If you know that God's love embraces all persons equally, no matter their gender, race, or sexual identity...
If you understand that faith is a matter of mind as well as heart, and that taking the Bible seriously means it cannot always be taken literally...
If, for you, diversity, tolerance, and inclusion are strengths to be taught...
If you believe that Christ calls us to be nothing less than global citizens, that the social expression of love is justice and that spiritual concerns are inseparable from a commitment to the natural world...
If you have wished for a more open and embracing community of faith to nurture your spirit and raise your children, and haven't yet found a place of belonging...
... then please know that Kairos-Milwaukie United Church of Christ is the place for you.
“Deep within, there is a connection for each of us; a connection to the unending well of Christ’s love that undergirds everything.”
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Each Tuesday morning a few of us from Kairos-Milwaukie United Church of Christ gather for breakfast, prayer, and a time of sharing experiences, thoughts, insights, etc. The Revised Common Lectionary texts for the following Sunday provide a starting point.
When I first began leading this group I distributed pages of paper with the full content of all the texts. More recently I have been printing all (or most of) a text I think might be our focus along with brief excerpts from each of the others. Sometimes I come with a suggested question(s) or topic(s) or verse(s) for discussion. Sometimes I simply have the group read what I have printed out and dive in wherever they find something to wonder about or that connects with a personal story one of them has to tell.
The multiple selections offered each week are sometimes rich with meanings and topics and questions to be explored. That was the case this week, at least for me in my own private reading and reflection. Several things came to mind. First, I have heard it said that one of the branches of Judaism (I thought it was Hasidism, but can’t trace down a source) says that you haven’t exhausted the meaning of a scripture until you find 40 different meanings. (Yes, I realize that the number 40 has symbolic significance in the Bible.) In a somewhat parallel way of thinking, I have been told again and again to read the text in anticipation of seeing something new, something I have not seen before---and it happens often enough to make that kind of openness worthwhile.
Over the last week I’ve had the back to back experiences of attending the Central Pacific Conference’ annual meeting, watching the first presidential debate, and reading Sebastian Junger’s brief but provocative book, “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.” Each threw into bright relief the question of how we as human beings communicate with each other, what we mean to each other, and what we owe each other.
Our annual meeting had a completely new design this year: we did the business of the conference in plenary sessions, voting on resolutions and a budget. But the usual work was informed by the experiences we’d had earlier -- not listening to a keynote and attending workshops, but gathering in small groups to learn and practice participative leadership and deep listening. We gathered in circles, sitting knee to knee, and listening face to face. So when it came time to vote on a reduced and uncomfortable budget, we had that experience to inform us. The budget was NOT passed, but referred back to the board with many recommendations. It was referred back not after an acrimonious fight but after a prayerful, passionate, open conversation and with trust that the board members had been attending to all of our voices.
On Monday with millions of other Americans I tuned in to the presidential debate and probably took in far too much of the talking heads in the “spin” zone afterward. I will say only that it was dismaying.
And then I read Junger’s “Tribe.” In this examination of the problems American soldiers have reintegrating into society he concludes that perhaps the problem is with society rather than with the soldiers. After months of combat, during which “soldiers all but ignore differences of race, religion and politics within their platoon,” they return to a “society that is basically at war with itself. People speak with incredible contempt about – depending on their views – the rich, the poor, the educated, the foreign-born, the president or the entire US government.” And this, Junger suggests, is why people who have been through war or catastrophe of other kinds sometimes long for it afterward – because in such situation we revert to the psychologically necessary sense of community and interdependence on which humans have depended throughout most of our evolutionary history. An interdependence that modernity has destroyed even as it has solved many other challenges we frail humans face.
Each of these events spoke to me about the deep longing for community, belonging, loyalty, and meaning we share with each other. And each reminded me that church can be a place where these needs are brought into the open and addressed. Where our commitment to each other as members of the one body of Christ lends us the strength to be committed to the common good and to justice. A place where we are welcomed whether broken-hearted or whole, struggling in life or sailing through calm waters -- and where all of our contributions are necessary to build up the body for the work of Life.
The Gift of Caring. When I sent Pastor Rick a copy of this book in California due to his dealing with the medical problems of his father, he wrote the following: “The book really is quite remarkable, the blending of inspiration & information. Should be required reading for all clergy and care-givers.”
Marcy Houle chronicles the story of her father’s dementia and her mother’s decline over fourteen long years in a riveting manner. And then, my physician, Elizabeth Eckstrom, an internist who subsequently trained as a geriatrician, adds a chapter after each episode described by Marcy, commenting on what could be done to address the issues of Marcy’s parents The stories that Marcy tells are poignant and powerful. Elizabeth adds the important information to address these challenges. I find this book can be a reference book that is easily accessible. I even used sticky notes for the chapters I found most useful.
Everyone whom I have given the book to and has read it, has told me how helpful it has been. I want to share this wonderful resource with the congregation. Pastor Jeanne has a copy of the book if you want to look at it.
This past weekend at the Central Pacific Conference Annual Meeting in Pendleton (September 24-25,2016) our own Diane Dulin was honored with the Justice Award for her work with the Palestine Israel Network. Diane responds as follows:
"This is an award which belongs to each member of Central Pacific Conference-Palestine Israel Network (CPC-PIN). This award belongs to church members throughout the Conference who have taken the trouble to listen, read, study, question, make a decision and take action on behalf of human rights. This award is not properly given to me because I neither would have nor could have done any of these things without the friendship, leadership, inspiration and shared commitment of friends, allies and fellow workers, both within and beyond the Central Pacific Conference and the United Church of Christ.
“Most of all, this award belongs to the people of Palestine for steadfastly living with faith, dignity, determination, generosity and resistance ... and not giving in to hate.
“I thank you for honoring the work of seeking justice in Palestine, for it is noble work. That work is what deserves recognition, not we who are privileged to have been called by God to do the work.”