Horizons June/July 2022

Summer is upon us! In the church year, this season is called “Ordinary Time.” Technically, it includes all the weeks that fall outside the great seasons of Christmas and Easter and their preparatory weeks of Advent and Lent. On the church calendar, everything else is “Ordinary.”

But that does NOT mean “ordinary” as in “not important,” “boring,” “ho-hum,” or “same-old, same-old!” Not at all! In church language, “Ordinary” comes from the root word ordo which means to order or to count. This is the time of year in which Christ walks among us and transforms our lives.

Think about that for a moment. Christ is walking with us when we take a walk on the beach. Or enjoy a picnic. Or celebrate a graduation. Christ is walking with us on a summer hike. Christ is beside us as we enjoy an afternoon nap. Christ is walking with us as we putter in the garden, do our chores, or get in touch with an old (or new!) friend. Christ is walking with us in moments of prayer and quiet reflection. Christ is walking with us through these summer days to transform our lives.

Christ is walking with us through the life of the church as well—worship, fellowship groups, study, Sunday School, summer at the Preschool, the Youth Service Project, Vacation Bible Camp, missional outreach in Haiti, Coffee Hour conversation, Blood Pressure screenings, committee meetings, and Annual Conference. Almost too many things to count—even if it is “Ordinary” time!

May God bless your summer with rest and joyful work, with renewal and transformation. Breathe deep. Smile. Sing. Remember that through it all, God is ordering our steps as the Scripture puts it, ordering all things in a beautiful creation of life, love, hope and joy.

May 2022 Horizons

Many of you commented on how meaningful our Lenten Devotional was for you this year. Forty days of writings by folks in our congregation offering a variety of approaches, styles and perspectives. What a blessing as we walked the Lenten path together, carrying something beautiful in our hearts.

I think I might just suggest that next year we also gear up for a Devotional for the great 50 days of Eastertide, this season to celebrate and live into the resurrection and all that it means for our lives, for creation, for our world. We need it, don’t you think? It’s a big leap from Easter day into resurrection living. Some daily encouragement might just be the thing. And besides, the insights we get into one another are priceless.

The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins inserted this prayer in a much longer poem: “Let [Christ] easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us.”

That’s my prayer for us all during this Eastertide. How about starting each day, or ending each day at bedtime, praying: “Let Christ easter in me, be a dayspring to the dimness of me.”

What new light might shine forth? What new joy might spring up? What new courage might take root? What new “Alleluia song” might sound?

Eastertide blessings,
Rev. Patricia Farris

April 2022 Horizons

Across these forty days of Lent, we have been reminding ourselves to carry something beautiful in our heart each day, something beautiful to help us keep our focus, find a new perspective, and maintain our resilient faithfulness through difficult times. We’ve also followed the ancient practice of the church to refrain from singing “Alleluia” in Lent, setting aside its exuberant joy until Easter dawns.

But it’s almost here! In just a few days, we will arise to hear again the life-changing world-transforming news of the Resurrection. “Alleluia” will burst forth from our lips and hearts.

Alleluia is an ancient Hebrew word, first found in the Psalms. It’s a combination of two words: “hallel” meaning “to praise” and “jah” or Yahweh, one of the names of God. Praise God. Praise God for who God is, for all that God has done, for all that God is doing, for all that God is still to do.

As we rejoice to launch into Eastertide, the fifty-day season from Easter to Pentecost Sunday, we will carry Alleluias in our hearts. How we need that joyful energy and power each day to face all the challenges and unknowns of our life journey. How we need that promise to remind us that what we see in the present moment is not all there is. God has created this world for peace, for joy, and God is even now creating a future with hope.

“Alleluia Is Our Song!”

Horizons – March 2022

Our theme for Lent comes from the 17th century French philosopher, writer and physicist, Blaise Pascal, who wrote: “In difficult times, carry something beautiful in your heart.” The forty-day season of Lent has traditionally been a time of preparation for the great joy of Easter. Forty days set aside for prayer, fasting, increased service and generosity. The spiritual work of Lent might itself be described as “a difficult time,” as we are invited into deeper honesty in our relationship with God, with our brothers and sisters, with the planet itself. We are drawn into confession and repentance as we make the forty-day walk into the workings of our soul and the living of our faith.

We experience other kinds of “difficult times” as well. Surely these last two years of the COVID pandemic have been difficult in many ways around the world. War and rumors of war cloud the horizon. Polarization in our nation keeps us wary and weary of one another. And, of course, we all experience difficult times in our own lives in the loss of a loved one or job, a troubled relationship, or economic challenges. In difficult times, life can feel like walking through a dark forest, hoping to find our way home, the path overgrown with brush and weeds.

“In difficult times,” Pascal wrote, “carry something beautiful in your heart.” May our Lenten spiritual work this year be a time to identify that “something beautiful” and keep it in our heart. What might that “beautiful something” be? The care of good neighbor. A kind word offered. A prayer shared. The rosy glow of dawn. A bird’s song to welcome Spring. The grace of God healing our hearts. The exuberance of a daffodil. An insistence on hope. The melody of peace.

As we walk the path of Lent this year, let’s each remember every day to carry something beautiful in our heart. For truly, the stone will be rolled away and the tomb will be empty. In beauty may we walk.

Horizons – February 2022

by Guest Writer, Michael Lamb, Lay Leadership Team

In any enterprise, public or private, success is dependent upon the combined efforts of many people, performing a variety of tasks, to achieve some defined goal or purpose. All of us, in work and life, have witnessed that through teamwork, the sharing of responsibilities, we take greater pride in and feel more connected with the end result and organization, than would otherwise be the case.

Santa Monica First United Methodist Church exemplifies this paradigm. Here, the Laity has always played a key role in the daily operations of the church and in providing many opportunities for fellowship, leadership and service. This continues the tradition established by both John Wesley and the early Christian church which relied upon individual believers to “keep the faith” in order to move the church forward.

Your current First UMC Lay Leadership Team consists of Molly Smith, Glenda Martinez, Jocelyn Hicks-Garner, Todd Erlandson, Leigh Erlandson and Michael Lamb. Our team meets regularly with Rev. Patricia Farris and Tricia Guerrero to share fellowship and prayer as well as to address the ongoing issues challenging our congregation such as COVID, hybrid services and moving the church forward in the face of local and national challenges and divisions. Plus, an opportunity to have fun and enjoy each other’s company!

It is useful to note that there are 18 distinct committees which have responsibilities for various aspects of the life of our church. All those lay committee members are lay leaders! If God has our collective backs, then it can truly be said that our laity has the backs of Patricia, Tricia, Anne, Christina and every staff member of Santa Monica First!

The strength and vitality of Santa Monica First grows through the mission and commitment of our Laity. Laity involvement, from my experience, leads to friendships, laughter, personal growth, support, inclusion, purpose, increased faith and a more dynamic, responsive church. Sounds like a win-win proposition!!