General Minister and President Sharon E. Watkins
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. Ps 3:5 (NRSV)
As we awake to this day after the election, some things have not changed. Whether we are rejoicing or we are feeling stunned and disappointed, the Gospel still calls us to love God first of all with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. It calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. In the story of the Good Samaritan, where the hero is the racial, religious minority, Jesus reminds us that our neighbor is the one, next door or around the world, who shows mercy. Jesus calls us to show mercy and to receive mercy. Jesus calls us to “love one another.” (John 13:34)
The Gospel does not change with an election; what the Gospel requires of us does not change. Jesus’ first inaugural address began with these words, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…” (Luke 4:18) God, now and always, is on the side of the poor, and we who follow Jesus must be also. No matter who is in charge of our governments, we are charged with loving God and loving neighbor, even in costly, self-sacrificial ways. We are called to be loyal to the reign of God.
American Disciples, as part of a movement for wholeness, will no doubt struggle to regain our footing with each other in these immediate days. This was a bitter, divisive campaign. The echoes will continue to reverberate for a while. To those who are rejoicing, we recall “…but (if I) have not love, I gain nothing.” (I Cor. 13:3) To those who are fearful this day: “Perfect love drives out fear.” (I John 4:18)
On this day, our job as disciples of Christ, is still the same as it was yesterday, as it will be tomorrow—to proclaim by what we say and what we do that God is a God of love, and we are people of love—for all God’s children. Our call is to work together for the common good, to welcome
all to the table, people of all races, ages, gender identities, abilities, religions, and yes, politics, and to find ways to work together to extend to each other—across the whole human family—the abundance of a generous God.
No matter who won the election, today we Disciples are still a pro-reconciling/anti-racist church. We are still a church that works tirelessly, led by Disciples women (clergy and lay), to end human trafficking; a church that welcomes more refugees and immigrants than almost any other compared to our size; a church seeking to offer grace and welcome to LGBTQ brothers and sisters; that shares with Christian and interfaith partners around the globe; that seeks to walk lightly on this earth. Today we are still a movement for wholeness. We are still a church seeking to be diverse but not divided in Christ.
We are still a church that will gather together at the Lord’s Table, celebrating our unity in Christ. And we are a church that, no matter what political affiliations we have, will pray together each week, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” We will join our hands and hearts to make it so.
Endings and beginnings. The beautiful full-color newsletter, Welcome Table’s Messenger, has come to its ending. Thank you, Cheryl Brush, for your commitment to color and pictures and storytelling over the past year. What comes next is yet to be decided.
At our annual congregational meeting, we approved a budget that includes a quarter-time choir director. The once-a-month choral director will join Katy and Reid, who will continue to coordinate the music program, with Reid’s skills at the piano and Katy’s song leader skills, The Welcome Table Singers look forward to honing our vocal skills under the direction of the as yet undetermined director.
Nominating Committee report: A brief congregational meeting will be held in January to elect additional officers of the board. Brent Long has resigned as recording Secretary to take the position of Financial Secretary. Barbara Vail has agreed to serve as recording Secretary of the board for the one year left of Brent’s term. They will join Barbara Suder, Treasurer, Dottie Neufeld, Vice Moderator, and Liz Lang, Moderator, for the 2017 year. At-large members, as well as representatives from the elders and deacons, are yet to be named.
Settling into our new building with a new name has brought many details to be tended to. Our new name deserves a new “identity design” or logo. At the January meeting, the congregation will have the opportunity to choose between two designs.
Also in January, church members and Pastor Search Committee will have a deeper conversation about who we are as a congregation. What is the Divine One calling us toward?
Many, many thanks to the board members with whom I traveled this year. Every position increased in intensity and difficulty in this year of transition and each member deserves our heartfelt thanks: Bridget Chandler, Louise Petrasek, Dottie Neufeld, Brent Long, Curt Williams, and Sandy Renner, as well as Pastor Monica Corsaro for her inspirational and enthusiastic leadership.
My hope for 2017 is that Welcome Table can stand firm in the Love that binds us together, doing our very best to do with Grace that which is ours to do.
In the coming month, we will elect a new President of the United States, a new World Series Champion will be crowned and we will celebrate our first Thanksgiving in the new building. All three events are historic in their own way. As of this writing, these events have not yet happened, so we sit in anticipation knowing there is a future but not sure what the future holds. And once again, that is where our faith comes in. As I think of the time our church community is in now, I think of those faith wanderers of the past, the Puritans. They left Holland not sure what or where they were going to, and once here, had to struggle with rustic environs (to say the least!).
As the Puritans prepared for winter, they gathered anything they could find, borrowing supplies from their Wampanoag neighbors. The settlers needed help surviving in their new world. Samoset (better known as Squanto) visited the settlers. Squanto was a Wampanoag who had experience with other settlers and knew English. Squanto helped the settlers grow corn and use fish to fertilize their fields. After several meetings, a formal agreement was made between the settlers and the native people and they joined together to protect each other from other tribes in March of 1621. All seemed well but for a possible misunderstanding.
One day that fall, four settlers were sent to hunt for food for a harvest celebration. The Wampanoag heard gunshots and alerted their leader, Massasoit, who thought the English might be preparing for war. Massasoit visited the English settlement with ninety of his men to see if the war rumor was true. Soon after, when the Native Americans realized the English were only hunting for the harvest celebration, Massasoit sent some of his own men to assist the settlers in hunting deer for the feast. For three days, the English and native men, women, and children ate together. The meal consisted of deer, corn, shellfish, and roasted meat. This was the original Thanksgiving.
The first Thanksgiving would not have happened if strangers did not risk trusting each other (signing a treaty and then discussing when there was the misunderstanding). There would not have been a first Thanksgiving if the wise would not have shared their wisdom (the Wampanoag, teaching the English how to hunt). And as a sign of trust and community, they all shared together, English, Native, men, women and children at a welcome table.
We are also experiencing many firsts here in our new environ so let us make sure to talk with one another as we vision how we want to live. There is lots of wisdom among us. We are pilgrims in a new land and it may seem scary and unknown sometimes. But rest assured—we remembered to pack our table so more can have the opportunity to feast! We don’t know yet what the feast will look like but we do know how to INVITE.
Blessings on us as we continue to settle in and live into our future.