Pastor's Annual Report - Rev. Rebecca Anderson

What a year it has been for us all.
When we met you, we knew that hiring two pastors was not what you had imagined. In some ways, the decision to do so represented risk for the congregation.  I am grateful, and know Vince is too, that you took the risk. Already, it’s abundantly clear to me that the risk – to hire two pastors, to configure our pastoral work in the ways we have – was worth it. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been church together only since the end of September.  In those 8 months, we’ve seen not only growth but also signs of potential for yet more new life. 

For me, the great pleasure of our life together is Sunday worship. (Of course, worship is the beating heart of any Christian community.) While staying true to the “DNA” of worship at Bethany — including the beautiful music led by Yasuko — we have stretched ourselves in joyful ways. We’ve reintroduced or added poetry, children’s sermons, new forms of music (sung by pick-up choirs, but also by you in call-and-response, learning new pieces from around the world) and, a particular favorite of mine, bells on Easter! To me, our worship feels traditional in the best ways and at the same time, fresh. 

I am grateful to be in this work with you, expanding our presence here on Paulina and Cullom, in Chicago at large, and in the world. There is imagination for how better to welcome our neighbors, through a perhaps updated iteration of the Living Nativity, and: will we start holding summer evening events on the lawn again? There is imagination for how better to speak out for justice in Chicago, as Melissa and Ryan Andrews, among others, have been bitten by the Community Renewal Society bug: how can we use community organizing to strengthen our church and advocate for others? There is imagination for how to be the body of Christ in the world in this particular moment: with Judy’s leadership we have had the chance to welcome refugees in very real ways.  And the historic work of the church continues as well, held by many hands.  I look forward to inviting even more Bethany friends and members into that work.

Entering in any relationship is a kind of gamble on the future, a promise built on possibility, hope, and trust. In so many ways, you have welcomed us into relationship as your pastors. I am grateful for the welcome and grateful to be church with you.

Pastor Rebecca Anderson

Pastor's Annual Report - Rev. Vince Amlin

An unofficial theme that Rebecca and I have had for our nearly 8 months of ministry at Bethany is “People live here!” What that means to me is finding ways to reveal to neighbors, renters, and to ourselves the small but dynamic community which is living and growing here. We have a big, beautiful building which can nevertheless serve to hide the liveliness inside. Likewise, there are parts of our building that haven’t been needed in a while and require attention to be attractive and welcoming. We’ve tried to look at things with an outsider’s eyes and ask how we can make the many special things about Bethany more visible.

To this end, with the staff and members of Bethany, we’ve prioritized restoring and beautifying our spaces. We’ve done little things like replacing the deteriorated cork boards outside fellowship hall and big things like cleaning out the entire Rec Room! We’ve still got lots to do, but as we’ve done this work, we’ve made room for new uses of these spaces. We’ve invited renters into rooms we weren’t using, and we’ve started using redone rooms for our own programming. Rebecca has used the analogy of stretching out back into our building. We now use our Sunday School room twice a month, for instance, and this month we’re holding a small group on prayer in the redesigned pastors’ office.

Restarting Sunday School and continuing the offering of adult education here are some of the ways we signal to visitors and neighbors that this is a healthy and worthwhile community. Likewise, our work of outreach and service in the world are vitally important. I am so proud of our congregation for jumping into the work of sponsoring a refugee family with Refugee One while continuing our regular outreach work with The Night Ministry and The Crib. I am especially glad to have had such excellent congregational partners in this work as Ravenswood UCC and Pilgrim Lutheran. Their generosity and steadfastness have been good examples for us.

Rebecca and I have tried to find lots of ways to make Bethany present in the community and invite folks into our life here. At Advent and Lent we used worship themes both to create cohesive and beautiful worship experiences for those already present and to attract new visitors. As part of these themes we brought in accomplished outside storytellers and increased the visibility of Bethany’s already outstanding music; we opened up our worship space to the community with “Ashes on the Go” in before and after school hours; and we got out in the community as a congregation with events like “Beer and Bible.”
I believe that as visitors have come in they’ve experienced worship that is consistently powerful, thought-provoking, and inspirational. I hope you feel the same way. I’m grateful to have welcomed 11 new members to Bethany over these first 8 months, many of whom had already been attracted to this congregation while Pastor Beth was here. I’m grateful for her work here, for Yasuko’s excellent programming and performing of music each week, for Shaun’s work of administration and design, and Jurek’s expert maintenance. I want to say a special thanks to the Church Council and to our moderator, Judy Beaupre for their excellent work on your behalf this year and for their assistance to me as I learn the ropes in this first year. 

I have loved working at Bethany this year. I could thank each of you by name for your warm welcome of me and of my family and for your support of my ministry. Thanks for signing up for things, showing up for things, and being willing to try new things. There is great life in this community indeed, and I am excited to be a part of showing that life to our community and continuing to watch Bethany grow!

Pastor Vince Amlin

Soup's On!

soup-bowl-425168.jpg

Each year we gather during Holy Week to celebrate Maundy Thursday. "Maundy" comes from the Latin for "commandment," as in the new commandment Jesus gave his friends and disciples at that last supper before his death: "Love one another, as I have loved you."

At Bethany, we meet in Fellowship Hall for a meal, a liturgy of prayer and communion, and depart in silence.  This year, new member Rachael Huttner and Pastor Rebecca made vegetarian soup and bread and some folks wanted the recipes, so here they are:

Lentil Soup

3 C lentils
7 cups water/stock
2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
1 C+ chopped onion
1 C+ minced celery
1 C+ chopped carrot
black pepper
1 ½ C tomatoes/15 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 T red wine (optional; I skipped at Bethany)
2 T lemon juice
2 T molasses
1 T red wine vinegar

  • Put lentils in water with salt to simmer.
  • Chop vegetables. Saute in oil. Add to lentils once lentils have cooked anywhere from 1 – 3 hours (the original recipe says 3 but as long as they’re cooked; 3 definitely makes for a stewier soup).
  • Add tomatoes, spices, liquids a half-hour before serving.

 

Yeasted Bread
makes 2 loaves

SPONGE:
3 C warm water
1 ½ T yeast
¼ C sweetener
4 C flour (I often use bread flour, IF I have it. Otherwise: white flour)

  • Dissolve yeast in water
  • Stir in sweetener
  • Stir in flour to form thick batter.
  • Beat well, 100 strokes. Cover, leave 30 – 60 minutes

DOUGH:
4 tsp salt
1/3 C oil
3 C flour (white whole wheat, or whole wheat)

  • Fold in salt and oil.
  • Fold in additional flour (err on the side of too little) until dough comes away from sides of bowl.
  • Knead dough on floured board 10 minutes/as long as you can stand it.
  • In oiled, covered bowls, let rise 50 – 60 minutes.
  • Punch down. Cover. Let rise 40 – 50 minutes.
  • Shape into two loaves. Place in oiled pans. Cover. Let rise 20 – 25 minutes.
  • Bake at 350* for one hour.
  • Remove from pans to cool

SERMON: Pivot

Please enjoy Pastor Vince Amlin's sermon from Sunday, March 26th. The Scripture from the service is below.

SCRIPTURE – 1 Samuel 16:1-13

The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’ Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.’ Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’ He said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’ Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

SERMON: I Thirst

Please enjoy Pastor Vince Amlin's sermon from Sunday, March 19th. The scripture from the service is below.

SCRIPTURE – Exodus 17: 1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’

SCRIPTURE – John 4:3-29

he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

 Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he,the one who is speaking to you.’

 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’

Learn a little more about where our refugee family comes from, and please give today!

The Rohingya have been called "one of the most persecuted people on earth." Suffering under what the UN and Human Rights Watch have declared "ethnic cleansing." Essentially stateless as they have been denied citizenship and other fundamental rights in their home country of Burma. Imprisoned in internment camps by the tens of thousands there, and fleeing by dangerous boat journey to other countries in southeast Asia.

One of these families has found its way to Chicago and into relationship with Pilgrim Lutheran Church and School and Bethany United Church of Christ (UCC), Chicago.

Please support us as we seek to support them in a better life and brighter future here. Please give today: http://www.refugeeone.org/bethanypilgrim.html

SERMON: Traveler, There is no Road

Please enjoy Pastor Rebecca Anderson's sermon from Sunday, March 12th. The scripture from the service is below.

SCRIPTURE – Genesis 12:1 – 4a

Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’

 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.

SCRIPTURE – John 3: 1 - 17

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

 ‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

SERMON: Getting Organized

Please enjoy Pastor Vince Amiln's sermon from Sunday, March 5th. The scripture from the service is below.

SCRIPTURE – Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you”, and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’ Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Welcoming Strangers: Co-Sponsoring a Refugee Family

It’s official: Bethany is teaming up with Pilgrim Lutheran to extend hospitality to a refugee family.  At the time of this writing, we don’t know who the family is, where they are from, or how many they are!  But given that we are quite a large group, we are requesting that RefugeeOne match us with a large family.  As a team, we’ll be able to provide tutoring, English language help, job search mentoring, and many other kinds of help that RefugeeOne will train us for and guide us in providing.  

Beyond the request for a large family, we are asking only that RefugeeOne pair us where there is need.  Because of a sharp, overall reduction in refugees this year, we will be working with a family who has already been here for three months but could use additional support.  (I mean, do you think you could get settled in a new country/language/school/job in 3 months?  I know I couldn’t!)

To that end, we will be raising, with Pilgrim Lutheran, a total of $6000 through crowd-sourcing and fundraisers.  Once we have $2000 raised, we will be paired with a family.  There are many ways to help.  First: save the date for an April 30th fundraiser after church.  We’re imagining something like a chili cook-off and dessert bake off: vote with your dollars!  It’ll be fun and easy to invite friends to.  Our Go Fund Me fundraiser page is live. Please share it on social media or, if you’re more of an email kind of person, send an email to friends and family who might want to be involved. You can click this link to get to our page or cut and paste it directly into your email, tweet, or Facebook post:  http://www.refugeeone.org/bethanypilgrim.html

RefugeeOne is the largest resettlement agency in Illinois and like all resettlement agencies, contracts with the U.S. government to do this work.  Along with about 400 volunteers, the organization resettles about 2,500 people each year.  We’re pleased to partner with them, with Pilgrim, and likely with other folks like the Ravenswood and Montessori schools.  On Sunday, March 12th, at 12:15, we’ll be holding a meeting for organizing next steps at Pilgrim.

Field Guide to Wilderness Living

Lent and Easter at Bethany Church

Our theme for Lent this year is “Field Guide to Wilderness Living: Practical Skills for the Wandering, Confused, and In-Between Times.” Lent is traditionally associated with Jesus’ 40-day retreat into the wilderness, a time of reflection, a time of testing, and a time of connection to the divine.
 
That wilderness is a reminder of other biblical wildernesses: the place where Moses learned the name of God, the place where the Hebrew people wandered for 40 years, and the place where John the Baptist did his ministry. The wilderness is a place where people get lost but also a place where they find God. It’s a place where people get hungry and thirsty and also where their needs are provided for.
 
The biblical wilderness also reminds us of our personal wildernesses, the times in our lives when we seem lost and listless, the spaces inside of us that feel like wasteland. Lent is a time for getting in touch with such spaces, a season for self-reflection and for connecting more deeply to God. It’s a time of taking stock of our lives and asking what’s next.
 
In his book, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, Belden C. Lane writes, “In wild places, terror and growth-toward-wholeness walk hand in hand...In desert and mountain wilderness, people discover liminal places suggesting thresholds between where they have been and where they are going.”
 
At Bethany we are providing lots of opportunities to cross the threshold and explore the wilderness this season. Check out the Lenten offerings in this newsletter and make plans to take advantage of as many as interest you. Challenge yourself. Try something new. Invite a friend.  
 
Wilderness isn’t just foreboding wasteland, it’s also beautiful mountains and vasts forests. As the title of our theme says, we’ll explore the practical skills that make a trip into the wild fun and fruitful.

SERMON: Morning

Please enjoy Pastor Rebecca Anderson's sermon from Sunday, February 26th. The scripture from the service is below.

SCRIPTURE Matthew 17: 1 - 8
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 

Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ 

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ 

When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

SCRIPTURE 2 Corinthians 3:17 – 4:1
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.

Welcoming Strangers: Co-Sponsoring a Refugee Family

It’s official: Bethany is teaming up with Pilgrim Lutheran to extend hospitality to a refugee family. At the time of this writing, we don’t know who the family is, where they are from, or how many they are! But given that we are quite a large group, we are requesting that RefugeeOne match us with a large family. As a team, we’ll be able to provide tutoring, English language help, job search mentoring, and many other kinds of help that RefugeeOne will train us for and guide us in providing.

Beyond the request for a large family, we are asking only that RefugeeOne pair us where there is need. Because of a sharp, overall reduction in refugees this year, we will be working with a family who has already been here for three months but could use additional support. (I mean, do you think you could get settled in a new country/language/school/job in 3 months? I know I couldn’t!)

To that end, we will be raising, with Pilgrim Lutheran, a total of $6000 through crowdsourcing and fundraisers. Once we have $2000 raised, we will be paired with a family. There are many ways to help. First: save the date for an April 30th fundraiser after church. We’re imagining something like a chili cook-off and dessert bake off: vote with your dollars! It’ll be fun and easy to invite friends to. Secondly, when our Go Fund Me fundraiser launches, you can share it on social media or, if you’re more of an email kind of person, send an email to friends and family who might want to be involved.

RefugeeOne is the largest resettlement agency in Illinois and like all resettlement agencies, contracts with the U.S. government to do this work. Along with about 400 volunteers, the organization resettles about 2,500 people each year. We’re pleased to partner with them, with Pilgrim, and likely with other folks like the Ravenswood and Montessori schools. On Sunday, March 12th, at 12:15, we’ll be holding a meeting for organizing next steps at Pilgrim.