Dear Friends

Hello, Island United and Friends,

I pray this finds you and yours well. I look forward to being with you again this Sunday. Joy abounds.

This week, I will be reflecting upon the Gospel of Mark 9:30-37. In this moment, Jesus tells the disciples (us) of his death-to-come as they jockey for position of power. He, as always, bestows a teaching of how to be in this world so they might bring about the Realm of God.

And the human condition continues….

It is easy to point toward the larger socio-political events of power-jockeying and say, “There… over there…THERE.” However, I invite you to drill down and think about what it means to bring about the Realm of God into our lives that we might be that in a world that so desperately needs it.

With love,
Rev. Michael Cronin

And …

Dear Friends

We had a lovely service last week, with about equal numbers in person and on Zoom. The choir using special masks for singers provided exceptionally beautiful music, as did our soloists Lauren assisted by Darryl. We are not going to resume congregational singing quite yet. I trust you will understand that this is to ensure the safety of all.

We decided to go back to Zoom-only services for the remainder of the month, evaluating the latest Covid19 information carefully. We will resume in person on the first Sunday in October – the 3rd.

I also announced that my last day with you will be October 18, and my last Sunday October 17, after which I am relocating to Duluth Minnesota, to be the intentional interim pastor of Peace United Church of Christ. on the snowy shores of Lake Superior – https://www.peaceucc.org/ or @peace.church.duluth on Facebook. By prior commitment I will be preaching and leading workshops at All Saints Episcopal Church in Saugatuck, Michigan on September 19 – @allsaintssaugatuck on Facebook.

Next Sunday, September 26, I’ll give more detail about my changes and more importantly what will happen next at Island United Church. The Board already has plans to assure continuity and a smooth transition.

With faith and love,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

– Jesus

As we re-gather this Sunday in person, safely distanced and masked, I will preach on Jesus’s question to the disciples – “Who do you say that I am” – by reflecting with us on a similar question, “Who will people say that we are?”

As we begin to come together in person, as well as continue to gather for meetings during the week online, we have an opportunity to begin in a new way to write the next chapter of Island Church’s history.

Please make a special effort if you feel comfortable to join us this week, or to tune in. I also have a special personal announcement to share with you in person.

I hope to see you for Homecoming Sunday, Welcome Home Sunday, Rally Sunday, as it has been variously called.

Yours in faith,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Pray you all are well!

I have missed seeing you and am looking forward to being in worship with you this coming Sunday.

For our text we will be using excerpts from Exodus 15 and 16. The story of the Israelites after they escape Egypt and are starting their journey to the promised land, is very rich and may give us some insight in navigating our own journeys. I invite you to re-read the story and allow yourself to imagine what it must have been like for the Israelites to walk into a completely unknown situation. Please note that some grumbling was allowed….

I hope you will join us.

Kindly,
Rev. Elisabeth Middelberg

And …

Dear Friends

Thank you to those who joined us last week for worship at Congregational Church of Belmont, either in person or on Zoom. We were very warmly received. If you weren’t able, please watch the video and let us know if you have any feedback.

We are so glad to welcome back Rev. Elisabeth as our guest preacher this weekend. I look forward to seeing you all next Sunday, if not before, in the reading group or the prayer time and check in.

Yours in faith,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

This is the Sunday we are going to worship with Congregational Church of Belmont. They are quite close to us geographically, and there may be other things we have in common as well. They too are in a period of transition, about to embark on the important “who are we now, who are we next” questions. If you feel comfortable, mask up and join us in person, stay for lunch, and get to know them a little better.

You can also watch the service on Facebook Live. You don’t need to be a member of Facebook to watch. Just click on the link at 10:30 am.

I will be preaching on this week’s gospel, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23, and our human capacity to ascribe to God what is in reality a human bias or construct. We will celebrate a great event in American history, the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. We’ll recite as a group some of the most famous lines from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech that day (https://youtu.be/_yOBncaiito).

Hope to see you Sunday!

Yours in faith and hope,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.
– John Lewis

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.
– John 6:68 (from this week’s gospel)

Thank you to everyone who supported or participated in last Sunday’s Rally and March in Central Park. We were well represented in the turnout, and several of you told me that you joined in prayer. To me, the most moving speech (and there were many) was hearing Mercy, Rev. Penny Nixon’s teenage daughter, describe her experience of being a student in public high school currently and a resident of City of San Mateo as a young black woman today. She is a person close in age to Emmett Till, whose life we will remember this Sunday.

I hope to have a video of Mercy’s speech to show you on Sunday. We will also have a specially commissioned for us musical piece by one of our favorite guest musician/pastors, Rev. Dr. D. Mark Wilson. I’ll preach on the gospel for this Sunday, John 6:56-69.

Please join us for what I know will be a powerful service and invite your friends. For everyone’s safety, we continue on Zoom for the time being.

Yours in faith,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. Please keep the US personnel conducting evacuations and the whole people of Afghanistan in your prayers using your own prayers or this one, as an example, from The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church:

Eternal God, hear our prayer for the peoples of Afghanistan. There is a profound humanitarian crisis. Countless people, mostly women and children, are now fleeing and vulnerable. The lives of many are now endangered. The hopes of many are forgone. Send your Spirit, Lord, to rally the resolve of the nations of the earth to find pathways to save human lives, protect human rights, and to resolve the hardships of those seeking refuge, asylum, and safety. Hear our prayer for the peoples of Afghanistan. This we pray as followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.

P.P.S. To read more about Emmett TIll’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, and her actions after the death of her son, read this article: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/emmett-biography-mamie-till-mobley/ or watch these interviews: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvijYSJtkQk.

Dear Friends

“Believe what you see, see what you believe and become what you are:
the Body of Christ.”
– Augustine of Hippo

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
– Jesus

When I was a student in Cambridge, I frequently attended services at a monastery www.ssje.org nestled on the banks of the Charles River. Students and faculty of every faith from all over the university (including the historically Unitarian Harvard Divinity School where I was matriculated) flocked to this little island of medieval spirituality for its quiet beauty. I remember before communion we would pray a simple prayer of St. Augustine: “May we become what we receive.” This prayer helps make sense of the mystical discourse we read in this week’s gospel from John 6:51-58 in which Jesus invites us to “eat of his flesh.” Of course. it is poetry, and Jesus’s invitation to live eternally gives us solace when we face the trials of this life.

Rather than shy away from the strong language, I want to really dig into it and reconsider how we become the Body of Christ in the world today when we struggle for justice. To that end I hope you will join us in person (masked, of course) or in spirit for our March for Racial Justice in Central Park, San Mateo, on Sunday afternoon from 1 to 3 pm. Rev. Dr. Penny Nixon will be our keynote speaker, and we have about a half dozen inspirational speakers planned before our one-mile loop along El Camino Real and back into the picnic grounds. The event is sponsored by the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition of which our church is a principal sponsor, with generous support from the Silicon Valley Foundation.

Come join this Interfaith Witnessing of the Spirit of John Lewis. Hope to see you there!

Yours in faith,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

Please join us Sunday (we’re back on Zoom only) as we welcome a friend of our congregation and a distinguished Bay Area theologian, Rev. Sandhya Jha. It is especially appropriate that she addresses us as the founder of the Oakland Peace Center this Sunday as we commemorate the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a special service of Prayer for Peace. Sandhya has been working this year with the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition with our Anti-Racism committee and was a recent panelist for our Religious Responses to Anti-Asian Violence program. She’s a great preacher, and I know we will have an inspiring service.

It was great to have a good online as well as in-person attendance last week. Let’s keep the numbers up and stay connected on Zoom for the remainder of the summer.

Praying with you for peace,
Rev. Jim Mitulski 

Dear Friends

Please plan to join us for worship this Sunday, August 1, for in-person worship, but only if you feel comfortable doing so. It is mask mandatory for everyone. (We’ll also have some sort of Zoom presence). We have as our guest preacher a distinguished theologian, pastor, and seminary professor, also a UCC minister, whom I have known for almost 35 years. Dr. Justin Tanis is going to preach about the Good Samaritan story as related in Luke 10:25-37.

We won’t be singing hymns this Sunday yet, though we may have a soloist do this for us: “Were you there when I needed a neighbor” by the same composer of other familiar favorites like Lord of the Dance and in the same style. The words to the hymn are a modern retelling of the story, and many churches will be using it:

1. When I needed a neighbour, were you there?
When I needed a neighbour, were you there?

Refrain:
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

2. I was hungry and thirsty, were you there, were you there?
I was hungry and thirsty, were you there? [Refrain]

3. I was cold, I was naked, were you there, were you there?
I was cold, I was naked, were you there? [Refrain]

4. When I needed a shelter, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a shelter, were you there? [Refrain]

5. When I needed a healer, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a healer, were you there? [Refrain]

6. Wherever you travel I’ll be there, I’ll be there,
wherever you travel I’ll be there. [Refrain]

One way to prepare for worship this week is to read the text like a prayer a few times and to listen to one of the many versions available on the internet. Here’s one: https://youtu.be/pXiHcpsMJxs.

I look forward to seeing you Sunday, in person or on Zoom.

Yours in faith and hope,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. Every member’s birthday is important to remember, and there’s been a little slippage in our celebrations during Covid time, I want to draw particular attention this week to Lee Lamkin on her birthday (July 28th). She is truly a remarkable pillar of our church, and we want to especially wish her many more birthdays! 

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