Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I debated this month whether to give you a column that inspires you for the beginning of the church program year’s activities (including those of the Transition Team – see that newsletter column), or one that comforts you in the face of the tragic violence and ongoing tension in the congregation’s neighborhood of Sherman Park. The church’s work continues, no matter what happens. But the trauma of the violence in our neighborhood is very real. I know that for me, personally, I felt shock and grief not just once, but in waves, especially in the first week after the violence occurred.

So I am mindful of your need to process what happened. I encourage you to talk with me and your fellow Christians, for conversation can be a means into healing and faithful responses. I am grateful for those who met after worship the Sunday when tensions were still high, to begin reflecting on possible responses this congregation might make. I am grateful for the Council’s reflection on that group’s work. And I am grateful for those who could attend the Greater Milwaukee Synod’s initial meeting for people to talk together about this neighborhood trauma. We need to keep on talking and praying together, within the Church, and with others outside the congregation, so that greater trust and understanding can emerge from our dialogue.

To date, our responses have focused on efforts to learn what our congregations and community agencies are doing, so that we can see where GST might participate and contribute. While we are a small congregation, we can nevertheless contribute to community dialogue and actions. As the Council learns and shares what might be possible, please prayerfully consider participating.

Please also consider participating, if you aren’t already, in either our existing partnership to support Townsend School’s staff, children, and families, or in God’s Garden. At Townsend, you can tutor; you can contribute materials and time for the school events that GST helps organize and underwrite. In God’s Garden, you can harvest food while you cultivate relationships with Townsend schoolchildren and GST’s neighbors who also volunteer or who just stop by to see what’s happening.

Please also do not underestimate the power and direction that God can give when we worship together. Keep on gathering with the congregation on Sunday. If you’ve taken a “break” from worship, consider coming back.   Please also commit to continuing your participation in Transition Team events, of which there will be many this September and October. The Transition Team will be presenting their findings about our first two missional questions and offering educational forums on what it means to be Church in the 21st Century. They also will be offering a missional retreat to which all people are invited.

Finally, remember that GST’s other ministries continue, so that we can continue being Church. I thank you in advance for your continued service. I also invite those less-involved to ask questions and find a way to be involved. Contact your Council.

Contact me. But don’t sit on the sidelines. We are better together. When Jesus promises to be with us always, after all, he’s addressing “y’all”– the community of Christ. Isn’t that good news comforting – and inspiring?

See you at church!