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Congregation steps forward with love and commitment

(From September 2018 Lifetogether newsletter)

Dear Bethanians,

We returned from vacation to find the church strong and busy being the church. Cell-phone updates and prayer-concern emails had kept me abreast of the Bethany news; I knew our community was well served in my absence with Pastor Sonja on call, with Pastor Shirley returning to the pulpit, and with Rachel’s dedicated presence in the office. Once again let me tell you how reassuring it is to have such support in place when a pastor is out of town. Thank you, not only to these three, but to our faithful community of faith.

Tuesday we took the light rail downtown from the airport and then went to visit Garrett Roe at Harborview. There I visited and prayed, and also learned that others had visited and prayed over the past week.

I arrived on the island in time to take a quick shower and then go to dinner at the invitation of Linnea Chu to talk over the funeral plans for Franklin. There I gathered with the Chu family, but also Pastor Paula Burchill was there from Silverdale Lutheran as we worked together on arrangements. This was such a powerful experience, I completely forgot about the Bethany Council meeting that night. Not surprisingly, I was forgiven my absence, with minimal teasing.

I learned that the Bethany community had organized to provide a dinner on Friday night for the many Chu family and guests who had come from out of town for the Saturday funeral. I think I heard that 18 people had prepared the meal. I was fortunate to take part in the meal, but even more thrilled to be part of a congregation with such love and taking such initiative to show our care.

Saturday was the funeral for Franklin Chu at Silverdale Lutheran Church, who themselves were the model of hospitality and welcome as 400 or so people filled their sanctuary. Before the service I stepped into their kitchen and saw a dozen people busily working to prepare for a reception for a man they would hardly have known. I thanked them and recognized the church at its best. Thank you to Pastor Paula and SLC!

Adding to this greater sense of church, or sense of greater church as it may be, Bishop Kirby Unti arrived to attend the funeral of a man who has served the church in so many ways, most recently on our Synod Council. We invited him to lead us in the Thanksgiving for Baptism liturgy, reminding us what bonds us together in life, in death, in eternal life.

At the graveside the committal was led by two pastors in Franklin’s family, United Methodists, I believe. The church has a broad and far-reaching message and expression. Such connections could go on for pages, but you get the idea.

Sunday, Sept. 16, Bishop Until will be at Bethany to visit our congregation and to preach from our pulpit. This is perhaps the last time he will do so, having announced his retirement at the conclusion of his term in August 2019. Come and celebrate our life together as the church, for there is so much for which to give thanks.

- Pastor Paul


Posted by Paul Stumme-Diers with

Pastor's address from May 2018 Life Together newsletter

As Messenger House closes,
is there a way to go forward?

Dear Bethanians (and North Kitsap County),

Neighborly greetings to you on a sunny April day. I am writing reflections I shared with our congregation this morning in worship, reflections arising from the article in the Kitsap Sun (4/20/18) reporting the closing of Messenger House Care Center on Bainbridge Island. The facts reported in that article leave me deeply concerned for the Bainbridge community. Messenger House

  • provides 96 beds for skilled nursing care;
  • employs roughly 75 full- and part-time
  • has most of its residents covered by
  • has provided good-quality care; and
  • is located on a 6-acre campus of some
    historical significance.

This report leaves me wondering what will become of this property, but moreover what will come of our community’s ability to address the skilled nursing care needs of our island, especially given our aging population. I am grateful for the facilities that bring health and dignity to those who require (or prefer) assisted living – I know about these facilities because I visit them often. Bainbridge Island Health and Rehab services those in need of skilled nursing care, but its facility is limited.

What Bainbridge Island is left to ponder is where our frail and elderly might now reside as they require skilled nursing care. This question is compounded by the reality that so many in this population are resource deprived and will look to Medicaid to assist them, a program whose reimbursements challenge all providers, especially for-profit enterprises lacking staffing. No one wants to see our elderly needing to move away from the community where they have lived, where they likely have family, and where they have communities of support (congregations, friendship circles, Island Volunteer Caregivers, etc.). I visit parishioners in facilities in Poulsbo, Silverdale and Bremerton, many who are displaced from Bainbridge Island due to financial constraints. They find good care, but they are not at home, among friends.

This is more a lament than offering a solution. My prayers are extended to the residents and staff of Messenger House, as well as their families. At the same time, however, I wonder if we cannot somehow imagine a creative strategy moving forward, as an island community of care and compassion, maintaining this historic and beautiful property, and serving the neediest of our residents.

What if, a consortium of funders (Bainbridge Community
Foundation, the city of Bainbridge Is land, the Bainbridge Island land Trust, our faith communities) purchased theland to place it in perpetuity in the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, with the condition that it be used to serve the long-term care needs of our community. What if, we explore options to manage the facility, looking perhaps to non-profits to provide such expertise. What if, we advocate for more appropriate (higher!) reimbursements form Medicaid. What if … because if not we will lose a resource critical to the health and well-being of our community.

Pastor Paul