A topic that I have been thinking about recently is Land Acknowledgement, also known as Territory acknowledgement in some places. If you are not familiar with the term, land acknowledgements are an honest and historically accurate way to recognize the traditional First Nations and Indigenous people of a place. They can be a sign, a statement, or a short presentation. The formats vary but the goal is to commemorate Indigenous peoples’ kinship to the land, and that they have not and cannot be erased from our collective mother earth. Land acknowledgements are a starting place to change how we see and talk about land and place. They are a standard practice in Australia and Canada, and a growing practice here in the United States.
Last summer I attend the conference of DIAKONIA of the Americas and Caribbean (DOTAC) that was held in Vancouver, B.C. The conference theme was “Respecting Covenant – Risking the Journey toward Reconciliation” and was looked at through the themes of Indigeneity, Eco-Justice, and Global Migration. We were people gathered from Canada, the United States, Brazil, and Caribbean, and included guests from Australia. From how the conference began with acknowledgement of the land we were gathered on, to some of the discussions and the blanket exercise we did, I was moved by what I was experiencing. One of the biggest things I noticed throughout the conference was the way people (mostly from Canada) introduced themselves. When noting where they were from they also noted which Treaty area it was or the First Nations people of the land. This struck me as I realized I knew some of that information about the land where I grew up in New York (the land of the Haudenosaunee and Mohawk peoples) and of where I live currently in Boise (the land of the Shoshone-Bannock peoples), but I had never thought about including that information when naming where I am from, naming my place. I left that conference feeling inspired and wanting to learn and do more about this in the United States, where we are a bit behind our Canadian neighbors in actually acknowledging our past, and present, atrocities toward Indigenous peoples. I am sad to say that as I returned and got back into my routine of life this never really went any further.
However, I was recently re-inspired by two people I know from Canada and Australia through Land Acknowledgement statements that are included in each of their email signatures. These email signature Land Acknowledgement statements have given me a tangible first step for myself in this process of naming and recognizing those Indigenous people whose home land I live on. I am still working on it as I want to be intentional as I write and acknowledge, but I now have a first step in this journey. As I was talking with a friend about this process of writing a land acknowledgement statement I also mentioned my thoughts about awareness and in that moment I made the connection between land acknowledgement and our awareness issues in the US. Last week I wrote about how I feel that our awareness issues are related to how our culture uplifts individualism and through that we are becoming disconnected from each other. I think this disconnection goes even further to a disconnection from place and history. By uplifting individualism, we have not only disconnected ourselves from each other as human beings, we have disconnected ourselves from our history as we tell only what make us as an individual/country look best, and we have disconnected ourselves from knowing where we live as a place and not just a location. From really knowing the land and its story.
This can be a hard and divisive thing to talk about, to claim and name our history and teach both sides of stories and to acknowledge that to create this country we displaced the Indigenous people who were living here. This is a process that takes time, to learn and hear stories, to learn about where you live as a place and connect to the history of that land. But it is a process that is important on the journey of growing our awareness and reconnecting to each other and seeing we are part of a bigger whole. The journey away from individualism and back toward God’s shalom.
This reflection is mostly meant to help start some conversations around Land Acknowledgement and our awareness or lack thereof around Indigenous peoples and their connection to the places we live. I have plenty to learn myself.
If you want to learn more about Land Acknowledgement you can check out these resources:
Over the past few months Shepherd of the Valley has been trying to reach out to and support those in our neighborhood. As the pandemic took hold, one way this outreach took shape was through putting out free snack bags for anyone to take, no strings attached. We have been collecting different breakfast and snack items that we put together into bags and set out for those who need them to pick up. Through the ideas of a few different people we created a ministry to help those in need right around us. Some take a whole bag, some take only what they need/like, and some bring a donation and take a bag. Sometimes it is children riding their bike to be out for an adventure, or grandparents getting something for their grandkids, and I am sure everything in between. Since the start of this ministry in April we have distributed over 500 snack bags.
From the beginning of the pandemic we had many people from our congregation making cloth face masks to be distributed to those from church who may have needed them, as well as to Interfaith Sanctuary, Corpus Christi, Community Council of Idaho for Idaho Farm Workers, and we even sent some to our mission partner Christo Rey Lutheran Church in El Paso. Then when Boise City, and then Ada county had mask mandates in July we wanted to make the masks more available to more people so some of our Masketeers put together a box to be outside near the snack bags with masks in individual baggies for people to take if they needed. The mask box is restocked on Mondays and Thursdays and includes adult and some child sized masks. The Masketeers have made over 840 masks!
Over the past week or so, as many vegetables have been ripening in peoples gardens, we have had some fresh vegetables appearing at SOV and we now have a box for free fresh vegetables. If you have a garden and are getting extra produce that you would usually bring to church to share, you still can! There is a box now alongside the snack bag bins for fresh produce.
Earlier this week we had some school/craft supplies donated along with items for the snack bags. As I thought about how to put them outside for people to be able to take I remembered I had some cinch sack bags and other school supplies from our Quilters school supply project last fall that were items that didn’t quite fit with what they send so they had given them to me to use or donate. I put together about 7 little sets of school/craft supplies and set out another little basket next to all the others.
In the past month or so we have had a group of people who have come together to work on a more sustainable way for us to be supporting those in our neighborhood. They have been working on planning and building a Little Free Pantry to be set up at Shepherd of the Valley to be the Neighborhood Pantry. The Little Free Pantry model is based on the moto “Give what you can. Take what you need,” and the principles “We work Together. We challenge assumptions. We practice Radical Trust. We feed Neighbors. We nourish Neighborhoods.” A Little Free Pantry is meant for more than just non-perishables, but also toiletry and hygiene items. You can find out more about the Little Free Pantry movement here: https://www.littlefreepantry.org/.
The Pantry has been built and will be installed this coming Saturday August 29th. If you are really excited about this new project, you can come by Saturday afternoon to stock it with items!
I am excited to see how this new branch of our outreach takes off as we work to transition from the snack bags to the Little Free Pantry, with many of the same items just in a slightly different way. Watch your Monday emails from Shepherd of the Valley for information about what items are needed in a given week and for information about a drive-through donation drop off/Pantry open house in September.
Ep. 85 - How do you tell a good church from a bad one? Dave gives 7 signs you might not be looking for to help you discern the work of the Spirit from giant red flags.
The Geek and Greek podcast is a show where two reverends talk honestly and clearly about faith, Christianity, scripture, and life.
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Lately I have been thinking a lot about our awareness of others and of things happening around us. Part of this reflection has been about our spatial awareness of others when we are on a shared path or in a shared space, like the Boise River Greenbelt or at a grocery store. When I ride my bike I am often thinking or reflecting about something; what else is there to do as you pedal along? I have been riding my bike along the greenbelt quite a bit lately and as I have been riding I have been noticing differing levels of awareness people have for those around them as they pass, yield, or cross the path. I could rant about my frustration at those who do not seem to be spatially aware or even to follow basic courteous right of way rules, but I will try not to do that here.
As I thought about the varying levels of spatial awareness people along the greenbelt seem to have, I began to think about the bigger picture and our varying levels of awareness of the world and things around us. As I thought about it I began to see how this issue of awareness is showing itself all around us right now, from debates about wearing masks to the call to racial awakening happening across our country and around the world.
For me our awareness of others and of their needs ties directly into debates about wearing a mask because wearing a mask is about caring for our neighbor. It is about being aware that we share air with those around us and right now that can be a very dangerous because of a highly contagious virus. It has to do with our spatial awareness as we are out and about and trying to respect distancing while also trying to go about our business as close to usual as possible. Wearing a mask or face covering is not about ourselves, it is about protecting those around us who may be more susceptible to catching the virus. Through the differing ways we have seen people responding to wearing a mask we have seen the array of levels of our awareness of others, similar to the differing levels of spatial awareness I have noticed as I bike along the greenbelt.
I think our culture and society have added to our issues around awareness of others through the ways they uplift individualism. As a nation we have become very individualized and through that we have lost touch with our connection to and awareness of others and their needs. We are often made to focus on ourselves and how we as an individual are either contributing or not contributing to society, and not how what we may do or don’t do affects those around us. We have become disconnected from each other as we have been told to focus on ourselves and our forward motion up the ladder of success or accomplishment. This exhibits itself in different ways, one of which is our varying degrees of awareness of others and the world around us. As a society it feels like we are losing touch with the fact that we are one big community and we need to take care of each other and not just ourselves to survive. By lifting up individualism we are losing sight of the fact that we are part of something bigger, that we are part of a community. Individuality and uniqueness are important, but when they are lifted up as the end all be all, we take away from the strength and importance of community and awareness of others.
I’m not sure that I have a suggestion about any of this beyond trying to pay more attention to our own areas of awareness or lack thereof. I think becoming aware of issues of awareness is the first step in this journey from individualism back toward recognizing that we are a part of a bigger whole.
Where do you see issues of awareness around us in our communities and in our world today?
Next week I will continue this reflection on awareness with a specific focus on Land Acknowledgment.
On this week’s episode of “Parenting with Spirit”, Whitney Springston and Pastor Dave Deckard talk about the importance of letting children overcome obstacles in their own way. Help your child develop in healthy ways by letting them learn!
We are still looking for a handful of Commissioned Visitors to help chat with and support people in our congregation who are in need. Here’s a brief and helpful look at what Commissioned Visitors do.
Before we start, an item we forgot to mention in earlier advertisements. Until COVID-19 is no longer a threat, all visiting will be done by phone. We won’t risk exposing our members or Commissioned Visitors.
Commissioned Visitors are trained to visit people who have health concerns more significant than that of the average person, but not in a life-changing crisis. Such concerns could include aging, chronic illnesses, or short-term medical diagnoses that might require immediate treatment, but not long-term effects.
Commissioned Visitors learn about active, compassionate listening, how to walk with people without having to control the journey, and how to stand in the midst of things that won’t change but still be strong and compassionate. These skills don’t just help in visitation ministry, but daily life.
Commissioned Visitors bring rays of hope and faith through clouds of uncertainty.
Will you be part of our new Commissioned Visitor class? Training starts via Zoom at the end of the month. Talk to Pastor Dave if you have the heart to help with this important ministry!
Community is something that has been hard throughout this time of pandemic and distancing. But the ways community has still shown up in and through all of this is a testament to the fact that we are beings created in and for community. As Genesis 1:26 says “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.’” We are created in the image of God, and God is the community of the Trinity; God, Christ, and Holy Spirit. Thus we as human beings are created into a community. We are created for life together with other human beings. This is part of what makes distancing so hard, being separated from our communities and from life together with others. We are disconnected from an integral part of our own beings, being together in community. Even still community is finding ways of showing up.
One of the interesting and somewhat unique opportunities that this time of online worship has afforded us is to be able to see and experience how others are doing virtual worship. To worship with congregations or communities with which we were once a part, or with our friends/families and their congregations. One of the things I have appreciated most about this has been the opportunity to participate in Evening Prayer services with both my alma mater, Valparaiso University, and a congregation in Cleveland where one of my friends works. Evening Prayer, and Holden Evening Prayer specifically, is one of my all-time favorite worship settings. Holden is a service that has become engrained in my soul through the consistent presence it had in my weekly routine through my college years. It is a service which I know by heart and do not need a bulletin for. And even though these days it has been online it has still been meaningful to be able to be a part of a virtual worshiping community to pray Holden Evening Prayer together. Even though it is very different than worshiping in person, I have experienced how community gathered together to pray online can be a grounding experience. Community even when virtual is so important right now.
I think that when we see someone at a distance or even on a screen, it can be so exciting and filling, because we are getting a tiny taste of community. We are getting a piece of ourselves, a piece of the core of our human-ness, back in that moment. I know it is not the same, and I long for the day when we are able to be together in person and hugs are okay, but I have come to appreciate the different ways we are discovering of being community together while apart. And it is important the longer we are in this that we continue to seek out these ways of connecting with each other. Whether that is having Zoom Happy Hour on Fridays with your relatives or meeting a friend to go for a walk to chat, we need to stay connected to each other because we are created to be in community with one another.
I pray that we all continue to find ways to be connected to and support each other as we continue through this unprecedented time, because being in community is so important to the core of our beings.
Contact and Connection
Shepherd of the Valley has openings in two wonderful ministries that involve keeping in contact with each other during this time of separation. We’ve been biding our time through the summer, seeing if COVID would subside enough for us to visit in person or come together as a group. So far that’s not happening, so we’re renewing and re-dedicating our personal contact ministries: the calling group and Commissioned Visitors. Each is undergoing subtle changes. Please read below and see if you feel called to participate.
As COVID hit last spring, we instituted a phone call ministry, trying to make sure every member had been contacted at least once to ask how things are going and what they needed. We made it through the list. The vast majority of members said they were doing well and weren’t in need at that time.
Now that we’re heading into a new season, we’d like to touch base with people again. We’re not going to do an every member, one-time sweep this time. Instead we’ve identified a smaller list of people we’d like to call on a more regular basis. We need folks to volunteer to call, say hello, and see how people are doing.
Many of our initial callers are staying on for this next round. We need to pick up about six new callers to cover our list. If you can greet someone, ask how they’re doing, and listen for a minute or two, you’re qualified! We plan to give each caller a list of 8-10 people to contact over the course of a month, which amounts to 2-3 calls a week. Calls are usually brief. A half-hour of time dedicated per week would be plenty, and probably it’d be less than that. You’ll keep the same call list throughout the ministry, so it’s a good chance to develop a relationship with people.
Kari Sansgaard did a fantastic job of training our initial Commissioned Visitors. As demands from COVID have increased, we’re finding we need a few more…maybe five or six. We’re also going to be augmenting the ministry, helping people get the most out of phone visits.
We’re asking Kelly Loy (a Boise-based counselor, chaplain, and pastor) and Linda Peightel (a visitor and chaplain) to help us grow our Commissioned Visitor ministry into the future, especially into the time of COVID.
We’re also asking five or six of you to step up to become Commissioned Visitors. You’ll get simple training about how to visit in person and via phone, hear about the goals and limits of the ministry, and have the chance to meet monthly to share stories and get support. You’d be assigned 1 or 2 people to visit per month, so the time demand isn’t great here either.
If you are a person of compassion with a heart for reaching out to folks who could use a friendly voice in their lives, could you please call me at 208-362-1112 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org? Whether you want to call or become a Commissioned Visitor, you’d be making a big difference!
We hope to fill these volunteer positions over the next two weeks and get the ministries going again right after! Please help if you can!
Ep. 84 - Dave flies solo this week as Justin attends to some family things. He talks from the heart about two kinds of churches: the kind we all used to be and the kind we need to become. Consumerism and compassion, can they ever get along?
The Geek and Greek podcast is a show where two reverends talk honestly and clearly about faith, Christianity, scripture, and life.
Follow us at GeekAndGreek.com!
In this long season after Pentecost, also sometimes called Ordinary Time, the New Testament lessons have been working their way through the book of Romans. A handful of weeks ago (July 19th) the reading was from the first part of chapter 8 ending with verses 24-25 “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
I was participating in text study over Zoom with some others from my deaconess community who meet every Friday to discuss the texts for the coming Sunday. As we were discussing Romans 8:12-25, many of us were struck by how much this passage spoke to a lot of what we are going through right now, especially the last two verses (above) talking about hope in what we do not see. We all have many things right now that we are hoping for, but we cannot yet see how they will come to fruition, and waiting is all we can do.
This made me think about hope and how our hopes have been changed throughout the past few months. When the pandemic began to take hold back in March and events began to be cancelled or rescheduled to the fall and schools were sent online, you could hear people talking about hoping things would clear up by the summer so events in July/August and beyond would not be affected. Even of hopes that some would return to school before the end of the school year, or at least for graduations to happen in person. Many of us were feeling optimistic and setting our hopes on the calendar, on the hopes of being back together in worship by Easter, and when that didn’t happen then being back together by June, and now maybe sometime in the fall. As one thing we were hoping for was cancelled or postponed, we would shift our hope to the next thing on our calendar, hoping that it would go ahead as planned.
However, as this pattern has continued, now almost five months later, hope is feeling harder to have. It is getting harder to hope for what we do not see and to wait for it with patience. Waiting and patience are getting harder. And hope is feeling more and more fragile, as hope after hope is repeatedly dashed to pieces around us. Hope is feeling more fragile especially as things were seeming to improve return to some normalcy and there were more things to hope for actually happening as planned, but then all the sudden cases are spiking and things are cancelled again.
How do we hold on to hope, when it feels so fragile? How do we wait with patience, when patience is wearing thin? Something that has been helpful for me in the midst of feeling how fragile my hopes are these days, is that rather than focusing my hopes on things, on events, on a return to normality of any kind, focusing on remembering that we are called to hope in God. Not only that but we are called to have hope in God’s love for us. To know that when our hope in the world feel fragile, and patience and waiting are getting harder every day, one thing remains firm and solid, and that is God’s love for us.
Another passage, also from Romans, that has been helpful for me in thinking about hope is Romans 5:2-5, “…and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” These verses remind me that there is a cycle to hope, and even though right now it sure feels like we are surrounded by suffering of many kinds, that suffering we are in the middle of won’t last forever. And from the suffering that we go through we build endurance and character which lead us back to hope. And not just any kind of hope, but a solid hope in the love of God poured into our hearts and lives by the Holy Spirit.
So when it feels hard to hope for what we cannot see, and patience is wearing thin as we wait from some semblance of normalcy, may we cling to the Hope given to us through the love of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.