By Rev. Karen Yokota Love, additional photos by Marina Furuta, et. al.
One of the fun things about this time of year is seeing the “first day of school pictures” that are being taken in my neighborhood as I walk for my daily exercise. The children are gathered on the front step or in the driveway of the home, sometimes with the family dog, and mom or dad has the cell phone in hand capturing a few pictures of the “first day” that will likely end up on Facebook or Instagram.
The younger children are usually full of energy with big smiles on their faces and the older youth may not have quite the big smile, but there’s usually some energy in their eyes revealing their eagerness to get back to school to be with friends, etc. A part of the excitement, I hope, is the anticipation of what the children and youth will learn, the new experiences they’ll engage in, and the ways they’ll grow. I’m sure those thoughts aren’t in their mind, but that’s always an aspect of new beginnings … and the first day of school is certainly a new beginning.
We recently celebrated the beginning of the new school year at Blaine Memorial with Rally Sunday! We introduced our Church School and BYG directors, leaders and teachers to the congregation. We also blessed backpacks and briefcases.
After three years of witnessing the demolition of the old building at Kimball Elementary and the construction of the new building, our church was invited to attend the grand opening of the new Kimball Elementary School. A group of us walked from Blaine to Kimball (a block away from the church). It was great to be a part of the festivities. The new classrooms, library and cafeteria were some of my favorites.
Thank you to the Staff Parish and Relations Committee (SPRC) who hosted the first-ever post-pandemic All Church Potluck celebrating the reappointments of the pastoral staff. It was so nice to have an abundance and a diverse amount of food from a sushi bake, to pork belly char siu, kimchi fried rice and a lechon (plus, much more)! It was absolutely wonderful to celebrate with members and meet new faces. Thank you, friends, for celebrating and feasting with us!
On Saturday, October 7, we’ll have our first Blaine Memorial Bazaar since prior to the pandemic. We’ll grill our well-known BBQ chicken. We’ll also serve other popular favorites including udon, curry, ohagi and baked goods. A portion of the proceeds earned will benefit Maui Relief and Recovery through UMCOR.
During the end of September and throughout October, we’ll discuss more about Bishop Cedrick D. Bridgeforth’s vision for the Greater Northwest Area. Throughout the 2023 Annual Conference season across the Greater Northwest Area, Bishop Cedrick offered a series of messages to provide direction to the area. He uses the acronym, M.I.L.E., and grounds it in the scripture passage from Luke 10:25-37.
M: Ministry that Matters
Ministry that Matters is about how churches and ministry settings can go outside of themselves to turn from the mirror and look out the window to be part of their communities. Specifically, Bridgeforth preached about the need to be engaged in the work of houselessness and health in our communities.
I: Itineration and location
Bishop Cedrick encouraged churches to be window people, not mirror people, and spoke about Itineration [and Location] as it relates to clergy who are called to lead and the ministry settings in which they serve. In his sermon, he asked people to think about how we might address inequities in the itineration system within The United Methodist Church to best suit the pastor, church and community in which they are all serving.
L: Lay Ministry Enhancement
At the opening of the PNW Conference, Bishop Bridgeforth preached about the importance of lay ministry enhancement as the church changes shape. Laity are already a critical resource in our congregations and ministry settings, but there is a need to equip and empower laity to be a more active voice in our churches and communities we serve.
E: Eliminating Racism
As people of faith, we need to renew our efforts to eliminate the racism that is pervasive not only in society, but within our congregations, ministry settings and the institution of the church in general. During this sermon at the close of Annual Conference season, Bridgeforth laid out plans for resources to be developed to engage churches and ministry settings in meaningful discussions and evaluate practices that lead to institutional racism and societal harm.
We’ll spend most of the end of September and early October on a sermon series that discusses Bishop Bridgeforth’s vision of the M.I.L.E. which will lead to discussions on how we, as a local church can implement this vision.
As I watch all of the children head off to school, it also makes me wonder, in what ways am I seeking to learn and grow in the coming year? My belief is there is always something new to learn and ways to grow, so we as human beings should always be stretching, learning, and growing in life and also in our faith.
For us who are Jesus followers, we realize Jesus was constantly stretching people to think in new ways. In fact, Jesus tended to challenge the people of his day who seemed to act like they had all the answers. After all, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and his Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6) are teachings in which Jesus is saying some pretty bold things and turning people’s world or understanding upside-down.
One of the phrases Jesus speaks in Matthew, Mark, and Luke in the New Testament of the Bible, is “To the one who has ears, let them hear.” In a sense it is Jesus’ way of challenging people to think in a new way, to gain some new life and faith truths, to hear something new that God might be saying to them. Those words about one’s ears just might also be a way of Jesus gently, or not so gently, asking the question, “Is your mind and heart open to the whispers or the voice of God?”
As the children, youth, and even some adults from our community go back to the classroom to learn and grow, may we each reflect for ourselves on learning and growth in our lives.
After all, I believe Jesus is still speaking the words, even to us today, “Let the one who has ears, let them hear.” In this upcoming school year may we pick up the Bible, connect with a church member, participate in a small group, or find an online class to take (this is the one I’m putting extra energy into). May we keep on learning, growing, and allowing God to speak into our lives.
As Jesus followers, there is always something new to learn or a new way to grow as we seek to live into God’s Kin-dom here on earth. Go in peace and be the hope for our future! To the one who has ears, let them hear!
The Rev. Karen Yokota Love serves as the Senior Pastor of Blaine Memorial UMC.