Have you experienced the loss of a close friend, parent or other relative, when you were a child or adolescent? Maybe you know someone who had such an experience. This past weekend (June 6 & 7) Hospice of St. Mary’s held their annual Camp Sunrise, a grief camp for children ages 6-17 who have experienced a death in their lives. Camp Sunrise was developed to address the unique grieving process of children and their developmentally appropriate response to death. Camp Sunrise is an opportunity for children to learn how to express their feelings and thoughts on the loss of their loved one, honor and remember their loved one, and connect with other children who have experienced loss.
Serving as a mentor for a few of the Camp Sunrise attendees was my privilege and honor. The young people participated in art activities, horse related activities, canoeing, yoga, swimming and many other opportunities to connect with each other and work on their grief. It was an opportunity to walk alongside young people who have very deep needs for love and support. If you would like to know more about Camp Sunrise, or other opportunities for bereavement support or end of life care available through Hospice of St. Mary’s, please contact me.
We want to introduce you to a new Good Sam image. We hope it makes you think of Good Sam and our life together. We also hope it helps you think about our mission and purpose as a community. “Finding our neighbors along the journey of faith” is a strong statement of our mission focus in 2015. Notice how the roads join in the distance not long before you reach the cross. This is a great image for the work that we are about: looking for those moments when our path crosses our neighbors path and the presence of Jesus comes into clearer focus.
Thanks to the Digital Communications Team for their creativity and work on this idea. Special thanks to Sue Williams who donated her growing talent as a graphic artist in bringing this idea to expression and life. We hope you will come to see this image as a sign of Good Samaritan stepping into mission. Thanks for all the ways that you help us make a difference in our community.
One final thing you might see in this image is a new web address, www.goodsam.community. We think this new address speaks to the sense of community we are trying to create for ourselves and for our neighbors. Our new website will continue to grow in its design and usefulness to members and visitors alike. Check it out today!
Do you have a purpose to your life of faith? Perhaps you have a sense of how God uses you to accomplish God’s work in the world around you? At Good Samaritan we have mission statements and identified values to help us identify our purposes. You will see them highlighted in blue below. They serve as a pointer toward our mission and work as a congregation. But the real work of being a mission outpost is for each ministry group and each individual in our fellowship to be working at identifying what we do and how we go about seeing these purposes expressed in our activity, events, gatherings and relationships.
To that end, your 2015 Council is preparing to engage each ministry group and as many of our members as we can in how you see your sense of mission. We hope to imagine and reimagine what our purposes are together. Here is what our Constitution says about our purposes.
Our Mission as the family of Good Samaritan is to welcome all to gather and grow, give of themselves and go into the world to serve as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Vision: Every member is a disciple. We are disciples building disciples.
Values: Seeking God, Relationships with God and with Each Other, Spiritual Growth, Serving
As we think about how we are doing this work, here is an invitation to bring that sense of mission into a tighter focus.
A Mission Focus for Today
(A focusing of our work as Good Samaritans and as people of faith. )
Our mission is something we do together and individually!
As people of faith, we walk together in seeking to better discover the hand of God working among us, the partnership we have in Christ and the ways we can nourish and encourage one another in faith and in life. We seek to journey in faith in such a way that the love of God is present in the intersections of our lives with the lives of those we meet–in church and in our communities and in the world.
We note the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Here, there are two characters who do not manage to engage or be connected to a person whose path they cross. Even worse, they are people whom you might expect to see making a difference in the life of a person in need. Yet their religious duties seem to preclude their stopping. The one who does stop to connect and help is perhaps the one in the story whom we might least expect to help. This neighbor (the one farthest away spiritually and geographically) seems to have no question of stopping. He simply knows the man in the ditch needs help.
Surprisingly, there seems to be no question about stopping, it is an obvious need that he sees and cares for.
We also reference the meeting of Philip and the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40). Here two travelers, who might not find a reason to talk, find themselves engaged in the story of a servant from Isaiah 53. Each man turns out to be a servant in their own right, who can better find their way guided by the story of Jesus as seen through Isaiah 53. They discover that each of them is on a mission toward God and they discover they have reason to talk even though, from outward appearances, we might expect them to have nothing in common.
These stories inform and encourage us in being alive to God through attention to our connections and interactions. It becomes true to say that God is best discovered in those moments when our paths meaningfully cross and we become co-travelers and partners in discovering God’s activity in each of our lives.
In this sense we are Philip and the Ethiopian seeking to better learn to become servants of Jesus as much as we are the Samaritan who helps and the traveler who needs assistance to continue on their journey.
God has graciously brought us together to be about the work of God in each of our lives. In this sense we are growing together… not just intertwined but internationally in service to each other as we each journey our individual paths toward our Lord’s calling in our lives.
Here is a sample story from the life of Good Sam that illustrates learning to find our neighbors. Check out the video:
Therefore, faith becomes …
- a journey of self-discovery.
- a journey of learning to love God and neighbor.
- a walking with others as we learning about God’s ways in the world.
- a way of walking with those whom God places in our path through affirming, observing, modeling and seeking God’s presence in our midst.
At faith moments like these, the light of God begins to shine purposefully in each of our stories and in each of our paths forward. All this requires is mindfulness of God’s uses and purposes in the intersections of our lives. Mindful of God amid our connections is a great spirituality to nurture. When we do, we will begin to see God working in wonderful little moments and curious little corners of our lives and in our interactions with other people. What a great way to have a concrete sense of God’s hand in our lives.
It is my invitation to you, as your Pastor, to make this not just our shared mission expressed in our gathering and activities together, but to make this your mission–a part of your exploring God’s guiding along your path to God’s work in your life. It is as simple as listening to God and looking toward your neighbor.
Join us in being Good Samaritans, won’t you?
Pastor Mitch Watney
Thanks to those who participated in the Family Meeting opportunities on March 2. As discussed at those meetings, our Good Samaritan mission statement and our congregation’s ministry goals for 2014 are:
We invite you to take some time to reflect on our mission statement and goals, in order to consider places where you might be engaged in them, working alongside your fellow Good Samaritans. Please feel free to share your thoughts about these goals and ways which you personally may choose to be involved in our congregation’s mission and faith journey, or thoughts you may have to connect with people within and outside our Good Samaritan family. Use the “Leave a Comment or Ask a Question Here” dialog box here on the By the Way, email to firstname.lastname@example.org, speak to a council member in person, or any other way you would like to make your thoughts known, but please join the conversation… THANK YOU!
— John S., Council President
Save the date! Good Sam will be joining members of Saint Nicholas and Peace Lutheran churches for a Our Work God’s Hands day of service at Farming for Hunger on Saturday, Sept 7 from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. All are welcome! We will likely help harvest vegetables. Children can help and if harvesting is too strenuous for you, there are usually opportunities for packing produce in the shade.
We will meet at the farm, which is located at 6980 Serenity Farm Rd, Hughesville, Maryland 20637. Dress for the weather. This is a good time to wear your God’s Work Our Hands t-shirt! If you have them, bring gardening gloves, shovels, trowels and sunscreen/hats & water. They have tools that we can use but sometimes not enough if we have a large number of people attend.
If you are unfamiliar with the great work of Farming for Hunger, you can visit their web site at http://www.farming4hunger.
If you can attend or have questions, please contact our Mission & Outreach Coordinator Kelly Thurber at email@example.com or 205-541-0744
It hasn’t been quite “Church as Usual” here at Good Sam lately; people who are sick and fearful and bowled over by the love and care they receive here; new families are coming almost weekly, last week one family turned in an estimate of giving card and are ready to join after their first visit. There were 30 children that came forward for Children’s time this last Sunday and one visitor stood to offer a testimonial and confess his need for help, not knowing where else to turn. We’re having an impact! How can we make it a “Lasting Impact” (check out this invitation).
The stories seem to go on and on. Two Sundays ago a visiting family from the neighborhood had their children shadow the acolyte and crucifer that morning. They were learning that they were welcome here and are very welcome to be involved. One new member put it this way to me, “the values I see here are: “Jump in, get involved, you matter, we’re glad you are here, we are in this together.””
In these anecdotal stories you might begin to hear that we are beginning to have at least a short term impact if not a lasting impact with those who come and feel they are welcome and belong here. Really this is the core of the conversation I want to invite us all at Good Sam to have over the next three months. How can we better step forward through our faith lives to make a lasting impact within and outside our walls with people God brings into our lives?
Follow this link to read another story about Danata and her mission to bring her Grandchildren to church. Please consider picking up a copy of the book called “Lasting Impact.” By Carey Neiuwhof . there are copies available in the Fellowship Hall. Here is the link to the invitation to read and explore these seven important questions for making our impact a lasting one. Then join us on Wednesday evenings in Advent (7 pm) for discussion or perhaps for Sunday morning’s Coffee and Conversation (10:30 am) during Advent to talk about our perceptions, hopes, dreams and where God’s call is percolating in our community.
Would you join together in a conversation? I want to talk as a congregation, as friends, as people of faith and as coworkers in the Good News of Jesus. I have a bit of a dream, that we could discover together meaningful ways to identify our values as a people of faith, share stories and hoped for stories that express those values and plan some actions, behaviors and events that would help us give our shared values life and joyful expression.
Really, I wonder if you would dream with me. Good Sam – Would you read a book together this fall and winter and talk about it? I am hoping you will come to share your dreams and interact with the dreams and vision of others in our fellowship. I believe God will speak among us and to us all in such a conversation.
So here is my invitation to you Good Sam, Read with me this book: “Lasting Impact” by Carey Nieuwhof. I have 20 copies in my office to give and share and pass around. It’s available on Amazon (follow the Title Link Lasting Impact).
Here are four ways you can participate in this conversation:
- Read the book and talk with church members about it during fellowship time. Invite a friend to read it with you and talk about it together over coffee. Share any thoughts or discoveries with a church leader, council member or Pastor Mitch.
- Join us on Wednesdays in Advent 7 pm to 8 pm to talk about the book. We will begin Nov. 28th and finish on Dec. 19th.
- November 28, Intro and Chapters 1-2.
- December 5, Chapters 3-4
- December 12, Chapters 5-6
- December 19, Chapters 7 and Conclusions
- Read a chapter and follow the devotional conversation with several Metro DC Synod Leaders on these videos. Here they are: (The first couple are silent for 2-4 minutes, then the sound starts).
- Lasting Impact Chapter 1. “Why Are We Not Growing Faster?”
- Lasting Impact Chapter 2. “How Do We Respond as People Attend Church Less Often?”
- Lasting Impact Chapter 3. “Are Our Leaders Healthy … Really?”
- Lasting Impact Chapter 4. “What Keeps High-Capacity Leaders from Engaging Our Mission?”
- Lasting Impact Chapter 5. “Why Are Young Adults Walking Away from Church?”
- Lasting Impact Chapter 6. “What Cultural Trends Are We Missing?”
- Lasting Impact Chapter 7. “What Are We Actually Willing to Change?”
This activity is not information to share, but a conversation to have together. So I invite you to read the book and find a way to talk about it together.
- Join us for Coffee and Conversations, Sunday Mornings in Advent to talk about these conversations as well.
Carver Elementary is just 1.6 miles up the road from our church. I’ve passed it countless times, it’s a little set back and it’s a nice brick building. Honestly, I usually pass is without a 2nd thought. Inside that school are over 600 students and more than 50 teachers. 82% of those students come from low-income families, and although the school as a whole is rated as “average” for academic progress on greatschools.org, it also reports that test scores are falling way below average and almost 50% poorer performance than the state average. What does that mean? It means there are some serious concerns!
I don’t believe the families don’t care and I don’t believe the teachers aren’t doing their jobs (in fact several of both come to our church). I don’t think these kids just aren’t smart. When you are hungry, are you able to concentrate? When there are holes in your shoes and your clothes are all faded – do you feel good about yourself? Poverty has many side effects, and one is a major blow to confidence and self-worth and it becomes a cycle when the kids don’t have the opportunity to see anything different modeled for them.
The school is currently without an operating PTA (parent-teacher association – normally responsible for fundraising, event organizing and school spirit among other things). The red flag for me here, is not that the parents or school are failing, its that we as a community have not been aware of how small actions on our part can make a big impact! Some of the families don’t have the time or even the skill set to provide for their students. We have the ability to empower children, support families, encourage teachers and make an impact on our community – a community that we HAND PICKED to be a part of.
Teachers’ resources are stretched thin. The supply kit cakes we put together and donated were very well-received and cards and words of gratitude were returned. We helped in part to fill the gap where families couldn’t afford to provide all the supplies for the classrooms. Good Sam community has also sent tutors and mentors over the years that directly impacted student and we’ve begun to create the opportunity for ongoing relationships. Continuing to show up as a community and being a presence at Carver will help to show these kids that they are loved and supported and give them room to have dreams! Let’s continue to step up and step in, not taking the place of parents and teachers, but coming along side them.
Maybe your own time and resources are stretched thin, but if you can do nothing else you can pray for this community every time you drive by it or through it on your way to church or work or just driving around town. Take a look around your home and assess what you could give of your possessions. That gently used kitchen item that may even still be in the box (I’m looking at you salad spinner and quick chop), those toys your kids have that they never play with, that white elephant gift you got at the office party and stuck in the back of the closet. Those shoes you bought that you wore once or anything else gently used in your closet. If you are ready to take that next leap of faith and deepen your personal connection to this community – assess where your time and talents can be of service.
What one thing in the list below excites you? Maybe you can’t personally help – but we are a community and you might know someone who can!
Tutoring – Ongoing, working around volunteers schedule to work with struggling students
Mentoring – Mondays 3-4:30 pm group meeting and projects, but they do need 1:1 mentors for kids in the program.
Holiday Helping Hands – Families are selected to participate by the school. “Helping hands” 1) collect gently used items for babies to adults household clothes and toys as well as NEW toys; 2) help sort and set up Nov 30th 3-6 pm; 3) Dec 1st 9am-1030am families pick gifts and can wrap them while kids play and volunteers help with all of this. After the event, volunteers help clean up.
Family Fitness Night – Oct 25th – This event gives families the opportunity to play together in an outdoor PE class. All activities are organized and extra adults are needed to help monitor stations.
Career Day – First Friday in May. This event gives 3rd – 5th graders the opportunity to meet and talk to community members about a variety of career paths. Volunteers will get breakfast and lunch.
Guest Readers – Do you have 30 minutes of an hour during the school day to come and read to a classroom? There are two weeks a year where volunteers are needed throughout the day to read to students: “American Education Week” in November and “Read Across America” in February.
Teacher Appreciation – Anything we can do throughout the year would be awesome! But especially during teacher appreciation week in May – extra hands are needed to help decorate teachers’ doors. Other ideas are bringing in a box of donuts or providing a light lunch.
Feed the Families (summer)- This program provides supplemental food for families during the summer months. Each summer we assist St Mary’s Caring in the partnership with the schools in collecting items to be given to families.
These are initiatives we have participated in with Carver for up to three years. We know there is more to do to give these kids a chance to dream big and see those dreams come to life. What’s the next way we’ll connect?
–Kelly Thurber, Good Sam Mission and Engagement Coordinator
Making New Connections Is Building Life and Hope At Good Sam
Perhaps you have heard that we are connecting with our neighbors with new energy and a deeper sense of welcome at Good Sam. At Eat and Play Fellowship we have neighborhood children and families joining us; during the Eagle Scout project building the Stations of the Cross neighborhood children got involved and stayed to have a meal. On Sunday September 30th we will be receiving a new group of members who are walking together in faith and there are others who are already becoming active participants with us in worship and in our community activities. All of these activities are about Making New Connections.
Last week we received our first installment of our New Connections Grant. This $9,000 will help pay the salary of our new Coordinator of Mission and Engagement, Kelly Thurber and other training and engagement materials in the next year. We hope you have met Kelly and your ministry group is beginning to think about how you too can begin Making New Connections both at Good Sam and in our community. Kelly would love to be involved, help get the word out and assist you in these efforts.
Already our Making New Connections efforts are having an impact on our worship life, our fellowship life, the new and expanding relationship we are making in the community. Thank you for supporting this program through your participation, your good will, your offerings and your prayers to God for this work in which we all share. I thank God for the steadfast and faithful love with which we are loved and upheld in Christ and I thank God for the faithfulness that is being reflected among us as we give ourselves in response to the love we have known in Christ. I am so proud to be among you as your Pastor.
Pastor Mitch Watney
Equipping Good Samaritan to be on a mission in this community, this region and beyond.
We are launching a campaign called, “Making New Connections” to ensure that we have regular invitations to impact our community. Through regular activities, reflection and abundant resources we hope to better partner with you in walking our individual and collective faith journeys as we encounter our neighbors, discover our connections and learn to bring God’s activity into them.
Our congregation has set a goal to grow by 45 new “active participants” over the next three years. We believe our “Making New Connections” focus will greatly assist us in reaching this goal. It is also a combined blessing that The Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod has launched a similar initiative to make connections with at least 3,000 people who have not yet made a connection in the church. It is called the New Connections Campaign.
In addition to Good Sam’s goal to grow active participants, we are also partnering with the synod in the overarching goal to raise $2.25 million. As funds are raised across the Synod, they are being applied towards developing and equipping leaders to intentionally facilitate church growth, expanding existing ministries, planting new congregations, and supporting growth in ELCA churches nationwide.
Where will the money go?
- $40,000.00 to Good Samaritan for new ministries of “Making New Connections” (such as but not limited to: Major Mission Trips and a 10hrs/week Outreach Staff Person) and sustain our work with God’s Work, Our Hands.
- $20,000.00 to Our Synod New Connections Campaign: Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod, ELCA
- $60,000.00 TOTAL NEEDED
How will we get there?
The entire project will be $60,000.00, which will require Good Sam members and friends to faithfully give. During the next 5 weeks, we will learn more about Good Sam’s “Making New Connections” through mail outs, temple talks and bulletin inserts. Pledges can be made electronically by accessing the “Commitment Card” at the top and bottom of this page or by completing a pledge card at Good Samaritan Lutheran.
Testimonials – Things people are saying at “Making New Connections”: