October 2015 newsletter
As I begin to write this, my final article for you, I find myself waxing nostalgic. So many memories are pouring over me, that I find it hard to truly focus on how and what I should impart as my final words to you. For some reason, a Charles Dickens quote comes to mind: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." I really resonate with the first half of the quote, but for my time with you, I would dispute the second half and change the second part to, "there were times of struggle."
I have gotten to know and to love so many of you as friends and co-workers in Christ. You have allowed me to enter your lives in the best of times and in times of loss and pain. During my time here in Parsons, I have conducted celebration of life services for 106 families, 84 of them from this congregation. Together, we have said farewell to many others as they have left the community to move closer to families for various reasons. A number of faithful servants, who were very active when I first moved here, have become home bound and some have entered care facilities as their health has diminished.
At the same time, however, I was privileged to welcome 50 people through baptism and transfer of membership in to the life of the congregation. There have also been a number of "visitors" who have become regular attendees on Sundays and actively participate in many other church sponsored events. I have held newborns, watched children grow up and move away. In my first two months I was here, a baby girl was born to a family that has become active in the life of the church. She just celebrated her 7th birthday and I have marveled at watching her, her sisters and all the children grow, develop and thrive.
There have been numerous mission opportunities, fellowship meals, Bible studies and special events that I know have fed my soul and hopefully have fed many of you as well. There were those special services of Advent/Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. I will never forget the Pentecost service when we dropped balloons from the balcony and the joy and spirit it ignited on the faces of all as we "shared" the spirit by tapping those red orbs to one another. It still warms my heart to see with my mind's eye some of our ninety plus year olds - some who have now joined that great cloud of witnesses - light up as a balloon came their way and reached out to tap it on its way.
So many heart-warming, faithful memories have imprinted themselves on my heart. There were, however, periods of struggle. One of the biggest struggles we have had of late is with finances. With all the deaths and moves that have happened over the last seven years, our attendance and finances have diminished. We have been drawing on our reserve funds over the past few months. I know for some that has caused a sense of panic and panic can often cause fear and fear leads to blaming and distrust.
If there is one regret I have in my time with you, it is this: I was unable to motivate leadership, and the church to live lives of faithful stewardship. The giving of finances, time and abilities has remained static even as we have lost people. There have only been two people who have wanted to chair stewardship and both did a great job, but felt like they failed. We are all called to be life-long stewards of the blessings of God. One of the most important committees that should be functioning on an on-going basis is the Stewardship Committee. Their function should be to remind us of the joy of giving, and help to hold us all accountable in our responsibility to share God's gifts of finances, time and abilities with all.
It was the best of times, it was struggling times, but in the end, we are called to exist for God's good pleasure. It has been a humble honor to serve alongside you these seven plus years. You are ever-imprinted on my soul.” Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11)." Grace and Peace,
September 27 and October 4
In her famous poem from 1976 “Children Learn What They Live”, Dorothy Law Nolte lays out a prescription for teaching children self-worth and compassion. In the poem, she carefully contrasts the impacts of criticism versus praise and encouragement. “If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.” When this poem was released, it could be found on refrigerator doors, nursery room walls and classroom bulletin boards throughout this nation. It marked a shift in our shared consciousness as to the value of our children and our responsibility to provide environments that fostered love and handled their sweet souls with tender care.
Imagine that all of our children grew up in homes and were taught in schools that handled their sweet souls with care. Would we continue to have gapping disparities in access to quality education? Would black and brown children continue to comprise a disproportionate number of school suspensions, expulsions and dropouts? A significant part of our children’s learning occurs outside of the home where they also are shaped by acts of encouragement or criticism. Therefore recent reports that indicate that not all of our children receive equal treatment in our school and judicial systems compel the church and faith community to act. Data from the Department of Education chronicling the 2011 – 2012 school year show that although African American youth comprise only 18% of pre-school enrollment, 42% were subject to suspension at least once that year. That rate is increased to 48% for the same group that were subject to multiple suspensions. This data is not meant to indicate that African American preschoolers are inherently prone to bad behavior or that pre-school teachers are inherently racist. What it does show is that we are all shaped in a paradigm of implicit bias that requires intentional effort to dismantle.