NYC Youth Mission Trip 2019

7BAD97C0-0541-45E3-8E6E-63D5219A7F89Dear Mission Trip Community,

I write this from the airplane as our community flies across the country from east coast to west coast.  After just shy of a week in New York City, we are returning to our families, our homes, our city, and our state.  We are returning to the lives we lived before we departed.  In many ways, these lives will be much the same as they were before.  And yet, the experiences; the ups and downs, the sights and sounds of the six days we have been a community will have forever changed us. Six days in which we worked hard and played hard.  Six days in which we loved each other deeply, beautifully and profoundly.  I want to write to you about some of these experiences and the ways that I saw our young people and their adult companions manifest love, both sharing it and receiving it. I will only note a few instances, and only mention by name a few, but this is by no means a testament and witness to all the experiences of manifesting love.  If I were to write a letter naming each individually and every moment of love manifesting you would have quite the tome.

Love manifested the first half of our week in the ways that our young people and adults volunteered through Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP.)  Collectively, we traveled to four of the five boroughs of the city covering much ground and serving many communities of New York City.  Our group was split into two teams.  Each team served at various nonprofits, religious institutions, and other organizations including food kitchens and pantries, a community garden and a convent.  At these places, they served along fellow New Yorkers as well as other visiting youth and adults volunteering through YSOP including a large group of youth from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

IMG_4642On our first day of volunteering, our youth spent the evening preparing dinner for a small group of homeless and hungry individuals.  They began the evening by peeling, chopping, mixing, buttering bread, and saucing pasta.  They then welcomed their guests. They showed guests to their tables, chatted and invited them to play games.  Some introduced their new acquaintances to Apples to Apples. Caroline taught her opponent how chess pieces move and talked them through various strategies that might work.  After games were finished, our youth served each guest their meal asking guests what they wanted and getting it for them.  They ended the meal with ice cream and brownies.  I joined Ashley and Brooke as they talked with one of the guests who shared much about their life and their dreams of being on stage and someday writing a musical.  Sediq who regularly helps groups serve these meals gave rave reviews of and compliments to our young people during the evening and even on other days that we ran into him.  YSOP staff also gave high praise to our young people.

On Thursday and Friday, love manifested through our cultural and social outings.   We visited Ellis Island where many immigrants entered into the United States for the first time seeking out the land of the free and the opportunities our country offered then and still offers now.  Perhaps some of our own families’ ancestors sailed on these waters and passed through the buildings we walked around and explored.  Christian, Henry, and others went through some of the exhibits together.  They interacted with a touch screen that showed how many people of a particular nationality were in the country and how those populations were spread out by state.  They were surprised that California appeared in the top 3 states for many of the various nationalities that make up our very diverse country.  Later they tested their knowledge taking a short version of the U.S. Citizenship test.  Not everyone passed.  They recognized the privilege of not having had to pass a test like some others have to do.  After this, we visited the Statue of Liberty.  The group was impressed by just how big and immense it was.

IMG_4816We left Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to go see Wicked the musical on Broadway.  Everyone enjoyed the spectacle.  For many, it was the highlight of the day and I suspect for many it was the highlight or at least a highlight of the week.  For me, this was the case.  The first show I saw when I moved to New York City was Wicked and for the two and a half years I lived there I went to Broadway shows in particular musicals as often as I could manage.  And so it was a great joy seeing youth leaning forward on the edge of their seats, elbows on knees and heads resting on the palms of their hands as their eyes were transfixed on the stage.  I soaked in and treasured every moment of hearing their laughter, their gasps of shock and surprise as they rode the emotional roller coaster of great theater.  I am currently listening to the soundtrack as I write this to you and the warmth of the love in that brief couple of hours has yet to diminish in the slightest.  In fact, I think it grows warmer with each lyric and each recalling.

On our last full day, everyone slept in.  Earning well-deserved rest.  We then went to Dylan’s Candy Store and lunch at Serendipity 3.  The rest of this day was spent at Coney Island.  We screamed in joy and in a little bit of terror as we rode roller coasters, drove go-karts, and were put into a slingshot (a ride where two get into an orb-like structure and are launched up into the air.)  We ended the evening on the Boardwalk right in front of the beach in the dead of night as fireworks rose up into the sky.  White lights soaring high, whistling loudly, popping, and bursting into specks of reds, greens, and purples.   Our young people thought it was quite a good show.  It felt like an appropriate finale to a wonderful week together.

As I reflect on the week, I think about all the frustrations that come with travel and doing things in groups.  I recognize how my own personal frustrations seem so small or minimal in retrospect.  And I suspect even if we were to take into account all the frustrations of each and every one of those in our community throughout the entirety of the trip that our joys would still far outweigh our frustrations.  I would even suggest that our joys are made that much more enjoyable because of the frustrations.  We had to learn to be together.  We had to learn what worked for us as a community and what did not work for us.  We had give a little so that some could get a little.  The reality is not everyone got all they wanted or everything they wanted in any moment but I believe everyone got what they needed and much of what they wanted and no one was left sorely lacking.  And ultimately, this is what community is and how community works.

I am so proud of this community.   As their families, you share in this pride.  And I hope that they acknowledge all that they have done and accomplished, enjoyed and worked through this week and that they feel a sense of pride.  It is a pride not rooted in their own ability or greatness or goodness but a pride rooted in the love that we have shared as a community. It is rooted in a love that called us to serve others, to serve one another and to, in turn, serve God and to be God’s love to each other and each person we encountered on our journey.  It is a love that will remain with us and call us to act similarly in whatever places we find ourselves and in whatever communities we join.

I can never express how honored I am that you continually entrust your young people to the church and I nor can I express the immense blessing they are to Trinity youth’s group and the church and to me personally.  They give as much and often more to me as I could ever hope to give to them and I thank God for that and for each one of them.

Please take time to talk with your youth about their experiences, to share in their joys and frustrations and to praise them for their efforts.

Please also take time to thank Meg and Aaron for all they have done to care for our young people.  It is a herculean effort to be a mission trip chaperone and they do it well and with such Grace.

If you have any feedback from yourself as families and your youth both praising or critique feel free to let me know those as well.

Blessings of Peace,

{see also our Facebook Photo Album}


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Aaron’s Letter for July 29

camp_photoI’m up at The Bishop’s Ranch today to visit with the Trinity folks attending BREAD Camp. This camp has a long tradition in our diocese with derivations like TOAST and READ. But even more than that the theme of Bread is relevant for our life together at Trinity.

Each week we celebrate the Eucharist together where we break bread baked from wheat grown at The Bishop’s Ranch. And each time we gather around our dining room tables, kitchen counters, and local eating establishments we embody and extend that Eucharistic presence of Christ out into the world.

Eucharist is our bodies at worship, gathered as the body of Christ, breaking the bread of heaven that is Jesus in our midst. Or as theologian M. Shawn Copeland profoundly notes, “The meaning of Eucharist not only lies beyond the immediacy of corporeality, it also joins the body’s ultimate transformation and the supernatural destiny of the human person.” (Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race, and Being, 2010)

And as I mentioned last week, we are headed into five weeks in the Gospel of John where we’ll ponder Bread in a myriad of ways. We begin this week with Jesus feeding the multitudes, “Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” (John 6:11-12)

Matthew is back this week and a reminder that if there is a pastoral need, please call the Pastoral Care Emergency Line at 650-326-8591.

Here’s the collection of poems in triptych series through the Gospel of Mark: Insist, Resist, Persist.

Bread for our Journey,

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She takes off her burial shroud
Turns it inside out
And uses it like a matador’s cape
Daring death

She insists
wrestling free from the tangle of fabric
Reaching and grasping for life
For healing

Weaving her way
Through crowds
Press the flesh

Smelling of bodies
And sweat
The disciples meander
with just a staff
and sandals
no bread
no money

They may,
perhaps, have
a king

Or resist the sheen
Of varnished veneers

It seems

The king does not appear to be
Who he appears to be.


That wild eyed prophet
The fire bathing beauty
With untied sandals
He handles
The shambles of their failed
And misspoke


The success of
their first
of a world full
of peregrinations
percolations of

He says,

Come away with me
Come and rest

And the only place you can learn it
Is the place after insistence
A place with the face of resistance
The place of persistence

The desert doesn’t give

It just stands there and demands
pound of flesh.

It persists.

It has something to teach you.
If you will let it.

It will teach you to persist.
Just like he persists
in the face of those who
question his legitimacy
his legality
his longevity.

It will teach you to persist.
It is content to let you resist.
It opens the way for you to insist.

But don’t be afraid.
He has gone there before.
He will lead you into it
Like a Mother
welcome you on the other side of it


Your traveling cloak
will be your prayer shawl
your sleeping bag
your burial shroud
your matador’s cape

Daring even death.


  • Aaron Klinefelter, final poem in triptych series: Insist, Resist, Persist.

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Aaron’s Letter for July 22

Luffs_AaronMatthew is continuing his well-deserved vacation and I am back from the conference in Cambridge. I had the wonderful fortune of visiting with Maggie and Gwilym Luff while in Cambridge. They send their love to Trinity, their California church.

I had an amazing learning experience in Cambridge. CDSP invited me to attend the Newbigin Summer Institute where we spent the week digging into the work of Lesslie Newbigin as it relates to interfaith dialog and relationships. Newbigin was a 20th century missionary and bishop from the UK who helped found the Church of South India (part of the Anglican Communion) and was involved in the early work of the World Council of Churches. The conference was sponsored by the Newbigin House of Studies and the Newbigin Centre.

The Rev. Beth Foote returns this Sunday to preside at both the 8 am and 10 am services.

A reminder that if there is a pastoral need, please call the Pastoral Care Emergency Line at 650-326-8591.

This Sunday’s Gospel reading continues our ongoing exploration of Mark’s narrative. In fact, this is the last week in the Gospel of Mark for a bit as August sends us on a journey in John’s Gospel and a meditation on bread. But this week we find Jesus having compassion on the crowds that followed him, “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” This week concludes our 3-part series through Mark: Insist, Resist, and now, Persist. Each week I’ve written a poem to accompany our reflection on the Gospel of Mark. Here are links to those poems:

Peace in the midst,


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Resistance is futile
Says the king
Moms you should lock up your daughters
And run screaming to the hills
To hide in caves
Cast in Plato’s fading light

Or perhaps you could
Lie awake at night
Scrolling on the endless loop
Of sensational headlines and cat videos
Wondering if
There is a better way to live.

Because, surely he’s not a prophet
Running headlong into the thick of it
Causing trouble
Bursting bubbles

for the remote

I hope
That he won’t
Call the question
Derail the session

That’s out of order, man.
You’d think he’d understand
Doesn’t he realize we have a plan?

Why does he resist?

But, oh well, the system wins
In the end
Doesn’t it?

Raise your glass the troublemaker is gone
Headless and dead
Cast aside like an out of ink pen

I mean, he’s not Elijah
Is he?
Surely not a prophet
We don’t like their kind
around here.

Still. The rumor is that he’s back from
It must be a mistakeThat his disciples came to take
His body
To lay in a tomb.

But those words he spoke
Of resistance and hope
As if they are one in the same.

The words that he spoke
Of resistance and hope

They rise like smoke
From the embers of dreams

It seems
That yet
The king
may not
be who
he appears
to be.

  • Aaron Klinefelter for Sunday July 15, 2018 based on Mark 6:14-29

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she whispers
the breath just barely on her lips

and yet her grip

Jairus looks and sees with broken eyes
his daughter

he longs to see her wondering

He longs to call out
Talitha cum
Little girl, get up
it’s time to go

And yet she lay here dying
And he, a person of power
a man of means
the one with a name

Talitha cum
Little girl, get up
his words fall flat

She is locked up
trapped in a cage
not of her own making


through crowds
an invisible woman
with visible pain

the same


she reaches out
grasping at cloaks and tassels
robes and ropes

reaching for the one
who promises hope…

she insists

“get up, little girl”
she hears the echo of a voice
Talitha cum

get up
have courage
do not be afraid
insist that the healer heal
insist that the prophet prophecy
insist that the weeper weep

queer this thing
this hope
this healing
this teacher who touches
go across to the other side
go to the desert place

cross boundaries

it is as if…
but no…
yet, perhaps…
oh, happy chance…

“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice;

Talitha cum


O daughters of Israel
insist and weep

How the mighty have fallen
but you,
you are
greatly beloved
your love
to me
is wonderful


  • Aaron Klinefelter for Sunday July 1, 2018 based on Mark 5:21-43

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Rev. Matthew’s Letter for July 15

I am writing to you from Chicago, where my vacation is now about a week old and we are enjoying what the great city has to offer.  Chicago always impresses me — probably because it was the very first “big city” I ever visited as a child growing up in the Midwest.

While I continue to enjoy some time off, Aaron is wrapping up his week of study in England and will be back in Menlo Park on July 13.  He will be preaching at services on July 15.  The Rev. Beth Foote also returns this Sunday to preside at both the 8 am and 10 am services.

A reminder that during my vacation time, if there is a pastoral need, please call the Pastoral Care Emergency Line at 650-326-8591.

This Sunday’s Gospel reading tells the story of the death of John the Baptist, who was executed after offending the wife of King Herod. It is a story that, among other things, reminds us of what can happen when people of faith find it necessary to speak truth to power.



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Rev. Matthew’s Letter for July 8

This Sunday, both Aaron and I will be away.  I am beginning my vacation, and will be back in church on Sunday, July 29.  Aaron is in England for a week-long study program to which he was invited several months ago, and will be back in Menlo Park on July 13.  If there is any pastoral need during this time, please call the Pastoral Care Emergency Line at 650-326-8591.

The Rev. Beth Foote will be presiding and preaching at services this Sunday, and she will be covering for me also on July 15 and 22.  I am grateful that Beth is able to be with us again.

This Sunday’s gospel reading is a story about how hard it is to go home again:  Jesus is back in his hometown, in his home synagogue, having become known as a healer and a prophet, and his hometown people just can’t see him in this way.   They remember him as a child, and they seem to have trouble getting beyond that.  So much so, that Mark tells us that he could do “no deed of power” there.

While I’m looking forward to some time away, I will also look forward to being back among you at the end of the month.  In the meantime, you will be in my prayers.



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Rev. Matthew’s Letter for July 1

This Sunday, we hear a story from Mark’s Gospel that highlights the healing ministry of Jesus.  One is of a woman who had had a “hemorrage” for years, the other of the daughter of a prominent man, who dies before Jesus is able to reach her.  We often miss the fact that in many of these healing stories, there is much more going on than meets the eye.  The woman with the hemorrage would have been considered unclean in her time, which would have made her something of an outcast.  Her healing means restoration far beyond simply the removal of a medical condition.  And the raising of Jairus’s daughter points to the truth that God can reach us even in death.

Our hosting of Home and Hope this year comes to a conclusion this Sunday, and I am so grateful to our many volunteers who make our hosting of these families possible, and to our Outreach Commission — particularly Jim Bramlett and Barbara Newton — for continuing to offer this service opportunity to us.

In July, we will turn our attention to a new outreach project:  providing back-to-school backpacks and supplies to children at Redwood Family House and the Ecumenical Hunger Program.  Stay tuned for more details about how you can support this project.

As announced, I will be on vacation from July 6-28, which means I will not be in church on July 8, 15, and 22.  I’m deeply grateful to the Rev. Beth Foote, well known in our community, who will be presiding at services while I am away.  She will also be preaching on July 8.  Aaron will be in England from July 7-13 for a week of study in Cambridge to which he was invited a few months ago.  He will be preaching on July 15 and 22.   If there is a pastoral emergency while I am away, please call the emergency line at 650-326-8591.  Someone will either answer or you will be able to leave a message, and those on call to respond will do so right away.



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Rev. Matthew’s Letter for June 24

This Sunday is the last of the month, and so is our alternative music Sunday at the 10 am service.  This month, the music will be led by our Bluegrass Band.  The readings this week include a passage from the book of Job, in which God questions Job in a way that makes it clear how much Job does not know about the deepest mysteries of life and of the universe, and a reading from Mark’s Gospel in which Jesus encounters the panic of his disciples in the midst of a storm.  Both of these stories, in different ways, invite us to examine our own relationship with the deep mystery of life, and whether or not we are willing to trust God with that mystery — and entrust ourselves to that mystery.

Summer is officially here now, and we are already slipping into its rhythms.  Church attendance will be lower as people take vacations, and the pace of life slows a bit.  Please remember that while people take vacations, expenses do not — so please try to keep your pledge up to date during the summer months.

I want to highlight two upcoming events:  the church camping trip to Big Sur the weekend of August 10-12, and our annual Bishop’s Ranch Retreat the weekend of September 28-30.  Registration for both events is open —  just click on the underlined words in this paragraph.  If you’re interested in participating, get these dates on your calendars now!

In closing, I want to express my appreciation to all those who are supporting our hosting of Home and Hope this month.  We began last Sunday evening, and continue through July 1.  A special thanks to Jim Bramlett and Barbara Newton who coordinate this for us.



Please note that I will be on vacation from July 6-28.  The Rev. Beth Foote will be presiding and preaching at services in July 8, and presiding at services on July 15 and 22.  Aaron will be preaching on July 15 and 22.

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