Every Sunday:

10:30 am PST English

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


march 26, 2023

     I had planned to continue on with my insights stemming from the book The Walk: Five Essential Practices of the Christian Life, by the Rev. Adam Hamilton but something else has happened that is more vital to the well-being of us as a body of believers to which I need to speak words which will hopefully instruct, inspire, and offer a measure of peace.

     I am speaking of the news which was shared with the Holy Cross family yesterday of the impending departure of the Rev. Dr. Tevita Vaikona to serve as the pastor of the Wayside United Methodist Church in Vallejo, California. Pastor Tevita will begin his service there on July 1, 2023.

     This news came as a shock to all of us, who were expecting Pastor Tevita to become the sole pastor at Holy Cross once I retire at the end of June. When the news was shared with me earlier in the week, I felt like I had been punched in the gut. This changes everything…or perhaps not. The net effect of this pastoral change will be determined primarily by how we remain focused on building up this body of believers, in tandem with whoever is assigned here.

     I want to share with you what I know of the appointment system in the hope that it encourages you. The congregations in most denominations obtain their pastors through what it known as the “call” system. When a church needs a new pastor, they come to clarity about their needs, contact the home office of the denomination and make their needs known. In time, possible pastors are put in contact with the church and there are interviews, visitations, and other activities which help both sides sense whether this would be a good working relationship. Eventually, the church issues a “call” to its preferred candidate, who may accept it or not. When it is accepted, details are worked out and that pastor begins serving in that congregation on an open-ended basis. Many called pastors remain for many years.

     The United Methodist system is quite different. Each December, the Staff-Parish Relations Committee completes a form in which they either request their current pastor to return, or ask that the pastor be moved. At the same time the pastor completes a form in which he/she can request to stay or go. Generally, when a church wants the pastor to remain, and the pastor wishes to remain, the pastor remains. That said, there is a third party who participates in—indeed owns—the process: the bishop. The bishop—aided by district superintendents—is responsible to appoint all the pastors in the Annual Conference every year. As such, they sometimes discern the need to move a contented pastor to a church which needs that pastor’s skills and capabilities.

     In 2012, I was serving Epworth UMC in Fallon, Nevada and quite content to do so. The pastor at the Sparks UMC in Sparks, Nevada became disabled to the point that he needed to be replaced. They saw fit to ask me to move to Sparks and take over, which I did. This unexpected upheaval had much the same effect among my parishioners in Fallon as Pastor Tevita’s appointment to Vallejo is having among us now.

     I have learned to trust the appointment system across 42 years of service in a total of 7 congregations. I believe each appointment has been good for the church to which I have been sent; I know I have been enriched by serving in those places. I am familiar with our current bishop and several of the superintendents: all are faithful servants of Christ.

     As I indicated earlier, the most important factor determining a pastor’s effectiveness in a situation is when they are met by a body of believers who look forward to working together to know Christ, and to make Christ known. There is certainly grief when a beloved pastor departs, and many questions when a new pastor arrives. If you fine folks of Holy Cross celebrate the ministries of we who are leaving as we go, and then greet with holy expectation the gifts and graces of the new pastor who arrives—you will do well. I know that doing so will neither be easy nor painless; I also know that it will be worth the dedication you offer to the transitional process.

     No system created by humans is ever flawless. I believe that God can use all that we offer into his care, and bring faithfulness out of it. As we commit to working together to serve God’s people in our church and beyond it—God will honor our efforts and bring us closer to him and one another. Those are high goals: let’s pursue them together.

     Yours for Christ,

     Pastor Gary

P.S. If you would like to share with me your feelings, frustrations, or fears, feel free. I will be away on vacation, yet responsive via email: If you prefer to discuss things face-to-face, I’ll be back in the church office on Thursday, March 30.





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: