Update from the MOD(erator) Squad

You may recall that in our first Mod Squad Palm Leaf article, we promised to use this space to keep you posted on our church leadership priorities for the year. They are:

  • Planning and implementing in-person worship services.
  • Fully implementing the WISE Congregation for Mental Wellness Program.
  • Supporting and expanding the work of the Social Justice Action Team.
  • Finishing a complete rewrite of the Church Constitution and Bylaws.

Praise God, priority number one has been accomplished! Thanks again to our pastors and the team that planned and prepared for that glorious day with our safety and well-being foremost in their minds. See article on IN-PERSON WORSHIP Next Steps.

Our WISE Congregation for Mental Wellness Program is building momentum. We are sure you’ve seen our Tools2Thrive for Mental Wellness section in the Sunday bulletins.

Our WISE team is meeting and planning programs to provide support for those of us impacted directly or indirectly with mental wellness challenges.

The Social Justice Action Team continues to grow and do amazing work, including Feet-N-More, the Solar Panel/Going Green project, and the launching of the Matthew 25 Prison Ministry Pen Pal program. Watch the Palm Leaf and Sunday Bulletins for more.

Our church constitution and bylaws are under revision. The team on this project will make its recommendations to the Church Council in the Fall and present them to our congregation at the January 2022 annual meeting. Our constitution will have a whole new look! It will be streamlined and provide more flexibility to meet the changing needs of members and the community. With technology and the never-ending stream of social and environmental crises, churches are challenged to stay relevant and to be the hands and feet of Jesus to bring love, justice and welcome to the marginalized, the mainstream and beyond. Our church constitution — the way we organize our ministerial functions and operational structure — will help us set a clear path to be the church we want to become.

Our goal is to make our constitution and bylaws more simplified and strategic. We have been discussing how we can best use the talents of our members: Is it serving as an elected board member or working as part of project team? Is it committing to a 3-year responsibility or a shorter opportunity for service? How do we best tap into the talents and interests of our members? Is it the operational/governance side (finances, buildings, personnel) of “church work”? Or is it the ministerial functions (worship, evangelism, ministry) of our church that captures members’ hearts and desire to get involved? We have some exciting ideas on these questions and will be talking to board members and gladly welcome your input as we continue to move forward. Stay tuned!

With love,
Jerry, Suzanne, John

Seeing the face of God

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 


Shalom, Paul

Mental Wellness Tips for 2021

Important Phone Numbers:
National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline 1-800-950-6264
Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800.273.TALK
Veterans’ Crisis Line 800.273.8255 press 1
Pastoral Care—Pastor Jim Alexander 623.792.5295

With each new year comes the opportunity to do things differently. I am not talking about making resolutions that we all know will go by the wayside by January 31! I am talking about doing things that will help you remain calm, focused, and set for 2021.

Besides the Tools2Thrive page, the Daily Devotionals, our Bridges to Learning classes, and our weekly Online Worship services, here are several tips for Mental Wellness I highly encourage you to incorporate into your life. You may be thinking, “I have seen all this before.” While that may be true, have you been able to make any of these tips habits within your daily activities? You may find that just one or two might make all the difference in your outlook and mental wellness. Happy New Year!

  • I will commit myself to being physically active each day. Studies have shown there is a link between mental and physical health.
  • I will resolve to be mentally healthy in the upcoming year. Seeking the aid of one of the agencies listed above, you may be able to sort through the mental or emotional concerns you might be having. This is one of the healthiest things we can do.
  • Relax! Commit yourself to carving out some time each day to “shutting down” and doing something for yourself that helps you rest and recharge your mental and emotional batteries.
  • Diligently speak nicely about yourself and treat yourself with respect. All good things begin from within, and a positive outlook on ourselves is a key to attracting more positivity into our lives.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remind yourself daily that as a human, you will make mistakes or miss goals, and that is okay. What is important is going forward in these situations in a positive manner.
  • Stay mindful and in the moment. Don’t dwell too much on the past or spend too much time fixating on the future. Remember to live in the here and now and enjoy all that life has to offer.
  • Act instead of reacting. Rather than allowing yourself to get caught up in reacting to the actions of others that push your buttons, be prepared with a mental list of disarming statements to counteract the negative statements of others.
  • Do not allow yourself to be defined by a label. Instead of thinking and speaking of yourself as being overweight, anxious, depressed, etc. … say instead “I have depression and today I will exercise to help manage that.”
  • I will strive to become the person I want to be. View life as a journey full of adventures rather than a series of obstacles you have to overcome. Enjoy the ride that life is, rather than focusing on the bumps in the road.

Mental Wellness Education Month at The Palms

October 2020 is Mental Wellness Education Month at The Palms. Each week this month, you will be provided with information you can use to become aware of the stigma associated with mental health. There are significant gaps that exist within our society making it difficult for individuals to receive proper care, support and treatment. From our faith communities to our insurance companies, retirement communities to our criminal justice system, attention must be given to the dismantling of this stigma and the tearing down of barriers so that journeys of resiliency and recovery can take place. Here is a list of the items to look for as the month progresses in the weekly Order of Worship and on the Tools2Thrive page.

Tackling Mental Health Stigma—Strength Over Silence

National Alliance on Mental Illness Ambassador Chris Hubbard

Discovering My Superpower—Strength Over Silence

National Alliance on Mental Illness Ambassador A.J. Mendez

You Are Not Alone—On The Road to Recovery

Listen to two stories from people with one or more mental conditions and how they are helping to break the stigma associated with mental wellness issues.

You Are Not Alone—Write Your Own Story Through the Psalms

Kay Klinkenborg will guide us to write our stories of healing, resiliency, and journeys to wholeness not matter where we are on the pendulum of mental wellness.

As a part of Mental Wellness Education Month, a group of 11 Church of the Palms members will be attending a virtual Mental Wellness First Aid Training Seminar on October 19th. Upon successful completion of the seminar, this group will be certified in Mental Wellness First Aid. They will understand what to look for and how to provide comfort, reduce distress related to stressful situations, and to call for proper professional assistance for the person experiencing a mental-health crisis. This training can be likened to using a first aid kit: they will learn how to be present, apply the ointment of comfort, the band-aid of protection against further stress, call for the professionals, and remain on the scene until that help arrives. The training could also be thought of in light of taking a CPR class. They are equipped to spot the signs of a person in distress and apply life-giving techniques until help arrives. Upon successful completion of the training, they will be available as resources on campus should the need for mental wellness assistance arise.

The training of this group is one of the last remaining steps in the process of The Palms becoming a W.I.S.E. Congregation for Mental Wellness. The W.I.S.E. Steering Committee has just completed and forwarded the W.I.S.E. for Mental Wellness Covenant Statement and W.I.S.E. for Mental Wellness Confidentiality Statement to our Church Council for approval. These statements along with the group of Certified Mental Wellness First Aid participants will be presented at our Annual Meeting in January 2021 for adoption by the Church. Once the Church adopts these items, we will apply to The United Church Of Christ Mental Health Network to be recognized as a W.I.S.E. Congregation for Mental Wellness.

WISE Moments for Mental Wellness: Preparedness

by Judy Jondahl

The WISE Moments for Mental Wellness will be focused on Preparedness during the month of September. Have you ever noticed how much stress and anxiety is associated with the physical things of your home that just need attention: if you don’t have a fire extinguisher; if you don’t have a way to see who is at your front or back doors without having to open the door; or if you don’t have automatic on/off lighting at the entrances of your home. Those are just a few of the items that we will address during the month. We will attempt to highlight the items that may increase your safety, both inside and outside of your home or apartment. We will also assist you with some ideas that may help you stay organized in case of a health crisis or emergency. It is important that you have contact information and your instructions prepared in case you are unable to speak for yourself in such crises.

While staying in our homes provides familiarity and a sense of independence, it is important that the home environment is safe and that we are prepared for emergencies. In both the survey conducted as a start of our Faith Community Nursing ministry and the recently-completed W.I.S.E. survey, home safety was identified as an area of concern. There is a definite link between physical and mental/emotional wellness, so I want to address some important steps that should be taken to ensure safety and preparation for potential emergencies in this month’s article. While many of those reading this are seniors or have physical limitations, it is important for all us to remember that falls are the number one cause of injury for seniors. Is your home taking precautions to avoid this in your home? Having recently experienced the danger of area/throw rugs recently, I was reminded why these home decorations may not be wise. And trying to get light into my main living area, I learned to how to hide extension cords when furniture is not up against a wall.

Keeping emergency numbers handy is another important preparation – cell phones can help with this if you program emergency numbers for easy access. At a minimum, include fire and police, Poison Control, doctor, and family or an emergency contact person.

Fire safety in your home includes having smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and change batteries regularly. My son, a fireman, on his first visit to my home, was walking around looking at the ceiling in each room. When I asked what he was doing, he said checking for smoke alarms. After he returned home, I received a package with 2 smoke detectors and a note that my son-inlaw would install them. He also knows my love of candles but strongly suggested I switch to the battery operated ones with timers. Recently, after getting home from a fire, he called with a reminder to stay low while getting to the closest exit to limit exposure to smoke.

Bathrooms and kitchens provide special considerations for safety. For example, I remember my daughter asking an apartment manager about installing grab bars in my bathroom. (After covering my ears, she referenced my age and smirked.) Kitchens generally have high cabinets, which may require use of a step stool to reach.

Ensuring adequate lighting can prevent misjudging space and shadows that can be misleading. Outdoor lighting is important when you or someone else approaches your home at night; motion sensor lights do not require electricity and can provide lighted walkways and discourage unwanted strangers.

Having peepholes in doors or some way to see who is at your door while keeping doors and windows locked are also ways to stay mentally and physically safe in your home. Staying aware of phone and email scams is also an important step in being prepared to avoid loss.

These next pages offer a place to begin. There are many items you can complete on your own and make the necessary safety improvements. If there are items that you can’t do, such as the installation of peep holes, indoor/outdoor lighting, and other tasks that require climbing of ladders or working with power tools, please start making a punch list of items that need attention. Once your list is complete, call Pastor Jim at 623.792.5295, and he will make arrangements to help you accomplish your safety goals. You will be surprised at how much more comfortable and at ease you will feel when these items are accomplished! If you do not see some items on this list that may help address areas of concern within your particular situation, please include them on your punch list, and we will try to address them.

WISE Moment for Mental Health

As The Palms focuses on LGBTQ Pride and National Hunger Awareness Month, it is a blessing that our church is a safe place to speak openly, advocate fully, and remain present with our LGBTQ Community. There is still much to do to ensure that our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer brothers and sisters experience rights and freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. Thank you for your commitment to be the church!

The coronavirus pandemic has put the LGBTQ community, particularly those aged 50 and up, at increased risk in several ways. A history of systemic discrimination and poorer health outcomes is part of the reason. Coupled with the fact that many LGBTQ individuals do not feel comfortable coming out to their health care providers and other possible resources, these precious souls are not receiving the help they need. Loneliness is another big concern. Many live alone and don’t have people to check on them to help ensure that regular medical appointments and that proper access to food and household necessities is available to them. Lack of companionship leads to additional stress, increased depression and may lead to the use of alcohol or other substances.

How can we help? First, reach out to your friends. Stay connected! If you know people who are particularly vulnerable, offer what you can: resources, phone numbers, companionship. Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of those who may be at risk. Check out the links provided below. Lets keep working on ways to be Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive & Engaged for the mental health of everyone in our community!

After the Rain

by Pastor Jim Alexander

There’s always a rainbow after the rain.

The Church of the Palms has been encouraged to focus on some aspect of mental health each month for the past several months. Our areas of focus have been: Self Esteem (February), Developmental Disabilities Awareness (March), The Warning Signs of Mental Illness (April), and Mental Health Awareness Month/WISE Congregation for Mental Health Survey (May). We have provided tips and tools along with hotlines and websites to support our community along the way.

As we continue on our quest to become a WISE Congregation for Mental Health, our WISE Steering Committee has been very busy developing their plans and drafting the WISE Covenant that will be presented to the Church for adoption. The results from the congregational survey and input from across the membership of The Palms as we develop the content of The WISE Covenant. Please continue to pray that we may draw the circle wider as a welcoming, inclusive, supportive and engaged congregation for all people. Our Mental Health Focus for the month of June is twofold. June is LGBTQ Pride Month and it is also National Hunger Awareness Month. These two go very well together and here’s why.

The coronavirus pandemic has had unexpected effects for LGBTQ people around the world: forcing some LGBTQ citizens who may not be accepted by their family and friends to face hostile living environments. The pandemic is also placing vulnerable people of all walks of life at risk of homelessness and employment insecurity. It has also become very apparent with the financial and social destruction being leveled by the pandemic, that certain government agencies are stalling progress on potential legal changes that could grant LGBTQ and other marginalized people greater rights.

In an ordinary year, Pride celebrations would offer a chance to gather together, celebrate the achievements of the community and reflect on the future for social change.

But four months ago, more than 220 Pride celebrations scheduled worldwide were cancelled or delayed, including Phoenix Pride. The Palms has participated in this event for the past three years.

“LGBT people around the world are insanely resilient, but they face isolation every day in their life,” says J. Andrew Baker, co-President of Interpride, the international association of Pride organizers. “One of the challenges we find today is that LGBT people are even more isolated.” To overcome that isolation, the world’s biggest international Pride networks, Interpride and the European Pride Organizers Association, are organizing a “Global Pride” to be celebrated online on June 27. Global Pride organizers are planning a 24-hour live streamed event, including remote contributions from international Prides, speeches from human-rights activists, workshops with activists and high-profile performers yet to be confirmed.

Be sure to check out the Interpride website and make your plans to participate! The Palms will provide reminders and additional information about this event.

As a church, let us look for ways to make The Palms a safe place for those who may be experiencing abuse in their homes and communities due to their sexual orientation. Whether you are a part of the LGBTQ community or not, if you feel that you are not safe in your home, remember: you are not alone, you are loved and we will provide help to you. Call Pastor Jim or Pastor Paul at 623.977.8359.

Because there are so many people unemployed/underemployed, homeless, or displaced due to the pandemic, we also want to focus on the ways in which we might address the issue of hunger during this month. The People of The Palms have been consistently generous in providing food for I-Help, HART Pantry, and various food banks within the Sun City area. We are meeting the urgent needs of those who would otherwise be going without.

There are mental health concerns associated with food deprivation. Nearly 15 % of all households in the United States did not have enough to eat daily and suffered from recurring hunger before the pandemic, and that percentage has increased dramatically. The emotional and psychological tension associated with hunger can be devastating to individuals and whole families. Here are some ways to ensure that we are doing our part.

Donate
Donating, whether money or food, is a great way to help local food banks. Most donations to food banks are made between Thanksgiving and Christmas — which is great — but donations are needed year-round. Monetary donations allow the food banks to buy food during the less popular months for giving. You can drop your donation off in the church office. Make sure you mark it HUNGER RELIEF.

Volunteer with a Food Bank
It doesn’t always take a big financial investment to make a big impact. Volunteering is a great way to spend your time making a difference. By volunteering, you give families the opportunity to use the money they have towards bills and other living expenses while being able to have food on the table. In addition, volunteering can be a great family gathering, team bonding or employee engagement event. Witness firsthand how your presence and support are affecting those in your community!

To find a food bank in Arizona, visit the website of the Arizona Food Bank Network.

Continue to Bring Food and Fill the Shopping Cart
Food drives help stock shelves and play a vital role in encouraging community participation. Continue bringing your non-perishable food items to the church and fill the shopping cart. If you are not able to bring it yourself, please call the church office at 623.977.8359 and we will arrange to have your items picked up.