10708579_10152433324862197_8168310095297733189_oI was speaking with a church council the other night. This is part of my ministry~to speak with other congregations about our ministry and to try to build relationships among churches, too. Our churches are often silos. We think what we have is ours and that we should control what we do with our buildings and our money and our talents. We forget that we are stewards of what God has given us and we are to share abundantly. God gives us enough, even an abundance, and if we share instead of hoard, we all will have enough. Do you believe that? I do.

I am deviating from how I started this entry, but I’ll continue with this thought and then return to the meeting, because this meeting was inspiring and energizing for me!

I was a Spanish and English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher before being called to ministry. I was married at the time, and between my now-ex-husband and me we earned pretty close to a 6-figure income. The thing was, I never felt like we had enough. We often seemed to be worried about our finances.

Then we got divorced and I was a student making very little money. And the thing was, I had enough. and I felt like I had enough. I even started giving 10% of my income, little as it was, for offering. Now I am being paid more than as a student, and less than as a teacher, and I still feel that I have enough–most of the time. There are, of course, times I worry about money. And then I remember…I have enough. And I have a lot more than a lot of people. And I share. I still tithe.

And as Tapestry, we are a mission development, and we depend on  funds graciously and generously donated from others. And yet we must give offerings, too, to our Synod and to other places we feel called to donate. And we have enough. And we are called to share, too.

So back to the council meeting. They were very generous with me, not in terms of money. We haven’t talked about that (yet!). But they listened. And they encouraged. And they asked questions. And they started to dream with me!

I did my internship at Jacob’s Well in Minneapolis. http://www.jacobs-well.net/ I learned many things there. I learned to dream. I learned that conversations about money follow conversations about vision, not vice versa. I learned that we are always thinking about who ISN’T here yet. I learned to ask, “What if…?”

So I asked some of these questions with this church council. We have some excellent cooks joining us for worship at Tapestry. Some of these cooks need employment.  http://www.tapestrymn.org/who-we-are.html We are about community and building relationships. We are located across the street from Best Buy corporate offices. http://www.bestbuy.com/ What if we start a food truck ministry something like Shobi’s Table in St. Paul? http://shobistable.org/ But what if we use a “pay-what-you-can” model? Then we welcome people from different socio-economic strata to sit together. Maybe they’ll even strike up a conversation. Maybe they’ll build some kind of a relationship. I don’t know, but I think God would work in this kind of a ministry.

What do you think? The church council I spoke with was energized by this and by some other ideas! Dreaming. What if…

Peace. Paz

Otro dia en el vecindario

NeighborhoodOnce again we were greeted with a bright and sunny day yesterday, so we decided to go hang out in the neighborhood again. No cookies this time, just juice. People are getting to know us now. We keep running into one young woman almost every time we go over to hang out. We talked to another woman who we hadn’t met, but who had seen us from her apartment. We waved to a gentleman we met last week who was sitting across the large community space. And, someone came over to Woodlake and said they had seen us out in the community!

We always end up talking to people from a variety of race and backgrounds. We talk to people who were born here in Minnesota and those from far away. We speak in English and Spanish. We would be speaking other languages, too, if we knew them. We learn what people like about this community and what they would like to be different. We learned that some people watch other people’s kids because the kids should always be protected. One woman likes to know not only the kids, but their parents, too, so she can talk to them about the kids. Some kids are watched diligently and others play a lot on their own. They’re still in school around here so we haven’t run into them too much yet~but we will!

We met a young Mexican man who doesn’t go to church. He says he’s looked around but he works a lot Sunday mornings, well, every day, actually, and so it can be hard for him to go to church. But he was pretty interested in what we’re doing and how we worship. He seemed to be interested, too, in another type of community. Many immigrants, and people in general, find themselves alone far too often and are hungry for a community. I think they’re hungry for Jesus, too.

So far we’ve gone out pretty much empty-handed, just to say hello to people and meet them and hear what they have to say. And they are asking about us. I think it’s time for us to start carrying something with us that invites them to worship with us, or that invites them to eat with us as Loaves & Fishes (http://www.loavesandfishesmn.org/woodlake.html) starts serving weekend meals.

I am finding out that it is fun to be out in the community. We are meeting people we would never have met. We are starting to be recognized and welcomed into a new community ourselves. I wonder what it would be like to just randomly worship at community sites like this if we were allowed. Hmm…

Peace. Paz.

Who Are the People In Our Neighborhood?

Tapestry AltarOnce again we went out to meet some neighbors. I don’t recall if I mentioned this in my last post, but I have decided to hire, very part-time, a latina woman who has strong community ties and who has much experience in community organizing. I am a white woman, and though I am fluent in Spanish, it is important to have someone from the community. Today another woman who has been worshiping with us at Tapestry is going to join us as we go out again!

So, who are the people in our neighborhood? We met a mechanic who works out of his garage. His sister has a daughter who was brave enough to sing at a park in Bloomington karaoke-style, and we were fortunate enough to be able to see the video of this! The conversation started somewhat cautious as we approached them by their garage (we don’t knock on doors~we talk to people we encounter out and about). The conversation was pretty general. We talked about what they like about the community and asked if they have any concerns. We asked about kids and then their faces lit up and the conversation shifted. It’s amazing what kids can teach us even when they’re not there. We don’t bring literature with us, just lemonade and cookies, and if people ask, we let them know where we worship and when. These people asked by the end of the conversation. Will they join us? I can’t answer that, but we have made a small connection in our community and we got to see the pride of parent/uncle for their child.

We also stopped by the bus stop again. The people there didn’t want any lemonade or cookies, but they apparently did want some conversation. We learned about a gentleman who had worked many years at Macy’s but has now retired so he volunteers at a place in Minneapolis. That’s where he was headed and he was going to give tours. He gets subsidized housing because he’s unemployed and possibly a senior citizen, which means for him he pays a little under $200 for the apartment whose market rent is about $750. He has lived in the same apartment for 15 years! And the woman who was there arrived from Chicago just two months ago where she was a postal worker. Too many layoffs and uncertainty there. Her job now, though, means travel time each way of about two hours by bus. She works overnight as a caregiver and is happy to come home to Richfield where she feels safe enough to arrive at whatever time she gets there. She would like a job a little closer to home, though! And her grandson is looking forward for the pool to open so he can swim the next time he visits. She can’t worship with us Sundays because of her job, well actually her transportation to her job that takes so long, but we’ve made a connection and hopefully we’ll see each other again.

And then we met a gentleman who was also from Chicago and going there yesterday to surprise his sister for her birthday. He’s a military man with lots of deployments and stories to tell. He’s had to overcome a lot to be where he’s at now, including addiction and PTSD. He hasn’t had a church home for a long time, he said, though he says he needs one. He said he’d see us sometimes on a Sunday evening when he gets back from his trip to Chicago.

And we met another gentleman who is very concerned about all of the evil in our world. He’s also afraid of God and God’s punishment though he tries to do good. We heard about his concerns and his fears for this world. He talked for quite awhile and told us about his understanding of some parts of the Bible. And he told us again he is afraid of this just God. I reminded him that God is just AND merciful and that God loves us so much God sent Jesus to be with us and to live and die and rise for us so that our sins are forgiven. I blessed him and forgave him in the name of Jesus and marked him with the cross.

Now, I am an extrovert, so some of my friends will say this is all natural and normal for me. While it is true I am an extrovert, it is also true that this is not all natural and normal for me. I have to take a deep breath and take that first step and trust God is with us. It helps to have someone with me and I’m very excited there will be three of us today!

We don’t have an agenda other than to greet our neighbors and get to know them. And look how rich an experience all of these outings are. The Spirit is at work in us and in the world and what a blessing it is to be among God’s people in so many different and unexpected ways. Peace/Paz

Out and About

One of the things that many people dread, myself included, is going into the community and randomly talking to people, especially about Jesus. So, we have started going into the community and mostly listening, and talking about what is going on in the community, and sometimes talking about Jesus.

We are located in Richfield, a first-tier suburb of Minneapolis. At the end of this post you can read some demographic data about Richfield that I put together for a paper I wrote a little over a year ago during my last year of Seminary.

We have gone into our community in many different ways and we continue to experiment with this. We have spoken with school and government officials–me individually and with people from Tapestry. We have asked how they view Richfield in terms of what is going well and what some of the challenges are. We have asked them how we might partner with our community. Even when the conversations started out with some hesitancy and doubt, we have been able to ease apprehensions about our mission and who we are.

I have hired, very part-time, a Mexican woman who has a lot of experience with community organizing and who knows this community well. Last week and yesterday, we decided to take some lemonade and cookies and go to bus stop shelters, and then a nearby corner near an apartment complex where we noticed a lot of people pass by, and talk with people. I have to say, it has actually been fun. Yes, you read that correctly–fun!

So far, some people have politely declined our offer of lemonade and cookies, but surprisingly, most people have stopped and engaged in conversation with us. We have met people who have just moved into the neighborhood and people who have lived here a few years. Here are some other things we have heard:

  • One young lady we met attends Normandale Community College (http://www.normandale.edu/) and has become much more competent with Math because of a very support instructor. This same young lady said she was bullied in high school because she was different (part of her hair was purple and red) and because she wasn’t athletic. She was very happy to talk with us at the bus stop. Go figure.
  • Another gentleman was just passing by. Sometimes I’m like the dentist and I asked a question just as he was biting into his cookie. He told us he was going to visit his mother who is not very happy about living and being cared for in a facility nearby.
  • We learned from another young woman that she only goes to church on Easter and that her mom makes her feel guilty about that. (We also learned about good cell phone plans).
  • We spoke with a woman who lives in Richfield but attends a latin@ “Christian” church (“Christian” as opposed to “Catholic” in Spanish–often refers to Pentecostal or Evangelical churches) in Minneapolis that has grown so much they have had to add a service. The biggest problem she has seen in the complex where she lives is the selling and consuming of drugs. She was surprised that a pastor would actually be the one to go into the community and talk to the people and, as she said, “look for souls because people need Christ in their lives even if they don’t know it.” She thought usually pastors are so busy inside their offices in their churches that they don’t have time to be outside the church walls and into community. Pastors, is this true of us?

We learned much by speaking with our neighbors. I learned that once I get over the initial trepidation of going out into the community with the goal of listening and meeting people, they often open up about things that are really important to them. I learned that they wonder, too, about this white woman pastor who goes out into the community and listens to people. Hopefully we are starting conversations that can continue in some way. The more we can be out in our neighborhood, the more we will get to know each other. The more we get to know each other, the more stories we will hear. The more stories we hear, the stronger our relationships will be. I believe God is at work in this, and it’s scary and it’s exciting and, yes, it’s fun!

Demographics: Richfield is a first-tier suburb located just south of Minneapolis. It is one of the more diverse cities in the State of Minnesota. Though Minnesota as a whole reports a White population composing 86% of the total, Richfield, with a population of 35,375, reports approximately 73% white, according to 2010 census data. Also, while Hispanics/Latinos[1] compose 4.6% of the population of the State of Minnesota, Hispanics/Latinos make up more than 18% of Richfield’s total population.[2] There is a mix of residential homes, most built in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as senior housing, rental units and businesses. Best Buy is the largest employer in Richfield though there are many businesses in the city, such as at the shops at The Hub and the Shops at Lyndale.[3]  The school system has also acknowledged the diversity of its population and the significant number of Hispanic/Latinos in the community. Richfield Dual Language School opened in 2007 and teaches classes in English and Spanish to elementary students so they will be bilingual and bicultural.[4] This type of program recognizes the value of being literate in both the native and the second (or more) language as well as the fact that there are so many children in this community who speak Spanish in their homes. This is the first suburban Dual language immersion school in Minnesota.

[1] I will address these terms in a future post.

[2] American Fact Finder. US Census Bureau. Accessed 12/7/2013. http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml#none

[3]City of Richfield. http://www.ci.richfield.mn.us/index.aspx?page=199

[4] Richfield Dual Language School. Accessed 12/13/2013. http://www.rdls.richfield.k12.mn.us/