Archive for Pastor’s Weekly Message

Dear Friends

I want to commend our congregation for its high visibility and breadth of service over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend. If it hadn’t been for our participation in a number of activities, it would have been a far less vigorous tribute. Thanks especially to our service captains in the activities offered via the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition. We are foundational partners of the PMC through ongoing representation by Brian Ring and Alexis Lewis. If you donated time or money or crafts in any way, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Join us this week for Sunday worship as we look at Jonah 3:1-5, 10 and Mark 1:14-20. See the young poet laureate Amanda Gorman read her contribution from Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony, and sing along with Garth Brooks to Amazing Grace. I hope you’ll be there.

Let’s continue in prayer for those affected in any way from COVID.

With love,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

This continues to be a time of tumult nationally and one where it is all the more important that we gather for prayer and the breaking of bread.

This week we commemorate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with the same reverence we would accord a saint. Some churches that have a formal process for doing so in modern times, like the Episcopal Church, have accorded him this status. Whether or not we use the traditional religious language, we can likely agree that Dr. King’s influence continues even beyond his death. What he spoke 50 years ago speaks to us still. If he had not been assassinated at the age of 39, we might be celebrating his 92nd birthday this weekend.

Join us on Sunday as we celebrate his life and legacy and how he speaks to us today. My sermon is based on 1 Samuel 3:1-10 and John 1:43-51. I will also include testimony from the landmark case Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education that I learned for Dr. Cindy Acker’s play that speaks about the evils of segregation, then and now. I hope you’ll join us for this event and for Monday’s events relating to the MLK Jr. Multifaith Day of Service. (Information about how to do so can be found below).

I want to especially commend all of our members who have made this Day of Service possible, particularly this year for hundreds of participants throughout the county.

Hope to see you this weekend!
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Join us this Sunday for worship as we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of Jesus and also renew our own baptismal covenant in the presence of one another. Have a vessel of water handy (your own baptismal font!) from which to anoint yourself with the cleansing and renewing waters of new life.

We will also have Communion, as we have every Sunday, so be sure to have bread and cup nearby as another way of symbolizing our bond with each other even in the midst of this pandemic-induced isolation.

As I write this, I know we are all aware of the unprecedented level of civil unrest in Washington D.C., and we don’t know how things are unfolding. One thing we can do in the midst of this uncertainty is to pray. Join us tonight (Thursday) for prayers for peace and justice at 7 pm via Zoom. We will also create space for this on Sunday.

Don’t be alone. This is an especially vulnerable time when we need each other. Hope to see you this week.

Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. Look for my op-ed piece in Friday’s San Mateo Daily Journal about reading the Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Dear Friends

O God, by the leading of a star your revealed your Word, Jesus Christ, to the gentiles;
grant that your church may be a light to the nations,
so that the whole world may come to see the splendor of your glory;
in your many holy names we pray. Amen.

We still find ourselves in the Twelve Days of Christmas, the period between Christmas and Epiphany in which we mark not only the birth of Christ but the awareness that this singular event would impact history in life-altering and history-making ways. We marked Christmas Eve by lighting candles together on Zoom. We gathered in the light of Christmas morning with Pastor Liz from the Congregational Church of Belmont. We kindled the Kwanzaa candles on Sunday led by Dr. Cindy Acker. We are invited to join with City of Refuge UCC via Facebook Live on New Year’s Eve for Watch Night. And this Sunday Rev. Elisabeth will unlayer the final event of our Christmas cycle: the Epiphany or manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as it is called in Eastern Christianity as recorded in Matthew 2.

Christmas is still unfolding all around us as I said in my sermon last Sunday ( And neither is 2020 finished, although we are almost there. I want to thank you for your faithful attendance, participation, prayer, and financial support for Island United Church during this unusual year. It is a tribute to the members and to the leaders that we finish this calendar year in as strong a financial position as we are able to do. Because of the thoughtful stewardship exercised by the Church Council/Board of Directors in an unprecedented situation, we were able to re-open our down-sized All Are Friends Montessori preschool in ways that preserved the health and safety of children and staff. We were fortunate to have the guidance of a school consultant with certification in contagious disease management in addition to school management, as well as a staff that were willing to re-invent in some challenging ways.

Thank you to everyone who have been willing to take the long view as we navigate these uncharted waters for both church and school.  A recent grant from San Mateo County offset the tuition loss caused by reduced enrollment for the fall term. The church passed a budget that maintained our investment in this project for at least this year even prior to this award because we recognize the value of the education and because we are committed to long-term strategizing and not short-term reaction. All of which is to say Thank You for hanging in. We have also been generous to others – to our UCC Benevolence funds, to LIfeMoves (, and to several charities or causes that we have supported through Love Offerings. At Christmas time alone we gave almost $500 in gift cards to them!

And – this is a request for a year-end gift if you are able to help us end in an even stronger position. You can make an online gift in the next few days that is clearly marked Year End, and you will receive the tax benefit, or mail a check dated no later than December 31, and mail it or drop it off within the next week to receive the same benefit. Please invest in the church now so that that is a period that when we look back on it will be one in which we can say we did more than tread water. We moved forward to become something even greater than we had been before. 2021 is going to be a great year together, rich in Spirit.

With love,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Quick note
Are you a Member of Island United Church? Have you been baptized or would like to renew your baptism? Contact Rev. Jim at [email protected] because we are doing this on Sunday, January 10.

Dear Friends

And so we are nearing the end of our Advent Season. This Christmas for sure will be a different Christmas than we have ever celebrated.

I have no doubt that almost everybody coming online for our service this Thursday will do so with some mixed emotions. We will miss gathering in person. We will miss spending time with our loved ones and yet….

No matter where we find ourselves, we are invited to celebrate the birth of this child through whom God’s presence came to us and through whom God’s presence dwells within us and within everybody we know and love. God’s spirit infusing ours will connect us all.

I hope you will invite your family and friends to come worship with us. I am sure we each will find a blessing in hearing the music, in praying together, in listening to the word. Please take a look at our upcoming events and services, which are listed in this newsletter.

Peace to all,
Rev. Jim Mitulski and Rev. Elisabeth Middelberg

Dear Friends

“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:5

I hope you are as filled with anticipation as I am. In the darkest moments of the last few weeks, I constantly felt the nearness of God. Here is my Advent testimony: Although we expect yet a new indwelling of God’s love on Christmas, everything we’re waiting for is already unfolding around us. Thanks again for prayers, texts, emails, candles lit, and songs sung.

Here are some examples of what I experienced while in the hospital. At sunset I answered a phone call (I don’t know why; I was more than a little fuzzy). It was Rabbi Corey from our neighboring temple in Foster City, who prayed and then sang a healing song to me, like a lullaby, that dispelled all my fear. A day later Rev. Todd – dressed as a full-size unicorn – came and stood down on the street (I was on the 10th floor; no visitors, of course) and danced to get my attention so that I would know I was not alone. This was not a hallucination. A nurse named Davina from an evangelical church not only provided great medical care but made sure I was prayed for. As 1000 people prayed, a medical puzzle became a solvable challenge. I am so grateful, trust me.

Love is on the way! Join us Sunday as our guest preacher Rev. Michael Cronin brings us a message from Luke 1:26-38 that with God all things are possible. More great music, more fervent prayer. Keep this promise close: God is near!

See you in Zoom church.
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Hate Has No Home in Foster City
Please send a note of support to our recently elected Vice Mayor Richa Awasthi. Her Foster City home was vandalized this past week when a large rock was thrown through one of her children’s bedroom windows. Although no one was injured and the incident is under investigation, it is still alarming when people who make themselves available in visible ways for public service are threatened and their families made to feel unsafe in their homes. I assured her that we are praying for the safety of her family. Email her your encouragement at.[email protected].

Dear Friends

Please join us this Sunday for our third Sunday of Advent. Thank you, Machiko, for lighting the Advent candles last week. It was such a sweet reminder of how we have lit candles every year. Thank you, Rowe, for delivering the bags with the ingredients for our church Chrismon Tea Party, which will take place this Thursday. In addition, we will have copies of the December reading group book (A Christmas Carol) at church to pick up starting Thursday. (See below for more details on the Chrismon Tea and the reading group.)

Just before we gathered last week for our service, Rev. Jim had to go to the ER for a possible infection. They ended up admitting him to the hospital to get a better handle on his medical situation. Rev. Jim posted on Facebook Tuesday to let people know what is going on with him and to ask for prayers. I know all of you have been praying. It has been heartwarming to see how hundreds of people from all over the country and all over the world are praying for him and are lighting candles. Love is infusing his heart and his body, helping him to recover. We will keep you updated on any developments. If you need to connect with Rev. Jim, please wait until he is out of the hospital, if possible, or connect with me or one of the Board members.

As we are nearing Christmas, I pray that we all find places of hope, of peace in the midst of unsettling times. I look forward to seeing you if not this Thursday then on Sunday morning.

As Rev. Jim says: With love as we wait in hope for Christmas,

Rev. Elisabeth Middelberg

Dear Friends

Thank you so much for your prayers during my recent illness. I am doing great and will see you in church on Sunday. I’ll say a little more in church, but please be assured of my return to good health after an unexpected illness. Thank you to Rev. Elisabeth especially, who stepped up on short notice.

Many of you will have received an Advent bag with the fixings for an Advent wreath. Thanks to the Acker family who assembled them and to Rowe who delivered them. There are still a few at church if you haven’t received one. Let me know, and we’ll see if we can get you one or arrange a time for you to safely pick one up. If you like, bring it to Zoom church on Sunday, and we can light the first two candles together.

Our guest preacher this Sunday is Rev. Sandhy Jha from the Oakland Peace Center. This is called Peace Sunday, and she will address this theme for us. She has been with us before. You can read about her work at Join us, and invite your friends and family. I look forward to seeing you.

With love as we wait in hope for Christmas,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

This Sunday is the last Sunday of the church year. It has a lot of names. One is the Feast of Christ the King because next Sunday Advent starts, anticipating Christ’s birth. It is also called “The Sunday next before Advent,” which sounds a little Anglican because of our Congregationalist heritage. Our movement began as Puritan reformers attempting to reform the Church of England, with names attached to us as “Dissenters” and “Nonconformists”.

It is also the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Be sure to register and attend this Friday’s secular observance via Zoom, of which our open and affirming participation is manifest by our being the only religious group in San Mateo County to be a co-sponsor.  I will share with you some of the appreciation we have received as a result of this.

Finally, it’s Thanksgiving Sunday, so come prepared to share your gratitudes. I will preach on Matthew 25:31-46. AND – we’ll have two more Thanksgiving opportunities for worship. On Tuesday, Lee Lamkin will be a speaker at our Interfaith Thanksgiving service because we belong to the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition. And on Thanksgiving Day morning, we’ll gather at 10 am for an ecumenical Thanksgiving Prayer and Praise service with several local churches. You can never be too thankful.

I hope you’ll join us Sunday. with love and gratitude,

Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Thank you so much for the opportunity to take a vacation last week. I didn’t realize how much I needed to get out into the sunlight and to be away, carefully and cautiously, with friends of many years. I feel refreshed, renewed and restored in a way that I hadn’t realized I needed, and a new sense of optimism for what our future can bring. In these uncertain times, it is so important that we are grounded with people that we love, even from a distance.

I want to urge you to join us this week for worship with our guest preacher Rev. Tessie Mandeville. She is chaplain and a Unitarian minister, and our history together goes way back to when I saw her exercise her healing ministry at the church on Eureka Street in San Francisco. Her partner Lisa will be joining us too; they will sing together for us. Be prepared for some healing, and bring your needs for healing prayers to church. When we sing “It is well with my soul” at the end of the service, you will feel it.

Be there – I will.

Rev. Jim Mitulski