Worship Guide 4-5-2020

This Sunday is Palm Sunday.  This day in the Christian calendar marks the entrance of Jesus, riding on a donkey, into the city of Jerusalem.  The people waved tree branches, shouting, “Hosanna!” while others cut branches from nearby trees and spread them on the road.  Often referred to as the Triumphal Entry, Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem is seen in opposition to the entrance of Pontius Pilate, with his own entourage, reminding the people that Rome is still in charge.  The Triumphal Entry, filled with high expectation and challenge, thus begins Holy Week, also called Passion Week. We have entered the final week of Lent, a Lenten season spent in the Wilderness. What started out as a spiritual Wilderness has now become an emotional and physical Wilderness for many of us as we remain “at home” and try to discern where in the midst of COVID-19 God is, and what God is doing right here, right now.

Note that the Scripture verses we will read on Sunday from the Gospel According to Matthew do not describe the branches as being specifically palm branches; only the Gospel According to John (12:13) specifies the branches as being palm branches.  But the Triumphal Entry is associated with Palm Sunday, and palm branches have been associated with the concepts of victory, triumph, peace, and eternal life in the Ancient Near East and the Mediterranean since well before the birth of Jesus. What connections do you make between the triumphant/victorious views of Palm Sunday and what is happening in your own life, and in the life of our church?  Our state? Our nation? Our world?

This Sunday, we will “wave our palm branches” together just as if we were meeting in person in our church meeting house.  I have included a palm branch coloring page for you to print out, color, and cut out to wave on Sunday to commemorate Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  This activity may be especially enjoyable for children to participate in!   

See you on Palm Sunday at our Worship Gathering in the Midst!

~ Rev. Stacy

Communion in the Midst


 On Sunday, April 5, we will celebrate the Sacrament of Communion.  As we are continuing to worship “in the Midst,” I invite each of you to prepare some bread of any kind, and a glass/cup of grape juice or water (or even wine, if you so desire), and bring these items with you when you sit down at your computer/phone/tablet.  As part of the Sacrament, I will pray for God’s blessing upon the bread and the beverage, and then invite us to partake of the elements together. You may partake in any way that is comfortable for you (by intinction [dipping the piece of bread into your cup, then eating the bread]; or by eating the bread and then drinking your beverage).  For those of you who gather as families, you may wish to serve one another the bread and offer the cup, as we usually do when we are gathered in person.  

Order of Worship

Downloads

Virtual Worship Guide 3-29-2020

The Fifth Sunday in Lent

Are you starting to feel a bit fidgety, having been “stuck” in your homes for the past couple of weeks?  You’ve cleaned out cupboards, closets, cars, garages; you’ve vacuumed everything three times; you’ve baked six loaves of bread and dozens of cookies; you’ve binge-watched those programs you always promised yourself that you would “someday.”  Your school-aged children are bored and irritated with having to stay at home, unable to visit with their friends.  Your dogs are thrilled that you’re spending more time at home, snuggling up to you while you try to work on the sofa with your laptop and attend meetings via ZOOM.  You’re wondering when this “stay-at-home” routine will end and life can  return to “normal.”

Our Scripture reading for Sunday comes from the Gospel According to John, in which Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, falls ill, dies, and – spoiler alert – is resurrected by Jesus.  Lazarus was in the tomb already for four days.  Several different authors of articles I’ve been reading have posed the idea that we consider our homes like Lazarus’ tomb.  We’re “stuck in one place,” and life won’t return to “normal” until our government leaders release us and say it’s safe to “come out.”  While we’re inside, what are we “dying to?”  Have we forgotten about Lent, about what we added as a spiritual practice to our lives to invite more of the Realm of God into our midst?  Or have we forgotten about what we gave up, forgoing that Lenten practice because life is hard enough being “stuck at home” without the added pressure of Lent?  While we’ve been under this Coronavirus “stay-at-home” policy for longer than four days, and we don’t know how much longer it will be, we have other options.  We CAN go outdoors, we CAN visit with friends on the phone, we CAN walk our dogs, we CAN embrace this time as a tremendous gift. 

Lent is a time for us to slow down, to turn inwards, to cultivate spiritual practices that tend our spirit.  What an interesting time for the Coronavirus to appear, almost like a gift, forcing us to slow down, to stop, to breathe deeply, to wonder, to listen, to wait.  Just as Advent is about wondering and waiting, so, too, is Lent.  We are wondering what will happen, we are waiting for what is to happen. We are waiting for Resurrection.  We are waiting for Spring, for new life to appear.  What new life will appear in each one of us when we are resurrected from our Covid-19 tombs?  What new life will appear in us communally, as a faith community?  I’ve seen some signs of new life appearing already – have you?

Join us this Sunday via ZOOM for our Worship Gathering in the Midst.  Watch your e-mail inbox for an invitation!  I look forward to seeing you again. 

With Peace, Grace, and Love in the Time of Coronavirus,
~ Rev. Stacy 


Order of Worship


Downloads

Connecting Through UCC Online Devotionals

While we practice physically distancing ourselves from others for everyone’s health and safety, we invite you to explore different ways of connecting socially, emotionally, and spiritually, with one another and with God. One option is to start reading the Daily Devotional provided by the United Church of Christ. Every day, a clergy person or lay leader in the UCC connects a verse of Scripture with a short devotion. In these challenging times, keeping your spirit connected with Spirit will help center you, calm you, redirect you, comfort you, motivate you, restore you, and deepen your faith. You may even want to make a phone “visit” with a church friend to read the devotion together and talk about it!

https://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional

Zoom Virtual Worship Instructions

In anticipation of our Virtual Worship Gatherings beginning on Sunday, March 22, we are sending out this message to help you navigate the virtual meeting platform, called ZOOM, that we will be using. ZOOM is very easy to use, and anyone can join the meetings (Worship Gatherings, or any other meeting, such as Council, Deacons, Mutual Ministry, Transition Team, Beyonders, Women’s Gathering, or other small groups which we anticipate creating during this time).

First, you will receive an e-mail from the person “hosting” (creating, facilitating) the particular meeting.

Open your e-mail message, and read it to make sure you know the date and time of the specific meeting (for example, for Sunday Worship, the meeting date will be March 22, and the time will be 10:00 AM).

There will be a link for you to click on, taking you right into the ZOOM meeting. Alternatively, there will also be a list of phone numbers for you to use if you prefer to join the meeting by calling in. You will need to have the password handy, so that you can enter it, so that you join the right meeting.

You can call in or participate online!

The wonderful thing about using ZOOM is that you don’t need a computer or a smartphone, you can use your landline! Everyone will be able to participate.

Approximately at 9:50 AM, on Sunday morning, open your e-mail message with the invitation to Worship, and click on the provided link (or call in by using one of the provided phone numbers).

If you click on the link, you will automatically join the meeting.

If you call in, you will need to provide the given password.

I encourage you to start early, in case one of the phone numbers doesn’t work and you need to try a different one.

Likewise, sometimes it can take a little time to access ZOOM via computer or smartphone, and we want everyone to be able to join the meeting in a timely manner.

We’ll see you in Worship! Watch your e-mail inbox for up-to-date information, and please share it with those who do not have internet access or an e-mail address. Thank you in advance!

diverstiy
Now, more than ever, we need one another, and we need God.

Remember, we are all in this together. Even though we may be scattered throughout the county, the state, the country, or the globe, we are still the Church, united together through our love, our compassion, our commitment, and our faith. We are still God’s family. Now, more than ever, we need one another, and we need God. God is always with us, connecting us heart to heart, spirit to spirit. Know that you may contact Rev. Stacy for pastoral care, support, and counseling to help you through this challenging wilderness of the unexpected. Council members are also available to provide their assistance. We ask for your continued patience as we continue to learn to be the Church in new, exciting ways. We are encouraged by the many ideas we have, and the many opportunities this forced physical distance will bring us all. To God be the glory, now and forever. Amen.

With Peace, Grace, Comfort, and Love in the Time of Coronavirus,

Rev. Stacy

Worship Guide 3-22-2020

Our Guest Speaker this Sunday will be Sergio Lopez

The Fourth Sunday in Lent

Greetings, everyone!  

We are excited to welcome back Sergio Lopez this coming Sunday, March 22, 2020.  Sergio will be bringing us a message entitled, “Spiritual Blindness, Transformation, and the Coming of  the Kingdom of God.” Some of you may know Sergio as a justice activist, and some of you, like me, will be meeting him for the first time.  Let’s give him a warm, extravagant welcome to our Worship Gathering!

For the first time ever, UCC in Simi Valley will be gathering together in worship remotely and virtually, out of necessary, abundant precaution and preventive measures to keep everyone healthy and safe through the medical crisis of COVID-19.  We will join together to worship God, share our joys and concerns in prayer, read Scripture (the sacred story for Sunday is about Jesus healing a man born blind, in The Gospel According to John 9:1-41), hear a sermon, and hopefully sing a couple of songs.  Although we will be apart physically, we will be together spiritually. I invite you to remember and reflect on these words from The Gospel According to Matthew 18:20, in which Jesus tells his disciples, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.”  

We will meet via ZOOM.  Everyone will receive an e-mail with easy-to-follow instructions on accessing the ZOOM meeting.  For those without internet access or an e-mail address, we are curating a Phone Tree in order to pass along the information.  Anyone can use any type of phone to call in to join the meeting, you do not need a computer or a smartphone – you can use your landline!  Council chose to use ZOOM as our virtual meeting platform just for this reason, so that everyone is included.

There will be a “practice meeting” prior to worship, on Saturday (March 21).  Watch your e-mail – or wait for a phone call – with the instructions on joining this practice meeting, so you can learn how to use ZOOM before the Worship Gathering on Sunday.  

Worship will start at 10:00 AM on Sunday.  I encourage you to connect to the ZOOM meeting at around 9:50 AM, so that you can be fully prepared to participate. 

Everyone will receive a brief outline of the Order of Worship as a Word document, as well as the PowerPoint slide show – see below.   Please take a look at either – or both – prior to Worship. You may wish to print the outline, or download the PowerPoint to your computer so that you can follow along.

I’m looking forward to connecting with you all again, and to hearing Sergio’s message!  In the meantime, take good care, get plenty of rest, take a walk outside, enjoy nature, offer a prayer or an intention to God, and wash your hands!


 With Peace, Grace, and Love in the Time of Coronavirus,
~ Rev. Stacy 


Order of Worship

Outline Only (Word Document)


Full Order of Worship

Worship-Bulletin-03-22-2020

Letter to the UCC Community on Coronavirus

Dear Beloved Community of the UCC in Simi Valley,

We are in the wilderness, an unknown, unfamiliar experience with regards to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).  Moment by moment we are learning new information. Please know, however, that you are our greatest concern, and we would like you to know that we are implementing health and safety precautions and measures to ensure the highest standards are in place in order to allow us to continue meeting, worshiping, and fellowshipping together.

As we continue to monitor and plan for the evolving situation with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact upon our church, we will continue to provide you updates.  We appreciate your continued effort to read these e-mails so that we can best support congregants and visitors. We ask that you please make the necessary phone calls to those who don’t have e-mail access, so that they may receive the information as well.  We also appreciate your staying in touch with us directly with your questions or concerns.

We are trying to anticipate COVID-19 scenarios so that we are prepared and your input is helpful.

The Department of Health recommends those who are most vulnerable to the virus, namely older people, e.g. over age 65, or those with diabetes, asthma, or immune system compromises, to stay home. There is currently no such directive from LA County or Ventura County for mandatory closures.  

Council Meetings

Council met on Saturday, March 14, to discuss alternatives and recommendations pertaining to various mandates concerning the COVID-19, and have determined that our Worship Gathering on Sunday, March 15, will be our last in-person Worship Gathering until further notice.  As of Monday, March 16, the church building will be closed with certain exceptions (namely, Rev. Stacy and Wendy, our Administrative Assistant). If you need access to the building, you must make pre-arrangements with Chris White, our Trustee (she can be reached at (805) 750-5781 (cell) or (805) 499-5110 (home).  

 We will continue to meet as needed in order to reassess our decisions, reevaluate our recommendations, and make new considerations based upon new information as released from the Department of Health. 

Communications 

We will continue to utilize e-mail for more routine updates. We may institute a phone-tree, to allow for people who do not use e-mail to stay informed.   It is therefore of the utmost importance that you check your e-mail inbox regularly, and read carefully messages sent from Rev. Stacy, Rebecca Lirette, Wendy Sengpiehl (administrator; admin@uccsimi.org), and UCC Simi Valley (via MailChimp).  

Upcoming Events

It is always a difficult, sometimes painful, decision to cancel an event or activity, especially when that event has been heavily advertised and is valuable for the spiritual, emotional, mental, and intellectual health and growth of our community.  However, as of last week, nearly every organization, including faith congregations, have cancelled, postponed, or rescheduled events which have been planned for the months of March through May.  

Church Service

  • Please be aware that a number of churches in the U.S. have enacted coronavirus-related closures.
  • Please be mindful of the travel parameters and quarantine recommendations delineated by the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/travel-advice).  Please notify us if you will be needing to quarantine yourself as a result of any traveling, by emailing Rev. Stacy.
  • We are especially concerned for our higher risk folks and ask that you create “physical  distancing” when possible.
  • We have been prayerfully considering the benefits of cancelling over the benefits of holding an event.  Please note that as of March 15, all in-person gatherings at the church building have been suspended until further notice. Such gatherings include worship, Beyonders, Women’s Gathering (second Saturday of the month), FFLUID, and Narcotics Anonymous.  Worship, FFLUID, Narcotics Anonymous, and all meetings (Council, Deacons, Mutual Ministry, Transition Team, and other meetings) will be conducted virtually.  Council is exploring various platforms to determine which one will best serve all the members of UCC-Simi. We will contact you as soon as we know how we will convene virtually, with all of the necessary details and information on joining us.  Again, we ask that you advise anyone who does not have access to the internet so that they will not be left isolated and alone.  

When any part of these plans change, we will notify you with as much advance notice as possible.   Remember, with this particular virus, changes can occur rapidly. Be on the alert for communication from us!  We don’t know what the coming days and weeks will bring.  

Other

Rather than practicing “social distancing,” it’s been suggested that we practice “physical distancing.”  In this way, we can remain socially, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually connected with one another, with our friends, and with our family members.  Phone calls, e-mails, text messages, and other communication forms will become even more vital in the days and weeks ahead. Stay connected! 

While it is important to be kept informed and updated, it can become overwhelming and terrifying.  If you are prone to excess worry, anxiety, or depression, take care of yourself and limit your news-watching and social media scrolling.  There is a lot of misinformation out there, and panic is widespread. Take time to breathe deeply, and to pray.  

I invite you to pray with me right now.  


Loving God, 
May your healing power flow
into a world consumed by fear
of sickness,
of powerlessness,
of pandemics,
of incompetence.
You hold all our times precious.  
Now we submit to you our 
seasons of despair and our seasons of hope 
for your safe-keeping and blessing.  
We ask your presence with us
and within us,
Now and forever.
Amen. *

Thank you for your support in helping our community navigate and plan for the novel coronavirus situation.

With grace and peace,
Rev. Stacy, Pastor
Rebecca Lirette, Moderator

PS:  Now, go wash your hands!  

*with thanks to Cameron Trimble and Walter Brueggemann

Installation Service Slideshow and Gratitude Letter

  Letter of Gratitude

 Dearest Beloved Community of UCC Simi,
 I am completely overwhelmed  with gratitude, joy, and amazing love out-poured from each and every one of you!  The Installation, Intermission, and Reception were absolutely beautiful. Even as I write this, I am welling up with tears – good tears.  The service went smoothly, the bagpiper was wonderful – and so much fun! What a treat that she played “Star Wars Fanfare” as we recessed – so awesome!  Joan, thank you so much for not giving up and for finding Chrisy, the Surf City Piper. John, you and the Choir outdid yourselves with your glorious singing combined with Joan’s and David’s musical gifts!  I heard so many compliments – it filled me with immense joy and pride, because I know how hard you worked. It was just beautiful – I hope you take a moment to watch the video that will be in this week’s issue of The Grapevine.  To all of the Deacons, the Transition Team, Mutual Ministry, and the Search Committee – a huge thank you for all of your hard work, dedication, excitement, and planning as well – your involvement every step of the way made for a perfect day/evening.  Your insight, ideas, questions, and suggestions combined with your hopes and inspiration truly infused the service with every good thing. I know that the majority of the work you accomplished was mostly behind the scenes, so I want to recognize everyone for all they did.  Ann, thank you so much for acquiring the Guest Book – it’s beautiful! (It’s in my office, so if anyone didn’t have an opportunity to sign it on Sunday, please see me, because I want you to sign it). To everyone who participated in the service, whether “up front” or behind the scenes, thank you!  You all helped to make it so special and rewarding. To Cindy and Rev. Susan, thank you for taking all of the photos and the videos of our terrific choir singing their hearts out! Photos and video will be on the website for all to view.

Rev. Stacy stands beside the “Star Wars” themed cake.

To Carla, the Kitchen Elves (Jedis?) and everyone who helped with the Reception, from making, buying, and bringing food, and beverages, to setting out and arranging the food and beverages, to transforming the Sanctuary into the Dining Room – setting up tables and chairs, decorating the tables and the space, getting everything organized and ready for the Intermission on the Patio, and cleaning up afterward – a huge thank you is in order!   Carla, for the Star Wars Welcome banners and delicious Star Wars cake – the Force is strong with you! All of the food was scrumptious!! “Thank you” seems so inadequate to say. I am truly grateful for everything.  

Rev. Stacy is presented with gifts in celebration of her Installation.

Carla et al – Thank you for the stunning green stole – I can’t wait to wear it during Ordinary Time (after Pentecost)!  It reminds me of Hawaii, and is blessed with the love of UCC Simi, which I felt as you placed it over my shoulders.  
Joan – Thank you for the fantastic Star Wars potholders!   What a fabulous gift. They will have a high honor in our new house.  I hope you are willing to replace them when they become stained and worn from usage, because we will be using them every day.  
Susan – Thank you for the gift of your stoles.  What a treasure to receive them, as Elijah received the mantel from Elisha.  I’m looking forward to wearing them with honor.  
Cindy – Thank you for the Star Wars stole and communion set!  The time will soon come when everyone will be able to see them displayed and in full use/force <giggle>.  

If I forgot anyone, I apologize in advance.  It was definitely a whirlwind experience!  

Rev. Stacy and Cindy welcome you to UCC Simi Valley.

All of you worked together in concert to make a fantastic experience and event even better than what I could have imagined!   Cindy is right – we are truly blessed that God has brought us all together. I know that what we have here is extra special, and that it is only just beginning!  I love – and echo – what Carla said – that all of you working together, united for a common purpose, bringing your best selves in a loving and helpful way, reconfirms what is in her heart – that we are ready and able to do great  things!  

UCC Simi is a remarkable, wonderful, glorious community of faith!  I have a good feeling about this! 

My deepest gratitude to each and every one of you!  I love you all and, in case I haven’t told you enough, I am – we are – beyond thrilled to be here!  We are truly one community, united in serving and loving God, and bringing the Good News of God’s love and extravagant welcome to the City of Simi Valley!  

Peace and Grace, Beloved Ones!

~ Rev. Stacy

Photos from Installation

Thank you for all the wonderful photos from the touching Installation service. Enjoy!

Choir Video

The UCC Simi Valley Choir sings “Order My Steps”

March Dinner Site Schedule

The Simi Valley Community has come together in order to provide meals, seven nights a week, to those who need them. UCC Simi Valley is honored to participate in this valuable program. The schedule we receive monthly also include “PADS” shelters. These are places where people who need a place to sleep can go for the night throughout the colder months.

If you know someone who could use this information, please pass along the copy of the dinner sites provided below.

Please note all of our meals are served in a togo type order with no sitdown ability due to the social distancing.

Meet Rev. Stacy Thomas

Rev. Stacy Thomas
Rev. Stacy Thomas will be installed as Pastor Feb. 23.

The Rev. Stacy L. Thomas will be installed as the settled minister at the United Church of Christ in Simi Valley, 370 Royal Ave., on Sunday, Feb. 23, at 4:00 p.m. This service represents the mutual commitment between Rev. Thomas and the congregation as she accepts the call to serve the church and community.


Rev. Thomas graduated from Claremont School of Theology in May 2011 with a Master of Divinity, and has worked primarily in hospice as a Spiritual Care Counselor, Bereavement Counselor, and Volunteer Coordinator.
In Rev. Thomas’s own words, “I love God and am passionate about helping others navigate their own personal spiritual journeys, both individually and communally. I am excited about what God will do, and where God will lead us! I love the United Church of Christ, and wholeheartedly believe in our messages: “God is still speaking,” and “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, You Are Welcome Here!” At UCC in Simi Valley, we strive to live out the teachings of Jesus through loving and serving our neighbors and our commitment to peace and social justice.


“I have been married to the love of my life since 2006, and became a step-mom to her amazing son. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in hospice for 10 years. We support one another wholeheartedly in all of our endeavors. Our family is excited about relocating to the Simi Valley area very soon, and meeting our new neighbors and making new friends here!”

To learn more about the Installation service see this post.

The Installation of Rev. Stacy

Rev Stacy and Family
Rev. Stacy Thomas and Family

The Northern Association of the Southern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ, and the United Church of Christ in Simi Valley, invite you to celebrate the Installation of the Rev. Stacy L. Thomas as Pastor.

Sunday, February 23, 2020, at 4:00 p.m.

Simi Valley United Church of Christ.
370 Royal Avenue, Simi, California


Clergy are invited to dress or robe, according to their tradition, and arrive by 3:30 pm to process.  

The liturgical color is red.

Reception to follow after the service.

Please RSVP by February 9th, including any dietary restrictions, by calling (805)526-6001 or contact us here.


Installation Program

Rev-Stacy-Installation-02-23-2020