The Disciples Together Express
May/June 2020 - News from the Christian Church in the Upper Midwest (Disciples of Christ)
Changing the Narrative
Rev. John Richardson,
Interim Regional Minister and President
Narratives conduct people like an orchestra. We must change the narrative by which we interpret our understanding—our stories—of race and racism in our lives and in our church. The narrative of white privilege is sinful. It is wrong. It was created to establish white people as superior to all others. This is a brief summary of the “Transformation Conference” I attended (via Zoom) this past weekend, along with about 25 Disciples of Christ leaders, led by the Rev. Dr. David Anderson Hooker. The conference was based on Dr. Hooker’s book, Transformative Community Conferencing.
In order to change the narrative by which we interpret race and racism, we must make an intentional decision to no longer participate in any activity, meeting, or structure that assumes white people are privileged, or better than, people of color. That might sound overwhelming. In reality, it may be small steps that change the journey we travel in life.
Some 60 years ago, my daddy led the singing for two 10-night revival services for a group of African American congregations in Little Rock, Arkansas. One in the summer of 1959, and one the following summer of 1960. During those two years he became friends with the pastor of one of the congregations and learned of the need for clothes by some of the church members. One afternoon there was a knock on our back door. It was the African American pastor, who had come to pick up the clothes. My daddy went to the door, greeted the pastor, and said: “I have the clothes for your church members, but you will need to come to the front door of our house to receive them.”
Even though it sounds crazy today, in 1960, in Little Rock, and across most of this country, black people entered the houses of white people only through the back door. On that day, in a small, but very intentional way, my daddy changed the narrative by which our family interpreted race and racism. The journey has not been perfect, but I am committed to never slowing down, never giving up, and never leaving my sisters and brothers of color to stand alone.
As we see our cities, once again, in anguish, because of the murder of unarmed black women and men, I pray you will join with me in transforming our lives, our churches, and our communities.
Grace and peace,
Ministry in Thailand: Update from Anne Gregory
Thailand has been one of the safest places on earth during the COVID-19 pandemic. At this writing, there have been 3,031 cases and 56 deaths. In the past week, we have even had a day or two of no new cases at all. The country has had six weeks of lockdown, including a ban on incoming air travel, except for repatriation of Thai nationals from other countries, trade, and travel for diplomats. As of this week, some malls are being permitted to open and some street vendors have begun selling food again. There is still a strict curfew, from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., and public transportation is taking much longer with the social distancing rules.
Yet, like other East Asian nations, Thailand has a culture which already includes some social distancing, since people do not touch one another in public (except for small children), and greeting is done in what Americans might understand as the “Namaste” style that is putting one’s palms together and bowing. Mask-wearing has been around for a number of years, due to previous flu outbreaks, as well as air pollution problems. People understand implicitly that mask-wearing is, first of all, to protect others. The Thai people have an old tradition of bathing at least once a day - more often twice - so handwashing also seems to be coming naturally to most people.
Churches are attempting to worship online only (until the government eases restrictions on public gatherings) and to share food with those who need it. The congregation where I serve has started up a food pantry cupboard out in front of the church: take three things if you need food; contribute food staples such as rice if you can share. Many feel that now is the time for our culture of community and the philosophy of “Mai Pben Rai” to shine. Simply translated, it means, “Never mind,” but a better translation might be, “It’s OK; we’re all in this together.”
Doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly together in Des Moines
New Church Ministry met Rev. Debbie Griffin, the Senior Minister of Downtown Disciples, at General Assembly. Since the pastor’s congregation is based in Des Moines, IA, it offered worship services, hosted pre-assembly activities for general ministries, and prepared a meal for regional ministers.
All of that as a new church.
Why did you plant it?
I served at a small congregation in Council Bluffs, IA. It would open its doors and not pressure people to have to be church in a certain way. A diverse group came for many reasons. I thought, “if this can happen in western Iowa, it can happen in Des Moines.”
The Pentecost Offering supports new places of worship. What does it mean to you?
We wouldn't exist if it weren’t for this Offering. We wouldn’t have had a place to worship that worked for us. We wanted to be in an urban setting - that costs money.
What role do new faith communities play?
We can be an outreach for traditional churches who see in us something that they love, but can't be right now.
How is your congregation responding to COVID-19?
We gather virtually. We raised $1,000 for PPE, donating it to hospitals. We safely deliver supplies to our homeless neighbors and members who are quarantined, at high risk, or isolated. The Spirit still calls and empowers us to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly together.”
The Pentecost Offering is divided by New Church Ministry and the Regions. Disciples can make contributions through their congregations or by using the DMF website. Most churches will celebrate the Offering on May 31 and June 7.
Christian Conference Center Closed
Technology Grants Still Available
Congregations throughout the Upper Midwest are finding innovative and creative ways to keep connected and keep worshiping and growing in faith despite the need to maintain social distancing. For many, this has been a steep learning curve in exploring options through technology.
The Region is prepared to lend a hand by providing technology grants. Congregations are welcome to apply for a grant of $300 (more can be requested with extenuating circumstances) to purchase or improve technological capabilities for worship or online gatherings. Purchases might include recording equipment, copyright licenses, video meeting applications, or more.
Also, depending on the degree of complication of your plan, we may be able to connect you with a "technology mentor" who can guide you through your first steps of live-streaming.
2020 Regional Calendar
Things We Do Together
Below, @CCC = held at the Christian Conference Center
June 1 CCC Re-opens With Restrictions
June 8 Apocrypha Course begins Online
June 25 Regional Operations Council Online
July 23 Regional Operations Council Online
Aug. 27 Regional Operations Council Online
Aug. 31 Church History Course begins Online
Update from the Regional Minister
The Regional Minister Search Committee is happy to report that we are continuing to move forward in the search for our next regional minister. The Coronavirus has limited our ability to meet in-person, but we fortunately have reached a point in the process where much of our work can be conducted virtually. We have not slowed down!
In mid-April we received the profiles of each applicant, as well as a report from an independent evaluator who assessed how closely the candidates met the expectations and qualifications outlined in our Regional Profile and Job Description. After each committee member evaluated the profiles and reviewed the independent evaluator's report, we agreed to narrow the pool of candidates at the end of April.
In May we began the "interview" stage of the process with this smaller group of candidates. We are contacting their references, listening to sermons, and conducting initial interviews via Zoom. As the Spirit leads and Covid-19 allows, we will meet for an in-person interview with one or two finalists in June. It is our hope that we will emerge from this stage in the process prepared to recommend a candidate to the Operations Council for interview and approval.
We feel the Holy Spirit at work in this process and pray for God's wisdom to guide our discernment and the candidates' discernment. As always, we appreciate your prayers and support.
COVID-19 NBA Response Grants
The NBA Board of Trustees has authorized grant funding to support Disciples-related ministries that are working locally in response to this crisis. If your congregation has a ministry that has been negatively impacted or if you are seeking to respond to the crisis with a new ministry, you may be eligible to apply.
Grants will be disbursed over three cycles and Disciples-related health and social service ministries may be eligible to receive $1000-$15,000.
They are currently accepting applications for the first grant cycle, which will run through June 30, or until funds for this cycle are all allocated.
The ministry of the church continues (and even expands) during this time when none of us are using the buildings. Please don't let your absence from the building result in a lack of financial support.
There are many options to make online giving possible for your congregation. Givelify is a free church giving app on which members can set up their offering to be made electronically.
If your congregation does not already have a method for online giving set up, please feel free to use the regional office as a resource to explore the best option.
UMW Learning Opportunities
Apocropha taught by John Bolen. Class will begin on June 8 and will be using the Oxford commentary on the Apocropha. The class will meet online and run for 10 weeks. To register, please email the regional office at email@example.com.
Church History (early church through the Reformation) taught by Tim Diebel. Class will begin on Aug. 31 and will be using The Story of Christianity, Revised edition, vol. 1 by Justo L. Gonzalez. The class willmeet online and run through Nov. 16. Registration will open soon.
Both of these classes are open to anyone interested!
We want your news!
Does your church have an article, story or event for the Disciples Together Express? The Region wants to know!
Please email your editor Lori Krase-Cayton
or call the Regional Office at 515-255-3168
or mail an article to CCUMW,
5064 Lincoln Street, Newton, IA 50208.
for more information.