PACE August 2018

Teammates on the road to light

HandsThat lovely phrase comes from a poem by KMUCC favorite Brian Doyle, and it is how I like to think about what we human beings are here for in the first place. And it’s how I think about what we are signing on for when we decide to become part of church.

I don’t know whether any of the rest of you have seen it, but there is a video that has been making the rounds on Facebook and other social media over the last few weeks. (https://www.facebook.com/kens5/videos/10155229610241545/ -- watch it with the sound off)

It’s a brief clip of the last 50 yards of the 2017 Dallas marathon. Two women are seen approaching the end line, running with ease, no other competitors in sight, when suddenly the body of the frontrunner crumples to the ground. The other runner, who could have seized the moment and breezed to a first place finish for her high school relay team, doesn’t. She pulls up, reaches down and pulls the first runner back to her feet. They run side by side for a few steps and again the first runner collapses, and again the second runner reaches out and pulls her up -- and again and again until finally they reach the tape and the high school student puts her body behind the frontrunner to keep her upright and nudges her across the line.

Maybe it’s something to do with having been a long distance runner in my youth, maybe I’m just getting sentimental as my husband David and I prepare to take our youngest across the country for his first semester of college in Ohio -- but no matter how many times I watch that clip I find myself moved to tears. It speaks to me of the elemental truth of why we are here – when one of us falls down, the other lifts them up. When one of us gets lost, the other points the way. When one of us is hungry, the other shares what they have.

It’s what we all learned at Sunday school, following the rabbi who called us and taught us to love and love and love again. Even when it is difficult, even when we are tired, even when the other person seems entirely unlovely. The same rabbi who taught us to receive love, and receive love, and receive love again. Even when it is difficult. Even when we feel ourselves to be entirely unlovely.

This month we will welcome several new members into our covenant of teammates on the road. Each one will bring with them their own unique inner light. Because of them, we will be changed. Because of them we will be stronger, and the light we are able to share among ourselves and give to the world will be brighter.

Together we’ll work and laugh and bear one another’s burdens; we’ll accompany each other on this lap of the long, gorgeous, sorrowful, joyful walk home to the light.

Kairos-Milwaukie UCC participated in conversations about immigration in July that helped us understand the complexities of the issue. One such conversation was among members who gathered to discuss the book The Far Away Brothers, the story of two El Salvadoran teenagers who entered the United States without documents to escape gang violence in their town.

Summary from the publisher:

The deeply reported story of identical twin brothers who escape El Salvador’s violence to build new lives in California—fighting to survive, to stay, and to belong.

Growing up in rural El Salvador in the wake of the civil war, the United States was a distant fantasy to identical twins Ernesto and Raul Flores—until, at age seventeen, a deadly threat from the region’s brutal gangs forces them to flee the only home they’ve ever known. In this urgent chronicle of contemporary immigration, journalist Lauren Markham follows the Flores twins as they make their way across the Rio Grande and the Texas desert, into the hands of immigration authorities, and from there to their estranged older brother in Oakland, CA. Soon these unaccompanied minors are navigating school in a new language, working to pay down their mounting coyote debt, and facing their day in immigration court, while also encountering the triumphs and pitfalls of teenage life with only each other for support.

Book group members’ personal connection to immigration

Members’ stories of what makes them passionate about immigration issues were varied and fascinating. However, many had a continuing thread – a personal connection.

One person’s grandson’s girlfriend’s grandfather is from Yemen; another member’s uncle is Puerto Rican and her son’s closest friends are from all over the world. Another worked for the Providence Sisters, who are active in helping El Salvador’s families. One member, involved with immigration and refugees since she was a pre-teen, was a member of the old sanctuary movement and a UCC church that helped an undocumented immigrant. Another member is a middle school teacher who teaches a social justice unit to a predominately white class, helping them use another lens to know that not everyone thinks the same way.

One group member lived internationally and experienced many cultures, while another experienced being a minority in her first job in Chicago and got a wake-up call recently from a granddaughter who is an activist opposing current immigration policies. 

One member, whose daughter is from Guatemala, became revitalized toward global issues in her and her daughter’s adoption journey and her own graduate studies.

Our book group leader, Kathy Anderson, shared that when she was 10 her family moved to a Klamath Indian Reservation. Other cultures fascinated her. Her immediate family is truly international. Kathy married an Iranian and values multiculturalism throughout her family and life.

Ideas for what is to come at Kairos-Milwaukie UCC

The group was energized to continue to learn about immigration. We will next read The Line Becomes a River, which we will discuss in September. Anyone is welcome to join!

We shared resources to learn more and will explore partnering with another church to further learn about and help with immigration. We plan to soon have table talks during coffee hour to explore the issue more. We are building toward congregation-wide vote on whether to become an immigration-welcoming church.

Questions, concerns? Feel free to talk with Jeanne Randall-Bodman, Macy Guppy or Mary Crocker.

WillFullerWell, my term as Moderator is off to a good start – I was absent the first three Sundays and Kairos-Milwaukie UCC did just fine.

Our July Council meeting came off OK, too. Had a small celebration for the departing members, with light refreshments and parting wisdom, got through the agenda and ended on time. We won’t meet in August, but we will meet the 3rd Sunday in September, the 16th.

Council will have a retreat on Saturday, September 22. Details to follow.

Learning

I believe that the biggest part of moderating is learning about church needs and doing something to meet them, so please feel free to let me know what you think Kairos-Milwaukie needs.

I will also be talking with others, particularly with the ministry chairs, Council members and others who contribute in many ways to our congregational existence, to help me learn the ropes and serve as best I can.

Sanctuary

The word “sanctuary” has been in my thoughts lately - not only because of immigrants and refugees but because of the word itself. A sanctuary is a safe, sacred space, something especially needed in these unsafe, profane times. We worship in a sanctuary, and creating such a safe, sacred space in all we do is vital to our mission as a church. Throughout my term as Moderator I will work to create sanctuary, and I invite you to join me in that work.

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