My Dear Westhope Community,
We join together in this statement to encourage people in moderation of speech and listening, to be wary of hate speech in public discourse, and to encourage unity during this election season.
The Saratoga Ministerial Association is a community of leaders from the houses of faith in Saratoga including Catholic and Protestant, Jewish and Muslim, Latter Day Saints and Episcopal, as well as Council members from the City of Saratoga. We are men and women who support one another in our efforts to heal, care for, inspire goodness, and remove barriers that exist within the fabric of our neighborhoods. In this particular moment in our national conversation we are very aware of the power of the words being used to erode the unity that we seek in our community. This rhetoric is leading many to construct a modern false idol out of power and privilege, and we reject the notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others. The language is causing Americans to turn against their neighbors, particularly those who many appear different from themselves. No matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we must respect the dignity of every human being and seek the common good. We reject as well the uplifting of anger and violence as a mode of being and dealing with one another in this nation and in this world. From the holy men and women through our sacred histories we have learned tolerance, we have seen a higher standard of how to both care for people as well as stand up firmly, but peacefully, to those in power who seem to take advantage of that power. A society should not be judged by how it rewards its most privileged but how it cares for its most vulnerable. We urge all citizens to stand for peace, patience, and tolerance with one another (even those with whom we disagree), for civil public discourse, and wise discernment when enacting the privilege of voting in the midst of all the arguments and words.
We worry for the community that we are working hard to care for and live within. We also worry for the safety of all our children as they are very aware of the ramifications of the rhetoric that filters down to them in the form of threats and fear. Over and over again in our scriptures we hear “do not be afraid”. We are far too often hearing words of hate and thinly veiled racism, classism, and sexism that are indeed disturbing and causing great fear in many people of this nation. Thus we call for prayer for our country that a spirit of reconciliation will prevail, and we will not betray our truest selves.
Our hope is that we might find a common humanity, the strength of our unity, and our best selves that we might welcome the stranger and find the Holy in all of our encounters. May we know God’s blessing for all of humanity.
Rev. Erik Swanson, Westhope Presbyterian
Rev. Derek Engfelt, Immanuel Lutheran
Fr. Gary Thomas, Sacred Heart Catholic
Rev. Arvin Engelson, Saratoga Federated
Rev. Sara Pearson, Prince of Peace Lutheran
Rev. Nathan Winterhof, Prince of Peace Lutheran
Rev. Channing Smith, St. Andrews Episcopal
Manny Cappello, Mayor of Saratoga
Rabbi Philip Ohriner, Congregation Beth David
Dr. Imtiaz Qureshi, West Valley Muslim Association
Fr. Robert McKay, Sacred Heart Catholic
We celebrate all God continues to do among us here, and for Pastor Erik, who has led us with such care and faithfulness these last ten years. We are blessed and inspired to live more deeply into our lives with Christ, and for our pastor who holds a gracious place for us to be able to find our belovedness again week after week. We are grateful for the reminder, as we so easily forget.
On the last Sunday of the season of Advent, the Shepherd’s candle was lit. It was the candle of Love, following the lighting of the candles of Hope, Peace, and Joy in the prior weeks. We were invited to come forward and light candles, naming places in our lives where we have noticed love as we added our candle to the sand tray. It was a beautiful way to prepare for Christmas.
Many thank yous for all those turkeys for Monroe Middle School!
And we are thankful for all the work that was done this afternoon. One particularly impressive (and rather heartstopping) feat: Ed and Erik carrying a couch down from the sound room, finding it wouldn’t fit through the door at the bottom of the stairs, then deciding it should go *over* the wall instead…well, just look at the pictures. Problem-solving and teamwork at its finest!
Loss is never easy. It sure helps to have a faith community who walks together through those fragile times, with prayers, shared tears, gentle listening, strong shoulders, and comforting hugs. We will miss Ann Campbell, are sad with Marion at the loss of her brother Bill, and with Susan as she grieves her father.
Jim and Portia have been such an integral part of our church family, and we will miss them as they prepare to retire in the Pacific Northwest. Jim’s music and gentle way of making everyone feel welcome, and Portia’s warmth and big beautiful heart for people…they are people who embody the love of God with grace, kindness and joy. We bless them as they step into a new season of life and community.
Every BBQ needs its masters at the grill – here are ours: Ed and Jay! This last Sunday, we got to enjoy time together, some great weather, a delicious meal, and even playing (or watching) bocce ball. Thank yous to everyone who brought food and helped with setup/cleanup, and Erik for his boundless enthusiasm!
Our beloved Pastor Erik has returned from his sabbatical AND has discovered a new favorite spot to fly fish. Can’t you just hear that water? Looks pretty fabulous 🙂 We are happy that his time away and with family was restful and restoring. Pastoring is challenging work that takes a lot of heart. He cares for us so well. This is part of how we can care for him.
We are glad he is back amongst us again. Let’s love him well.
We missed you, Erik!
Pastor Nan has been leading us so wonderfully while Pastor Erik has been on sabbatical, and this past Sunday was no exception. As part of our response to her sermon, we were invited to think about what gifts we bring to build up a dwelling place for God that we might be a beacon of peace to the world.
Not all the post-its are readable (those pencils in the pews…), so here is a list of what we brought:
More friendships with all!, open heart, prayers and happy thoughts, Christ, my prayers and love for God, listening to another’s hurts and pain, helping people to keep in touch, to see good in everyone and love, better understanding and wisdom, humor, acceptance without judgement, open hearted listener, compassion, faithfulness and friendship, support of others, generosity, love of others, hospitality, carrying a task to completion, working to keep the temple functioning, creativity, love, transparency, hope, reading scripture, contemplative practices, instruction.
Thank you, Nan (and Rollin, for sharing her with us)!