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 November
Nov 2, 9, 16
Office Hours with Pastor Sharon
Starbucks across from Intel, on 528, Rio Rancho
9:30 – 11:00 am
Nov 2, 9, 16 (skip 23), 30
DVD series: Myth in Human History
6:30 - 8:30 pm
See details below.
Sunday, November 13
Retirement party for Pastor Sharon
The Rio Grande Retirement Community
2331 Westside Blvd.
Rio Rancho, NM
Sunday, November 27
We decorate our space for Advent and Christmas
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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
Series continues through February 2017
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 November and December
“The Goddess – Isis and Osiris” and “The Eclipse of the Goddess”
“Shamans and Vegetation Gods” and “Sky Gods and Earth Goddesses”
“Creator Gods” and “Gods and Goddesses of India”
“Hero Myths” and “Mystic Heroes- Gilgamesh”
“Mystic Heroes – King Arthur” and “Mystic Heroes – Jason and the Argonauts”
“The Monomyths of Rank and Campbell”
Come, learn, question, discuss, have fun!
Chair, Faith Development Team
Mission Activities: We were glad to support Haven House October 19 at their fund raiser. Great time, great music, great hamburger!
Karen Schafer is in the process of finding a family to support during Thanksgiving, and we are also looking for families to help at Christmas.
Leslie Stine and Trish Herron went shopping for material for baby quilts as well as boxes for planters; the quilts are for Haven House or Rust Hospital and the flower boxes for Habitat Humanity. We will keep you informed when we plan to meet to paint and sew. Whether you can do either doesn’t matter. Just come, bring a lunch and an appetite for fun.
We are actively sharing our talents, time and treasure.
Mission Team Co-Leader
Search Committee News
On Saturday, October 29, the Search Committee met with the Church Council to determine some key points regarding our search for a new pastor, information needed to complete the Local Church Profile document. I recently spoke with our Southwest Conference Minister Rev. Bill Lyons to clarify some questions and I brought his input to the Council.
We talked about the title of “designated pastor” or “settled pastor.” A designated pastor is someone who has very specific tasks to accomplish. In conversation with Rev. Lyons, I learned that increasing St. Paul's visibilty or growing the church are not such tasks. Therefore we will be looking for a settled pastor. Specifically a full time one, given that we do not want to limit the scope of what the new pastor will be able to try as we, together, give forward momentum to St. Paul's ministry.
Using a chart provided by the Conference compiling the salaries of the SWC Churches based on Church membership, we decided on a salary amount that compared favorably with other congregations close to our size. The exact make up of the financial package will be tweaked once we finalize details with a chosen candidate.
Note that the final decision in selecting our new pastor will be by vote of St. Paul's members in a special meeting. It is possible that we will have a pastor by Easter (April 16). It is also possible the search will take longer. We want to connect with a good match for us.
The Council has authorized contracting for some ongoing pulpit supply beginning in January. During the time before the arrival of our new pastor, the pastoral ministry needs of St. Paul's will continue to be met. More information on this will be announced in December.
Search Committee Chair
Happening in the Southwest Conference
First Congregational UCC (Phoenix, AZ): On November 1 church leaders and community members from various backgrounds will discuss the intersections of race and religion. "We will begin unpacking many issues surrounding racism in our own communities and presenting meaningful ways to have dialogue in moving forward."
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On October 29 the Southwest Conference Office hosted Innovation Lab - Round 2. Participants prepared to lead an effort to try something new at their church and encourage others to join in. The one day workshop was based on empathy for the “customer” which fits very nicely with the UCC extravagant welcome.
Rebecca Glenn, the presenter for this workshop, has extensive experience in change leadership and behavioral change. To help with momentum towards innovation goals, she is supporting two coaching groups that meet online twice each month for six months. At next year's annual meeting everyone will share what they've learned and accomplished.
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Desert Palm UCC (Tempe, AZ): On October 21 Robert P. Jones, author of The End of White Christian America, spoke about his new book and our future. Jones' book traces the rise and fall of white Protestant power in American politics and culture and details how poorly white Christian congregations and organizations often have handled issues related to racism and sexual orientation.
A Prayer for Thanksgiving Day
On this day, O God, we give thanks
in all kinds of communities, or even in solitude.
Our desire in this moment is to come before you
with our prayers of thanksgiving.
For some of us the words we offer
will flow easily from our lips.
For others trying to name our blessing may prove difficult.
Thanksgiving this year may be very different from previous years:
a new table at which to sit,
new persons sitting with us,
or a dear one absent,
worries crowding out our sense of blessing.
These realities may reshape our prayers from years past.
To seek joy may lead through heartbreak.
Whatever our reality, O God,
We ask that you help us focus
not so much on material things
(whether their abundance or scarcity)
but rather on how we are living our lives.
Help us recognize
all the ways you are present in our live this year.
Help us gather the strength we need for today
and for all of our tomorrows.
Grant us the satisfaction of intimacy with Jesus,
your great gift to us, through whom you offer
Living Water, Bread of Life,
more than we can ask or imagine.
Help us to extend our prayers of thanksgiving to you
into tomorrow with joyful spirits.
We are loved and blessed and thankful. Amen.
Written by Henrietta Stith Andrews, a retired UCC Pastor who served as Associate Conference Minister in Michigan. Rev. Andrews is a certified Spiritual Director and presently residing in Southfield, Michigan.
Pastor Sharon's View
Friends, I have written this article for The View with an eye to my departing from St. Paul’s and your welcoming a new minister into your lives. Leaving is difficult for each of us. Some have said to me that they do not see how they/you will get along without me to which I have replied, “of course you will get along.” A new minister will claim your hearts and take you to new sacred space.
This may seem like a final article, though it is not. I will write again next month, talking about our five and one-half years.
The most important part of being your minister has been that you have welcomed me into your lives and your hearts. I feel as though you have been my family for five and one-half years and leaving you brings me sorrow. I will miss each of you because you have given me a part of you that is meaningful and lovely. Even in our sorrows, we have found love and understanding.
A wise man once told me that I should ask forgiveness and receive forgiveness as part of closure. So I do that with this article.
First, I ask forgiveness for things I have done that have annoyed you, made you mad, made you wish you were someplace else, or made you want to lash out in hurtful ways. I would not knowingly have made you angry though, at times, the potential was there to leave some unhappy with a decision that I proposed. Mostly, decisions were made for what I perceived to be the best for the whole body of the church — you. St. Paul’s called me to come to Rio Rancho to revitalize the church. (Do you know that, in the past few years, the greater church across the country determined that revitalization of a church is almost impossible; that it is better to die and then restart?) So, from the start we were on Mission Impossible. Sometimes, we argued and there were hurt feelings. To be true to my call, I had to stick to my guns. There were many times when I questioned why God had sent me here, but I had to trust that God was right and I should do my best. I have had support and backing of the Council almost every step of the way — including selling the church building. We survived; many congregations that sell the building (as if the building were “church”) do not make it.
Second, in this forgiveness, I forgive the things that were done to me. When we had disagreements, I found that the hardness of our hearts melted and we became close again.
As part of my leave-taking, we each need to know some rules that we will follow. The United Church of Christ helps in this area and they have written documents to guide me. Here are the expected boundaries that we — you and I — are to recognize and follow. There are other direct steps, like leave my office in good order, that are included in this directive, but the meat of it follows. I will follow the guidelines and expect that you will too. I will be your past minister and you will be my final congregation.
A resource from the MESA Ministry Team, 11/12/2015
Ethical Guidelines for Ministers Departing from Congregations
The departure of a minister from a congregation can be an emotional experience for both the minister and the parishioners. Whether because of retirement or a new call, fitness concerns or a decreasing “fit” between minister and congregation, a breadth of emotions will occur during the transition. It is the responsibility of the departing minister to set appropriate boundaries with their former congregation and parishioners, in order to facilitate the church’s ability to build a positive relationship with its new minister. This process also enables the minister to move into a new ministry setting or into retirement with a sense of release and clearness. This is in keeping with the Ministerial Code of Ethics for Ordained, Commissioned, and Licensed Ministers.
It is the expectation that “upon departure, [a] pastor will not return to serve congregation nor serve members of the congregation in a pastoral capacity. For a minimum of one year up to three years, a minister will observe a no-contact boundary with congregants and will teach congregants to observe the same. This enables the past minister to fulfill the ministerial code of ethics, in support of the congregation’s relationship building with a new minister. Re-establishing contact is only after negotiation with the new minister, potentially in dialogue with a wider church representative.”
The guidelines continue — specifically directed to me and my role — as follows:
1. Church Boundaries:
a) The departing minister should strive to leave with grace, expressing gratitude for the time of shared ministry and encouraging the congregation to bond with its next minister.
b) The minister should state clearly that they will no longer be available to the congregation or affiliated persons for weddings, baptisms, funerals, church activities, pastoral care, etc., and then the minister should follow through on this commitment.
c) The minister should say “goodbye” – through an exit interview, through worship
2. and then practice saying “hello” to their new ministry setting or to their new reality of retirement.
I will make arrangements for my membership to be transferred and will turn in my key. And then home and grieve my loss of you.
From the Editor's Desk
"All of our actions have consequences. This relationship is as dependable as the ripples created by throwing a pebble into a lake. Consequences can be either good or bad. Problems arise when we don't think about or recognize the consequences of our actions." (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross)
Roughly a quarter of the way through Yuval Noah Harari's breathtaking book, Sapiens, A Brief Hstory of Humankind, he presents a fascinating expose on the gradual transition of our ancestors from wandering hunters and gathers to sedentary farmers coming together to create villages, cities and eventually kingdoms, the start of the Agricultural Revolution. Practically everything that I had previously read about this period of change, was presented from a positive perspective, detailing how much people benefited, how populations grew and how much life became more pleasurable and secure.
Harari, however, disagrees. He proposes that this rather radical change of existence turned what appeared to be a "bargain" into a burden. The average person lived a much harder life and in many instances endured a much more dangerous life as a farmer than as a forager. He further argues that no one at the time seemed to realize what was happening. As a consequence each succeeding generation continued to live as its predecessor, perhaps making minor adjustments along the way. Even with these adjustments, the author contends that paradoxically, a series of 'improvements', each of which was meant to make life easier, "added up to a millstone around the neck of these farmers."
Harari then poses a very provocative question - why did these people make such a fateful miscalculation? The immediate forthcoming answer proposed was that it was for the same reason "that people throughout history have miscalculated. People were unable to fathom the full consequences of their decisions." I am reminded of a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche from his book, Beyond Good and Evil: "The consequences of our actions take hold of us, quite indifferent to our claim that meanwhile we have 'improved'."
Failure to fathom the full consequences of our decisions, or in some instances ignoring or denying the link between our actions and the corresponding consequences will often make matters worse. Such activity, however, will not enable us to escape the fact that sooner or later, whether one wants to or not, everybody sits down to a banquet of consequences. Furthermore, failure to assume responsibility for our actions and their subsequent consequences, often invites us seek to blame others for the outcome. This allows us either to rise up in righteous indignation or assume the role of victim, powerless to have any control of our destiny.
Admittedly, there are times when we are totally unaware of the consequences of our behavior. After I read the novel, Five People You Meet in Heaven, I confided with a friend that it reinforced the notion that I had held for a long time which was that hell was not a place but a state of consciousness. It is a state brought on when we are brought face to face with the consequences of all the mutterings, thoughts and deeds that to us seemed to be so trivial and inconsequential at the time, but have turned out to be quite harmful for others, and possibly for ourselves. There is some truth in the adage that in life "there are no rewards or punishments - only consequences." (W. R. Inge)
What I find also troubling is that actions that seem so right and prudent at the time do not always lead to good or viable consequences and even more troubling is that the contrary may not lead to what is bad and troubling. I believe this is the dilemma that plagued T. S. Eliot leading him to write "For every life and every act, consequence of good and evil can be shown and, as in time, results of many deeds are blended so good and evil in the end become confounded." Many centuries ago, Aristotle offered that "quite often good things have hurtful consequences."
Consequences may be predictable or unpredictable, good intentions do not always lead to good and acceptable consequences and bad intentions surprisingly, at times, result in desirable ones. Sometimes consequences of our actions and those of others come upon us unexpectedly. Whatever the situation, I agree with notion that consequences, whatever their nature, can lead to new insights. Invaluable knowledge may be gained by analyzing what happened and equally as important, why. Consequences are an important part of our unending education.
Cheers from the PUB
Thanksgiving memories. We all have them. Some memories may be fond mental snapshots – family and friends gathered around the table for a holiday meal, or around the den (or front lawn for the more energetic types) for football. My sister's family has a tradition of going to the movies in the afternoon. She used to plan her next day shopping strategy for a predawn attack on Target, but she has moved with the times and does shopping online, with the added benefit of finding bargains while eating turkey leftovers at the same time.
Others may have less heart-warming experiences to recall. Perhaps bittersweet. Which is okay for a memory; bad for a pumpkin pie. I remember vividly the first Thanksgiving after my dad passed away. Holiday gatherings in my family were always small – Mom, Dad, my sister and I. Other relatives were too far away. Then my sister married a serviceman and they were usually stationed elsewhere. With Dad gone, that left just Mom and me – and our motto was the less fuss the better. So when we saw a magazine article entitled “30 Minutes to Make a Thanksgiving Meal” we found our plan!
I still use the “recipe” from that article for my special cranberry dish: Combine a can of cranberry sauce (the whole berry variety) with a small can of crushed pineapple, drained. That's it. But somewhere between that and the can of green beans, Mom and I hit a snag. Literally. The electric can opener broke. Panic ensued. The kind of panic that consists mostly of shaking one's head and saying I-can't-believe-it. As Mom proceeded to lay siege to the green beans with assorted sharp implements, I made a profound assessment. “This would never have happened to Martha Stewart.”
We may have only been a duo that year but we laughed enough for a crowd.
Thanksgiving – in the now. Counting the people around your table is less important than counting the blessings that surround you. You have your Church family. And St. Paul's is blessed to have you. Not only is it the season for green bean casserole. (Consider using mushroom soup cans with ring-tab openers... What a blessing!) It is also time for our annual stewardship emphasis, making pledges to fund St. Paul's ministry for 2017.
Each of us knows that blessings shared are the best. You may have heard this saying: “Get all you can. Can all you get.” In the UCC we understand that God is still speaking – but I don't hear God saying that! We know God to be extravagant. Generous. Loving. Go and do likewise when you think about sharing your resources, and your lives, with others.
Epilogue: On Christmas Day that same year, Mom and I ordered pizza delivery.
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
All images were taken by Lois Gray on her cross-country trip with her sister Ruth. Included here by permission.
The harvest is in.
Heading to Princeton, Illinois
We're not leafing yet.
A cherry good morning to you! Or is it a crabapple day? I don't know what IT is, but I'm having a great day!
With Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder
A friend's house in Iowa City, Iowa
Happening in the SWC
“Wind and Grace”
“Autumn on Water”
Iowa City, Iowa
Pastor Sharon's View
From the Editor's Desk
West of Kalamazoo, Michigan
Cheers from the Pub
Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don't.
Heading to Princeton, Illinois