By Rev. Don Dewey and Rev. Susan Gonzales Dewey, Co-Regional Ministers

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
~ Winnie the Pooh

 “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~ Dr. Seuss

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” ~ Jesus

Life is full of goodbyes. People move, switch jobs, end relationships, retire, and ultimately leave this world. It’s no wonder, then, that people have found many ways to say farewell over the years. In times of great change, it can be hard to find the words to express the strong emotions we feel and/or sum up a period of our life that’s coming to a close.

Susan and I cannot even begin to express the love, gratitude and blessing we have for the privilege of serving as your Co-Regional Ministers these past 12 years. Words seem so inadequate to convey the honor, grace and joy we both feel for our time here with each of you. We are deeply grateful for the trust you placed in us and we hope that we have lived up to that trust.

When we began this ministry, we had a vision and set some goals that we felt would strengthen our Region and expand our witness together with the Good News of Jesus Christ. One of those goals was for this Region to see itself as one church. We felt that the diversity that our Region is blessed with needed to be seen as a tremendous gift and that together we could do far more, be more together than we could ever accomplish on our own.

So, we invested resources in our wider community by moving our once “deployed staff,” who served as liaisons, to become Associate Regional Ministers with expanded responsibilities for the whole church.

We also set a goal to be a Region that developed a missional spirit. By missional we meant, moving outside our four walls, outside of our comfort zones, outside of traditional ways of being church to reach those still waiting to hear Good News preached to them. That meant taking some risks to try new things and yes even failing with the understanding that to continue to do the same things over and over again and expect different results would ultimately bring about our end.

Another of our four goals was to develop healthy, growing and vital congregations. To help us live into this goal we partnered with Hope Partnership by sending over 60 pastors and lay people over the years to their Leadership Academy, supported congregations in their New Beginnings program and supported others in DSF’s CMS (Certificate of Ministry Studies) program. We developed Transformation and Vision grants; we designated monies to New Church Development from various templates and created our Acts 2 program to support pastors and congregations in expanding new ministries. In addition, we strengthened the work of our Leadership Development Committee, took a bold step in developing the Hatchery ministry and hosted numerous trainings for congregational and leadership development.

Knowing that our youth and young adults are both our present and future church we invested in developing our Loch Leven camp with the remodel of Campbell Lodge and providing support for further improvements across the camp. We were able to hire a full time Associate Regional Minister for Youth and Young Adults and support our young people in Global Mission experiences as well leadership training experiences.

Our fourth goal was to be a well-organized and administered Region. Over the past 12 years we have seen our staffing grow as our ministry in the Region has grown. We owe a great deal of debt to our staff who have brought tremendous gifts of time, talent, commitment and just plain hard work in truly strengthening this Region in all areas of its ministry. Today, the PSWR is one of the strongest and most financially stable Regions in the denomination. We now have an amazing Disciple Ministry Center that not only houses our Regional Office but provides meeting and worship space for two congregations and all of our Regional Committees and ministries!

All of this and so much more has been accomplished but not by Don and Susan, but by all of us working together as sisters and brothers, Disciples of Christ of the PSWR!

Therefore, our hearts are full, we are truly humbled to have shared in this journey with each of you and pray God’s gracious Spirit to continue to guide and bless you all in the future.

So, we leave you with this scripture that seems to sum up our “goodbye” for this season of our lives and ministry.

“We thank our God every time we remember you.  In all our prayers for all of you, we always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that the One who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 1:3-6

 

Together on the journey,
Rev. Don Dewey and Rev. Susan Gonzales Dewey
Co-Regional Ministers


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt
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Greetings from Loch Leven!

I’m Nicholas Selway, and I’m the Camp Manager at Loch Leven. I want to start off my first newsletter address with a BIG “Thank you!” to everybody that participated at Loch Leven! Our 2019 Summer Camp has come to an end, and I must admit, it’s bittersweet. It was amazing to have hundreds of people – Campers, Parents, Volunteers, Staff, and Alumni, spend some time at Loch Leven this summer, and I am sad that summer season is over. I am; however, incredibly stoked for what comes next!

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With my first summer at Loch Leven under my belt, I want to share some of my initial observations. First, Loch Leven is a special place. Many campers are 2nd generation campers, and several of our campers were 3rd generation campers. On pick-up day, I had grandparents show grandchildren their favorite parts of camp. It was incredible to watch an experience transcend the generation gap!

My second observation is that Loch Leven has an incredible capacity for community. Our theme this year was entitled, “Peace Works,” and what we learned was a mix of world philosophies on peace, community, and spirituality. My favorite lesson from this summer, came from “Ubuntu,” which means “I am because we are.” We challenged our campers with this concept, and how we as community should strive for happiness, not by pursuing personal goals and wealth, but by taking care of our neighbors, our community. I saw this put into action during our junior camp, when a pair of friends were climbing our beautiful climbing tree, Mr. Majestic. One friend had mastered the climbing technique, and he was excited to make it to our hammocks, but his friend was struggling to keep up. Instead of climbing to the top to enjoy his goal in solitude, he stayed behind with his friend. This interaction was inspiring, and it solidifies my belief that Camp is an ideal place to build, teach, and practice community.

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In other news, we are updating our policy for Regional Use of Loch Leven, to prioritize church and region retreats. On 1/2/2020, registration for the following year will only be open to those within the region. The priority registration will last until 3/2/2020. If you and/or your congregation is looking to spend time at Loch Leven, contact us through our website: lochleven.org.

I’ve lived here for four months, and I have experienced an amazing welcome from the PSWR community. I am definitely at home here, and I welcome everybody to come visit Loch Leven.  There are going to be some very big things happening in the near future: Community Events, Family Camps, Outdoor Science Education, Summer Camp 2020, and more! Please stay tuned! If you are interested in visiting Loch Leven, do not hesitate to contact us! We can’t wait to see you!

I am going to leave you with a link to an amazing TED talk about Ubuntu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBUy7XmbB7M

Best,
Nicholas Selway
Camp Manager

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AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” 

Perhaps like many of you, I have become increasingly concerned about the continual disappearance of civility in our political and social discourse, and the growing division within our nation that is tearing at the very fabric of our society. 

Untethered discrimination, rampant racism, and the open demeaning of fellow human beings; not to mention the constant spinning of lies seems to have embolden some and numbed the rest. The questions that keep coming up for me are: How are we to respond to this? How do we live as Christians in the face of this overwhelming challenge? 

What also makes this even more difficult is the fact that the division growing in our social and political arenas is also deeply embedded in our faith communities as well. 

John Blake a writer for CNN offers an analysis on President Trump’s recent racist attack targeting Democratic congresswomen of color by saying that “ there’s a sobering truth to Trumps racist tweets that we don’t like to admit.” He goes on to describe that there are essentially two Americas in conflict with one another. 

Blake writes: “In one America, people react with shock when a President issues vile racist tweets against women lawmakers. In the other America, people say nothing. 

In one America, people speak out in protest after a President claims that African, Haitian, and Salvadoran immigrants come from "sh**hole" countries. In the other America, people nod in agreement. 

In one America, people become outraged when administration officials snatch migrant children from their mothers' arms and detain them for weeks in filthy conditions with no repercussions. In the other America, people remain silent. 

And in one America, people condemn a President for describing protestors alongside neo-Nazis as "very fine people." In the other America, people shrug. 

It's been said that Trump's comments about immigrants reveal that he really doesn't understand America. The U.S. was built on the concept of a melting pot, and immigrants are making the nation stronger, some say. 

But Trump's recent tweets could show that he understands America better than his critics realize. These two Americas have long co-existed. One is the country represented by the Statue of Liberty, and its invitation to poor and tired immigrants "yearning to breathe free." 

The other is the one that virtually wiped out Native Americans, enslaved Africans, excluded Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century and put Japanese Americans in concentration camps.” 

If this is true, where do we go from here? How do we bridge this growing chasm dividing our country? How do we as people of faith become bridge builders? How do we bring healing to a broken and fractured community? 

Particularly as Disciples of Christ, we say, “we are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.” What does that mean in todays conflicted society? 

I remember attending a lecture many years ago where the speaker was Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners, and he was talking about the divisions within both our political communities as well as our religious communities. He said the battle often focuses on trying to find common ground. However, he said, that often neither side wishes to give up ground and so the battle continues. Then he said something that has stuck with me and I have not forgotten. He said what we need to do to bridge the impasse is to seek higher ground. 

It is so easy to get sucked into the battle of the divisions and incivility that we are currently embroiled in that we can lose our call to seek higher ground. I sometimes cringe when I hear or read disparaging words being hurtled at others regardless of which “side” we see ourselves on. It often feels like we are only digging our heels in on whatever position we hold rather than making an effort to listen or understand one another. I know I have found myself in that place. 

I believe Jim Wallis was right, the only way out is to seek higher ground. To call one another back to our true humanity with grace, forgiveness and a deep understanding of the fear that drives us to these places of brokenness, violence and division. 

To do this, at least for us as followers of the way of Jesus, we must continually immerse ourselves in his teachings, his attitude, and his way of living with much prayer and study. 

While he was in prison, Paul’s letter to the Philippians which was concerned about divisions within the fledging church because of false teachings, can serve as a reminder for us of what we can do today in light of the challenges we face. Paul writes: 

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” ~ Philippians 2:1-4 

Let me finish with this story. A newly arrived missionary at a post in China asked a little girl who had been an orphan and cared for in the mission whether she had heard the gospel. “No,” she replied, “but I have seen it.” I pray that those around us will not only hear the gospel message but also see it in us.

Together on the journey,

Don and Susan

https://sojo.net/articles/who-will-call-out-presidents-racism

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AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt
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By Rev. Don Dewey and Rev. Susan Gonzales Dewey, Co-Regional Ministers

One of the blessings we now have as grandparents is in rediscovering the joy and wonder of children. Watching our three young grandsons has been both challenging and absolutely wonderful! 

As parents I think it is easy to miss all the wonder and sacredness of their innocence because you are still learning what it means to be a parent. After all of the excitement and energy around actually becoming a parent starts to fade, the reality that you are totally responsible for this new life 24/7/365 starts to sink in! 

In all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) there is a wonderful story told of Jesus blessing children. Also, earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus calls a little child to stand before the disciples who were arguing who is the greatest in God’s Kingdom, and says, “…unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18.3) 

As a parent and now grandparent you can’t help but have hopes and dreams for your children or grandchildren. Yet even more basic you want them to be healthy, safe, happy and able to live full meaningful lives. You want them to have a strong sense of themselves, to be confident, to know they are loved and valued and important. 

So it is no wonder that the parents of those children would wish for Jesus to lay his hands on them. Perhaps they had heard stories of how Jesus had healed others or just wished for a blessing from kind Rabbi with the hopes that this would somehow protect and ensure that their children would grow well. 

I have always enjoyed baby dedications where we lift the child before the congregation and invite everyone to join the parents in raising up the child in the ways of Jesus. We lay hands on them and bless and pray for them. We want both the parents and the congregation to know that all children are valued and that we all have a responsibility in their upbringing. 

Though these stories in Gospels tell of the disciples scolding the parents for attempting to bring the children to Jesus, I have to believe that the disciples were trying not to interrupt or disturb Jesus, or perhaps just showing off their sense of importance. Either way, Jesus graciously says, “Let the children come to me…” 

Perhaps Jesus understood the desires of those parents for a blessing. Perhaps he knew how most parents worry about their children and will do almost anything to assure themselves that their children will be safe, healthy and whole. He also seems to affirm their innocence, their wonder, their curiosity, and their vulnerability as keys to entering God’s realm. 

So, like many of us these days, my heart breaks at the treatment of immigrant children by our current administration. Separating children from their parents/families is cruel and incredibly damaging to those innocent children. Punishing children while some accuse the parents of breaking the law can never be acceptable. 

Placing children in cells and cages where they are subject to all sorts of abuse and mistreatment, not to mention suffering from being torn away from the safety of the parents goes against everything we as human beings and Christians hold as sacred and important for children to develop in healthy ways. 

I cannot even begin to imagine the damage that has been done to the hearts and minds of these children that have been systematically removed from the love, safety and care of their parents and families. 

Today, most Americans would view the interment camps of our Japanese sisters and brothers as a dark and terrible time in our history. I believe this time will be seen the same way by future generations. This travesty must change and these innocents need our voices to say enough is enough! 

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” 

In Matthew 25, Jesus says, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my friends, you have done it unto me.” 

May we heed the message of Jesus, to bless, love and care for all children for such is the Kingdom of heaven. 

Together on the journey, 

Don and Susan

Here’s some orgs that are doing great work supporting asylum seekers through advocacy, education and/or donations. 

- matthew25socal.org
- freedomforimmigrants.org (fights to end immigration detention - National Bond Fund helps asylum seekers pay bond fees)
- familiesbelongtogether.org (group of orgs fighting to end family separation at the border)
- sojo.net (Social Justice magazine)
- alotrolado.org (legal services for asylum seekers)
- nomoredeaths.org/en (Arizona org that leaves supplies in the desert)
- helpdetainedchildren.org
- togetherrising.org
- https://mailchi.mp/ccsw/word-to-the-church-concerning-detention-center-conditions

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt
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Dr. Jim Cain, author, clinician, and all-round camp guru, led 35 of our best volunteers in an amazing and energetic training on Saturday, June 8. Loch Leven was buzzing with excitement for camp as our volunteers played new ice-breakers, teambuilding exercises, and helpful activities to get all of us in the mood for community and learning. 

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Dr. Cain spent seven hours with 2019 Summer Camp counselors and directors sharing wisdom that inspires. “It is always better to show and tell than just to tell” said Cain, just before teaching a game that got us all laughing and interacting like old friends. We seamlessly moved from one activity to the next and the learning never stopped. There were so many resources shared that our camps are bound for a fantastic season!

I have been to dozens of camp trainings at Loch Leven, and this was the best!” Leah Dewey (First Christian Church, Orange)

THANK YOU, Camp Ministry Committee, for making this such a successful training for all of us! We worked hard but it was sooo much fun!

For more information, please visit www.disciplespswr.org/camp or contact Camp Ministry Committee Co-Chairs: Janette Jara and Ian Pollard – pswrcampministry@gmail.com.

See learn more about Dr. Jim Cain and the Teamwork and Teamplay program, please visit: http://www.teamworkandteamplay.com/

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AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt