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LAUCC FRIDAY POSTS

June 25, 2021

Dear Beloved…

This  week we go back to in-person church!  We’ve longed to return for over fifteen months. This coming Sunday, our wishes will be realized.  On June 27, we return to in-person worship.  Hallelujah!!!

When churches closed, everyone thought it would be for just a month or two. But the pandemic extended month after month.  As 2021 arrived, few Protestant churches were meeting and if so, at a significantly reduced capacity.

Thanks to vaccines and falling infection rates, things are changing.  Now, we get to return to in-person worship.

As our church opens, there will still be precautions. If you are fully vaccinated, and feel comfortable, you can worship without a mask.  If you are not vaccinated, we ask that you wear a mask and socially distant.  If you are bringing children, you will need to make an RSVP with Sumer Lesser, our Youth Director (sumerlesser@yahoo.com).  There will be nursery care and children/youth classes.  On Communion Sundays individual communion kits will be offered as you enter.

Worship won’t be the same as it was before closing.  We will face mixed emotions. Returning to the rhythms of worship prompts us to remember the Sundays and holidays we missed.  Part of celebrating finally being together is grieving the time spent apart.  Empty seats will remind us of the members who haven’t yet returned, or who left the church or moved away during the pandemic. Some will be missing.

With great anticipation, I look forward to worshipping with you, in person.

Don’t worry, if you can’t make it, we will be live streaming it on Facebook for you and you’ll be able to access it there throughout the week. This week the service can be viewed through  LIVESTREAM ON FACEBOOK at  https://www.facebook.com/losaltosucc  You do not have to be a Facebook subscriber!   We will NOT be streaming on Zoom.  

Blessings,

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

5-23-21

KEEPING IN TOUCH…

Dear Beloved:

Today, Friday, is the 49th anniversary of my ordination.  Back in 1972 it was a Sunday – Pentecost!  I had chosen that day for obvious reasons.  What could be better than beginning my ordained ministry on the birthday of the church?  Of course things were different back then.  There were only a few women in ministry in the Disciples of Christ  or UCC.  Inclusive language had not yet caught on.  The war in Viet Nam was ending, thankfully.  Computers hadn’t been invented.  In fact there were no Xerox machines.  I still had a manual typewriter.  Gas was 23 cents a gallon.  And I had no idea what I would do for a job.

Fortunately I discovered a small church in Northern California that took a chance on me, and the rest is history!  Now I am beginning my 50th year.  And here we are about to celebrate Pentecost once again.  Pentecost was originally a Jewish feast day. It started with the Festival of Weeks, when Jews from all over the Mediterranean basin came to Jerusalem on pilgrimage bringing the first fruits of the wheat harvest.

Now, as the third great feast day of the Christian year, Pentecost is our annual reminder of who we are, what great gifts God has given us, and what we are called to do with them.  We read the story in Acts 2 every year.

However, what is happening in that sacred land today bears no resemblance to a feast day.  There are no “first fruits” being offered.  Only relentless violence and no peace in sight.  What are we, as Christians, to do?  What are we, as faithful people, to do?

And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!”  (Genesis 4:10)

I pray for all the people of Palestine and Israel.  Hate does not lead to love.  Hate only leads to more hate.  I pray for all the people of Palestine and Israel.  May there be peace!  Lasting peace!

Blessings,  Stan

Supply Pastor, LAUCC

5-16-21

KEEPING IN TOUCH…

Dear Beloved:

A friend of a friend told me this story about a physician and her daughter.  It seems the doctor was driving her daughter to pre-school one morning.  The mom had her stethoscope sitting on the seat next to her and the daughter began playing with it. “Be still my heart,” thought the mom, “my daughter wants to follow in my footsteps.” Then the child began to speak into the instrument: “Welcome to McDonald’s.  May I take your order?”

The plans we have for ourselves and for our children are not necessarily the way life unfolds.  While planning is important, it is no less important to plan on having our plans broken.  And our heart too, to the extent we have our heart set on our plans.  Be patient. Our plans have plans for us.

We are now in the “Yellow Tier,” and as children go back to school, and we get to go back to routines, be open to what may be before you.  Our leadership has put together a plan for returning to a sense of “normal,” whatever that may be.  But plans change.  This is why we need to be patient.
And faithful.
Faith is a way we hold on by letting go.
Faith is letting go of what we thought we needed and discovering what is in our heart’s reach!
So reach a little these coming weeks, and join us in the journey, wherever it may lead!

Blessings, Stan
Supply Pastor, LAUCC

5-1-20

KEEPING IN TOUCH…

Dear Church,

Thank you for your gracious acceptance of worshiping at home. All of you have been kind with your comments regarding our worship streams and patient with us as we work through our learning curve. Many of us are new to this, which makes us appreciate the collective talents of our Staff. Thanks to Cindy Dufford, our office “overlord” who keeps things running smoothly; thanks to David and Michelle Joseph for their musical contributions to our worship; thanks to Sumer who continues to keep in contact with our youth; and thanks to Roxy as she navigates the difficult waters of our closed pre-school!

We have been overwhelmed by the response to our streamed services during this time that has thrown us all for a loop. So many messages of support, love, kindness and hope, and those who have chosen to contribute to our church financially too. Your help is needed and appreciated, and we continue to be the church. There is no separation when hearts and minds listen to God and the prayers made for each other bind us together. We long and hope for the day we reunite in our beautiful sanctuary and share fellowship together. Until then, know that you are loved and cared about.

I am also grateful for those of you who have supported us behind the scenes… Steve Delaney and his financial wizardry; Judy Ekmalian and her good work with worship; Bill Berry who takes care of our closed campus; Lori Delaney who has helped with our personnel… and so many more of you who just show up (figuratively speaking!).

We will get through this! We are a faith-filled people, and we trust in the One who has given us life. Let us prayerfully continue to be attentive and kind…

Pray this…
May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors remember those who are most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home respect and support those who must choose between preserving their health or paying their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
May we who are losing our investments, remember those who have no home.
During this time, when we can not physically wrap our arms around each other, let us each find ways to be the loving embrace of humanity to our neighbors.
Be aware. Be accepting. Be supportive. Be kind.
Amen.
–Anonymous

Blessings,
Stan

4-24-20

Keeping in Touch…

Hello Friends…

The weather has finally turned, and the warmth is a welcome change after so many cold and rainy days. Spring seems to be everywhere, although at 94 degrees today it feels more like summer!

One of my favorite movies is “O God” with John Denver and George Burns. The by-line goes like this… “When God appears to an assistant grocery manager as a good-natured old man, the Almighty selects him as his messenger for the modern world.”

But my greatest learning from the movie was when George Burns (AKA God) surprises John Denver in his bathroom one morning, and the obviously traumatized Denver is reassured by Burns that when you are really shaken, do something that is familiar, like brushing your teeth or washing the dishes. In other words, calm comes from doing things we find most natural. I like that.

I have long believed that the sacred lurks in the ordinary. Most of the time we don’t notice it. But by slowing down (even if we are forced to) we may be able to experience a calm that reveals the sacred. This is the heart of meditation… to see even the simplest of tasks as spiritual.

So I am off to make my bed, and do a load of wash. Lord, help me to pay attention!

I hope to see you on Sunday morning at 10 am.
Blessings,
Stan

4-17-20

Keeping in Touch…

Dearly Beloved…
The love and support you have offered each other is amazing. In this time of “social distancing,” care and comfort are all the more important. Many of you have shared the ways you are communicating with each other, especially the most vulnerable members and friends. As the pandemic continues to evolve, we are staying in careful contact as staff and church leadership.

We are grateful for your willingness to support our ongoing ministries. Your generosity helps us maintain the incredible congregation that is Los Altos UCC.

Please continue to find a place to pray, offering thanks for your friends and loved ones, for all health care workers; EMS, police, fire and first responders; and grocery and restaurant workers and preparers who make essential medical and nutritional services available in this time of the Covid -19 crisis. And remember Jesus’ words to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

I hope you will join us on Sunday mornings, via ZOOM or Facebook Live. Below are the links you can use.

Blessings to you all.
Stan

FACEBOOK
https://www.facebook.com/losaltosucc

MIDWEEK EMAIL Tuesday, March 24

Good Morning Los Altos UCC Members and Friends…

I hope that you are all healthy and well.  As this new week begins we are still bombarded with continual coverage of this Covid-19 crisis, and it seems that each day this is something critical that we need to consider.  And we are adjusting to church “technology style.”   I hope that most of you were able to tune in last Sunday on ZOOM for our morning worship.  If not, it has been posted on the “Los Altos United Church of Christ” Facebook page.  While it wasn’t perfect, it was a good start.

While our campus is closed, be assured that the staff and others are working from home or in other ways to keep our community of faith in communication.  Please check your email daily, and watch for invitations to participate in Sunday worship either on FaceBook or through ZOOM.

We are also working on a link in our web page (losaltosucc.org) where you will be able to continue your financial support of the church.  This will probably be through PayPal, but all you will need to do is click on the link, and it will instruct you what to do.  Of course you can use the USPS.  We encourage you to continue to support the ministry of LAUCC, especially in light of the loss of income from our renters.

However, we also want to caution you about scammers during this crisis.  The FCC Long Beach put our a few helpful suggestions which I have adapted for you.
An Important Alert: Scammers are trying to take advantage of church members by creating fake Gmail addresses and emailing requests for gift card donations. This is not real, do not respond. In addition, a few practices to keep in mind:
Pastors and Church Staff do not ask for gift card donations. By policy and practice, the solicitation of donations by the church is carefully monitored by the Finance team at LAUCC, to prevent inconvenient or irresponsible asks. Because we care about being generous and have carefully set our giving goals, we don’t just “pop-up” with requests, as a matter of respect to our donors.
If you get an email asking for gift cards or donations from an unusual email address, ignore it or report it to your local authorities. It is a scam, and a form of fraud.

This coming Sunday we will again live-stream our morning worship via ZOOM and on Facebook.  You will receive an invitation in the mail on Saturday, and you can join the ZOOM meeting around 10 am on Sunday.  If you have a FACEBOOK account, you can go to Los Altos United Church of Christ FB page and follow the service there.

As you are aware, many events are being postponed (as of this morning even the July Olympics until 2021), and no doubt you will learn of these as the days go by.  You can go to www.scnucc.org for Conference information, or to www.ucc.org/coronavirus  for national information.   We want to keep in touch with each of you as the days go by.  Please feel free to email the church office (office@losaltosucc.org) or me (drstanleydsmith@gmail.com) with any pastoral concerns.

I wish for each of you health and safety.  May God’s blessings be abundant in our lives, today and into the future.

Assorted Blessings,
Stan Smith, LAUCC Supply Pastor 


LENTEN STUDY OPPORTUNITY by Stan Smith
March 10 – April 7
Tuesdays, 7-8:30 pm

This is now offered via ZOOM.  If you would like to participate, send me an email.  

(Note: The 10 session series is on Netflix.  You will need to watch 2 episodes each week in preparation for the class.)
A discussion series examining the new Netflix series, Messiah.  Messiah is the controversial story of a man who appears to be the Messiah returned, or is he?  The series leaves us with more questions than answers, but it pushes against some important assumptions.
Would we recognize the Messiah if we encountered him or would we reject him?
How would we be surprised by who the Messiah is?
Who would be angered by the new Messiah?
Who would be given hope?
Why do we think we would recognize him now when he went unnoticed so long ago?
Would he be proud of how religion has evolved in our world?
If any of these questions intrigue you, please join us for this Lenten discussion series…
(Note: because of the sometimes raw nature of this material, it is for adults only)