My favorite quote is, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” ―Victor Hugo, Les Misérables. I mentioned this fact at our annual meeting last week. My prayer this year in 2021 is for us to see the face of God in neighbor, children, and creation.
This coming year we’ll be doing some significant ministry. Among that list, here’s part of what’s going to happen in 2021:
A return to in-person worship: It’s not going to be the same; it’s going to feel different. I’m not Nostradamus, but I know it’s not going to happen until at least Easter, and for it to happen, we need to love each other more than our own personal wants and needs. Be patient, as we want it to be safe for all. To love others and see the face of God, we’re going to need to be patient.
Expansion of our Social Justice Ministry including our Feet-n-More Shower Trailer ministry: That will require our loving others. We need volunteers. Here’s an opportunity to donate time. If you volunteer for this, I-Help, or any other helping ministry, you will see the face of God.
Improved security: We need to protect the people who come to our buildings – staff, members, and community. Soon, we will have cameras and the face of God will be seen as people enter.
Being affirmed as a WISE congregation: A Welcoming, Including, Supporting, and Engaging congregation. As difficult as that paperwork was, that was the easy part. Now we have to do it. That process is an evolving process. It’s not stagnant. It’s a living breathing covenant where the face of God will be seen.
Hearing the phrase “Creation Justice” a lot in 2021: Part of our Three Great Loves is our love of creation. And let me announce that we’ve received a significant challenge gift towards this endeavor. An anonymous donor has given $50,000 to The Palms for Creation Justice, for reducing our carbon footprint, which will be dedicated towards solar panels. A challenge gift means it is up to us – the rest of us – to match it. Think of it this way, you donate a dollar, it is matched. You donate $1,000, it is matched. It’s probably going to take around $100,000 to do this project. Why do this? Because it is the right thing to do. And if any group needs to be the model, needs to do the right thing and lead by example it is the church. A side benefit is the money that it can save off of our electric bill. But that’s not the impetus; Loving neighbor, children, and creation is the driving force behind it.
Finally, MLK, Jr., talks about a staircase and that faith is taking that step even when we can’t see the top of the stairs. 2021 stands before us as a staircase. We can see some marvelous things. Let me be so bold as to say, there are even greater things that God is holding out for us than what we can see.
Amanda Gorman would tell us:
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.
To embody our faith in our relationships with God’s creation
To educate and encourage congregational members to take concrete actions that express their stewardship of creation
To strive for significant reductions in the church’s energy and water consumption and waste in order to offset our carbon footprint
To advocate for policy change that will slow climate change and mitigate its impacts
I-HELP AT COTP
One Year Anniversary. We first hosted I-HELP guest on October 28-29, 2019 on a Monday night. Within a few months we committed to a second night each week to provide the full 7 nights of coverage for our guests that we wanted. Since then we have held forth on Monday and Friday nights, asking our volunteers to step up their involvement. We have over 55 volunteers working with the program, including bus drivers, cooks, shoppers, monitors and laundry. Each time we host, our volunteers give 45-55 hours of time for 100 hours each week. What a tremendous gift in service to others. The ultimate measure of success is the number of guests that have found permanent housing. This is the work of the LSS staff and we celebrate the 24 guests that are now housed. This represents about half of the people that have been enrolled in the program. Despite the Covid 19 virus and the fact that our churches were closed we were able to provide full coverage for our guests, 7 nights each and every week. Testing each guest before enrolled, with disinfecting protocol in place, practicing social distancing and taking the temperature of volunteers and guests each time, we have been able to minimize the risk of infection. We have made our program more green by using plates, bowls and glasses that we run through the dishwasher and cloth napkins and rags that we wash with bedding in our washer/dryer.
I-HELP Guests First to use Shower Trailer. The new shower trailer of COTP will be here by mid-October, and once ready we will invite our I-HELP guest to be the first to use it. In time we plan to use the shower trailer around the NW Valley, offering showers to the homeless on regular schedules.
Beth Moore provided an update on what is happening with the Nassar’s farm. The last month has been very difficult with vandals damaging the property, a neighboring group calling for re-registration of the land and the ongoing court case related to land ownership. Ongoing prayers and support are needed.
The Social Justice Action Team adopted the action items recently approved by the Southwest Conference:
Church of the PalmsAwakening to Racial InjusticeAction Steps
Learning with White friends and family about White privilege, White fragility, and White supremacy,
Regularly reading books, watching performing arts events, and drawing on theological resources featuring Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to deepen understanding and appreciation of the history, contributions, and culture of these groups of people.
Learning with our children through children’s stories about racism in age-appropriate ways,
Centering the stories of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and their rich and diverse heritage in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas,
Forming partnerships with congregations of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color,
Learning about and supporting organizations in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas that make it a mission to be Interrupters, 
Speaking up whenever you hear a comment or joke that marginalizes Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color,
Writing op-eds or letters to the editor about issues of bigotry, White supremacy, or racism in your communities,
Making a public witness like putting a Black Lives Matter sign at your church or on your lawn and prepare yourselves to welcome Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who may come to our churches, and for conversations with people who demonstrate White fragility because you take this step.
Inviting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color into leadership roles and explore governance structures that reflect their experience.
Asking Black, Indigenous, and People of Color what their needs are.
Assessing your congregation’s racial diversity, equity and inclusion. Participate in the UCC’s racial diversity, equity, and inclusion assessment of the National setting of the United Church of Christ.
Including elements in worship services that reflect the needs and experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color present in your congregation and in your community
Using your money to support businesses and ministries of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color,
Inviting a Sacred Conversations to End Racism facilitator of the Southwest Conference to present a program in your congregation. The program could include many options from a selected movie with reflection to a programmed discussion or guest sermon.
Criminal Justice Reform
Prosecutors have a significant role in Criminal Justice Reform. They can decide whether or not to prosecute minor offenses or possibly send the accused to a diversion program, especially for people with substance abuse issues. We have an opportunity to watch interviews with the candidates forMaricopa County Attorney’s Office, the third largest such office in the US! You can view the interviews at:
Criminal Justice Reform Presentation from Grace Cathedral in San Francisco
Each year the cathedral chooses a theme for inspiration. In 2020 our theme is bridges. We are challenging ourselves to explore and reflect upon reconciliation in this very divisive time in our country. Join us to hear from San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who, in conversation with Dean Malcolm Clemens Young, will talk about his work building bridges that promote justice and safety in our community. About the guest Chesa Boudin is the recently elected District Attorney of San Francisco. Personally, impacted by parental incarceration and the failings of the criminal justice system, DA Boudin was inspired to become a public defender, and now, decarceral prosecutor. He is focused on reforming the criminal justice system and making our communities safer by developing data-driven policies to expand alternatives to incarceration and treat the root causes of crime. In his first few months in office, DA Boudin ended the office’s practice of asking for cash bail, eliminated status enhancements, implemented California’s first diversion program for primary caregivers, and ended the prosecution of charges resulting from racist pre-textual traffic stops. He has also implemented numerous police reforms, started an innovative Economic Crimes Against Workers Unit to protect workers from exploitation, and has succeeded in reducing the jail population in San Francisco even as crime rates declined. He remains committed to additional reforms that promote justice and protect public safety. Check out DA Boudin’s podcast, Chasing Justice: https://www.chasingjusticepodcast.com/