Message from Bishop Gronberg
Dear Partners in Mission:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
One of my jobs in high school was working as a summer lifeguard. In many ways, this work was like that of a shepherd. A job that swings between pendulums of boredom to intense activity. The shepherd must be ready to act to protect the sheep, yet also be able to maintain attention through long periods where not much is happening. Our ministry in the time of COVID-19 also reflects this reality when the status quo is disrupted and we must act quickly to bring new guidance or attention to important issues. This happened to us in NT-NL last week on Monday afternoon when the Governor of Texas did not renew stay at home. We quickly assessed the situation for our Texas congregations, built on our previous guidance, and acted quickly to get you new information in English and Spanish. I am grateful for your synod staff that works so diligently and quickly to communicate to you in many ways.
As we go forward, we know many of our future events are going to be impacted by this pandemic. As we look ahead to 2021 and the potential ELCA Youth Gathering in Minneapolis, I wanted to go to our source for information about the gathering and the current plans around the gathering. The video here will answer some questions, as will scheduled Zoom gatherings on May 12th and 14th. Please watch this video and join us for one of those gatherings.
Your Mission Endowment Fund (MEF) is also responding to support our communities by establishing an emergency relief fund for congregations. Details about this fund will be sent soon, and I am grateful for the leadership of the MEF, under director Ms. Linda Ness, and their quick response to provide hope for congregations and leaders if a financial emergency arises as a result of COVID-19. Please note these funds will be available after other resources are exhausted or unavailable and will be focused on care for our congregational leaders and families. Continue reading Bishop Gronberg’s Message: Monday after Easter 4.
75,000 Face Mask Challenge
Lutheran World Relief has launched the 75,000 Face Mask Challenge, a request for volunteers to sew cloth face masks that will be sent overseas to slow the spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 is threatening vulnerable communities, and Lutheran World Relief urgently needs cloth face masks to send to them. The cloth masks you sew in your living room will provide love and protection to a neighbor in need halfway around the world. How many can you make to help stop the spread? Sign up for more info: lwr.org/masks.
Language Around Disability
When we come before God in worship, we bring our whole selves. What does that actually mean?
For many people in the ELCA it means coming to worship with the assistance of a mobility, audio, visual or sensory device. Unfortunately, in many of our churches or places of worship it is our siblings in Christ who have disabilities and need such devices who feel the least welcome at the table. Why? A lack of ramps, braille or large print hymnals, or elevators are not the only (or first) obstacle encountered. Many times it is the language used when talking about or concerning disability that is problematic or unwelcoming to many.
Talking about disability can feel awkward sometimes. The language doesn’t feel right. We often don’t know what to say or how to speak publicly in our liturgy, sermons and prayers. At times we will fall into the trap of affirming who a person is “despite” their disability, rather than simply honoring who they are. A beloved child of God. Whole, complete. Just as they are. What needs to change? Where do hospitality and authentic welcome to worship begin?
Using person-first language is a great place to start. This language is meant to acknowledge that a person is not their diagnosis or disability in a negative way. It reminds us that someone is a person first and foremost, whose identity is rooted in being a child of God. Also, in person-first language, we avoid language that talks about suffering, or that victimizes or infantilizes the person.
Example: a wheelchair bound person vs. a person who uses a wheelchair.
ELCA Disability Ministries has prepared a document that can help us think about how to use person-first language in worship and in the whole of our lives together. The document helps us understand what person-first language is and provides examples for how it can be used in worship. It also serves as a reminder to us that language around disability is constantly evolving and is often contextual.
Disability vs. varied ability vs. differently abled
“For myself (Lisa Heffernan), terms like varied ability and differently abled wrap up disability into too nice of a little bow. This language feels condescending to me. I have a disability. I own it. I’m OK with it. This is how I was made. Yes, we all have varied and different abilities. I am a paraplegic. I use a wheelchair. Saying I have a disability does not take away my identity or sense of self and who God made me to be. ‘Varied’ and ‘differently abled’ don’t own that part of who I am enough for me. I am not ‘disabled’; my wheelchair and spina bifida do not hinder my life. They, largely, make it the gift it is. I HAVE a disability, and that’s OK. The self I bring to worship has a disability but is not broken or ‘less than’ because of it.”
We hope this document is a starting point or a conversation starter as we work toward making our worship and the language we use in it more inclusive and barrier free. Our language isn’t perfect, but we serve a God who guides us as we come together as the whole body of Christ, where all are truly welcome.
Written by Anita K. Smallin and the Rev. Lisa Heffernan of the ELCA Disability Ministries Advisory Team
Featured Resources for May
May is Mental Health (Awareness) Month
There are a number of trusted organizations who have quality mental health resources:
May 6 is World Maternal Mental Health Day
Save the Date
May 13 & 14, 3-4pm
This “Perspectives on the Border” webinar series on immigration is a partnership project with Rev. Dr. Jay Alanis, the Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest (LSPS), and the following ELCA synods: Gulf Coast, Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana, Sierra Pacific, and Southwestern Texas.
There are two sessions, and we are offering both for only $50!
Session 1: Theological Perspectives on Immigration from the U.S. Mexico Borderlands (May 13, 3pm)
The recent refugee and migrant crisis along the U.S. – Mexico border provides a window into the complex social, political, and cultural worldview of two neighbor nations, a location and human condition that calls for a theological response to how we treat ‘the other.’ The current pandemic has exacerbated the human response to migration. The webinar will offer theological perspectives on immigration as a border-crossing response of faith.
Session 2: Living in Third Spaces: Where the church meets asylum seekers (May 14, 3pm)
This webinar will explore liminal space as a third space of faithful living and offer theological perspectives on liminality as sacramental, eucharistic space where the church encounters the migrant other.
The sessions will run about an hour in length.
For additional context, we recommend you read this lecture by Rev. Dr. Jay Alanis: “Borderland Ethics Sin Fronteras: Borderland Ethics Without Borders, Neighbor-Love in Liminal Spaces”
Recent Blog Posts
(https://www.ntnl.org/coming-back-together-update-april-28/ – published Apr. 28)
(https://www.ntnl.org/elca-youth-gathering-information-meetings-may-2020/ – published May 1)
(https://www.ntnl.org/ethics-and-caring-for-neighbor/ – published May 2)
(https://www.ntnl.org/the-economy-vs-the-people/ – published Apr. 27)
Where in the world is?
Based on recommendations from public health officials, and to live out our call to love and protect “the least of these,” Bishop Gronberg, Pastor Totzke, and Pastora Bañales are suspending all congregational visits, in-person meetings, and travel until further notice. They will continue to meet with individuals and groups online. Though many buildings are closed, the church is all of us, and ministry continues.
With the ever-changing guidelines and recommendations in our world right now, as we maintain physical distance in social solidarity, please keep in mind these events may be moved online, postponed, or cancelled:
- May 5: Learning Coaching Skills for Grief and Loss, Zoom
- May 6: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders, Zoom
- May 7: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- May 9: ESET (SSTE) Módulo 7 (Día 4 de 5), Zoom
- May 9: Public Witness Team meeting, Zoom
- May 12: Holy Hollywood for NT-NL Young Adults, Zoom
- May 12: ELCA Youth Gathering Information Meeting, Zoom
- May 13: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders, Zoom
- May 13: Webinar 1 of 2: Theological Perspectives on Immigration from the U.S. Mexico Borderlands
- May 14: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- May 14: ELCA Youth Gathering Information Meeting, Zoom
- May 14: Webinar 2 of 2: Living in Third Spaces: Where the church meets asylum seekers
- May 16: PLMA, Spring 2020, Course 3, Zoom
- May 16: Briarwood 2020 Gala: Adventure Awaits, Online Experience
- May 20: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders, Zoom
- May 21: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
- May 23: ESET (SSTE) Módulo 7 (Día 5 de 5), Zoom
- May 24-29: Spanish Language and Hispanic Ministry Intensive I, Austin, TX
- May 26: Holy Hollywood for NT-NL Young Adults, Zoom
- May 27: Weekly Online Gathering for ELCA Leaders, Zoom
- May 28: Weekly NT-NL Leadership Prayer, Check-in, Zoom
Access our full online Calendar here. Updates made regularly.
Do you have news or announcements to share? Please submit to Jason (firstname.lastname@example.org) for consideration for upcoming NT-NL News.