Every Sunday:

10:30 am PST English

2:00 pm PST Tongan Language (No Tongan Language service on the 1st Sunday of the month)


DECEMBER 4, 2022

      We have made it through the two major holidays of autumn: Halloween and Thanksgiving. We are now living in increasing anticipation and/or dread of the first holiday of winter: Christmas. The season of Advent has begun, and—due to the date of Christmas falling on a Sunday—we are in the longest Advent possible, beginning last Sunday, November 27, with the Fourth Sunday of Advent coming on December 18th. The fifth Sunday in the season is Christmas, which initiates is its own season: those 12 days of Christmas extend from December 25th through January 5. January 6 marks the beginning of the next season in the Church year: Epiphany. 

     However we schedule it, I suspect that we all have unique and cherished ways of preparing for Christmas and living into the hope that the coming of Christ brings. Over the next few weeks, I am going to share some observations about various traditions we observe in our culture, and invite your responses to some questions I will raise at the end of each of these columns. If you wish to respond to the questions I pose, please email me:

     I want to begin this week with the practices many of us have of sending greetings to others in and around Christmas. When I was a child, we would get cards from relatives and friends throughout December, and my mother would dutifully hang them up on strings in certain parts of our home as sort of a testament to our connection with others.

     If you are like me, the way we do this in our household has changed over the years. For instance, when Sybella and I were starting out, we would buy some Christmas cards and add notes to each, greeting the recipients with a brief memory, a word of appreciation, or something like that. Our mailing list was mostly members of our families.

     Over the years, our mailing list has grown as we have picked up friends along the way from the various churches and communities where we have lived and served. The advent of word processing has meant that the annual card has become a letter, affording the sharing of more information in a clear typeface rather than the scrawl of someone dealing with terminal writer’s cramp. In more recent years, the capacity to add in photos has saved countless paragraphs of description of special trips, new dog, etc.

     The newest wrinkle in the past two years for my effort of sharing what’s been going on in Clan Pope-Sears has been to delegate composition tasks to our offspring, letting them tell their story (and show their faces) in ways that allow their emphasis, not mine. My challenge now is encouraging their compliance to my due date for submissions.

     On the intake side of our ledger, the cards and letters that we receive are lovingly read over a meal, then relegated to a basket for later reference, especially to compare the address we have with the one on their envelope (we are a very mobile society!). We don’t put that basket away too soon either: a couple of our friends are noteworthy for not bothering to send their greetings until after Epiphany has come and gone.

     Sybella has a special way of using certain cards once they’ve been read. For the past dozen or so years, Sybella has sought to send postcards almost daily to a cousin serving time in prison. Greeting cards with no writing on the inside of the front cover can be cut down and used as a postcard quite easily, conveying some seasonal cheer to one who experiences little of said cheer.

     Three questions I would invite you consider regarding this tradition of sending season’s greetings:

1) How do you communicate greetings now, and how has that changed from what you were doing say, 15 years ago?

2) Whose greetings, of those that you receive, really stand out? What makes them so special?

3) Have you used any social media resources to reconnect with those you may have lost track of over the years?

     I would love to hear your response to any or all of the above questions. Please email me: If you send me your thoughts before next Monday, you may see some of them appearing in my follow up to this tradition even as I speak to yet another holiday practice next week.

     O come, let us adore him,

     Pastor Gary






A New Resource to Aid Your Spiritual Walk—Literally

     Holy Cross United Methodist Church consecrated its new labyrinth on Sunday, December 5, 2021.

     The project, which has been in the works for more than two years, is now open to all community members to experience.

     “I've walked these a number of times and you really can get outside of all your stress and strain," Gary Pope-Sears, pastor at Holy Cross United Methodist Church, said.

     Whether seen as something religious or not, labyrinths are well knows to relate to the exploration of meditation, and are often used for rituals or ceremonies, Pope-Sears refers to it as a “spiritual walk.”

     Once just an idea is now a reality come true for the community. The labyrinth is a place for creativity and new ideas to spring, he said.

     The space was blessed by Pope-Sears with anointing oil and with two prayers, one in English and one in Tongan.

     Even though the labyrinth holds similarities to a maze, it shouldn't be confused with one. The labyrinth is supposed to help individuals find peace or find answers for their unanswered questions.

     Click here to read the article in The Record: