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PASTOR JOHN’S MUSING 7.17.2020
One aspect of my life effected by the pandemic has been decision making. I still make them; but in many cases, I lack certainty. In the past I could assume what things would be like in six months so I could make a fairly informed decision. I am used to a linear world. There is a problem; there is a solution. We move from point A to point B to fix it. Fairly simple. Today things are fluid. We aren’t sure where or what point B is. Regardless of research, thought, consultation, and planning, things can be easily undone through no fault of our own. What made sense yesterday doesn’t today.
Because situations change with such frequency, decisions are tentative. When they are tentative, we know we lack control. When we lack control, we are uncertain about our future. We just don’t like being in a position of not knowing what to do about our future. Circumstances make life unfamiliar. We want to do what is right, and we often don’t know what that is. We do the best we can with what we know at the time. I felt this as we talked about re-opening King Avenue for in-person worship. I feel it now in the debate about re-opening schools. It is not secure or comfortable place to be. I don’t like prefacing thoughts with, “Who knows?”
When I prepare a group to go on a mission trip to the orphanage in Mexico, I tell them to expect the same answer to any question they ask me. The answer will invariably be, “I don’t know.” When is supper? I don’t know. Where is supper? I don’t know. What are we doing tomorrow? I don’t know. I can give tentative plans but not definite plans. This is because our Mexican hosts control the agenda, not I. Their plans change. One of the most important learnings of a mission trip is learning that we are not in control. We place our lives in the hands of another. We can resist that in frustration and not experience what the children have to offer. Or we can open ourselves to the not knowing and experience the spirit and love of the children. Eventually the group gets accustomed to my stock response and rolls with it. It is a healthy moment when members accept the lack of control and open up. They open up to each other, the children, and God. That is what makes the trips so rich.
What if we saw this time as a mission trip? We realize our sense of control has always been tentative. We realize our lives are in God’s hands. We know mission trips can be fearful, painful, challenging, unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and inconvenient. They can also be transformative, expanding, spiritual, joyful, accepting, tolerant, forgiving, and maturing. We learn about ourselves, our neighbors, and God. We learn our gifts, our neighbors’ gifts, and our need of each other. We learn community. In a sense the life of faith has always been a mission trip, hasn’t it?
This prayer from Henri Nouwen’s A Cry for Mercy gives me support.
Dear Lord, today I thought of the words of Vincent van Gogh: “It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.” You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same. Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of your love I came to life; by your love I am sustained; and to your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love.
My only real temptation is to doubt in your love, to think of myself as beyond the reach of your love, to remove myself from the healing radiance of your love. To do these things is to move into the darkness of despair.
O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know that there is ebb and flow but that the seas remains the sea. Amen.
Hope you are safe and well.
I haven’t thought of Eric Schwartz for years, but lately he has been on my mind a lot. I’ll return to him later.
When I was growing up, I was a huge fan of Robert E. Lee. I am sure it had something to do with my father loving history. We visited almost every battlefield east of the Mississippi. We followed the lives of Lincoln, Lee, and Jackson from cradle to grave. I had the freedom to pick any hero I wanted, and I picked Lee. There was a small Confederate flag and picture of Lee on my bedroom bulletin board, I wore a Washington and Lee University sweatshirt. For the sixth-grade speech contest, I memorized his farewell address to his troops after the surrender at Appomattox Court House. I regretted that I was born in boring Ohio as opposed to vital Virginia. I rooted for the South. That was me at 12. While I would have considered myself a strong supporter of civil rights, I never reconsidered my hero worship of Lee.
Enter Eric Schwartz. I met Eric my senior year in college. He was from Los Angeles and held dual citizenship in the United States and France. His Jewish mother had fled France during the Nazi occupation. Eric was very smart and talented; I respected him. My favorite quotation of his was, “I like to say absurd things to see if we can whittle them down to something sane.” He went to Yale Law; I went to Yale Divinity. In the summer of 1974, we rented a beach house on Long Island Sound with several friends. It sounds more exotic than it was. One week some of his relatives visited from France. Of course, their English was much better than my French. On Saturday afternoon a handful of us were watching a PBS show on great American homes which featured Lee’s childhood home Stratford. Why were we watching TV at the beach on a Saturday? It must have been raining. One of our French visitors said he had never heard of Lee. Who was he? I was incredulous. How could anyone not know about the wonderful Lee? Simultaneously Eric and I answered the question. I said, “He was one of the greatest Americans.” Eric said, “He was one of America’s greatest traitors.” I realized that this was not Eric’s saying something absurd to be whittled to something sane. This was already sane. He had thought this through. I have since wondered if his mother’s experience gave him this clarity.
We looked at each other like we were nuts. I challenged him, and his answer was simple. “Lee defended slavery. Slavery is evil.” I was defenseless.
The scales fell from my eyes. I didn’t have to get rid of the picture and flag. Mom had thrown those out with my baseball cards when she converted my bedroom to a sewing room. I had outgrown the sweatshirt; it was by then a paint rag. I did re-examine history and knew that the story of the Lost Cause was a re-working of the real story of slavery, Northern and global economic complicity, Jim Crow, and the country’s sin of racism.
Does it matter to learn the real story? To quote William Faulkner, “The past is not dead. It is not even past.” That is still so true. We need to get the past straight so as not to continue the sins of the past. Our present arises from the past. Our future arises from the present. Learning the real story means I don’t have all the answers. It means I am not as smart as I think I am which means I am free of the burden of destructive arrogance. I would like to think that we can create a perfect future world. That is naïve, unrealistic, and harmful. Yet, we can work to create a better world. That is humbler and healthier. It acknowledges our fallibility and need of each other. Humility listens, grows, and betters itself and others.
I am thankful for Eric’s lesson in humility. He did whittle something absurd down until it was sane. Me.
Hope you are safe, well, and cool.
PASTOR JOHN’S MUSING 7.5.20
Let’s have a short musing. It is too hot, and it is a holiday weekend.
Thank you very much for all the cards, videos, and emails you have sent acknowledging my 45 years in the ministry. Your comments have been humbling. I am always embarrassed by praise in that I feel the person has not said enough. Mark Twain said that, and I have always wanted to say it.
You have said more than enough! Your kind words have been affirming, encouraging, thoughtful, and received with deep gratitude. When I was ordained, I had no timeline in mind. I was just worried about being appointed somewhere. I didn’t have an end date in mind. The time has gone quickly, and it has been a full and meaningful time. That is probably why it has gone quickly.
When people ask me about King Avenue, I say it is the kind of church I dreamed of having in seminary but didn’t know existed. I thought if I was appointed to a church like King Avenue, I could be the kind of minister I dreamed of being. I could be myself. In November of 2005, I was introduced to the Staff/Pastor Parish Relations Committee as the new senior pastor. I was asked if I would be accepting of LGBT persons. I said I was. It was a question about grace. Then I asked the members of the committee if they would be accepting of me. It was a question about grace. I think grace-full was the church I had in mind in seminary. Grace-full was the church that would allow me to be the kind of pastor I wanted to be. Grace-full would the church that tolerated a statement like the Mark Twain quotation. Yes, the committee said it would accept me.
Thank you so much for being the church of one’s dreams, the church that accepts people as they are, the church that is grace-full to all.
Hope you are safe and well.
PASTOR JOHN’S MUSING 6.12.20
“I rejoiced when I heard them say:
‘Let us go to God’s house.’”
During this stay-at-home time one of the most anticipated events in my life has been the lunch packing for the Open Shelter. On three nights each month we make a total of 800 sack lunches containing a bologna and cheese sandwich, a package of cracker and cheese sandwiches, and a granola bar. I look forward to Tessa Carrel bringing the ingredients in the afternoon, Jack Rensch setting up the bags, and the crew of 8-10 assembling the sacks. We wear masks and gloves. It usually takes 45 minutes. Another highlight is Trena Brown and Shawn Compton coming the next day to deliver the lunches to the shelter.
I have come to value the sense of community and presence we have on these nights. What I look forward to are the people. It is just good to be together physically. The conversation is not profoundly spiritual, theological, or political. It is generally updating on work, family, and Netflix. It is just the enjoyment of real life, honest-to-God people.
When the staff began conversations about re-opening for worship, we certainly desired to ensure safety guidelines and protocols. We wanted to model what a healthy gathering would look like. We understood that meeting those standards would alter worship as usual. Singing would be curtailed, seating would be separate, ushers would seat worshipers, offering plates would not be passed, children’s activities would not be offered, and speaker and singers would be behind a plexiglass panel.
So why re-open with these restrictions? My thoughts kept returning to the pleasure of 10 people making bologna and cheese sandwiches three nights a month. I wish I had a more profound rationale for re-opening, but I don’t. I just missed you. While Zoom has its benefits, it is not the real thing. While my having the weekends off these past 12 weeks has been wonderful, it is not a satisfactory substitute for being present.
I know that many of our members are not ready to return. Probably the majority of you don’t plan on coming back soon. If you don’t feel safe yet, please do not come. No problem. This is not a spiritual competition. A fair number have told me that they intend to wait a few weeks or more; that is fine. King Avenue has always tried to present options for people in order to reach more. Re-opening in this manner is simply an option for those who feel they are ready to come back.
Recently I had a conversation with a young father in the neighborhood. He told me that he, his wife, and young son were thinking of coming to King Avenue for worship. They like the banner. I inwardly groaned and listed the ways they would not experience the “real” King Avenue. I stopped when I realized what a lousy evangelist I was. Then I realized that whether one worships in person or online, one experiences the real King Avenue for it is the people who make it real. Thank you for being you.
PASTOR JOHN’S MUSING 6.5.20
Last Sunday we celebrated miracle of Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). The disciples spoke in those jaw breaker languages: Parthian, Pamphylian, Phrygian, Cretan, among others. For that reason, the gift of the Holy Spirit is associated with speaking in tongues. Unfortunately, that is sometimes its exclusive association.
Of course, if someone is speaking, someone else must listen. What is noteworthy at Pentecost is that those who speak are the powerless, and those who listen are the powerful. The disciples would have been the outsiders; they were the ones following the crucified, rejected Jesus. They had no standing. God empowered the powerless. Those listening were the ones with status and prominence. What happens at Pentecost is a role reversal. The social order has been turned upside down. This causes chaos in the minds of the powerful. This is why they try to dismiss it as drunkenness. Pentecost is both a miracle of speaking and a miracle of listening. It is a miracle of speaking with each other and listening to each other. That is how the miracle of Pentecost is the miracle of community.
How speaking and listening usually work is that those who speak have the power; they are in control. What they say, goes. Speakers give information and orders. Speakers tend to be action oriented. Those who listen are subordinate; they obey. They receive information and follow orders. They tend to be passive. They do what the speaker wants. There is a power differential between those who speak and those who listen. Those who speak are the subject. Those who listen are the objects, the acted upon. Speakers are invulnerable; listeners are vulnerable. It is about who has rights, privilege, and entitlement.
An unhealthy community does not allow the listeners to speak. Speakers seek to dominate and silence listeners. Speech is restricted in a variety of ways. Sometimes speakers talk so much no one can get a word in. Other times voting as a form of speech is curtailed. Force may be implemented to keep the listeners silent. If they do speak, they are not listened to. It is repressive. Silencing makes inequity, injustice, inequality, and discrimination possible. In a healthy community there is a give and take, a mutuality, between speaking and listening. People play both roles. People have a responsibility for both roles. Everyone has a voice and is empowered by that voice. Such a situation is just, inclusive, diverse, enriching and edifying.
Who speaks and who listens is a function or combination of race, economics, gender, orientation, nationality, language, ethnicity, education, geography, class, age, religion, politics, and more. When it effects all aspects of a group’s existence, we call it systemic. In the end it is about power and its maintenance. This is at the root of mansplaining. I have been told more than once that straight, white males almost always speak first in a group. We expect to be heard. It is that old joke, you can tell a Yale man but you can’t tell him much. I discover I learn a lot when I don’t speak first.
What happens when people can’t speak or aren’t listened to? They stay silent and fester. Or they speak louder; they gather; they protest; they act so that the speakers are forced to listen. This is what happened last weekend. On Pentecost weekend and this week the mute spoke. It was a nationwide event of speaking and listening. There was a role reversal. People claimed their voice and were empowered. Traditional speakers saw disruption. As the week progressed, we witnessed the movement from violence to actual mutuality of speaking and listening. Spirit is moving. It is so hopeful to see the powerful and powerless cross lines, talk, link arms, and march together. It is so encouraging to see the diversity of the marchers. It is the diversity of Pentecost (Acts 2:17-18). We are seeing lots of miracles. This is a great opportunity for our country to begin to come together. As we tell our children, “use your words.”
There is no reason why Pentecost can’t happen again. There is no reason why the Holy Spirit can’t visit the church and society to empower listening and speaking. Come, Holy Spirit, inspire the hearts of your faithful that they may renew the face of the earth. The Holy Spirit is alive and well amidst the chaos.
I hope you are safe and well.
PASTOR JOHN’S MUSING 5.29.20
A member of King Avenue’s Lit Club recommended that I read Albert Camus’ The Plague. The reasons are self-evident. While it was written in 1948, Camus’ observations about the emotions, passions, and feelings of the quarantined town of Oran on the Algerian coast are spot-on contemporary. “The first thing the plague brought to our town was exile...that irrational longing to hark back to the past or else to speed up the march of time.” A person may experience exile as a sense of separation, abandonment, suffering, complacency, or incarceration. Because of this experience one will not feel at home even when one is home. People will yearn for the exile to end so they can feel at home.
Since March, we have been in exile. We are certainly home but not at home. Our routines, schedules, relationships, mobility, interactions, income, shopping, recreation, worship, work have been altered. We want the exile to end. We want the sense of separation, abandonment, suffering, complacency, and incarceration to end. From the beginning of the stay-at-home order we have anticipated the end of exile. Like anyone in exile we imagined the end of exile.
From the beginning of this exile, our staff has thought of the end of the in-person exile from worship and community. We have never not thought of the end of exile. The discussion began as soon as we closed our building. I cannot think of a zoom staff meeting which didn’t discuss this at length. Even as we adjusted to exile, even as we learned how to zoom and realized some events are better on zoom, even as we got really good at online worship, we still desired the end of exile. We have been thorough in reading and research. We have had special staff meetings. Some days your question,” when will we be back?” reminded us of the desire.
We have decided to return slowly, safely, and carefully from exile to very modest in-person worship on June 14. The details have been emailed earlier this week. Click here to read the detailed plan regarding our return.
In short, there will be three services:
Masks will be required. Hands will be sanitized upon entry. Physical distancing of six feet will be observed. Foot traffic and seating will be directed. As a church we have a mission to model how a group can gather in a healthy manner that is respectful of each other.
Online worship will continue but at 1pm. We know that not everyone is ready to worship in-person. Possibly the majority is not. That is perfectly fine; there is no spiritual merit badge for how and where one decides to worship God. For the past several years I have wanted us to offer the option of online worship in addition to in-person worship. It is now reversed. We are offering the option of in-person worship in addition to online worship. What is normal has changed in three months.
This Wednesday Colleen and I reviewed all the pros and cons and played devil’s advocate in an hour phone conversation. We took a break for her to call the board of health for the latest data. I felt at peace making the decision to re-open in this limited way on June 14. The Bible verse that kept going through my head was Isaiah 40:1-2,
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her [exile] is ended.”
I know that our exile is not over. I know that we have a long way to go. I know that there will be frustrations and setbacks. I know things will be different. All is this was true for the Jews in exile in Babylon. Yet they took hope. This is what re-opening is for me: Hope. We are a sign of hope.
I hope you are safe and well.
This week one of you told me about the visitation for his great grandmother who lived and died in a small town in rural Ohio. Her body was shown on her dining room table. “That was how it was done in those days.” Friends and neighbors brought in food and gathered in the kitchen to eat and talk. Some of the crowd ate and conversed in the dining room. I asked how he reacted to all this at the age of four. Initially he had wondered how his great grandfather who was very tall would fit on the table. Also he concluded that death is part of living and is not frightening. It interested me that his choice of verbs in the present tense indicates he carries that conclusion about death and life into the present day.
Bodies are no longer laid out in dining rooms. Death is not seen as part of living. In most cases death and dying happen out of sight. As a society we deny death. It is not seen as a part of living and is regarded as frightening. Death is an unwelcome visitor which intrudes on our plans. It joins sex, religion, and politics as taboo topics. Despite the life-giving ministry of hospice, it is the elephant in the room. Then Death as Covid-19 enters the room. Now the news reports daily and to-date death tallies. We are very conscious of death. Yet, unlike the person of the opening story, we tend not to see death as part of living and are fearful.
This week I read and re-read “Learning in War-Time” a sermon by C.S. Lewis given in the fall of 1939, at the outbreak of World War II (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949). So much of what he writes of death and war is analogous to death and the pandemic. After all, the war analogy is used for the response to the pandemic. Where he writes of “war,” I’ll substitute “pandemic.” The section of the sermon from which I quote concerns fear. The pandemic does not make death more frequent: 100% of us die and the percentage cannot be increased. So it is ultimately not a question of death or life; it is only a question of which kind of death. Then Lewis writes, “Pandemic puts several deaths earlier; but I hardly suppose that that is what we fear. Certainly when the moment comes, it will make little difference how many years we have behind us.” Most of us will want more time to live. Further, the pandemic does not decrease our chances of dying at peace with God.
“Yet,” Lewis continues, “[pandemic] does do something to death. It forces us to remember it. The only reason why [the prospect of] cancer at sixty or the paralysis at seventy-five do not bother us is that we forget them. [Pandemic] makes death real to us: and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past. They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality. I am inclined to think they were right.”
I doubt he is calling war or pandemic a blessing. I hope not. He is calling our awareness of our mortality a blessing. This awareness tells us we are not God. It makes us realize that God made us; we didn’t make God. We are the sheep of God’s pasture. We live in God’s world (Psalm 100). It is an illusion to believe that we, not God, are the center of the universe; that illusion generates so much self-righteousness, arrogance, and destruction. It was that illusion that led to World War II and so much else that degrades people and nature.
It is humbling to admit our mortality. Yet, that admission is our hope. It is an admission that we need God. We can’t do it without God. Then we may place our lives in God’s hands. Then we may let God fill us with Godself. Remember “humble” comes from the word “humus”, good dirt. God’s gifts may grow in our humble dirt.
I am going out on a limb with this speculation. I doubt that no group of Christians was more aware of their mortality than the early Christians. They had much to remind them of it. Paul writes of tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword. (Romans 8:35). Were he writing today, I bet he would add “pandemic.” Yet no group was more hopeful. They knew that they were in God’s hands. They were not left to themselves. They were not abandoned. “None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself (sic). If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:7-8). What an amazing confession of trust! They knew that Christ had conquered death.
I don’t know which comes first: awareness of mortality or living in God’s hands. Maybe they occur simultaneously. For me, mortal awareness came first. Whatever it is, these realities are the seeds of hope which overcome fear. It is this hope that allows us to address the elephant in the room. Mr. Rogers believed that, if we can name it, we can manage it. Then we live with confidence and freedom and love. In life, in death, in life beyond, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
Just some random thoughts during the Covid-19 crisis...
More phone calls are answered; fewer go to voicemail. This is particularly true of calls that don’t have caller ID. My speculation is that it may be a call from someone in need.
More voicemails are returned. My guess is that people want to connect.
When I wear my mask, my phone’s face ID doesn’t recognize me. The upside is that I’ll never forget my password.
I still have not completed some projects I thought I would get done during the down time. I realize that lack of time is not why I don’t do some things. I just don’t want to do them.
I really look forward to lunch packing days. It is precious to connect over bologna and crackers.
It is difficult to focus for any length of time. Is it because things change so much that I believe sustained thought is unproductive?
While I am happy that I finally figured out Zoom calls, looking at myself for an entire Zoom call makes me self-conscious and restive.
We are indeed more aware of the service sector. Could this be the dawning of the last shall be first, the least shall be the greatest?
It is no fun preaching to an empty room. Although people probably think preaching is only one person talking (lecturing), it is a conversation. Facial expressions, body language, verbal responses matter. The congregation contributes as much to the preaching experience as do God and the preacher. I wonder if a sermon is a sermon when there is no one to hear it. That’s kind of a variation of “if a tree fell....”
The online worship services tell us the length of each part of the service. How many people check the length of the sermon before they hit, “play”?
I have been surprised how long the sermons are and how short the hymns are. I had no idea. Did you?
I hope people are listening to the Children’s Moments. They are joyously life-giving.
I hope people are not skipping parts of the online worship. If so, they would be missing parts of the Body of Christ and the surprising ways God speaks to them.
The metrics of judgment have been disrupted. There is freedom as we search for new metrics. Let’s seek more humane and gracious metrics. A new metric is tolerance. I am less judgmental.
Why do people feel obliged to say, “Although I didn’t vote for him,” when they praise Gov. DeWine?
BTW, I didn’t vote for him, but I think Gov. DeWine is doing a great job! Gov. DeWine genuinely cares for the people of Ohio.
A couple of years ago our Parables class discussed the motivation of the Good Samaritan’s helping the injured traveler. The question the Good Samaritan asked was not, “What will happen to me if I help this person?” The question was, “What will happen to this person if I don’t help him?” Isn’t that the motivation we see in the frontline responders?
More than one parent has commented how nice it is not to have rush to soccer, gymnastics, ballet, swimming, etc. “I enjoy these evenings at home with the kids.”
God was on to something in creating a Sabbath day. It is a day to realize that we are all in this together, that it is not all dependent on us, that God can be trusted, that creation is delightful, and that life is a joy. Why do I not take advantage of this gift? Why do I avoid it?
I miss you. On Mondays, I still think, “I didn’t see so-and-so yesterday. I hope they are okay.”
It is painful not to be physically present at moments of illness, death, and grief.
Hope you are safe and well.
God bless you.
Dear King Avenue Friend,
Soon after the governor’s stay-in-place order in March, a homeless couple, John and Kelly, began sleeping on the church’s porch entrance off the south parking lot. It is somewhat private and protected from the rain and wind. It is hard to stay-in-place when you have no place to stay. They were probably in place before I became aware of their presence. I did not ask them to leave. I asked them to be respectful of the property, dispose of their trash, and not have guests. By all appearances that has happened. Since our building was not in use, they did not interfere with anyone’s coming and going. During the Covid-19 crisis our awareness of the marginalized, including the homeless, has been heightened. We hear and read about it. I thought showing hospitality to Kelly and John was a tangible witness to that awareness.
They have kept to themselves. Sometimes early in the morning I have seen them taking sponge baths at the west water spigot. They leave in the morning and return after dark. On occasion John and I talk of their homeless life. There are no jobs, begging has dried up, shelter for a couple in social distancing is difficult. Public places are closed. John sees staying on the porch as a form of social distancing.
Late this past Tuesday night there was a disturbance in the parking lot. On Wednesday I received two communications from neighbors concerning the presence of John and Kelly. The first was from a couple worried about their warmth; I have never met them. The temperature had been close to freezing; did they have blankets? We talked; they asked if it was okay to give the homeless couple a blanket. Sure. They brought a comforter and homemade bread. They also offered to give the church some money to help them. I gave these neighbors my phone number.
The second communication that day was an email which I felt took me and the church to task for letting the homeless couple shelter on the porch. In short, we were putting the neighborhood at risk both physically and materially. I also gave this neighbor my phone number and gave her permission to call me if there was another disturbance.
First thing Thursday morning I visited John and Kelly and asked them about Tuesday night. He said that someone had driven through the church parking lot, shined a light, and yelled at them. I told him that I had received a complaint and would have to ask them to leave if it happened again. We talked, I gave them some sack lunches we had made for the Open Shelter, and he told me to thank the couple for the comforter and bread. I reminded John that their staying on the porch was not a permanent solution to their problem. He said he hoped to find a tent. Did I know of anyone who had one?
I made some calls to church members. No luck on a used tent. Then I decided to call the neighborhood couple who had offered to make a monetary donation through the church. Within two hours they had slipped a check through the church mail slot. It more than covered the price of a new tent. A tent has been ordered. It should come within a week, and John and Kelly will leave the porch for what they see as a more permanent solution.
Through the rest of the day Thursday, I exchanged voicemails and increasingly tense emails with the second neighbor. My defensive attitude contributed in part to the tension. On Friday we finally connected; I braced. She began by saying that she wanted to clear the air. Then she asked how she could help. WE TALKED as neighbors should. She expressed her concerns; I explained my motives. I learned that the language of Tuesday night’s disturbance was loud and sexually explicit; it was not as John initially described. I talked to John about his foul language which justifiably scares our neighbors. He promised to work on it.
I go through all of this to share a snap shot of a memorable week in the midst of shutdown. During the crisis we talk about isolation and distancing. We talk about fear and anxiety. We don’t physically see our neighbors. Yet I feel like I gained three set of neighbors this week. Clearly mere proximity doesn’t define neighbors. I didn’t know any of them before the shutdown. We’ve become neighbors because we were honest with each other. We saw need. We treated each other as people, not stereotypes. Our awareness and sensitivity toward each other has heightened. We were willing to adjust for the other. While we have not been able to see each other, we have seen each other better. In the end what I think each of us saw was our dignity and that of the other person. We have the power to give that. I hope seeing dignity is part of the new normal. We all need it.
Stay safe and well.
John Keeny, Senior Pastor
Dear King Avenue Friend,
I hope you are safe and well.
I write this update of our church’s financial status with an attitude of great appreciation for your generosity at this time of crisis and uncertainty.
As you know, due to the coronavirus pandemic, King Avenue Church cancelled its in-building, in-person events. Committees and small groups are meeting via Zoom and other social media. The only activities in our building are the repair of the bell tower, lunch packing days for the homeless (the number of which we have increased due to need), Bill Meadows’ repair projects, and the filming for our online worship services. The heat has been off for weeks.
It is too early to assess how the stay-at-home order has affected our church finances. We shall have a better picture by the end of April. Overall, giving is down in all forms. The great news is our Vision 20/20 campaign coved the deficit in the approved budget! Offerings received prior to the shutdown will be depleted by early summer. To help with our shortfall in income, King Avenue has applied for one of the small business loans from the federal government. If granted, it would cover payroll for 2.5 months. This loan will become a grant if it is spent on payroll.
We have reduced expenses where we can, such as utilities, hourly payroll, reimbursements, office supplies, parking fees, coffee hours and programs. Other needed expenses such as property, health insurance, and repairs continue. Fortunately we have been able to provide emergency assistance to members who have been effected financially. All staff are working from home and are active in new ways of learning and practicing ministry which will be a benefit in the future. These are extremely anxious times. Businesses are shut, jobs have been lost, and the stock market is down. These factors effect giving to our church. If it is possible for you to keep your pledge and giving current, it is critical that you do so. Your gift is so important to the continued ministry of King Avenue!
John Keeny, Senior Pastor
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