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  • A Message From Bishop Laurie

    A Letter from Bishop Laurie
    June 2, 2020
    Dear Beloved of God,

    Today is the Tuesday after Pentecost. And Spirit? She is swirling! Now, as then, we stand at a tense moment in history: hearts burn and protesters pray and unexpected preachers preach and a spirit of change blows with hope. Those who serve the status quo watch, smirk, and ask, “Aren’t you just drunk, foolhardy, angry, entitled, or all of the above?”

    I am a bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American, the whitest denomination in the United States. I serve the Oregon Synod, perhaps the whitest synod in the ELCA. I have been long marinated in my privilege. So as I light a candle and pray for racial justice and the long-deferred dream of wholeness, I have more questions than answers:

    How do you kneel on a human being’s neck for nine minutes?

    How many precautions are needed before a brown or black bodied person can jog unarmed down a street?

    How can the dignity of entire groups of people, in a nation, a church, a region I love so much, be so willfully overlooked for four-hundred years and counting?

    How have I benefited from silence, and what does truly liberating action look like?

    What would it look like for the ELCA to “take a knee”?

    I don’t know. But I do know some things:
    White Supremacy reigns, and it isn’t simply about individuals, it’s about systems and institutions which consistently privilege one race above all others.Racism and white supremacy are sins. Though I am committed to an anti-racist life and learnings, having been marinated in the white supremacy of my culture and, by virtue of the color of my skin, I am racist.All people are God’s beloveds and to be able to see that we need to help center the experiences of those who’ve been marginalized and silenced for eons.  The violence we see all around us is dangerous, and yet is a response to a culture which violates, and has violated, black and brown bodies for centuries.It’s time I learned to listen. It’s time the institutions I love learn to be open to radical transformation.None of this work toward justice, peace, and transformation, which is God’s work, will be easy.

    Christ’s redeeming, liberating love will lead the way if we are truly open to its capacity to be a light, set on a hill, making visible what has not been visible – the dignity of black and brown bodies, the sins of past and present racism and the transformational work ahead. Please join me in responding out of that divine mandate to courageous love in difficult times.

    I ask you consider giving one month’s worth of your congregation’s mission support which would otherwise go to the Oregon Synod and donate it to a trusted local organization working toward racial justice and the dismantling of white supremacy. (List of possibilities below.) 

    This will impact the synod office, yes, but it will also be sacramental; body and blood, given for the world. Pray for your neighbor. Educate yourself. Challenge racism wherever you see it. And believe in the power of Spirit to change this world.

    In Christ,

    Bishop Laurie
    Organizations Working Towards Racial Justice

    The NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)

    United Oregon Dont Shoot Pdx

    SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice)Corvallis SURJ– Corvallis, OREmail: info@CorvallisSURJ.org Facebook

    SURJ PDX – Portland, OREmail: info@surjpdx.orgWebsiteFacebook

    Forest Grove, OR SURJBrenda Zook FriesenEmail: surjforestgrove@gmail.comFacebook

    SURJ Eugene– Eugene, OREmail: surj-info@googlegroups.comRacial Justice in Eastern OregonEmail: saundea@eou.eduFacebook

    Clackamas County SURJ-Oregon City, OregonEmail: clackamascosurj@gmail.com

    Black Lives Matter
    Oregon does not have a chapter yet. You could start one.

    Color of Change 

    ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)

  • A Message From Bishop Laurie

    An Update from Bishop Laurie

                                Dear friends in Christ,   

    As June approaches, it is time for us to check-in about in-person gatherings. The messages coming from our elected leaders can be contradictory and confusing.

    Governor Brown has allowed 31 of the 33 Oregon counties (not the Portland-metro area) to begin phase 1, which allows for groups of up to 25 people to gather with social distancing.

    President Trump has deemed churches and other houses of worship “essential” and has called on governors across the country to allow these places of worship to reopen.

    Public health experts warn us that the nature of the virus has not changed; it is still highly contagious and our communities are still vulnerable. More troubling news comes from those churches that have already attempted to reopen.

    At least 107 people became infected after attending or coming into contact with someone who attended a service at a German baptist church, despite church officials insisting that social distancing and hygiene guidelines were upheld during the service.A Baptist church in Georgia stopped in-person services two weeks after reopening as several families came down with coronavirus. Again, the church states that all modes of social distancing were practiced and followed by the families attending.A Catholic church in Texas also closed after it was discovered multiple members had contracted the novel coronavirus and one leader had died. Again, the parish had followed cleaning, sanitation and social distancing guidelines prescribed by State health officials. Here in Oregon, we are blessed with the opportunity to learn from these churches experience and protect our ministers, lay leaders, members and communities from risk. 

    In-person, indoor gatherings of people from different households are high risk and they are a risk we do not have to take. We know we are essential, but it is not essential to gather in person at this time. Our priority is protecting the well-being, health and safety of ALL members of the Oregon Synod: congregants and staff.  Therefore, we advise that church buildings remain closed to all but essential staff for as long as in-person, indoor gatherings remain high risk. Thank you all for taking care of each other during these troubling times. Let us continue to pray for those who are sick, those who have died, and for the good health and welfare of all members of our communities.

    In Christ, 
    Bishop Laurie

  • A Letter From Bishop Laurie (May 8th)

    A Note from Bishop Laurie

    May 8, 2020

    Dear Ones,

    How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land? (Psalm 137) asked the people exiled in Babylon. The practices and comfort of what they had known through worshiping at the temple in Jerusalem where not available to them in that foreign land. In that time of exile, they were challenged by prophets and re-formed as God’s people. When they returned to Jerusalem, the temple they longed to gather in had to be rebuilt.   Are we not in a similar time? We will be in this pandemic for at least another year if not longer. Pandemics usually have 2-3 waves; it is predicted that we will see another wave of infection this fall. Oregonians have done a good job of flattening the curve of infection, but we are still amid a global pandemic. We will likely see restrictions on daily life lifted then re-imposed.

    This is a long email. Please read carefully and retain this email for future reference. The State of Oregon and your local municipality have the responsibility to protect public health. The guidelines of the CDC, the state and your local municipality should be strictly followed. When we all follow these guidelines, we all benefit. This is our labor of love. We are not going back to “normal” any time soon. We are, unfortunately, not in a blizzard, from which we will emerge soon and relatively unchanged, but in an ice age which will invite us to adapt in significant and meaningful ways.Yesterday, Governor Brown released her Reopening Oregon PlanReopening will happen by region/county. 

    Until your county has been approved to begin Phase 1, the stay at home order remains in effect. Even if your county is one of the few to reopen this month, all Oregon Synod congregations should still adhere to not meeting at least until June 1, for most congregations it will be longer.Here is a summary of the Governor’s key points:

    As we prepare for gathering in limited numbers as a congregation, please use the attached Oregon Synod COVID-19 Reopening Planning Guide and follow these recommendations: 

    Continue to abstain from holding ALL events in your church building until at least June (including services and small group gatherings). Instead, use the month of May to plan. Use the attached Reopening Planning Guide with your pastor, lay leaders, or entire congregation. 

    No large gatherings will be allowed until a treatment for COVID-19 is found. That will take some time. Oregon’s governor has canceled all large sports, theater and worship gatherings through September, at least. Stay up to date with information from the CDC, OHA and your bishop’s office.

    Connect with your insurance provider to understand their recommendations for your intended use of your buildings. We know now of multiple congregations outside of the synod who have been dropped by their insurance for meeting against orders/in this time.

    Plan to continue offering worship, prayer and small group gatherings online and through phone, email and mail for the foreseeable future. Feedback here in the bishop’s office on your faithfulness and creativity has been unbelievable! This is a time to expand the connectedness of the congregation through phone conversations, prayer partners, Zoom studies, Zoom coffee hours, etc. It is rare that everyone in a congregation is online. We are called to be creative and serve all, of course!

    The CDC is recommending that those over 65 and those who have underlying health conditions continue to stay home and stay safe. Though painful, even after limits on small groups are lifted by region and groups of 25 are allowed to meet here in Oregon, those over 65, obese or otherwise dealing with illness should stay home. 

    This begs the question: should we be meeting in-person when members of our congregations are unable to attend without risking their health?If you choose to open your building as restrictions loosen, you should appoint a team who will be responsible for interpreting CDC, state and local guidelines for the use and maintenance of the building and those who gather in it. Have a person keep track of who is in and out of the building in case someone does develop COVID-19 and others need to be informed of that exposure. 

    Action plans for sanitizing every space (and handle, knob, railings, etc.) after each use of your building should be developed and followed. Ensure your janitor or volunteers have the needed supplies to thoroughly sanitize everything a person has touched or breathed on. Follow the CDC guidelines. 

    For services: 
    1.Have a plan in place to ensure attendance will be within allowed limits
    2.People should enter and exit the building at different times and by different doorways
    3.Worship leaders should not greet people at the door
    4.Hand sanitizer or hand washing stands should be at the door
    5.Bulletins should be placed in the rows prior to worship and anything else normally in the row removed (hymnals, bibles, etc.).
    5.Use projection or have everything in a single bulletin that is discarded after one use
    6.Provide disposable masks for those who’ve forgotten or be ready to ask that person to leave (a masked usher should be appointed to watch over this)

    Nursery care, potlucks and coffee hour shall not be offered while we are required to be masked and practice physical distancing.

    Singing is not advised at this time: a singer can spray up to twenty-seven feet. Consider using instrumental music, humming, or a soloist standing far from those gathered. 

    Signage, Facebook, websites should offer consistent information for those interested in worship, interested in hands-on service, what groups a person can join, financial support, prayer support. 

    Give serious consideration to the viral load you are exposing your pastor, worship leaders and janitor to by having multiple services (with cleaning between services). Your pastor and worship leaders do not have to agree to accept that risk. 

    Remember that while all things may be lawful for you, not all things are beneficial. Nor do all things build up the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 6:12, 10:23–Paul says this twice so it must be important.) We also remember that the neighbor always comes first and that what we do to the least of these who are members of our family [in Christ], we do to Christ. (Mt 25:40) 

    Our labor of love continues.  May all that we say and do reflect the light and love of Jesus Christ. 

    Bishop Laurie Larson Caesar

  • Easter Worship!!! Hallelujah!!!

    He is risen. He is risen, indeed! Hallelujah!!!

    “Easter Sunday 2020 GLC Choir directed by Ben Schumacher with organist Brooke Benfield. Many thanks to Brooke and the choir members for navigating technology and social distancing to make this hymn possible.”

    Ben Schumacher (GLC choir director) organized the Gethsemane choir members to record themselves singing at home on their computers and send him the final product. He then combined them with a recording of our organist Brooke Benfield to create this final video; “Lift High the Cross” Easter Sunday 2020.

    A beautiful offering for Easter Sunday! Amen!!!

    Brandee Leibrand sings He Arose as a virtual Easter offering