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

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