THE RECTOR'S MESSAGE Tuesday, 9 June 2020
Included in today's update: A Message from Father Keith, Parishioner Insights to current events, Dine & Donate, Congrats to Our Grads, Invitation to a Faith & Leadership Webinar, Belfry Bargains Update, Recipes Needed for our Quarantine Cookbook, and more....
FROM THE RECTOR
Tuesday, 9 June 2020
Like you, the events and images of the past two weeks have resulted in tears, a heavy sadness, and feelings of anger and frustration. As a nation, we have been here before - on far too many occasions - but this time feels different, somehow. I pray that is so.
Several of you have shared insights and wise words with me over these days, and I am most grateful to have been in dialogue with you. I share some of these with all of you because, quite frankly, they are much more eloquent than anything I have tried to put together . . .
The racist system and structures that permeate every facet of life in the United States including health care, employment, education, wealth, the criminal justice system and housing infects our churches as well. In the face of these injustices we often embody the words of the prophet Jeremiah by treating “the wound of God’s people carelessly, saying ‘peace, peace’ when there is no peace” because there is no justice. (Jeremiah 6:14) The devastating effects of racism are many and every time we forget that each person is made in the image of God, we are all harmed. We have witnessed the murder of African Americans numerous times in the past in this country and it seems when the protests pass, we go back to our old ways and progress gained becomes lost. Ideas and systems that support white supremacy continue unchecked in our churches, communities and national politics. Human suffering among people of color that we have witnessed recently, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, is yet another reminder of the inequities in our racist society that has continued because we have been slow to work for justice.
I’ve spent the past few days thinking about what things I’ve done in about 9 minutes of time...things that maybe I found annoying, or boring, or uncomfortable. I thought of things like-the time it takes for novocaine to wear off after a dentist visit, the time it takes to remove a splinter from your hand, the time I got 7 minute itch in the woods that lasted for 10 minutes, the time it takes to stop a nosebleed, the time it takes to fold a load of wash, the time it takes to fill up my gas tank, the time it takes to get to a “representative” in any customer service department to talk with me live and the time it takes to go through a car wash - All things that are not my favorite ways to spend time, but all things that I spend about 9 minutes to complete. The past few months, our world has been thrown into a collective grief...and I’ve seen people come at it from every stage of the process ...denial and isolation, bargaining, anger, depression and of course, acceptance...and I’ve witnessed responses I’ll never understand, and I’m sure people could say the same to me about how I’ve been processing this new virus world. We’ve been told that those who end up sick enough to die...many have been put into a coma, placed on a ventilator...because they are basically drowning and cannot get oxygen into their lungs and blood...they die mostly alone...only with the medical staff who have been trying to save them...dressed like people in a pandemic movie scene...and each of these scared humans probably thinks, is this really how I’m going to leave this world? Most of us see the need to do whatever we can, to help save our fellow humans. Some of us feel that our freedoms are being infringed upon, and some feel that tanking the economy to save a small percentage of our population...is unwise. I try not to judge too much, when the position isn’t the one I hold...and I do honestly feel that grief is so personal....that whatever stage you’re in...I have no right to tell anyone to grieve like me...or react like me...but we humans certainly do like to express our opinions. . . . Over the past few weeks, a few very disturbing news stories have actually taken our minds off of the virus, but not in a good way. We watched cowardly fearful men hunt down a jogger and shoot him, we watched a young woman practically choke a dog while calling the police, falsely accusing a man birding in a park of trying to harm her and, most recently, we watched men of authority take a man’s life in just under 9 minutes by holding his legs and kneeling on his neck. What has me baffled, is we the people, basically just spent several months protecting our vulnerable ...but what we haven’t done, I guess really ever...is accept the fact that we have always had vulnerable people that needed protection...and most of us don’t see or acknowledge how we contribute to their vulnerability, because we stay silent or won’t call out something we see or hear that’s wrong in our daily lives....we hear these horrendous stories, we all gasp, maybe cry...talk to our friends and say, isn’t this just awful...and eventually go back to our lives...our lives full of doing things we love...and also full of those 9 minute moments we may find tedious or slightly uncomfortable...fortunately, when we go back- most of us, never worry when we go out for a run...that we’re going to be shot and killed by other humans who hate us because of an ingrained fear of other, most of us sitting and birding on a park bench offering a pet a treat, don’t expect to be reported to the police for attacking the pet’s owner...and most of us wouldn’t give a 20 dollar bill to a store clerk-have it questioned, and expect the police to come arrest us...and then proceed to slowly kill us, while others watched as we politely repeat “Sir, I can’t breathe”....if we can collectively try to protect humanity from a virus that stops humans from breathing....shouldn’t those of us with “privilege” to do all these daily joys without fear...also collectively grieve for those who cannot...collectively fight for those who cannot...collectively stand up loudly for those who cannot...and collectively call out ugliness in anyone who believes a life is less valuable because they don’t see “other” as equal or human...we’ve just proven we can do it...most of us anyway...to combat a microscopic killer...can’t most of us decide today is the last day we’re going to just watch and gasp...I know George Floyd would love to have spent that 9 minutes doing any of the things on my privileged life chore list...and he certainly deserved the right to do so without feeling any fear or hate because he just simply existed. I hope some of you spent the almost 9 minutes it took to read my thoughts...now imagine doing it, terrified, unable to breath and calling for your mother...it’s almost impossible to fathom...and it should never ever happen again to any human, because we’re all humans...flawed, growing, learning humans...we can help, we must help.
We can remember the words of Proverbs 31:8-9 - "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Speak up for the helpless, and see that they get justice."
I keep returning to my favorite Bible quotation, a copy of which I have carried in my wallet for many years, since my seminary days nearly thirty years ago - Micah 6:8 - "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God." Three very specific actions: 1) do justice; 2) love kindness; 3) walk humbly with God. It seems to me that, far too often, we transpose the verbs of the first two. Far too often, we "love" the idea, the abstract concept, of justice, not recognizing that we are called not just to "love" it, but to "do" it. Perhaps because "doing" kindness is often easier and makes us feel better, we mix the work to which God calls us. Let us resolve no longer just to "love" justice, but to "do" it through advocacy for those without voice or influence, speaking truth to power, acknowledging the vulnerable among us . . . and flat-out, damn hard work - often without the quick change and results we long and hope for.
In the name of our Savior Jesus Christ,
and our God who wants only health and wholeness for his children,
I send you blessings, peace and grace in these uncertain, confusing and anxious times.
DINE & DONATE FUNDRAISING THIS WEEK
On three evenings this week - Tuesday-Thursday, June 9th, 10th and 11th - the Greene Turtle restaurant is sponsoring a "Funds for Friends" event benefiting Church of the Messiah. Place an order for curbside pickup or delivery - either by phone or online - then present the flyer posted on the church website when you receive your food, and the parish will receive 20% of your sale.
PLEASE NOTE: If you pick up your order curbside, be sure to present a copy of the flyer found on the church website. If you order online, enter the code - FFF - in the special instructions field so that the church receives credit for your sale.
The Greene Turtle
is located at
1100 Bethlehem Pike, North Wales
phone: 267-470-4882; thegreeneturtle.com.
TO OUR HIGH SCHOOL GRADS
We offer hearty congratulations and best wishes for two members of our congregation have achieved that important life milestone marking the end of their high school years:
JANE HERRON graduates from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. In the fall, Jane will attend Penn State University - Main Campus to study Communications and Chemistry.
CHARLIE KRIEBEL has graduated from North Penn High School. He plans to begin attending Montgomery County Community College, then transferring to Fox School of Business, Temple University.
CHURCH SCHOOL & VBS UPDATE
While the Church School program year has ended, Messiah's Church School Director, Tiffany Reichley is busy planning for next month's Vacation Bible School. While there are modifications necessary this year, we are quite excited by the prospect of putting together a memorable experience for our younger parishioners. This year, rather than gathering at the church each evening, we have been forced to think "outside the box". So, we will be hosting and new way of doing Bible School - V.B.S. in a B.O.X.
Every child in the congregation, as well as all other children - ages three through sixth grade - who choose to be included, will receive a package containing all the materials needed to engage in this year's VBS, The Rocky Railway. Each day - June 29th through July 3rd - families can log onto the parish website to join in listening to the day's Bible lesson, singing a song together, and hearing more about the day's theme. Then the whole family can enjoy making a craft, perhaps doing a science experiment, or other fun activity, all the while learning more about Jesus and God's love for us.
As stated already, every child in the Messiah congregation will automatically be enrolled and receive a V.B.S. B.O.X. And if you have grandchildren, neighbors, or know of other children who would like to participate, we will publish how to register them so they can also participate. Stay tuned . . .
SPONSOR A VBS CHILD
If you would like to sponsor one of the children participating in this year's Vacation Bible School, you can easily do so. A box of craft supplies and other items that will be packed into each child's V.B.S. in a B.O.X. kit costs just $20.00. Your sponsorship check should be made payable to Church of the Messiah, with VBS in the memo line. The children of Messiah thank you for your support and encouragement!
AN INVITATION FROM MISSIO SEMINARY
AND DEAN FRANK JAMES,
A MEMBER OF OUR MESSIAH CONGREGATION:
FAITH & LEADERSHIP WHEN LIVES ARE ON THE LINE
Our country is experiencing collective trauma. As you lead in your sphere of influence - whether that's a business, nonprofit, church, or your home - you're facing unique challenges in these troubled times. Philadelphia's Missio Seminary and Cornerstone Counseling Ministries will be hosting a
Zoom webinar on Thursday, June 18, 7-8:30 PM.
Keynote speaker will be Major Marcus Millen, US Army, who will share helpful strategies for navigating through this season and preparing for its ongoing impact. Other panelists include: Tim Haahs, Nicole Martin, Maria Greco, and Rev. Brad Leach.
For more information and registration, visit the seminary's webpage: https://missio.edu/faith-leadership-lives-line/
BELFRY BARGAINS UPDATE
Back in mid-March, when the decision was made to close Belfry Bargains "for awhile", until the COVID-19 crisis had passed, none of us anticipated that the doors would remain shut through the rest of the spring season. But sadly, that is what has happened. While the store is usually cleared of merchandise each summer, it has been decided not to do that this year. So, the shop will be shut for the summer and reopen in the fall with over-flowing shelves and racks of goods.
Donations have continued to arrive and the store is currently jam-packed with merchandise. If you have donations, please hold onto them for further notice of when donations can be accepted.
As a result of the store's early closing, the last few months of outreach funding to community agencies normally receiving assistance from Messiah could not be made - at exactly the time when these social service agencies have experienced a surge in requests. Through the generosity of several parishioners, gifts to the Rector's Discretionary Fund have enabled that fund to give donations to the following: Manna on Main Street, Interfaith Ambler, Community Cupboard of Ambler, Laurel House, Salvation Army, and Grace Bean Soup Kitchen. Thank you to all whose gifts made this possible!
FOOD ASSISTANCE IN GUATEMALA
While the needs are great here in our own communities and nation, the effects of the worldwide pandemic are also being experienced by our sisters and brothers across the globe, particularly in developing countries. Several of your fellow Messiah parishioners accompanied me to Guatemala in late January, where we worked for a week in two villages building stoves and installing water purification systems, greatly improving the health and welfare of many families. And of course, our companion parish of St. Alban's is located in Antigua, Guatemala. The economic and social quarantine and curfews mandated by COVID-19 have been especially hard as most people live on day-to-day wages, and many people are prevented from working or lost their jobs.
While other mission teams have had to cancel their trips due to the viral pandemic, the team at Adventures in Mission/Guatemala, the organization that hosted our Messiah team continue to do what they can to minister to the poorest villagers in that country. Angela and Miguel, a young married couple who served as our mission team coordinators, are making and distributing food packages to the people of Jocotenango, located near Finca Fikladelfia, the coffee plantation we toured on our last day before returning stateside.
What is included in a care package: staples such as beans, rice, and oil; fresh fruits and vegetables; toilet paper (when available) and other health needs.
How the package distribution works: families in need of food hang a white flag outside their door. Angela and Miguel go door-to-door, distributing as many care packages as they can until their day's supply is finished.
How much does it cost: "Adopting" a family and supplying a week of food costs about $20.00.
If you feel called to assist in this important ministry: Please send your contribution to my attention here at the church office. Make your check payable to: Rector's Discretionary Fund. These funds will then be sent to Adventures in Mission/Guatemala to support Angela and Miguel in their project to feed the poorest of the poor in Guatemala.
AND SPEAKING OF FOOD . . .
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN COOKING OR BAKING?
WILL YOU SHARE YOUR RECIPES, PLEASE?
News reports have carried several stories about how, with restaurants being closed or reduced to carry-out only, and with more time available to many of us, lots of us have been cooking meals at home or (re)discovering the joys of baking. I have even heard that the country has baked ourselves into a shortage of flour, sugar and other baking needs! And the empty grocery shelves and rationing bears this out.
I'm sure lots of old favorites and comfort foods have been prepared in most of our homes, as well as some experimenting with new recipes and new techniques you have long wanted to try your hand at. That got Barbara Stevenson and me thinking: What about collecting all those old and new recipes into a Messiah edition of a "Quarantine CookBook"?
We would love to include at least one recipe from every Messiah household! Send your recipes to either: Barbara Stevenson - firstname.lastname@example.org; or to me - email@example.com. We will then work to organize your submissions, and make the cookbook available to all of you.
FACE MASKS FOR BOTH CHILDREN & ADULTS
Governor Wolf has recommended that all children over the age of two years should wear masks in public, but adult-sized masks are usually too large for children's smaller faces so you may have need for smaller masks to fit your younger children. One of our parishioners, Nancy Sisson, has constructed scaled-down masks and is making a supply of these available to anyone who has need for these smaller masks. We also have a supply of adult-sized masks still available here in the church office. If you are in need of masks, please stop by the church office (9-1, Mon-Thur) or call the Rector (215-699-9204).
Thank you to the many other seamstresses who have kept us supplied. I haven't kept track of how many masks we have distributed, but it has to be well over 100!
SUNDAY WORSHIP CONTINUES ON THE WEBSITE
Videos of Sunday worship services will continue to be posted to the parish website for the duration of the suspension of church services. Each Saturday, you will receive the psalm and words of the responses and other communal parts of the service, allowing you to fully participate and interact in the worship service.
So get that second cup of coffee, still in your pajamas and bathrobe, and gather together in front of the computer or iPad or other other device . . . Then join with me and other members of Messiah as we worship together virtually, until we can once again worship together in person.
ARE YOU IN NEED?
OR KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS?
Many people across our region and in our local community have been financially affected by this pandemic. and we have seen unemployment and furlough numbers climb to heights not seen since the Great Depression a century ago. If you are in need of assistance, or perhaps have a neighbor or friend who could be helped in these unprecedented times, please contact me. Several members of the congregation have been generous and made funds available to assist in meeting these needs through the Rector's Discretionary Fund. All conversations and assistance is confidential. Call or email me if you or someone you know could use some help: 215-699-9204; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another source of assistance is Manna on Main Street. Manna has sent a message to local churches noting that they have been blessed with substantial monetary contributions over the past several weeks, and, as a result, their budget for their financial assistance program has been increased. If you live within the North Penn School District, you are invited to complete a financial assistance application for aid. The application can be found on Manna's website - www.mannonmain.org - under the "Need Help" tab at the top of the page.
PLEASE KEEP YOUR PLEDGE UP TO DATE
Please help Messiah to remain financially solvent and secure through the continued regular payment of your pledge. Payments can be delivered during office hours, or mailed to: Church of the Messiah, 1001 Dekalb Pike, Lower Gwynedd, PA 19002-1941.
Many thanks to all who have submitted pledge payments - and even additional financial donations, or advance payments of pledges. Your faithfulness is greatly appreciated and has been a great help over the past weeks. Thank you!
A PRAYER & PSALM FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
O God, who created all peoples in your own image, we thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and peoples who have come together in this great nation, and strengthened our culture with the many gifts, talents, perspectives and flavors they have brought and shared. Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellowship, abolish all prejudices that separate us, open our eyes to recognize, and acknowledge, and celebrate your presence in those who differ most from us, until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
adapted from The Book of Common Prayer
Answer me when I call, O God, defender of my cause; *
you set me free when I am hard-pressed;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
"You mortals, how long will you dishonor my glory; *
how lone will you worship dumb idols
and run after false gods?"
Know that the Lord does wonders for the faithful; *
when I call upon the Lord, he will hear me.
Tremble, then, and do not sin; *
speak to your heart in silence upon your bed.
Offer the appointed sacrifices *
and put your trust in the Lord.
Many are saying, "Oh, that we might see better times!" *
Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord.
You have put gladness in my heart, *
more than when grain and wine and oil increase.
I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; *
for only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety.