Wednesday, December 19, 2012

This Past Weekend in Pictures

It was a busy time in the life of our church this past weekend. Our Early Ed Group (ages 4-8 years old) had their very first overnight retreat, we celebrated the third Sunday in Advent (with the World's Cutest Living Nativity greeting worshipers on their way into the church!), held our Annual Congregational Meeting, and wrapped everything up with a lovely DWM-hosted Christmas Luncheon.

Here are some of the pics from this past weekend.

Jeanne leading the kids in an opening song to kick-off
the Youth Overnight Event on Saturday. 

A star shining outside the manger in the
World's Cutest Living Nativity Scene from
Sunday morning.

Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus in the manger surrounded by
animals, shepherds, and an angel.

The wisemen and the angel at the manger.

David reading the kids "Twas the Night Before Christmas"
at the DWM Luncheon in a way that only he can -- by
switching the last word in each line for the next one!
The Celebration Singers leading us in Arizona-inspired
renditions of classic Christmas carols.

Henry and Brayden at the luncheon.

Brad closed out the Luncheon with a spot-on rendition
of Kermit the Frog singing a Christmas carol...and since Kermit
couldn't be there Brad brought along his own sock for a puppet!

Whiteboard: Advent 4, The Sunday of Love

This Sunday we will light the fourth candle in our Advent Wreath, and with it we will celebrate the Sunday of Love.

As we prepare our hearts to once again welcome Christ and celebrate his birth at Christmas, I invite you to join me this week in praying the following prayer for love:

O God,
 we thank you that Jesus showed your love
for every person— babies and children,
old and young,
the sick and those who were strong,
the rich and those who were poor.
Come to us as Christmas approaches
 and let love be born in our hearts
 as you were born into the world
on Christmas Day.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Week of Compassion: We Could Heal The Land

Week of Compassion Associate Director Brandon Gilvin recently returned from Haiti as part of a delegation organized by partner organization Agricultural Missions. The following update highlights many of the learnings and experiences of the group, and is adapted from a recent report by Stephen Bartlett of Agricultural Missions.

From areas as diverse as Leogane in the south, La Verettes and Petite Riviere in the rice basket of Haiti, Artibonite, to various communities of the Central Plateau, members of a recent delegation to Haiti met with farmer-leaders, their communities and families, toured well-worked gardens and fields, and waded through rice paddies to get a picture of food sovereignty in Haiti.

During the visit Hurricane Sandy blew through, dumping heavy rains for three days straight. Though the delegation had to adjust its itinerary, it was largely unaffected by the storm. Others did not fare as well. Sandy destroyed crops, killed farm animals and people in several mountainous regions of the country, as well as in Port-au-Prince. Climate change, environmental degradation, and a history of agricultural policy with little focus on sustainability or food security exacerbated the vulnerability of those in the path of the storm.

Despite the significant challenges facing the country, the small scale farmers we met not only demonstrated resilience but technical skill and a commitment to community that supported their aspirations for food sovereignty.

Rural women continue to play a key role in the partnerships between Week of Compassion, Agricultural Missions, and local cooperatives of small scale farmers. Many women use rain catchment and raised "tire" gardens (called the "road to life" gardens) and fruit trees to provide a level of food security and healthy nutrients for an expanding number of families and communities-- incredibly important considering the severe alternating drought and flooding Haitian farmers faced throughout 2012.

The rain catchment systems have greatly transformed the lives of the women heads of household by cutting out hours of walking and carrying water. A recent micro-credit program funded through Agricultural Missions and supported by Week of Compassion has enabled 240 women in 20 women's agricultural associations across Haiti to set up these raised tire gardens, providing training for two women leaders from each community, who in turn train the others.

Establishing seed banks for local communities was also a key strategy for food sovereignty in targeted communities. However, following the 2010 Earthquake, many seeds set aside for future production were consumed in order to support approximately 780,000 people displaced to rural areas. Two years later, communities are catching up, and with the support of grassroots partners, 120 craftspeople were trained in traditional tin-smithing work to produce metallic silos for seed banks, allowing them to store seeds for subsequent seasons. More than 300 silos for community seed banks have already been constructed across Haiti.

"We could heal the land sufficiently in 25 years to give Haiti a new start and feed ourselves," said one leader from a member organization of Via Campesina, the planetary food sovereignty movement representing more than 350,000,000 family farmers across the globe. "Small farmers already feed 80% of humanity and can cool the planet back down too, if given a chance."

Partnerships such as these allow each and every one of us to participate in the healing of Haiti. Agricultural reform, food security, and food sovereignty take the contributions of people from all walks of life, and thanks to your generosity, this healing continues.

Week of Compassion is proud to partner with Agricultural Missions in Haiti and in West Africa. Thank you for your courageous compassion as we accompany small stakeholder farmers across the world.
What is food sovereignty?
Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation.

What does agricultural development have to do with earthquake recovery?
While the 2010 Earthquake caused massive damage in Port-au-Prince, rural areas were affected and also became the destination for hundreds of thousands of displaced city dwellers, straining food resources. Little to no emergency government aid made its way to the rural areas.

In addition, in terms of development, Port-au-Prince was prioritized over the rural areas for years. The centralization of the Haitian economy, educational system, and other infrastructure pushed migrants from the rural areas to the city, straining resources, and leading to overcrowding. While the damage done by the 2010 earthquake would have been massive under any circumstances, overcrowded buildings led to an even higher death toll.

Investing in Food Secure and Food Sovereign rural communities helps not only provide opportunity in those areas, it also promotes decentralization, inviting the development of other infrastructure, such as school and health systems, as well as mitigating against migration to the densely populated capital city.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Whiteboard: Advent 3, The Sunday of Joy

The Third Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Joy.

In preparation for our Sunday Morning Worship Service I invite you to join me in offering the following prayer this week:

O Holy One,
as Christmas draws near,
there is a sense of excitement in the air.
We can feel a joy in our lives
and see it in those around us.
Still, for some of us this is a sad time
because of unhappy things that have happened in our lives.
Help us to have that joy that does not depend
on earthly happiness, but on you.
Help us to be filled with your joy
so that we may share it with a joyless world.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Newsbrief: Invitations

“There are 19 days until Christmas.”

That’s what Henry said to me this morning.

Leave it to my six-year-old son to keep a running count!

So if there are 19 days until Christmas, that means we have 18 days until our Christmas Eve Worship Service! And I need your help getting the word out.

Our Christmas Eve Worship Serive will be a family friendly affair (complete with a Christmas Carol Sing-A-Long and an interactive Children’s Sermon) so make sure to invite your kids or your grandkids, your nieces and nephews, your cousins and any other family member you can think of.

We’ll be sharing stories from scripture, but we’re doing it in a different way this year. So make sure and invite anyone who needs to hear the Christmas story once more and all over again and be touched by the beauty of scripture in a new way. Make sure to invite your friends, your neighbors, your postman, that nice person standing in line in front of you at the mall, and anyone else who can help us celebrate the birth of Christ!

The music is going to be spectacular on Christmas Eve. We’ll have congregational singing, our Celebration praise team is already hard at work on special music, and the Chancel Choir will make their glorious return on Christmas Eve! (The Chancel Choir will be rehearsing this Sunday immediately after worship if you would like to join us.)

In fact, you’ll want to get here early on Christmas Eve to make sure and get a seat (we’re expecting a full sanctuary) and to be a part of the music. The Christmas Carol Sing-A-Long will be a part of our Gathering Music in advance of worship. The Christmas Eve Service will start at 7PM, but we’ll start gathering and singing at least 10 minutes before that…more details to come.

So spread the word and countdown those days until Christmas Eve. I look forward to seeing you all on Monday December 24 at 7PM in the sanctuary. You know, and each Sunday in between too!

Yours in the Journey,
Rev. Brian

Newsbrief: Advent

Last week I was reminded of the writings of favorite old professor of mine.

His name is Dr. Kenneth Lawrence, but his students all knew him simply as “Lorenzo”.

He taught in the Religion Department at Texas Christian University, and I inherited my love for theology and the arts directly from him.

Dr. Lawrence served as Editor and Writer for Imaging the Word a three-volume arts and lectionary resource.

In seeking to find a way to share the beauty and fullness – really, the importance – of this Season of Advent I went back to the text Lorenzo wrote and edited and found these words waiting for me, waiting for us:

Life is filled with times of waiting; often a time of waiting overlaps with other periods of expectancy. Though many people do not want to have to wait for anything if it can be avoided, everyone has such experiences of waiting. We learn that times of incubation are necessary for the truly significant to come to fruition. Amidst all the small waitings of mundane life experiences are those most significant times of marked transitions, small or great transformations, goal fulfillments, culminations of processes and learnings. We continually experience incompleteness and await, hope, expect. We wait for some realization, fulfillment, salvation.

The season of Advent can be artful waiting. The lectionary readings variously proclaim the preparation, the expectation of the coming together of the Transcendent and the Earth, the diving fully present in the fully human. Almighty God deigns to be imminent, accessible, knowable. Paradox abounds in the scriptural readings of this season; in Advent we await the greatest mystery to be realized.

I hope you will join us each Sunday in Advent as we walk though this season of preparation and culmination. On the first Sunday in Advent we will decorate a Jesse Tree, an artful way of hearing once more the promises and prophecies of Christ Jesus as we eagerly await, as Lorenzo put it, “the greatest mystery to be realized.” I’ll see you on Sunday! 

Yours in the Journey,
Rev. Brian

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Whiteboard: Advent 2, The Sunday of Peace

The Second Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Peace.

In preparation for our Sunday Morning Worship Service I invite you to join me in offering the following prayer this week:

Eternal God,
We thank you that through all the years
you have given peace to your people.
Help us to have your peace in our lives.
We pray that, in this Advent season,
we may show your presence to the sick,
to the hungry,
and to the lonely,
so that they too
may have peace.