Good morning everyone. I hope you are appreciating this brief spell of warm weather. How wonderful is the sound of thunder!
I am sure you have noticed that it is getting ugly out there, and I am not talking about the weather. I am talking about the amping up of culture war tropes and fears as we head into an election year. For 40 years one of our political parties has had one and only one item on its economic agenda - cutting taxes for corporations and wealthy Americans. Trust us, they said. It will trickle down to everyone! But the gap between the richest Americans and the rest of us has skyrocketed over these decades. The 25 richest Americans in America pay little to no federal taxes. Middle class Americans (whatever that means) pay more in federal income taxes than the richest 400 families in America. These stories are easy to find and they make people very unhappy. Survey after survey shows that Americans think the wealthy should be taxed more.
We can't possibly run and win on that kind of agenda, so let's change the subject! Let's make people afraid! Let's talk about Critical Race Theory or the "hoards" of dangerous immigrants flooding across the borders. Let's take on "woke" corporations like Disney. Let's talk about "groomers." Let's talk about anything but expanding healthcare or getting ready for the next pandemic or the role that immigration plays in expanding our economy or the real threat to our democratic institutions posed by authoritarian regimes abroad and authoritarian wannabees in our backyard.
Let's ban books! That always works to keep people, especially children, from reading them! Remember The Catcher in the Rye? I do. It was banned beginning in the 1960's for what now seems quaint reasons. There was too much swearing in the book! As soon as I learned as a teenager that I wasn't supposed to read that book, I went out and found a copy to read. That's the way it always works. Want to make a book popular? Ban it.
Now we have school districts going after children's books with "hidden agendas." I read an article in the Washington Post this morning about a school district in Florida that pulled the 25 year old award winning book Everywhere Babies from its shelves. Why? Apparently there is an illustration in the book of two men with a baby, with one of the men putting his arm on the shoulder of the other. Could be brothers, could be best friends. But they might be gay!
Tomorrow in church Linda Hoskins is going to be reading the children's book It's OK to be a Unicorn. Another recently banned book. The author of the book Jason Tharp was prepared to read it to students at an elementary school north of Columbus, Ohio on April 6. The school district had ordered 500 of his books, including this one, to be distributed across the elementary schools in the district. He has been reading his books to elementary schools in the area for years. For this occasion, the children made posters of unicorns and put them up in classrooms in anticipation of the visit. They had already read the book in classrooms to get ready! And then a parent complained that they believed the book had a hidden gay agenda. So the day before the visit the school district called to tell him that he couldn't read this book or any of his books. He was welcome to come and talk about a positive message for children. All the artwork the kids had prepared had to come down. He came, talked, and the children had a great time. But what a lesson they learned.
It is only going to get more ugly over the coming months. That's all they have - fear. How shall we respond? Read the banned books, of course! And take a lesson from Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, who delivered an epic and courageous response to a fellow legislator who attacked her for being a "groomer," because she supports inclusion of people who are different. McMorrow, who described herself as a white, straight, suburban Christian mom, said she was taught from a young age that Christianity and faith were about service, community and standing up for others who are marginalized and targeted. Yes! If you haven't watched the video of her response I encourage you to take the time. Then read Diana Butler Bass' great affirmation of her speech.
Yesterday was Earth Day so I leave you with a couple of good reads on the subject:
Biofuels are accelerating the food crisis — and the climate crisis, too. Our MN US Senators are certainly drunk on this kool aid.
This Earth Day, We Could Be Helping the Environment—and Ukraine. Bill McKibben reminds us again that the very best way for us to help the environment and Ukraine is to use less oil. Instead of complaining about the high cost of gasoline, drive less. Save the planet and starve Putin and his war machine of his only source of income. This article is behind a paywall but I believe you can scroll the article past the message.
This week's Update:
Men’s Retiree Group – 8:30am
Women's Group online - 6:30pm
Sunday Service – 10:00am
Children’s Story Schedule
4/24: Linda Hoskins
5/1: Vicky Goplin
5/8: Kristin Standafer
Thursday, April 28 at 6:30
"Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans in WWII" Exhibit Opening
This new traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History includes engaging personal stories, documents, photographs, and interactives. The exhibition takes a deep look at immigration, prejudice, civil rights, heroism, and what it means to be an American. The exhibit runs April 23-July 3. Karen Lucas will be speaking at one of the featured events. She has agreed to host a gathering of OCC people for a visit to the history center sometime during its run.
We are looking for book ideas for our next gathering. Feel free to send your ideas of books you have enjoyed or books you think might be interesting to read and discuss.
Meet and Greet at the church
Date is being rescheduled.
We are inviting our community garderners, neighbors and OCC folks to come share some coffee and treats as we listen to a Master Gardener talk about some aspect of gardening. We would like to encourage you to put this date on your calendar as we work at getting the word out to others.
CROP Walk 10 Year Anniversary Walk
From the CROP Walk Organizing Committee: On behalf of the South of the River CROP Hunger Walk planning committee, we invite you to an exciting event coming up this fall! Because you and Open Circle Church have been ardent supporters from the beginning, we wanted you to know that we are planning the 10th annual South of the River CROP Walk. We are celebrating this mile-stone by coming full circle and gathering once again at St. James Lutheran Church in Burnsville — where it all started! The date is Sunday, October 2, in the afternoon.
New Community Project Keep ‘em Safe Campaign
Thanks to everyone who has contributed money for the New Community Project Keep 'em Safe campaign. We have received over a thousand dollars of contributions toward building the wall around the shelter in Nepal to protect young girls who have been forced into sex work from the trafficers who are still threatening their lives. We will keep this campaign active here for one more week then send off the check. If you still wish to contribute please let Linda Hoskins know.
Family Faith Formation
Throughout the pandemic months, we’ve tried a couple different things to support you in nurturing the faith of you children. Through the spring and summer, Rhonda provided weekly mindfulness and/or prayer practices. For a compilation of those practices contact Rhonda at firstname.lastname@example.org. Through the fall, we provided at home curriculum centered around one of the central story arcs in the Bible—a story that is at the heart of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions. Our sense was that most of our families were just too overwhelmed with daily life to make use of the curriculum.
So to support the faith formation of families and children in the coming months, we’d like to draw your attention to the #ReadAloud program resourced by On Earth Peace, a peacemaking organization of the Church of the Brethren. They have compiled a collection of stories, read aloud and posted on YouTube. For each story, they also provide a few questions for reflection and conversation. Topics range include: Gender & Identity; Immigration, Migration, & Refugees; Anti-Racism & Social Justice; Kingian Nonviolence & Peace Skills; Environment & Earth Advocacy; Holidays; Own Voices—all themes near and dear to our hearts at Open Circle. You can access the list of story videos and accompanying questions here:
This resource requires no preparation. Simply go to the list, click on a story, snuggle up with your child, listen to the story together, and then talk a bit about it using the questions provided if you wish. As we celebrate Black History month, you might want to tap into the Anti-Racism and Social Justice stories.
Open Circle Volunteer Opportunities
Your time and energy is needed for Open Circle Church to thrive and continue its mission. Whether you can commit an hour a week or a one-time effort, you will make a difference in our continued success. Opportunities continue to be available in Open Circle management and growth, earth stewardship, community outreach, grounds and building management and beautification, adult and youth education, child care, and congregation community life. For more information talk to Jay.
While we are in pandemic time and not meeting at the church, we have two ongoing volunteer opportunities. Each week we have a children’s story as part of our worship. Rhonda Gingrich manages this list. If you would like to take a turn reading a story from your home, you can send an email to Rhonda. You can volunteer for one time, occasionally, or be part of the regular rotation. Let Rhonda know at email@example.com.
We also have a garbage detail, which involves taking the garbage can to the street on a Thursday for Friday pickup, then taking the can back up the driveway on Saturday. We are trying to keep the garbage trucks off our driveway as their weight can cause damage to our new pavement. Bruce Johnson has been managing this volunteer list, but it is now set up on Signup Genius and you can volunteer online here.
Caregiving Response Team
From time to time we have a member in the hospital or recuperating at home from surgery or illness, or someone with another need like moving from one home to another. If we know about the need, we would like to notify our community and ask for help. It could be a meal, a card, a visit, or getting a group of people together to perform a task. If you know of someone who has a need, please feel free to contact Katy Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org 612-750-0263 or Jay Steele at email@example.com.
Do you shop at Amazon? You can shop as you always do but also generate donations to Open Circle through the Amazon Smile app. Click here to find out more.
Brethren Bucks - OCC Scrip Program
Participating in our scrip program has never been easier! Visit the Brethren Bucks link on the church website for more information and to sign up for this great program that pays Open Circle to shop. Kristin Standafer is our scrip coordinator and can be reached at 952-210-5137 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer cash-n-carry gift cards for several retailers on most Sundays
Open Circle Finances
We thank you for your financial contributions; they make possible the mission and ministries of our great congregation. Contributions can now be debited automatically from your checking or savings account Please contact Mark Gingrich (email@example.com) for an electronic funds transfer form.. Contributions can also be made through the website. Click on the "Donate to Open Circle" link on the website home page (www.opencirclechurch.com).
OCC on the web at www.opencirclechurch.com where you can find the most updated volunteer lists, the weekly update, podcasts of Sunday messages, the church calendar, pictures of life at Open Circle, and more.
OCC on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/OpenCircleChurch