Embracing Life Together in Togo, West Africa

Newlove is a name that has come up in our announcements and prayers. 
This is some of his story:

Newlove Atiso was born in Ghana, West Africa, the second of three sons,
who were followed by two daughters, five children in all. Newlove
received his name from his father Bob, and he later took a middle name,
Bobson, to honor his father.  His mother came from a village in the
neighboring country to the east, Togo.

When Newlove visited Togo as a tourist, he felt at home.  He decided to
move there and work for the needs of the poor.  In 2008 he learned about
People to People International, which was founded by Pres. Dwight
Eisenhower to foster personal contacts around the world.  Newlove and
his friends founded the PTPI-Togo chapter in the capital city of Lomé. 
Soon after that, Newlove asked PTPI for a sister chapter in the U.S.,
and the Los Angeles chapter answered the invitation.  (I was president
of the chapter then, and Leslie Kearney is the president now.)

Our first project together was to repair a school roof that had
literally collapsed onto children in a country village.  Half of the
money came from LA, and PTPI-Togo volunteers did all of the labor.  (The
school’s neighbors would not work without pay.)

In 2014 our members Joan and John spent a week in Togo, enjoying overflowing
hospitality.  Among many adventures, they saw the school roof, built back
better than new.  Beyond that, a Swiss official had recognized the
volunteer work and had caused the construction of a sturdy new building
with two much-improved classrooms.  Then, a Turkish foundation learned
what was going on and contributed a well and a water pump so that the
children always have clean water to drink.  All of this happened because
Newlove’s big heart had responded to children in need.

In the years since then, another member of PTPI-LA, Natalie Besse,
visited Togo and Ghana and personally underwrote a library and a water
storage unit.  Also, we heard from a PTPI member in Delaware, Ed
Tucker.  Ed visited West Africa on a cruise and, having only one day in
Lomé, sought out the PTPI chapter and became a friend and supporter of
Newlove.  The Delaware chapter raised $2,300 to buy school supplies and
pay school fees for poor children in Togo.

Newlove stays in touch by emails and short phone calls, although both
are unreliable and expensive.  He is a passionate advocate for
poor children, hoping that they can bring about a better time.

Guest Speaker Celia Daniels

Celia Sandhya Daniels ( She / They ) — Trans evangelist & Human Rights Activist

On Sunday, June 27, 2021 we will celebrate “Open and Affirming Sunday” as part of our month-long LGBTQIA+ Pride celebration. We have invited long-time friend Celia Sandhya Daniels to be our guest speaker during our morning Worship Service.

Meet Celia Daniels

Celia is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, D&I champion, blogger, composer, musician, photographer, hiker and a filmmaker. She currently resides in southern California with her family. She is an Asian Indian who identifies as Gender Non-Binary and Non-Op trans person of color. Celia brings an intersectional blend of ethnicity, creativity, culture, religion and corporate experience in her “trans-evangelism”, as she likes to call it. She is currently focused on educating and building allies with local communities, business, churches, police dept., therapists, doctors and organizations that fight for civil rights and economic empowerment.

How to Attend

Our service begins at 10 AM (PST) and we welcome guests to attend in-person at 370 Royal Avenue, Simi Valley, CA or view online via Zoom.


Have a Question? We’d love to hear from you!

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“Open and Affirming (ONA) is the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the UCC which make a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.”

New Farmers Market Booth

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!

Mental Health Sunday

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.

Uncomfortable Conversations- A Discussion Group

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 treasurer@uccsimi.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 look forward to our time together

Peace

Carla Ritter

Guided Meditations

Thursday Evenings at 8 p.m. on ZOOM


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. 


Finding peace during these challenging times. 

Susan Brecht


Meditation Group Inquiry

Meditation Group Inquiry

We would like to hear from you. Please send us a message or ask a question by filling out the form below and we will get back to you soon.

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Book Study

Join Us for a New Book Study: Valarie Kaur’s See No Stranger

Starting October 10th we invite you to join us as we begin studying Valarie Kaur’s “See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love.” She was one of the keynote speakers at the UCC’s General Synod in July. 

Image Source: https://valariekaur.com/see-no-stranger/

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


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Serving Those in Need During Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused us to look at our various ministries and adapt them to the realities of the time. We have had a longstanding relationship with The Samaritan Center in Simi Valley and have been active participants in their Community Dinner program. Gathering for meals at our church property posed a health risk, but we wanted to continue to serve the community during the current public health crisis.

Every month, the $65 we would have used to provide a Community Dinner is designated for the Center along with any new donations we receive for the Community Dinner Fund that month. A volunteer offered to be a buyer for items that The Samaritan Center need and have difficulty locating.
 
Let’s reach out with our compassion and actions.

Would You Like to Help?

Please visit our https://uccsimi.org/giving/ and select “Community Dinner” as your choice under “Designated Giving.”

Simi Valley Pride!

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.

Know Justice Know Peace

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.”   

~UCC National Board, Rev. Stacy Thomas (in bold)


Resources for Standing Against Racial Injustice

We have highlighted a few resources below. For a more complete list visit resources.uccsimi.org.

NAACP- “We Are Done Dying ” Campaign


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.


Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup

Podcast and additional resources for parents and caregivers.


26 Ways to Be in the Struggle Beyond the Streets

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


NY Times Magazine “1619 Project”

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.”


75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice

Corinne Shutack wrote an article on the popular platform Medium, outlining steps to “work to fix what we broke and left broken isn’t done until Black folks tell us it’s done.”