Faith and Brews
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According to Martin Luther, “it’s better to think of church in the ale-house than to think of the ale-house in church.” Faith and Brews (or F&B) provides an opportunity to take this fine advice, as a group of us come together at Donahue’s in Watertown to meet over soda, cider, and yes, brews to discuss the topic of the week provided by Wired Word. Topics vary from current events such as the Syrian refugee crisis to more conceptual topics, such as healing through prayer illustrated by a less-publicized story. Like anything that involves a church or a bar, we have a group of “regulars” who attend as well as those who attend less frequently. One of the nice things about F&B is that because each week is independent from the others, it's easy for someone to join at any time or with any frequency.
We’re a very friendly group and particularly welcoming towards diversity in perspective. I think part of being a Lutheran is being challenged and seeing the grey in issues, even when it can be hard. There are topics that I find myself reflecting back on weeks later, as well as ones in which I find resolution more readily. Within our group, we bring a variety of past experiences and present conditions, which add depth to what we share and the understanding that we can build together.
As someone who is away on weekends a lot during certain times of year, I’m especially glad to have a midweek community opportunity. (As a licensed rowing referee, I spend a lot of Sunday mornings promoting safety and fairness.) On these weeks in particular, I really appreciate being able to connect with St. Paul-ians during the week.
For me, Faith and Brews provides a forum to reflect and connect within a community that shares some of my values, but may apply them differently and interpret the topics differently. I enjoy our conversations, as well as being challenged to think more deeply about what’s going on in the world and how I respond to it. There’s a lot of negativity and despair in the news and F&B offers the opportunity to consider some of these stories from multiple perspectives. Sometimes the guided questions lead inspire other questions, other times they inspire tangents. Actually, tangents are inspired pretty much every time. Lots of tangents.
As a child, my mom once told me, “God gave you a brain, so use it.” Faith and Brews provides a forum for me to use my brain to think deeper and about issues from Biblical, moral, and practical perspectives.
A Letter from Keith Anderson
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My dear friends at St. Paul, Arlington,
I can’t believe it has been twelve years since I served as Vicar at St. Paul. It’s no exaggeration to say that I think of you and the lessons I learned at St. Paul every day of my ministry. In so many ways you taught me to be a pastor. You affirmed my gifts and you lovingly corrected me when I needed it. You downloaded your wisdom into my heart and mind, and I continue to benefit from the many gifts you entrusted to me.
You welcomed my wife, Jenny, who is Jewish, and creatively fashioned a position for her to serve St. Paul as the coordinator of Christian Education. You helped us celebrate the birth of our first daughter, Ellie, who was baptized at St. Paul. She is now in seventh grade.
Now twelve years, four kids, and two churches later, I am currently serving in team ministry—something I learned well from Ross and Susan Henry—at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church, just north of Philadelphia. Over the last several years I have also written two books, Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible and The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World about the ways our digitally networked world is rewiring religious practice, belief, and belonging. Now more than ever it is essential that we bear witness to the Gospel—the grace and love of God in Christ—across our social networks, in particular our digital networks like Facebook, blogs, YouTube, and beyond.
And so, I congratulate you on the launch of your new website this month! Not only are church websites the new front door of our congregations, with social media they have become the new narthex, where people meet and connect with us before they ever walk into our buildings. I am personally grateful for your digital ministry as I follow St. Paul on Facebook and subscribe to your email list. It helps me feel connected to the great ministry you continue to offer to your members and the surrounding community.
I cannot say enough how grateful I am for my time at St. Paul, and for Ross, Susan, and the many lay leaders that helped shape my faith and form my pastoral identity. As the original St. Paul wrote to the Philippians, so I say to you: “I thank my God every time I remember you.” You are in my heart.
The Rev. Keith Anderson
Vicar at St. Paul, Arlington 2002-2003
The Source of our Power is our Hearts
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“Zach. Zach. ZACH!”It was 7:45 AM when I stumbled out of my soft comfortable cot, to the sound of a 15 year old boy yelling at me (not fun). I walked to the door of the hotel room, in a zombie like fashion, letting my stomach, and my roommate's voice, lead the way to the breakfast room. We waited for the elevator and thought about today’s activities. I knew that today would be our “work day” but I had no idea what that meant (and I don’t really think I cared, I was hungry). I reached the small room on the 56th floor and got my breakfast. The GM building sure was nice. It was really tall, with nearly 70 floors, and it was in close proximity to all the kinds of food you could imagine(which made dinner all the better), but this was still Detroit, and I knew that I hadn’t seen anything yet. I walked back to the elevators and rode it back up to the 59th floor.
I ate my eggs and bacon, and drank my coffee which was also accompanied by a Detroit newspaper (which I didn’t really read). I sat with my friends Toby and Adam. We were quiet for the most part and did our normal morning routine (eat, use bathroom, and try very hard to not be late or forget anything, especially me).
I changed quickly into my blue jeans, which turned out to be really hard to work in, my Rise Up t-shirt, and my work boots. I slipped on the old rough work gloves I had received from Meghan, as I forgot to pack some. Then, I found our counselors, Eric, Meghan and Pastor Stendahl, as well as my friends from my church (St.Paul) and from LCN, a church in Newton.
Some of us had not woken up yet so we waited a bit, until all of us gathered together to debrief the day the ELCA had planned for us (so much fun).
When Eric and Meghan were done talking, we all walked to the elevators to head to our “target” area. It was a street in Detroit which was under a state of crisis. The people who had once lived there had been forced to leave due to the city’s financial misfortune, but some still remained. Our mission was to help these people and try to shed some light on the houses which had been deemed forsaken by those in the higher up positions.
I walked with my group and we reached a bus stop. The bus stop was crowded with kids. Trying to get through was like trying to run through water in concrete shoes. I was pushing my way through and I laughed to myself when I thought of myself as Moses parting the Red Sea. But, soon enough we reached our bus and followed the young guide onto the super awesome tour bus, with TVs and everything (but they didn’t turn on, bummer).
As we took our seats on the bus, the guide greeted and talked to us about the trip. She said “ We are really glad you are here to join us. Now we will be working in the sun and it is really hot out there, so don’t forget to drink water,” The guide went on for about 2 minutes and it was really basic until she told us “If in any case, you find weapons or drug materials, please do not touch them and report to an adult.”
I began to feel a little scared by the comment and ate my lunch timidly next to my window. I had been warned about how dangerous Detroit was and awful the “broken” parts were. I felt truly scared and felt that some Ice Cube looking dudes were going to shoot me, which I know is really, really, racist but on with the memoir.
We finally reached our destination around 20 minutes after the bus left. We got out and the sun was burning us with its powerful rays, and I was having trouble staying hydrated. We walked up and were assigned houses on the street. I was assigned to a really beat up house on the curb of a street. This house was obviously abandoned and its grounds left unattended. All the windows were either broken or gone completely and some windows had rotten plywood covering them. The grass and weeds were at knee length and trash littered the front yards. We had no tools so we started going through it with our gloved hands, ripping out leaves, picking up trash, it was some hard work. Soon enough, a good amount of kids who had been there earlier left, leaving us with the tools we needed to cut the high sea of grass.
After about an hour’s work we took a break from the terribly hot sun and gathered in a more shady area. There, a woman explained the situation. She said that she ran a group in the area that tried to get help for their community. She said that when she had heard we were coming, she called our group and had only expected a couple hundred kids, not 30,000 kids over a whole week! She had tried so hard before and this was like a blessing for her and her community.
Then I noticed how different the street looked after everyone had left. Sure, there were still abandoned houses, but it looked cleaner, more inhabited..I also realized something about the community. They had suffered so much, but that did not mean they gave up.
This was where they would show their strength and power. They might not be the Mayor, or the governor, but they were determined to change their home for the better, and to show that we can create change on our own. This was their power, and it came from their hearts, something that I didn’t realize about Detroit. This helped me to change my view of Detroit and of the world and, in turn, changing me. This is how Detroit changed me.
By: Zachary Sullivan
Being Mortal, Together
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Recently the Women’s Book Club met to discuss Being Mortal, by Dr. Atul Gawande. I had read this book twice, and was looking forward to discussing this with my community. There is so much that was interesting in this book--stories of people growing older, or with fatal illnesses, with their families and doctors making decisions about how to manage their lives with pain, decreased mobility, and doubtful therapies. Interspersed is information about nursing homes, hospice care, and palliative care. We hear about Dr. Gawande’s own journey as a physician, learning how to ask patients better questions instead of just giving facts, and what it was like for him to go through his father’s illness and decisions about which therapies to follow.
The title Being Mortal keeps calling to me. It implies that we will not live forever--being mortal means we will die. In fact the subtitle of the book—“Medicine and What Matters in the End”—underscores that there is an end, that we have an end. As a church community we’ve had times to gather and celebrate someone’s life even as we mourn the loss to us who remain. We say we don’t fear death because of our faith in a resurrection. But really our faith isn’t only for the future and what happens after our death, but for us to be alive and in the world, now. We have the opportunityto be Jesus for each other, to care for one another, to care for the earth, to love our enemies.
Discussion flowed freely, and we shared a lot of our own stories. Like the congregation, the Women’s Book Group includes people of all ages, and we are married, single, widowed, some with children and grandchildren. There are always stories. And it’s what makes this group, and this congregation, so dear to me. I left the discussion that Saturday full of joy.
There is a lot about sickness and dying in the book. And we talked a lot about those things in our lives. In spite of all the wonderful gifts Medicine can offer us, to prolong our lives, to ease our pain, it cannot prevent death. The discussion (the laughter, the tears) reminded me that we are all in this together. In a sense, this means we are being mortal together. And what better place to be mortal together than in a church community.
I looked around the book group as I look around the congregation each week, and see people who I’ve known for years, people I don’t know well, and remember the people who are far away and the people who have died. Yes, we are mortal, and we have known sickness and death, but we are together. Thanks be to God!
Taryn on her Ride with the Pan Mass Challenge
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As many of you already know, the Pan Mass Challenge has become my “cause”. This journey began three years ago when I was heartbroken to lose a beloved neighbor and friend Dawn Moses after a 4 year battle with intestinal cancer. A band of grieving neighbors decided to do something to help mend our hearts and give hope to those touched by cancer, so we created the Turkey Hill Gang and rode in the PMC.
After my first PMC, I knew I was hooked. The outpouring of generosity, good will, and gratitude (the 3G's) was overwhelming. Seeing the thousands of riders and volunteers involved was astonishing. Seeing the multitudes who came out to line the roadways and cheer us on for hours during their summertime weekend was so very moving. Knowing that every penny of the money donated, goes to Dana Farber Cancer Research Institute was empowering.
It is difficult to ask people for money. I’ve never felt comfortable doing it, and learned early in life I would never make a good salesperson. Asking for donations to the PMC is not easy, but because I see the efficiency of this operation and the advancements in research and improvements in care Dana Farber is able to provide as a result, it’s easier. You, my St. Paul family, have made it easier for me to reach my goal and then some. I’ve raised $8,320 and counting this year! St Paul contributed $2,600 to that amount! I am grateful to each and every one of you and not just those who donated but all of you who thought of me and prayed for my safety and well being that weekend. Believe me when I tell you I felt it with each push of the pedal.
Being a part of a team means that the donation totals for each are right there on our webpage for everyone to see ... and compare. Now most of these team mates have been athletes their whole lives and athletes are competitive by nature. The past two years I raised an average amount, nothing to make anyone take note. This year however, I raised enough in donations to raise a few eyebrows. “It’s that church of hers” and “those religious people are more likely to give” are a couple of the things I heard people say as they tried to explain my "amount." I am so proud to be a part of “that church” and not just to boost my standing as a PMCer. I am proud to be part of a loving, supportive, believing community in St. Paul Lutheran Church. It is my home where every Sunday I am so fortunate to hear an inspiring sermon and catch up with friends and greet newcomers and maybe if I’m lucky I get to hold a relatively new human.
Thank you all for being part of “that church”. Thank you for being a part of my ride.