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Phone: (909) 622-1144

Fax: (909) 622-5771

Email: fcc@fccpomona.org

1751 N. Park Ave
Pomona, CA 91768

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Monday: 9am – 2pm
Tuesday: 9am – 2pm
Wednesday: 9am-2pm
Thursday: CLOSED
Friday: 9am – 2pm

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From Your Pastors

There is an orienting principle that can guide us in these times fraught with easy anger and blame. It is the orienting principle preached and lived by Jesus; love God, love your neighbor, love yourself. As I skim re-posted articles on Facebook, letters to the editor and more, the desire to blame and shame is evident.

least of theseOur congregation has grown our capacity for hospitality: the kind that Abraham demonstrated when he fed strangers, the kind Jesus demonstrated when he ate with outsiders. We haven’t arrived, but we are growing in that direction. Every time we participate in the blame and shame of the world around us, we diminish our capacity to be Christ’s hospitality in our time.

Another orienting principle is “whenever you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.” If our words and actions inhibit the well-being of people living on the margins of society, we inhibit the well-being of Christ. The way of Jesus is the way of compassion. The compassion of Christ begins from a place of love, not fear.

As we live in these times of fearfulness, anger and blame, we would do well to ask ourselves these questions before we speak or act. Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?

Peace, Mike and Julie

Julie’s Jar, “Covenant”

~Covenant~chalice

Our congregation is part of a denomination: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Every congregation in our denomination has the right and duty of self-governance. No one from “on high” tells us how to run the church, what we must believe or how to budget our money. We are connected to other congregations through a covenant.

Covenants are relational agreements, not contracts. There is give and take. I am called by this congregation to pastor the First Christian Church of Pomona and I have responsibility to relate to the wider church with which we are in covenant.

On May 5th and 6th, I am leading an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) retreat at First Christian Church of Torrance. Their pastor, Steve Fietz, is also trained in Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and attended our initial retreat. He could easily lead the retreat where he serves, but having a colleague in ministry facilitate affords him the space to participate in the retreat with the congregation he serves.

The training I received to lead AI was paid for by our Region, the governing body of a geographically contiguous group of congregations. I am not required to provide leadership as an AI facilitator, but I do it as part of the covenant relationship with our partner congregations. In a society in which people are more and more isolated, we choose to be connected. In a world in which people want to be sure they get their due, we choose to be covenantal and collaborative. We are counter-cultural in many ways. Of course, so was Jesus.

Julie’s Jar 4-21-17

Conventional wisdom is that congregations do not grow in numbers if they engage in social action. It is a belief that has been as an excuse to disengage from the world around them, lest someone be offended. There is a very recent challenge to this belief.

According to the Church Times, Sept. 2 as picked up in the Christian Century last year, “An Anglican study, Church Growth in East London is more about attitude than theological or liturgical tradition. It challenges the notion that only evangelically oriented congregations using contemporary forms of worship can grow. The churches that engaged in the most social action attracted the largest number of new Christians.”

The reason to engage in social action is to be faithful in following Christ. A happy by-product can be numerical growth. Curious, that the growth is among new Christians. Perhaps these new Christians are attracted to the same message that motivated the early followers of Jesus and the early church; the kingdom of God is in you and at hand. Building the kingdom of God is the vocation of every Christian and that means engaging the world around us.

ICON LogoAt FCC Pomona, we engage in social action because it is one of the many ways we extend God’s compassion through the work of solidarity, justice and empowerment. ICON (Inland Communities Organizing Network) is the primary vehicle we engage in the hands on mission of justice and empowerment.

On April 26th, many of our ICON leaders will gather once again to support the passage of a ban on new waste and recycling facilities in Pomona, including the expansion of existing businesses beyond their agreed upon conditional use permit. With over 24 of these facilities in the city, we believe it is paramount to be in solidarity with our neighbors who work and live near these facilities.

Jesus understood the power of community in his ministry in Galilee. Through the building of relational power we are expanding the work of God’s compassion in our place and time.

Julie’s Jar, “Resisting the Irresistible”

~Resisting the Irresistible~

Do you resist God? Do you find yourself having thoughts of self-judgment: “I should have or shouldn’t have…”? Do you find yourself having thoughts of blame, whether of yourself or others? These internal thoughts and movements are ways we resist God, truly.

Softening our own hearts is one way to ease our resistance. We can soften our hearts by inviting the presence of God to settle in us regularly. Those of you have undertaken to engage in the Compassion Practice are feeling the spiritual stretching that this brings.

The way of Jesus is one all of us, as Christians, seek to follow and be on. It is a way that engages God’s compassion for us. God’s compassion invites us to see ourselves as Beloved of God, just as Jesus was Beloved of God. God’s compassion invites us to have compassion for our own woundedness and giftedness. When we lack self-compassion we resist the movement of God.

The same is true when we are unable or unwilling to see other people with compassion. We are actively resisting the movement of God. Eventually, as we give ourselves to spending intentional time with God, the irresistible power of God smooths out our sharpness and buoys us to be the compassionate presence of Christ for ourselves and for our world. This is resurrection.

Resurrection is the ongoing process of coming near to God, allowing God to come near to you and transforming you into the person you are created to be. Resurrection is the ongoing process of the people who practice coming near to God, putting their collective ear to the heart of the world and responding with compassion that brings healing, health and hope.

Word Letters Hope Scrabble

Word Letters Hope Scrabble

Julie’s Jar, “Beginning Again”

~Beginning Again~

I determined to explore the writings and life of Howard Thurman more fully, more deeply. Mike took a class on his life and writings and many of his books are in our personal library. I’ve been reading Ph.D. Dissertation ABOUT Dr. Thurman while reading one of his books, The Creative Encounter.

It turns out, I read The Creative Encounter at some point; my writing is in some of the margins. I do not recall reading all of the book, but according to my underlines and comments in the book, I have. The writing style is dense so I find myself re-reading parts and still not completely having the words intersect with my mind.

How I wish I could take the words in, digest them, ruminate upon them so they become part of my own thinking, helping me navigate my own spiritual life a bit more ably. The spiritual life is very often about beginning again. I remind myself of this as I read a page with words I’ve underscored or drawn a star next to.

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Prayer is one avenue for beginning again our life with God. Prayer is not an end itself, but a way inward that leads us outward and inwardly again. Prayer begins and nurtures the infinite loop of Christian discipleship. Dr. Thurman writes:

Prayer…means the method by which the individual makes his (sic) way to the temple of quiet within his own spirit and the activity of his spirit within its walls.” (The Creative Encounter, 34.)

Your spirit has activity all its own. Prayer is an opportunity to explore that activity with the loving companionship of God. It always leads to action of some sort, which the individual may or may not choose to engage. This is the freedom we have. Of course, the more we allow our spirit its own activity in the loving gaze of God, the more animated our own faith will become.

Jesus’ faith was fully animated by this spiritual work. We claim to want to be more like him: O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, grant that I may seek thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly. (Prayer of Richard of Chichester) Faith is a choice.

If you are ready to begin again, start with prayer. Begin by making your way to the temple of quiet in your own spirit. Let the loving gaze of God guide you and show you the activity of your own spirit within this habitation. This invitation comes with a warning; it will animate you for the ministry to which you are called, to which you have given yourself at your baptism. This invitation also comes with the assurance that God will never leave you or forsake you.