Cambia, todo cambia/Everything Changes by Rev. Maria Cristina Vlassidis Burgoa



I am so glad and grateful to be among you and to begin serving as your settled Minister. Since May 15th, the date when the congregation voted to call me, I have been blessed by your kindness and hospitality. Even before my mother and I arrived, there were people helping us to find a home and making sure we had enough funds for moving expenses and airfare. People volunteered to pick us up at the airport and offered their home (cats and all) while we waited for the movers to arrive. On the day we arrived, there was chicken soup and fresh baked bread waiting for us (and Friskies for the kitties). Whether it’s a ride to the farmers’ market, transporting my books, helping me to put my office furniture together, or bringing me sweet flowers from your garden, you have made us feel welcome and loved.

My official start date was August 15th and since then I have been spending most of my time meeting with staff, the members of the Board and the Pastoral Care Committee, ARMCA, the Peace and Justice Committee, and the Worship Committee. I also attended my first Eden Area Interfaith Council meeting, met with the president of the NAACP, and participated in a voter registration training at the UCC church. It has been good to make these connections and learn about the various local social justice efforts. I plan to continue building strong and meaningful partnerships and exploring new ways to connect with our neighboring communities.

I am excited for these next two Sundays as I prepare to preach and lead us in worship. This Sunday we will have a Water Ceremony to mark the beginning of our church year and to celebrate our community. On September 11th we will begin the practice of greening our sanctuary by inviting the congregation to bring an indoor plant to brighten our worship space. I also look forward to our upcoming adult RE series on World Religions, singing with our choir, supporting our DRE, starting a Spanish for Social Justice class and a church community garden as a spiritual practice, and most of all, I look forward to getting to know you better. I hope that in the coming weeks, you will meet with me when you need pastoral care, or want to have a conversation about our church life.

If you were not in church on August 21st, check out our website and listen to the podcast to hear my homily about radical hospitality and making welcome. Here is an excerpt:

“As your minister my first priority is your spiritual health. It is my job to provide pastoral care to individuals, to guide this community on its journey towards wholeness, and to move forward with you supporting your efforts to make real your social justice aspirations. We have entered into a holy covenant that shapes our relationship as sacred. In this relationship trust, respect, compassion, forgiveness, and right relationship are essential. The fact that I identify as a person of color is a source of pride and joy for me. Yet it alone does not define me. I am so much more! (you will hear me talk a lot about intersectionality). Being a person of color gives me a particular world perspective, speaks to my particular social location, and always offers me a lesson in cultural humility and compassion. I am glad that we as a society are moving away from terms such as “melting pot” or “color blindness” and towards intersectionality and multiculturalism. I don’t want to melt away my cultural heritage and I want to be seen as a whole person, not just the parts that are comfortable. I want for us to be aware of our differences so that we can celebrate our diversity and cultural roots. And yes, we ALL have cultural roots. Amen?

What do I need as your minister who happens to be a proud person of color?

Gratitude: I hope you see me as a gift not as a burden.

Trust: As I open my heart to you, I hope that you will open your hearts to my ministry and trust that I always have your best interest at heart.

Vulnerability: I hope that we will both take risks to speak the truth in love.

Compassion: I hope that you will be compassionate towards yourselves, towards me, and towards each other when we stumble and make mistakes (and yes, we will make many!).

Accountability and Forgiveness: I hope that we will make each other accountable when we are not in right relationship and that we will forgive ourselves and each other and begin again in love.

Generosity: I hope that we can learn to replace scarcity mentality with abundance, to practice generosity of spirit, and share the financial responsibility for keeping the doors of this church open for the next generations.

Joy: I hope that while we do the hard work within ourselves and in community, we never forget the joy that this work brings to our lives.

And last but not least Faith: Let us never give up hope, let us practice our faith by believing in ourselves and each other. Let us have faith that together we will grow, we will learn, we will take care of each other, we will build beloved community, we will reach out and make our world more just, more peaceful, more loving. Amen?

Until the next Chalice, may we keep our inner light shining bright to share it with everyone; and may we reach out when we need to rekindle it with the love of this kind and generous community. Amen!