Due to the quickly increasing number of new Covid infections with the new variant of the virus, we have decided to cancel IN-PERSON worship for the month of January.  

We will decide closer to the end of January how we will proceed into February.  

Help us spread the word! 

Click link below for live stream on Sunday at 10:30 AM Pacific Standard Time


Thank you for joining us for online worship! 


JanUARY 23, 2022

     First and foremost: PRAY FOR TONGA!!! Pray for the safety and welfare of all residents of the Tongan Islands, and for peace for the people waiting here to hear from their family there. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.

     Now that we have prayed, I will speak to other things

     There is an old joke about a pastor dropping in on a parish family. The mother greets the pastor at the door and—wanting to make a good impression—turns to her son and asks him to go get the book they love so much. He returns with the TV Guide.

     About five feet away from where I sit, I have a four-sided rotating book carousel which houses many of my Bibles, around 40 of them in varying sizes, shapes, descriptions, translations, even languages. I’m sort of a Bible junkie, which—given my vocation—is not a bad thing.

     That said, a week ago I was attending a meeting of interfaith leaders. We met—appropriately spaced outside—at Temple Israel at the generous invitation of Rabbi Jason Gwasdoff. While we were there he was kind enough to invite us into the sanctuary and even up onto the bema, the raised portion of the room from whence worship is lead by the Rabbi, cantor, and others. He opened the ark and brought out one of the scrolls, unrolled it and pointed out the section of Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy in our Bible) to be read that following Sabbath. What they read, now last Friday, was the song of Miriam, a celebration of being brought safely through the Red Sea ahead of the ill-fated army of Pharaoh. The Hebrew letters were spaced in a unique way, setting the song off from the rest of the text. If you have never seen a Torah scroll they are a magnificent work of flawless calligraphy, prepared by hand by an authorized scribe and—with proper care—usable by a synagogue for centuries.

     I just checked and there are Torah phone apps, just like there are many, many Bible apps, available for use by the faithful. Still and all, I get the sense from the Jewish friends I’ve had that reading the Torah is a more intentional and savored act than is Bible reading by many Christians. I fear too often we take its presence for granted and, as a result, tend to diminish or devalue the worth of what we hold in our hand: the Word of God.

     The gospel lesson this Sunday (Luke 4:14-21) depicts Jesus reading from the holy text of Isaiah, then preaching on that text in a way that both thrills and threatens the people there in Nazareth. For better or worse they were affected by Jesus’ reading and interpretation. Honestly, that is what scripture should do for us: it should elicit a response from us.

     If you have ever engaged in the practice of lectio divina (divine reading), then you have known the value that can come from looking slowly and intensely at a passage from the Bible, even a very short passage. I once heard a pastor say that what was important was not that we get all the way through Scripture, but that Scripture get all the way through us.

     My encouragement is that you and I take time each day to focus on a passage or two out of the Bible (may I recommend the daily readings I set forth in the weekly worship bulletin?) and spend some time with that passage: reading it more than once, perhaps in more than one translation. Give it the needful time and space to allow it to speak to you in a deep way.

     The first day of my seminary training, another student gave me a guideline for public reading of Scripture which I think applies here too: he said that we should read the Bible like drinking a glass of fine wine—we should savor it. I need to be reminded of that from time to time—perhaps you do too. As we slow down and drink more deeply, I am confident that the God of the Universe will speak to us, right where we are.

May your study be blessed,

Pastor Gary




Order free at-home Covid tests

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Residential households in the U.S. can order one set of 4 free at-home tests from 

Here’s what you need to know about your order:

Limit of one order per residential address

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     Children’s Worship is back as “Children’s Worship with Mort ’n Friends” and YOU are the friends! We could not have done this without YOU. We are excited to again offer this online worship for kids of all ages!

     HERE is the LINK on YouTube unlisted video:

     Children's Worship is a free innovative online worship experience for children everywhere. The production is now a collaborative effort sponsored by the United Methodist Churches of the Sacramento Pentecost and Resurrection Circuits. The 15-20 minutes includes music, faith-based messages and special friends to meet--including a puppet called “Mort” ... video clips come from around our church family in Northern California and Nevada.

     The series started May 31, 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and stopped at the end of July 2021 (after 61 episodes) BUT due to the increase in Delta-variant cases, has started again for those children who cannot attend in-person church yet as well as for everyone else--young and old!



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:


     The state of California has completely reopened with most restrictions reduced or eliminated with some remaining guidelines for face coverings in public areas.

However, the county of San Joaquin

  • Currently has less than 40% of its population fully vaccinated,
  • Has a Covid case rate that is much higher than the state case rate.

For those reasons, at Holy Cross UMC when we gather in-person.

For INDOOR services, events, or meetings we will:

  • Continue to wear a face mask or a full-face shield. Persons leading worship from a distance of 10 feet will be exempt from wearing a face covering.
  • Allow congregational singing!
  • If vaccinated: with a mask or full-face shield in place,
  • If not yet vaccinated: please refrain from singing in the presence of others.
  • Enter and exit from the front door.
  • Eliminate one-way travel to and from the restrooms.

Click on the file for the FULL description of our policies!