Dear Friends

Pride Month is underway, and we have some great services planned that dovetail with the intersection of LGBT pride and other liberation movements and also underscore what our United Church of Christ distinctive identity means. We will commemorate two significant events that took place this week in the past few years:

* the killing of 9 Black people by a young white supremacist in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17, 2015 during a Bible study, and

* the shooting death of 49 people on June 12, 2016 at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando.

Last Friday, a California judge ruled that assault rifles cannot be banned in our state (the place with the largest number of mass shootings of any state over the last 20 years) because he said these weapons are no worse than “Swiss army knives.” That prompted a lot of coverage for our modest anti-gun violence vigil at the Leo J. Ryan Park Amphitheatre in downtown Foster City last Saturday, though we had planned it a week previously in response to the VTA shootings in San Jose. Our church was a principal organizer, and it gave us an opportunity to testify to our values. I especially want to thank both Ed Grohe and Alexis Lewis for making this possible. With pride comes the necessity to make connections and to stand in solidarity as part of our spiritual lives.

Join us this Sunday as we look at Jesus’s words in Mark 4:26-34, which could have been written directly to us as we move toward gathering in person again and the re-invention of our church.

Hope to see you,

Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. Join us for prayer and check-in time tonight and every Thursday at 7 pm. We will likely continue this on Zoom even when we return to in-person Sunday worship.

Dear Friends

June begins Pride Month, which we will be observing at our church as part of our being an Open and Affirming Church in the United Church of Christ. In the gospel this week, Jesus affirms the value of both a united community and a chosen family in Mark 3:20-35. I’ve been watching the tv show Pose on FX channel, which recounts a different era – the 80s and 90s in particular – as seen through a largely Black and Latinx community struggling with AIDS in NYC. This week saw the 40th anniversary of the first AIDS cases reported by the CDC.

So much has changed since I came out in the mid-70s in my Catholic family in Detroit. All of that came back to me as I watched the Rainbow Flag raised at City Hall this week, joined by Ed Grohe and Peggy Williams from our church. Most of the Foster City elected officials were present. Several San Mateo County LGBTQ Commissioners were also present. I knew Gilbert Baker, the creator of the Rainbow Flag. I remember how proud we were to have it hang throughout the Castro neighborhood, in our church, and at the corner of Castro and Market. I am not kidding you when I say we never thought it would be seen outside of that little enclave. It marked our neighborhood as safe, long before it caught on. Mayor Gehani said he was glad to see it flying for the whole month this year, and he looked forward to the day when we wouldn’t need to raise it. But for now, I was glad that we were doing so and that our church, as a matter of faith, played an instrumental role in saying that God Loves All People.

Join us Sunday for worship on Zoom, and plan to join us on July 4 for our first in-person worship.

Yours in love and pride,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God,
     maker of heaven and earth,
     of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in Jesus Christ,
     the Word of God,
     through whom all things were made.
     By the power of the Holy Spirit,
              for the salvation of the world,
              the Word became flesh
in the womb of Mary, his blessed mother.
     He was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
 suffered, died, and was buried.
     On the third day Jesus rose from the grave
and ascended into heaven,
promising to come again
to judge the living and the dead.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
     the breath of God and giver of life;
     she speaks through prophets and sages
     and creates a new community of God’s people.
     We place our trust in God’s promise of forgiveness,
     and we look with hope for the resurrection of the dead,
     and the life of the world to come. Amen.
(version in inclusive language by Rev. Dr. Jay Johnson, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Saugatuck, MI)

Although it’s a holiday weekend, we have a lot going on in the upcoming week and month, so I urge you to look at the events referenced here, put them on your calendar, and join us live or on Zoom as seems appropriate. Here are some things I want to highlight:

This Sunday is observed as Trinity Sunday throughout the Christian Church. Although not foregrounded so much in UCC churches in our part of the country, in congregations in the East and Midwest, which trace their roots back further than the mergers that created the UCC in 1957, the Nicene Creed is still used in weekly worship. It is even used weekly in worship as a reminder of our historical belief in the sometimes mysterious doctrine of the Trinity. Of course, in the UCC we deeply value our individual rights to affirm or doubt various doctrines, but I’ll use this occasion to revisit why Christians talk about “God in three persons, blessed Trinity” as we’ll sing in a favorite old hymn on Sunday: Holy, Holy, Holy.

We will also commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre and listen to a brief video testimony from a survivor, 107-year-old Viola Fletcher, who told her story before Congress this last week. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/may/19/viola-fletcher-tulsa-race-massacre-congress-oldest-survivor. We’ll also have an update from Vickye Robinson, our delegate to the Northern California UCC, about their recent Special Meeting. (Vickye will be our preacher on the last Sunday in Pride Month as we commemorate the Stonewall Uprising that is often seen as a significant catalyst in the modern gay rights movement.)

We cannot allow the almost commonplace occurrence of mass gun violence to go unmarked. Yesterday in San Jose 9 people were killed by one gun man with semi-automatic weapons. We will have a brief witness this Sunday, May 30, 1 pm to 1:45 pm outside Foster City Hall in Foster City. Alexis and I are organizing this with short notice with friends from Brady United, San Mateo Chapter (@SanMateoBrady on Facebook), with whom we had an outdoor prayer vigil at church last year. Please come, masked, and invite friends. We feel it’s important to express – by showing up with our bodies – our solidarity with 9 grieving families and our desire for more significant gun control and background checks. Nonpartisan, nonsectarian, peaceful, socially distanced. Check the IUC Facebook page for latest updates.

Two years ago our church was instrumental in getting Foster City to issue its first official Pride Month Proclamation. Last year, after some controversy, our church’s own rainbow flag was flown over City Hall for the last week of the month. This year our flag will again be raised for the entire month of June, without controversy. You are invited to the flag raising on Tuesday, June 1, at 2 pm at Foster City Hall. There won’t be a lot of fanfare, and it won’t be advertised because of COVID restrictions. Wear a mask if you want to come and be a witness. Take some pride that our Open and Affirming Commitment made over a decade ago is still having an effect in the world. And what a great way to kick off our church’s Pride Month activities.

Stay tuned for more exciting things taking place. I’m still trying to work out a sensible and safe plan particular to our congregation and our small and shared church building for when and how to re-open. There are a lot of moving parts to this consideration, so I’ve been letting you know some of the variables and why I’ve changed the plan a few times now. Continue to pray for an end to this pandemic, and please understand why we might not do it the way some other churches are doing it in our city. If you have particular thoughts or questions, please let me know.

With love and hope,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. A school update will be coming next week. We are more or less on the schedule we released to you last month. We are planning to honor all of the church members who have supported All Are Friends as a church program over the years on Sunday July 4. Please help us reach out to anyone you know who should be recognized and invite them to our first in-person (masked, socially distanced) service on July 4. Will there be singing at this service? I don’t know. https://religionnews.com/2021/05/25/is-it-safe-to-sing-at-church-yet-depends-who-you-ask/. But this I do know. Please, please, please get vaccinated. And – when you’re at church, expect to wear a mask, no exceptions for now.

Dear Friends

This week at the church I noticed that the foliage was blooming in shades of red, and it put me in mind of this Sunday’s observance of Pentecost. In a clergy meeting where we discuss the lessons for the next Sunday, we talked about the parallels with the early church as they began a new phase of their movement on Pentecost, which is often called the birthday of the church. We are about to start a new phase, a new kind of birthday or rebirth. What manifestations of Spirit will we see? Wear something red for the Zoom camera, and join us for Pentecost.

We’ll look at two different ways that the scriptures talk about the Holy Spirit, as both breath and as embodied advocate. Come and pray and let the power of the Spirit be felt among us on a new kind of Pentecostal power.

See you Sunday,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. We’re trying to be responsive to still unfolding news about the safest practices. For now, let’s plan our first in-person gatherings for Sunday, July 4 and Sunday. August 1, with the other Sundays on Zoom only. We can perhaps resume weekly in-person worship starting Sunday, September 5. Let me know what you think!

Dear Friends

This Sunday is Ascension Sunday, the very last of our Easter observances.

Our guest preacher helps us pose the question of “What’s next?” The Board is working thoroughly, thoughtfully, and diligently to help us in the transition of drawing down our current way of managing All Are Friends as a church program and introducing a new management model within the next several weeks.

I am looking at how we can transition back to public worship and other gatherings in person, though not yet. I know some churches are doing so, but we have particular reasons for being cautious. At present, I can say we will not begin worship in our space until at least July, but we will continue gathering on Zoom.

I have tentatively calendared an outdoor social gathering for Sunday, June 13, at noon in the church parking lot. Are you interested in helping with that? Let me know.

Soon we will be together again in person. Until then, let’s continue to gather faithfully in prayer via the Internet.

Hope to see you Sunday.
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Thank you so much for your birthday wishes last Sunday. Also, I appreciate your prayers on Tuesday when I had surgery on my forehead. It was successful, and I will be in church on Sunday. Please be patient because I am not starting back to work until next week.

We have a great guest preacher this Sunday, my long-time friend and colleague Rev. Stedney Phillips, who will help advance our theme of Asian American History Month. Always an important observance, this year it feels especially important that we express our solidarity and commitment to the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, who are strongly represented in our church and in our wider community.

I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday.

In love and faith,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

We are continuing in the Easter season. I realized at the book group this week as we concluded reading Anne Lamott’s Dusk, Night, Dawn how reading this throughout April has nurtured my own capacity to continue to look at, explore, and experience resurrection. It has acclimated me to seek it and see it way beyond the simple Easter story with which we began the month.

She says of hope:

“Hope springs from realizing we are loved, can love and are love with skin on. Then we are unstoppable. This hope is from a deep, deep place that somehow my parents seeded. Love is not a concept. It’s alive and true. A generative and nutritious flickering force that is marbled through life.

This is the theme I will explore on Sunday through the gospel reading and look at what resurrection means in the midst of change. I hope you’ll be there.

Rev. Jim Mitulski 

Dear Friends

Please join us this Sunday for a special service in honor of National Poetry Month, curated by Jessica McFarland, a minister and poet especially for our church.  Of course, we are still in Eastertide.

We had a great turnout for the Congregational conversation last Sunday, and we will continue our discussions over the weeks to come. There is a regular meeting of the Board this Sunday at 12 noon if you are interested as well. Please join us!

Yours in faith,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Mighty God,
in whom we know the power of redemption,
you stand among us in the shadows of our time.

As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,
uphold us with knowledge of the final morning
when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,
we will share in his resurrection,
redeemed and restored to the fullness of life
and forever freed to be your people. Amen.

Please join us for worship this week and for the congregational conversation afterwards.

In my sermon we’ll look in Luke 24:13-48 at how Jesus steadied the faith of the people in his community in the midst of change. Our country is going through changes; our church is changing. Yet one thing remains – the love of Christ and the capacity for new beginnings and ongoing resurrections.

We hope you’ll join us.

In faith,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Grant, we pray, O God,
that we, who share in the paschal celebrations,
may, through your goodness,
hold fast to them
in the way we live our lives;
through Jesus Christ
who is alive with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
(from New Zealand Prayer Book)

Easter is a season of resurrections – fifty full days, an extra ten days to compensate for the seriousness of Lent. It’s also a season of change. This week at church I noticed the calla lilies and the wisteria in bloom. It just breathed new life! new life! everywhere I looked, even though it was still a little brisk outside.

This week I’ll reflect on “Faithful Thomas” as I invite us to think of him this year, as told in John 20:19-31.

This will also be Rev. Elisabeth’s last Sunday with us as interim associate minister. We will have the opportunity to thank her and appreciate her for her faithfulness in ministry among us over the last few years. Plan in advance what you might want to say, or email me something you might want me to read at [email protected].

I look forward to seeing you.

With love,
Rev. Jim Mitulski