Irene’s Sermon as Conversation Experiment

On Sunday we experimented with a way to have a more interactive sermon. I asked folks to turn on their phones and to text me during and after services with their thoughts and questions about what I said. I responded to a couple of texts in the moment and promised to write this article summarizing and responding to the rest of the messages that you sent me.


For those who were not able to join us on Sunday, the topic was Resurrection and the readings were:

Gospel of Philip: “Those who say they will die first and then rise are in error; if they do not first receive the resurrection while they live, when they die they will receive nothing.”

Gospel of Thomas, Saying 50: “Jesus said…If they ask you, ‘What is the sign of God in you?’ answer, ‘It is a movement and rest.'”


The response was really great, especially since no one knew what I was going to do until I actually stood up to preach. Four people texted me in the morning service and twelve people in the evening service, my thanks to all of you for being so willing to participate in this experiment in “sermon as conversation”.

There were several people who reported experiences similar to the spiritual experience that I talked about in the sermon. These kinds of experiences are surprisingly common although many of us are hesitant to talk about them. However, most of us, including me, generally have much less startling and more subtle experiences of God than the one I talked about. These are what I called spiritual experiences of the slow, educational variety and I believe that all of us have these kinds of experiences of God. The God of my understanding leaves no one out.

Spiritual experiences

There were also several questions about what causes spiritual experiences and if there were ways to make such an experience happen. The answer is that over the centuries many people have tried hard to make certain kinds of spiritual experiences happen and the results are rarely successful, probably because focusing on having a certain kind of experience takes our focus away from being open to whatever ways in which God is actually present for us.

That said, there are spiritual practices that seem to make us more generally available to the experience of Divinity in whatever way that may happen. They include: self-examination so that we can understand what behaviors keep us separated from God and then letting go of those behaviors, regular spiritual practices that allow us to better hear the voice of Divinity that is inside each of us such as prayer and meditation and lastly, a willingness to hear God’s call and to follow it, which is what service is about.

What is service?

Someone asked “What is service?” that is a really important question that I hope we will be talking about a lot more in the coming months. For now I will just say this; every action that contributes to relieving suffering in the world is service.

There were also a number of generally supportive messages about trying new things like this experiment….thank you. These kinds of comments give me hope for our future since the research says congregations that are open to new experiences are more likely to grow than those that aren’t.

And I’ll close with this wonderful insight that one of you sent: “Isn’t resurrection just a recognition of something in a different way, of seeing something without judgment?”

— Irene Laudeman, clergy intern

150 Eureka Building Timeline


2006: The building was vacated when a retaining wall next to room 108 began to fail. This was a life safety issue so there was no possible option other than to leave the building. After the building was vacated, it was inspected and found to be at the end of its useful life due to termite/dry rot issues, fire safety issues and the failed retaining wall. The retaining wall was shored to stabilize it, but this was by definition a temporary solution.

2008: The city issued a public access permit that allowed MCCSF to use part of the building. The permit was contingent on regular monitoring of the retaining wall by a structural engineer. The city never made any statement about what it would take to get a public access permit for the whole building but apart from anything else it would certainly include actual repair of the retaining wall.

2014: The building was inspected by a structural engineer who conducted his own inspection and who concurred with the report from 2006. He also reiterated that the shoring of the retaining wall is only a temporary solution intended to stabilize the wall. He also said that the construction needed to repair the retaining wall was likely to far exceed the value of the building.

Today: It is time for MCCSF to seriously consider what the next step will be.

Happy Birthday MCCSF!


I am thrilled by the depth of history-making moments in MCCSF heritage. As we celebrate our 44th birthday, I offer a glimpse into some of our many groundbreaking efforts. We were the first, or one of the first, UFMCC congregations, ever to:

• use inclusive language in worship services–including our hymns–in the 1970s.
• have a “prison ministry” in the 1970s at Atascadero State Hospital and California Men’s Colony.
• be a “mission church” establishing mission churches and new church starts (membership under 35) in Oakland, Stockton, San Jose, Hayward, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo.
• have a ministry of putting flyers in bars and bathhouse inviting patrons to come to our worship services (as in “bring a trick to Church!”)
• be a “teaching church” for deacons and our staff clergy and clergy interns who would go on to pastor churches throughout the UFMCC.
• purchase our own building (June 1979); also the first LGBTQ organization in the city of San Francisco to do so.
• create, model, and mentor HIV/AIDS ministries (beginning in 1986), including support groups and compassionate care (including one Sunday each month dedicated to an evening AIDS healing service).
• introduce the “God/Goddess of Many Names” and the feminine divine into our worship services — along with Womenspirit and Solstice and Wicca services in the 1990s.
• live into its vision of what it means to be “social justice church” starting in 1997 with the Simply Supper meal program.
• have a Read Aloud program for grades K through 5 at a neighborhood school (Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy) that continues to this day.
• to initially host and provide rehearsal space for the Singers of the Street choir for the homeless and their allies.

I want to thank Lynn Jordan for his living memory and archiving of MCCSF history, and Maureen Bogues for her editing assistance.


Robert Shively