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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.