It's always a joy when we get to gather with those from throughout the synod and country for worship. It's even more of a joy when we get to gather to officially welcome our new bishop, Bishop Anne Edison-Albright and her family to our synod.
Initially, this past Saturday was scheduled to be the day of a Service of Installation for Bishop Anne, however due to the pandemic, the installation planning team, Synod Council, and Presiding Bishop's office thought it best to postpone an installation until it is safer for travel and for people to be in the same room with one another. Instead, we were able to gather virtually for a service of welcome!
This service was lovely, meaningful, and a blessing to be part of! I hope you'll take the time to check it out to get a glimpse of how the Holy Spirit has been at work in the East Central Synod and beyond.
Peace be the journey,
A Pandemic Lullaby Heather Watney 12/13/20
As a cellist and participant in the Fox Valley Symphony’s outreach programs, I am fortunate to be able to touch the lives of listeners in direct ways. I am lucky enough to play quartet music (these days all virtually) for children with special needs, for adults with special needs or memory challenges, or with libraries/clubs that want to interact with symphony musicians on a smaller scale. It is these special symphony presentations that mean the most to me — because I can see directly how my music touches other lives, sometimes in profound ways that can’t be articulated easily.
In mid-August Cassie Schwandt, FVS’s Director of Community Engagement, asked a few people from the orchestra if they would be interested in trying something different and step into a singer/songwriter role to work on a Carnegie Lullaby Project with Appleton’s Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs. The Carnegie Lullaby Project pairs musicians with families, and together they compose and write lyrics for a new lullaby that children will have for their whole lives. Families and musicians involved in the program, piloted in New York City, have written more than 1,400 lullabies across the United States and around the globe!
Jennie Micke, children and youth advocate at Harbor House, shared with me how hard her organization works to empower our local communities to be free from domestic abuse through safety, knowledge and engagement. Jennie was instrumental in our virtual sessions with mothers as the hub of communication in this lullaby project. She explained to me that writing lullabies with musicians gives families recovering from an abusive situation a chance to be empowered through music as a critical decision maker in the direction a song grows. She led all of us — musicians, mothers and children — through the experience with such grace and gentleness.
There were several mothers I could have been paired with, but I ended up with Rachel and her daughter. I’m so grateful I was paired with Rachel. The lullaby we worked on wasn’t just a project in empowerment for her; it was an important time capsule capturing an uncertain moment in Rachel’s life. When I heard her story, it gave me pause. It made me wonder if I could really do justice to a song that would be a lifelong reminder to her little girl of a mother’s love.
Rachel is battling cancer with an unknown outcome at this point. Rachel’s opening spoken dedication in the lullaby poignantly captures this unknown: “If there ever comes a day that we can’t be together, keep me in your heart. I will stay there forever. I love you today, tomorrow and for eternity.” Rachel’s song is her legacy and a reminder for the little love of her life that even if they aren’t together, Rachel is still there, no matter what. Lyrics in the song repeat this loving reminder:
I’m always with you. I’m here at your side. I’m smiling at you when you think you’re alone. through all of your child days and when you are grown.
So, I sobbed. I sat at my piano after our virtual brainstorming sessions ended and sobbed for Rachel, for her daughter, for my own mother going through serious health risks, for separation, for uncertain futures. Then I set out to compose but with a tormented heart — how could I possibly write a song that could reflect this mother’s purest love and be a lasting ode of encouragement for her daughter? I felt like it wasn’t enough to just write any song. It had to be the right song. I spent the next six weeks torturing and questioning myself, immersed in Rachel’s uncertain future, her story and her song.
Our time here’s a journey we cannot control, so please live a life that brings joy to your soul.
Rachel also spends time thinking a lot about her daughter’s uncertain future and journey. What happens to her daughter if Rachel dies? She can write a will naming a desired guardian for her daughter, but in Wisconsin that is no guarantee her daughter won’t be placed with her abusive father who lost his rights for custody. Rachel is, in her own way, also trying to craft a lasting ode. She is working hard to bring positive change to Wisconsin law cases where the primary parent with sole custody and parental rights has assurances that the abusive parent who lost his or her rights cannot regain custody upon the death of the primary parent. Rachel clearly has doubts. She asked me, “How do I protect my daughter if I die?” I don’t know the answer. All I could do is write down the inspired words Rachel penned for her daughter and find a melody (the most uplifting moment in the song) that reflected a shared message of hope and truth for Rachel and her daughter, both: Keep staring your fears in the face like I taught and overcome all of them. I believe in you!
The weeks passed and I finally felt the song was done. I had recorded the piano part myself, but wanted to make sure I found the right voice for Rachel, who has pain and difficulty with speaking and singing due to treatments. Kristy Danielski, a wonderful friend, nurse, mother and amateur singer from Christ the King Lutheran, provided the singing. Always an empathetic friend who connects deeply to songs she considers emotionally moving, she asked me, “How will I get through this without crying, Heather?” After practicing it at home she informed me that her own daughter, Autumn, spends quiet time in her bedroom singing the lullaby to herself. It made me smile to know that another mother and daughter were finding shared succor with this lullaby.
But the song still needed more musical heart and warmth. So, I called Fox Valley Symphony violist Jane Finch and asked if she would play all the violin and viola parts I wrote (there may have been chocolate and prosecco involved), and I’d play the cello. She didn’t hesitate, which led to multiple hours of socially distanced, masked playing and recording in the sanctuary of Christ the King Lutheran. Her instruments sang in the pandemic-empty space, bringing life and joy to the cavernous room. Hearing her play made my heart feel lighter in this project for the first time. The sun was shining brightly that day, like a warm smile. Jane’s playing was indeed the sound of a mother’s love behind that sunshine smile.
My daughter, my darling, I’m your shining guide.
Before each breakout brainstorming session, we started with singing and fun with all the mothers, musicians and children together. Musician coordinator Sam Taylor found all these fun songs for us to sing together and dreamed up kids’ activities. On one of the days, the children created their own rainsticks and played them during a closing song together. Sam played his authentic rainstick, adding to the cacophony of joyful child noises during that particular Zoom session. I knew I wanted to remind Rachel’s daughter of that musical moment and the rainstick she created with her mom from a toilet paper tube. I asked Sam if he would add some rainstick and string bass to the lullaby I worked on with Rachel. He was more than willing to help out and was instrumental in helping create the final mix with me. His additions to the lullaby were the final pieces of the puzzle. NOW the music was done. I felt exhausted and drained, the fast and inspiring creation process having taken an emotional toll on me. I think I found Rachel’s song.
Finally, Jennie, Sam and I met with Rachel virtually to help her record her voice and dedication for her daughter. It was the first time she and Jennie heard the whole song from start to finish with the strings added. We were all in tears with the shared experience of the musical journey, of the arrival, of the destination reached. Here was the legacy, completed with her voice — still so beautiful and full of love despite changes due to all her treatments. Here was the gift for her daughter, the spoken and sung assurance that Rachel’s presence would continue no matter what.
Composing and recording music is kind of like being a mother and giving birth. You hope for the best, put your heart and soul into it, and hope your song makes a meaningful impact in the world, even if it impacts just one person. If I live to be 80, Rachel’s daughter will just be turning 41, almost the same age I am now (ok, I’m a few more years older). Even after Rachel and I are both gone, I hope this song I helped craft will still be in this young lady’s life, reminding her that Rachel is always with her, showing her that music has the power to touch our souls in profound ways. I hope this song will help her draw out beautiful memories like a rainstick craft and the sound of her mother’s beautiful voice. I hope this song has the power to remind her that music can be a shining sun in a long, dark winter.
Go live a life that’s defined by just you.
Your vivacious spirit will carry you through.
Go fill your days with your love and desires.
Be confidant fearless and I’ll lift you higher.
“They were very grateful for the gifts, and there were moments of happy tears!”
Another family was so surprised that they expressed their thankfulness over and over for all the people who made Christmas be so special this year!
Merry Christmas and thank you, people, and friends of Christ the King! Thank you for your support and generosity to make Christmas special for four families – 13 children, 5 parents by contributing to the Holiday Giving Tree at CtK. You have provided clothing, food, household items, toys, books, gas cards and gift cards to families who don’t have that ability to do so.
You have no doubt heard the phrase “Blessed to be a blessing.” Where does it come from? There are countless inferences throughout the Bible, but two places in scripture we may find this are Genesis 12:2 and Matthew 5:16. In Genesis we find ‘blessed to be a blessing’ in the Call of Abraham, who hadn’t had his name changed yet. God said to Abram,
“I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”
We also hear the words “blessed to be a blessing,” in an inferred way, during a baptism when we light and present the baptismal candle to the baptismal candidate, parents, and sponsors. We say these words from Matthew 5:16
“Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
RC Sproul an American Reformed theologian and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America once said, “One of the worst things we can do it to waste the gifts that God has given to us.” Our time, our resources, and our heart is to be diverted away from our own comforts and pleasures toward expanding God’s kingdom and glory. Thank you for sharing your gifts and resources to others in our community. You have seized the opportunity to allow God’s love to come to life for these four families!
I look forward to many more opportunities in 2021 to see how CtK is blessed to be a blessing to our community!
Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year from our newborn Savior – Jesus Christ,
Wowza! It had been a couple months since we last did a State of the Church webinar! Last week Thursday though, we gathered together online to share all the ways that God's love has been coming to life at Christ the King since we did our last webinar.
Check out the full webinar below, and if you want the abridged version, check out these specific spots:
On another topic:
We are looking forward to seeing you this Christmas Eve! Be sure to check out our website, Facebook page, and our eNews to get all the important details you'll want to know!
Peace be the journey,
The divide between secular and sacred in our western culture has a long history that most likely started with the Greeks. I mean a long time ago like when Jesus was on the earth. Before that the Hebrew people had a more integrated way of understanding all of life having its beginnings from God or all of creation being bathed in the sacred. For me, there is tension between the two schools of thought in my everyday perspective. Sometimes I find myself grounded in the dualism of sacred vs secular and other days I can see God’s handy work all around me.
Repurposing, recycling, reclaiming, salvaging, restoring are all important concepts to life and the things we have. To see a person in a new light or worn-out objects as valuable for a new use are important. Thankfully, God does not get tired of us, because, every day, we are made to be a new creation. We are given new life and we are repurposed.
I give thanks for the creative mind and resourceful nature of people here at CtK. Jane Wyngaard is one of those people who observed the renovation of the church in 2018 before she retired as our Housekeeper in 2020. She used some of the displaced chairs that were in the back of the church to create a new lounge area for fellowship near the new coffee bar. She also saw that we replaced some wood doors. She could imagine the beauty of God’s created trees, made into doors, could be repurposed and made into coffee tables. Fantastic! Who could do that?
She pitched her idea to Landon Wiese and his mind started to turn with ideas along with another woodworking friend Ron. Together, they made two “new,” gorgeous, sturdy coffee tables!
I look forward to the day when we can be back in person to be renewed in our gathering, fellowship, worship, and to fully use these new tables. In time, God has a way of bringing out the good in everything and everyone, again and again. May we be patient and see how God is blessing and making all creation new.
Be well, be safe and God Bless,
Making music during a pandemic isn’t the same. Nothing is the same for any of us. But because a musician’s job is to play with others and for others, this pandemic can be particularly spirit crushing. Working from home is not an option for most musicians. So, I have been fortunate enough to be able to make music at home for my congregation with the use of technology and an amazing team of song leaders who felt called to continue singing and learn new technology.
In November when I decided to plan a string quartet concert for the congregation, the thought was we all needed something to sooth our weary souls, and to help usher in the cheer of Christmas. I didn’t realize how much getting together with those three ladies to record hymns and carols would mean to the four of us. We met on Sunday 12/6, fully masked, socially distanced when getting ready, and were seated farther apart from each other than the recommended six feet. The moment we started playing and recording, we all felt it: the camaraderie of music we had been missing, the beauty of the music seeping into our thirsty souls to nurture us again, and the potential of a beautiful gift to nurture the souls of weary congregants gearing up for a holiday we usually celebrate together.
As thrilled as the musicians were to play together, we are equally joyful that the beautiful strains of “Silent Night” and “Hark the Herald Angels” and many your other favorites will be performed for you in a streamed concert on Saturday, December 19th, at 6:30 pm. The concert will available on our Facebook page after the premiere time for you to view and enjoy as desired. Thank you to musicians, Audrey Nowak, Lori Murphy, and Jane Finch; thank you to Pastor Dara for her part; thank you to Adam Watney for running cameras; and thank you to Brent Schuettpelz for his technical expertise to pull it all together.
Merry Christmas to you, Christ the King!
From the Music Ministry (and symphony friends).
Written By Heather Watney
Advent is officially here, which means we have entered the season of waiting. This year we are excited to be offering many ways for those connected to Christ the King to be leaning into the season.
Last Saturday, each family with a child in Sunday School had a special advent kit delivered to them. In that kit, there were materials to create a block nativity set, some ornaments, and a salt dough advent wreath. On top of that, they also received a packet of coloring sheets to help them mark this time of waiting. From the looks of the photos that have been coming in, those materials sure are making advent come to life for these young members and their families!
We are grateful for all the ways you have contributed to Christ the King to make projects like this possible for our students! These projects make the time more meaningful to show them that we're not just counting down to Christmas, we are marking the days of waiting and longing for Jesus to break into this world!
“Advent season offers a surge of creative energy,”
says Pastor Judy, one of our retired pastors who is offering a video each week of Advent, for a discussion around Mark’s gospel (Dec 1,8,15,22).
Advent season, which are the weeks after Thanksgiving that lead us up to Christmas, is indeed a time when creative energy is expended as we actively wait. I see many people surging with creativity as they prepare light displays on the outside of their homes. Decorate the inside of their homes with trees and stockings and much, much, more! Creative energy goes into the exchange of thoughtful Christmas letters and photos, cut out cookies and even more creative energy put into gift purchases and wrapping. Go ahead and be creative! But don’t forget the message the season of Advent points to. Don’t forget the promises of God’s Son taking on flesh to live among us. Advent is filled with the energy of Christians exercising their hearts, sharpening their minds and preparing for Christ’s coming.
At Christ the King some creative energy ways we connect with the Advent surge:
Advent is a surge of creative energy and I hope you will be part of the energy that helps bring God’s love to life in the many ways we prepare for Jesus’ birth 😊
My Dearest CtK Readers...
Usually when I write this blog, I write about ways God's love has come to life at CtK in recent weeks, however this week is a little bit different. This week I'm going to flip it around a bit and ask you to help bring God's love to life yet again.
Recently I found myself in conversation with a few parents of young children in our congregation. We were talking about the joys and struggles of having our small children at home, and...the lament we feel. Just like all of you, not only are we missing connecting with our church community in person, but our littles are as well. We grieve the fact that for the past 9 months, our little humans who have so much to learn about the world, and long for community and familiar faces and connections just as much as adults do, haven't been able to connect with their church community. From a Faith Formation perspective, we know that faith is formed through personal, trusted relationships, and right now small children (think 5 and under) don't really have an opportunity to form those relationships with their church family.
I know one of the fears that we parents have is that whenever we do return to worshipping in person, coming to church might be a scary thing because there will be SO many people, most of which will seem like new faces. In our family, Miriam was just freshly 1 year old the last time we worshipped together in person with all of you. In that time she has changed SO much, and she is much more aware of the people around her. Coming to church might be scary for her at first.
SO....this is where we parents of young children could use your help!
Children learn absorb a TON of information through books. Because of that, we'd like to create a picture book called, "We Are Your Church." The feature of this book: ALL OF YOU! It will be a simple picture book that features informal photos of all of you, along with your first names.
Here's how you can help:
That's it! That's all we need you to do. From there, I'll work on putting the photos and your names into a simple photo book that will be available for families to purchase for a small fee.
One of the things that I LOVE about you, Christ the King, is that you are all about supporting and walking with the kiddos of our congregation. I give thanks for how you will make God's love come to life through the "We Are Your Church" book project!
Peace be the journey,