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Faith Evolving, Lives Transforming
St. Paul's United Church of Christ
1101 Golf Course Rd SE
Suite 101
Rio Rancho, NM

Mailing address
P.O. Box 15755, Rio Rancho, NM 87174-0755


  Our core values…

Jesus Guided / Intentionally Inclusive / Peace Seeking / Justice Committed


Activities in December


Sunday mornings

Worship Service
10:30 am

Social Hour
11:30 am

Wednesday mornings

Dec 7 and 14

Office Hours with Pastor Sharon
Starbucks across from Intel, on 528, Rio Rancho

9:30 – 11:00 am



Wednesday evenings

Dec 7, 14, 21

DVD series: Myth in Human History

6:30 - 8:00 pm

See details below.

- - - -

Saturday, December 3

Retreat with Pastor Sharon

10:00 am - 2:00 pm

Come and go

Open your spirit to the wonder of winter

Thursday, December 15

Helping Hands Make Holidays Bright

11:30 am

Easy quilting. Easy painting. Smiles welcome!

See details below.

Sunday, December 18

Sing 'n Sip

2:00 – 3:30 pm

Sing carols. Sip cider. Bring friends. Have fun!

Saturday, December 24

Christmas Eve service

5:00 pm

Celebration with special music and candlelight

Come for refreshments starting at 4:15 pm


No services or other activities are scheduled at Church

on Christmas Day (Sunday) or on New Year's Day (Sunday).


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Other meetings at our location

11 am  Tai Chi

6 pm   Buddhist Meditation

Second Thursdays
1 pm   Parkinson's Support Group


Myth in Human History

Series continues through February 2017


6:30 – 8:00 pm


What are myths? How did they evolve? Why do we desperately need them? This course uses DVDs and books to examine myths (stories and beliefs) which try to make sense of the universe, link us to our ancestors, and harmonize our lives with reality. The history of myth is the history of humanity.


The DVD lectures are presented by Professor Grant L Voth, Professor Emeritus in English and Interdisciplinary Studies at Monterey Peninsula College. Books used to augment the lectures are A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong and The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers.


Topics for December and January


December 7
“Mystic Heroes – King Arthur” and “Mystic Heroes – Jason and the Argonauts”


December 14 
“The Monomyths of Rank and Campbell” and “Mythic Heroes – Mwindo”


December 21
“Female Heroes – Demeter and Hester Prynne” and
“Female Heroes – Psyche and Beauty"

January 4
“The Trickster in Mythology” and “Tricksters From Around the World”


January 11 
“Native American Tricksters” and “African Tricksters”

January 18
“Mystic Tricksters” and “The Places of Myth”


January 25 
The Places of Myth – Mountains” and “The Places of Myth – Sacred Trees”


Come, learn, question, discuss, have fun!


Pat Dunn

Chair, Faith Development Team



Attention Quilt Lovers and Painters


There will be a gathering at St. Paul’s on
Thursday December 15 at 11:30 am
to make baby quilts and paint boxes for flowers.

Bring your box lunch and feast with us. It doesn’t matter if you know how to paint or sew—just come and bring a smile! The quilts are gifts that will be given to either Haven House or the Hospital and the box of flowers to Habitat for Humanity. Y’all come now!


Trish Herron, Missions Co-Leader



The Christmas Fund


Our denomination, the United Church of Christ, has five main mission outreach activities and congregations who contribute to these are called 5 for 5 congregations. We of St. Paul's are 5 for 5. Number 5 of the calendar year is The Christmas Fund. You are invited to be a part of this mission outreach that cares for the active and retired clergy and lay employees of the UCC who have limited financial means.

Your gift to the Christmas Fund will not only assist pastors in need, but also provide for the supplementation of small annuities, supplementation of health premiums, emergency grants, and provide Christmas “Thank You” Gift Checks next December to struggling retirees.

Your gifts are important more than ever to help the growing number of retirees whose low-income annuities make it difficult to meet increasing living costs. This is your opportunity to participate in God's promise of renewal by enabling this ministry of compassion and care.

Please know that your gift is truly appreciated and that it will brighten the life of one of God’s servants who is facing a moment of personal need. Special giving envelopes will be available at Church. Thank you for your generosity!



Search Committee News


Advent is a season of anticipation, and I – along with you – anticipate moving our search process to the next level. Completing the Local Church Profile should wrap up soon. It will be reviewed by the Southwest Conference Office. There may be adjustments recommended and once everything is in proper order, ministers from around the country will be able to read this document. We will then be receiving profiles from those ministers who have found our information intriguing. That may begin in January.


Back in January of 2011 candidates began to contact us when we last searched for a new pastor. Four months later, in May, Sharon Littrell came to St. Paul's to preach and the congregation voted to offer her the call to be our pastor. On August 1, 2011, Pastor Sharon began her ministry with us. Be aware that some congregations' search process has lasted as long as eighteen months.


The Church Council approved a Pastoral Transition Team (the PTT) who will cover all the duties of a pastor before we have a new minister in place. The PTT consists of Rev. Ernie Dunn (a retired UCC minister), Lois Gray (a seminary graduate) and Sandra Chapin (with four years of seminary and pastoral training). We are meeting to plan services for the weeks and months ahead. We will also be able to offer you pastoral care that you may want – such as special conversation, sharing concerns – all done with keeping your privacy in mind.


St. Paul's UCC will remain strong and compassionate and lively as we enter into 2017. We will continue to be the progressive voice in our community and a welcoming presence. As always, we do this as a group effort, with everyone taking part in our great adventure as a family of faith!


Sandra Chapin
Search Committee Chair


Happening in the Southwest Conference

Ktizo UCC
Phoenix, AZ

Rev. Nancy Elsenhiemer thanks all who helped in getting the Ktizo Sober Living House ready to open. The facility provides a clean and sober environment for women to implement a transition from addiction to recovery.


First Christian Church (UCC / Disciples of Christ)
Las Cruces, NM

On the first and third Thursdays, monthly, an intergenerational group meets for “Soul(ar) Power” – honoring the radiant love and empowering wisdom that God bestows. It is a time to nurture connections among older people, to pass on and share knowledge with the younger generation, and to offer insight and advice when requested – and not to judge.


First Congregational Church
Flagstaff, AZ

The 3rd annual Crafts of Many Colors was held in November, featuring crafts from third world countries, from local crafts people, and members of the church. This year for the first time the Northern Arizona Celtic Society was there to offer delicious food and beautiful items from Scotland.





Jesus came into a world where children are at risk;

where they, Holy Innocents, suffer,

and their parents, like Rachel, weep for them.



God, have mercy...

when we forget that the Holy Family was a poor family,

when we forget that the Holy Family was a refugee family,

when we forget that the Holy Family was an immigrant family.


Lead us to recognize the Holy Child in the places of greatest need. Amen.



Written by the Rev. Susan A. Blain, Minister for Faith Formation; Curator for Worship and Liturgical Arts, Local Church Ministries.


Pastor Sharon's View


As I gather my belongings still at St. Paul’s, I pause to gather reflections from my time as pastor for this Congregation. Some of our times together were turbulent making me question my call here; others, calm. Both reminded me of the true meaning of “call.”


Preparing this article, I looked over my monthly Pastor’s Reports from the five and one half years of my tenure and am taking a paragraph or so from each one written at yearly intervals.


The journey is meaningful for me, and I hope for you.


September 2011 (reflecting on the core values of St. Paul’s articulated prior to my arrival):


To me, Jesus Guided, means that Jesus is the model for how I live - pretty simple to put into words - far more difficult to live out. In the children’s book that I have for the kid’s message, one view of God is that of parent. The message says “Come, I will show you the world! Come, I will teach you about life!” then, once grown, the child lives as the parent showed and taught. Jesus Guided is the showing and the teaching. It is up to me to do the very best with these that I can. No matter what! It can be a challenge.


In August, 2012 St. Paul’s faced a difficult decision — is church a building or a group gathered into community. We looked at three options: stay the same, disband or sell and move.


Option 3

Sell the church and move as a whole to new space - perhaps rented space for the short term, purchased space for the longer term.

The land and building are valued at about $2,000,000. a quick sale could lower the price to $1,500,000. The building could be sold “as is” and the work proposed in one of the options above would not be completed.

We could sell with terms: 20 percent down, carry the balance, live off the monthly payments for the short term while a new “home” is being located. Many churches do this as buildings get older, populations shift, and the needs of a congregation change.


We decided that “Church” is a community. We sold and moved.


In August 2013 I was reminded of my challenge that all of us to pray for St. Paul’s each afternoon at 5:30. (Jeanne Plander told me recently she still does pray for our Congregation.)


So much has happened in the two years that I have been pastor of this church. Our biggest physical change has been the sale and subsequent relocation to our new Abrazo home that we share with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation. The space is much smaller (cozy, inviting) than we were accustomed to. In this space that seats 75 rather than 225, I see members sitting in the same pew as another member. When I came St. Paul’s and when we left the building we owned, few people had to share a pew. From my perspective, I like to see the church “family” gathered close to each other. It does indeed feel like a family.


Another change: During my time here, we lost some members. When pastors change, that frequently happens. When pastors come who are expected to lead to drastic change, maybe more of the long-time members leave as the dust begins to settle, but --- new people begin to come. Our new members bring enthusiasm, energy and excitement! They also invite friends - some of whom come and stay.


A final change to mention, though not the final change we have experienced, are the vibes of enthusiasm coming from our Congregation. We smile, we laugh, we gather, we pray, we support one another. The negative atmosphere is gone. Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.


July 2014 saw me and several members of St. Paul’s visiting congregations that really do do church differently. A grant enabled some of us to observe, learn and bring back ideas we thought might work.


Seattle was one of the areas that John Dorhauer suggested I visit. My greatest take-away from Seattle was a desire to be really a church-different. I think I was/am too much ahead of church-goers. Here is what Seattle offered


Sunday we attended two church services: 10:15 Breakfast Liturgy and 5PM Eucharist at the Church of the Apostles, a Lutheran (and Episcopal) congregation. The Episcopal part was not visible to me though Sunday evening followed a strict liturgy. …


The breakfast liturgy, translated into Agape Meal by me, is one of the ways that we do venture into the “church different” arena.


August 2015


When you do go to FaceBook, take time to add a comment. The more comments people see, the more valuable our advertising dollar becomes. Here is my feeling about posts: each post does not have to be original — you can excerpt an item that you think will be of interest to those who do visit our website (and eventually join us for church). Be sure that if you do repost, you attribute your information to the original author. Here is a for-instance: One UCC pastor wrote that her own cousin was a victim of the shooter in Charleston. The information that I posted was not about the family tie, but the pastor’s plea that our country come together to fight racial injustice. That is a UCC core value and, I hope, is of interest to those who are considering St. Paul’s UCC.


July 2016


Each Sunday we begin our time together, our worship, calling out that St. Paul’s is the Progressive Church in Rio Rancho and western Albuquerque. We say we subscribe to an evolving faith ~ Faith Evolving, Lives Transforming, found at the top of our bulletin. We claim core values: we are Jesus Guided, Intentionally Inclusive, Peace Seeking and Justice Committed and when we do Jesus work in our community, these all guide us. We watch DVDs that guide us to an informed view of scripture and we all read, or mean to read, progressive Christian writers: Bart Ehrman, John Shelby Spong, Dom Crossen, the late Marc Borg. These writers and scholars taught us that Jesus was probably married, that he had children (things expected of a Jewish male), that the Gospels were written by men who probably never met Jesus and that Paul wrote about how his eyes were opened before these men wrote their stories about Jesus.


As we subscribe to being Progressive Christians, we need to keep remembering what we believe and why. We are not a march in lock-step church, so some of us believe a bit differently and there is room in our denomination for divergent views. Once in a meeting we remembered say that questions are welcome, pat answers are not given.


December 2016


It is not without sorrow that I leave St. Paul’s. A lot has happened, but there is potential for much more. I will not know who you will call as pastor; I ask that you give the newbie a chance to show what he/she can be. If your choice is a person to lead you on a progressive path, take chances, spread your wings and fly. Our UCC voice is needed in this world that seems to be gathering into groups that do not accept divergent views. We have the ability to lead. The greatest legacy I can have is that the progressive voice still speaks in our God is Still Speaking denomination.


Remember to pray for your elbow partner and may the Mystery that I call God be with each of you.


From the Editor's Desk
Ernie Dunn

It has taken me almost a month, but I have finally completed reading Marcia Pally's book, Commonwealth and Covenant, which is truly "a magisterial study of relationality in Western theology and culture." In the process, my mind has become supersaturated with the concepts of Covenant and the role of community, as revealed and understood in the Hebrew scriptures, the Rabbinic period, the Greek scriptures, the Pauline letters, the Catholic and Protestant churches. It has been an amazing read, a very difficult read and, in the end, an enjoyable read.


This book is not in the genre of "must read", a New York Times best seller for a wide range of people. I would highly recommend it for those who enjoy or at least are willing to traverse through the entanglements of esoteric theological thought. It is well worth the effort. I have never read a book so jammed packed with thought and theory. The author includes no "phatic phrases", hollow rhetoric or meaningless exposition that might allow you to take a deep breath, momentarily wander off and still be on target with the subject matter being presented. If confession is in order, I must admit that from time to time, I would have to ask myself, what led me to a particular point in the narrative and then I would have to go back and pick up where I went astray.


I must also say that there were times I took issue with some of the ideas being presented by thinkers cited. However, in time, I came to appreciate the efforts of these persons recognizing that they had taken on a monumental task, what we used to call in yore "trying to scrutinize the inscrutable" or "providing insight into the ineffable mystery of human existence." Also they were often writing under the constraints of the recognized orthodoxy of the day, the information at their disposal and the limitations of language however powerful the means for dramatic and meaningful expression it may be.


There was one person mentioned in the book whose ideas completely captured my attention, an expert on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, S. Hauerwas, who cogently argued that initially we should view Christianity "as a communal performative act. It is what one does with one's day." To be a Christian is to be "embedded in a community of practices that make (one's) beliefs themselves work and give us a community by which we are shaped." Religious belief, properly understood and practiced, is not simply some kind of "primitive metaphysics, but in fact, it is a performance just like you would perform Lear."


Christianity is living ethically with others in a covenant community. Discipleship is to be understood as "belief-constituting-conduct-constituting-belief." Such communities and practices "give us ways to go when we are not sure where we are." Given the complexities and uncertainty in which we are living these days, I found the following words very helpful: "(Such communities) help us with the wisdom and resources to face complexities without the fear and frustration that push us to quick fixes, to obscure root causes, blur the big picture, and blind us to the concern of others who are involved."


Equally as important, such communities serve as models for other communities. "We start first by having the patience amid the injustice and violence of this world to care for the widow, the poor, and the orphan." It should be our conviction "that unless we take the time for such care neither we nor the world can know what justice looks like."


He concludes by supposing that the "first task of the church is to exhibit in our common life the kind of community possible when trust, and not fear, rules our lives."


The season of Advent has come. I trust that during this period of celebration and meaningful reflection, we will take the time to rediscover our common humanity, and, therefore, exhibit respect and compassion for all persons. Advent is a time when we should identify with all people, sincerely expressing concern and compassion for the homeless, for the starving millions, for those who are persecuted, humiliated and rejected, and also for those yet to be born who will suffer for the way we are now behaving.


During this holiday season and throughout the coming year, may there be joy in spite of sadness, hope that follows a dark night of despair and love and compassion where hatred burns brightly.


Cheers from the PUB
Sandra Chapin
Publications Manager

Ringing Endorsement


Hark, hear the... seasonal musings from yours truly. So glad to listen to Christmas music on the radio again, and watch familiar holiday movies.


“Everytime a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” Yes, Zuzu Bailey, it is a wonderful life! Whether you like your angels male or female, or animal, vegetable or mineral, there are plenty of magical imaginings we may attach to Christmas. The wonder we experienced as children resurfaces.


You may have been cautioned as a child not to boast or “toot your own horn.” (Horn tooting also comes under the category of “Stop that racket!”) But achievements can, and perhaps should be recognized even if you just make note of it to yourself. You got all your holiday shopping done early – gold star! You baked cookies for your neighbor – and you had fun doing it. You donated a toy or turkey. Someone's day got a little brighter even if for a moment because you greeted them. See what an angel you can be.


(Spoiler alert if you haven't ever seen It's a Wonderful Life.) Clarence got his wings. I give you permission to soar whenever you realize the world is a better place with you in it. I hope you come to that realization often.




“Saved by the bell.” At the Halloween Bible study Yvonne brought our attention to the practice of placing a bell inside a coffin in case the person laying in it only appears dead and wakes up. From the site I read that another origin of the phrase has to do with boxing. A boxer may be knocked down but, if the bell signals the end of the round, he/she has a chance to regain strength and continue the fight in the next.


Coffin. Box. Boxers. Boxers who fight in a ring. I'll admit following my own musings can be dizzying if not downright confusing.


Consider this scenario. You are confronted with what appears as a failure – an upper right hook comes out of nowhere and you fall flat. Then you have the opportunity to sit, rest and regroup on your small chair in the corner where your team tells you “Hang in there, Champ! You can do it!” You cool down, and then you fight on. Sounds like life, though not everyone has saving bell experiences.


When you are a part of a faith community like what we have at St. Paul's, there are always people in your corner.




“Rings true.” When something (a phrase) rings true we can interpret that it is convincing, holds up, carries weight. This definition rings true since I read it on, and I deemed the site to bear scrutiny. Political satirist Bill Maher has at times featured a segment on his “Real Time” series on HBO called “I don't now if it's true, it just sounds true” – a vehicle for his quirky take on the news.


My parting words of wisdom as we get ready to leave 2016 and head into 2017: Be true to your best intentions, your longings, your dreams. Balance them with what already delights you in your life. If part of that delight comes from the time you spend with your Church family, then may your spirit soar everytime we gather. Know that we cheer for one another, and we hold each other up as true companions do. The Good News of God's love for all is alive and well.




A bell's not a bell 'til you ring it. A song's not a song 'til you sing it.

Love in your heart wasn't put there to stay. Love isn't love 'til you give it away!


Oscar Hammerstein II
The Sound of Music


St. Paul's UCC Leaders 2016
Rev. Sharon Smith-Littrell, PhD

Music Director
William W. Williams


Church Council

Darrell Taylor

Sandra Chapin

Anita Curtis

Financial Secretary
Yvonne Dudley

Assistant Treasurer
Assistant Financial Secretary
Carol Smith

Church Clerk
Yvonne Dudley
Faith Development
Patricia Dunn

Sandra Chapin

Anita Curtis and Trish Herron


St. Paul's View Staff
Ernie Dunn
Sandra Chapin
Publications Manager





Bernard Spragg. NZ

Under the Christmas Tree

Why do we have a decorated Christmas Tree? In the 7th century a monk from Crediton, Devonshire, went to Germany to teach the Word of God. He did many good works there, and spent much time in Thuringia, an area which was to become the cradle of the Christmas Decoration Industry.

The first decorated tree was at Riga in Latvia, in 1510. In the early 16th century, Martin Luther is said to have decorated a small Christmas tree with candles, to show his children how the stars twinkled through the dark night.

Taken on November 22, 2014

Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Public domain



Core Values

Christian Neff


Taken on May 7, 2016

altered by S. Chapin

Public domain


Activities in December

Joe deSousa


Taken on December 19, 2015

Public domain



Myth in Human History

dang cuong


Taken on December 6, 2015

Public domain



Attention Quilters / Painters


A very tiny xmas

Taken on December 4, 2015

Public domain



The Christmas Fund

Joe deSousa

Jack Darling Park, Mississauga

On the shore of Lake Ontario on a cold December morning.

Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Taken on December 8, 2013

Public domain



Search Committee


Vintage gift box on sackcloth textured background

Uploaded on March 28, 2016

Public domain



Happening in the SWC

Image Catalog

Snow on Pine Leaves

Taken on January 27, 2015

Public domain




Vicky Ponce


San Juan, Tultitla De Mariano
Escobedo, Mexico

Taken on December 28, 2015

Public domain



Pastor Sharon's View



Taken on January 24, 2016

Public domain



From the Editor's Desk

Image Catalog

Busy Outdoor Market at Dusk

Taken on June 19, 2011

Public domain



Cheers from the PUB

Mike Goad


Uploaded on November 19, 2016

Public domain



St. Paul's Leaders

Special Olympics 2017


RAMSAU,AUSTRIA,14.JAN.16 - SPECIAL OLYMPICS, NORDIC SKIING, CROSS COUNTRY SKIING - World Winter Games 2017, Pre-Games. Image shows Wolfgang Bitschi (AUT). Photo: GEPA pictures/ Harald Steiner

Taken on January 14, 2016

Public domain



View Staff

Mike Goad


Uploaded on November 23, 2016

Public domain




Benjamin Balazs

ice flakes on marjoram leaves

Taken on December 4, 2013

Public domain


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