Here we are, about to enter a new program year at Orinda Community Church. Plans are being made in anticipation of the 2018-2019 year, and there is much to be excited about.
New initiatives will be started, old ones will be brought back, and existing ones will be enhanced. We will continue to worship together every Sunday, using traditions, music, liturgy, and songs that we love; and seeking new forms and expressions to further enhance
our worship experience.
We will keep trying to care for one another, those in the East Bay, and those around the world. Together we will learn, laugh, serve, pray, grow, support, eat, play, and be community.
In the course of the next many months, we will call a new Associate Minister to serve and minister with us.
This is an exciting step for our church - where we ask a minister to come alongside us and help us grow in our faith, ask the big questions with us, find ways to be the kind of church that we long to be, and help us each and the future of Orinda Community Church.
We will keep exploring housing opportunities with the Orinda Senior Housing Foundation, to dream of ways we can provide needed housing in Orinda, while also providing further income for OCC. This will be an important long-term step, so we can keep dreaming of how to further extend our church's ministry.
We will keep seeking to care for the different age groups and demographics of our church. The
importance of enhancing our ministry to Youth and Families has been named again and again by our congregation, and this is an important focal point for our church. As well, we will be taking a long look at how we can better offer congregational care for our current membership, meeting the varying needs of people in different stages of life.
One other hope for the year ahead is to find alternative times and experiences of worship, aimed at those who aren't familiar with more traditional forms and expressions. What we offer for worship on Sunday mornings is really special. We are a warm, loving, and welcoming community. We have an incredibly talented Music Director, and many amazing voices and musicians. We sing the great hymns.
Our worship is thoughtful. Our prayers, reflections, and times of sharing are meaningful. This past Sunday night's God Experiment in Berkeley was an interfaith service/concert/event, sponsored by the Orinda Community Church and Congregation B'nai Tikvah. There were 120 people in attendance (all paying $25 to attend) - indicating that there is also a hunger for spiritual expression that is "outside the box".
There is much good happening here at OCC, and much good work ahead of us... In a week, we will start worship by singing the hymn "Help Us Accept Each Other", with words by Fred Kaan. This hymn was chosen because it speaks to what each of us needs in our lives - and what we are called to be as a church.
2018-2019 looks to be a great year at Orinda Community Church. I look forward to being a part of it with you.
"Help Us Accept Each Other"
Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us;
teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace.
Be present, God, among us and bring us to believe
we are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.
Teach us, O God, your lessons, as in our daily life
we struggle to be human and search for hope and faith.
Teach us to care for people, for all not just for some,
to love them as we find them or as they may become.
Let your acceptance change us, so that we may be moved
in living situations to do the truth in love;
to practice your acceptance until we know by heart
the table of forgiveness and laughter's healing art.
God, for today's encounters with all who are in need,
who hunger for acceptance, for righteousness and bread,
we need new eyes for seeing, new hands for holding on:
renew us with your Spirit; God, free us, make us one!
"Advent is the time of promise; it is not yet the time of fulfillment. We are still in the midst of everything and in the logical inexorability and relentlessness of destiny....Space is still filled with the noise of destruction and annihilation, the shouts of selfassurance and arrogance, the weeping of despair and helplessness. But round about the horizon the eternal realities stand silent in their age-old longing. There shines on them already the first mild light of the radiant fulfillment to come. From afar sound the first notes as of pipes and voices, not yet discernable as a song or melody. It is all far off still, and only just announced and foretold. But it is happening, today." - Alfred Delp, Advent ofthe Heart: Seasonal Sermons and Prison, Writings, 1941-1944
The Advent Season is now upon us, Thanksgiving Day has passed (as has Black Friday and CyberMonday), and we approach our first Sunday of Advent. On this day, we will be reminded to be people of Hope. We will light the first Advent candle, fill the sanctuary with great music, and reflect on the way that the people of our biblical story continued to hope in God, despite the manyobstacles and hurdles in their lives.
The sanctuary decorations will be in place (thanks to our dedicated volunteers), lights will shine, andwe will be reminded that as we continue to hope, we can all be carriers of God's grace and love.And we will be reminded of the "now/not yet" characteristic of our faith. The notion that the Spirit of God is in our midst, even as we long for a more profound encounter with the Divine.
We kick off our Advent programming with our Annual Advent Celebration this Sunday night. This is always a great start to our approach to Christmas. RSVP soon to the church office.
As we move toward the end of December, and the shortening of the days, we remind ourselves thatlight continues to shine in the darkness - and that a single flickering candle can still illumine the dark spaces. Advent is a time when we remind ourselves of the ways that Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love make our God known and manifest in the world. It is a time of waiting, but also a time of celebration.
Our December calendars will quickly fill with tasks to be accomplished, shopping trips to make, home preparations to complete, and decorations to hang. In the midst of our busy schedules, I lookforward to our times together, as we make space to listen, pray, sing, and celebrate.
Wishing you many blessings this season,