Members Speak

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” 

Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV)

Our members are incredible thinkers and doers.  We want to hear from you!  We are starting a new page on our website to share members thoughts.  You can submit a video, an essay, or just a note.  Submittals may be sent to the church office and we reserve the right to not publish any offensive material.  But we want you to share your stories, thoughts, feelings and opinions.  Our differences make us stronger. 

Does Equal Exchange align itself with the beliefs of our church? Here is their statement on Black Lives Matter.  This article was submitted by Nancy Kneip

 
 

Black Lives Matter.  Equal Exchange stands in solidarity with people fighting for racial justice, against police brutality, and those bravely working to create necessary change.  The horrific and senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee and so many others, and the uprisings these deaths have sparked, have moved so many of us to action.

We know that for many of us, as individuals, organizations and businesses, the regular daily routine has been disrupted.  Protests and calls to action have swelled in many cities where we live, work, and have allies.  We are choosing to take this interruption as an important moment to reflect.  We reflect on our core values, and on the connections that thread us together.

Equal Exchange was founded on a vision of changing the existing power structures, to create more fairness, equity, access, and hope.  The way we do that in the world is to connect small farmer communities to consumers and to use an alternative democratic structure in our workplace.  But these are just two components of the complex and layered work that needs to be done to change power structures.  These efforts counter the “normal,” commonly-accepted way of doing things. We stand committed to racial justice, countering the unfair “normal” way things regularly function at many levels in this country, those that systematically oppress people of color.  We recognize this moment as an opportunity to speak up externally, as well as one to reflect and act internally.  We are accepting this opportunity.  

For us all to succeed, we must continue to fight for change together. 

A group of protestors hold
 
Submitted by Joyce Horn
 
Joyce is one of treasured members who loves to color.  She frequently sends us these beautiful pictures and we display them on our Church Bulletin Board, but now we are going to share them with more people our our “Members Speak” page. 
Submitted by Rev. Don Schmidt   
What is Normal?

Good morning!

We hope you are doing well and are safe in this time o f the virus. I am Don Schmidt and pastor Brain was kind enough to ask me to share some thoughts I have written in this time of having to say in our home.

`Commentators speak all the time now about returning to normal but was it ever normal? Speech is easy and flows into the public consciences without thought. Normal it is suggested is what once was the best of times when there where people on the beaches, walking in the streets at all hours, going to restaurants to sit and be severed. No spacing and no masked men and women. It is kind of interesting that normally we think of masked people trying to rob someone but in this case the masked ones are trying to keep the virus from robbing some one’s life. I have been writing .during this time of staying at home.  What is normal?  It strikes me that there are differing ways to answer that question. I want to explore a few of those in light of our faith stance.

From a personal point of view, normal means brushing my teeth after eating my oatmeal. Normal is driving over to Olive Garden for their wonderful soup and salad. Normal is enjoying a space we now call home with heat and air conditioning. Normal is going to shop for groceries in a store where when you stop to look closely are like a cornucopia overflowing with food. Normal is being able to go to a Doctor when you need medical care or a dentist for that wonderful experience of having a root canal. Normal is when you are hungry you can go  to the refirg. Normal is being able to phone friends or family. Normal is being able watch TV, which is so commercialized it seems to be programming us. Someone counted 5000 ads in a 24 hr period. Buy!Buy! Buy!  Normal for many of us is to worship in this place and be blessed with the music and the word. Sometimes Barbara and I look at each other and say “Why Us?” “Why are we so blessed? Are we over blessed – over normalled? I am almost afraid to say it out loud. “Are we more spoiled beyond our imagining and feeling somehow that is as it should be,

Unfortunately there is another normal out there that is both frightening and unbelievable!  The truth seems to be that the old normal before the virus was never normal. Those of us who celebrated our existence in that old “normal” thought it so, except when somehow out of the darkness of a place none us have ever been a part of, comes the cries of those who live a different and frightening normal. A “normal” that we do not want to know about because it instills in us a guilt and neighborliness we find disturbing to identify. The normal for most folks on this sphere we call earth is totally different. They often do not have clean water to drink or the cornucopia of our grocery store or our full rerg. Medical care is an impossible dream for many are homeless in their own land. Mothers often having to choose which child will eat today. In the U.S. alone, 41 million live extreme poverty. 14 million children go to bed hungry. These neighbors who really are our brothers and sisters live on less than $1.90 a day.  Then there are those whose skin is a different color and they cry out “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”  

Recently a journalist went to the Navajo reservation in the Southwest of our country to see what was happening there in light of the virus. What he found was that they were suffering twice what was happening in any other “hot spot. In addition, he found people there living in abject poverty. One woman had a dirt floor in her house with no electricity or running water. This is their painful and never ending “normal” and it is tragic beyond words.

  What is not “normal” for most inhabitants of our world is this luxuriant life style as we live.  They must look at our life style and wonder why we live in such a way and do nothing to help hey move toward that way of living in the world.

. I am sometimes shocked and embarrassed by the Gospel’s demand!  By what God wants our normal to be with regard to our neighbor who lives a desperately suffering “normal”. I would suggest that this God we worship has a “normal” that God challenges us to live out in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. Barbara and I sometimes feel terribly responsible for all the blessings we have been given. We ask ourselves, “What must God ask of us to do for our less fortunate brothers and sisters?” It is a hard question and not easy to answer in light of the calls of the neighbor.

We will realize that such a “normal” was not and cannot be sustainable. However, in the equality of God, that calls us to live in the neighborly way there is a subversive blessing for those who have been marginalized. It may be to our great wonderment that we too will be blessed if we are willing to listen to the poor and the cries of the hungry children among us.  

  We may even wonder if the way we live is not detrimental to us. Why does no one, except those that cry out, question a life style that challenges some to live from paycheck to paycheck in order to posses it. Does not this form of greed poison and exhausts us both physically and spiritually. “There is no balm in Gilead”. No peace in the soul. Enough to be satisfied with is a forsaken and silent prohibition. Only “more” orients our existence.

On this Pentecost Sunday, please read the story again. The disciples are proclaiming a new normal. It is a time of the Spirit and nothing will very be the same again! Now the God’s Spirit broods over and flow through all of our decisions regarding how we will use our blessedness to relieve the suffering of those who live in that other “normal.”God’s normal is where we become neighborly to the neighbor.

 The Beatitudes, for example, are beautiful to read but we often do not understand how radical they are in terms of how we are to live in the world peacefully and humbly and provide justice for the poor. Jesus paints a picture of how God’s normal might begin to happen:

He appears in Temple of his home town and reads from Isaiah:

            `The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

            Because he has anointed me

            To bring good news to the poor.

            He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

            And recovery of sight to the blind

            To let the oppressed go free,

            And proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18,19)

This God’s “normal”. It is a totally different world where all are fed and drink the deep waters. A world where every refugee has a home. A world in which God’s creation is honored and preserved so that all generations can be in awe of what God has created! The Biblical story over and over again is replete with calls to live justly with justice extended to all people of every race, sexual orientation and gender.   A world where no person of color should ever have to cry out “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe.” A world where no one race or group will suffer more than we do.  A world in which Native Americans like the Navajo can move out of the deep poverty into the dream of God’s “normal.” The haves (which I assume is you and I) and the have nots will share equally.

There is a wonder full story about two brothers who live on arms next to each other separate only by a small stream. Somehow they had a falling out and refused to speak to each other. Then one day there was a knock on the door of one of the brothers. The man asked if the brother had any work we could do around his farm.  The brother said well actually I do. I need to build a wall to keep my brother away. So the man set work and when he was finished the brother was shocked! He had built not a wall but a bridge over the stream and standing in the middle of the bridge was the other brother. So we walked over and met him in the middle and the other brother said I  realize since you have build this bridge we came come together and be reconciled, 
The brother then said to the builder. You did a great job I have other things for you to do. But he said, “No, I must go for I have other bridges to build.” 

That is God’s new normal for all of us. To build bridges. To celebrate and establish God’s equality among all of God’s children. God’s “normal” may require a new life style. A life style that means we must now share our “blessedness “ like never before. A life style based in justice and generosity to the point of sacrifice. God’s “normal” may then become ours and a new blessedness will be born is us! God’s Spirit will empower us in this creation of God’ marvelous new “normal.” We will hope to see faithful justice living become the only way to live and love until it becomes the normal life of a disciple.