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Summer: Weathering the storm fronts

By Pastor Paul Stumme-Diers

Dear Bethanians,

When I heard the theme for the 2020 Bainbridge Baccalaureate, “Embracing the Storm,” I was intrigued, thinking that I would look forward to hearing what someone might have to say about that. In the next sentence, when I was asked to be the keynote speaker, suddenly I felt a tiny storm of anxiety gathering within me. I think my reluctance to “embrace” this theme was because for each person this “stormy” time is a bit different. As the saying goes, “We are in the same storm, but
in different boats,” so embracing the storm is fraught
 with peril.

I will resist the temptation here to sermonize. Suffice it to say that in our Gospel this week “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36) In response he sent out the 12 apostles to “proclaim the good news.”

While it is profoundly true that we each have our individual stories in relation to the storms, and they represent very different experiences and challenges, my appreciation is that we most often recognized that we are traveling in a boat together. (And remembering that the image of a boat is one often used for the church.)

I say this because of the gracious and generous spirit I have witnessed at Bethany in these days:

- A respect for the health and well-being of the larger community, as we stay at home, and lovingly don our masks when in public;

- The incredible spirit of pitching in when things need to be done, and then re-done in a different way. A big thank-you to the teams that drive our “drive-in” worship (Jeff – setup, Rachel – filming, Jim parking, Sylvia – music);

- The extraordinary generosity of the Bethany Council and Congregation, sending $10,000 to Helpline, and $8,000 to Compass – remember the “other boats were with Jesus” in the storm (Mk. 4:35). There are other boats with us;

- The spirit of the Bethany and Poulsbo First congregations, to be open to a collaborative response in our online worship – our boat is a catamaran;

- The wonderful attention Bethanians give to one another, especially looking out for those who have extra challenges with the phone calls, notes, prayers;

- The many Bethany members who have been demonstrating for racial justice, with feet, with voices, with letters … there are many storm fronts; and

- The faithful patience and understanding of our congregation, with no one insisting on having things their way, as we make decisions involving our congregation but also impacting the wider community – I see a community striving together to be the beloved community reflecting the compassion of Jesus.

My baccalaureate address pivoted from “Embracing the Storm” to being “Transformed by the Storm.” The storms, while devastating in their ferocity, can be transformative, opportunities for new ways of “proclaiming the good news,” occasions for the Holy Spirit to move us in new directions, together.



April: Out of no way, God makes a way

Dear Members of the Bethany Lutheran Church Community,

God’s grace and peace be upon you, in this time when our souls especially yearn for God’s presence, promises, and healing.

It has been inspiring to see how the Bethany community has been finding ways to connect and to share our love and concerns for one another in this extraordinary time.  Social distancing requires us to be apart physically, but the emails, the phone calls, the Facebook posts, the notes and the prayers have continued to bind us together as the church. 

The worship services are being streamed on the internet each week, another way we work to stay connected, doing so in tandem with our Lutheran brothers and sisters at First/Poulsbo.  These worship services will continue through Holy Week, with all the traditional services of that special time. A folder with Holy Week worship resources is being distributed to each home, so that your journey from Palm Sunday through Easter will be meaningful, perhaps in a special way this year.  Bishop Rick Jaech, from the Southwestern Washington Synod of the ELCA, is coming to be filmed as our preacher on Easter Sunday.

The thing we miss out on, however, is the physical connection, the reassurance that comes from being together.  We miss the handshakes, the hugs, the blending of our voices in praise of God and in unity with one another.  Those in the Bethany Choir ache for the chance to sing together; the Bethany Preschool is eerily silent, except for the teachers who continue to send projects home for their charges; the Monday Women’s Bible study met via Zoom; and it appears there is a similar set-up for the “Gather” Bible Study in early April.  In the churches in Milwaukee we would hear often that “out of no way, God makes a way.”  That is the truth into which we are living.

I have been trying to call Bethany households, especially of those who live alone, just to make connections and to keep in touch, but also to see if there are any particular needs that people have.  If any needs arise for you or your neighbors, please let us know at Bethany (206-842-4241) or call me on my cell (206-601-1255).  One particularly difficult situation has been for those in care facilities, or in the hospital, (and now, even in our homes) where we are unable to visit those who are sick or especially lonely.  Your prayers and special gestures for those in such circumstances are appreciated.

God will make a way.

Pastor Paul

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