“335,609 (I Cried to God)”
I cried to God, “Three hundred thirty thousand!
Five thousand more, six hundred more, and nine!”
In just ten years, a truth we can’t imagine:
All died from guns, one loved one at a time!
And then I heard ... “Whom shall I send to grieve them?
Go tell the world: ‘I love them! They are mine!’”
I asked the Lord, “Why is there so much violence?
If you are God, why don’t you stop the pain?
God, won’t you speak? For all around is madness!
Just say the word and make us whole again!”
And then I heard ... “Whom shall I send as prophets?
Speak out my truth! Shout till the killings end!”
I knelt and prayed, and wept for all the fallen;
So many lives, so many dreams now gone.
More than a name—each one was someone’s cousin,
Or someone’s child, or someone counted on.
And then I heard ... “Whom shall I send, who knew them,
To work for peace, to labor till the dawn?”
“Lord, here am I! And here are we, together!
No one alone can end this killing spree.
The powers of death pit one against another,
Yet you are God and you desire peace.
As mourners, prophets, laborers together,
Give us the strength to make the killings cease.”
The title “335,609 (I Cried to God)” is derived from the statistics for gun-related deaths between 2000 and 2010. Biblical references: Exodus 20:13; Isaiah 6:8; Matthew 25:40.
Tune: Jean Sibelius, 1899 (“Be Still, My Soul”) Text: Copyright 2015 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; New hymns: www.carolynshymns.com/ Permission is given for free use of this hymn by churches and by ecumenical groups supporting efforts to end gun violence. Gillette serves as part-time associate pastor of First Presbyterian Union Church in Owego, N.Y
By Rey Lambatin, Choir Director
I came across an article in one of the online music groups I check often, and it’s wonderful to learn how other people’s knowledge and experiences support and help some points that I try to impart, not only to our choir singers, but to everyone I get the opportunity to share. The article is about children’s singing.
With Summer here and regular school on break, it’s a great opportunity for children to be involved in other activities or start taking lessons to hone skills. Music lessons are always an excellent choice. The article points out that aside from the fact that taking singing lessons are fun and can increase confidence, it’s much more than helping a child carry a tune more reliably or getting them ready for their school musical. Singing actually exercises regions of the brain that are used in math, spatial understanding, reading and expression of emotion. Musical training as children can also make them better listeners later in life. Studies suggest that music lessons enhance lifelong listening and learning. Playing a musical instrument and singing as a child creates new pathways in the brain to process written words and letters. Even in babies, there’s increased smiling, waving, communication, and understanding of pitch with interactive song learning. Babies can actually distinguish scales, chords, and consonant combinations. They can recognize tunes played to them for several days. Research done in University of British Columbia (UBC) shows that singing lessons causes brain plasticity or neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change throughout life.
One of the most amazing benefits of musical training for children is its ability to induce meta-plasticity. This is the ability that happens from training in one area which later allows efficient learning and change (or plasticity) in other areas of the brain. When children understand that learning changes the structure and function of their brain, they more easily see their progress and anticipate it. This leads to the belief that they can reach their musical goals and get better through study and practice. And that leads to increased commitment, which keeps them studying and practicing!
Parents can feel doubly good about bringing more musical and singing opportunities into your children’s lives. Not only will they enjoy the immediate benefits of music making, but you are setting them up for a life-time of better functioning brains and abilities that will last the rest of their lives.
On November 7, 2018, the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif.—a popular meeting place for university students, including those from nearby California Lutheran University—joined the growing national list of public spaces haunted by mass shootings. Thirteen people died, including the perpetrator and a police officer.
Desta Ronning Goehner, a member of the CLU staff, rolled over in bed late that night and saw her phone light up. “I had the feeling God or the Spirit was waking me up,” said Ronning, “and I saw a bunch of texts from students and people saying ‘I’m OK! I’m OK!’ or ‘Have you checked on this person or that person?’ I wondered what was going on, and then I started piecing it together. My phone rang, and it was a local clergy friend of mine. She said there was a shooting at Borderline and that we needed to go there. … That night changed me.
“It’s almost been six months, and there’s something I’m learning about trauma and compassion fatigue that usually happens around the six-month mark, where people in communities begin to realize that they’re not OK, when they’ve been thinking that they were probably OK.
“If somebody came to Thousand Oaks or California Lutheran now, you probably wouldn’t even know or hear about the shooting in most conversations. I’m trying to figure that whole thing out. It’s changed me, and I haven’t talked a lot about it outwardly—with other people.
“That night was really hard. I was changed, my family was changed, Cal Lutheran was changed, the community was changed. But if you come here, you probably wouldn’t know that it had happened.
“The other thing I’m learning is, we had this shooting and then we also had, within 24 hours, the wildfires. I don’t think there’s a lot of data on trauma where people have had two traumas like a natural disaster and a man-made trauma in the same time frame. I think we’re a little bit of a test case. The fires kind of stole our ability to deal with the fear and anger of the shooting—there was so much fear about the fires and people were having to evacuate.
“For about a week to a week and a half, everywhere you went, you saw people driving with the cars loaded up with all of their stuff. And people who lost loved ones at the Borderline also had to evacuate. Can you imagine losing someone you love in that way and then, within 24 hours, having to pack up your house where you have all of your memories, including packing up the room and all of the memories of the loved one you lost?
“It’s been hard for me to figure out how to use my voice publicly to share my experience.”
How do you move forward and continue to care?
“I feel like I’m going to have to use my voice, though,” Ronning said. “I’m struck by how much of our world just moved on so quickly after this. … Nobody is still checking in with us, asking, ‘How are you doing now?’ People just kind of move on, and everybody has their own stuff to deal with, but I think that I have to talk about it because I’m realizing that this is what happens to other people, not just related to gun violence, but all sorts of trauma: the rest of us move on, but it’s still affecting people, families and communities, and we start to ignore it. I think that makes trauma worse.”
Months later, Ronning is still working at and seeking ways to be attentive and present for students who continue to be affected, whose raw emotions resurface, often unexpectedly. “I’ve met with many students, and so have lots of other staff,” she said. “We’ve met with students, faculty, and staff to just sit and listen to them and give them space to talk about where they’re at and what they’re feeling and thinking.
“I try to ask questions or reflect back to them what I’ve heard them say. And I’m trying to follow up on a regular basis, so they know that I haven’t forgotten about them. I have an alarm set on my phone and in my calendar to check in with people so that I’m not forgetting. I’ve moved to this place, with some people, of saying you don’t have to respond, but if and when you want to, you can, so that they don’t feel pressured. I’ve also been saying, ‘Just give me a number between one and ten about how you are right now or whenever you feel like responding—ten is excellent and one is, today is horrible.’ They can call or text me, and that helps me know that, if they are a three today and last week they were a seven, I may need to try to get them more help or something.”
Ronning reminds us that many people, especially families and young people, will never be the same after a tragedy such as this. And the trauma and impact ripples out into the world and lingers, taking its toll along the way. What we can do is listen, be attentive to mental health issues, be present, be patient, and not forget those who are suffering in perceptible and unseen ways. And, we can learn to use our voices and every means possible to change what’s going on, to reduce and end the gun violence that is shattering our communities.
From a conversation with Desta Ronning Goehner, director of congregational relations, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, Calif. Ronning is a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Thousand Oaks, has served on the staff of the Southwest California Synod, and is a trained and certified spiritual director.
By Pastor Manda
Thirty years ago, on January 17, 1989, a 24-year-old gunman entered Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, Calif., and killed five students and injured 30 other people. This tragic event prompted the California Assembly to respond by passing the Assault Weapons Control Act, the first legislative restriction on assault weapons in the nation. It also was a catalyst for a number of ELCA actions and responses to gun violence, its root causes, and its impact on individuals, families, and communities—including the 1994 social message “Community Violence.”
One of the many assertions in that message is:
“Violence breeds more violence. Incidents of violence stir up anger and a craving for vengeance. Fear festers an attitude of “we’re not going to take it anymore.” Increasingly, our national mood has been described as one of “getting mad and getting even.”
If that was true in 1994, it is even more true now, 25 years later.
In June, the ELCA published a resource called A 60-Day Journey Toward Justice in a Culture of Gun Violence. There is a reading for every day for 60 days. There are printed copies on a table in the Narthex if you’d like one, or you can download a copy here.
For the next 30 days, we’re going to publish some selections in our newsletters – different selections each Sunday and Wednesday. The violence in our community is affecting us; whether or not we’re aware of it or able to deal with it. This is not God’s will for us. God’s resolve for peace in our community is unshakable. We know this from the commandments (Exodus 20.13), from the epistles (Ephesians 2.13-17), and the prophets (Revelation 21.1,4). The cross and the resurrection have broken the cycle of violence, freeing us for God’s future and for one another.
Part of our mission to Proclaim, Welcome, and Serve is to let the Holy Spirit use us to break the cycle of violence, hate, greed, and fear. We can begin to do this by confronting the violent tendencies within ourselves and our community and cultivating practices of nonviolence.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and reflections over the next month as you read these articles and reflect with the whole ELCA on how the Holy Spirit is bringing peace to the world through ourselves.
Much of the language of this article was taken from or inspired by the ELCA’s Social Message on Community Violence. You can find a copy of the entire social message here.
We crafted our own Psalm during worship. Read it below, or you can also listen to how we made it here.
We waited, and waited, and waited for God.
And God heard us.
In times when I needed to move a sofa,
God, you were there to lift.
When my toilet runneth over,
God, you were my plunger
God, when my car broke down,
You put it in neutral
And gave me strong legs to push.
God, you are like toys,
Complex and full of fun.
God, you are like exercise,
You keep my cells alive.
You are the coffee pot in my kitchen,
You wake me up every day,
And are the source of my life.
You are annoying like a kidney stone, God.
You cause me great consternation
You throw up red lights in my life,
Forcing me to be patient
And consider others.
In God, my life is filled with the warmth of
A thousand burning suns.
The sweat of my brow
Is relieved by the cool breezes of God’s breath.
I am fully rested in the Lord,
Like a full night’s sleep
With no interruptions
And no bathroom breaks
The abundance of God makes me share my good fortune
Like popcorn at a movie,
And plums on a churchyard tree,
And the proliferation of grandchildren.
Come heal the lives of your people, O God.
My body shakes
Be my stillness.
Fill me with your breath,
And put in me a new song.
God, there is great fear.
Give us the peace that passes all understanding,
Radiating from within.
Praise be to God whose kingdom is
full of video games
and endless delicious food
with no calories
like a never ending game of Fortnite, and Minecraft,
and Halo IV,
and Paw Patrol
as big as a John Deere tractor
and as sweet as never-ending sugar.
Praise be to God!
By Pastor Manda
This month, CGS will begin renting out its parsonage again. When Carden left in January it was the next step we had planned in repurposing our property usage. This vision and strategy began back in 2016 when we articulated our mission to Proclaim, Welcome, and Serve and chose to direct all our energies and resources to that mission. No longer was the primary purpose of our property to be an income generator, we were choosing to use it as a tool for mission.
So I want to take a moment to show you what it means to rent out our parsonage to a seminary intern.
As you’ll see in the video above, PLTS (Pacific Lutheran Theological School) is a seminary that is charged with the education of the future leaders of our Church. Some of the ways that they do this are obvious, through classroom education and theoretical instruction. But we all know that theory needs practice.
So seminaries partner with candidacy committees, other institutions, synods, and congregations to provide a contextual education. When future rostered leaders need practice in pastoral care, they partner with other institutions to do Clinical Pastoral Education. When students need practice in an area of specialty, often the candidacy committees and synods help to connect them with an organization that is already doing that work.
Likewise, before we send future pastors to their first call, they spend one year in a congregation learning, practicing, and discerning. This arrangement is called internship and is usually a partnership between the intern (future pastor), the seminary, and a congregation.
Unfortunately, for our LGBTQ+ seminarians, there aren’t always a plethora of congregations that are willing to have them as an intern because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This makes preparation difficult and is one of the many roadblocks the ELCA has to raising up LGBTQ+ leaders.
Fortunately, Advent Lutheran Church in Morgan Hill is delighted to have an LGBTQ+ intern and that is why Brandon was able to find an internship site in them – close to where his fiancée David lives and works.
The only hitch is that Advent and PLTS couldn’t find housing for the internship year. That’s not surprising because a lot of people have a hard time finding affordable housing in the Bay Area. When the council learned of this, we wondered if this might not be a way that we could fulfill our mission.
By partnering with Advent Lutheran and PLTS we are making it possible for future pastors to be trained and equipped. Specifically, pastors who have been historically marginalized. It means that for the next year we’ll mostly be giving and not receiving wealth. But it’s also not a completely negative financial equation. Between Advent Lutheran and Brandon & David, we’ll be receiving about $1,400 each month. This will cover our expenses for the house and its associated needs.
More importantly, we’re fulfilling the mission that we said we were called to: to proclaim God’s love to all – and specifically that all are worthy of proclaiming! We’re welcoming all – especially those who find it difficult to answer the call to ministry in the current state of the ELCA and Bay Area. And of course, we’re serving – giving of our time, our possessions, and our resources more than we’re asking in return.
So many people have already given of themselves to welcome Brandon & David and partner with Advent & PLTS. I don’t even know everyone who has contributed but I do know that without the leadership of Joe Shackelford and Theo Olson, it would never have happened. I hope that as the guys settle in this summer and become our neighbors that you’ll do neighborly things like drop off food, send a card, or wave hello from the parking lot.
I give thanks to God that I can be a part of a faith community that answered this call when it arose. It gives me hope that in the face of division and adversity, our future can be full of generosity and the grace of God.
By Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
I am not a fan of most online conversation – there are too many people who become their worst selves when shielded from consequence behind the anonymity of a user name and avatar. But occasionally, a link leads to a link leads to a link and I find myself somewhere like Reddit (if you’re not familiar, it’s kind of an online clearinghouse of conversations and message boards), where there is a forum called “Am I The Jerk?,” except “Jerk” is replaced by a slightly more colorful word. In this forum, people post situations they have found themselves in that have some grey area regarding manners, morals, or ethics, and ask if their actions in said situation make them the…jerk. So I bemusedly read about someone else’s antics in a supermarket checkout line, bridal party, family gathering, or other such situation, each then asking the titular question and receiving the collected “wisdom” of internet commenters worldwide.
Recently, I found myself in a situation where, after the fact, I asked myself, “was I the jerk?” Without getting into a lot of details, I was on the road and a driver behind me made several poor decisions that left them blocking traffic in several directions. Their maneuvering left them in a place where they wished to now enter my lane in front me (rather than continue on and correct their mistake further down the road), and I chose to “hold my ground” and let them enter my lane behind me.
I didn’t do anything to make the situation actively worse, but I also made a decision to not be as helpful as I could have been. I felt it wasn’t fair if someone’s poor decisions (intentional or otherwise) would cause me to be delayed. So…was I the jerk?
After discussing this with my (much wiser) wife, I thought about what Scripture might say on this. Of course, the “Golden Rule” came to my mind first. Was I doing unto others what I would want done unto me? And my first response was “Yes! If I made such a bone-headed move on the road, I would accept my error and find a safe place to turn around and get back on track. I wouldn’t expect other drivers to make accommodations for my mistakes.” (It should be noted, I consider myself to be a reasonable driver. Not spectacular, not terrible. I certainly have my share of mistakes.)
But…it would be nice of them if they did. And I realized that, as much as I try to be nice in my daily interactions, I was now using the cocoon of my vehicle to be my worst self – just like the internet trolls I made mention of above. It was not my job to hold this driver accountable for their error – I wasn’t going to change behavior, nor would the eight seconds’ delay have changed my life. The Golden Rule isn’t designed to be applied as necessary on a case-by-case basis. How I expect others to treat me isn’t the same as how I would like others to treat me. And quite possibly, the Rule matters more when you’re dealing with a stranger than with your closest companions.
Always be nice. Don’t be the jerk.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” --Hebrews 13:2
By Michael Flanagin, Council Vice President
When I was 5 we moved from a small town in rural Maine to the booming metropolis of San Jose, CA. I couldn't wait to be there, and was sure that we would be right next door to Disneyland and I knew that all the fabulous and wonderful things California had to offer would be mine to enjoy. While we weren't next door to Disneyland, I loved our new home and made friends quickly. It was one of the most important changes in my childhood, and one that I embraced with enthusiasm. I carried this excitement regarding change to adulthood.
I know that not everyone embraces change this way. Some find comfort in routine, wrapping it around themselves like a warm blanket. Others take trepidatious steps toward change, testing the waters with each movement forward, evaluating and judging if it's wise to continue down that path. Regardless of your feelings and reactions to change, we know that it is inevitable. We grow older, we learn, we adapt, and we find a way forward as the world changes around us.
None of those viewpoints of change are right or wrong, and honestly sometimes I need those who are trepidatious to put into check my enthusiasm to help us all discern the wise path. This is what makes the church body at CGS an amazing and wonderful organism. We wouldn't function well as a team if we didn't have all viewpoints to consider.
There have been many changes at CGS in the 9 years I have been here. We called an Interim Pastor, a Pastor, hired new staff, we've had changes in ministries and tenants, and the property has had transformations. And there are still more changes to come as we consider calling a Deacon and undergoing a building transformation that would enable us to live out our mission to serve and be welcoming in a greater way.
Sometimes the changes can seem overwhelming, and I take comfort knowing that I don't need to be anxious about anything, because I can take my concerns to the Lord in prayer, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7).
How are you feeling about the changes occurring at CGS? Anxious? Excited? Trepidatious? Schedule a time to have coffee with a church council member. We want to hear from you, pray with you, and walk with you as we face the joys and challenges of change together.
What is an AED? Good question . . . An AED (automated external defibrillator) is a medical device that can analyze the heart's rhythm and deliver an electrical shock to help the heart re-establish its rhythm. Having an AED defibrillator makes it possible for anyone trained to treat a heart attack victim and increase their chance of survival. Did you know we have one located above and to the left of the bulletin board on the way to the Great Hall at our church? Would you like to know how to use it in case of an emergency at church? Good news, we are having a training class led by Laura Rinde starting at 11:30 Sunday, June 23, 2019. Hope to see you there!
By Theo Olson, Council President
This year the council asked you to take a leap of faith with us as we moved forward on utilizing the property to live out our mission of Proclaim, Welcome, Serve! The council has really wrestled with how do we balance living out our mission with the practicalities of the budget. I'm extremely grateful for their thoughtful discernment and am happy to provide an update on some of the wonderful progress:
One of our big questions has been what to do with the parsonage. As a congregation we are blessed to have this space available for ministry. While many ideas have been floated, including many wonderful suggestions from you, we find we still need time to explore longer term solutions that align with our ministry.
Last Council meeting we were presented a short-term option via an inquiry from our sister congregation, Advent Lutheran (Morgan Hill), who are in need of housing for an intern. The Council agreed to explore this opportunity to serve others, in this case the ELCA, by supporting the development of our new church leaders.
We are thrilled to announce that the parsonage will be rented to Advent Lutheran to support the internship of Brandon Peck, who you might remember preached at CGS a few Sundays ago. He and fiancé David, will be moving in the parsonage officially on July 1, 2019, but are planning to move things in the week before. They'll be living in the parsonage until August 31, 2020.
In addition, this is a wonderful opportunity for Advent and CGS to partner in ministry together as we welcome Brandon and David. Advent is developing a list of furniture and household items the guys need and we'll join them in doing a drive for these items. We also look forward to hosting a joint work day at the parsonage to spruce the home and yard up. Please stay tuned on how you can join in welcoming and serving Brandon and David in the next few weeks.
The Council is also excited about the progress with the classrooms. As you know, Godly Play has moved into one of the classrooms which provides a much better space for our children to learn and grow in their faith. Thank you to everyone that assisted with preparing the room for this important ministry of our congregation.
Classroom #1 is now the location for most of the recovery meetings. One group will continue to hold their meetings in the Great Hall. This room is also used by Christ Community Multicultural Ministry, the new congregation we're helping Pastor Jared and Nora establish.
We look forward to providing more updates on how the remaining spaces will be used to further our mission of Proclaim, Welcome, and Serve as they are finalized in the weeks ahead.
With all the new ways we are using the space for ministry and outreach, the Council has agreed to purchase new chairs for the classrooms. Laura, our Office Manager, found a great deal on chairs similar to the maroon stacking chairs we currently use, including free shipping! This nominal cost will ultimately save us in time spent by staff moving chairs around the property each week.
Thank you for your generosity
None of this ministry is possible without your generous support of Christ the Good Shepherd. On behalf of the Council, thank you for your ongoing gifts of time, talent and treasure. God is indeed working through our hands here at CGS.
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.