Greetings Sisters, Brothers, Siblings in Christ,
I give thanks for you always. When we are in agreement, there is joy. When we disagree with each other, we turn to God in prayer and (in time) there is joy.
I think we like our little church because we have been welcomed and our mission to welcome everyone to the love of God fits well with our sense of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Our little church brings us joy, but not always, not in every moment.
Because we are a diverse group, our sense of acceptable behavior during worship varies widely. Because our definitions of acceptable behavior vary, our ideas and practices of welcoming everyone also vary widely.
Faced with the ever-changing landscape of society around us, how do we decide when to update our practices and what about our practices should remain? The Apostle Paul tells us “For us all things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial.” (NRSV, 1 Cor 6:12a)
My own standard of acceptable behavior during worship tends to favor the first part of Paul’s statement. I’d like to remove any and all barriers to people’s experience of God. It sounds like I set a low bar, but in many ways this standard is too high to actually achieve.
Worded differently, I’d say I try not to sacrifice the needs of others in service of my needs and ideals about right relationship with God. It’s too high because it’s not possible to live without feeding body, mind and spirit. Even if it were possible, I can’t imagine it would please God to starve oneself in service to others. At best, we discover the boundaries between meeting our own needs and allowing others to meet their own needs without either of us devouring the other.
Finding these boundaries is the work of a lifetime and few of us get there. In the meantime, we tend to build barriers to block the holes in our boundaries. The barriers are like signs that say “I don’t care what you think you need, you can’t have this.” Our barriers are sometimes obvious, even to others. Sometimes they are invisible, even to ourselves.
Invariably, our barriers make right relationship impossible. As your pastor, even after three years, I bump into barriers sometimes. You thought they were obvious, I was oblivious.
For instance, over the past year or so, many people have expressed their delight when I occasionally invite children to the altar to witness, learn and participate in preparing communion. To others, it seems disrespectful and would rather I end the practice altogether. I had not understood how deeply this offend them when last we talked about this in the congregation.
At times like this, joy can drain away from our common experience and despair can fill the void. And yet, we know that all things are possible for God. God speaks possibility into reality. “In beginning, God said…” God shares stories. To Abraham, God said “your descendants will be too numerous to count.” To Mary, God said, “You will bear a child…” Perhaps we can restore each other in a spirit of gentleness by sharing stories about where we have found joy in our lives of faith.
We have many opportunities to come together as a community, as a congregation this month. On Sunday, August 4th, we’ll have our First Sunday Special fellowship between services. Stay after the 8:30a service, come early to the 10:30a service, see the people you’ve been missing. Saturday the 17th, we’ll roll-up our sleeves in service to the community at the Cereal & Clothing Give-Away. On Thursday, the 22nd, Jan and I will host a BBQ at the parsonage. Then we’d like to encourage small group gatherings. Maybe we can call it “Journeys into Joy”. We can host, you can host, or we could meet up at a café or restaurant. Stay tuned.
Following conversation with the most frequent attendees, we've decided to place the Saturday Evening worship service on hold, at least for the month of August. Stay tuned for updates.
To celebrate Grandparent's Day this year, everyone is encouraged to invite their grandparents or grandchildren to church. We'll honor our guests during the service and enjoy treats together afterwards.
The History of Grandparents Day
Marian McQuade hoped to establish a national day that would honor grandparents, and in 1970 she began a campaign to do so. McQuade raised awareness about senior citizens throughout the 1970s. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter declared the first Sunday after Labor Day to be National Grandparents Day. Each year, the president issues a proclamation to keep the tradition going.
Grandparents Day has both an official flower and song. The official flower is the forget-me-not, and the song is Johnny Prill’s “A Song for Grandma and Grandpa.” Both were chosen by the National Grandparents Day Council.
The Bethlehem Council has approved the formation of an Emergency Reserve Fund, created to ease tension to the general fund. To be used for current expenses and not for capital improvements, funds are to be “borrowed” and repaid at the first opportunity. Congregation members are encouraged to donate to this fund above their regular giving – not in place of it. As always, thank you for your generous support of our Bethlehem community.
Interested in gathering with other men in the congregation to talk about the upcoming gospel reading? Look for a sign-up sheet in the next few Sundays.
We'll host two meetings in September, on the 15th and 22nd between services. Come to learn about Bethlehem, the ELCA, and get to know some current members.
This is a great time of year to shop back-to-school sales for Lutheran World Relief school bags.
We're collecting children's clothing and cereal for our annual (back-to-school) "Give-Away". Once again, Meadowgold Dairy has furnished coupons for milk.
Please donate cereal and new or clean, gently used, clothing.
We'll host the give-away on Saturday, August 17th from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The theme this year is BAPTIZED AND SET FREE. It will be held at Bethel Lutheran Church in Great Falls. Friday is the Business meeting of our convention, where we will be voting for our 2019 – 2021 Board, Voting Members for the Triennial Convention in 2020, our Budget and any resolutions that are submitted. Saturday is our Gathering, in which we will be collecting our change for the Pool of Living Waters, meet with Lois Bylund, our Churchwide Representative, hear our main speaker Reverend Julia Seymour, hear about Women’s Health issues, do a book study and meet with other women from Montana and Northern Wyoming.
Barb Bohle will represent Bethlehem's WELCA group as a voting delegate.
2019 Church Council
Pr. Jean Hay - 696-9586
Margie Shea - Council President - 671-1514
Casey Anguiano - Council Vice President - 534-2198
Johnna Voto - Secretary - 670-1370
Darlene Fernelius - Treasurer - 652-2356
Jerry Bauck - Council Member - 248-7946
Gayle Breding - Council Member - 694-4242
Dave Brockman - Council Member - 927-5729
Dennis McCave - Council Member - 702-4983
Jessie Hanna - Alternate - 598-7322
Bethlehem's Core Identity
Welcome everyone to the love of God.
- Recognize and embrace our strengths as a Christ-centered community while seeking to meet our financial obligations, understanding that we are in the world but not of it.
- Seek to maintain our positive culture while also growing in cultural diversity, and broadening our reach to members of all ages.
- Increase transparency regarding the business side of being a church, increase communication, community ties and benevolence within and outside the congregation.
All Are Welcome
Christ has welcomed us, whoever we are. Because of this, we at Bethlehem Lutheran Church are glad to welcome you. None of the distinctions that divide our world apply here!
- young, old or in between;
- white, black, native, Hispanic, whatever your ancestry;
- married, single, divorced, a single parent, whatever your family of choice;
- rich, poor, middle class, employed or unemployed;
- a lifelong Christian, just now seeking faith, or not really sure;
- straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, questioning, however you identify;
- healthy of mind and body, living with mental illness, disabled or sick;
- struggling with addiction, in recovery, or if you love those who are;
- liberal, conservative, or ambivalent;
- homeless, a former convict, or in any way longing for acceptance.
At Bethlehem, we offer safety, love and the ministry of Word and Sacrament to everyone who seeks it. Come and be part of this welcome, as equal, as free, as a beloved child of God! All ARE welcome!