Stewardship Letter 2021
SUMMER RETREAT WITH FIRST LUTHERAN
If it is August, it must be retreat time. For the past two years, we have set time aside at First Lutheran to breath and listen to the Holy Spirit speak to us through God’s holy Word. In past years we focused on the same text for four to five weeks.
This is a time for meditation, reflection, prayer and relaxing into God. This year we will be dwelling with the story of Joseph. As the first born of Rachel, his first love, Jacob loved Joseph more than all his children. As a sign of that love, Jacob gave him a coat of many colors (sometimes translated as long sleeves). Midrash says that Jacob gave Joseph the coat because he assigned him as the First Born, and that the coat was the coat God made for Adam which was passed down through the generations. Whether the coat was of many colors or not, it was certainly special. It also became a symbol of his brothers’ jealousy toward him.
Above all, it was a dream that Joseph had which set his brothers off. In the dream he foretells that his brothers would be bowing to him and that he, Joseph, would become a powerful man. The vision even unsettled Jacob, who warned him to be careful. As the story unfolds, we discover that the brothers become participants and even catalysts to making the dream come true. But the dream of their younger brother’s greatness, which they interpreted as arrogance and danger to their status, actually was a dream of their redemption. Joseph lives with a heart turned to the abundance of God’s gifts, enabling him to live generously. His brothers choose the path of scarcity, believing if they gave in to Joseph’s favored position, they would only lose out. They failed to see the dream as an expression of God’s hope for humanity.
The parallel to another prophet and man of righteousness who had a dream, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr… The dream that Rev. King invites us to is wholly within God’s vision for us. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Like Joseph, his dream led to his demise, and like Joseph, it is his brothers who fear the dream because they fail to see in it the vision of God, and indeed, fail to recognize we own redemption.
I invite you to join us on the journey, to reflect on ways God is calling you into the vision of being the people of God; to join hands in Christ with people of all colors and cultures. We are One Body.
August 2: Genesis 37:1-11
Joseph Has a Dream of God’s Vision for Us
August 9: Genesis 37:12-28
Joseph and His Brothers, A Dream Gone Wrong
August 16: Genesis 40:9-23, 41:1-32
Three Dreams and the Life Fantastic
August 23: Genesis 42:6-28
Abundant Life, the Dream of Thanksgiving
August 30: Genesis 45:1-15
Redemption, Life in God’s Vision
ReOpening In Person Worship: June 29, 2020
Dear Friends in Christ, June 29, 2020
I pray this letter finds you and your loved ones well and at peace. If ever there is a time we need our faith, it is now. We should not lose sight that these are the very times we have been training for. Yes, they are difficult, but more importantly we turn to Jesus Christ, who promised to be with us no matter how difficult our situation, and it is our faith that connects us deeply to the Rock on which all things rest, on Jesus Christ our Lord. In fact, Jesus showed us the way to act in times like these, and all we need to do is follow.
As things begin to open up here on Cape Cod, I am sure some of you may be wondering what is being done to reopen the Church. First, it is important to note the Church has never closed. We remain a living body connected through prayer and the Holy Spirit to one another. We continue to serve our neighbors in friendly outreach, albeit from a distance, through mask making and bread baking. For the past month we have held outdoor services on Wednesday evenings, have shared communion, and confirmed our youth. We are also starting to gather outdoors for meditation on Tuesdays and are finding new ways to reach out to our members.
Our priority in restarting any in-person activities at First Lutheran is to focus on loving our members, neighbors and staff; while keeping everyone safe. To help with the monumental task of coming together again we have a Covid-19 Task Force, which has reviewed the various state, federal, and ELCA documents and made recommendations to the Leadership Team on the steps needed to reopen the building and for in-person worship. The Task Force consists of the Leadership Team President, Amy Riley, Sean Riley, Lynn D’Esmond, Rebeca Nystrom, Gary Prahm, Elaine Graybill, and Ralph Krau. It is a very knowledgeable team representing folks who are dealing with reopening issues professionally and in the broader community. What follows are recommendations we are making for when and how to reopen. We welcome constructive comments and suggestions.
Following the lead of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we will follow a phased or staged approach. Phases should be considered to exist on a continuum, with movement between stages being multidirectional depending on the levels of the Coronavirus on the Cape. (We may need to back up a phase if the numbers increase here on the cape) We will continually review and update the protocols as necessary.
As we prepare for moving forward, I invite you to continue to pray with me that the Holy Spirit continue to guide us and bind us together as one people in Christ Jesus. I give thanks for all those who have helped us and continue to help us in each step of the way.
Pr. Peter Hebert
Black Lives Matter: Barnstable No Place for Hate
A CALL TO ACTION:
The Barnstable No Place for Hate steering committee, with clergy and representatives from people of all faith and backgrounds, call for our leaders and representatives in Massachusetts to address issues of racial injustice and bigotry embodied in our state services and healthcare systems. Most of these injustices are not unique to the pandemic. However, the pandemic has pulled back the curtain and laid bare the systemic and cultural weaknesses of our society. The impact of the pandemic has been inordinately skewed, hitting at risk populations, the elderly and minorities much harder than the more privileged parts of our society. The true measure of a free society is not how well the well-off do, but how well its most fragile members of society are cared for. We believe we can do better than we have. We believe all members of our community should be afforded the privilege of high quality healthcare befitting a country as wealthy as ours.
In response to a call for protective masks in public, a man wears a Ku Klux Klan hood to a supermarket in California. COVID-19 shutdown protesters in Ohio carry signs portraying Jews as rats. In Michigan, heavily armed men carry nooses, Confederate flags and swastikas to the statehouse. American gun purchases top four million sales in March and April in the face of calls to care for our neighbors and our nation by curbing our own work and travel. Sixty percent of Asian Americans have seen Asian people being blamed for the coronavirus.
Well beyond politicizing our response to a virus that unchecked could kill millions, many Americans are whipping up the old and deep-seated hatred and violence that we seek to check. Meanwhile, the reality of COVID-19 deaths mirrors the differential health outcomes that we have known for a century. Black and brown people are much more likely to die than white people for reasons of both bias in medical care and the economic inequality grounded in endemic racism. The most vulnerable people in Massachusetts, including low-wage workers, immigrants, and the disabled, are at the greatest risk of death from the coronavirus.
Would that these issues were only at a national level. The same forces are present in our town of Barnstable. The most vulnerable suffer even as the necro-politics of who shall live and who shall die play out. We hold that every life is sacred and that from the youngest to the oldest person in our town, none should be regarded as “expendable” or “regrettable but necessary sacrifices” on the altar of economics.
We call on the residents of our town to join us as we remember those who are most at risk. We are in a time of shared sacrifice. We can best display our patriotism and civic-mindedness by adhering to the guidelines given by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that keep us all safe.
We call on our leaders in State and local government and those who have the ability to change policy at both the State and local level to study the causes behind the inequities that have led to so many more deaths among African American, Latinx, Tribal and Elderly people. We ask that steps be taken to assure all people the dignity of quality treatment and care.
Now, at a time when people of color are disproportionately suffering illness and death from COVID-19, we are again confronted by another pandemic that has raged in our nation for four hundred years. From the first enslaved people, kidnapped from Africa and brought to our shores through a journey of pain and death, the careless disregard of Black lives has been constant in our American history and present. Through centuries of the cruelest bondage, a war to preserve the institution of race-based American slavery, the terrorism of the Jim Crow regimes, the bloody struggle for voting rights and legal equality, the never ending discrimination in lending, employment opportunites, housing, medical treatment, and education; through it all our culture has both actively and silently condoned the oppression of African-Americans, and claimed ownership of Black bodies. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the grossly unequal, and too often violent, function of our criminal justice system.
The agonizing murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer as other sworn officers looked on and did nothing, months after the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, has touched off understandable rage and protests across our nation. We stand in solidarity with those who demand equality before the law, equal treatment throughout our society, and a day of truth telling and reckoning for our past and present. As Abraham Lincoln stated in his Second Inaugural Address:
Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
We love our country and our community by valuing our neighbors’ lives and health through our respect for social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing protocols. We show our love for our nation and one another when we stand up to the baseless hatred that reopens like a wound barely scabbed over in these stressful times. We are so much stronger than those who hope to fan the glowing ember of our worst impulses into a wildfire. Barnstable is no place for hate.
If you wish to add your name to the signatories, do so in the comments