Horizons – July 2020

What a time this is, as we are called to new ways of living and of serving God in the midst of a pandemic and a clarion call to address the racial injustice that is now made painfully visible throughout the land. We are called to witness to the health of each person and of our community. We are called to worship in Spirit and in truth. We are called back to the “marks of a Methodist”—to do no harm, to do good, and to stay in love with God.

God is calling the church to be the church! God is commissioning us anew to be ambassadors of hope, justice, and reconciliation, creating ways to worship in this new reality, ways that are rich with theological tradition and faithful in public witness.

We remain committed to safeguard our most vulnerable members and neighbors and to not fuel the spread of COVID-19. Following the best available science and the Scriptural mandate to love God and neighbor, we will continue worshipping together online this summer. The Cal-Pac Conference has issued guidelines for all churches to follow as we make decisions about this going forward. In accordance with the guidelines, I will be pulling together a Task Force from the congregation to guide us into a process of study, prayer, discernment and planning.

Our denomination has also launched a new initiative–“End Racism: Pressing On to Freedom.” These resources will be available to enrich our prayer, study, and action. Moving forward, watch the Sentinel, Friday emails and our social media for ways to get involved.

We continue to “be the church” in prayer, praise, witness, action, and service as we rebuild our community–healthy, strong, caring, renewed, and hope-filled. Wear your masks, wash your hands, avoid touching your face, maintain physical distancing, pray unceasingly. Speak up, speak out. Be a part of creating a difference for the world.

Send along any thoughts/ideas/prayers/concerns you have to me:
p.farris@santamonicaumc.org, or to our Lay Leadership Team:

Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.

Horizons – June 2020

The name of this monthly column, “HORIZONS” comes out of the name of our newsletter itself, “The Sentinel.” A sentinel’s job is to stand and keep watch, looking out over the horizons, watching for signs of the Holy Spirit and of the coming Kingdom of God.

Part of our work as people of faith is that same work of a sentinel to look to the far horizons, to keep watch and perceive what’s really happening even before it’s totally apparent. Sometimes, try as hard as we might, we can’t clearly make it out. And sometimes, looking at what’s coming or already upon us, it’s the sentinel’s job to cry out a warning if threat is imminent.

So, sentinels–take in the news, stay safer-at-home and shelter-in-love. THANK YOU for all you’re doing to keep everyone safe and to care for our health care and service providers. Please continue to wash up. Stay healthy. Live smart. Stay in love with God!

Also strive to look beyond. Be strategically serious about what’s happening in the world, and also remember the promises of God. For God said: “…surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Here at First UMC, we will move forward heeding the guidance of our bishop as well as the Guidelines for Re-Opening Churches published by the California Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA.

In the midst of it all, we continue to be a loving, compassionate, and faithful congregation. We continue to worship, pray, learn, fellowship, play, enjoy music, and reach out to those in need–on-line and through phone calls and caring notes, and through our prayers for one another.

Carry on, sentinels. Be the church! And let’s “See What Love Can Do…”

Eastertide 2020


Easter isn’t limited to one day!  Traditionally, the Christian church has celebrated the season of Eastertide—the 50 days from Easter to Pentecost.  Many customs have been practiced all through Eastertide around the globe, from decorating Easter eggs, to Easter egg hunts, to placing lilies on the altar of the church throughout the season.

And don’t we all need more than one Easter Day this year!  We need all that love and exuberance and joy and promise to lift us up again and again, raising us from our own moments of stress and anxiety into the Light and Life of the Resurrected Christ.

If we keep looking, I’m confident that we’ll see all kinds of evidence of how Easter love is happening in our families, neighborhoods and community.  For example, a house I see each morning on my walk has a teddy bear in the window with a hand-colored sign that says “Smile!” Many of our families have started weekly on-line family gatherings, uniting loved ones near and far for a time of sharing, laughing, and lifting up.  Acts of generosity and kindness abound, such as the total stranger who put a roll of paper towels in our cart when he realized that he’d picked up the last pack and we needed some, too.

See What Love Can Do! is our theme for Eastertide 2020.  Keep looking and you’ll see it all around.

And then, if you will, email 1 or 2 pics to Shalimar Carducci: s.carducci@santamonicaumc.org, or post it on your own Facebook or Instagram; Don’t forget to tag us @santamonicaumc so we can repost your pics! We’ll keep a giant virtual “scrapbook” to tell the story of these 50 days when the Light and Life of Christ fill our hearts and our world.

May the blessings of our Risen Lord raise us up!

Lent 2020

The season of Lent invites us into a time of reflection, prayer, and repentance as we again consider the meaning and power of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. What does it all mean for our lives and for the life of the world?

We’re living in a time of extreme polarization—in national and international politics, in public debate about almost everything, and even in the church itself. We’ve let ourselves fall deeper and deeper into what columnist David Brooks calls the Golden Age of “Theyism.”

This deeply troubles many of us and we wonder about not only where all this may lead but also what in the world we can do about it.

My prayer is that this Lent 2020 can become a time for us to ponder these things, individually and together. In prayer and worship. Our Lenten theme is “Be the Bridge.” It opens our minds and hearts to consider how, in our own thoughts, interactions, conversations and practices we might be the bridge that crosses divides and turns suspicion and hatred into conversation, humility, empathy and courage.

Consider these words from 2 Corinthians 5:19: “…in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, but entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”

Or, as the Jewish philosopher and writer, Martin Buber, put it in an earlier time of enmity and rancor: “The hope for this hour depends upon the hopers themselves, upon ourselves.”

May God bless to us a holy Lent.

February 2020 Horizons

Many of you have seen stories in the press about conflict within the United Methodist Church and plans for our future. Unfortunately, much of what has been written is inaccurate. I don’t really blame the reporters—it’s sometimes hard enough for those of us in the church to sort it all out, let alone those with very limited knowledge of our history, governance, and polity.

I continue to work closely with a number of groups in the many conversations regarding a path forward. I will look forward to sharing these developments with you at our next UMC Report Back on Sunday, February 16 following worship and will do my best to explain where are, what is still under much discussion, and what may transpire between now and our next General Conference in May.

I continue to trust God’s presence in the midst of it all. I’ve even joked that when the Book of Genesis describes God’s Spirit hovering over the waters of chaos to bring forth creation, the story doesn’t tell us just how long the Spirit hovered until the time was right to set everything in motion!

I encourage you to hold steady and remain fervent in prayer. I believe that God can work through a less-than-perfect church to create something new grounded in love of all God’s children and empowered for God’s mission in the world.

See you February 16!