Some things I learned through First Christian Church programs this summer
I missed Pastor Ailsa while she was on sabbatical, but I deeply appreciated this summer’s sabbatical programs for the congregation. This is a note to God (inspired by Psalm 23)—and to each of you, especially to the various teams that kept things lively during the summer.  But most of all it is to the Ministry Planning team.  You walked us through grief, helped us to heal, looked at how we might become the Beloved Community and how to keep growing in our faith. In each FCC Weekly Update and nightly session, you provided links to rich resources. My heart sings with the creative ideas you initiated –most of all the drive-by visits and the picnic—where I was thrilled to see all of you (and where I got Marco’s recipe for watermelon with lime and chili).
Oh creator– you are my shepherd, you made me lie down in green pastures: you led me beside the still waters. You restored my soul.
I needed to be led and my soul needed restoring after the painful awareness this summer presented –of the anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre at Greenwood and the cruel death of too many of God’s children, including: George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbory.

I needed reflection on how these things could happen in our precious democracy.  And –just in time, the Saturday course from the Beloved Compassionate Network in California provided their Racial Resilience course led by Compassion Practice team of the Rev Christopher Carter and Dr. Seth Schoen.  The course is based on the books: The Way of Jesus, Compassion Practice by Frank Rogers Jr. and My Grandmother’s Hands by Resma Menakem.  Resma Menakem is a counselor and consultant for groups like the Minneapolis police and the US Military and he guides both whites and people of color (civilians, military and police) in a unique practice to heal trauma and to free us to be more loving like Jesus in the struggle for justice and equity for all. This practice by Menaken, along with the tools provided by Rogers for compassionate responses, are truly a way to restore the soul!

God–You led me in the paths of righteousness for thy name’s sake.
I am thankful to be led to the paths of righteousness and for the sobering realization that much of the society I am a part of can ignore the hurricane force winds of pain that still push debilitating currents around others every day because of the color of their skin.  Whether we call it structural racism or not, we have inherited a painful history that affects us deeply. The ministry planning team provided insightful resources with the videos from Emanuel Acho, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.”
Holy Spirit–Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
The Racial Resilience evenings provided “rods” and “staff” for us to use and lean upon as we learned more about how to be anti-racist and to seek God as he walks through the evil valleys of pain with us—healing the ways racism manifests itself and hurts each of us –people of color and white alike.

Through the Thursday evening Covenant course, we heard more about how to be proactive in looking for others with whom we can be in covenant, to better love like Jesus, including: The Disciples of Christ (DOC) General Church and its resource-full! ministries, the other churches in our DOC Region of Arizona, partners in our own community and in relationships with our own fellow worshipers. These covenants are rich resources to better our world and can provide us with strength and comfort to enable the work ahead.

Giver of Life –Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Our cup is full of God’s mercy, as God and God’s people are already here in Tucson working to make our world better.  We even have on our plates a visionary proposal from a new community partner to start a special needs program in our building. We can continue our listening work to find more allies for good programs –even in the presence of enemies out there. I have also heard that we may have an opportunity to participate in a course on compassion practices.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
My hopes and prayers are for more opportunities for First Christian Church to amplify this summer of learning with covenants that enrich God’s work for the beloved community. Amen.