It's an interesting time to be church. As awareness of social injustices grows throughout the country and the world, the same is happening within the church. As the Gospel shows us time and again, Jesus' favor, attention, and ministry was directed toward freeing and uplifting the poor and oppressed. However, the way ELCA churches have lived that out has been...well...not the best.
When I was going through the assignment and call process, I distinctly remember all of my seminary classmates and I being called to a meeting with our discernment person from the seminary and the Bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod. During that meeting, they laid out the process we were entering into. They told us what we needed to do to stand out to bishops and churches, what paperwork we needed to fill out, they gave us deadlines, and they let us know what we could expect in the process ahead. Then...they laid out some realities for us.
They told us:
Why is this a reality? Well...because it turns out there are many churches who are simply not ready or willing to consider more diverse candidates. It's an injustice happening right inside our church body. When we embrace the full diversity of God's church and open ourselves up to leaders with voices different than our own, we are opening ourselves up to the Holy Spirit's work to take us to new places for the sake of the Gospel.
To be fair, often times the first time a congregation is asked to consider looking at a female, person of color, or LGBTQIA+ candidate is when they have already entered into the call process. At that point they're grieving the loss of their pastor, and they have a short amount of time to make a decision to keep the process toward a new pastor rolling. Realistically, it's simply not the right time to enter into the many deep threads of conversation and dialogue that are needed to consider diverse candidates, and how to make the congregation a welcoming place for those candidates should they become the congregation's pastor.
When congregations are unwilling to partner with diverse candidates, not only does the church miss out, but seminary students who invested at least 4 years of their lives and a lot of money into becoming a pastor are left to live in a constant waiting game.
So how do we address this injustice?
We start with conversation in our own congregations who already have called pastors and are not in the call process.
But how do we get congregations to do that?
Through a resolution! A resolution is an official statement that is lifted up, voted on, and adopted at our annual Synod Assembly. A well-written resolution will state a problem, then offer up a way of resolving that problem. In order for a resolution to be lifted up at Synod Assembly, it has to be endorsed by a congregation, a committee, or a minimum of 10 individuals.
Luckily, the Christ the King Church Council has endorsed a resolution to address this very issue!
Here is the resolution being lifted up:
Resolution Title: Opening the Way for Women, People of Color, and LGBTQIA+ Candidates
WHEREAS, the body of Christ is made of a collection of diverse images of God; and
WHEREAS, God calls us to work for peace for all people through justice; and
WHEREAS, women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ candidates wait longer for calls than their white, straight, male, cis-gendered colleagues; and
WHEREAS, the ELCA is the the least racially diverse denomination in the US; and
WHEREAS, representation in leadership matters; and
WHEREAS, the covid-19 pandemic is leading to burnout of clergy and a push toward transitions of call; and
WHEREAS, faithful discernment in the calling of pastoral candidates takes time and discussion facilitated by trusted leaders; and
WHEREAS, the first time many congregations engage in conversation about calling women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ candidates is when they are just about to or have already entered the call process
THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that congregations of the ECSW with a called pastor begin conversation and discernment on the future calling of women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ candidates; and BE IT FURTHER
RESOLVED, that congregations in conversation also create action plans for making their congregation a more safe working, living, and ministry environment for women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ pastors through a commitment to education, training, continued prayerful discernment, and systemic change.
Let's be clear here: This resolution is not aiming to force any congregation to accept a female, person of color, or LGBTQIA+ candidate. That doesn't serve congregations or candidates well.
What it IS doing however, is encouraging congregations to have discussion about accepting diverse candidates while they STILL have a trusted pastor who can lead and facilitate those conversations. Additionally, it is asking congregations to take an honest look at their practices and congregational culture to explore how they could move themselves toward being a more accepting or hospitable place for candidates to serve.
The endorsement by the Church Council is representation of all of you! By endorsing this resolution, you all are taking an active role in addressing injustices that happen within the larger church -- this is work to celebrate! Thanks, Holy Spirit!
Peace be the journey,
Only in Wisconsin! What a great day for parking lot worship -5 degrees! Everyone was warm in their cars and I was warm in the porta-pulpit! In fact, the preacher was so full of hot air the window fogged up! God sure has a sense of humor!
It has been bitterly cold, but with Ash Wednesday beginning Lent last night, Spring will be in the air soon! Lent can be a good break from life which can feel overwhelming from - busyness, anxiety, responsibilities, alienation, or even the temptation to compare our lives to someone else. This world likes to push us around and tell us we are less than anything. Thankfully, Jesus has come for all of us to know a different way of living and seeing the world from God’s perspective.
During the Wednesdays of Lent we will be focusing on the theme “Embodied.” A liberating way of integrating our thinking, actions, emotions, and spirituality to live for God. I hope you will plan to use the spiritual discipline of Lent to see how one’s mind, body, heart, and soul are called to be in-line with our daily thoughts and actions as Christians.
Embodied for Lent will take on many ways to feel deeply and have a sense of wholeness. Beyond our weekly livestreamed worship on Wednesdays (6:30pm), we have daily devotionals, coloring pages, discussion after worship, and a host of other ways to connect. Contact the church office for details or pick up materials in the tote outside the office doors, next to the mailbox.
Join in, be made whole, and beat the low temperatures. Together let us see God’s love come to life!
Christ’s Blessings & Peace,
Lent is a time for spiritual growth and stretching. In the middle of a LONG winter and a LONG pandemic, there's certainly space for us to grow, learn, and stretch our faith a bit. We have a WHOLE LOT of opportunities for growth coming up this Lent, but I wanted to feature one in particular this week, as I think it's a GREAT opportunity for anyone who is missing getting to interact with the friendly folks from church.
Starting on February 23rd, we're excited to offer another round of the ALPHA series, which will be facilitated by two Christ the King partners in ministry.
Alpha is an 11-week series that is designed to get people asking questions about faith TOGETHER.
Each time the Alpha group gathers, they'll watch a video that introduces the question of the night, and they'll get to talk it out and explore from there. THAT'S IT!
The bonus of joining an Alpha group is that you'll get to meet people from our community and get to form an authentic and meaningful relationship with them.
So far, we have had a handful of cohorts who have done the Alpha series together, including our 9th grade confirmation students. All involved have reported how meaningful it was for them, and how they grew as the weeks went on.
Check out the video below to learn a little bit more about it, and if you'd like to join the group starting on February 23rd, please email Denise Barnaal at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Christ the King stands with you Kimberly High School students and administration who immediately reported an Instagram message of racism. On the first day of Black History month, someone falsely used the KHS logo to promote “KHS White Club.” This is not a real club. See the KHS Special Announcement –
Racism is real. It is intended to hurt and keep others from being equal. Individually and collectively, we have work to do to understand and to combat attitudes, language, and institutional/systemic racism. As part of our seminary learning both Pastor Dara and I were required to take anti-racism classes. Both of us embrace and take seriously our call to serve you and the expectations entrusted to us by the ELCA:
Much like keeping up on boundary training, we have anti-racism training too. Recently, we attended a 6 hour anti-racism workshop. I was reminded of this quote from an anti-racism class I attended two years ago that spoke to me: “It has taken great effort to bring about racism in this country and it will take great effort and energy to reverse and eliminate the work of racism.” How will I use my energy?
At CtK, our energy is around our core values that were worked on by the congregation. The first value reflects an anti-racist value as we welcome people:
“Being Welcoming and Inclusive – we fearlessly extend Christ’s love and radical welcome all people and affirm their worth and dignity regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, gender, identity, ability or class.”
This is where we start at CtK, and we continue to expand beyond this as the Spirit guides and directs. As you heard at the Annual Meeting on Sunday, we are working on setting up book studies and conversations around anti-racism after Easter and/or summertime. In the meantime, we are open to questions you may have for dialog.
In the Church catholic (small “c” for catholic meaning - universal) already has diversity of cultures. It is important to remember we are church together and we are one in Christ. As the body of Christ, we are free to live out our connectedness with each other. Although racism affects each one of us differently, we must take responsibility for our participation, acknowledge our complicity, repent of our sin, and pray God will bring us to reconciliation. Racism, both blatant and subtle (and I would add even neutral or silent), continues to deny the reconciling work of the cross. God’s forgiveness frees us from the bonds of racism. For some, this may mean giving up power or privilege; for others, it may mean giving up anger or prejudice. May we know and share the energy of this reconciliation in our lives with others! Thank you, Kimberly High School students and administration for being anti-racist. We stand with you!
Christ’s Blessings & Peace,
So it should come as no surprise to ya'll by this point that I LOVE camp. As a kid, I grew up going to Crossways' Imago Dei Village. That was the one thing I looked forward to every summer, and through those years as a camper then as a staffer, I met some of my best friends who have stuck with me ever since.
This summer, Crossways IS planning on operating at all three of their camps (Pine Lake Camp, Waypost Camp, and Imago Dei Village)! It'll be an unusual summer for sure, as they'll be operating at 50% capacity with pandemic-safe modifications made, but what's important is that this summer our kids will have the opportunity available to them to attend camp.
This summer, for those families who are ready to send their kids to camp (pandemic life has us all in different places), we are hoping to send kids from Christ the King to Pine Lake Camp the week of June 27-July 2. To register, please visit www.crosswayscamps.org .
Since this blog is all about ways that God's love comes to life, I figured I'd offer you my list of the top 5 ways God's love comes to life at camp:
#5) Through the Food- It might seem silly to have this be in the top 10, but food is important! The food at camp is REALLY GOOD, and more importantly, it nourishes the bodies of campers to experience community. There's a LOT of life and love that happens around the meal table, and camp is one of the few places these days where kids stop to eat at a table to share stories, to laugh, to explore new foods, and to experience how God works to sustain us through the gift of bountiful food.
#4) Through Challenges and Risk-Taking- Just coming to camp is a challenge and risk for some. Being in a new environment with with a boat-ton of new peers is a risk in an of itself. It takes a couple days to settle into that, then while at camp, there are multiple opportunities to take risks through vulnerability in conversations, through physical challenges on the challenge/team-building course, to just continuing to try new things. These challenges and risks help build up and empower young people. It shows them how God is at work in their lives, and it strengthens their faith through showing them all the ways the Holy Spirit is walking with them.
#3) Through Play- Play is holy work for people of ALL AGES. Play lets us explore and imagine the world, not just as it is, but as it could be. Through play, campers get the opportunity to utilize all their senses to dive deep into scripture, creation, healthy competition, and growth. At camp, play is serious, holy business!
#2) Through NATURE- We live in a time when so much of life happens indoors. Camp gets people OUTSIDE though! God's love comes to life just through breathing in fresh air, through the rustling of leaves on the trees, through the warmth of the sun, through the wetness of the rains, and through the hooting of owls at night. Camp allows campers to enjoy and explore these things rather than pass them by or look at them through screens. Life is different when we get outdoors, and God's love starts to look different and lovely when we do!
#1) Through Christ-Centered Community- Something really incredibly special happens when we get a group of campers together for a week of praising God. It happens through worship, it happens through small group discussions, it happens through large-group campfires. The Holy Spirit has a way of working her way into the hearts of our young people who showed up on Sunday as a group of individuals, and leaves on Friday as a bonded group of equipped and energized children of God who have been reminded of the sacredness of their baptism. Christ-centered community is about FAITH. It's about faith that God is working through an entire community of people to bring about God's work in the world, and at camp kids get to EXPERIENCE that. It's uplifting, it's challenging, it's beautiful, and a week immersed in it has HUGE impacts on the faith of people of all ages. God's love truly comes to life in community, especially at camp!
I could go on and on, and honestly it was hard to limit my list to 5, but I'll stop here. If you have questions about camp or if you just want to share a camp memory of your own, I'd love to hear from you!
Peace be the journey,
I want to give a shout out to our parking lot worship service! Our third one is coming up on Sunday 1.24 at 10:15am with holy communion (served on the 4th Sunday of the month). We all have been missing in person worship and this is a great addition. I appreciate the energetic waves of hello, honking of horns during the sharing of the peace and even some four-legged, furry friends in attendance too! All creation sings their praises during the parking lot worship!
It is a whole new perspective to be elevated in the air, in the glorified deer stand, affectionally nicknamed the “porta-pulpit!” Thanks to King’s Tools for their handiwork. Leading worship outside of the building is kind of surreal as I look at each of you in your cars, smiles on your faces and wondering what is being said as you listen and share with one another.
Thanks to electricity and a space heater, I appreciate the creature comforts of sharing worship outside during winter. I never would have imagined such a worship service, but we have found ways to adapt and share our parking lot praises.
If you’re interested in joining us for parking lot service, we are sharing this service on the 2nd & 4th Sundays of the month. Holy Communion shared on the 4th Sunday. A reminder to our virtual worship attenders, that communion will be served for drive up communion from 10-11:15am. The elements will be blessed during worship and made available for families to share with one another.
Christ’s peace throughout your week,
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,