January 8, 2017

We Must Be Convincing, We Must Be Heard

The first day of Christmas is passed for another year, but that does not mean our journey to the manger in Bethlehem is over or any less relevant tomorrow.  Speaking from within the language and tradition of my own faith, I believe the lesson of Christmas is essential to the survival of our way of life, even the world.  The God I believe in is larger than any one faith tradition, and I am confident that the lesson taught to Chrsitians is present in other faiths.  Jesus, after all, was Jewish not Christian.

Many in our time are living quite intentionally and proudly without faith.  Religious persons have proven themselves foolish and done astonishing harm in the name of God.  But in the absence of faith, I 'd invite you to consider what is lost?  Without -- in Chrsitian lanaguge -- the journey to Bethlehem, who will we become?

I have in my library a book by a legal scholar (Michael Perry: The Idea of Human Rights).   Perry's conclusion is echoed in the work of others.  It is becoming increasingly clear that the idea that every human being is of inestimable worth is a religious conviction.  It is our only hope for peace, yet it cannot be proven by reason or established by logic.   It is a gift of whatever it is that we gesture at with the word God, and it is born into the world through faith.

Christians, on our Holy Night, rehearse a journey to Bethlehem to behold a child, a child through whom we come to know that every soul has worth.  Without this faith, without this gift, I fear for the future of our country and our world.   We must be the instrument of this healing gift for the world.

A young person asked me once: “What’s the big deal about Christmas anyway…isn’t the way Jesus lived the important part?” It was a good question. The meaning of Christmas for me is expressed in a reading by Barbara Crafton (from Jesus Wept: When Faith and Depression Meet).

“I look at the latest photographs of our newest grandchild, sent through the Internet from an ocean away. He is not a week old. He knows next to nothing and cannot survive on his own…and yet I cannot take my eyes off that little face in those pictures. I would give my life for his in a heartbeat. He has done nothing to earn this devotion but be born into this world. That’s it. This is the key: the fact of our being is sufficient cause for God’s celebration…The sufficiency of my little Grandson’s face in my eyes is complete, and that is just the way God sees us all.”

Christmas is a celebration of this gift. The simple fact of your being is sufficient cause for God’s celebration. There is a tendency in each of our lives, and a great suffering in the world, caused by the root thought that we are not welcome, that we do not belong, that others are blessed and we are not.  Whoever your are, and whever you are in your life journey, know that your existence, and the existence of the one most unlike yourself, is sacred.   In the blessing is also an essential critiques. As Anne Lammott has said: "You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out he hates all the same people you do."

From this sancity of every life flows the very idea of human rights: "that there is something about each and every human being, simply as a human being, such that certain things ought not to be done to any human being and certain other things ought to be done for every human being." (Perry) Without it any firm ground for human rights is lost.     Many today proudly prolcaim themselves to be agnostic, religious "nones," spiritual but not religious.   I woud invite you to think deeply about what is at stake.  And for those of us who remain and practice our faith, we must be convincing, and we must be heard.

-- Rev. Mark Sturgess, Dec 26th, 2016

December 4, 2016

Los Altos Ministry News

Youth & Family Ministries

This past year in our ministries with young people (children, youth and families), we have been led by Jesus’ call for God’s people to love God and our neighbors. Through Sunday worship; Wednesdays at Everyone’s Inn and throughout the summer at Groundlings Camp, our campus has been alive with fellowship, discipleship and the joy of following Christ together. Below are some highlights of our ministries to love God and neighbor this past year:

• We re-ignited a small group ministry that launched a Women’s small group; a Spiritual Parenting Small Group (both lay-led; clergy supported); a small group for small group leaders with youth; and a College+ small group.

• We expanded adult leadership in both children’s and youth ministry, welcoming four new small group leaders.

• We continued our work to develop young leaders in and through the church.

• We continued our work to welcome all ages to worship together through leading a parent-teacher team, focusing on the how-tos of monthly all-ages worship and growing the Sunday school program.

• We served monthly throughout the year at Broken Loaf Food Pantry as well as at the Living Waters Shower Ministry. Youth raised $1200 for Souper Bowl of Caring; $600 for CROP Walk; and $3,000 for Imagine No Malaria. We also took a team of 14 youth and adults to a week-long Sierra Service Project in San Diego, California. Additionally, we held three service-nights at Everyone’s Inn, where we prepared 150+ lunches for our homeless community on two occasions and 50+ blankets for dialysis patients on one occasion.

• We worked to promote and learn about justice issues in our church, local community and world. This included the Love for All celebration in Pasadena; the MLK march in Long Beach; the interfaith anti-gun violence rally in downtown Long Beach and more.

• We shared the Gospel with 30 families at Groundlings Summer Day Camp in its third successful year. Older adults, college students and youth volunteered together to make camp a wonderful place of welcome, learning, belonging in Christ and lots of fun! Plus, for the first time in many years, we sent four children/youth to Lazy W Ranch summer camp.

It’s been an exciting and meaningful journey this year, and we look forward to spreading even more blessings in 2017!

November 27, 2016

Los Altos Ministry News

Relay For Life

"On your MARK, get set, go...walking for those we love"…Los Altos United Methodist Church really came together to support those we love affected by Cancer during the 2016 Long Beach Relay for Life Event on June 4 at Millikan High School. Our team reached gold status for raising over $5000! We had 60 church members participate in the event, and we sold 75 luminaries. We even had five families camp-out overnight. What a blessing to be a part of such a moving event. A large portion of the track was lit up with luminaries showing support for Pastor Mark Ulrickson.

Relay for Life is the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. It brings communities together to remember loved ones lost, honor survivors of all cancers, and raise money to help the American Cancer Society make a global impact on cancer. It is a 24 Hour Walking Event where the goal is to have someone on your team walking for all 24 hours which signifies that cancer never sleeps. Cancer patients don't stop because they're tired, and for one night, neither do we. Last year’s event began Saturday at 9 AM with an Opening Ceremony and our very own Emily LaSalle singing the National Anthem. This was followed by an opening lap around the track led by cancer survivors and fighters. The rest of the day, team members walked around the track and also enjoyed the food, games and entertainment that all of the teams help put on all while supporting and thinking about those fighting cancer. At 9 PM that night, the luminary ceremony took place. This is always such a moving event. Luminaries decorated in Honor of and in Memory of those impacted by cancer light the entire Millikan track. This year, a large portion of the track was lit up with luminaries showing support for Pastor Mark Ulrickson.

Mark your calendar for next year’s event: It will begin at 6 PM on Friday, June 2nd and continue until 6 PM Saturday, June 3rd at Millikan High School. If you’d like more information, please email or call Erin Stubbs (erin@alumni.purdue.edu or 562-212-8861) or visit www.relayforlife.com. When you participate in a Relay For Life event, you become a vital part of the American Cancer Society: a volunteer. You are then part of an organization of 2.5 million survivors, patients, advocates, volunteers, caregivers, and researchers doing everything within our power to save lives. Thank you for helping us fulfill our mission to save lives and celebrate life - every day.

November 20, 2016

Los Altos Ministry News

Caring Ministries Synopsis

Prayer Team Ministry is currently 23 members strong! Each week our church prayer warriors pray for those who have requested comfort, care, healing mercies and more. They continue to be our prayer warriors for our church and congregation. The prayer request cards will soon be redesigned and will still be available in the pew pocket shelves, the church office or a request can be sent online though the church website. Goal for the coming year is to continue the prayer faith and to streamline the prayer request card process.

Prayer Quilt Ministry just celebrated ten years of meeting together to create beautiful quilts for the benefit of those in need of quilt blessing. Currently the prayer quilt ministry is in need of natural batting to continue to make the quilts. For the past ten years the materials to make the quilts have been donated by members of the group and church members. The goal for the upcoming year is to raise funds for more materials and create a space to store the quilts at the church. This will be accomplished by donations from friends of the ministry or a fundraiser and also permission designate a closet by the building committee. The group is pleased to announce that they have two new members, which will bring our total membership to fifteen quilt artists.

Prayer Shawl Ministry meets monthly to discuss a short Bible devotional and to knit or crochet shawls to be given to anyone who is ill, has suffered a loss or is in the midst of crisis. We are blessed by donations received from members who have received shawls in the past and the group has created 34 shawls this year. Our goal for the upcoming year is to create beautiful shawls and try to increase our membership. We currently have 14 prayer shawl artists.

Caring Cards Ministry volunteers are able to be in service to the church by providing spiritual encouragement and affirmation to homebound members of our congregation by sending cards and notes through the U.S. mail. Some of these volunteers have been doing this task for our church for over thirty years. Our member numbers have dwindled due to either personal illness or family responsibilities due to illness. We currently have four active members with two members on hiatus. Our goal for the coming year is recruit more members to our ministry.

Caring Visitors Ministry assist in visiting church members who are isolated, have recently been sick, are recovering in their home, a nursing home, rehabilitation center or the hospital. These visits provide community and connection to the congregation for the homebound and recovering members of our church family. We have five visitor-volunteers with three members on hiatus due to illness or family responsibilities due to illness. We have made over 225 visits this year. Our goal for next year is to recruit more volunteers.

Overall goals for Director of Caring Ministries
My goal for the upcoming year is to establish better communication with the five ministries and to meet possibly on a quarterly basis with groups who do not meet on a monthly basis.

Blessings of Peace and Calm,
Florence A. Barker Ferguson

November 13, 2016

Los Altos Ministry News

The Jubilee Justice Group An Account of One Response to a Complex Challenge

References to Michelle Alexander’s breakthrough book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, seem to be popping up everywhere—from the electrifying performance of “Glory” at the 2015 Oscars to the speeches of prominent politicians. Few of us who learned that “more African-American adults are under correctional control today than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began,” can ever forget that shocking statement. Alexander’s account of the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration upon people of color in this country grips the imagination, dispelling the myth that we have moved beyond racism into an era of colorblindness.

Working with Pastor Mark Ulrickson, the Jubilee Justice group sought to respond. Our research took us to the California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ), a human relations organization dedicated to eliminating bias, bigotry and racism through education, conflict resolution, and advocacy. As part of its commitment to intervene in the school to prison pipeline, CCEJ works with schools and law enforcement agencies to find alternatives to punishment. Its mission resonates strongly with Methodists, who are called upon to initiate models of restorative justice. Restorative Community Conferencing provides a second chance for first-time offenders between the ages of 14 and 17. The person who caused harm participates in a community conversation with the person he or she has harmed in order to take responsibility for the action and help the harmed person and community to heal. In this way, the person who caused harm “makes it right.” With a success rate of 95%, young people are freed from the stigma of fines, trials, and possible jail or prison time and have an opportunity to expunge the arrest from their records. Numbers of them have developed into leaders and positive role models among their peers.

Hearing about the Restorative Conversations inspired the Jubilee Justice group to organize a celebration for the young people who had completed their programs. Twentythree young people and their families were invited to an event that took place Thursday, July 21, in our Church. Joined with the participants, their families, and two electrifying performers from the Los Angeles Street Poets, we all felt God at work in the room.

God continues to work among members of the Jubilee Justice Group. We are planning repeat celebrations for January and June of 2017. In addition, CCEJ will present to Mature Years February 8 on restorative community conferencing. We welcome new members to our group. Contact: Jane Wilson Barboza. Telephone: 562.485.8344. E-mail: janewbarboza@gmail.com

November 6, 2016

Los Altos Ministry News

Los Altos United Methodist Church Foundation

The Los Altos United Methodist Church Foundation was incorporated in 1987 to support the Los Altos Church by securing gifts and managing endowment funds. The goal of the Foundation is to strengthen the church by providing funds that sustain church programs today and for future generations. Since its incorporation the Foundation endowment has grown to more than $439,000.

An eleven member Board of Directors governs the Foundation. The congregation elects nine members at the Annual Charge Conference. The tenth member is a representative from the Board of Trustees and the eleventh member is a representative from the Finance Committee. The Lead Pastor serves in an advisory capacity.

The Foundation has several sources of income. The Memorial Tree Program provides an avenue for a person to purchase a leaf in memory of a family member or friend to be added to the beautiful Memorial Tree, located in the narthex. To date there are over 185 leaves on the Memorial Tree.

A few years ago the Foundation established a Legacy Group to give families an opportunity to include the Foundation in their estate planning. The General Endowment Fund includes undesignated gifts given to the Foundation, including cash or other assets such as property, securities, life insurance policies, and charitable life-income plans. The Legacy Group presently has 24 members.

Monies given to the Foundation are invested in a conservative portfolio with the California Pacific United Methodist Foundation. This larger Foundation provides optimum management protection and financial enhancement for the funds.

Each year the Foundation distributes its net earnings through grant requests from various church committees or organizations. The principal of the fund is retained and the net earnings are distributed. The earnings are used to support a variety of needs or programs of committees and organizations in the church. In the last five years the Foundation has given over $73,700 in grants from the earnings of its investments.

An old Chinese proverb states: “One generation plants the trees, and another gets the shade.” We encourage you to help us “plant trees” through the Los Altos United Methodist Church Foundation to provide “shade” for our future church ministries.

October 30, 2016

Los Altos Ministry News

The LAUMC Alternative Christmas Market Helps Thousands of People

The Alternative Christmas Market concept is a wonderful way to ease holiday shopping stress, help raise funds for charities, and give a gift to those in need. This year’s LAUMC market is scheduled for Sunday, November 20 and will take place in the Lounge and on the patio. If you haven’t attended before, make sure you check it out this year.

Make your Christmas Gift Giving Meaningful
In the spirit of making God’s love tangible, the Alternative Christmas Market brings together non-profit organizations that address social issues on a local, national, and international level to give shoppers the opportunity to participate in meaningful gift giving. Various church groups will be sponsoring mission projects to help raise money for specific causes. For instance, at this year’s Market, you can support Habitat for Humanity and your donations will help to build 38 new homes in Long Beach. The United Methodist Women will be raising money for UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) and the Missions Committee will be raising money for two local organizations; COA and Toberman Neighborhood Center in San Pedro, a mission project of the UMC. There will also be actual tangible gift items that you can purchase and wrap up as presents for your friends and family. Fabric gift items may be purchased from Hands of Hope; a sewing business that provides former commercial sex workers in Cambodia an opportunity to build new futures for themselves. New this year will be a variety of beautiful gift items from Ten Thousand Villages. By selling items skillfully handmade by people all over the world, this fair trade organization brings dignity and opportunity for a better quality of life to tens of thousands of people. These are just a few of the many opportunities that will be available at the market.

Can I really Make a Difference by Shopping?
Yes, you can. LAUMC members have supported the Alternative Christmas Market for decades and tens of thousands of dollars have been raised over the years. Your contribution of even $5 helps to support worthy causes. Shopping lists are available the day of the market so you can visit the various booths, decide which agencies you wish to support, record your donations on the shopping list and turn in your contribution to a central cashier. You can write one check for all of your donations. The cashier will have a variety of attractive cards that you may give to your loved ones to let them know that their gifts from you this year were donations to worthwhile organizations. Tangible gifts supporting the agencies in the market can be purchased directly from the agency.

Come to the Market this year and give something meaningful for Christmas.

October 23, 2016

Los Altos Ministry News

Habitat for Humanity to build 38 Homes in Long Beach

In just a few short months, the ground breaking will begin on one of Habitat for Humanity’s largest development projects in greater Los Angeles, and it’s happening right in our own city, Long Beach. A one-acre, vacant lot in the Washington neighborhood in Long Beach, will be transformed into 38 future homes. This neighborhood is just a few blocks north of the city’s downtown improvement area. A couple of the great attributes to the neighborhood are the 14th Street Park; proximity to the Blue Line and its proximity to one of the city’s best high schools. There are already other Habitat homes in this same neighborhood. Habitat for Humanity is not a stranger to Long Beach. In fact, Habitat for Humanity LA got its start in Long Beach, building its first home here in 1990. Since then, Habitat LA has built or renovated 75 homes in our city over the last 24 years. Habitat for Humanity’s vision is: Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat brings people together to build homes, communities and hope. More than 51% of the Washington neighborhood residents live below the poverty line, and projects like these can help to transform a neighborhood. The 38 homes will be a combination of 2 and 3 bedroom, solar-ready homes with drought tolerant yards, energy efficient heating systems and low flow plumbing fixtures.

Los Altos UMC is excited about this new project and hopes to team up with other area churches to be supportive of this effort by becoming a Covenant Faith Partner over the next 5-years. Being a partner is more than just helping financially and volunteering. We will also partner to pray for the project, to help with finding low-income families who are in need of decent, affordable homes and to become advocates through collaboration with other churches and partners.

Los Altos UMC has been actively supporting Habitat for Humanity for many years. Church members have been given the opportunity to financially support this program through the annual Alternative Christmas Market, and members have gone out to numerous build-sites to help with the construction of new homes and the refurbishment of older homes. We have already been meeting with Seal Beach First United Methodist and Cal Heights UMC to collaborate on this project and give residents in this community a hand-up and a fresh start.

Visit the Habitat table at this year’s Alternative Christmas Market on November 20 to find out more about this exciting project, or let the church office know if you’d like to become more involved.

“In Him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” Ephesians 2:21

October 16, 2016

Los Altos Ministry News

The CROP Walk Story

Church World Service (CWS) was founded in 1946. At the time, ‘CROP’ stood for Christian Rural Overseas Program. Its primary mission was to help Midwest farmers share their grain with post-WWII Europe and Asia. The first CROP Hunger Walk was on October 17, 1969, in Bismarck, North Dakota. Most people don’t know that the CROP Hunger Walk was THE original walk to raise money for charity!!! The acronym ‘CROP’ was later changed to Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty, but now only stands as an historical reminder that crops feed hungry people.

Today, Church World Service works in partnership with other established faith-based and secular organizations worldwide to accomplish their mission. This makes it easier and more efficient to disburse funds and goods where they are needed in a timely manner and with relatively low overhead costs (16%). The money raised in these fundraising walks provides not only food and water, but other resources needed to empower people to meet their own needs…like seeds & tools, wells & water systems, technical training, and micro-enterprise loans. In the U.S., Church World Service assists communities in responding to disasters, resettling refugees, promoting fair governmental policies, and much more. CWS now has the added priority of responding to the refugee crisis of millions of people fleeing war-torn countries, especially in the Middle East.

CROP Walks are held nation-wide and in Canada. Of the money sent to Church World Service from each walk, 25% is returned to the walk’s pre-determined food-providing agencies. In the Long Beach area, there are 6: Christian Outreach in Action (COA), Lutheran Social Services, Su Casa Family Crisis & Support Center, “We Care” of Los Alamitos, Catholic Charities and – newly added – Urban Community Outreach (UCO), which is a Sunday-afternoon homeless drop-in center at 1st Congregational Church in downtown Long Beach. Along with CWS, the Long Beach walk is co-sponsored by the South Coast Interfaith Council (SCIC). Note: The first Long Beach CROP Walk was in the spring of 1976, so we are celebrating our 40th Anniversary Walk this year!

See the article in the announcements about the Long Beach CROP Hunger Walk on October 23rd . For more information on the local walk, please call Walk Chair, Dale Whitney, at (562) 433-3881. Margo Berdanis, LAUMC Walk coordinator

October 9, 2016

Los Altos Ministry News

CSULB Science Camp – Supported by Alternative Christmas Market

For the past 17 years I have run a hands-on science camp for area youth. The camp, hosted at CSULB, expanded nine years ago to include children from Long Beach Unified School District who experience homelessness. School counselors help us recruit eligible students who then apply to the camp.

Kids are picked up by school bus and brought to camp. They engage in exciting hands-on science and engineering lessons. They spend 4.5 hours with us before returning by bus to their families. While at camp the children receive a snack and school lunch.

Data shows us that 5-10% of children in a school district are homeless. It is hard to fathom the fact that so many children are unsure of their housing or next meal. Kids experiencing homelessness are more likely to change schools, more likely to be behind academically (each time you change schools you lose ground), and less likely to be able to take advantage of academic enrichment programs. By offering this sort of program, we are engaging students during the summer, helping them get excited about science and engineering, and showing them what a college campus is like.

This summer our kindergarten and first graders explored toys and engineered better toys in the Engineers ‘R Us program. 2nd - 4 th graders were Crafty Chemists, as they explored the overlap between science and art. Our 5th – 8 th graders were environmental detectives in the Water is Life team as they studied habitats, ecosystems and water issues in California. Campers explored various places on campus with an eye towards science and engineering. Our Engineers ‘R Us got to see how the back of the bowling alley works while the middle school group tested water samples from the Miller Japanese Gardens.

The camp is supported by grants and donations and is offered to children and their families at no cost. If we take one child from a family we take all the grade K-8 kids in the family.

Members of LAUMC donated more than $1,000 to support the camp last year! Most of you did that through contributions at our Alternative Christmas Market; some of you made individual contributions. On behalf of the children who got to participate in the camp and the CSULB students who helped teach the camp, THANK YOU! It was an exciting summer.

Laura Henriques Colburn

Besides me, there are other LAUMC connections to the camp. Debbie Drab and former member Meredith Casalino have both taught in the camp – Debbie for more than 12 years!

October 2, 2016

Los Altos Ministry News


Mission Statement: Compelled by Christ to be a voice of conscience on behalf of the people called Methodist, UMCOR works globally to alleviate human suffering and advance hope and healing.

Overview: UMCOR is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to alleviating human suffering around the globe. UMCOR’s work includes programs and projects in disaster response, health, sustainable agriculture, food security, relief supplies, and more.

UMCOR is a ministry of The United Methodist Church through the General Board of Global Ministries, and our goal is to assist the most vulnerable persons affected by crisis or chronic need without regard to their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. We believe all people have God-given worth and dignity.

UMCOR’s work reaches people in more than 80 countries, including the United States. We provide humanitarian relief when war, conflict, or natural disaster disrupt life to such an extent that communities are unable to recover on their own. While UMCOR cooperates with other aid organizations to extend our reach, our most important partners are the people we serve. We are confident that successful solutions to emergency or chronic conditions begin with the affected population. UMCOR provides these survivors not only temporary relief but long-term education, training, and support.

UMCOR spends 100 percent of designated donations on the projects our donors specify. When UMCOR donors give their time, money, and supplies, they join UMCOR as the hands and feet of Christ.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) enters into a disaster at the request of the resident bishop or church partner. The request may be for financial or material resources, technical assistance or volunteers. An Advance number may be assigned to a specific project, so United Methodists may make donations.

When typical methods of disaster-response funding are inadequate, the area or conference may issue special emergency appeals. Resident bishops may call for an emergency appeal in their annual conference when a disaster affects a specific part of the United States.

United Methodists assist UMCOR through gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing. Observed on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, this church wide Special Sunday calls United Methodists to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. Gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing underwrite UMCOR’s “costs of doing business.” This helps UMCOR keep its promise that every gift to a specific UMCOR project will go toward that project, not for administrative costs.

LAUMC: We support UMCOR through the one great hour of sharing, special appeals and coffee hour donations through the Missions Committee.

September 25, 2016

Los Altos Ministry News

Handbell Ministry at Los Altos UMC

Los Altos UMC has a great reputation for its wonderful music program. This music program includes nearly 40 years of ringing English Handbells in worship. The handbell program has grown from 2 octaves of bells in 1978 to the current 5 octaves of bells. The church added the 3rd octave in 1981 with memorials in the name of Sybil Royer, and the 4th octave in 1994 in memorium of Pearl Sager. The 5th octave was a gift in 1999 from Margaret Wadleigh. During this time Los Altos UMC also received a gift of 2 octaves of hand chimes from Mary Bush. Over time we have purchased the 3rd, 4th, and 5th octaves of chimes by playing programs off campus and through donations received hosting coffee on the porch. The combined set of English Handbells and Handchimes is among the largest in Southern California!

Throughout the years Los Altos UMC has had several bell choirs ranging from adults to children. We currently have the Carillon Ringers as the primary bell choir with adults and experienced youth ringers. Jubilation! is our beginning bell choir for children. Our young ringers learn to praise God with musical instruments, develop worship leadership skills by providing music in worship, learn how to read music, and enjoy the fellowship of being part of a team of ringers. Los Altos UMC is also blessed to have the talented youth & young adult advanced level small ensemble, Exultation! The members of Exultation! have all been nurtured by the music programs here at Los Altos UMC and share musical offerings occasionally. Exultation! and the Carillon Ringers provide outreach ministry by bringing music to outside groups and congregations. The handbell choirs are looking for volunteers of all ages to take up bells and keep this legacy alive. It is time to revitalize our children’s bell choir and prepare our next generation of ringers.

Director of Handbell Ensembles, Debbie Shaw, is a 3rd generation church musician and brings 39 years of handbell ringing and directing experience to Los Altos UMC. Debbie is also a 25 year member of the Handbell Musicians of America, and has served on the Board of Directors of Area 12 as both Regional Coordinator and Events Director.

The handbell choirs give thanks to the congregation for their continuing support, both spiritually and financially. Your gifts and coffee donations provide vital supplementation to a small budget by funding the replacement of worn out equipment, music, and instrument maintenance. In August the bells received over $2,000.00 in desperately needed repairs and maintenance, plus an additional $1700.00 in warranty work, which was paid for with these supplemental funds. Are you able to financially support our equipment needs? We are in need of rolling cases for the large bells to facilitate moving between the Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall for worship services which will cost about $2,000.00. We also would like to replace our worn and broken mallets with new, superior mallets at a cost of $600.00. Please consider how you might support the long tradition of handbells at Los Altos UMC and feel free to reach out to Debbie Shaw anytime to discuss our handbell ministry at DShaw@LosAltosUMC.org.

September 18, 2016

Los Altos Ministry News

The Homeless Task Force

The Homeless Task Force just wrapped up an exciting summer as we continued our feeding ministry for the hungry and homeless at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in downtown Long Beach. In July, we were joined by members from two of our church Circles, the Women at the Well and the Wesleyanns, as they dedicated their support in memory of Shirley and Michael Hines. The ladies not only funded the entire meal, they also helped prepare and serve it. And what a wonderful meal it was, because they also donated fresh produce from their gardens, which they used to prepare a delicious, homemade tomato sauce for our guests! Guests were also treated to homemade cookies and a made-to-order ice cream sundae as part of the meal. In August, we welcomed the support of the LEADERS (Let's Encourage Awareness Diversity Empathy and Responsibility for Society). This group of young children (ages 5-10) and their parents also provided some great support as the children collected funds to cover the cost of the meal, shopped for the food and supplies, and served as volunteers in preparing and serving the meal. What a joy it was to see the smiles of the children as they helped serve the meal.

For anyone not familiar with our work, we provide a hot meal for the homeless and hungry at St. Luke's on the second Saturday of every month. Attendance for each meal averages between 180-220 hungry people. Meals are funded primarily through generous donations from individuals and groups within the church and each meal costs about $450. We welcome both individuals and groups of volunteers to help us prepare and serve the meal every month. We meet at 9 am at St. Luke's to start our preparations; we enjoy fellowship while we work and during the period when the meal is cooking, and we serve the meal promptly at 11:30. Clean-up is generally complete by 12:45.

If you are not available to help on Saturday with the meal, you can still help! We often solicit volunteers to bake cookies or cupcakes. Our guests really enjoy dessert treats! And if you wonder what happens to the leftover pastries from our Sunday morning coffee hour, we serve them to our guests along with a hot cup of coffee. They are usually hungry when we arrive at 9 am, and they enjoy the deluxe pastries.

We also collect small toiletry items, including shampoo, hand cream, and soap provided during your hotel stays; tooth brushes, tooth paste and mouthwash; deodorant, lip balm, new white tube socks, and other small personal items. There is a box located in the church office where you can drop off your donations. Rather than collect these items for distribution at Christmas, we now collect them throughout the year and distribute them when we have sufficient numbers to provide for each guest.

We generally have a table after each service for two Sundays preceding the monthly meal where you can donate, volunteer or get more information. Or, you can contact Donna Drukker at (562) 431-0006, or Susan McVay, at (562) 421-1272 for information. We hope to see you soon. 

September 4, 2016

Los Altos Ministry News

Rev. Paul Jeffrey Missionary and Photo Journalist

LAUMC, through the Missions Commission, has maintained a support relationship with Rev. Jeffrey for several years. He has spoken at LAUMC several times in the past to very enthusiastic audiences. Much of the following is both an introduction and reminder about the person we are supporting.

From the General Board of Global Ministries:

The Rev. Paul Jeffrey is a missionary documenting the work of the church around the world as senior correspondent for “Response”, the magazine of United Methodist Women, and as a media specialist for Action by Churches Together (the ACT Alliance), a Geneva-based global alliance of churches and church agencies responding to emergencies. He has filed stories from more than 70 countries around the world, writing about everything from hurricanes to healthcare, massacres to indigenous rights, refugees to ecumenism in the course of his work.

A condensed version of an April 2016 letter to Paul’s support churches recounts some of his missions. His articles are supported with outstanding photography:

Every morning, as her son prepares to leave for preschool, the mother of 4-year old Luis Firas takes a stick of oil and makes the sign of the cross on his forehead. Blessing is important for this Christian family, which fled from Mosul during the 2014 takeover of the area by ISIS, and today–like tens of thousands of other displaced–lives in a small modular temporary shelter in Erbil, a town in northern Iraq controlled by Kurds. As I photographed their morning ritual three weeks ago, Luis grabbed the stick and marked a cross on his mother's forehead, also blessing her. He then turned to me, the stranger with a camera, and motioned to my forehead. I bent forward and he marked me with the sign of the cross. Besides the trip to Irag, in recent months I have gone to Nepal to document the work of the church there, including the process of reconstruction after the massive earthquake a year ago, and I spent some time in Bolivia and Argentina documenting issues around climate change and how Latin Americans are wrestling with their political memory. I also spent several days in Texas documenting the work that churches are doing to provide a welcome to women and children who’ve been released from detention after seeking political asylum in the United States.

Rev. Jeffrey will visit LAUMC on Monday, October 10. There will be a dinner with Paul followed by a presentation. His comments and supporting photography are always outstanding.

August 28, 2016

Ministry Letter

The ESL Breakfast Club: Thanks and Welcome

The ESL Breakfast Club began in July of 2013, inspired by UMC Resolution 3281 urging us to welcome the strangers in our midst. Its mission is to bring together people of substantially different backgrounds, located in different parts of the City of Long Beach, to learn to appreciate each other’s talents and contributions. We recruit fluent English-speaking volunteers to serve as one-on-one ESL tutors. Our students are parents, predominantly Latino, who want to improve their English primarily to communicate with their school-age children learning in English-based programs.

Since its inception in July 2013, the ESL Breakfast Club has marshalled the services of more than 45 volunteers to tutor approximately 50 students and has a waiting list of numerous Latino mothers and fathers living in the area surrounding the Neighborhood Church in downtown Long Beach. We have provided eight rounds of seven to ten week classes; conducted 14 days of tutor orientation; taken three field trips with students; organized eight culminating celebrations; provided 64 days of free breakfasts (about 2,650 meals) and 64 days (about 120 hours) of free childcare. Average class size is 12-15 students, tutored by the same number of tutors. Thanks to the extravagant generosity of church members like you and LAUMC Foundation grants, services are offered free of charge.

More than the statistics cited above, the ESL Breakfast Club has impacted tutors and students profoundly. From the mother who is for the first time communicating in English with her son, identified as autistic, to the tutor who has finally found something meaningful to do in retirement, both students and teachers consistently give testimony to its lasting impact on the heart and mind.

We are now recruiting English-speaking volunteers of all ages to serve as tutors Tuesday mornings, from 9:30 until 11 a.m., beginning October 11 and finishing December 13. You need not have a teaching background, and it is usually easier if you do NOT speak Spanish. Orientation is provided Tuesdays, September 6 and 13 at LAUMC, from 9:30 until 11:30 a.m. If you are unsure this is for you, come to Orientation and decide for yourself. You will find that this work is about much more than simply teaching English.

Contact Jane Wilson Barboza, telephone (562) 485-8344; e-mail janewbarboza@gmail.com for more information or to volunteer!

August 21, 2016

Pastor Letter


More than 50 years ago it was decided to form a Sunday morning Bible class for adult men and women. Two classes were formed; one for the “more senior” group and they met in the Chapel. The younger adults met in the classroom located over the church office. We had a great opportunity to not only study the Bible together, but also to share with each other our own thoughts about each topic.

The leaders would vary as we changed subjects. As time passed, Wes Neal was one who left an impression with the group and for many years it was listed under his name, the Wes Neal Sunday School class. Over the years we used study books put out by the conference, but with such good leadership and everyone sharing we often strayed from the subject.

In time as the older group dwindled our younger group joined them in the Chapel and today we still gather there each Sunday for our lesson. What a wonderful group of people we currently have; all ages, men and women.

The leadership still is shared and has always been outstanding. We meet at 9:30 am and for an hour we study and discuss the subject decided upon. We have gone through studying of many books of the Bible. Led by Karen and Bruce Thompson, one of the favorites was the Book of John.

Our current mission is to discuss what the word Forgiveness means to us as individuals and as a church. The study leader comes from within our group and this time Mike Eames has taken it on. We have a purpose in what we do and say in order to learn more about our faith and beliefs.

We welcome all people to our group – as Pastor Mark entreats: Open Hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds. Come join us, we will welcome you with open minds and open arms.

August 14, 2016

Pastor Letter

Director of Caring Ministries - Florence A. Barker Ferguson

Florence was raised in the small town of Paw Paw, Michigan and belonged to the First Presbyterian church. While in high school she became an active member of the local Methodist youth group. She participated in many activities and helped fund raise for the summer youth trip at the Redbird Mission in Kentucky. (Currently one of the missions that has products at our own Alternative Christmas Fair.) Florence graduated from Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She has thirty years of experience with diverse populations such as: The Greystone Foundation (group homes for adult severely autistic men ages 35-60), The Beacon Hill Friends House (summer Manager for an Intentional Quaker Community), Crotched Mountain Rehabilatation Center (formerly known as the New Hampshire School for the Deaf), The Menninger Foundation (Psychiatric Hospital and School), Willoughby Group Home (for severely autistic teenagers), Kennedy Memorial Children’s Hospital (as a Inpatient Mileau Counselor for 2-9 year old emotionally and physically abused children ), and Department of Aging/Senior Care (working with at-home seniors placing services in the home and later as a Supervisor for the Case Managers). At night she also pursued a Masters degree in Organizational Communication. During the weekends she square danced at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she met her husband, Douglas E. Ferguson. Now they live in Cypress, California and have two daughters . Schylar, 20, is junior at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas and Landry, 17, is a senior at Connections Academy High School. Over the years Florence has taught Sunday school, been the Director of Vacation Bible School and been a Girl Scout Leader for Daisies, Brownies, Junior, Cadets, and Senior Girl Scouts. In her free time she likes to read, do crafts, swim and knit/crochet.

As Director of Caring Ministries she oversees the five small group caring ministries of our Los Altos UMC family. Florence visits our home bound and hospitalized members. She also delivers donated chancel flowers when they are available.

Caring Cards: Small group that writes cards of hope, faith, and Christian love to our home bound members and visitors to our church.

Caring Visitors: Small group that performs their ministry by visiting our home bound and sick members and providing encouragement, and spiritual community.

Prayer Quilts: Small group that meets monthly and sews quilts to be blessed by our congregation and distributed to anyone who is ill, has suffered a loss or is in the midst of crisis.

Prayer Shawls: Small group that meets monthly and knits or crochets shawls to be blessed by our congregation and distributed to anyone who is ill, has suffered a loss or is in the midst of crisis.

Prayer Team: Small group that organizes the prayer requests received each Sunday and daily via the church office and church website. They share the requests and pray daily.

August 7, 2016

Pastor Letter

Sabrina Moreau, Director of Family Ministries, has been a member at Los Altos UMC since 2001. In 2003 she and her husband, Don, were married by Rev. Jerry Larsen. Their daughter, Hannah, was baptized at Los Altos in 2009 as was Don in 2013. They currently live in Cypress along with their two cats, Abby and Celery, and their beloved Cockapoo, Daisy.

Sabrina took on an active role in the church as a member of the preschool council while Hannah was in attendance at Los Altos United Methodist Preschool. Shortly after, she became part of the Everyone’s Inn team and took on the role of Welcome Team leader. Most recently she has shared the role of small group leader with her husband Don for the older high school students. Being a small group leader has been one of the most rewarding ministries God has called her to at Los Altos.

Sabrina holds an AA in Liberal Arts from Long Beach City College. After 13 years in the transportation industry, Sabrina felt called to return to school. She has completed transfer courses and will be attending Cal State Long Beach with a major in Religious Studies, Comparative World Religions. In her down time Sabrina enjoys reading, baking, and spending time with family and friends.

As Director of Family Ministries Sabrina is looking forward to where the Spirit leads her in ministry at LAUMC. Her goal is to honor and continue the work Liz and Pastor Melinda have done in creating a safe, welcoming and loving environment for all who come to Los Altos.

July 31, 2016

Dear Los Altos UMC Family,

Greetings in peace, with gratitude for our time in ministry and witness together. The retirement celebration the church family hosted for Trish and me on June 26th was a memorable occasion, and I want to express my appreciation for all those who attended and hosted. The generosity of prayers and gifts was truly humbling.

We want to thank all who participated, contributed and held us in prayer in their absence. For the hours of service and caring preparation, we particularly want to thank Marnos Lelesi and Jennifer Garcia-Von Ranzow for their coordinating efforts. We appreciate the work of hosting and planning shared by Cynthia Clark, Sharon Huddleston, Carolyn McGowan, Becky Low, Michael Naylor, Emilio Tello, Laura Harrison, Christie Kahler, Jon Shearer and a host of volunteers.

We know you will offer as extravagant a welcome to Reverand Mark Sturgess as he steps in to pastoral leadership. I also want to include a shout out to Reverand Sturgess for his pastoral visit with me in the hospital. Thanks for your kind presence. We send blessings on the amazing journey ahead.

With grateful hearts,

Mark and Trish Ulrickson

July 17, 2016

Pastor Letter


Rev. Melinda Teter Dodge, Ordained Elder, United Methodist Church. Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries. With a passion for Christian ministry to the diverse portrait of young people and families throughout God’s world, Melinda serves the Los Altos United Methodist Church community with a wealth of professional ministerial and non-profit experience and academic scholarship. She has served Los Altos UMC under appointment since July 2011. Melinda has worked directly with young people in a variety of settings throughout her life, most formatively in the church and in the theatre.

Previous to her appointment at Los Altos UMC, Pastor Melinda served as the founding Executive Director for The Work of Angels Group, a 501(c)3 serving transitional-aged foster youth; the Community Youth Pastor for the First United Methodist Church of Canoga Park and the Director of Youth Ministries for the Atascadero United Methodist Church. She has also worked in theatre and opera production on all sides: administrative, productive and technical. She has experience onstage with the Los Angeles Opera, San Francisco Opera and Houston Grand Opera, among others, producing well over 350 performances of some 70+ operas.

Pastor Melinda holds a Master of Divinity from the Claremont School of Theology where she was honored with the Hoyt Hickman Award for Worship and Liturgics. She also holds a Master of Arts in Theatre from the University of Michigan. She resides in Long Beach with her husband, the Rev. Johan Dodge, and two young children. In her free time, Pastor Melinda enjoys reading, yoga, good coffee, traveling, baking and gardening. And goats.