October 2020 Horizons

Look forward to a fun month of celebrations at church! Don’t we all need some things to lift our spirits?

October 3-4 will be a Celebration Weekend to include a drive thru Blessing of the Animals Saturday morning combined with the opportunity come by and pick up individually packaged communion elements (wafer and small cup of juice) to share in our World Communion Sunday worship the following day. Bring your PET(S) to Sunday ZOOM Coffee Hour to be blessed!

On October 11, we will celebrate the 145th Anniversary of First UMC Santa Monica!
We have persevered through many challenges over the years and through it all continue to praise God and serve God’s people near and far. Plan to participate in another “Town Hall” discussion with me during Coffee Hour.

Our wonderful Lay Leadership Team (Sherry (Leigh) Erlandson, Todd Erlandson, Jocelyn Hicks-Garner, and Mike Olsson) has prepared and will lead worship on October 18, that includes both familiar elements and an interactive sermon/
reflection time.

AND on Sunday, October 25, we will award 4th Grade Bibles and celebrate our wonderful Sunday School Teachers. You are also invited to WEAR YOUR HALLOWEEN COSTUME to ZOOM Coffee Hour! What could be more fun than that?!?

Read through this issue of the Sentinel for more fun and engaging opportunities.
The Spirit moves through the life of the church to revive our souls and bring smiles to
our lips and hearts.

September Horizons – 2020

These weeks, now months, of worshipping online, of gathering church groups and committees on ZOOM, invite us into a season of reflection. For many of us, “church” was deeply experienced in coming together for worship and fellowship. Now, without the hugs and the hymns, without the donuts and casual conversation, we ask ourselves in new ways what it means to “be the church” and to “do church.”

Virtual hugs and donuts don’t really cut it, do they? Better than nothing, but still leaving a lot to be desired. Yet, while I very much miss all of that and all of you, I do believe that God is calling us to grow and go deeper.

How do we grow in love of God in these pandemic times? How do we grow closer to God? Prayer, reflection, Scripture reading, worshipping together online, nature, quiet, music, journaling, more family time?

How do we grow in love of neighbor? Checking in on neighbors, quick chats over the fence, reaching out to friends and church family through calls and notes, sharing laughter and tears, connecting to cross gaps of isolation and loneliness…volunteering to meet the needs of others in our church family and community…creating new ways to continue traditions such as the Blessing of the Backpacks…giving generously to support the ministries of the church and missional needs in the community…

As has been noted—the church has left the building but we are still the church! Might we find new ways to witness and to share our deepest values?

I’d love to hear back from you in notes, calls or emails, if you’re willing to share the journey of your spirit in these times.

As John Wesley said on his death bed: “The best of all—God is with us!”

Be the hope, dear church,

Horizons – August 2020

In a recent HORIZONS column, I wrote of the sentinel’s role in looking to the horizon to catch a glimpse of the future. As it turns out, daily updates on the coronavirus only seem to cloud our vision of the future. It goes in and out of focus and we wonder what the next news report will reveal.

In the meantime, we can take a clear look at the present moment. One thing we can see very clearly—the church has not stopped being church! Remember the three rules of Wesley: do no harm, do good, stay in love with God. We’re on it!

Do no harm—continuing online worship and modeling safe practices of social distancing and wearing masks whenever we’re out and about. Our Re-Gathering Task Force is hard at work making plans for the day when safe and faithful in-person worship will again be possible.

Do good—supporting Upward Bound House, the Haiti Mission, Westside Food Bank, and our front-line health care and service providers; generous giving to the church; reaching out to congregation and neighbors with messages of love and care; resourcing our stressed-out families through in-home Sunday School, youth ministry, and the distribution of 100 Vacation Bible School resource kits.

Stay in love with God—through worship and music and Messy Church at home; Bible Study and spiritual growth groups; ZOOM fellowship in Coffee Hour, Men’s Breakfast Bible Study, Prayer Quilt Ministry, Shareringers, and church committees; unceasing prayer for one another and for greater justice in our world.

The church has not stopped being church! We’re inspired to new forms of innovation, creativity and outreach—all to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. Thanks be to God for the abiding presence and power of the Holy Spirit in and through it all!

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…”