Archive for 2017 Midweek Reflections

A Prayer – from Rev. Welch

 

Dear Friends and Members of the United Church of Norman-UCC

Hate, fear and violence have been on full display this weekend. And while eyes have been turned on Charlottesville, some of the same attitudes are resident in communities across Kansas, Oklahoma and throughout the country. While most who harbor deep-seated racist attitudes would never call themselves racist or white supremacists, the feelings of racial and religious superiority thrive. We all know that what we are witnessing in Charlottesville is not about a statue, it is about the painful and continuing legacy of racial hatred, attitudes of racial superiority, intolerance and bigotry. In a few weeks, the events of this weekend will be overshadowed by other news but we can’t unsee the anger and the waving of Nazi flags, we can’t unhear the racist chants. Neither should we, as failure to see and refusal to hear, allows the hate to grow, to fester and to continue to be passed from generation to generation. What we saw this weekend must be called out, there can be no excuses or justification, no tolerance for hatred and bigotry in our communities and in our country. I invite you to join me in prayer as we recommit ourselves to the hard work justice and love.

 

Grace and peace to you.

Edith Guffey, Kansas Oklahoma Conference Minister of the United Church of Christ

 

 

 

Adult Education and Future Meetings

August 20th Sunday Worship 11:00 a.m
Communion will be served this Sunday as we try various changes to the order of worship. The worship committee invites your input on these changes.

August 20th, August 27th Sunday Adult Ed 9:45 a.m
Chris Carter will be leading a discussion on the PBS series on the historical Jesus, called from Christ to Jesus.

 

 

Book Club August 28th

We’re discussing a new book A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman at Nancy Logan’s home 3200 Summit Bend at 7pm.

 

 

Food and Shelter Needs

Resident and Shelter Needs include soap, cleaning supplies, furniture, diapers. Kitchen Needs are dry sealed foods. Care Packets for the homeless include deodorant, self care products, snack foods

Progressive Reformed – from Rev. Welch

 

Dear Friends and Members of the United Church of Norman-UCC

I’m a sort of a Calvinist. This is to say that there are themes in the writings of John Calvin, a French Reformation leader, that I take as my own while leaving other parts behind. I thought I’d highlight what some of the themes I’ve taken.

1. The natural world tells us all of God that we are in a position to know. That’s a robust natural theology! Special revelation is not new information beyond our world. It illuminates something already at play in our world.

2. Theology starts with anthropology. To know something of God is to know something about ourselves and our relationships to each other and our wider world.

3. Sin, pride, impiety is an over (or under) estimation of ourselves in relation to one other and our world. Any number of cruelties (to use Niebuhr for a moment) against each other and nature occur when we ignore those relations.

4. Sin and grace are bigger than individuals. They both indicate significant features of a world that draw us either to inordinate self regard or other regard. The ambiguity is living in a fallen world that yet gives signs of God’s redemptive purposes.

4. Calvin was just as able to draw from Seneca as Scripture. As a French Humanist he saw the Christian tradition as a wisdom tradition, a philosophy almost that could draw from the best, including non Christian resources.

5. Like Augustine, Calvin also believed that all knowledge was from God. Science, literature, philosophy, any field and discipline was a gift not something to be wary of or at war with. In fact it can set us on a path to discern our proper place in our world and relations.

6. God’s redemptive work is for the whole of creation. So there is no way to cut off some part of the world, the secular, or some area of life as not religiously significant.

I decided to explore this in my sermon this coming Sunday. And I want to give more time for folks to send ideas, questions, topics to be explored for my sermons in August.

Blessings,

Rev. Dwight Welch

 

 

Adult Education

 

An attorney waits looks over his paperwork befere entering the Public Defender of Oklahoma County offices, 9-24-15. (Mark Hancock)

July 30th Sunday
Congregational meeting begins at 9:30 as we talk about the work of the church.

August 6th Conversation Sunday
Joe Ward, chief investigator for Oklahoma County public defender’s office. He will speak on issues of Poverty and Crime. He spent 45 years as a special investigator for the Oklahoma and Texas Indigent Defense System in the Capitol Crimes Division.

August 13th, August 20th, August 27th Sunday
Chris Carter will be leading a discussion on the PBS series on the historical Jesus, called from Christ to Jesus.

 

 

Book Club August 7th

We’re discussing a new book at Nancy Logan’s home 3200 Summit Bend at 7pm.

 

 

Food and Shelter Needs

Resident and Shelter Needs include soap, cleaning supplies, furniture, diapers. Kitchen Needs are dry sealed foods. Care Packets for the homeless include deodorant, self care products, snack foods

 

 

 

Vacation Bible School

Is being held with Memorial Presbyterian Church 601 24th Ave SW Norman July 24-July 27th from 6-8pm. Snacks, Bible stories, play,c rafts and lessons are focused on the importance of food in our life.

Celebrating Pride – from Rev. Welch

 

 

Dear Friends and Members of the United Church of Norman-UCC

I wanted to wish everyone a happy Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride month. It is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots, where protestors fought back against a police bust of the Stonewall Inn, a LGBT tavern in New York City.

They claimed for themselves, the right to LGBT space and rejected harassment for who they are. And that is where the term Pride comes into play.

There are a few events, celebrating Pride, I wanted to highlight. PFLAG’s second annual Pride Picnic will be held Saturday June 17th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Norman’s Rotary Park 1501 W Boyd St. Hot dogs, chips, and side dishes are included. Bring a blanket, chairs for extra seating.
OKC Pride is being held June 23rd through the 25th.

But the Norman connection is to be found on the 24th and 25th where there are tables on the 39th Street Strip at 39th & Pennsylvania Ave. A range of Norman groups from St. Stephen’s United Methodist, the United Church of Norman UCC, Norman PFLAG and others will table, sharing information on their programming.

And this year marks the 30th year for the OKC Pride Parade, which is being held on Sunday June 25th. The parade goes from NW 39th Street from Classen to Youngs and will include over 100 entries including, including St Stephen’s and Norman PFLAG. That morning, the United Church of Norman UCC will hold a special Pride worship service at 10 a.m. before we join the festivities in the city.

I mention all this to highlight the role churches play in celebrating Pride. That is important, because most folks identify Christianity as anti LGBT. So, it is up to churches to step forward and live out a different and more inclusive way. One that celebrates the gifts of LGBT folks and to publicly speak out when legal equality is threatened.

But I have heard critiques over the idea of “pride” from a Christian perspective. Isn’t pride one of the seven deadly sins? As Proverbs 16:18 says “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 11:2: When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” So, isn’t it the case that pride should not be celebrated?

It depends on your definition of pride. If pride, is satisfaction with one’s own achievement, that’s a good thing. A craftsman who is proud of their work, a student who studies hard and earns an A, the OU Sooner’s pride in winning the Women’s College World Series, these are worth celebrating. They are the result of hard work and skill.

Where pride goes wrong is when you receive satisfaction for an achievement that is not your own. When Donald Trump expresses prides in his genes, this is not the result of his work. You do not get to choose your parents. That’s just a roll of the genetic dice.

The other way pride can produce problems, is it when it results in an over estimation of one’s own skills. Pride goes before a fall happens when you overestimate yourself. How many corporate CEOs have done damage to companies because they assumed skill and knowledge they did not possess?

Now there is the flip side to this sin. And that is to under estimate yourself. It is to not recognize the gifts you have because you believe others who have torn you down over the years. That has often been the experience of people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and ability.

Now, when LGBT folks express pride, we are not doing so because of pride in a genetic makeup we had nothing to do with. We are expressing pride in overcoming the barriers that have been placed in our way, barriers to prevent us from realizing our full potential and gifts. That kind of pride is being celebrated this month and it’s one our church proud to support and to participate in.

Blessings,

Rev. Dwight Welch

 

 

Church Events

June 11th and June 18th Sunday
Adult ed at 9: 45 a.m Ted Talk discussions led by Vicki Walden and Dana Cantwell

NPJC is planning the Norman Peace Festival for Saturday, September 23, 2017. Please join us for our organizational meeting on June 14 at 6:30 PM at the Norman Public Library Central branch. We are going to be discussing the details and how we are going to raise the money to hold this event. If you cannot attend this meeting but would like to help. please contact us via email or phone. [email protected] or 405.561.1248

There will be a showing of the film From the Ashes. The showing is on Friday, June 23rd, 7pm. It’s an advance screening of this new documentary film produced by RadicalMedia and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Watch the 2 minute trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=rV0ro0uleVo The showing will happen 1602 Barwick Drive Norman, OK 73072 at Rev. Pam Normille’s home.

June 25th Sunday

Our Pride service will be held early at 10 a.m. There will be no adult ed. You are invited to join us afterwards for OKC parade by visiting our church booth and joining us with Norman PFLAG in the Pride March at 4 p.m.

 

 

Book Club June 19th

We’re discussing chapters 2 and 3 of Chris Haye’s new book A Colony in a Nation at Nancy Logan’s home 3200 Summit Bend at 7pm.

 

 

Food and Shelter Needs

Resident and Shelter Needs include soap, cleaning supplies, furniture, diapers. Kitchen Needs are dry sealed foods. Care Packets for the homeless include deodorant, self care products, snack foods

 

 

Vacation Bible School

Is being held with Memorial Presbyterian Church 601 24th Ave SW Norman July 24-July 27th from 6-8pm. Snacks, Bible stories, play,c rafts and lessons are focused on the importance of food in our life.

LGBT Pride Month – from Rev. Welch

 

Dear Friends and Members of the United Church of Norman-UCC

June is Pride Month and our church will be celebrating this throughout the month.

This means that we’ll be holding a service for LGBT Pride on Sunday June 25th at 9:45 a.m instead of our regular 11 a.m service. This is so our church members can leave to staff our table at the OKC Pride Festival from 12-4pm. We are looking for volunteers for that event.

This has been made possible by our sharing a table with Mayflower Congregational UCC who is insuring a UCC presence on Saturday June 24th.

Than we’ll join Norman PFLAG in marching in the parade following at 6pm. We’ll meet at 42nd st & Classen Blvd rain or shine.

A week before on Saturday June 17th from 11 a.m to 1pm we’re invited to join in the 2nd annual PFLAG Pride Picnic at 1501 W Boyd St

This year we are going to be doing activities to help us prepare for PRIDE! We are tie dying togas (feel free to bring other things to tie dye), making swords, and constructing our float! Come join for the fun and community this weekend and then come march with us next weekend!

Hotdogs, chips, and drinks provided but more food is welcome! Lawn chairs and blankets are also a great idea because table space is somewhat limited.

With these festivities in mind , I wanted to highlight the Norman United meeting Tuesday June 6th at 7:30pm at West Wind Universalist Congregation 1309 W Boyd St which works on LGBT equality in Norman. And I wanted to highlight our Conversation Sunday June 4th.

This Sunday, our Conversation Sunday is focused on Transgender 101. While we affirm LGBT inclusion, figuring out the T in that list can be difficult for those of us who are not transgender. As a gay man, I figured I knew all the relevant issues until I went to a transgender conference that Stephanie Mott put on when I was at the University of Kansas.

That was an eye opening experience for me. The issues of birth certificates, whether it was safe to use a bathroom, whether health care providers would be supportive, to the weird mish mash of laws one has to contend with, were issues I had never considered.

And so while I have a natural inclination to be supportive, without the information and the stories of transgender people, we’re limited in what we can do. So our church is hosting a transgender 101 panel discussion for our Conversation Sunday June 4th at 9:45 a.m as we learn from their presentation and discuss over a shared potluck.

I hope you can join us this Sunday and in our various activities this month.

Blessings,

Rev. Dwight Welch

 

 

Book Club June 5th

We’re discussing the new book by Chris Hayes on our criminal justice system. It’s called A Colony in a Nation. We meet at Nancy Logan’s home 3200 Summit Bend at 7pm.

 

 

 

Food and Shelter Needs

Resident and Shelter Needs include soap, cleaning supplies, furniture, diapers. Kitchen Needs are dry sealed  foods. Care Packets for the homeless include deodorant, self care products, snack foods

 

 

Vacation Bible School

Given We’re joining with Memorial Presbyterian in their annual Vacation Bible School. The focus is on nature, animals, meeting God in our environment. It will be held July 24th-July 27th from 6-8pm.

Reimagining Mother’s Day – from Rev. Welch

 

Dear Friends and Members of the United Church of Norman-UCC

This Sunday our church will be celebrating Mother’s Day, Sunday May 14th.

But it can be an awkward holiday to celebrate for some. To give my own back story, I was in foster care from five to eleven. I’ve never met my birth mother since. Then I was adopted by a single father, so my memories of motherhood are somewhat limited.

I also know that not everyone has had a relation with their birth mother that they treasure and so some churches will avoid this day. They believe that to raise this issue is to raise up all we wish would have been different in our own families.

But I think that would be a mistake. If the GLBT movement has taught us anything it has been to re-imagine families. One can start by asking the question: what do families do? And to move away from the question of who constitutes a family.

You can identify families with those individuals that do family. That is they provide nurture, support, freedom to grow, security, relations that can last a lifetime. They provide your first moral lessons, indicate what kind of world you live in, pass on memories and traditions.

Reinhold Niebuhr calls this “original security.” They provide the support needed for you to become the person you are. A space where you are loved, encouraged, directed, and supported.
Biological families should provide this. That is not always the case. But for any of us to be who we are in life, we did have that support. And from some important people in our lives. They might have been teachers, mentors, neighbor parents, youth groups, social workers, friends.

In talking with the Department of Human Services, I was surprised, that most of the folks taking on foster and adoptive children are relatives, others who had to step in, in the raising of the children. They included grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. They become family.

I found that support in the church. I found a safe welcoming environment growing up. I found it in friendships. For some, activism has provided that, developing connections with those we work with for a more humane world. From activist groups to churches, we can discover family.

In all this, responsive love happens but it’s not always tied to biology. It’s more fundamental than that. Family, can include our biological family, but it can also include what the LGBT community has often called, one’s “chosen family.” Those who do family for us and with us.

So, this Sunday we will be celebrating mothers. But we will not only be celebrating biological mothers. We will be celebrating all those who have been family to someone in their life, a sibling, friend, niece, nephew, students in a class room or in a scout troop. Grandmothers, teachers, mentors.

And while Mother’s Day is not on the church calendar, I do think days like this, open our understanding of God. God as that reality at work which sustains, nurtures, and grows us. Such a God we encounter in one another, in families, in that power which as Rita Nakashima Brock writes “empowers human beings as social creatures to seek others and deliver salvation.”

Blessings,

Rev. Dwight Welch

 

 

Church Events

May 14th Sunday
Adult ed at 9:45 a.m What do religious communities do which can help the wider society? We’ll explore this with a Ted Talk by Alain de Botton

After church at 12:00 p.m. A meeting to discuss setting up a regular Bible study will be held after church. All who are interested are invited.

May 21st Sunday
Adult ed at 9:45 a.m The contours of progressive Islam is explored and how it can inform progressive Christianity.

After church at 12:00 p.m Adult Education committee will meet to discuss our programming into the summer as well as Vacation Bible School.

May 28th Sunday
Adult ed at 9: 45 a.m Criminal Justice Reform, the urgency of now.

After church at 12:00 p.m Social Justice committee will meet to discuss the Peace and Justice activities this summer and OKC Pride.

 

 

Book Club May 22nd

We’re discussing the new novel by Anthony Doerr at Nancy Logan’s home 3200 Summit Bend at 7pm.

 

 

Food and Shelter Needs

Resident and Shelter Needs include soap, cleaning supplies, furniture, diapers. Kitchen Needs are dry sealed foods. Care Packets for the homeless include deodorant, self care products, snack foods

 

 

A New Recycling Box

Given the number of paper products we use for our morning gatherings and conversation box the Social Justice committee has set up a recycling box to discard those items. Look for it on Sundays!

Early Church Visions – from Rev. Welch

 

Dear Friends and Members of the United Church of Norman-UCC

I wanted to post this Sunday’s lectionary. It comes to us from the book of Acts.

Acts 2:42-47

2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 2:43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 2:44 All who believed were together and had all things in common;
2:45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 2:46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 2:47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

The House of Representatives is voting on a measure that would have 24 million lose their health insurance, with an expected increase up to 50 million within the decade. The congressional phone number is (202)225-312. The passage from Acts reminds us of a vision of the early church, where all had enough, where no one could be counted as poor.

It’s a stark contrast with the priorities of our government these days. But then that suggests the amount of distance that exists between our existing society and the ideal that the New Testament pointed towards.

Blessings,

Rev. Dwight Welch

 

 

Church Events

May 7th Sunday Conversation Sunday

Join us at (9:30 for brunch and a conversation with award-winning academic and author, Nyla Ali Khan. Nyla is from Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. She is an internationally recognized expert and author on the Kashmir conflict, India and Pakistan. Bring a dish to share and join us.

Nyla was made a member of the Advisory Council of the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women. She will be speaking to us about women and politics and the comparison between Kashmir and Oklahoma on this topic.

 

 

Book Club May 8th

We’re discussing the new novel by Anthony Doerr at Nancy Logan’s home 3200 Summit Bend at 7pm.

 

 

Food and Shelter Needs

Resident and Shelter Needs include soap, cleaning supplies, furniture, diapers. Kitchen Needs are dry sealed foods. Care Packets for the homeless include deodorant, self care products, snack foods

 

 

A New Recycling Box

Given the number of paper products we use for our morning gatherings and conversation box the Social Justice committee has set up a recycling box to discard those items. Look for it on Sundays!

Letter on Doubt – from Rev. Welch

 

Dear Friends and Members of the United Church of Norman-UCC

My most recent letter to the editor

I appreciate the Norman Transcript, which has provided a space for Richard Harvey and me to discuss the resurrection. This is my last response in the form of a letter.

This debate may seem like religious minutia for many, but it touches on wider questions. What must one believe to be part of a religious community? Is there a space for doubt, not as something to be overcome, but a good in its own right?

For I am convinced that a good number people, in the pews, have doubts. Doubts about religious doctrine. Doubts about beliefs they are told they must hold if they are to be part of their religious communities.

Some keep them quiet, feeling they must not be the Christian they are supposed to be, because they have their doubts. Others are more vocal, challenging their faith communities. Often, they are forced out. And others quietly leave, joining the growing ranks of the growing church alumni association. Today, religious nones, those who do not identify with any religious tradition, are the second largest group of folks in the state of Oklahoma.

The initial impulse of my column was to provide some solidarity to those with doubts. To show they are not alone, that even clergy in some churches have doubts. The physical resurrection is a good test case, because most churches would make belief in the physical resurrection, a marker, that defines who is in and who is out of the church.

At which point, the resurrection, ceases to be good news. It becomes a burden and a barrier to the church. Beliefs don’t need to be compelled nor should they be a litmus test for church membership. Good doctrines, once heard and explained make sense of the world. They provide coherence for us, matching up with our beliefs in every area of life.

Thinking of resurrection as a kind of transformation, does this, because we have all seen it. We know what a transformed life looks like. For any of us who came out of the closet, the image of Jesus calling out Lazarus from the tomb has a special meaning. For anyone who has battled addictions, who had children that changed their life and priorities, for anyone whose involvement in a religious community has set them on a new path, this kind of resurrection is recognizable.

So I don’t believe Paul took understood personal transformation as a metaphor for the resurrection. I believe he understood it as an example of resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is the first fruits, then the church second, with the goal lastly, the entire world, will be transformed. See Romans 8. Paul’s concerns about ethics in the church, was not nitpicking, it was a salvation question. If the church failed to demonstrate transformation, reconciliation, the beloved community the story was in doubt.

The only way, in the end, to defend the resurrection is to live as if its transformative power is real and afoot in our world.

Blessings,

Rev. Dwight Welch

 

 

Church Events

April 30th Sunday Congregational meeting as we discuss growth recommendations of David Wheeler, building site, and the work of the committees of the church. 9:30 a.m

May 7th Sunday Conversation Sunday

Join us at (9:30 for brunch and a conversation with award-winning academic and author, Nyla Ali Khan. Nyla is from Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. Bring a dish to share and join us.

Nyla was made a member of the Advisory Council of the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women. She will be speaking to us about women and politics and the comparison between Kashmir and Oklahoma on this topic.

 

 

Book Club May 8th

We’re discussing the new novel by Anthony Doerr at Nancy Logan’s home 3200 Summit Bend at 7pm.

 

 

Food and Shelter Needs

Resident and Shelter Needs include soap, cleaning supplies, furniture, diapers. Kitchen Needs are dry sealed foods. Care Packets for the homeless include deodorant, self care products, snack foods

 

 

A New Recycling Box

Given the number of paper products we use for our morning gatherings and conversation box the Social Justice committee has set up a recycling box to discard those items. Look for it on Sundays!

The God of Life – from Rev. Welch

 

Dear Friends and Members of the United Church of Norman-UCC

As we celebrate the season of Easter, there is a theme which emerges from the metaphor of resurrection. And that metaphor is this: God is a God of life, not death. God doesn’t like tombs. Whether it was Lazarus or Jesus or Jairus’ daughter.

This seems to be in stark contrast with the way of our world today. Arkansas has 8 men slated for death in the coming week. The brutality of the death penalty put on display. Terrorist attacks killed Egyptian Christians during Palm Sunday. The US inches to war in North Korea and drops our third larges bomb in US history on Afghanistan. Gay men are being rounded up in camps in Chechnya.

To claim the resurrection is to claim life from the forces of death. And signs of that resurrection abound. Muslim youth surrounded churches in Jordan to protect them during their Easter celebrations. A federal judge called a halt to some of the death penalty cases in Arkansas. A brave Russian journalist who uncovered the Chechnya crises has had her voice amplified by Amnesty International. China and South Korea are putting the breaks on war.

Deuteronomy 30: 19 “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” I am convinced that so many issues we face in our world are not questions of left vs. right, they are questions of life versus death. Easter is a reminder that God is on the side of life.

Blessings,

Rev. Dwight Welch

 

 

Church Events

April 22nd Saturday church wide potluck 1 pm at Dan and Jeannie Coley’s home 18383 310th Street Norman, OK 73072. A time to socialize and enjoy nature and spring unfolding.

April 23rd Sunday Adult ed on LGBT issues and faith by Vicki Walden 9:45 a.m

April 30th Sunday Congregational meeting as we discuss growth recommendations of David Wheeler, building site, and the work of the committees of the church. 9:30 a.m

 

May 7th Sunday Conversation Sunday

Join us at (9:30 for brunch and a conversation with award-winning academic and author, Nyla Ali Khan. Nyla is from Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. Bring a dish to share and join us.

Nyla was made a member of the Advisory Council of the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women. She will be speaking to us about women and politics and the comparison between Kashmir and Oklahoma on this topic.

 

 

Book Club April 24th

We’re discussing the opening chapters of a new novel by Anthony Doerr at Nancy Logan’s home 3200 Summit Bend at 7pm.

 

 

Food and Shelter Needs

Resident and Shelter Needs include soap, cleaning supplies, furniture, diapers. Kitchen Needs are dry sealed foods. Care Packets for the homeless include deodorant, self care products, snack foods

 

 

A New Recycling Box

Given the number of paper products we use for our morning gatherings and conversation box the Social Justice committee has set up a recycling box to discard those items. Look for it on Sundays!

 

Easter Celebrations – form Rev. Welch

 
Dear Friends and Members of the United Church of Norman-UCC

The United Church of Norman – UCC is hosting an ecumenical Easter sunrise service at 7 a.m. April 16th at 1017 Elm Ave. All are welcome to join us as the sun starts shining on the OU campus.

At 10:30 a.m. we’ll gather for coffee and snacks to socialize. Then at 11 a.m. April 16th we’ll host an Easter celebration, enjoying the music of the Norman High Brass Quintet.

 

Breaking out the Bat Signal for Christians – from Rev. Welch

 

Dear Friends and Members of the United Church of Norman-UCC

Rev. Lori Walke is presenting for our annual speaker’s series. I thought her words about homophobia can give an example of what a prophetic witness looks like. I’ve also included information on her two talks that she’ll be doing for our church.

Break Out the Bat Signals for Christians

For as long as I can remember, there have been giant crosses made from the lights on two buildings in downtown Oklahoma City during December.

And for as long as I can remember, those giant crosses have confused me.

Even as a kid, I knew the cross was the wrong symbol for the season. It’s Christmas, not Good Friday. The cross was the instrument of Jesus’ death. A manger would be more appropriate.
Yes, I know that whoever insists on putting them up wants to remind us of “the reason for the season,” and the cross is definitely the most recognizable symbol of Jesus and Christianity. There is no mistaking the person or religion it represents. But just how effective is trimming the city with Christmas light crosses?

While using a skyscraper to display multiple crosses may seem absurd to out-of-towners (or insensitive to the significant number of Oklahomans who practice a different religion or none at all), the cross as decoration is standard around here. I wonder how many Oklahoma Christians even notice them anymore?

They have become part of the landscape, like the 163-foot monstrosity on the side of I-35 that declares the piety of Christians in Edmond.

Oklahoma’s Christians also use the cross as personal adornment; not just as necklaces, but splashed on boots and outlined in golden thread on the back pockets of jeans. Craft stores offer wall and tabletop crosses in every style imaginable: rustic, glossy pink and polka dot. The BeDazzler is the perfect tool for sprucing up an otherwise plain and boring cross, wouldn’t you say?

Nothing says “Jesus Loves You” quite like a cross adorned with rhinestones.

All of this is enough to make one wonder if the crosses outlined on our buildings, decorating our living rooms and hanging around our necks are masking a sad reality: Our lives offer scant proof that we really do follow an itinerant peasant preacher who was crucified for teaching radical hospitality, grace and love.

If it weren’t for the obnoxiously large crosses lighting up the skyline, how would anyone know that an overwhelming number of Oklahomans practice Christianity? To be fair, in a state with the second-highest incarceration rate, it really is difficult to believe that most of us are people who follow a man who claimed his mission was to set the captives free.

But maybe I’ve been thinking about these crosses all wrong. Christianity in Oklahoma is in distress. It needs help. Maybe, just maybe, in a state where Jesus and his parents would have been turned away by “Christian” lawmakers for being Middle Eastern refugees, a gigantic glowing cross in the heart of our capital city might be exactly what we need – a Bat-Signal, if you will. Instead of merely decorative trimming, those crosses should be a call for those who claim that Jesus is Lord to stop dressing up like Christians and start acting like Christians.

A short list of sins that Christians should consider

The Gospel of Matthew, which tells us of Jesus’ birth (remember: the reason for the season), includes this part: “She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” This Christmas, Oklahoma Christians could stand to be reminded of the sins from which we need to be saved.

For starters, consider the sin of refusing to welcome the stranger, which Christians should be hypersensitive to since the Holy Family had to flee to another country in fear for their lives. Oklahoma has taken in only a handful of Syrian refugees despite more than 22,000 refugees resettling in the United States.

There’s also the sin of capital punishment, which should be particularly offensive to those who claim to follow someone who was murdered by the government. And let’s not forget the sin of greed, manifested in tax cuts for the wealthiest while one out of six Oklahomans lives below poverty level. Keep in mind that Jesus said of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and caring for the sick, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it for me.”

If it means rescuing one of the most important symbols of Christianity from the home dcor aisle and saving our state from becoming one of the most inhospitable places on earth, this pastor is all for increasing the wattage on those giant crosses.

Break out the Bat-Signal for Christians. We could use some real-life superheroes this Christmas.
I’ll be the first in line to buy more lights.

Want to hear more?

RESISTANCE AND THE CHURCH
REV. LORI ALLEN WALKE
“A THIRTY-SOMETHING IN THE PULPIT”

FREE TO THE PUBLIC
FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 7PM SAM NOBLE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

also

WORKSHOP: SATURDAY, APRIL 1, 9AM-NOON “POLITICOS IN THE PEWS”
$20.00 REGISTRATION UNITED MINISTRY CENTER, 1017 ELM, NORMAN. SEATING LIMITED.
REGISTER TO ATTEND the WORKSHOP
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/resistance-the-church-tickets-32433396161

Rev. Walke is a young Oklahoma leader known for speaking out about the church and its role in seeking social justice. She is an advocate for civil rights for all citizens. She has been a voice in the Resist Movement. She is Associate Minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC. She holds a Master of Divinity from Phillips Theological Seminary and a Juris Doctorate from OCU School of Law.

 

 

 

Church Events

One Great Hour of Sharing is one of the 5 charitable missions supported by the National United Church of Christ. Donations to One Great Hour of Sharing enable the organization to build sustainable communities. It supports self-help programs in more than 80 nations to build sustainable communities that enable people and communities to stand against and rise above hunger, disease, illiteracy, and other forces of injustice that deny and destroy dignity. It provides emergency and long-term assistance to people in the aftermath of hurricanes, tornados, storms, floods, tidal waves, fires, explosions, technological disasters, civil strife, war, or other natural or human-caused events. On average, OGHS responds to a disaster once every 2.5 days. It uses the funds to responds with advocacy and help, hope and hospitality for people who have been uprooted from their home of origin.

In cooperation with Global Ministries, it is part of a remarkable network of service and caring that is efficient, effective and faithful. Please consider making a donation on April 2nd.

April 2nd Don Holladay will lead a discussion on ideas raised by Lori Walke during our speaker’s series for Conversation Sunday. Join us for conversation and a shared potluck Sunday at 9:45 a.m to 11:45 a.m..

Social Justice Happenings

April 2nd, after church, the social justice committee will be meeting.

April 5th on Wednesday 6 pm at the Norman Public Library is an exploratory meeting of the Norman Peace and Justice group. which is an attempt to house the church’s social justice work while connecting with and providing support to other like minded efforts in Norman.

April 8th on Saturday 1 pm 4 pm Norman United is hosting a social justice mixer. We have been invited as a church as a means to connect with other social justice and advocacy groups in Norman for this social get together at the Norman Public Library.

 

 

 

Book Club April 10th

 

We’re discussing the opening chapters of a new novel by Anthony Doerr at Nancy Logan’s home 3200 Summit Bend at 7pm.

 

 

Food and Shelter Needs

Resident and Shelter Needs include soap, cleaning supplies, furniture, diapers. Kitchen Needs are dry sealed foods. Care Packets for the homeless include deodorant, self care products, snack foods

 

 

A New Recycling Box

Given the number of paper products we use for our morning gatherings and conversation box the Social Justice committee has set up a recycling box to discard those items. Look for it on Sundays