Today I continue my Lenten series on hymns that help us address social justice issues. The topics today are violence and interfaith respect.
In June of last year, a white gunman walked into a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and opened fire. Nine people were murdered, including the pastor. What can we sing at times of such horrific violence? Hymns in Times of Crisis is a new digital resource available from The Hymn Society. John Ambrose, project coordinator, has given us a way to access many hymns to sing in response to overwhelming events of disaster and loss in our lives. In the topical index for the collection, under the general heading of violence, sub-categories include abuse, rejection, migration, acts of terrorism, overcoming despair, conflict, war, and overcoming divisions. This project was a true labor of love and both Eileen and I want to acknowledge John’s incredible effort and dedication in making this collection available to us.
One text in the collection is “When sudden terror tears apart,” written in 2001 by Carl Daw in response to the destruction of the World Trade Center during the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the United States. In 2013 Daw revised his text. The original stanza two was deleted:
As tower and fortress fall, we watch
with disbelieving stare
and numbly hear the anguished cries
that pierce the ash-filled air.
The phrase “of structures razed,” was deleted from stanza three, replaced by a line about pain and grief. Here is the 2013 version:
In 2010, we found no topical entries on violence. We are thankful for a growing awareness of this issue. Lift Up Your Hearts includes the topics “domestic violence” and “violence and crime.” Community of Christ Sings has the entry “prejudice.” Ruth Duck offers us a response to racial violence with her text “Black lives matter.” Commenting on the hymn, she notes:
The events of 2014, including the shooting of Michael Brown in [Ferguson] Missouri and Eric Garner in New York, inspired this text. I respect police officers, the dangers they encounter, and the good that they do. It is a distressing injustice, however, when police use excessive force that falls disproportionately on African American men. Using our voices as Christians to speak out for justice is one way in which all our lives can matter.
A few years ago I received a note from Ensieh, a local Iranian American woman, asking if she could tell my church people about Iranian political refugees in Iraq. Camp Ashraf was home to over 3,000 Iranians who were granted protected status as civilians by Coalition forces during the Iraq War. In spite of their protected status, the residents suffered severe persecution. We listened to Ensieh’s stories. Over time, a deep and rich relationship has developed between several Bay Area Methodist churches and the Iranian American Community of Northern California (http://iacnorcal.com). Our choir recorded a Persian song and sent it to the people in Camp Ashraf. We hosted a memorial service in our church for Ensieh’s daughter, killed in Camp Ashraf. I have attended rallies for a free Iran in San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Paris, France. In 2013 I participated in a memorial service remembering fifty-two martyrs for a free Iran, who were murdered in Camp Ashraf on September 1, 2013. I spoke of the suffering and death of Jesus in this interfaith context, saying that as we remember Jesus, we will remember these martyrs for freedom. At the close of the service each person was given a red rose to place on the altar. My text, “A blood red rose reminds us still” was written in response to this event.
Ensieh and other Muslim friends regularly visit my worship service. They are Iranian Americans who escaped the imprisonment and torture of the current regime in Iran to work from outside their country of origin for peace, justice, and a free Iran. They feel comfortable praying with my congregation.
I was raised to believe that without a personal conversion to the Christian faith, individuals would burn in hell forever. In my adult life I have changed radically in this area. I have come to see the faith traditions of the world as equal ways to God. Interfaith respect is now a topic in a few hymnals and supplements, as well as in Hope Online Hymnody.It is an entry in the Table of Contents in Community of Christ Sings. The United Church supplement More Voices has Mary Louise Bringle’s text “In Star and Crescent, Wheel and Flame.” In 2003 Brian Wren wrote “Each Seeking Faith Is Seeking Light.” It feels new to me, in our time, to practice our faith with respect for people of other faith traditions. We now invite people to church, to become Christians, because people need a loving community, not because they will go to hell if they are not Christians. If people have a loving faith community, we are learning to celebrate with them.
Much violence on earth is done in the name of religion. All the major faith traditions teach love. There is a serious disconnect here. I believe it is necessary for all people to live with love and respect for others, and to show the face of love at all times. Can we learn to follow the Prince of Peace as we sing with respect for the faith traditions of others?
Jacque Jones offers this text as a prayer for a “song of peace best sung by all,” one of several interfaith hymns in Community of Christ Sings.
Betty Graham’s mother died quietly and at peace Wednesday evening, Feb. 17. Betty and family members were at her side. She had been declining in health over the past couple of years and Betty was there for her in loving support. There will be a memorial service later. If you would like to send cards to Betty: 1496 Palm Ave., Richmond, Ca 94805.
Susan Wickesser, Doris Swope’s niece, has been cancer free for two years and living life to the fullest. She has just sent a message that new tumors have been found on her lungs. She has started chemotherapy. Please remember her in prayer for healing.
Our dear church friend, Pat King, Update: Pat had her surgery and her daughter is returning home this weekend. Pat cannot lift more than 10# for 2-3 weeks so she needs our help. Someone to take her grocery shopping and to carry in the bags. Help taking out garbage and lifting her laundry. If you can help please contact her at 375 1688 or email@example.com.
Kathe Kiehn is asking for healing prayers for her daughter, Karen Gagnier. Karen has survived breast cancer once and is now facing treatment for a new aggressive cancer in her other breast. Karen is currently undergoing a 5-6 week course of chemo and once that is completed she’ll have a second round with different drugs. She is trying to live her life as normally as possible and your prayers are welcome.
Please keep Katherine Parker, our missionary, and the people of Nepal in your prayers.
Deby McFadyen is requesting prayers for two young friends who are battling cancer. Please remember Sarah Talkington and Jimmy Lowe in your prayers.
Pastor Dan will be away February 22-29 teaching music in Toronto. Michelle McGoon, Lay Leader from El Sobrante UMC, will be our guest speaker on Sunday, February 28.
Russ and Kristi Johnson were installed as our sweethearts for this year. They were roasted and toasted in grand style. Tom Butt had done his research and had questionable facts about both Russ and Kristi. His jokes were as usual awful but delivered with great panache! All the speakers (family and friends) lovingly and amusingly spoke of their experiences with them over the years. It was an enjoyable eve
Saturday, February 13, the floor in Friendship Hall was stripped and washed and waxed with thanks to Fran Smith and Bill Thompson for coordinating it.
Barbara Haley visited the new Family Justice Center in Richmond which provides services for abused women. The center has social workers, police and attorneys all present to assist the victims. The center often has to send mothers with children to a safe home or shelter and they like to give them a soft, cuddly toy to take with them. Missions would like to be able to take some new stuffed toys with the tag still on them, to donate to the center. If you would like to donate a stuffed toy, we will be collecting them on Easter Sunday.
Our friends at Saffron Strand wish to prepare and donate a lunch for our church family once a month in gratitude for the work Pastor Dan has been doing with them. They will be doing this the second Sunday of the month, beginning March 13.
Katherine Parker, missionary in Nepal: Update: Katherine will be here to speak with us on June 5, 6-9 pm.
The Blockade by Nepali dissidents near the Indian border is causing severe shortage of supplies, mainly fuel and medicines in Nepal. Many businesses have been shut down and hospitals will soon be running out of fuel to run their generators which means that surgeries and life saving incubators for babies will not be operational. The violence at the border has increased. Katherine is safe but electricity is dicey and life is harder. She is having to bathe in cold water and the team she is with are sharply curtailing driving. Hundreds of cars without fuel clog the streets of Katmandu. Winter is causing a crisis as is the loss of fuel for heating. Negotiations between the government and the dissidents is bogged down.
Parsonage and Church Sewer Line: The parsonage sewer line, which is a shared line with the church sewer line, is leaking and needs replacement. It’s a long line that connects to the main sewer below the Catholic Church. Estimated cost is $7,100. We are also asking our congregation for donations to help fund this project. City of Richmond has a grant program for installing sewer laterals. We are in the process of applying for the grant. Grants may be given for $3000. Kim Butt is applying for us. Our thanks to Kim and Bill Thompson for the work they have done on this project.
We are continuing to move ahead with plans for the long-term financing of our church for generations to come through an Endowment program. The California-Nevada United Methodist Foundation has a planned giving website for your information. The site is: firstname.lastname@example.org legacy.com. See what your options for giving are.
Imagine No Malaria continues to need your donations.
Sunday, February 14 thru Sunday, March 13: Annual Heifer International collection of your pennies in memory of Helen Valentine. Hope you have been saving your change for this. Of course we take bills and checks as well. Heifer International provides animals, bees, trees and more to help those in need to start a business to improve their quality of life. Please donate generously.
Saturday, March 5, 9:30 am-4 pm, Journey Farthest Out Spring Retreat is being held at our church. This is a great way to strengthen our spiritual connections through meditation, singing, speaker, rhythms, creative expression & sharing. Free event. Contact Jean Reynolds if you would like to attend: 510 734-3942 or email@example.com. Light breakfast provided, bring a lunch. See attachment.
Sunday, March 6, Special Sunday Offering for One Great Hour of Sharing. The donations made on this special Sunday provide the money for the administrative work for UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) so that all your contributions designated for specific programs can go to those programs 100%.
Friday, March 11, 7:30 pm Point Richmond Acoustic presents John Reischman and The Jaybirds with Special guest Megan McLaughlin. This a top-flight bluegrass band. John Reischman has been described as one of the world’s undisputed masters of the mandolin. John, mandolin; Jim Nunally, guitar; Trisha Gagnon, bass; Nick Hornbuckle, banjo and Greg Spatz, fiddle. Megan McLaughlin, singer songwriter awarded by West Coast Songwriters best song in January 2016. Tickets $15 and more info at pointacoustic.org, $20 at the door. First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., Point Richmond.
Saturday, March 12, United Methodist Women’s Retreat. 8:30 am-3:45 pm the Napa Methodist Church. Open to all women. Retreat leader Rev. Holly Hillman, “Courage to Grow”. Please see brochure. Napa Methodist Church, 625 Randolph, Napa. Cost $18, includes continental breakfast and lunch.
Saturday,March 19, 7 pm, Vicki Zabarte and Dan Damon will present a concert of jazz standards. Vicki has sung in many community theater productions. Dan Damon is the pianist for the evening concert. Suggested donation $10. Proceeds to benefit Saffron Strand and their work with the homeless in our area. First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., Point Richmond.
Good Friday Services, 7:30 pm, March 25: Pinole United Methodist Church, 2000 San Pablo Ave., Pinole.