From Pastor Brenda – Sabbatical Plans

This Is Not a Break-up Letter …

By the time you read this, I’ll be gone. Although that sounds like the beginning of a dysfunctional break-up letter (and I now have a Glen Campbell earworm playing in my head), I’m merely stating the fact that, by the time this issue of The Bell comes out, I’ll be on my three-month sabbatical (plus two weeks of vacation). Although I will miss you all deeply, I’m looking forward to the rest, reflection, and renewal that I anticipate experiencing in the next few months.

As I pondered how I wanted to use this time of renewal over the last few months of preparation, the question that most often resonated for me was, “how does one sustain oneself for long-term ministry?”

Pastor Brenda

The place this question kept leading me to was the practices of monastic communities, especially those that follow the Benedictine Rule of Life. In a monastery, prayer is the framework of life: every several hours, all work is set aside and the entire community engages is the ancient practice of praying the psalms. All other activities of the day—rest, easting, work, study, community engagement—are set within this framework of prayer. In our modern secular life, even for those of us who are spiritual and practice a faith tradition, our secular responsibilities—work, family obligations, household tasks, travel to and from work and home—tend to create the framework of our lives, and we stick prayer into the gaps in that framework when we can.

What if I can learn to approach life with a monastic rhythm, even while living in the secular world? What would it be like to develop a modern monastic practice of praying the hours, establishing that prayer as a framework for all other parts of life?

Since I cannot live in a monastic community for the entire three months of my sabbatical, I’ve sought out a range of experiences that offer the rhythm of communal living, while also exploring prayer and spiritual practice. These experiences, which range from a silent retreat to a work camp, are scheduled in one-month intervals throughout my sabbatical, as a way of keeping me accountable to and reconnecting with my goals on a regular basis.

These are the communities I plan to visit during my sabbatical, as a way to practice living that framework of prayer:

August 27-29: Silent retreat at the New Camaldoli Hermitage, a Benedictine Camaldolese monastery in Big Sur.

September 13-17: Northwest Coast Pilgrimage on the Oregon coast with Heartbeat, an organization that promotes Celtic spirituality (I’ve applied to attend this pilgrimage, but have not yet heard if I’m accepted)

October 7-13: Volunteer Work Week at Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center in the eastern Cascades, Washington. I’ll be helping to prepare the center for winter, while also experiencing the camp’s teaching, art, and hiking opportunities, the community, and evening prayer service.

November 2-3: private retreat at Mercy Center in Burlingame, with silent contemplation, labyrinth-walking, and Mercy’s Taizé service.

In addition to exploring the monastic pattern of spiritual practice, I intend to read widely and deeply in several areas of both personal and church interest: church growth and evangelism, early Christianity and early non-canonical Christian writing; Mary Magdalene and other early Christian women leaders; as well as my massive “to be read” pile of novels, poetry, and nonfiction at home.

I also hope to dig into a few personal projects at home, including addressing my many UFO’s (“unfinished objects” in craft-speak), refresh my home garden, reorganize my home office/craft space, and reconnect with friends and family.

Before you know it, it will be November, and I will be back with fresh energy and new ideas; until then, I will hold you all in my prayers and ask for God’s peace and blessings to be upon you.


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August Special Offering – School Supplies

On the first Sunday of August, we will receive a Special Offering of backpacks, lunch boxes, and other school supplies to be distributed by the Fremont Family Resource Center to children and youth of the Tri-Cities who are in need. A monetary offering will also be received to purchase additional needed school supplies.

Though typically received on the second Sunday of the month, this special offering will be officially received on Sunday, August 5. As with all our special offerings, you are welcome to give at any time (always make checks payable to Niles Discovery Church). You can also give online: go to our church webpage and click the “donate” button at the top of the page.

Niles Discovery Church receives a special offering each month. With that many possibilities for special giving, you may need to choose which ones are most important to you. You can see the schedule of special offerings at or call the church office we will mail you one.

Thanks to your generosity, our July Special Offering for the Pastors’ Discretionary Fund raise a total of $1349.

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What are the costs of clicking “I agree”?

According to a 2012 article in The Atlantic magazine, it would take 76 working days to read all the privacy policies one encounters in a year surfing the web. This estimate was simply for privacy policies, not other terms and conditions one agrees to by using a website. Presumably, the number of websites one encounters in a year has grown.

According to a 2016 article in The Washington Post, it takes about an hour to read the terms and conditions for a typical smart phone app. How many apps do you have on your phone?

Terms and Conditions May Apply, a 2013 documentary, that examines the cost of so-called “free” services and the continuing disappearance of online privacy. People may think they know what they give up when they click “I Agree” on companies like Facebook and Google. But do they?

The Second Saturday Documentary Series presents a free screening of the film on Saturday, August 11, at 1:30 p.m., at Niles Discovery Church. The screening will be followed by a discussion.

The Second Saturday Documentary Series is co-sponsored by Niles Discovery Church and the San Jose Peace and Justice Center. Learn more about the series at

(On Saturday, September 8, the Second Saturday Documentary Series will present Backpack Full of Cash in conjunction with FUDTA. Learn more about this film at

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Rally Day plans

Do you have a favorite stuffed animal from your childhood? If not a stuffed animal, a favorite toy? If you still have it, please bring it to worship on Sunday, September 9, for our Rally Day worship service. If you no longer have it, please bring a picture of it.

The theme for that Sunday is “All God’s Critter’s Got a Place.” The scriptures are Psalm 139:1-18 and Psalm 24.

This is also the Sunday before the international Climate Action Summit (see Jeff’s Jottings), so we’ll be exploring God’s love and our responsibility to be stewards of the earth.

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Flea Market: Donating Books And More

Donation time for the August Flea Market is fast approaching. It’s NOT TOO SOON to start preparing your special items to bring to the church beginning July 23.

Here are some important considerations for any BOOKS you may want to donate:

  • BRING: novels of all genres—mystery, romance, history, adventure, family, science fiction, and more.
  • BRING: nonfiction of all types.
  • BRING: Children’s books in good condition.
  • BRING: both hardcover and paperback books.

DO NOT BRING: pamphlets, any instructions for using technology, especially for computers; comics or coloring books; outdated textbooks; and torn, worn, or stained books.

This is an important fundraiser for the church, and the flea market team appreciates your donations. However, please remember that everything you do to make sure that your donation, whatever it is, is clean and usable, and not torn, stained, broken, chipped, dirty, or unpolished, will give the team more time to focus on selling the items.

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MCE Team leads an inclusive Sunday School/Gender Spectrum discussion

The Ministry of Christian Education Team invites the whole congregation to join them on Sunday, September 23 at noon, in the fellowship hall, for a discussion about “Making Our Classrooms More Open and Inclusive.” The goal of this informal training and discussion is to help us all make our Sunday School programs more open, inclusive, and welcoming for all of our congregation’s children. The topics of gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation will be explored, and we will discuss some of the challenging issues that our young people are facing today in our homes, schools, and communities. Lunch will be provided.

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Jeff’s Jottings – Rise for the Climate

This is going to be the most important moral action in the Bay Area in 2018. Join us.

On September 8, people on every continent will come together to Rise for Climate, Jobs & Justice. The lead action will take place in San Francisco on Saturday, September 8, with sibling actions taking place around the globe. Through these actions, we will tell the story of the communities we want and show governments how to follow our lead.

The actions are schedule for this weekend because Governor Jerry Brown is hosting a “Climate Action Summit” September 12-14 in San Francisco and we’re going to help set the agenda and narrative about climate change and the real solutions that are needed. The goal for the march in San Francisco is to create the biggest climate demonstration on the west coast of the Americas ever.

What is specifically planned for September 8 in San Francisco
9:00 a.m. – Interfaith Power and Light is coordinating an interfaith worship service; location TBA
10:00 a.m. – People will begin lining up for the march by constituency
11:00 a.m. – The march will begin (from the Embarcadero to the Civic Center), led by a group of indigenous people

Would you like to help make this a reality? There are several ways you can help.

Help organize the event
If you would like to join me in helping organize faith communities’ participation in the march, email me. I’ll send you information as I get it. (A meeting schedule hasn’t been set yet, but the meetings are in San Francisco.)

Help organize our church
We need a point person (or two) who will keep this action in front of our congregation. Your primary job will be promoting the event and working on getting people to RSVP at This is important to do for two reasons:  (1) RSVPing gets people to make the commitment to be there; and (2) it will help the organizers estimate how many port-a-potties are needed. Let me know if you’re willing to take on this role. Ask them to also RSVP at so they can get up-to-the-minute information about the UCC/DOC contingent.

Pastor Jeff

Host a preparatory art event at our church
Marches like this are always more fun when they are accompanied by art. Create a space at your church where people can make posters and banners to bring with them. Get creative with costumes and giant puppets. Find ways to communicate that your faith leads you to rise for the climate, jobs, and justice. Remember to promote this within and beyond our congregation. (And submit the event at

Respond to some other need in our congregation
There is probably some other need people in our congregation have that will help them participate. Identify it and help us meet it.

This is not the only thing happening that Saturday. We’re also screening Backpack Full of Cash that afternoon, but I’ll be at this event because I believe climate change is the most important moral issue of our day. I hope many of you will choose to join me – and some of you will choose to help organize our congregation’s participation.

Pastor Jeff

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