We have a cool new booth in the crafts aisle at the Farmers Market, to last throughout the spring! All proceeds go to charity: Sales of facemasks, potholders, and microwave bowl cozies (our hot new item) benefit our church, and sales of pillowcases benefit People Pillowcases, providing pillowcases for foster kids. There are also some fresh vegetable stands in the the food and produce section. The market is open every Friday, 11:00 to 3:30, on Tapo Canyon Road, in the shopping center directly north of the 118 freeway, between the Regal Theater and TGIFridays. Just look for all the white canopies at the north end of the mall.
Put on your mask (I know where you can get one!) and come and visit!
In addition to celebrating Pentecost this Sunday, we will also be observing UCC’s Mental Health Sunday.
“The magnitude of mental illness in this country is staggering. According to the Surgeon General, one in every five Americans experiences a mental disorder in any given year and half of all Americans have such disorders at some time in their lives. These illnesses of the brain affect all of us, regardless of age, gender, economic status or ethnicity. Mental illness affects the mind, body and the spirit. It is a real, common and treatable illness. Mental illnesses are far more common than cancer, diabetes, heart disease or arthritis” (from Mental Health Ministries; http://www.mentalhealthministries.net).
The UCC Mental Health Network exists “to reduce stigma and promote the inclusion of people with mental illnesses/brain disorders and their families in the life, leadership, and work of congregations.” Their mission is to educate congregations to Widen the Welcome to all, just as Jesus reached out to those people who were marginalized, ostracized, and considered to be the outcasts of society. Jesus brings comfort, love, understanding, support, and affirmation to everyone, and it is the Mental Health Network’s calling to help congregations be more like Jesus in Widening the Welcome to invite all who have been excluded from congregational life and ministry. (See https://www.mhn-ucc.org/).
Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, and the need for continuing education, compassionate outreach, and loving support and encouragement for congregants and their family members, as well as our friends and community members, I envision us including mental health in our church’s Peace and Justice Ministry. May our recognition of Mental Health Sunday be only the very beginning of including this very important aspect of our overall holistic health needs in our worship, faith formation, and spiritual nurture.
An invitation to heal racism by talking about it. That is what author Emmanuel Acho believes is the only way to cure our nation’s oldest disease, talking, ”Until it gets uncomfortable…and then some.” We will use Mr. Acho’s book “Uncomfortable Conversations With A Black Man” as our guide. We’ll discuss topics like implicit bias, the N-word, reverse and systemic racism, black family struggles, interracial relationships and how to be an ally. The segments are short, so I will send out excerpts ahead of our conversations and share some to open the meeting. I’m not requiring, but highly recommend that you purchase the book as a valuable resource, especially as you may want (hopefully) to start conversations of your own.
We will meet on Zoom every 2nd and 4th Tues. of the month from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Topics and intro will be sent out the week before along with the Zoom link. If you are interested in joining these conversations at any time, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you on the list to receive notices. Feel free to forward invites to family and friends. The more people talking, the greater the impact.
Here’s an excerpt from Mr. Acho’s introduction, “Consider this book an invitation to the table. It’s a special table- but don’t worry, this isn’t one of those uptight, where’s-your-VIP-reservation places, rather a come-as-you-are joint for my white brothers and sisters and anyone else inclined to join us. The room where this table sits is a safe space, by which I mean a space to learn things you’ve always wondered about, a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered. For all of you who lack an honest black friend in your life, consider me that friend.”
He also has a you tube channel and has created other content. I encourage you to check him out in advance of our first meeting.
I think of God as a Presence that I can be in relationship with, one that I can draw wisdom from, who guides me, and fills me with peace and love. The spiritual practice of meditation helps bring me into that presence. Meditation reduces stress, cultivates a sense of inner peace, helps us to find clarity of purpose, and can produce healing, as some in our medical profession have been finding out.
Each Thursday evening for 20 to 30 minutes I lead a guided meditation, followed by a short time of sharing. The meditations draw from Christian, Buddhist, and Inter-spiritual traditions i.e. Loving Kindness Meditations, Tonglen, Relaxation Meditation, Examen, Lectio Divina, Centering Prayer and meditations focused on themes of Gratitude, Peace and Love.
All are welcome to join us on ZOOM. Just fill out the contact form below, and I will send you the link to join.
The book jacket reads: “How do we labor for the world we want when the labor feels endless? Valarie Kaur — renowned Sikh activist, filmmaker, and civil rights lawyer — declares revolutionary love as the call of our time, a radical, joyful practice that extends in three directions; to others, to our opponents and to ourselves. It enjoins us to see no stranger but instead look at others and say: You are part of me I do not yet know. Starting from the place of wonder, the world begins to change: It is a practice that can transform a relationship, a community, a culture, even a nation.
Kaur takes readers through her own riveting journey — as a brown girl growing up in California farmland finding her place in the world; as a young adult galvanized by the murders of Sikhs after 9/11; as a law student fighting injustices in American prisons and on Guantanamo Bay; as an activist working with communities recovering from xenophobic attacks; and as a woman trying to heal from her own experiences with sexual assault and police violence.
Drawing from the wisdom of sages, scientists, and activists, Kaur reclaims love as an active, public, and revolutionary force that creates new possibilities for ourselves, our communities, and our world. See No Stranger helps us imagine new ways of being with each other —and with ourselves – so that together we can begin to build the world we want to see.”
This is a book for the time we live in. I invite anyone who would like to join us to contact us using the form below.
I look forward to hearing from you. Rev. Susan Brecht
UCC Simi Valley was extremely blessed to be active participants in the very first Simi Valley Pride Festival on June 26, 2020. We have long been a voice for upholding the dignity and value of LGBTQ+ community, and it is amazing to see equality, love and affirmation emerge in this community.
Pride Day Prayer
Dear Holy One, we are all bonded as one. We know that you see us as one. We know that you love us as one. Help society recognize that you love all. Continue to pave these roads so that those roads traveled in the future are smoother. Ever-loving one, please guide us. Your Word says that you are love and where there is love there can only be peace. We thank you for the love that you have brought us today. We thank you for the love that you will bring us tomorrow. Amen.
“We cannot be silent as one more black person is murdered unjustly, and the nation erupts with both anger and deep sorrow. We are called to recognize once again systemic racism, especially in law enforcement, by evoking the names of murdered George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.; Ahmaud Arbery in Glenn County, Ga; Breionna Taylor in Louisville, Ky.; Eric Garner in New York City; and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. … We cannot remain silent. God calls all of us to speak out. As Christians, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. God created and loves people of every color. And yet we create economic, political, and social barriers that oppress African Americans in every sector from housing and education to healthcare and criminal justice. The COVID-19 pandemic magnifies these disparities. We know that black and brown people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. This moment calls us all together to speak up, stand up and show up.“And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). This is our time to show our solidarity with all who live at the margins of our country because of their identities. We are called now to build a strong anti-racist commitment in our church so that we can show that Black Lives Matter in the kingdom of God. It is time to see ourselves as God sees us. Jesus is risen and alive in each one of us. May we use that strength to be agents of change.”
Anti-Racism Resources Document to Share with Family and Friends
This document is intended to serve as a resource to white people and parents to deepen our anti-racism work. If you haven’t engaged in anti-racism work in the past, start now. Feel free to circulate this document on social media and with your friends, family, and colleagues.
This list is designed to celebrate all the ways that our communities can engage in liberation. By and for those in our communities who can’t be in the streets, we offer a list of concrete ways that we are in the movement, and that we are supporting liberation every day
According to the NY Times: “The goal of The 1619 Project is to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year. Doing so requires us to place the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country.”
Families & Friends Living United In Diversity (FFLUID) is dedicated to offering “streams” of unconditional love, heartfelt support and quality resources to members of the LGBTQIA+ community, their families and friends. Our monthly support meetings give our members a safe space to discuss the unique challenges LGBTQIA+ persons face when forming friendships, seeking housing and employment, finding healthcare and navigating complicated family relationships.
During the Covid-19 Crisis
FFLUID will continue to meet virtually via Facebook Messenger. from 7:00 until 8:30 pm on the 3rd Thursday of every month.
Do you enjoy knitting or crocheting? Would you like to use your skills to create prayer shawls to bring peace, comfort, and warmth to sustain those in our community who need a mantle of safe haven in times of challenge? During this time of lock-down and isolation, your talents are especially desired. Completed shawls will be blessed by our faith community during Worship Gatherings and taken by one of our Deacons to anyone who requests them.
If you are interested in serving the community in this way please contact us here.
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!