Christ's Church, Better Together

Christ's Church, Better Together

Monday, June 18, 2018

Pride: Loving our neighbors

When I arrived at PrideFest Saturday, I had a sensory overload. Rainbows flew above the crowds of people, who were all grinning from ear to ear. People of all genders dressed like themselves, children excitedly walked up to booths to learn more about their neighbors and dogs rocked the most colorful tutus I have ever seen.


As I headed into Civic Park, I was handed a bottle koozie that read "Love your ___ neighbor" (fill in that blank with every intersection you can think of, ie. gay, transgender, immigrant, homeless, and it was written there). Political groups collected signatures in support of candidates who would perpetuate love through legislation. Organizations I had never heard of called me over, explained their purposes and asked me to stand in solidarity with them by wearing a sticker or a pin.

The RMS provided helping hands at the Episcopalians and Lutherans Welcome You! booth. I was unsure of how well we would be received, as I know that many associate being Christian or religious with condemning those who do not follow a strict set of social guidelines. However, I walked up to start my shift and found stickers that read 'LYN: Love Your Neighbor,' suckers with the words 'God thinks u r fabulous' and rainbow bracelets. Most notably, there were stacks of pages with lists of affirming Episcopalian and Lutheran churches.


I sort of expected the booth to go unnoticed or ignored, but that wasn't the case. Some of that might have to do with Pastor Brigette Weier, who broke some festival rules by standing in the middle of walkways to hand out swag to, have conversation with and cheer on those passing by. People came up to us, thanked us, engaged in conversation about God and were reassured that they will always be loved. It was beautiful. 


People of all ages got our tattoos and stopped by to tell us their stories, of heartbreak, love, discouragement and acceptance. After hearing their struggles, I think the easy thing for them to do would be to give up faith in both God and each other, especially when some so easily use their own faith to perpetuate hate and belittlement; the amazing fact was that those individuals were still searching for a place they could worship, love and be loved. Through our own faith, we were able to give people of all identities and intersections a sanctuary.

The joy of PrideFest was that no one asked another person to give up what they believe or to diminish who they are. It was a celebration of love in the purest form, and an encouragement to accept our friends, family and neighbors exactly as they are.

- Intern Katie

Intern Katie jumps aboard

Hello, everyone! You may wonder who is blogging this summer, so allow me to introduce myself. I'm Katie Kreis and am serving as an intern at the Office of the Bishop for the next eight weeks. I am a Wisconsinite born and raised, so it's safe to say that I am a fan of the Packers, Brewers and Badgers, though I do occasionally root for the Red Sox and Rockies. I'm also a sucker for any dairy products and, of course, this includes cheese curds.

This fall, I will be a fourth-year at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, studying journalism and communication, women's studies, Spanish and leadership. I found the Rocky Mountain Synod Office through a program called Wartburg West, in which students can take a semester or summer to live in downtown Denver, take classes and work at an internship. Here, I'll be working primarily within communication and advocacy.


First day back to college - Go Knights!
I found my niche in public relations, but really had no idea where I wanted to end up after graduation. However, everything changed when I began my minor in women's studies. I started learning about gender and advocacy, history, science (you name it) and it has been both a humbling and exciting journey so far. Another exciting thing happened when my dad began his Masters of Divinity at Wartburg Seminary about one year ago; this lifestyle change focused my attention outward and allowed me to integrate God deeper into my own life.

A door opened when a friend invited me to join Wartburg's cohort that was tackling the ELCA's Draft Social Statement on Women and Justice. Each week a group of students and one professor met to slowly read through the entire statement (everything starts blending together after page 50), and I gained a greater appreciation for differing viewpoints. That was the first space where I have experienced respectful, forward-thinking conversation, and it was absolutely incredible. Because of this one little opportunity, I was invited by our cohort's advisor to visit a nearby church to engage in dialogue about inclusive language in the liturgy. I was also recently invited to host a forum at a church in Denver about the social statement itself, where we Wartburg students thought it needed revision and why language and inclusivity matter within the Church. Needless to say, I am stoked! It is very exciting to be able to weave together all the things I'm passionate about -- women's rights, communication, God, community -- and the RMS Office of the Bishop is exactly where I need to be to learn and grow in my role within the Church.

This summer, I am helping to update parts of the website, organize legislative data and look at some new strategies to communicate with you all. I'll also be getting involved within the Denver community, which is something I hope to showcase through this blog, so I am excited to see you around! If you see me, please introduce yourself so we can be friends and share the mission together.

- Intern Katie

Monday, February 26, 2018

A moment of Shalom


It was a moment we call “Shalom”.  When the peace of God that passes all understanding descends and, together, we breathe in the realization that God has already been here.  Such was our experience at the Joint Ecumenical Service of Prayer and Reflection between Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, an ELCA Congregation, and Pardes Levavot, a Jewish Renewal Congregation, in Boulder, Colorado on October 22nd.  With the opening of the Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality came an unexpected invitation to host Rev. Matthew Fox at our Sunday morning worship.  This was an opportunity to deepen the unique relationship which has existed between Shepherd and Pardes since early 2004.   
 
 Rabbi Victor Gross, Rabbi Nadya Gross, and Rev. Janet Kettering welcome all to the service 

As congregations from two distinct, yet deeply-connected faith traditions, we had studied together, participated in missional events, and broken bread together.  As faith leaders and clergy couples, we had shared Shabbat dinner and worshiped together on Christmas Eve and Rosh HaShanah.  However, we had never embarked on creating a worship experience which could be inviting and meaningful to both faith traditions and the community at large.  We agreed that it was critical to honor the sacred elements of both traditions.  Our shared sanctuary, with its warm design of natural light and the mixed metals of the Shekinah Glory and Dove of Peace reflected in the credence table, invited such a venture.  The sound of running water descending from cupped leaf to cupped leaf of the baptismal font calls forth peace and new life.  Ironically, the rich designs of these sacred elements had come through the vision of a Boulder artist and Jewish designer nearly a decade before.  One can only wonder if they had also envisioned that their shared artistic expression would ultimately weave together the rich traditions of an established Lutheran congregation and a budding Jewish Renewal community.
The community gathered around the altar as Rabbi Victor read from the Torah.

 
With excitement, planning, and space for the Spirit to move, the moment arrived and we came together, “renewing” Jews and “re-formed” Lutherans, to sing and pray.  In silent adoration of the Torah, we listened as the promise to Abraham poured forth, then later echoed in the Words of Institution.  Together we stood, hearts woven together in the Lord’s Prayer, prayed first in Hebrew, then English, culminating in an intricate, un-choreographed dance of healing prayer, lighting candles, blessing and dining…a moment of peace we call “Shalom”.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

RMS Spotlight: Urban Servant Corps

Emilee Martell was born and raised in western Wisconsin, and studied English and Environmental Studies at St. Olaf College. As part of her Urban Servant Corp year, she serves at EarthLinks, a garden and workshop where people experiencing homelessness can gain work skills, housing assistance, and a welcoming community. 

Several times lately, I've been asked, "So, is this year of service thing turning out like you expected?" The answer, paradoxically, is entirely yes and entirely no. Before I came to Denver, I understood, on a basic level, what the year would hold: intentional community with six other people, full-time work at a nonprofit, reflections, conversations, and hard questions. But I didn't have the faintest idea what all that would actually look like, once we actually began.

And, to be honest, my expectations are still misty. But here's what it's looked like so far:

The ride in from Denver Airport with a friend, zipping across the flat, dusty fields--ecstasy at the first purple silhouettes of the mountains in the distance, and then sudden, sheer panic the highway sucked us into the city. It's a trap! my little country-bred mind yelled, and it was all I could do to keep myself from launching out of the car at the next red light and running for the hills. 

The next day, hot as Hades, pulling up to the sidewalk of the Five and Nine. Who were these people? What was I doing here? More panic--but later, an afternoon of chatter and get-to-know-you's, and then two USC alums appearing on the doorstep with a twelve-pack of beer. This was, we all agreed, a sign from the universe that this year was going to be awesome. We sat in the living room, talking and drinking, and I slept well that night. 

Then EarthLinks: a spectacular garden, bursting with beehives, crafts, late-summer blooms, and people who were instant comrades. My first day, I made candles. My second day, my shoes were accidentally placed in a donation bin and literally walked off. But they made their way back to me by the end of the week, and in the meantime, I learned soapmaking, beekeeping, and a tremendous respect for every person in the program, staff and participant alike. 

Then three weeks, gone so quickly I didn't even have time to write in my journal about the days that were jam-packed with learning EarthLinks lore, lingering over community dinners, singing at the top of my lungs in the kitchen, watching movies in the living room, listening to my housemates' struggles and triumphs. Trying to marry my social-justice fervor to the complexity of real lives, and facing, for the first time, backlash for my own ignorance. Learning that the world is a heck of a lot bigger than Somerset, Wisconsin. 

One month in, listening to an EarthLinks program participant announce that she had gotten a job through a homeless outreach event, and telling us how much EarthLinks meant to her, how it had lifted her up and given her the support she needed to get through a dark time. My heart nearly imploded. 

And, just last week, hiking out in the dark with four other USCers to see the sunrise, laughing and yawning on the drive up to a peak in the foothills, then sitting in a grassy meadow in mutual eager silence, watching wild, glorious colors shoot through the clouds as the world grew slowly lighter and a brilliant glow collected on the horizon-and then, when the sun appeared, cheering like it was its first dawning in the whole history of the world. 

That's what Urban Servant Corps has been, so far. It doesn't exactly deny expectations: instead, it pushes them so far they explode like fireworks into something entirely new--and, usually, unexpected. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Church Together: Experiencing the Border

ROCKY MOUNTAIN SYNOD COUNCIL AND STAFF:  FALL MEETING IN EL PASO


By Susan Mitchell, Rocky Mountain Synod Council Member 

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On November 2, weeks of planning resulted in twenty members of the Rocky Mountain Synod Council and members of the Synod Staff driving from Denver to El Paso in 2 church vans. The journey brought them to the Border for their fall business meeting.  The vans took time to make stops along the way at several of our synod congregations.  We were greeted with warm hospitality, snacks, hugs and restrooms!  This was a great way to connect with members across the state lines from Colorado to New Mexico to Texas. We were welcomed at King of Kings in Pueblo, CO, St. Timothy’s in Albuquerque, NM, Desert Springs in Truth or Consequences, NM, and finally at Cristo Rey in El Paso.  Valley Lutheran of Los Lunas, NM and Zion of Trinidad, CO gave hospitality on the way home.  We spread out for our 3 night stay.  Staff and council members spread out between hosts from Peace and Mount Hope, bunk beds at Cristo Rey, and a nearby hotel. Our meeting, though important for carrying out the business of the Synod, only took one afternoon. 


  

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Conversation with Border Patrol on the banks of the Rio Grande
The rest of our time was spent participating in a mini-border immersion, led by Pastor Rose Mary -Guzman and her husband Fernando of Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey.  We went to the banks of the Rio Grande and engaged in conversation with 2 Border Patrol agents to learn about the many refugees and asylum seekers who come across the US/Mexico border in and near El Paso.  There is a detention center where people are housed and fed while awaiting their asylum hearing.  Many are able to go to relatives in the US pending their court dates.  We visited Annunciation House, which houses refugees when the detention center is full.  The stories are an important part of learning first-hand about the people who are desperate to leave violence and economic hardship in their own countries.  Pastor Rose Mary led us to one of the colonias in eastern El Paso, one of many poor, rural areas that often have very limited services like electricity and water.   When you hear families speak of their struggles, it becomes very real.  That evening we sat in the home of a family and ate tamales together as they shared their story.


Saturday, we boarded 2 Cristo Rey vans and drove across the bridge from El Paso into Mexico.
We went to a Mexican colonias--Anapra--just at the edge of the city of Juarez.  We went to a library, which was donated to that community by a church in Kansas City.  The 2 women who volunteer
IMAG0365.jpgthere gave amazing testimonies to the positive changes they are able to make in the lives of children and  parents--education is not free in Mexico, and scholarships are an important part of the work of these women.  We also visited a health clinic and had wonderful conversations with 2 medical doctors there.  The vans stopped at the wall built along the Rio Grande so we could look through it towards Texas.  



Our week-end ended with a worship service Saturday evening at Cristo Rey.  We each shared one important moment and concluded with holy communion.  On Sunday, synod council and staff joined the other 4 ELCA congregations in El Paso before heading back north. In total, we made visits to 10 congregations in 4 day- Christ's Church, Better Together indeed!

 We hope this trip gave everyone a deeper awareness of life at the border and how we can work together to proclaim and embody God's unconditional love for the sake of the world! 

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Synod Council members with Pastor Andrea and members of Zions, Trinidad

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Living for our Neighbors


Katie Scherr
Church Relations and Development Assistant
 Lutheran Family Services 
Rocky Mountains
As someone who was raised outside of the Lutheran Church, I’ve been amazed by the impact that Lutheran communities have had in my young adult life.  From attending Luther College, to participating in a service year with Urban Servant Corps, to interning with Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp, to now creating church-to-community partnerships through Lutheran Family Services, God has presented me with incredible opportunities through the Church and the ELCA.

As we reflect on and celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year, I’ve had the opportunity to think deeply about the impacts that Christianity, Lutheranism, and the ELCA have had not only in my life, but in the world in which we live.  Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses and the Reformation they sparked brought turmoil, change, and hope to a religiously, politically, and socially diverse Europe. 

 In these last 500 years many things have changed, but our churches continue to live and serve in the midst of turmoil, change, and hope in a religiously, politically, and socially diverse world.  We continue to seek reform in the well-intentioned but broken systems of our society.  And we continue to live, as Luther suggested, “not for [ourselves], but in Christ and the neighbor.  [We] live in Christ through faith, and in [our] neighbor through love” (“Freedom of a Christian,” LW 31:371).


The Lutheran communities of my young adult life have challenged me to consider this kind of life more deeply, and have shed light on some of the neighbors I am called to live in through love.  This is exactly why I love my work with Lutheran Family Services, and why I believe it is so important.  We have the opportunity to meet our neighbors in times of great need; whether they are an infant in need of a loving family, a child in need of a safe home, an individual in need of the tools to build a new life, or an older adult in need of companionship and care planning, we at LFS can choose to live in love alongside these neighbors.  We can walk with them through times of turmoil, change, and hope, just as we know Christ would do.  I personally have the joy of meeting with churches and individuals who share the desire to live this kind of life, and connecting them with opportunities to compassionately live in love for their neighbors.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Called Forth To Serve

This week, we hear from Pastor Doug Hill, Abiding Hope Church in Littleton about why he serves with and supports Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains. 

In his final address to the disciples prior to his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus asserts, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) This “last will and testament” of Jesus reveals his heart and calls us to be as passionate for “the least” as he is. Jesus understood that when we build relationships with and serve “the least”, not only are they blessed, but we also are blessed. Nothing fills us more than when we love and serve others. Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains takes Jesus’ words seriously as we seek to “walk with the vulnerable through services that heal, strengthen, and provide hope.” As members of the ELCA Rocky Mountain Synod, we are each called to participate in the important and necessary work of LFSRM. 

As a board member, I have had the privilege of participating personally in refugee resettlement, supporting foster families, walking alongside those going through the process of adoption, responding to people affected by disasters, and helping families to care for aging loved ones. Each time that my family and I have taken the time to get involved, we always say afterward, “We need to do more.” There’s something about serving and giving generously that transforms us for the better, that helps us to recognize that love, service and generosity is to be our way of life. 

I hope that you will take a look at the LFSRM website (lfsrm.org) and the many programs and services that are provided. Identify a program or service that aligns with your heart and passion, make a commitment to get connected, give generously of your time and resources, and experience firsthand what loving and serving “the least” will do in your life. When we come together in a spirit of love and generosity, countless lives are changed…including our own. The risen Jesus has entrusted the care of his brothers and sisters to us. Jesus is counting on us to respond to this call in a passionate and bold way so that we and all people may experience real life in Jesus’ name.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

HISTORIC AGREEMENT: TWO CHURCHES, ONE WORSHIP SPACE


Risen Lord Lutheran Church and St. Laurence Episcopal Church have come to an historic agreement to share the same worship facility at 26812 Barkley Road in Conifer, CO – a rural mountain bedroom community west of Denver.   Both congregations agreed that it made sense to combine physical resources; however, the two denominations are not merging as one religious entity.

When Intentional Interim Pastor Teri Hermsmeyer arrived at Risen Lord (congregation is 10 years old), the Council informed her of their financial condition that could see the church closing if they didn’t make changes soon.  One change was going from a full-time pastor (3/4 his last year) to half time.  Also, the rent in their storefront building was too much for this congregation of 32 average worship; so they held a brainstorming session with the congregation, on all the commercial sites the Council could look into for the next year.  Unfortunately, none of them were viable, and staying where they were (landlord agreed to a lower rent increase) could see them potentially closing in 3 years.  Pastor Teri gave Rev. Nancy at St. Laurence Episcopal Church a call about sharing space, and found they were very willing to look into this and make it work.



Once both congregations agreed this idea was worth pursuing, a Synergy Committee (self-titled) was formed with pastor/priest and president/senior warden and three members of both churches to explore the feasibility of sharing a worship space. Their first meeting established a “synergy prayer” they and their congregations would pray over the coming months:  Holy and gracious God, help us to be receptive to your Holy Spirit and listen to the divine in each other, giving us the hunger to find our way together for the sake of the Gospel. The committee met every Thursday for five months to identify needs, potential issues, re-arranging service times, logistics of space-sharing and other key details. 

The groups officially began sharing the St. Laurence facility the end of July 2017 with both congregations celebrating the accomplishment with a joint full communion* service (Lutheran music, Episcopal wording, shared paraments, banners and communion ware) officiated by Rocky Mountain Synod Lutheran Bishop James Gonia , with a BBQ potluck following, on the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 13, 2017.


Background

*Full Communion is when two denominations develop a relationship based on a common confessing of the Christian faith and mutual recognition of baptism and sharing the Lord’s Supper. This does not mean the two denominations merge; rather, in reaching agreements, denominations also respect differences. Each entity agrees that even with differences, there is nothing that is church-dividing.

An agreement between The Episcopal Church (ECUSA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), named Called to Common Mission, establishes full communion between them. It was ratified by the two churches in 1999. Under the agreement, they recognize the validity of each other’s baptisms and ordinations. These denominations worship together and may exchange clergy.