A More Light Congregation

Bethany Presbyterian Church

Pastor's Note

Reverend Debra McGuire


November 2020

My Dear Bethany family,

I had a school assignment sometime during grade school where

we were asked to write a Thanksgiving story. I wrote a story

about pumpkin pie – from the point of view of the pumpkin. I

didn’t want to write about the pumpkin being cut apart and

smashed and put in the oven. I wrote about the pile of pumpkins

on display somewhere, much like the picture here. The pumpkins

always got excited around this time of year! They hoped beyond

all hope that THEY would be THE ONE to be chosen for the

family thanksgiving pie this year! They talked about it, they tried

to make themselves look big and puffed out and handsome, they

got excited when they were picked, they reminisced about other

friends who were gone because they were picked in other years,

and how happy they must be now!

We don’t know when we do something, that we’re making memories. In these days of covid we are all doing so many new things. It’s hard not to just wait until we can get back to normal again. God never said, “Behold, I am going back to the old ways!” God said, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” November is often a month full of ways to make memories, whether it’s Thanksgiving gatherings, or even as November approaches Halloween decorations and kids in cute costumes or binging on Halloween candy, maybe even a High School prom or a Homecoming game.

I think November 2020 will be full of memories of all kinds. Where will we be five years from now, three years, one year, a week from now? One week from today our national election will be over. But the effects and the counting and the uproar will be far from over. I hope you plan to vote this year in particular. In a few days Bethany will have our second outdoor service, certainly a thing to remember. All Saints Day is usually November 1st so we do a lot of remembering of people we love who have died and joined the saints in heaven. This year the highlight of the year for many, our Thanksgiving dinner and talent show at Bethany will not happen as usual, although there’s still time to hope for celebrating in a new way. Our own family Thanksgiving holiday will not be the same. Our list of thanks will be lists different from other years.

This year of change has been difficult for so many, and yet there is always that constant reminder of God’s new thing. At the end of this month we will begin Advent, a time of looking forward. My prayer for us is that we experience the letting go that the fall season often encourages us to do, knowing that we will soon be looking forward to the celebrations to come.

Blessings, Pastor Deb

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October 2020








My Dear Bethany family,

Going from living in San Francisco to living in South San Francisco has been wonderful for me.  Just the change in pace has been great.  Having a place with a patio where I can keep some plants and flowers is such a delight.  Having even a little bit of nature right outside my door feels so good.  While it's not Golden Gate Park, or very large or ful of variety, it has been such a joy to see my own little bit of nature right there.  I feel like my two or three flowers have turned into some kind of gateway drug leading me to seek out even more of this thing called nature.

In the midst of such an unusual and anxiety provoking world, I struggle with how to remain sane, balanced, engaged and happy.  It only re-occurred to me that after I've run out of things to say, and I've run out of ways to be, there's still nature.  Nature is like listening to a favorite piece of music.  You can approach it just as you are and let it take you to another place without doing anything.  So many times I listen to pieces of music that I know and love and have performed and it's lovely.  But I find that when I listen to something new to me I have more room to enjoy it.  I don't have my performer's brain on, I don't re-live that great flute solo coming up, and I don't know what mood is coming up.  When I walk in amongst some giant trees, or lay in soft grass, or walk in water, I have that same sense of freedom.  I know it's wonderful and don't care why.  That feeling is multiplied in the fall.  The brilliance of the colors always strikes me as if for the first time.

What joy surprises you these days?  Where do you go to find nature?  Do you prefer a body of water, or a grove of trees, or a wide plain?  Sometimes just a simple walk reminds me that I want more.  As we approach the season of dramatic changes in nature, I'm reminded that some changes bring great beauty.

I hope we can find ways to be that beauty for one another during these times of so much change.

Blessings, Pastor Deb

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September 23, 2020













My dear Bethany family,

When I was a young flute player, I would hear professional flute players play and I alternated between being inspired and motivated, or giving up. I would see the future I wanted and think either “wow, cool! I’m going to work harder so I can do that!” or “Wow. That’s so far from me, I’ll never reach it. I should just stop now.”

I was reminded of that feeling of approaching the unreachable, this week when I heard of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the last straw among last straws. I thought I had reached that mark long ago. I suspect that we all have reached that mark at different points along the last four years, or six months. I’m saddened by the loss of her sense of true north, her humor, her strength, her leadership, and the mark of sanity she provided for me even though she wasn’t on my daily radar. She died on the eve of the highest holy days of Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this week. Tradition says when someone dies at Rosh Hashanah it is a sign that they were a person of great righteousness, a tzaddik. Framed on her on a wall in her chambers at the Supreme Court, she kept a quote from Deuteronomy, three Hebrew words in beautiful calligraphy: Tzedek, tzedek tirdof - “Justice, justice, you shall pursue” (Deut 16:20).

Hearing all of her great work, her stamina, and her always hopeful future-thinking approach, reminded me that I want to fight for justice as fully as she did. As a christian I believe that fighting for justice undergirds all other calls on our lives. And yet, her life and efforts seem so far from what I will ever be able to do, maybe I should just stop trying, just like I considered stopping flute.

At this point in my life I’m a better flute player than I am a justice warrior, but I haven’t quit either one. In the midst of all of our chaos in this country, in our states, and in our individual lives we are still always called to keep moving. What we are going through may be unreasonable, but it is happening. There are so many new opportunities to learn from and work with right now. It is more important than ever to use our faith to find hope, use our communities to listen and love, and find the best way we know how to do the work that we can do.

Diana Butler Bass reminds us that “There is so much none of us can control. What we can control is the work we have to do. Our daily work of caring and creating and doing good. Do what you are called to do, what is in your power. And do that with courage and conviction. You are not alone.”

Blessings, Pastor Deb

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September 2020







My dear Bethany family,

Here is a prayer that I have shared in at least five different ways over the last few months. I love the idea of being surrounded, enfolded, protected and watched over by God. Above, you can see a watercolor painting of water lilies. When I went to Filoli for the first time last month, I fell in love with the water lilies there. At the garden center, gift shop, I bought two plastic floating water lilies. One red and one purple.

They’re so relaxing. They are floating and free, and held by the water, carried along in any way the water wants to move. I am not sure that there is a way that humans can feel as relaxed as this kind of flower looks. Imagine floating along, being as submissive to what is holding you, that you give up all control and let yourself be taken along. If you’ve ever floated on a lake, or lay in a grass field looking up at clouds, you might have the feeling. I was just talking to someone today who said that he heard that the world goes by in 10 second increments. The time it takes to read a text, or 140 characters on twitter, or instagram. Think of all the things we miss if we can only hold our attention for 10 seconds. The look in your lovers eye. The fascination of a child in a sand box. The 17 things that that cloud just turned into as the wind gently took it on a journey. The world is asking a lot of us these days. Stay safe. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Don’t hug. Don’t touch. Please everybody with your choice of social justice activity. Vote for the right person. Use reusables. Don’t use water. Fire is ravishing our hillsides and homes. A pandemic is settling in for a long stay if we’re not careful.

John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” And Isaiah 43 says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

We have reason to hope. Some fires have some tiny containment. Scientists are racing to find help and a vaccine for covid. Churches are active, ministries are vibrant. People find ways to sing, musicians make music, visual artists make art, thinkers think, families gather. Helpers abound. At the Presbytery meeting last night our worship service included a video of Igrejia Presbiteriana Braziliana, preaching and singing and serving communion. What a vibrant vital place that is, and we are so proud at Bethany to support them in any way that we can.

Be a water lily!

Blessings,

Pastor Deb

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August 2020






My dear Bethany family,

I hope you are all finding ways to see God’s grace in your lives these days. As we move through a summer unlike any we’ve experienced before, I find myself sometimes actually surprised when something remains the same for a while since I’m accustomed to having so many things change so fast in the last few months.

I found myself complimenting someone on their mask the other day. I laughed as I walked on, thinking how odd it was that I said “nice mask” just as naturally as if I had said, “nice earrings” or “nice tie.” I saw a video of a string ensemble playing masked and distanced, in a large open space, and they were all wearing concert black, and red masks. Usually when I’m going to perform in a concert, we’ll ask the director before the performance, “Are we wearing concert black tonight?” or “Are we wearing the gold vests?” or “Are we wearing white shirts?” Now I suppose it will be normal when asking which part of any uniform we might be expected to wear, it will be normal for someone in the group to ask, “Are we wearing the red masks tonight?”

At our session meeting the other night I was very moved by one thing that has not changed at Bethany. Our community has not diminished our passion for giving to others. When the Presbytery gave every church in the Presbytery money to help during the pandemic we found places to assist. Even though our Spring Tea was postponed and collecting items at church is less possible since we are not there, we have found ways to give. Both the pandemic and the social unrest have left many of us feeling the juxtaposition of competing mindsets. In some ways we do less because we need to be home or at least narrow our traveling circles, and on the other hand our hearts are full because we want to do so much more. In the past months as we at Bethany have worked our way through the whirlwind we have remained strong at heart, and have not lost our sense of compassion for our community and our wider community. The generosity of each individual as well as each committee has been remarkable. The creativity and courage that it takes to find ways to forge ahead and not give up that you have shown is inspiring.

As our baptism reminds us, we are joined together by our love of Christ, love of one another, and an undying sense of compassion.

4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (Eph. 4:4-7)

Blessings,

Pastor Deb

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July 2020

As of July 1, we will have been partners here at Bethany for six months! I am thoroughly enjoying being your Transitional Pastor. Thank you for my beautiful office, for laughing at my jokes, for welcoming me with open arms, for letting me comfort you and work with you and walk with you, and for helping me learn how to be your pastor.

On Jan. 31, 2020 The United States government imposed a two-week federal quarantine on 195 people who were evacuated from Wuhan, China, to a California military base. Little did we know what would happen in the next months. Today marks 13 weeks since our first shelter in place order. It’s difficult to look back over the past 13 weeks and take it all in. There have been so many challenges and we have risen to them all. From having Holy Week on zoom, and services for Easter on Facebook live (I’m not a morning person, but a pandemic is a crazy way to get out of having to do a 6am service!), to the connections we have been maintaining with each other in various ways. I am really proud of us for the tenacity we have, and the strong spirit of love with which we hold one another. We have found ways to step in and help others by giving blood, cooking meals, continuing the work with the San Bruno Shelter, running errands for our neighbors and reaching out to those who might be isolated. We are connecting through comments on Facebook during our live services on Sunday mornings. We are connecting through the zoom prayer service on Wednesdays at 6:30. We are connecting on my Patio. We are connecting through individual conversations on zoom or on the phone, and a few safe in person visits. Our deacons are keeping on top of each parishioner and helping us meet their needs. Our committee personnel are helping to keep our worship, our finances, our grounds work and cleaning, safe and up to date.

Roberta, well, Roberta just keeps us all in line!

Afer five weeks of Job, we will begin looking at 2 Corinthians for five weeks beginning July 12th. I hope to follow that with a study of the Lord’s Prayer through August and into early September. We still do not have a forecasted date for continuing in person Sunday morning services. The session will look at this issue again when we meet on July 21st. We will always be focused on safety. For now we will continue to offer our Facebook live services at 10:00 on Sundays.

I will be on vacation from July 14th – July 20th. Please continue to call the church office with any needs you may have, or contact your deacon. There will not be Facebook live on Tuesday or Friday, or a Wednesday zoom prayer service that week.

Blessing to you all, as we find ways to engage in the important work of these days,

Pastor Deb

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June 2020


Happy June, Bethany Family!


I just read a quote by John Kabat-Zinn that says, “We take care of the future best by taking care of the present now.”


I find that a perfect way to describe what we have been doing for the past 10 weeks.  Every change in behavior, every new way of looking at things, every struggle to overcome new challenge after new challenge, have been ways of taking care of that present day.  And this one, and this one.  By taking care of the present each day as we have been, we are taking care of our future.  Every change we make in order to be safe is an effort on behalf of the future.  We need to focus our energy on staying safe ourselves, protecting others by doing our part, helping others where we can and taking care of our own mental health, all while trying to get groceries, pay bills, work, take care of health issues, be with our families, and carry on with celebrations where possible.  I have been able to visit safely with a few members, and it warms my heart to hear of your hopes and worries.  I have met a few people who need to stay home, and I thank you for your brave hospitality as we met in safe ways.  I know that if we lead with love and prayer our hearts will tell us how to be.  In Christ we pray for our struggles, our anxieties, our friends, those who need us who are too far away to reach in person, those who are ill, those who are handling some tragic events in their lives and those who are lost.  We also offer prayers of thanks for the joys we are able to notice, of gratefulness for what we do have, and of love for all the ways we are loved and comforted.


The last Sunday in May is Pentecost Sunday.  This is the day when the church year celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit.  For the next 25 weeks, we will walk with the historical church through many biblical stories and settings, all as reminders of the work of the Spirit.  This year, like no other, we need to be reminded of exactly what we were given when we received the Holy Spirit.  As promised during the last day of the Resurrected Jesus we have received the Spirit of Truth.  We received the Advocate, Comforter, Counselor and Helper that Jesus promised us.  This advocate brings the bible into our everyday lives so that we can have experiences of the Risen Christ.  This Spirit cannot be denied.  It is a gift beyond anything we can imagine.  It is with that gift that we will have the strength to weather our days to come in refreshing and new ways.  I invite you to recognize joy where you can.  It's still out there.  Often it comes out of us and pours out onto someone without our recognizing it.  Stay kind.  Look for the good.  Help where we can.  Love.  And then love some more.  We are here together, holding each other up, celebrating retirements and graduations and new jobs and positive health changes.  And we are here together to share in the suffering of our world, to lighten the load and have an impact.


Life is constantly happening.  The future is always right around the corner.  We are the church and we are not closed.  Our work continues with joy!


In Christ,

Pastor Deb

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May 2020


Hello Bethany friends,

As I write this on April 28th the local news has just told us that the Shelter in Place order will extend through the month of May. This means that by the next time I write a letter for this monthly page, we will have been quarantined, locked down, staying at home, not gathering for 30 more days.

I can’t say that I like this news. But I can say that I think this is the right news.

As we all try to find ways to cope these days I want to remind us that we are children of God and therefore are born with inherent worth. It may be that the changes we have had to make while we shelter in place have affected us in more than one way. We may have made changes to our lives that affect our finances, our work, our daily activities, and all of these things may make us doubt our own self worth or value. Our very identity is being changed by what we are being asked to do. Some of us thrive with such a challenge, and find new ways to be our best selves and meet the daily ever changing routines of our days. We love to engage with our families and our friends in new ways and we love to find new opportunities to find meaning with those that we love and the things that we do. We constantly find ways to contribute. Others of us go into a panic at the first sign of change and if a great deal of our lives changes all at once it’s beyond our ability to cope. Wherever we fall on that spectrum there is no denying the fact that we are social creatures. Without our usual methods of meeting our social needs much of what we do to take care of ourselves is not available.

There’s no doubt that much has changed. I want to remind us of what is the same. God will never stop finding new ways to get our attention. God will never stop living in our hearts. God will never stop listening to our greatest joys and our greatest fears. We believe in God of the trinity, whose three persons are our constant companions. As comforting as it is to know that God is right here on earth with us, it is equally comforting to know that nothing on earth that may limit us, can limit God.

continued 1 God will never stop calling us no matter how our daily lives and activities change. There are no limits or boundaries to how God values us and uses us. If we are not able to live our lives the way we have in the past – if our employment changes, our families change, we are not able to connect to others in person, we are not able to offer ourselves to help in the same ways anymore, God will still work with what we can do. Our limits given to us by laws, rules, safety choices, pandemic stresses and required behaviors, are not limiting to God .

As we wonder what we are being called to in these times, I invite you to print the page attached to this W@B email titled “God Calls Me", and use some time to be creative and color the words.

Please stay safe, stay home, and ask for help. As always, I want to learn more about how I and/or Bethany can meet your needs and bring you joy. I encourage you to call the office at 650-589- 3711 or reach out to me at dmcguire@bethanypcusa.org for any reason.

Blessings, Pastor Deb

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April 2020


Warm greetings to all of you,

Did you know that you can purchase caterpillar kits on Amazon? I’m banging my hand against my head in disbelief. A pastor I know did this and almost everyone in her congregation is watching a caterpillar grow during Lent and it’s a big hit, and a fabulous hands on way to experience all of lent and waiting, and the emergence of a new life.

I wonder what would happen if the caterpillar needed to remain in the chrysalis longer than usual? Waiting and reflecting on the inner life is great in theory, and certainly even something to do more often than most of us do. But when waiting goes beyond theory and we are forced to rely on within longer than usual, it is disorienting and can be scary.

I am very lucky. I have the perfect job. I am not only allowed, but encouraged to reach out to people, stick my nose in their business, because in my role as your pastor I may have something to give. I am lucky because I have someplace to focus all of my helpless feelings. I am staying home except for essential services. But part of my essential work is you, and for that I am blessed. Sometimes after a pastoral call, I realize that the person has been a huge gift to me with their presence and with their stories of how you care for one another. I was recently checking on several folks to be sure they were connected. The first person I called had already been in regular recent contact with a few of the people on my list. I left the call reminded that the Church is one body. I am the pastor but we are all ministers. I give thanks for you.

I want to remind you that your love and care for others is still alive and well, and you too have a role where you have something unique to give. Think about who you love and where they are, and if they are far, recognize the heartache of being away. And if the people in your life are near, I give thanks. I hope with you that all of this restraint from contact is temporary. God is a life-giving creative God who will help us through this. God will put people and ideas in our life that will work for good through all of us. Lazarus was raised from the dead, into the abundance of his life. But with the resurrection of Jesus, new life was to a completely new way of being. We will be raised from our current worries and anxieties into a new world with new ways of being together, and new ways to care for others, and with any luck, a more gentle world. It’s up to us.

Please stay safe, stay home, and ask for help.

As always, I want to learn more about how I and/or Bethany can meet your needs and bring you joy.  I encourage you to call the office at (650) 589-3711 or reach out to me at dmcguire@bethanypcusa.org for any reason.

Blessings, Pastor Deb

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March 2020


Greetings,

As I head into my third month here at Bethany, I’m looking forward to sharing the season of Lent with you.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know some of you more and more.  I’m hoping to continue to meet folks I’ve never met before and discover who you are.  I want to learn more about how I and/or Bethany can meet your needs and bring you joy.  I encourage you to call the office or reach out to me at dmcguire@bethanypcusa.org for any reason.

While Lent is not one of the most upbeat seasons of the church year it can be one of the richest.  Lent has been described as one giant waiting period.  Lent is traditionally a time when people of faith remember the suffering of Jesus.  We’re reminded that we came from dust and we will return to dust, and that Jesus died for us.  Many people spend the season of Lent in long periods of self- flagellation and misery.  I would suggest that we buck that tradition, and look instead to the suffering of Jesus as a sign of hope for us, that Jesus shared what happens in our lives.  Jesus died for us but it is not our fault or our sin that caused Jesus to die.  Lent is not a time for guilt and more suffering.  It’s a time to be aware that our suffering happened even to Jesus.  It’s a time for self reflection and reflection as a community to possibly discover where we can do more, or where we can do something different.  It’s always a good thing to look for ways to give up bad habits, or stop doing something you love for a time to see how it feels to do without.  But rather than make Lent something that we only do for a season, let’s look for what can we do in Lent that becomes a part of our new way of life.  Lent as a period of waiting can lead to heartfelt generosity toward ourselves and others for a lifetime.

Contemplation of suffering is not a bad thing or a sad thing necessarily.  Suffering happens all the time, and I would hope that we wouldn’t look for ways to add to that part of our lives.  But rather, find a depth to ourselves that only comes from serious tugs at our hearts.  I once had a caterpillar in my room in college that I kept in a round globe-like dish with a stick and milkweed.  I loved to watch it crawling on the stick, or see that it had eaten some greens.  I watched it all the way through the cocoon time and it was amazing to see the butterfly wings unfold and watch it take off!  What was equally amazing was just before the cocoon was being built, everything was so still.  The caterpillar didn’t move for days.  Then he hung from the middle of the stick and was still for days.  It was if there was silence before the silence.  That’s Lent to me.  It’s the opportunity to prepare.  We can even prepare to wait.

I hope you find your way through the season of Lent with your Bethany community; beginning with Ash Sunday on March 1st, through every Tuesday night Lenten study on the Lord’s Prayer, and continuing into April as we get closer and closer to Easter.  Let us live these pre-Easter days with each other, and with a deep search for our own Lenten story.


Blessings, Pastor Deb

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

December 2020

My Dear Bethany family,


Welcome to December!  As much as it saddens me to know we are still living in a COVID world, I also want to celebrate that we made it!  There have been so many times this year when we have had to do things a different way or not do them at all.  I can appreciate any exhaustion you may be feeling.  During this month of Advent and Christmas I hope we can experience the waiting for the birth of Christ as the Light of the World that it was and still is.  As I type, there are Bethany elves in the sanctuary hanging decorations, the banners went up earlier this week, and preparations are being made for the season.  Each Sunday we will light the advent candles of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

While we will not be gathering in person each Sunday morning, you may find it nice to light your own candles at home and focus on each word as it comes by.  Maybe use the word hope once a day for the whole first week.  Then the word peace, etc.  Or write a poem or paint something.  Contact me if there is anything I can do to help you experience the season in a way that will be meaningful for you.  I hope you were able to have a unique Thanksgiving experience that was satisfying.  With the possibility of a vaccine on the way, the election over, there is a hopefulness in the air.  Not the kind of hopefulness that is untrue, but the kind of hope that undergirds every part of life for people of faith.  May your December be full of the Light that is Christ and the joy of the Christmas Season!

Blessings, Pastor Deb

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February 2021

My Dear Bethany family,

 

While the church calendar calls this Ordinary Time, it seems

as though times are never ordinary.  This year we can feel a

sense of the newness and promise of 2021 as we have just

celebrated the coming of a new administration in our national

government and the hopes of positive change on the horizon. 

We lift our prayers for unity and equity for members of society,

and the possibility of finally beating this pandemic and finally

getting to enjoy physical contact with our friends and loved

ones, and activities that allow us to be full members of society

again.   This is an important time in the church because we are positioned to bring about some of the positive change ahead of us in the country. 

 

People of faith have a great opportunity to use our love of God, our lives of faith, our joys and disappointments, our heartaches and hopes to find a place to be part of all that there is to do.  This is a time for us to reflect on who we are in relation to God, as individuals and as a community of faith locally.  Our faith calls us to work for justice in all forms, toward equity, fairness, and unity.  Let us be unsatisfied with only breathing a sigh of relief at what has past and move also with purposeful strides toward a common goal. 

 

Our Lenten study this season is a chance for us to begin some of that reflection by providing a place and time for us to give thought to some of our thoughts about God.  Who are we and who is God?  What kind of relationship do we share with God?  How does God’s grace and love help us to feel empowered and supported in what we do?

 

The season of Lent has historically always been a time of preparation in the church.  In early centuries it was a time for preparation for baptism, a time of preparation for church membership, a time of preparation before a commitment.  My hope is that we have a chance to look inward and discover new strengths that have been made visible during these last many months of trial.  We can be assured that this difficult time and the challenges we are still living with are tempering us into more faithful servants of God, with as yet unknown skills and insights.

 

Faithfully yours, Pastor Deb

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January 2021

My Dear Bethany family,

As the sun cycles the earth, the calendar turns over to another year, and the liturgical cycles continue, we have a lot to be thankful for. 2020 has had its major challenges certainly. COVID-19 has been the biggest challenge by far. Only 10 weeks of worship in the sanctuary in person, left us with 42 weeks of creatively managing to present worship on Facebook and outside twice. Easter and Christmas, adult ed classes and coffee hour are just not the same through a screen. I have dearly missed all of the in person meetings I had hoped to have in your homes or favorite coffee shops that I planned for my first year.

While it is nice to have personalized “pastor deb” notecards, they were never meant to replace seeing you face to face. When the weather is nice, my patio makes a great guest space. A goal for 2021 is for me to reach out more to those of you who are not equipped to join us via technology. I am with you at heart – I would prefer less electronic bytes, and more chocolate bites between us.  None of this however has fazed the life spirit that exists at Bethany. Without all of beloved celebrations that we missed this year, like the tea and the thanksgiving meal, the pride parade, and others, we still found ways to be community. We still collect for the shelter, we have partnered with IPB to help them through their congregational struggles by donating food and other items, and lots and lots of toys and gift cards for their families for Christmas, as well as creating a further partnership with the San Bruno shelter through a Presbytery grant that will help them to grow and fulfill some of their most creative dreams. We have not let the difficulties of 2020 stop the fierce giving that we know how to do! Our little free library, the cleanup of some bushes, and the cleanup of one corner of our parking lot by selling the container and cleaning up some debris, our curb appeal is getting stronger and stronger. By finishing the year with advent packets for families, classes, reading books on line and beautiful luminaries we have ended the year with great vibrancy.

I couldn’t help but feel a very meaningful visual sign of hope for the coming year as I watched the shimmering giant star that our luminaries created.  

Lastly, I cannot thank you enough for the support, joy, love and friendship you have given me this year.  I am humbled and happy to know each of you. Thank you so much for you!

Blessings, Pastor Deb

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March 2021








Our Palm Sunday on March 28th will also be Passion Sunday, in order to be sure to make that very statement. The crowds did celebrate and sing Hallelujah! at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. And some in that same crowd yelled Crucify him! While we know that we look forward to the celebration of Easter it is important to take this time during Lent to remember what Jesus went through to bring us to the joy of his resurrection. He resisted, persisted, chased after justice and taught a gospel of life for the least of these. He was a threat to the empire that only sought its own desires. Jesus turned the world upside down and startled the status quo to such a degree that the powers that be killed him. Our Lenten study provides us a time to look at the language we use in our faith, the vocabulary of faith, to discover who we think God is, to consider who we see ourselves as being, and look at God in action in our experiences, ultimately as we do in community.

I am writing this just a few days before our annual congregational meeting where we will present the budget for 2021 and the annual report for 2020. Sadly 2020 was not the year we could have ever prepared for. As a result, we have suffered significant social losses that we sorely miss by not being able to see and hug and laugh and cry and sing and worship together. We were not able to have any of the social functions that bring our Bethany community together and provide us with so much. Despite that, I hope you are as pleasantly surprised as I was to read our entire 2020 Annual Report, and realize just how much we have done and how we have been inventive about being together however we can. Seeing all of our activity all at once in one place in this report was so inspiring. Don’t forget to send any comments, (compliments!) suggestions and questions to me at dmcguire@bethanypcusa.org before the 28th so that I can compile them to be read and addressed at our meeting. It can get a little complicated on Zoom, to have spontaneous conversations like we might have in person. Having what we can in advance will help address that. Of course, we hope everyone will join us at that congregational meeting and ask anything then also.

Faithfully yours, Pastor Deb

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This small bronze sculpture by an artist in New Mexico (whose name I can’t remember!) is one that I love to gaze on. I only have it in post card form. The artist calls it “Crucifixion.” I can’t help but notice that the person’s arms are away from the cross and there are holes in the hands. That makes me think that the arms are coming away from the cross after they had already been nailed on. It looks as if the person is floating off of the cross. I imagine that the crucified one is being released, and is on the way to being resurrected. Maybe I could call this “Resurrection.”

Our theology from the gospel stories as well as words of Paul remind us that Jesus’ resurrection from the cross was directly tied to his crucifixion on the cross. While some theology emphasizes only the glory of the risen Christ, and some theology only emphasizes the suffering Jesus of the cross, the healthy theology that makes sense to me is one that cannot separate the two. It’s as if death and resurrection are the exact same thing. Death is the end of life on earth, and resurrection is the end of death. For eternity. As we enter this season of Lent we will have opportunities to consider these things.

April 2021

My Dear Bethany family,


Christ is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!  Easter will be upon us before we know it. 

I wonder what the resurrection has in store for us?  We are promised new life

in Christ and this year we sure could use it.  I feel very hopeful these days. 

With vaccines doing their part we have some hope for getting ahead of the

pandemic.  I pray we all still show some restraint as we give in to the spring

fever and freedom that vaccines represent.  We will need to remain diligent

about masking and hand washing and distancing for some time in order to

prevent the need for another shut down and shelter in place.  We are so close

now.  I look forward to gathering outside for some casual gatherings as the

weather improves even as it is a little too soon to go back to worshipping in

person inside the church.  There are many ways we can see each other for

social activities.  I look forward to hearing your ideas too!


Let’s enjoy the entrance of spring!


Faithfully yours, Pastor Deb

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May 2021

My Dear Bethany family,

Welcome to May – already! As I received my second dose of the vaccine today, I felt a stronger sense of hope than I have felt for a while. A bunch of us took a group photo today on my patio at home and laughed about how sincerely we were all smiling but no one would be able to tell by looking at the photo! It will be nice to see people’s faces from chin to forehead someday.


As the church leadership continues discussions about exactly when we will see each other’s full face in person at services, we have decided to begin with plans for outdoor services first. On May 30th, June 27th, and August 1st we will have our 10am Sunday worship services outdoors. This way we will all be able to see each other in








right in.

Keep the faith! I feel sure that soon we will be saying “Come on in, the water’s fine!”

Blessings, Pastor Deb

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person, and be able to experience the joy of three-dimensional fellowship a few times in a row, so we can offer each of you to choose one date or all three to test out your own feelings about gathering in person. It seems ironic to be welcoming a return to some kind of normalcy and at the same time be even more anxious about re-entering the world. It may be ironic but it is to be expected. Getting out of a rabbit hole is just as difficult as having gotten into the rabbit hole! I can appreciate any struggles each of us experiences to take steps at our own pace. Having three chances to come to church in person gives us a chance to put a toe in the water without pressure to dive


June 2021



To some, summer is baseball!! To some, summer is daisies!!  The beach, a road trip, time away from the every day routine.  Weddings, travel, long warm nights, people making plans!  Here at Bethany we will spend the summer months planning for our opening for in-person worship in September.  Memorial Day weekend coming up will be our first of three in-person outdoor worship services.  I am so excited to see people in person.  We won’t know the vaccination status of everyone there so we will remain masked and distanced.  But we hope more and more people are comfortable coming to worship with us in the safety of outdoors.  We on the broadcast team will be so happy to see more faces and a live group to present worship with.  If you have been worshiping online with us, you can tell how much fun we are having.  The only thing missing is the rest of you.

My hope for the summer is that I will be able to have some face to face visits with people as outdoors becomes an option.  Let’s find some creative ways to be together.  Do you miss church?  Come on up to the building and we can sit in the garden.  Do you have a great outdoor area near home?  Let’s sit out and have a chat.  Do you need to talk about anything of concern, of joy, something on your mind.  How are you?  Let’s talk!

What is the church’s phone number anyway? Here you are: 650-589-3711.

Blessings, Pastor Deb

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July 2021





This month is often filled with celebrations that include picnics, parades, band concerts in the park, barbecues, family, and fireworks! If you play the piccolo, your brain begins to hear the big solo from “Stars & Stripes Forever” starting in June and you’re ready to go.

Then, there’s the next 27 days of July.

If you’re like me, your mind has been filled with pandemic questions, safety, vaccinations yay/nay, protection after vaccination, etc. for way too long. It has been exhausting and it hasn’t gone away even though we are heading in a good direction. We’re on the cusp of coming out. As hopeful as that is, it is still tiring to be concerned about the same subject. Many of us have been blessed enough to not have been affected by the loss of a loved one or the loss of our livelihood to COVID. Even so, we have all been affected permanently.

When I think about what is next for our world, our country, our community, I feel like we are about to open a door. One door feels like a place of welcome to a new comfortable world. Another door feels like it’s opening into something dark and foreboding. Some of us have a choice about what is next, which door to choose, but not everyone. It’s important to remember that we all don’t feel the same at the same time. I want to encourage us to keep realistic expectations of ourselves, and especially for those around us. Those that we know and those that we don’t know. We can do that best by not holding on to old assumptions, not judging others for the way they feel, and being willing to listen to the changed hearts of everyone we meet. All of us have been changed in deeply personal ways.

We can be gentle. We can listen more than we speak. We can offer grace more than condemnation. We have been given as much by Christ who loves us all.

Let’s talk! 650-589-3711

Pastor Deb

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