From My Perspective

Reflections through a Lens of Faith from Pastor Jen

Emanuel 9, Martyrs

Emanuel 9, Martyrs

Today is a day of commemoration.

Six years ago, on June 17, 2015, Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Lee Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson were murdered by a self-professed white supremacist while they were gathered for Bible study and prayer at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (often referred to as Mother Emanuel) in Charleston, South Carolina.

There are Lutheran connections. Pastors Pinckney and Simmons were both graduates of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. It is particularly painful to acknowledge that the murderer was a member – baptized and confirmed – in a Lutheran church.

A colleague, Rev. Lenny Duncan, visited Mother Emanuel church a year or so ago. He posted this photo with the accompanying caption: “Who would have thought a simple bible study listed out front would be the most profound witness I have seen in years.”

Emanuel 9, Martyrs

Today we grieve many things. We grieve for the nine lives lost. We grieve the fact that evil showed up to Bible study. We grieve the sin of racism. We grieve that the perpetrator of such violence was a part of the Lutheran family.

And also we give thanks for the courageous witness of Mother Emanuel church. Evil has not stopped them from sharing with the world that there will be Bible study on Wednesday at 6:00 PM – and all are invited.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

Don’t Let The Dragon Win

Don't Let The Dragon Win

The dragon was our nemesis.

A couple of weeks ago I went questing at Boda Borg in Malden. If you have no idea what I mean by that sentence, “questing,” is a live gaming experience where teams of people complete physical and mental challenges. Successful completion of the challenge allows entry into the next. Failure results in exiting the challenge and an invitation to start again.

Boda Borg, a collection of 15-20 quests with various themes originated in Sweden and has a single location in the United States…it happens to be in Malden.

Back to my original statement: The dragon was our nemesis.

There is a quest at Boda Borg called “Potions.” Three of us worked together and on the second (or third) try managed to get through the first room…we had to figure out the clues in order to make a potion which would open the door into the next room. The challenge in the second room also entailed teamwork as we worked together to get a ball from one end of the room to the next without dropping it. This one we managed to complete within the allotted time at about the fifth or sixth try. We were thrilled! We were allowed entry into the next room. But EVERY time we tried to enter the final room of the quest, a dragon spotted us and I suppose as dragons do, it annihilated us. We had to go back to the beginning.

But the beauty of questing, is that we didn’t start all over again completely naive. We had learned things along the way. We had learned how to get through the first and second rooms. We had learned that the dragon spotted us when we jumped; it spotted us when we crawled; it spotted us when we opened the door quickly; it spotted us when we opened the door slowly; it spotted us when we ran through the door; it spotted us when we hid behind the door. (Yes, we tried all those things!)

We haven’t yet solved the puzzle as to how to get past the dragon, but we’ve learned some things along the way, and we’re looking forward to going back to try again.

There are setbacks in life. Things don’t always turn out the way we hope them to. Sometimes it seems like we’re starting all over again…a new relationship, a new job, a new doctor, a new teacher, a new pastor. But the gift is to realize we don’t start again completely from scratch. We have learned some things along the way.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

You’ve learned some things along the way. Don’t let the dragon win.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

A Letter

A Letter
Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

When I took leave of my congregation in Virginia last August, I received a number of cards and notes wishing me well. In the midst of packing, I stuffed most of them in a bag to read when I arrived in Massachusetts. About a week later, I sat at the kitchen table and began to read…

There was one particular note which caught my attention. The first reason is that it was written by a teenager – and it was in cursive – and it was four pages long! The second reason I will remember this note for a long while is because of what it said.

The teen said that over the past number of months, he had realized he was gay. He hadn’t told anyone outside his family yet, but he wanted to let me know that he was grateful that when he fully came out, he knew he would be accepted by the church he had attended all of his life – the community among which he had been baptized and confirmed, took part in youth group and served as a youth delegate on council. He had no doubts that God accepted him for who he was…but it was a relief for him to know without doubt that his church would too.

June is Pride month. It started as an act of defiance after police raids at the Stonewall Inn in June of 1969. It continues because there are still places where it is not safe to be openly gay – and many of those places (tragically) are churches.

You are God’s beloved. Rejoice and be glad! And may the church rejoice with you.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen