Friday, November 22, 2019

Ecumenical prayer cycle - Indonesia and Philippines

This week's ecumenical prayer cycle (World Council of Churches) includes a focus on Indonesia and the Philippines (17-23 Nov). We remember our diaconal sisters in the Philippines and in Indonesia, and hold them in prayer.

We are thankful for:
* the vital witness of churches in this region
* the diversity of ethnicities, cultures and religious beliefs, and especially those in Indonesia who have built bridges between them
* those who protest exploitative mining, deforestation and other environmental damage.
(did you know that deforestation is the greatest risk factor for orang-utans, and that suitable habitat for them has declined in Indonesia and Malaysia by 80% in the last 20 years)
* those who have resisted bravely and worked for human rights, justice, peace and reconciliation, especially the National Council of Churches in the Philippines
(note: recently the Duterte Government in the Philippines named the National Council of Churches in the Philippines as a front for local communist terror groups. The government action has been widely condemned by Christian leaders globally including the Uniting Church in Australia, with the heads of the Christian Conference of Asia and the World Council of Churches speaking out against the listing.  In a statement by the Episcopal Church, Bishop Rex Reyes said “The trail blazing efforts of the NCCP for peace and justice in this country is an open book. 1 am proud to say that among the councils of churches worldwide the NCCP is yet reckoned as a vibrant, enduring, leading and recognised ecumenical formation. This is so because the NCCP sees its life and work from the perspective of the vulnerable, oppressed and marginalised.” He went on to highlight corruption in high places and said: “There is nothing wrong when Christians point out that there is so much corruption… What is wrong, if not downright subversive, is when a mindset that kills, persecutes and name calls suppresses those who espouse principled dissent and activism. One should know how principled dissent and activism have made this world more peaceful and just. … What is right is standing up for human rights, justice and peace. I stand with the NCCP.”

We pray for:
* governments in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Timor Leste, that they will eradicate corruption, establish justice and peace, and work effectively for the wellbeing of all their people
* victims of violence, torture, drug and human trafficking, and human rights violations, that those responsible might be held accountable
* all those affected by earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters, and for the rebuilding of communities afterwards
* ecumenical and interfaith cooperation to bring justice, peace and sustainability to these lands.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

DIAKONIA World Executive - meeting in Neuendettelsau

The DIAKONIA World Executive is currently meeting in Neuendettelsau, Germany, for its annual meeting. As well, DRAE have changed their domicile from Switzerland to Germany.

On Thursday night, the Executive was invited to Heilsbronn, and the old monastery (500 years old) and the Cistercian Church, where 3 singers led us around a candle lit church, explaining the history and offering music at each point.

In the monastery chapel
The 3 singers in the Cistercian Church 
Candlelit church
On Thursday the Executive Committee wore the Thursdays in Black badges.
Marianne Uri Overland, DRAE President

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Gwen Sayler

Held in the loving embrace of God
Today we received this very sad and unexpected news about Gwen Sayler's passing. Gwen will be known by those in the DIAKONIA World Federation who attended the Chicago Assembly where she led the Bible Studies. Please uphold our friends in the Lutheran Diaconal Association, who will be in such grief and shock.

A message from Deaconess Lisa Scherzer Polito
In sure and certain hope of the resurrection
It is with great sadness that I tell you of the death of our beloved sister Gwen Sayler.  This morning she left Jan Janzow's after the Centennial weekend.  She stopped at a McDonald's near Madison, WI, and was staggering as she was leaving and an ambulance was called.  There was still a faint heart-beat but they were not able to resuscitate her.
Gwen was consecrated as a deaconess in 1971 in the Valparaiso Lutheran deaconess community, and was ordained in the ELCA in 1982. She lived in Americas masterpiece on the Mississippi, metro Dubuque, Iowa.  Tonight I'm with Louise Williams, Karen Melang and Phyllis Kersten.  We are remembering, laughing and crying together.
Deaconess Lisa Scherzer Polito
Executive Director
Lutheran Diaconal Association

A message from Louise Williams (to the Wartburg Theological College community where Gwen served as a Distinguished Professor of Hebrew Bible)

From: Office of the President <>
Sent: Monday, November 11, 2019 6:50 PM

Dear Wartburg Community,

We have sad and unexpected news to share.  This afternoon, we received news of the death of our beloved colleague, teacher, and friend, The Rev. Dr. Gwen Sayler.

In this time of grief, we draw near to God who is the source of all life and hope. And we draw near to one another as we grieve, remember, celebrate, and hold fast to the resurrection promise. Please hold Gwen’s family and all who grieve her loss in your prayers, as we hold the whole Wartburg Theological College Community in prayer this night.

We will release a public statement as we know more information about arrangements.  If you have questions or concerns, please contact the President’s Office.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of all mercy and the God of all consolation, who comforts us in all our sorrows so that we can comfort others in their sorrows with the consolation we ourselves have received from God”
Evangelical Lutheran Worship

God’s peace be with you,

The Rev. Louise Johnson                                       The Rev. Dr. Craig Nessan
President                                                                  Academic Dean

E Louise Williams
Part-time Adjunct Instructor of Theology, Valparaiso University
Executive Director Emeritus, Lutheran Deaconess Association
Former President, DIAKONIA World Federation of Diaconal Associations and Communities

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Congratulations Kristi!

Congratulations to the Rev. Deacon Kristi Neal, who received the Distinguished Diocesan Service Award at Convention Nov 2019! Kristi is in a ministry placement at St James Episcopal Church, Black Mountain, NC. You can hear a recent sermon here or read one here.
(Original post on Episcopal Diocese of WNC - Western North Carolina Facebook page)

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Fires in Australia, California....

Devastating bushfires are impacting communities in Queensland and New South Wales in Australia. There are also huge wildfires in California. In the European summer, Northern Spain faced its largest forest fires in two decades as the heat wave across much of Europe wreaked havoc. The lack of rain, and the escalating temperatures, mean things are tinder dry. Whether deliberately lit, or a result of lightning strikes, fires are exhausting firefighters and volunteers struggling to bring the fires under control.
The multiple fires in New South Wales (Australia) can be seen from space. The Rural Fire Service in NSW said firefighters were in "uncharted territory" and at the peak of the crisis, a record 17 blazes burned simultaneously at emergency level. More than 50 other blazes across NSW remain out of control.The property loss is substantial, with house after house in some places burnt to the ground.
Mid-Coast Council Mayor David West said, “I’m looking out of my office window and all I see is what I’m assuming people in London saw during the Second World War — it’s a horrible, horrible sight".
Climate change, or climate acceleration, is playing a part in the dramatic increase in fires, and needs to be addressed by global leaders. Recently, 11,000 scientists endorsed a global 'climate emergency' declaration, based on an analysis of more than 40 years of data on measures such as population, surface temperature, carbon emissions and deforestation.

New South Wales fires seen from space
Our prayers are with families and communities, the fire fighters and emergency workers, for those living with the reality of property loss.

What cannot be said will be wept (a quote attributed to Sappho)
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your record? (Psalm 56: 8)
O God, when words fail
hear our weeping.
Hear our weeping,
treasure our tears,
answer our cry. Amen.
(Source: Rev Gal Blog Pals website)

When Human Voices Cannot Sing
1. When human voices cannot sing
and human hearts are breaking,
we bring our grief to you, O God
who knows our inner aching.

2. Set free our spirits from all fear –
the cloud of dark unknowing,
and let the light, the Christ-light show
the pathway of our going.
(Words: Shirley Murray,  (*v 3&4 omitted); tune: St Columba

We pray for those affected – for courage, strength, patience, resilience and hope, to face the days and weeks and months ahead, even when the story no longer has media attention.
We give thanks for firefighters and emergency service personnel, police officers and ambulance officers, who work together to fight the wildfire and support residents.
We pray for those who must undertake the grim search for those who have died...
We pray for those who have lost homes when this fire took all in its path - homes of the rich and famous, and ordinary people who have invested their savings into their homes.
In amongst the grief, anger, loss and confusion, and unspeakable sorrow, we give thanks that so many people of goodwill are offering practical support in this time of great need.
We give thanks that the God we know in Jesus Christ journeys with us and remains with us all the days of our life, even through the dark valleys and times of sorrow and lament. Amen.
(Rev Cathie Lambert, 2011, adapted)

A Prayer for all those affected by the bush fires in New South Wales and Queensland.
Loving God, our hearts are joined with the trials and sufferings of all affected by the bush fires. Protect those in the path of danger. Open the pathway of evacuation. Help loved ones to find one another in the chaos. Provide assistance to those who need help. Where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Ease the fears of all and make your presence known in the stillness of your peace.
O God, we commend to your loving keeping, all who work to bring rescue and relief, especially the firefighters, police, paramedics, medical personnel, and volunteers, – all who are helping. Give them courage in danger, skill in difficulty, and compassion in service. Sustain them with bodily strength and calmness of mind that they may perform their work to the well-being of those in need so that lives may be saved and communities restored.
Loving Lord, we come to you trusting in your mercy and knowing that your steadfast love endures forever. Comfort those who have been harmed or displaced by this disaster. Grant them your strength to meet the days ahead. Allow them to experience your peace, and grant them hope to face the future. Move in those who are able to give aid, that we may be your hands and heart on the earth.

Prayer adapted from Lutheran Disaster Response, Upstate NY

the view from the kitchen sink

fires advancing on a nursing home

the beach.... Port Macquarie

the sky turns orange
God, we know that you kindle
hearts and not bush,
and that you walk with us
into the deepest fires
as you did in the long-ago Bible story
of the three faithful ones,

This day we ask for your grace,
your courage, and your strength
to surround all those
who are fighting the bush fires
in New South Wales and Queensland.

Give comfort
to those who grieve loss of life.
Give hope of rebuilding
to those whose farms are destroyed,
and homes are demolished.
Give ease of fear
for children whose schools
have burned or closed for danger.
Hold in tenderness
those who count the losses
of more than three hundred koalas.

In dry bush and high wind, O Holy One,
whisper your word of peace.
(Source: Maren C. Tirabassi, Gifts in Open Hands)