Pastor’s letter to the City Council about the Boley housing project next to the church

Dear Mayor and City Council,

This letter is in support of the Boley Centers housing project which is being planned for the property adjacent to Lakewood United Church of Christ at 2601 54th Avenue South in St. Petersburg.  I am the pastor of the church and we want you to know that the church is in full support of the Boley initiative.  The Boley staff reached out to our church and met with me and several leaders of the church including church members who live in Lakewood Estates.  The project was explained to us.  We were given the opportunity to ask questions and get clarification.  In sum, the church strongly endorses this project.  Frankly, we have to.  We are a church and the gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to show support and care for “the least of these.”  The Boley project will be ministering to the needs of the least of these.  As a church we support this effort because it reflects the values of the gospel.

Our position is based on the teachings and sacred texts of our religion.  Of course, we do not expect you, as a City Council, to follow those dictates.  Your commitment is to live up to the values and expectations that have been set for the City.  In this regard, I remind you of two recent commitments made by the City.

The first is the Proclamation declaring St. Petersburg a City of Compassion signed and sealed on Sept. 15, 2018.  In this Proclamation,  it is stated:

“Whereas the City strives to be a place where the sun shines for all, and works to protect and promote the rights of LGBT and disenfranchised communities, the homeless, the elderly, the youth, and the pet and animal residents of the City;”  

The population that will be housed at the Boley complex next to the church includes the disenfranchised community (special needs), the homeless, and, likely, the elderly.  This project will directly serve to protect and promote the rights of these City residents to have a safe place to live.  

The second commitment made by the City that I would like to cite was made on January 10, 2019.  It is the Proclamation declaring St. Petersburg a City of Peace:

“Whereas, the community leaders of St. Petersburg are committed to establishing peace in the region to promote economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of the people of our region.”  

The Boley project will definitely improve the quality of life of the special needs population and the homeless population, both segments of “the people of our region.”

We do not expect the City Council to support the Boley initiative based on our religion values but we do expect the City Council to support the Boley project based on the values and commitments made in these proclamations and other statements which establish the aspirations for life in St. Petersburg.    

Thank you so much for your consideration of this matter.  Please let us know how we can be helpful in supporting the Boley project.  

We are grateful for your service to the community and your dedication to our City where the sun shines on all.  

Sincerely, 

Kim P. Wells

Lakewood United Church of Christ, pastor

Sermon 6.2.19 Choose Joy!

Scripture: Luke 24:45-53

Pastor:  Rev. Kim P. Wells

Startled.  Terrified.  Frightened.  Doubtful.  Panicked.  Disturbed.  Grieving.  That is what we are told about the condition of the disciples as this story begins.  That is the shape they are in.  It’s not a very good place to be, is it?  It’s hard to be grieving and heartbroken and afraid and all that goes along with that.  These disciples are distraught.  Yet in the story, just a short time later, they are filled with joy and praising God.  How did that happen?

In the story we are told of Jesus appearing to the group of disciples and showing them his hands and feet, and then eating.  He is trying to show that he is not a ghost.  That he is real.  He then tells them about the fulfillment of the scriptures.  Again, he is showing them that this is real like the other things that God has done in the past.  Like the promises God has made and fulfilled in the past.  It is happening again.  And it is real.  They are not imagining something or hallucinating.  Those references to the hands and feet, eating, and scripture are ways of validating the reality of the disciples.  

In the story, Jesus is extending the intentions of God to the present moment and beyond.  Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all nations beginning from Jerusalem.  There is more to come and it will start right there, with them.  And God will provide the energy and inspiration.  All they have to do is wait for it and be obedient.  Again, this fits in with their conception of reality as a continuation of what God has done and, they now see, has been doing.  They will be part of the unfolding of a new chapter in the fulfilling of the promises of God.  

Then in the story, Jesus is taken up into heaven.  While this sounds like sci-fi to us, there were several Hebrew Bible figures who were taken up into heaven like Elijah.  This concept of being taken up was also part of Greco-Roman literature.  The ascent of heroes and immortals was a well-known device.  In one example, the nobles exhort the people to revere Romulus, “since he had been caught up into heaven, and was to be a benevolent god for them instead of a good king.”  [Plutarch, quoted in the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 417]   So, in Luke’s story, Jesus was taken up.  People had associations with this.  This would not have seemed unbelievable.  It would have put Jesus in league with other important figures.  So being taken up again verified his importance and the reality of the experience.  

As the gospel concludes, the disciples are in the Temple in Jerusalem.  That is where the gospel began, with Zechariah, Anna, and Simeon, validating the identity of Jesus.  And now the disciples are in the Temple again without Jesus.  He has left them.  Again.  He died.  Came back.  And left again.  A cruel joke?  Are the disciples distraught and scared?  No.  We are told that the disciples were filled with great joy.  Yes, joy.  They were at the Temple night and day filled with joy and praising God.  They were continually in the Temple blessing God.

It’s interesting.  They still don’t have Jesus.  He has been crucified.  They have still left home and family.  They still may be pursued by Temple authorities or Roman authorities as friends of Jesus.  The way the story is told, the outward circumstances of the disciples has not greatly improved.  And yet they are overcome with great joy.  

Here we see the nature of joy.  Jesus promised the disciples joy.  And here, they have it.  But joy is not based on outward circumstances.  Joy is not dependent on being in a comfortable, safe situation.  Joy is not defined as the absence of sorrow or pain or heartbreak.  Joy can be present, can thrive, can overwhelm, even in difficult circumstances, even through grief and loss.  

In the story of the ascension, we see that joy is rooted in deeply held trust in the on-going goodness, steadfast love, and purposes of God.  The disciples see a story with intention.  They see the arc of redemption.  They see that all things are working together in the plan of God.  And so they are filled with joy.  Their deep conviction is in the larger prevailing dreams of God.  Joy is confidence that those dreams will come to fruition and that all of Creation is part of that.  

In today’s world, in the church, we may not ascribe to such a traditional view of God.  Many no longer think of God as a spirit, some thing some where, making personal interventions in human history.  While we may have different conceptions of God, the basics about joy hold fast.  Joy is a deep seated trust in the unfolding of Creation and history in a way that is good.  Joy encompasses the ability be struck by wonder whatever the circumstances.  Joy invites us to be amazed and awed whatever our outward condition.  Joy includes a fundamentally hopeful orientation toward the future whatever it may hold.  While some may not feel comfortable with the terminology, “God has a plan,” and I am among you, joy invites us to be taken in with wonder and amazement and delighted by the inexplicable, the holy, the sacred, every day; continually to use the word from Luke.  

To choose joy as the orientation for our lives does not mean that we will be happy all of the time.  It does not mean that we will be materially prosperous.  It does not mean that disaster will not befall us or our loved ones.  It does not spare us grief.  Joy gives us a grounding in something that is greater than ourselves, that is beyond us, yet within us, something that is good and hopeful.  It involves a capacity for seeing the love, the connection, the blessing, wherever it may be and then rejoicing, feeling and expressing joy.  

This is part of what we do in church each week.  We try to tune ourselves in to the greater reality of love and forgiveness and blessing so that we see this in our lives and the world.  Here we cultivate the trust that life is fundamentally good, a miracle, really.  Here we remind ourselves to be struck by awe and wonder, wherever it may appear.  And it will appear.  Here we claim and validate our reality in goodness and love.  We choose joy!

Sometimes I think that the greed in our culture obstructs the orientation toward joy.  We see ads and commercials that tell us life is good when you have a certain cold beer in your hand on a hot day.  And that driving a certain kind of car will make it all fine.  And that to be beautiful is to be bejeweled.  But joy depends on none of those things.  It is not dependent on material possessions or wealth.  That makes joy countercultural, subversive.  It is not something you can buy.  But it has great value.  

You can be poor and hungry and still have feelings of blessedness and joy.  You can be sick and tired and still experience joy.  You can be buffeted by grief and still know joy.  You can be unemployed and homeless and still find joy in life.  And no one can take it away from you.  Joy is about spiritual conviction and can’t be controlled by economic conditions or other circumstances.  To choose joy is to choose liberation.  

An orientation of joy leads to a life of deep contentment and fulfillment.  That is what Jesus wants for his disciples, for his followers, for us, and for all people.  Joy.  Delight in the marvels of life, nature, relationships.  Engagement with others in the work of healing and justice and reconciliation.  This is the way of joy.  And it is open to us all.  It is our birthright.  And it exceeds explanation or comprehension.  

Bill Clarke shares this story from the L’Arche community which includes developmentally disabled adults:  

“Claude has the most illogical mind that I have ever encountered so this may be the first and last time that he is ever quoted in a book.  He may ask such questions as ‘What time is orange?’ or ‘How was tomorrow?’  But still he does have a wisdom all his own. . . Well, one day Claude was at the beach with Jean-Pierre and several others of the community.  The ocean was at low tide so there was an immense stretch of flat, sandy beach.  They began making designs in the sand.  Claude drew a big circle with a couple of marks inside that could have been facial features.  ‘What’s that?’ asked Jean-Pierre.  With a big smile Claude replied:  ‘It’s Madame Sun.’ ‘That’s good’ Jean-Pierre said, ‘Now let’s see you draw joy.’  Claude took a look around him at the wide beach that stretched out in both directions as far as the eye could see, then turned to Jean-Pierre and said with a huge smile in all seriousness:  ‘There’s not enough room!’”  Amen!

[Bill Clarke, Enough Room for Joy:  Jean Vanier’s L’Arch, A Message for Our Time, quoted in Resources for Preaching and Worship Year C: Quotations, Meditations, Poetry, and Prayers, compiled by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild, p. 158]

 A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.

Sermon 6.2.19 Choose Joy

Luke 24:45-53                                                                                                                                   Rev. Kim P. Wells

Startled.  Terrified.  Frightened.  Doubtful.  Panicked.  Disturbed.  Grieving.  That is what we are told about the condition of the disciples as this story begins.  That is the shape they are in.  It’s not a very good place to be, is it?  It’s hard to be grieving and heartbroken and afraid and all that goes along with that.  These disciples are distraught.  Yet in the story, just a short time later, they are filled with joy and praising God.  How did that happen?

In the story we are told of Jesus appearing to the group of disciples and showing them his hands and feet, and then eating.  He is trying to show that he is not a ghost.  That he is real.  He then tells them about the fulfillment of the scriptures.  Again, he is showing them that this is real like the other things that God has done in the past.  Like the promises God has made and fulfilled in the past.  It is happening again.  And it is real.  They are not imagining something or hallucinating.  Those references to the hands and feet, eating, and scripture are ways of validating the reality of the disciples.  

In the story, Jesus is extending the intentions of God to the present moment and beyond.  Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all nations beginning from Jerusalem.  There is more to come and it will start right there, with them.  And God will provide the energy and inspiration.  All they have to do is wait for it and be obedient.  Again, this fits in with their conception of reality as a continuation of what God has done and, they now see, has been doing.  They will be part of the unfolding of a new chapter in the fulfilling of the promises of God.  

Then in the story, Jesus is taken up into heaven.  While this sounds like sci-fi to us, there were several Hebrew Bible figures who were taken up into heaven like Elijah.  This concept of being taken up was also part of Greco-Roman literature.  The ascent of heroes and immortals was a well-known device.  In one example, the nobles exhort the people to revere Romulus, “since he had been caught up into heaven, and was to be a benevolent god for them instead of a good king.”  [Plutarch, quoted in the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 417]   So, in Luke’s story, Jesus was taken up.  People had associations with this.  This would not have seemed unbelievable.  It would have put Jesus in league with other important figures.  So being taken up again verified his importance and the reality of the experience.  

As the gospel concludes, the disciples are in the Temple in Jerusalem.  That is where the gospel began, with Zechariah, Anna, and Simeon, validating the identity of Jesus.  And now the disciples are in the Temple again without Jesus.  He has left them.  Again.  He died.  Came back.  And left again.  A cruel joke?  Are the disciples distraught and scared?  No.  We are told that the disciples were filled with great joy.  Yes, joy.  They were at the Temple night and day filled with joy and praising God.  They were continually in the Temple blessing God.

It’s interesting.  They still don’t have Jesus.  He has been crucified.  They have still left home and family.  They still may be pursued by Temple authorities or Roman authorities as friends of Jesus.  The way the story is told, the outward circumstances of the disciples has not greatly improved.  And yet they are overcome with great joy.  

Here we see the nature of joy.  Jesus promised the disciples joy.  And here, they have it.  But joy is not based on outward circumstances.  Joy is not dependent on being in a comfortable, safe situation.  Joy is not defined as the absence of sorrow or pain or heartbreak.  Joy can be present, can thrive, can overwhelm, even in difficult circumstances, even through grief and loss.  

In the story of the ascension, we see that joy is rooted in deeply held trust in the on-going goodness, steadfast love, and purposes of God.  The disciples see a story with intention.  They see the arc of redemption.  They see that all things are working together in the plan of God.  And so they are filled with joy.  Their deep conviction is in the larger prevailing dreams of God.  Joy is confidence that those dreams will come to fruition and that all of Creation is part of that.  

In today’s world, in the church, we may not ascribe to such a traditional view of God.  Many no longer think of God as a spirit, some thing some where, making personal interventions in human history.  While we may have different conceptions of God, the basics about joy hold fast.  Joy is a deep seated trust in the unfolding of Creation and history in a way that is good.  Joy encompasses the ability be struck by wonder whatever the circumstances.  Joy invites us to be amazed and awed whatever our outward condition.  Joy includes a fundamentally hopeful orientation toward the future whatever it may hold.  While some may not feel comfortable with the terminology, “God has a plan,” and I am among you, joy invites us to be taken in with wonder and amazement and delighted by the inexplicable, the holy, the sacred, every day; continually to use the word from Luke.  

To choose joy as the orientation for our lives does not mean that we will be happy all of the time.  It does not mean that we will be materially prosperous.  It does not mean that disaster will not befall us or our loved ones.  It does not spare us grief.  Joy gives us a grounding in something that is greater than ourselves, that is beyond us, yet within us, something that is good and hopeful.  It involves a capacity for seeing the love, the connection, the blessing, wherever it may be and then rejoicing, feeling and expressing joy.  

This is part of what we do in church each week.  We try to tune ourselves in to the greater reality of love and forgiveness and blessing so that we see this in our lives and the world.  Here we cultivate the trust that life is fundamentally good, a miracle, really.  Here we remind ourselves to be struck by awe and wonder, wherever it may appear.  And it will appear.  Here we claim and validate our reality in goodness and love.  We choose joy!

Sometimes I think that the greed in our culture obstructs the orientation toward joy.  We see ads and commercials that tell us life is good when you have a certain cold beer in your hand on a hot day.  And that driving a certain kind of car will make it all fine.  And that to be beautiful is to be bejeweled.  But joy depends on none of those things.  It is not dependent on material possessions or wealth.  That makes joy countercultural, subversive.  It is not something you can buy.  But it has great value.  

You can be poor and hungry and still have feelings of blessedness and joy.  You can be sick and tired and still experience joy.  You can be buffeted by grief and still know joy.  You can be unemployed and homeless and still find joy in life.  And no one can take it away from you.  Joy is about spiritual conviction and can’t be controlled by economic conditions or other circumstances.  To choose joy is to choose liberation.  

An orientation of joy leads to a life of deep contentment and fulfillment.  That is what Jesus wants for his disciples, for his followers, for us, and for all people.  Joy.  Delight in the marvels of life, nature, relationships.  Engagement with others in the work of healing and justice and reconciliation.  This is the way of joy.  And it is open to us all.  It is our birthright.  And it exceeds explanation or comprehension.  

Bill Clarke shares this story from the L’Arche community which includes developmentally disabled adults:  

“Claude has the most illogical mind that I have ever encountered so this may be the first and last time that he is ever quoted in a book.  He may ask such questions as ‘What time is orange?’ or ‘How was tomorrow?’  But still he does have a wisdom all his own. . . Well, one day Claude was at the beach with Jean-Pierre and several others of the community.  The ocean was at low tide so there was an immense stretch of flat, sandy beach.  They began making designs in the sand.  Claude drew a big circle with a couple of marks inside that could have been facial features.  ‘What’s that?’ asked Jean-Pierre.  With a big smile Claude replied:  ‘It’s Madame Sun.’ ‘That’s good’ Jean-Pierre said, ‘Now let’s see you draw joy.’  Claude took a look around him at the wide beach that stretched out in both directions as far as the eye could see, then turned to Jean-Pierre and said with a huge smile in all seriousness:  ‘There’s not enough room!’”  Amen!

[Bill Clarke, Enough Room for Joy:  Jean Vanier’s L’Arch, A Message for Our Time, quoted in Resources for Preaching and Worship Year C: Quotations, Meditations, Poetry, and Prayers, compiled by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild, p. 158]

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.

Weekly Update 6.5.19

This Sunday:  This Sunday is Pentecost.  It is the holy day celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit to the gathered disciples forming the faith community we have come to know as the church.  The liturgical color is RED so you are encouraged to wear red!


Graduation Reception on Sunday:  On Sunday June 9, the Andrews-Blair family and the Coughenour-Gibson family, will host a cake and coffee reception celebrating the graduations of Zoe Blair-Andrews from USF and Olivia Gibson from Piedmont College.  The celebration will take place following worship in the Fellowship Hall.


Creation Justice:  The Creation Justice Task Force will meet on Friday June 7 at 10:30 a.m. in the church library.  One thing on the agenda will be to compare the solar bids for installing solar power on the church roof.  Everyone who is interested is welcome!


Summer Sundays Ahead:  Summer Sundays begin Sunday June 16, Father’s Day!  The services will be more informal.  Themes will focus on favorite Bible stories that are referenced in literature, art, and cultural discourse.  The themes come from a book by former Eckerd professor, Tim Beal, called Biblical Literacy.  This is a very good opportunity for young people of the church to become acquainted with commonly referenced Bible stories.  May all increase their biblical literacy this summer!


Next Sunday: Rev. Victoria Long will be preaching and Genie Terrell will be back offering the ministry of music. Rev. Wells returns to church June 30.


Pastor Away:  Many thanks to those offering pastoral care while Rev. Wells is away.  From June 10-17 contact Rev. Emily Bell  Emily’s email.   From June 18-28 contact Jim Andrews at Jim’s email.


PRIDE! The fifth annual St. Petersburg Interfaith Pride Worship Service will be held June 20 from 6:00 pm – 9:00 p.m. The event will begin at Metro Center 3251 3rd Ave. N. at 6:00 with a walking processional to King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church at 3150 5th Ave. N. where the service will begin at 7:00 p.m. The St. Petersburg Pride Festival will be held Sunday, June 23, 2019 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. between 22nd and 28th Streets on Central Avenue. LUCC member Wally LeBlanc will have a booth at the festival offering his artwork, photo prints, and other creations. Make sure to visit Wally when you go to the Festival! Visit http://www.stpetepride.com for more information.


Children’s Ministry:  The church is putting in place a children’s ministry for the rest of the year. If you are interested in being part of this effort, please speak with Kim Wells or one of the advisors. Many thanks!


Property West of the Church:  Boley Centers is planning to buy the property to the west of the church and put in a 20 apartment complex for people who would otherwise be homeless.  Church leaders have met with Boley staff.  The church is very supportive of this project.  You can read about it in an article in the Tampa Bay Times last Friday:  Tampa Bay Times . You are encouraged to write letters to the City Council in support of the Boley project.  For more information, contact Earl Waters (Earl’s email).


New Church Administrator:  A new church administrator has been hired to staff the church office Tuesdays-Fridays 9:30 to noon.  Gabi Paxton will begin working on Tuesday July 2.  Please call, email, or stop by to introduce yourself to Gabi and welcome her to the church when she begins.


Operation Attack: Operation Attack is very much in need of clothes for men, boys, and girls as well as diapers and peanut butter and canned fruit.  All volunteers are welcome! Operation Attack is an ecumenical effort serving families with children located a Lakeview Presbyterian Church, 1310 22nd. Ave. S., St. Petersburg. LUCC was a founding member of Operation Attack in the 1960’s!


June Birthdays:  Genie Terrell (6/10), Tony Rogers (6/21).  Tony is the church cleaner. Someone missing? Contact the church office with birthday information.


Circle of Concern: Sherry Santana, Carolyn Moore, Ann Quinn, the family and friends of Willy Zessoules, Dana and Chip Cosper and family, and Ann Rogers.


Recent Posts:


Weekly Update: If you are involved with an activity or event that you would like to share with the LUCC family, please send the information to the church office by Tuesday since the Update usually is sent out on Wednesday.

June / July issue of Celebrate Florida

Page 15 of https://www.uccfla.org/files/docs/CFStandard060119.pdf includes this article and picture featuring LUCC by Claire Styles: article

Image

New year greetings, Florida UCC:

Here are the links to the June/July issue of Celebrate Florida. You will find two versions of this document; one is the standard PDF, and the other is the interactive version, which requires that your computer has a Flash player.

Standard version | Interactive version

Please set aside some time to read about what has been taking place or will be happening among the brothers and sisters in our larger church family. We are in covenant with one another, and one way to demonstrate our caring is through this sharing.

As always, this issue is full of great ideas and stories to inspire ministries in your congregation. Here’s some of what is inside this edition:

  • How our churches observed Holy Week
  • Lots of 3 Great Loves activity
  • Protesting migrant children detention in Homestead
  • Preparing for General Synod in Milwaukee
  • Unique ministries, creative concepts, original outreach
  • So, what does a Regional Minister do?
  • Earth Day observances and activities
  • It’s the “H” word time again — be prepared (prayers included!)

Thanks to all those churches that share information about what has been happening in their congregations. Please make sure we’re on the mailing list for your newsletter and e-blasts and copy us with your Facebook postings (celebrateflorida@uccfla.org). Yes, we do want to know what you are doing — there is always room for more good news

We especially appreciate your providing the Celebrate Florida link information to church members via your Sunday bulletin, newsletters, e-communications and on your website. Please help spread all the good news about the United Church of Christ in Florida among your church members.

Have a SAFE summer!

Rick Carson

Editor

 



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