St. Matthew Blog

Special updates and thoughts from Pastor Joel.

Note from Pastor Joel

Dear Church Family,

God calls us each of us to be changemakers. As we seek to make a difference in our world, it's tempting to rush ahead on our own. However, Jesus shows us a different way.

When Jesus sent out his disciples, He instructed them to immerse themselves in the community they were serving. They were to accept hospitality and stay with those who welcomed them. This approach teaches us a valuable lesson: true change happens when we work alongside our community, not apart from it.

As we strive to be a risk-taking church, let's remember that our greatest impact comes when we collaborate with those we serve. We are called to be part of the community, understanding its needs, and working together towards positive change. I wonder what you notice how God is working in our church, our community or in the East Valley?

This week, I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone. Engage with our community in new ways. Listen to their stories, understand their challenges, and work together to be the changemakers God wants us to be. This Sunday we will have the opportunity to hear how churches in the Desert Southwest Annual Conference are working together to be changemakers. Our lay members to annual conference will be sharing what they experienced and how St Matthew is part of this work. 

Let's take risks, but let's do it together, as a church family and as part of our wider community.

You are loved and appreciated,

Pastor Joe

Becoming a RISK taking Church

What are you noticing? As a changemaker church, we are called to notice what we notice, We notice where God is at work. How do we do this? We study our church identity and purpose, we discover and utilize the unique gifts God has given our congregation. 

We innovate and create new ministries that align with our history and strengths and finally, we sustain our commitment to the calling God has placed on our church. Being a changemaker church requires us to be a RISK taking church. It’s been a joy learning about the first 50 years of St. Matthew and the RISKs our church has taken to build relationships with our community and participate in God’s transformative  work.

This Sunday  we continue to explore how Jesus is our model change maker. We'll be considering how God is calling us, both individually and as a church body, to be a RISK taking church in our community. Can’t wait to see you on Sunday.

You are loved and appreciated,

Pastor Joel

Note from Pastor Joel

Dear St. Matthew's family,

I am excited to share with you an important journey our church has embarked upon – becoming a "RISK-taking church." This initiative isn't about reckless behavior, but rather about boldly following God's call for our congregation and community. What is RISK? RISK is an acronym that encapsulates our approach to this transformative process: R - Realize who we are I - Immerse into who God has created us to be and use our gifts S - Start something new based on our history, gifts, and creativity K - Keep going with the ministry God has called us to do

In August 2023, Sue Edman and I began working with our dedicated St. Matthew Change Maker Team. This team, comprising Robin Watson, Virginia Hughes, Betsy Hertzler, and Danté Amedee, has been diligently working to help guide our church through this process of discernment and growth. Over the past year, we have been:

  • Studying our rich church history
  • Exploring how Jesus was a change maker
  • Conducting interviews with members of our congregation (and we're still continuing this process)

This comprehensive approach is designed to help us consider how we can be a RISK-taking church within our community. We're learning to listen attentively and notice where God is at work, all to help us discern what God is calling us to do now. This summer in worship, I will be preaching how Jesus is our model change maker. This Sunday, the focus will be on the Radical Compassion Jesus that exemplifies for us. Can’t wait to see you on Sunday!

You are loved and appreciated,

Pastor Joel

Note from Pastor Joel

Dear St. Matthew Family,

This has been an epic week of change for the United Methodist Church because the Holy Spirit has been at work. For the past two weeks, delegates from around the world joined together for General Conference to discern and decide spiritual, theological, and financial decisions for the church. Three major changes that have happened include the following:

Removal of the harmful language towards the LGBTQIA+ community that has been in the Book of Discipline for over 50 years.

Regionalization-Each region (USA will be it's own region) will determine it’s own Book of Discipline for contextual and cultural purposes. 

Revised Social Principles These principles help guide the work of the church. In addition, so many more changes have been adopted as well. To see more of the work of the General Conference go to

One thing that was highlighted constantly at General Conference was the importance of the local church because this is where the heart and ministry of our work is done as a denomination. As we discern the missional future of St. Matthew, let us prayerfully consider how God is calling us to be the church in our neighborhood, in the Valley and in our world.

You are loved and appreciated,

Pastor Joel

Note from Pastor Joel

One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie, “New In Town” starring Renée Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. Zellweger plays “Lucy, the executive, who is brought into a small Minnesota town to restructure the town’s largest manufacturing employer. The whole town is nervous about this Miami executive coming in from the outside to bring big changes that will most likely result in lost jobs. To help with saving costs, one of the office employees personally drives to Minneapolis to pick up Lucy from the airport. While driving back to the small town from the airport, the office employee asks Lucy a burning question that was very important for her to ask.  “Have you found Jesus?” With a puzzled look on the executive’s face, she responds hesitantly and with pause, “I didn’t know he was missing?”  This quote makes me laugh because of the executive’s snarky response, but also because of the sincerity of the office employee’s question, “Have you found Jesus,” especially as we prepare for Christmas. Christmas, for me, is all about finding. It’s about finding new insight, finding new meaning. It’s about finding the heart of Christmas.

In the church year calendar, we find ourselves in the season of Advent. This is a time when we prepare for the great mystery of Christmas-how God came to earth to love us through a baby. During this time, we recall the hope given to the people who felt marginalized and forgotten. We remember the courage of Mary and Joseph, who answered the call to be the earthly parents of God. We remember the Shepherds who received the “Good News,” from the Angels and were told, “Don’t be afraid.” And of course, we remember, the gentleness of the baby Jesus, who came to earth to show us the way.

As we journey through Advent, I pray that we will find the true meaning of Christmas. I pray we will find hope for the marginalized in society, the disenfranchised who need jobs, and for those who feel unsafe because of their religion, nationality, or even skin color.  I pray we will find the courage to do what is right in our world and boldly proclaim God’s love for all people in the market place, in our church and in our homes. I pray we will find the gentleness of God’s spirit as we look into our brothers and sisters faces who are hurting and find ways to be agents of God’s healing touch in their lives.  And I pray we will not fear in being who we are and celebrate our commonality of being children of God. 

I pray that you will find the true meaning of Christmas over and over again this year and when you do, let me know. I would love to hear what you have found.


You are loved and appreciated,

~Pastor Joel

A Statement from the Bishop and Appointive Cabinet

Desert Southwest Conference - May 1, 2022

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: 

- Romans 12:4-6a NRSV
Grace and peace be with you all this day. As United Methodists we, the bishop and the members of the Desert Southwest Conference Appointive Cabinet, have been in prayer for our pastors and our United Methodist churches and would like to share a statement of faith and grace. Our Conference has a commitment to be a ‘big tent’ church. We recognize that we do not all think or believe the same. We have differences in understanding of scripture. We have different gifts that have helped us serve countless communities in ways specific to the needs in those places. We speak many languages, come from many cultures, and hold differing theological perspectives. And yet, amidst our differences, there is one God who activates and enlivens us as disciples of Jesus Christ, sending us out into the world as bearers of Christ’s love.
As United Methodists, we continue to aspire to be a more just, loving, and inclusive force in the world. Yes, we have failed in this calling many times and we have the work of repentance and restitution to do. Yet we believe with intentional effort and with God’s help we will become the beloved community God created us to be, living more faithfully into our identity as God’s people. We have the ability to end the harm done to LGBTQIA+ siblings, to communities of color and our immigrant congregations, to those who live with differing conditions, and to creation itself. As an Annual Conference we made a commitment to end harm when we adopted our Vision Statement which reminds us all:
God calls us to be a Courageous Church:
loving like Jesus, acting for justice, united in hope.

As United Methodists, we believe we are stronger together. Our diversity is a gift from God, one we have not yet fully claimed. We need not fear our differences. Instead we believe we are called to embrace our differences in a way that models what unity in Christ looks like. We believe that unity does not require uniformity. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us how much we need one another. The pain and sorrow experienced through the pandemic has been overwhelming, yet we have risen to the challenge, and in the process we did not ask first what someone believed before deciding whether or not we would serve with them. We have stood shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, and have been the Body of Christ in powerful ways. As United Methodists we embrace a church built on loving relationships rather than uniformity in thought and action.
Washed in the waters of our baptism, as United Methodists we will walk in our commitment to love one another in grace-filled ways. We will be liberal, evangelical, progressive, traditionalist, middle of the road, conservative, centrist, or something else and together we will continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
As your Bishop and Appointive Cabinet we value each and every one of you as a precious child of God. We believe that every church in Desert Southwest Conference is an important part of this shared work. There is a place, through God’s grace, for us all.
Let us all be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Rev. David McPherson
Rev. Dan Morley
Rev. Javier Olivares
Rev. Matt Ashley
Rev. N. Susan Brims

Our Commission on General Conference

Our Commission on General Conference decided this week that our next General Conference will be held in 2024. I imagine this means that, for now, the policies and positions espoused by the United Methodist Church, and by the Desert Southwest Annual Conference, will remain more or less status quo. As for us at St. Matthew, we will continue to worship, serve, and fellowship together across unity and diversity as we have always done. Our call to ministry and mission to and with all people in the name of Christ, in connection with other United Methodists around the world, and in ecumenical solidarity with Christians everywhere, remains.

You can find the statement from the Commission, as well as a response from Bishop Cynthia Harvey, President of the Council of Bishops, in the press release at

General Conference Update from Bishop Hagiya

December 5, 2021

I continue to receive requests to share an update concerning the postponed General Conference and Western Jurisdictional Conference. I realize that this is an anxious time for everyone in our church. Not only are we reeling from the COVID-19 threats, but our whole church has been on a massive holding pattern for over a year. It has been a tough time for everyone, and that includes the entire global population!

Over the next few months, I will share what I can about the state of The United Methodist Church, and I realize that I will not have many answers. The truth of the matter is no one knows what will happen next, and this fact should sober all of us.

First, let me address what we know about General Conference. The only one who can decide on holding the General Conference is the Commission on General Conference, a global elected body of laity and clergy tasked with the oversight for the General Conference. Their leadership and staff have been meeting regularly to determine if it is possible to hold our General Conference in 2022. They are exploring every angle to this very question. At this time, they still cannot determine with assurance if this is going to be possible. They are juggling hundreds of considerations. One of the major issues is getting Visas and safe travel for our Central Conference delegates. Since the Central Conferences make up over 40% of the General Conference, it would be impossible and unethical to hold it if they could not participate. As the Delta variant continues to rage worldwide, the ultimate safety of our members continues to be a significant hurdle to physically meet in Minnesota or anywhere else in the world.

I have tremendous respect and confidence in the leadership of the Commission on General Conference. I know that they are working diligently every week to answer whether we will be able to meet or not. We can only wait in patience as they do their work, and as soon as they make a definitive decision, they will let all of us know.

My challenge in writing this briefing is how to tie in this season of thanksgiving with the latest information of our general church. One thanksgiving that I regularly lift to God in my daily devotions and prayers is the faithfulness of all of our churches, laity, and clergy during such a trying time as this. I thank God for all of you who are doing everything you can to keep your churches and communities afloat and viable under the COVID-19 conditions. You are the heart and soul of our entire church, and I am proud to be a part of such a dynamic and faithful community. However, it is to God and God alone to whom we must give our thanksgiving and praise. God is the one who is not letting us down and continues to guide and empower our ministries!

So, during this important thanksgiving season, let us turn to God for hope and vision. It is time for us to take stock in all that we have, not what we lack. God will give us all we need to get through the challenges of this hour and the hours to come.

Let me close with that great inspiration from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians:

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at

harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an

opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those

of the family of faith.       –Galatians 6: 9-10

Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant

General Conference Update in Summary

December 1, 2021

by Pastor Brooke
Our world-wide denomination convenes a General Conference, with clergy and lay representation from every Annual Conference, every four years (quadrennially). The General Conference is the legislative body for our United Methodist connection. Following a specially called General Conference in 2019 (for more information and commentary on this, please see my blog post from March 19, 2019, the quadrennial General Conference scheduled for 2020 has been postponed until at least 2022. Much uncertainty remains about whether the General Conference will be able to convene in 2022, with vaccination requirements and travel restrictions likely still to be in place, and with delegates coming from various parts of the world, including regions with less access to vaccines and/or to processing necessary paperwork for international travel. It remains to be seen whether the General Conference will convene prior to the next regularly scheduled quadrennial meeting in 2024.

There is likewise no way to know what legislation will look like at the next General Conference, whenever it meets, as the members of the General Conference decide what to prioritize, make amendments, etc in real time throughout the General Conference. I will, however, take a brief look at some of the possible legislation before the next General Conference in a future update, after Advent.

In the meantime, we at St. Matthew continue to be who we are and do what we do in Building Community, Exploring Faith, and Serving Others. If you are interested in staying up on denominational news related to General Conference, please add the URL below to your bookmarks, as it is updated regularly. In the current page configuration, recent news is near the top of the page, and if you scroll down, you can find FAQs that explain more about how the General Conference makes decisions, how delegates are selected, etc.