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Coach’s Corner

Published on August 3, 2017 by in Coach's Corner

A change of pace

Dear friends,

I think all organizations to a certain degree like to get into a routine.  This gives members an opportunity to figure out which procedures are in place and as a result they feel more secure and confident.  I don’t think the church is any different. There is a certain peacefulness to having the rhythms of life of the church be predictable.  It’s like a nice smooth current can float on. It is made up of the small traditions of the local church: the worship patterns, the social time, the hymns sung and the prayers said, the ebb and flow of seasons. Underneath there is a stronger and deeper current of two thousand years of church tradition that feeds the water on which we find ourselves afloat.  It can be a refuge from the chaotic, unpredictable world that we are exposed to all the time, in real time.  It is a place where the rhythms of life are changing and even the seasons are no longer dependable and we encounter extremes we are not accustomed to. From one year to the next the azaleas may bloom in October rather than only in May. So to find our church open and welcoming on any given Sunday, rain or shine, damp and cold or scorching hot and be guaranteed to find friendly, familiar faces is a comfort we treasure.

Nevertheless the church is not just supposed to be a refuge or a place to heal our wounds, it also exists to embrace change and even to give birth to it. I believe this small congregation called Parkview has been pretty good at being a catalyst of change over the years.  Now with our residency program back in gear, we are able to do something almost no other church does: host a resident in inter-cultural ministry on our premises.  This does not only take us a bit out of the routine we had fallen back into over the last seven months, but it also takes the residents out of theirs. In fact it is much more of an adjustment for them.  It means a change of pace for you and a change of pace for the resident, in this case Chelsea Page.

I myself am going to give in to a change of pace also.  I am into my twenty-second year as your pastor and it is time for my second sabbatical, although it may turn out to be more of a semi-sabbatical.  The way I am going to take it is not the way it is generally recommended.  I will actually be “around” most Sundays, although I will be not leading worship, starting the third Sunday in August, past the second half of October.  Chelsea will be doing that and because of her experience and talent I know you will be in very good hands. But I expect to be in church most Sundays (a week or so of the period will be vacation).  There is a reason for spending my second sabbatical this way. First, I have an obligation to our resident and I find being a mentor to our residents very meaningful. Second, I didn’t feel quite right being away for an extended period of time this late in my tenure.  Third, it is way to prevent the congregation from incurring unnecessary costs.  So besides reading and writing, mentorship will be my focus.  Now there are already other work obligations that have made their way into the sabbatical, but I am going to try to keep them to a minimum.  There is a set pattern to my pastoral life that generally works for me, but it is good to break out of it as I may wind up doing things in a fresh new way. For example, the three part sermon format was a result of my other sabbatical.

I hope that you too will find a way to change the pace of your life, perhaps this summer, to find a way to do things a little differently and break the routine.  It may give you a new perspective. May God bless our routines and our changes of pace as we engage in the work of the Church. Aart

 

 

 

 

 
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Coach’s Corner

Published on June 29, 2017 by in Coach's Corner

A question of belonging

Dear friends,

During the second half of last year we had a resident at Parkview for almost the entire time.  Then for the first seven months of this year it was back to the old way of doing things. I don’t know about you, but that felt a bit ‘retro’ to me. So with others at Parkview I am excited about welcoming Chelsea Page, our new resident at Parkview on August 1, just as we are starting our Hawaiian Sundays. She is another bright young woman, but with a different theological perspective than Chakrita’s. I think that diversity is good. Chelsea is a thoughtful person who integrates a deep Christian spirituality with a consistent commitment to making the world a more just place.  She is from the Bay Area and received her Bachelor of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies at UC Berkeley.  This is an interdisciplinary social science major with focus on conflict resolution, international development and human rights. There she received the Peace and Conflict Studies Departmental Award for Service.  Although Chelsea grew up Roman Catholic, she finished a MA in Theological Studies at an Episcopal Divinity School where she received the Alison Cheek Prize for activism and scholarship focused on ending oppression in the church and the wider society. Most recently she finished a Certificate of Advanced Professional Studies at the Pacific School of Religion. It is a Certificate of studies for parish ministry to extend a MA degree into a Masters of Divinity-equivalent, under direction of the United Church of Christ Committee on Ministry. She has been working as Director of Catherine’s Retreat House, a Catholic Worker Farm and at a retreat center for low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco. Chelsea has managed a House of Hospitality for people experiencing homelessness in Albuquerque, NM, coordinating food distribution and networking with faith communities. After college she served as coordinator of Nevada Desert Experience where her job responsibilities included organizing interfaith events in Las Vegas, NV in resistance to nuclear testing. Chelsea is finishing up her internship as intern at Skyland Community Church in the foothills. Chelsea and her husband Marcus have a farm in the foothills where, among other things, they tend to a group of goats. I can’t wait to hear a sermon on how to deal with goats!

As I received the notes from May Lee and Jerry Champa of the second coordinating group meeting at Parkview, it occurred that the people who attended that meeting have something in common with Chelsea: they are from diverse faith backgrounds: Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Buddhist. God has brought all of them to Parkview because of a reason. Somehow they have found or are in the process of finding with us a spiritual home. It is interesting that most people who come to Parkview do not have that many questions about Presbyterian theology, but more how about how things are organized, how a newcomer can join things and how things get done etc. It can be a bit confusing. As a coordinating group (which is open for anyone to join to think about and plan events) they now help shape that thinking.  Again for Chelsea it is a similar experience.  She now has to figure out one more denomination. I commend her for taking the initiative, at her own cost, of doing an online course on Presbyterian ‘polity’ through Dubuque Theological Seminary in Iowa this summer. So she will be shoring up my memory on those issues!

Underneath the question of how we are organized as a Presbyterian congregation and the question of how to be spiritual and the issue of the diversity of our various church experiences lies the bigger question of whether and how we belong. Can we belong to this group of believers in Jesus the Christ and beyond that: do we belong to God and how?  This period at Parkview will be a time for Chelsea to discern whether she will truly become an ordained pastor in the UCC.  As a congregation we have the vital honor of assisting her in determining that. May we make her feel she belongs and may God bless our ministry together. See you in church. Aart

 
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Coach’s Corner

Published on June 8, 2017 by in Coach's Corner

The leadership puzzle

We live in a time when there is a lot of focus on the different branches of government in our country.  How well will they each stand up and how well will our legal system work?

This is perhaps a good time to revisit how our congregation is organized and how leadership works.  The Presbyterian Church USA’s form of government is very similar to that of the US; in fact I have been told that it inspired the representative form of government of this country.  There is also separation of powers. The pastor operates a bit like the executive branch, but decision powers are mostly limited to the conduct of worship and pastoral care and routine issues. The difference is made up by the session and sometimes the congregation. The Session and the congregation function somewhat like the legislative branch if congregational policies are involved.  Any personal serious violations of church law/ code of conduct are usually referred to a commission of the Presbytery eventually, but legal issues with organizations outside the church might be handled by the trustees initially.

What about leadership? How does that work in our congregation?  There are a number of types of leadership that are commonly accepted. First there is laissez faire leadership where leaders “live and let live.” There is autocratic leadership where one person decides without checking the input of anyone else.  Next there is participative leadership which is based on input from the group.  Then there is transactional leadership which requires much supervision and rewards the completion of tasks. Finally there is transformational leadership which is dependent on clear communication and visibility.

In my opinion we come closest to participative leadership, because we do ask for input from the congregation for important decisions frequently and beyond what the congregation demands.  But not everything is group consensus based because we have the rules of the Book or Order of the PCUSA to follow in the way we organize our congregation. We cannot just suspend the Session for instance just because there is consensus to do so. I am sure that once in a while someone makes a decision without checking with the appropriate committee or the Session, but that does not make our leadership autocratic. We’ re relatively laid back as a congregation, but this does not mean that we are laissez-faire. Important decision are talked about and recorded. Transactional leadership seems to hit the mark with our residency program, but we do not have a bonus system. We try to communicate clearly and pretty much everything we do is visible, but I cannot judge to what degree our leadership is transformational. So much for all the types of leadership.

When I was thinking about this it occurred to me that in a congregation like ours, there are pieces of leadership.  Everybody has to feel responsible for something for the leadership to be participative and to get the most miles out of our ministry. Maybe leadership is like a mosaic in stained glass, different pieces of varying size, color and shapes that each of us brings to the community.  Whether this is in music, care of the sick, care of the young, care of the aging, care of the bereaved, care of the homeless, worship, fundraising, food preparation, social activities, administrative decision making and care of our physical and financial resources. As Ephesians 4:16 says about with Jesus Christ as the departure point:”from Whom the whole body joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” With leadership as a mosaic of different sized, shaped and colored pieces, light can fall in creative ways into the life of the church.

We live by God’s grace Who provides the light, but we each fill in the puzzle of stained glass. We determine how the light will fall. There has to be a certain freedom in that. What kind of piece of leadership do you feel called to provide so transformation can happen? Thank you for all you do. See you in church. Aart

 

 
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Coach’s Corner

Published on April 12, 2017 by in Coach's Corner

Boomers and basketball,

Dear friends,

We are in the tail end of “March Madness.”  I don’t know who called it “madness,” because all I see is a bunch of very fit college students playing basketball really really well and making their universities a lot of money. Remember when we had basketball teams in our church?  The program was driven by the baby boomers who were both players and later coaches as parents. The golden days were the late sixties, seventies and eighties, but Parkview still had teams until after the year 2000 I believe.  However, even when I started at Parkview, it was already becoming clear that small churches would be struggling to get teams of each age group. Sooner or later the bigger churches would have all the teams, with the advantages and disadvantages of that for everyone.  And of course the Sacramento community was also changing.

About two weeks after I came to Parkview,  a reporter from the Bee contacted us so he could write an article about the congregation. That never happened again.  I think it was sheer coincidence, but perhaps not good timing, because I didn’t know what I was doing. They quoted me saying:”as a congregation we have to be Sansei  sensitive.”  In other words we should be focusing on the then younger generation with small children.  Well, we got an earful from one the Nisei members and right she was.  Now that sansei/boomer generation is reaching the age the Nisei were at then.  The right thing would now be to say: “let us focus on the next generations: The Generation X and millennials.”  We have to the have young if we want the church to survive in the long run.  Well, one thing I have learned, you can focus all you want on whoever you want, you can focus until you get a headache, but society is going to do what it does and people will do what they think is right.   Generation X and millennials are dechurching at rapid rates. Their opportunity for activities and entertainment are boundless.  Church does not really fit into that picture much.  The big churches will attract most of the ones that do attend.  Like basketball, the bigger programs will have most of the teams.

Now I actually mean to be positive.  Being a pastor of graying temples now I have learned a thing or two and I can say once more: “How about being sansei/ boomer sensitive?”  I hope I won’t get an earful this time.  I don’t mean to focus on the boomers.  I just mean to recognize their potential. And that’s what the Nisei member was really trying to say: “We Nisei have a lot to offer. Don’t count us out.”

Our boomer generation has a lot to offer. Many are about to retire or already retired.  They are active and tend to take care of their health.  They are skilled and experienced, inquisitive and compassionate. I think this generation will be driving mainline churches in the next decade. They want to try new activities and make meaningful contributions. We should find ways to harness their energy more as we continue to think of ways of attracting the young people we need.  Let us be grateful for boomer power!

May God bless our ministry. See you in church. Aart

 
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Coach’s Corner

Published on March 2, 2017 by in Coach's Corner

Attitude points

Dear friends,

Last month I laid out the reality of being Parkview in this day and age. You had almost a month to chew on that. Now I would like to weigh in on what our attitude should be to that reality.

Jay Wright, the coach of the men’s basketball team at Villanova University, has written a book called:”Attitude.”  He has taken advantage of having won the NCAA title last year. He talked about his coaching philosophy in a recent interview on Charlie Rose. He said:” I tell my team we are not responsible for our success, but only for our effort.”  Then he went on to say that he gives his team points for attitude. They get points for staying focused on the play at hand.  He tells them they lose “points” for the time they spend celebrating themselves and their plays or making a face at a referee’s call or beating themselves up after a missed play.  All those reactions just make them lose energy.

I think this applies to the church also and our congregation in particular.  We as a congregation are not responsible for thriving or not. That is the job of God’s grace in our lives.  We are not responsible for how society has changed or how busy people are or how people are less interested in church than they used to be or even how many kids and youth are part of our community.  We are not responsible for who shows up on Sunday.   We are only responsible for our efforts and commitment in the moments at hand.   Thinking of what the national Church used to be like in the fifties, sixties or even seventies just drains energy unnecessarily.  All we can do is give our best effort in the now.

Lately the reality of not having a parking lot has taken energy. That problem is now behind us for the foreseeable future.  We are renting a significant portion of the parking lot we used for free for many years. We have found a way to make up half that cost which leaves us to find only $5 per space per month (the cost of a fancy Starbucks drink).  So the parking lot issue should be behind us now.

This brings me back to an issue I have brought up occasionally over the years in these Coach Corners: “how to create energy in the church rather than lose it.” This leads to a discussion at the session retreat on how we organize and plan events and how to make all Parkview family members feel included in those events.  For a small congregation we have a good number of operating groups (Parkview Presbyterian Women, Mariners, Jujikai, Men’s, youth, choir, golf group and even the beginnings of a biking group). All these groups organize one or more events every year.  Then of course we have Eddie and Yvonne’s invaluable Crew who head more than four fundraisers every year.  They draw support from all those groups. The session sees the value of groups, rather than individuals, being responsible for making one or more events happen.   However, the session also sees value in a new coordinating group with representatives from the different groups (and Eddie’s Crew), joining hands, hearts and minds in planning events that become part of a central calendar.  We believe the joining of planning efforts will create energy, reduce overlap and encourage more (and especially newer) members of our Parkview family to participate.  It may also lead to a greater balance of events (i.e. social, games, service, outreach, outside and inside, entertainment, dining, sports and physical activity and travel etc.). On March 12 after the service we would like to get your ideas about this. Please join us. Remember, we’re only responsible for our effort right now. See you in church and may God bless our ministry. Aart

 
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Coach’s corner

Published on February 9, 2017 by in Coach's Corner

Swimming upstream

Dear friends,

Occasionally it is fitting for a pastor to address his or her congregation in terms of a stark realism so that the people may discover a fresh hopefulness.  I think now is such a time.

Pity the poor salmon having to swim upstream against the river current after the deluge our region has been experiencing.  Fortunately for the energetic creature the strong waters have come after the spawning season.

This past summer Carolyn and I spontaneously decided to rent a kayak near our house one Saturday and propel it past the old Folsom bridge into the canyon. A strong current ran between the Folsom and Nimbus dams and it took us more than two hours.  I consoled my tiring spouse that the same current would carry us swiftly back to where we started.  I was wrong.  By the time we turned around a stiff wind was blowing toward us and it took us even longer, zigzagging for the leeside of the lake from shore to shore, all that on the fuel of one bottle of water and a granola bar.

Sometimes that is how life is and for some life is almost always like that.  It’s like swimming or boating upstream.   Aware or not as we may be, this congregation has swum upstream for about a century, against an inhospitable ethnic environment,  against the cruel government imprisonment orders of the Second World War, against the forces of secularism that saw traditional Christian faith as antiquated  and irrelevant and against the competition of so many new forms of entertainment.  The thinning mainline Church and the decreasing enrollment at seminaries have resulted in less interest in our groundbreaking residency program than we had anticipated.  Now suddenly the country’s political divisions have crested into the noxious slick of a dark spirit of discrimination, misogyny, disrespect and intolerance flowing down the water ways of our nation and into the ocean we share with the world. This is dampening our optimism and draining our positive energy.  The Church must avoid being carried off in this slick, double down on swimming upstream toward clearer waters and speak with an authentic voice, lest we will be held responsible for the poisonous atmosphere by a young, inclusive and incredulous generation.

Now as a congregation we are forced to deal with the reality of a changing city that is hungrily looking for land to fill in and redevelop.  Partly because of this we will be losing the use of the parking lot which has been a free blessing to us for nearly two decades now.  We knew this was inevitable, but still it has us eyeing the future somewhat anxiously.  For congregations in other parts of the world this would be a laughable hindrance, but this is America where we have become dependent on the automobile.

This is why I am planning to do a Lenten sermon series on “How to Keep the Faith” starting the first Sunday in March.  May we be reminded that being Christ’s church entails a long, persistent swim upstream. The current is particularly strong right now. Start doing your pushups while wondering: “What would Jesus say?” May God bless our ministry.  See you in church. Aart

 
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Coach’s Corner

Published on January 5, 2017 by in Coach's Corner

Establishing connections

Let me start my thanking you for gifts and cards to our family over the Christmas season.  As much as they were not expected they were very much appreciated.  Once again, if you received no card from us, it is because no one did.  Sorry, this is not our strong suit.

Thank you also for all you all did during the past year to keep our church going.  People don’t realize how many volunteers and donations are needed throughout the year to keep us functioning.  In an earlier Coach’ Corner I talked about the burdens of our volunteer labor pool.  Most small churches have these challenges.  While you always come through, these many tasks limit what we can do in our outreach to the community.  This takes us back to our exploration group meetings of a few years back. Remember how one of the main visions that came out of the last meeting was to be partners in helping the less fortunate in our neighborhood and the city at large?  We have not forgotten about that.  This vision was one of the reasons to start a residency program: so residents could help us develop a network of service that the members of the Parkview family could be engaged in.

There are so many connections that make a city work. There are electricity lines and sewer lines and water lines and gas lines and telephone landlines and fiber optic cable. Some lines of connection are familiar and lasting. Others need to be updated. This is true of the church and its people. This is what Chakrita with the help of her husband Ben started doing during her last two months at Parkview: establishing new lines of connection. She visited a number of churches in our area.  She met with Family Promise, a group bringing together churches from different denominations who take turns housing a group of pre-screened homeless families for a week several times a year.  She went to Downtown Baptist Church and St. Andrew’s A.M.E., both on the east side of South Side Park.  The first is a congregation with a strict doctrine that picks up homeless to attend their church. The second serves a meal for homeless at Thanksgiving. St. John’s Lutheran has a much larger outreach for those with homes and Bethany Presbyterian has a food closet for hungry families.  There are still many churches and non-profits to visit who do their outreach in other ways.  Most of them could use our help.  Not every activity Parkview engages in has to involve everybody and be carried by the congregation.

Friends, it turns out we are not just interdependent in running our church, but we can also function interdependently with compassionate organizations beyond our walls. A web of caring can exist inside but also expand outside. May we be faithful and creative in our wider vision. May God bless our ministry.  Aart

 

 

 

 

 
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Coach’s Corner

Published on January 5, 2017 by in Coach's Corner

Counting our blessings,

Dear friends,

On Thanksgiving Sunday, after the service, I was the beneficiary of a wonderful surprise, a celebration of my two decades at Parkview. When I visit one of our hundred year olds, I like to quip (to the relatives) that I have been their pastor for one-fifth of their life! That’s quite a while! There was an introduction by Titus Toyama and a slide show courtesy of Judy Fukuman and many kind words by a number of you. I am truly blessed to have had such a kind congregation to serve over more than twenty years. I think you all gave me way too much credit. There are so many things that could have happened to end my tenure prematurely which never happened. We depend on God’s grace working with and through our human efforts. I always remind myself there is no guarantee that anyone will show up on any given Sunday and no guarantee that we will get enough donations any give year. In fact you have always come as well as come through.

You have supported our latest project at the church, the residency program. That too, despite our best efforts is dependent on God’s grace. Changes in affordable insurance coverage may make recruiting of residents more difficult, but we are hopeful. I am grateful for the blessing Chakrita’s presence has brought. Especially in her second period at Parkview I think in the contribution is making the congregation is starting to see the dimension residents can bring to our ministry. Rev. Gail said that she thought it was interesting Chakrita uses her IPad in leading the worship service. “yes,” I said. “That’s just one way the next generation brings its own perspective to the church.” Chakrita is making an impact on our Sunday School in particular as she is inviting interested Parkview family members to a Sunday School teacher training later this month. She has also been meeting with other churches/church organization to help us develop a ministry network.

Speaking of Gail, I am grateful for the blessings of her pastoral concern and her love for worship. We should pray for complete recovery while not taking her for granted as she has been ready to step in for many years now. She has brought in a woman’s attention for worship detail as well as stability and predictability. Imagine having a different guest speaker every time I was away.

We have been fortunate to have a parking lot to use for most of the period I was here and that has made attendance easier and fundraisers possible. We have been depending on the kindness of the old and new owners. I received encouraging news that the building on the premises will be leased to an architectural company. This may mean this will us more years of use of the parking lot. The use of that space too has been blessing, even though we also know it is fragile. We are dependent on the kindness of others. As we do not know the limits of their good will, we must be good stewards of their gift, but again we depend on God’s grace. Maybe this is good, for it keeps us from the illusion that the the future of our congregation is entirely within our control. It is not.

As we approach Christmas and a New Year full of uncertainties for our country and our planet, may we count our blessing and celebrate God’s working grace in our lives and in our world. Merry Christmas and New Year. Thank you and may God bless our ministry. Aart

 
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Coach’s Corner

Change and communication

As I write this we have all just woken up to a different country or at least a country we didn’t think quite existed.  The decision made by the electorate also colors our mission as a multicultural congregation.  Can we increasingly become “intercultural,” i.e. a congregation in which people from different ethnic groups connect and engage with one another with openness.  Our country may be multicultural, but to what degree it is intercultural remains to be seen.  At Parkview we have gone through changes with our residency program and the remodeling of the Kansha house.  More change will come as we are bound to lose our parking lot.  Whenever you do something new, there is always a chance of miscommunication. The session and I have made and are making efforts to communicate clearly about the change with the result that you as a congregation supported the session’s decisions.

However, I have noticed that miscommunication can occur despite our best efforts.  Sometimes well-intentioned people can get a piece of information wrong or draw lines between one thing or another where no line can be found.  The session, Donna and I realize full well that it is our job to inform while it is the congregation’s job to inquire and confirm. The first is on us, the second isn’t.  Let me give some concrete examples of questions that members of the Parkview family might entertain and give you the answer:

  1. Does the residency cost us money? No, so far all the cost has been covered by Presbytery donations.  If we pay anything, it will be from the mission budget we always pledge to the Presbytery.  The Kansha remodeling was paid for by a number of above and beyond special donations by certain generous individuals.
  2. Are the residents here to take the pastor’s place? No, the residents are under the pastor’s supervision.
  3. Do the residents reduce the pastor’s tasks? No, they increase them. There is considerable time spent by the pastor meeting with the resident to discuss and plan assignments and tasks.
  4. Is the pastor gone a little more this year? Yes. Why? Because he has a huge amount of unused vacation time.
  5. When are we losing our parking lot? We don’t know. We will let you know as soon as we do.
  6. Why do we have residents? So we can bring new energy and perspective and so we can do more, like develop a Sunday School curriculum, connect with neighborhood groups and address issues that impact our church.
  7. How can we find out about our church finances? Contact Betsy Eskridge our treasurer. Also Donna has copies of the financial reports.
  8. Who are our session members: Carol Sakai, Maurine Huang, May Lee, Cathy Nishizaki, Christine Umeda and Gary Younglove.

So, friends, if you hear something that troubles you or confuses you about what we are doing at our church, don’t be bashful and please contact us.  It’s our job to explain.  Thanks for all you do!  May God bless our ministry together.  Aart

 
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Coach’s Corner

Published on October 10, 2016 by in Coach's Corner

 
 
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