Border Trip Highlights
Four members of our synod staff joined a number of folks throughout our synod and 100 Texas faith leaders for Texas Impact‘s Courts and Ports Advocacy Intensive, August 29-31, in McAllen and Brownsville, Texas, and crossing the border to Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. These faith leaders spent several hours singing, praying, and listening to migrants’ and asylum seekers’ stories. This is not about politics. This is about our shared humanity.
You can read about their experiences here:
Border Immersion: Prayer, Education, and Awareness (published Aug. 31 by Bishop Gronberg)
Courts & Ports: The Stories (published Sep. 4 by Pastor Totzke)
Courts & Ports: The Issues (published Sep. 9 by Pastor Totzke)
Texas Impact also put together this summary video:
New Accessibility Reinvestment Grants
We celebrate that at Churchwide Assembly 2019 there was overwhelming support by ELCA voting members offering guidance and solidarity for the future direction of the denomination. Authentic diversity and being a sanctuary body demonstrate our care and concern for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. While we are saddened that individual racism exists, we are acknowledging that ignoring the past is painful and that our collective sin can do substantial harm in systemic ways that are uncalled for.
In response, ELCA Disability Ministries introduces a new grant opportunity for ELCA congregations in diverse and divested communities for an Accessibility Reinvestment Grant. Applications will be accepted through October 15, 2019, at https://elca.fluxx.io for up to $25,000 for small-scale property and large-impact programmatic plans. Questions can be directed to Disability.Ministry@elca.org.
What is a divested community, and what do persons with disability and ethnic members of the ELCA have in common?
(by Carol Josefowski, coordinator for ELCA Disability Ministries)
I’d like to share a personal story about what is meant by a divested community…
As a child, I grew up in Harvey, Ill., a diverse yet segregated town 20 miles south of Chicago. Each week on my way to church I passed by a weathered historical marker honoring Amanda Berry Smith, an African American woman freed by her formerly enslaved father. Smith relocated to Harvey after joining the AME Church and losing her husband in war and three children to unexpected deaths. She was sometimes referred to as the “Singing Pilgrim” and felt called to preach, evangelize, foster-parent and author a newspaper prior to 1893, when she founded the first orphanage in Illinois for black children. This sign in a vacant lot caused me to reflect about another special home close to my grade school that had yellow tape around it; some referred to it as the halfway house. People with disabilities, often veterans, lived there temporarily until they were independent enough to find adequate and affordable housing, but sometimes there were strong warnings in the front yard stating, “Persons preparing for release from prison or mental hospital reside here.”
My curiosity continued to grow when I entered seventh grade. A mile-long walk to Lowell Longfellow (from my quiet, residential white neighborhood) took me through an industrialized area where large Latinx families lived in small apartments, then under a viaduct of freight and commuter railways to my schoolyard, surrounded by boarded-up windows, a vacant fire station, sidewalks with holes and roads with clogged sewer drains causing frequent flooding. While my family and church tried to prepare me for such disparities and taught me appreciation for culture and ethnicity, there was a spirit of discontent by neighborhood friends walking to school with me. Privileged parents eventually resorted to driving children to school, rallying for weekly excused-tardy notices for white children arriving 30 minutes late and voicing distrust toward Dr. Bluford, a black male principal, whom I admired. Another eye-opener was entering high school, where I was bused in the opposite direction to a more affluent, newly built building; my grade school was 99.8% white, junior high was 70% black and high school was initially 100% white. I was shocked by gym classes introducing me to golf, archery, swimming and bowling three days a week — a stark contrast from the two years of one-day-a-week calisthenics in recycled gym uniforms experienced the prior two years. I remember wondering about former classmates whom I seldom encountered again.
As a college student, I heard some ask, “Isn’t Harvey a blighted South Side city?” I had difficulty trying to share what I liked about my community or explaining what I now know as “white flight.” Between 1975 and 1990, Harvey housing values dropped as much as 75%. Between 1985 and 2015, there was a 30% decline in population. Upon returning to Chicago after seminary (2008), I learned that Detroit, St. Louis and Gary, Ind., had similar histories. Shifts in industry and deregulation of banking laws such as the Community Reinvestment Act (1990s) exacerbated neighborhood divesting in disproportionate ways. Such communities continue to experience ongoing business, church, school and social service organization closures contributing to greater economic downfall that especially impacts people of color and people with disabilities.
People living in divested communities share common life experiences — simply finding a grocer, library, pharmacy or medical office nearby is problematic. Residents in divested communities become isolated, more reliant upon government subsidies or generous givers, and subject to low-income, part-time jobs without insurance, whose employers are at risk of going out of business themselves. While poverty hits many areas of the country, I suspect you would not be surprised to learn that most impoverished (small, medium and large) urban communities are predominately black and brown residents, some of whom live with disabilities. Congregations are not unaffected; in response the church opens its doors wider, pays village taxes and utility bills despite slow emergency-response times, and serves many neighbors coping with unreliable transportation and some police surrounded by colleagues who racially profile and disregard traffic signals in pursuit of so-called suspects of crime. Divestment can lead to relocation by some, concentrated poverty preventing relocation for others, and depression and compassion fatigue for many.
Disability Ministries is walking the 60-day journey toward justice with the ELCA, and its first steps include reinvestment in divested communities and congregations. If you’d like to join us, email Disability.Ministry@elca.org and visit https://elca.org/disability.
100 Years of Inspiring FaithIn July, Lutheran Outdoor Ministries, a professional organization for leaders of camps and retreat centers affiliated with the ELCA, celebrated 100 years of ministry! The large number of people who have been impacted by a camp experience over these 100 years is difficult to quantify, and their stories are endless. July’s Living Lutheran lead feature article, 100 years of inspiring faith, looks at the legacy of Lutheran Outdoor Ministries and shares a selection of stories from people reflecting on their formative experiences at camp. Use a corresponding study guide to facilitate group discussion.
Featured Resources for September
And many more!
The ELCA offers a place of welcome for all seeking a congregational home. Your congregation can extend an invitation to neighbors and the surrounding community through the use of these customizable communications tools for Christmas in English and Spanish. Download and use these free tools today.
Save the Date
September 22, 10:30am – 2:00pm
Recent Blog Posts
(https://www.ntnl.org/courts-ports-the-issues/ – published Sep. 9)
(https://www.ntnl.org/a-weekend-in-the-heart-of-texas/ – published Sep. 15)
(https://www.ntnl.org/for-god-so-loved/ – published Sep. 11)
Where in the world is?
- Sep. 20-21: Synod Council and Conference Deans Retreat and MEF Board meeting, Argyle, TX
- Sep. 16: Meeting with Interim pastors, Briarwood
- Sep. 20-21: Synod Council and Conference Deans Retreat and MEF Board meeting, Argyle, TX
- Sep. 22: Meeting with Faithful Innovation team, Advent, Arlington, and Installation of Pr. Sarah Derrick, Faith, Flower Mound
- Sep. 17: Meeting with Mission Developer, Irving
- Sep. 18-19: ELCA Latino Strategy Team, Tampa, FL
- Sep. 20-21: Latino Lutheran Association Assembly, Tampa, FL
- Sep. 20-21: 2019 Synod Council and Conference Deans Retreat and MEF Board meeting, Argyle, TX
- Sep. 20-21: The Art of Resilience: Latinx Public Witness for Troubled Times, Dallas, TX
- Sep. 20-22: Middle School Retreat, Argyle, TX
- Sep. 20-22: 2019 Addiction and Faith Conference, Bloomington, MN
- Sep. 27: 2019 Symposium: Suicide Prevention in Faith Communities, Dallas, TX
- Sep. 28: Panhandle Conference: Mental Health and Faith, Lubbock, TX
- Sep. 30-Oct. 2: 2019 Stewardship Kaleidoscope, San Diego, CA
- Oct. 3: The Ninth Annual Herbener Lecture: Reading Romans in the Face of Economic Injustice, Dallas, TX
- Oct. 7-9: Engaging Anti-Racism for the Wholeness of the Church: 2019 NT-NL Leadership Convocation, Argyle, TX
- Oct. 11-13: 2019 W-ELCA NT-NL SWO Retreat, Merkel, TX
- Oct. 12: Public Witness Team monthly meeting, Arlington, TX
- Oct. 13: Festival of Church Music, Dallas, TX
- Oct. 13-16: National Council of Churches Christian Unity Gathering, Hampton, VA
- Oct. 13-18: Ministerial Flourishing: Exploring the Meaning, Means and Practices, Possum Kingdom Lake, TX
- Oct. 19: PLMA, Fall 2019, Course 2, Argyle, TX
- Oct. 19: MEF “Seeds That Change” FUNdraiser and Celebration, Arlington, TX
- Oct. 28: Upbring Golf benefiting Foster in Texas, Irving, TX
- Oct. 28-30: Region 4 Deacon Gathering, New Braunfels, TX
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.