This year has been filled with losses of many kinds. As we approach Christmas and the end of the year, we take time to pause and attend to the griefs we carry. We will be offering a Longest Night Service on December 16 at 6:00 pm on Zoom. Contact the church for meeting information.
It will be a time for us to gather to mark the losses we are grieving- whether they be loved ones lost, expectations dashed, financial security threatened- and sanctify them in the light of Christ’s Advent. It will be a candlelight service at which we will hold silence, pray, and reflect both on what we have lost in the past year and what has sustained us along the way.
By Rev. Juan Ángel Gutiérrez Rodríguez
It does not matter who wins or loses. Our call and our ministry cannot change. For such a time as this, we have been call to proclaim the good news of the gospel. For such a time as this, we have been call to work for peace and justice. For such a time as this, we have been call to stand and fight alongside the poor, the excluded, the widows, the orphans, the immigrant, an all that are victims of sexism, homophobia, racism and xenophobia. For such a time like this, we have been called to be witnesses of God’s love, peace, justice and liberation.
It does not matter who wins or loses. We can go on with our ministry because we have the hope of the Apostle Paul in Romans:
“31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It does not matter who wins or loses. We can go on with our ministry, because we have the certainty of Paul’s words to Timothy “7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
It does not matter who wins or loses. We can go on with our ministry because we have the faith of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”.
When I started to think about writing this reflection, the last sermon of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to my mind. In 1968, while in Memphis to support a workers’ strike, he spoke to a crowd about living in a such a time like this.
He told the crowd on the evening of April 3: what if God asked him which age he would like to live in? He went over the most important times in human history, but King said that he “would turn to the Almighty, and say ‘if you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century i would be happy.” He continued and said “now that’s a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around.” To that King answers, “but I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.”
King is right. The present moment is always is the best time to be alive. It is in the difficult moments that we can experience God’s strength. It is in times of confusion that we can discern God’s wisdom. It is in the midst of violence that we can express God’s love and forgiveness. It is in the midst of sorrow that we can experience God’s hope and promises.
King is right, the present moment is always the best time to be alive. It is always the best time to be part of God’s project. It is always the best time to be faithful to God’s call for justice, liberation and inclusion. Because it is in the dark times that we can see the stars.
As in Esther’s time, we are challenged to live in hope and faith, but also in action. This is the time of resistance to the kings (the names change over time, but they always represent the oppressive system): racism, sexism, poverty, militarism, oppression. In these times, we are called to a life of resistance to those powers that are contrary to God’s project of life, justice, and peace.
We are called to resist like Vashti, who resisted an oppressive call from the king with an act of civil disobedience. Yes, in a such a time as this, we need to be brave enough (as ministers, churches, and denominations) to disobey the powers even if it means we lose our privileges and are forgotten.
We are called to resist like Mordecai, who responded to a deathly situation with an act of nonviolent action. Mordecai responded with a public demonstration of concern, sadness, repentance, and denunciation. He went to the main gate and stood there, not as a victim, but a sign of defiance.
We are call to resist like Esther, who responded to the call for help with an act of self-sacrifice. Yes, this is the time of self-sacrifice. This is the time to walk the talk. We have been living in comfort for too long. We have been part of the system for too long. This is the time to make a decision on which side we are: on the side of God, taking an option for the poor and the oppressed, or on the side of the king (does not matter his or her name).
I would like to leave with you Dr. King challenging’s words: “Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
I would like to end with Dr. King’s words of hope: “The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.”
For just such a time as this, where are you?
We are looking for a full-time Custodian/Maintenance Coordinator to work approximately 40 hours a week and maintain 24 – hour stand-by status. Housing for the C/MC and family is provided by the church. This position is responsible for the maintenance of church properties, equipment and building security. This position is also administrative: supervising, scheduling and evaluating custodial staff.
The ideal candidate will possess an open, friendly personality and be comfortable interacting with a wide variety of people and situations. A candidate must have the ability to adjust to a flexible work schedule, must have a valid driver’s license and must be fluent in English. Bi-lingual in Spanish/and or Karen preferred.
Experience in a church or non-profit organization and five years of supervision and building maintenance is also preferred.
See the full job description here.
Interested applicants should e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. No phone calls, please.
In September, we will begin a weekly book study in English on Pre-Post Racial America: Spiritual Stories from the Front Lines by Rev. Sandhya Jha. As the Chalice Press book review reads:
Those people. Their issues. The day’s news and the ways we treat each other, overtly or subliminally, prove we are not yet living in post-racial America. It’s hard to talk about race and racism in America without everyone very quickly becoming defensive and shutting down.
"What makes talking race even harder is that so few of us actually know each other in the fullness of our stories. A recent Reuters poll found 40% of White people have no friends of other races, and 25% of people of color only have friends of the same race.
Sandhya Jha addresses the hot topic in a way that is grounded in real people’s stories and that offers solid biblical grounding for thinking about race relations in America, reminding us that God calls us to build Beloved Community."
The class will take place on Sundays at 1:00 PM. We will begin on Zoom, and gather in the church courtyard as weather permits. Please contact Pastor Kathryn (email@example.com) for more information.
Early Voting Option prior to November 3rd: Here’s an option for people who feel unsafe about voting in person, but now fear the USPS will be unable to deliver a “mail-in” ballot in a timely fashion:
1. Apply on line now for a mail-in ballot by clicking here.
2. Starting on October 14 there will be Secured Drop Boxes at all Early Voting locations.
3. After you fill in your ballot you should sign and seal the envelope.
4. You can then bring it to the Early Voting site.
5. If you applied online to Vote By Mail, you’ll later get an email confirming your ballot has been received. At a later time you will be informed that it has been accepted and notified if there are any problems.
6. The ballots at Early Voting sites are transported (under chain of custody protocol) to the Board of Elections facility.
7. List of locations and hours for Early Voting will be available here.
POLL WORKERS NEEDED - Illinois has lowered the minimum age to be an Election Judge to 16 years old. Do you know someone who would like the experience and get paid? Have them sign up at chipollworker.com They need more Judges and other workers. For a complete list of openings: ChicagoElections.gov/Jobs
The church will be distributing school supplies to our students in the church courtyard the afternoon of Thursday, September 3.
We are looking for donations of the following supplies. If you are interested in contributing, please contact Dawn Noldan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for supply donations is Saturday, August 29.
The Edgewater Early Learning Center, located in the church building, will be resuming operations this month, with increased safety precautions. Day-care staff will be checking the temperatures of all children as they arrive, and movement around the building will be carefully planned. When dropping off and picking up children, parents will enter through the Berwyn door and exit through the Lakewood door, and church staff will plan not to be present at pick up time. Separate bathrooms have been designated for church staff and for daycare staff. The gym will not be used.
Church in-person programming remains suspended. As I explained in an earlier blog, worship services have been demonstrated to have a much higher risk of transmitting the coronavirus to at-risk populations than many other activities (including childcare). Singing is a particularly dangerous activity; we have many members of at-risk populations attending our worship services; and, frankly, it is asking quite a lot to expect everyone to maintain six feet of distance from people we care about deeply and haven't seen in months. Church leadership remains in active conversation about how to continue to modify current programming and develop new opportunities to support one another spiritually. View our YouTube worship services here, devotionals in Japanese here, and devotional resources in Spanish here.
We always want to hear from you. If you have ideas, questions, or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact a pastor or a Deacon of your congregation.
While the city of Chicago may see partial reopenings of some services and businesses starting June 3, the NSBC building will remain closed. Religious services- along with any gathering larger than 10 people- are not included in the list of activities on the slate for reopening. While some limited daycare services will be reopening around the state, this will not apply to the nursery school located within the church, which will also remained closed for the month to come.
At NSBC, we take seriously our responsibilities to care for the lives and well-being of all members of our community. We serve a broad mix of people in our building, including individuals in a diverse range of vulnerable situations (underlying health conditions, limited access to health care, essential workers who serve in higher-risk settings). In addition, some aspects of our communal life- singing, in particular- have proven to be especially high-risk for spreading the coronavirus. In the past two weeks, churches that have reopened for worship around the country have seen high rates of infection among participants, even while taking precautions. We are closely monitoring recommendations coming from state and city officials. However, we also may decide to reopen at a slower pace than the guidelines indicate. As we contemplate resuming each of the many activities and ministries our building has hosted, we will do so with prayer, discernment, and caution.
As we do so, we will also consider the new ministries that have blossomed during this time of quarantine- worship videos on YouTube, audio devotionals, Bible studies via Zoom- which have ministered to many who could not attend our church even prior to shelter-in-place. As we move away from shelter-in-place but continue to face the threat of the Coronavirus, we will likely continue to innovate new ways of connecting safely that may bear unexpected fruit. Once we are able to safely resume old activities, we do not want to lose the spiritual support that these new ministries can continue to offer.
Please pray for and with our community as we continue to journey together along this road.
Dear ECRA Friends,
To successfully conduct our Care For Real Community Support Drive on Saturday, June 6, we need to fill 6 “ECRA Ambassador” slots.
Here is what we are looking for in a volunteer:
1. Be available from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM and/or from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM on Saturday, June 6.
2. Bring your own face mask and gloves.
3. Come with kind heart and a thankful attitude for those who will be making donations.
4. Meet at the Ismaili Jamatkhana parking lot – 6259 N.Broadway (at Rosemont).
5. Be able to lift 25 pound bags of groceries/supplies from car trunks.
6. Provide your email address for a brief (15-30 minute) Zoom training at 8 PM on Thursday, June 4.
Some of our volunteers will be in the parking lot helping to unload bags from trunks of cars while others will be at tables for those who walk up to the site with donations.This event will successfully take place rain or shine.
Contact Pastor Kathryn if you are interested in participating.