God has been good, and we go for more…
In January 1st, 2020, I will have 6 years and sixth months in ministry at Nestor UMC. We are seeing some of the seeds that we have planted timidly breaking the soil and starting to grow. During this time, we have redirected some of our ministries and, like one of my favorite’s bible verses says, we have “cast the net again”. Thanks be to God for what we see coming in the near future.
This edition of the Nestor Bell is full of pictures of activities during 2019 that remind us of the times of joy that we have had together this year. Some of the accomplishments that are more evident in this process have been in Worship and Music. We decided to combine Sunday worship services in English to one worship at 9:30 AM. Having more people in worship will most likely create a more uplifting experience, increase the fellowship, and better utilize our music resources. We are enjoying the ministry of talented young musicians and it definitively makes the worship service a special moment dedicated to praising God.
Along with this change in worship time, we had the opportunity to re-start our Sunday school classes for all ages. We revamped the Sunday School program with the addition of classes for adults in English and Spanish. Volunteer teachers have stepped up to this new opportunity to nurture disciples.
After several attempts in past years, this year we decided to raise the bar and hired a seminary-educated person to provide leadership for our “Young People’s Ministries”. We hired Jesse St. Clair part-time and she is rebuilding the youth group from scratch and is also in charge of the Homework Club that ministers to elementary students from the community and where middle school students are volunteering and developing leadership skills. Jesse has a new Youth Bible Study on Tuesdays and a monthly Youth Meeting has started. God has been good!
Through the hard work of Trustees and an ad hoc team, this year we closed the deal with CORE for the building of affordable housing that will be for people coming out of homelessness. I personally sensed
a sigh of relief by the congregation when this “not so small” miracle happened.
After several years of planting seeds and building a faithful group in the Thursday bible study in Spanish, this year we were able to begin a Sunday worship service in Spanish. The creation of a congregation that worships in Spanish within the midst of the larger congregation has created an exciting dynamic in the church as this ministry, like a small plant, has been prayed for, cared for, and hoped for by many of us. It is exciting to see how, little by little, new families have been added to the congregation. Praise be to God for his mercies!
…Yet, if you say so, I will let down the nets… Luke 5:5b. As a pastor friend said… (this is the) “biblical call to the revitalization of the Church”. All of the work mentioned above has been in coordination with our Committees, Ministries, staff and volunteers that work in the day-to-day and week-to-week activities in order to diligently support our church’s outreach. As the church continues to move in the direction it is taking, we hope to continue to see an overall numeric growth, and as we have dreamed,
we expect to see more young families and children connecting with our church.
Thank you for your prayers and support and thanks be to God, for His mercies are new every morning.
And as always… see you Sunday in church! Happy New Year 2020!
Cast the Nets…
In our past Charge Conference, we reviewed this year’s work, and looked into some areas of ministry and finances for 2020 and years to come. As you know, on December 1st we will begin a new Sunday schedule. There will be one worship service in English followed by Sunday School for all ages and then worship in Spanish. As I was reminded a while ago, we “cast the nets” and pray that we can be “fishers of people.” (Matthew 4:19)
Our hope with this new schedule is to empower and strengthen worship in English. Our hope is to provide biblical teaching that is practical and that will help us to nurture disciples through our new Sunday School. And our hope is to nurture and develop our new ministry in Spanish.
This is what we are about these days. While we are “a nurturing place for all,” we continue to “make disciples for Christ”. That is the mission statement that we committed to years ago, and we reaffirm it still. Nobody knows what the future holds, but what we believe and pray for is that God will bless the work of our hands, the labor of our ministry, and the intentions of our hearts. For now, we cast the nets as we are “fishers of people”.
A special thank you to all of you that faithfully support the church with your pledges and have recommitted to support your church in 2020!
See you Sunday in church,
Worship is for God…
The development of worship in the Christian Church started as the new believers gathered to celebrate Holy Communion, from the Jewish tradition a hymn was sung, and the “new” Word of God was shared from the stories and teachings of Jesus. Worship has come a way long since then as today we experience a different kind of worship service that serves different traditions, cultures and even trends.
But despite the style and liturgy, worship is for God, and God is so good that he allows us to be blessed, nurtured, and filled. Worship touches the most intimate sentiments and feelings in our lives. That is why worship is a pillar of our spiritual experience.
The time has come for Nestor UMC to realize that we need to move from two worship services in English to one. Looking at the trend in attendance and listening to suggestions from families, I started to explore this possibility with our Worship Committee and the Christian Education Committee. We realize that moving to one worship in English might cause some inconvenience for some of you, and certainly will cause some pain to others, and we are sensitive to this. In both the Worship Committee and Christian Education Committee, we have weighed the options, considered the risks and foresee new opportunities that can open as we move to one worship service.
These findings were presented in our Ad. Council meeting a few days ago. Here is some of the thinking behind this new initiative.
- A joint service will bring more people in worship together at the same time and this will bring more energy and fellowship to the worship experience.
- Resources will be better utilized, especially in the area of music where we are adding the choir once a month and the praise band can be better utilized.
- The whole family will be in worship and will create the opportunity for a children’s moment and activities for children during the sermon time.
- Worship style will be a combination of both services.
One of the first questions is what time is best for the one worship service. Personally, I feel that in order to be fair to both groups we need to find a time in between the two we currently have. We are suggesting 9:30am for the one worship in English. (Worship in Spanish will remain at 11:30am.)
The other question is about Sunday School. The Christian Education Committee is creating a new plan for the Sunday School program with classes for children and youth (with children and youth from both the English and Spanish services together) and for adults (at least one class in English and one class in Spanish). So, we are creating new educational opportunities for the whole church! The idea is for the Sunday School classes to take place between the English and Spanish services, after the coffee fellowship time.
There is still a lot to be coordinated, but we are planning to start with this new model on December 1st which is the first Sunday of Advent. For now, we will keep you informed and, in the meantime, please pray for this new initiative as it is being developed.
Any question or comment, please contact me, Pastor Luis.
Blessings, and see you Sunday in church,
I See a New Church…
In the recent survey, where I got the opinions of the congregation on several different issues, there was an interesting comment about the question “What is your major fear regarding ministry and mission in our congregation or the nationwide UMC?” This member mentioned the future of the UMC as a whole… “will our church split off?” (that is, at the national level).
Well, it is still hard to predict what is going to happen at the conference and national levels. We recently received a letter from our Bishop Grant Hagiya where he shares his own concerns about this…
“We are going through a time of dislocation, disorientation and disconnection. Every level of our church is feeling this anxiousness and yet deep in my soul, I feel that God is stirring in our midst. Something is emerging, and a fresh wind of the Spirit is blowing even as I write this. What God has in store for us is a mystery and yet my hope is that all of us, laity, clergy and churches will help usher in the new that will break forth.”
Bishop Hagiya has called each individual congregation to (and I quote)…
“This is the very reason for my request that each of our California-Pacific Annual Conference local churches take time to vision what their church will look like to their own congregation, their neighborhood and community. Under the tagline: ‘I See a New Church,’ what will your church look like and embody in your local community? This is a chance for all of us to participate in the fresh wind from God that is blowing for our whole United Methodist denomination.”
I’m convinced that in the Methodist Church “we think and let people think” our issues. Since congregations have different issues than other UM congregations, we now have a new opportunity to re-vision the future of our church.
You will receive more information about the next steps in this process, and I personally invite you to share your ideas and dreams around questions like the ones below.
What central mission and purpose is your church called to at this time?
What is the central need of your neighborhood and surrounding community?
How can your church fulfill its purpose in “Making Disciples for the Transformation of the World?”
What compelling missional message would relate to the non-churched people living in your community?
Who is God calling your church to be?
One last thing…I concur with Bishop Hagiya when he says… “By tackling the creation of this vision, we just might be remaking the very core of our churches and setting the stage for new ministries to emerge far into the future.” And so be it!
See you Sunday in church,
Dear Nestor Family, 8/14/19
I wanted to share something that has really bothered me for a while. Last week as I heard about the shootings in El Paso and as the days passed and I learned from the news that the person who committed this barbaric act said, ” I want to get rid of as many ‘Mexicans’ as possible”. As the days pass, this unsettling feeling made me write these lines, so please bear with me.
Once people start referring to humans as nothing and think they can take away their dignity by insults, mockery, verbal abuse and such, somehow, beyond civil standards (not even touching Christian values), the inhumanity of these thoughts and actions are not only evil but sickening beyond imagination. Imagine then the level of inhumanity, desecration of life when somebody, as in the case of El Paso shooting, takes the life of people because their origin or color of their skin.
These kinds of thoughts and feelings, that some people are better than others because of their place of birth or because of the color of skin are not new, especially where we live. The political rhetoric has ignited a new wave or “unquenching fire” that feeds anger, xenophobia, hate, retaliation, and a false sense of superiority, not only in front of the law but in front God.
As a native of Mexico and with strong family ties and culture to that country, this situation is not only sad but scary. As a pastor in a congregation in the middle of a community where more than 70% are Hispanics, this situation is upsetting and troubling. Even more so when we are developing a new ministry to bring the Gospel in Spanish.
But being sad, scared, upset, or troubled does not prevent me (us) from the scripture, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Rom.12:21
Personally, I have experienced expressions of hate, mockery, and retaliation because of my color, my origin, and my accent. I don’t wish for anyone to experience this and that is why, despite other actions that you might take to address the issue of xenophobia and ethnic violence in our society, I invite you to “overcome evil with good” starting in our place of worship at Nestor United Methodist Church.
So, what can we do?
I previously shared with you the email from our District Superintendent (and it is attached here as well) where he is calling on all congregations to procure and provide a “community of acceptance that values the unique gifts which with God has endowed each person, each race and each culture.”
I not only join this effort but invite you to join as well, to seek out relationships among our church members based on our common vision and our shared spiritual journey. I urge you to begin at your home church, but also extend this into our community, to begin a new era of relationships of kindness and conversation. Let’s focus on the big issue of a Gospel that is for everyone! Let’s explore new ways to share how this Good News that was sealed with Jesus’ blood can transform hate into love, and where we see people of all kinds, origins, or races as human beings made in God’s image.
Let us be in prayer…
The Big Five – Our Commitment to God and the Congregation
During the last Annual Conference our Bishop, Grant Hagiya; invited congregations to come together and discern, discuss, and even dream about the kind of church that we want to be in the future. We as a congregation are joining this process in order to be renewed and reach that place where we fully and completely rely on God’s guidance and let God’s will and purpose be made real through us, with us, and even despite us.
Now, as part of this reflection process, I think a good way to start would be to review our church’s plans and dreams, and in order to do that you are receiving a little survey that I ask you to fill out and bring to church. If you already responded, many thanks and if you want to add something else, you are welcome to do so.
Another aspect that I thought important in this process is to revisit and review the commitments that each of us have made when we became members of this congregation: prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness, I will call these new member commitments “The Big 5”.
We are in the middle of a sermon series I am calling “The Big 5” where we are revisiting those commitments that we made as members of this congregation. These commitments keep the church of God moving as each one of us grows in our spiritual journey.
We want to become people of prayer, active participants in worship and activities, offering to God our gifts and talents, contributions and tithes. In response to these actions bringing fruit as we are involved in active service to our neighbor and respond to the call to make disciples of Christ.
I invite you to follow the sermon series, read the emails, and reignite your commitment to pray, to be present, to be a cheerful giver, and to share your faith in words and deeds.
See you Sunday in church!
Pastor Luis and his family wanted to thank you for your prayers and support as we begin our 7th year of ministry in this congregation. We thank God for the opportunity to serve him and expand God’s kingdom on earth from this corner of the world that we call home.
It is summer! Not that the workload is less but it is summer, and we relax a little. So, I want to share the following lines as an honest attempt at humor…
A Tribute to a Faithful One
I tip my hat to you, old and faithful, little dirty white coffee maker. You have finished the course of your journey! You suddenly took your last breath one Saturday morning, ironically on Garage Sale day! The strength of your circuits could not finish your task of making yet another pot of coffee… your last one.
When did you come to us? Who cares! Because until the last drop of coffee that you warmly dripped into the coffee pot, many people tasted a sip of your transformational work of art from some ground coffee beans mixed with water and fused by the warmth of your energy!
No! You were not the star coffee maker. You didn’t show up at special functions or even for the traditional Sunday morning coffee. You were mostly a backup and kept in a corner. But you were there, ready and waiting. We knew where to find you when we needed for you to provide a tasty hot beverage for an occasional committee meeting or an informal reunion. You were particularly and especially appreciated on those cold early mornings when it was still dark, and you provided a wake-up cup of coffee for a random sleepy shelter volunteer!
Yes, you were there, never complaining that nobody cared to clean your stains that evidently became part of your personality. Because you! Yes, you, old and faithful little dirty white coffee maker. You were unique, and YOU WILL BE REMEMBERED (and of course, replaced for a newer, cleaner, eco-friendly model). But still! You will be remembered for years to come!
Prayers for Wisdom
During this month of June, we will have our Annual Conference in Redlands CA. This is our Conference’s main meeting where many different issues are addressed, along with times for study, legislation, worship and renewal.
If from the moment you read this newsletter until Annual Conference we don’t hear anything different, on July 1st I will be starting my 7th year as your pastor. As with the beginning of any new year, the moment invites us to review our congregation’s ministry and explore new possibilities.
It is important to mention that we are closer and closer to reaching a deal with CORE for the Senior Housing Project and, although the actual building of the project will take time to start, we can start planning around the fact that in the near future we will have a big ministry that will beautifully transform our church campus and provide new opportunities for ministry.
In the meantime, we need to prepare different areas of our ministry. During June and July, I will be meeting with individuals, committees and ministries to discuss how each and every ministry is trying to reach our mission of being “a nurturing place for ALL, making disciples for Christ”.
At the moment, a good way for each one of us to support this church is with our prayers! Pray for the UMC, for our Annual Conference to have wisdom in every decision, for our beloved Nestor UMC. Pray, so we can close the deal with CORE, pray for each and every ministry of our church including the new worship service in Spanish. God willing, we will see the fruits of our prayers and labor.
There is gratitude in my heart for the support and prayers for me and my family, prayers that enable us to continue ministry in this place that we call church and in this community that we call home.
See you Sunday in Church.
On the Road to Calvary
As we have been walking through Lent following Jesus, we have found profound lessons and inspiring examples of how Jesus put his faith into practical actions of love, compassion, obedience and grace. We might say, “Well, that was Jesus the son of God, that was easy for him.” But as we consider and look at the mystery of his God/human nature, we can see hints of how difficult this road was for him, especially as we approach Jerusalem and the Holy Week.
“Not my will but yours.” The God/human nature of Jesus cannot be explained as a dual personality, that is, two persons in one. It is a mystery indeed, but what we can see is the human struggling with human issues, for example the misunderstanding of his disciples, the merciless attitudes of the authorities, and the indifference of the religious people to share his message of mercy and love.
At the same time, we see the Godly nature of Jesus as he “walked the talk” and through his lessons, examples, and practical actions, showed that he certainly was the son of God!
As we approach Jerusalem, we will inevitably get to that point when we start walking with Jesus on the road to Calvary. By then we will see Jesus in an attitude of complete obedience and surrender to the will of God.
What have we learned from this season? What have we learned on this road to Jerusalem? My prayer is that as we approach Calvary, we are ready to understand the will of God and to surrender ourselves to His will.
See you Sunday in church,
The Way Forward
As I’m writing this article, I’m connected via internet to the historic General Conference of the United Methodist Church in St. Louis MO. After a long study of “The Way Forward” commission, several options were suggested by the commission regarding the issue of human sexuality, and this special General Conference will decide which way to go forward. You can read more about the issues at http://www.calpacumc.org/ or at http://www.umc.org/topics/general-conference-2019-special-session
John Wesley said, “We think and let (others) think.” We are around eight million United Methodist people in the United States and another four million in different countries around the world. Twelve million people have a lot of ideas and opinions! Churches face unique situations and multiple factors in their places of ministry that determine the way the church should move forward. While things are still being decided, nobody at this time knows what the aftermath of this General Conference will bring to our beloved UMC as a whole.
One of the most frequent questions is… how is this going to affect the local congregation? That is exactly what we will see in the future. For now, I can say that as Nestor UMC, in the last 5 years we have been dealing with our own issues and conflicts, our dreams and vision, our possibilities and challenges.
We continue to look for new ways to serve and do ministry. The CORE Nestor project has been approved by the District, so our prayer is that doors can be opened for the financing for this project. At the same time, we recently “cast the net” and started a new worship service in Spanish, responding to the fact that almost 75% of the population around our campus is Hispanic. It is proven that when you start a new ministry in a church (and particularly a new worship service) the other ministries also benefit as there is more exposure and interest from the community. This is not a recipe, but I’m a firm believer that if we are faithful to our mission of being a nurturing place for all, making disciples for Christ, God will bless the intention of our hearts and the work of our hands.
Finally, I’m blessed to see the response of the congregation with donations for several ministries that the Methodist Church of Mexico has for deportees. We also have several members in our congregation that are volunteering at the Safe Harbors ministry in San Diego, providing support for refugees.
My prayer is for wisdom, vision and that God might bless the intention of our hearts and the work of our hands.
See you Sunday in church,
Days of New Beginnings
As I am walking in the intricate streets of the old city of Jerusalem. I arrive to an apparently regular street that looks like any other street, but then I see that this street goes up… up to Calvary.
This is the traditional Via Dolorosa, the street that it is believed Jesus walked, carrying the cross to Calvary. Along the street you can stop at certain stations that commemorate both the three passages that happened in the Bible as well as others that are traditional and believed happened that day.
It is Friday afternoon, so part of the city has slowed down because of the Jewish Sabbath. There is a feeling of quiet, reflection, and meditation. During this pilgrimage, the Bible readings that I have read many times have a special meaning as I can put together places, people and events. Events both of sorrow and pain as well as of joy and hope.
That is one of the lessons I have learned from this pilgrimage. The road is still uncertain and many times goes uphill. Am I willing to walk this way? Although it can be hard, there’s so much joy and hope at the end of the road. We have a message that in the end happened “on the third day”. It was a day of new beginnings!
Shalom. See you Sunday in church!