Ash Wednesday


You are invited to a special 12 PM Ash Wednesday service at the Church of the Beatitudes UCC at 555 W. Glendale Ave, Phoenix, 85021 (SE corner of Glendale and 7th Aves).  This year Ash Wednesday falls on February 14th, Valentines Day.  Our own Pastor Dick Wing will be leading the noon service, which will feature talented Church of the Beatitudes musicians, a meditative message from Dick, and the imposition of ashes.  Come out to join your UCC brothers and sisters from another congregation for a meaningful worship experience that begins the church season of Lent, which is a preparatory time of forty days before Easter.  The noon service will still allow for your evening Valentine’s Day celebrations!  

Also, mark you calendars now for March 29 at 12 PM for Good Friday worship, also at the Church of the Beatitudes.  We will provide more details about that noontime service in the coming weeks.   

May your Lenten season be blessed,

Co-Pastor Sandi 

Thinking Ahead


Here we are in the throes of winter (well, as much as we get winter in the Valley), and already your staff and council are planning for summer!  I wanted to let you know what we are thinking at this point.  Because we had a regular group who enjoyed being together on Sundays last summer—either informally in Hayden Hall or at the Church of the Beatitudes (CoB) in Phoenix followed by exploring mid-town restaurants for lunch—we have decided to repeat this next June-September with a small twist:  During CoB’s pastoral search, Dick and I will continue serving there likely through the entire summer, but we will each take two Sundays in a row (he will come down from Estes Park and remain for a week at a time with bookending weekends so he can preach there).  During those Sundays, I will host a brunch and discussion on a variety of spiritual topics in Hayden Hall.  In other words, we will have a few consecutive Sundays in Hayden Hall with brunch potluck each month and a few consecutive Sundays worshipping at the Beatitudes on Sundays when I preach (and resume our Phoenix restaurant exploration together).  How does that sound?  As the time gets closer, we will give you a schedule of dates.  In the meantime, enjoy the nicer weather which reportedly is coming!


Co-Pastor Sandi 

Spirit and Matter


Merry Christmas!  I can still say that for the twelve days of Christmas, which end on January 6 (Epiphany).  I hope you all had wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations with friends and family.  Many blessings as you head into the New Year! 

Last week, as I prepared for Christmas, I particularly enjoyed Richard Rohr’s daily meditations, which are delivered to my inbox each morning.  His subject for the week was the Incarnation—Spirit becoming human, light filling matter—apt Christmas themes.  As I ruminated on these, my mind took me back 44 years to my old high school physics class.  The teacher had designed the nine-month course around solving the mystery of what light is.  We went through the standard wave and particle models, and by the end of the year, students were slowly led to the conclusion that light is both a particle and a wave: Quantum mechanics tells us that light atoms behave like waves until you are watching them, upon which they behave like particles.  What a mind-bending paradox!  If you can explain how that happens, well, a Nobel Prize is probably waiting for you.  My theological background though tells me this all has something to do with the mysteries of consciousness and God.  

Richard Rohr says, “We do have to make room for such a mystery, because right now there is ‘no room in the inn.’  We see things pretty much in their materiality, but we don’t see the light shining through.  We don’t see the incarnate spirit that is hidden inside of everything material.”  I’ve come to see that the Christmas season is all about slowing down and admitting paradox and mystery into our preoccupations with materiality.  Incarnation means even more than God becoming Jesus; it means that God has always come and is always coming into the physical, material universe.  Rohr concludes his December 17, 2023 meditation with a statement I found absolutely stunning: “We’re always waiting to see Spirit revealing itself through matter.  We’re always waiting for matter to become a new form in which Spirit is revealed.  Whenever that happens, we’re celebrating Christmas.”  Indeed, it takes faith to believe that there is more on the light spectrum than the particles of the material world that we can see with our eyes.  May the Epiphany season before us be a time to grasp that we are embedded in a far larger reality than we think. Life and the cosmos which sustains it are made by God and infused with holy light.  As such, all who exist and our material world deserve our love, nurture, and respect.

Happy New Year!

Co-Pastor Sandi

Ask a Friend to Church Season!


On Sunday afternoon and evening we had a wonderful time together decorating our lovely sanctuary and enjoying chilis with fixins’ as well as breads and desserts.  It was a good time of fellowship and idea sharing for the future and direction of our church.  One thing we all agreed upon was that we are truly a great place for folks to come for a sense of familial connection and welcome.  We all know we have something good here and all feel it!  The question always remains:  How do we get the word out?  Marketing and advertising are expensive, and the little we’ve tried hasn’t gotten us anywhere.  Our best bet is personally reaching out to our unchurched friends and neighbors and offering to bring them along on Sundays.  Advent is a particularly beautiful time to invite folks—especially with our now-decorated sanctuary and Larry’s upcoming Evening of Extraordinary Music on Dec. 17, as well as our Christmas Eve morning and evening services.  Whom can you tell about our church?  Who needs a sense of community, connection, and mission that we are eager to offer?  I have a feeling that there are far more in our neighborhoods than we think.  

Blessings on your Advent season!

Co-Pastor Sandi

Praying for Peace


Rabbi Sheila Weinberg of the Jewish community of Amherst in MA writes the following:

Two peoples, one land,

Three faiths, one root,

One earth, one mother,

One sky, one beginning, one future, one destiny.

One broken heart,

One God.

We pray to You: 

Grant us a vision of unity.

My we see the many in the one and the one in the many.

May you, Life of All the Worlds,

Source of All Amazing Differences

Help us to see clearly.

Guide us gently and firmly toward each other,

Toward peace.  Amen. 

I know we are all broken-hearted over events in the Middle East.  We can only pray and work for peace in our own spheres of influence, always realizing that our own peace is intimately bound up with the peace of those around us.  When our neighbors live in sickness and poverty, the boiling point eventually comes, and whole cities are plunged into chaos.  And so we erect walls, but walls are often angrily breached.  Sharing, equality, and cooperation all address the root of the problems we face and are what our love of God looks like when consciously applied.  Let us therefore pray and love where we are, with all that we are.  


Co-Pastor Sandi

Giving and Getting Back


There is a legendary story about two dogs that sometimes circulates on social media.  Both dogs at separate times walk into the same room.  One comes out wagging his tail while the other comes out growling.  A woman watching this goes into the room to see what could possibly make one dog so happy and the other so mad. To her surprise she finds a room filled with mirrors.  The happy dog found a thousand happy dogs looking back at him, while the angry dog saw only angry dogs growling back at him.  The moral of the story of course is what you see in the world around you is a reflection of who you are.  I would go one step further to suggest that we all have great power to shape our environment by what we chose to project.  

The dog story reminds me of a woman named Josie, who was a resident in a nursing home where I worked as a teenager.  She was one of the most delightful human beings I had ever met, and whenever I and other staff had a few minutes of down time, we were irresistibly drawn to her room to chat, laugh, and pass the time with her.  Other residents complained that she got unfair amounts of attention from staff, which may have been true, but we were so attracted to her and the way she elevated our moods by aways radiating such warmth, joy, and love.  It was a good lesson for a teenager to learn early in life—that we get back what we give out.  What we project can make the difference between being surrounded by friends or suffering loneliness in old age.

I think of the simple spiritual principal set forth by Jesus in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”  As we start fall, let us be reminded of the great blessings that come with giving and the great power we possess to shape our environments!  

In Christ,

Co-Pastor Sandi

Live Worship to Resume Sept. 17, 2023!

Greetings Friends,

I hope this finds you all well and anticipating the resumption of regular services at 10 AM on Sunday, September 17!  For a handful of us who remained largely in town this summer, we’ve continued to worship in person together at the Church of the Beatitudes UCC in Phoenix, and we’ve had some culinary adventures exploring midtown restaurants afterwards.  The Church of the Beatitudes (CoB) planted our Scottsdale church over three decades ago, and it has been a privilege to fill their pulpit a number of times this summer.  Their moderator recently approached Pastor Dick and me and asked if we could continue to help them out until they call a settled pastor in the spring.  We agreed, each giving them ten hours of week including alternating Sundays.  So Dick and I will continue to alternate Sundays at CCOV and CoB similar to what we did over a year ago for a few months when we helped out a Disciples of Christ Church in Mesa.  We’re brainstorming some exciting ways we could enjoy some joint programming with our brothers and sisters at the CoB, so stay tuned!  I excitedly await being with you again in our own worship space on September 17!

Grace and Peace,

Co-Pastor Sandi

Resurrections after Struggles


I hope you are all staying cool!  We had a meaningful fellowship brunch and Bible study last Sunday.  It was good to catch up with one another and talk about Jacob’s wrestling match with God (Genesis 32:22-32)!  One point we all took away is that there is no blessing without the wound—no resurrection without the cross.  Even the name Israel, God’s new name for Jacob, means “contends or wrestles with God.”   It seems that struggle is embedded into the very fabric of our reality!  I take comfort in knowing that God brings us through all things (even this hot summer)!

On a personal note, God has even brought me through the struggle-filled years of raising a daughter.  There were times when she was a teenager that I about pulled my hair out, and many of you listened sympathetically to my laments and told me not to lose hope.  Yes, God was there, guiding all of us.  Last November she married a nice man, and as a 60th birthday present to my husband Clint, she and her husband announced last night that we will become grandparents in March!  Needless to say we are thrilled!  Here is a wonderful example of struggle giving rise to blessing.  God is GOOD!    

I am looking forward to getting back into regular worship on Sunday, September 17 and seeing all of you on a consistent basis. 

In Christ,

Co-Pastor Sandi     

First Sunday of the Summer Months Brunch and Bible Study!


On Sunday July 11 at 10 AM, ten of us met for our first, monthly summer fellowship brunch and Bible study in Hayden Hall.  We enjoyed good food, a time to check in and catch up with one another, prayer, and an engaging discussion centering on Acts 2:42-47.  Luke wrote this passage to describe the fellowship of the early believers: 

“42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.43 Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

Words and phrases that stood out to the participants included “awe,” “in the temple,” and “added to their numbers.”  We talked about the Spirit of generosity that underlies this passage as well as the challenge of living into this today (without becoming a commune).  We agreed that a small church like ours does a good job of “walking one another home” and extending goodwill to our community through giving to Healthy Packs, UMOM, and supplying various community centers with nonperishables.  We also noted that there is so much more we can do as God adds to our numbers

We will continue with this brunch and Bible study format the first Sundays of both July and August (10 AM in Hayden Hall).  I hope you will join us if you are in town.  In the meantime, stay cool and hydrated!

In Christ,

Pastor Sandi

Travel Mercies


I can hardly believe that our active season is nearly over!  Many of our seasonal members have either flown to their northerly locales or will in the coming weeks.  Looking back over the fall, winter, and early spring, I feel good about all that we have done together as we emerged from the height of the COVID era:  We enjoyed two Extraordinary Evenings of Music, celebrated a lovely Christmas Eve, ate soup and studied the Gospel of Mark on the Wednesday evenings of Lent, continued our Women’s Discussion Group, collected 220 pounds of food for Vista del Camino prior to Easter, continued our on-line worship and Wednesday Three Good Minutes, held two wine tasting events, received new members, and celebrated the lives of loved ones in our congregation.   

Even though our in-person worship will be on hiatus during the hot summer months starting the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, we will meet at least once a month in Hayden Hall for fellowship/prayer/Bible study/potluck brunch on dates yet to be announced.  This way we can stay in close contact with the few who live here year round.   For those of you in your summer locations, don’t forget to tune into on-line worship and drop us a line every now and then.  We want to be connected with you, and your pastors are always available by email, text, FaceTime, and phone.  Know that when you return, council is in the process of planning even more for our next active season.  In the meantime, I pray for your travel mercies as you roam far and wide.

In Christ,

Co-Pastor Sandi