Category Archives: Justice

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10 Low-Cost (or FREE) Ways to Be A Virtual Church In A Time of Self-Isolation

We have been asked to stay home. The coronavirus (COVID-19) is a pandemic that is circling the globe quickly, and – around the world – there have been many deaths already (for some Canada-specific stats, click here).

What does this mean for our church gatherings that are being suspended? If gathering weekly is our most public witness, and our most regular form of connecting, what do we do when we can’t go out?

Most people are on the internet, these days. Many churches have websites, engage some form of social media, and some already stream their services. There are ways to connect online. Even the smallest church-body can make use of these services without breaking the bank.

Here are a number of little-or-no-cost means of connecting via the world wide web! This is meant for those who are thinking, “where do I even begin?” (Disclaimer: if you have some basic internet skills, these suggestions are probably not new. This is an attempt to draw together in one place a number of things churches have been trying in recent years, and to offer them as churches scramble today.)

1) Website. This is perhaps the most basic, but also the most daunting. What is your congregational website for? (Will you use it as a static place with contact info and service-times, or will you be updating it regularly with meditations, and perhaps other media from around your church?) Will it be primarily for your membership, or is it for new people to learn about you for the first time? In a time of isolation, how will it be used? Generally, websites are respositories of information. Here is a helpful list of website builders, if you’re starting from scratch. (If that is overwhelming, I’d point you to Wix – it’s fairly easy to use, and can make a splashy website.) Note that you’ll probably want to spend the money on a domain name and hosting. Most online website builders, these days, make things “mobile ready,” but you might double-check that whatever you use does that – it means that the look of the screen adjusts for smart-phones and tablets, which is desirable.

2) Email blasts. Many churches collect email addresses along with mailing (or “snail mail”) addresses, these days, in their directories. Many will simply use their email program for sending out emails from the church. You may look into an online mass mailing software – it can make what you send easier to read, more fun to navigate, and generally more appealing (and, once you are using it, much easier to use than your email program). Perhaps the most popular online program for this is MailChimp.

3) Facebook. Understand the difference between a page and a group. There are other social media platforms, but Facebook tends to be the one that will be used by your parishoners the most (and has higher age-ranges using it). You will likely want to have a page for your congregation: among other things, it will allow you to use “Facebook live” (see #5, below) and to make your congregation visible to those who don’t have Facebook accounts. (A nod to the United Church of Canada, here, who started Wondercafe around the same time that Facebook broke through as the major social network – it was an early means of getting churches to connect online.)

4) Online offering. I think it’s fair to say that many churches have shied away from anything to do with money online – perhaps that’s prudent. It usually costs a percentage of the donation, or some flat fee that can feel like our offerings are being gouged. However, I’ve heard it said that “we’d rather have 90% of an offering than no offering at all.” And, in these days where people aren’t in church every Sunday, perhaps online offering is something to consider seriously. And, in a time of self-isolation, who is passing the plate? For Canadian charities, the most straight-forward, easy-to-set-up online donation site is CanadaHelps. If you have a charitable number, you can use that site.

5) Streaming live. Consider how you do this! Many churches are jumping to the “we are offering services live,” but in a time of isolation, what if the service amounts to the minister standing at the front alone? Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. (Maybe an edited video is your better option…? See #7) In normal circumstances, a live-streamed worship service (with members in the congregation who will participate in things like the singing of hymns and the Eucharist) is a lovely way to connect with parishoners and guests who can’t be there in-person. With a Facebook page, Facebook live is a quick and easy solution (can be done with minimal equipment: a smartphone is enough!). Here are some other online tools to get going (setting up an account, and possible subscription rates, will likely apply). Most of these streaming sites will stream live, and then archive your video, these days – which is cool!

6) Gathering by video conference. Perhaps you are doing a Bible Study? Perhaps you are running an event where you invite some back-and-forth between presenter and those attending. Committee meeting? This differs from a live-stream in some small ways. A stream is basically a video-broadcast (like a live TV show). A video-conference invites responses, sometimes in a chat-box or sometimes so that audio and video are used. So it is a conversation. You might be familiar with Skype, which requires users to have accounts. An easy-to-use online program for video conferencing is Zoom (the free version allows up to 100 people to gather at once for a meeting of up to 40 minutes). **UPDATE** Some are saying Zoom is not very secure; know your options with the program. Another free option is Jitsi.

7) Creating and sharing videos. This is where I would point people in place of streaming a service. My preference (which may not be yours) is to create something that may be shorter in length, but produced better – taking a bit of time to script, record, and edit something. If you use a Mac, iMovie is easy to use for assembling still photos with audio, or editing video footage (though it takes some time to learn). Windows has its own movie maker programs. There are open source ones available, too. Setting up a YouTube channel (like this one) is as easy as having an email address; in fact, if you have a gmail address, YouTube is ready-to-go.

8) A blog is a condensed word from “web-log” – it’s a place to put the written word online! WordPress is a popular platform that began as a place for people to post blogs, and turned into a place where people built their websites (like the one you’re checking out now – sort of “part-blog, part-website”). Here are a few others possibilities. Perhaps the pastor of your church will write reflections that can go on a blog for devotional purposes during this time of isolation.

9) Online cloud storage – once you start uploading things to the internet, where is it going to be stored? Perhaps you have digital files you want to share with members of your parish.  These may be printable pdf or doc files, or some jpg picture files, or audio mp3 files, or even video mp4 files. You may want to have people download these and use them at home. An online cloud storage server is useful, here. Google Drive is easy and free to set up (and, like YouTube, if you have a gmail address, you already have it at your fingertips!). Box works well, too, and is being used by more and more churches. Most cloud storage is free for the first few gigabytes, but then a subscription rate kicks in once you exceed that amount (which may not happen if you’re only storing documents and pictures; it’s audio and video that adds up!).

10) QR codes. I don’t deny: this is not the “newest” form of communicating online, but in contexts where paper is still a regular medium of sharing the word – as it is in churches, still – QR codes are quick and easy for those with smartphones to find your website link. It saves having to type out a big long name that often includes a confusing list of numbers and letters! QR codes can be generated for free at sites like this one.

Bonus for the keeners… Podcasting! Do you have ideas to share in a radio-show format? Maybe this is the way to do it!

This list is not exhaustive, but it is meant to help with what may feel like an overwhelming task ahead of us in a situation with significant added pressures! And you might find you have capable people in your midst who are willing to spear-head different parts of your congregation’s online presence! Email or text a young person and invite their involvement!

No need to dive into all at once. Poll your membership, find out their needs, and go from there!

One note: the web-presence described in the suggestions, above, works well for a public presence. Pastoral care with individuals would need to be navigated differently.

Peace be with you!

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Community gathering in the time of a pandemic

How do we gather as faith communities when there is sickness spreading?

The coronavirus (covid-19) is gripping us throughout Canada, North America, and the world. People are stocking things like soap, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and other goods, for fear of needing to live in isolation – not leaving their homes – for a good length of time. There are shelves in grocery stores that are bare!

Our church bodies have released statements with best practices policies for local congregations to implement. (See those from Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Anglican Church of Canada, United Church of Canada.) The Lutheran World Federation has offered helpful words, and worship resources here. The Canadian Council of Churches released this statement.

Local congregations are needing to take action. We encourage our membership to gather – so what do we do in times when it can be risky to gather? Here is an article about how some have started to take added precautions.

In weekly gatherings for Christian communities, there are several places where we encourage physical contact:
-a greeting as we enter the space (usually with an usher or greeter)
-sharing the peace
-passing the offering plate
-holding a pew copy of a hymn book
-receiving Holy Communion
-a greeting as we exit the space (usually with the pastor)

So what do we do? Here are some ways in which we might address this situation, and avert further virus transmission:
-greet and share the peace with an ‘elbow bump,’ or using sign-language
-project words on a screen to avoid using shared hymn-books (this publisher is offering some ways of avoiding transmission by sharing books)
-do not use a common cup at Communion; individual cups can be set in the tray in a way that avoids transmission (see this pdf-file)
-place the offering plate in a central location for people to drop off their offering before, during, or after the service
-receive offering through pre-authorized services (like this one) or online (like CanadaHelps)
-offer your worship service in a live-stream, or video-record and edit and post to a YouTube channel like this one later on
-have servers distribute coffee for fellowship time so there isn’t potential to share germs on coffee-pot handles
-consider “brown-bag potluck lunches” as an option so there is less possibility for transmission
-make sure kitchen volunteers are prepared to receive and sanitize dishes properly, and wash their hands frequently

And, of course, encourage those who may be sick to stay home. Make hand sanitizer readily available.
Repeat the mantra, “wash your hands, don’t touch your face”

We may despair at news we hear, but this article is helpful by reassuring us that “Pandemic means sustained and continuous transmission of the disease, simultaneously in more than three different geographical regions. Pandemic does not refer to the lethality of a virus but to its transmissibility and geographical extension.”

Find up-to-date information on the Government of Canada’s website, here. (Wondering about how to identify symptoms? Here is a helpful article.)

**UPDATE** In light of the Prime Minister’s remarks on March 16th, it is advised that public gatherings be suspended, including worship services, in order to slow the spread of the virus. People are asked to stay home.

We  hold in prayer those who are sick and their care-givers and families. We may offer to go grocery-shopping for them, or find ways to help them get their needs met.
This devotion offers prayerful words: “In a strange and unexpected way, we have been returned to the first day of Lent, when we journeyed with Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus himself has gone into a kind of self-isolation, not in fear of disease but in order to better hear himself and God, to be close to God and to test his own capacity for survival in the midst of trials.

Peace be with you!

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights

(written by Rev. Brian Rude, Canadian pastor serving in El Salvador since the 1980s, shared here with permission)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights   

10 December 2018
Matthew 22:36-40 (NRSV)

36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

As the world celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights today — click here — in El Salvador, we commemorate the most horrific massacre in contemporary Latin American history, 37 years ago. Almost 1,000 cilvilians, mostly women and children and seniors, were slaughtered in mid-December, 1981 in El Mozote, as well as hundreds more in the vicinity, in rural eastern El Salvador.
The El Mozote massacre was denied by the Reagan and Bush administrations–“fake news”. In fact, far from being fake, or even foreign, news, it was conducted by military trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, and was funded by USAn tax dollars. More than a decade later, the “fake news” was proven to be reality by Argentinian forensic scientists and the UN. It was documented in a comprehensive book by Mark Danner soon after the forensic findings were revealed by the UN.
Almost four decades–two generations–of impunity is just beginning to be challenged, and hopefully overturned, a long-overdue process documented by Tim Muth: http://www.elsalvadorperspectives.com/2018/12/el-mozote-massacre-trial.html .
While this massacre stands out for being so massive, it is not isolated. It shares Advent, the season of hope for Jesus-followers, with the assassination of the four US church women in El Salvador, 2 December, 1980. It shares Advent with the slaughter of fourteen female engineering students at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Québec, Canada.
In El Salvador, and globally, we still long for the comprehensive implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While 70 years may have brought some recognition, even some implementation and advancement, in the realm of human rights, there remains such a monumental challenge ahead of us, as anyone following the daily news is too well aware.
May we forge ever onward in this struggle for full respect for all human rights for the entire human family and for all of creation!
Paz con justicia,
Brian

Rev. Brian Rude, DD
“In Mission with El Salvador” / “En Misión con El Salvador”
Synod of Alberta and the Territories, ELCICanada

Luther Pride t-shirt

“Transforming the church for 500 years”
Designed for the Pride Winnipeg parade 2017, there have been requests for this t-shirt… so, we can do another run of shirts if enough people prepay!

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Basic t-shirt (unisex, white – ready to tie-dye!)
Sizes available: S, M, L, XL
Cost: $15 (plus shipping, if outside of Winnipeg)
(kids sizes & 2XL & 3XL available – price may vary)

To order,
email: gingrich_tyler@yahoo.ca
(payment by e-transfer works best – please be in touch, first, to confirm order, quantity, shipping, etc.)

Please order by June 18, 2017; you would receive your shirt(s) by early-July.
(After that, t-shirts only available if enough orders come in to make another order worthwhile!)

Resources available in Canada!!

Living the Questions DVD curricula for progressive Christian Adult Education! (see further down for Daniel Erlander resources!)

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Available in limited quantities:

Singing the Unsung – $45
9 sessions – featuring John Bell, designed especially for music leaders, and those interested in the revitalization of worship. See a promotional clip here.

The Jesus Fatwah – $95
5 sessions – this series features Hans Kung, Brian McLaren, Eboo Patel, Stephen Prothero, and Feisal Abdul Rauf. Get to know our Muslim neighbours, and move away from negative stereotypes sometimes perpetuated in our culture. See a promotional clip here.

Dream Think Be Do – $200
20 sessions – geared towards young adults, this series features many contributors, with themes like “Faith as Journey,” “Taking the Bible Seriously,” and “Politics.” See a promotional clip here
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Note that programs are licensed for congregational use. Prices are in Canadian dollars and include regular shipping for MNO Synod congregations! (Not part of the MNO Synod? Be in touch, and we can sort out shipping to your location!)
(When these copies are gone, additional copies of these and other series can be ordered at regular prices through the Living the Questions website. Note that those prices are in $US, and do not include shipping and possible import charges.)

Looking for something to read? The book, “Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity” can be ordered online!

For more information, and to place an order, email Rev. Tyler Gingrich: gingrich_tyler@yahoo.ca

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Lutheran theology and the Christian faith resources written by Lutheran (ELCA) Pastor Daniel Erlander!

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Baptized We Live: Lutheranism as a Way of Life – $10

Manna and Mercy: A Brief History of God’s Unfolding Promise to Mend the Entire Universe – $15

Let the Children Come: A Baptism Manual for Parents and Sponsors – $10

A Place For You: My Holy Communion Book – $10

Water Washed and Spirit Born: A Baptism Manual for Youth and Adults – $8

Tales of the Pointless People (a collection of short stories about how we don’t need to accumulate points!) – $10

Prices are in Canadian dollars, and include shipping to congregations in the MNO Synod. Limited quantities available. To place an order, contact Rev. Tyler Gingrich: gingrich_tyler@yahoo.ca

More information, and to order in larger quantities from the US, go to Pastor Erlander’s website.

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Fling the Church Doors Open Wide
songs of Radical Welcome by David Lohman (CD) – $25
visit the Facebook page for more info

 

*Books, DVDs, and CDs, here, are made available to encourage their use! They are sold at nominal prices to recover cost, not to build a business.

Seeking Truth and Reconciliation

Is your community working at connecting with First Nations communities close-by? Our ELCIC has issued a statement engaging recommendation #48 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which calls on religious groups to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I wanted to gather a number of links to websites that have helpful resources for us, as Lutherans in Canada, who may be seeking ways of intentionally engaging the TRC recommendations. So, this blog is to do just that!

Can we make a point of acknowledging that we are treaty people and we gather on traditional lands when we meet at our church worship services, council meetings, community celebrations, and so on? How do we do that respectfully? Here are some suggestions:
-from the United Church of Canada
-from a resource for universities
-from KAIROS

How do we know which Treaty territory we’re on? Check these pages:
-Manitoba Wildlands and this map (in MB)
-Native Land website
-Wikipedia’s list of numbered treaties

In Winnipeg, there is an initiative to get Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people in conversation and forming friendships. They are called “Circles for Reconciliation” and have a website.

The ELCIC/Anglican Church of Canada National Youth Project has invited young people to learn about struggles in, and to connect with, First Nations communities near their homes. (See more information on the webpage.)

A delegation from the ELCIC, and particularly the MNO Synod, went to Split Lake in late-June/early-July of 2016. There is a 27-minute video of their experience. Also, take a look at “Reserve 107,” documenting the experience of Mennonites and Lutherans, and First Nations, in Laird, Saskatchewan.

We, as Lutherans, need to break out of our comfort-zones. We can be intentional about taking steps towards our neighbour, seeking relationship, and – in this case – mending of relationship since we are descendants of settlers who have had a turbulent past with our First Nations communities.

Lots of Privilege among Lutherans

It’s hard to take a step back and look critically at one’s self. It’s hard to admit we may have ugly parts.

In Canada, and among our Lutheran communities, do we struggle with identity, privilege, and even prejudice? What makes us “Lutheran?” Certainly we know about specific theological positions (e.g. grace!), and we know about biblical study, and liturgy. But do we associate cultural aspects – even ethnic heritage – with our Lutheran identity so strongly that we end up being blind to certain “walls” we may end up building?

Here are some ways, and resources, in which we might engage the question of privilege in our communities.

This blog by a thoughtful, and youthful (!), Lutheran points out ways in which stereotypes about Canadians can even create division among people, based on skin-colour or economic status.

This article – and its list of “invisible traits” – goes back to early days of conversation about what creates privileged position in society. Consider going through the list to see where you might fit!

A short video that documents an interesting experiment about privilege.  And a checklist to determine one’s level of privilege.

The Canadian Council of Churches has created a resource, and has highlighted some other resources, that are helpful – click here.

One church organization has compiled a helpful list of resources here.

And here is a website from the (American) United Church of Christ that includes a curriculum for understanding privilege in society.

These are hard things to grasp! And we don’t want to think we hold prejudice against anyone. There are “intangibles” – things we take for granted, and don’t even consider – when we have privilege because the dominant parts of society work for us. They are things we don’t want to let go of, but we are called to hold up the needs of those who are oppressed or on the margins of society. If we have resources and opportunities that others don’t for reasons that are completely out of their control, we must work to level the playing field, to hold up the need of others, and work towards equality and opportunity for all!

“All Saints Love Cookie” (recipe)

3/4 cup – whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon – baking powder

1/2 teaspoon – baking soda

2 teaspoons – cinnamon (really good for you!)

1 cup – crispy rice cereal

1/2 cup – raisins

1/2 cup – rolled oats (cholesterol-busting)

1/4 cup – coconut

1/2 cup – butter, melted (from our farmer friends)

1/4 cup – honey (natural sweetness)

1 egg (free-range from the farmer down the road)

2 teaspoons – vanilla

2 tablespoons – frozen orange juice concentrate (for vitamin C)

1 tablespoon – finely grated orange peel

 

Preheat over to 175 degrees C (350 F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, rice cereal, raisins, oats, and coconut. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine butter, honey, egg, vanilla, juice concentrate, and orange peel. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Drop dough by generous tablespoon one and a half inches apart. Use the back of a spoon to gently flatten the dough and bake for about 12 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

 

Creative cooks who came up with this recipe: Carolyn Gingrich, Cathryn Aune