by Rey Lambatin, Choir Director
Pondering on specific things related to our CGS choirs while preparing for the upcoming liturgical seasons and when we start rehearsing again, a certain topic came to mind that has been a center of discussion in the past: Where should the choir stand when singing an anthem? Should it be in front, where the choirs have been singing in the past couple of years or so, or should it be at the back, more specifically the choir loft, where the organ is located? I believe this particular argument is more relevant in the past than in our present situation, because of the combination of inevitable and conscious turns our church has gone through in recent times.
Naturally experiencing physical changes, it is a challenge for our choir members to go up the 15 steps of stairs to get to the choir loft. We tried to address this by putting together a task force to look at installing a chair lift, but it was a big budget commitment that we didn’t have in our resources at the time. Another factor is the change in choral music choices. Over the years, we’ve accumulated quite a number of choral music in our library, of which I am currently in the process of organizing and updating. Slowly and methodically going through them all, I see a lot of music that requires a full choral sound, involving more singers to successfully fulfill the scores' requirement. And most of these pieces require organ accompaniment. This means having the choir members getting up the choir loft, which brings us back to the first challenge we have. So, when looking for new music for our choir, I consciously choose songs that are accompanied by a piano, or sung acapella, which takes the choir singing in front.
A valid argument about standing in front to sing is that it seems more like a performance, an act of entertainment, rather than an honest musical offering. My view on this is that, every time someone or a group of people stand in front to either sing, deliver a message, or even simply make an announcement, to do it more effectively, there is part of performing involved. But a performance doesn’t necessarily compromise the authenticity of the message or the act of offering, and I honestly believe our congregation can discern sincerity.
For me, what matters is whether the heart is in the right place. To perform with a clean heart and the desire to renew a right spirit within us, through the messages we share with our music. To bring the good news of our Redeemer, uplift who are going though difficult circumstances, bring healing to suffering emotions, restore the broken. Whether standing in front, or up in the choir loft, these remain the principles of our choral ministry.
“We believe that we are called by the Holy Spirit to raise a faithful prophetic voice that distinguishes the central witness of the Scriptures from the misuses of the Scriptures found within the Christian tradition. We will resist patriarchy and sexism within church and society by relying on God’s gifts of knowledge, reason, and scientific inquiry as we work together with all people of good will.”
by Pr. Manda
Have you ever thought of how intertwined the story of God is with the history of patriarchy? Where does human invention end and the nature of creation begin? Does the Bible call God male because God is male? Or does the Bible call God male because it was only men who were choosing which writings to include in the Bible?
If we can’t untangle the story of Scripture – and the God it witnesses to – from the history of Christianity, then how will we move forward? How will we respond to #metoo or policies and laws about abortion, and what will our faith have to say about how we should respond?
In 2012, on the urging of people across the nation, our Church (the ELCA) put together a task force to study the issue of what justice for women should look like in the world today. They have held over 100 listening sessions with people in our Church. They have met with and learned from over 2 dozen experts. They have asked questions;
What problems do women face?
What does economic sexism look like?
How is sexism personal? How is it political?
How can we understand the Biblical texts that devalue women?
And now, they have a draft, and they are seeking the input of the whole Church. This will be a public statement. When people ask you “What does your church think about sexism?” this statement will be our answer.
So I’m excited that we’re going to spend some time thinking about it, and adding our voices to the draft. I personally want to be a part of a community that responds to the needs of the world from a beginning point of God, not ourselves. I’m grateful that CGS can be such a community.
We will meet at the home of Hope Russell (her address is in Breeze) on Sunday evenings at 5 pm. We’ll do this 4 times from September 9th to September 30th. Dinner will be provided, so we appreciate an RSVP. But this study is for all people. If you are concerned with the way that women are treated, the roles that men and women hold, and what our faith tells us about women and God, then I would highly encourage you to join us.
You can RSVP to Laurie Gaumer, Pr. Manda, or the office.
People of the Sierra Pacific Synod,
We have been in direct communication in the last 48 hours with the pastors and leaders of congregations in the fire areas in our synod. Here is the latest information we have about the fires that continue to burn in northern California:
Many have asked what can be done to offer support and encouragement for those who have suffered terrible, sudden loss. We are suggesting donations to two places — Lutheran Social Services of Northern California and Lutheran Disaster Response. Donations to Lutheran Social Services can be designated for needs in northern California in general. To donate to specific congregations, indicate the name of the congregation in the designated donation box. 100% of these monies will be given directly to churches and ministries that have been affected by the fires. Donations to Lutheran Disaster Relief can be designated to "US Wildfires" and will be used more generally to support communities that have been affected by fires during the summer (and likely into the fall fire season) throughout the west. 100% of donations so designated will be used by LDR to offer support to affected communities.
You may also choose to donate to the American Red Cross. There are immediate needs for food, medical care and shelter that must be met - many people are still waiting for rescue from unsafe locations and adequate shelter once they have been rescued. Monetary donations are a much preferred response - it is easier for the Red Cross to purchase and distribute needed items rather than deal with the logistics of receiving donations in kind.
Please remember in prayer the congregations in the fire areas: St. James, Redding; Mariposa Lutheran, Mariposa, and Mountain Lutheran in Groveland. Other congregations near to these fires are already offering assistance as they are able. Please keep all in these communities in your prayers, as well as the firefighters and other first responders who are assisting in providing rescue and safety.
A suggested prayer from the ELW Armed Services Prayer Book:
Loving God, in the communion of Christ, we are joined with the sufferings of all. Be with those who are enduring the effects of the fires which are burning in our area of witness and service. Protect those in the path of danger. Open pathways for evacuation and shelter. Help loved ones find one another in the chaos. Provide assistance to those who need help. Let your love be made known in those who seek to bring order in the chaos. Help us to shoulder the burden of suffering, and make us bearers of the hope that is your healing gift in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen
DONATE TO LSS
DONATE TO LDR
DONATE TO THE RED CROSS
by Michael Flanagin and Sara Tiller
Sara and I had the privilege of being the elected lay voting members from CGS to attend this year's Synod Assembly, which was in Sacramento. This is a wonderful time to connect with other congregations, share ideas of what we can do to support each other in our mission, and to hear updates about what is going on in the greater ELCA!
Here is a recap of the major sessions, along with a few notes from me and Sara:
FIRST KEYNOTE - Rozella Haydee White
Rozella Haydee White treated us to the first session of her keynote address: The Art of Neighboring: Seeing, Knowing and Loving.
Focusing on Seeing, she told us her story, so that we could begin to know her. "To do work, especially work of the people variety, you have to be held accountable to a community." "Love is my super power."
We need to see people, because together we are smarter. She invited us to turn our judgement into curiosity and to make connections between what's happening in this place and what's happening outside. We cannot talk about community until we know who we are first. When we truly see ourselves, we can open to seeing who "they" are.
Rev. Tracie Bartholomew, Bishop of the New Jersey Synod, led Bible studies
The Rev Tracie Bartholomew, Bishop of the New Jersey Synod led us in a study of The Greatest Commandment, found in Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 10. She talked about how this commandment is ingrained in our being, grounded in our history and provides an anchor in chaos.
She reminded us that the greatest commandment is a quote from Deuteronomy and Leviticus - something the first hearers would have known quite well.
Bishop Tracie reminded us that we are to give all we are and all we have. We are to love God with intellect and feelings, gifts and skills, heart and mind! God and Neighbor are inseparable!
Synod Vice President-Ms. Gail Kiyomura
Synod Council-Mr. Nicholas Hayes (Young Adult)
Synod Council-Ms. Sophia Hofmann (Youth)
Synod Council-Pastor Gregg Brown (At Large)
ELCA Churchwide Assembly Voting Members Elected from Conferences: Redwood Mountain (1): Mr Stephan Fratallone; Bridges (2): Pr Dawn Roginski; Capitol Valley (3): Ms Jeanne Miller; Sierra Nevada Foothill (4): Pr Erik Allen; San Francisco Peninsula (5): Mr Joshua Hayes; El Camino Real (6): Ms Laurie Gaumer; Mt. Diablo (7): No one nominated – synod council will fill this position; Sierra Central Valley (8): Pr Sylvia Mueller; Central Joaquin Valley (9): Ms Danielle Haar; Person of Color/Primary Language Other Than English: Pr Tuhina Rasche Person Under 30 Years of Age: Ms Catherine Slabaugh
Special Guest: Bishop from El Salvador (Bishop Medardo Gomez Soto)
Bishop Medardo brought greetings from El Salvador, one of our companion synods, and served as the preacher for our worship service.
Installation of Rev. Sarah & Adam Erickson (have you met them yet? They have been visiting CGS)
Fun fact: Did you know that Mt. Cross is "pan-Lutheran", and is supported by the two largest Lutheran denominations in the US? The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the ELCA.
SECOND KEYNOTE - Rozella Haydee White
Rozella White challenged us to value our feelings as much as we value our thinking. To be truly human, we need to accept all of who God made us to be. God chose to join us and become human to "feel all the feels." If we are not paying attention to our feelings, we are ignoring our values.
We need to be aware of what we truly value. As disciples of Jesus, we say we value our relationship with God through Christ, so why do we find it so easy to talk passionately about things we invest our time and money in (movies, hobbies, family), but find it so hard to tell the stories about how Jesus has changed our lives.
We met with our conference (Conference D - Pastor Manda is currently the dean of our conference), and discussed what we could do to support each other and share ideas. Did you know that our conference goes all the way down to King City? Or that our synod (Sierra Pacific Synod) encompasses all of Northern CA and Northern NV?
It was a wonderful assembly, and we appreciate the opportunity to serve our congregation and our synod in this way.
Michael & Sara
Have you met Bob Blough? Bob started coming around CGS this year when he was referred from a friend of CGS. Even if you have not met him, you’ve probably heard him read in worship. He’s a gifted orator. Bob is a beautiful new part of our community and I’ve had the pleasure to get to know a little about him. One of the things he shared with me is his calling to spiritual direction. I got his permission to share that gift with the rest of the CGS community.
Pastor Manda: What is Spiritual Direction?
Bob: It is not a difficult thing to experience but it is a difficult thing to express. I think of it as two people sitting down with God in their midst. One is talking and the “Director” is listening. The Director when prompted by the Spirit will ask for clarification or will feel a strong impulse to follow a certain statement made by the talker. So the person talking is choosing what will be discussed but the person listening with the help of the Holy Spirit will guide the discussion into different insights or ways of seeing a problem in order to help the other to see something new in the situation being discussed. Both sit in God’s presence and pray for insight to descend.
Pastor Manda: What happens when you meet with someone for spiritual direction?
Bob: I am not a therapist, pastoral counselor or life training coach. I just try to be the ear of God as much as I possibly can. We would meet for one hour each month and discuss the joys, hurts or confusions on your mind. Anything that you feel is important to discuss at this particular time of your life. I will not tell you what to do but will wait in silence and/or ask questions for you to get some clarity through the fog of uncertainty or fear or anger or whatever is the crux of the matter. All of this is completely classified and will be told to no one unless there is the possibility of self-harm or harm coming to others.
If you would like to meet with Bob for spiritual direction, the fee is $30.00 per hour. But if that is a burden he is willing to work out something else. If you are willing to loop in Pastor Manda, CGS has funds available to supplement or cover your cost of spiritual direction with Bob. If this strikes a chord in your heart and/or spirit, you can set up a time to meet with Bob by emailing him.
If you are not interested in spiritual direction, I hope that you will invite Bob to share a meal with you, sit with him in worship, get to know him at game night or coffee hour, and introduce yourself. Bob has a wide berth of experiences and interests and is a blessing to our community.
By Pr. Manda
On July 16th I received an emergency request from some of the ELCA congregations in the southwest of the country. The request was in response to a notice from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that they were releasing and attempting to reunify over 1,500 children in the last two weeks of July.
All refugees who had been detained and separated from their children/parents will be released to 1 of 4 NGO’s in the southwest US. There are a number of ELCA ministries in this area (Border Servant Corps; Peace Lutheran Church of Las Cruces, NM; Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey of El Paso, TX; Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest) who are involved in providing hospitality and assistance to refugee families. They do this through a partnership with Annunciation House.
Through this ministry, Annunciation House usually serves more than 500 people every week. In the various locations and organizations, they provide for basic human needs upon release from detention (including temporary shelter, medical care, clothing, food), legal aid, airfare and bus fare, and travel expenses like food. Now Annunciation House and their partners will receive an additional 400-500 people per week as families affected by the zero-tolerance border policy are reunited.
When you wonder what is happening to the children and parents you hear about in the news – this is it. They are being sent to the places served by Annunciation House and similar organizations in the southwest. And they’re asking for our help. Volunteers (who speak Spanish) and some materials are needed, but still, the greatest need is money to fund the assistance described above.
If you would like to donate to this ministry of hospitality and relief, you can make a donation to CGS with the memo “Refugee Assistance”. Or you can donate directly to Annunciation House by clicking here to go to their website. On August 1st, we will send the collected funds to Annunciation House to be used by the various ministries involved. If you have questions or need assistance, you can speak with myself, Pastor Manda, or you can speak with our financial secretary Janet Keeley, treasurer Kevin Visscher, or council president Theo Olson.
by Laurie Gaumer, CGS Council member
There is so much happening all around us these days! And so much of what I hear seems so negative, with very little positive spin on the horizon… or so it seems. Then, recently, I hear about twelve Thai kids, ages 11 to 17 years, a youth soccer team and their coach, who go for a hike and end up stuck in a dark, underground cave, 2.5 miles from the entrance. Yikes!
Frankly, I didn’t hold out much hope for this team when I heard that there was a search going on. And, in truth, at that point, it had already been a week! So I said a prayer, hoping that this would turn out well, but figuring their safe return was unlikely, trusting that my prayers would be passed along to surviving family and friends. Then, OMGosh, nine days into the search, people are found -- deep in this dark, soggy, underground cave – “How many? Thirteen? Brilliant!!” Who would have thought?
Clearly, not I!
Then, last week, as I am headed across the Bay Bridge, I’m listening to the car radio and there is talk of just how those outside the Thailand caves are going to successfully extract this team of thirteen to safety. What I hear is that it is not going to be easy. None of the thirteen are scuba divers; some don’t even swim. And the caves are treacherous!
As NPR begins the story of what is likely to happen during the rescue, they talk of teaching each soccer player to use a breathing mask and other essential scuba gear, and then, with two professional divers, one on each side of the cave dwellers, they will make their way slowly and carefully out. And, this is when I have that overwhelming sense that tears are near. I begin to weep -- I am not only hopeful for this group, but I am suddenly, absolutely, and acutely aware of the presence of a truly loving, unconditionally caring God that does this for me, (and for you too!) each time we encounter that really hard stuff in our lives. God, the ultimate ‘Professional Diver’ is right along-side us as we make our way out of that dark, dank, underground cave that threatens. I am reminded (once again) that we are not alone… and I am grateful.
I also begin to think about how we, in turn, can be ‘professional divers,’ emissaries of our Loving God for others in our lives, in our communities, and in the world around us. We CGSers have done this in so very many ways over the years. I recall a collection of underwear for those in need, dubbed ‘Undie Sunday.’ We’ve had Giving Trees, collected backpacks, as well as toothbrush/toothpaste kits for some of our ‘most in need’ friends of the streets. We make quilts that are donated. Our youth have collected funds for that cute little pink piglet line-up that hung over the altar – with monies sent to support ELCA Good Gifts. We participate in God’s Work, Our Hands. We collected books and school supplies earlier this year for our neighborhood elementary school. And, last year’s Budgeted Benevolence dollars ($4500 in total) went to Sunday Friends, Veggielution Farm, the LGBTQ Youth Space, and Lutheran World Relief.
We are generous. We have been a pool of ‘professional divers’ on God’s scuba team, helping folks out of the caves… and for this, I feel honored and grateful to be associated with CGS. We are good people, with good hearts, doing God’s good work.
And yet, to whom much has been given, much is expected. We are not done!
We now have an opportunity to support PLTS Seminary students. As you have likely heard, Seminary (and all higher education) costs have skyrocketed over the years and PLTS now has a pantry at the Seminary to help students in need with food supplies. That pantry needs our support in filling it up. So, we have a list of ‘expressed needs’ from PLTS, please take a look at the list here or on the display in the narthex.
We will collect until mid-August (we’ll plant a large container in the Narthex/entry area of the church), and then we’ll deliver our pantry donations just before classes begin in September, at a time that works for the Seminary.
So, my CGS ‘professional diver’ buddies, I thank you in advance for all the help that I know you will provide to Seminary students that need our support!
-Laurie Gaumer, an honored and grateful CGS member!
Dear Friend of ReconcilingWorks,
We are just one week back from the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston, TX and my heart and mind are still processing the impact you made possible through your financial gifts, the “God Adores You” card you filled out, and all your prayers.
The 30 x 45 foot ReconcilingWorks booth at the Gathering was some of the most sacred ground I have stood on in a while. The space was decorated with a dozen PRIDE flags for different identities in the LGBTQIA+ community, a photo booth area with a teen Jesus carboard cutout, free resources, temporary tattoos, and of course the “God Adores You” cards. Over the three days in the interactive learning center we had kiddos come up and start crying as they saw their PRIDE flag hanging at a church event. One young person walked their mom over to the Bisexual flag and came out to her and then they stood there crying and hugging each other filled with love. There were young people teaching their peers about all the different meanings of the flags surrounding the booth. We had adults come up to us with relief, gratitude, and tears in their eye for affirming their LGBTQIA+ youth group members.
"As I think back to my time in Houston, the first image that comes to mind is a kiddo walking into our booth, face gleaming, as they run straight towards me; without hesitation, they run into my arms embracing me with the most life giving hug as tears stream down their face. Before they do anything else they look at me and exclaim how thankful they are that ReconcilingWorks is there. This youth shared that they had no idea that there was such an organization that loved them and supported them in their identity as an LGBTQ+ Christian, and it wasn't until walking into our booth that they felt like they were at home and could be their full self as a beloved child of God! This happened time and time again as youth after youth walked into our booth, found their flag, and used our space as a means of educating themselves, their friends, and sharing who they were to others. I am grateful to have shared that space as Holy moments like that happened for LGBTQ+ youth and allies from across the country. Beautiful things happened in Houston, and words cannot even begin to express the experience I had at our ReconcilingWorks booth." – Ashlei Buhrow, Reconciling in Christ Program Assistant
While my mind is still struggling to find words to describe the profound way the Holy Spirit used the space to stir up a sense of wholeness for so many, my checks have finally stopped hurting after smiling from ear to ear for three days straight.
THANK YOU for ALL you do to make a difference in the life of the church. After this Youth Gathering I am reminded just how desperate people are to be seen, named, and celebrated in the Lutheran Church for the true gifts we as LGBTQIA+ people bring.
Rey Lambatin, CGS Choir Director
Singing in choir is not all business. Our CGS choirs’ rehearsals always include a lot of fun moments and laughter, with sharing of stories and jokes, mostly about the unspoken friendly competition between each voice section. Here are some favorites that I think everyone will enjoy:
How many sopranos does it take to change a light bulb?
Just one. She holds the bulb and the world revolves around her.
How many altos does it take to change a light bulb?
None. They can't get up that high.
How many tenors does it take to change a light bulb?
Five. One to do it, and four to say, "It's too high for him."
How many basses does it take to change a light bulb?
None. They're so macho they prefer to walk in the dark and bang their shins.
How long does it take for a conductor to screw in a light bulb?
Nobody knows because no one was watching. (emphasis by Rey)
How do you tell if the lead singer is at the door?
He can't find the key and he doesn't know when to come in.
Why were the singers locked out of their rehearsal room?
They missed the key change.
How are sopranos like pirates?
They're all a terror on the high C's.
What is the difference between a choral director and a chimpanzee?
It's scientifically proven that chimpanzees are able to communicate with humans.
What's the definition of a mezzo soprano?
Just an alto with a soprano’s attitude.
What's the definition of an alto?
A soprano who can sight read.
Four tenors and a baritone are hiking in the Alps, all roped together in a line. Suddenly, they fall into a crevasse. The baritone realizes the rope can't hold all five of them, so he yells down at the group, "There's so many baritones in the world and so few tenors. So, I'll sacrifice myself to save all of your lives."
All of the tenors started clapping and fell to their deaths.
A minister was completing a Temperance sermon. With great emphasis he said, "If I had all the beer in the world, I'd take it and pour it into the river." Then with even greater emphasis he said, "And if I had all the wine in the world, I'd take it and pour it into the river." And then finally, shaking his fist in the air, he shouted, "And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I'd take it and pour it into the river." With the sermon complete, he sat down. Then the song leader stood up and announced, "For our closing song, let us sing Hymn number 365, "Shall We Gather at the River."
Linda Lownes, Treasurer, Sierra Pacific Synod
Your congregation's faithful contributions to support the Synod's and Churchwide's mission and ministry reflect an understanding of the interdependence of the three expressions of the ELCA - congregation, synod, and churchwide-where offerings are generally taken only within congregations to support the work of our church. (One hundred percent of the offering collected at the Synod Assembly each year are forwarded to the organization identified by the Assembly Planning Committee.) Your congregation's Mission Support and designated gifts support not only the Sierra Pacific Synod and its work through the Sacramento, Fresno, and Bay Area offices of the Bishop, but also Lutheran Social Services, the Lutheran Office of Public Policy, Mt. Cross, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, California Lutheran University, and new and renewing congregations within our Synod. Thirty-seven percent of the Mission Support you send to the Synod is forwarded to Chicago for the work of our church throughout the United States and the world. Your congregation, in combination with all congregations in our Synod, makes a difference in northern California and northern Nevada, the United States, our sister synods, and all the places where the ELCA ministers to God's people.