THE JOURNEY BACK
WITHOUT A SONG
IN GOD’S IMAGE
A Vietnam Vet challenges the Church to care for returning soldiers
A Music Therapist Loses Her Voice– Voice – and finds a Song
A Presbyterian with Bipolar Disorder discovers acceptance from her faith community
a publication of the presbytery of the twin cities area
Including Every Member of the Body Welcoming God’s Children of All Abilities
REMEMBER THE SABBATH Lake Nokomis Learns to Take a Break
From the Editor Can a person with autism be a pastor? In 2008, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder on the autistic spectrum. When I found out, I breathed a sigh of relief. After years of wondering why I had such a hard time in social situations and in employment, I now had knowledge; which meant I’d know how to better navigate life.
Dennis Sanders IT/Communications Specialist
But the revelation also presented a few questions. I had been ordained a pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the 2002. The years following ordination were challenging, partly because I was missing a lot of the social cues that are such a part of human interaction. Knowing how people-intensive the work of a pastor is, I wondered if I could still maintain my call. Maybe being a pastor was a mistake.
Three years later, I have not given up my call as a pastor. I’m still learning how to better communicate with folks. It hasn’t been easy. Pastors who don’t have autism can relate to folks with relative ease; for me, it takes a lot more energy. It’s doable but not easy. My part-time call as an associate pastor at First Christian Church in Minneapolis has given me a chance to learn those needed skills and I’m thankful for the congregation and church staff for being so patient with me. I’m also thankful for my position with the Presbytery where I’ve been able to put my skills in communications and social media to use for the glory of God.
This month’s issue of InPrint concerns welcoming persons with disabilities into the life of the church. Persons with disabilities are already part of the fabric in many of our churches and for this we should be thankful. But there’s still more work to do.
The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area has been blessed by the work of the Disabilities Concerns Taskforce. Led by Honorably Retired Teaching Elder Bebe Baldwin, this group has provided a voice for persons with disabilities not just here in the Upper Midwest, but throughout the Presbyterian Church (USA). The stories in this issue features the words of the Disability Concerns Taskforce. I hope you take the chance to read the stories. Take in Roger Ezell’s story on being a veteran and his challenge to the Church. Hear Lorie Ludwig as she shares how she can still give the gift of song, after losing the ability to sing. Joanne Shingledecker’s story is about how spending a few weeks in a wheelchair healing from a leg injury paved the way for big changes at her church. Every story reminds us we that we must work daily to make sure that all are truly welcome at Christ’s table.
Dennis Sanders IT/Communications Specialist
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2. Notes from the Editor Words from Dennis Sanders.
4. The Journey Back Roger Ezell left Vietnam, but it didn’t leave him.
6. Without a Song Lorie Ludwig was loving her job as a music therapist. Then she lost her voice. That’s when she met Lorie Ludwig: hymnsmith.
8. Created in the Image of God Most people rarely share their struggles with mental illness and Cathy Smith was no exception. When she opened up, she found her church welcomed her with open arms.
10. Small Changes, Big Solutions A staff member gets to walk a mile in a wheelchair, which led to some big changes at Church of the Way.
112 W. Franklin Ave. Suite 508 Minneapolis, MN 55404 Fax: 612-871-0698 E-mail: email@example.com Web: www.ptcaweb.org Twitter: www.twitter.com/ptcaweb Facebook: www.facebook.com/ presbyterytwincitiesarea Presbytery Staff Chaz Ruark, Executive Presbyter: firstname.lastname@example.org Nancy Grittman, Stated Clerk: email@example.com Risa Anderson, Office Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org
12. A Circle of Friends For Linda Wold, Christian Education is for everybody she means it.
Dennis Sanders, IT/Communications Specialist: email@example.com
13. Sing a New Song Jo Taliaferro might not see the notes to her music, but she knows how to hold a tune.
16. “It Is I, Lord.” John Ivers has been part of the Presbytery for over 60 years. Hear his story of discipleship.
18. A Night in “Spamtown” September 2011 Stated Meeting Highlights.
Inprint is a publication from the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area (PTCA). Recipients include congregations, minister members, other members, committees, and friends. Please send submissions and e-mail corrections to Dennis Sanders, editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org . Usual distribution: Everyother-month. Editor: Dennis Sanders
19. Ladies on A Mission The youth of Peace Presbyterian give a helping hand to Kokomo, IN.
Front Cover: Art work by Nick, age 16, a member of First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, MI.
20. Sabbath Keeping Learning to take a break. inprint/presbytery of the twin cities area/ november 2011/ 3
The Journey Back As veterans come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, a retired pastor and Vietnam War Veteran says the church must be a place of healing for our nation’s soldiers. by The Rev. Roger Ezell as told to The Rev. Bebe Baldwin After his discharge Roger studied music at the University of Iowa. “One of the first things I learned was not to talk about Vietnam. which he was running away from battle -- these were the recurring Nobody wanted to hear. I didn’t know how to react to the student dreams that haunted Roger after his service as a medic in Vietnam. demonstrations.” For years he lived with undiagnosed PTSD and a series of outAfter graduation Roger taught public school music. He had anbursts he called “career-altering moments”. Finally, an intervenother “career-altering moment” when he lost his temper, used tion by trusted friends led to the beginning of his long journey inappropriate language, and threw a music stand. That ended his back. teaching career.
Christmas trees stacked on a flatbed truck, a scene in
Roger’s dreams took him back to the Mekong Delta where he woke in the middle of the night to recognize the sound of incoming mortars and small arms fire. Forty-three U.S. soldiers were being attacked by fifteen hundred Vietcong. He remembers looking at the bodies the morning after the firefight and thinking, “Americans and Vietcong – how equal they are.” Many years passed before Roger understood his dreams. The Christmas trees were body bags loaded on a Huey. Explaining the other dream he said, “I had always asked myself, ‘Why was I running away?’ I finally realized that I was running toward the guns because we had been ordered to the perimeter to bring back the wounded.” Shortly after the battle Roger experienced the first of what he called his “career altering moments.” He lost his temper with a superior. The consequences of his action were averted only because his commanding officer already had orders for Roger to go to Europe to sing with the army chorus.
A call to Ministry of Word and Sacrament led to another career. Roger said he had always loved the church. He had been an active lay person and had worked with army chaplains. He had even memorized the entire Gospel According to Mark. “I love to tell the story,” he said. After his ordination he served churches in Missouri and Minnesota. He remembers times when he was “on the verge of career-altering moments.” In 2003, perhaps because of the Iraq war, he “felt pressure growing on me.” Roger had shared his story with an elderly couple who were church members and trusted friends. He often went to their home for coffee, rolls, and conversation. One day they began a conversation with the words, “We have observed …” They described his startle response and his reaction to their dogs. Roger recalls, “There was a new dog that was jumping all over and I was jumping.” His friends were able to link his behavior and anxiety to his war experience. Roger said that his friends were not “professionals”; they were not psychologists or social workers. But, they were sensitive people who were able to describe what they
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ing in the current wars. He said that he and others in Vietnam did only one tour of duty. “How about those who are on their second or third tour? We don’t have Roger accepted their suggestion and saw any idea what the cost is. I hope the the counselor. “I had a life-changing church is ready. We must be ready!” breakdown right there in her office … a life-changing moment under the supervision of a professional. I asked her, ‘Am I How can the church be ready? Roger going crazy?’ She reached for a brochure, listed awareness, listening, and advocacy. ‘PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) We must be aware of the facts about the does not mean you’re going crazy.’ ” For issues faced by military personnel and Roger, that was “the beginning of the their families. We must be willing to lisjourney back from depression and anxiten without passing judgment. We must ety, not just for me, but for my wife, my be willing to advocate for adequate refamily, my friends.” sources and, as we have opportunity, to Roger described his councilor as “my first advocate for veterans and their families. listener … It wasn’t because my wife and “Where would I be?” he asked, “without awareness, listening, and advocacy?” family and friends didn’t want to listen. They didn’t know what to listen for.” The counselor became not only Roger’s listener but also his advocate, helping him Roger Ezell is an Honorably Retired Teachto navigate the VA system which he deing Elder who is on the Disability Concerns scribed as a “maze.” Taskforce of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area. Roger’s health has been further complicated by lymphoma which is now in remission. He blames his cancer on his exposure to Agent Orange. About this he says, “The VA (Veterans Administration) takes some responsibility.” had observed. They suggested a resource, a counselor with the Vietnam Veterans of America.
With his healing journey has come “payback time” for Roger. He feels called to help others who are living with the wounds of war to begin their own hard journeys. He is an active member and speaker for the Disability Concerns Task Force of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area. He is using his gifts of music in the psychiatric units of the local VA hospital.
Roger shared his concerns for those serving in the current wars. He said that he and others in Vietnam did only one tour of duty. “How about those who are on their second or third tour? We don’t have any idea what the cost is. I hope the church is ready. We must be ready!”
Roger shared his concerns for those serv-
Reaching Out to Veterans The Coming Home Collaborative is a ministry of the Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) . It is “an open and growing volunteer association of people concerned with the psychological and spiritual healing of veterans, especially those currently reintegrating with their families and communities. “ The collaborative has resources available for veterans and congregations and also hosts events throughout the area. For more information, please go to www.mpls-synod.org/programs/vets.
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Without a Song I am a board certified music therapist who can no longer sing.
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Music and singing have played a part of my life since I started taking piano lessons at the age of six. This was followed by participation in church choir, school choir, band and playing the organ for church. I sang the role of Despina, the tricky maid, in Mozart’s opera, Cosi Fan Tutti in a regional production in southwest Minnesota. (Author Bill Holm was a cast mate.) Singing was a daily pastime, with many enjoyable hours sitting at the piano, accompanying myself while I sang. College at age 35 didn’t change anything. I reveled in the University of Minnesota’s School of Music, studying toward my degree in music therapy. I sang my way through college, only suffering when I had to learn to play the violin. Each practice session sent the neighborhood dogs into a howling fit! My first music therapy job was at a nursing home. I found my niche playing the piano and singing golden oldies with residents, using music to help them maintain the skills they have for as long as possible. I got back into church choir and involved with SAI, a music fraternity for women that I joined during college.
sionally ostracize me.
Ironically, music came to my aid. I lost my ability to sing but not my musicality. I started writing hymn lyrics. My first tunes were about comfort because I was so sad. Eventually I wrote a tune about a butterfly, symbolizing different stages in life. Hopefully I could pupate into something better. The final chorus is as follows: So spread your wings and fly away, Test out your wings without delay. For this new life can’t turn the bend, Until you let your old life end. I had found a way to sing vicariously through others by writing hymn lyrics, even winning a hymn contest about the ordination of women within the Presbyterian Church. After giving a presentation at my church about music therapy and hymn writing, I was commissioned by the Presbyterians for Disability Concerns to write a hymn about people with disabilities.
If given an option, I would choose singing again in a second. However, that choice is not mine to make. God is in charge and it is up Looking back, I now realize my vocal tremor first started to present to me to make the most of the gifts I have been given. If I hadn’t itself when I was in college. My tongue would tighten up when I sang and I couldn’t get it to relax – similar to the lump in the throat lost my singing voice, I wouldn’t have become a hymn author. I also relate to my residents with memory loss as I, too, have a profeeling you have when you suppress tears. I was told to buck up gressive, degenerative neurological disorder. and get over it. It took almost four years for the tremor to overwhelm my singing voice, losing the ability to sing high notes first. My hymn writing has helped me heal and brought to my attention I sounded like a microphone with the reverb set on high when I sing and only when I sing. It was time for professional help. I saw that I have been healed without being cured. I have accepted my vocal tremor diagnosis and found inner peace. Helping others is a neurologist, a speech therapist and a vocal coach for voice lesmy best therapy. If someone hears my story, they might be insons. spired to say, “If she can continue on, then so can I.” Having a disabling condition is not the end of life as you know it. Life is cerI learned that a vocal tremor is a neurological condition that is progressive and degenerative. It will never go away and will only tainly different, but with God’s help, I have made lemonade and so get worse. I probably had it all my life but it took this long for the can you. symptoms to reach a threshold and begin to show. Now singing Lorie Ludwig is a member of Westminster Presbyteis no longer fun but physically painful and a trial. I sing only long rian Church in Minneapolis. enough to get my residents to sing and grieve that I can no longer sing like I used to. Why did it have to be singing, something so vital to my life and my job? The grief was almost overwhelming. I dropped out of church choir and started playing hand bells. At the time of diagnosis, I was only working three hours a week as no one wanted to hire a music therapist who couldn’t sing. I was even careful not to discuss this news with my music therapist colleagues lest they profes-
My hymn writing has helped me heal and brought to my attention that I have been healed without being cured.
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Created in the Image of God By Cathy Smith I am a member and an elder at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I serve on the Task Force on Disability for the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area. I also have Bipolar I with psychotic features, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder.
In 2005, Cathy Smith was hospitalized as a result of Bipolar disorder. She didn’t want anyone at her church to know. A change of heart allowed her to open up and her church responded with open arms.
I was hospitalized for the first time in the spring of 2005. The church was very supportive and a minister visited me often. But I did not feel comfortable having others know about my mental illness. I did not want prayers from the congregation or from the prayer chain. My attitude has changed dramatically regarding letting others in on what is happening in my life.
Since that time, I have been hospitalized several more times. My disease progressed to having more delusions and hallucinations. It has taken considerable time to find the right mixture of medications to stabilize me. My attitude toward letting others, especially at church, know of my struggles changed during this intense time of turmoil. I have come to a place of comfort where I believe that we are all made in the Image of God, and part of our purpose in this life is to walk alongside one another, especially those who are hurting or marginalized. By sharing my struggle and challenges with others, I am allowing God to enter into our relationship and the grace of God becomes evident in all of our lives. My church has responded to my illness with compassion and support. Westminster is a multi-staff church and every pastor shows an interest and concern for my life. They regularly remind me that they are praying for me and my family. They seem to have designated one minister to be the main pastor for me, both in times of struggle and when I seem to be doing fairly well. We stay in touch by getting together every once in a while and by calling on the phone every week or so. When my symptoms flare up, we talk more often, even several times a day depending on what’s going on. When my day treatment program suggested that I connect with someone I trust outside of my family, it seemed natural to turn to a minister. He said “Yes” immediately. All of the ministers have been fantastic and whenever I see one of them, I get a big hug and usually, “I’m praying for you,” whispered in my ear. When I am in the hospital, I get a visit from a minister at least every other day, and quite often someone from the church comes every day. When I am in the psych ward, I feel extremely isolated from God and the world outside. There is nothing therapeutic about being there. It is just a place to keep people safe for a short time and then send them back out to the streets. Every visit I get from a minister makes such a huge difference in my time there. When a pastor comes, we talk about
The Presbyterian Serious Mental Illness Network “welcomes those who advocate in the church and greater community for those who have been touched by mental illness. “ PSIMN has many resources available to help you and your congregation be a place of welcome to persons with mental illness. For more information, please visit the PSIMN website at www.pcusa.org/phewa/psmin.
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how things are going for me and we talk about whatâ€˜s going on at church. We read scripture and we pray together. These visits can penetrate the hopelessness that I feel and remind me that God is with me, especially in my darkest moments.
They were instrumental in organizing my rides to aftercare. I still have a hard time sitting through the Sunday morning service, especially when my symptoms are evident. I am afraid that I will start talking out loud to my hallucinations or that I will get too over-stimulated and overwhelmed (which sometimes causes me to have erratic behavior). On Sundays when I am not able to be in church because my symptoms are too high, I am able to listen to the sermon on the internet as well as download a printed copy. Westminster also has a daily devotional phone message that I often call, especially when I am in the hospital or am feeling especially isolated and alone. It is a great way to feel connected without having to take the risk of reaching out to a live person.
I am now seeing how God may help me to use my gifts and my experiences to be a voice for those living with mental illness. I hope to have a part in guiding the church to a better understanding and inclusion of those who suffer with these diseases.
I now ask the church to pray for me from the pulpit when I am in the hospital. I know I have been on the prayer chains many times and one group of women knitted me a beautiful prayer shawl. One of the ministers remembered me in prayer throughout Lent by praying for the mentally ill during the Wednesday evening Taize services when I was unable to be present. During difficult months, people made meals and put them in the churchâ€™s freezer for us to pick up and take home. The church organized babysitting so that my husband could visit me in the hospital in the evenings. We had many people willing to drive me to and from appointments when I was unable to drive. I have also had the love and support of our Thursday morning Momâ€™s Book Discussion Group. They sent me cards every couple of weeks with personal notes telling me they were thinking and praying for me.
I am now seeing how God may help me to use my gifts and my experiences to be a voice for those living with mental illness. I hope to have a part in guiding the church to a better understanding and inclusion of those who suffer with these diseases. I hope that this article can provide some ideas on how the church can respond to mental illness in a way that will help both the individual and the congregation to deepen their relationship with
God and with each other. Cathy Smith is a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis.
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Small Changes, Big Solutions at Church of the Way By Bebe Baldwin
Small changes have added up to big solutions for people
The task force met monthly for four months. They used the Congregational Audit of Disability Accessibility and Inclusion, a selfstudy guide developed by Presbyterians for Disability Concerns.* They visited North Como Presbyterian Church to check out the wheelchair cutouts in the sanctuary. “Asking people to line up in Joanne is a member of the Presbytery Disability Concerns Ministry, their wheelchairs at the rear of the sanctuary is not acceptable,” said one task force member. but as she directed children’s programs seated in her wheelchair, she realized that she had more to learn. Discoveries like not being The study revealed a number of surprises. The group discovered able to get her wheelchair into a “handicap” restroom surprised that a step in the fire exit made emergency evacuation from the and shocked her. Her experience set off changes at Church of the sanctuary impossible for people who use wheelchairs. They disWay. covered that the tile floor in the sanctuary made kneeling difficult
with disabilities at Presbyterian Church of the Way. When a leg injury forced Director of Children’s Ministry Joanne Shingledecker to use a wheelchair for a week at Synod School, she experienced firsthand the barriers many people face every day.
In many important ways, Church of the Way was already welcoming for people who use wheelchairs or walkers. On arriving at church, they could choose from twelve handicap parking spaces. Six are extra wide and are posted “Vans only.” There are no steps to the main floor and an elevator serves the lower level. But Joanne knew that disability takes many forms, like her own inability to turn on the restroom faucets because of arthritis. She pondered, “What more do we need to do?”
for some elders and deacons being ordained. They discovered that it was impossible to get a wheelchair into the men’s “handicap” restroom! Volunteers came forward with solutions. One built a ramp for the fire exit. Others are sewing kneeling pads for ordinations. Ian suggested a logical and simple solution for the men’s restroom. Rehanging the door from the opposite jamb was enough to make space for a wheelchair.
She wrote an article for the newsletter, Notes along the Way. She But inclusion goes beyond access to the church building. Glutenappealed to volunteers to form a task force to study accessibility at free bread is offered so that no one is excluded from the Lord’s the church. Eight persons, including high school senior Ian Laed- Table. Lenten suppers always include gluten-free choices. The inprint/presbytery of the twin cities area/ november 2011/ 10
choir seating is fragrance-free, and on Easter fewer lilies adorn the sanctuary. The lilies that remain have had their stamens picked off. But how about children with disabilities? Can they be included in the church school? At Church of the Way, the answer is “Yes.” The workshop rotation method used at Church of the Way makes it possible for children with all abilities to participate. A fourth grader with Down syndrome brings his own unique gifts and interests to the creative activities. Mike Schroeder, who uses a wheelchair and “speaks” through his computer, interacts with children to help them become comfortable with persons who look and sound “different.”
A vigorous adult education program has helped to create awareness in the congregation. The PTCA Disability Concerns Ministry has presented two adult education series. Speakers addressed subjects that included information on specific disabilities, adjustment to loss, and the difference between “healing” and “curing.” Ann Schroeder writes a bi-monthly newsletter column on disability issues.
Joanne’s advocacy based on personal experience, strong leadership by the task force, dedicated service by volunteers – these have made it possible for an “accessible” church to become even more welcoming. But perhaps what has been most important is the congregation’s willingness to make changes. Church of the Way offers a powerful model for congregations that are serious about inclusion for all people.
The Disabilities Concerns Taskforce of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area has local resources available to help your congregation. Find out more by going to PTCA website: http://www.presbyterytwincities.org/ministries/disability-concerns/.
PTCA Disability Policy Commissioners at the March meeting of Presbytery took a 5. bold step forward. By adopting a new Presbytery policy on disabilities, they affirmed Paul’s message in I Corinthians 12: 4-7 that all Christians have gifts and abilities to share with the 6. church. This policy serves as a model for congregations and a challenge to other presbyteries. The policy includes these provisions:
Require that all loan requests for funding new construction or remodeling of church property include provision for accessibility. Encourage speakers and leaders to use person-first language when referring to persons with disabilities. For example, use “a woman who is blind,” rather than “a blind woman.” Use inclusive language. For example, use a statement like “Please rise in body or in spirit” rather than “Please rise”.
Continue to hold stated meetings and other Presbyterywide events in settings that are accessible for worship, 7. business, fellowship, and dining (Provide information on building accessibility in the call to the meeting).
Encourage the nominating committee and COR to seek out persons with disabilities for leadership positions in Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly.
Provide sign language interpreters when requested in a 8. timely manner.
Encourage inclusion of people with disabilities in worship leadership.
Provide printed materials in alternative formats (large print or digital) as requested.
For the PCUSA policy on disabilities, see “Living into the Body Encourage speakers to read aloud projected materials of Christ” at http://store.pcusa.org/. that have not previously been made available.
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up right alongside all the other church members.
Valley Community Presbyterian Church has a class for developmentally disabled adults called The Friendship Group. It is a group that offers adult education on Sunday mornings.
Their various gifts and abilities are appreciated and they are an integral part of our church. They have a pure faith in the Lord and never waiver in their beliefs! Their patience with me and others is amazing and noteworthy. Their honesty, depth of loyalty and trust are remarkable. And their sense of humor is the icing on the cake. We love and cherish the
I first became familiar with the Friendship Group when I was asked to teach their Sunday Educational program. I had been advocating for children with learning disabilities for many years prior and so putting my skills to work with the Friendship Group seemed a natural fit. The educational program for the Friendship Group is varied and many resources are used. Since the group members are all non-readers, and some have physical disabilities, all their senses are called upon to teach each lesson. Each lesson and each period of the year is taught in a different manner. Many curriculums have been used and adapted. Lessons from the various age groups, tools and methods of teaching are all utilized by the Friendship Group. For example, the manipulatives from the pre-school's Kingdom Kids program, were used to tell the Exodus story. The table-sized sandbox represented the desert and all the many characters in that Bible story were represented by wooden figures dressed in appropriate clothing. The Friendship Group were able to listen to the story and move the players through the desert while sharing their own thoughts about what it must have been like to travel through that terrain. I taught that particular lesson more than 2 years ago and the Friendship Group still talk about it to this day which tells me they certainly internalized that experience.
Friendship Group at Valley Community Presbyterian Church and are so fortunate to be a part of their circle of friends in Christ!
This article is part of a packet of stories on faith communities including persons with disabilities. It originally appeared in 2007. Linda still teaches the class.
Presbyterians for Disability Concerns welcomes those who affirm, support and advocate for the gifts, rights and responsibilities of persons with disabilities in the total life of the church. For more information and access to resources to help you and your congregation, go to the PDC website at: www.pcusa.org/phewa/pdc.
The Friendship Group, including guests they invite to join them, are fully a part of the activities at our church. They attend worship, participate in communion, attend the fellowship activities such as the coffee hour after worship, Christmas pageants, annual meeting dinner, Christmas dinner, Fall Festival auction/dinner. Not only do they attend and fully participate, they help with set-up and clean-
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Sing to the Lord a New Song! By Jo Taliaferro Strange, though, when people watched the director I used what they saw with their eyes to amend notes and words through my ears. I sang more accurately when my friends had one eye on the director and their other eyes on both words and music! “How could they manage all that “looking”, I wondered and still wonder. I learned to read braille music so I could play the piano but I never even tried to master the art of reading notes with one hand and words with the other. I simply listened and soaked it up like a sponge.
Photo by Sean Johnson
I remember the first rehearsal with our new music director, Sean Johnson at North Como Presbyterian Church. The 30-voice choir was preparing for Easter and I felt a rush of excitement with a little anxiety sprinkled in. Would I learn so many new pieces in such a short time? I, a devout first alto knew the day of big treble, so to speak, was just around the Lenten corner.
How do I, a woman without eyesight, sing in a choir? I could not read both braille words and braille music at the same time or keep my eye on Sean as he raised his voice and his hands saying, “Watch me!” And what about playing bells? The conductor was new and I feared that all my missed notes would make him wonder as well, about my presence as a musician. Then there was a note in our newsletter stating that if we could count, we could ring bells! A big part of the answer is my own passion for music and for being able to memorize notes and words. For me, it’s just doing what I’ve done for over half a century. No one said, even when I was a child I couldn’t. After all, doesn’t every person who is blind have acutely God-given excellent hearing to make up for the lack of sight? Compared to what, I wondered sometimes as I sat on a stairway overhearing my parents discussing my future.
So, what are the secrets to learning how to go flat with the rest of the choir? One is sitting by good musicians and making the same mistakes they do as they sight read so that the director can correct us by verbally counting out the measures or playing the notes for the culprits. Another is learning where the trouble spots are by hearing them referred to by letter or measure number. “There’s a rest at measure 74,” the choir director would say for the tenth time “so, look up and I’ll give you the cut off!” I did just that except that I omitted the end of the word so as not to be caught singing a solo. There was always the shower where I could sing that pesky measure any way I wanted.
Here’s the clincher, the obvious widespread motivator for making my voice heard in song. “You’re blind,” said the crowds, “You HAVE to be a great musician because your hearing is so much better!” The truth is, my hearing isn’t necessarily better, just used many hours each day ! I listen to the sounds of my environment almost all day, like my sighted friends scan the newspapers, their yards, the faces around them; to engage with the world, the community, the TV, the pastor, the choir director.
I know ahead of time when the anthem will be sung because North Como Church faithfully sends me the bulletin every Friday “It’s not that she’s a bad singer in the shower,”(and who is?) “she by email! I can put it in a format that’s useable for me and stay in step with an inclusive and open faith community! During worship, just uses up all the hot water! The rustle of robes, and the sounds of attentiveness alert me that Absorbing choral music, I discovered, became a survival drumbeat it’s time for a hymn, an anthem a responsive reading. The inevitafor me. Out came my emotions in songs like, “If You Will Only Let ble flipping of pages say, “Sing to the Lord a new song!” It’s a gift God guide you” and “How Lovely is thy Dwelling Place”. The given and a musical gift shared, a noteworthy challenge, not an words filled me and if the adults could do such magic, so could I. “I insurmountable obstacle. need your eyes,” and “Get your heads out of your music,” coached the director and for once, I knew it wasn’t about me! My head was Jo is an at-large teaching elder who sits on the PTCA full of words that sometimes had to be revised because I was capDisability Concerns Taskforce. turing them from my neighbors in the choir who for some reason had their heads in their own music!
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Beatitudes for an Inclusive Church By Bebe Baldwin Blessed are those who value the gifts of all persons as members of the Body of Christ.
Blessed are those who treat people with disabilities as persons first. “A child with a disability”, not “a disabled child” Blessed are those who can be open about their own hidden disabilities.
Blessed are those who speak directly to people with disabilities, who do not speak to them through a companion. “What would she like to order for lunch?”
Blessed are those who speak at eye level to people in wheelchairs. Blessed are those who identify themselves when they speak to people who are blind or visually impaired and who do not walk away without saying so.
Blessed are those who do not shout at people who are hard of hearing but who speak directly and clearly.
Blessed are those who take time to listen to people whose speech may sound “different”.
Blessed are those who “partner” with someone with a disability when going through a buffet line.
Blessed are those who do not stop to discuss hot issues on the stairways and keep handrails clear. Blessed are those who leave table space and wide aisles for people using
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Blessed are those who treat adults like adults, who resist the temptation to “talk down” or pat the head of a person in a wheelchair. Blessed are those who do not use hand signals but who use clear, verbal directions for people who are blind.
Blessed are those who would like to be helpful but who ask first, “Can I help you in any way?”
Blessed are those who do not grab and drag a person who is blind but who offer an arm, usher style. Blessed are those who do not lean on wheelchairs because they know these are like extensions of the body for persons who use them.
Blessed are those who are aware of those around them in the event of an emergency.
Blessed are those who save elevator space and accessible bathrooms for those who need them.
Blessed are those who do not pet or play with a guide or service dog. Rejoice and be glad for you will make many new friends and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be members of the Body of Christ.
I would like the people in the church to know that there is something different about me. I am a normal person, but I have a disorder called Aspergers Syndrome. It is an autismspectrum disorder, sometimes called highfunctioning autism. I was born with it, and it is not something a person can catch from me.
Aspergers Syndrome affects the way my mind works. Sometimes I escape into my own little world, and it is hard for me to pay attention to what is happening around me. I don't always notice how other people are feeling, and I have trouble reading their body language. Being in a crowd makes me feel tired. I can't remember all those people's names, and who they are. Sometimes I may act really weird, and do things without knowing I am doing them. If you see me doing strange things with my hands, or running around,
it is because I'm thinking about things that interest me. It means that I am either interested, happy or excited.
Synd By a
I can focus on things I like. Some of the things that interest me are robots, computers, electronic games, computer Grad er programming, and karate. Things I don't focus on well are writing, other people, and sometimes the sounds around me.
Some famous people, such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison are thought to have had Aspergers Syndrome. Bill Gates has said that he has it. People can help me by making me feel normal and by understanding me. I just want to fit in, and I like being part of the church. This article was printed in the newsletter of his church in Minnesota
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“It is I, Lord.”
John Ivers turned 80 in May. In September he shared stories from a life of service to God and the Presbytery. And he’s not done yet.
By John Ivers cally and when he died suddenly at age 64, my question…Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Who shall I send….” And ing mind asked did this church or I prepare him for heaven. I said “Here am I; send me” I became an engineer and the question of how to show gratitude for my now good life gnawed at me. In response, I became a -Isaiah 6:8 member of the Highland Park Trustee board in the early 1960s and was ordained as an elder in 1967. My name is John Ivers and I am I experienced the conflicts of pastoral changes, and theological truly honored to be able to share some personal reflections and questions of the churches role in the turbulent 60’s and remained testimony tonight. I think as I relate my personal life and experiin various leadership and teaching roles throughout the years ence in service to this Presbytery, you will see the thread of my watching the congregation slowly decline from a vibrant 300 relationship to the scripture this meeting is using. members in the 50’s in a primarily white middle-class neighborhood to a struggling small congregation in a predominantly mixed First a brief personal history. I was born May 25, 1931 in Minnearace community in the 90’s. polis ( yes, that makes me 80 ) and baptized in the Russian Greek
Orthodox church in Northeast Minneapolis (my mother’s church, not my father’s). I sat, stood and kneeled at the services there which were in the Russian language and the clergy in their fancy robes (pretty hard for a kid to get much spiritual inspiration).
I served on multiple study and strategy groups attempting to discern our church’s future. Our congregation was part of the of the Urban Waters Parish , an attempt to maintain four individual churches presence in their respective neighborhoods while sharing Pastoral and administrative resources.
We moved to Grantsburg, Wisconsin in 1937 where my folks tried farming and I experienced church in a small one room building with a manual pump organ and pot bellied stove in the center. We This prolonged the life of the Highland Park congregation and we eventually petitioned the Presbytery to form a new church in the walked about 1 ½ miles there and yes, it was uphill both ways. present building to better serve the cultural needs and preferMy brother, who was 2 years older than I, died of polio in 1940 and ences of this changed neighborhood. this raised a lot of questions in my 9 year-old mind and this small church pastor did his best to comfort me.
This process took a several years to be fully implemented and as you know this led to the formation of the Kwanzaa Community In 1941 my family moved to North Minneapolis and I started going Presbyterian Church which chartered in 1999. I commend the Presto Highland Park Presbyterian Church and was confirmed there in bytery and those of you here tonight who were part of this, there was a lot of detail and definition with the General Assembly of 1944 (my parents did not join then, I went with a neighborhood how this fit into the support structure. family). Highland Park at that time had a very evangelical youth program and I raised my hand to accept Jesus at a revival meeting as a young teen, a very emotional but confusing time because my I was proud of this Presbytery to undertake this action and felt friends and I were reveling in the World War II hero movies which extremely privileged to be part of the process. In fact, I was chosen along with my wife, Gloria along with Joe and Carole were forbidden worldly influences according to my teachers. Kilpatrick to accept national recognition for this radical approach My Father eventually joined Highland Park but attended sporadi- at the General Assembly in San Diego on behalf of this Presbytery. inprint/presbytery of the twin cities area/ november 2011/ 16
I congratulate this Presbytery for following your hearts and I am grateful for allowing me to be part of these processes. It has allowed me to respond to the question: Who shall I send? with It is I, Lord. I’ve been a part of various forms Church Development groups of the Presbytery and have participated in several ways where all of you have supported efforts of congregations to discern their roles in their changing worlds. A few of these have been:
Shepherd of the Hill in Chaska
Shiloh-Bethany who formed into Grace and subsequently merged with Church of All Nations to provide a home for that emerging ministry
Andrew-Riverside through their building-shattering time
Knox-St. Paul as they reach out to the changing immigrant community
And of course the newly forming congregations of Familia de Fe and Chain of Lakes which are currently under your sponsorship and are fulfilling your vision of going forth to serve new communities, I commend your continued support!
Mike Polehna , right, congratulates Ann Rock (left) at a Stillwater City Council Meeting.
Rock Solid -Photos by Rollie Baldwin
So, as you see my church history and service is similar to this Presbytery and to that of the Prophet we are using as a theme of this meeting:
Questioning on how best to serve the changing the world
Lamenting with those who try but eventually close Acting out in service as God puts direction and voice to the searching
I congratulate this Presbytery for following your hearts and I am grateful for allowing me to be part of these processes. It has allowed me to respond to the question: Who shall I send? with It is I, Lord. John Ivers is the Chair of the Church Development Team of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area and a member of Presbyterian Church of the Way in Shoreview, MN. The above address was part of three testimonies or “proclaimations” given at the September 13, 2011 Presbytery Meeting at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Austin, MN.
Ann Rock, a member of First Presbyterian in Stillwater, MN was honored on October 4 by the Stillwater City Council for her humanitarian work in the community. Presenting the 2011 Human Rights Award was city Councilman and First Presbyterian member Mike Polehna read a long list of Rock’s activities and accomplishements. About 35 friends and family of Ann were there to congratulate her on her works of justice. Good job, Ann!
Ann and her husband, Carroll, smile for the camera.
Ann poses for a picture with Alika Galloway, co-pastor of Kwanzaa Presbyterian in Minneapolis.
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The September Stated Meeting of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area was a reminder why we tack on the word “area” to our name. The meeting was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Austin, MN about hours south of the Twin Cities. A little over 100 folks came to the meeting, including a number of folks from the Twin Cities, who rode the “Big Blue Bus.” Oak Grove Presbyterian in Bloomington graciously offered their church bus to transport people from the Cities down to Austin.
One Night in “Spamtown” September Presbytery Meeting Highlights
During the meeting, Executive Presbyter Chaz Ruark offered a word of acknowledgement of The Rev. Robert Chalmers and The Rev. Myra Carroll-Pezzella who passed away recently. Chaz thanked pastors who came to the services. He also shared about his trip to Ghana, which was shared with the members of Presbyterian Church of The Way, Shoreview, MN. Chaz described the experience was wonderful and will be writing an article on the Presbytery website. Andy Lindahl Megan Cochran, a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis was enrolled as a candidate for ministry and Kerri Allen, a member at Dayton Avenue Presbyterian Church in St. Paul was approved for ordination pending examination from the Presbytery of Chicago, which happened on September 20. Allen was ordained on October 8 in St. Paul.
Westminster ‘s Sanctuary Bill Chadwick
The Presbytery heard three Proclaimations from Andrew Lindahl, teaching elder at Westminster-Austin, Elizabeth Raitt, honorably retired teaching elder and chair of the Nominating Committee and John Ivers, ruling elder and chair of the Church Development Team. Kerri Allen The Presbytery also approved granting teaching elder Paul Martin honorably retired status.
A full report of the Stated Meeting Minutes are available at the Presbytery website. The next Presbytery meeting takes place Tuesday, November 8 at Boutwell’s Landing in Oak Park Heights, MN.
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Ladies on a Mission By Kim North and Dana Councilman food pantry. The other three from our group worked on various projects with different organizations throughout the week. They removed graffiti and repainted playground equipment. Also they painted picnic tables, helped a small Christian school move from one building to another and helped fix a house so it was livable again.
During the week of July fourth, six ladies from Peace Presbyterian Church, St. Louis Park, packed a van and made it all the way to Kokomo, Indiana to participate in a mission project organized by “YouthWorks,” an organization based in Minneapolis. Driving to Kokomo was an adventure. When we were in Illinois we weren’t so sure we would make it all the way to Kokomo. About ten hours after we left St. Louis Park we found ourselves in Komkomo, Indiana. We really didn’t know what to expect. We just trusted the YouthWorks Leaders knew what they were doing. Over the week we came to love the Youthworks staff. Kokomo has been greatly affected by the downturn of the economy. Three Chrysler plants in the city closed, starting a downward spiral in the cities economy and stretching the resources of the city’s social services. The needs there were great, and we were glad to meet and help people who really needed us. There were three churches represented in our group: one from Detroit Michigan, one from Goshen, Indiana and us. To do mission work they split us up into groups of 5 to 7 people. The groups contained people from all three churches. Three of us worked all week doing various things with Kokomo Urban Outreach. We did vacation Bible school and served a meal at a trailer in a low income trailer park every day. We also got a chance to stock a food pantry and even stock a mobile
Every morning before we went out to our work sites we had devotion time. The devotions helped us to connect with God in a spiritual way. After we worked on the mission site we had two hours of free time before dinner. In the two hours all of the kids had a chance to take a three minute shower. Free time was a great opportunity to get to know kids from other churches. After dinner we did different activities. For example on the fourth of July we saw fireworks. Another night we did a poverty simulation. After the nightly activities we had a mini worship service and then we had time to have discussions with our own church group. Overall we had lots of fun and it was a great experience and we can’t wait to go on mission trip. Mi
Kim and Dana are members of Peace Presbyterian Church in St. Louis Park, MN.ssion trip.
Photos courtesy of Peace Presbyterian Church, St. Louis Park, MN.
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Remember the Sabbath Day... Our modern times are defined by always being on the go. to let us be defined by a lifestyle of slavery: relentless production, From smartphones to round-the-clock newschannels,
your worth coming from what you can contribute, outside forces dictating the terms of your existence. You are more than what you
there is very little time for us to disconnect and rest. Pastor Kara Root reminds us in two articles that taking time to cease, to take a Sabbath reminds us who we are and Whose we are.
Imagine you are a people enslaved for generations, never in conscious memory having been free, and then suddenly you are. Free. Completely, unequivocally. And you’ve no idea how to be free, because you’ve never been free. You’ve been defined as slaves for as long as you can remember. You’ve never not had other people dictate your worth and structure your life and tell you how to spend your hours, days and years. So how do you now be free? How will all these hundreds of thousands of you create a free society? How will your lives be structured, and what will they look like?
From Slavery to Freedom By Kara Root
Thankfully, Yahweh steps in and gives you some instruction. The God who delivered you out of slavery, who created you buy or sell, consume, produce or purchase, Sabbath says, you are and claims you, now tells you what a free people lives like, how life free. works best, and what allows human beings to be most fully who Also, Sabbath is when everybody rests – nobody is ahead of anyGod intended them to be all along. So Yahweh starts by giving a few guidelines on how to relate to God as free and whole people. one else. Divisions between poor and rich, ruler and slave, weak and strong, healthy and sick, old and young disappear. We are The instruction ends with some obvious directions about how to equal in our identity as God’s beloved relate to each other as human bechildren. Sabbath empowers us to ings. And it turns out, there are Sabbath refuses to let us be de- relate well with one another and ourabout ten big instructions in all. But fined by a lifestyle of slavery: selves. right in the middle, between these relentless production, your Sabbath restores us to our humanity. two movements – relating to God worth coming from what you and relating to each other – is this reminds us whose we are. hinge point: can contribute, outside forces Sabbath You belong to the God who brought you Remember the sabbath day, dictating the terms of your out of the land of Egypt! And this God and keep it holy. For six existence. You are more than who delivered you is the God who days you shall labor and do what you buy or sell, con- looked on God’s creation and called it all your work. But the sevgood, who rested and enjoyed what enth day is a sabbath to the sume, produce or purchase, God had made. And that rest in itself Lord your God; you shall not Sabbath says, you are free. was part of creation’s cycle. It is part of do any work—you, your son how God created everything to funcor your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, tion. We are made in God’s image and called to participate with or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord God in the world. How can we do that if we never stop to rest? If made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but we never pause to enjoy what we are part of in this short life, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabto call it good? We belong to God, the creator, sustainer, enjoyer of bath day and consecrated it. Exodus 20:8-11 (NRSV) life. When we stop doing and allow ourselves the space to be, we often become aware again of God’s presence in the world and our What in the world is this doing here – alongside not killing or stealown place within it. And our capacity to praise our creator, and to ing – in the top ten most essential things to live by? And what delight in life, grows deeper. does Sabbath-keeping have to do with us today? Sabbath reminds us who we are. Sabbath removes doing from the equation and invites us to just be for a while. Sabbath refuses
God is God and you are not, Sabbath says. And neither is any one of the thousand other things that would Photos by Kara Root
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seek to dominate your lives, clog up your minds, soak up your attention and eat up your time. This is God’s world! So relax and enjoy what God has made. Sabbath empowers us to relate well with God and God’s world. Sabbath returns us to God’s care. I am pondering all of this as I lay on a dock at the lake while my kids are splashing around next to me as though time itself doesn’t exist. But I feel distracted, and all I can think of is getting back up to my grandmother’s house to help get dinner started, stopping on the way to the kitchen to check my email and ticking off the mental list of things I should accomplish before the week is over.
It was 28 months ago that our congregation decided to begin intentionally practicing Sabbath rest as part of our life together. We were nervous but excited, unsure what it all meant but ready to embark on our one-year experiment. We had read Wayne Muller’s Sabbath together, and joined the Sisters of St. Frances for a retreat to learn about Sabbathkeeping. We were choosing to shape our life deliberately around worship, hospitality and Sabbath, and it would mean some big changes.
So I get up and start to leave. But my kids call me back, begging for time to just splash in the water a little longer. And I look at them there, wet and happy, while the sun is still bright and the breeze is still soft and perfect and the insects are still buzzing in the flowers nearby and my children are still young and free. And I notice. So I lie back down and close my eyes and listen. And I begin, once again, the journey from slavery to freedom. Kara Root is pastor of Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis. Both articles were written for the Clayfire worship blog in August of this year. You can find out more at www.clayfirecurator.org.
As evening approached, my anxiety began to build, and I headed back to church for the verdict. How did others feel about the day? Would we move forward with this plan, or would they pull the plug here and now? When I arrived in the church building, something felt different. I entered the room where people were setting out their pot-luck goodies and noticed others scattered in groupings, talking animatedly, peacefully, joyfully. The feeling in the air stopped me in my tracks. There was a different rhythm to the hubbub. It was restful, serene.
The Sabbath Experiment
Our first “practice” Sabbath service had been months in the planning. We were preparing By Kara Root ourselves to stop worshipping every Sunday morning. In the nearly 85 years of our congregation’s existence, such a thing had never been done. But we wanted to see what it would be like to set some Sundays aside as Days of Rest, so we had created a Sabbath service that we would hold on Saturday evening, meant to inaugurate this Day of Rest. On this particular evening we would try it for the first time, then we’d return for dinner Sunday night and talk about what we had experienced.
The service itself was virtually a disaster. We had created an order of worship that loosely followed our Presbyterian order, but embraced silence, and used simple, repetitive music we could sink into. But we did not yet have a musician. And we were uncomfortable with silence. And we didn’t know yet how the “sermon” would function in the service. So we muddled through painfully, and everyone left awkwardly to head home and NOT attend church in the morning.
We gathered together and people began to share… “I knew I couldn’t do laundry, so I opened the paper and there was an article about the butterfly exhibit at the zoo. So I got in the car and drove there. And I spent the morning walking through the butterflies.” “I called my sister in law, whom I haven’t seen in a year, and she came over for brunch.” “I sat on the front porch with a cup of coffee and read the whole newspaper, from cover to cover.” “I walked around the lake, listening to birds and didn’t rush at all.” I listened, amazed.
The next morning was strange. The whole day was strange, and it was wonderful. I felt incognito. We went on a family walk, past a couple of churches with cars filling the parking lot and parishioners tucked inside, the wandering pastor and her family sneaking by. We did what came to us. Read. Napped. Played legos. My 2-year-old daughter and I ended up together in a big bubble bath filled with toys, that became for months after our Sabbath Sunday ritual. The day was a delicious conundrum. It stretched on forever. I cooked lunch instead of throwing pb&j on paper plates.
We had been talking for months about the gifts of Sabbath, the way God would meet us if we stopped long enough to be met. But here they all were, telling me that it was true after all. Had I really believed it? In the two years now that we have been practicing Sabbath as a community, we have settled into a rich and nurturing rhythm. First and third Sundays we worship on Sunday mornings in all our Presbyterian glory. Second and Fourth weekends we meet Saturday nights, by candlelight and harp, and sink into Sabbath rest together.
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Scan the QR code above to get direct access to the PTCA website.
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