9Lake Edge and Christ the Solid Rock will worship jointly this Sunday, August 26, at a special time, 10:30 am (socially distanced, masks encouraged to protect vulnerable members during Delta). Ryan Hitchens, our newly hired Alliance Shepherd, will offer the message about his new ministry with Alliance@4200.
(More about Ryan below, as well as how to join online)
Pastor Mitchell and Pastor Lex will preside. We encourage everyone to come to the Courtyard if possible (and if it’s safe/comfortable for you). It will be a lively, Spirit-filled service.
HOW LAKE EDGE ONLINE FOLKS CAN JOIN THE SERVICE
Sunday will be on Facebook Live only - but don’t worry. You don’t have to be “on Facebook” to join.
At 10:30 on the dot, go to their page BY CLICKING ON THIS LINK:
At the bottom right, you’ll see a little box, like a tiny TV screen
CLICK on the box at 10:30, and the service will come up live, along with sound
AMY WILL BE ON ZOOM CHAT at 10 am to help folks navigate.
Meeting ID: 814 2006 8349.
REMEMBER: Service starts at 10:30. Have a leisurely breakfast and then head over. There will be lots of seating in the Courtyard. See you Sunday!
S. Ryan Hitchens (Ryan)
Formal Title: Director of Community Engagement
Working Title: Alliance Shepherd
Ryan grew up in Louisiana. Very involved throughout his life in the Black church (choir, usher, young adult ministry, etc.). He knows the church. He also trained and has experience in leadership, with a track record in success in helping transform church and community groups. He’s been in Madison for about a year, but has already created deep ties to equity work being done across our City.
He's managed volunteers and programs, and he knows how to connect with people. He'll be a strong bridge between our two independent congregations. Ryan will be a key component in the "fabric that will help both churches become,” as Pastor Mitchell has put it, "more knit together."
Ryan will be introduced to us at our joint worship service (10:30 am; outdoors) and will provide the primary message for sermon time.
At the joint monthly session between Trustees (now known as Board of Buildings & Budget), Thurs, July 22, the DRAFT Reopening Plan was approved for circulation to Lake Edge congregation for public comment and subsequent evaluation before a final plan for reopening is formalized.
We know that Dane County’s Covid situation is always changing. The target date for re-entry is Sun Sept 12, with communion - but remember, Delta throws a variable into even the most careful planning. Please review the DRAFT PLAN following; when you look at the steps below, right now we are between steps 2 and 3. We need comment from everyone in our congregation. (There is literally NO question you shouldn’t ask.) We’re all in this together.
COMMENT TO: firstname.lastname@example.org (please, no comments here on website, thanks)
Thanks to Pastor Lex and Gabe McKelvey for creating this draft, in accordance with CDC recommendations.
DRAFT Plan for re-opening:
The plan is broken into five phases, with a preceding phase representing total shutdown of in-person church meetings. Phases should not advance quicker than once per month. This plan, once finished, should be communicated to the congregation through email and during service, as well as any phase changes. Upon worsening COVID conditions, phases should be set backwards immediately, including to phase 0. Phase numbers are based on statistics of Dane county.
Phase 0: Any COVID 19 breakout
● No in-person service or events, only online
● Church building closed
Phase 1: Vaccinations: <50%. Active Cases: >10/100K. Positive Tests: >10%.
● Hybrid outdoor/online services, as weather permits, socially distanced
● Zoom meetings and votes, no in-person events
● Staff in church building, no members
Phase 2: Vaccinations: 50-70%. Active Cases: 5-10/100K. Positive Tests: 5-10%.
● Hybrid outdoor/online services, as weather permits, socially distanced
● Outdoor Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, and some events
● Distanced and masked meetings in spaces with good ventilation in church
Phase 3: Vaccinations: 70+%. Active Cases: <1/100K. Positive Tests: <5%.
● Hybrid indoor/online services, socially distanced and masks for unvaxed/optional
● Events held inside in large meeting spaces with good ventilation
● Small meetings can be held anywhere in the church
Phase 4: Herd immunity. Active Cases: ~0/100K. Positive Tests ~0%.
● Normal Service and events
● Masks optional
● Worship Team (consists of ushers, sound & web techs)
● Ushers will meet people entering (two front door and two back lot door), Hall door locked
● Ushers will ask people their preferred seating option*
● Tech Ministers to run live in person/hybrid worship sound and Zoom
● No Coffee Hour or Social Time indoors
● Communion with pre-cut bread/cracker & individual shot glass cups (gloved/masked attendants)
● Unvaccinated persons will be encouraged to wear masks for their own protection
*Family or Group (allows friends/family together), Single or Couple, Camera Shy (seated in area not covered by sanctuary cameras; includes children). All seated positions allow 6 feet between them and the next person front/back or side.
REMEMBER: Send comments to email@example.com (please, no comments here on website, thanks)
Last Sunday, Lex's sermon included lines from the late Jean Taffs, who had written a parable about bread. We thought you would like to read the whole piece! Rest in Peace, Jean. You were a great storyteller.
Staff of life.
Every people has some form of bread. Or not.
Some place in time or space there was a man who planted grain and then ground it with heavy stones into flour. Every week he made bread - bread that a few people liked so much that they told everyone about it. Pretty soon lots of people were asking this person to bake for them, or asking for his recipe.
So he opened a little cooking school where the only subject was bread-why bread was good for you, the different kinds of grains you used, the way yeast worked, what happened when you didn't use enough of something, or used the wrong kind of something ...
Then more and more people were baking this bread and showing people how they could make it too, and in not very much time it somehow became the favorite food of that whole land.
When the people in charge of running things adopted it, they decided that the original recipe had to be kept safe from people who would try to change it, the way some folks always want to change a thing into something different, which they then call New and Better. To keep the bread unsullied by experimentation, they arranged for all the children to be taught The Recipe while they were learning how to read and write.
To make this easier to learn, to make it more interesting to learn, and to make people feel that it was important to learn, workers gathered every bit of knowledge, every remembered story, every written word they could find about the earliest days of this bread. They gave the bread the name of its first baker- Olaf, the miller. All of this became part of everyone's schooling.
It wasn't many gene rations before that name evolved into Olaf Miller, and that, into Loaf Miller. And the stories that surrounded the origins of the bread evolved too, into lovely and inspiring tales of Loafs strength at the grindstone, his wisdom in cultivating grains, and his generosity in sharing his Recipe. Anecdotes that his early pupils had recalled for their grandchildren were collected and recorded, and Miller's very words were treasured: Loyal members of that people would greet one another with words like, "Let rise until doubled!"
Over time The Recipe, its instructions, the stories about Miller's life, and even the histo1y of the recipe's development from idea to cultural icon, all were rendered in every imaginable kind of expression. Musicians devoted entire lives to composing lengthy and complicated works extolling Miller bread; choruses of trained singers spent years mastering various settings of The Recipe; painters and sculptors became immortal because of their renditions of moments in Miller’ s life.
While all this was happening, people were behaving the way people often do, some disagreeing with others about the best way to make bread, others disputing which kind of grindstone made the best flour, or even which hand must be used to place the risen dough into the oven for baking. These arguments grew into major issues with supporters on each side. In many cases a group would separate itself from the rest, take on a new name, and promote its own variation of Miller's Recipe.
The different groups engaged in a kind of rivalry, each one trying to show the world its superiority in honoring Miller Bread; one group became famous for its ornate breadboxes, decorated with fine carvings and inlaid ivory; another group, not to be outdone, covered its breadboxes with rare jewels. A few groups turned up their noses at such finery and declared themselves the only pure followers of the Miller tradition; thei r breadboxes were made of plain unpainted wood. No one thought to ask why there was never bread in any of the boxes.
But something else was happening along with this splintering: People began eating many different kinds of bread. Some of them didn't eat bread at all because there was such an interesting variety of foods to try that they forgot how Miller's Loaf tasted.
A number of these people, though, were sufficiently obedient to their childhood lessons that they continued to meet with the Loaf-Miller followers. On a regular basis they would all gather in an old building decorated with beautifully embroidered flour sacks. They would once again sing the old songs about the boy Loaf before he became a miller, or about the early pupils and their loyalty to Miller. They would listen to the stories of the old days of grinding and baking. They stood at attention, hands over their stomachs, and recited The Recipe in unison.
Then, for the most part, they all went their separate ways, busily learning how to make Sushi, Lutefisk, poi, Coney Dogs, and other exciting foods.
Our next Zoom book group meeting will be Monday, June 7 at 1:30.
The book for June 7 will be Weight of a Piano: A Novel, by Chris Cander. At this time there are many copies available at the public library.
This is a link to information about the book and the author and discussion questions:
Our next Zoom meeting will be Monday, March 1 at 1:30.
The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg.
At this time there are many copies available at the public library.
To join in the discussion, email Willeen Tretheway for the Zoom link: firstname.lastname@example.org
Book Summary Link
One of our members has a wonderful kid (who shall remain anonymous). Now, we know from experience that ALL kids are wonderful, but this child gave a precious gift - her bone marrow. Donors and recipients have to wait a bit for their identities to be revealed to each other (and only if they wish). But this recipient couldn't wait. We couldn't add the actual image of the letter, but here is the text:
This is probably the hardest latter I have ever written. The reason is, I can't express how blessed I feel for what you have done for me. I'm a total stranger to you, yet you have given me such a blessing. You have given me the gift of a second chance to live. The chance to see my parents every day of their lives, to be there for my nephew and niece, to watch my stepson grow up - but most importantly, you avoided (prevented) the heartache my mother would have felt if she lost her youngest daughter. I sincerely thank you for your generosity. I hope to one day meet you, but in the meantime, know you have someone who prays for you every night. I pray you have a life full of blessings, of happy memories, success, and abundant love.
You will be forever in my heart.
With lots of love, a friend
Bill Hutchison: A Christmas Story
John Buggy and I worked together. On a business trip in 1986, he told me about some his Army days. John was a jovial man, small in stature, but big in spirit. He enlisted during WWII and was initially sent by the Army to go to college in New England. However, the demand for more troops resulted in him being sent to Normandy, France, just a couple weeks after D-Day. Six months later, this was his Christmas experience.
He was a Chicago lad, who at age 20 was the driver of a Sherman M-4 tank in Europe. John told me of sitting inside the cramped metal hulk, on Christmas Eve night 1944, in war-torn Luxembourg City. Their Sherman tank, named War Buggy, was stationed alone, guarding an intersection, and was parked alongside an old stone building. It was pitch black, snowy, and freezing cold. The exhausted crew of five were wearing every piece of clothes they had and trying to heat the inside of the tank with gasoline that they’d poured into their helmets. Dinner consisted of cold K-rations. The only sound was the wind and the occasional chatter on their tank’s radio. But late that night, they started to smell the distinct aroma of chocolate! Then, they heard someone calling out, “Amerikaneschen zaldot.” When John looked out, there was an elderly man, waving from a second story window above the tank. The young American corporal climbed onto the top of the tank’s turret, and the old man motioned to him to climb through the window. There, inside a cold, candlelit room, the old man and his wife handed him a cup of hot chocolate. It tasted heavenly. And to his delight, he saw a stack of old Chicago Tribune newspapers in the corner. Chicago and home seemed like a million miles away. In broken English the old man explained that his brother had moved to America before the war and sent the papers. One by one, each of the tankers took their turn, climbing up onto the turret and into the room, as the grateful old couple shared their Christmas hot chocolate. They toasted to the holiday and told the young American GIs that, “certainly better days are coming.” At dawn, War Buggy moved out with the rest of 3rd Armored Division, to engage in the Battle of the Bulge, and eventually all the way into Germany.
John said every Christmas thereafter he remembered that night, and his family tradition was to have hot chocolate. And, I remember, that in response to any problem, small or big, John’s observation was that “better days are coming.”
It’s one Christmas “gift” that we’re all welcome to receive, any time of year. This has been a tough year for many, myself included, but maybe it’s just a bit easier if we put it in perspective and remember the promise that “better days are coming.”
I've been clear these past weeks that living a joyful life isn't optional. I shared my panic during my month off, when I realized now this job had choked off my joy. Last week, I talked about the happiest countries. I even compared our nation (lower on the happy list) to Denmark; number two happiest. Without any disregard for our United States, I asked, "Which country's social system's more in line with what Jesus teaches?" Hint: It wasn't us.
It's time to demand more from our lives. It's time to thrive. Today, what we can do right now to increase our joy and ability to thrive. Dan Buettner, in his book "Thrive," cycles through what people say who live in the happiest places. Buettner says, "people who live in advanced democracies with strong social interaction tend to be the happiest." Like a vine and its branches, or seeds rooted in rich, healthy ground; Jesus teaches us deep connections are vital to our happiness. Surveys the world over bear this out. Connected to God through him, and through his "way" of life with each other. The Parable of the One Scattering Seed (the sower) pulls no punches. Jesus said last week, "I have come so you may have joy, and your joy may be complete." Our lack of joy isn't a God problem or a church problem. It's an us problem; an American problem. We don't connect.
Like seeds scattered, this world tosses us, unsupported, onto some pretty poor patches of earth, and expects us to thrive. There's only so many demands a human person can take. If we truly want a joyful and fruitful life, Americans can't be passive any longer. So what are some things can we do, right now?
Rev. Michael Mather has pastored progressive, urban, white churches (just like Lake Edge). His congregations have done the same good works all liberal churches do (just like Lake Edge). They spent a lot of money (like Lake Edge), but the poverty carousel keeps going around and around (like Madison). Poor folks, many who didn't look like them, kept asking for help. People in need kept dragging themselves into Pastor Mather's office, lower than a skunk. And once they got help, they left just as low. The whole process left Mather pretty low, too. And anonymous giving; where we'd send money to some well-intentioned program without much of a personal connection, wasn't much better. Five years ago, I went to the Triangle Ministries downtown for the monthly Second Harvest food pantry. More than charity, for me, connecting to the people helped connect to the neediness inside me. "Strong Social Connections" bring joy. Now, I hate missing those first Wednesdays.
In the case of Pastor Mather, his church, rather than handing out money, started asking people in need what those who knew them best said they were best at. And they discovered needy people also had gifts and abilities. Mather's congregation found that a few dollars "invested" in support of a good cook, a talented bike mechanic, or a gifted artisan, different from impersonal charity, helped them make money. People in need used their gifts, with a little church financial investment to support themselves; building self-esteem and deeper relationship with the church. Mather dropped charity for a revolving loan program to help people act on their gifts, make money, and take care of themselves. The connections created were exactly what all the world surveys tell us is a hallmark of happy people. Joy began to appear in unexpected places. We could do the same thing here. It'd take dedicated effort and thought. We'd need to build strong social connections with each other and our various communities, like Frank Allis, Christ the Solid Rock, and others.
But, that's just one idea. There's still more we can do. How about self-care? Joy comes when we make time for ourselves. Start with exercise. I'm never happier than when I'm on a stroll through the Saturday Dane County Farmers Market or out on my bicycle. In Denmark, there are all sorts of efforts to support bicycling for exercise and commuting. It's one key to Denmark ranking #2 happiest. Ask Jen Meudt, Anne Schoenemann or Stephanie Endres, who ran a 5k just yesterday. Running, swimming or working out matters to a happy life.
Remember, isolation's an obstacle to a happy life. Jesus tells us joy's found in connection. The happiest places make the effort to deepen connections, beyond casual get-togethers. Americans love to go to church, but we're hard pressed to truly "Be The Church" in deep, fruitful ways. We've heard Jesus these past weeks, rooted in a shallow society makes us drift and isolate. Jesus' Way's hard work.
Parents, learn to say, "No". You don't have to be an ogre. But just because your children want to do something or go somewhere or play some sport or be in some club, doesn't mean you've got to sacrifice your joy so your kids can do everything. Parents, you've got dreams and gifts. You need time to identify and act on those gifts. Pastor Mather says, "The biggest spiritual problem in (the church) is that the poor don't believe they have any gifts, and (we who are the givers) don't believe we have needs."
Seniors, learn to ask for help. Fight the urge to suffer the challenges of old age alone or rely only on your kids to help. Turn to your church. Isolation's an obstacle to happiness. Don't just sit in church on Sunday. Build deeper connections between Sunday's. Jesus commands it.
Youth. When it comes to youth programs. "The problem...is the assumption...that (teens and other younger people) didn't have something to offer, that they instead needed to be fixed or corrected (taught what to do/think)." Most youth programs, Mather says, are "aimed at teaching people what they don't know, rather than building on what they do." Youth will be far happier if pastors and elders treat them like we actually value their contribution.
Next week, I'll talk a bit about spirituality. What kind of faith brings us the most joy. Then, I'll open it up for your thoughts and questions. Think it over. It's time to thrive!
Today, more of God's word to us about "joy." There's a few copies of the first in this series on the table in the back. To recap: when I was on sabbatical, away from the demands of my job, I felt empty, lost, and useless. I'd given so much to this church I'd smothered my joy. And I'm not the only one. Could it be the demands of American style democracy is crushing our happiness; inferring with the joy promised each of us by God. Well, enough sacrifice, it's time to thrive.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus wants his followers to be connected - to God and, by extension, each other. This isn't just a suggestion. Selfless connection under the careful guidance of Jesus' teaching is where joy can be found. Dan Buettner has talked with the happiest people on earth. His book, "THRIVE: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way," is a great companion to our Gospel. There's three major world-wide survey's that measure happiness. I had no idea. And Buettner tells us, "If you look at the results...from 146 countries,...people who live in advanced democracies with strong interactions (connections) tend to be the happiest." Jesus says the way to follow his example is to stay deeply connected; like branches to a vine. We're an advanced democracy; some would say the most advanced. But we're not so good at the "strong social interactions" part.
Lately, the country of Denmark's been in the news. Our President had some words with Denmark, criticizing the country, and calling their Prime Minister "a nasty woman." And Denmark's the 2nd happiest country on earth. The U.S. not as much.
So let's talk a bit about Denmark, and what the second happiest people on earth might teach us. First, the Danes aren't perfect. There are certainly issues in Danish society. But here's what's interesting about Denmark: It's organized around a more level playing field. It's not unusual for royals and commoners, wealthy and workers to socialize. Danes strive for humility, modesty and shared responsibility. Kim Kardashian wouldn't last five minutes. Listen, and ask yourself how Danes stack up to Jesus' teachings compared with Americans? Our politicians can't manage a debate on health care coverage for all of its citizens. In Denmark everyone has health care covered from head to toe for life. Danes never worry about how to pay for hospitals, medicines or doctors. Universal higher education is also part of the modesty and class neutral beliefs of Danes. Dane's get free schooling through college, plus a living allowance while in school. Let's talk employment. In Denmark there's a strict 37 hour work week. Progressive employee benefits including 7 weeks of vacation. When a child's born, the second parent can choose to stay home to help their spouse for up to a year. Fourteen weeks of that's paid. Sure taxes are high. Some 65% of a Danes income supports the shared social safety net. But, no one lacks for any basic need. There's also a significantly smaller gap between the wealthiest Danes and those of more modest means. When Dan Buettner asked one wealthy Dane how he felt about his big tax bill, he wasn't bothered at all. "It's hard to complain," he said, "when most of your basic needs are covered." Danes also do well in business. But rather than more and more profits, their focus is outward; building relationships with other countries and peoples. Trust is an important value in Danish society. That's trust of each other, and with others outside of Denmark. Danes possess none of the rugged independence; "go it alone," "get ahead," "keep my business to myself" attitude of Americans. All children, even royals and elites, are encouraged to follow their dreams and gifts, rather than simply prepare for big money occupations. When Buettner asked the dad of one of the royal families why his son was an apprentice wood worker rather than a lawyer like him, he said, "I (just) want him to be happy with what he does." All Danes involve themselves in some sort of social group or club. It's a priority in Danish life.
Set aside all the partisan chatter about "socialism." When Jesus tells us to be one with God like he is, and be connected to each other the same way we're connected to him, what kind of social order do you think Jesus expects from us? Work till your dead, dog eat dog, rugged individualism, work only for ourselves and forget the other guy, super rich versus abject poor, arrogant, stubborn, status seekers? Look, I don't think Denmark's the promised land. But, when Jesus teaches, "I've said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete." When our level of happiness gets compared to some other nations, I'm amazed our America can crack the top 20.
Well, in spite of how our society can suck the life out of us, we can still thrive, and our joy can be complete. Next week, how we can have joy right now - the Gospel way.