This Lenten Season 2020 has taken on new meaning for us in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Disbelief, sadness, anger, doubt, fear, apprehension –these are a few of the feelings we have all undoubtedly had during these days. But underneath all of these feelings is a feeling of profound hope.
“Nothing can separate us from the Love of God. Will hardship, or distress, or persecution,or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 8:37-39)
We are experiencing Holy Week now –a different time than we have ever had before!!! But also a memorable time for we will remember the depth of love that we feel as a Community of Faith at Dayspring during these days. Although we are not one in body, we are truly one in Spirit. We are here for and with each other in different ways and the bond is very present. New ways of worshipping have deeper meaning. Livestream offers us the opportunity to worship together on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and on Easter Sunday.Weekly phone calls keep us in relationship with each other. Weekly prayer concerns are published. God is very present. May this be a renewal time for you in your spiritual journey. May you take advantage of this time to feel refreshed in your life journey. May this Week become even more Holy for you.
Each day I receive a devotional message from Frederick Buechner on my phone. For a long time he has been one of my favorite spiritual authors. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister and the author of more than thirty published books. I first met him through his book, “Telling Secrets”, which is an autobiography of his life growing up in the home with an alcoholic father who committed suicide. His life experiences influence his ability to make God’s truth come alive in the midst of challenges.
Recently his devotion was titled “Church” and he talked about the visible church and the invisible church. “The visible church is all the people who get together from time to time in God’s name. Anybody can find out who they are by going to church to look.
“The invisible church is all the people God uses as hands and feet in this world. Nobody can find out who they are except God.”
We are experiencing a time like no other in our world. We are filled with fear and anxiety and turmoil. I am comforted during these days to know that we still are the church even though we cannot meet together face to face. Instead we use Zoom and FaceTime and the phone and messaging and email. How grateful I am for all of these ways because I know I am not alone. I am inspired by the mom who encouraged her children to make red paper hearts and then take a walk and drop them along the way so others could come along and find them and know they are not alone. I am inspired by those who send inspirational messages and prayers. I am inspired by the impromptu quarantine singalongs and the pianist playing a hymn everyday on her piano. I am inspired by ways we encourage each other through humor like the recent one of the talking dog! I am inspired through the Livestream Service held on Sunday mornings. I am inspired by the many acts of kindness people are doing for each other every day. We are the church together! You are the church and I am the church. We are the visible church and the invisible church serving together and God knows who we are! And others will know we are Christ followers by the way we reach out to each other. This is our opportunity to truly be THE CHURCH.
Continue to share God’s Love as Dayspring People!!!!!
In a recent sermon, I shared how the Bible can be seen as a manual for hope. We took a short walk through the Hebrew Scriptures, and saw how they abound with hope. If ever a people have endured one extreme circumstance after another it has been our Jewish forebears. When they weren’t slaves of Egyptians they were dominated by Assyrians, held captive by the Babylonians, controlled by the Persians, and though they were treated fairly well under the Greeks and later the Romans, rarely were they regarded as equals. And since the death of Jesus, they have been maltreated as a people more often than not, in the last centuries suffering persecutions and pogroms and of course, genocide under Hitler’s regime.
Yet despite such oppression, the Jews have endured. Against overwhelming odds they have retained their identity through their traditions and faith. Their intense devotion to God. Faith in the God who is involved in the affairs of the world. A participatory God. A compassionate God. Not a divine but disinterested bystander. The God who, in Moses’ day, “heard the cries of the people” held captive in Egypt, and delivered them from their oppression. “I know their sufferings,” God declared (Ex. 3:7, NRSV). In all their affliction, we read, God was afflicted. So the message, it seems to me, is twofold: God is with us and God cares. God will see us through and, if we have eyes to see, we will see God through the work of our hands and the work people are doing for the common good. We discover that God is working in everyone.
For those who are overwhelmed and paralyzed with fright, God is there with comfort. For our medical providers, God is there with courage. For those who shop only for themselves or those in need without hoarding, God with there with generosity. For those who see an opening through this challenge for systematic change, God is alongside them with a prophetic voice. And God is in all the space between us pulling us together as we support each other through this.
We are in for some hard weeks, or maybe months ahead. There will be a time each of us is tired or grief-stricken, frustrated or scared. When we tire, that is when our connections to those around us will keep us going – the letters and notes and phone calls. So think about the people you know, how we can hold each other together.
Like the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament abounds with hope. I think of Paul, who always had a word of encouragement to offer, despite his circumstances – why it seems when he wasn’t ill, he was shipwrecked or writing from prison. Our God will see us through, he wrote, time and again. And of course, the Resurrection, which we will celebrate remotely this year – when God has the last word over death and evil itself. As Paul writes, “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus, neither life, nor death, angels or principalities, nor heights nor depths, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God.”
Andrea Farley is Dayspring’s Administrative Coordinator, welcoming people who come in to the front office. Often, she brings a foster dog with her to work, to be spoiled better socialized. The comfy pillow and water bowl in the corner by her desk have seen many occupants, and some have even found their forever homes with Dayspring people.
Below, in her own words, is the story of Andrea’s commitment to dog rescue:
When I was growing up, I had three dogs that I loved dearly. Bear, was a German shepherd puppy that my dad bought for us when I was three years old. A couple of years later, we found a black lab mix on the side of the road. It was the middle of winter in Chicago, and he had been hit by a car, left for dead and frozen to the road. We found him and took him to the vet and thankfully he made a complete recovery. No one claimed him so we adopted him and named him Boots because he had white on his paws. Shortly after that, we got Buster. He was a smaller, older dog and his owners could no longer keep him so we took him in too.
Bear, Boots, and Buster were my very best friends. They were my constant companions through my parents’ divorce, my mom’s remarriage, moving, changing schools and all the other challenges that come with growing up. They were loving, loyal, and always there for me even when it felt like no one else was.
When I was 11, my mom got divorced again and we had to move from our house into a tiny apartment. My mom told me the devastating news: we could not take our dogs with us. As heartbroken as I was, I made up my mind to find new homes for my best friends. I asked friends, teachers, family members, whoever I could talk to, if they could take at least one of my dogs. But one day I came home from school and my dogs were already gone. Without warning, my mom brought all three dogs to the pound. I never got to say goodbye and I never saw them again. My most loyal companions who never let me down were gone for good. I had let them down in the worst possible way.
That was a defining moment in my life and is why animal rescue is so near and dear to my heart. I will never get over what happened to Bear, Boots and Buster. But I can help other animals who still have a chance.
I have been involved with animal rescue in some capacity for my entire adult life. Over the past two decades, I have volunteered, donated, adopted and fostered. I’m sure it will continue to be a personal mission of mine. That is why I often have a foster dog with me in the church office
I am so thankful to work at Dayspring, where my mission and love of animals is completely welcomed and supported. If you have room in your heart and home for an animal in need of a second chance, please let me know.
Andrea can be reached in the church office at (480) 838-1446 Monday through Thursday between 9-2 or by email.
In the spring of 2019, Dayspring and Aldersgate UMC voted to move into a cooperative parish agreement with the dream of transforming the two separate churches into one Dayspring with two campuses, Tempe and Arcadia. This partnership has the opportunity for both campuses to live out our mission to transform the church and the world into a full expression of Christ’s inclusive love in ways that are contextualized for each unique neighborhood. Over the past 9 months, we’ve been at work building relationships between the two churches, assessing the myriad logistics of becoming one church, and getting to know the neighborhood around Aldersgate.
Aldersgate United Methodist Church just celebrated the 69th anniversary of their founding in February. We were able to celebrate this milestone with two of the charter members, now in their late 80s and 90s, sharing stories of being teen-aged leaders in starting the church. They reminisced about the church’s start in a local school before they built their first sanctuary, which is now the fellowship named for the founding pastor, Rev. Strivings. The anniversary service was followed by a luncheon well attended by current members, former members and their families. The people of Aldersgate have an incredibly rich legacy of care, concern for their neighbors near and far and abiding love for their church. It has been a pleasure to be welcomed into their community and be part of the work to continue that legacy in partnership with Dayspring.
Our relationship with the congregation at Aldersgate continues to strengthen. As we head into a period of intentional planning for the launch of Dayspring Arcadia this fall, I’d like to encourage anyone with interest to visit their 11:00am Sunday service and fellowship time after service at least once. It’s a great chance to meet the wonderful people with whom we’re partnering, hear the stories of the legacy of the church.
With regard to logistics, we are continuing to do due diligence. Our district superintendent is working with the conference chancellor (legal advisor) on considerations from property transfers to contract liability. We have completed a building inspection and are awaiting the report from that to understand any potential maintenance needs. From there, we will formalize a more complete financial plan in partnership with the Conference New Faith team who is highly supportive of the work we have been, and plan to do.
The work ahead can best be described as two distinct but related workstreams. One is to go through the exciting process of transitioning Aldersgate to be part of Dayspring with a “launch” process. We need to go outside our walls in both Tempe and Arcadia/Phoenix in order to reach new people. With the support of the Conference New Faith team, we recently engaged the services of a multi-site church consultant to help advise on what steps would be necessary for a smooth transition including timelines, readiness assessments and lay leadership development. If you feel that you are called to be part of this process, please let Joel or myself know!
The second, but equally important part is to develop new expressions of our faith community. We are already starting to bring a Dayspring presence into the Arcadia community. The Dayspring Tempe Wednesday Evening Fellowship class on Compassion is going on the road! It’s being offered both at Aldersgate and also at the Starbucks at 28th St. and Indian School for 4 weeks starting March 2 at 6:30pm (all are welcome to attend!). This will be our first official class venture out into the community and we’re excited to see what else may follow. For those of you who lead other Dayspring events/ meetings/classes, please consider if you may be able to host an event in the Arcadia neighborhood or develop duplicate offerings, one Tempe-based and one Arcadia-based!
As many of you have rightly mentioned, the neighborhood around Aldersgate is incredibly diverse with respect to ethnicity, socio-economic levels, education, language and the list goes on! If we hope to be a thriving neighborhood church, our work must rely heavily on getting to know the neighborhood and the people who live there. We have begun outreach with local community organizations and churches to start that process. If anyone lives or works in the area around Aldersgate or has friends or colleagues that do, I’d love to talk to you or take advantage of an introduction. Getting to know people will help us learn more so that we can ensure our church is community focused and considered the diversity of the neighborhood.
The excitement around this effort has been amazing. Although there are still many questions to answer, it seems that our movement into this new work, though not always steady continues to move us into new relationships and new possibilities for the future. One of our Dayspring friends shared the wisdom with me about the importance of prayer in our work. It’s easy to get caught up in the project management/logistics of this major endeavor, but we cannot lose track that God is guiding us to be in relationship in new ways with a world in need in this process. I would ask that each of us consider this Dayspring/Aldersgate work in our prayer-life or meditation. That may mean prayers for the people of Aldersgate, Dayspring, or the people in our respective neighborhoods. It may mean prayers for guidance on where we as a people, or each of us as individuals, may be lead. It may be contemplating a map of Phoenix or a picture of one of either church’s stained glass and listening for direction. All prayers are needed!
As we move into the next months, we will host additional information sessions as we move towards another charge conference on March 22 to vote on continuing to move forward with this exciting work.
– Amy Notbohm
DAYSPRING ARCADIA UPDATES:
MARCH 1: 11:30am, Palo Verde Room
MARCH 4: 6pm, Palo Verde Room
MARCH 11: 6pm, Palo Verde Room
CHURCH CONFERENCE: the opportunity to vote on if and how to move forward with the Arcadia neighborhood is March 22 at 2pm in the Palo Verde Room
How can I deepen my Christian faith? Where can I meet others interested in spiritual formation? What does a meaningful faith look like today? How can I learn different spiritual practices and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Bible?
As you may know, my good friend and colleague in ministry, Rev. David Felten, and I have written a book called Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity. We also produced the video resource upon which it is based that explores what a vital Christian faith can look like in the 21st century. For seven Tuesdays, beginning February 25, 5:30-7pm, I will be facilitating the first section* of Living the Questions in the Palo Verde Room (see below). It’s called “An Invitation to Journey.” We’ll begin with a light supper and fellowship. We’ll have fun and learn a lot about ourselves and each other! You’ll make new friends and grow in the faith.
The suggested $35 per person donation will also include a copy of the book. Childcare will be available upon request. Space is limited, so register soon here.
Let this serve as an invitation to see your life as a journey of faith where the questions can be as rich and meaningful as any answers — indeed, perhaps more so. I hope you’ll join us!
*The second and third sections, “Honoring Creation” and “A Call to Covenant,” will be offered retreat-style for those who complete “An Invitation to Journey” on April 17 & 18 and May 15 & 16 (Fri. 6-9pm & Sat. 9am-2pm).
An Invitation to Journey Living the Questions is an open-minded alternative to studies that attempt to give participants all the answers and instead strives to create a safe environment where participants can interact and explore what’s next for Christianity. The video features 35 acclaimed scholars, theologians and other experts, and ample time is provided for lively conversation.
Feb. 25: An Invitation to Journey March 3: Taking the Bible Seriously March 10: Thinking Theologically March 17: Stories of Creation March 24: Lives of Jesus March 31: Passion for Christ: Paul April 7: Out into the World: Challenges Facing Progressive Christians
“One chief idea of my life is the idea of taking things with gratitude and not taking things for granted.” — G. K. Chesterton
Charles Hartshorne is one of my heroes. He died about twenty years ago at the age of 103. He earned his PhD in philosophy at Harvard and served as assistant to his teacher, the great mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. It was Whitehead who described God as “the fellow sufferer who understands.” Like his teacher, Hartshorne influenced many 20th & 21st century religious thinkers to see God as deeply involved and affected by Creation, suffering and exulting with all of Creation, including human beings. One of his books is deliciously titled Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes. In it, he argues that God’s power is persuasive, not coercive; God’s power is relational, inviting a response from Creation.
Author of some 20 books and 500 articles, Hartshorne was not simply a brilliant theologian. He became an expert ornithologist in the last third of his life. One of his claims about birds is that some, like some people, sing for the pure joy of it: they take delight simply in being alive. Do you hear the theological overtones? Throughout the Bible, and especially in the Psalms, we read how all of Creation sings God’s praises. Even the birds of the air and whales in the sea! And what is praise? Simply a way of saying “Thanks, God!” Taking things with gratitude instead of for granted, as Chesterton says.
With the birds of the air, let’s remember to give thanks for the gift of life and the abundance we share – and not just on Thanksgiving, but everyday!
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it …” Psalm 24:1
Some thirty folks attended the recent “Kingdom Dinners,” sponsored by our Church & Society Team. Over the two weekly dinners we viewed and discussed the National Geographic Society documentary “From Paris to Pittsburgh,” learning how Americans are developing innovative ways to respond to the climate crisis.
As Christians, we recognize our responsibility to care for God’s creation. Individually, many of us are reexamining our lifestyles and making changes with this in mind. Collectively as a church, we hope to move toward carbon neutrality: we laid conduits under the new parking lot for solar covered parking and electric vehicle charging stations down the road. Our Giving Garden is helping many reconnect with the earth and appreciate its bounty. One of the Girl Scout troops that Dayspring sponsors has led our recycling efforts, placing recycle bins throughout the campus. The children and youth are leading us.
On the world stage, Swedish teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg has mobilized hundreds of thousands of young people to challenge those in power to act before it is too late. Some seven million people across the globe recently participated in “climate strikes” that she initiated. “And a child shall lead them …”
We will be considering in worship this month and next aspects of Creation and our role as faithful stewards. I also hope you’ll join us on October 20th, when we will hold our 4th annual Blessing of the Animals, to honor the four-legged (and clawed, winged, and finned) companions with whom we share this planet
“Most folks use the bible the way a drunk uses a lamppost: more for support than for illumination.”
William Sloan Coffin
The late, great Methodist mystic, philosopher and Civil Rights leader, Howard Thurman, who as a boy read the bible to his illiterate grandmother, once asked her why she wouldn’t let him read from Paul’s letters. “What she told me I shall never forget,” he writes. Grandma Nancy said the master’s minister would conduct services for the slaves and invariably quote from Ephesians: “Slaves be obedient to them that are your masters . . . as unto Christ.” She continued,
Then he would go
on to show how, if we were good and happy slaves, God would bless us. I
promised my Maker that if I ever learned to read and if freedom ever came, I
would never read that part of the bible.
The master’s minister was preaching from the bible, yes? But Grandma Nancy wasn’t having any of it. Born into slavery, Nancy Ambrose had a hunch that the God of love who created all human beings equal wouldn’t stand for it either. Parts of the bible simply are wrong. The bible has been used as a tool to enslave Africans and sanction witch-hunts (where literally thousands of innocent women were slaughtered in the name of God). The bible is at the root of apartheid, anti-Semitism, the oppression of women and LGBTQ+ persons, and divine sanction of the exploitation of the natural world.
Written by many individuals over many centuries, the bible is bound by cultural norms. So it must be read with caution and care. Yet the bible also transcends the times and places in which it was written. It is the bedrock of our faith tradition and the primary way of learning about Jesus Christ.
Author Frederick Buechner uses the metaphor of a window to illustrate how we can maintain the importance of scripture along with our ability to read it carefully and critically. The bible is like a window through which we can glimpse the Divine. Buechner notes that we look through the window, we don’t worship the window. And just because there are smudges, swatted flies, and hairline cracks obstructing our view, we don’t throw out the window! We learn to distinguish between the window with its flaws and what lies beyond. Although a flawed and imperfect window, the bible is a source of inspired (not dictated) guidance and wisdom, fashioned by people of faith who have helped generations of seekers catch a glimpse of the mystery beyond.
On Sunday, September 15th, we will be presenting our third-graders with bibles. May we recommit ourselves to read this very human book that has revealed the Divine to countless generations with care and prayer, recognizing how it can be used and abused.