Transitions

Dear Church,

As we begin this final week of my service as Mission Bay’s Transitional Minister, I am mindful of how complicated and confusing transitions can seem, especially when involving a change in relationships. For that reason, I want to be as transparent as possible about what this means for you and me moving forward. It is always my greatest hope that my actions honor the well-being of the whole church community, the callings you are living into, and the visions that have not yet emerged. This is what I strived for as your pastor and will continue to hold dear as my time in that role ends.

Some of you may recall that when founding pastor Bruce Reyes-Chow received a new call, he remained out of contact with the MBCC community for a year. This is a commonly held boundary across most denominations to keep pastors and communities of faith in loving, right relationship with one another when those roles change. It is a practice that I find challenging, as it is painful to say goodbye to dear ones with whom spiritual lives have been shared.  It is also a practice I deeply believe in, as it upholds the integrity of the continued journeys of the pastor and the community. I believe it is important because it allows us to honor who and what we have been for one another, while acknowledging that something new is unfolding; new voices, relationships and ministries are emerging that need space to authentically and fully form. When MBCC does enter the search process for a settled minister, and if I feel called to apply, it is important for me to do so knowing that the vision and mission you all put forth is one formed by your own aspirations in response to God’s call, rather than the influence of myself or other former leaders.

What all this means concretely is that for the year following my final Sunday on February 26, I will not be participating in the life of the church through worship, food pantry, or other MBCC functions.  I will also not continue in conversations and relationships with MBCC community members, with the exception of other ministry colleagues (including former MBCC pastors and current seminarians). I recognize that a great deal of “church” for MBCC happens over social media. To respect those places as part of this community of faith, I will be unfollowing all pages and profiles of congregants and church groups, and unfriending individuals. After a year, if anyone wishes to get in touch with me, know that it would be a delight to hear from you.

I imagine this is a lot to take in and I completely understand if anyone feels a sense of rejection, frustration, or anger at me and with this process. It does not always feel natural to me to transition relationships this way, but I believe it is the most loving and just way for both you as a community and me as a minister to move forward. Ultimately, I trust that the Spirit is moving with us all in this time, leading us deeper into our callings and to places we could not even have imagined yet.

I love each of you and the community at MBCC dearly. My sense of vocation and spiritual life has been nurtured and enlivened during my service among you. I have truly enjoyed being your Pastor and I am going to miss you tremendously. I am so grateful for each and every way we have journeyed together. I look forward to celebrating some Transfiguration Love Letters with the community this Sunday.

With a spirit of trust & love,
Pastor Lacey Hunter

A Letter From Session Elders and Pastor Lacey

Dear MBCC Congregation,

Greetings with continual hopes and prayers that everyone who is part of Mission Bay Community Church may know God’s infinite love; and that everyone may discern God’s plans for their lives—plans which are just, merciful, and holy. Being on a journey of faith in Christ together is truly a joy. And MBCC best journeys with the studied, gifted, called, experienced help of a pastor.

Looking ahead as a church to the new year, it seems good to look back on the last year as well. The guidance and support of MBCC pastors has been an uninterrupted and amazing blessing. We are grateful—just very very grateful. That said, our church has experienced what seems like an awful lot of goodbyes in terms of pastors and we are not quite finished ….

After Pastor Dawn left, we steadied ourselves with longtime MBCC/PCUSA Parish Associate Leslie Veen; and also with MBCC Pastoral Intern and UCC Pastor Lacey Hunter.

Leslie moderated three monthly Session meetings. She brought great encouragement to the MBCC elders on the interim pastor search committee. Leslie assured that the process, which has seemed rather administrative and open-ended, would be fruitful, which it has been. She graciously gave of her time and care every Sunday. As she needed to conclude her time mid-January, and before she departed, she arranged local PCUSA pastors who are coming weekly to help serve communion.

At the same time Lacey took part-time hours and tasks of regular Sunday preaching and worship prep with Jason; pastoral prayer and care for the community; communication coordination and holding space for people to deal spiritually with transitions on a personal, church and even national level. Lacey’s pastoral leadership and care has been so very healing and timely. And she has offered it generously … until such time as the search committee could reasonably call an Interim Pastor from the PCUSA.

Leslie’s encouragement of our leadership and Lacey’s overall care for the whole community have greatly helped bring the church to a situation and time when we will soon welcome Rev. Diana Bell of the PCUSA to serve as our full-time Interim Pastor. But this does mean another goodbye. We hope in the coming weeks that you will consider how God has covered the church’s pastoral care needs so very well and that you will express your appreciation to Lacey.

For those wondering about departures of former pastors, the PCUSA maintains a standard of professional space-making with pastoral transitions. This is to allow a new, called pastor to form their own pastoral bond with a congregation.

On Sunday Feb 26 MBCC’s Session will welcome and introduce Pastor Diana. Pastor Lacey will preach the Sunday message.

Please note the date and join us!

With humble, heart-felt thanks to God,

Mission Bay Community Church Session:
Alan Siu
Christópher Abreu Rosario
Denise Kendall
Ellen Burroughs
Joel Bylsma
Julio Delgado
Morgan Meyers
Sam Lundquist

*****

A Note From Pastor Lacey:

Dear Beloved Church,

Where to even begin! One of my favorite spiritual practices is that of creating Love Letters. Somehow that framing allows me to hold with gentleness and care, all of the beauty, hopes, urgency, stillness…all of the complex emotions that go into a moment, everything that pulls and tears and inspires my heart to honor this tremendous and flawed journey we are all on. I have found epiphany love letter to be particularly precious to me in these days, as the world around us continues to break open, as the vulnerability of the Divine rises up in our midst and as hearts turn, day by day, to their greatest callings of beloved-community-creation. As I reflect on my departure from MBCC and the journey that awaits us all, I cannot help but want to offer this love letter, because truly, this church means the world to me!

Our journey together goes back to 2013 when I began serving with you as your Intern Pastor. It was Mission Bay that invited me to preside at my first baptism, baby blessing, Holy Communion and lead a community in confession. Together we created Ashes on Bart, prayed together after the mass shooting in Orlando, and encouraged and challenged one another in how we engage from a place of solidarity in social movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock. To share all of this with you, to learn alongside you and feel the presence of God in this place, is a blessing that lives within me and anoints my vocation. “Thank you” is not enough for the opportunities I have received in this community, for the trust you gave me with your prayers and the openness and creativity you greeted me with in worship and in this time of transition. I am so grateful we share communion together each week as it captures the adoration and hope I feel for Mission Bay.

While it is terribly difficult to journey from MBCC, my faith delights in knowing that beautiful, radical, Spirit-filled ways are open and opening here. In these last few months, amidst ongoing transition in our church and the nation, I have seen a new fire kindle and spark in MBCC. A unique heart beats in this church. I know you will continue to beat and sing out, because the world needs your song!

My final Sunday will be February 26—Transfiguration Sunday. The story of the Transfiguration is indeed one of my favorite scriptural Love Letters, and is a good Holy Day to celebrate all that we have done together and the joy of welcoming Rev. Diana Bell as the full-time Interim. I look forward to sharing these next few weeks together and to all that awaits.

In steadfast prayer & communion,

Pastor Lacey Hunter

The Pastor Report: Jan 23, 2017

Liturgy, translated from the Greek meaning, “work of the people,” and “public service.” One of the questions that I find most compelling as a pastor is, What does our liturgy—the structured time of communal worship, reveal to us about a/our community’s values, theology, mission and vision? This time of transition, coupled with the festive seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, are as good a time as any to intentionally delve into such a question to see what inspiration, affirmations and areas of growth emerge. The worship team, (Leslie, Jason and myself), have brought forth new orders of worship in this time in the hopes of engaging the congregation as a whole in diverse ways, providing different entry points to our relationship with the Divine and how we as a Christian community move in the world. The following is a report of some of these approaches, changes and my thinking behind them. None of these are set in stone. Rather they are opportunities for us all to consider what is important to MBCC liturgy. What is the work of this community, who is our worship in service of and to?

  • Moments of extended silence have been added, often between the Prayer of Confession and Assurance, as well as following the scripture and/or sermon, to invite further opportunities of contemplation and stillness, and an embodied alternative to the fast paced lives many of us lead. When our lives, worship and communal processes are rushed or speed is favored in a community, what might be lost and alternatively, what deeper insight might be felt and heard through practices of intentionally slowing down, unplugging and settling into a rhythm of listening? What could be learned from the discomfort or awkwardness of silence and how might that change over time? Similarly, further opportunities for communal singing have been added throughout the service, including a sung refrain/chant prior to Confession and leading into the Prayers of the People. Additional prayer stations and ritual actions have also been introduced to many of our recent services as entry points to engage with our faith and relationships with God.
  • Language is one of the most instrumental tools for providing hospitality throughout a worship service. For example, our simple announcements at the beginning of worship regarding the use of the space are a good way of helping people feel at ease in a community. I also witness an extension of MBCC hospitality in the invitation to the communion table, where it is expressed clearly that this table is for everyone while also providing numerous ways for people to participate. The language used for God in worship is another key area that indicates to people who is welcome in a community and who is not. Over the past few months, Jason and I have both introduced diversified language for God, alternating from consistently masculine pronouns for God to include now feminine pronouns and images as well as gender-neutral. These changes are often unsettling and disorienting, as many if not all of us were raised understanding “God” and “man” [“he”] to be one-in-the-same. When we limit the ways we name God, we also limit who in our community understands themselves to be images of God.  If we only refer to God as “he,” women and girls, trans* and gender-queer folks can get the message that they are, in fact, not beloved images of the Divine.  They/we have a harder time seeing them/ourselves as ways that the Holy is manifest in our world. As we seek to be a church focused on issues of justice, how might these changes in language disrupt systems of patriarchy and sexism within our community? How might alternative gender expressions empower the women in our community and provide further witness and inclusion of transgender and gender-queer people?
  • Community announcements are a fabulous way to hear what the literal work of a community is. Announcements say something more about how we understand ourselves as an active community outside of Sunday worship. For this reason, we have moved announcements to the end of the service, to be part of the liturgical “sending and going forth.” This leaves people with some concrete ways they can continue to be active in their faith and the church throughout the week. In framing/leading the announcements this way, I have noticed that almost all of our church activities happen within our immediate church community. It is a beautiful thing that we want to be together in conversations and build within the church this sense of familiarity with one another. I wonder too, what it means for us to Go Forth from the church, without actually engaging with activities and communities outside of MBCC? Similarly, the inclusion of issues of justice work often arise in the sermons and prayers of the people, yet are rarely demonstrated in the larger work of the church. Food Pantry, for example, is rarely attended by anyone not on the Steering Committee. In looking to the future of MBCC, what are the ways this community envisions its call to justice? Are there ways that MBCC wants to be empowered and active in taking ownership of the justice issues preached about and prayed for?

It has been such a joy to offer pastoral care and lead worship during this time of transition and to explore with the community the complex interweaving and meanings of our liturgical calendar and lives. One of my most precious memories is of Cathy holding Tyler over the Advent wreath, as he giggled and stumbled to light the candle of Joy. I so appreciate the way MBCC expresses delight in these “imperfect,” human moments. I experience a deep joy and resiliency in this community that gives me hope for the world. What ways are we being called to share that joy and resiliency, in the face of fear and overwhelm, outside of our immediate church community, out in our neighborhood, city, region, world?

Thank you for this opportunity to reflect and be in conversation.

In communion & prayer,

Lacey Hunter

A Vigil for Orlando

“Jesus began to weep.” (John 11:35)

Edward Sotomayor Jr., we remember you.
Stanley Almodovar III, we remember you.
Juan Ramon Guerrero, we remember you.
KJ Morris, we remember you.
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla/Alanis Laurell, we remember you.
We remember you
We remember you
We remember you…

On Tuesday, June 21, eleven church and community members gathered at table to pray, break bread together, and remember the lives that were lost in the shooting at Pulse nightclub just a week before. We gathered to hold in sacred space our vulnerable humanities in all of their complexities, and to communally lament our overwhelming anger, experiences of doubt and betrayal, fears for safety, and deep grief. Our prayers were the sharing of our individual experiences (as LGBTQ and ally folks) tied together to the names and stories of those killed in Pulse, tied together with the ancient laments of Mary and Martha who wept at Jesus’ feet saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). Our prayers became an altar built of pictures of God’s dancing beloveds and of our commitments voiced to one another.

There is no “right” way to respond to such tragedies. In the Christian faith, there is the story of the resurrection—a story that invites us to believe that death does not have the final word. In times such as these, we are called to explore resurrection as a call to continue coming together, to be the Body of Christ moving in this world, creatively and compassionately building up the Beloved Community. This is one of the ways life rises from death. Some of the resurrection commitments voiced during the gathering at Mission Bay included commitments to listen more fully to people and communities who are unsafe and to show up again and again as allies, to remember and share the names and stories of those who are killed, to live each day out loud as our whole selves, and to be attentive and responsible to the parts of the stories that get erased, be it the race, gender, sexuality or faith of people and communities involved. What are your resurrection commitments this day? In what ways will your life be part of the way life rises from death?

As the weeks continue to pass and stories of massacres and shootings surface each day—we remember also this week, the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile—I pray that we learn and share our stories, the stories of the people we meet and the stories of those who have died and are dying. I pray that in the face of overlapping systemic evils including white supremacy, homophobia, Islamophobia, and gun violence, we commit ourselves to giving voice to our resiliency and to being more present allies and co-conspirators in the Spirit-filled work of justice that is dancing in the clubs and the streets, as well as in the churches and mosques. In the face of death, may we seek resurrection—may we come together to speak our truths, hold one another through suffering, and bind our lives to one another in all of our daily actions.

Say Hello!