It's Happening at St. Paul's UCC

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

Pastor Sharon's View

Changes are in store for the Southwest Conference as we transition from John Dorhauer as our Conference Minister to Rev. Bill Lyons, who begins on January 1 at one minute after midnight. Midnight is the time that Lee Albertson, who has acted as Conference Minister for the past several months, hands over the reins of leading our Conference to Bill. Already we are feeling Bill’s presence though technically he still resides in Michigan. Here is what I have noticed:

There are photos of a new house in Arizona and photos of packing up the old in Michigan. I am happy to see the progress. When Bill was invited to come to the Southwest Conference, he and his partner had some soul-searching to do. Uprooting is not easy, but hopefully this move will be the best for all of our sakes. As a member of the Executive Committee, I had the chance to meet Bill during the interview process and also with a woman I know who pastored a church in Michigan. She had wonderful things to say about Bill. The Southwest Conference will again be blessed just as we have been blessed with John Dorhauer as our leader for seven years.

From the outset, Bill has been a caring pastor as evidenced by the email sent yesterday to all Conference clergy asking how our congregations and churches had fared during the storm that dropped many inches of snow and — for us, in the Albuquerque area — brought the business of the city to a standstill. I replied that we are doing OK though we cancelled our Sunday morning service to keep people off the roads as we were asked by our police departments.

As you will all soon learn, Bill is a glass half-full kind of pastor, looking at the positive sides of most things (caveat: not everything has a positive side). On his FB page, there is a picture of a portable generator at his home early on Christmas Eve, keeping the home fires burning while the electricity was out — and expected to be for 48 hours.

Lee Albertson, who has filled in between John and Bill, knows the job is stressful and he is counting the hours until midnight January 1, 2016. Lee has be amazing. I expect that Bill will be as well. He promises to visit all the congregations and to preach if asked — not as a supply preacher, but with pastor in the pew, listening and learning. He warns it will take about a year to feel comfortable in his new shoes and to formulate ideas for our Conference. And he will be the leader, not the doer. We, the clergy and the congregations, will be the doers. We will be empowered to make any changes in the Southwest Conference that we envision. That will require more from each of us, and you, dear Congregation, will be asked to step up to the plate to assume new roles (yet to be determined).

I am eagerly anticipating Bill’s leadership for all of our Conference. In the Southwest Conference, we have been seen as the place to experiment with new ideas about how church can be. John positioned us to be leaders in the this field. The more I get to know Bill, the more I think he will be the leader we need to take us to the next level.


From the Editor's Desk
Ernie Dunn

By happenstance, I turned on the television two hours earlier than previously planned on New Year's Eve and the channel that initially come on was PBS, not the one I was intending to watch. But to my surprise and good fortune, the show that popped up was a representation of the interview that Charlie Rose had with Neil deGrasse Tyson who, as most of you know, is an astrophysicist and, since 1996, has been the Director of the Hayden Planetarium. I have been an ardent fan of Dr. Tyson since watching his illuminating and inspiring series, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey in 2014. Viewing that series and subsequent interviews related to the series and to other subjects, I have found myself greatly influenced by his ideas. His comments radically have altered the way I view the world, the creation of life and, most importantly, the meaning of life. (Perhaps more on that at another time.)


Meanwhile, back to the interview. Toward the end, Charlie Rose, in his inimitable fashion, posed a question almost unrelated to everything that had been discussed to that point. Recognizing that for many Dr. Tyson has become the resident expert in the field, a man who can peel away the esoteric layers of complex scientific ideas and render them understandable to the average layperson, Mr. Rose inquired as to what he personally desired to accomplish? I leaned forward in my seat, highly attentive, not wishing to miss a single syllable of the response. At first, there was a moment of silence, the "pregnant pause" perhaps. What was he going to say? Then came a smile. And then the response, not an answer, but a response.


"I have long been influenced by a quote from the educator, Horace Mann." In fact, he went on to say that he planned to have the quote engraved on his tombstone. The quote was "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity." It does not have a be a noteworthy victory, it does not have to be monumental in its effect. It may be as simple as making a positive difference in the life of another person be he or she family, friend or a stranger. Find some way to be of service. I am reminded of a quote from Frantz Fanon, slightly paraphrased, "Every time a person has contributed to the victory of the human spirit and condition, I have felt solidarity with the act."


Ringing out the old year and welcoming in the new, wouldn't it be great if persons all around the world would embrace and be motivated by the desire to win some victory for humanity, victory which is beneficial and not harmful, loving in nature and not mean spirited. Looking back, fear, hatred, absence of compassion, a tendency to violence have dominated our world and mindscapes. In our over industrialized world society we appear in too many instances to have lost any place for sensitivity, wreaking devastation is more the order of the day. Can it be true that we are losing our willingness to ever seek to negotiate towards desirable ends that promote kindness and understanding? Have we given up on the search for finding those possibilities that are deeply hopeful and beautiful? I trust that most of you will say "no" to both inquiries. Meaningful, communicative dialog is vitally in demand.


In a series of email exchanges with a close friend and subsequent readings on my own, I have been reintroduced to the thoughts and ideas of Christopher Phillips, the educator and pro-democracy advocate, the author of Socrates Cafe. More than once I have determined that anyone running for public office should be required to read this book, to learn and practice the art of meaningful dialog, seeking to engage in the constructive sharing of ideas that inspire community. What a welcome substitute this would be to the character assassinations and perpetuations of false and misguided ideas that dominate political debate specifically and the political scene generally.


The last article I read by Phillips closed with a thought that was very familiar in content and purpose with the quote from Horace Mann: "What you say and think and do generally matters . . . it is vital and incumbent for you to take an important role in society during your mortal moment." I would amend that slightly by suggesting that role need not be important to be vital and significant. My hope is that more than once in the coming year each one of us will seize the opportunity to be of service, to be compassionate and understanding, to be a thoughtful communicator rather than a derogatory debater. Let us be bridges that connect and not walls that separate.


CHEERS from the PUB
Sandra Chapin
Publications Manager

Remember, we're all in this alone. (Lily Tomlin)


Comedians often turn the world on its head and tease their audiences into seeing something new in the old. Things we take for granted – like a phrase so familiar, it doesn't even register in our brains – become a focus of humor when given a twist. Ms. Tomlin provokes us to ask ourselves, at least for a moment, does “we're all in this together” have real meaning for us?


During the three years I spent in seminary studying to be a Lutheran pastor (ELCA) many terms I thought I understood took on new meaning. “Community” was spoken of often – in chapel, in lectures, in gatherings of all sorts. My appreciation of the word waxed and waned. I came to clearly see community in the stories of the Hebrew Bible which promoted solidarity among the people of Israel. The parables and actions in the stories of the Newer Testament also point to inclusion and restoration back into community. But there were times when students, and even professors, fell short of my expectations. I would feel quite isolated. Other times I had the support of new friends and colleagues. Funny thing about community – it's made up of people, and you know what a mixed bag they can be!


My first New Year celebration in New Mexico was in 2007 during my pastoral internship at All Saints Lutheran Church in ABQ. I participated with Katie, the Youth Director, in many of her events. One was a “lock-up” for middle school teens on New Year's Eve, but not the one on December 31. This was the eve of the beginning of the Church year, the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent. Katie and I came up with the idea to show the movie “Happy Feet” which had been in the theaters the year before. I had seen it and loved it. A brief synopsis: a penguin is born who is an oddball and is rejected by peers, finds new friends, has adventures, and ends up uniting penguins in a common cause. A community re-energized.


Close to the end of the movie the hour of midnight came. We paused the film and then turned our attention to a stuffed penguin (mine) that Katie and I had strung up (brave little penguin). When the clock was almost at 12, we had a countdown while we watched the penguin “drop.” The youth may or may not have been amused – they were quite sleepy by then – but I thought it was hilarious.


There are times you need to create your own fun without depending on someone else for a laugh. Yet it is a delight to share a laugh with others. To share a burden, an experience, a story. Though Facebook and other social networking tools do bring people together, surely a face-to-face community is best. Such community exists at St. Paul's. Person to person. Person to penguin. We are inclusive, after all.


Seeing new in the old. The feeling of community at St. Paul's goes back a lot of years, a feeling that is comfortable and comforting to many of us. It's an important part of our identity. Also important is not losing sight of the new. New ways to demonstrate community, especially reaching out to new faces on Sunday mornings beyond welcoming them at the door when they enter. What happens after the service sends a message to visitors. The most pressing need of some of those people may be a yearning to belong. Will we fall short of their expectations?


The penguin has dropped. It is 2016. Prepare to open your hearts to new friends at Church.


Faith Development Ministry
Patricia Dunn
Team Leader




Wednesdays   6:30 PM

January 13 – March 30, 2016


Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, Ph.D.

Teaching Company DVD series


Professor Levine is a Distinguished Professor at Vanderbilt University Divinity School/Graduate Department of Religion, and author of numerous books, articles and essays. She is widely sought as a speaker throughout the U.S. and Canada by universities, biblical associations, synagogues, temples, churches, and interfaith and civic groups.


Lecture Topics for January


January 13

In the Beginning

Adam and Eve

January 20

Murder, Flood, Dispersion

Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar

January 27


The Jacob Saga

All are welcome!


Book Group


Sunday, January 10

2 – 4 pm


My Brilliant Friend (2012)

by Elena Ferrente


Elena Ferrente was recognized as one of the best writers of 2015. My Brilliant Friend is the first book of four in a series that explores the relationship between two friends as they grew from girls to young women. I have heard people say that after they read the fourth book they quickly re-read the first book, saying "oh, that is what that - whatever - meant. I find the story fascinating.


Pastor Sharon


St. Paul's UCC Annual Meeting

Sunday, January 31

after the service


Items in the Annual Report for 2015 will be reviewed.

The Church Budget for 2016 will be discussed and adopted.

Members of the Church Council for 2016 will be voted in.


Action projects proposed by Triad groups will be examined.


I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're doing something.

Neil Gaiman

Let our New Year's resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.

Goran Persson

Happening in the Southwest Conference


Family Promise presented a plaque to First Congregational UCC (ABQ) that says: "Thank you for hosting Family Promise of ABQ for 12 years. Together, we sheltered 273 families and 1200 individuals (412 parents and 788 children). You have changed their future!"


Also, First Congregational Church is participating in the Youth Group Epiphany Project. Albuquerque Public Schools currently has over 3,000 students who are homeless. There are many families in the community that don't have a lot of the things that most students have. First Congregational's Youth Group is creating "Jet Kits" for Jefferson Middle School students. They will be putting together the Jet Kits in early January at an Epiphany Party with the youth groups from Monte Vista Christian and the Mennonite Churches. Items for the Jet Kits may include hygiene items, socks, chapstick, hair ties, and hand sanitizer.


The Lay Academy will meet January 8 and 9 at the Good Shepherd UCC in Sahuarita, Arizona. The program will be on immigration. “Immigration is one of the key national issues that has enlivened the political debate over the past 10 years. As residents of the borderlands it is critical that we have basic knowledge of the causes and effects so we can be a calm voice in the conversation. This workshop will give people a glimpse of the wall, a walk in the desert, and real life stories of immigrants in our midst as we learn about life in the borderlands and the struggles for border communities to create a better border reality.” Rev. Dr. Randy Mayer will be the facilitator.


Voices in the Southwest Conference

As part of the EPIC initiative of the Conference [Education, Participation, Innovation and Communication], each SWC church is including an article in its newsletter written by someone in the Conference that tells a story about interdependence. Ernie Dunn has coordinated the project. 
This month’s article is written by Rev. Sharon S. Littrell, Ph.D.
Pastor, St. Paul's United Church of Christ, Rio Rancho, NM


Recently we have all had our heart strings plucked by photos of refugees escaping Syria in life boats designed to hold dozens loaded to over-flowing with hundreds of men, women and children. The desire for freedom is so strong they are willing to risk death to reach countries where they are welcomed. We all look at those photos and speak out to help.

Members of the St. Paul's UCC congregation were among those wishing to help. At St. Paul's one woman pledged monthly financial support to help bring a family to Albuquerque. I am all for it. Her offer encouraged me think about how St. Paul's could support such a family for several years. Because I had seen the enormity of the work, I knew we need outside help and support to adopt a family. We needed more than just our small congregation, we needed all the UCCs in our area to join the effort.

We needed to know what would be involved. Reality is a tough blow to idealism. I have a friend who worked with Lutheran Brotherhood to settle families. Here is a synopsis of her job description: help find places for the refugee family to live and assume rent for the first year or so, locate sustainable jobs, insure health care and schools for children, arrange ESL classes and, occasionally, have a family live at her home for 12 to 18 months. It sounds daunting and is not something that a small congregation can do alone. With our sister UCCs, however, we could make the effort and expect success. We could offer the new life that a refugee family had struggled so hard to get. If we tried, we could make a huge difference.

The process to receive a family begins with Church World Service, the organization that UCC/DOC work with disasters. After several emails, they told me that agencies that could help are in Phoenix and Denver and we would need to work through them. I then contacted the other UCC congregations in Albuquerque to see if there was interest on their part; each expressed enthusiastic interest to be part of this effort. Since council approval is required in congregational churches, our next step is to obtain commitment from each congregational council in Albuquerque.

Going forward with this undertaking is where interdependence shows its strength: we know that none of us undertake this effort alone--together we can make a difference. In some ways, we have a feeling that this project will not get off the ground soon because United States has limited immigration and has stringent requirements for selecting families who will come to the states. It may take 12 to 18 months for our dream to host a family to come to fruition but through our early cooperation and communication, the groundwork is in place.


On the Calendar


Worship Service    
10:30 am                    

Social Hour    
11:30 am
Wednesday mornings

Office Hours for Pastor Sharon                                                         
9:30 – 11:00 am
Starbucks across from Intel, on 528

Thursday evenings

Choir rehearsal       
7:00 pm

Sunday afternoon, January 10

Book Group: My Brilliant Friend    

2:00 - 4:00 pm

Wednesday evening, January 13

DVD series on the Old Testament
"In the Beginning"
"Adam and Eve"
6:30 - 8:00 pm

Wednesday evening, January 20

DVD series on the Old Testament
"Murder, Flood, Dispersion"
"Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar"
6:30 - 8:00 pm

Wednesday evening, January 27

DVD series on the Old Testament
"The Jacob Saga"
6:30 - 8:00 pm

Sunday, January 31

Annual Meeting
after the service




Helper in our Past and Hope for our Future:

hold our good intentions,

free us from that which keeps us from the good,

and enable us to move into the coming year

with your love behind, beside, and before us.  Amen.


UCC Worship Ways

St. Paul's Leaders 2015


Rev. Sharon Smith-Littrell, PhD

Music Director
William W. Williams


Church Council

Darrell Taylor

Loretta Stein

Financial Secretary
Anita Curtis

Assistant Treasurer
Assistant Financial Secretary
Carol Smith

Church Clerk

Yvonne Dudley

Trustees Chairperson
Carol Kromer

Faith Development
Patricia Dunn


St. Paul’s View Staff

Ernie Dunn
Sandra Chapin
Publications Manager
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