September 10, 2020
Siblings in Christ’s Love,
If you haven’t been evacuated yourself, I expect most of you have a personal connection to someone who has been affected by the wildfires in Oregon, California, Washington, and Idaho (not to mention the fires in the rest of our beloved West).
Like you, I spent some of the day yesterday on the phone with colleagues and loved ones, checking in, scrutinizing fire maps, and asking, “Really? There’s fire there?!” What a great and unfortunate reminder for us all to be always ready for disaster. Such an incredible example of our neighbors and communities looking to our church buildings and church people in time of real need!Many of you know that one of our families in Oregon Synod key leadership, Pastor Christine Core and her husband John Core, lost their home along the McKenzie River Monday evening. Please hold them in the light of Christ as they move out of shock into the reality of all that this means, along with all others who are now displaced, on alert, fighting fires, sheltering and serving others, or at risk or at work in some related, life-giving way.
Whether or not we are directly affected, we are breathing the smoke, watching the strangely beautiful-terrible sunsets, or feeling the doom of a red sky. If you are not in harm’s way, as you close your windows against the smoke, use it as a reminder of your connections to our loved ones in the midst of the fires. Or as you breathe in the smoky air, breathe in God’s love and presence and as you breathe out, send that love to the world or to others you picture in your mind. We are all held in a lap of divine love that envelopes us like the atmosphere we can now clearly see.If you are one who has been evacuated, please stay safe and feel our prayers and love holding you.
We can’t help but know we’re in this together.If you or your church are offering housing, parking lot space or direct service of any kind, please email Jan Wierma and the Oregon Synod Disaster Preparedness Team. They will be well served by learning what is the reality on the ground where you are, and how you are helping to meet the need. Even knowing a ballpark number of volunteer hours will help that team help Oregon access much needed funds with FEMA and elsewhere.
I’ve been asked by a few people where they should send money. Thank you so much for your generosity! Region One of the ELCA is creating a link to a direct support fund as we speak. You will receive more information on that very soon.
For now, I ask that you take collections in your home church, and hold onto the money until we can discern where it can be best used. Your spirit of generosity and love matters tremendously in times like this. Your prayers are being felt by our loved ones throughout the synod. Your texts and phone calls and emails mean a lot. We are Light for one another in the smoky haze.
Stay safe. Stay strong.
The Beloved is our refuge and our strength,
a loving Presence in times of trouble.
Therefore we will not fear
though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though the waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
|A Letter from Bishop Laurie|
June 2, 2020
Dear Beloved of God,
Today is the Tuesday after Pentecost. And Spirit? She is swirling! Now, as then, we stand at a tense moment in history: hearts burn and protesters pray and unexpected preachers preach and a spirit of change blows with hope. Those who serve the status quo watch, smirk, and ask, “Aren’t you just drunk, foolhardy, angry, entitled, or all of the above?”
I am a bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American, the whitest denomination in the United States. I serve the Oregon Synod, perhaps the whitest synod in the ELCA. I have been long marinated in my privilege. So as I light a candle and pray for racial justice and the long-deferred dream of wholeness, I have more questions than answers:
How do you kneel on a human being’s neck for nine minutes?
How many precautions are needed before a brown or black bodied person can jog unarmed down a street?
How can the dignity of entire groups of people, in a nation, a church, a region I love so much, be so willfully overlooked for four-hundred years and counting?
How have I benefited from silence, and what does truly liberating action look like?
What would it look like for the ELCA to “take a knee”?
I don’t know. But I do know some things:
White Supremacy reigns, and it isn’t simply about individuals, it’s about systems and institutions which consistently privilege one race above all others.
Racism and white supremacy are sins. Though I am committed to an anti-racist life and learnings, having been marinated in the white supremacy of my culture and, by virtue of the color of my skin, I am racist.All people are God’s beloveds and to be able to see that we need to help center the experiences of those who’ve been marginalized and silenced for eons. The violence we see all around us is dangerous, and yet is a response to a culture which violates, and has violated, black and brown bodies for centuries.It’s time I learned to listen. It’s time the institutions I love learn to be open to radical transformation.None of this work toward justice, peace, and transformation, which is God’s work, will be easy.
Christ’s redeeming, liberating love will lead the way if we are truly open to its capacity to be a light, set on a hill, making visible what has not been visible – the dignity of black and brown bodies, the sins of past and present racism and the transformational work ahead. Please join me in responding out of that divine mandate to courageous love in difficult times.
I ask you consider giving one month’s worth of your congregation’s mission support which would otherwise go to the Oregon Synod and donate it to a trusted local organization working toward racial justice and the dismantling of white supremacy. (List of possibilities below.)
This will impact the synod office, yes, but it will also be sacramental; body and blood, given for the world. Pray for your neighbor. Educate yourself. Challenge racism wherever you see it. And believe in the power of Spirit to change this world.
|Organizations Working Towards Racial Justice|
The NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)
United Oregon Dont Shoot Pdx
SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice)Corvallis SURJ– Corvallis, OREmail: info@CorvallisSURJ.orgFacebook
SURJ PDX – Portland, OREmail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website Facebook
Forest Grove, OR SURJBrenda Zook FriesenEmail: email@example.com Facebook
SURJ Eugene– Eugene, OREmail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Racial Justice in Eastern OregonEmail: email@example.com Facebook
Clackamas County SURJ-Oregon City, OregonEmail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Black Lives Matter
Oregon does not have a chapter yet. You could start one.
Color of Change
ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)
New Dates: August 3-5th, 2021 for Convention and 5-8th, 2021 for Gathering.