Love in a Time of Darkness

What are you thinking these days, about venturing out into the world? Some of us are staying home as much as possible. Others are out and about, counting on the veracity of those who say that this virus is no big deal. And some people are going out because they must: they’re needed to restock grocery shelves or ring cash registers or diagnose the sick or handle the paperwork to admit more and more COVID-19 patients to the hospital.

How are you feeling about venturing out?

Our world looks less hospitable than it did before, and the coronavirus is not the only reason. Troubling issues roil our world, our nation, and our community. No need to give you a list when you already have the list in your head.

In the midst of all this mess I’m asking this: turn your attention to Christmas. This sad and plagued world is the same world into which God sent his only begotten Son. God looked out on this self-same world and said to himself, “That’s it, I’ve seen enough. I’m going in.”

God’s love, in the person of Jesus Christ, dropped into the middle of the mess that is the world. He embodied the straightened-out world that is to come: God’s kingdom. He embodied God’s love through interactions with the sick and sinful, through unjust persecution by the authorities, through a humiliating execution, all the way through to victory at the end: the triumph of God’s love over cruelty, disease, chaos and grief.

I am not (repeat: not) saying that followers of Jesus should walk out the door into the mess and sacrifice themselves. Jesus had divine authority over all of the anti-divine powers he encountered. But even he didn’t throw himself off the top of the temple to see whether angels would show up and save him.

What I want to say is this: God treasures this world and the people in it, so much that he sent his only Son, not to condemn this world but to save it.

Whether you are called upon, right now, to sit tight and do another jigsaw puzzle or to go out and serve, you need not despair. Humankind cannot create a mess large enough to eclipse God’s love. We have seen in Jesus the length to which God was willing to go to rescue us from the forces that threaten to drag us down, even when those forces come from within ourselves.

Jesus said to his disciples, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Peace despite trouble. Peace in Jesus Christ even in the middle of trouble.

May that be yours.

In Christ,

Pastor Carol

Connections and Energy

Esperanzans, our church is humming. You can read about some of the new things going on in this newsletter: a new Children’s Ministry Coordinator, an online conversation on racial justice, an update on planning for the new school year at Children of Hope, reminders about ongoing service opportunities, and more.

 

Beyond all that, the Inviting and Welcoming Team is meeting weekly, the chairs and carpet in the sanctuary and fellowship hall have just been cleaned, people are coming by church to keep things running and looking nice, the Fellowship Team is thinking about fun options for small in-person events, our Promesa de Esperanza choir just connected again online, and our community continues to collect donations of food, drink, clothing and school supplies for area service agencies. Apologies if I missed something or someone!

 

Remember, you can catch up with Esperanza friends and make new ones by joining in Sunday morning Communion and Coffee Hour. And, if you’re on Facebook, don’t forget to join the Non-news Esperanza group to stay in touch.

 

You can always get in touch with me, too. My contact information is at the end of this newsletter.

 

In Christ,

Pastor Carol

The Opposite of Talking

I was at the dentist’s long enough this past Monday to finish reading a new novel called “Weather” by Jenny Offill. In the novel, the narrator describes someone she knows as a good listener and says something like: She could listen to your story without responding with a story of her own.

 

It stuck with me because I catch myself doing that all the time, responding to someone’s story with the nearest version of the same thing I have in my repertoire. The intention, usually, is to build a bond, to share a common experience. But, of course, it can also turn the conversation 180 degrees. The writer Fran Lebowitz famously said, “The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting,” as in, waiting for my turn to talk.

 

One of the most challenging aspects of racial reconciliation—or, better, racial justice—is for people who are used to talking to listen truly and deeply and extensively to people who are used to being talked over. How hard it is for some of us who are in the habit of asserting our viewpoints in conversation and who are energized by a strenuous back-and-forth to, instead, keep our mouths shut and listen with patience and humility.

 

Many times, people in small groups have told me that they’re still formulating their thoughts while the more confident talkers have had their say and the conversation has moved on. Their frustration grows and the group doesn’t get the benefit of their input. It takes intentionality and an attentive facilitator to even out this dynamic, so everyone gets heard.

 

In our country now, the need goes beyond that. What has always been the case is becoming blazingly evident. And white people like me have a responsibility that goes beyond making sure other voices are heard along with ours. We have a moral—and, for believers, a Christian—responsibility to listen, listen, listen, without interjections of self-justification or complaints that our intention, personally, was never to cause harm. Listen without responding with our own stories, unless asked, because, in many cases, we don’t really have corresponding stories.

 

If you don’t have opportunity at the moment to listen in person, there are plenty of books and other resources you can read. A few resources are listed on our denomination’s website (https://www.elca.org/Resources/Racial-Justice).

Here are a few more suggestions:
  • A book by Lutheran pastor Lenny Duncan titled Dear Church is subtitled “A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US”
  • More broadly read are new classics “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehesi Coates and “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo.
  • Also, “Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race” by Benjamin Watson
  • And for churches, “Roadmap to Reconciliation” by Brenda Salter McNeil and “Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church” by Soong-Chan Rah.
I encourage those of you who are on Facebook to share the resources you’ve found most enlightening and challenging to the Non-News Esperanza group.

 

This feels like a pivotal moment in the history of our country. Listening and reading are not the full extent of what we can do to be part of the change. But understanding provides fuel, and listening is the only way to get it.

 

Peace and good health to you,
Pastor Carol

Another New Team

Esperanza now has a Stewardship Team, a group focused on helping us think about our money, in the context of faith, and how we may grow in generosity. Thanks to Michael Paradise, Craig Peck, and Michelle Tinsley for getting this team underway.
Our new working teams are focusing on particular areas of our church and will ensure that things get done. But an additional benefit is that they are available to listen to your ideas and suggestions and to coordinate short-term volunteers and efforts. So, as a reminder, here is a list of current teams and their leaders:
Fellowship Team: Peggy Wagner
Finance Team: Mark Entsminger
Inviting & Welcoming Team: Paul Gerrish
Property Team: Randy Wright and Denzil Klein
Worship Team (8:30 service): Brad SomeroJim NelsonSpencer Fallgatter
Worship Team (10:30 service): Steve Newell
Stewardship Team: Michael Paradise

Pastor Paul Campbell Becomes Esperanza’s New Interim

Pastor Paul Campbell joins us beginning in July, when Pastor Carol Breimeier leaves to pursue a new challenge in Tucson. Here he talks about his background and ministry.

Pastor Paul Campbell

My early years were in an anti-church, no faith, home, and I hadn’t stepped foot in a church until I met my girlfriend/wife Donna at age 18.  Following a Lenten service her pastor asked me what I thought of the service.  I said, “not much” and he said “let’s talk about that,” which became the mantra in my ministry. I was baptized on my 19th birthday.

My undergraduate degree is in broadcast journalism from the University of Nebraska and I began my professional career working for the PBS network in Nebraska.  While in school I began to feel the itch to grow deeper in faith and my relentless curiosity led me to work in a church as a layperson, enter seminary, and become an ordained pastor.

I served in a number of capacities in the ELCA including as a parish pastor in congregations in Nebraska, Minnesota and North Dakota. In 1989 while in Fargo, the ELCA Communications Department called me to serve as a communications director, and I had the privilege of writing the distance learning section of the Study on Theological Education.

In 1992 I decided to venture out, and formed my own company to help congregations and church colleges embrace the possibilities and power of the electronic communication revolution.  Many of those organizations are now fully into the digital revolution.

In 1999 I was asked to serve as an interim pastor in River Falls and later in Hudson, Wisconsin before being called as the executive director at Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center in Carefree.  In my 12 years there I was able to lead the center through several transitions in programming, staff development, and in service to our guest. I retired at the end of 2015.

Beginning in 2017, I served as the interim pastor at Ascension Lutheran Church in Paradise Valley, helping them create their vision, mission, and strategic plan.  I departed when their long-term pastor arrived last October.

Donna and I have been married for 49 years and are blessed with three children and three grandsons, all of whom live in Minnesota.

When Grand Canyon Synod Assistant to the Bishop Mark Holman first talked to me about serving as an Interim Pastor at Esperanza, his first comment was “How would you like to serve a healthy congregation?”  My conversations with Michelle Tinsley, Pastor Carol and your church council have confirmed that Pastor Mark’s assessment is accurate.

Having said that, we know that transitions are challenging.  You said goodbye to a pastor of 20-plus years and were just digging into the call process when the pandemic hit. Then you learned Pastor Carol was moving on to a fantastic opportunity with her husband. A transition on top of a transition! Together we will navigate these turbulent waters.

1 2 3 4 9