by Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
Recently I was at home preparing dinner for my family, and since I was feeling a little low-energy, I decided to put some music on to give me some pep.
(A side note: for someone who makes their living in music and the performing arts, I very rarely listen to music for fun or pleasure. That’s not to say I don’t get immense pleasure out of listening to music, but to say that so much of my listening is work-related that I take most of my non-work hours to listen to podcasts or other talk, or nature, or silence. This is a topic for another article.)
So I went to our little smart speaker and asked it to play some ska.
(Another side note: ska, if you’re unfamiliar, is quick-step music, originally developed in Jamaica with elements of jazz, shuffle, and blues in the 1950s and 60s (reggae developed from this and is basically a slower-tempo version of ska). Ska had significant revivals in England in the early 1980s and in the United States in the 1990s, incorporating elements of punk and rock.)
So I’m jumping around the kitchen making tacos when my wife and son come home. Rebecca says to me, “Daddy’s reliving his youth again.” Which was true, since this is music I discovered and loved in high school, even playing in a ska band.
Later on I reflected on this – “reliving my youth.” Why does this music - which, while peppy and replete with horns, harmonies, and social commentary, is pretty simple and not a practical part of my day-to-day life now – why does this music give me the energy and spirit of an 18-year-old? Why does this music uplift me so?
And here (finally) is my point, which is a theme I visit all of the time: the power of music to transport us, to connect us, and to remind us; and the particular power the music of our youth holds over us. Each generation reaches middle age and bemoans the “drivel” they hear on the radio and waxes nostalgic for the “real” music of 20 years previous – which is usually no less (or more) good or bad than the music of today. Just as it’s easier for young minds to learn new languages, those young minds more easily absorb music and connect it to one’s surroundings and experiences. For some reason, as we age it becomes more difficult to make these connections.
I find the same is true in our worship experience – the liturgy, the rituals, the words, and the music. Many people connect best to the experience they had as a student or young adult. I’m no different – although I came of age in a time where contemporary music should have been a prominent place in my worship, my congregational experience was very much rooted in the traditional (particularly the LBW). And so, it has taken me a long time (and much hands-on experience) to feel comfortable with contemporary music in worship – and I’m still learning, and sometimes I’m still struggling.
As we conclude our summer season of worship, I want to thank our musicians, singers, and our congregation for allowing us to bring a contemporary flavor to our services. For some people, this felt comfortable and familiar, and for some people it may have felt uncomfortable. I hope that everyone took the opportunity to appreciate the music, and its power to connect people to the Word. As we move into fall we’ll be exploring some other musical traditions – some familiar, some not – and once again we will have the opportunity to experience how all music can contain transformative power. I look forward to sharing this opportunity with you.
by Pr. Manda
On September 9th, CGS will once again take part in the ELCA’s coordinated day of service. Since 2013, thousands of congregations in our church have participated in this dedicated day to serve their communities in ways that share the love of God with all of God’s people. It has become a way that we can be “church together” and “church for the sake of the world.” Though, we acknowledge that it is not our work being done, but rather it is God’s work (through) our hands being done in our community.
I’ve always loved this day in our year because it’s a way for us to tangibly meet and respond to our immediate community. I’ve seen the results of God’s work making the earth bloom in our concrete city. I’ve heard the words of grateful compassion that others experience in our sweat and consideration. I love to witness all the people of CGS building relationships and trust with people in the parks and the leaders of the LGBTQ Youth Space.
However, each year that I’ve witnessed God’s work through your hands, I’ve also mourned how so many people in our congregation are excluded from service because the opportunities are impossible with their abilities. Cleaning the ditches, tending to the rose garden, painting public buildings, and cleaning the youth space are all very physical jobs.
This year, I’m excited that Michael Flanagin found us an opportunity that everyone can participate in. By partnering with Rise Against Hunger to package 10,000 meals for hungry people around the world, we have an activity that is structured in a way to include those who need to be seated, those who can’t lift heavy objects, and those whose motor skills are still developing.
If I’m honest, I mourn a little that these meals won’t be served to hungry people in our own city. I also mourn that we won’t be sharing our time and space with those whom we’re serving. But this year, in the interest of serving together, as the whole community of CGS, I’m excited that we have the opportunity and the resources to respond to the hunger of our siblings in Christ all over the world.
I remember when I did something similar as a youth myself. Learning about how food relief is delivered around the world, from our own abundance was eye opening. Sharing in that process with my friends and family was rewarding. I’m excited for all of us to have that experience together on September 9th. In the ELCA’s materials about this day, they remind us:
All of life in Jesus Christ – every act of service, in every daily calling, in every corner of life – flows freely from a living, daring confidence in God’s grace.
Knowing that this “living, daring confidence in God’s grace” exists in your lives and here in the community of CGS, I’m looking forward to celebrating who we are – people freed in Christ to serve the world.
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