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

Are we there yet?

How many kids have asked that on long car rides? “Are we there yet?” I remember asking such a question as a child – we were on day one, about 100 miles from home, on a 5,000-mile cross-country trip and I asked, “When are we going to get there?” adding, “My bottom is tired of sitting.”
 
Civility prevents me from quoting the exact words my parents chose as a response to me that day. Suffice it to say that I didn’t ask that question again nor did I comment on the soreness of my bottom.
 
As a church coming out of quarantine, are we there yet? And when are we going to get there?
 
Short answer: we’re not there yet. And I don’t know exactly when we will get there. However, I do know that we have a group of dedicated folks who are using abundant caution and who are looking into those questions trying to answer them. We aren’t there yet, but we are getting close.
 
I love being back in the sanctuary with you, but I ask for patience as we try our best to navigate these times of sail-adjusting in the middle of a gale! In the coming weeks, as we are able to get closer to our goal of normalcy, I ask for grace as we learn and adapt and learn and grow and learn and listen and make changes.
 
I look forward to the Sunday when we can sing hymns, have responsive readings, and pass the peace. We’re not there yet. But we’re getting close while making sure everyone is safe. When will that Sunday come? I will sing it from the mountain tops and let you know. Until then, let’s enjoy this ride.
 
Shalom, Paul

Love of Creation Sunday

This coming Sunday is special. We have many lay leaders participating in the design and leadership of worship – the Creation Justice Team will be leading our Love of Creation Sunday as we begin the week of Earth Day celebrations.
 
Rev. Doug Bland, a long-time friend, will be our speaker. Doug is a gifted storyteller who is known for blending humor and insight into his sermons. It’s a “Can’t Miss” kind of Sunday.
 
Speaking of love of creation, now is the time to get your gift in for our solar panel / greening the church capital campaign. We will complete this campaign this April. The overage will go to other green projects at The Palms to reduce our carbon footprint.
 
Shalom, Paul

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

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

We are taking a healthy hiatus from our regular style of worship at The Palms.

Worship Words of Wisdom: Adjusting our sails, pressing onward, we are exploring new ways to proclaim the love of God.

What we are doing:

On Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. we’ll be video-recording a worship service in the sanctuary to be broadcast on our website on Sunday morning. This will have most of the elements of our typical worship services including scripture, sermon, hymns, and prayers.

On Sunday mornings the sanctuary will be open from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. for personal prayer time, lighting a candle, prayers with a pastor, and quiet meditation. No program will be offered. Please keep the recommended social distance.

Our office remains open during the normal hours: Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. We are asking that if you need to come by the office that you knock on the office door. Please do not come into the office; remain in the hallway. We will come to you. Let Pastor Jim or I know of your pastoral needs. Call us on the telephone or email us.

Pastor Jim and I will be sharing daily devotionals with you. These will be brief audio statements, again, accessible online. Check here on our website and/or our Facebook page frequently for the posts.

Please continue to worship – just adjust your sails. You can join us by doing the following:

  • Pray for your church and your pastors each day.
  • Observe the sabbath; find a specific time and set it aside for prayer and meditation.
  • Continue to support your church financially by having your financial institution send your automatic giving. Or, simply mail a check to us.

During this protective postponement pause to our regular schedule, pray for personal and collective wisdom, strength, and courage. Thanks for being The Palms.

Rev. Paul A. Whitlock
Rev. Jim Alexander