UNITED CHURCH OF THE VALLEY
There’s a fresh wind blowing in the Murrieta/Temecula Valley. It is the wind of openness and inclusiveness, the fresh breeze of a community built upon an affirmation approach to life which respects the customs and integrity of all persons. This fresh wind is called United Church of the Valley. This church comes from a tradition of calling and gathering God’s people to respond to the world with new eyes and new hearts. It is a church of vision and involvement. We unashamedly work hand in hand with our God to dismantle the fences which have been erected between people. We follow God’s vision of a just world where all will live peacefully, growing in their concern for each other.
What Does "All Are Welcome" Really Mean?
I have been in discussion over the past week or so with many friends from our little church about the word “welcome.” What do we mean as a church when we say, “All Are Welcome?” It’s a good question because I imagine most churches say, “All Are Welcome,” and they mean it, but I think it might mean different things to different congregations. In our congregation I think the meaning is found in our public covenant of “Open and Affirming (ONA).” This is a designation that we voted on many years ago and re-confirmed just last Sunday. On the UCC website ONA is defined this way:
“Open and Affirming (ONA) is the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the UCC which make a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.”
In another article on the UCC website I found this statement which further clarified for me what our welcome means.
‘All Are Welcome’ isn’t enough
“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of faith often experience emotional and spiritual injury in churches that condemn their capacity to love and seek love. Because they’ve learned that “All Are Welcome” usually doesn’t apply to them, they can’t assume that any church will be safe for them and their families.”
After the many conversations I’ve had with friends throughout this week and especially after hearing Stephanie’s sermon last Sunday, this statement reads loud and clear to me. Interestingly, I (a straight, middle-class, white guy) also feel welcome by our ONA statement. This is a community I want to be part of. This is where I want to be.
When we invite people to participate in our church we should lead with this welcome. We should clarify what we mean by “All Are Welcome.” This way, we are welcoming them honestly and genuinely while also preserving our community as a place where people who are otherwise marginalized know they have a home.
*Taken from Jamie Barnett's article in Moderator Monday
How We Minister
At United Church of the Valley we don't utilize a full time minister, but rather a rotating group of ministers who are creative thinkers. During the course of a month you might see the Rev. Sharon Graff, Rev. Stephanie Toon, Lee Eddy, Sandy Selby or Darcie Dunlop behind the pulpit. We enjoy a different approach as seen through a different pair of eyes each week. Not only does it keep us on our toes, but it keeps our minds fresh and open to new ideas and a new way of seeing that, which we have looked at the same way for years.
July 10th - Dr. Sarah Halverson-Cano
The Rev. Dr. Sarah Halverson-Cano has been the pastor at Fairview Community Church, a congregation of both the American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ since 2006. The church is proudly progressive in conservative Orange County. With a strong ministry of social justice, Sarah works in the community with low wage workers, on immigration, the LGBT community, and issues that affect her city and the broader county. She received her BA in religion and English literature at Chapman University, worked on a PhD in the New Testament at Claremont Graduate University before choosing to go to seminary for her masters of divinity at Claremont School of Theology. She served as the Pastor of Children and Families Ministries at United Church of the Valley after graduating seminary, an experience that brought her great joy and deep connection. She later received her doctorate from Chicago Theological Seminary. She has served on the board of the Southern California ACLU, Progressive Christians Uniting, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, and is currently the president of the Newport-Mesa-Irvine Interfaith Council. LA Time columnist Steve Lopez said she’s a pastor who “practices what she preaches” and OC Weekly named her “Best Holy Person in Orange County.” She has been honored by the Council of American Islamic Relations, the Orange County Labor Federation, OC Women For, the Orange County Human Relations, and was most recently named Claremont School of Theology’s 2020 Distinguished Alumna. She and her partner in life, Markyce Halverson-Cano, met on a church mission trip in Guatemala. The light of their lives is their daughter, Mollie and their son, Micah.
A new service is available every Sunday morning
UCV is a family friendly congregation, we offer a kids ministry where the children join us for the first few minutes and then go with an adult and a teen to a separate room right near the congregation for church school. If you would rather the children stay in church, that is fine too, we love to hear their voices. For more detailed information on our Children's Ministry click on the button below.
Click the "Read More" button to read the latest update from Rev. Jennifer Zechlin.