Dear First Pres, 

 A few years ago the Session (our leadership board) decided to create a sabbatical policy for our church pastors. For many years, if I understand the story correctly, FPC has offered sabbaticals to pastors (and other staff) when they really needed it - when they were feeling burned out, especially tired, or spiritually out of sorts. But the Session decided that sabbaticals shouldn't be a way to respond to those things. Instead, sabbaticals should be used to prevent those things. Sabbaticals are meant to bring spiritual renewal and whole-life (mind, body, spirit, and relational) refreshment. They are a wonderful and generous gift to the pastors, and when a church's pastors experience renewal and refreshment everybody wins. In other words, a proactive sabbatical policy for our pastors should reap long-term healthy benefits for the congregation. So, the new policy stated that after six full years of ministry, a three-month sabbatical would be available for our pastors.
   When the policy was created, Pastor Lana was immediately eligible. She has served as one of FPC's pastors since September 2006. And now, from September 10 - December 9, 2018, she is taking her first sabbatical. While Pastor Lana is away, our privilege will be to pray that God uses this special time to do a powerful work of renewal and refreshment in her life.
   One of the ways that we'll keep that prayer fresh in our minds is with a new sermon series that is starting this weekend. "Rest." That's the simple name of the new series. From the very formation of God's people in the wilderness, rest has been an identifying mark of His Community. Not just physical rest, but even more, spiritual rest. And, from the very formation of God's people in the wilderness, a pattern of struggle in this area has emerged.
   We live in a crazy, hurried, microwave, Google search, smartphone world. We don't have to wait for the morning newspaper to find out what happened in the world. We don't have to wait until someone is home to give them a call. Everything seems to be getting faster, and everyone seems to be getting busier.
   The Gospel offers something different, something that our world desperately needs, something that we desperately need. The Gospel offers rest.
   So, while Pastor Lana is leaning into a season set aside for renewal and refreshment, I pray that we will learn to find rest, Gospel rest, in the midst of everyday life with Christ.

Blessings,
Jeremy 

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

On Sunday we had Amelia, Stephen, Emma, David, Sheimeka, Hector, and Annie stand up in front of the congregation to be recognized. They served as our 2018 Summer Staffers. This week they concluded their service. It's always a bit sad for us to see them go as the summer ends. They always bring fresh energy and excitement to our congregation. They help our staff grow in leadership as we walk with them in ministry and life. And they add to the community of folks who are investing in our kids.
  One of our core values as a congregation is "transformational leadership." Our Summer Staff program is a hallmark of that value, as it has been for many years in its various forms. So, I praise God for another successful summer of ministry and growth!
  There are many differences between our current Summer Staff program and the various iterations of the past (Trainees, Networkers, etc.). In particular, our hand has been forced a bit by California employment law. This is one of the reasons why the program is now only a part-time employment opportunity. The summer staffers averaged about 25 hours per week this summer, and we paid them an entry level wage.
  One of the biggest impacts of a Summer Staff program that stays within the boundaries of employment law is that we no longer are sending our Summer Staff to serve as camp counselors. This has been true since we launched the current version of summer staff in 2014, and it still seems to be a surprise to folks in the congregation.  Hence the reason for highlighting it here. If we send our Summer Staffers to camp we'd have to pay them for their work time. With all the overtime implications it would cost us about $1800 per Summer Staffer per camp week. That's why we've chosen not to send them.
  This change means that we need folks in the congregation to volunteer their time to spend a life-changing week at camp with our students. It's a big deal. So I just want to highlight and give a huge thanks to those who volunteered this summer: Lori Meadors, Julia Crantz, and Jamey Tacchino.(Special thanks to Jamey who volunteered for two weeks in a row!!) I am so grateful for these volunteers as a parent and as a pastor. They made a huge impact this summer. If you see them, please say thanks. They did exactly what we need about six folks to do every summer: take a week of their own vacation to spend as a camp counselor with our kids. This year Camp Sugar Pine covered the gap for us with some of their summer staff folks (and by God's grace one of our own, Sophia Steele, was placed with our Junior High and Elementary girls). But I hope next year we won't need to rely on Sugar Pine to cover the needs.
  This is such a great opportunity to pour into the lives of our young people in lasting ways. Is this form of discipleship something the Lord might be calling you to do? Turns out, you have some time to seek Him in this. May the Lord provide for His children in the coming months.

Blessings,
Jeremy 

P.S. As summer ends and school begins, I invite everyone to join in our Love Our Schools event this Sunday. Join your church in praying for our schools. We'll be on campus in the (cool) Fellowship Hall after each service (8:30 & 10:15, more details below). Please plan to stay for this special and important time. Plus, show your support by wearing some school colors.

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

   This is my second time as a Summer Staffer with FPC, and it has been a completely different experience. A lot of things have changed since the summer of 2016 when I last worked here. I am working with 4th-6th graders instead of High School; I am working in a team of three instead of two, and the content we bring to elementary children is on a different level than content for high school students, and rightly so! Not only are my job details different, I am also in a different place this summer. I am out of college, engaged to a wonderful woman, and feel called into youth ministry and seeking what that might look like.
   That is a lot of change! My life looks significantly different than it did just last year, let alone the summer of 2016. The thing that has not changed my entire life is my God. He is still calling me to run to Him. He still wants to show me more of who He is and how He is working in me to be more like His Son. I still have a lot of growing ahead of me, but I have a different focus this summer.
   Colossians 3:1-3 talks about where our focus should be. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."(NIV) This summer, by God's grace alone, I have been more focused on "things above" as I speak with others about who God is and what He has done for us. I treat my family differently as I live with them again. I am free to be encouraging, trusting, and joyful with them because my life is not defined by my interactions with others. It is defined solely by God's call on me and the worth that I have in Christ.

Blessings,
Stephen Goodale
Elementary Summer Staffer

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

 

by Meagan Bergem, Director of Ignite Jr. High Ministries 

    Summer Camp is a meaningful opportunity for students to grow in their faith. Sugar Pine Christian Camp, north of Oakhurst, is a great partner of Ignite Jr. High Ministry. It is always a joy to connect with their staff while we are there. A highlight during my visits to camp this year, was witnessing our very own Sophia Steele (class of 2017) embrace her call into ministry by serving on Sugar Pine's Staff. She was even our students' Cabin Leader for the week! God is so good in the ways he knits things together, allowing Sophia to invest where she was once poured into. Discipleship is a lifelong journey, and I am praising God for the fruit in Sophia's life that is flourishing on behalf of the next generation.

   Read below a few reflections of Ignite student's camp experiences. 

   Lauren Mozier, 7th Grade: "At Sugar Pine Camp, I learned that I love being in God's presence. I experienced His presence in a new way during chapel and worship time. In His presence, I was able to feel a lot of different emotions at the same time and fully worship God. For a long time, I've know that God is with me even when I don't feel His presence. But being able to feel His presence in this new way, encourages me to be fully devoted to Him. It also encourages me to be a part of the youth worship team so I can help others experience God's presence. What I also learned is God is so powerful, and that He listens to us whether we question His ways or trust Him (like Joshua). I want to keep calling out to Him." 

   Elijah Rooney, 8th Grade: "I learned that I am incapable to be successful without God, no matter where or what situation I am in. I learned that God will always be there.  Not only just "be there," he will also be protecting, loving, caring, and watching over and for us. I learned that in the Christian faith, we need accountability to God and to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Christianity is like a plant, so if I plant the seed and put in the work, it's going to grow. In that way, I grow in my faith and help others to grow in their faith. God is incredible, but if people who know God's word to be true are lukewarm, he is not going to invest in us, but instead he will invest in people who are ready to be ignited for him."  

   Sophia Steele, (William Jessup University): "It was amazing being able to lead these girls. I had the privilege of witnessing the wisdom the young ladies have. Already, their stories can spread hope to those they've shared with. God reminded me of His faithful, relentless, and comforting presence through the hardest of times. He grows beautiful flowers from the very beginning of our relationship with Him in the harshest of soils. He truly is "God With Us". It was breathtaking seeing these lovely daughters making that discovery while at camp. I have no doubt in my mind that each and every one of these youth have the power to change the lives of those around them, especially with their stories of grace that God has already been weaving. They changed mine! Praise God." 

   "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity." - 1 Tim 4:12

Anonymous

Dear First Pres,

   Two items of good news today:

   First, yesterday Pastor Andrew Brunson, for whom we've been praying while he spent the last two years in a Turkish prison because of false charges, has been moved to house arrest. This is a great step. Praise God! Now Andrew can be with his family and friends as he awaits his next hearing. However, we still need to pray for the Turkish government to drop the charges so that Pastor Andrew can continue in his ministry. For your prayer, you may read more about Andrew's current situation here.

   Second, on Monday I passed my dissertation defense! Yes! Praise be to God! I have a few edits & additions to make (which is standard operating procedure) and then I'll be completely done. I am so grateful - words just can't express it all - for the encouragement and support you have provided for me in this very long journey toward the PhD. It still hasn't quite sunk in that I'm here, but the staff is helping me. On Tuesday, it gave me great joy to come in and discover that my office had been decorated to celebrate. Much thanks to the staff. 

           

                                                            

   Especially fun was this "Certificate of About Time." Again, I am so grateful; I couldn't have made it this far without you.

   1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." These are the kind of circumstances that make it easy to give thanks. No matter what is happening in your life this week, I pray you are able to recognize the goodness and faithfulness of God. 

Blessings,

Jeremy

P.S.  We're also celebrating this week that Susan Glover has been on the church staff for 30 years. If you see her, please say thanks for her faithful and diligent service.  

 

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor