Any time you leave a place, especially one where you journey together with a group of people, it’s natural to do some reflecting on the past. As I’ve shared a number of times, as long as we don’t get trapped by the past, it can be worthwhile and even healthy to look back now and again. Even more so if it helps us to move forward. So to bring closure to our time together – with one more Sunday to go, here are my top 10 moments at BMUC:
10. 90th anniversary celebration – It was wonderful to be able to celebrate 90 years of ministry together and invite back our former ministers and those who served here at BMUC. Bishop Grant Hagiya came to deliver the message and it was so appropriate since BMUC was the place he received his first appointment. We got to visit with friends and family, those who had been gone from the church for a while, and special guests who participated in the festivities. Manju from (now closed) Benkyo-do and bento box lunches from Sumo Sushi made for an amazing meal. Everyone got a gift from the church as a reminder of the legacy that is BMUC.
9. Bishop Carcano’s visit – It was the first time a sitting Bishop had come to BMUC and was a treat for our congregants who were able to break bread with her and experience a real connection to our wider legacy in the UMC. Bishop Carcano wasn’t able to be with us during the 90th anniversary celebration but definitely wanted to be present at our church to share in the good news of nine decades serving God. Not only were we blessed to hear a message from her, but also took communion together.
8. 12 Days of Christmas – I LOVED this! During our pandemic Cookies and Carols in 2020, Naomi Sanchez, our Music Director, planned a coordinated Twelve Days of Christmas sing-a-long and asked everyone to hold up a paper or poster of your “day” on the screen. Lee Marrs was the “partridge in a pear tree,” but instead of having one image, she created TWELVE DIFFERENT IMAGES which was amazing by itself, but as we realized what was happening, people were just overjoyed – especially Naomi whose face just lit up in disbelief.
7. Cookies and Carols – Speaking of which, Cookies and Carols was something new our Outreach Committee hosted to bring in people from the community during the Christmas season. The first year we did it, we called it Cocoa and Carols (although cookies were involved) and it was a big success with many people from the community coming and singing with us. In 2020, we were in the midst of the pandemic so we shifted and did online cookie decorating and then singing together which were great to lift our spirits and keep our community focused on the season. In 2021, we did both in-person and online which was a ton of fun.
6. Day of Remembrance – This was memorable for two reasons: 1. We did our first (and sadly only) Spam Musubi cook off (to honor the creativity of camp life under harsh conditions) and 2. We joined with other historically Japanese-American churches across the country to reflect on what the day meant to us. It was the first time I can recall where we did a joint service and it was such a blessing to work with the other pastors and especially Bishop Sano who gave the message for our time together. It was also an opportunity to again connect with other churches and realize we share something in common that makes us stronger.
5. Creativity in worship – I can’t say enough how blessed I am to work with such talented (and good-hearted) people like Naomi, Jill and Tak. Together, we’ve been able to push the boundaries in worship and hold the congregation together even in the midst of the pandemic. We did hybrid worship, we introduced online giving, we found new ways to creatively sing and stream and do communion, and we were able to at the same time minimize our risk of COVID. Nearly every highlight on this list is due in part or more to these awesome people who deserve a big shout out!
4. Black Lives Matter – I was so honored to serve at a place that took seriously the Black Lives Matter movement and took to heart DS Rev. Staci’s message to churches to DO something, not just talk about what was going on. During the summer of 2020 when racial tensions reached new highs, the Black Lives Matter movement sprang into being. Instead of paying lip service to that time, our folks donated money to support the Black community both here and nationally. We ended up raising over $8000 to give to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and to OCCUR which supports Black-owned businesses in the Bay Area.
3. Easter Outreach 2021 – Our Outreach Committee came through again with an innovative way to do Easter for the community. We did a Safe and Socially Distant Easter Egg Hunt which drew nearly 50 kids from not just our neighborhood but from around the Bay. Almost none of them were from BMUC! At the same time we decorated the cross with flowers, sticking to our tradition, but changing it up a bit to give people the chance to visit and it was a huge success. The stories about Jesus were inspiring.
2. Kazumi’s Baptism – Baptism is ALWAYS a highlight for me and I was so honored to be able to take part in Kazumi’s. Not only is Kazumi (and now her brother Akira) one of the first babies born to the congregation in a while, but her parents are such wonderful people. It’s always special to be part of a person’s journey of faith and baptism is one of those milestones along the way. It was also the first one I’ve had the chance to do while here at BMUC so it was even more exciting!
1.Faith and Family Trip to Disneyland – These Faith and Family trips are so special to me because it gives me a chance to take time and really get to know people, but it also is an opportunity to share something I’m passionate about – bringing faith into the real world. And Disney. These trips are an opportunity for me to put into action what I earnestly believe: we have to make faith real and tangible for others to follow Christ. Disney does hospitality exceptionally well, and it’s a great real world example of something we can do in our own churches to bring faith alive.
There were many wonderful moments we’ve had together at BMUC and these are just a snippet of them. I really believe in this place and the people here. Although I’ll be leaving, I hope if you’re in the Berkeley area, you’ll pop by and spend some time getting to know them. If you’re looking for a church home, this is a place to put on your list! May God continue to bless this church and the people in it. And praise Jesus for the chance to serve here and journey in faith with these people.