It is hard to know where to begin after spending two weeks in Santiago, Chile, and seeing first hand the incredible work that EPES (Popular Education in Health) has accomplished over the last 36 years. We are one of the supporting congregations of EPES and Karen Anderson who founded EPES 36 year ago with two Chilean women. Karen invited me to come to Chile and give healing touch sessions to her hard working staff as a way to care for them. She also asked that I give classes to health promoters and staff so they could learn healing self care techniques and also learn some simple techniques to provide healing for others in the community. I had to leave my comfort zone to embark on this journey and I am so glad that I did. My head is full of information and my heart is full with all of the welcome, love, trust, sharing of stories, and affirmation and support that I received.
A few weeks ago, as an after-homework activity, the Safe Place kids planted seeds in small plastic pots. We sat in a circle and the students took turns filling their pots with soil. Everyone got to decide whether to plant peppers, tomatoes, or basil. Each of the kids made quarter inch holes in their soil, gently sprinkled in a few seeds of their choice, and covered them up. The kids labeled their plants with popsicle sticks. Some wrote encouraging messages. My favorite was, “Go plant! You could do it!” Some wrote warnings like, “Taslima’s plant. DO NOT TOUCH.”
I may have a learning to share. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I have a ‘wondering’ to share and think more about.
This past Friday we had an Urban Hub meeting. The Urban Hub (Augsburg, CAIR-MN, Bethany, ICSA/Dar Al-Hijrah and Trinity) has been meeting for almost 2 years and has been regularly serving Coffee and Tea outside Cedar-Riverside mosques after Friday Juma prayers. This simple yet very meaningful activity was, in part, in response to the Muslim travel ban put in place in January 2017.
Friday was the first time that Darul Quba joined us. We have done the Coffee and Tea there twice, but this was the first time that anyone from there agreed to come. I think they might become a part of our group. We did some planning for the next Coffee and Tea and other activities we are considering getting involved in as a group in the neighborhood. We talked about a couple of opportunities for Iftars during Ramadan and maybe doing something during the Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg this coming Fall.
Dear friends in Christ,
“Stone soup,” is how I described our Fat Tuesday celebration to friends, referring to the folk story in which a hungry village makes a hearty feast by each person bringing one ingredient from their cupboard. What would otherwise be a rock in a pot of water turns into a feast for one and all. Each person’s willingness to add their part turns their mere-garnish into a sustenance that can be shared.
And share you did. Jams, nuts, eggs, milk, butter, chocolate chips, oil spray, king cake, pancake griddles and fry pans galore, and most importantly, your time and energy to welcome our Muslim neighbors from Dar al-Hijrah. The buzz in the room spoke for itself as our guest arrived, some donning Mardi Gras beads and others carrying trays of food. We spanned generations, cultures, faith and language, but we shared an eagerness to be together
From the pastor….
I suppose that, in the scheme of things, looking back through all of history, things aren’t so bad these days. There are certainly a lot of terrible things happening in the world. I think of all the unrest and violence. Yemen comes to mind as particularly horrible. In our own country the reality and pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault is finally coming to light. There have been huge disappointments at hearing some of the names along with a sense of waiting for the next shoe to drop. Not to mention the incredible hypocrisy of the reactions of some the accused. Anyone who has experienced sexual harassment or assault knows the harm it does to the victim. It can be life-changing and not necessarily for the better.
Throughout the past week, I’ve been having one-on-one chats with each of the kids at Safe Place. I ask them a series of questions about how school is going, what they need the most help with, and whether or not they have any suggestions for the program. I’m planning on doing this at least twice per semester. These sessions are not only a fun way for me to intentionally get to know the kids--they also give me useful ideas for continuing to mold the program to their educational needs and provide me with plenty of funny stories. Most of the time, when I get to the question about suggestions for the program, I get answers like, “We should have fruit snacks every day!” and “We need more candy!” But occasionally, something unexpected pops up. Last week, I was chatting with one of the first graders. Apparently, school is going “SO well” for her, and she’s learning “SO MANY things every day.” When I asked if she had any suggestions for the program, she smiled and said, “Ab-so-lute-ly no-thing,” shaking her head back and forth to emphasize each syllable. I asked her to think about it some more: “Is there anything that would make Safe Place better for you?” She thought for a moment, swiveling around in her chair, and then said, “I know! You should put up some BIG BLUE lights that are ALWAYS on. Even when nobody’s here.” Where did that come from?
This month, Jane shared a reflection on Trinity's ministry with colleagues in the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA. Read what she wrote:
Beginnings are a precious time. Shimmering first impressions, brief as they are, convey a kind of truth that can fall away with familiarity and routine. Here are some truths that shine through about Trinity:
You love God.
You love each other.
You are thirsty for justice.
You are committed to long-term relationships in our neighborhood.
While I have been experiencing all the “firsts” of life at Trinity (Sunday worship, Wednesday night suppers, tea & coffee after prayers, staff and council meetings), I am pinching myself. My job here, at its core, is to love this community: to listen to you and walk with you, even as we listen to and walk with our neighbors. What an incredible privilege, and one that I hope never to take lightly.
I'll bet you have some first impressions of me too (shiny or not!). For those who were not able to attend Adult Forum last week, here is a bit more about me--
Re-entry after any vacation is always interesting. This time it seemed especially difficult. While we were gone I had the luxury of not watching the news, reading emails or looking at Facebook. Occasionally we’d hear a little bit, but not being constantly reminded of “the news” it was easy enough to dismiss the little we heard. That also meant there was a lot to catch up on, and it was overwhelming.
These are difficult days on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start. So, I won’t. We’ve all heard most of what is happening. It won’t help to rehash it or even bemoan it. As a white Christian pastor I feel a responsibility to say something, to do something, but I haven’t figured out what that is yet. I just re-entered the world of Facebook today and I saw lots of wise words and comments. So, I’m at a loss as to what I may have to contribute to all of that. I trust I’ll know when the time is right.
I have no doubt, however, that who we are and what we do at Trinity and in Cedar-Riverside is important, especially now……still…..again.
I have been a cat-owner all of my adult life. Their personalities are fascinating and they make great lap-warmers in the winter. Our cats think they make great lap-warmers even in the heat of summer, but that’s a whole different story.
Our gray cat, Zane, named after Zane Gray, the author of several western novels, weighs almost 20 lbs. As one friend puts it, he is a big boy. When Zane is on my lap there is room for nothing else. Zane is our weather forecaster, at least when it comes to rain. He is afraid of rain and before it even starts he heads for the basement.
This is the first year that Zane’s fur has matted. Not because it is long but because it is thick. It is the soft undercoat that in a few places has turned into a thick mat of inter-woven fur. A brush or comb will not phase it. It needs to be cut out. Fortunately, Zane doesn’t seem to care how he looks