Dear Friends

This week we conclude our celebration of Black History/Black Futures Month. I was proud to be able to represent the church along with Alexis Lewis at the County Board of Supervisors meeting this week to make a presentation on Black History Month for the over 100 people who were present via Zoom, along with other members of the NAACP, and to be able to say that we observe as sacred the time they were recognizing with the proclamation (see pictures below). I was able to remind them that some states still choose to honor Confederate Memorial Day in place of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

My sermon will take us deeper into Lent as we look at Mark 8:31-38. You still have time to join us in our weekly Lenten Prayer Group on Tuesdays from 6 to 6:45 pm. Though small, our group prayed powerfully together this past week about what kind of resurrection we are looking for on Easter.

You can also join our current Tuesday book discussion if you read chapters 1-5 of Know My Name by Chanel Miller for next week. For our first session there were ten of us from all over the country (including two from Texas!). One of the members shared this video by the author describing an art exhibition she did at the Asian Art Museum:  https://exhibitions.asianart.org/exhibitions/chanel-miller-i-was-i-am-i-will-be/

Spirit is moving at Island United Church. Be sure to be part of it! Hope to see you in Zoom church this week.

Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

This is an early “Mardi Gras” edition of the eweekly to remind you of our Ash Wednesday service tomorrow, Wednesday, February 17, at 7 pm. We are coming together with 5 churches to have an experience we wouldn’t have had in our individual groups. Lent is better together!

I’m also doing a special Lenten prayer group on Tuesdays at 6 to 6:45 pm, starting February 23. A time to check in and a time for prayer, focusing on our prayer lives and these questions: What resurrections are you preparing for? What new life do you seek? This is especially for people who are using the daily Lent of Liberation prayer booklets. I mailed them directly to people who requested them, and Amazon promised a Thursday delivery to you. I also ordered some directly to my house, which I will bring to church. Please let me know if you want one.

Let’s begin this Lenten journey together tomorrow night. Just as joy comes in the morning, so Easter (and the promise of a new beginning) is right around the corner. Let’s prepare as a community! Enjoy a treat today (pancakes? I’m doing keto waffles with sugar-free syrup) on this last day before Lent begins.

Happy Mardi Gras!
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

We continue this week with our observance of Black History Month. We have a guest preacher from Alameda, Amos White, and more special music history from Rev. Dr. D. Mark Wilson.

We also want to celebrate with all our friends who observe Chinese New Year. Our world is so diverse, a reminder to us of the infinite creativity of the God in whose image we are all created. Join with us this Sunday, and plan to be with us on Ash Wednesday as Lent begins.

Take care,
Rev. Jim Mitulski

Dear Friends

This week begins Black History Month, and in a few more weeks the Season of Lent begins, with our theme Lent of Liberation. Listen to this short poem by acclaimed American poet Nikki Giovanni for why we observe African American History Month in church, as well as throughout the year  If you are interested in receiving ashes mailed to you, or our 40-day devotional Lent for Liberation, please let me know by February 10. Be sure I have your address ([email protected]).

Both of these seasons offer us an opportunity for personal spiritual growth. I want to urge you to consider: Next month we’ll observe a year of living with the coronavirus, a year since we began meeting only on Zoom. It’s not too early to start preparing for Easter. This is your personal invitation to attend church on Ash Wednesday, February 17, at 7 pm and every Sunday in Lent beginning February 21. Go for 6 weeks in a row! Let that discipline lead to a deeper experience of Easter on April 4. Growing spiritually is something we can do together. Let’s covenant to show up for ourselves and each other during this sacred season.

Hope to see you Sunday.
Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. I’ve been waiting with great anticipation for the debut on our local PBS stations of the two-part series The Black Church, put together by Dr. Henry Louis Gates. Gates was one of my favorite professors when I had him for a seminar on the Harlem Renaissance, and I know you will see why when you watch this series. Bishop Yvette Flunder is from our neighboring congregation in Oakland www.cityofrefugeucc.org. Here is a link to a trailer about the series https://www.pbs.org/video/trailer-ectdli/, and here is the website for the series, which will air on February 16 and 17: https://www.pbs.org/weta/black-church/.

Dear Friends

Join us this week as we continue our exploration of stories from the Gospel of Mark. This week the reading group began a new book, The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels (you can still join us), and we started out with a background on how the New Testament writings were collected. Mark is the shortest, the simplest, the earliest, and the most direct of the gospel accounts. One early church theologian called it “the memories of the apostles.” This first chapter tells us why and how people were attracted to Jesus and the movement around him. A healing story (Mark 1:21-28) is one of the reasons.

Healing takes many forms. Come with your needs for healing and with your gifts to be a healer. Sometimes speaking a truth can bring a much needed healing. We’ll also hear a moving rendition of You Will Be Found from the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen

Join us for a time of healing and restoration. Invite your friends and family members, near and far, as we gather in Zoom church, as we will continue to do for a while. 

Rev. Jim Mitulski

P.S. One of my favorite quotes, from the introduction to The Gnostic Gospels: “A heretic may be may be anyone whose outlook someone else dislikes or denounces. According to tradition, a heretic is anyone who deviated from the true faith. But what defines that ‘true faith?’ Who calls it that and for what reasons?” (p. xxii).

P.P.S. I just started reading the newly released book by New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow – The Devil You Know (review: https://www.kqed.org/arts/13891832/charles-blows-the-devil-you-know-is-a-black-power-manifesto-for-our-time).  If you are reading this book too or are interested in reading it, let me know.

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 (https://youtu.be/Ws7IaZWk97c). 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 (lifemoves.org), 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