September 2020 Tidings

Pastor’s Pen

For we know that all things work for good, with those whom God has called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Most of us probably know this verse well. It is very hopeful, and while not suggesting that everything that happens is good, it unmistakably promises that everything can work for the good! How is that possible? By the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. Because of this, we know that God’s love brings life out of the ashes of death and defeat. God has the final word.

On Sept. 13, we will celebrate Rally Day Sunday, albeit amidst mitigating circumstances. COVID-19 has a bit of a stranglehold on our nation and its normal activities and churches have been far from exempt. Given the rapidly expanding death toll, the disruption of the many ways in which we gather, and the divisions that have arisen over how we navigate these dangerous waters, it is safe to say that COVID-19 has made our world more “broken” than usual.

And yet, Romans 8:28 speaks! In fact, all of scripture speaks. When God’s people were enslaved by the Egyptians, God not only set them free, but they became a more cohesive people than ever before! When God’s people were left to wander in the wilderness, God not only kept them together but God also provided guidance through the Ten Commandments, sustenance by manna and quail, a relationship of trust through the many trials they endured.

Mt. Carmelites, I invite you now as we begin a new year, to focus not only on what we can’t do together because of the pandemic, but to ask these questions:

What new things is the Holy Spirit doing among us?

What new possibilities are present precisely because of the pandemic?

Let me share a few new “things” that have already begun and new possibilities that are signs of God’s ongoing work among us, a God who will not take “no”—in any form—as an answer.

First of all, we will be worshipping outdoors for Rally Day on Sept. 13 at 10 a.m.! And while this is not new to us, it kind of seems new, doesn’t it? After all, we haven’t worshipped in person since early March. Sometimes, the circumstances of this world can help us appreciate things that we might take for granted—things like in-person worship. My sermon that morning is entitled, “The Church Finds a Way,” a reminder of how God helps us find our way in the face of many obstacles.

Second, ELCA Bishop Emeritus Mark Hanson will preach on Sept. 20 on “Faith, Separation, Sorrow and Hope in the Midst of the Pandemic.” Drawing on his own experiences, Hanson will offer us a reflection to help us navigate these difficult times. On Sept. 27, I will preach on “Where we’re going from here: what the Insight Report has told us about ourselves.”

Third, we begin a new online educational/fellowship series on Wednesday nights called “Faith & World.” While Sunday morning may be closed for now, we have talked over the years about developing Wednesday evenings as a programming and fellowship time, and now is our opportunity! Faith & World is a pilot project we will test on Wednesdays from 7-8 p.m. on Zoom, beginning Sept. 16. The purpose of this forum is to explore ways that our faith connects with the world, whether through social justice or by using your gifts to make a difference in the world. One thing I’ve noticed over these past few months is an increased interest on the part of you all to connect our faith lives with the world and get to know our neighbors more—including the ones who are not exactly like us.

So, our series will begin with a two-part series on Sept. 16 and 23 entitled Housing Affordability: Challenges and Opportunities by Katie Topinka, who is a newer member and works for the city of Minneapolis on affordable housing policy. Katie’s presentation will focus on our calling as Christians to pursue socio-economic justice on behalf of our neighbors—specifically, affordable housing.

We will continue on Sept. 30 with ELCA Bishop Emeritus Mark Hanson leading our “Faith & World” conversation on the topic of “Being Church with Diverse Neighbors.” He will discuss how a commitment to listen and learn from our neighbors might inform the ministry of Mount Carmel and our daily lives of faith.

In October, we will continue with discussions on racial justice in North Minneapolis, along with the general topic of how faith intersects with politics, voting and bridge-building.

Fourth, this summer we have already begun a new partnership with Northside Justice Fellowship and Gethsemane Lutheran Church. Gethsemane distributes a massive amount of food on the northside and several of our members have been helping them weekly. In September, we are recruiting a team for Fridays.

Fifth, our book study on racial justice has been meeting in August and has been robust! We will continue in September on Thursday evenings from 5:45- 7 p.m.. When we are finished with “The New Jim Crow,” we will most likely continue with another book.

Sixth, have you noticed on our Facebook page the wonderful daily devotions that some of our members have been providing?! About ten members have participated in this, and it has been a rich platform for them to share their own faith stories and reflections, anchored in scripture. They have been truly inspirational! Maybe you will be a devotional writer, too?

Lastly, Nick Ralston, our faith formation director, and fellow Sunday morning leadership team members, Barb Hollister and Karen Moeller, continue to find new ways to gather and move forward! Their planning around new opportunities can be found in this issue!

These are just a few examples of the new things that are starting or emerging as we begin a new program year, much of which is a direct result of the events of this year in our world and around us.

Amen.

For we know that all things work for good, with those whom God has called according to his purpose.

God’s Peace,
Pastor John

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