A few weeks ago, the members of the ELCA voted to become the first Sanctuary Denomination in the US. In its simplest form, becoming a sanctuary denomination means that we are publicly declaring that walking alongside immigrants and refugees is a matter of faith. We have a broken system regarding immigration, refugees, and asylum-seekers. We seek to provide concrete resource to assist the most vulnerable who are feeling the sharp edges of this broken system. While we might have different ideas about how to fix this broken system and may have different ways of loving our neighbors, our call to love our neighbors is central to our faith. Being a sanctuary denomination is about loving our neighbors.
Being a sanctuary denomination will look different in different contexts. The way that we are called to come alongside immigrant and refugee people may be different from the way that other congregations are called to act. Being a sanctuary denomination means that we, as church together, want to be public and vocal about this work. It will all begin with conversations rooted in curiosity. If you are curious what being a sanctuary church might look like, what our options are, or what the next steps could be, keep your eyes out for the Wednesday newsletter email from CGS. You can also speak with members of the council, those who traveled to Las Cruces this summer, or any staff person.
As a part of a collaborative effort, we are helping collect items to provide to a network of shelters in Ciudad Juárez, where families are currently staying. The list we have received from the shelters includes the following (Note: ALL items MUST be NEW and in its ORIGINAL packaging to cross international boundaries):
Children's Items: Diapers, Wet wipes
Clothing Items: Underwear, Children's clothing (S, M, L), Adult clothing (S), Sandals, Shoelaces
Food Items: Crackers, Granola bars, Juice boxes
Toiletry Items: Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Shampoo, Bar soap, Sanitary napkins, Bath towels
Food: Cookies, Baby food, Baby formula
Educational materials and Board games
Items that are needed at the Hospitality center at Peace Lutheran Church THIS MONTH ONLY are:
Men's & Women's shirts (XS)
Individually wrapped beef sticks
Phone Charging cords USB Type-A to Micro Type-B 2.0 Cable - 5-Pin, 28/28AWG
Items may be sent to: BSC 1701 E Missouri Ave, Las Cruces, NM 88001.
If items are for Juárez, print "Attn: Juárez"
All items will be taken to the shelters and distributed.
By Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
Fall is fast approaching, along with all of the renewed activity it brings at home, school, and work. We’re also ramping the music back up for the fall - beginning a new liturgy, and welcoming back all of our instrumentalists from “summer break.” We’ve got some exciting things lined up that will blend familiar and well-loved music with some new twists - so be sure to keep your ears open! For now, though, I want to take advantage of my space this month to acknowledge our musicians and everything they contribute to our worship service.
Ronny Johnston is our drummer and percussionist, and is one of the most easy-going and talented musicians I have had the pleasure of working with. He is always ready to provide whatever texture is needed to fill out the music, rolls with any changes or additions that come up last-minute, and can take a piano part and find an effective and musical percussion part from it. We are lucky to have such an accommodating, reliable, and gifted musician working with us.
The rest of our musicians are volunteers and give freely of their time and talents to create a beautiful musical foundation to our worship. Our “rhythm section” is filled out by Gail Johnson on guitar and Rob Colver on bass. They have both been playing since long before I started here, and while their playing may not be as immediately noticeable as drums or wind instruments, they fill out our sound with their solid accompaniment. I’d also like to acknowledge Jean Hope, who had been playing with us for many years (and hopefully will be returning to us soon!) and Lynne Hunger, who joined us last year.
We are truly blessed and fortunate to have Chuck Witschorik on tenor sax, Kevin Visscher on clarinet, and Rachel Visscher on viola. This somewhat non-traditional combination of instruments work beautifully together, and allow me to have a great amount of flexibility in arranging our music. I can have some instruments supporting the congregation's melody while others are playing supporting lines or descants; I can have all three playing together to provide a beautiful chordal texture; or any of them are capable and willing to take solo lines. They are accommodating beyond reasonable expectations and willing to try anything - including playing the handbells. None of them had any experience on handbells prior to CGS purchasing them in late 2017, but they jumped in without hesitation and have given us some beautiful handbell music over the last two years (and there’s going to be more!). Of course, I also want to thank my wife Rebecca, who is a handbell veteran and has lent her talents to our group on many occasions.
The collective talent and dedication of this group gives us musical possibilities that far eclipse most congregations of our size. I am tremendously grateful and humbled for their hard work and commitment to making music a vital part of our community, and thank them all from the bottom of my heart. I hope that when you see them you can take a moment to give them your thanks as well.
"And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him.” -2 Kings 3:15
Next up: Transgender
TRANSGENDER is an identity many people use whose self-experienced gender does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a transgender person might be someone who identifies and lives as a woman but whose birth-assigned sex was male. Other transgender people identify as somewhere in between the societally recognized genders of a man and woman, as neither, or as one gender at some times and another gender at other times.
TRANS can be an umbrella term used to refer to transgender, genderqueer, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people. The colors of the transgender flag are incorporated here.
When someone shares their identity, honor that self-understanding by using the words, pronouns, and identity terms they provide
by Susan Duran, CGS Council Member
Did you know that the homeless resident population in San Jose is now over 6,000? With some of the highest housing costs in the entire United States, many people living in our city, especially those with low paying service jobs are at great risk of living on the street. (The Mercury News, May 16, 2019)
Yes, I know there are many reasons for homelessness besides low income including: astronomical rental prices, mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse, discrimination, poverty, and loss of employment. But aren't we called to help others less fortunate than ourselves? Romans 12:13 says “Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.”
While we can't solve the problem of homelessness, we can take part in the solution. One of the ways we assist others is by contributing personal hygiene products. Thank you all for your ongoing and generous support of the homeless in our community by giving personal care products so that Encompass Ministries can distribute the supplies to our siblings living on the margins of society. “How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” 1 John 3:17
Did you know CGS is in the process of helping some of the homeless in our city by participating in the Safe Car Park Program? Our church will be partnering with 10 or more other groups locally to develop a rotating Safe Car Park. The objective is to start hosting people next year with the sites each hosting for several months of the year. Stay tuned for more information on this vital program.
Thank you for saying yes when help is needed.
For more ways to help others in our community go to:
For more information on Encompass Ministries and how you can help go to encompassministry.org or call Pastor Jim Clark-Moore at (408) 761-2062.
Don't forget about our own church helping Rise Against Hunger on Saturday, September 7th starting at 10AM. We will be packaging meals for hungry people around the world. I hope to see you there!
Leading up to SV Pride, here is a little education section.
Next up: Bisexual
[Not straight. Not gay]
BISEXUAL is an identity term people use when they are physically and/or emotionally attracted to people of all gender identities. Some people prefer to use the terms pansexual or queer because bisexual has the connotation of “binary” with the “bi” language, although this was not the intention with the term was created for the community.
BI* (with the asterisk) is an umbrella term to encompass bisexual, pansexual, queer, and other sexual attractions that are used to describe attraction to more than one gender identity.
Sexual orientation isn’t contingent on being in any given relationship. It is about honoring a core and authentic part of oneself. Bisexual people are told by some heterosexual people, and even some gay and lesbian people, that they must choose to be heterosexual or gay/lesbian. Such messages reflect an inaccurate understanding of bisexuality. Bi identities are authentic and should be honored and supported as with heterosexual and gay/lesbian.
By Rey Lambatin, Choir Director
I love watching PBS. I especially love the American Masters series where they feature in-depth and comprehensive biographies about the broad cast of characters who comprise our cultural history. I’ve always been fascinated watching documentaries, and learning facts about people, places, and our environment. In a way, it’s my own version of “reality show” draw, only the characters are more widely relevant to our culture and educational development. In one of these American Masters episodes, Robert Shaw was featured.
Robert Shaw is one of the well-known musicians in the choral community whom I truly admire and admittedly aspire to be. He is regarded as one of America’s greatest choral music conductors. With no formal training, Robert Shaw was legendary for his interpretations of classical music’s choral masterpieces and inspired generations of musicians with the power of music. And as I watch the documentary, I can’t help but be more inspired and be in awe of the man, that even with humble and challenging beginnings, rose to be the director of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus for two decades, from 1967 to 1988. His love and passion for music and his craft is very apparent with the way he connected to the people he worked with. I’m particularly touched to learn that he used to write letters to his choir singers after every rehearsal, thanking them, and letting them know how his singers inspire him to create beautiful music. He is also instrumental in using music to bridge and connect with the African-American community in Atlanta, by hiring T. J. Anderson as the first African-American resident composer for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
This is one of the things I aspire for our choirs here at CGS - to use music to bridge gaps between our differences, cultures, and religious backgrounds, and to be able to sing in unity to worship our God, and help and serve each other. I hope to continue to use Mr. Shaw’s legacy as an inspiration, to effectively carry on the healing and unifying power of music in our choral ministry.
This summer I had a conversation with someone at CGS who has a family member that identifies as gender non-binary. We had a great conversation about how confusing all the language around gender and sexual orientation can be. There are so many words that are new to us and people are so much more diverse than we’ve been accustomed to knowing before! We also talked about how hard it is to change our idea of who someone is when they have the revelation of their own identity.
In her book One Lost Coin Reverend Emmy Kegler talks about the parables of the lost coin, the Good Shepherd, and the prodigal son. She talks about these parables and asks us to consider our queer siblings as the lost coin, the wandering sheep, or the prodigal son – lost, forgotten, or alienated by those of us in the church who have not seen these different people for who they authentically are, or known their intrinsic value, or been able to accept their non-normative ways. But she also says:
“The trouble with this metaphor is that God is the shepherd and the woman, and if God was careless with sheep and coin that would mean God was careless with us. Metaphors, in Scripture and elsewhere, do not encompass the whole of reality. God has never been careless with us, but those who claim to speak for God have. We experience God through our experiences of others. We experience God through the Scripture handed down to us over centuries, translated and retranslated, edited and sweated over. We experience God through how others use those same Scriptures, supporting both slavery and abolition, egalitarianism and complementarianism. We experience God through compassionately curated events, from regular Sunday worship to Wednesday-night Bible studies to weekend retreats, and all the experiences of God that our leaders have had, create filters for our own experiences.”
I know it’s hard to learn a whole alphabet of letters that name the different ways people are sexually oriented. I know it’s awkward to begin asking people what their pronouns are instead of assuming that you can know if someone is “he” or “she” or “they” just by looking at them. We do these things because our language and the way that we speak to one another we create filters for the experience of God.
How will trans people know that God loves them if we don’t say so? How will people who identify as bisexual know that they have value in God’s eyes if we won’t even say “bisexual” out loud?
I am extremely excited and proud to say that with the leadership of some of the folks at CGS, we are creating a coalition of faith communities for Pride this year. Together, we won’t promote any one of our congregations over the others, but we’ll amplify the voice that says “You are not lost.”
We don’t have to be at a booth during Pride to do this. We can show people that God values them by showing that we value them – even if their identity is new to us or unfamiliar. Even if we might stumble while we learn, the act of asking, learning, and trying shows others that we (and God) value them just as they are.
CGS is hosting a book club to culminate in a rare opportunity to speak with the author himself.
Lenny Duncan is the unlikeliest of pastors. Formerly incarcerated, he is now a black preacher in the whitest denomination in the United States: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Shifting demographics and shrinking congregations make all the headlines, but Duncan sees something else at work--drawing a direct line between the church's lack of diversity and the church's lack of vitality. The problems the ELCA faces are theological, not sociological. But so are the answers.
Part manifesto, part confession, and all love letter, Dear Church offers a bold new vision for the future of Duncan's denomination and the broader mainline Christian community of faith. Dear Church rejects the narrative of church decline and calls everyone--leaders and laity alike--to the front lines of the church's renewal through racial equality and justice.
It is time for the church to rise up, dust itself off, and take on forces of this world that act against God: whiteness, misogyny, nationalism, homophobia, and economic injustice. Duncan gives a blueprint for the way forward and urges us to follow in the revolutionary path of Jesus.
We will gather 4 times over the next couple months:
Wednesday, August 21st at 10am
Wednesday, August 28th at 10am
Sunday, September 15th at Noon
Sunday, October 27th at Noon
Each gathering will be driven by the discussion questions included in the book. You can come to one or to all of the gatherings, without any requirements on completed reading.
Then, in November the author will appear at CGS on his national book tour. This event will be advertised throughout Silicon Valley and the greater Bay Area, so it will be essential for you to reserve (free) tickets in advance.
There are copies of the book free to you in the CGS office, compliments of our library fund. Stop by and pick one up if you don't wish to purchase it for yourself. If you have questions or would like to indicate your participation, contact Paul Thomas or Randy Presuhn (info in Breeze).
You might remember this past spring when our council wrote a letter to the bishop and told you about it. The letter was in response to a draft document called "Trustworthy Servants of the People of God" which was an attempt to replace a previous teaching document "Vision and Expectations." Both documents, originally intended to be teaching documents of the guidelines of clergy in our Church, have been poorly constructed and harmfully used to condemn and marginalize LGBTQ+ leaders in our Church.
The response of our council and many others prompted the ELCA Church Council to reject the draft of Trustworthy Servants and ask the Domestic Mission Unit of the ELCA to begin a new process of constructing a better document that is a worthy teaching tool for our future. This process is beginning by gathering the input and consideration of as many people in our Church as possible.
Therefore, you personally have been invited to lend your voice to what would make for a good document that teaches the boundaries and expectations of all our rostered leaders (clergy and deacons). The process that is proposed is:
1. Gathering information via survey from rostered ministers, candidates, lay leaders and seminary partners on what the church needs (August – September 2019).
2. A listening event at the Churchwide Assembly (Aug. 6, 2019).
3. Intentionally reaching out to various communities for input, such as candidates, deacons, gender and sexual minorities, survivors of clergy misconduct, ethnic specific communities, the confessionally conservative, and those from all four convictions identified in the social statement “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” to encourage participation in the survey and process.
4. Zoom listening sessions with rostered ministers, candidates, lay leaders and seminary partners will be held Sept. 5 at 8 p.m., Sept. 17 at 12 p.m., and Sept. 24 at 12 p.m. (all Central Time).
5. Update to Conference of Bishops (September 2019).
6. Curation of information (October 2019).
7. Summary posted on website when available.
8. Listening group meeting (October 2019) when the next steps will be communicated.
9. Update to Church Council (November 2019).
If you would be willing to lend your voice to the survey, please click here.
If you would be willing to join a Zoom (online video call) listening session, please click here.
Thank you for taking the time to shape the culture and practice of CGS. It's our hope that the radical welcome which has brought abundant joy to CGS might infect the whole of the ELCA.
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.