December

 
Growing up, Advent was always a very special time of year for me. My family’s preparation began when we would go on the day after Thanksgiving to pick out a live Christmas tree for our living room. We would always put it in front of the large picture window, so that the lights could be seen from outside. We’d pull out our boxes of ornaments and decorate the tree while singing our favorite Advent and Christmas hymns. Then, once Advent began, we would find our Advent calendar and count down the days until Christmas, each day uncovering a bit more of the Christmas story. My favorite tradition, though, was going to church on Christmas Eve, where we lit candles and sang “Silent Night.” I’m sure that many of you have had similar traditions over the years. Our traditions are important, because they help us to connect with our past, make sense of our present, and envision a hopeful future. I love Advent, because it gives us the opportunity to slow down, to center ourselves, and to focus on the core tenets of hope, peace, joy, and love that lie at the heart of our faith. As we begin to draw closer to the holy night that changed the world, the following poem from Celtic spiritualist John Phillip Newell’s Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter speaks to me:

 

In the silence of the morning

I am alive to the new day’s light,

alert to the early stirrings of the wind

and the first sounds of the creatures.

In the silence of my heart

I hear the yearnings that are in me and the fears,

the hopes that rise from within

and the doubts that trouble my soul.

In the beginnings of this day, O God,

before the night’s stillness is lost to the day’s busyness, open to me the treasure of my inner being

that in the midst of this day’s busyness I may draw on wisdom.

Assure me again of my origins in you,

assure me again that my true depths are of you.

 

This season is a time of stillness, a time of preparation, in which we learn the value of hope, before going about the busyness of working for change. It is a time to remember that we belong to God. It is a beginning, a fresh start, as we begin a new church year and think about all of the wonderful work that University Christian Church is going to do in 2016. This season is a reminder that God changes things. Just as God changed the world by sending a small child that upset the status quo, God is still at work in our world. We desperately need to hear the message of hope, peace, joy, and love anew. May the joy of this season, not be forgotten in the new year, but rather serve as a springboard for us to be the hands and feet of Christ and to share the Good News.

 

Peace and Love,

Caleb

 



November

These have been an incredible two months at UCC. I’m so grateful to this congregation for all of the love and support that you’ve shown to me and my family. I’m thrilled about our future together and I hope that

you are too. There are lots of exiting things in the works that will be happening very soon.  

 

This Sunday, we will unveil a new website that will give our congregation a new public face online. This is important as we begin to move forward, because it shows that we are “up-to-date.” Our website will include many new features including online giving, a mobile website, a mobile app, video versions of sermons (with the ability to livestream and podcast), an updated calendar, and scrolling images that will enable us to highlight upcoming events. However, there will be some changes associated the new website. We will be switching our domain name from univchristianchurch.com to uchristianchurch.org. This will also mean new email addresses for church office staff. We hope that this will be a minor inconvenience that will be greatly exceeded by the benefits of a new look. You will begin to notice a more unified look across all of our technology platforms. We have also applied for and been granted a Google Advertising grant for up to $10,000/month in free Google online advertising. Following worship on Sunday, we will have a technology information session during coffee chat to help you learn how to navigate the new tech and take full advantage of it.

 

It was very important to me to have all of this up and running before Advent. I believe that Advent is a great time to get people to church. Advent is filled with wonderful services and it’s a time of year when people feel a little more “churchy.” My hope is that when people begin looking for a place to celebrate Christmas, they will find their way to our newly minted online and social media and stop in to worship with us. However, if we want our church to grow, we must actively work to make it happen. It’s a good time of year to invite people to church – to tell them about the wonderful things that are happening at UCC. For far too long, evangelism has been a dirty word, because we’ve associated it with forced conversion. But evangelism is simply sharing the Good News. We’ve got a lot of Good News to share at UCC. Advent will be packed with a Hanging of the Greens service (with lots of congregational participation), the children’s Christmas play, the Christmas cantata, Christmas Sunday (with a poinsettia processional), a Longest Night service, and Candlelight Communion on Christmas Eve.

 

This Sunday, we will be making a concentrated effort to focus on evangelism. We will have our first “Selfie Sunday” where everyone will be encouraged to take a photo of themselves at UCC and post it on Social Media saying why they’re thankful for this congregation. If you are not on social media, it would be wonderful if you could still take a picture at UCC, tell someone why you’re grateful for this congregation, and invite them to church. It’s also a wonderful time to reach out to those people from this congregation who you haven’t seen in a while.

 

I hope that these upcoming changes feel exciting and not overwhelming. These new pieces are intended to help those for whom technology is a daily reality better connect with UCC and with God. While these new elements will hopefully be meaningful to our congregation, we also hope that they will be a way for us to connect with newcomers and help share the Gospel with a younger generation in San Diego and beyond.

 

Peace and Love,

Caleb

 

 



October

When you enter the Search and Call process, you begin to dream about the congregation to which you might one day be called. My process began about a year ago when I was doing some soul-searching at the San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, CA. While there, I decided that I wanted to serve a congregation that was ready to meet the changing world head-on. UCC has already greatly exceeded my hopes and dreams; I know that we are going to do wonderful work for God together!

 

I believe that the new world in which we find ourselves needs a new kind of church. Many people are desperately longing to experience the divine presence in their lives, but when they think about “church,” they think of exclusion, closed-mindedness, and hypocrisy; this image turns them away. However, I believe people are looking for a congregation just like UCC, they just don’t know that such a church exists. Particularly, there are five key pieces that I was searching for in the church to which I was called and that many people who have turned away from the church are looking for, all of which we can authentically say are true about UCC.

 

1) A progressive congregation that takes the Bible seriously, but not always literally. People must be able to express doubt and struggle with issues of faith and still be accepted.
2) A multiracial/multicultural congregation that openly welcomes people of all races and ethnicities to help weave the diverse tapestry of a community of faith. We must always strive to be a pro-reconciling/anti-racist congregation.
3) An Open and Affirming Congregation that welcomes people of all sexual orientations and gender identities into the full life and leadership of the church. At UCC, we are a proud member of the GLAD Alliance.
4) An environmentally conscious congregation that cares for God’s creation and strives to be good stewards of it. We are currently working toward becoming a member of the Disciples Green Chalice Program.
5) A Peace and Justice congregation. UCC’s work in San Diego and beyond shows that we believe that God cares for those who are oppressed and marginalized.

 

I am interested in UCC claiming its voice, embracing these values, and showing the wonderful things that God is doing in this vibrant congregation. I have several goals that are aligned with these values that I’d like to accomplish over the next few months in collaboration with the appropriate persons and committees. At the top of my list are 1) developing a new website with relevant and changing content, likely with a minister’s blog on current issues 2) ensuring that excerpts of worship services are posted online so that people searching for a faith community can connect with UCC and homebound members can still worship with us 3) expanding our social media presence and engaging people online – I’ve found that congregations can have a real impact on people’s lives, even people who never step foot in the church building 4) making online giving available to those who are interested.

 

Thank you so much for your confidence, warm welcome, and hospitality. I hope that you are as excited about our future together as I am!

 

Peace and Love,

Caleb