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ReNew United Methodist Church Spreads ‘Summer of Love’

First published in the August 12 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

We could all use a little more love — especially these days.

That’s why the Rev. Sam Park, lead pastor of ReNew United Methodist Church, is urging his congregation to think of this as a “Summer of Love.” Park introduced the campaign in an early June sermon.

And as the summer comes to an end, ReNew is reaching out to the South Pasadena community with a free concert called “Songs at Sunset” from 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, on its campus at 699 Monterey Road. The concert will feature Jeff Dale & The South Woodlawners, Carbe & Durand and South Pasadena singer-songwriter Sophie Reynolds. You can purchase food from the famous Kogi food truck and also either revisit or learn about the beautiful campus that is ReNew United Methodist Church.

I’ve been there and if you’ve never made the drive up the hill on Monterey, you are in for a delightful surprise. It is lovely up there and the courtyard is a perfect place for a summer concert.

Park admits to tipping his cap to the famous “Summer of Love” in San Francisco in 1967, which featured hippies, rock music by such groups as Jefferson Airplane and a counterculture whose memories still linger. Park had to explain the whole concept of what went on, and he admits to interviewing someone in college at the time to get a deeper understanding.

There was — in addition to the music and art and literature — two dueling concepts going on. One was the idea of “tune on, tune in, drop out.” There was also the idea that we could be better than we are.

“There was a sense that we could find a better way,” Park told his congregation. “Many service organizations found their roots in this era. There was this idea that we could lend a helping hand — that we could build a better community.

“So,” he continued, “I’m asking everyone — for this summer — to ‘tune on, tune in and drop out,’ to participate in what I am calling our ‘summer of love.’”

Park said his call to action has been very well received by the congregation of about 100 people — some of whom are still tuning in online.

“The summer of love is known for a lot of things,” Park said. “It questioned and examined the way things were and where we were going as a society. It was a consequential summer. So, I wanted this summer to be a summer of consequence for our own faith community. I wanted to root our community in love — specifically the love of God in Christ.”

He also is referring to the theme for the program for his congregation, based on First Corinthians, Chapter 13. Park’s first sermons following the announcement of the summer campaign dealt with First Corinthians, Chapter 13 which has the famous lines: “Love is patient. Love is divine.” Corinthians 13, 4-7 ends with the line: “Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

What a good lesson for all of us who have had to endure personally or professionally during the pandemic.

The chapter goes on to say, “Now abideth faith, love and charity. These three, but the greatest of these are charity.”

Charity is something that Park is preaching to his congregation, which sent a large delegation to the Kiwanis Club pancake breakfast at the South Pasadena Fire Department. The congregation is also practicing a “charity begins at home” culture by renovating the building housing the congregation’s preschool facility.

Reynolds, who is one of the featured singers in the upcoming concert, is a friend of the Parks family and is a graduate of South Pasadena High School. She also earned a degree in public health from the University of Washington.

Reynolds has been a singer-songwriter for 10 years and played in the most recent Eclectic Music Festival here in town. She accompanies herself on acoustic guitar.

“It’s going to be fun” appearing at the concert,” she said. “I know lots of people and I want people to enjoy my music.”

Calvary Presbyterian Church’s summer bible school has historically had a theme for the children to think and talk about. This summer’s theme was anti-racism.

The Rev. Millason Dailey explained to the congregation that it is not enough to say we are not racist, but that we must be proactive in our actions. Dailey started last Sunday’s service with a series of sermons which deal with St. Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain.” She focused on the words “Love your neighbor.”

“To do the things he has asked of us are very difficult,” Dailey said. “It is a troubling Commandment.”

She noted that when we talk about “enemies,” we often mean there is something different about them. She talked about her own grandmothers who were raised in the South. One grandmother used the n-word, she recalled, while the other might say, “my nurse is very good,” and then add that the nurse was Black.

“We need to stop spending time on the things that are different and spend more time looking for things that are alike,” she said.

The series will continue both in the regular service, at 10:30 a.m. Sundays at 1450 Fremont Ave., and it also can be found on the church’s website.

The St. James Episcopal Church is going through the initial stages of finding a new parish minister, after the retirement of the Rev. Canon Anne Tumilty.

The first stage of the process is development of a parish profile. The congregation is currently being asked to fill out a profile and it was discussed during a service earlier this month.

The parish search committee will conduct a search and provide to the vestry — the governing body — vetted candidates based on the information gathered from the parish profile. The vestry will then interview, select and hire the next rector at St. James, located at 1325 Monterey Road.

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