By Dr. Peggy Griffin
The newly formed Social Justice Task Force members squared their shoulders with a sense of accomplishment at the conclusion of the six- week workshop series, “Towards Justice and Human Rights” in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. The final workshop on February 23rd drew record attendance for a presentation by WBEZ’s South Side Reporter, Natalie Moore. Ms. Moore sat without notes and intrigued the audience with a synopsis of her book, “A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation”. She spoke of the segregated pattern in housing and the cost of goods and services. Besides the standard statistics, she gave examples of her own home sale and her own comparison shopping for personal items. Discussions emerged as to how housing is related to schools, businesses, jobs, and politics; during the exchange of questions and answers with Natalie Moore.
Smiles remained from the previous session of merriment but yet inflaming thought in the “Economic Justice Simulation Game. The game was facilitated by Jay Larson and Sean Shell of NSBC. Participants planned budgets around small allotments, but they were interrupted by unforeseen incidents dramatized by Madison McClendon and Courtney Feiler. The elements of surprise, hilarity, and brain-teasing produced some gems of wisdom, useful in balancing household budgets and maybe even church budgets.
The Task Force broke the weekly sequence of workshops on February 9th for the Agape Feast, which followed our quarterly unity service. The word, ”Agape” means love in Greek. It is related to the fellowship meals in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. One scripture that sums up the meaning of the Agape Feast is Deuteronomy 12:7 “ And you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your households together, rejoicing in all the undertakings in which the Lord your God has blessed you.” Love was put in action when Pastor Michael Ware explained that there was no order in how the food would be served. He asked everyone to create their own order. Everyone did, including small children and babies. One two-year-old showed the spirit of it all when he sat alone at a table as his family members gathered food. Differing from his usual vocal style, he smiled and waved his arms, entertaining himself peacefully until his seat mates returned.
Continuing the retrospective tour of the workshops, on February 2nd , we gathered information that will enable us to use greater wisdom in the voting process. Anna Gaebler of ONE Northside explained the Progressive Income Tax to us. We learned how the proposed tax will be income based, rather than tax with the same percentage for all. The progressive tax will increase budgets for schools and social services as well as decrease taxes for the working poor. After the workshop, many expressed interest in following up on this concept, and made oral commitments to inform others and prepare for the coming elections.
Martin Luther King Jr. was in Puerto Rico. Most of us were astounded to learn of the travels of the civil rights leader to this U.S. Territory. On January 26th, Pastor Juan Angel Gutierrez Rodriguez unveiled the little- known facts to us in his discourse on “Martin Luther King, Jr., Puerto Rico, and Colonialism”. He contends that King’s first public announcement about his position on the Viet Nam war was in Puerto Rico. We are grateful that he shared this valuable research with us and look forward to his soon to be published book on the topic.
In Steeple Stories Volume 22, Issue 1, there is a reflection on the first of our workshop series. On January 19th, Pastor Michael Ware gave a first- hand account of his civil rights pilgrimage. From this first workshop to the last on Feb. 23rd, the enthusiasm has remained high. The Social Justice Task Force is contemplating future actions.
By Dr. Peggy Griffin
The newly formed NSBC Outreach Ministry organized the October 28th panel discussion on the “Liberating Church”. The idea spiraled from the 2018 Martin Luther King Weekend Teach-In. Dr. Nancy Bedford from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary was our guest theologian. Pastor Rony Reyes and Lupe, a member of the Hispanic congregation, were the other panelists. Pastor Michael Ware was the panel moderator, and Pastor Kathryn Ray was the translator.
The evocative discussion followed a luncheon that had a selection of delightful tastes from several Spanish speaking countries around the world. The food and table discussions helped tune the ears of listeners to grasp meaningful content coming from the in-depth panel dialogue. This physical nourishment was preceded by spiritual sustenance in the sermon of Pastor Michael in the morning service. He reminded us that “It is not what we have, but what we share.” The total worship experience on that day involved sharing substance, ideas, sentiments, and action strategies.
One could sense the desperation of the travelers on the bridge between the borders of Guatemala and Mexico as Pastor Rony explained that he too had crossed that bridge. He shared some history that built a case for the advantage of admitting the Caravan travelers into the United States. He spoke of “the law of proximity” in which human nature compels individuals to seek the closest and most convenient way to escape from oppression. Lupe confirmed his statements as she shared her own story of finding refuge in the United States. She made the situation real for us. She emphasized the fact that people are coming with willing hands to work and make positive contributions to this country and to society at large.
Dr. Bedford stated that “God is no respecter of borders.” Peripheries and confines are constructions that are usually centered around aspirations for power and economic gain. She gave us the charge to put out truth narratives by collecting and disseminating testimonies of history. Christian education includes presenting history in the proper perspective and reaching beyond borders.
The panel discussion was more than informative. The question & answer period revealed that participants were ready to act on the ideas triggered during the discussion. From the outcome of this event, members of North Shore Baptist church can watch for some positive new initiatives. Several members signed up for the formation of an Immigration Task Force. The Outreach Ministry is working on ways to collect and publicize the rich narratives in the congregations. We have renewed inspiration in planning for our 2019 MLK Teach-in.
Pastor Michael began the panel discussion with reference to a triune plan for action that emerged in the Adventures in Learning Sermon Talk Back. These actions are: 1. Write to legislators to advocate desired changes. 2. Watch our words. Use “us” language rather than words that cause division. 3. Use the power of the vote to bring positive change.
Days have passed since the discussion of the Habits of a Liberating Church in Community, but the spirit and desire for action are rising from incubation.
By Nicholas Fong
School is back in session, and let the learning begin! But don’t fret. There are programs out there that can help you with anything you have trouble with. Like math, english, and history. There are places like a library where you can study in peace with friends or alone. And, there are places where you can let loose, and enjoy a small slice of freedom, just doing what you want to do.
In my youth group, at North Shore Baptist Church, we sing songs, eat good food, and have fun with an activity that can lead late into the night. For instance, in December, we made graham cracker houses and used frosting to make a sweet cathedral, or a structure of some kind. Or, we make non heat lava lamps that we can take home and just watch; even when we are studying. We even go out to a farm sometimes and go through a corn maze at night. Some play jokes by scaring others, even if it is breaking the rules, but nonetheless we still have fun.
So, even if school is hard or grueling, just know there are places out there that are willing to help students, and there are programs out there that can help ease the stress that is school.
Youth group meets Friday nights from 6:30-8:30 pm.
By Cecilia Poenyunt, First Lady Emerita of the Karen Fellowship
This year, we will celebrate 9 years of the Karen Fellowship with a thanksgiving worship service and meal on September 16th at 12:30 pm in Howell Hall.
Pastor Roger Poenyunt arrived in Chicago on June 11, 2008. Before this, Po Clee and several other families had come to Chicago in 2007and started attending North Shore Baptist Church. The first week we [Roger and Cecilia] came to church, we met the Karen families who had come before us. Po Clee, who came to church first, introduced Pastor Roger to [English Language] Pastors Carol [McVetty] and Doug [Harris[, which is how we came to know each other. A few months later, Pastor Roger began work as Karen Fellowship Pastor, but then we only gathered and worshipped with the English service. On September 13th, 2009, we got room in Kraft Chapel and started the Karen Fellowship worship service. So every year in September, we celebrate our anniversary with thanksgiving in Howel Hall.
From 2008-2010, more Karen families arrived. Later, some families moved to Minnesota; Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska; Waterloo, Iowa; Utica, New York; as well as Rock Island and Rockford, Illinois. We now have only fifteen families remaining in Chicago. By the grace of God, the Karen Fellowship members work and worship together every week at 11:30 am, after fellowship time.
In December of 2017, Pastor Roger retired from work because of his declining health, resulting from cancer treatment. From December to June 2018, he returned to Myanmar. Now, by the grace of God, we have a new pastor, Rev. Eh Plo Soe, from Rockford. Rev. Eh Plo Soe’s installation service on July 29 featured guests from many places. Rev. Eh Plo Soe moved to Chicago on August 1, and some members of the Karen Fellowship helped him move into his apartment in Ravenswood.
Why Did Jesus Die?: Keep Asking
By Madison McClendon
In English worship this Lenten season, more than one preacher has reminded us of a truth: when asking why Jesus had to die, the answer is often simpler than complex theories of the atonement would have you believe. The truth is that Jesus was human. And so he died, in the same way you and me and all other humans will die eventually.
So the question, for me, is deeper than why Jesus died, the question is why he died the way he did. He was killed before he could live to the point that many of us hope and pray for, to die surrounded by loved ones and family, connected to others who will grieve us but can celebrate with us a long life. He died in pain, where for many of us what we desire most from our death is an easy struggle. This was a question that bothered the writers of the Gospels, too, and anyone who believed as we do that Jesus is God. If God is so powerful, why would Jesus die the way he did?
By Cheryl Johnson
The week after Easter, North Shore sent a mission team (Celia Rodriguez, Holale Azondjagni, Viola Mayol, and myself) to serve and to learn alongside CMF International’s Globalscope campus ministry in Salamanca, Spain. Thank you for your prayers, your finances, and your gifts of time, which enabled us to represent North Shore in Salamanca.