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

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

So begins the 1859 historical novel by Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. Reflecting on our world today and specifically what is going on in America, this same sense emerged for me that we are in the best of times and the worst of times.

It is easy to feel we are in the worst of times when it appears the public has been numbed by the constant mass shootings that fill our media outlets regularly. It feels as if no place now is safe or sacred. Our theaters, concerts, schools, even our churches are no longer places of safety. Who would have thought that our children would have to participate in an “active shooter” training exercise as a part of their school experience?

Our political government meant to serve and protect the American people has now become more divided than ever in recent memory. To even talk of “politics” now stirs up conversations about divisiveness, suspicion and mistrust on every side. The level of animosity among our political leaders seems to be rising and spilling over into our public lives.

And as we listen to the cries of our sisters and brothers in the Black Lives Matter movement we are again starkly aware that the insidious nature of racism is alive and well in America. Most recently we have witnessed a rise in white supremacy groups and open demonstrations of KKK and Nazi-type groups in our communities.

We could go on with this sense we are in the worst of times when we see a growing awareness of sexual harassment occurring from our highest government officials to Hollywood tycoons and with other persons of power and influence, sparking the “me too” movement. Or we could look at the continual abuse of our broken immigration system to perpetuate false scapegoats for our unjust economic disparities, destroying families and disrupting communities. Yes, perhaps Dickens says it well, “…it was the season of Darkness.”

Yet however dark, we do not lose hope; our scriptures remind us:

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” ~ Lamentations 3:21-24

In this Easter Season we reclaim again that we are people of the resurrection! Death, darkness and despair no longer have power over us. We are people of light and life and our ultimate trust is in our God who can make a way when there is no way!

I could not help but be inspired and filled with great hope as thousands of people of faith showed up in force at the March for Our Lives in D.C. and across the country, to stand against the gun violence epidemic and stand in solidarity with young leaders who are threatened every day by gun violence in their schools and neighborhoods.

Who could not feel the pain and the passion of young people like Emma Gonzalez and others as they risked speaking truth to power? Listening to these courageous voices and witnessing the powerful statement of marches across this country and around the world affirmed the hope we proclaim. This was “…the season of Light.”

In a recent Facebook post, former General Minister and President Dick Hamm shared a collaborative piece titled “A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis” to ask again what it means to claim Jesus as Lord. This was such a hopeful piece in light of all that is dominating our social media that I was encouraged and inspired to feel that perhaps with all the foolishness going on that perhaps this was also a “age of wisdom.” Here is the link for those who have not yet seen this: http://reclaimingjesus.org.

Susan and I are members of the Los Angels Council of Religious Leaders who meet regularly to fellowship and share in concerns that face our churches/places of worship and communities. One important event that is coming up very soon is called A.C.T. NOW!

On April 3-5, 2018 the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and our partners will gather in Washington, D.C. for a historic event to launch its Truth and Racial Justice Initiative. This will mark 50 years since the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, and people of faith are challenged to commit to doing our part to eradicate the entrenched racism that grips the United States and paralyzes our ability to see every human being as equal.

The challenge for our communities and us is to join in truth-telling, leading to actions that right the wrongs, and, with God’s grace, bring healing and wholeness to all people, and unity to the nation.

A.C.T. NOW!
· AWAKEN ourselves to the truth that racism is ever-present, deeply rooted in American culture, and profoundly damaging to our communities.

· CONFRONT racism, speak truth to ourselves, our communities and institutions, and stand against injustice.

· TRANSFORM the hearts, minds, and behaviors of people and structures that shape society.

I share all this as encouragement in what might seem a “…season of Darkness” to remind us that our God is faithful and God’s steadfast love never ceases. I pray that we might see this time as a challenge for us to be about creating “an epoch of belief.”

I am aware that many in our Disciple communities participated in these recent marches, are actively engaged in addressing issues of racism and discrimination as well as working to find solutions to our immigration problems. I know too, that so many of you are speaking out, praying and finding ways to bring light, life and hope into this dark time. Each one of these acts, no matter how small, is a hopeful sign of God’s ever moving Spirit in our midst.

Just as the Easter Season reminds us of new life that begins to emerge after a period of winter darkness so too may we be faith-filled people of life and joy and see this time as our “spring of hope.” So continue your work, your prayers, and your support. Let your voices be heard and your lights shine. Let courage be your clarion call to action and do not lose hope!

Together on the journey,

Don and Susan Your Regional Ministers

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AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

By Maria Francesca French, Director of Innovative Training and Creative Strategies for Hatchery LA

I and my colleagues at Hatchery LA, along with Disciples of Christ leaders from Urban Mission and First Christian Church Oceanside, have just finished a 6-month incubation process in Spiritual Entrepreneurship led by Columbia University School of Business and Glean Incubator. We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this incredible learning community and want to share three of our big “takeaways” from the experience.

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1. We are not alone! DOC-affiliated programs (including Hatchery LA) made up 4 of the 10 programs or projects that participated in Columbia’s Spiritual Entrepreneurship class. What an “aha” experience it was to share the class with a diverse group of people with perspectives and faiths different from ours – yet, all who are seeking new ways of expressing and operationalizing their faith in a 21st Century reality. From the Jewish community, to the Lutherans and Methodists as well as a Muslim based project – it became quickly apparent that we share a common desire to be relevant to the populations we serve, and similar struggles to create new models of church or faith that are sustainable. It is enough of an issue for enough people that Columbia Business School developed this curriculum!

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2. We can’t presuppose the questions that people are asking about God and community. We live in a radically different world than 50-, 20- or even 10-years ago. The questions about God and community that people are asking today are different than before. That means we must be intentional about first listening to those in our community and being open to new questions, and then developing responses that are relevant.

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3. Love the problem, not the solution. This was the mantra of Columbia’s University’s Spiritual Entrepreneurship program director. Too often we are quick to jump to the solution without really understanding the problem – an understanding that would inform a successful outcome. So, rather than starting with the solution and working backwards, our attention was continuously drawn to the problem we were trying to solve. This allowed us to work on identifying the questions mentioned above, and then create and test and dissect and define and redefine thoughtful, strategic responses. For Hatchery LA, we are seeking to respond to the shifts in culture and the world, inviting others to engage new questions of god and new ways of engaging god that promote community, sustainability and viability.

If Spiritual Entrepreneurship sparks your interest, consider joining Hatchery LA in a Certificate program:

Certificate in Spiritual Entrepreneurship, Discovery Phase. This is a 12-week course preparing you for your journey toward spiritual innovation, the practice of it and the need for it. Move swiftly through theories of innovative theology, finance, technologies, culture, coupled with training on lean methodology and why this matters for the future of your context. Apply here.

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AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

COMMITTEE NAMED AND SEARCH PROCESS UNDERWAY

Since the final term for our Regional Ministers ends in 2019, we are pleased to inform you that the Search Committee for the Regional Minister of the Pacific Southwest Region (PSWR) of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has been approved by the PSWR Regional Board. With representation from the diverse expressions of the PSWR, the Committee shares a sense of humbleness and gratitude for being called to this important task. In our first meeting, held on March 3, 2018 at First Christian Church, Orange, we affirmed that this is a sacred journey upon which we have embarked. In addition to getting to know each other and learning our way around video-conferencing software, we established a timeline and scheduled meetings through May 2019, at which time we will present a candidate to the Regional Board. While this seems like a long time from now, there is much to do, and we will call upon you, the Regional Church, to participate in the process. 

  2018-2019 Search Committee: (Top photo, L-R): Tom Perring, Larry Morris, Carol Warsaw, Lydia Yang, Joi Robinson, Louise Sloan-Goben, Cathy Perring, Ben Bohren, Rogelio Martinez, Ed Ramolete. (Lower photos, L-R): Janette Jara, Judy Hong, Rip Rippentoe, Shobie Lopez.

2018-2019 Search Committee: (Top photo, L-R): Tom Perring, Larry Morris, Carol Warsaw, Lydia Yang, Joi Robinson, Louise Sloan-Goben, Cathy Perring, Ben Bohren, Rogelio Martinez, Ed Ramolete. (Lower photos, L-R): Janette Jara, Judy Hong, Rip Rippentoe, Shobie Lopez.

  Sandy Messick, Regional Minister, Northwest Region

Sandy Messick, Regional Minister, Northwest Region

To help us with our search, Sandy Messick, Regional Minister from the Northwest Region has agreed to serve as our "Regional Minister Search Partner," and we are truly grateful that she answered "yes" to this call. The next step in our process is to spend a day with Sandy. We will participate together in Pro-Reconciliation and Anti-Racism training then Sandy will lead us in spiritual practices that will ground us in faith and bind us together as a Committee seeking to serve God faithfully in this diverse Region. Sandy will be an ongoing resource as we move forward.

Critical to our search process is the development of a PSWR regional profile and Regional Minister Position Description. To inform these documents, we will gather information from the Region through surveys, discussion forums, and interviews of the various ministries of the Region. This will be the time when you have an opportunity to express your views about the current and future direction of the Region, and what you would like to see in our next Regional Minister. 

To close, in recognition of the central role God plays in our process, our Committee has committed to be in prayer with each other every Thursday at 7:00pm. Regardless of where we are physically located, this prayer time will spiritually bond us. We invite you to join us in this prayer life.

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AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

By Rev. Dr. Norman L. Williams, PSWR Disaster Recovery Ministry

Prepare your Church and Members to survive a disaster with the new toolkits and videos from FEMA's Ready Business website.

Organizations and their staff face a variety of hazards. The Ready Business program helps organizations plan for these hazards.

The Ready Business Toolkit series includes hazard-specific versions. The following versions include step-by-step guides in English and Spanish to build preparedness within an organization.

  • Earthquake “QuakeSmart” Toolkit
  • Hurricane Toolkit
  • Inland Flooding Toolkit
  • Power Outage Toolkit
  • Severe Wind/Tornado Toolkit

The Ready Business videos, available in English and Spanish, briefly explain several key parts of getting ready, such as:

  • Staff/Employee Management;
  • Physical Surroundings;
  • Physical Space;
  • Building Construction;
  • Systems; and
  • Community Service.

Download and view these new resources at www.ready.gov/business.  If you need any help or guidance please contact me.  We have team members ready to help your congregation and members prepare for to survive!

 

Rev. Dr. Norman L. Williams
PSWR Disaster Recovery Ministry
ChNorm@msn.com
909-289-6525

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AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt