Faith Evolving, Lives Transforming
St. Paul's United Church of Christ
1101 Golf Course Rd SE
Rio Rancho, NM
P.O. Box 15755, Rio Rancho, NM 87174-0755
Our core values…
Jesus Guided / Intentionally Inclusive / Peace Seeking / Justice Committed
Activities in September
Sept 14, 21, 28
New DVD series: Myth in Human History
6:30 - 8:30 pm
See details below.
Thursdays / Saturdays
Sept 15 / 17
Sept 22 / 24
Sept 29 / Oct 1
Small Group Discussions and Brown Bag Lunch
Questions to think about as we search for a new pastor.
Noon - 2:00 pm
See details below.
Friday evening, September 30
Potluck Dinner / Dance with "DJ Trish"
Bring a dish to share -- and friends!
Get in the groove to move!
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Other meetings at our location
11 am Tai Chi
6 pm Buddhist Meditation
1 pm Parkinson's Support Group
Myth in Human History
September, 2016 – February, 2017 (18 weeks)
6:30 – 8:30 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 September and October
“Myth and Meaning” and “The Continuing Importance of Myth”
“Creation Myths and “Mesopotamian Creation – Enuma Elish”
“Hebrew Creation Myths” and “Emergence and World-Parent Creation Myths”
“Cosmic Egg and Ex Nihilo Creation Myths and
“Earth-Diver and Dismembered God Creation Myths”
“Mesopotamian and Hebrew Flood Myths” and “Other Flood Myths”
“Myths of Cosmic Destruction” and “Greek and Norse Pantheons”
“The Great Goddess Remembered?” and “The Goddess - Inanna and Dumuzi”
Come, learn, question, discuss, have fun!
Chair, Faith Development Team
Search Committee News
The process to find a new minister is underway. Pastor Sharon's last service with us will be Christmas Eve. We will have opportunites to celebrate with her in recognition of her ministry at St. Paul's. Details about that will be announced. In the meantime, the task ahead is very important. The United Church of Christ and our Southwest Conference have guides and resources available to assist congregations when the position of pastor becomes vacant. Our Church Council established a Search Committee which consists of a core group who will attend to the steps involved in the search, asking members of the congregation to assist in specific areas.
The Search Committee: Sandra Chapin (Chair), Darrell Taylor, Lois Gray and Gordon Nelson.
The UCC has recently revised the search process with a new format for the Local Church Profile. Once completed, this document will be seen by ministers seeking a call to a new congregation. The first part of the document requires thoughtful input from the congregation. There are probing questions designed to discern what our purpose is as a Church, how we see that purpose changing in the next few years, and what gifts and skills are we looking for in a new minister to help us fulfill that purpose. The UCC advises the section on who are we now / who is our neighbor / who is God calling us to become be revisited every 3 to 5 years.
A portion of the Local Church profile can be handled by a simple survey which will be distributed to members of St. Paul's. Other portions involve financial and historical information. But for the parts requiring more thought, the Search Committee decided that this would be best addressed in small group sessions. As individuals we all have preferences and hopes for St. Paul's – yet the questions that will be raised have a community aspect that take precedence. We will be asked what would benefit the congregation, not just ourselves. Talking in relaxed, small group settings we will get a sense of what is important to others. Not only will the Local Church Profile be a more effective document that reflects St. Paul's, we will have a better understanding of our Church friends. Our community outlook will be strengthened as a result.
Please make plans to participate in these small groups.
Small Groups to Discuss the Search for our next Pastor
Noon at Church / Bring a “Brown Bag” lunch (optional)
The questions asked on Thursday repeat on Saturday.
Please try to attend each week, choosing either Thursday or Saturday.
Sandra will be contacting members and friends of St. Paul's
to give some of the questions ahead of time.
Your input is valuable as we put together our “Local Church Profile.”
Sept 15 & 17
Who are we now?
Sept 22 & 24
Who is God calling us to become?
Sept 29 & Oct 1
Who is God calling to minister with us?
The United Church of Christ highlights five major missons throughout the year. In autumn the focus turns to Neighbors in Need (NIN). NIN is a special mission offering of the UCC that supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States. One-third of NIN funds support the Council for American Indian Ministry (CAIM). Two-thirds of the offering is used by the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries (JWM) to support a variety of justice initiatives, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects through grants.
Neighbors in Need grants are awarded to churches and organizations doing justice work in their communities. These grants fund projects whose work ranges from direct service to community organizing and advocacy to address systemic injustice. Funding is provided through donations to the Neighbors in Need offering.
The 2016 theme for NIN is "This we believe: No child should go to bed hungry" and connects the issue of child hunger to the work that UCC congregations are doing to serve their community and address this injustice.
Special donation envelopes will soon be available on Sundays.
You may also give online (www.ucc.org/nin).
Thank you for your compassionate support.
Happening in the Southwest Conference
An invitation from Rincon UCC (Tucson, AZ): Come and experience the wisdom of the Enneagram, an ancient tool with modern applications. The Enneagram (9 pointed diagram) is a wisdom tradition teaching that offers awareness of self and others, while mapping out a path for personal growth in body, heart and mind. In this 4-hour workshop, you will learn principles and practices to apply this wisdom to the living and sharing of your life in work and faith. Save the date, Saturday September 17 from 9am - 1pm.
This workshop will be lead by the Rev. Debra Peevey. A dynamic, engaging teacher and spiritual director, Rev. Peevey is a graduate of the Enneagram Institute’s Teacher Certification Program. She has lead faith based Enneagram workshops across the country, focusing on increasing group awareness through increased personal awareness.
This workshop is offered at no charge, and is open to everyone. Please RSVP to the Rincon UCC church office at (520) 745-6237 or Donna@RinconUCC.org by Sept. 9th.
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The SWC is looking for someone to serve our congregations in a volunteer capacity as our disaster services coordinator. The UCC Disaster Ministries position description says "This person will be encouraged to create a Conference Disaster Team (CDT). A CDT supports the disaster services coordinator by being additional 'eyes, ears, and hands' across the conference to assist congregations prepare their disaster response plans and to help with response to disaster events within the conference and in other conferences across the county."
If you are interested in serving as the Southwest Conference Disaster Services Coordinator, please send an email/letter of interest including previous disaster services and/or team-building experience to email@example.com.
A Prayer for Evolving … Risking the New
Trust in the slow work of God. We are, quite naturally impatient to reach the end without delay;
We should like skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient at being on the way to something new,
And yet it is the law of progress that the new is made by passing through some stages of instability and that it may take a very long time.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Give God the benefit of believing that the Holy Spirit is indeed the hand leading you,
And accepting the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit and Scientist
(Cleveland Jesuit Retreat House, Year End & Beginning Retreat)
Pastor Sharon's View
Pastors are notoriously bad for breaking every kind of boundary there is despite boundary training that is required on a regular basis that states in no uncertain terms what is expected of pastors and their congregations. Pastors are also terrible at keeping their work hours to reasonable work time. In addition, pastors too often do not take vacations. Each of these puts both pastor and congregation in jeopardy.
One of the trainings I have taken over the years since I was ordained, stressed that we take a vacation no matter what, preferably all at one time. Many pastors feel that if they are gone for a month or six weeks during the year, the church will fall apart. I am more than confident that Saint Paul's will survive my absence. It has in the past.
As part of my preparation for vacation, I have assured that the pulpit will be filled. Gail Joralemon preaches the first and fourth Sundays of September. The second Sunday, September 11, has Trish as preacher and the third Sunday will feature Sandra Chapin.
I shall return October 1st refreshed and ready to take us through Advent to Christmas.
Bruce Epperly, a prolific writer and UCC church pastor, has recently published Becoming Fire Creating a Vision for 21st C Churches. The following gives an idea of his passion and vision and may guide you in your pastoral search.
"In the spirit of God’s call to creative transformation, Bruce Epperly invites you to join him on a holy adventure in spiritual growth, inspired by the evolving wisdom of Christianity and the world’s great spiritual traditions, innovative global spiritual practices, and emerging visions of reality. Epperly explores the many resources of Christian spirituality in dialogue with the spiritual practices of the world’s great wisdom traditions, describing the gifts other spiritual paths contribute to the pathway of Jesus; at the same time, he uses the lens of the spiritual practices Jesus has inspired throughout Christian history to examine these spiritual paths. Epperly writes as a Christian committed to Jesus, whose teachings and way of life he believes lead to pathways of healing and creative personal and planetary transformation. We need an illuminating and multifaceted spirituality, Epperly affirms, to shed light and provide guidance as we confront the unique crises of our time. By embracing the diverse insights of spiritual wisdom givers, physicists, cosmologists, healing practitioners, and Earth keepers, we can meet the Earth's current challenges with love, joy, and a united strength."
From the Editor's Desk
Approximately a decade ago I, along with several other members of the Church, began reading a most thought provoking book. As I clearly recall, it only required reading the opening paragraph of the Introduction for me to realize that this would be a hard book to put down. These are the words the author, Charles Kimball, used to pull me in: "Religion is arguably the most powerful and pervasive force on earth. Throughout history religious ideas and commitments have inspired individuals and communities of faith to transcend narrow self interests in pursuit of higher values and truths. The record of history shows that noble acts of love, self-sacrifice, and service to others are frequently rooted in deeply held religious views."
However, before concluding this initial paragraph, he went on to say: "At the same time history clearly shows that religion has often been linked directly to the worst examples of human behavior. It is somewhat trite, but nevertheless sadly true, to say that more wars have been waged, more people killed, and these days more evil perpetuated in the name of religion than by any other institutional force in human history."
By now, I am sure that some of you have determined that the book to which I am referring is When Religion Becomes Evil.
This brief jaunt down memory lane was stimulated by two back to back FaceBook pages I recently viewed. In both instances the "submitters" were using their love of God, their obedience to Jesus, and the infallibility of the Scriptures to justify their attitude and behavior toward a minority group; behavior that did not required much endeavor to reveal its destructive nature, a modern example of evil manifested in the name of and with the blessings of religion.
In all fairness to these persons, I think they truly believed that their hateful proclamations and actions were authenticated by being in accord with what they considered to be the best and truest understanding of biblical and ecclesiastical teaching. Still, I couldn't help to wonder how they could be so oblivious to the fact that they were escalating a call to violence in which they seemed eager to participate. Action which would readily result in physical and emotional suffering for those who were the victims of their scorn.
Somewhat happily and slightly relieved to say, both pages had more responses from those in opposition than from those in support. And yet, I felt discomfort and uneasiness. I was reminded of the two challenges that Bishop John Spong wrote about in his most recent book, Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy. First of all, he finds that it is often embarrassing to "continue to identify oneself as a Christian and to see how the Christian church's holy book is used in the service of prejudice, hatred and oppression." Added to that is the challenge he encounters that causes him to struggle, to question whether he wishes to continue his loyalty to the Christian faith. This challenge, he asserts has confronted persons of faith for almost five hundred years. The motivating factor, the catalyst inducing the challenge is a literal understanding of the Bible, what he labels a heresy.
Spong argues that over the past five centuries we have witnessed "incredible explosions of new knowledge and new understandings of how our world operates." Standing in this present moment, we have a startling new sense of the enormity of our universe, we have (many have) moved far from the conclusion that weather induced disasters and traumatic illnesses are the results of divine punishment for human misconduct. We can know and measure the nature of our sometimes corrosive footprints on our environment and we know what is necessary for correction. The problem is that during this span of ages, a "literal understanding of the Bible has been used as the weapon of choice in opposition to almost every one of these new discoveries."
Within the tradition of the United Church of Christ we proclaim that we take the Bible seriously but not literally. We read and study the Bible believing that it provides a deep resource for our daily living and for our evolving faith in something or someone greater than ourselves. We are encouraged to find the ability to live inside the Christian story without denying the tenets of the world in which we live. It is not necessary for us "to twist our minds into a first-century pretzel in order to walk in the Christ path."
This ability will be difficult for many. One of the prevailing reasons for this difficulty stems from whether we view science and religion as reconcilable or irreconcilable. This has been a dilemma plaguing humankind from classical antiquity. In an article I recently read by Frances Collins, he contends that "One of the greatest tragedies of our time is this impression that science and religion have to be at war." For him the two are reconcilable.
On the other hand, in an article that Randy McCune shared with me and perhaps with some of you, the author proposes that the two are irreconcilable. Science is concerned with the natural world, acknowledging reason, empiricism and evidence. Religion by contrast is concerned with the supernatural focusing on revelation, faith and sacredness. Ergo never shall the twain meet.
And never shall they meet if you are a biblical literalist and believe, for example, that the expanse of this never ending multiverse was created in six days and/or you affirm that the Irish Bishop James Usher was right on target properly placing the start of that creation in 4004 BCE. Oh the many other examples one might cite. I can't refrain from wondering what the JEPD writers of the Pentateuch would think. I believe they would be shocked to discover that in this time, at any time, their mythological renderings were afforded literal interpretations.
I leave it to you as to how you will choose to read and interpret the scriptures, whether indeed you even choose to read and understand them. As for me, I stand with Bishop Spong. As he wrote in the Epilog of his earlier volume, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, "I believe that the key to understanding how the Bible is the word of God is found not by studying the literal text but rather by entering the experience out of which the text came to be written. Those ancient words that have been employed to interpret the experience are themselves not holy. Indeed they have even blinded us from seeing and entering the experience they seek to describe because these words are always limited by their time, their culture, and their apprehension of reality."
Moses Bailey, my beloved professor of the Hebrew scriptures and language, began his first lecture, my first class in seminary with words similar to these: "You are not here to study this text as the literal word of God, but rather to read it to gain an understanding of an ancient people who proclaimed belief in a God acting in and through their lives. It is a book of faith, not a factual history." I read the Bible, I seriously seek to understand what it is revealing. I find it to be a source of comfort and spiritual development. I do not, however, interpret it literally. That would be . . .
Cheers from the PUB
Turn, turn, turn. The weather is turning to fall. Good timing since, as I write this, tomorrow is September 1. Don't you love autumn? Who doesn't? Cooler temperatures. Colorful leaves.
Fall means going back to school. I liked school, nerd that I am, and though a certain amount of apprehension entered in, I looked forward to the newness of classes. Starting fresh appealed to me.
And with fall comes a new season of television programs. You know me well enough to recall that TV occupies a lot of my time!
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
[Ecclesiastes 1:9 – New International Version]
The cycle of seasons. The ringing of school bells. And the return of programs that network executives did not axe – yet. Is there nothing new under the sun? There will be new episodes, with familiar cast members. What will happen to them this season? Will they slip into old patterns and end up making the same sort of choices?
Turn. Fresh. Choices. These words point to something specific for me: “The Voice” returns to NBC on September 19! I started watching the program two years ago following Loretta's recommendation. I've learned much along the way.
Let me give you a taste of the show. And let's get spiritual while we're at it.
Turn. Four well established singers sit with their backs toward a contestant who enters on stage. The contestant begins to sing. The audience at home and those in the studio can see the performer, but the coaches only have “the voice” to go on as they decide whether to ask the person to be a part of their team and receive personal coaching in the weeks ahead. Each of the four has the option to turn her/his chair and thus signal to the performer an offer of a team placement. Without a place on a team, the contestant leaves.
Coaches serve as mentors, as encouragers, as guides. Did you have a “coach” early in life who turned you in a spiritual direction? Someone who spoke with you about God or Church in uplifting ways, or whose actions showed you what a life lived compassionately could look like? The voice of a person (or persons) like that may still linger in your mind.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
[Psalm 32:8 – New American Standard Bible]
Fresh. Those who perform share their heart-warming stories outlined in video clips. Most have had personal set backs or challenges. Some have performed on stage before – in clubs, state fairs, bowling alleys, or for family ears only. This will be the largest stage of all, a national broadcast with about 10 million viewers. Remarkable that nerves stay (mostly) under control. Contestants represent a wide range of ages, but they all have a fresh face appearance. Starry-eyed. Hopeful. This is their “big break.” The songs they sing are not new but some will put their own spin on the tune. Some have voices that are penetratingly unique. Fresh sounds catch the attention of the coaches. Fresh attitudes come across in their voices.
When you encounter scripture on Sunday mornings, or in your own time of reading, how often does it sound fresh to you? Sometimes a different translation can tweek a passage you know quite well into a phrase that may catch you by surprise. Hearing yourself read it aloud can lead to a very different experience than reading silently. Often your own voice will trigger a memory or an insight that can be beneficial.
Forget about what's happened; don't keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out!
[Isaiah 43:18,19a – The Message Bible]
Choices. Each week of the broadcast there are choices to be made. The first couple of weeks the coaches must choose who will move forward, and who will be sent home, and the decisions are hard. The performers are all talented, all have potential. Then the choice of who stays / who goes becomes the task of the viewers. Votes are registered online or by text. Disappointment and astonishment result. Whether they must leave or they make it to the final, gratitude is consistently expressed for the help and instruction given them. Ultimately it's the choices of the contestants themselves – what songs to sing and how to make those songs their own – that will have the greatest impact. The satisfaction of following an inner voice.
Living in the moment and planning ahead – are these ideas a part of your life, your decision making? Do you spend more time in one than the other, or do you seek a balance between the two? Whose voice do you listen to, and trust, when you make choices?
All the ways of people are pure in their eyes, but the LORD tests the motives.
Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.
[Proverbs 16:2, 3 – Common English Bible]
“The Voice” has provided me valuable lessons. Though this is a show about singing and performing, I project what I hear and see to affirm how gifted people are, how special and how resilient. I learn over and over how persistence matters. The supportive relationships that develop speak volumes about what really matters – that the true prize is building up someone else's confidence to take risks in pursuing a dream. Such a voice creates positive change. You and I have that voice as well.
St. Paul's UCC Leaders 2016
Rev. Sharon Smith-Littrell, PhD
William W. Williams
Assistant Financial Secretary
Anita Curtis and Trish Herron
St. Paul's View Staff
You may submit articles to firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Geological Survey
Nanushuk Formation, Tuktu Bluff
Not that we want to make you jealous about the amazing places we work...OK, OK, we're definitely trying to make you jealous...here's a shot of a geologist on an outcrop of Nanushuk Formation, Tuktu Bluff, Alaska.
Photographer: Dave Houseknec, USGS.
Taken on August 12, 2014
Lisa Ann Yount
rock texture 3
Taken on October 5, 2008
Activities in September
Cave in a stone
Uploaded on December 11, 2009
Myth in Human History
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
From the curation card:
This block originally formed part of a screen wall that connected the four front columns and sidewalls of the Temple of Harendotes ("Horus the Avenger") on the island of Philae. The relief represents the "baptism of Pharaoh," a purification ritual that was part of Egyptian coronation ceremonies. The gods Horus (not preserved) and the ibis-headed Thoth poured water -- here represented by streams of ankh (life) and was (dominion) hieroglyphs -- over the head of the king. The pharaoh whose head is partially preserved is a Claudian emperor most probably either Claudius or Nero.
I admit I had some fun with this -- when I first saw it in the Metropolitan Museum, I thought Thoth was performing a craniotomy on some unsuspecting individual. The curation card cleared that one up. Guess you can't take the physician out of me...
Taken on December 26, 2014
Search Committee News
Garden & Bush Keys
Taken on May 5, 2014
Hoodoo in the Badlands
Hoodoo on the trail at Writing-on-Stone
Taken on July 19, 2015
Happening in the SWC
Rock Formation Under Overcast Sky
Uploaded on September 11, 2015
A Prayer for Evolving
The Cheltenham Badlands are a geological feature just north of Mississauga in Caledon
Taken on November 3, 2013
Pastor Sharon's View
Lakeside Park, Mississauga
The red “stones” are actually broken clay bricks and tiles.
From the Editor's Desk
Sandstone Rock Formations
Taken on August 20, 2014
Cheers from the Pub
Stone on the beach
Uploaded on December 10, 2009
Lisa Ann Yount
stone wall 10
Taken on April 8, 2009
Stones on the beach
Uploaded on May 17, 2009
010 – Hite Crossing campsite
Taken on October 13, 2011