Tri-County Lutheran Parish Conversations Underway

What would it look like if a community came together across three counties to share their resources and energies so they could help lift up the neighbors around them? What could it look like if eight church buildings were each open throughout the week so that people could come pray, sing, be silent, be reconciled on any day of the week, including Sundays? If, instead of worrying that one church seems to be growing faster than another, we looked at the corporation of eight churches as a team seeking to serve outside of their walls just as much as within their walls? As people across the nation are wringing their hands over numbers, becoming more and more afraid of ‘strangers,’ wouldn’t it be a great witness to the power of love if eight congregations worked together as a sign of unity across our diverse economics and politics? What if, instead of feeling guilty that you’ve missed another worship service for a little league game, or you can’t commit to a Bible study because you might not make it every week, there were more options to come together and pray, more ways to connect for mutual support and wider positive impact in the communities where we work and live and play?

Four northern Columbia congregations, including Christ our Emmanuel, two from Rensselear County, and two from Greene County, are coming together to brainstorm the possibilities, and we want your input: Where do you see the church can be more supportive? Where would you like more opportunities to engage your faith and big questions and find connections and strength for the day-to-day grind?

Come together

We are hoping to have a plan, a project proposal, if you will, in a few months, to be voted on by each congregation. Might it be organized with two pastors serving full-time with an intern? Might it look like more deacons stepping into leadership? Might it sound like children running up the stairs from Sunday School when it’s time for all to come to the communion table?

God has a mission, and a purpose, for our congregation and for the wider parish area. We see grace and forgiveness in the face of Christ, and we seek to be that face, those hands of God at work in the world, all the more as we continue in this process, this movement of the Holy Spirit among us.

Pastor Nelson

Power of Love

Our congregations are networked across the region for mutual support and a broader reach of ministry opportunities. Please celebrate with First Lutheran in Albany as they celebrate the power of love over hate.

 Pride Flag Dedication to Unite Our Communitypride_cross-2
Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 7 PM

The First Lutheran Church
Front Lawn
181 Western Ave, Albany, NY 12203

We will gather in the parking lot at 7:00 p.m. and process to the banner holder as a group. The banner will be blessed, there will be brief statements from various government offices as well as from FLC and the Council of Churches.

We hope you will attend and show your support.

The First Lutheran Church, The Albany Damien Center, and the Capital Area Council of Churches announced today they are co-sponsoring a ceremony called “Pride Flag Dedication to Unite Our Community” which be held this Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 7PM on the front lawn of The First Lutheran Church, 181 Western Avenue, Albany, NY 12203.

A new LGBT Pride Flag, custom made for the space and donated by Gettysburg Flag Works, will be dedicated and restored to the space where the previous flag hung prior to it being burned sometime between Wed, June 22 at 9 PM and Thurs, June 23 at 9 AM. The burning of this LGBT Pride Flag is being treated as a hate crime by the Albany Police Department. Anyone with information is asked to call the Albany Police Detective Division at 518-462-8039.

This public ceremony will provide an opportunity to affirm our local community’s united response in strongly denouncing hate, discrimination, and injustice that our LGBT and AIDS community continues to face, while embracing the diversity and love in our local community.

pride_cross First Lutheran Church (FLC) is a congregation of the ELCA and is the oldest Lutheran congregation in North America, founded in 1649. Its mission is to live as a community in Christ engaged with the surrounding community. The flag which was burned was FLC’s symbol to the community of its status as a Reconciling In Christ congregation — welcoming ALL people regardless of age, race, socio-economic or marital status, physical or mental capabilities or sexual orientation. FLC provides space to the Albany Damien Center, as its temporary home, and to the Capital Area Council of Churches.

The Albany Damien Center’s mission is to enhance the lives of people affected by HIV/AIDS in an affirming environment and to reduce new infections in the communities we serve.

The Capital Area Council of Churches (CACC) was founded in 1941 to foster ecumenism and faithful witness through service, advocacy and celebration. CACC is an umbrella membership organization of more than 90 churches in the capital region.

Albany Lutheran Cluster Churches
Mailing: 646 State St., Albany, NY 12203

Pastor Andrew

Summer Happenings

~We will be having a congregational vote on the resolution “to commit to participate in the development of the Tri-County Parish,and to bring that plan to a vote no later than our 2017 annual meeting.” This vote will take place after church service on July 17th. Please take note.

~Our annual tag sale will be held Friday & Saturday July 8th & 9th. Set up will be Thursday July 7th & we will meet to clean out the garage & take items to the Stalkers Wednesday evening July 6th (times TBA.) Please consider giving some time to this event! We are looking for as many members of our congregation to help as possible.There is a sign up sheet on the back table at church or you can e-mail me with your availability.

~Saturday July 9th to close the tag sale, we will have worship on the Stalkers’ front lawn @5pm. There will be no regular service Sunday morning July 10th at the church. Please join us at the Stalker’s house on Saturday!

~We will be hosting a spaghetti dinner for our first responders, (i.e. fire fighters, police, & EMT’s) for God’s Work our Hands Sunday this year. We will have the dinner@ the Chatham Fire House Friday September 9th to make it easier for our school aged children to be a part of this event. More information will be coming.

~ We will be ordering the yellow God’s Work Our Hands T-shirts again this year for those who need one. The cost is approx. $6.50 each with an add’l $2.00 for 2XL & $3.00 for 3XL. The cost for the printing will be paid by the church. There is a sign up sheet on the table in the back of the church or you can e-mail me with the size & quantity. There are also youth small, medium, & large. We would liketo get this order out ASAP.

~The annual church picnic & church service @Crellin Park with our Reformed Church neighbors, (& possibly our AME Church neighbors) will take place on July 24th. Mark your calendars! More info to come.

Enjoy this nice warm weather!

Vernon William Westover

With hope in the resurrection promise, and prayers of comfort for his family, we remember the life of Vernon William Westover, who died Monday night at 80 years old. We will post his obituary to our parish Facebook page as soon as it is available, and it will be published also in the Times Union, Register Star, Chatham Courier, and Columbia paper.
Visitation hours will be held from 7-9 p.m. Thursday and 10-11 a.m. Friday at Wenk Funeral Home, 21 Payn Ave. in Chatham. The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the funeral home, with interment at Chatham Rural Cemetery to follow. Donations in Vern’s memory may be made to a charity of choice.
+ Rest eternal, grant him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. +

Everything is Connected

Last week there was a community gathering at the Chatham High School library, teachers and doctors and officials and students and families, talking together abut how to address the Heroin mess in our area. It’s a big problem, not only the death and havoc, but the shame that surrounds certain of our addictions. None of us exists in a vacuum, even if we try to keep our lives in neat compartments between work and home and community events. For myself, I am thinking in a few different veins: reading The New Jim Crow for Synod Assembly; trying to process a very strange grief of my mother’s death; and thinking now a bit more about our community’s response to this addiction crisis.

So of course I am thinking about the way this all ties together, grief and addiction and racism.

Full disclosure: my mother and I did not have an easy relationship. She did not handle strong emotions well, so I was not allowed to have them around her. Hence the grieving process has been… complicated. Grief is not something we can contain. It is not meant to be quiet. It is not meant to be all pressed shirts and stoic silence alone in a solitary isolation. But we tend to get squeamish around big feelings, either afraid they will swallow us whole and we won’t survive them, or that we’ll hurt someone with them, or we take feelings of powerlessness and turn them into anger and violence. For some reason, violence seems to be the most socially acceptable public outburst of grief, and while anger is one of the many faces of grief, it is not the only way. But if we do not allow ourselves space to grieve, publicly with others, all of whom also have experienced some loss or grief in their lives, then we are left on our own, isolated, embarrassed, even ashamed of some imaginary idea of weakness or neediness. The church can be especially harsh at this, focusing on our call to serve over our call to be vulnerable and honest and safe with and for one another all along our paths of healing and struggle.hope

So I segue here, from the thought of public versus private grief, to the idea of isolation and shame. Our Heroin conversation came back again and again to removing the stigma, educating the public on addiction as a disease (though we still stigmatize mental illness in ways we would never stigmatize physical illness, which probably also feeds into this, considering the intersections of addiction and mental health issues). Locating and accessing resources, not to mention insurance headaches, was also part of the triad of themes that we returned to over and again. What resources do we already have, though? Not only for recovery, but the intentional connections of care within the community as a whole? How easy is it to be isolated as lone rangers, living the American ‘dream’ of independent successes, hiding when we fail because we ‘ought’ to use every opportunity to succeed? Whatever we count as failure, where does our shame come from when we fall short of the imagined ideal hero who always has everything all together?

One of the phrases used in our conversation at the High School was ‘we have lost the war on drugs.’ If you haven’t yet read The New Jim Crow, I especially commend it to you now, because the history of the ‘war on drugs’ is rooted in shame and overt racism, so it’s no wonder we have a hard time shaking shame if we started the ‘war on drugs’ with intent to criminalize an entire race of people. I don’t think we can address the shame without addressing the history behind it, and I’ve only just stuck my toe in the waters on this. Shame is a slippery thing, with deep roots and complicated history. Public grieving and public accountability and public repentance toward public peacemaking is a difficult work.

All of this thinking leads me to wonder: How does your spirituality open space for public grief? For healing from shame? For integrating your life while you try and juggle work and home and all the expectations you have for yourself? What rites and rituals give you closure and strength and hope for the days ahead?

Pastor Nelson

The Names they are a-changin’

I’ve been thinking about names a lot lately. Not only because I’ve finally gotten the paperwork to make my own name change legal, but because we’ve just entered the wilderness of Lent with Jesus after his Baptism, where God called him “Beloved” and then the Accuser (‘ha-Satan’ in the Hebrew) questions him three times on it. “IF you ARE the Son of God,” Satan cajoles. “IF,” to call into question his identity, his relationship to God, his purpose and very existence. We get that same question, that same nagging all the time from all around us, don’t we?

“IF you really love me,” says the codependent or abusive lover.
“IF you really want to be happy,” says the marketing establishment.
“IF you really are a patriot,” says every political party throwing mud.
“IF you really are a Christian,” says the radio, the bullhorn preacher, the irritated family member who sees things differently than we do.

But we like recognition and encouragement and legitimacy for our self-concept. I know who I am, yet there is something comforting in having official legal paperwork to show for it, a driver’s license with my proper name, even though that means I’ve had to let go of the name I was given when I was born.Bible-Names
The real reason I’m thinking about names today is that I was reading through the First Testament lesson for the coming Sunday, from Genesis, and it’s a story about God and Abram. ABRAM, not AbraHam. That’s important. It marks a time in the man’s life before this eternal covenant was made official, and his new name, when God gives it to him, marks a complete world shift in his sense of place and purpose in the world.
God is all over the place changing people’s names. So are the kings of the day. Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednigo weren’t given those names by their families but by Nebuchadnezzar, the king who conquered their land. Naming is a way of exercising power, of defining a person, of erasing a past and starting a new future in the case of cultural assimilation. Consider how Ellis Island erased people’s history when they stepped off the ships, or remember how important it was for Kunta Kinte to know his name. In Scripture, children were named for their parents’ experiences of God or life at the time of their birth. Lands and places were given names according to major events that took place. Jesus called Simon and renamed him Peter. Saul became Paul. And exiles and foreigners became family.slc_child_of_god
Maybe Lent is just another season for you, or maybe it is full of memories of fish fries and giving up chocolate. Perhaps it’s a time you take for some retreat or creative practice as winter drags on and we pray for Spring. Historically, Lent is a time to remember our name, the name given to us in our Baptism, the name “Child of God,” “Beloved,” “Mine,” which God gives to you by the power of the Triune Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As Lent leads on toward Palm Sunday, the Passion and the cross of Good Friday, remember that this name, this relationship, this covenant, is stronger than death, and it will carry us through Good Friday and on to Easter, where we also learn the meaning of the name “Unafraid.”

So now we move forward, from “IF” to “BECAUSE.”
“BECAUSE” you are a Child of God
“BECAUSE” you belong
“BECAUSE” you are loved
“BEACUSE” you will not stay dead forever anymore
“BECAUSE,” God says, “you are My Beloved.”

Pastor Nelson

Seeking & serving with hope, love and faith in Chatham, New York