May 29th, 2020
As California and America look to return to work, we have an opportunity to think about what we've learned during the shut down.
From our beloved ally and former Board Member, Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs comes a short video on "Compassionate Capitalism." Many of us want to find ways to honor the essential workers who have kept us going during the pandemic. These are often the forgotten people who do the hardest jobs for the lowest pay with the worst conditions. Many of us want to reconsider how we can treat people better in the future, how we can be less exploitative of essential people, how we can create a more just and fair economy that works for us all.
Please feel invited to hear Art's encouraging words in a two-minute video that we hope will be the start of a series of thoughtful reflections on greater justice in our society.
You may access the video here
Thank you. And please stay safe.
Our post yesterday about the hate incidents and crimes we've seen unfold via internet links calls for suggestions on how to be a witness for equity and justice.
We see today that last night the police in Minneapolis, MN drove people protesting the death of George Floyd into the streets with tear gas and rubber bullets. Mr. Floyd is the man who apparently died when a police officer knelt on his neck for what witnesses said was several minutes. The crowds that came to protest were very diverse, many people outraged by this death. That diversity did not stop the use of force by the Minneapolis police. We have no knowledge of what transpired last night, but we do see that for once people's 'whiteness' did not confer privilege. Yes, there are risks to standing for justice no matter who you are.
So we are confronted as well by our own apprehensions and fears if we, no matter who we are, stand up to power, speak truth to power. What can we do if we are of brittle bone and unfirm stance but still wish to make our anger and our anguish known on these issues of injustice? More to the point, how can we be proactive in preventing hate actions rather than reactive to them? I once said I'd never again go to a candlelight vigil for victims of hate. My work in life was to create whatever conditions I could to assure we didn't need them. That work goes on.
If we genuinely wish to stop acts of hate, we need to begin with opposing it. We need to attend city and county public meetings, generally safe spaces, to raise our voices. Silence implies indifference if not actual consent to crimes against people under "color of authority". This is where we can make sure that's not swept under the rug, where we demand that our officials act with decency.
But this is a long process that needs, once again, to interrupt "common sense" bigotry at the start. Yes, it's true hate is not inborn but taught. We can reverse that process. In 2000 I was living in Yolo County, CA, a fairly rural community but a diverse one. It's also the home of University of California, Davis making Davis a pretty liberal town in a fairly conservative county. Nevertheless, Yolo has been a leader in confronting hate crimes. The county obtained a grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center to have a three-year program implementing their excellent program, "Teaching Tolerance". There was a wonderful man from the Sheriff's office whose sole job was to go from school to school with this program. He was welcomed in every school but one, and over the course of time, hate crimes dropped off, and bullying subsided. Of the crimes or incidents that did occur, the perpetrators could all be traced to the one school where the "Teaching Tolerance" curriculum had not been used. You rarely get data that are this blatant, but the experience served to show how important education of young people can be to ending hateful behavior.
As adults move to make their voices heard by public officials, we can simultaneously educate our young people. Denominations, interfaith groups, youth ministries as well as civic organizations and school districts can access "Teaching Tolerance" curricula including online resources. Grants are available with simple, clear guidelines if personnel are needed to implement an extensive program. For more information on where to start, you can go here
For specifics on interfaith understanding, don't forget our "oldie but goodie", Building Bridges of Understanding. Produced by California Council of Churches in the wake of 9/11 and the uptick of anti Muslim hate (that is once again revived), you can self instruct via our online and downloadable study guide. For a copy of the guide, please go here Building Bridges is at the bottom of the list. The video that accompanies the guide is in very short supply, so please let us know by return on this email if you're interested, and we will try to ferret out a copy.
For combating anti-LGBTQ hate, also on the increase, that same link can take you to our study guide, Living Lovingly. With all our study guides, directions on how to lead study circles and to engage conversations are given. We see these as ways to interact with people who are uncertain about how our faith principles dovetail with justice issues, how to give safe space for hard discussions and meaningful resolutions.
This is how we start. We need the commitment and the will. We don't have to be maced to make a stand.
Do whatever you can, however you can, for as long as you can. It all counts.
Three deeply troubling events have occurred recently. There are three very public acts of deeply racist violence we have almost no words.
Ahmaud Avery was gunned down in Georgia, his assailants left free for way too long.
An affluent white female business executive threatened the very life of a Black man who'd told her to leash her dog in Central Park.
A Black man, a possible - POSSIBLE - suspect in a forgery was killed in front of our eyes by the arresting officer who knelt on his throat until he died.
Those of us in the faith community are sickened by such actions in no small part because while they were all recorded on video, the perpetrators acted with impunity, free in their own minds to carry on despite being recorded. Where does such entitlement and hate come from?
Because we have no words, we are linking you to John Pavolovitz whose essays often do find the words.
"Prolific Racism Needs Complicit White People" is his post today. He speaks to us eloquently of how we got to such a place and how we need to challenge it.
Please link to his essay here.
Even in the Age of COVID, we can practice peace, practice justice, practice humanity, practice love. Let's have these things be our legacy of these hard times.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld Governor Gavin Newsom's order suspending in-person religious gatherings. What was asserted by opponents was the violation of First Amendment Rights. However, the court found that the greater good was protecting the general welfare in preserving social distancing and public health.
Soon we hope this will change. To that end, Governor Newsom's office has put out a PDF we can use. From the Department of Public Health, we are, oddly, part of the "COVID-19 Industry Guidance" with specific reference to places of worship. Being part of our state's "industry" is rather appealing from the standpoint of reminding us we are to be as caring of those who pack our frozen foods as of our neighbors in the pew next to us. So with that illumination, we link you to our specific "industrial" guidelines for reopening here
In the meantime for everyone worshipping via Zoom or web pages or Facebook or however you're doing it, remember the pandemic is not over, and life will not go back to "normal". It will take some adjustment by us all, but if we truly keep the faith, we will prevail.
Thanks to all of you who have written back concerning these email observations. It's lovely to reconnect with many of you. You're a blessing to us here in Sacramento.
Our last advice today from the sign on the elementary school in East Sacramento: "Keep calm, and wash your hands."
As the president moves to force states to declare places of worship "essential", we offer viewpoints on the topic of resuming services in our churches, temples, mosques, and meeting houses.
We have received, through our allies at San Francisco Interfaith Council, the guidelines from California's Governor Gavin Newsom:
Governor Newsom Issues Guidance on Faith-Based Office Workspace and Counseling Services
Governor Gavin Newsom announced that as of May 18, 2020, faith-based office workspaces and faith-based counseling services can reopen under certain guidelines. Please take time to review the guidance on office workspaces and limited services at the weblinks below.
Thank you for providing emotional and spiritual support to the communities you serve. We appreciate your efforts and the assistance of congregations in keeping our communities healthy and safe during this challenging period
PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THE DISCLAIMERS TO THE GUIDELINES AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE TWO LINKS INCLUDED ABOVE.
We also received a thoughtful observation from Rev. Dr. William Barber, the founder of the Poor People's Campaign regarding our obligations to one another in this crisis. He pointed out that our first duty is the care for and of those around us. We need to put our longing for church community in the context of what harm it could cause to those whom we love and then to the broader communities around us.
In the opening verses of Matthew 10, Jesus sends his disciples to find and heal the sick. That takes precedence over preaching the Word. In the Age of Pandemic, our considerations need to be made in light of both faith and science, of our immediate beloved community and the broader reaches of our interactions with the world. Early church, very primitive church, took place in the home. We can find our roots that way as well as in pews in our buildings. God is where the heart is. The rest is for deliberation.
We hope the guidelines are useful. We know your good sense will help you find your individual and collective ways forward.
In addition, many of our member denominations have issued guidance and protocols for reopening and strongly encourage congregations to err on the side of compassion and safety. For example, the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church provides the following guidelines:
New Local Church Protocols for Preschools and Drive-in church gatherings
As new cases of coronavirus and deaths as a result of COVID-19 begin to decline in Nevada and California shelter in place restrictions are beginning to ease in phases. As we venture out with masks and hand sanitizer into our new normal, the Conference staff has been preparing new protocols for local churches so that as we begin to gather we continue to protect our faith family.
Many churches have wanted to take advantage of gathering for a 'drive in' worship in which folks gather in the church or alternate parking lot and stay in their cars. This may sound simple yet there are still necessary precautions to consider that keep folks safe and protected.
The drive-in protocol is posted on the conference coronavirus page. Click here to access the protocol.
One of the scariest parts of being in lockdown to fight the coronoavirus in California is the possible lack of access to food. This is particularly hard for elders with limited mobility and incomes. Deliveries are great, when they exist, but they cost much more and strain limited budgets.
Here are resources that have been established in various counties to provide three hot meals a day to eligible seniors through June 10 of this year. Please share this information widely in your congregations and communities.
We want to share this information from our allies at In Home Supportive Services with you in case you want to participate or know others who could benefit from the "Great Plates" program that supports local restaurants and seniors on home isolation due to COVID-19. Here are the numbers to call or consult:
http://211.org/ (Put in Your Zip Code to Find Number to Call)
L.A. County Joins Great Plates: here
Sacramento Zip Codes Call:
Or Toll-Free (800) 500-4931 Or Alternate (916) 498-1000
Sonoma County Zip Codes Call:
Or toll-free (800) 273-6222 or Text Your Zip Code to 898-211
Your income must be less than $74,900 to participate.
See main link & PDF: here
Main Link to All Senior Food and Other Programs: Here
We hope these resources will help you help others.
Stay safe. Wash your hands!
We are pleased to offer an informational sheet with numerous links for articles, blogs and ways to engage in our “new normal.” The resources were collected from many faith communions and organizations by our friends at the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, Churches Uniting in Christ, and Christian Churches Together. Click here to access this resource if you do not see the document attached.
Racial factors in the Age of Pandemics: Join our ally, Race Forward, in understanding how
For many years California Council of Churches and California Church IMPACT worked with an outstanding organization, the Applied Research Center. Originally based in Oakland, CA, they created several powerful programs to examine racism in our nation particularly in California. We found their work to be of the highest standards as they examined legislative voting records, bias in our state budget and bills, and followed factors in our society that too often barred both equity and equality for communities of color..
Renamed Race Forward their programs have become truly national in scope. We now invite you to explore one of their new webinars looking at racism as a factor in how our nation is responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and how the pandemic is revealing the racism that already exists.
Please feel invited to share their work May 8 in the first of a series of webinars on this important topic. Whether your concern is the unduly high mortality of Black and Brown people dying from COVID 19 or the rise of anti Asian hate crimes, these webinars hold important information for those of us dedicated to justice in our world.
To learn more please go here We think you will find their in-depth analysis as helpful as we always have.
Please stay safe and practice the best in pandemic prevention and in the creation of a humane society.
We came across a deliciously wonderful story about a young girl who "reached out and touched someone" through her letters. We got permission from her father to repost it here. We think this is something that will brighten your day and will remind all of us that we can contact people the "old fashioned way" - via letters.
We hope you enjoy this story.
Em's Story as Told by Her Father
Emerson, my 11 year old, is on a bit of a wild ride with the @USPSand our local mail carrier, Doug.
And, I think there’s a deeper message to it all.
First, the backstory...
Em has a serious letter writing habit. She maintains active correspondence with over a dozen of her favorite people. And, if you’ve been the lucky recipient of one of Em’s hand decorated letters and envelopes, then you have a pretty good idea of the joy they bring.
A letter from Emerson is likely to include some art, a joke or two, a mention of her younger brother, confessions of her love for Taylor Swift and enough questions to guarantee a response.
So, when she decided to thank our mail carrier for the service he provides us, she left nothing out. In went Taylor Swift, in went the little brother, in went the jokes.
Q: Why do you never see elephants hiding in trees?
A: Because they’re really good at it.
Em wrote, “I’m Emerson. You may know me as the person that lives here that writes a lot of letters & decorated the envelopes. Well, I wanted to thank you for taking my letters and delivering them. You are very important to me. I make people happy with my letters, but you do too.”
She continued, “The reason you are very important in my life is because I don’t have a phone so how else am I supposed to stay in touch with my friends? You make it possible!”
She put it in the box, smiled when he took it & that was enough.
The next day a package arrived with some stamps & two letters.
Doug had shared Em’s letter with his supervisor, Sara, and they both wanted to share how touched they were by her note.
Sara said that, as an essential worker, Doug might not be able to maintain regular correspondence, but she sure could. Em started writing that very afternoon.
This is when things get interesting. The next week, we got a letter address to “Mr and Mrs Weber.” It seems that Sara had shared Em’s note as a “Token of Thanks” in the internal newsletter for the Western US and there were some postal folks that wanted to thank her.
Today, we saw Doug getting out of the truck with two BOXES of letters from around the country. We snapped a quick photo through the door as he and Emerson met for the first time. It was a beautiful moment on silent reciprocity.
These letters are so deeply human. They are filled with family, pets, hobbies, community and an overwhelming sense of kindness.
Because Em was fully vulnerable, they were too.
Em shared jokes, so they shared jokes.
Em share her brother, so every gift that was sent came in duplicate.
Em shared @TaylorSwift13 and it turns out that the US Postal service is filled with lots of undercover Swifties.
One maintenance manager from Minnesota wanted to inspire her to start collecting stamps so he sent along two stamps of his own from the bulletin board in his office to start her collection.
And, they sent stamps to be used as well. Stamps for her to write back. Stamps for her to write others. Stamps, stamps, stamps. (218 by Em’s count.)
But, there was something more in these letters. People felt seen - some for the first time in a long time.
“I work alone in a small rural post office...”
“My kids all live far away...”
“Not a lot of people think about how hard we work...”
“I can’t tell you how much it means to read your letter...”
“I have a son in Kuwait and if you have a second to send him a letter he would love it.”
“I know you can’t write back to all of us, but maybe I can drop you a line from time to time?”
With dozens of new pen pals, Em did what she does best.
She wrote the dad.
She wrote his son.
She assured the secret swifties not to be embarrassed because her dad likes TSwift, too.
She acknowledged that there WERE a lot of letter but that she had time.
She sees them all.
I’m not sharing this because I’m a proud dad.
I’m sharing it because it is relatively easy, if we take the time, to give others the one thing they need to be well - human connection.
I have a friend that says we all just want to be seen, known and loved.
Em does this boldly.
It’s #MentalHealthAwareness month and I want to be bold and brave like Em.
We’re all in a moment of physical isolation that is amplifying a real epidemic of loneliness, anxiety and depression.
I’ve been feeling it personally since long before we locked our front door.
In the second week of quarantine, I responded to hundreds of DMs from creatives who are feeling this disconnect in a significant way.
I heard from college students to senior executives who personally and professionally are stressed, worried and/or afraid.
Two weeks ago, I personally started working with a Talkspace therapist for the 1st time.
For years I’ve travelled the country talking about relationships of influence, but I’ve used that travel as an excuse not to seek the support I know I need.
This pause gave me time to act.
I have incredible family & friends, but the truth is that I needed more.
And, sending texts via an app has been the small step I needed.
Moral of the story: it’s the small things that matter most, friends.
Send a letter.
Make a call.
Practice self care.
Take a step of boldness.
For yourself or for others.
And, thank your mail carrier (from an appropriate distance.) They are working extremely hard to keep us all connected.
And, if any of you are feeling isolated, anxious, scared or depressed, those feelings are valid.
I’m feeling them, too.
And, I’m here if you need me.
We weren’t sure that a day could be more emotional than yesterday, but - my friends - you’ve topped it. We’re seeing all of your replies & retweets. We’re reading them aloud as a family. We’re absolutely in awe of the ripples of impact that have come from one letter. #WeSeeYou
And, if you’ve gotten this far, just know that you can start the same waves of goodness with the people that you count on, respect & love. (Maybe even your @USPS mail carrier.)
Just tell them that you miss them, love them or just see them. And, then, let us know what happens. ❤️
The Rev Dr Rick Schlosser