Yesterday, Rhonda Lay and Penny Hammond joined Lakewood United Church of Christ.
photos by Yoko Nogami
Click on any picture for a larger image.
Yesterday, Rhonda Lay and Penny Hammond joined Lakewood United Church of Christ.
Click on any picture for a larger image.
After sandbagging all the doors that leak in heavy rains, taking off the roadsign letters, moving plants and nursery gear indoors, and arranging interior to prevent damage, the hearty crew pauses for a selfie: (L to R above) Hilton Jones, Bill Lindsay, Yoko Nogami, Rev. Wells, Gary Long, Victoria Long, and Bill Parsons.
On Sunday evening, August 13, Susan Pomeroy and Sue Sherwood from LUCC attended the Charlottesville Solidarity Vigil at Demens Landing in St. Petersburg. This candlelight vigil drew people together within 24 hours of the tragic and deadly confrontations in Virginia. This gathering was organized by many local organizations, among them the Women’s March Pinellas Chapter.
It was a hushed atmosphere. Gradually 300-500 people of all ages gathered – silently walking across the park to stand together or sit on the grass and talk quietly – remembering, mourning. praying, and breathing deeply of the power of community. Many in the crowd quietly held signs as in the January marches: Love Trumps Hate, Black Lives Matter, We the People Can Resist. The Uhurus silently wove through the crowd with a sign and flyers for their mayoral candidate.
There were many inspiring speakers — County Commissioner Ken Welch and Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith among them — the crowd often breaking into applause. One shared that the violence of Charlottesville brought back memories of what it was like growing up in racially charged Florida decades ago, urging us to reach out to one another across the differences that divide us and claim common ground. City Council’s Darden Rice called us all to view again the photo of the car plowing through the crowd in Charlottesville and to look deeply into each of the faces there.
As the evening drew to a close, we were heartened by this caring community with the pink sky above us and the babies around us, cuddled and happy as we raised candles of hope for their future to be one of justice and peace. We lingered after the candle-lighting to hear the shared music and poetry – passion expressed in so many ways.
We were especially touched by Rabbi Michael Torop of Temple Beth-El, who blessed us with one of the most ancient prayers in Judaism:
Yevarechecha Adonai u’vishmarechav
May All that is Good surround you and protect you;
Ya’eir Adonai panav eleicha v’chuneka
May All that is Good enlighten you, and may you then shine it on others;
Yisa Adonai panav eleicha, v’yaseim lecha shalom.
May All that is Good be your constant companion, and may such Goodness bring you, indeed bring to all of us, wholeness, completeness, unity and peace.
Click on any picture for a larger image.
Here you can see the Vigil from the front near the stage. Squatting down & holding the “Hate Has No Home Here” sign is Joran Oppelt, President of Interfaith Tampa Bay. The Interfaith statement to the community is immediately below the picture.
Interfaith Tampa Bay Statement
In light of the recent events in Charlottesville, VA and as members of Interfaith Tampa Bay, we feel it is imperative to make our position clear.
It is the mission of Interfaith Tampa Bay to build bridges between individuals and faith communities through shared dialogue and experience, heal ourselves and our society by serving the community and fighting injustice together, and effect change in our world by promoting non-violence and religious pluralism.
This amazing and beautiful country belongs to all of us, not just one race, not just one religion. And while we believe in the benefits of multiculturalism, a culture of hate is not sustainable for our city, our society or the planet.
We invite people of all faiths (as well as our atheist brothers and sisters) to join us in our stand and support for what is right and just for all.
We believe that by whatever name we choose – God, Allah, Creator, The Force – there is something that connects us all. And that unifying principle, that Golden Rule – no matter how difficult it may seem – is that we love one another.
It is time to send a message to those who would support a culture of hatred, fear and xenophobia (specifically white nationalism and white supremacy). It is time for us to share the antidote for those who would poison the minds of our children. The message is that your time is up and we are not willing to let you divide us or run our country into chaos. The antidote is love, acceptance, courage, non-violence and dialogue.
Interfaith Tampa Bay stands in solidarity with all who uphold these principles in Tampa Bay and beyond.
Peace be upon you, Shalom aleikhem, As-salamu alaykum.
The Board of Directors of Interfaith Tampa Bay
Joran Slane Oppelt, President
Imam Abdul Karim Ali, Vice President
Rev. J.C. Pritchett, Secretary
Rev. Doral Pulley, Treasurer
Rev. Canon Katie Churchwell
Rev. Katy Korb
Today, Fran Whitney gave the children’s sermon and it was full of memories for everyone: “here’s the church, and here’s the steeple, open the door and there’s the people!” It was a sermon beyond beautiful
Photos by Yoko Nogami
Lakewood UCC member Zach Blair-Andrews was selected as a Student Ambassador for the City of St Pete and is currently visiting our sister city, Takamatsu, Japan. This cultural exchange program provides 2-3 students from each city the opportunity to live with host families and explore each other’s world. During his 11 day visit, Zach will give a presentation on St Pete to the Mayor of Takamatsu and once he returns, he will educate us about life in our sister city across the globe.
Below is a video Zach made of St Pete with an original soundtrack of his own that he is playing for the Mayor in Takamatsu tomorrow–he loves our city!
photos by Sue Sherwood and Lucille Ruga
Rev. Kim Wells (right) and husband Jeff Wells, a physics teacher, (left) at the March for Science in St. Petersburg on April 22. An estimated 2,000 people participated in the St. Pete March. The PSTA bus was free in honor of Earth Day so Kim and Jeff took the bus downtown. No parking hassles and the price was right!
Sunday Dec. 11, Lakewood UCC received 2 new members into the church family. Wally LeBlanc joined the church. He lives across the street from the church and is transferring his membership from Church of the Isles, Indian Rocks Beach. Wally’s sponsor was Preston Poe. The second new member was Emily Gibson. Emily started coming to LUCC when she was about 3. Now, she joins the church as an adult. Emily’s sponsor is Dana Cosper. Rev. Kim Wells was assisted in the liturgy by Advisor Charlie Lewis. The church is blessed to welcome these wonderful new members!
A small group has been developing plans for an outdoor labyrinth at LUCC. Walking a labyrinth can provide spiritual opportunities, e.g., meditation, connection/reconnection with God, discernment, recovery from grief, celebration. There are trained facilitators in the congregation who would like to offer workshops in the future. To get started, the plan is to install a temporary labyrinth and evaluate its placement and usefulness. The labyrinth is expected to be available for several weeks (depending on weather conditions and its durability).
On Sundays Nov. 6 and Nov. 13 trained labyrinth facilitators from the congregation will be available to host walking the hay labyrinth. They will be available before church at 9:30 and after the service as well.
Below is a gallery of pictures from the construction and dedication of the current straw labyrinth.
THE BIG EVENT
The BIG Event is the annual Stewardship Sunday held each Fall at LUCC. This year the celebration was focused on the ways that LUCC functions as a Base Camp: Mission Support. The BIG Event offered the opportunity to celebrate the many ways LUCC does this, a ministry that transforms lives and is worthy of support with time as well as money. Those present were given the opportunity to make a financial commitment to the church for the coming year and to indicate how they would like to contribute their time and talent to the ministry of the church.
At the BIG Event this year, three LUCC members shared how they experience the church as Base Camp: Mission Support.
From Colleen Coughenour
Good Morning, my name is Colleen Coughenour. When my husband, Mark and I first moved to St Pete in 1993, I’d all but given up looking for a spiritual base camp. As a young adult, I’d briefly been a part of two extraordinary church homes.
The first was when I was 19 years old. I was living in Boston for the summer and attended a Presbyterian/UCC church. It was here that I initially experienced the liberation of inclusive language – of God as a mother and a woman, and the inclusion of my gay brothers and sisters. It was life changing. The second, was a small progressive Mennonite community where Mark and I worshiped during our college years. The sense of community was safe, challenging and loving.
Both communities were an extension of the faith I’d been introduced to as a child – but unlike the churches of my youth, the base camps of my youth, where being female meant a smaller and separate tent – these churches offered a place to question and evaluate my faith, and for the first time gave me an equal place at the table and in the big tent.
In those days, and many after, so much of my energy was reconciling being a woman of faith yet not being included as a valued part of the body of Christ. Some of you have lived this as well. I knew these camps existed, but I couldn’t find one. It would be many year later – almost 15, before I would find another church that provided this kind of shelter, security, strength and call for service.
The years that followed involved relocating to Florida – and resulted in limited success at finding a church home. Fast forward to 1993, a move to St Pete with our two year old child; Mark and I decided it was time for another try. We visited several churches, but it was always difficult for me to get past the male oriented language. I just couldn’t go back to the tiny tent. I gave up, but fortunately for me, Mark kept looking. After reading an article quoting Pastor Kim – Mark urged me to go with him to visit Lakewood UCC. I was skeptical.
However, like many of you, that first visit left us feeling hopeful, like we finally found a home. Our base camp.
We were surrounded by a loving, welcoming community that although relatively small – reached out into the greater community in a powerful way. It didn’t take us long to know this is where we belonged; where we could explore, question and grow in our faith. A place where we too could recharge.
And not only did we recharge, but we proceeded to venture out into some of the most treacherous and exhilarating journeys of our lives. Emily, our oldest, was six when we decided to adopt our daughter Olivia, from China. It is unlikely this would have happened without the church. That journey took a lot of replenishing. It is here that our children were also raised. They had to the opportunity to grow up in a church where race, gender and sexual identity were not a test for entering the camp. They understood that welcome actually meant welcome.
We listened to the stories and observed the lives of those who were much older than us. People who had traversed these trails before, and warned us about the missteps and applauded us for making it through thorny ventures. These people, many of whom have passed on were instrumental in the camp. They were the sages, and the workers. The “old timers” who let us know that we were on the right trail. Their stories and support were essential and inspiring.
In many ways, I feel as though it has been a luxury to be a part of this congregation. The base camp is fully stocked and open to all. The inclusion and welcome for all people is a given. Here, we have formed lifetime friendships. Our two children have mostly moved on, but the lessons of the base camp live on. Olivia recently revealed to us her first (and Mark is hoping only) tattoo. It was a symbol of the UCC cross. We’ve witnessed and continue to witness faith in action through the lives of our brothers and sisters. We comfort and support each other in time of need, and celebrate the joy of living. All of our church community’s needs are met -and this , of course, allows us to venture out and express our faith in our greater community in a myriad of actions.
For us, the base camp has become a home. Others may stay for a time, re-charge and then move on. And we are grateful to have their energy, gifts and fellowship while they are here.
But here’s the catch. The base camp is always in need of attention. Someone needs to tend the fire, to gather the wood, cook the food, or build the shelter and of course, there’s always the need for someone to sing, play music and tell stories around the fire. It takes all of us.
So, today, I challenge you to think about what this basecamp means to you – and what part you can play to keep it running. I am so grateful for this community of faith, and look forward to giving of my time, talent and my financial support.
From Patti Cooksey
Over 20 years ago, I pulled into the parking lot of LUCC to respond to the church sign that read, office assistant needed. Within days I began serving as the part time LUCC office assistant, which was a perfect, safe base where I could find focus and make a few dollars while finishing my courses and senior thesis in the PEL program at Eckerd College. When I left LUCC about a year later, Pastor Kim gave me this apple paperweight with a beautiful note thanking me for my service and encouraging me to continue on in my studies, suggesting that I was a teacher. Nobody had ever told me that. I had always worked in the medical field. Her note seemed odd, but I kept reading it and still have that note–and this apple.
Today I am happy to say the apple has been on my bookshelf in my office at Eckerd College for over 16 years. I did continue my studies and have been blessed to serve Eckerd College as a teacher, an academic adviser, a consultant, a service learning coordinator, and a member of the spiritual life council. Mind you, I never applied for a job at EC; I was called to come back as an alum and serve as a writing tutor for students. My career blossomed from there. I think of Fredrick Buechner’s words as he spoke of vocation: “vocation is where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” In reflecting on his words and the inspirational note from Kim, I can see that in listening and following, we can find our calling. This apple represents the day my journey to follow, to serve, began, and it has now become a symbol of my church home; my church family; my base camp.
Although I could write a book about the many joys that have come through teaching and sharing the successes of so many, I want to share some extraordinary circumstances from this past year that have helped me realize that the faith journey can become treacherous; grief, doubt, and confusion can obscure the path.
Facing the fallout of murders, violence, racism, bombings, and political divide in our society, my students and my classrooms, were becoming overcome with fear and anger. I found myself sometimes overwhelmed, uncertain, and drawing heavily on my faith to keep balance, openness, dialogue, and hope not only in the classroom but in my life as I shared their pain and sought answers. I saw racism; I heard the words and saw the expression and the body language of hate and mistrust. I had students who wept in my office after the shootings at The Pulse. Some of their families were dividing over social and political issues. They were having difficulty with their studies. I wept many nights on my way home, praying God could use me to help bring love, peace, and understanding into my classroom, and into the hearts of all who were suffering. This was not written into my course curriculum.
Along with prayer and blocking of any distractions that could keep me from my base camp, I climbed my way through any obstacle so I could reach LUCC base camp for renewal and refreshment through God’s word– and through my church family.
It has been a real struggle to stay on the path of light this year, but I can tell you that that light, warmth, love, and understanding have emerged. I have found renewal through the flickering firelights at the camp. I have been able to see students come back to me and share new understandings and a healing that occurred in the classroom. They have less anger and fear. I had a new energy as I stood with one student at the prayer vigil at City Hall as we prayed for the victims of the Pulse shootings. He found healing that night, a healing that went deeper than the shooting event. All of these blessings came from God and our church that unites us and leads us out to serve, to bring love, peace, and hope to those who suffer.
Today I continue to be nurtured and be given more love and understanding to carry forward. I may be a little wobbly in my hiking boots, but I know I can continue to serve not only those on the EC campus, but also the families in the Family Promise program, the neighbor on the ground suffering from a seizure, a brother grieving for his wife, a granddaughter abandoned by her wife. I also know I will find peace and guidance after recently losing my dear friend and now beginning to close out my position at EC. I have a firm foundation at base camp—a foundation of love, service and a unity that connects and strengthens me in my service.
While I have sadness as I am preparing to leave my office on the EC campus, I know I will carry forth many lives and many experiences as I go forward to wherever I am called. I will also have this apple to remind me to listen, to pull into base camp for the love, guidance, and peace that will lead me forward as I continue to serve LUCC. Thank you, Kim, for being the voice that led me to a vocation of joy and service, and thank you for being my camp leader. I now go forward on my journey with this apple, the love and mission of LUCC, and the words from this song in my heart:
Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.
From Victoria Long
This metaphor of mountain climbing, and the necessity of base camp speaks to me. Gary and I climb mountains, never Everest….but we did stand at the top of Kilimanjaro. I can speak with authenticity, when I say, I know what it feels like to wake up each morning, pull on my boots, step out of a tent and begin the day knowing…without the support of those around you…your goal…your hope… of summiting a looming formation that taunts your— every step….would never…could never…happen without those who sustain you at base camp.
And this is exactly what I discovered when I found myself adrift, almost three years ago….as I made my way through those doors and sat in your midst. You see, my GPS seemed to have gone astray. My vocation as an ordained minster had me traveling in a direction that I did not seem to have the necessary maps or the right equipment for. I had served a church as their associate minister, and I “thought” that was the adventure I had been called to. But a still small voice began to rise up, and I knew that place, in that time, was a mountain that had been navigated and now it was time to discover new elevations, new crevasses, cliffs and crags, and soaring slopes.
Mountain climbers are most often supported by a Sherpa. Sherpas are highly experienced mountaineers. They serve as guides at the extreme altitudes of the peaks and passes. These guides lend their knowledge and expertise to ones attempting to summit new ranges. Kim was the first of your Sherpas to throw me a rope, a cup of hot tea and a new compass. Yours is a base camp full of wise and seasoned travelers and much has been learned just sitting in your midst. I indeed took this sacred space and rested and reflected for awhile. I then was ready to be re-nourished, and finally feeling re-stored and renewed, I re-engaged!
Much has occurred over these past few years. Professionally, my path has had me traveling in places I never expected. As of September 26th, I am a full time Hospice Chaplain, with a team of my own and a redefined understanding of what my call had been all along. And if that were the only truth discovered, well that would have been worth the trip. But NO…there was more!
In this place of sanctuary….where we come to recover….we….you….decided…..we here at Lakewood would offer our Sherpa skills to others. To those who had found themselves homeless. We joined with Family Promise and Lakewood United Methodist to provide a base camp for families and their children and this base camp even came with tents! We became part of a network of camps that offered new trails/paths that sustains these folks as the climb out of poverty. Making a way out of no way, by being present to another and sharing what we have….what we have learned.
And that is what each of us are called to do…that is what Sherpas do You see…Sherpas cannot provide promises of expected or hoped for outcomes the individual climber may be holding within their hearts. They simply can companion with, offering support as needed. Because of their expertise, they can interpret the weather, the path, the crevasses better than those new to the journey. They can encourage and offer their wisdom gleaned from years of climbing, but ultimately it is up to the individual to make the accent. To journey with, for a while and then return to our own individual place and time. Possibly transformed by the experience, and able to share what we have learned with another.
That is what happens here…..Kim reminded us of that a few weeks ago…
Here, we listen for our calling.
Here we have our sense of mission confirmed.
Here we learn to work together, without the need for recognition, fame, or glory. We look out for each other and seek the highest good of the other. We find our calling to live for something beyond our personal satisfaction, comfort, and pleasure.
Here we identify resources, financial and human, to mobilize for mission.
It is in this place, each of us listen to our own “still small voice ” and respond to whatever mountain calls our name…..poverty, injustice in whatever form, children, the least of these….anyone the world treats “less than.”
Because… like another 21st century prophet has declared….we here at base camp Lakewood….respond.
And how do we respond?
When they go low…..we go high.!
Thanks be to God for this sacred space and place
Base camp….as sanctuary….LakeWood United Church of Christ!
THE HARVEST FORM
In addition to the speakers, there was the reporting of the results of the Harvest for 2016, read by Charles Lewis and Jim Andrews. Each year the church family is invited to fill out a form indicating the total amount of money donated in the past year and the total amount of time volunteered. In addition, there is the opportunity to list the organizations and activities that receive the time and money given. At The BIG Event, there is a reading of the list and a sharing of the total money and time donated. The information is astounding! Here is the full report.
REAPING THE HARVEST 2016
|Total Hours: 5350
Total Dollars: $94,585
Total Sheets Handed In: 24
Organizations and Institutions:
Bread for the World
Sanderlin IB World School
LUCC office and book club
American Bible Society
Clearwater Central High School
12 Step Programs
SPC Community Chorus
Gulfport Senior Center Foundation
Club Sports Kids
Tampa Bay Watch
Making Tote Bags
SAMS Episcopal Missionaries
Friends of the Depot
Avelos Scholarship Fund
Making storage holders for walkers
Peninsula Rescue Mission
Jack and Jill
Union Theological Seminary
Eden Theological Seminary
|Sierra Club Solar Initiative
Suncoast Health Center
SPCA Tampa Bay
Pinellas County Schools
Southeastern Fisheries Assoc.
Children’s Miracle Network
ASPEC at Eckerd College
Westminster Suncoast Committees
American Association Of University Women
Friends of the South Branch Library
Monthly Journal at Westminster Suncoast
Methodist Children’s Home
LUCC Creation Justice Task Force
Florida Conference UCC
Doctors Without Borders
Pet Pal Rescue
Habitat for Humanity
Local Food Banks
Local Arts Community
National Public Radio
American Diabetes Association
Americans for Responsible Solutions
Southern Poverty Law Center
LUCC Communion Fund
|Good Samaritan Church
Tampa Museum of Art
Aylesworth Scholarship Foundation
First Church of Christ, Scientist
Every Town for Gun Safety
Sheriff’s Youth Ranch
University of Florida
St. Petersburg Free Clinic
Veterans for Peace
Visiting long term care residents
All Children’s Hospital
Writing letters to inmates
Visiting hospital patients
Sea Level Rise Planning Network and Conferences
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Veterans Of Foreign Wars
Center for Action and Contemplation
Suncoast Employee Appreciation Fund
First Presbyterian Church Festival Chorus
Syrian Refugee Crisis
Sing Out Tampa Bay
Pass A Grille Beach Community Church
St. Anthony’s Hospital Foundation
74th Street Elementary School
UCC Annual Fund
Internal Review Board, Bayfront Health
Family member with cancer
Suncoast Hospice Thrift Shop
Special music for the celebration included Méditation from the opera Thaïs by Jules Massenet, performed by Katie Aucremann, solo euphonium, and Hilton Jones, piano and the Lakewood UCC Choir performing The Canticle of the Turning, featuring instrumentalists, the Rev. Mardie Chapman, piccolo, and Zach Blair-Andrews, guitar.
Colleen Coughenour prepared a beautiful installation for the altar that perfectly captured the theme: Base Camp: Mission Support.
photos by Yoko Yogami
COMPLETE AUDIO PLAYLIST
PEACE POLE DEDICATION — Peace Pole was dedicated in memory of charter member Knud Uth.
Sign at First United Church of Tampa, E Fowler Ave, Tampa.
A women’s quartet comprised of Yvonne Riesen, Yoko Nogami, Grace Lewis, and Claire Stiles, singing “God Who Touchest Earth”
Rev. Wells presenting Children’s Time, assisted by physics teacher husband, Jeff Wells.
Below are pictures from the Vigil, the Interfaith service, Rays Pride Night, the wonderful pre-parade party hosted by Earl Waters and Ron Spivak at their new home, the parade starting at dusk and on into the night, and the UCC booth at the street fair the next day. Thanks to Melanie Moore, Janet Blair, Sue Sherwood, and Colleen Coughenour for their photos. Click on any thumbnail for larger image.
This event took place at Florida Conference HQ today with Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, GMP of the United Church of Christ. Please click the link below to watch video.
Sing Out! Concert with the Florida Orchestra last night at the Mahaffey Theater. Community Chorus members from LUCC included Mark Gibson, Colleen Coughenour, Jim Andrews, Claire Stiles, Jeff Wells, and Kim Wells. This was the first sing along concert sponsored by the Florida Orchestra.
Click on images for closeups; use your browser’s back button to return to main post.
Last Sunday, Gordon Terrell was featured as saxophone soloist performing “For All We Know” with pianist, Hilton Jones. Gordon has frequently presented special music at Lakewood and his performances are much loved by the congregation.
Next week, there will be another selection of special instrumental music featuring Marg Radens on cello and Preston Poe, guitar and vocals. This will be their first appearance at Lakewood. Be sure not to miss it!
The choir which sang “When Jesus Wept” by Billings.
The altar with the statue of the last supper and the 12 candles for the service of tenebrae.
The foot-washing station with scented water and towels.
“Maundy” comes from the Latin word, mandatum, which means commandment. This is to reflect the story of Jesus giving a new commandment to his disciples on his last night with them: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
photos by Sue Sherwood