Diversity, the Body of Christ, and the Why Christian? Conference

On Saturday, September 12th, I led the Spiritual Formation Academy retreat on mission, and, specifically, on friendships at the margins (if you haven’t read Friendship at the Margins by Chris Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl, I highly recommend it).  One of four sessions was on the necessity of such friendships: not only is it important to recognize those who have been pushed to the margins, relationships with them are necessary for our (privileged) hearts, our spiritual formation, and our calling to love all of our neighbors (not just the ones who look, talk, or act like us).  After the retreat was over, I scrambled to get my work for the next week done and then quickly left for the Why Christian? Conference in Minneapolis.  There, I was going to hear over fourteen women pastors, writers, and leaders speak about their lives and experiences.

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First, let me just say: wow.  The cathedral where we met was gorgeous, the worship was a source of joy and renewal, the gathering of so many different denominations together to dialog in love was hopeful.  But above everything else, I was strongly and forcefully reminded of the necessity of diverse voices in my life, and in the life of the body of Christ.  It made my talk the Saturday before feel like someone describing what a tiny rainbow reflected from a prism might look like, when all the while outside the window there is a glorious rainbow splashed across the sky.  I was struck to the core by the reminder that I am living in a muted echo of the true body of Christ when I am cut off from those with different experiences, traditions, beliefs, and practices.

At the conference all of the speakers’ talks centered on the question, “Why am I a Christian?”  This may seem simple, but each of the speakers had come from a place of rejection or deep wounding by the Church, and all of the speakers still choose to engage with the Church in spite of those wounds.  We heard from women who had been rejected for their gender, their sexuality, their race, their ethnicity, and their “rebellious” individuality.  What an amazing blessing to hear so many women of deep faith share their stories, wounds, anger, and hope.  Over and over again I realized how little I could understand Christ, or the Church at work in the world, when I limit the voices I hear to solely those who sound like or agree with me.

I need to be stretched by the struggles, anger, and stories of those who are different than me.  I need to be able to listen with love and compassion to ideas and experiences that I may not want to hear, or that I don’t understand.  Those who have experienced abuse, rejection, or violence at the hands of the Church or Christians have a right to express their frustration, anger, hurt, or betrayal without being judged for it.  Without everyone’s presence and voices at the table, the body of Christ will never be a full or vibrant reflection of God and God’s kingdom.

What does this mean for us?  Well, practically for me it means that I am subscribing to and reading blogs that represent different perspectives.  I am praying that God will open me up to be ready to enter in to and listen well to new/different/diverse perspectives.  These perspectives could be here in Folsom, or across the U.S., or elsewhere in the world.

I am also making sure that I make space to honor other peoples’ anger.  So many of the speakers talked about not being allowed to be angry.  Because they are Christian, they have felt the pressure to end their story on a high note, with forgiveness and healing, rather than raw wounds.  That’s not to say that forgiveness and healing are not important–they are integral to life in the Kingdom of God.  However, when I want someone who has been hurt/marginalized due to her race to talk about her healing, it more often has to do with me being uncomfortable with her anger, rather than simply a desire for her healing.  I need to understand that many wounds run deep, and I need to make space for and honor the pain that my brothers and sisters in Christ have experienced, rather than gloss it over.  Even if that makes me uncomfortable.  Especially if that makes me uncomfortable.

Lastly, I am reminding myself daily that really, this is about love.  I am called to love all of Christ’s body, from the toes to the arms to the split ends.  I can’t love what I have never met, and when I meet a part of the body that is new or different (or just gets on my nerves) with fear/frustration/judgement, it becomes very difficult for me to love well.  And loving God and our neighbors is pretty central to the Gospel (read: the most important things we are told to do, according to Jesus).

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And there summer went…

Summer went by so quickly!  It seems like it was just May yesterday, and now we are in August.  So much happened in between day-to-day activities and summer camps.  We had a great visit from our partners, Mayette Ativo-Bueno and Tony Bueno.

Mayette and Tony in office

We also got to have Ireni back to update us on Restoration Ministries!

Ireni in the church

We had a backpack drive that brought in 24 backpacks, 14 bags of school supplies, and several Payless Gift Cards.

Backback Drive!

Not to mention raising over $2000 for the Bicol Center and bringing in over 120 toys during Arts Camp week!  Our campers were so generous!

We’ve got a lot going on when we look ahead, too.  More Powerhouse Meals, Shawn Young’s dessert and information event on August 20th (more to follow), a food drive for the Twin Lakes Food Bank on September 6th, and the Folsom Community Service Day on September 19th.

We have some much to be grateful for as this summer draws to a close, and so much to look forward to!  Thank you all for your dedicated service to furthering God’s Kingdom in your lives and our community.

Summer Visitors and Opportunities

This summer we have some awesome things going on!  Ireni Mota and family are visiting from Brazil, and Mayette and Tony are visiting from the Bicol Center, Philippines.  Ireni will be interviewed in the services on June 21st, and Mayette and Tony will be interviewed the following week, June 28th.  Mayette and Tony are only here for a few short days, so be sure to stay afterward and enjoy a delicious lunch with them, hosted by the Asian Missional Group.

We also have our a annual Backpack Drive for Twin Lakes Food Bank coming up in the month of July.  Bring in a backpack stuffed with school goodies so that students in need in our community will be totally ready for their first day of school.

We always have Powerhouse Meals to serve.  This summer might be a great time to dip your toes in by bringing ingredients or a meal to the Powerhouse Transition Center.  You can stay and cook (and eat!) with the women there, or just drop off a recipe and ingredients.  Our weeks this summer are July 20-23 and August 17-20.

At the end of August we are also going to have a Food Drive for Twin Lakes Food Bank.  They often run short during the summer months, so our drive will help them get through the first weeks of September, until the City-wide Community Service Day Collection helps them restock for the fall and winter.

Another fun thing to check out this summer is the Community Garden located in the back lot at the church.  Come and hang out in our new (to us) wicker furniture, come to a workshop on the last Saturday of every month, or check out the info and gardening tips on the blog at oakhillscommunitygarden.wordpress.com.  More info about the workshops can be found on the blog.

Have a wonderful, restful, and joy filled summer!

Megan

Upcoming Opportunities

Wow, time flies!  I thought things would calm down between Christmas and Easter, but I was wrong.  We had a Ministry Partner Fair, Leadership Trip to Restoration Ministries, in Brazil, a Birthday Kit Drive for Twin Lakes Food Bank, and a Good Friday Prayer Walk in the community.  It’s been a busy season!

As we enter the 3rd week of Eastertide, I wanted to update you all with upcoming events and opportunities.

May 2nd – Community Garden Work Day.  We are starting a community garden in the back lot of the church and we will be installing water lines, laying out bark, and building composters from 9am to 1 or 2pm.  Please join us at the northmost part of the parking lot!

May 3rd – 2015 Mission Conference at Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento.  The theme is “Our Neighborhood is Today’s Mission” and it runs from noon-4:30.  There will be exhibits from local non-profits, speakers, and lunch!  Get more info and register here: http://missioninfo.itsabout.com/ 

May 11th-14th & June 1st-4th – Powerhouse Meals.  We are providing meals for the women in the transition center both of these weeks.  Dinner is at 5, so please either drop off food by 4:30 or bring the ingredients at 4 and stay and cook.  These women and their children are awesome!

Later this summer we will have our Backpack Drive as usual.  I am also hoping to schedule a gleaning day for the Twin Lakes Food Bank in July or August.  I will keep you posted as the details for that become available!

Twin Lakes Food Bank Needs Help!

Yesterday the Twin Lakes Food Bank served 134 families!  Generally the food bank sees 65 families a day, so yesterday was an unusually busy day for them.  While they still have food on their shelves to serve to these families, Twin Lakes is in desperate need of volunteers.  Recently several long term volunteers have been unable to continue volunteering due to life changes, and Twin Lakes needs people who can volunteer either one time, or on a weekly basis.  Contact me, Megan, at megan.harrison@oakhills.org, or the Food Bank directly by calling (916) 985-6232 to get involved.

Advent Fair Trade Market – Sak Saum is here!!

Hey everyone!

Last weekend we had our first sales at the Advent Fair Trade Market!  I love this event every year, and I was so glad to see so many Oak Hillians joyfully participating in the market as well. We had goods from Ten Thousand Villages, Equal Exchange, Trade As One, and some items made by Syrian refugees.  This week we will continue to offer good from those vendors, as well as new wallets, purses, scarves, ornaments, jewelry, and more from Sak Saum For Freedom!

This market is such a wonderful opportunity for us to sustainably empower those trapped in cycles of poverty around the world.  The artisans receive fair payment and are able to work with dignity, while we get beautifully crafted items and the chance to be good stewards of our resources. The market will continue to be open every Sunday after the services and after Cappuccino Christmas.  Please stop by to see the new goods and get gifts while they last!

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Thanksgiving Eve Offering

Tomorrow evening we are having our Thanksgiving Eve service at 7pm.  This is such a special service: we are in the round, the kids are in the service, and it is a blessing to see all the people of Oak Hills in one big family gathering.  One of the things we will be doing in the service is bringing forward canned goods for Twin Lakes Food Bank.  The holidays are one of the busiest times at the food bank, as money is tight and the need for food is high.  Here is a list of some of the most needed items this holiday season:

Beans
Boxed stuffing
Canned green beans
Canned yams
Chicken broth
Chili
Cornbread Mix
Crackers
Cranberries
Cranberry sauce
Fruit
Gravy
Gravy mix
Ham
Instant Mashed Potatoes
Jell-O
Macaroni and Cheese
Muffin Mix
Pasta
Peanut Butter
Pumpkin
Ravioli
Rice
Soup
Tuna

If you can make it to the Thanksgiving Eve service, please bring an item or two to bring forward during the offering.  See you there!