Dear Friends

You are a light. You are the light.
Never let anyone – any person or any force – dampen, dim or diminish your light….
Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge.
Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle to overcome evil is already won.
 – John Lewis (1940-2020)

As summer progresses, we continue to lift up the example of the late Congressman John Lewis. In studying this month, I learned about the theological basis of his passion for social transformation. His favorite theologian is one we claim in our liberal Protestant tradition: Walter Rauschenbush (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Rauschenbusch).

This week in my sermon I’ll look at John 6:1-21, the feeding of the 5000, a classic text for those who espouse the Social Gospel. Join us if you can this Saturday at the Latter-Day Saint Church in Foster City at twilight for an outdoor showing of the John Lewis documentary Good Trouble or watch it on Amazon Prime or other platforms. Plan to join us if you are able on August 15 for our small march (about a mile) through and around Central Park in San Mateo in the spirit of John Lewis, in conjunction with the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition.

At the NAACP meeting this past week we heard firefighter Joseph Echema (Redwood City firefighter files harassment lawsuit | Local News | smdailyjournal.com) about the current racist treatment he continues to experience in the Redwood City Fire Department. And this week somebody removed our Black Lives Matter church banner (not that easy to do) from the corner of Balclutha and Comet. These banners are found on many UCC (and other) churches throughout the country. It’s unfortunate to think that Foster City might be the kind of place where we can’t display one.

Jesus maintained a relentlessly optimistic mood about how faithful people can make a practical difference in bringing justice and equity to society. Join us on Sunday as we gather to pray to be in that company.

Hope to see you on Sunday on Zoom!
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Join us this Sunday as we commemorate the life of John Lewis, whose year’s mind is July 17.

I’ve been reading a newish biography of John Lewis by presidential historian Jon Meacham. A lot of it focuses on Lewis’s faith and spiritual motivation, from his childhood years and throughout his life. I think the passage of a year has revealed even more the significance of Lewis as a spiritual as well as a human rights leader. This is a tie-in event to the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition activities being held this month and next in his honor.

Join us this Sunday for some inspiration!

Yours in faith and hope,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Last week we gathered for the first time in over a year. The joy of being together was incredible. We had some technology challenges, so there is no recording available. We were happy to be together and enjoy the instrumental music, the fervent prayer, and the excellent company. In the extended prayer time, people shared what they grieved over the last year (“touch”) and what they were grateful for (“Zoom”). We’ll do it again on August 1. We hope you’ll be with us.

I learned we need two laptops to achieve all that we want because one is insufficient. So I am looking for two volunteers – one to run screens in the room and one to run Zoom and record. If you are willing to be one of those people on August 1, please let me know.

Join us this Sunday, back on Zoom, as we pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to guide us in our regathering and re-establishing Island United Church as a public presence in Foster City. I will talk about the “chariots of fire” story in 2 Kings 9:1-15 and what it means to pray for a double portion of God’s spirit.

Hope to see you all.
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

We invite you to join us in person this Sunday for worship as we experiment with our first in-person gathering in over a year. Please wear a mask, whether or not you are vaccinated. The format will be simpler than usual. We intend to broadcast the gathering on our usual Zoom link. The most important thing will be gathering.

I’ll preach on Mark 6:1-13. Thank you to Ed Grohe, who has thought through a lot of the logistics. The choir has some special music planned. Pray for our church, scattered and gathered, that we might all feel the unity of the Spirit.

Next Sunday we will resume our current Zoom routine for now. Looking forward to seeing you!

Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Please join us this Sunday as we conclude our Pride Month services on the day that LGBT Pride Day is traditionally commemorated with parades and other observances around the country. It’s also the Sunday when the United Church of Christ celebrates the Open and Affirming Church movement, of which we are a member.

We have two special worship leaders. Our preacher is church member Vickye Robertson, who has completed all the requirements for UCC ordination and is discerning how to put her gifts to use; she has a particular interest in chaplaincy. Peninsula Multifaith Coalition co-president Diane Fahrner will share a personal testimony about being the “proud mother of two gay sons” while remaining a faithful member of a religious tradition that doesn’t approve.

While Pride Day is political, it is also deeply spiritual. Be sure to join us, and invite friends to join us this week.

Happy Pride Day with faith and pride,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

As the nation prepares to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday for the first time, we will continue in our annual celebration of this event so rich in spiritual meaning. Our service will include a sermon by Rev. Gwynn Fuqua and special music by Rev. Dr. D. Mark Wilson.

Foster City also recognized Juneteenth this year with a special proclamation, as well as one for Pride Month. Click here for the link to the Juneteenth proclamation. Click here for the link to the LGBTQ Pride Month proclamation.

Join us as we celebrate the Spirit of Liberation all around us. Hope to see you.

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!