“The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at it!” (2 Corinthians 5:17b; The Message)
By Pastor Peter Hanson
For the past sixteen months, so much of our life has been defined by, limited to, and organized around the realities of the COVID-19 Pandemic. We’ve endured shutdown and quarantine, confinement to our homes, and cancelled travel plans. We’ve been working from home, going to school on zoom, and worshipping on YouTube. We’ve adopted new phrases into our everyday speech—from “stop the spread” and “flatten the curve” to “Delta variant” and “phased re-opening plan.” As we begin to emerge from this global health crisis, many of us are understandably eager to put it all completely behind us: to simultaneously skip forward to the “finish line,” and back to some sense of past normalcy.
From our initial and immediate shutdown in March 2020, through each of the found phases of reopening, we’ve trusted science and taken our cues from the experts at the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health. We’ve been blessed to have had our own local health experts in our three Faith Community Nurses, who along with the Executive Committee and lead staff have met regularly as the CtK COVID Response Team. Erring on the side of caution, we’ve no doubt made some missteps along the way. There are situations in which we have likely moved more slowly that others in the community around us. There have certainly been times in the past year that we have unintentionally sent mixed or conflicting messages. We have greatly appreciated your continued flexibility, patience, and understanding as we navigated this untrodden path together. As one colleague likes to remind us, “this is our first pandemic,” and we did not have a good roadmap for every twist and turn along the way.
With all that as background, here are some late-breaking announcements:
By Pastor John Schwehn
This morning we hear the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm from Mark’s gospel. As Jesus gets some needed sleep aboard their humble fishing vessel, the disciples are in a panic over the raging winds, the rising waves, the bumpy sea.
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” they shout at the drowsy Jesus. And remember, these first disciples were mostly fishermen. Their fear is not fake or manufactured – the storm must have been really bad if these seafarers were so terrified!
But Jesus is leading them on a mission to “the other side” of the sea. Once the danger is behind them, the ministry continues just as before. Jesus leads them, undeterred, imploring the disciples to regain their faith and follow him into new territory where he will perform a shocking exorcism and go on proclaiming the kingdom of God.
Dear friends, we have been through a storm! A real one, with real danger and devastating consequences. For some of us, the storm will keep raging on until the day when all of us (including our children) are fully protected against this novel coronavirus. On the weekend that our nation experiences its inaugural federal holiday of Juneteenth, we remember that the storm of slavery kept raging on for two-and-a-half more years after President Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. The news of slavery’s end did not reach Galveston until 1865. While one storm might end for some, it continues raging for others.
As we lift up our core value of “Building Community,” Jesus is calling this congregation to survey our community with fresh eyes and open minds. Where in New Brighton (and among our members at Christ the King) does the storm still rage? Many of us feel safe now, so what is “the other side” that we are being called to explore? Survival is not the end point. Rather, it frees us to venture back out with greater courage and resolve, trusting that our lives are in God's capable and compassionate hands.
Building community in this new reality may, at first, feel a bit like rebuilding as we reach out to the familiar, beloved faces we long to see again. However, our efforts of building and rebuilding point us to a new future – an unfamiliar shore – where we row through every storm and setback trusting that we worship a God who is always in the boat with us.
By Chris Frost, Church Council Member
…about “something potentially cool and interesting that I'm developing at Christ the King…”. Well color me intrigued.
But, first, a little back story.
I’ve been attending Christ the King for over 20 years. I’d heard stories about how the founders would pound the pavement and knock on doors to say “hello” and let people know that there was a new church in the community, a new entity in New Brighton. I’d attended the block parties but never really felt a sense of the community - be that church (outside of the people I knew) or New Brighton as a whole. I’d also never really known my “place” in church either.
Until Pastor John sent that email. About a bread oven. And took us to United Methodist Church in White Bear Lake where I saw a guy walk in from their oven, having just baked 80+ loaves for the congregation and their larger community, apron covered in flour, with the world’s biggest smile on his face. And I thought “I want to be that guy…”
On December 20, 2019 we lit the brand new oven for the first time with the goal of “giving it a go”, managed to over- and under-cook bread at the same time, and saw the possibilities - how we could bring people together around the oven, and both forge and enhance a sense of community using the oven as a coming-together point.
Then came a global pandemic. Kind of puts a wrench in the works.
Fast forward to August 25, 2020. We can do this. We can get the church to gather (in a safe, socially distanced manner, but gather nonetheless) around the fruits of our labors. We can be a community again. We did, and wow how good did that feel to look out at everybody again! So we did it again on September 16, 2020. And then on October 28th. And we just did it again last Wednesday...
To me, this is the community in church I have been searching for all these years - a place for me to volunteer and show my place in our community. And to see our larger community.
Now I’m wondering now how we can make this a bigger thing? Invite a larger swath of the community outside of church to participate, to join us in what we have made and what we can do.
And maybe one day we’ll get the hang of the bread baking.
John 6:35: “Jesus said to them ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall not thirst.”
By Pastor Peter Hanson
Each One of Us is Space
A poem by Ben Weaver
When building community,
how do we make certain
not to forget that a community
is made up of communities?
What are the concepts
that unite worlds?
What are the tools
we will use to express,
share and remember
How will we nurture relationships through abundance
rather than debt?
How do we turn our gifts
into stories that remind us
what we want to keep alive,
helping us break
more spells than we cast?
Even if the end of the world
looks just like today,
how could we quit,
when everything else keeps growing?
My friend Jodi shared this poem with me, just as I was contemplating our second core value of “Building Community.” As it turns out, this coincided with getting ready for this week’s return to in-person worship in the CtK sanctuary. Particularly when I think about us re-gathering as a worshipping community after more than a year apart, I found its simple imagery very helpful in allowing me to reimagine what it means to congregate, to assemble, to meet together in one place.
This community that we are building bridges different groupings which claim us and links a variety of identities that we recognize in ourselves. What connects us to one another at Christ the King? How do we put words to what unites us? How do we express beyond words the longing so many of us have felt these past months just to BE together again? Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear the many ways God calls us to be a whole that is greater than the sum of our parts?
We’ll have to keep our masks on for worship—for now, for a while, not forever—and we’ll do our best to keep our distance for a bit longer, too. What if we imagined the space that remains between us as a place of abundant gifted-ness, a place to nurture growth, a place to create new stories? What if we let the masks remind us that the precious and life-giving Spirit of the Living God is as close to us as our own breath?
This past year has been challenging for many reasons, not least of which because we’ve had to be apart for so much of it. I am convinced, however, that our community has been growing all this time. We’ve grown by pivoting, innovating, and making do. We’ve also grown by grieving, letting go, and getting by. God will continue to build beloved community among us. God will continue to be with us: in spirit, in truth, in person, and online.
Written by Pepe Demarest, Pastoral Intern
Building Community: "We value strength in diversity and strive to build a beloved community by actively inviting our neighbors to share in God’s mission."
I am really proud to have been part of the community of Christ the King for the past two years.
When a church picks Building Community as one of its four “Core Values,” there is a commitment to evangelism that is so much more than just telling the story “of Jesus and his glory.” It is a commitment to spreading the Gospel as Jesus did. By being present with all kinds of people, by hosting and being hosted by people like himself as well as those outside his cultural bubble, Jesus showed the Father’s love by loving the diversity he knew in the Trinity.
This is our God and the church of God is a reflection of that diversity. This does not mean we impose our values on others, rather we appreciate the way God shows up in difference. Building community is about cultural humility and curiosity. When I think of how the CtK community welcomed me to this place and let me tell my truth, I see how you build this community.
Two years ago, I was submerged into the waters of this congregation. The Monday “Bible Study” welcomed me even though I wasn’t a long-time member or retired; I marveled at the partnerships you had developed with the universal church in the Global Mission Partners; Cristo Rey welcomed me even though my Spanish is deplorable! When you consider the 14 Social Ministry Opportunities listed on our website and see all of the Local Mission Partners, it is clear CtK is already a healthy outward-looking church.
And then the dual pandemics hit. COVID-19 made the world rethink what community means. Families were separated from each other for their own safety, and our worshiping community needed to find creative ways to connect, because we were “Apart for now-Together for good.” The other pandemic affecting our larger community is racism, which until the killing of George Floyd, was not something that most whites thought much about. But you, Christ the King, were willing to examine how privilege hurts others. You engaged in book groups on racism and commissioned a working group to become more of an anti-racist congregation. It is hard not to be grateful for how you opened the building to CPY, to neighbors who were most affected by both of these pandemics.
As I conclude my internship, my pride for this community will go with me. Moving to in-person worship may feel awkward. In this transition, you may yearn to go back to a normal that never was, but I pray that you remember how much God has blessed you and that you continue to do the great work you have begun.
This poem by Maya Angelou was shared at the virtual prayer tent last week and I share it with you as a blessing.
By Maya Angelou
Into a world which needed you
My wish for you
Is that you continue
To be who and how you are
To astonish a mean world
With your acts of kindness
To allow humor to lighten the burden
of your tender heart
In a society dark with cruelty
To let the people hear the grandeur
Of God in the peals of your laughter
To let your eloquence
Elevate the people to heights
They had only imagined
To remind the people that
Each is as good as the other
And that no one is beneath
Nor above you
To remember your own young years
And look with favor upon the lost
And the least and the lonely
To put the mantel of your protection
Around the bodies of
The young and defenseless
To take the hand of the despised
And diseased and walk proudly with them
In the high street
Some might see you and
Be encouraged to do likewise
To plant a public kiss of concern
On the cheek of the sick
And the aged and infirm
And count that as a
Natural action to be expected
To let gratitude be the pillow
Upon which you kneel to
Say your nightly prayer
And let faith be the bridge
You build to overcome evil
And welcome good
To ignore no vision
Which comes to enlarge your range
And increase your spirit
To dare to love deeply
And risk everything
For the good thing
Happily in the sea of infinite substance
Which set aside riches for you
Before you had a name
And by doing so
You and your work
Will be able to continue