Anaheim United Methodist Church

from Pastor James



By
 



Who Is My Neighbor?

May 22, 2017


It’s been about three years, believe it or not, since my family and I were appointed to Anaheim UMC! From the beginning, this church’s leaders and I have spoken a good amount about how our church can best reach out to our rapidly changing neighborhood.

 

Remarkably though, over just the past several weeks, people from our neighborhood have reached out to us!

 

First, a professor from Chapman University, Marisa Cianciarulo, who is also the mother of two children from our Childtime Preschool, approached me about holding an educational seminar for our community. Professor Cianciarulo specializes in educating immigrants about the laws that affect them, and how best to navigate any legal challenges they may face. We were pleased to make space available for her to provide this vital forum for neighbors who may feel safer learning this information on the campus of our church.

 

Next, a young woman named Irene Arellano visited our office on behalf of CLUE (Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice). This remarkable young woman who studied international labor law at Penn State had a great deal to teach me about the real needs of laborers, both locally and globally.

 

Finally, a young reporter named Gabriel from the OC Weekly asked if he might conduct an interview with me regarding the recent UM Judicial Council ruling about Bishop Karen Oliveto, United Methodism’s first openly gay bishop. I was greatly impressed by Gabriel’s skills and balanced approach to the interview.

 

For nearly three years of ministry here, I have wondered how this church and I might relate to our evolving community and shifting demographics. Suddenly, in these three conversations with neighbors, God has shown me what depth of talent and intelligence I will discover in my Latino neighbors as soon as we sit down and talk together. I greatly look forward to meeting, along with you, many other new neighbors in Jesus’ name.

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor James Dollins



Family Matters
May 8, 2017

At times, when the Christian church experiences tensions or rifts, we might find comfort in the knowledge that these aches and pains are nothing new.

Since Christians began assembling nearly 2,000 years ago, the church has had to talk through challenging differences. Just this past week in our Disciple Bible Study, we discussed how the church in Galatia was rife with tension and dissent. When we think about it, its natural for any living body, including the Body of Christ, to feel occasional discomfort and stress.

At present, our national and global body of the United Methodist Church is feeling strained and pulled in different directions. At the end of April, the UM Judicial Council reviewed the legality of the consecration of Bishop Karen Oliveto, Methodisms first openly gay bishop.

The Council ruled that her consecration was out of compliance with UM church law. This felt like a defeat for those of us who hoped Bishop Olivetos leadership would represent a new step toward justice and inclusion. It is unclear, however, whether Bishop Oliveto will be removed from her office or whether she will remain bishop of the Mountain Sky region (Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming).

The legalities of this case are complicated and frustratingly vague to me. What has become most clear is that the greater United Methodist Church has many family conversations ahead of us as we pursue unity in Christs name.

Meanwhile, in 2019, we expect to hear from The Way Forward Commission, a group of laypersons, clergy, and bishops tasked with keeping Methodists united, even amidst the diversity of our world-wide body.

Let us keep one another and these truth-seeking leaders in our prayers. May God grant reconciliation and humility where we now see division and hardness of heart. And may we focus above all on the grace of Christ which unites us and which will always be greater than any of our differences.

Gods Peace,

Pastor James Dollins


Comforting Those Who Grieve
April 24, 2017

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).


From time to time in the life of the church, we find ourselves speaking to someone whose problems simply seem too heavy to bear. In moments like those we may discover, all of a sudden, that we have no idea what to say or not to say.

 

I’d like to share some helpful guidelines for what is most helpful or least helpful to say to our friends when they are hurting.

 

The best words are those that offer unconditional love and do not require much of a response. For example:

~  I’m praying for you.?

~  I love you.?

~  Is there any way at all that I can help you?

 

Such phrases can be answered with a simple “Thank you,” or “No, but thank you very much.”

 

Questions that are less helpful and might even amplify a friend’s grief:

~  How are you feeling?

~  How are you doing??

~  How is everything going?

 

Even though these last three sound like loving questions, they also can open a conversation that is much bigger and more painful than we anticipated. They are especially difficult to handle in a brief “Hello” encounter between church services or in the parking lot. These questions may best be reserved for a close friend to ask in a quiet, safe space with plenty of time for tears, hugs and prayer.

 

What a blessing it is to be surrounded by loving, prayerful friends at AUMC who seek to offer love with all the right words when we need to be comforted more than ever.

 

God’s Peace,

Pastor James Dollins

 


Easter  ~  2017

 At Easter, the mystery and miracle of Jesus’ resurrection reminds us to set our sights on life-giving things.  Jesus’ disciples were called to look up from the tomb to discover Jesus’ presence, unmistakably alive and with them still.

 

In order to live lives shaped by Easter, we must look up from the lifeless things which command so much of our attention each day.  To help us meditate on what this means for each of us, I wrote the following poem:

 

    Eye for Easter

 

    Not in a TV show, carefully scripted,

    Not in regrets for mistakes of the past,

    Not in possessions, purchased or gifted,

    Not in desires for the things that can’t last,

 

    Only in love shared with joy and with laughter,

    Only in life, if we have eyes to see,

    Only in friendships enduring long after

    All else has vanished.  Then we will see:

 

    The person God means each one of us to be,

    And the world God intends all creation to be.

 

So much of what we discover in life will depend on what we are looking for.  Let us look together for the Risen Lord, alive and active in our church and in our world.

 

I look forward to sharing with you in this sacred and life giving Easter season.

 

Blessings and Peace,

Rev. James Dollins



Two Ears, One Mouth

 March 27, 2017


The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans. 8:26)

 

It’s been said that God has given us a clear indication of how we should communicate by giving us two ears and one mouth. This might just be a great clue from our Creator that we are intended to listen twice as much as we speak!

 

We don’t generally live this way, do we? While a friend speaks, we plan what we will say next rather than noting their tone of voice, facial expression and body language. Most of us also feel edgy at the first sign of a lull in conversation. Meanwhile, preachers like yours truly are the biggest culprits as we spend disproportionate amounts of time listening to the sound of our own voices in sermons!

 

For these reasons it’s vital that, during the season of Lent, a season of fasting and prayer, we quiet our busy minds and mouths in order to give ourselves a chance to listen carefully to each other and to God.

 

For some reason, our traditional idea of prayer amounts to speaking to God. But many people wisely and humbly confess “I have no idea what to say to God!” The beautiful verse above from Romans reminds us not to worry about that. It may even be better to let God’s Spirit intercede, or say things on our behalf with “sighs too deep for words.”

 

I invite you, and me, during the remainder of Lent to practice a 2 to 1 prayer – two breaths listening for every breath speaking to God. We might just hear something we were deaf to before. We may also be reminded of who we truly are as God’s beloved children, meant to fulfill a unique calling that we need very much to hear.

 

Listening Alongside You,

Pastor James Dollins



Lift Thine Eyes

March 13, 2017

 

I lift my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth”

(Ps. 121:1).

 

The license plate of my mother-in-law, Elinor’s car reads LFTHNIS. It sometimes perplexes drivers around her. The secret meaning is: “Lift Thine Eyes.” It’s a reference to Psalm 121, quoted above. It’s Elinor’s invitation for us all to take-in the beauty of God’s world, even while we’re driving!

 

During this season of Lent, we honestly consider those times in our life when we feel we are lost in the desert. As with anyone walking in that landscape, it’s essential that we look up at surrounding mountains, landmarks, perhaps even to the night stars in order to find our bearings.

 

Often I have found that people who visit our Church Office seeking assistance in times of need have somehow allowed their countenance to fall and their hearts to become discouraged. Material poverty then seems to be a symptom of a downcast spirit and collapsed self-esteem. That person’s most urgent need is encouragement: Lift thine eyes!

 

Recently I spoke on the phone with a woman who mentioned, again and again, that her present plight was a result of mistakes she made in her past. She was so down on herself I felt we should discuss, instead, how much she must have learned from those same decisions. With this in mind, it may not be necessary to condemn all those past choices as “mistakes.”

 

So often the depressed conditions of our lives seem to stem from the downcast perspective of our hearts, and a crisis of self-worth. Simple friendship and encouragement of the kind we share every week in our church become powerful antidotes for such an illness. The mind that is overly self-critical suddenly receives different input that reminds a person of their worth as a child of God. This is often the nudge people need to lift their eyes and begin to ascend from their trials.

 

This Lent and always, let us encourage our own hearts, emerge from our deserts and invite others to come with us, lifting our eyes to the mountains, and to the loving God who made them.

 

God’s Peace,

Pastor James Dollins

 


Come to the Desert

 February 27, 2017


“Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness... he fasted forty days and forty nights.”

(Matt. 4:1-2)

 

To get a feeling for the season of Lent, we might recall times of solitude in nature, when the busyness of our world is hushed and we feel closer than ever to God. The simplicity of Lent is like this. It’s like a backpacker’s sensation in the morning when she has gathered every possession and provision in a compact burden on her back.

 

This simplicity which makes room for discovery is the aim of the Lenten season. Granted, we may not have been raised with this understanding. Lent, the season of preparation for Good Friday and Easter, has not always held deep meaning for United Methodists. (Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, was not even observed in some of the churches I’ve served, until I got there).

 

So, for anyone who feels like I have felt, scratching your head as Lent begins, saying, “I don’t get it,” please consider Lent as a time of retreat, listening and self-discovery. Jesus himself dedicated 6 weeks of his life to wilderness living and so that he might wrestle with his demons and grow spiritually stronger. Then, with vital, new self-awareness, he stood on firmer footing to go and serve the sick and the outcast. Lent is a time for each of us to prepare to fulfill our own calling.

 

So, during Lent, let us:

  • Turn off the car radio to listen to the wind entering the open window. ?
  • Pause when we retrieve the morning paper to view the mountains and look for any neighbors to wave to.
  • Sit in silent prayer in the darkness of our bedrooms until we remember who we really are – beloved children of God.

 

Better still, let us go to the wilderness as Jesus did, walking unfamiliar trails in new-found parks, remaining open to the new calling God would speak to us today. Then let us rise with Christ at Easter with renewed understanding of who we truly are and how we are meant to live.

 

God’s Peace,

Pastor James Dollins

 


Blessed Are the Peacemakers

February 13, 2017


Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matt. 5:9)

 

For some time I have been meaning to get to know some of our neighbors of other religious faiths here in Anaheim. Today seemed like a good day to call the nearby mosque to the north of our church on State College Blvd.

 

After calling and leaving a message, I soon received a call back from the mosque’s Outreach Coordinator, Jamaal. He said that in recent days their mosque, or Islamic Institute as it’s also called, has received an overwhelming number of calls and contacts voicing encouragement and support from neighboring religious communities like ours.

 

This is good news that I wanted to share with you all. I also wanted to write a somewhat longer article in this edition of the Chimes to, I hope, offer clarity about our relationship as Christians to our Muslim neighbors.

 

About 10 years ago, my wife Serena and I were blessed to be invited on a tour of Turkey along with other Southern Californian religious leaders. Our hosts were young adult Turkish students, some of whom had been doing doctoral work in American universities. They felt called to promote understanding between their homeland and the West, and had procured funds to generously arrange for our 10-day tour through Turkey.

 

While there, we visited unforgettable sites, including ancient Christian monasteries and biblical cities such as Ephesus. It was an unforgettable experience.

 

We also had occasion, over delicious meals and Turkish tea, to talk about our respective religions. Our host, Ozgur (Oscar), was especially forthcoming about his understanding of Islam and of Muslim institutions in Turkey. With him we discussed common religious ancestors such as Abraham, and the common ground between our beliefs and ethics.

 

During one conversation, Ozgur felt compelled to communicate clearly his feelings and beliefs about terrorism perpetrated in the name of Islam.

 

“We do not consider these to be true Muslims,” he said. “They are people who have lost their way. Never would we consider them true adherents of Islam, a word that is translated, ‘peace.’”

 

Ozgur’s forceful sentiment about terrorists is similar to the way you and I might feel about hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan which refers to itself as “Christian.” In truth, these persons are the most un-Christian people we can think of. Most of us would agree they are not Christian at all. They are lost and they commit evil acts, all in the name of God which is a clear violation of the 3rd commandment: “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God” (Ex. 20:7). Of course, we should pray for such people to be saved by God’s grace, but we cannot yet call them true followers of Jesus.

 

The sad truth is that such persons belong to a cult. They exalt their dangerous beliefs above the beliefs of those of us who call ourselves Christians. They claim to have found the only true way and they pursue their vision at any expense.

 

In a very similar way, certain people, and I will not refer to them as Muslims, are radicalized into a distorted belief that one day they will take over the world and force their warped interpretation of Islam upon all people of the earth. Members of groups such as the “Islamic” State fancy themselves harbingers of this coming kingdom and leaders in its preparation.

 

These are not Muslims. These are people who have joined a destructive cult. Let us pray that they be freed from the bonds of this indoctrination. Let us pray for them to be saved by God’s grace. Let us not mistake them as representatives of the religion Islam.

 

Please pray for our world, friends, that we may be true peacemakers. I am hopeful that we may engage in this work soon by welcoming some of our neighbors from the neighboring mosque to share an Islam 101 presentation which they like to share with congregations like ours. Please stay tuned for more information on such peacemaking events.

 

In the meantime, let us also trust that God good and is greater than any one person or religion. Let us believe that the Spirit guide us toward peace and justice in as we have seen them embodied in Jesus.

 

I’m grateful to walk alongside you in this mission, following him together.

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor James Dollins

 




Youth and Young Adult Good News

January 30, 2017


A few months ago I shared in this newsletter about our District Superintendent Mark Nakagawa’s words of wisdom that churches should create many places for people to plug in. When someone takes the courageous step of visiting our church, it’s always good to have one or more ideas for how they can get further involved.

 

So, it was exciting, several weeks ago, when our Youth Director, Nicole Jackson pointed out to me, “James, AUMC now has a place for people of every age group to plug-in!”

 

This is, in part, because Nicole has shifted her work with Young Adults from Garden Grove UMC to our congregation as a result of budget cuts in that church. Thankfully, AUMC is willing and able to provide a home for these young adults who will meet weekly on Wednesday evening beginning in March.

 

Here is a current summary of our age-level fellowship and study opportunities:

  • Ages 0-12: Sunday School, VBS, Easter Eggs, Christmas Workshop with Pastor MJ
  • Ages 13-18: Sunday youth fellowship, retreats & service projects with Nicole Jackson
  • Ages 18-35: Young Adults: Weekly evening meetings with Nicole Jackson
  • Ages 30-50: In Betweeners: Monthly fellowship activities with Intern Jen Weyenberg
  • Ages 50 +: Bible studies with Pastor James & MJ, Sunday School with Mary Ann Jones.

 

With this many outlets, AUMC can proudly say we not only welcome people to visit, but to plug-in and stay. Thanks to everyone who has helped make our ministries more complete and effective as we share Christ’s love with all.

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor James Dollins

 


Steadily Growing

January 16, 2017

 

“I may not be the man I want to be; I may not be the man I ought to be; I may not be the man I could be; I may not be the man I truly can be; but praise God, I’m not the man I once was”

–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Thanks be to God for another year of life! Amen? As the days grow gradually longer this winter, our eyes are opened to new possibilities and ways we might grow in faith and wisdom.

 

At times like this, our imaginations might make broad leaps to set bold goals for ourselves. We vow to change our evil ways and permanently fix our foibles!

 

A more practical way to look forward may be to focus on steady growth. So many of Jesus’ parables wisely compare spiritual growth to that of plants and seeds. Christ invites us to grow steadily in his likeness, and calls the church to do the same as we sow seeds of justice, love and peace.  Rev. Martin Luther King, whose life we remember at this time of year, eloquently describes his own personal growth in the quote above. Rev. King’s words show us how we can stop and celebrate the good progress we have made rather than dwell too much on our lingering weaknesses.

 

Our Annual Conference’s new bishop, Rev. Grant Hagiya also has written about gradual spiritual growth in his book entitled Kaizen. Kaizen is the Japanese word for steady, continuous growth and learning. Rev. Hagiya, who is Japanese-American, and also a lifelong student of martial arts, advocates in his book that the church and each one of us should seek the steady discipline and realistic growth that God would call us to achieve in the days that lie before us.

 

Rather than setting overly-ambitious goals or condemning our current failures too harshly, let us set our sites on steady growth at the pace God’s Spirit would dictate, giving thanks to God for the self we are soon to become!

 

May Your New Year Be Blessed!

Pastor James Dollins



December 19, 2016

Christmas Living

And the Word became flesh and lived among us. (John 1:14).

 

Some gifted people don’t just talk about living or dream about what they might do, but instead they live life to the fullest today. A good friend of mine named Jon recently lost his beloved mother, Helen. She was an active member of Aldersgate UMC in Tustin and a true pillar of that church. Jon fondly remembered that his mother never stopped living or serving others in God’s name. Some friends even encouraged her to slow down and pace herself. Helen would say, “You’re right, I’ll have to work on that,” but she would then disregard their advice entirely. She intended to serve, love and live until she died, and that’s just what she did.

 

This way of servant living is reminiscent of the incarnation of God’s love in Jesus at Christmas. From Christmas on, God no longer speaks merely in words and commandments. Suddenly, God’s life takes on human form and compassionate action in the life of Jesus, and his actions spoke louder than words ever could.

 

Let us consider how we might also practice Christmas living. How might we get out of our heads, away from mere words and into our real bodies to reach the people around us in God’s name? As long as we have the privilege to be incarnate human beings ourselves, let us embody Christ’s love in joyful action all the days of our life!

 

Merry Christmas!

Pastor James Dollins




December 5, 2016

The Way to Give a Gift

 

If I give away all my possessions... but do not have love, I gain nothing” (I Cor. 13:3).

 

Strange as it seems, there are several wrong ways to give a gift: out of sheer obligation, expecting something in return, resenting the amount of money we had to spend, etc. etc.?Good gift-giving is truly an art. Those who do it well take the time to give their gifts with love. The receiver of such a gift can virtually smell the spirit in which the gift is given. Devoid of such love, a gift can feel as cold as the material it’s made of.

 

Service to the church or to those in need is the same way. We can serve out of cold obligation or out of genuine love. I’m mindful of several quiet servants who give their time and efforts with an exemplary spirit of grace.

 

For over 20 years, Dave Owen and Virgil Enoch have purchased, packaged and delivered food to feed the hungry on behalf of our church. They’ve supplied food to Ponderosa Park, Anaheim Downtown Community Center and Miraloma Center, in addition to our own AUMC Lunch Bag Program. Consider how many mouths they have fed by their unconditional gifts of time and labor!

 

Similarly, Donna Vestre has fed many of our own mouths with meals made from scratch, whether for our recent Charge Conference or for 4th of July celebrations. It’s not easy to cook for large groups, but she does it with a smile, seemingly stress-free! The love with which she prepares these delicious meals can be tasted with each bite we take.?

 

May each gift that we give at Christmas, and every good work that we do be offered in this same spirit, so that our lives give-off the pleasing aroma of God’s grace.

 

In God’s Great Love

Pastor James Dollins



November 11, 2017

Sailing Forward

 

Many biblical stories feature ships and boats. The Christian church itself has been described as a ship containing many passengers sailing together toward God’s kingdom. My home church, First UMC in Escondido, in fact, is constructed like a tall ship with plenty of room inside for all.

 

This metaphor for the church also prods us to recall that the church is meant to sail forward, not merely to sit in its harbor. On a recent whale-watching trip which my family enjoyed off the coast of Monterey, our boat’s captain reminded us to look out at the horizon to stave off sea sickness. Looking down or within the cabin the whole time would result in nausea and a lousy trip, she explained.

 

The work of the church is similar. As a good captain and crew look forward at the horizon, we are called to look continually to the place where the winds of God’s Spirit will propel us next.

 

A group of pastors was reminded of this calling a few weeks ago when we met with our new Cal-Pac Annual Conference bishop, Grant Hagiya. Bishop Grant spoke with refreshing energy about how the church must not only focus on maintaining itself as an institution, but rather explore new directions and courageously reach out to our neighbors. Yes, we must maintain the ship itself, but until we sail to some destination, we cannot fulfill the wonderful purpose of the vessel we’re in.

 

So, let us lift our heads and open our eyes to the future God has in store for AUMC, so we may joyfully discover the new mission God calls us to fulfill.

 

In God’s Great Love,

Pastor James Dollins



10-24-2016

Lives that Are Holy

 

“To see your face is like seeing the face of God.” Gen. 33:10

 

On Sunday, November 6th, we will celebrate All Saints Day, reading the names of our beloved departed during worship, and lighting a candle in their honor.

 

When we call these friends "saints," it doesn't mean they are perfect. It does mean, though, that we feel we've witnessed God's presence in them. "Saint" comes from "Sanctus" which means "holy." Because of the unique way each of these friends reflected God's goodness to the world, we proclaim to have seen something holy, a glimpse of God's own Spirit, through these departed friends.

 

In honor of our saints, we may also consider offering some gesture of unconditional love to others so that they can see something holy in us. What is something we might do not for pay, not for self-gain, but simply to give a good thing to someone else?

 

I'm thankful to have the help of one of our church members, Ken Duran, whose construction know-how has allowed me to help start a "Wheelchair Ramp Ministry." So far, Ken and I have built three wheelchair ramps, and it's a thrill to make a big difference in people's lives, simply with plywood and screws.

 

Please consider some concrete gesture you might do in honor of a saint whom you remember fondly. With some creativity, we may find great meaning as we reflect God's Spirit to others as our saints have revealed God to us.

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor James Dollins

 


10-10-2016

Plug-in to Community

 

Last week, a few leaders from our church had the opportunity to get acquainted with our new District Superintendent of the West District, Rev. Mark Nakagawa. After an event which AUMC had hosted for pastors and lay leaders to welcome our new DS, he was kind enough to take a tour of our campus and talk with a few of us about AUMC’s ministry. Several us were very impressed that Rev. Mark invested this time and energy in getting acquainted on a deeper level with the ministries of AUMC.

 

During our conversation, we shared with Rev. Mark the hopeful possibilities our church is pursuing, from new youth and young adult programs, to adult Christian education, to a potential Spanish language ministry.

 

Mark responded with enthusiasm, saying that he hopes many churches will pursue a multi-faceted ministry approach as AUMC is doing. As a metaphor, he mentioned the scene we often witness at a café or an airport when people enter and immediately search for a place to plug-in their laptop computer or their phone.

 

Rev. Mark reminded us that people should, of course, be welcomed into our churches, but then they must also find a place to connect and plug-in to friendships and meaningful service. The more “outlets” our church has, the better, he said, as long as we’re ever mindful of a visitor’s need to connect meaningfully with the church.

 

Let us prayerfully consider how we may open our doors wide and offer multiple options for new friends to recharge their souls in God’s Spirit, so that many new neighbors may taste and see that the Lord is good.

 


9-26-2016

Let’s Get Coordinated

 

“You are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.” I Cor. 12:27

 

As we know, when the doctor wants to check our reflexes, he uses a small hammer to strike below the knee cap to make sure the signal goes promptly to the brain and back again, making the lower leg immediately kick forward.

 

This is a sign of good health, demonstrating that the nervous system is engaged and is working as it should. The same is very true of the church, also known as the Body of Christ. One of the best signs that a church is vital is when our internal communications run smoothly and efficiently.?This is one of the reasons that our Office Administrator, Sherry and I are pleased to have added a new staff position held by Lee Strohm, whom I’ve introduced before in the Chimes, and who also edits this newsletter.


I’d like the whole church to be aware that Lee’s position, the Administrative Assistant, is now responsible for smooth and accurate communications at AUMC: The Chimes newsletter, the church website, the Facebook page, the electronic sign on the corner... all of these, hopefully, agree with each other and encourage the maximum number of church members to “reflexively” react and participate. So, if you’re an AUMC leader, or anyone else in the church, please carefully note the following:?

  • To publicize your event or meeting: contact Administrative Assistant, Lee Strohm who will include it in the newsletter, website, Sunday worship bulletin, Facebook, sign, etc.?
  • To reserve a room for your event: contact Operations Manager, Sherry Hanberg.?
  • To request an announcement in worship: contact me, Pastor James Dollins.

The earlier we have your info, the better. Let’s all help the Body of Christ that is AUMC to become more coordinated, sending all the right signals to the whole Body of Christ.

 

Grace and Peace

Pastor James Dollins

 


Be Strong and Courageous

Joshua 1:18

 

During my junior year in college, while studying in Costa Rica in a student exchange program, I had the opportunity to take several singing lessons from a gifted baritone named Arturo. Arturo wanted to learn English from me and I wanted to learn singing from him, so we traded!

 

I soon learned from Arturo that one’s strength as a singer comes from one’s core, in the lower part of one’s lungs. Arturo had mastered this skill to such a point that he could effortless fill a concert hall with his rich, sculpted voice.

 

In the life of the church, our strength and hope also comes from within. By cultivating relationships of trust, listening carefully to God’s Word, and exercising our muscles of Christian service, we strengthen our core and become more powerful vessels of Christ’s love.

 

Whatever churches may look like from the outside – large or small, growing or declining in number, this inner strength can still be cultivated. Whatever the song of ministry we’re called to sing, elaborate or simple, we can sing it beautifully, from the inner strength God provides.

 

We might recall the words the Israelites spoke to their leader, Joshua, before he led them into the Promised Land. Even as they were surely afraid to enter a strange, new homeland inhabited by unknown neighbors, the Israelites reminded their leader to stay strong, and to keep on leading them, no matter what.

 

This past month I’ve been heartened by the courage which some of our congregation’s leaders have shown as we consider the possibility of starting a Spanish-language ministry here at AUMC. Though such conversation feels unfamiliar and perhaps daunting at first, the conversation itself reveals an inner strength here at AUMC, which I admire.

 

In our church and in our individual lives, let us remain strong and courageous, so that, as long as we live, we may sing beautiful new songs for God’s glory.


Grace and Peace

Pastor James Dollins



August 1, 2016

Life Unplugged


One of the blessings of Jr. High Camp, where I volunteer each summer as camp pastor, is that there is no reception for cell phones.  The beautiful remote canyon where Lazy W Ranch is situated is beyond the reach of cell phone towers and their signals.  This means our 7th and 8th grad campers who would normally have constant access to smart phones are unable to use them for a full week.

It's reminiscent of the Orthodox Jewish Sabbath, or Christian practices within the Mennonite or Amish traditions to withdraw from plugged-in living and simply enjoy God, nature and people.  It makes for more active living - rather than turning on a TV or a computer to be entertained, one's own thinking, imagination and conversation with others fill our need for mental stimulus.  At Jr. High Camp especially, this stimulus is abundant as youth play, shout and laugh, providing ample energy for everyone, including the old camp pastor.

Whether we're away in the mountains, at work, or at home, we have a choice between passive and active living.  In a wealthy, privileged society, we feel especially tempted to let our sources of entertainment do our living for us.

But Jesus said, "I come that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).  It's an invitation to choose life over death, to stay awake rather than to live sleepily.  Abundant life is worth pursuing, and even fighting for.  If we feel prone to discouragement or depression, it's vital that we wake up and tenaciously pursue the beauty of that day.

How good it is to share this church with you in which we discover the very best of ourselves and of our world, so we may see that God's creation is more that beautiful enough to satisfy our souls.

God's Peace,
Pastor James Dollins


July 4, 2016
"Love Lived in Service"
MJ Buist, Diaconal Minister

Confession time:  One of my guilty pleasures is reading historicla romance novels.  I read them for the history, of course, and wish I could tell you that I skipped through the romance scenes, but I don't.  However, none of these romance novels compare to the real stories of true love that I have seen at AUMC and throughout my life. 

I was reminded of being in the service of love as I officiated my first wedding this past month.  I Corinthians 13 is a common passage for weddings and is widely known as the Love Chapter.  Often people can quote these attributes, but I am amazed at those who actually live these attributes.  I would like to share some examples of loving service I have observed in those around me.

My friend, Ruth, has fibromyalgia and is in constant pain.  Her husband does everything to make her comfortable, including making sure she has taken her medicine and installin a stair elevator to get her to the bedroom.  He does this all while coping with his own health concerns (diabetes and a heart condition.)  While taking a moment to thank him for his attentive care to my dear friend Ruth, he replied, "it's my job."  It was said without a tinge of regret or resentment.

My friend, JC, visited his wife, Sybil, daily in her board and care facility even after she could no longer speak to him.  I experienced this same devotion during my many visits where Jack Johnson is visiting his wife, Kay, or John Willoughby visiting his wife, Mary Lou.

What I enjoy most is the selfless devotion of this love.  These people are there at the bedside fo those loved ones even though their loved one may not be able to reciprocate any longer.

On Sunday I spoke about love in service to one another.  Diaconal Ministers are called to bring Christ's love and service to our congregation and the greater world.  During my time here I feel like it is our congregation that shows me how this is done.  When I see many sending cards or visiting others in their homes, hospitals and care facilities, I am overwhelmed by your commitment to "loving service".

I normally sign off with, "Serving along with you", but today I will close with,

Serving in Love, Inspired by You
MJ Buist, Diaconal Minister


June 20, 2016

"Strong Roots"

A friend once invited me to try the following exercise.  You might enjoy it too:

Stand in one place, close your eyes, and envision you are a young, lightweight plant when a strong breeze comes up and blows on you.  You might find that your body feels flexible and unsteady.  Now, stand in the same way, eyes closed, and imagine you are a strong, mature tree with roots that run deep in the ground.  Did you feel your stance grow firmer and steadier?

This is a poignant metaphor for the life of a Christian, especially in turbulent times.  In the midst of harsh political dialogues and campaigns, or in the wake of horrific violence waged at a night club in Orlando, we fear these winds are strong enough to bowl us over.  Or, as the church struggles to assert its message in an increasingly secular society, as our global climate is changing, or as we Californians steel ourselves against a drought, we may fear we're not strong enough to withstand such pressures.

Yet, the Psalmist, in Psalm 1:1-3, compares the faithful person to a tree planted by flowing streams.  His invisible roots, buried beneath the surface, provide nourishing water and strength.  In Jesus' Parable of the Sower, we learn again that the rooted believers will take root and bear fruit, and will not be vulnerable to the threatening elements (Matthew 13:1-9).

Especially in times like these, let us hold fast to God's hand and to one another.  In the midst of life's storms, let us not fear or waver, but trust in the strength of our roots, grounded in God's grace, so we may, in turn, offer strength and wisdom to others.

Peace be with us all.
Pastor James Dollins


June 6, 2016
A Way Forward

As you may have read in the news, the United Methodist Church held its quadrennial General Conference last month in Portland, Oregon.  I want to summarize the more significant developments for you so that our congregation will be apprised of news on the national and global levels of our Methodist denomination.

The most notable vote at the General Conference was a motion to create "A Way Forward" on matters of human sexuality in the church.  It's my belief that this decision will ultimately offer new hope to our denomination even as we dialogue about diverse beliefs regarding ordination of gay ministers and same-sex marriage.

"A Way Forward" is a proposal to entrust the UM Church's Council of Bishops to create a Commission on Human Sexuality to recommend necessary revisions to our UM Book of Discipline, the rule book of our denomination.  A Way Forward offers a better chance at progress, I believe, because our bishops know each other well and stand a good chance of coming to mutual understanding.  They are also, in general, respected by their constituents as duly elected leaders.  They also have a wide range of beliefs within their council, and will likely choose a moderate way forward with the best chance to work.

I invite our church to pray for our denomination as a whole, and for our bishops.  They will now appoint a Commission on Human Sexuality which will bring a new proposal to the general church in two years at a specially convened General Conference, or in four years at the regular scheduled 2020 conference.  For some, this seems to be a painfully long time to wait, but this method may offer the best chance that we will remain united as a United Methodist Church.

The website below gives a good summary of where the UM church is in the process right now.

Please feel free to call or visit me any time with your questions, ideas and thoughts.

May God's wisdom guide us,
Pastor James Dollins


May 23, 2016
"Making Room in Worship for Everyone"

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.  1Corinthians 12:4

Many years ago at a youth camp, a counselor invited us to paint a collective artwork, combining all of our designs on a sheet of butcher paper.  There was limited room on the paper and eventually some people started wiping-out the designs of others to make more space for themselves.

When we finished, our counselor asked whether it was okay with the earlier painters that their designs were eclipsed by others.  Some of them admitted they felt discouraged by this.  Our counselor said that she thought the activity might turn out this way.  She meant it to be an object lesson.  She concluded by saying that, as Christians, we should express our gifts fully, but also be careful not to drown-out the self-expression of others.

A similar dynamic takes place in our weekly worship.  Some extroverts, and I'm probably among them, love to connect with friends, laugh, sing and be loud.  That's how we experience God's Spirit.  Others long to sit quietly in God's house, listening to the prelude or praying in silence.

Some people seem to love the greeting time at the beginning of worship when we shake hands and say "Good Morning," "Peace be with you!"  Others have approached me to say that they feel less at ease in that moment than at any other.

For this reason, beginning in June, you'll find that, on Holy Communion Sunday, the Passing of the Peace occurs later in the worship service, just before Communion is served.  This traditional placement allows us to seek peace with one another before we seek peace and forgiveness from God in the holy meal.

Thanks in advance for helping to make room for the diverse people of our church so that all God's people may feel at home and inspired on Sunday mornings.  And thanks to all who make our worship so beautiful every week.

Many Blessings,
Pastor James Dollins


May 9, 2016

"I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"  Isaiah: 43:19

This coming weekend Anaheim UMC will attend a retreat at Camp Lazy W in San Juan Capistrano.  By the time you read this, about 28 church members will have returned from that scenic United Methodist camp which is nestles in a valley, build around a creek which is actually running with water this year!

At our retreat, we will talk about God's rhythms.  We'll use this metaphor to discuss our church's past, present and future.  At times it's tempting to believe that our future will surely pale in comparison with the remarkable past that our church, like many UM churches, has enjoyed.  What can we look forward to when we can look back on such thriving fellowship and mission?

But let's consider whether God might be about to do a new thing, as Isaiah prophesies in the verse cited above.

What if, for example, you were a pastor who was tasked with beginning a new church?  You will begin, you are told, with an artfully constructed facility, no financial debt, in fact you have some money in the bank, and, most importantly, you have a few hundred loving, faithful and joyful Christians eager to worship weekly and to serve neighbors in the community.  Any pastor should be thrilled with such a beginning, yes?

Well, that pastor turns out to be me, and this is what I, or rather we, have to work with.  It seems that God is very likely to do a new thing in our midst.  Do we have eyes to perceive it?

That's the enjoyable conversation we will have at our church retreat this weekend, one that I pray will continue in coming years, a dialogue rich in possibility and brimming with hope.  I do look forward to the fun we will have together in Christ's name.

Many Blessings,
Pastor James Dollins


April 25, 2016


What a joy it is to work with our church's Worship Team, a group of hard-working members who meet regularly to plan events that guide us through sacred times of the Christian year.  We shared such remarkable meaning and beauty through Lent, Holy Week, and Easter.  Many thanks to our worship chairs, Lee Ann Orme and Cheri Smith and their dedicated committee.  Please enjoy the following article by Lee Ann explaining the meaning of the upcoming Day of Pentecost.
Blessings,
Pastor James Dollins


On Pentecost Sunday, May 15, we celebrate the birthday of our church - when the Holy Spirit was poured into the world.  The word Pentecost is the Greek term for the Jewish festival known as the Feast of Weeks.  The observance of Pentecost, which means fifty, points to abundance, to ripeness, and to a time of thankfulness. 

The feast has three levels:
Harvest Festival:  The people of Israel, fifty days - seven weeks to the day - after the sickle was first put to the grain, observed a harvest festival.  Processions of pilgrims bare baskets for their first fruits to the temple as a thank offering for the produce of their two harvest seasons.
Torah Festival:  In later Judaism (two centuries before Christ) Pentecost, which falls seven weeks to the day after the Passover Sabbath, came to be a celebration of the giving of the Law of Sinai, where God made a people for himself.
Holy Spirit Festival:  Seven weeks to the day after Jesus died and rose from the dead, he breathed Spirit upon the apostles.  This is the fulfillment of the Harvest Festival.  Fifty days after the sickle had been put to the grain, fifty days after Jesus, the promised Seed, had been buried in the ground and then sprouted to life, there was a new festival which set in motion the world-wide harvest of souls for the Kingdom of God.  This is also the fulfillment of the Torah Festival.  Fifty days after his exodus through death into life, Jesus formed a people with a new covenant and mission. 

Pentecost is indeed a day of celebration for the outpouring of the Spirit and the spread of the Gospel to all people!

(Remember to wear Pentecost Red to worship on May 15.)

Lee Ann Orme


"A Time to Keep Silence, and a Time to Speak"
Ecclesiastes. 4:7
April 11, 2016

Some of my greatest memories of church life have taken place in church retreats that my home congregation attended every year.  In fact, it was at one of these that I first met my wife, Serena, when I was only 8, and she 7!

As we prepare for our upcoming All Church Retreat which will take place on Friday and Saturday, May 6 & 7, I am very excited to join my current church family, AUMC, as we journey together to beautiful Camp Lazy W in San Juan Capistrano.

Going on retreat is an ancient practice which allows us to regain our bearings and get back into rhythm with life itself.  Throughout scripture we hear the rhythms of life, such as sowing and harvest, working and then resting on the Sabbath, speaking and listening as mentioned above in a verse from Ecclesiastes.

At our Spring All Church Retreat we'll get away to God's creation in order to "Get Rhythm."  This will be the theme of our time away.  (It's also a song by one of my favorite singers, Johnny Cash!)  During the 24 hours of this retreat, we will recall the rhythms of Anaheim United Methodist Church's ministries in the past, we will celebrate our work in the present, and dream of what blessings we'll discover in the future.

Currently we have ten signed up to attend this time away and I'm confident that another 10 to 20 church friends will register soon.  To make it as easy as possible for everyone to come, we have created two options for your participation:

 Option A:  


Option B:

Come for the overnight, Friday, May 6, 7:00 p.m. through Saturday, May 7, 7:00 p.m.
$60 per person, includes campfire, singing, overnight stay, breakfast, lunch and dinner

Come for the day, Saturday, May 7, 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
$35 per person, includes lunch and dinner.

Please note:  It is essential that finances NOT be the reason you decide not to go.  AUMC is happy to help pay your registration.

Whether you join us in person or in spirit, let us get back in rhythm with God, trusting that our Spring All Church Retreat will become a source of renewal and revitalization for our souls and for our church.

In God's Great Love,
Pastor James Dollins


What's Your Next Step?
March 28, 2016

During this Easter season we wil read various scriptures which describe Jesus' mysterious appearance to his disciples.  Each of them follows a similar pattern:  The disciples feel alone, even depressed following Jesus' crucifixion.  They go on living without much hope and without a plan for the future.

But then they remarkably discover Christ in their midst.  Strangely, they sometimes don't even recognize him at first.  Yet, when they do, they themselves come alive again.  It's as though they are raised back to life with Christ, and they resume daily living and loving others in God's name.

Many people find themselves stuck in depression, especially after suffering the loss of a loved one.  Many others find themselves stuck for other reasons such as addiction or low self-esteem.

A well-tried method of lifting one's self out of the pit is to focus only on the next step in life that Good call us to take.  Recovering addicts know this teaching well, reminding each other in their 12-step meetings, "One day at a time!"  Especially when life appears too heavy or vast to comprehend, its viatl that we summon the will wo walk, not one hundred miles, but the next few steps.

Two weeks ago I enjoyed an unforgettable week backpacking in the Angeles mountains with sons, Forrest and Silas.  It's become increasingly clear to me that these two rascals are stronger and faster hikers than I am!  No longer will I be able to show-off my hiking prowess and strength to them.  From now on, I'll find joy in simply walking through God's creation, at whatever speed.

In our growth as Christians and as a church, let us humbly and gratefully ask God, "What is our next step?" as we enjoy this journey which we walk with the risen Lord.

God's Peace,
Pastor James Dollins



Everyday Resurrections
March 14, 2016

"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly"  John 10:10

We've heard the expression: "The two things that are certain in this life are death and taxes."  This proverb may strike a nerve right about now as we scurry to gather the proper documents in preparation for April 15.

In regards to the other matter, death, it always seems so inevitable!  (Because it is.)  And, as a result, we tend to think of death as having the final say, or even the ultimate victory over life.

Christian faith has never been satisfied with that concession.  Our celebration of Jesus' resurrection lifts our eyes beyond the grave to search for God's life that comes after death.  Even in everyday circumstances, we learn not to settle for devastation and doom but to look, always, for the new life that God will bring next.

For example, standing be a grave (ironically enough), I spoke with a man before a graveside service for his good friend.  He was Jewish - not very religious, but he did feel a deep gratitude to God.  One day, years ago, he found himself destitute and a rabbi helped him procure generous financial assistance.  As a result, this man experienced the surprising power of God to give him new life.

In a similar way, a woman came to our church's office about two months ago seeking rescue from a physically abusive relationship.  I simply called "2-1-1" and the operator gave us contact information for three battered women's shelters that this woman could call to find safety.  (By the way, please remember that number: "2-1-1".  Like "4-1-1" or "9-1-1", it is always available for us to call and seek social services for people in need.)

As I handed this woman the three phone contacts, her eyes lit up as though she had just seen a new day dawning.  She was coming to life.  An everyday resurrection took place right before my eyes!

Now, let us ask ourselves whether God wishes to lift us up beyond the grave to new and abundant life.  We had a few more days before Easter.  Let us plan right now to accept God's invitation to begin life anew.

In God's Love and Life,
Pastor James Dollins


Familiar Voices
February 29, 2016

“I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matt. 25:36)

My grandfather was a talented painter and a hard blue collar worker from Chicago. He took great pride in a home that he and my grandmother built in retirement near Prescott, Arizona where they lived for 30 years in an idyllic forest.

Toward the end of his life, that well-built house had to be sold. For two years, my parents took him in to live with them. Then, finally, Grandpa lived in a nursing home where my parents and I visited him as often as possible.

One day I ventured to ask him if he missed his old home in Arizona. “Not really,” he answered. “I’ve lived in a lot of nice places. That house was one of them, but I’m happy where I am.”

It became clear to me that Grandpa’s happiness then had less to do with his accommodations and much more to do with the people who surrounded him, the familiar voices that spoke with him, making him feel at home.

Recently I’ve been moved by the care which our church member Margaret Disbennet receives from Mary Ann and Dave Jones who visit her daily. Today I learned that Ann McKown also stopped by to talk to Margaret, too.

For many months, Ken Boydstun has lovingly stayed by the side of his wife, Phyllis during her long battle with Parkinson’s. By God’s grace, Phyllis lived at home until the very end, with her husband by her side.

It has become clear to me that the familiar voices of family and church members are the greatest treasure we can ever obtain. To hear these voices in our last days is a great reward that every human being should enjoy. Let us draw close to one another today until our voices grow familiar so that, in the precious moments toward the end, we may give the most valuable gift of all.

God’s Peace Be with You,
Pastor James Dollins



Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors
February 15, 2016

You’re probably familiar with the motto above which the national United Methodist Church uses to convey a welcoming spirit to our neighbors. On Ash Wednesday morning, our Worship Committee tried something new in an effort to open AUMC’s doors to any neighbor who wanted to come in.

From 9–11 am on Ash Wednesday, I had the pleasure of sitting in our beautiful sanctuary with the doors wide open so that people could freely walk in and receive the imposition of ashes to mark the beginning of Lent. We chose to do this because last year, spontaneous requests came from our Child Time Preschool for the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday for some of the teachers there.

This year, our Worship Committee set aside two hours for our doors to be open for this same purpose. Over the course of those two hours, 4 of our church members came in (52 more attended on Ash Wednesday evening at our worship service!) Also, 4 teachers from Child Time Preschool received the ashes, and one father of a preschool child did the same. This man was Chinese-American. He and I shared a brief but fascinating conversation about how the Christian church is treated in China.

Finally, a man entered simply because he had been passing by and saw the church open. He and I spoke in Spanish and he asked for prayers for his diabetes. His name is Antonio. Please feel free to pray for his health and strength.

It was beautiful the way our sanctuary was filled with meaning, visitor after visitor entering from such different backgrounds and perspectives. It was a privilege for me to witness people being drawn spontaneously to enter the house of God for a simple blessing.

I hope we will find other good excuses to open our doors to our diverse neighbors and discover who God brings in, until we become known to all as a church with open doors.

In God’s Great Love,
Pastor James Dollins


Up from the Ashes

February 1, 2016

As we approach Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent, I’d like to share with you something I learned from a church member that might impact your Lenten practices as it has mine.

This person shared with me that she resolved last year not to give something up for Lent, but to do something she would not normally do. So, she took pen and paper and wrote a letter to an estranged family member, telling her that she continued to love her very much. It became a transformative letter both for the writer and for its reader. (This member said that I could feel free, by the way, to share this with you in this anonymous way).

What a wonderful way to observe the season of Lent! Lent is certainly a time when we seek reconciliation with one another, with God and with ourselves. The season of Lent concludes with the cross and resurrection, the ultimate Christian sign that we are forever forgiven and for- ever loved.

Upon hearing this woman’s testimony, I have resolved to honor Lent in the same way, and am prayerfully considering what it is that I “wouldn’t normally do,” but that I will do during Lent in order to forgive, love or offer healing in Christ’s name. I invite you to do the same.

On Ash Wednesday, February 10th (very early this year!) we’ll be offering something new. Of course, everyone will be invited to our traditional Ash Wednesday service at 7 pm. And, in addition, I will be in the sanctuary that same morning of Ash Wednesday, between 9 and 11 am to make the sign of the cross in ash on people’s foreheads as a sign of our Lenten practice. Simply come, receive the ashes, and go about your day, until we meet again that evening.

I look forward to journeying by your side through this coming season of reflection, healing and renewal so that, following Lent, Easter may truly bring us all new life.

In God’s Peace,
Pastor James Dollins



Keep it Fun!
January 18, 2016

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4)

One of my more humbling moments as a father of two boys was my first attempt to teach them to play tennis. They were still quite young, perhaps 6 and 8 years old, so it was understandably difficult for them to focus. It wasn’t long before I became exasperated with the results, raising my voice, barking orders at them . . . not pretty.

Just then, a woman walking by the outside of our court gently reminded me, “Keep it fun!” I very nearly retorted with a tirade to explain why strangers should not offer unsolicited advice to parents about child-rearing.

Of course, deep-down, I knew she was right. After all, if tennis isn’t any fun, why even play? I knew that she knew that my sons knew this as well.

This truth also holds, of course, for the Christian faith. If we allow our faith to be drained of enjoyment and fun, we’re probably not doing it right! The Psalmist in the scripture above, like the woman at the tennis courts, reminds us to have fun, even in our relationship with God: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4).

To this end, I’d like to invite our church to plan something fun together, namely a church retreat in which we can venture away from our AUMC campus, enjoy nature, and have fun. We have tentatively reserved Friday and Saturday, May 6th and 7th at beautiful Camp Lazy W in San Juan Capistrano for our church’s use. If we have a critical mass of participants, at least 20, we can hold this retreat.

Please consider whether you can join us. Yes, we’ll do a little planning for AUMC’s future, but mostly we’ll enjoy God’s creation and one another’s friendship.

More information will be forthcoming regarding cost, hours, etc. In the meantime, please pencil in this time for a restful, fun time of renewal with your church family.

And, in the meantime, as we work, worship and fellowship together, let us remember to keep it fun!

In God’s Great Love,
Pastor James Dollins


Let It Begin with Me

January 4, 2016

During the Christmas season our choir sang the beautiful song, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Some years that song sounds like a gentle reminder. In more troubled or violent times, these lyrics sound like an imperative for all of us who would call ourselves “Christian.”

But how do we do it? What does it look like to let peace “begin with me?”

The answer may be less about what we do and more about who we are. A Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, authored a book of deep wisdom entitled Being Peace. It’s a reminder that the peace we seek in the world must first exist within our hearts.

For Christians, this peace begins with self-acceptance and the knowledge that we are eternally forgiven and loved. And, these truths are nowhere more evident than in our baptism.

On Sunday, Jan. 10th, we will celebrate Baptism of the Lord Sunday when we recall Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, and our own identity as God’s children.

For that Sunday, I would also like to invite anyone who has never been baptized to be baptized at either the 9 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. worship service. Or, if you have been baptized and would like to reaffirm your baptism, there’s a beautiful ritual for that as well. (We don’t re-baptize in the United Methodist Church as we believe that God did it right the first time, but we may need to re- affirm our own commitment).

Please feel free to call me in the Church Office (714) 776-5710, or email me:jamesd@anaheimumc.org to discuss this. I pray that in 2016 and always, we will seek God’s peace together by being peace, and remembering that we eternally belong to God by water and the Spirit.

In God’s Great Love,
James Dollins


A Christmas Message from Pastor James
December 2015

The earth must have been a quieter place at the time of Jesus' birth.  Just imagine how still the evening was 2,000 years ago when the shepherds watched their sheep by night under the brilliant Milky Way.

Those humble laborers were probably more inclined than we are to look upward, to listen, and to ponder the vastness of God's world.  And, with their eyes and ears so open, they suddenly perceived angels singing and calling them to visit the newborn Prince of Peace.

I pray that, amid the busyness of our Christmas season, we too would listen for God's voice, Look for God's presence, and believe in the goodness God still brings into our world.  This is difficult to do amid the noise of traffic and the brightness of artificial lights.  It is also challenging to rejoice in the Lord when our minds whir with news of violence and the cacophony of political voices.
In the midst of this world's confusion, God speaks clearly, but not with words.  God's Word is a child, silently laid in a manger on Christmas.  And if God is speaking, we should be quiet so that we too may discover God's peace born again into the world.

Let us humbly and joyfully gather together this Christmas to watch, listen, and wait for Christ's birth among us.

Merry Christmas!
Pastor James Dollins


The Christmas Touch

December 21, 2015


She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger” (Luke 2:7).

We’ve heard people say it: I believe in God, and I’m a spiritual person. I just don’t feel that I need to go to church to be a Christian.


Fair enough, we think. He brings up a good point. And we leave the person alone.

But then Christmas comes along, and reminds us that God chose not to leave us alone. In fact, God chose to be with us in person, to be born among us as a human being, to touch us, befriend us and personally acquaint us all with the love of our Maker.

This Christian doctrine is called the incarnation, or the divine made flesh. The mystery of incarnation is the true power of Christmas. We see it portrayed clearly in the physical contact described in the verse above: Mary gives birth to Jesus, she wraps him up tight in cloth, and places him in a manger. From Christianity’s birth, it’s all about physical touch!

In this Christmas spirit, let us touch somebody in the spirit of Jesus. Anything we can do to warm-up someone’s heart will suffice. Please consider prayerfully whom God calls you to embrace, console, forgive, amuse, etc. That’s the spirit of Christmas.

It’s also the reason that we go to church. It’s the place where we make contact with one another, rekindling hope and courage. It’s the reason we will gather on Christmas Eve at 7 pm and 11 pm to sing and light candles. I do hope you will join us on that holy night to be touched by God through the newborn Messiah, so that we may warm the hearts of many others with the love and peace of Christ.

Merry Christmas!
Pastor James Dollins



Christmas Isn’t Meant to be Easy

December 7, 2016

During this season of Advent, we are all invited to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ birth. Then, suddenly our minds shift to the long list of preparations we must tend to just to make Christmas gatherings happen among family, church and friends.

And just when we think our schedules are full, we see others who are doing twice as much as we are and making it look simple. I learned yesterday that Shirley Daw is baking roughly 400 dozen cookies this year! Is that even possible?

Getting ready for Christmas isn’t easy. But then, it never was. Consider the long journey that Mary and Joseph had to make on foot to get to Bethlehem. Then consider the accommodations they had upon their arrival. Finally, as they tried to stay warm in a stable heated only by animal bodies, Mary still had to undergo childbirth.

The first Christmas was not a simple enterprise. But isn’t it true that life’s greatest blessings never come easily? When something is truly valuable, it is worth struggling for. (This is one reason I won’t play the lottery. I’ve come to believe that no blessing that big could ever come as a result of spending just a few bucks).

Christmas is never easy, but it's always worth it. It was even worth it to God to be born into this world in Jesus Christ, to experience life’s heights and depths, and even to pass through life’s painful ending so that we all might know God’s eternal love.

This Advent season, let us prepare for Christmas willingly and joyfully, knowing that the gift that God gives at Christmas and the fellowship we all share, are certainly worth striving after. After all, these are the best blessings of all.

Have a Blessed Advent,
Pastor James


In Every Thing Give Thanks
November 23, 2015
(I Thes. 5:18, KJV)

It's sometimes a challenge to feel thankful when our world is rocked by violent attacks such as the recent assaults on Paris and Beirut. Our first reaction feels more like worry or fear.

Yet the reason such world events shake us to the core is that they remind us how fragile life and peace truly are. And, when we recall that truth, we suddenly feel a renewed sense of gratitude for our freedoms, for our security and for life itself. We recall that each of these is a gift and is not guaranteed to us. Each of these is a blessing.

It's a good Christian discipline, then, to practice gratitude everywhere and at every time we can, as Paul reminds the Thessalonians to do in the scripture cited above.

I'm reminded of a dear friend and fellow United Methodist pastor named Andy who consistently demonstrates such gratitude in his faith. One summer Andy and I were serving together on a high school summer camp staff. On a particularly beautiful morning in those hills of Julian, California, Andy and I emerged from the doorway of our staff cabin into the cool morning air. My first thought was, 'What a beautiful morning!' Andy's first words were, "Thank you, Lord."

"Thank you, Lord." It's a good thing to say as often as we find a reason to. By doing so, we change from people who take good fortune for granted into people who receive each blessing as a well-appreciated gift.

So, for each good turn of fortune, for every day we live in peace, and for each smile from a stranger that lifts our spirits let us say, "Thank you Lord." Let us also be mindful that not everyone enjoys these gifts, so we continue to pray for God's kingdom to come because on that day, everyone will.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Pastor James Dollins



"Joyful and Generous"
November 9, 2015

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”  These words of Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, remind us that a Christian’s life should be creative, generous and fun – not the staid, mundane image that sometimes comes to mind with the word, “religion.”

As we continue with our stewardship campaign this month, I encourage each of us to prayerfully consider increasing our commitment to God. If we hear Wesley’s message, this commitment will include our offering of money, but also of time, hard work, friendship and imagination. In today’s world, we may find ourselves clutching to our time even more tightly than we hold our money. God’s invitation to generosity and joy, as our Stewardship Team has reminded us, is a calling to offer our whole selves to God’s work.

One new ministry I’d like to celebrate is Food Finders, a local outreach opportunity recently discovered by our Missions Team. With Food Finders, our church members drive to elementary schools and collect unused food from daily lunches, and then transport the food to Mary’s Kitchen where it is gladly received by our homeless neighbors.

I would also like to announce that we’ve created a new volunteer position to help track all the good that diverse groups from our church are doing. We’re calling this person, “Ministries Secretary,” and one of our church members, Jody Clement, has volunteered her services in this role.

Our Ministries Secretary will help keep track of the many ministry and fellowship groups in our church, so we can be more aware of what we do here, and invite newcomers to get involved. With Jody’s help, fewer of us will need to say, “I had no idea our church was even doing that!” Please be sure that our Ministries Secretary knows about the group you lead or attend, what you do there, and who all is involved.

Thanks to everyone who gives of themselves joyfully to the ministries of AUMC. Your heartfelt generosity of time, talents and treasures makes this church a vital instrument of Christ’s generous joy.

Many Blessings,
Pastor James



Why Become a Church Member?
October 26, 2015

As we know, we live in a society that fears commitment, and sometimes that’s justified. After all, we can join a “club” at every grocery store we patronize. Yet we know that our membership there is largely about allowing the store to track our purchases in order to market to us more effectively.

We fear, too, that by joining an organization we will commit more time and energy than we have to spare. This concern surely crosses peoples’ mind when they consider joining a church.

But church membership is deeply meaningful when we understand that this commitment is not so much about obligation as it is about belonging.

In a sense (and at the risk of scaring off more commitment-phobes), joining a church is like marriage. I sometimes hear couples say, “We are completely committed to one another. We don’t need a piece of paper to prove that.” I sometimes explain, if they’re interested in hearing, that the covenant of marriage isn’t only for the couple, but also for the community – the two families who will be joined as one. When these family members see that the couple is committed enough to publicly say, “I do,” the families suddenly feel better about supporting both spouses emotionally, financially or otherwise, during future moments of need.

The same is true for the church. When we say, “I will” in the vows of membership, we are letting a community of friends know that the focus of our church allegiance is this particular faith community. This means that we now belong to one another in Christ. It also means that we are free to come to another’s aid when someone needs us. The member won’t be here today and gone to seek greener pastures tomorrow.

Even Jesus, who called many people to come and follow him, still selected 12 friends to form his most trusted circle. For the wonderful and challenging work of God’s kingdom, it’s vital to have friends to hold on to, and who will hold on to us.

If you are not already a church member, please prayerfully consider making that vow and showing this faith community that you’re “all in.” Or if you know someone who hasn’t yet joined AUMC, please invite them to seek deeper meaning here by deepening their commitment to God?’s family.

*Check the chimes for up-coming opportunities to become a church member, or call Pastor James (714-776-5710).


God of Many Names
October 12, 2015

“Joyful, Joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love”

A few weeks ago during worship, our choir sang the song, Joyful, Joyful in a refreshing gospel style, led by a gifted guest soloist named Gabby Jackson. Scott Farthing directed the affair and helped us all to clap on the 2nd and 4th beats so that even the rhythmically-challenged could participate!

We sing the wonderful hymn, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee with some frequency in church, but we may not be aware of all the names this hymn employs in celebrating God’s essence.

“Joyful, Joyful” is the first name used by Henry Van Dyke, the lyricist (Beethoven is the composer, of course). And what a great name to begin with! It could really spice up our prayer life if we were to address God with this name, “Joyful, Joyful, thank you for this day. Joyful, Joyful, please help me overcome life’s hardships…”

There are also many other names for God in this well-loved hymn. Perhaps one reason so many people love this song is that it suggests we too should feel free to praise God with whatever name feels most natural and true to our souls. Here are all the names Van Dyke uses in the hymn:
  • Joyful, Joyful
  • God of Glory
  • Lord of love
  • Giver of immortal gladness
  • Well-spring of Joy
  • Ocean depth of happy rest
  • Father
  • Christ
  • Brother
  • Love Divine
We’re invited by this hymn to use our own imagination to discover what name resonates with us most deeply when we pray or sing God’s praise. In a recent best-selling Christian novel, The Shack, for example, God is depicted as a motherly African-American woman who lovingly cooks superb meals for her children. In this same way, we’re welcome to reflect on and invent names for God that ring true to our experience and reflect what we most treasure about the divine.

Thanks again to our gifted musicians for calling these truths to mind. And thanks be to God that we may know him by many marvelous names.

God's Peace,
Pastor James Dollins


Prayer That Keeps Ears from Burning
September 28, 2015

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”  (Matt. 5:44).

Have you ever been engaged in a conversation with a friend, talking a little too negatively about another person, when that other person suddenly shows up? It’s a lousy feeling, isn’t it? We often say that such a person’s “ears must have been burning” with the gossip which they arrived too late to hear.

Strangely enough, gossip can function like prayer, or, better said, like the opposite of prayer. When we think and talk negatively about a person, we somehow become unprepared to encounter that person in real life. Suddenly, we worry that the person might sense the truth, that something is wrong between us.

Prayer works in the opposite way. When we make a point of thinking positive thoughts about a person, and we wish for their well-being, we then feel comfortable looking that person right in the face. We feel we can meet their eyes with a genuine spirit of integrity.

This is one reason to recall Jesus’ challenging command to love even our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. When we do so, we find we’re prepared to meet even our adversaries face to face, knowing that we, at least, have done our part, to prepare for our next encounter.

We can and should extend this principle to every friend, relative and stranger. During the national presidential race, for example, we often give ourselves free reign to excoriate a presidential candidate, trusting that we’ll never run into that person on the street anyway. But we know that if we did, we could hardly greet them, or say, with integrity, “Nice to meet you!”

It’s healthy, then, to pray for every friend, neighbor, enemy and stranger, even with a general, momentary wish for their well-being. Perhaps such prayer will keep our enemies’ ears from burning. But more importantly, it will help us to release our own rancor and put our hearts at peace.

Have a Joyful Autumn
Pastor James


A Confusing Moment, a Faithful Response

September 14, 2015

As many of you are aware, we had an unexpected guest join us in worship at the 10:30 service on Sept. 6th. Toward the end of that service (which was already quite long, including Holy Communion!) this visitor, who called himself Chris, interrupted the proceedings with an announcement and an appeal for financial help. He also explained that he was Syrian and had friends and family in that country who had suffered terrible trials in the recent past.

How does a church react in such a moment? Suddenly, we are face-to-face with a complete stranger asking us for help. We feel unsettled, unsure whether to believe him, yet we want to respond in a Christ-like way.

For guidance, we might turn to some words that Jesus once spoke to his disciples when he sent them among perfect strangers to proclaim the gospel. He advised them, “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16).  In other words, keep your wits about you, be aware of the potential danger, but keep a compassionate heart throughout.

I was pleased that our congregation reacted to our guest very much in that fashion. Several members showed the man compassion. Some even helped him with money. Others kept a watchful eye and confided in me that they were not sure they believed his story.

I remain unsure whether I completely believe Chris or not. I am grateful, however, that as he left, he seemed less agitated than he was at the beginning of the service. He also expressed his gratitude to me before taking his leave. My impression is that Chris entered our church questioning whether our congregation or God would care about a total stranger like him, and he left satisfied that we did.

Whether we helped a man in dire need, or were hoodwinked or a little bit of both. I am thankful for the witness of our church. At best, we welcomed a distressed neighbor. At worst, we showed a conniving man our determination to be cautiously generous and Christian.

Thank you, dear friends, for truly being God’s church, and for extending Christ’s grace even in a very confusing moment. Though we may still not know for certain the motives of this unfamiliar neighbor, your heart of Christian love is very sure.

Gratefully,
Pastor James Dollins



God-Spotters
August 31, 2015

“When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart?”    (Jeremiah 29:13).

When traveling with a group of nature-lovers, whether family or friends, it sometimes becomes apparent that one person in the group excels above the rest in spotting wildlife amid the scenery. For example, in our family we can usually count on our younger son, Silas, to spot a moving or hiding creature before anyone else does. His Uncle Galen, Serena’s brother, is the same way. We love to travel with either of these guys because whenever we do, we enjoy more wildlife around us. And, because of them, I too have improved at spotting living creatures I’d never noticed before.

Seeking life in the future of the church is a similar exercise. The more we look for God’s direction, vision and dreams, the more likely we are to find them.

For this reason, one author, Margaret Grace Reese, in Unbinding the Gospel, implores the church to pray, together, for understanding about where God is leading us. This is not so that God will magically reveal the answer for the church’s future. It’s so that we have the maximum number of eyes and souls open, ready to recognize whatever God’s future holds next. If only the pastor and a few other leaders are on the look-out, it’s more likely we’ll miss the life and vision that God is trying to reveal.

This is a great season to prayerfully consider where our church is headed next. Anaheim UMC is already blessed with many faithful members, newly-staffed committees, a great facility, financial reserves given by faithful departed Christians, and no debt!  Many possibilities await us, and when we choose we want to choose wisely, and according to God’s will.

Please keep a prayerful look-out with me for the new life God will show us in AUMC’s near future. We need all the eyes we can get to help us recognize how God will use us and whom we will serve.

In Christ’s Hope and Joy,
Pastor James Dollins



Communication and the Health of Christ’s Body
August 17, 2015

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (I Cor. 12:27).

If you’ll indulge me for a moment as you read this article, please pause to wiggle your toes. Then rotate your ankles and tap your feet.

Sometimes, doing these actions, we have the funny sensation that we’d forgotten we even had toes. We somehow lose awareness that our extremities are part of us, simply because they go unused for too long.

How similar this is to the church, the Body of Christ. There are people at the end of our extremities, living far away or confined to their homes, who soon seem out of sight and out of mind. Contacting them may be as easy as picking up the phone, but we sometimes neglect to exercise that basic connection.

I am thankful that, here at AUMC, we have groups like Faithful Women and many other members who maintain contact with homebound church members and friends who live far away. Frequently in worship, we share prayers for friends and family who remain a part of us but whom we have not seen for some time.

If the church is the Body of Christ, these connections are truly our nervous system. Just as we wiggle our toes or fingers and recall what they feel like, we strengthen our connection with homebound members or distant friends when- ever we reach out and make contact.

As a pastor, I especially rely on feedback from all of our church members about which members (pun intended), may feel disconnected. It’s as though a part of the body has gone numb! Somehow, we lose communication and no longer feel the bond between us. Right away, we need to exercise that connection and restore the feeling!

Let’s work together to keep our nervous system healthy. Please continue your good work reaching out often to those who feel isolated. And, please help MJ Buist, our Minister of Visitation and me to be aware of any members who may have “gone numb,” so that we can quickly share with them Christ’s grace and love and restore our health.

In God’s Great Love,

Pastor James Dollins


Make a Joyful Noise!
August 3, 2015

"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.” (Psalm 98:4)

As we mentioned during worship last Sunday, it is clear that one of the best gifts our church offers is our music. Each week we find our souls lifted by beautiful harmonies through instruments and human voices, and we feel truly blessed.

Music has always been a source of joy in the Methodist Church from its very beginning. Our founder, John Wesley’s own brother, Charles, is best known for his prolific hymn writing, laying the foundation for our wonderful hymnal.

In recent decades, however, different tastes in worship music have sometimes become a point of division between church members. Many churches categorize worship music as traditional or contemporary. This has always seemed to me to be a false dichotomy. After all, every piece of “traditional” or older piece of music was once new, and each “contemporary” song will soon become old, or “traditional.”

I was heartened during my early conversations with our Director of Music, Scott Farthing, when we found we were of mind on this subject. We both feel that, more important than the distinction between traditional and contemporary music is the difference between good and bad worship music! In other words, we should all be in the business of finding the best hymns and anthems possible, whatever their era, so that we might praise God with all of our heart.

In order to undo what might be a false distinction between traditional and contemporary worship music, many Methodists have recently turned to a third term: blended worship. This concept has allowed the church to teach younger audiences the beauty of older hymns, and to introduce new compositions and styles to older, life-long Christians.

One benefit of blended worship is that it also allows the church to stay united. Instead of sorting out church members into groups that sing different lyrics and create distinct traditions, all members are invited, together, to appreciate a diversity of melodies and rhythms.

These are some of my own reflections on the evolving landscape of worship music. I’m eager to hear yours as well so that together we may continue making a beautiful, joyful noise to the Lord every time we gather for worship.

Grace and Peace
Pastor James Dollins



Practice Aloha!
July 20, 2015

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is pleasing?…think about these things?… (Phil. 4:8)


Hopefully, this summer, we all get to take some time away for vacation. One church member said to me, after my family’s recent trip to Hawaii, “The measure of a good vacation is how many days you keep glowing after you’ve returned.”

Having never visited Hawaii before, I was struck by a different attitude which prevailed in that place. A few times I heard that attitude referred to as the “aloha” spirit – a welcoming, hospitable and hopeful outlook chosen intentionally by the people who call those islands home. So, as my family and I keep glowing after our greatly-appreciated vacation, I like to think that some of that glow is the “aloha” that rubbed-off on us.

One thing I learned during our visit to the Aloha State was that people there seem to actively choose to practice aloha. In fact, some logos written on t-shirts or in restaurants said as much: “Practice aloha.”  It’s an invitation to focus on life’s blessings, and the marvels of God’s creation. I figured that, the same message, put the opposite way might read, “Stop stressing out,” or, “Don’t be so uptight,” or even, “Try not to be too much of a jerk.” I know there are times when I can use these reminders. After all, it is our choice not to allow life’s problems to bury us, or to bring out the worst in our behavior. It’s our choice to appreciate life’s beauty, to affirm that beauty with our neighbors, and to practice aloha.

St. Paul teaches a similar message in the beautiful scripture verse quoted above: “whatever is true . . . honorable . . . just . . . pure . . . pleasing, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). We do have a choice what to dwell on and what to think about. Paul reminds us to make that choice wisely, to set our thoughts on life’s blessings. Life’s too short to do otherwise, after all.

May your spirit be at peace this summer and always, and may the unquenchable joy of Christ fill your heart, today and forevermore.

Pastor James Dollins


One World-Wide Family
July 5, 2015

In the wake of the tragic shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, it is good to remember that, in Christ, these victims are also truly our brothers and sisters. In this spirit, our Bishop, Minerva Carcano, addressed the following letter to the members of Emanuel AME Church and shared it today with the Cal-Pac Annual Conference. The story she tells of Ms. Elizabeth Michel, a local United Methodist, is especially impactful:

Brothers and Sisters of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, May the tender mercy and healing balm of our Lord Christ Jesus be upon you.

I write to you on behalf of the California-Pacific Conference of The United Methodist Church. We represent the United Methodist community that serves in the name of Christ Jesus in Southern California, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan. You faced your terrible hour of darkness as we were gathered in our annual conference session. As soon as we knew of your suffering we began to pray for you. We continue to pray for you and now turn to the action of seeking every good way to join you in your faithful witness for justice and forgiveness.

We are bound together with you. At least one member of our conference has come to us from your congregation and faithful ministry. Ms. Elizabeth Michel, a member of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church of San Bernardino, California, informed me that you are her home church. She also shared with me that her 103 year old mother-in-law faithfully attends your Wednesday night Bible study but did not attend last week’s Bible study because she was not feeling well. We are bound together by persons like sister Elizabeth and her family, but even more, we are bound by love because together we are members of the Methodist family and the greater body of Christ.

We pray that God will continue to strengthen you for this hour. God is at work in the world through your congregation. We give God thanks for you.

Bishop Minerva G. Carcano

May the Prince of Peace heal all of our Christian family, and reign in our hearts as well.
Pastor James Dollins


Silent Servants
June 22, 2015

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matt. 25:35

I am deeply grateful to generous church members in AUMC’s past who have quietly donated to something called the Pastor’s Discretionary Fund, an account which can be used to help people in crisis who ask the pastor or church staff for help. I write this article because you might never know, otherwise, the good you’ve done to serve your neighbors through this compassionate giving.

From time to time, it’s good to celebrate the way our church has served the least of these our brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, according to Jesus’ words, we serve Christ himself when we meet the real needs of our neighbors.

Please know that church members who are in need take precedence
in the giving of these funds. Occasionally other neighbors from our community also receive aid. If you wish to continue to fund this emergency account, please write a check to AUMC and write “Pastor’s Discretionary” in the memo line. Gifts can be included with Sunday morning offerings, sent to the Church Office.

I’d like to share here some of the good that this generous giving has done:
  • A single woman suffering from a bad cold was given shelter for two nights in a local motel.
  • One family was able to make rent and avoid possible eviction from their apartment.
  • A husband and father working two jobs was able to fuel his car so that he could make it to work a few more days.
It’s not often that people come and ask for help. In fact, it’s a very humbling thing for anyone to do. Also, it is frequently not monetary help that we offer, but assistance in accessing resources. (Please note that anyone can dial 211 on the phone and will instantly access a host of resources for the hungry and homeless. Tell a friend!).

Thanks again to all the silent servants who have helped AUMC to show compassion at the right time for someone who is in crisis. The heart
of Christ is evident in your past and present generosity.

God’s Peace,
Pastor James Dollins



Frequently Asked Communion Questions

June 8, 2015

During my first year of ministry here at Anaheim UMC, several people have asked insightful questions about what we do during Holy Communion and why. Over the years I’ve learned that there is a surprising amount of meaning in even the small details of this sacred meal. Here are some responses to the Frequently Asked Questions:

Why do people receive Communion with their hands cupped like a bowl? Since God’s love is a gift, it’s not something we have to take or get for ourselves. We simply open our hands and receive it.

What should I say when I receive Communion? “Thank you?” A more traditional response is “Amen,” which means “May it be so.” In this instance, "Amen” means, “May it be that I truly receive Christ in my body and soul.”

How do I keep the juice from spilling on the ground? (This one I got from our own Ramona Thompson): After dipping the bread in the cup, turn it upside-down so that the juice runs back down into the bread. It won’t drip!

What if I don’t feel comfortable taking Communion? What should I do when everyone else is partaking? It’s perfectly acceptable to remain seated while others receive Holy Communion. Some choose to do this because they still bear resentment or unfinished business with others. They decline Communion in observance of Jesus’ teaching that we should make our peace with our neighbors before we come to make our peace with God (Matt. 5:24). However, we also should remember that Jesus welcomed everyone at the Last Supper, even one with the most unclean conscious of all, Judas. One modern option, practiced within the last several decades, is to simply come forward for a blessing. To do this, one comes forward and crosses one’s arms over the chest and the Communion Steward offers a blessing such as, “May the Lord bless you and keep you. Amen.”

Please feel free to ask more good questions about the Sacrament of Communion or anything else that comes to mind. What a joy it is to share this holy meal with you – a foretaste of the banquet we’ll one day share in heaven.


God’s Peace,
Pastor James Dollins



Purposeful Peace-Passing
April 27, 2015

Last Sunday I preached about the Passing of the Peace, the moment toward the beginning of our worship service when we turn and greet one another in the peace of Christ.

Not long after I arrived here at AUMC, some thoughtful church members expressed concern that this greeting time seemed to get out of hand – like a mini social hour inserted in an otherwise sacred time of worship.

The true reason that we say, “Peace be with you” in the beginning of the worship service is so that we may put our hearts right with one another before we seek to be at peace with God. According to Matthew’s gospel, Jesus teaches that this is the way to seek forgiveness and true peace:

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matt. 5:23-24).

In other words, if we have any unfinished business or lingering re
sentment in our hearts, perhaps even toward someone sitting beside us in the pews, the Passing of the Peace is the moment to let bygones be bygones. Making peace with God requires that we make peace with one an- other.

In the coming weeks, I’d like to invite us all to practice the Passing of the Peace in this way. As we say, “Peace be with you,” or even “Good morning,” may this be a time when we forgive each other, seek forgiveness for ourselves, and forgive anyone else in the world who may still be on our minds.

Lastly, this peace-passing doesn’t need to take much time. It’s best not to start socializing: “How are the grandkids? Sorry I forgot to call you last Thursday! Hey, how about Mike Trout’s home runs!”  Hopefully, we’ll stay around after worship for these conversations, saving time for a little coffee on the patio together after church.

If we return to the true Passing of the Peace, we may also become a more welcoming church to those who are new in our midst. One church member observed that, as we warmly greet our good friends in worship, first-time visitors are sometimes left standing by themselves, seeming to be even more exposed in their “newness” to our church. Let’s all make sure to be extra attentive to new friends in search of God’s peace.

I greatly enjoy worshiping with you each week, and I look forward to more and more meaningful Sundays to come. Truly, this congregation is blessed with Christ’s peace, a gift we can now share with many friends whom we’ve yet to meet.

Peace & Blessings!
Pastor James Dollins



Resurrected Friendships

April 13, 2015

We do not often talk about Easter as a season. We usually treat it as a single day. The truth is that Easter includes Easter Sunday and the 6 Sundays which follow it until Pentecost Sunday arrives.


During Easter season, we focus on stories of Jesus’ followers who experienced Christ’s real presence in miraculous, even tangible ways.

This was also a time for these friends of Jesus to meet him all over again. Those who had misunderstood Jesus in the first place had a new opportunity to see him for who he truly was. Some did not even recognize him in his risen form, but only gradually understood that he was Jesus.

As we remember this time when Jesus’ followers reacquainted themselves with him, we may ask how we might reacquaint ourselves with our own friends and acquaintances.

In particular, it may be helpful to consider someone we don’t get along with very well and ask whether we might “meet” that person all over again. Sometimes we get to know a person and we think we understand them until a painful misunderstanding arises and both parties step back, stunned by sudden discord and hurt feelings.

In moments like those, it can be helpful to say to ourselves:


Well, it seems I didn’t understand this person as well as I thought. I may have made some assumptions about that person that were just that – assumptions. Let me start over and meet this person again for the first time, while I pay closer attention to what truly makes them tick.

This thought process is not unlike the Easter experience of Jesus’ followers. They had to meet Jesus again for the first time. Suddenly, they understood that Jesus was not a military leader or king, but a suffering servant whose death revealed the extent of God’s love.

In a different, but related way, our friends who have somehow become adversaries might become friends again if we will start over and humbly learn who they truly are. This approach may not completely renew a friendship, but then again, it might.

Happy Easter!
Pastor James Dollins



The Message of Easter: Don’t Give Up

March 30, 2015

Please take a moment to think of your most faithful friend . . . For another moment, bask in the thought of what a blessing this per- son has been in your life . . .

When such a person comes to mind, it’s likely because he or she is someone who has never given up on us, and, perhaps more importantly, has never allowed us to give up on ourselves. Such a friend is pure gold. We may even feel that we are still alive and kicking largely due to this person’s encouragement.

The story of Jesus’ resurrection is truly a story which calls us to never give up. If anyone ever had reason to feel like a failure, those who crucified Jesus and those who did not stand by him in the end must have all been frightened by their own cowardice and sin. Many must have felt like giving up on themselves.

But the miracle of the Easter story is the way Christ rises again and meets people one by one, lifting up their heads so they may see him. In a sense, each person is “resurrected” to keep on living, to keep on seeking signs of life, and not to give up.

Together we have traveled the journey of Lent, 40 days of reflection on the things in our hearts and in our world that need to change. At times we see all these things and feel like throwing in the towel.

But, like a beloved, vital friend, Christ beckons us to hang in there. Whether we are discouraged by personal failure, the loss of a loved one or the plain old crummy things life sometimes brings, the Spirit won’t let us surrender. Our dear Friend says, “Don?’t give up.” And so we lift our eyes. We keep looking until we find even the tiniest reason to hope, and then we rediscover God’s resurrection power.


God’s Courage and Hope,
Pastor James Dollins



“Quiet Disciples”
March 16, 2015

When we began this season of Lent, at our Ash Wednesday evening service, we read a scripture that said, “Beware of practicing your piety before others...” (Matt. 6:1). This reminds me that there are a number of quiet disciples in our church who will never ‘toot their own horn,’ but whom we should celebrate nevertheless.

Each of the church jobs I will mention is, in some ways, relentless. It needs to be done on a regular basis, rain or shine. For this reason, many churches resort to paying staff to do these kinds of tasks. Yet we are richly blessed with Christian servants who consider their work to be a ministry, done purely out of their love for God and for the people of our church.

For example, every Sunday some church members would like to join us for worship but cannot drive themselves here. Thankfully, we own a church van to transport these friends, and on most Sundays it is driven by our own Jill Gray. Jill cherishes the friends she has made during those rides. She is also deeply grateful for the help of Shawn Thrasher and Mike McCune who take turns chauffeuring as well. (By the way, Jill would love to add more drivers to her list in case you’re interested!)

Another quiet servant of AUMC is Virgil Enoch, a gifted handyman who creatively solves many maintenance dilemmas on our campus. Like a magician, he comes to the church unannounced, he fixes the problem and then disappears. What a relief it is to turn around and find that something else is repaired!

A third quiet disciple is the person who edits the newsletter you are now reading. The deadline for this job comes up every two weeks, ready or not. Yet, Kay Davis does this work graciously, and with a lovely smile. The Chimes are a great help to AUMC, providing crucial information, humor and encouragement. The contact that we make among our church members via these electronic or paper newsletters is a key reason why Anaheim UMC runs so well.

Several other quiet disciples come to mind even as I write this, but this page is almost full! Let us give thanks for all tireless Christian servants of our church. May we be encouraged by their ex- ample to work in this same spirit of sacrificial love.

God’s Blessings and Peace,
Pastor James Dollins



“Works of Thanksgiving?”
March 2, 2015

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” Matt. 7:12


I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to everyone who worked so hard to make Jack Albright’s memorial service and reception a sacred and joyful event.  I’m aware of several people who did not leave the church property on that Sunday.  From morning until night, they labored to ensure that over 200 guests felt welcomed, well-fed and at home here at AUMC.

It is also beautiful how in a memorial service and reception like Jack’s we can see reflections of the honoree himself. The helpful attitude of our church members and great sacrifices of their time seem to be a mirror image of Jack’s own attitude and actions. Truly, we can witness the spirit of our departed friend in the actions of those who remember him.

This phenomenon may explain why Jesus taught us, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12). Practically speaking, when we treat others with generosity, love and kindness, they will feel motivated to respond in kind.

In Jack Albright’s case, he was so unquestionably generous and helpful, we all knew we’d better get on our toes to honor him with our own hard work and love. We didn’t even think much about it, we just knew it’s what we must do.

Now, I realize I’ve been writing a lot about Mr. Albright in recent sermons and newsletter messages. But I don’t think it’s too much. With someone who makes such a positive impact on so many, it is worthwhile to harvest whatever lessons we can from his living and his passing. In the life of this faithful Christian man, there is a lot to harvest.

So let us follow Christ’s Golden Rule as we’ve seen it lived-out in Jack and in the loving labors of his church family after his passing. May we remember, too, that the way we treat others will surely shape the way we are treated and remembered.

In God?’s Love,
Pastor James Dollins



“A time to break down, and a time to build up”

Eccl. 3:3
February 16, 2015

Soon after I was appointed to AUMC in July of last year, I attended a Friday lunch at our church office in order to get better acquainted with some of the long-time, faithful church members who eat together weekly at that time. On that particular day, Jack Albright needed a ride to attend the lunch, so I picked him up at his home.

Following the meal, as Jack and I started back to his house, he asked me to take a detour. He wanted to show me each of the sites where Methodist churches once stood. He told of how the church had once divided, moved to different locations and changed names. He explained that White Temple Methodist was eventually torn down, and its people reunited with East Church to form our current congregation.

It amazes me to consider how resilient people and churches can be. Even through tensions, church splits and relocations, God’s Spirit has remained alive and fruitful throughout this church’s history.

This coming Ash Wednesday, February 18th, when we worship at 7 PM, we will begin the season of Lent, which is also a time to break down and to build up. As the buildings where we worship are brought down and raised again, we proclaim that Christ?’s Spirit among us cannot die, even as we look on the destruction of our world and in our own lives.

I’m grateful for the creative minds of our Worship Committee and for imaginative input from our Music Director, Scott Farthing, who have helped to craft what promises to be a deeply meaningful season of worship during Lent. We are likely to discover stark symbols of destruction, but then hopeful signs of rebuilding and hope. The story of Christ’s death and resurrection will remind us to look for what God is rebuilding even amidst life’s rubble and debris.

Please join us on Ash Wednesday and throughout the season of Lent to lay our burdens down, so the Spirit may rebuild us all in the love of Jesus Christ.

God’s Peace & Strength,
Pastor James Dollins



"Two Ears, One Mouth"

February 2, 2015

A wise person once said that God may have been trying to tell us something by giving us two ears and only one mouth: We should listen twice as much as we speak.


This feels like a foreign concept to many of us, especially to those of us who are preachers! We tend to do far more than our fair share of talking.

A dear man named Walt from the first church I served was one who truly practiced the art of listening. A humble farm man, Walt was also impressively tall, measuring about 6 feet, 5 inches.

Yet Walt was gentle and would listen carefully to anyone he spoke with. After listening, Walt would pause a moment. Finally, when he knew just what he wanted to say, Walt would speak. It seemed that he always said the right thing, which was often a dry, witty remark that started everyone laughing.

The season of Lent will soon begin, and this is a time of humility and listening. As with any relationship, our friendship with God involves not only what we want to say, but what we hear when we quiet our souls to listen for God’s guidance.

Beginning with Ash Wednesday, on February 18th, we observe a time when we do less, talk less, maybe even produce less, so that we may listen, receive and discern more clearly what God wants us to do.

We may also find that God’s will is mingled with the desires of our hearts. I invite us all to ask this simple question: “What would I like to do in God’s name?”  We may have falsely assumed that God always wants us to do something that we don’t want to do. By asking, “What would I like to do?” we may quickly discover that God has been waiting to use our most basic yearnings and passions to accomplish vital, heartfelt work in Christ’s name.

By listening to our hearts and to God’s voice which may harmonize with our hearts, we can arise on Easter morning with renewed clarity and passion, eager to share the love of the Risen Lord.

God’s Peace and Wisdom,
Pastor James Dollins



“You Will Know Them By Their Fruits”
January 19, 2015

"You will know them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?"
 Matthew 7:16


In recent weeks, I’ve been blessed with an experience of this church which I am sure will leave a lasting impression on me. What an inspiration to witness the way in which AUMC’s members have surrounded dear Jack Albright with encouragement and care following his recent stroke. I’m grateful to say that Jack is able to speak again, sharing occasional jokes and his charming smile. Still, he requires more and more rest, which he receives in the care of loving nurses and doctors at the hospital.

Jack, an only child, having no family of his own, centered much of his life around Anaheim UMC, I’m told. I’m also beginning to recognize his handiwork as I get better acquainted with our church campus – a fixed pipe here, a hand-made easel there, etc. etc. No wonder I’ve heard the phrase so many times, “I guess we’d have to ask Jack about that…” Many in our church must feel a little nervous at the prospect of keeping this church in shape without Jack here to guide us.

But, more than buildings, pipes and blueprints, Jack has had an indelible influence on people’s hearts. This is evidenced by the steady stream of visitors at his bedside in recent days, and the many calls to our church office about Jack’s status and health.

Scripture tells us that we will know God’s true servants by their fruits. When we see such bountiful and ripe fruit of friendship surrounding a soul like Jack Albright, we understand how many seeds of service and love he must have sown in the past. We’re reminded, also, that whether or not our own biological families survive to support us, our ties with Christian family can be there for us wherever and whenever we are the ones in need.

Let us keep on sowing seeds of service, friendship and encouragement in Christ’s name, just as our brother Jack has done, so that we too may one day reap this good fruit of Christian love.

God’s Blessings and Peace,
Pastor James Dollins



Make a Relationship Resolution!
January 5, 2015

I will always be grateful for the time when 20 young adults gathered for an Advent retreat at a camp in Julian, Cali- fornia, and Pastor Robb issued us a pivotal challenge. He handed each one of us a phone card (remember those?) worth $5. Then he said, “This card is yours to keep, but it’s for the purpose of calling that one person whom you know you need to call.”

I immediately thought of a friend, Andrew, one of my best friends during college. But, sadly, Andrew and I had lost touch. This was in part because my conversations with him made less and less sense to me in recent years. I would later learn that Andrew was becoming mentally ill.

Nevertheless, Pastor Robb’s phone card pushed me to make contact with him one more time. I’ll always be grateful I did because a few years later Andrew’s condition worsened. Eventually he took his own life. Andrew’s mother, knowing that I was a minister, asked if I would be willing to conduct Andrew’s memorial service. What an honor this was, and it may never have happened if Andrew and I had not reconnected via that $5 phone card!

At the turn of a new year, we frequently make resolutions that revolve around self-improvement and individual goals. But what if we make a relationship resolution instead?  Who is that one person we know we should call, but we’ve simply put it off for too long?

Let us prayerfully consider what telephone call God would want us to make, or which letter we need to write. Since this gift of life is also a fragile and fleeting one, let us put a relationship resolution at the top of our priorities this year.

Have a Happy and Blessed New Year!
Pastor James Dollins



Give Your Best Gift
December 22, 2014

One way to measure whether we have lived a meaningful life is to ask, “Did I give the best gift I had to offer?” At Christmas, when we receive the gift of Jesus’ birth, we remember God’s most precious gift to us, his son. Soon after, three wise men come bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.


Our Christmas gift-giving springs from this biblical heritage of marvelous gifts. In turn, I pray that, by the end of our lives each one of us may affirm, “Yes, I did give the best gift or talent I had to offer.” To be able to say this will surely bring peace to our souls.

I’m so encouraged that, during this Christmas season, members of our church are leading us all to give of ourselves. Some church members, led by Sandie Duff, are gathering gift bags filled with canned food, gloves, blankets and hygiene kits for homeless neighbors in our surrounding community. On Saturday, December 20th, 20 such bags will be given to these neighbors.

Also, last Sunday we prayed God’s blessing on 6 decorated Christmas trees to be given to families in need. Several went to families of Child Time, the preschool which operates on our church campus. Please read what Carolyn, the preschool’s director wrote to Scott Farthing, who led the tree program:

Thank you so much for blessing our families with the Christmas trees.
1. The first family has had a serious illness with the father being in the hospital and off work for several weeks.
2. The second family is a very young Hispanic family - mom, dad and 3 year old little boy. The mother was touched to the point of tears that the tree was blessed. It was very important to her. The parents are both working. They are in their late teens, maybe 20 yrs old! The little boy said, "PaPa is that ours?" PaPa said, "Yes, it is ours, from the big church."
3. The third family has a new baby and a 2 year old. The father is from a country in Africa. Mom is an early childhood education student and dad is a medical student. The father said, "My wife will cry when she sees we have a tree."

Thank You!
Carolyn Pulos, Childtime Director


Glory to God who still gives Christ’s love through the hearts of our generous church members today.

Merry Christmas!
Pastor James Dollins



For Everything there is a Season
(Eccl. 3:1)
December 8, 2014

As autumn nears its end, it’s a good time to reflect on beginnings and endings and the rhythms of life itself. Recently I spoke with a church member about caring for our elderly family members and the many adjustments we make as our loved ones age.

Our conversation reminded me of my years of service at Laguna Country UMC, a church near a large retirement community. It was a place where I learned a great deal from beloved church members who adjusted, some gracefully, others not so gracefully, to the many challenges posed by aging and the process of dying. Those who inspired me most were those who, even as they weakened, still showed deep gratitude for their past and for the strength they once had.

These saints inspired me to write this poem:

The Arch of Life
Life stretches like a rainbow
From low to high to low.
An infant gains abilities
But in old age will slow.

We crawl, then walk, then work the land,
We speak and then persuade,
We gain each power, then in reverse,
Each ultimately fades.

Yet still we needn’t fear to see
Our strength rise and descend.
God first gives capability,
We give it back again.


Only for a season,
God lends us more control,
Until we yield it, grateful
To the One who makes us whole.


Thanks be to God for life’s seasons, for the accomplishments of our past, and for the assurance that, through autumn and forevermore, God walks with us still.


Have a Blessed Advent Season,
Pastor James Dollins


With Gratitude and Trust
November 24, 2014

Some events in life serve to remind us, swiftly and clearly, that we have less control over the future than we thought. Moments like the birth of a child come to mind, when life is overwhelmingly, indelibly altered. The passing of a loved one, like- wise reminds us how limited our own power is compared to the forces of life and death.

In such moments of life’s journey, the seas grow so high they appear larger than the very ship we sail. We must simply hold on for the ride. My family experienced this sensation when we learned of my reappointment from Laguna Hills to Anaheim. We had not seen this change coming. Truth be told, we had not requested to be moved, but, as they say in our business, God and the bishop had other plans!

Today, as we approach Thanksgiving, I find myself deeply grateful for the joys that this unexpected turn has brought to me and my family.  Each day I feel honored to serve this congregation which has such a rich history of ministry and demonstrates such joyful anticipation of things to come. Frequently, I am fascinated by conversations with inquisitive Christian minds here, and I’m enthralled by music played and sung with skill and passion.

I am also profoundly thankful for the flexibility and grace
of my children and my wife, Serena, during this transition. They have done all in their power to see promise in this new beginning. As a result, they have been rewarded with many glimpses of new opportunities and friendships.

On this Thanksgiving holiday, let us be grateful that, even amidst life’s great and humbling changes, God remains in control. Knowing this, we can entrust our lives and our church to the Spirit who continues to lead us toward safe and beautiful waters.
God’s Peace,
Pastor James Dollins



Building the Body
November 10, 2014

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (I Corinthians 12:27)

One of the best sensations is the feeling of being needed. And, conversely, one of the worst is that of being useless. My favorite church memories are of the times when friends worked joyfully together to serve our neighbors. My saddest memory of church-going was the time that I felt invisible and that my gifts were never appreciated.

So, I’m happy to share that, with the help of our Lay Leader, Bill Fanning, we have assembled a team of 8 church members who will become our Nominating Committee, the group which invites AUMC members to use their talents where they are most needed. This is the one committee of the church which the pastor chairs, and its sole purpose is to invite our church members into acts of service and leadership.

As in St. Paul’s analogy in the verse above, we remember that unused talents become like unused limbs of the body. They grow tired and weak. Our Nominating Committee will prayerfully consider how to invite each one of us to use our gifts to our full potential, until the Body of Christ, our church, becomes healthy and strong.

While the Nominating Committee sets out to strengthen, nurture and invite each part of the church body to be active, I invite you to respond in turn. Please ask yourself what passion and vision you dream of fulfilling here at Anaheim UMC. You may have some gift that no one has ever noticed in the past, but which will strengthen us all if you share your creativity and time. Please feel free to discuss these possibilities with me, with Bill Fanning, or with any of our Nominating Committee members who have joyfully volunteered to set this body of Christ, the church, in motion.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor James Dollins



Assume the Best

October 13, 2014

“Make my joy complete: Be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord” (Phil. 2:2).

Every day, in multiple situations, we are given a simple choice. We can assume the worst or we can assume the best. In order to be at peace with ourselves and with our neighbors, it’s much easier if we will assume the best.


For example, try to remember a time when you left a conversation wondering, “Just what did he mean by that?” Or, “Was she being passive aggressive in that last statement?”

According to St. Paul in the verse sited above, we have a choice to make in such a moment. We can certainly assume the worst about a friend’s intentions. We can replay their words again and again, scrubbing our souls abrasively with the criticism we “heard.”

But we may also have read things incorrectly. When we ask ourselves, “Am I sure that’s what she meant?” the answer may be, “Well, no. I’m not.”

For this reason, St. Paul urges the church at Philippi to assume the very best about one another and to be “in full accord.”

We really can’t go wrong by assuming the best. If the person speaking to us was, in fact, trying to be a little nasty, then by assuming the best we choose not to let the veiled barb pierce our skin. And, if this acquaintance meant no harm at all, we’ve avoided imagining, or, much worse, creating a problem where there was none.

For our own inner peace, and to be in “full accord” with one another, let us practice this discipline in our friendships and in our church. Let us also assume that the best is soon to come in the near future for Anaheim UMC. After all, we have no good reason to doubt this is true!
In God’s Peace,
Pastor James Dollins



JOYFUL NOISES

September 29, 1014

Recently someone asked me whether it is appropriate to clap during worship after a moving or inspiring song. In a church like ours that is so blessed with gifted singers and instrumentalists, we often feel lifted to respond with warm smiles and clapping.

So, is applause fitting for a worship service? I believe that it can be as long as we remain in a spirit of worship as we show our appreciation. St. Paul explains this principle well, saying, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks to God in all circumstances” (I Thess. 5:16-18). If our applause is offered in a spirit of rejoicing, not only in the performer, but in God, then we maintain a spirit of worship and ceaseless prayer.

Equally important in a worship service is the spirit of those who perform. Hopefully our song and other expressions are more than a performance, but also an offering, both to the people who listen and to the One who gave us hands and voices in the first place to play instruments and to sing.

So, may our song be an offering to God. May the preacher’s words be the same. When we maintain that focus, we find that each note is enhanced by a sense of gratitude and joy.

And when the song is finished, let us respond as each one sees fit. If some feel moved to clap during worship, may the applause be in a spirit of rejoicing and continuing prayer. If applauding in church feels awkward for others, let?’s not assume that they didn’t like the song, but that they show appreciation and rejoice in stillness.

Let us each be true to ourselves, because this is the best spirit to bring to church anyway. And thanks be to God that our hearts are so often lifted and healed in the sharing of songs, smiles and rejoicing.

See you Sunday!
Pastor James Dollins



Deep and Wide

September 15, 2014

The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:14).

There’s a funny old camp song we used to sing which said, “Deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide...” Sing it with me!


For those of you who know this one, I apologize for getting it stuck in your head. It’s truly an “earworm” song and it may play in our minds for days.

But it’s striking how these two words, “deep” and “wide” can guide our mission as followers of Christ. For example, as we go out to spread God’s love widely among our neighbors, we quickly find that we must also be sustained by inspiration and nourishment from our own experience of God’s peace.

To help us find this deep nourishment, I would like to start a new study in which we discuss, each week, the scriptures that we’ll read the following Sunday morning in church. In my ministry I’ve found that such conversation helps us all to find the deep relevance of scripture for our present day world.

This is also, I believe, the best way to read the Bible – together. For most of history, the Bible has been read in the context of community. Before Jesus, it was read in the synagogue. After Christ, it was read in churches. Only in the last few centuries has it been studied in private in our homes. The Bible’s target audience was not an individual at all, but a group of people seeking to live faithfully together, and often facing great challenges.

To make sense of our complex and wonderful scriptures, I’d like to study them with you. Wednesdays at 2 PM works for me. How about you? Please feel free to email me at jamesd@anaheimumc.org, call the church office (714) 776-5710, or pass me a note at church expressing your hopes for such a study. And please indicate your availability during the week.


The depth we’ll find in this conversation will surely strengthen us to reach more widely into our neighborhood and into our world, so we may better fulfill AUMC’s mission of “reaching out, serving and inviting with the love of Jesus Christ.”

God’s Peace,
Pastor James Dollins


RECONNECT

September 1, 2014

A retired pastor once offered me sound wisdom about greeting people on Sunday mornings after worship. He was exiting the sanctuary as he went to shake my hand, and I asked him, “How are you doing, Bob?” In his unshakable New York accent, he kindly advised me, “James, you may not want to ask that question to your elderly church members. They may just tell you the truth! Instead, try saying, ‘It’s good to see you!’”

We all discover surprising aches and weaknesses in our bodies as we age. This is true of our own bodies and also of bodies of people, such as the church. As we recently read in worship, St. Paul compares the church to the Body of Christ, and, like any other body, we will find that the church finds new aches and pains as it ages.


And, isn’t it true that these aches and pains nearly always show up first in our joints? Our individual muscles may be strong enough, but the tendons, cartilage, and pivot points wear thin. In other words, we need to make our connections stronger!

I was happy to learn that Anaheim UMC has a tradition of Connection Hour between worship services, designed to connect friends with one another and also to strengthen the bond between our two worship services.

For Rally Sunday, September 7th, I invite us all to give our connections a good work out. To do this, we’ll encourage our 9:00am worshippers to stay a little late, at least until 10:15am, and our 10:30am worshipers to come a little early, at 10:00am, to intentionally overlap our schedules and strengthen our connections. We will also use the Fellowship Hall and provide tables and chairs where people can rest, visit, and connect even better. Church members are already planning to bake cookies, and I hope you’ll consider inviting a friend to church that day.

I look forward to growing stronger as one body with this exciting church, so that we may use our strength together in the joyful work God calls us to do.

God’s Peace,
Pastor James Dollins


Simply Servants
August 18, 2014

“If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet,
you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (Jn. 13:14).


My wife Serena and I recently spoke with a Christian missionary, Matthew, who served for 6 years in Paraguay. He described to us his method of doing mission work in a remote village there. He said, “I didn’t tell people that they had to become Christian or come to church. I simply asked how I could help them. Sometimes, after living with people, and helping them for about 3 years, suddenly they would become dedicated members of the church – lifelong leaders who still serve that church today.”

What a refreshing model for mission work, simply to see the needs around us and then to try and meet those needs. Period. When we improve the lives of our neighbors in Jesus’ name, the use of Jesus’ name takes on much more meaning in the lives of those whom we help.

So often in the church we don?’t make it past the board meeting. We don’t get beyond talking about our plans. Then we get frustrated, knowing that God calls us to be and to do more. Perhaps if our meeting agenda were simply, “How can we help?” we would get to work faster for God’s mission.

As we wound-down our conversation, the last thing Matthew said was, “Also, it’s not all about doing but also about being.” How true this is. Oftentimes neighbors simply need us to be a friend rather than for us to do or give something in particular.

With these words of wisdom in mind, let us consider how we all may:
  1. Be available as friends to our neighbors.    And…
  2. If our new friends need our help, do whatever it takes to fulfill the need.

Simple, isn’t it? Leave it to a humble, dedicated Christian like Matthew to beckon us back to God’s basic call. I am thrilled to walk with Anaheim UMC in this simple, servant way.

In God’s Great Love,
Pastor James Dollins


Our International Neighborhood
August 4, 2014

“Go therefore and disciple all nations” (Matt. 28:19).

This morning, I had an enlightening conversation with the friend of one of our church members as we sat in the waiting room of a hospital. This woman had worked many years as a teacher, specifically with English as a Second Language (ESL) students.

Often, when I hear about ESL programs, my mind pictures children from a particular culture speaking a particular language, namely Spanish.

But this teacher said that, at times, she would teach 6 children, and of the 6, 5 different languages were represented! She went on to describe the remarkable stories that these children would tell of their harrowing adventures of leaving their native countries to travel to the United States.

Truly we live in an international community, especially in the Los Angeles area. Walt Disney may have been a prophet when he reminded us “it’s a small world after all.” Jesus, in his Great Commission, invites us to think globally as well, going to “all nations” to share God’s Good News.

There’s also a true grace in this way of thinking. Unfortunately, when we focus on just one other ethnicity, we’re more inclined to think in terms of “us” and “them.” But, especially in our region, we benefit from thinking in terms of “everyone.” This is how Jesus invites us to think, and also whom Christ calls us to serve. I look forward to the ways in which Anaheim UMC can befriend the diverse spectrum of neighbors we’ve been given. We’re well positioned to disciple “all nations,” including those, like me, who descended from European immigrants!

May we lift our eyes to see this bigger picture, and may God strengthen and inspire us to heed Jesus’ call.

In God’s Peace,
James Dollins


Have a Good Time for God!
July 21, 2014

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10)

Music and food. I’ve always thought that these were two key ingredients for making a church strong! On our first Sunday, when we enjoyed the 4th of July Welcome Picnic Luncheon for the pastor’s family in the Fellowship Hall, we were all impressed by the delicious barbequed chicken, desserts, and the tasteful dance music playing in the background.

Anaheim UMC already seems to understand that being a Christian can also be a good time! Jesus clearly stated that he came that we might have life, and have it abundantly!

This principle guides everything we do as believers and as a church. After all, if our daily lives have been depleted of all fun, it’s time to ask ourselves if we’re really doing what God wants us to do.

Or if our neighbors’ lives are no longer any fun because of joblessness, poverty or loneliness, then it’s time for us to invite them, once again, to the heavenly party that Jesus has thrown here on earth.

Thanks again on behalf of my whole family for the abundant life you have already shared with us in great music, delicious food and welcoming smiles. Using these same ingredients, Anaheim UMC will surely help many new friends to taste and see that the Lord is good.

In God’s Great Love,
Pastor James Dollins