the door electronically.
 
This move is for the safety of staff, members, and the community who use the building. Remember to smile as you enter because you will be on camera. That’s right, as part of the security system, cameras have been installed. They will help identify exactly who is at the door. Thanks for your patience as we all learn how best to operate the system.
 
All of you are fantabulous! 
 
Shalom, Paul

Top 10 ways to fast for Lent

(Spoiler alert: none of them involve chocolate!)

Lent is here. One of the words often associated with Lenten practices is fasting. Many of us know that term as it applies to the medical world – fasting is practiced prior to surgeries that require general anesthesia for health reasons. Similarly, the use of the word in the religious world means skipping something for religious health reasons.

The ancient Hebrews used the word fasting. The prophet Isaiah asks, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? –Isaiah 58:6

In simple terms: fasting meant acts of worship and it calls us today to make the choice to help others in our words and in our deeds!

Here’s a fast top 10 for Lent: 

  1. Fast from noise and listen more.
  2. Fast from nurturing the painful past and be reconciled.
  3. Fast from selfishness and be compassionate with others.
  4. Fast from complaining and celebrate simplicity.
  5. Fast from anger and be filled with peace.
  6. Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
  7. Fast from worrying and trust in God’s goodness.
  8. Fast from hurting words and use healing words of kindness.
  9. Fast from bitterness and be joyful.
  10. Fast from negativity and be hopeful.

 Shalom, Paul