by Steve Borgard
October 20, 2017
In the Stream and On the Path
My Grace Notes column still doesn’t have an official title. About a year ago, many suggestions were made, but for one reason or another, I didn’t think any of the suggestions (by myself or others) quite fit the bill. Some of the suggested titles played with the notion of our sanctuary being between two poles (peace pole and justice pole) or between a creek (Las Trampas) and the walking/bike path (Lafayette-Moraga Trail).
I like the tension that both of these images create. That somehow, the church is always ‘in between’. Spirituality isn’t about resolving tensions, but learning to recognize them, and learning to hold them in healthy and compassionate ways.
Lately, the feeling of living life between a path and a stream speaks to my heart. The stream of life that continues to flow, represents the movement of time and forces which I cannot control. Weather, fires, economic forces, political dynamics, the choices of others, are all parts of the stream. I feel the effects.
I can respond in part, but I can not control it. The path is more stable ground. The space where I can see where others have walked and choose where to plant to my feet and how quickly to move. On the path I have choices that I get to navigate.
I live simultaneously in the stream and on the path. We all do. Some religious traditions seem to emphasize the stream. Taoism and Buddhism emphasize acceptance of the way things are, and learning in one way or another to ‘go with the flow.’
Other religious traditions emphasize the path. The earliest name for the Christian movement was “The Way," and Jesus implores his disciples to enter the narrow gate to the path that leads to life. Being a follow of Jesus is walking the path that he walked, making decisions to set one’s feet in the same direction.
Perhaps theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s well known prayer (which he originally wrote for a sermon), summarizes the wisdom needed to live fully in the stream and on the path:
“God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.”
As the stream of life pushes us along, may we learn to walk the path of Jesus.
October 13, 2017
Responding to the Fires -
(Second,Third, Fourth and Fifth...Responders)
The smoke lingers in the air, a constant reminder of the devastation that is happening around Northern California. My heart breaks for those who have lost loved ones, homes, schools, businesses, and places of worship.
I have been in contact with a few of the clergy I know in the areas that are most affected. I have offered our church’s assistance and mentioned that I had a couple of spare bedrooms at the parsonage if anyone needed shelter. They were grateful for the offer and said for now they are still sorting out what can be done and that most people wanted to stay near their homes and neighbors.
Rev. Curran Reichert, the pastor at First Congregational Church of Sonoma (UCC) responded to my offer of help. She had already given out $3000 in aid to help families in need that day.
She reminded me that not only have people lost homes, but their places of work as well. Families are receiving immediate help in the form of shelters and food, but they will also need long term care. She suggested that cash donations and gift cards for stores such as: Friedman’s, Target, Safeway, and Lucky’s, would be very helpful.
If you have any spare gift cards laying around the house, you can bring them to church and we’ll make sure they get into the hands of people who can use them. I’ll be working with our church leadership to determine how we might send aid in other ways. I know our denominational efforts through Week of Compassion will be responding as well.
There is a great need for First Responders, keep them in our prayers. There will also be a great need for second, third, fourth, fifth, etc…responders as well. Together we can play our role at the right time.
Movie About First Responders - “Only The Brave”
All of us should be grateful for the First Responders who are coming from around the nation to help with the fires in Northern CA. It is hard to imagine all that they sacrifice to protect life and homes.
A movie is coming out next Friday, Oct 20, that tells the story of The Granite Mountain Hot Shot team of wildland firefighters, those who lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire - AZ, in 2013. The movie is called “Only The Brave”. http://www.onlythebrave-movie.com
It is more than a movie to me, as it involves my family. Eric Marsh was the leader of The Granite Mountain Hot Shots and he was married to our cousin Amanda. The movie depicts the struggles and sacrifices Eric and Amanda --played by Josh Brolin and Jennifer Connelly--and the other families experienced.
I thought the movie was wonderfully done and I believe everyone seeing the movie will walk away with a deep appreciation for what wildland firefighters and their families go through in order to save lives, structures, and our forests.
I am drawing attention to this film, not only because it is about my extended family, but as a means to deepen our compassion for, and understanding of, families of first responders.
My cousin Amanda now dedicates her time to the Eric Marsh Foundation for Wildland Firefighters. http://www.ericmarshfoundation.org
September 29, 2017
Our Welcome Mat
It was a pleasure to talk to some neighbors who were excited that our church seemed to be very active. They specifically mentioned the Montessori preschool and the Lafayette Studio Big Band concert. They knew about these activities because of the banners that were placed in the front of our church promoting both.
What they didn’t know is what ‘type’ of church we were. One of the neighbors mentioned that she belonged to an Episcopal Church, one with which I was very familiar. The church she mentioned is progressive and very socially active. I had no hesitation to let the neighbor know that she would be comfortable in our church, that our theology was inclusive and our members were committed to actively working for peace and justice in our world. She has lived near our church for decades and yet had no idea of the ‘type’ of church we are.
This brings an awareness to an important issue; we don’t have a very good “welcome mat”. Our main church sign is a wonderfully crafted sign, with carved letters covered in brass. It hasn’t been maintained really well of late and it is difficult to read. Many of the letters and numbers have been added at various times and the fonts don’t all match.
The first step is to clean up and restore the current sign. A knowledgable volunteer has come forward and offered his suggestions to the church leadership. Polishing the letters and properly cleaning and preserving the wood will be a step in the right direction to getting our ‘Welcome Mat” in order. Hopefully we can begin this work soon.
But, it really won’t be enough. While driving around Tahoe, I saw many wooden signs like ours. Almost all of them had been updated by adding a splash of color, while also maintaining the craftsmanship of the original sign. These signs with a ‘fresh’ look, clearly communicated a connection with the past, while also signifying that something new and current was happening.
I am not a graphic artist, and I’m not very good at Photoshop. But, I took a picture of our sign and then manipulated it with a software program to get an idea of what our sign could look like with a few changes. I showed the ‘mock up’ to the Board and Ministry Council. In general, I received positive feedback. It was suggested that the mock up of a new sign be given to the entire congregation for feedback. So, I have included both the original photo I took, and the mock up. This is all in the preliminary brainstorming stage. No budget, timeline, or official plan has been adopted to change our sign. My thoughts and ‘mock up’ are merely a means of getting an important discussion started.
So, as a discussion starter, let me explain why I believe the sign is important, and why I included the changes in the “mock up.”
1. It is not enough for people to know we are a church. The purpose of the sign should be to let people know what ‘type’ of church we are. Our current sign communicates that we are “Disciples of Christ.” And while this might mean something to us, it doesn’t mean much to the general public. So, something has to let people know that we have a more open and progressive theology and we welcome all to experience a place where they are safe.
2. We need to put our web address on the sign so people know where to go to learn more about our church.
3. We need to add some color that attracts, while also blending into the overall look and feel of our campus. Greens and blues give a sense of warmth, nature, sky, trees, etc. The chalice can look intimidating to an outsider, so I felt it needed to feel more inviting.
4. The words, Open and Affirming and a rainbow triangle are added to the sign to make it clear that we are a safe space for all people. The triangle represents ‘safe space’ and is a well known symbol in our culture. It is also very important to publicly proclaim that we are an Open and Affirming church and to be specific about it. I don’t know of any church in our community that openly condemns people due to their race, ethnicity, or social economic status. But, a majority of churches (yes it is heartbreaking), still single out the LGBTQ community for condemnation. The generic “All are Welcome” isn’t specific enough, as even churches that condemn the LGBTQ community make that proclamation. The rainbow triangle and the words “Open and Affirming” will instantly communicate that we welcome all people and that we provide safe space.
5. Pastor’s Name: To be honest, I don’t think it is all that important. I’m proud to be your pastor, but my name means little to nothing to the people who drive by our church. I wonder if something else might be better placed in this space.
6. God is love. I couldn’t think of a more singular way to communicate our collective theology. By putting that on the sign, it certainly gives us a goal to live up to.
I look forward to your input. I believe its an important conversation to have. How do we extend our welcome mat into our community? If you were to design a welcome mat for our church, what do you think it should say?
You can email your feedback to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Later we’ll set up a space in the sanctuary where people can see a printed version of the mock up and leave comment cards.