DECEMBER 10, 2023


All livestreamed services can be found at our website: or on Facebook at: Holy Cross United Methodist Church.

MERCY PEDALERS will be collecting $5 and $10 fast food restaurant gift cards to give to homeless men and women in North Stockton for Christmas.  It is another way to acknowledge them as God's children and show kindness and concern no matter what their circumstances.  You can donate through our church website designating Mercy Pedalers - gift cards or drop your donation in the stocking hanging in the social hall.  Please consider donating at this Christmas season. Thank you, Rita Steele

Our 2024 Stewardship letters have been mailed out.  Please turn in your stewardship cards to the office or in the offering plate so we can plan our church budget for 2024. Thank you! 

EMERGENCY FOOD BANK: Feel free to donate any of the items on the list for Food Drives for the rest of 2023:  December – Soup

Christmas gifts for the Pastor & Staff We are collecting donations for gifts for Pastor Tevita and the church staff.  If you would like to contribute, please place your donation in the offering plate marked “staff gift” (Checks need to be made out to Holy Cross UMC) or on the website under the “donate” tab and then click “Staff gift”.  You can also give it to Ken Steele, Ken Sloan, Mele Tongaofa, or Lurlyne Latukefu. Last day to collect will be on Wednesday, December 20th. Thank you,  Staff Parish

 Poinsettias for Christmas We are offering the opportunity for families or individuals to provide donations for poinsettias for our Christmas services. A complete listing of the donors and recipients of the plants will be appearing in the bulletin on 12/24.  Donations must be made no later than Sunday, 12/12.Your donation of $15 (fifteen dollars) will help decorate our  church altar for our Christmas services.  



The Upper Room Disciplines 2024  We are again ordering the Upper Room Disciplines for 2024. If you are interested in a copy, please respond to this email, or call the church office at 209-472-2177. 

Pricing:    Regular print    $15      Large print       $17

About the Disciplines: For over 50 years, The Upper Room Disciplines has spiritually nurtured individuals to center their hearts and minds on God. Based on the Revised Common Lectionary, this inspiring devotional provides an opportunity to look more deeply at Scripture and become rooted in the teachings of God. Throughout the year, 53 different Christian thought leaders from diverse traditions will help you engage with God's Word through daily prayers, Scripture readings, and meditations. Features "A Guide to Daily Prayer" and an index of biblical passages.

Our December Communion Offering Helps Support the Bugembe Women’s Resource Centre

Some Ugandans I Know by Diane Morgali


When I think of Uganda, visions of the beautiful, rolling hillsides and rich farmland roll before my eyes, but I also can see tiny, impoverished enclaves and metropolitan areas jam-packed with vehicles and people darting across streets and generally taking care of business, which for most means scratching out enough of a living to feed themselves and their children. 


Over the course of my 10 visits to the community of Bugembe in southeast Uganda, I’ve come to know many people, some of them like family to me.  I’d like to introduce you to just a few. 


Nelly Kibenzire: Nelly died this year, in part as a result of the abuse she received when bandits broke into the Bugembe Women’s Resource Centre compound in the middle of the night, demanding money, computers, and cell phones. 


Nelly, along with her daughter Hope Nabirye, guided the development and the daily operations of the Bugembe Women’s Resource Centre, the non-profit (registered with the Ugandan government) organization we at Holy Cross have been partnered with since it was just a dream for all of us.


Operating the Centre in the aftermath of this terrible assault and Nelly’s death has been challenging, but Hope, even with her infant son JJ to care for and facing the loss of her mother has managed to continue to help the Centre to develop programs which address the very real problems of domestic violence and sexual assault, in part by working to build strong relationships with community leaders throughout the area. Nelly was a no-nonsense woman in her sixties who was abandoned by her husband when Hope was very young.  Nelly never gave up and is among the people I admire the most.  Hope is smart, smart, smart and ever ready to learn more.  Nelly and Hope formed a formidable team. Hope has a master’s degree in aquaculture (fish farming) but feels her real calling is to help improve the lives of Uganda’s girls and women.  Now Hope is carrying on this important work without Nelly and needs our support. 


Margaret Kakaire: Many at Holy Cross will remember Margaret from her visits with us, the most recent in March and April of this year.   She has been the guest house manager for AIDS Orphan Education Trust for years, and many of us can attest that she also is a wonderful cook and adept at catering to American tastes. Margaret was forced by her mother to marry when she was 15, had her first child at 16, raised 10 children, and was widowed when her youngest child was five.  She has become a community leader and activist and is a leader on the Board of the Women’s Centre. Margaret considers me one of her mamas!


Zaina: Zaina is the youngest daughter of Margaret. Jim and I had the privilege of paying for Zaina’s university education, where she prepared herself to be a registered nurse.  She now works developing health protocols at a major hospital in the southwest hills of Uganda and is studying for a master’s degree in public health. 


These are just four of the people I have come to know well and consider family.  If you want to hear about others, you always can ask me. I love to tell people about the wonderful people I have come to know in Uganda.

The Bugembe Women’s Centre is Doing Vital Work, Please Give Generously




April 13, 2023 | by JB Brayfindley

     Camping in tents on the church lawn is not typical at Holy Cross UMC in Stockton but it was expected of Tongan families over the Easter weekend as part of observing Holy Week. Nearly 200 campers including children, teens, parents, and grandparents flocked to the church building bringing camping equipment in tow to spend time on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and/or Sunday teaching and learning about the meaning of Easter. It’s called “Easter Camp.”

     Eighteen tents were spread out around the church campus alongside various buildings on grassy patches and cement. Those not staying in tents outside, slept inside. During the long weekend, children could be seen playing games in the parking lot, along with a dog lying in the sun next to families sharing food and conversation inside the fenced, covered patio.

     “Camp is a particular time that we are teaching the children to learn what is important,” states Rev. Dr. Tevita Vaikona, associate pastor leading the Tongan Language ministry at Holy Cross. “Easter camp is like a school where the heart of the camp is the meaning of Easter.”

     “The original idea is to teach the meaning of Easter by telling the historical event, the story, and also the meaning, the application…” states Vaikona. During the weekend, there are bible study and discussion groups culminating in a presentation of skits revolving around the Easter theme. The use of words as well as imagery through dramatic arts are important aspects of teaching to Vaikona. “We teach from different perspectives—through the ministry of word and the ministry of image. Image, where the young people act, like, put on skits; and in the ministry of word, so we can explain it to them.”

     “The kids couldn’t wait to come,” states Vaikona noting that the event was highly anticipated by both youth and adults. “The pandemic is really helping us get out and meet with people, it’s been really long—two years… and the kids want to get out of the house and also the parents, too!”

     The event is also an opportunity to embody what it means to be community. “This is community, ‘what belongs to you belongs to me and what belongs to me belongs to you,’” explains Vaikona. “Sometimes we want to be in community but don’t understand it--we say, ‘what is mine is mine and what’s yours’ is yours’… but here, we make sure everybody has food, everybody is safe, everybody is involved.”

     “I love the fact that many of our Tongan families will quite literally spend the weekend at Holy Cross, camping out on the lawn from Thursday through Sunday,” states Holy Cross UMC senior pastor Rev. Gary Pope-Sears. “Such devotion exceeds even the original disciples who ran and hid from Friday afternoon until Sunday. Come for the Passion, stay for the Resurrection: that has been the mark of faithful followers of Jesus since the first Easter.”

     Thursday begins with setting up camp, attending church Maundy Thursday worship and gathering around a campfire before bedtime.

    On Friday, students are excused to go to school as adults continue preparing for upcoming activities with more people arriving and setting up more tents. After attending the church Good Friday Service, camp leaders are chosen and assigned roles. The night concludes with an informal greeting and play time.   

     Easter Camp activities begin in earnest on Saturday with a special morning devotional. Next, everyone chooses a Bible verse to memorize. After breakfast, the camp breaks up into small groups by age and are given different questions to discuss. Then, there is a Bible study. Everyone comes together to share the answers to the questions from their small groups. After lunch is free time. Small groups reconvene to create a skit to express their Easter idea. After dinner, each group performs their skit. Music rehearsal time is held to practice for Sunday. Then a devotional and early bedtime.

     Sunday begins with a sunrise service. With more people arriving and after more preparation and lunch, the 2:00 p.m. Tongan Language worship begins with music and dance featuring a youth confirmation service. “After a winter of study and preparation, a number of our youth, eight Tongan and one Pelangi, professed their faith and took their place among us as members of the congregation,” adds Pope-Sears.

     “More than anything, I think the most enjoyable part of Easter camp is just the togetherness,” states Kristine Tutana Latuhoi, one of the youth leaders at the event. “Our congregation members have strong bonds beyond the border of the church building and service schedules. We are all aunties and uncles, and we all share responsibility and love for each other’s children. Just to have some time to spend together outside of a structured service/church setting is so meaningful.”

     “And, from a mother’s point of view, it touches my heart to see my little family as a whole be so involved, happy and occupied in God’s setting instead of the regular temptations we face in our everyday life. Seeing my kids grow in God’s presence through biblical studies and Bible based activities, in a safe setting with other Christians brings me security and peace,” states Latuhoi adding that her third favorite part of the event was “food, food, food.”




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: