Author Archives: Jeff Cheifetz

About Jeff Cheifetz

Retired PC(USA) pastor who enjoys walking, journaling, reading, views of Mt Rainier, movies, anything Star Trek and JRR Tolkien, good food, family and friends.

What I would have preached this week: Burn it down!

What I would have preached this week: Burn it down!.

IMHO, the key line by Derrick is this one: I am angry. I understand the impulse to riot. I understand the impulse to loot from a system that seems to show that there is no level of achievement, not even president of the United States, that will make you fully human. I understand the impulse to burn a flag that has never fully represented you.


Tomorrow Advent begins

Already, it’s Advent. Which means a couple of things:

1) Add together Thanksgiving, Ferguson, and Advent – what a brew. God help me preach with conviction and balance tomorrow to an Asian/Caucasian congregation. Which brings up…

2) As of November 10, I started as the 1/2-time stated supply pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, a church that needs to decide how to go into the future. This work will keep me grounded in the ‘institutional’ church that struggles to find its way as the props keep being kicked out beneath it or from within it. Or as the culture around it seems less and less interested. Or as the Risen Christ keeps calling the Body to morph/evolve/adapt/repent/die and rise again – as what, into what, God knows – so that it can engage the present culture of spiritual but not religious/unchurched/ dechurched/agnostic/atheist/whatever it is in a life-changing way.

3) Sanctuary for the Arts holds its 10th monthly worship service on Advent 2, Sunday, December 7, at 5:30pm. We are gonna DO Advent! Especially because I need it (it’s about me, you know), and because church pastors who put on Advent for others need it, and because we all just need a way into this crazy hurting world that connects with the birthing of the Christ into it all. Isaiah 40:1-11 is the text, and the bolded and underlined words are the ones that touch me most deeply:

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. 3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5Then the glory of the Lordshall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 6A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. 7The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. 9Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

What will come through the hearts and minds of those gathered, in story, song, music, and movement, as we respond to this text in the light of our own lives and the life of this world? Who knows. One thing is for sure – it will be powerful, deep, and moving. I so look forward to it as a way to reconnect to one another, to encounter the Living One in a dancing community of seekers, and to gather strength for being in the world.

RIP Robin Williams

The death of Robin Williams today hit me hard. Such an iconic figure. And yes, part of it was that I often got the, “You look like that actor, what’s his name….”. Some of it is that he is 63, and I am 61. Another contemporary laid low.

But most of it has to do with his on-screen personality and comedic skill. I didn’t see much of his Mork material, but saw several of his movies: Aladdin (how DID he talk that fast?); Dead Poet’s Society (“my captain, my captain”); Good Will Hunting; What Dreams May Come; Good Morning Vietnam; Patch Adams.

I always wished I could unhinge my brain from my tongue like he could – or maybe it was the ability to establish a direct connection between them, bypassing the inner judge/critic/editor. My two years as an improv theater student drove home my difficulties in overcoming the power of those inner blocks.

My memories of other shocking deaths of good and skilled people too young to die come to mind: JFK, MLK Jr, RFK, John Lennon (I heard about his death late one night as I was driving home during my first parish in rural Oregon), and on and on. Shows my age – these are the first names that come to mind. Then there were several parishioners and relatives whose deaths due to illness or accident knocked the breath out of my body.

Robin ended his own life, something that brings deep sadness to family and friends, and in this case, to a world-wide circle of admirers. As always, we will probably never know all the reasons for this act of desperation and hopelessness. We are left pondering the vagaries of the human situation that enable some to live long and happy lives, while others struggle mightily, and sometimes unsuccessfully, to overcome their inner woundedness.

I am still breathless from the blow, and no doubt I’ll wake up tomorrow and remember and feel the unreality of it. My hope is that the God of life and resurrection takes each of us as we are, walks with us through this life whether we recognize that Presence or not, receives our dust back at the end, and heals us into the beings we were always meant to become but could not do so in this short span of years.

May it be so for Robin, and for each of us.

What are those Presbyterians up to NOW??

Yes, the Presbyterian Church(USA) just did these things, and much more:

1) The Assembly approved a measure to divest from three corporations – Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions – it believes are not in compliance with the church’s policy on socially responsible investing.

2) The Assembly approved a recommendation to allow teaching elders pastoral discretion to perform “any such marriage they believe the Holy Spirit calls them to perform,” where legal by state law. The body also passed a recommendation to change language in the
Book of Order to indicate that “marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.” Our prayer is that together, through our covenant with one another, the PC(USA) can move forward on this issue in love and with res


3) The Assembly celebrated the nearly 250 new worshipping communities in more than 100 presbyteries that have been counted since the last General Assembly. Clearly this is a movement of the Holy Spirit, giving the promise of renewal and rebirth throughout the church. [[Sanctuary for the Arts is one of these!!!]]


How the days flow by as Amy and I continue to get our feet under us with this new creation, Sanctuary for the Arts. Our second monthly worship service is tomorrow afternoon, already. The first one, held March 2, seems a millenium ago. Well, not quite, but this project has a thousand tendrils to it that need thought, exploration, and development. The days whistle past, and yet they are so full that they take their good time adding up. If this is what planting a mustard seed feels like, then the grown plant certainly will be something to behold. I threw the initial idea out there last December convinced that if this is what God wants, then I need and want to get on with it. I am coming to believe that God is indeed in the midst of this dream. And I know that God will have to be very much present with both of us, and also with all those who come and give this new way of being church a try. I would not have it any other way.

Sanctuary for the Arts

Sometimes as one hopefully slogs along trying to do the right and good and necessary things, along comes a breakthrough, good news, a sign of being on the right track, or at least going in a good direction.

Just found out today that Sanctuary for the Arts has been awarded a seed grant as one of the 1001 New Worshiping Communities, a program of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Presbyterian Mission Agency!

Come to our second monthly worship service on April 6, at 5:30pm, at InterPlay, 23rd Street and Telegraph Ave in Oakland! We will move, and sing, tell stories, celebrate Communion, and in general embody our worship of God!

Sanctuary for the Arts

So it is actually happening! A new church, I mean. In December I linked up with Amy Diane Shoemaker, and determined that partnership in this endeavor was a great idea. We held small group conversations in February, and then launched on Sunday, March 2, at InterPlayce in Oakland. Twenty of us had a great time moving, telling stories, singing, doing art, and in general having a wonderful non-churchy improvisational embodied worship service.

Our next gathering will be Sunday, April 6, 5:30pm, at InterPlayce, at the corner of 23rd and Telegraph.

In the meantime, we are putting on a mid-Lenten season renewal retreat for clergy!  So if you are a clergy-person and want to:

  • Harness renewed energy to carry you through Easter

  • Gather with fellow clergy to reconnect with sustaining breath

  • Recharge your body, mind, heart and spirit

  • Move, tell your story and explore the grace of God

 Then….Register by 5pm March 20 for $125! Includes a delicious lunch. (Regular Price: $250)

 Questions? email us!
 All registration donations will support the development of Sanctuary for the Arts, a new worshipping community based in Oakland, CA.