Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jerusalem, March 1, 2014

Saturday, March 1, 2014
St. George’s Guest House

            Well, I tried to convince SOMEONE else in the group to post on the blog for today. Clearly, I have failed as a leader in this circumstance!

            We arrived in Tel Aviv yesterday afternoon without incident. ‘Seems the combination of wearing a clerical collar and answering the question, “What is the purpose of your visit?” with the word, “Pilgrimage,” makes  for a quick trip through immigration.

            Last evening, we stayed at Azzahra Hotel where we met Hanna Khoury, our transportation coordinator, who gifted us with chocolate (he had no idea we were bringing 15 lbs. of chocolate to our friends)! We met the Zimmanns who transformed their Doblo into a clown car allowing us all to drive to Jaffa Gate for a lovely dinner at the Armenian Tavern.

            When we returned, we opened our gifts, “gold, frankincense –“ oops, wait, I get so confused here. The Zimmanns opened our gifts of Saline, Listerine, Cheez-Its and Seth’s long-awaited game, “Zombicide” game and companions.

            Marty provided his well-rehearsed 90-second introduction to our pilgrimage before we all began to fade and needed to head upstairs for a good night’s sleep. And it was so.

            Today, we were up (not quite as early as planned) for an amazing buffet breakfast before meeting Tarek, our driver, for our trip to Hebron. We picked up a group of 6 scholars & theologians led by Anna (from Sweden) and were on our way.

            Our tour of Hebron was led by two volunteers with EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, the World Council of Churches): Stefan (a graduate student in international studies from Austria – studying in Geneva) and Estefania (an attorney from Ecuador who worked for the Department of Immigration before leaving her job to take up her work here). We began with a little shopping in the old souk (“What is your name?” “Sue.” “Ah, like souk”! Exactly!) where we discovered that Ella has the word “sucker” emblazoned on her forehead (we couldn’t see it but the shopkeepers certainly could!) before heading to Ibrahimi Mosque.

            We entered the mosque without incident and the Wolverine women all opted for the blue cloaks which Tim deemed “very Lord of the Rings.” This was the first time I’d been there when the lights were on so we could see the room of the tomb of Abraham; the artwork is lovely. (There was a pigeon standing on the pall…a rather interesting mix of biblical metaphors, there…) We were also able to get a good look at the tomb of “Abraham’s wife” (aka Sarah) and to bow down to see the four candles burning for the Patriarchs and Matriarchs (Abe, Sarah, Jacob and Leah); the incense was a truly fragrant blend. The mosque was quite busy. Tarek explained that people often come from Jerusalem to visit the Mosque on Saturdays.

            We had no guide at the Mosque and I missed Abu Hani but shared one of his jokes with the group. (What was Adam and Eve’s phone number? 281-APPLE.) Tim got another joke from one of the shopkeepers: What are the two “misses” in the US? Mississippi and Missouri. (No extra charge for those!)

            Stefan and Estefania had hoped to take us to the synagogue adjacent to the mosque (I had seen it but have never been inside) but discovered that it’s not open to non-Jews on Shabbat. Then, they took us down Shuhada Street, once the hub of Hebron, which was closed during the Second Intifada. We were stopped by soldiers and asked for our passports before being allowed to enter the street. The only other traffic along the street consisted of families going to and from the synagogue and the IDF and Israeli Police. Greetings of “Shabbat Shalom” were exchanged by our group and a few of the settlers.

            We went up the steps leading to the Palestinian School, steps that have become iconic as they often figure prominently in photos and videos of children being harassed on their way to/from school. While we paused at the top of the steps, Ahmed, a young man known to our guides came along (carrying a textbook on American literature!) and kindly shared with us a bit of his experience living across the street from the settlements in Hebron. He told us how, one day, two 4 year-old  cousins were playing above his house when he heard a commotion. The little girl went running down to Ahmed’s house, barely able to speak and shaking. The only word she could utter was, “settlers.” Ahmed went running up the hill toward what turned out to be a group of 7-8 soldiers, two of whom had hold of the little boy. After a heated exchange, they let the boy go; he was not injured physically.

            Stefan and Estefania took us farther up the hill, beyond the school, into the Muslim area to show us two sections of land that have been claimed by the Israeli Antiquities Authority. There is curiosity as to whether they will find archaeological treasures (quite likely in that area) and turn the land into a tourist attraction or set aside that task in favor of building another settlement as has happened before.

            We then went DOWN hill, back into modern Hebron for lunch and a stop at the glass factory. The students were in better positions to listen to one of the glass blowers as he worked but we all could see how amazing the process is. This particular artisan recently spent 3 months in New York and Boston (teaching the art at BU.) I found a few things I’ll treasure and others I hope others will. We enjoyed wonderful tea while browsing the shop and carefully making our decisions.

            After a few of our young compatriots posed with a white camel on the median of the street in front of the glass blowing and ceramics shop, we were on our way back to Jerusalem. [WARNING, TMI for some: The next shop over from the glass/ceramics shop is a butcher who had on display the carcass of a full camel – with its head still intact.)

            As it turns out, Tarek’s regular job is to shuttle IDF soldiers from one point to another. As a result, they all know him, so going through checkpoints with Tarek at the wheel is a downright friendly experience! We checked into St. George’s Guest House on the grounds of the Anglican Cathedral. Our rooms are comfy and there’s a solarium just outside our rooms (complete with outlets for electronics). We’re enjoying the WiFi and time to catch our breath and do a little exploring before we head into the Old City for dinner.

            Peace from Jerusalem where I’m listening to the call to prayer which always makes me smile.

                                                                                    Sue Sprowls

Sunday, February 17, 2013

My Lord, What a Weekend!

 Getting Unstuck
            On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending, “Unstuck: Reviving the Movement for Social Justice, Human Dignity and the Environment,” a wonderful event sponsored primarily by the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Ann Arbor. I was deeply grateful for the opportunity to be in an atmosphere that fostered understanding and provided the opportunity to hear diverse voices ponder how we can become “unstuck” from the places of paralysis that dog us as individuals, as communities and as the larger culture. Among the highlights were the keynotes by the Rev. Dr. James Forbes and Dr. Cornel West. (If you’re interested, I’d be happy to share my notes with the understanding that they’re imperfect, incomplete.) Saturday’s event was particularly welcome on the heels of the previous evening.

Hearing One Voice
On Friday evening, I joined the Practicing Our Faith group at Trinity Lutheran Church. The purpose of the evening was to hear from Palestinian and Israeli members of One Voice, a non-partisan, global grassroots movement led by the people and for the people working for resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The organization “is rooted in a belief in the principles of justice, freedom, sovereignty, security, self-determination, human dignity, and in the right of all peoples to exercise them.”
Ahmed, a Palestinian man and Chen, an Israeli woman, shared personal stories of how they, their families and friends have been wounded physically, emotionally and spiritually by the conflict. They also explained how they came to channel their energies toward understanding rather than revenge. Both of their presentations were eloquent and heart-wrenching.
In Ann Arbor there is a group called, Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends that has been protesting (the call it a vigil) our neighbors at Beth Israel Congregation for the better part of a decade. You may have seen them holding their incendiary signs while driving by the synagogue on Saturday mornings. Henry Herskovitz, the group’s founder – along with two women - attended Friday’s event at Trinity. During the course of the presentations, they never smiled. They never laughed. The two women talked through the presentations much as they did when I was on an interfaith panel at the Ann Arbor library. They came with an agenda and asserted it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, their antagonism sent Chen out of the room in tears. The coordinator for One Voice as well as Pastor Lori Carey and I, followed Chen into the hallway to offer pastoral care as well as our deepest apologies for the behavior to which Chen had been subjected.
Ah, Sweet Irony
            Earlier in the day, I’d visited my doctor regarding some spikes in blood pressure and pulse. She prescribed medication to be taken as needed but I had not picked it up from the pharmacy. (I didn’t expect I’d need it that night.) Following these events, I posted the following on my Facebook page:  140/91 at 10PM. Thank you, Henry Herskovitz. I wish I'd picked up that Rx. Rob Dobrusin, I have more and more respect for you and the good people of Beth Israel.
With concern for how I might feel in reading it, my dear friend and colleague, Rabbi Dobrusin, forwarded to me Henry Herskovitz’s “Report on Beth Israel vigil 02-09-13.” What follows is that report in which he calls me out. You’ll find my corrections and clarifications are in contrasting color.
Being Called Out
Two Simple Questions
Three members of Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends attended a presentation by the Social Transformation Committee of St. Clare's Episcopal Church and held at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Ann Arbor this week. Two groups were represented: Three Wishes and
Three Wishes is an effort to produce stories of daily life from young Jewish Israeli children and Palestinian children. An Israeli Jew name Chen read Elisheva's story and a local Palestinian woman read Wafa's story. Both were stories filled with sadness, death, and hope.
Then Shaina Low from One Voice explained the "grassroots" nature of the organization, without telling the audience that Zionist neo-cons Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk are members of the Board of Advisors of this group, which is peddling the two-state "solution" to the "conflict". Ahmed, a 25-year-old Palestinian man from Hebron spoke about life under "occupation" and 27-year-old Chen, spoke of her life in the settlements. Chen doesn’t live in a settlement. She lives in Tel Aviv and has studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Both expressed a desire for change.
Moderator Mark Wenzel of St. Clare's then opened the floor for questions. I asked Ahmed if Israel had a right to exist as a Jewish state and if so, by what right? One woman in the small audience (of about 40 people) tried to interrupt before the short question was even completed. Not true. He fails to mention that the two women with him talked while the speakers were presenting their stories. Ahmed's rather long response was coupled with uncomfortable pauses, but it seemed he never really answered the question. Ahmed explained that for him the question is irrelevant. His focus is on changing the reality on the ground as it exists today. When I tried to clarify if he was saying no, the shouting started. There was no shouting. "That's not what he was saying" said a red-faced man. I know that man. His wife says, “His face is always red.” He was not expressing hostility but rather trying to foster communication (which happens to be his primary field of expertise).
Then Chen offered her emotion-laden voice to the conversation: she expressed her disappointment that everywhere she went in this country she was confronted by people talking about boycotts and divestment against Israel. Chen explained that everywhere she’s spoken in the U.S. people have put her in the untenable position of defending everything from Israel’s right to exist to policies with which she may or may not agree. As members of One Voice, Chen and Ahmed were sharing their personal perspectives; it was unfair to expect them to speak for a whole people or an entire nation.
A Backfired Strategy
Chen asked for a show of hands of who in the audience considered themselves Americans; all the hands went up. Then she pressed her luck and asked how many of us were "proud" Americans? “She pressed her luck?” That’s incendiary commentary; Chen was merely trying to make a simple point about the challenge of being put in the position described above. Maybe two hands meekly went up and Chen's strategy was thwarted. Chen had no “strategy.” She was merely asking us to consider how we might feel if we were in her shoes, an entirely appropriate thing to do when one is attempting to foster dialogue. It seemed to this writer (I love how he refers to himself as “this writer,” as though he were an objective reporter. Ironically, Chen is a journalist.) that she wanted to ask these "proud" Americans what it would feel like if they went abroad and people criticized the US culture or government policies, much like she – a "proud" Israeli – feels when people speak to her about boycotts and now this question about Israel's "right" to exist as a Jewish state. Chen made clear that her concerns were about those who call for boycotts of all Israeli goods rather than focusing their boycotts on goods manufactured in the settlements. Well, it was all too much for this Israeli Jew, and she left the room visibly upset a few other folks left the room as well.
I’m very troubled by Henry’s use of the phrase, “Israeli Jew.” He refers to Ahmed only as a Palestinian. In fact, I don’t know if we ever heard (I didn’t) whether he is Muslim or Christian.  Chen was not upset by what she said but by the rude and confrontational manner in which Henry Herskovitz and friends responded to her.
The "few other" people who followed Chen out of the room were Shaina, Pastor Lori Carey of Trinity and I. Lori and I were both mortified at the manner in which Chen was treated and apologized profusely for what had happened. We explained a bit about the nature of this particular group and when we mentioned that they protest outside of Beth Israel, Shaina asked, "Isn't their rabbi on the board of Rabbis for Human Rights (Now T’ruah)?" Yes, in fact, he’s the co-chair of its Board of Directors!

The Second Question
Mr. Wenzel tried to breathe some life into the deflating meeting, and championed difficult discussion, claiming that some good always comes out of heated conversation. He then went on to extol the virtues of dialogue: how important it was for people representing different national interests to get together and discuss those differences.
This prompted my second question: Would Jews find it valuable and effective to sit down with Nazi Germans to dialogue during the time Jews were being persecuted by the Nazis? Well, that got the good Rev. Sue Sprowls of the Lord of Light Lutheran Church to her feet to chastise this writer for asking such a question. Again, he refers to himself in the third person in a manner that suggests this was some sort of press conference! Apparently the Lord of Light could use a few replacement bulbs, because the lights of justice and prophetic anger (see e.g. Isaiah 5 and Amos 1) must shine very dimly there. I wonder if Henry realizes that, by using the definite article, he was insulting Jesus rather than the congregation or me.
What Henry actually said was, "Did Irene Butter sit down to dialogue with the Nazis?" To which I replied, "Henry, that's ridiculous." Which it was. Irene Butter is a Holocaust survivor who was but a child during the Holocaust; she is also a member of a remarkable group of women called, Zeitouna. My three-word response really set Henry off! No, I didn't leap to my feet or get in Henry's face. I had actually been standing along the side waiting for an opportunity to try to help refocus the conversation. 
Rev. Sprowls was a panel member of a January, 2011, discussion held at the Ann Arbor downtown library, and along with Rabbi Rob Dobrusin of Beth Israel Congregation used her bully pulpit to criticize JWPF. In point of fact, I did not criticize JWPF; I criticized the rudeness of the women who sat in the front row and muttered to each other while others were speaking throughout the event as they did on Friday night as well. Readers are referred to PeaceMonger's "Rabbi Dobrusin Highjacks Religious Freedom Day Panel" coverage of this event. Funny thing? I don’t even merit mention in this piece.
Thanks to the gatekeeping (sic) of the Rev. Sprowls, my dialogue question went unanswered as well. He gives me far too much credit. I had virtually nothing to do with it. Speaking for the street members of JWPF, the correct answers are "no" and "no" to these two questions.
As the evening wore on, I kept thinking of the lavish hospitality that we experience every time we go to the Middle East. Ahmed and Chen came thousands of miles to help foster understanding only to be subjected to rude, arrogant and angry diatribes. To add insult to injury, this was their last presentation in the States.

Final Thoughts
            It has indeed been quite a weekend, characterized by great extremes. Among the things I find fascinating about Henry Herskovitz’s criticisms of me is the fact that he did not sent his report to me directly. He’s a sharp cookie. He knows how to contact me and yet he chose to speak ill of me – essentially – behind my back (such as one can do in cyberspace).
            It seems to me that Henry and his friends are truly “stuck.” Albert Einstein is credited with having said that one definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” For nearly a decade, Henry and his flock have held their weekly “vigils” outside of Beth Israel Congregation. The only change I’ve noticed in the years that I’ve been here is that their signs have become increasingly inflammatory.
            Henry Herskovitz and friends are not interested in dialogue, nor do they seem to be interested in affecting change in the situation on the ground. Rather, they seem to be focused on “highjacking” (to use one of Henry’s favorite terms) interfaith dialogue and cooperation in Ann Arbor. On July 1, 2006, dancers from the Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah were performing at King of Kings Lutheran Church in Ann Arbor. At that time, Israel had launched Operation Summer Rains, a military assault on Gaza. The dancers from the School of Hope were teenagers, thousands of miles from home for the first time, on a trip to foster understanding as they shared the gift of Palestinian folk dance.
            As some members of the group were dancing in the sanctuary and others were waiting their turn, Henry Herskovitz appeared in the narthex, sign in hand, shouting, “Free Palestine”! The teens were terrified by this rude and boisterous interruption. They were confused as well. Why would someone who supports Palestinian autonomy interrupt their performance by shouting? 

Post Script
            As fate would have it, that morning I’d picked up Elihu Josiah, a 14-week old cocker spaniel pup and brought him along to the performance. After Henry departed, the kids discovered Eli and the little guy’s ministry began.

                                                                                             ~ Pastor Sue Sprowls

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lutheran church in Ethiopia severs relationship with ELCA

A sad announcement via the ELCA Press Release

In addition to having companion synod relationships with 5 synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), the Etheiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus has companion synod relationships with the following ELCA Synods: LaCrosse Area, Northwest Washington, Southwest California (my home synod), Southeastern and Pacifica. - sfs


February 7, 2013 

Lutheran church in Ethiopia severs relationship with ELCA 13-8-MRC

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus is severing its relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Church of Sweden and "those churches who have openly accepted same-sex marriage."
     The action for "all Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus departments and institutions (at every level) to implement this decision"
was ratified at the denomination's general assembly, which met Jan. 27- Feb. 2 in Addis Ababa. The denomination's church council took action at its July 2012 meeting to initially sever these relationships.
     "The ELCA is very saddened by this decision," said the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director for ELCA Global Mission. "The ELCA and its predecessor church bodies have been walking with the people of Ethiopia for more than 50 years, and our sister church, the Church of Sweden, for more than 150 years. In this journey, we have learned from one another, we have deepened and extended the bonds of fellowship and partnership in the gospel." Malpica Padilla was in Addis Ababa for meetings with program and ministry partners of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus.
     To ensure that the decisions by the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus are implemented, members of the denomination "will not receive Holy Communion from the leadership and pastors of the (ELCA and the Church of Sweden). The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus will not distribute communion to these churches," as stated in the minutes of the denomination's July 2012 council meeting.
     "Representatives of these churches at national level or leaders at every level would not be invited to preach or speak at the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus congregations or other gatherings. They should not be invited for any spiritual ministries of this church,"
stated the minutes, which also reflects that leaders and pastors of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus "at every level will not visit the synods, dioceses, congregations and national offices of churches that have accepted this practice without proper permission from the head office of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus."
     While the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus is "closing the door to this partnership," Malpica Padilla said that the ELCA and the Church of Sweden "are not locking the doors from our side. It is open for when you decide it is time to resume this journey together. It is my hope that in the near future, we will again walk together in Christian love.
We will do this not because of doctrinal agreements or consensus, but because the gospel compels us to do so."
      The ELCA has consistently kept its Lutheran companion churches informed about the ELCA's process that led to the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly decisions, which included the adoption of a social statement on human sexuality, said Malpica Padilla.
      "We shared the study documents and invited their input," he said. "When decisions were made, we wrote to (leaders of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus) expressing our commitment to not impose our actions and to respect the policy and practice of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus in the assignment of mission personnel,"
he said.
     The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, said the actions of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus are "deeply troubling."
      "Our own statement on human sexuality acknowledges that the position held by the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus is also held by members of the ELCA. We are not of one mind, but we are one in Christ, in faith and in baptism," said Hanson, adding that the relationships between Lutherans in North America and in Ethiopia "has been sustained through periods of oppression, divisions within the Ethiopian church and in times of turmoil among Lutherans in North America. The action of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus church diminishes our capacity together to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, to serve our neighbors and to care for the creation.
      "As the ELCA, we are always standing ready to open the door of conversation for the sake of reconciliation and our shared commitment to proclamation and service," Hanson said. "Reconciliation is not an option.It is given in Christ, and we stand ready to engage with the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus on what this gift of reconciliation might mean for us now."

Friday, February 08, 2013

Reflections on the LCMS Apology

New England Synod Bishop James Hazelwood posted the following on his blog in response to LCMS President Matthew Harrison's demand that Newtown, CT Pastor Rob Morris apologize for having offered the benediction at the close of an interfaith prayer vigil in December. I find his words most helpful and pray that you will, too. - sfs

On Thursday, at the conclusion of our closing worship service at the Bishop’s convocation, a colleague informed me of  a headline appearing on one of the national cable news networks.  He told me it read, “Lutheran pastor apologizes for Newtown, CT worship participation.” 
My heart sank immediately.  Why?  Because many of us have been concerned that the leadership of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod might act in such a way.  But, more importantly, I knew this would be just one more straw on the camel's back to those in this country who have no religious affiliation.  My heart sank, because I knew a few more people became “Nones,” this week. 
A little background.  The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod or LC-MS is not the denomination, of which I am affiliated.  They are a separate religious denomination.  They are often described as a conservative denomination by various sources such as Gallup Polling or the Religious News Service. I am a Bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or ELCA.  The name of the geographic region where I serve is called the New England Synod.  In the ELCA, there are 65 synods.  These are geographic regions throughout the United States.  I am trying to clarify this, because I think it is easy to confuse Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod with Lutheran Church, New England Synod.  They are not the same, nor related.
While the ELCA and LCMS are separate ecclesiastical bodies, we are linked historically by the ecumenical creeds and the Lutheran Confessions of the 16th century.  However, where we differ is that, generally, we in the ELCA do not permit anxiety over syncretism to trump our witness to and empathy for fellow human beings in the midst of unbearable tragedy and loss.
The President of LC-MS issued a statement this week, which described his decision to reprimand an LC-MS pastor from Newtown, CT for participating in the ecumenical and interfaith event which included President Obama last December.  The pastor subsequently issued an apology.  I have had several communications from people in our congregations inquiring about this event.  One email summarizes it best, “I don’t understand.  Why wouldn’t it be ok for a pastor to participate in that worship service?  I read that his church had children in the congregation die just four days earlier, and he did their funerals.  This makes no sense to me.”
The LC-MS is a denomination that is experiencing some internal struggles.  The current President, Matthew Harrison, was elected in 2010 when he defeated the more moderate and incumbent President Jerry Kieshnick.  Rather than my commenting on the differences, I’ll simply refer you to past-president Kieshnick’s response to President Harrison’s reprimand, which he sent out this week.  You can read it here
My concern in this whole situation is as follows:
1.     I want to clarify that neither I, nor the New England Synod of the ELCA are in any way associated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  We share a theological heritage through the Lutheran Confessions, but in the legal sense, we are not connected.
2.     My greatest concern is that an event like this may be adding insult to injury.  The people of Newtown do not need this kind of controversy piled onto their pain.
3.     I deeply regret that this will be viewed by those outside of the church as justification for a “who needs that nonsense” kind of attitude.
Our response in the ELCA to the tragedy of Newtown is broad, humble and embracing. Next Thursday, February 14, on the day after Ash Wednesday, together with Bishop Ian Douglas of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, I will be in Hartford for an ecumenical prayer service.  This will be a time for any and all Lutheran and Episcopal clergy, deacons and rostered leaders to gather.  The intent is to reflect on the challenges of doing ministry in a culture of violence. 
"In times of violence we need the church to witness to our unity in Christ,” said the Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut.  “Coming together in an ecumenical prayer service is exactly what we most need right now.”
“If we are divided we cannot effectively challenge the violence endemic in our culture.  Standing united we can best witness to the peace of Christ that passes all understanding.”
This gathering will be held at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Hartford, CT.  The choice of this location is intentional, because the structure was built with funds from the old Colt Armory.  Yes, the same Colt that manufactured hand guns.  We in the church are complicit in our accomodation to a culture of violence.  Coming to Good Shepherd reminds us of our own need to confess the ways in which we have not been prophetic in our own time.  Confession can often be the beginning point for what is the ultimate meaning of repentance - metanoia - turning around, turning to a new way of being.
I hope all pastors, AIM's, diaconal ministers and deaconesses will consider joining me on Feb 14 at 9:30 a.m., and then everyone (all Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, Buddhists, Hindus and Nones) will join me outside of Good Shepherd at 11:00 a.m. for prayer and a chance to march for change.
Following the prayer service, those who wish to participate, are welcome to join in a publicMarch for Change.  The purpose of this march is to advocate for sane public policy and legislation in response to the shootings in Newtown.
I lift up this event as an opportunity to both counteract the not so subtle effort to marginalize the Christian witness as well as send a clear statement that we in the New England Synod embrace opportunities to partner with our brothers and sisters all across the religious spectrum.  
After composing the above, I lost internet service at my home.  Therefore, I had to go to a local wifi location.  In the course of posting this, several young college age students were talking at the next table.  "Did you hear about that Lutheran guy, who said he was sorry for going to the interfaith worship in Newtown?"   
"No" responded his friend.
"Yeah, can you believe this %&*#?  Man those people are hurting and then this priest goes and rubs their face in it."
My greatest fear is manifesting itself.  Yes, I chimed in on their conversation, told them who I was, and clarified what had happened, who we are and what we are all about.  I pray it helped.  I fear that similar conversations are going on around the country, and only hope there can be more voices to counteract the prevailing wind.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Go, Tell: Faith and the New Media Revolution

Go, Tell: Faith and the New Media Revolution is an excellent video from Odyssey Networks tracing the development of religion's (& religions') use of media through the years.

Food for thought!

A Blessed Holy Week!


Friday, December 16, 2011

“Continuing in Hope”
The Rev. Dr. Munib Younan
Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Dearborn, MI
December 9, 2011

  • Hope comes from the Cross and the Cross was in Jerusalem.
  • Despite the weaknesses of the church resulting from the current situation, ongoing emigration, etc., the church will continue to be a presence in the Holy Land as it has been since the time of Jesus.

The Church
  • Money is not the answer. Money won’t make the church stronger . It might help to facilitate some good work. But faith, hope and love will build the church.
  • The churches of Middle East met recently and committed themselves again to ecumenism and to the living witness of the church.
  • “My roots are in the Church,” says Bishop Younan, “So you might say I am 2000 years old. We were not converted from Islam or Judaism.”
  • One of the key elements is the manner in which the Church conducts itself in the Middle East is that “We do not act like a minority people.”
  • The gospel is like a circle: Sometimes you are at the top, sometimes at the bottom; when you are at the bottom, there is always someone to lift you up.

Education is Key
  • Van Dyke translated the Bible into Arabic in 1864.
  • Since that time, the Church has looked to education as the primary means of witness and service.
  • From preschool to elementary and secondary levels to the university level, the church is committed to education as the primary means of sharing the rich ethos of the Christian message.
  • “Small is beautiful at least for those of us who are small; what's important is the mission and witness. Mostly Jesus spoke to small groups of outcasts.”
  • Christian schools are the backbone of Middle East education. We want the rich evangelical ethos to be shared. At the heart of this is moderation. In a time in which we are ALL being held hostage to extremism, we want to raise a generation of moderates. Among the primary emphases of Christian education in the Middle East are the following:
  • Education of girls and advocacy for women.
  • The first school for girls was established by Lutherans in 1852. In a patriarchal society, it is important to promote role of women.
  • 60% of the people in the Middle East are illiterate; 80% of those are women. [the literacy rate in Palestine is high]

The Arab Awakening: The Need for Moderation in ALL Things
  • Church leaders are urging those who are taking the lead in the Arab Spring or Arab Awakening to maintain the dignity of the oppressed, to respect freedom of religion, to honor human dignity and to respect the role of women in leadership.  Sadly, some extremists are coming to power who - though they understand democracy – are setting it aside and becoming dictatorial.
  • Moderates must prevail in order to avoid the fate of Iraq which has neither democracy nor security.
  • Arab Christians must follow the theology of martyria.
  • A common fear is that there is that both the Middle East and the U.S. lack leaders who are serious about peace. Peace is the only option. A two state solution is the only option. Everyone knows the answer (a 2-state solution along the 1967 borders and a shared (not divided but shared) Jerusalem) but there is no charismatic leader on either side who is prepared to lead the path toward peace. Yet, only when that happens can it be a land of milk and honey for both Palestinians and Israelis.
  • We teach our children to see the image of God in Israelis.
  • Jordan is the hub of Muslim-Christian dialogue.
  • It is very easy to love God. We all love God. The crisis is in loving our neighbors.
  • The Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land has worked to build trust and bridges among religions. It has been monitoring the mass media to identify what's being taught on the grassroots level. It’s been monitoring 700 textbooks (140 Palestinian and 560 Israeli) to see what they are teaching. This project is being led by an Israeli and a Palestinian thru Yale. A final report is expected in 2 months. The report will provide the Council with solid information that will allow it to ask for change in the way children are being educated. “Justice starts when we teach truthfully about the other.”

Q & A

Is Palestine made up?
Coins made under British Mandate were stamped “The State of Palestine.”

What about Hamas? Is peace possible with Hamas in the mix?
Hamas is the outcome when there is no peace. Only 23% of Palestinians agreed with Hamas. Hamas won the 2006 elections largely because people were fed up with Fatah. Today, 75% of Palestinians want to live side by side with Israel.

What is your reaction to the US’s lack of support for Palestine’s request for UN recognition?
May God forgive them.

What are the new challenges you’ve faced over the past 10 years?
A loss of hope. The Wall: the policy of separation has separated peoples, families, etc. He has to deal with three governments each day: the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Israel.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Healing Mask

Dear Friends,

Those of you who were in worship (and awake during the sermon) at LOL on Sunday will recall that I shared a bit about a woman named Brenda with whom I attended the "Creating Healing Ceremonies" workshop recently.

I wish I'd had the following video to offer you then as it provides a wonderfully animated version of a part of Brenda's story I did not include. 

As an added bonus, it will give you a chance to hear from Dr. Carl Hammerschlag, one of the  mentors with whom I hope to meet while on sabbatical.

Peace, Shalom, Salaam,
Pastor Sue

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