Let it roll!

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Imagine violence tearing you from home and family. To journey with strangers to an unknown land. Being left to cross strange waters.

Moravians are prayerfully considering ways to respond to the increasing number of “unaccompanied children” crossing the southern border of the US. Many of these child refugees are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, countries plagued with violence from drug trafficking. The Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has connected some of the children with relatives in the US, some in foster care, and some in detention centers. The children then appear in immigration court. Many risk deportation and a return to the violence they have fled. There are Moravian churches in some of the regions of greater impact by this humanitarian crisis.

Both the Northern and Southern Provincial Synods recently passed a resolution regarding “Spiritual Solidarity with Sisters and Brothers in Honduras.” This resolution acknowledges the special relationship shared between the Moravian Church in North America and the Moravian Church in Honduras. It urges pastors and leaders to “give voice to the Hondurans’ plight.” It calls the members of our congregations to awareness and education of how consumption of illegal drugs in our country contributes to this violence as well as addressing government policies that impact our brothers and sisters in Honduras.

In a recent letter to congregations and members of the Moravian Church in North America, Rev. Judy Ganz reminds us that we show God’s love when caring for those most vulnerable among us. She points to conversations shared with the President of the Honduras Province of the Moravian Church, Rev. Harlan Macklin. Brother Macklin acknowledges the increasing number of street children and single mothers in need of aid to care for their children. Many drug traffickers take advantage of this situation-making the killing and abuse of children and youth common. He encourages us to work for justice on behalf of our sisters and brothers in Honduras.

We are given a glimpse of God’s dream for all God’s children found in the words of Amos 5:24- “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Now, let us do justice.

  • Pray. Pray for all those impacted by violence, as well as those responding with supportive care and action.
  • Give. Church World Service provides spiritual care, legal representation, shelter and other basic needs for refugees.Your generosity will help support their response to the crisis of unaccompanied children and families.
  • Stay informed. Consider following some of the organizations actively involved in this work: Board of World MissionLutheran Immigration and Refugee ServiceEpiscopal Migration Ministries4 Welcoming WSNC, Refugee Council USA, PCUSA
  • Raise awareness. Share what you know with friends, family and community. Advocate for government policies that address this crisis.

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more and we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen”  – Ephesians 3:20-21

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A Modern Day Hus

250px-Jan_Hus_2The Rt. Rev. Sam Gray’s Remarks Upon Receiving the 2014 John Hus Award from Moravian Theological Seminary:

I was in a Bishop’s prayer meeting one Thursday morning and I missed a call from sister Maggie Wellert. But she left a message. She said, “I’m calling with my hat as president of the Alumni Association of Moravian Theological Seminary. And I thought to myself, “Oh, the Annual Fund Drive!” Thankfully, I still listened to the whole message, and she went on to tell me that I was the recipient of the John Hus Award. So then I thought to myself, “Isn’t that an award for older people? I mean, my DAD got this award when he was…hmm, about my age!”

I found my father’s remarks from when he received the Hus Award in 1987, type-written. He acknowledges that his work of translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Miskitu “follows closely in the tradition of Jan Hus.” He goes on to say that it was “extremely important for Hus that people hear God’s Word in their own language and understand its true meaning for their lives.” I would add: important for Hus, and important…for us.

When I was a student at Moravian College the first time around, in the early ’70’s (and yes, I mean the nineteen 70’s) one of our favorite comedians was Steve Martin. And I remember that one of my favorite lines was when he said he had just gotten back from France. Then he paused and remarked, “Those French: they have a different word for everything!”

Maybe his observation was less obvious than we might like to think. And maybe learning those different words is part of the ongoing challenge of Hus’s legacy. Because, you see, words and their meanings can change not only from place to place, but also from time to time.

So, for example, in English, in our time, when the church says to the world, “All are welcome,” the world can mistakenly understand us to mean that… “all are welcome.” Now, of course, we all have our ideas concerning the ones who should (and should not) be part of that “all.” In the Moravian Church, with our rich mission heritage, we have been pretty good, I believe, at going into all the world and learning to speak the different languages of many people. But I believe that the church must communicate in the language of the people not just in South Africa and South America and South Asia, but also South Bethlehem. Not just in Eastern Tanzania or Eastern Nicaragua or the Eastern West Indies, but also East Winston, where we sometimes seem to be more hesitant to go.

Are we still communicating in the language of the people? Or are there obstacles to that effective communication?

A Lutheran pastor walked up to the microphone to begin the service in the way that she had always done, but discovered that the mike wasn’t working. So she looked up and said to her congregation, “There’s something wrong with this microphone.” And they responded faithfully, “and also with you.”

What we think we are saying is not always what is being heard. So maybe Hus’s lesson for us is that listening to the language of the people can be as important as speaking it. Or, in my grandmother’s words, “That’s why God gave us two ears but only one mouth–so we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

I came to Moravian Seminary after serving for about 15 years in what might be called (by people who like categories) a more “conservative” part of the Moravian world. (For example, my Bible only had on Isaiah.) Now, did I agree with everything that I was taught or exposed to in Seminary? Of course not. But I learned something extremely important. That is, if we’re going to disagree with someone, let’s make sure that we are disagreeing with what they are actually saying and not with what we think they are saying and not with what we think they are saying or what we assume they will say. Let’s listen and learn their language. Let’s use the tools of Biblical Studies and Pastoral Care and Church History and Leadership and Christian Education and engaging worship to dig deeper into the world and -yes, the world, all around us- exegete the culture in which God has granted us to live and recognize that God might even speak a word for us…through them (whoever they might be).

Listening, learning and communicating the good news in the language of the people of our time and place. It’s not just getting rid of the “thee’s” and “thou’s” or the “he’s” and “him’s” (that’s h-i-m) or, for that matter, replacing the other kind of hymns with more contemporary songs. I’m not talking about watering down the message or selling out to the culture to make it more relevant. I’m talking about communicating the faith, love and hope of our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier in a way that can be heard and owned by people today, and so recognizing that these things are not just for us, but for all the world.

Jan Hus was willing to die for his convictions. I guess the question for us is:  Are we willing to live for ours?

I close with my dad’s closing words when he received this award 27 years ago: “Thank you for this award. May God bless all of us who go out from this seminary that in all our varied areas of ministry we may be bound together by one major goal: the proclamation and the spread of the truth of the word of God.”  Thank you.

Sam Gray

The Board of Cooperative Ministries looks forward to celebrating the life of John Hus by recognizing the 600th anniversary of his martyrdom through the Comenius Learning Series events beginning this fall through 2015. 

Rt. Rev. Sam Gray, Director of Intercultural Ministries and Communication, Board of World Mission

Rt. Rev. Sam Gray, Director of Intercultural Ministries and Communication, Board of World Mission

 

Leapfrogging Negativity

Fun outdoorsIn this interesting post on Stewardship, Bob Sitze (author of the forthcoming  Simple Enough: A Companion Along the Way) discusses the importance of asset mapping as part of a stewardship process.  Sitze describes stewardship ministry as beginning with many presumptions about great and continuing neediness.  He sees “asset-based planning and thinking” as one way to “leapfrog negativity,” and we could all benefit from a little more of that!!

Right now you may be thinking about how to fund God’s mission or how to ask people to join in that task. Start your thinking and planning with your already-existing assets—God-given gifts that are useful.

How can you do some asset mapping within your own congregation? If you’re a self-starter, visit this website and do your own asset mapping exercise, or simply grab Luther Snow’s classic book on the topic. If you’re overwhelmed (aren’t we all?) and need a bit of assistance, contact us here at the Board of Cooperative Ministries. We can not only help guide your congregation through the process of asset mapping, we can also help you identify who your neighbors actually are and begin to think about ways to serve them or invite them to join you.  The Northern and Southern Province partnered recently to give our North American congregations access to an online demographics tool called MissionInsite. Find out more about our relationship with MissionInsite and how you can use this valuable tool.

The Ground of the Unity offers us some still-timely guidance about how stewardship ought to look, and it might surprise you:

Our Lord Jesus entered into this world’s misery to bear it and to overcome it. We seek to follow Him in serving His brothers and sisters. Like the love of Jesus, this service knows no bounds. Therefore we pray the Lord ever anew to point out to us the way to reach our neighbors, opening our hearts and hands to them in their need.
-Ground of the Unity, #9

Let’s work together as we open “our hearts and hands” to our neighbors in their need. When we operate from from a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity, we can accomplish much for the kingdom of God.

rcb~Ruth Cole Burcaw is the Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries. Part of her responsibilities includes offering coaching, consulting, training and facilitation to Southern Province congregations and RCCs. She’d love to hear from you!