Note: You can download a pdf of this letter here.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…” ~Philippians 2: 1–5
January 9, 2020
Beloved St. Andrew Community:
Did you know we have multiple, interrelated behavioral policies that help us to ensure health and well-being in our communion—especially those we consider most vulnerable among us? Our priority of care for our children and vulnerable adults is a sacred trust. It grows from the sacraments; from the promises we make in baptism and the insights we gain at the communion table.
First of all, there’s baptism. In this sacrament we intentionally and with self-awareness gather around promises. Foremost are the promises we understand God to be making to all God’s creation, to the church, and to individuals known in the stories of God’s fidelity throughout the scriptures, and particularly in the self-giving of Jesus who is our pattern for life and ministry. Our own promises to and for one another emanate from the God who acts first. In response, as a congregation, we promise to care for the baptized as if they are our own:
You can download a pdf copy of all the related letters here.
Beloved St. Andrew community,
We are pleased to let you know that at our December Session meeting, we made a unanimous decision to practice the celebration of communion on a weekly basis. As you know, this is the culmination of recent conversation at St. Andrew, and reflective of a long shift in Christian sacramental practices generally, in our own denomination, and at St. Andrew. This puts us in line with our Reformed theological tradition and Presbyterian polity, and with our current understanding of best practices for our formation as the people of God.
A few weeks ago, we asked for your prayers in our discernment around moving to weekly communion. Since then we have spoken with many of you and on November 3rd,we sought understanding together in Aftertalk. Session met this past Monday where we reflected, and prayerfully thought about next steps. We take our promises to God, and your trust as your current session very seriously, and we discerned that while the call to weekly communion is strong we, as a community, need more time to be with this question and all that it would mean to us and to our life together as a church body. So, we will be back in touch soon with some more ways for us to think and pray together about this, and as a session we will keep paying attention for God’s wisdom and call. The subject will stay on our session docket until the way forward is clear and we look forward to being in ongoing conversation with you.
Thank you for your prayers and your sense of where the Spirit is leading.
Marie West Johnson
As a young girl growing up in Olympia, it wasn't unusual to experience Indian Summers, those warm days that would linger into September and October. The autumns of my childhood hold precious memories—hot cocoa with marshmallows, harvest moons, migrating birds in the yard, my dad building a fire in the fireplace, hayrides at the Mima Mounds with the church youth group. Life was fairly simple then, at least that is how it seemed for this tomboy who much preferred a baseball mitt to a Barbie doll. And now Craig has taught me that Fall means FOOTBALL!
During those extended times of seasonal warm temperatures, you could usually find me perched high in the top of the large cherry tree that was in our backyard. My mom always complained that the cherries were "wormy", but I thought they were delicious as I sat high in the tree and ate till my stomach ached.
From the Session
We are excited to announce that Andrea Shirey has started her work as Director of Children and Family Ministries. Please take time to welcome her to her new role. Andrea's work is to help all of us to fulfill our baptismal promises to our children, youth, and families—to “guide and nurture them by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging them to know and follow Jesus Christ.” Andrea is a connector with a lot of energy and people skills that will help her to be a partner to all our children and their families. Andrea’s role is just under half-time (18 hours per week), and she will work with Amber Oakes who has engaged many of our youth in Afterplay during the year and will continue to do so. As we move toward the fall, the shape of the role will become more developed. In the meantime, have a conversation with her. Share your hopes and gifts and listen for hers. You can reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's a bit more about Andrea:
Five Random Things About Andrea
I took a little trip with my mom and a friend recently. I was taking them for a visit they had arranged which didn’t quite turn out the way we had planned it. The visit didn’t happen. A sick day for the host. But what emerged was extraordinary. A trip up another mountain and down memory lane. A visit to old homes and haunts for my mom that I had heard about, but never seen. A homestead now flooded, not just with memories, but with the water of Riffe Lake. Locations and images to tether stories I’d long heard that existed only in the ether of my imagination. It was a truly rich, and unexpected day I will treasure.
It got me thinking that this is the way of this journey of ours anyway. Despite our plans—good ones, flawed ones (usually a bit of both)—the Spirit of life comes to us where we least expect it and summons us (thank you John Bell, GTG 726) to destinations we “don’t know” finding we will “never be the same.” Abram becomes Abraham, and Sarai, Sarah, the parents of a sky-full of promise because they sat out on a journey with no assurances, no visible end. Let’s face it, in wilderness and in promised territory alike, Israel wanders. In Luke, Jesus sets his face to Jerusalem, but then travels this circuitous journey that is anything but a straight line geographically, or existentially, most surprising of all through death to new life. I don’t know if we’ll ever get comfortable with this one.
The following was a presentation made at a recent NPH fundraiser. Rafa Llamoga is a 2018-19 leadership student who has been staying with the Andersons since September, 2018 and studying English. He returns to his Peruvian home in San Vicente de Cañete at the beginning of July. NPH is Nuestro Pequeños Hermanos (our little brother's and sisters). St. Andrew has made three trips since 2012 to the NPH home in Honduras which you can read about here.
Good evening! My name is Rafael Llamoga. I am from Peru, and I have been a part of the NPH family for 14 years.
MIRACLES – Do you believe in miracles? I do.
I was 11 when one of my miracles happened, I arrived at NPH.
Because of this miracle I am here today a happy person and I am proud of the many accomplishments that NPH has helped me achieve.
I have a few thoughts on miracles: I believe they can be found not only in the best of situations, but in the worst of situations. The bad things that happen to us in life bring meaning, a greater purpose, and they can even transform and become the good we see in our lives. Watching this happen is nothing short of incredible.
Twenty-odd years ago, I had some conversations at the church I was attending. This was the 1990s, and I was talking about how much I enjoyed The Simpsons.
Some historical perspective—When the U.S. finally got the long-talked-about “fourth” TV network (PBS not counting, apparently), it was Rupert Murdoch’s baby. He assembled nation-wide stations to join, and they premiered The Late Show with Joan Rivers (resulting in a permanent break between Rivers and her ostensible rival, Johnny Carson). That sort of died, but eventually Married...With Children came along, then 21 Jump Street, and The Tracey Ullman Show, from which sprung The Simpsons.
More perspective, too. Fox Broadcasting Company, later shortened to just Fox and then FOX, had a business plan of appealing to the lowest common denominator, it seemed, and it was the opinion of many that Married... was a new low in coarseness and vulgarity on television. This was a very popular opinion (I couldn’t disagree, catching only a few minutes).
So when The Simpsons came around in 1989, with the bratty little kid and dysfunctional family, people I talked to viewed it in the same light. Crude, inappropriate, vulgar.
But I liked The Simpsons, at least in the beginning, and I eventually wrote a little essay that I passed around in church, pointing out that this was satire but actually highlighted dysfunction in the modern American family. If you want to look at it for lessons, note the Flanders. Satirical Christians, but ethical and honest and nice and trying their best to live a grace-filled life. Church also played a big part of the story of the Simpsons.
I just trying to point out that quick dismissals can lead us to miss insights, or at least opportunities to laugh and then discuss. I changed a few minds, maybe. I haven’t watched The Simpsons in years, but in those days it was funny, and not because of vulgarity.
I’ll admit to missing the old days, heading out to the movie theater with friends and then gathering afterward to deconstruct. We examine character choices and plot developments, and if we’re ambitious we’ll wander into the ethical and moral situations portrayed. We can learn stuff, and this fascinates me.
And not just in movie theaters. I’ve been watching NBC’s The Good Place for the past few seasons, and I’m always entertained and provoked by the big issues they manage to squeeze into a 23-minute sitcom about the afterlife. See, the show doesn’t present any conventional philosophical or theological viewpoint about life after death; it’s all about ethics and morality, about doing good things during your time on earth and earning a spot in paradise. At first, it seems like a lot of people make the cut, and The Bad Place is rarely mentioned.
Both of those change pretty quickly, but if you’re interested you could probably binge the whole series pretty quickly. It will keep you on your toes.
Both of these examples—that we might be able to siphon off some ideas about leading better lives from our normal, silly modern media entertainment—are things I think about often. We’ve become used to laugh tracks and bawdy humor and questionable choices, but if we run across the right one, the right film or the right show, our eyes can open a little.
And so we come to Groundhog Day. You knew I was going to get there.
Two years ago, we showed Groundhog Day at St. Andrew one night, then had a little discussion afterwards. What started out as a stray idea in the mind of screenwriter Danny Levin—what would happen if someone got stuck in a time loop and had to relive the same day over and over—became a 1993 film directed by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. It did OK, sort of average, and then it just kept going.
Dozens, maybe hundreds of scholarly articles have been written about this film. It is beloved and admired by many of the world’s faith systems, all of them finding something familiar in this one, deeply unpleasant and lonely and antisocial man’s supernatural experience. And, of course, how it eventually becomes resolved.
There are obviously deeply spiritual people on this planet, covering the spectra of theology and morality. It shouldn’t be surprise that some of them make movies, or TV shows. And that some of their feelings seep through.
And as many of us are also deeply spiritual people, we may find ourselves surprised at what seems like ordinary entertainment that provokes serious thought, and with luck some conversation. There’s a 2003 independent film called Off the Map, directed by Campbell Scott and starring Sam Elliott, Joan Allen, and JK Simmons, about an early 1970s family that moves to the middle of nowhere in New Mexico and completely live off the grid, growing and hunting their own food, for really unclear reasons. We know the father, Elliott, has developed debilitating depression. The young daughter uses a bow and arrow to hunt animals, saying a prayer over the corpses in gratitude for the bounty.
It’s a stunningly spiritual film, as well as entertaining and just beautiful to watch, but it’s hardly on anyone’s radar. There are many, many more.
This Saturday, February 2, is Groundhog Day. If you’ve got nothing much to do, you might watch Groundhog Day. It might make you wonder about routine, and about how we break the chains that bind us to our worst selves, and how the only way we escape is by changing.
By allowing ourselves to love, in other words. As I said, there’s a lot to ponder there.
Seed scattered and sown…emphasis on scattered.
I hadn’t caught before the odds in that familiar parable of the Sower—one that each of the synoptic gospels thought important enough to include in their narratives (Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8). Here’s a section from Matthew’s version:
A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”
Seed sown on (1) the path, on (2) rocky ground, (3) among thorns, and (sigh of relief) on (4) good soil. One of the four produced a return. That’s a twenty-five percent success rate. If you’re big league, a .250 batting average might be good enough, depending on other production metrics at the plate and in the field, to keep you from being sent down to the minors. But we expect a little more when it comes to things of the Spirit, don’t we? I’ll admit I do; the insight and the odds caught me unsuspecting.
I decided to look a little further. Surely this wouldn’t be tolerated when money is at stake. So I searched on google: “what percentage of startups fail.”
The featured result: