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

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

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

In April 1965, two well-known songwriters released a song that soon became a hit titled: “What the World Needs Now." Reflecting on the state of our union these days and all the divisiveness going on in every sector of our society, the lyrics for this song seem especially poignant for us today. As we begin this month of February, the month where we celebrate love on Valentines Day, it seemed appropriate to share the words to this song:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone
Lord, we don't need another mountain
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross
Enough to last till the end of time
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone
Lord, we don't need another meadow
There are cornfields and wheat fields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine
Oh listen, Lord, if you want to know
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone
No, not just for some, oh, but just for everyone

I especially like that the song speaks of an inclusionary love, “No, not just for some but for everyone.” For me this resonates with what I believe was at the heart of the message of Jesus. Over and over again we read in our Gospels Jesus’ inclusionary love. Regardless of the political or religious barriers erected to keep some outside of God’s gracious unconditional love, Jesus shattered those barriers and welcomed those excluded, marginalized and despised into the circle of God’s love. No, Jesus’ love was not just for some but for everyone!

Today it seems there is a lot of hate and vitriol spewing out of both sides of the political and religious debate about what’s right and what’s wrong. Yes, we need to speak truth to power, yes we need to speak out against all forms of injustice and yes, we need to lift our voices on behalf of the voiceless but we need to do so with love that does not destroy or dehumanize the other no matter how much there actions or words are hurtful or harmful. Jesus’ love called us to love even our enemies.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom we just honored and remembered once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

As we continue making our way into 2018 it will be important for us as followers of Jesus to seek fervently to walk in his way. Remembering his command to love: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Of course we know, this is not the love that most will be thinking of on February 14th as we celebrate Valentines Day. It is probably not the love Hal David and Burt Bacharach had in mind in their song. Yet it is a love that includes everyone and one that calls us to be willing to challenge the forces that deny human dignity and basic human rights to any and all.

Again, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that the ultimate power in the universe is love and when we live into it faithfully as Jesus did, it is unstoppable. It is, as always, what the world needs now!

Together on the journey,

Don and Susan
Your Regional Ministers

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

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

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” 1 Peter 1:3,4

On New Years Eve Sunday morning, our pastor, Rev. Dr. Dayna Kinkade, shared a wonderful message about TIME using the scripture text of Ecclesiastes 9, “To everything there is a season."  She noted that with all the things that happened this past year—natural disasters, social unrest, political divisiveness, sexual harassment in the workplace and more—that many were glad to see 2017 end, and in fact chose Hallmark Christmas movies to get through the holidays! She stated that so much is wrong that we don’t know where to begin. However, the writer of Ecclesiastes seems to get it. 

Rev. Dr. Kinkade said, “He (the writer of Ecclesiastes) begins the book with the memorable phrase “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” It’s all hebel, that’s the Hebrew word for it. Today we might say it’s all gone to pot. There really isn’t a good translation for it. It is disgust and disillusionment with a spoonful of frustration: hebel. It’s all hebel.

The frustration was the fact that the good and just suffered while the wicked prosper. He was also frustrated that wisdom was lost on the powerful.   

In Chapter 9 he includes this proverb:

17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouting of a ruler among fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one bungler destroys much good. (Eccl. 9:17-18)

The author, introduced as the teacher, in the first chapter, is cranky. He is venting about the injustice he sees. He is venting about feeling powerless to affect change. He is venting about fools in charge. He is articulating what his readers feel. All is hebel.

Yet the Book of Ecclesiastes is more than one long rant. It serves as a corrective to some misguided thinking. In the ancient world there was the prevailing view that the righteous prosper and the wicked suffer. That’s how the world worked. That’s how God works. If things are bad it is because you are bad…It is easy to think that God blesses the faithfulor that everything happens for a reason. The problem with this thinking is that it fails to explain why faithful people struggle and suffer. Like Job’s friends, the only answer to suffering is, “You must have done something wrong.”

The teacher offers a different answer. With the beauty of poetry, he offers hopeful words to the disheartened. Life has seasons…and a time for every matter. Our job is to be mindful of the time.  When times are good it is important to live in appreciation, making the most of that time, knowing that the time will change. When times are bad it is important to persist, and resist, knowing that this too shall pass. And regardless of the time, he affirms the importance of shared meals and laughter. This is of more value that a heap of riches.”

We have said goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018 with hope, however faint, that things will be better for our families, our churches, our world and ourselves. The writer of 1 Peter encourages us with these words: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” 1 Peter 1:3,4. Jürgen Moltmann says, “Hope is nothing else than the expectation of those things which faith has believed to have been truly promised by God.” (Theology of Hope, Jürgen Moltmann)

Our hope for the future is not the same as wishful thinking or new years resolutions. Rather, our hope is grounded in the reality of God’s promises. The writer of 1 Peter goes on to say, “Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer. Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine.” 1 Peter 1:6, 7. In other words, to everything there is a season but God’s promises transcend seasons and can “never perish, spoil or fade.”

So how do we approach this New Year with faithful hope? First it is important as Pastor Dayna stated to be mindful of the time/season. When times are good we need to cultivate a spirit of gratitude for all the ways God has blessed our lives. I like to think of it like storing up thankfulness in the good season that then can carry us through the lean ones. And when times are bad, we ground ourselves in our faith knowing that God’s promises are ours forever.

Recently writer, activist, and president of Sojourners, Jim Wallis shared his 10 resolutions for the coming year. I share them with you with the hope that they might inspire you and challenge you to think about how you will live into 2018 with faithful hope.

Jim Wallis’s 10 Resolutions:

1. To start each day with a “yes!” to my faith — and to my personal and public morality.

2. To have the courage to say “no!” when that is required, wherever it is required. 

3. To not wait to say “no,” or wait to stand in opposition to wrong and dangerous ideas and actions, until I see how others will respond. 

4. To hold the Bible in one hand and the news in the other as I go through each day.

5. To better answer the biggest challenges of 2018 by acting on my faith, rather than reacting from my emotions.

6. To see crisis as both danger and opportunity.

7. To see evil and injustice as a call to go deeper. 

8. To spend even more time with my family. 

9. To pray for particular people who will be playing critical roles in the outcomes of political events in this country.

10. To work and pray to grow in my trust of God, friends, and community. 

 (Go to https://sojo.net/articles/10-resolutions-2018 for a full description of these resolutions)

We pray that your New Year will be filled with new opportunities, new blessings, new joys and renewed hope. Let us work together to bring about God’s promised justice, peace and love for all humanity and a deeper care for our earth and all its inhabitants.

We give thanks for the privilege of serving with each one of you and look forward to our ministry together in the coming year.

“So then, have your minds ready for action. Keep alert and set your hope completely on the blessing which will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:13

 

Together on the journey,
Don and Susan
Your Regional Ministers

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

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

Dear Pastors and Congregations of the PSWR,

It has been 10 years since Susan and I began our work as your Co-Regional Ministers. We can’t begin to tell you how blessed and proud we are to be serving this amazing Region! Together with each of you we have accomplished so many wonderful things that they are to numerous to name. We are deeply grateful for the partnership in ministry entrusted to us that we share with you.

So as we enter this Advent-Christmas Season, we do so with not only gratitude in our hearts, but also with much excitement and anticipation for what God will do in and through this Region into the future. As we again prepare to receive the Christ child into our hearts and lives, giving thanks for this greatest of Gifts, we do so with holy expectations that will once more fill our lives and our world with unspeakable joy!

We are all to well aware of all the places of brokenness, despair, fear, hatred and violence that permeate our world today. We know that there are still “Herod’s” who threaten the weak and vulnerable in vain attempts to hold on to their perceived power. Yet as always, but especially in this Season we remember the song of God’s servant Mary, the mother of our Lord as she proclaimed God’s Sovereignty in the world:

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
For he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant..."

"He has brought down the powerful
from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty..."

This song of hope reminds us of who we are and whose we are no matter what our situation or circumstances or what might be happening in this fragmented world of ours. We know without reservation that God’s redeeming and reconciling love remains the ultimate power to save and transform us and this global community we are a part of.

So don’t lose heart nor be afraid, rather be as bold as Mary, as steadfast as Joseph, as wise as Sages, and as joyous as the Shepherds, “for unto you is born this day…a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”  

Let this poem by Ann Weems go with you this Advent so that we together can sing with hearts full of great joy this Christmas!

THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

The Christmas spirit
Is that hope
which tenaciously clings
to the hearts of the faithful
and announces
in the face
of any Herod the world can produce
and all the inn doors slammed in our faces
and all the dark nights of our souls
that with God
all things still are possible,
that even now
unto us a Child is born!

May you be blessed this Holy Season!

Together on the journey,
Don and Susan

 

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

by Rev. Benjamin J. Barlow, PSWR Associate Regional Minister

Recently I was in conversation with one of our General Church leaders who caught me a bit off guard by saying, “The PSWR Youth and Young Adult Ministry is being watched by the larger church. You all are really doing amazing things.” How exciting and scary all at once. This conversation got me thinking about what it is that people might not see about the PSWR Youth and Young Adult Ministry by observing as a spectator.

Here are important points that our entire church should know about our regional youth and young adult ministries:

Pro-Reconciliation/Anti-Racism

            For the first time in its 30 years of existence, in 2016-2017 the Youth Leadership Team (YLT) received and accepted applications from youth belonging to each of our organized constituent ministries (NAPAD, Hispanic Convencion, and African American Convocation). With 21 youth on the regional team and six adult mentors, our camp ministry season this year was one of the most diverse and culturally inclusive we’ve had the privilege of hosting. Each youth brought a different perspective to worship, prayer, and conversation. Our Regional Church is stronger because of this work!

            In 2016 we launched the Youth Immersion Ministry (YIM), an anti-racism/pro-reconciliation leadership training program for high school youth that give immersion opportunities in cultures other than their own while providing a safe and trusting community of peers and adults in which to process how to approach issues of division in the world. Four youth from each constituency (NAPAD, Convencion, Convocation, and Anglo-European Communities) are selected each year to participate with very little financial requirement from them.

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            We had 10 youth from the PSWR travel to South Korea this summer. To say we experienced culture shock would be an understatement, but it opened the door to honestly reflect on our cultural biases, prejudices, and assumptions. We did hard work that resulted in more compassionate, more aware, and more equipped young leaders to serve Christ in the world today. This has been made evident in the YIM and YLT end of the year project presentations which reflected the significant growth our regional youth have experienced in recent years.

            At General Assembly in July, the PSWR Youth Ministry was honored to receive the Bratkovich Award from the Disciples Peace Fellowship for our work, especially with the Youth Immersion Ministry and the Winter Youth Summit – UNITE in February of 2017. It was a surprising and exciting moment for our young people who attending General Assembly.

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A Stronger Voice and Presence of Young People

            Whether it is presenting at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration early this year, providing hospitality and staffing business   sessions at General Assembly, serving on a discussion panel at Regional Gathering, or forming an inclusive planning team for UNITE 2018, our young people are engaging their gifts in leadership and intentional development of our regional programming. If you were at Regional Gathering this month, you may have seen “God’s Gallery”: an artistic expression of the spiritual work our young people have been participating in this year (drawings, pottery, photos, and more). God’s Gallery was organized, curated, and staffed exclusively by the hands of youth and young adults in the PSWR. This was their idea and desire to demonstrate their voice in the larger church. It was beautiful and awesome to see.

            Our youth and young people have had the unique opportunity to meet with our new General Minister and President, Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, twice this year. Once at UNITE where Terri preached the opening service and once at General Assembly where Terri met to discuss youth ministry exclusively with our youth and young adults. This has given the PSWR youth access to the General Church in ways we’ve not experienced in recent years. They shared their hopes with our GMP and our GMP listened to their concerns directly. Several of our young people are in ongoing conversations with Terri through social media and are working with her on a special project for UNITE 2018.

Resources, Grants, and Scholarships

            XPLOR Residents, Disciples Peace Fellowship Interns, Chapman University Students, HELM Fellows, Disciples Seminary Foundation Scholars, the Forum for Theological Exploration participants, a grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation, and much more engage our young people in leadership development and service in ways that tap into their passions for God’s people. We are the PSWR, and our region offers accessible resources, as well as, a strong connection with the General Church. Many of our young people have and continue to be supported by these resources.

            This month I had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Dee James Atwood, Director of Admissions and Assistant to the Dean of Students at Texas Christian University (TCU). Jim was enthusiastic about connecting our youth to Disciples scholarships available. He said, “I am committed to put Disciples dollars in the hands of young people from your region.” All participants in our Youth Leadership Team and Youth Immersion Ministry (as well as any young adults interested) are eligible to receive up to 50% tuition for their service to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Additionally, Bethany College in West Virginia offers the following to Disciples students who are active in church leadership, especially YLT and YIM:

·      Campbell-Stone Heritage Scholarship is $16,000, renewable every year, for a total of $64,000.

·      The Alexander Campbell Religious Leadership Award is $5,000, renewable every year, for a total of $20,000. This scholarship requires an essay, and two letters of recommendation documenting their leadership in the church. Recipients of the Alexander Campbell Religious Leadership Award become members of the Alexander Campbell Scholar program where they will be discipled and mentored.

·      $1,500 scholarship, renewable every year, for a total of $6,000 for students who are sons or daughters of DOC clergy. 

·      Outside of church scholarships, we offer merit scholarships between $4,000 - $18,000, the Presidential Scholarship - full-tuition, Honors College Scholarship $23,000, and Kalon Scholarship $19,500 for student leaders.

The first three scholarships listed are stackable for a total of $22,500. In addition, an alumni referral scholarship of $1,000 (renewable for $4,000) and a campus visit grant of $250 (renewable for ($1,000) can be added, totaling $23,750. The current tuition at Bethany is $27,250.

 

Global Service Projects

Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Mexico, South Korea, Israel-Palestine…the list continues to grow. Our regional youth and young adults are given the amazing opportunity to travel across the globe to experience expressions of the Church that challenge our understanding of God to help us grow in faith and serve God’s people. In 2018 we will be hosting the Immigration Immersion Project. Young people from all over the General Church will travel to the PSWR for a 10 day training in Southern California and Tijuana, Mexico. I am grateful for the support of Rev. Lori Tapia, Rev. Xose Escamilla, Rev. Sadie Cullumber, and many others who have pledged their support for this important opportunity.

We will also be taking a team of youth on an East Coast Work Tour next summer to Washington, D.C. and Virginia where we will participate in mission projects and visit historical sites. Further down the pike, we hope to accept the offer to travel to Australia to learn about reparations for the Aborigines and their culture, and to Kenya for a unique experience to discover God on safari.

Intentional Christian Leadership Formation

The PSWR Youth Ministry focuses on developing Christian leaders to serve in the world today. We believe that what we practice shapes our character. So, we are focusing on five areas of spiritual formation to compliment the work being done in the local church: Hospitality, Local Service, Global Missions, Mentorship, and Disciples Identity. Our hope is that by the end of a youth’s high school career they will be equipped with experiences of strong community, a broad awareness of the world around them, and a sense of the calling God is placing on their life to serve those in need. We believe that this is best achieved when Pastors, lay-leaders, and other local units are confident in the effectiveness of regional programming. We desire for churches to be eager to connect youth to regional resources so that they are stronger leaders in their home congregations and in present in the general church.

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Everyone is welcome!

We actively resist the temptation to settle into a small group of youth from a few congregations. We practice an open table where ALL young people are welcome to participate and bring their questions about how faith is applicable to their lives. This means that sometimes we will disagree on theology and practice… but instead of seeing this as something that puts us at odds, we celebrate the diversity as an opportunity to pull together the gifts of God’s people to make a bigger impact. We can do more when we do it together! Our goal is to engage each person’s gift and passion in service in a way that is authentic and effective in addressing real needs.

We are UNITED in our cause to serve God in the world today!

Our volunteers and youth meet at least six times a year to pray together, sing together, strategize together, process together, and discern what it is that God is calling us to do next. These sessions allow for young people to take risks, to make their visions for ministry a reality, and to be confident that they are supported by a loving and accountable community. We see what God is doing in our midst and we are excited to be a part of regional ministry for such a time as this!

 

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

There are many ways to get involved in PSWR Youth and Young Adult Ministries. Visit our websites by going to www.disciplespswr.org and clicking “Regional Ministries” to locate our youth and young adults pages. You will find applications for YLT and YIM available for download. You will find information about upcoming events and stories of recent blessings in ministry. Also, feel free to contact me if you have questions or ideas: bjbarlow@disciplespswr.org

We are currently accepting applications for YLT and YIM, and we are always praying for more young adults to step into leadership.

Thank you for the ongoing support and for the overwhelming affirmations that keep us trucking along.  

 

On the Journey Together,
Rev. Benjamin J. Barlow
PSWR Associate Regional Minister

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt