Video Reflection 5: On Creativity

1 Corinthians 12: 4-13

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

As I was thinking about what we needed in a time like this I started reflecting about the role I’ve tried to play as a leader of this community and what attributes I try to model as a leader, and although I’m not one who normally goes for catch phrases what I ended up with were my 5 c’s: Calm, Centered, Connected, Creativity and its cousin Curiousity. Apologies for the alliteration but I do try to remain calm in times of crisis, and I’ve walked through some in my times as a leader as an adult. I try to remain centered in the things that ground me, my faith, my love of scripture, the people I love. I try to remain connected with the people I am gifted to serve however I can to the best of my ability, while still taking times to rest and care for myself. But I want to focus on these last two today: Creativity and its cousin Curiosity.

I’ve had a fascination with creativity and curiosity for years and I’m thankful for some of the places it has led me in my life. I can talk about this for a long time, but some quick reflections today:

  • Some of us may be at the point where we are growing bored (or maybe we’ve been bored for days now). The good news is that this can be a place where curiosity and creativity can play. When we are constantly busy it is hard for us to get curious about something, to invest the time and resources it takes to be creative. Also crises can be a place where necessity forces us to consider new and creative ways of doing things.
  • Creativity is scary, vulnerable and full of terrifying firsts. It was terrifying when I started writing, when I started recording video (especially since I’m self-conscious about how I look in pictures and video), Elizabeth Gilbert gives a lot of reasons not to be creative, which I’ll read (if you want all the reasons see the video) but ultimately it is scary, scary, scary
  • Creativity looks different in different people. My medium is words, Adam has a great eye for photography. Maybe you organize things or paint or skate or dance, or who knows what the gift God’s spirit has placed within you. Jack Gilbert, the poet reportedly once told a student in one of his classes, “Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden within you are hoping you will say yes.”Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic, 7
  • “I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and ours: The universe buried strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” Big Magic, 8

I’m going to close today with a poem that I wrote years ago, but that still is one of my favorites of these gifts I never knew was buried inside me, it’s a poem called Creative Words (click on the title to link to the poem)

 

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Video Reflection 4: On Prayer during this time of Social Distancing

Psalm 5: 1-3, 11-12
Give ear to my words, O LORD; give heed to my sighing.
2 Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
3 O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover them with favor as with a shield.

Matthew 6: 6-13
6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.

Romans 8: 26-27
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Reflection
Today I want to give you some resources for prayer. There is not an incorrect way to pray, God knows the needs of our hearts before we voice them, but sometimes it helps to have some resources to give words to our prayers. Sometimes there are portions of scriptures like the Psalms, or the Lord’s Prayer that can help us. But here are some other prayers for this time:
The first one come from our hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship on p. 76

O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

These next prayers come from a little resource that many pastors have that is a supplement to the hymnal called Pastoral Care which has resources and prayers for various situations. While I normally will pray without referencing this, sometimes it is helpful to have prayers for various situations. Here are a few:
Prayer to be recited with a child who is anxious:

Gentle Jesus, stay beside me through this day (night). Take away my pain. Keep me safe. Help me when I’m afraid. Make my body strong again and my heart glad. Thank you for your love that surrounds me.

Another couple prayers which are written for morning but can be adapted for any time of day:

O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where to go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We give you thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have protected us through the night from all harm and danger. We ask that you would also protect us today from sin and all evil, so that our life and actions may please you. Into your hands we commend ourselves: our bodies, our souls, and all that is ours. Let your holy angels be with us, so that the wicked for may have no power over us.

Praying for those who are caregivers in this time:

Holy and compassionate God, you send to us in our need those who care for us and look out for our lives. Bless them in their love for us. Bless the hands of those who work for our health. Bless the minds of those who search for our healing. Bless the feet of those who come to us in our need. Bless the eyes of those who look after us. Bless the hearts of all who serve; fill them with compassion and patience; and work through all of them for the betterment and well-being of all your children, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Merciful God, your healing power is everywhere about us. Strengthen those who work among the sick; give them courage and confidence in all they do. Encourage them when they are overwhelmed with many pressing needs or when their efforts seem futile. Increase their trust in your power to bring life and wholeness even in the midst of death and pain and crying. May they be thankful for every sign of health you give, and humble before the mystery of your healing grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Tears and Gears

By Tangopaso – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16753688

 

As the gears of the machine we’ve wired ourselves into grinds to a screeching halt
This system which was fueled by sweat and creativity and occasionally lubricated by blood
Whose thrums and hums we’ve synched the rhythm of our lives and thoughts to
And we find ourselves in this forced sabbatical as time seems to slow to a crawl
And the machine which daily accepted our offerings closes its gaping maw
Perhaps we wonder if we were merely a parasite on this clunking monstrosity
Maybe we might discover that we were engaged in a symbiotic relationship
Or we may perceive that the machine was slowly but steadily feeding on us
That the lifeblood it gave was more precious than the benefits it provided
And we were merely living batteries tied into the matrix that we powered

The machine is down for maintenance and perhaps we are as well
And when it restarts, which will inexorably occur when this pause ends
What will the relationship between our tears and its gears be?
Will we give our blood and sweat so willingly, be wired in so completely?
Will it be lifegiving to synch our energies to the beat of its mechanical heart?
Or will our relationship change, will the machine change, will we?
What will this unscheduled maintenance for both mean for we and it?
May this forced sabbatical allow us time to listen to the rhythm of our souls
The beat of our own heart, the feelings of our mind, and the language of our body

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Video reflection 3: Caring for Ourselves and Others

Romans 12: 14-21

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Psalm 133

1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.

3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

 

It is Thursday of the first full week of physical distancing, and I know that life has changed around us. Perhaps you have kids who are home from school for a second week in a row with nowhere to go, perhaps you are going a little bit stir crazy, perhaps tempers or anxiety sometimes gets the better of you.  I want to give the opportunity to pause and think about how we care for ourselves in this time, and how we might care for one another when we can’t be physically close.

A friendly reminder that you need to care for yourself, if you are an introvert take some time to read or watch TV or play a video game to recharge your batteries if you are locked in a house with others. If you are an extrovert, this time may be hard on your but reach out to friend through phone or skype, schedule times to get out of the house when weather permits. I do think that for several weeks our lives are going to be interrupted, so if you have to stay home try to schedule times to do things that are life giving.

Don’t obsess over the news or the stock market, I’m not saying not to stay informed but don’t spend your day looking at a screen which is giving you bad news all the time. I know there is grieving in this time about the way things are changed, and that is ok. If you are like me you have plans that were made and now have changed.

If only kindred could only live together in unity all the time or we could always live in harmony but have patience with one another. Nobody has lived through something like this for a long time.

A couple new notes: with the libraries closing we do have a couple opportunities at the church. If you need access to a computer, office space or wi-fi we can make one of our classrooms available for a workspace (Monday-Thursday). Please contact the office for availability. Also one of our library volunteers brought in a shelf of books that are from the public library for various age ranges which if you need reading material are available.

Grey Days

There was a time when the rain fell softly every day
When the cool dampness soaked beyond flesh and bone
And the cold water dimmed the fire of my soul
While the earth around me seemed to drink in the drops
Bursting forth into forests of deep green that blocked out the sun
I am a creature of the sun baked plains and the heat of summer
And the life in the forest made the air too heavy to breathe
Now I’ve returned to my natural habitat, to the place where I can thrive
Perhaps a place to hot and dry for many but it warms my bones
And in this place the fire of my soul was rekindled and burns brightly
Yet, on those grey days where the thunder rumbles and clouds collect
And the lightning flashes across the sky announcing the coming
Of the large grey drops that drench the earth and flood the plains
For a time I am returned to the dampness of that forested place
And the fire within sputters under the impact of the downpour
But in this place of dust and sun the rains last only for a time
Shortly to be replace by the arid heat and the drying wind
But without the grey days, without the chilling rain and cool wind
The life of the plains shrivels and dies and even the creatures of the sun
Need those times of being soaked soul, flesh and bone
To enjoy the life in the midst of the valley of the sun

Originally published: https://signoftherose.org/2016/12/05/grey-days/

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Matthew 13: 44-53 Treasures Old and New

By Brocken Inaglory – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2655938

Matthew 13: 44-53

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” 53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.

This final set of three parables with a bonus image wraps up this block of teaching the crowds and disciples in parables. The careful hearer will hear several resonances between these images, which are unique to Matthew’s gospel, and other teachings of Jesus earlier in the gospel. Those who are scribes trained for the kingdom of heaven (literally disciple scribes of the kingdom of heaven) have learned from both the wisdom of scripture and the teaching of Jesus and have a rich storehouse of wisdom to bring forth into their life. As I continue to sit with these images I am aware that many have been unearthing the treasures hidden here for almost 2,000 years but I still find a rich storehouse of treasures waiting the patient seeker.

The first two images contrast with the previous earthy images in the extravagant image that is likened to the kingdom of heaven. The previous images have been very earthy, related to fields and baking, but here we are dealing with the discovery of treasures and pearls. The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure or a storehouse of treasure hidden in a field which compels that person to sell all they have to possess. The image of treasure may remind the attentive disciple to the words of Jesus in Matthew 6: 19-21 about storing up treasures in heaven rather than treasures on earth and about one’s heart being where one’s treasures are or Matthew 19:21 where Jesus in conversation tells a rich young man to sell his possessions to have treasure in heaven. The person in the parable is completely invested in their decision to purchase the field and possess the treasure. They have given up what they have to live on to possess the treasure, and while we might naturally think of this person selling off the treasure to live more abundantly the story ends with the person owning the field, the treasure and nothing else.

In a similar way the image of the person purchasing a pearl of great value takes us into an extravagant image that most of the people in Jesus’ audience couldn’t imagine. There is no undisputed mention of pearls in the Hebrew scriptures (the NRSV translates Job 28: 18 ‘the price of wisdom is above pearls’ but the words translated pearls is the Hebrew p’ninim which means jewels), but Matthew has used the image of casting ‘pearls before swine’ in Matthew 7:6. Pearls are produced by a non-kosher animal but wouldn’t be forbidden to wear by Jewish people, the problem with pearls is at this time they are more valuable than any other ‘fine jewels.’ They were simply unavailable for the average person. They may never see a pearl except in depictions of the very wealthy, much less one of exceeding value. (Levine, 2014, pp. 146-148) In modern settings we normally anticipate a person who is a merchant purchasing something of high value in order to sell it at a high cost, but few of us can imagine risking everything on one high priced item that literally bankrupts us, but the parable again shows no interest in selling the pearl. The person who was a merchant now gives all to possess this pearl of exceeding value that is qualitatively different from any other pearl or gemstone. Both individuals who sell everything desire to possess the discovered treasure and find themselves willing to empty out their storehouses to make space for this one thing.

The third image, which is given with interpretation, returns to the familiar realm of most of the people around Jesus, the image of fishing. The net thrown into the sea is a dragnet, not the small circular net cast into the sea for targeted fishing indicated earlier in the gospel. It is a net pulled behind or between boats gathering everything indiscriminately that is not too small for the net.  Nor does the Greek indicate that it caught fish of every kind, instead it simply says ‘all kinds/races gathered together’ (pantos genous sunagagouse). We may hear the echo of Jesus’ call to Peter and Andrew when he told them he would have them fish for people in Matthew 4: 19 and the explanation of this final parable indicates that it is indeed people instead of fish being sorted. In the explanation the angels are the sorters who gather the good ones into vessels and the bad ones are cast out into the fire. I do believe that Matthew wants us to hear that there is a consequence for failing to be righteous instead of evil, good instead of bad, having one’s hearts and treasures not invested in the approaching kingdom of heaven. Even in their way parables both conceal and reveal they are intended for those with ears to hear to become scribes learning the ways of the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew unearths some of these treasures for us to see and conceals others for those who trained to hear the scriptures of Israel in light of the new reality of the kingdom of heaven’s approach in Jesus. Matthew is trying to train us how to read scripture in the light of Jesus’ teaching and wisdom and give us a map to the storehouse of treasure or the pearl of exceeding value. Scribes trained to marvel at the pearls of wisdom contained in some of these earthy tales of sowing, baking and fishing and to delight in the presence of the kingdom in unexpected ways in the midst of the world. Perhaps that is a part of the reason that patient seekers continue to unearth unexpected treasures in these parables 2,000 years later.

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Video Reflection 2 During COVID 19, Body of Christ

Romans 12: 4-13

4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

 

We are only the body of Christ together, we need one another in this time. We all have different needs and those needs may change as we go through this time.  We are trying to anticipate those needs and I’ve been talking to lot’s of people over the last couple days, but I can use your help.

 

Today I have a couple very pragmatic and practical things in this reflection. First I’ve attached the directory, and we’ve also placed it online at https://rejoicefrisco.com/Pages/DirectoryUpdate.htm which is under the about us tab at the top of the website. First I’d like you to check your information is correct and if you either don’t have a picture or would like to change your picture you can email a new picture to communications@rejoicefrisco.com. What I’d like you to consider is looking at the people around you in the directory and call, email or text someone you know and someone you don’t know well. Doesn’t need to be much, could be something as simple as “This is Neil (or insert your name), just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you today.” It’s a simple act of staying connected to your brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Secondly, I asked Adam to create a link on our website to request or to offer assistance. We don’t know exactly what the next several weeks will bring, but there may be needs that arise in our congregation or in our community. Perhaps someone is close to running out of toilet paper and someone else has a case, perhaps someone needs help with something at their home. The link on our website is https://rejoicefrisco.com/Pages/Assistance.htm and it is one of the rotating links on our main page. Please feel free to share this in the local community. We’ve reached out to a couple local organizations, like schools, but we also wanted to be ready to adjust as we move through this uncharted time.

 

Being that today is St. Patrick’s day and while people may not be drinking green beer today, we can close today with a prayer attributed to St. Patrick.

 

St. Patrick’s Prayer

 

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.

Tomorrow we will broadcast our normal Wednesday night service as our video. I will send out the words and the song that comes from our hymnal but since Joyous Light, the service we use, falls outside our normal copyright license I cannot make the music available. If you’d like to take a copy of the service you can pick one up at church for your use, the building will be open 9-3 today and tomorrow.

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My Responsibility to my Neighbor amid Coronavirus, Covid-19

 Psalm 121:1

<A Song of Ascents.>
I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

So in an attempt to keep some normalcy in the midst of the abnormal situation we find ourselves within I am going to be doing a short update and reflection each day about how my faith helps me understand how I am to respond in the midst of the situation. I’ll share about the plan for this week at the end of this reflection but today I want to talk about my responsibility to my neighbor:

We all know the two great commandments: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We trust in God, but we are also called to live responsibly in respect to our neighbors. I’ve seen a lot of things online that are not helpful, where people mock the careful actions of social distancing.

Martin Luther did deal with the issue of a pandemic in his writings. Now the pandemic in the 1500s was Bubonic plague and thankfully we are not facing something as lethal as that was for Europe, but his frame of reference is how we treat our neighbor and our responsibility to our neighbor.

In the same way we must and we owe it to our neighbor to accord him the same treatment in other troubles and perils, also. If his house is on fire, love compels me to run to help him extinguish the flames. If there are enough other people around to put the fire out, I may either go home or remain to help. If he falls into the water or into a pit I dare not turn away but must hurry to help him as best I can. If there are others to do it, I am released. If I see that he is hungry or thirsty, I cannot ignore him but must offer food and drink, not considering whether I would risk impoverishing myself by doing so. A man who will not help or support others unless he can do so without affecting his safety or his property will never help his neighbor Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 742-743

Others may have seen the following quote from this work circulating over the last couple days, but if you haven’t its worth sharing:

Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me of others. If my neighbor needs my, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely…See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings 749

We do what we can to protect ourselves and our neighbor, but if my neighbor has a need a part of our calling as Christians is to respond on our neighbor’s behalf.

I’m always looking for things particularly well said, and I found this poem by Lynn Ungar written at the end of last week profound and beautiful.

Pandemic

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

We are all in this together and we are all in this with God where our help comes from

Some updates about things coming this week:
Here is what I am planning for video  discussions:
Monday- My responsibility to my neighbor
Tuesday-Staying connected as community
Wednesday-Our normal Wednesday night Lenten service digital
Thursday-Caring for ourselves and others in this time
Friday-Spiritual practice- Prayer
Sunday-Virtual worship

We also just set up on our website a place where people could ask for items or volunteer items in case of needs as they arrive. We are coordinating with the groups that have used our building and the local schools to see how we can work together to meet the needs at this time.  Not sure how this will evolve but we’ve created a space for this.

 

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