Betty passed away last week in the middle of the night after suffering a heart attack. She was supposed to come home from Whittier, but Betty had other plans and went to her heavenly home.
During this week’s heat, I hardly had the energy to do more than lay around in air conditioned spaces, but I wanted to move more, so I went to Target, just to walk someplace cool. Being easily distracted (and, really, Target is one of those stores I can’t just walk out of with a list), I spent some time in the music section watching the big screens with music videos, and the phrase “ain’t no man that can save me, there ain’t no man that can enslave me” caught my ear. So after watching a bit of the video, I latched onto the new Avett Brothers album “True Sadness” and have been listening to it on repeat for awhile. Beautiful imagery and some well-expressed truth in that album. I find myself wanting to make the song “Ain’t No Man” my theme song for awhile.
(“There ain’t nobody here who can cause me pain or raise my fear ‘cause I got only love to share.”)
Do you have a theme song for certain times of your life? Songs you go to when you’re celebrating or grieving or need to take some space apart to breathe after a hectic time? We have so much art available to express ourselves and communicate with one another, and the spirit of connecting with each other, building bridges, celebrating the beautiful diversity of the world without being afraid of it, is not limited to religion, or even to geography anymore. How do you connect with your own feelings and find ways to connect with others?
Some of my colleagues have written litanies for sharing that openness the Avett Brothers talk about, speaking truth to power about what power there is in open acceptance and love of God’s whole good creation (including one’s self as much as one’s neighbor). In repeated phrases, my colleague Rev. Emily led prayer at Churchwide Assembly this week:
“Our lives are holy. Our dancing is holy. Our protest is holy. Our grief is holy. Our rage is holy. Our emotions are holy. Our community is holy. Our experiences are holy. Our wisdom is holy. Our gender presentations are holy. Our bodies are holy. Our sex is holy. Our love is holy. You are holy. We are holy.” (This litany is online, too, at luragroen.blogspot.com/2016/06/a-litany-of-lament-and-power.html?m=1)
Because if ‘there ain’t nobody here who can cause me pain or raise my fear ‘cause I got only love to share,’ then we are free to love ourselves and one another without the anxieties about being deemed ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ It’s the freedom we find in Jesus, too, that forgiveness of all without distinction, that gift of grace which claims us each and all as beloved as we are. As we are, we are holy. Created in the Image of God, who called the creation very good at the beginning, we don’t have to worry about proving ourselves worthy or making ourselves acceptable.
So, yeah, that’s my jam today. What’s your song today?
While I was waiting for my first call, I was able to take some vacation time from Target and travel to Philadelphia for the Churchwide Assembly where Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was elected Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. It was amazing to be there, and though I spent most of my time behind the scenes ironing albs (those white robes worship leaders wear) and telling Bishops how to put them on for each Eucharist we celebrated, I made sure to be in the room when Bishop Eaton was elected. It was pretty major, really exciting, and an unexpected moment of history making. The theme that year was “Behold, I am Making All Things New.”
This year, in less than a week, almost a thousand voting members of the ELCA – and that’s not counting volunteers – will gather in New Orleans for another Churchwide Assembly. When our parish gathers on the Sunday of the Christmas pageant, we amass about eighty folks – imagine over a thousand gathered for worship, from all across the country! Representing 3.7 million of us, these voting members, chosen at each of our 65 synodical assemblies, will share in worship, Bible study, and voting on some pretty big topics, including those memorialized at our local assemblies. We will be making big decisions on public issues that have been discussed at every level of this denomination, from sustainable energy to repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery to redefining the Lay roster (as a roster, it’s the Word and Service ministry, whereas the Ordained roster are Word and Sacrament).
Since there are so many of us across so many backgrounds and such a big geography, it can be hard to remember how diverse we really are, culturally and economically and politically, and yet we are still one church together. A big part of this year’s assembly will also include preparations to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the kick-off of God’s Reformation of the church through Martin Luther. This work is ongoing, as God is always doing a new thing. Liberal or Conservative or off the charts completely, all are welcomed and valued in these ministries of the Holy Spirit wherever we may live and serve.
In the week ahead, please pray for our 2016 Churchwide Assembly voting members:
Bishop John Macholz, Rev. Lee Miller III, Mr. Rick Mollenkopf Grill, Mr. Jim Osborne, Rev. Krista Mendoza, Ms. Sharon Hamilton, Rev. Pamela Hoh, Mr. Sohail Akhtar, Mr. Thomas Madden, Rev. Gail Wolling, Mr. Tom Henry, Mrs. Patsy Glista (Associate In Ministry – one of those lay rosters that we’ll be voting about), Mrs. Mary Schwartz, Mr. Ryan Potocki, and Ms. Meredith Cavanagh. And remember how connected we are across the miles as we gather next week to pray and worship and speak together!
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?
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.
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 Community
Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 7 PM
The First Lutheran Church
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.
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. http://www.capareacc.org
Albany Lutheran Cluster Churches
Mailing: 646 State St., Albany, NY 12203
~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!