October 23, 2017

St. Louis 2017 PrideFest Volunteers Needed

st. louis pride fest

June 23-25 | Soldiers Memorial Park, St. Louis

 

We would like to have people in the tent to spread extravagant hospitality to visitors.  If you would like to volunteer, please contact Ron Hill at hill4716@gmail.com.

It looks great when we have 100 people or more in comma or Parkway UCC t-shirts walking in the parade with signs for each ONA or ONA-Friendly church.  Once again, First Congregational Church of St. Louis has agreed to coordinate Gateway’s participation in the parade.  For more parade details and to volunteer to walk in the parade, contact Hannah Rice at hrice@firstcongregational.org.

There will be an ecumenical and interfaith service on Sunday morning as part of the PrideFest event.  More details will be worked out and announced soon.

Thank you, in advance, for volunteering to be a part of the United Church of Christ’s participation in the St. Louis 2017 PrideFest.

 

Lorin Cope, Convener: Gateway Open and Affirming Churches

A Letter of Thanksgiving to Parkway UCC

A Letter of Thanksgiving to Parkway UCC
November 2015

1529In 2007 a rag-taggly family of two women, 6 children (ages 7 yr to 15 yr) and many assorted pets arrived in St. Louis from Denver. They came to start over—their “financial bubble” had burst a year ahead of the national/global impact; foreclosure and bankruptcy loomed. Extended family was here and it felt safer to be among them.

The first year was rough—many problems with the hours, job distress and disruption for both Brenda and Pam, major surgery/hospitalization for Brenda, a knee injury for Pam, an unwelcoming church and the finalization of foreclosure in Denver and bankruptcy here.
Then in summer of 2008, they found a “gay, family-friendly church” on the internet—Parkway UCC. From the 1st visit the kids felt “at home” and so did Pam. Our church family became the main support system for our family. Here is a short list of things given us and done for us with many left off the list I am sure:

  • A very loving and warm welcome of all of us.
  • A children’s program that made going to church a privilege the kids worked for rather than a Sunday morning “have to.”
  • An anonymous payment of our mortgage that got us through an untimely job loss.
  • Church monies that made it possible for the kids to experience “and fall in love with) Camp MoVal and to participate in youth activities like mission trips and fun days.
  • Someone to stay with and care for the children and pets so Pam and Brenda could watch Messeret graduate from Army boot camp out of state.
  • Prayerful, compassionate (with a very welcome touch of humor) great pastoral care and guidance through many ups and downs from Kevin.
  • The chance for Pam to participate in making music.
  • Wonderful opportunities to pray (Centering Prayer) and learn (TABS, TED) for Pam.
  • Monies and time and effort put forth to help Pam and Brenda’s son and his new family—repairing their home.
  • A spectacular baby shower for baby Dante.
  • A phenomenal outpouring of love and effort in providing an unforgettable wedding for Pam and Brenda November 14, 2013.
  • A member stepping forth to mentor one of the kids having a hard time.
  • The fifth of a cello and much encouragement for a young musician.
  • Deep friendships that sustain and nourish Pam every single day—open hearts, listening ears of gracious, wonderful people who are generous and kind.

I am sure that there are many, many other things which have been forgotten or overlooked, but, I could not go through another season of Thanksgiving without thanking God for you all and expressing my gratitude for your continued AWESOME support and love.

THANK YOU PARKWAY UCC!

Love from Pam, Brenda and the Walker (Watkins) clan

One Scared Teen

One Scared Teen
Gloria Wandless

Gloria WandlessMy teenage years (13-18) were different from others. At age 13 mother died in an accident which was tragic for her as well as me—my loving supportive mama was gone. The next day Mrs Packey called me aside and asked, “Gloria if someone came to you and posed this question. “If I set you up in a hat shop, and you agreed to do everything the way I tell you, I promise to make your hat shop a great success. Would you do it?” With all of my 13 year old maturity I answered, “of course”. She said, “Gloria that is what God is asking of you…your life is that hat shop.” As the years went by I came to understand what she meant.

I went to live with an aunt which for two years. It was dreadful but at school life was wonderful. I soon learned to be involved at school, and church took me away from the bad situation at home. I had fun times, held offices in four clubs at school and the youth group at church. I refereed basketball and volleyball, attended “Teen Town” weekly, went to all the formal dances, and dated—one fellow for a long time. When he began to talk about what our “married life” would be like I knew that was the end of him. I was 15, he was 18 and graduating; he was serious but scared the bejeebers out of me…that was not the life I wanted.

A few months later my situation at home grew worse and my attorney realized I needed to leave. The next place was different but in other ways, worse. My girlfriend’s mother suggested I go the the YWCA for help; which I did…on my own. Within a week the Y, my lawyer, the president of the bank, a lady who was to become my personal guardian, and the director of the place where I was to live had formulated a plan for me. The plan was rushed through and approved by the court.

I moved to live independently into a huge boarding house called the “Beulah Club.” The “Club” accommodated 100 girls who worked full time and were over 18…all…except me. I was the youngest in the history of the Beulah Club at age 16 to be allowed to live there. I knew how fortunate I was. My first night in my new room I remember being scared but happy. I was determined not to do anything to get put out of this lovely place. The Club had rules; more restricted for me also knowing I had to set rules for myself as well. I remember talking to myself about how I could not have social friends outside of school. I knew, kids do things that cause them to be grounded. For me, I would lose my home.

The women I lived with became my friends. I stepped into the adult world; watching and listening. My friends were mostly teachers. I lived with my tutors, learned to apply make-up from Miss Illinois, learned fashion, grooming, etiquette, and manners from the professional women with whom I shared the dinner table. The table talk was about their lives, the world. I was a sponge absorbing all around me. I had no one to boss me, no one to tell me to take a bath, get up or go to bed, do my homework, buy my clothes, pay my bills, do my laundry, I set the rules for myself and did it all. I had a job, went to school, and church on Sunday…did the right thing and learned a LOT. Watching the results of bad choices that was wrecking lives of some around me. I learned from their mistakes.

I was choosing my path in life…talking to God for the answers to questions as there was no one else to ask and getting answers. Mrs Packey’s question posed to me at 13 made sense. My life was going good, my hat shop was succeeding. I was “reared” by the hand of God in many ways. I was fortunate…so we began a lifelong dialogue.

Some people call it prayer.

I had become close to the grandma that lived next door to the Club. Shortly after I turned 18, her granddaughter married. Grandma asked me to move into her room—I had a family, a grandma, 2 brothers, a mom and a dad and a dog. Life was good; now an adult at the end of my teenage years. Teen years that were different from most but wonderfully rich and happy in many ways.

Teenaged Faith

Teenaged Faith
Brad Lyons

s an Ottawa Rough Riders jersey
Brad Lyons—Junior year, spring 1988, at Opryland USA on a high school band trip. “Yes, that’s an Ottawa Rough Riders jersey.”

 

My family helped start the church I grew up in, so I always knew where I would be on Sundays. With its cliques and homogeneity, the youth group at New Covenant United Methodist Church in Edmond, Okla., reflected the upper-middle-class suburban school we all attended. My sister and I were among the most regular attenders, but I recall youth group being more fun than faith development; they were pretty sneaky about that. I didn’t realize they were laying the foundation for a life of faith. I knew Mr. Bartolina and Mrs. Lowery and Reverend Hart would keep us on track, take our good-natured ribbing, and make sure we knew our congregation loved us. When I broke my arm on a youth ski trip, they watched over me and brought me home in two fixable pieces. When I graduated from high school, the church gave me a study Bible I still use today.

Though I didn’t go to church much as a college student, my faith stuck with me, and I knew faith was important to me. My career and my faith have intersected many times over the last two decades, and half of my working life has been in support of college ministries, a key time when people make decisions about faith that can stick the rest of their lives. These days I run a small Christian publishing house (CBP/Chalice Press), and I likely would be doing something else if I hadn’t had that sneaky faith development back at New Covenant.

I am lucky that my faith in God and in humanity has never really been tested (or at least, it hasn’t felt that way). Individually, we all encounter faith-shaking moments that rattle us to our core, and in my case, faith has helped me persevere. I would hope–and I believe–Parkway UCC is giving our youth that perseverance, resilience, and trust in God, and that they answer the challenge to improve our world through their own lives.

Have you hugged a teen today?

Have you hugged a teen today?
Kevin Cameron

KevinThere are many things a teen needs. A quick online look at poetry by teens suggests some of the greatest needs—friendship, hope, God, forgiveness and family (not necessarily in this order). You will notice the prevalence of friend focus in these poem portions shared below. Friends are central to a teen’s life. The shift from being family centered to friend centered can be gradual or sudden. It is an adjustment for all parties.
Remembering my teen years and thinking about the three in our home, the known and unknown in our neighborhood, the cherished in our church, and the ones world-wide, I share some borrowed and personal reflections here:

You can lean on friends when you are weak, and carry them when you are strong. They are always there beside you, even when you are wrong. -Britni

Though there is gold up in the mountains, lovely pearls deep in the sea, those treasures do not mean as much as your friendship means to me. -Alora

I was so fortunate to have friends from our dead-end dirt road street, school, sports, church, work and camp. It was great to have a variety of friends from different parts of my life. There was always someone to call or spend time with. We encourage our teens to make and nurture friends from different parts of their lives.

When you’re going through life’s valleys and you think there’s no way out, you’re not the first to feel this way. There’s hope, without a doubt. -Dave
God, grant me the courage to stand up for what I believe in, in order to express my true opinions without fear. -Angie

Our UCC church was filled with light and laughter. The adults really loved the kids and youth. People knew our names and knew things about us. They were sincerely interested in our lives. They wanted to hear our opinions and always made room for us in church leadership and decision making. We were treasured and we knew it. That was powerful.

It’s better to forgive and forget than to share my life with pain and regret. -Cindy
Somehow I learned not to hold grudges. I don’t know if it was taught or caught, but I am so grateful. I know too many people – young and old – who get stuck and cannot let go.

My best memory to recall is the gift of my family’s presence, the greatest gift of all. -Rebecca

I am aware of young people who are disrespected and discarded by family. It is my fervent hope and prayer that we can be a church that becomes family—especially for people who no longer have a relationship with their own. I believe in adoption! There is blessing all around!

Make a plan now to get to know a teen or two at church, in your family or neighborhood!

Opening a New Door

opendoor1Opening a New Door
Dan Connors

I’ve been very fortunate in general with my health. Good eyesight, good hearing (until I passed 50), plenty of energy and little disease. The one exception that has dogged me is mental health, which was a big issue in my youth.

I have suffered from chronic depression since puberty, though no one realized it until I was well into my 20’s. In just the past 25 years diagnosis and treatment of depression has come a long way, and it is hard to imagine the old days when mentally ill people were institutionalized or allowed to slowly waste away.

Mental health is something I never take for granted. Overcoming mental illness is one of the hardest undertakings that someone can attempt in this life. Once you are stuck in a depression or other unhealthy mental state, it becomes your reality. Your prison. You see the world through that reality and it is very hard to change the paradigm and move forward. Negative thoughts and feelings reinforce themselves in a self-fulfilling prophesy.

With physical ailments, it is easy to diagnose and treat once you can see the outward symptoms and understand what causes them. With mental ailments, there are no blood tests, no easy detection, and we still understand precious little about how the brain works. Instead there are the questions:

Are you eating regularly and healthily and are you taking care of general hygiene daily?

Are you sleeping well at night- getting at least 7 or 8 hours?

Do you rely on any other substances- alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to get you through the day?

Are you enjoying the present and having fun? Or do you resent those who do?

Does thinking about the future excite you? Or make you want to give up?

Are there any fears or phobias that keep you from doing what you want to do?

Do you have strong and satisfying relationships with other people?

Have you had trouble concentrating and/or losing motivation for doing things?
When all you know is faulty thinking, it’s a lot to ask to recognize that there is a problem and then figure out how to fix it. It took me a long time, different medications and different counselors. But just knowing that there is a new door that you can reach is a great source of hope. Having the courage to open the door and walk through it takes time and encouragement, but once we do, there are many more possibilities awaiting us in the unknown than in our familiar darkness.

On October 10 we celebrate World Mental Health Day. You cannot have good physical health without good mental health. Take care of your own mental health and be aware of the symptoms for those you know and love.

An Oasis

An Oasis
Kevin Cameron

We never thought we would be on the receiving end of the mission that is Ronald McDonald House charities!
On and off for decades–in Boston, Bridgeport (CT), Kansas City and St Louis–I had volunteered with meals, landscaping, games/activities for kids and fundraisers.

Then a few years ago one of our kids ended up in the hospital for several days at Mercy Hospital up the street from church. A couple of days into it, our child was able to move about freely and we were given a quick tour of the Ronald McDonald Family Room just off the pediatric wing of the hospital. It’s a mini version of the Ronald McDonald House with a fully stocked kitchen, sitting areas, lounge areas, movie areas, game areas, computer areas…an amazing space for kids in the hospital to forget that they are patients for a while.

Our child was able to visit with some friends from the neighborhood and school in this warm and welcoming space. The rest of our family was able to spread out and have their needs met without being in the cramped quarters of the patient room. It was an oasis. We give thanks for the original dreamer of this kind of space.

We give thanks for the incredible hospitality of the volunteers there. Wow. It was just what we needed in a time of stress and strain.

[Next time you happen to be at Mercy, you should check out the Ronald McDonald Family Room and offer a blessing while you do!]

Some Health Facts

Some Health Facts
Kevin Cameron

I witnessed some great teen to teen support recently at church. It was an act of spiritual and emotional healing. One of the teens was unable to see how far they had come and so they were reminded with concrete examples. It was beautiful to witness.

Jesus was known to say to people, “Your faith has made you well.”

The excitement about the Pope’s visit to America seems to be across faith traditions. This Pope is taking down barriers between people – which can really heal the pains of past divisions.

No pain, no gain.

I sense our St Louis community is becoming healthier as we engage in honest conversation–speaking our truth, asking deep questions, listening with the heart. These practices lead to healthy relationships and peace.

Malala’s book is the next text for Tuesday Evening Dialogue. Along with her healing from the Taliban’s bullets came increased courage. Wow.

Several years ago I started carrying bandaids in my wallet. I am now famous for this and other parents send their kids to me whenever they are in need. I have been surprised at how many times there does not appear to be a physical need for the bandaid.

Bartimaeus called to Jesus from the side of the road. Jesus heard him and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

We have well used ice packs in our freezer and a sought after heating pad. Sometimes an injury needs ice only, sometimes just heat while other situations call for alternating between the two. It can be hard to discern and balance the different approaches.

We continue to debate the role of immunizations in our country. When I listen to these conversations I hear the echo of an OBGYN nurse we worked with in the late 90s…“It’s not the 1700s. We have better ways of doing things now.”

There was a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. She conferred with doctors and tried all kinds of things, but nothing worked. One day she saw Jesus and made her way through the jam packed crowd to touch the hem of his garment. People sometimes travel long, far and wide for healing

When I don a gown, gloves and mask to visit someone at the hospital, I know that sometimes it is to protect the patient and other times it is to protect me and my family.

What are some of your health and healing stories, facts and questions?

Share them with us on our facebook page…

Social Action

Social Action
Sue Stolze

Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…
The courage to change the things I can…
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I’ve pondered Jesus’ message to “sell all you have and come follow me” from adolescence till my aging present. The injustice I see around me and that I read about every day is a constant irritant. Until it affects me or mine, though, It’s not quite a “hunger or thirst for justice”.

I’d like to offer three areas in which we can address the “acceptance/change” dynamic, and grow in our serenity and generosity.

First, “learn to see with new eyes.” Jesus asks us to look and to see. There are things we can do to help with making things better and fairer. Granted, they may be tiny—bringing sandwiches for Habitat days or giving nickels and dimes to buy mosquito nets for African children or sending an advocacy email to a person in power but we first need
to SEE the need. AND it starts at home and in our sanctuary. This year I have learned to see racism in our midst with new eyes.

Second, do your bit without needing to see vast or instant improvement. Planting the seed is as important as harvesting the wonderful fruit. It takes courage to let go of the outcome, especially in systemic injustice. l love Bread for the World for the chance it
gives us to use our “voice” to advocate for systemic changes to combat hunger.

Third, know the difference between “can” and “can’t.” I am not able to sell all I have. I just can’t be that counter-cultural. I CAN ask the Spirit for a more loving heart. I CAN work to look harder at long-term efforts and to plant my seed. I CAN, in increments, use my voice for justice. I CAN respond to the many opportunities here at Parkway (and elsewhere) to help in the communities we inhabit.

God help us all to see and do…And give us the wisdom to know the difference.

Social Justice Quotations

Social Justice Quotations
Compiled by Dan Connors

The ends you serve that are selfish will take you no further than yourself but the ends you serve that are for all, in common, will take you into eternity.
—Marcus Garvey

The country is in deep trouble. We’ve forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice. In many instances we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that’s the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.
—Cornel West

Striving for social justice is the most valuable thing to do in life.
—Albert Einstein

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each others welfare, social justice can never be attained.
—Helen Keller

In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice…, the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.
—Franklin D. Roosevelt

I raise my voice not so that i can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard
—Malala Yousafzai

The political problem of mankind is to combine three things: economic efficiency, social justice and individual liberty.
—John Maynard Keynes

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.
—Paul Hawken

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.
—Elie Wiesel

When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.
—Fred Rogers