Standing together

As our world struggles with COVID-19:

Our prayers surround those who suffer, the many who are working toward containment and healing, and those who sustain needed services for all of us.

We are meeting via Zoom on Sunday mornings. You can join us from your computer or by telephone for sharing and worship.  If you’re interested in being part of this time, contact us at upcob@aol.com and we’ll send instructions.

(The poem below by Laura Fanucci, a writer who also blogs on Facebook at mothering.spirit, was read on NPR’s Morning Edition this week. The author has given permission to use it with attribution.)

When this is over,

may we never again

take for granted

A handshake with a stranger

Full shelves at the store

Conversations with neighbors

A crowded theater

The taste of communion

 A routine checkup

The school rush each morning

Coffee with a friend

The stadium roaring

Each deep breath

A boring Tuesday

Life itself.

When this ends,

may we find

that we have become

more like the people

we wanted to be

we were called to be

we hoped to be

and may we stay

that way—better

for each other

because of the worst.

Unfolding

“Hope frees us to live in the present, with the deep trust that God will never leave us.”Henri Nouwen

Living in the present is like nothing most of us have experienced. A few weeks ago, from a safe distance, we were asking Lenten questions about what there is to be learned where it is barren or wild or uncomfortable. Those questions are now closer to our hearts and the distance is one between us, mandated by crisis.

Might both the questions and the space between us be holy? What an opportunity…

…to clarify what matters most (life and breath for the whole world or, as one political figure just suggested, protecting “the American way of life?”)

… to care for each other in new ways (I look forward to hearing about how you have deepened prayer, reached out to one another, given of your resources)

… to live into the sacred space of a sabbath not chosen (savoring life and rest in the midst of fragility)

The earth is unfolding its signs of spring even as we hunker down inside with our questions and our spaces. May we trust the God of life as we walk the strange path of the present!

Lent’s invitation

In our sanctuary, and in front of it stand vases of sand, rocks, moss, and branches.

Suggesting wilderness space, they beckon us into the season of Lent, and to its questions.

What is there to be learned where it is barren or wild or uncomfortable?

Jesus went into the wilderness to clarify identity, purpose, and loyalty. Lent offers us that opportunity.

We make our way through this time with questions and willingness to examine ourselves. Moving, we hope, toward new life for ourselves and our communities. As the world faces the challenge of potential pandemic, priorities and identities beyond the individual will be tested. Something new may emerge!

The seedlings planted by members of the intergenerational Sunday School class in January are growing… Like these, perhaps the seeds of the wilderness journey through Lent will yield growth & fruit. A lot can change in 40 days.

Remembering rightly

Remembering rightly

It has been said that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. God calls us to honest memory and to new life! In a climate where neighbors have been relegated to enemies, families have been separated, and many have been confined to camps, we don’t need to look beyond our own national borders for precedents. This week is a good time to remember again, and to listen for God’s call to justice.

From a Church of the Brethren denominational post:

“February 19 is a Day of Remembrance of the date in 1942 when President Roosevelt signed an executive order forcing 120,000 people into 10 internment camps across the U.S. Perhaps the best-known is Manzanar in California, now a National Historic Site commemorating the lives and experiences of the people who were held there. (See http://www.nps.gov/manz/index.htm)

In remembrance, we revisit a Church of the Brethren statement from October, 1991: “Resolution on Justice for Japanese-American World War II Internees.”

The statement recalls the unjust uprooting and interning of many in the Japanese-American community for more than three and a half years. It reminds us of one of the shameful national failures we would like to forget. And it invites us to repentance and renewed commitment to “another way of living” in Christ.

Maybe we can learn from our remembering.

(Read the full statement at brethren.org/about/statements/1981-ww2-internees.pdf)

Remembering

On the first Sunday in November, it has become our custom to light candles. We do so in memory of those who have touched our lives and have died. They are family or congregational members we’ve lost. They are strangers who have suffered innocently. They are long-gone loved ones.

To remember is to bring to mind again, making present what seems to be distant or past.

We light a candle and speak a name, and there is a re-membering — a restoring of the presence and touch of someone who has gone. The company grows. We celebrate and find strength in the cloud of witnesses.

God, in the Hebrew scriptures, often “remembers” people. That remembering typically sparks an action on their behalf. Not just a matter of sentimental recollection, it is rather a renewed commitment to the person.

As we remember those who have been part of our lives, we recognize their impact in and among us. And we renew our commitment to passing on the gifts they shared!

Compelling vision: Conversations within COB Districts

As Annual Conference began last week in Greensboro, NC, the focus was on the compelling vision process in which the church as a whole is engaged. Over the past year, many Districts held sessions to begin to ask and answer questions that will help us discern how God may be calling the church in the years ahead.

One of the ways information was captured and presented is in a word cloud– a visual representation of the frequency with which some ideas were named in the conversations. Below are the 100 words most often articulated. They may express some of our priorities as a denomination.

Annual Conference delegates continued the conversations in Greensboro. In the months ahead we’ll have further information about what emerged there.

TOP 100 WORDS FROM VERBATIM RESPONSES IN DISTRICT CONVERSATIONS

High Tea: just for fun!

It began as a wish from a 95-year old remembering long-ago family visits to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia for high tea. “We should take a field trip there, just for fun,” Maxie suggested. As an alternative, on June 15, with the Fellowship Hall transformed into a tea room, a group gathered for our own version of high tea.

As part of the time, Maxie and Jean, another of our 90+- year-old members, were honored. Each a remarkable example of living richly and fully into later years, the two continue to inspire many!

There was a great assortment of tea services , a profusion of sandwiches, cakes, scones, cookies, and fruit, and even a few fancy hats!

Women, men, and kids joined in the fun as we recalled a tradition, laughed around the tables, and indulged in enough food to become supper (though a rich one) for most of us.

All agreed that we ate as well or better — and certainly more abundantly– than we could have anywhere else!

Mulch Sale: April 2

mulch-575

We’re selling and delivering shredded hardwood mulch to neighbors and friends again this year. Orders can be made by calling the church office (as long as supplies last) at 301-864-4328 or better yet stopping by the church parking lot early Saturday morning! We’ll be delivering by 8am.

Proceeds from the mulch sales go to various church projects. In recent years, these have included:

*sponsorship of Rwandan university student Venuste Gatabazi

* assistance for children attending camps and conferences

Making All Things New

Destin Sandlin is a rocket scientist but I came across him struggling to ride a bike. (You may have seen him in one of his YouTube videos as well.) Like most of us, he had learned to ride perfectly well when he was young. It’s something you don’t forget, and he was as good at it as anyone.

There was a twist to his ride, though. He thought it would be easy to overcome. The bike had been adjusted so that turning the handlebars to the left actually turned the bike right (and vice versa.) Destin got on believing that he could mentally correct for that. He couldn’t do it. Not for six months.

Neither could anyone else who thought it would be possible to master quickly. Their minds just didn’t adjust. One after another, volunteers got on the bike and pushed off confidently. Each time, they began to wobble immediately, almost fall–and they had to stop. Again and again. It was striking to watch. They knew what was going on but as Destin said, knowledge did not equal understanding.

It took Destin six months of practicing, struggling, and re-learning before he was able to really integrate the new way of functioning and ride the bike.

Pentecost is a season for noticing how the Spirit sweeps in and through and beyond us in ways that often change us. We’ve taken note that the Celtic image of the Holy Spirit is of a wild goose – something that can’t be controlled or directed. A presence that pushes us into new territory.

Thinking about this, I was reminded of Destin. And of how hard it is to set aside established patterns. Our brains and muscles get deeply accustomed to familiar ways of doing things. We can scarcely grasp and often resist new ways. To carve new channels of behavior or being is no small thing. It takes a lot of wobbling and falling!

Yet we believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit with us – one who is, in the words of the book of Revelation, “making all things new!” Who can transform knowledge to true spiritual understanding. Who disrupts in order to ground more deeply, and who brings us to awareness of our connections beyond the bounds we’ve normally observed.

So, wherever we’re facing change–as individuals, in the church, in our world–maybe one key is to keep practicing new ways. The wild goose will nudge us forward. And with time, a new pattern–perhaps closer to what we were meant to be, but at least evidence of possibility–will emerge!

~Kim McDowell

Do Police Stops Define Race In America?

2015_Pulled_Over0001Join the discussion with Political Scientist Charles R. Epp, PhD, as he explains why they do. Epp will present findings from his recently published book, Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citzenship. Click here for a pdf of the picture to the right.

The discussion will take place at the Hyattsville, Maryland Busboys and Poets (check the link for address & directions) on February 17, 2015 from 7-9pm (with Q & A)