MOTHER’S DAY– or for me: DAUGHTER’S DAY 2020

A few weeks ago our daughter reflected on Facebook all the wonderful places she has had the opportunity to live.   She now lives in Now she lives in the San Francisco Bay area in Concord.   She is married to a wonderful, caring man, Ken.  They have an energy-driven, smiling, laughing, playful seven year old son, Thomas.   On my grandson’s  behalf I say:  HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY.  HAPPPY DAUGHTER’S DAY!

On the eve of seeing Emily and her family, the first time while we have been quarantined in our homes with the current pandemic, I’m awake at four in the morning excited to see them from a “socially appropriate distance”.   We will visit in the court yard at our home in Rio Vista, about 35 minutes from their home.  My chair will be inside the Casita that has an entrance into the courtyard–and I will be wearing my mask.   Emily and her family will be seated with masks six feet away in the corners of the court yard.   We’re going to order burgers from a local restaurant that delivers.  Nancy has made cup cakes for the occasion.

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During this pandemic,  Emily has been 500% involved with her husband in caring for their active seven year old son and young puppy Pike— a beautiful Boxer.  While it hasn’t been easy, time has gone pretty fast with all the activities Emily plans for Tommy.  We also spend time on Facetime and a neat interactive program called Caribu.

Emily has shared with us how happy they have been, amid the tragedy of a society closed down, to have been blessed with so much quality time together as a family.  My reflections take me to how much my wife and I have been blessed to watch our daughter (mom and wife) grow through the years–especially during these weeks/months confined to home.

Some background on Emily:  Readers of this blog may need to know that Emily is a PK = preachers kid.  Her life has taken her to many cities through the years.  She was born in 1980 and baptized in Davenport, Iowa.  As a baby, I spent a lot of time with Nancy and me and our church youth group.  I especially remember long work trips with the youth with a baby in tow.  We had a lot of teenagers willing to help us with babysitting.  Emily’s youngest years were at my second Call as an Associate Pastor in Evanston Illinois. Her playground was the back yard of the manse next door to the church in sharing this sacred play-space with the church day care.  Happy, social Emily was always surrounded with lots of children.

Our move to a Saginaw Michigan in 1987 put her Emily in a school system that would take her from Kindercare, Kempton Elementary Scool, South Middle School until she graduated from Arthur Hill High School in 1999.  I’ll never forget crying that rainy night at her graduation from High school.

Emily moves quickly through Delta College and Michigan State University with a wonderful internship in Washington DC working for Senator Debbie Stabenow. She had the chance to ‘rub shoulders’ with Hillary Clinton.   (Sorry for dropping names!)  She worked for the Whirlpool Corporation that took her professionally, to Nashville Tennessee, Charleston North Carolina and then to the San Francisco Bay area where she currently lives.  Health issues, another story, has caused Emily to go on disability.  Nothing she has encountered has kept her from being a strong woman in caring for her family!  That’s why I am writing this short  essay.

I firmly believe, as parents, we’ve been called to be trustees of of our children.  Emily is first and foremost a Child of God.   Along with her family, she is a precious  soul God has given us.  I can’t imagine the world without her.

There will always be ups and downs.  I know that Emily and her family will be able to work through anything  the world throws their way.  As I’ve said before, next to her mother she is the strongest women I know!

On Mother’s Day our journey continues.    We will be safe from the dangerous virus that lurks all around us. I know Emily will weather the storms in always finding the God-filled sunny days ahead as shed grows as a woman and MOTHER.

This year of our Lord, 2020, I pray that our journey together will continue in marvelous ways. God only knows.

May God continue to bless Emily and her family.

Happy Mother’s Day–daughter day!

Retirement on Sacramento DELTA

Three years ago Nancy and I made the decision to move from Saginaw, Michigan to Rio Vista, California.  The decision was easy.  For health reasons, it was becoming obvious that I could not make regular trips to California to visit our daughter and her family.  We wanted to live close to Emily, Ken and our young grandson Thomas.  Emily, Ken and Thomas live about 45 minutes from Rio Vista.

It was also important that we find a home we could afford.  California is an expensive state.  It was impossible for us to find affordable housing near San Francisco.  Then Nancy and Emily, on a trip through the Sacramento Delta, found the gated community named TRILOGY.  This is a 55+ community with beautiful homes, an 18 hole golf course and lots of other amenities.  The HOA fees are reasonable.  There are roughly 6000 residents in this affordable gated community of seniors.  TRILOGY is part of the city of Rio Vista, population roughly 10,000, located on he shore of he Sacramento River–and the Sacramento DELTA.  Rio Vista is halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento.   We love our home on Riviera Drive complete with a casita (pictured) my study and man-cave with private entrance.

I’m still getting used to life in a small town.  We have no doctors.  One good grocery store, a pharmacy and hardware store take care of our immediate needs.  The fire department comes to the house once a year to change smoke detector batteries.  I have a great barber who comes outside to help me and my walker in and out of my car.  McDonalds and KFC/Taco Bell are the only fast-food outlets on highway 12 that runs through our small town.   Main Street and Front Street have a number of good restaurants, bars, small shops–all great for tourists.  Several small churches can be found in Rio Vista–no Methodist, Lutheran or Presbyterian churches in Rio Vista.  We travel once or twice w week the 20-30 miles to do major shopping, visit doctors.  We pass by Travis Air Force Base on our trips to Fairfield, about 15 minutes from our home.  NAPA and several wineries are within thirty minutes of our home.   Nancy has found several groups she thoroughly loves–quilting with friends on Wednesdays, playing cards, a couple of service projects including making pillow cases for children with Cancer.  This takes her to Sacramento once or twice a month to deliver what she and her friends make.  She loves having Wednesday nights out with her friends–and trips once or twice a week to Concord to visit Emily and her family.   We love taking our lunch to a couple of places along the shore of the Sacramento River.  I always look forward to visits from the ‘kids’ — especially Tommy who is now seven.  I’d have to say playing with Legos is our favorite activity.   While we still miss all that was available when living in Saginaw, Michigan, our home for 30 years, nothing can replace quality time we can now spend with our California family and friends.

 SO WHAT IS THE SACRAMENTO DELTA?

A triangle of land just east and inland from the San Francisco Bay Area, the Sacramento DELTA provides drinking water for more than 20 million Californians  (2008 statistic).   The Delta is an expansive inland river delta and estuary formed by the confluence of the Sacrament and San Joaquin rivers–just east of where the rivers enter the Suisun Bay.  The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers are major shipping channels–depth of over 30 feet.  The DELTA is also a major boating, fishing, camping, touring wonderland offering many attactions for tourists.

Because of these rivers, we cross several bridges to get just about ANYWHERE!   Nothing is worse than trying to cross the Rio Vista Bridge when a big ship is traveling to or from Sacramento.  We can be held up in traffic for up to thirty minutes.   Because all we have are two-lane roads in and out of town, one accident can tie up traffic for hours.

There is much to learn as we continue adjusting to Delta living.  I hope this brief introduction will help friends and family understand where we now live.

RIO VISTA GAS FIELD and WIND FARM

Rio Vista is also known as  one of the largest natural gas fields in the nation.  Spanning portions of three counties and covering over 29,000 acres, it is the largest natural gas field in California.  –fifteenth largest in the United States.  Driving through TRILOGY and the 3000 homes and parks and golf course, one will also see several locations where this gas field has active outlets.  One cannot avoid seeing on the horizon, leaving the gates of TRILOGY, the hundreds of wind turbines.   The delta is also known for the low-elevation hills and brisk breezes allowing for this source of natural energy–the future in California.   Also o note, after we made our move to California, are all the solar panels on home roofs that capture energy from the sun.  So far, we have not made he decision to install solar panels on our house.

Wind is a ‘big deal’ for us on the Delta.  With the winds come the threat of fires.  Power outages are also common throughout the Delta.  We’ve been lucky so far when it comes to the fires.  The new normal for people living in California are these threats of fire and power outages.  This will be a topic to address at another time.

I thought it was time to write a few things about life in Rio Vista and the Sacramento Delta.  Take a close look at the map of the Delta–lots of things to see and do.  Enjoy.

 

What are your computer memories?

My first years of ministry my tool box for writing sermons was pencil, pen and paper — and typewriter.  This was the 70’s!   A black IBM ‘Selectric’ was my favorite.  I must have kept that typewriter in my writing ‘tool box’ into the 80’s.

I don’t remember exactly when, but my first computer was a so-called portable Radio Shack Tandy TRS-80 — a big and heavy machine with a white carrying case that looked like a sewing machine case on steroids.

I loved using both the typewriter and computer. After ten years of ministry I moved to the Warren Ave Presbyterian Church in Saginaw MI where computers were introduced into the regular work of maintaining church finances.

Around 1985 I parted permanently from the use of a typewriter, though it took the office over a dozen more years. We always kept a big blue ‘IBM Selectric’ around the office that came in handy in filling out wedding, baptism and a host of other important forms. Personally, I always had an IBM PC or a laptop.  I never used a Mac!

This may sound funny, but I took my first computer class at Ghost Ranch—YES, this rustic, rural church owned camp located in the beautiful mountains near Abiquiu, New Mexico.  Ghost Ranch is known as a sacred place where we can usually get away from our computers and high=tech tools.   I believe this class I took was limited to eight or ten of  us….computers provided. I remember all the extension cords and computer wires that connected us to one or two power outlets and one hard-wired printer.

The church has always been quite progressive in helping us clergy-types use these important tools that would make sermon writing/editing a major time-saving tool. No longer would I need to re-type sermons three or four times to come up with something that could give me a manuscript guide in proclaiming the gospel!

These are my earliest thoughts in the use of a computer. What are your memories?  And by the way–

Now retired, I am writing this blog on my smart-phone. 🙂

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE

The words of Matthew 5:16 resonate in the community of Saginaw Michigan as a new 501C3 organization has been established, SAGINAW COLLABORATIVE INC., located in the facilities in Saginaw where the former Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church worshipped since 1867—dissolving the end of 2018.

It has long been a dream of mine to keep the mission of this congregation alive in a distressed neighborhood well beyond the time in God’s plan that can no longer sustain a worshipping congregation in this inner-city location. The Presbytery of Lake Huron shares in this dream in providing a mission-center in this east side Saginaw neighborhood by leasing this property to this newly formed organization.

While I can only watch the development of this organization from our California home, over 2000 miles away, I celebrate the Presbyterian Church maintaining a vital presence in this community east of the Saginaw River. Truly, God’s light will continue to shine for the people in this neighborhood through this new organization.

Over five years ago, in preparation for my retirement, I had a few things to say on this topic in a sermon (September 22, 2013), published in a small book, Personal Favorites, Sermons of Rev. Tom Cundiff, February 24, 2016.   WWW.AMAZON.COM

Discussing the church mission statement: “This is easily a mission statement that encompasses both of the Matthewian texts (Matthew 25: 31-36) and what has become, over the years, the foundation in what we have been able to nurture collaboratively in relationships with our neighbors within the community around the church and he larger metropolitan city of Saginaw.”

“With what God has entrusted our care, I/we have tried to be faithful to this mission. It seems, from my perspective, that the identity of this church in linked intrinsically to this location in this neighborhood. This church has nurtured healthy collaborative style of doing ministry that has made it possible to use this building – this building being one of our greatest assets – to meet the needs of children in this community.” Pg 44-45 This building, now in the hands of the Presbytery of Lake Huron, is acting in a positive way on this dream of a congregation.

For more information on the SAGINAW COLLABORATIVE INC:

Statement of Purpose: To provide a downtown community enrichment center to be used by various organizations to offer safe educational, recreational, and social services for Saginaw residents of all ages.   http://saginawcollaborative.saginawcollaborative.org/2018/10/on-june-27-208-warren-ave.html

History: Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church (WAPC) has served Saginaw for over 150 years. Over the years the church has served as a food bank, soup kitchen, clothing bank, and youth center. It’s over 20,000 square feet are comprised of classrooms, offices, a sanctuary, gymnasium, stage, meeting rooms, and kitchens.

As membership and resources dwindled one by one community services were relocated. The Congregation can no longer support the upkeep of the building and will discontinue worship services on November 25, 2018.

People of faith, “Let your light shine” for the children in this Saginaw, Michigan community.  Let this be our prayer.

Rev. Tom Cundiff
Retired

Beyond the Tears

The Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church in Saginaw, Michigan will gather to worship for the last time at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 25th–612 Millard St., Downtown Saginaw.  While I will not be physically present for this service, my heart will be in this worship service in thanking God for the gift of 151 years of service in the Saginaw community.

Most of my career as a Pastor was devoted to serving this congregation with ‘energy, intelligence, imagination and love.’ More than anything else I will remember our striving to glorify God as stewards of the abundance of resources God entrusted our care.

I will never forget the special experiences we spent together in worship or on retreats. Lunch Bunch excursions and fellowship dinners will always be remembered. Closest to my heart will be the baptisms, weddings and funerals—and sacred moments when we would join together in conversation and prayer.

The cornerstone of church ministry has been in caring for the children and youth in the community. I understand there is a commitment to use the church building to continue this work in serving the community.

All in all, may we all give glory to God for 151 years of living as servants of the living Christ. May God continue to bless all those who were touched by the love of God though the ministries of this Saginaw Church.

Christ lives on the Corner of Warren Avenue and Millard Streets in Saginaw

Receiving the final newsletter from the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church in Saginaw almost brought me to tears. The end! This church is closing. The grief is real.

Then I read an article about the future use of the church building. Christ lives! The church continues to thrive!
WHAT A BLESSING! The hands and feet and heart of Christ will continue serving the “underserved” part of the city of Saginaw. God willing, all the pieces of the complicated puzzle will come together for the newly formed downtown community enrichment center formally called “Saginaw Collaborative, Inc.”.

While the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church has formally closed, the living Christ continues to live and walk with the people in the community—the faith and vision of members of the church along with the Presbytery of Lake Huron.   I celebrate receiving this news…..and the hard work of members of the congregation and Presbytery of Lake Huron have not gone unnoticed.

This is the newsletter article I received on November 10th.

BUILDING UPDATE

A community based organization has been established “for the provision of a downtown community enrichment center to be used by various organizations to offer safe educational, recreational, and social services for Saginaw residents of all ages.” The group has been incorporated under the name of “Saginaw Collaborative, Inc.” By-laws have been approved, a Board of Directors and officers have been elected, and an application for tax-exempt status has been filed with the IRS. Rev. Dr. Dan Saperstein, Executive Presbyter, as an ex-officio board member in an advisor capacity.
Women of Colors will continue as a tenant, with intent to expand their scope of services. In addition three additional organizations serving the youth and needy of Saginaw have committed to occupy space with several other organizations in discussion with the Collaborative for space, as well.
Session has approved the soliciting of bids from architectural firms to inspect and design the necessary structural and engineering renovations to accommodate the buildings new usage. Every consideration is being given to continuing Warren Avenue’s legacy of ministry to a traditionally underserved segment of the Saginaw community. The Collaborative has begun seeking funding from various local agencies to commission the strategic and fund development plans necessary to implement this exciting, yet daunting, project. Please pray for the projects’ success.

VOTE WITH CLENCHED FISTS OR OPEN HANDS?

I sometimes ask in worship—especially during the ‘Children’s Sermon’: What comes natural to you—CLENCHED FISTS or OPEN HANDS.

Created in the image of God, we are called to open our hands to family and friends and neighbors. I have to confess, hearing the hate-filled rhetoric of our current President, I have found myself clenching my fists. His speeches make my angry. I don’t like feeling this way. The fear being instilled in hearts and minds of good people, in my mind, is wrong – for me and for our country.

I think of The Westminster Shorter Catechism and the first question: What is the chief end of man.? Making it inclusive: “The chief end of all creation is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.” There is no hatred in loving God. There are no clenched fists when raising our hands in giving glory to God. I must preach to myself! Personally, it’s time to find ways to fight, with open hands, the hate-filled clenched-fist rhetoric dividing our nation.

We currently live in a nation where certain ‘nationalist’ leaders find it politically expedient to preach hatred with closed fists toward people of different ethnicities, religions, sexual orientation or cultures. Certain leaders thrive on growing hatred with clenched fists and angry voices. These same people believe in building walls and reinforcing borders to keep people of different cultures or religious beliefs from entering our country. Yet aren’t we a nation of immigrants? Yes there is a need for immigration reform, but to hate people just because they want to experience the American dream?

Now there may be times in our nation for clenched fists. We have enemies. But sowing hatred for large populations and cultures of people should not be a way of life. There are times in this world we must be tough when it comes to addressing divisiveness and terror. My worry and FEAR is our forgetting who we are, constitutionally. To quote the Declaration of Independence, “all people are created equal, endowed by God our creator with certain unalienable Rights –and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Are you happy with the hatred our current President sows? How do we (I) unclench our fists?

The best way I know to give glory to God is to be proactive in finding ways to elect leaders who will build us up and bind us together as we in tear down walls that separate us from neighbors and the love of God. Those who promote fear and hatred toward others cannot represent me. We must elect those who would given with clenched fists out of office.

So back to the question of how I can move forward with open hands. My God, the God who created me to smile upon friends and neighbors whoever they may be is calling me to VOTE for leaders who promote our becoming a more loving, caring, inclusive country. This is an important election. Vote your values. Vote with open hands. May God smile upon us as we work to elect those who promote God’s love and acceptance of all people.