It’s Christmas time and undoubtedly many of our minds are focused on our families, holiday preparations, parties and presents. We look forward to the birth of our Savior and celebrate all that He provides. In places around the country and world, especially those affected by disaster, people struggling to have the basic necessities for survival may find it hard to see a reason to celebrate. God has given us generous hearts and at this time of year, thoughts of reaching out with kindness and that generosity strongly come to our hearts and minds.
We work in our communities with and among our neighbors and now we have an opportunity to help in another area–Puerto Rico. Next summer, over the course of two weeks, from July 21 through August 3, a group of mostly adult and some high school-aged volunteers from the state will be working in partnership with Lutheran Social Services of Puerto Rico and serving alongside our Puerto Rican neighbors in their continued process of rebuilding and strengthening communities after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record to affect Dominica and Puerto Rico. The hurricane caused catastrophic damage and numerous fatalities across the northeastern Caribbean, with total losses estimated at upwards of $91 billion, mostly in Puerto Rico, ranking it as the third-costliest tropical cyclone on record.
A team of experienced leaders, including Pastor Mark Parker, of Breath of God Lutheran Church, Baltimore, MD is working to bring together the group of adult and youth volunteers from the region. The bulk of work efforts will focus on construction, with a mix of skilled and unskilled volunteers. Our volunteers last year ranged from age 21 to age 70. This summer we will also accept some youth who have already completed 9th grade.
Are You Interested in Being a Volunteer?
If you are interested in being a volunteer, here are a few more details. We will be staying in the Lutheran camp in Maguayo, near Dorado–about 45 minutes west of San Juan. The camp has room for up to sixty volunteers at a time. Volunteers sleep in bunk rooms with twin-sized bunk beds and communal showers–comfortable enough, but nothing fancy. The camp also includes a very nice pool, a chapel, office and storage areas, and a main hall for dining/meeting/organizing/relaxing. It’s a good home for groups like ours.
The general timeline is fly out on Sunday morning/afternoon and fly back on Saturday evening. Volunteers will serve over the course of two weeks from July 21 to August 3. Volunteers may sign up for one or both weeks. Monday through Friday we’ll worked construction doing rebuilding in the morning and the afternoon, with time in the late afternoon/evening for the beach/pool, relaxing and exploring the area. We may have the opportunity to take a half day to head across the island and visit El Yunque, an amazing tropical rain forest or explore in Old San Juan.
Registration opens in January with a deadline of April 1. The first deposit will be due at the close of registration, the second payment will be due May 1 and the final payment July 1. The expected cost is anticipated to be less than $600 for one week and less than $900 for two weeks.
If you are interested in volunteering for this unique and rewarding opportunity, please contact Kelly Thurber, our Mission and Outreach Coordinator. More information–including fundraising opportunities–will be forthcoming, but positions are anticipated to fill up quickly, so please let Kelly know if you are interested so she can keep the regional team up-to-date on our interest levels.
As we get together with our family and friends and share the joy and peace of this holiday season, let us keep those who have suffered loss in our hearts and minds. And look forward to the days when we will have the opportunity to give a broader set of neighbors a Merrier Christmas. Feliz Navidad.
If you would like to participate in the Angel Tree this year, please pick out a stocking located in the Narthex. Each stocking has the name of a child, age, and gift ideas. We received these names from the Department of Human Services. The families were selected if the family qualifies as low income and receives assistance from the Department of social services. The family filled out a wish list. The items listed are only suggestions so don’t feel compelled to follow the list. We have color coded the list in family groups so you know which children live in the same household. Write your name and phone number on the master list next to your child’s name. The number by the name matches the number on the stocking. Go shopping. Spend at least $25 on the gift(s). Your gifts do not need to fit into the stocking, but all gifts must be together. If you have more than one gift, please place the gifts in a bag or a box. Make sure your child’s name is clearly marked on the gift. Do not write your name on the gifts. They are given anonymously. Please bring your gifts to the church no later than December 16th. When you return the gift, please take the angel ornament with your child’s name on it. If you have any questions, please speak with Diane Hay. –2018
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.
Are you interested in learning more about the needs our community and at the same time listen to great music. If so, join us on Sunday, October 28, 2018, at 3:00 PM for COMMUNITY featuring The Southern Maryland Community Gospel Choir, directed by our own Music Directer, Sherri Fenwick, amazing community leaders that will talk with us about programs to know about and connect with such as Carver Elementary, St Mary’s Food Bank, WARM, Senior Services and much more. This event is open to ALL who want to hear great music and explore the needs of our community. Refreshments will follow.
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
“Where your Treasure is, there your heart will be as well…” (Lk 12:32-34)
Yes, it is October and as usual this fall we will be doing our Stewardship program called Consecration Sunday. It is also true that in the fall, we begin planning for the next calendar year and what you give to ministry at Good Sam will certainly have great impact on what we can accomplish next year.
But it is not true to say that our Stewardship program is about getting you to give to what we want to accomplish next year! There is a very different focus, connection and emphasis in our Stewardship programs here at Good Sam. My purpose here is to remind or tell you about this different focus here at Good Sam.
In worship, we sometimes remind you that, giving can be an act of Worship. We hope you have had a chance to think about the giving you do at Good Sam and you are also in the process of learning how to make your giving, a worshipful experience.
Giving is learned. And learning to give is also a part of our spiritual journeying. Why is this so? I think about it this way: When we give, we have the opportunity to connect how we give with learning to set ourselves aside, to practice letting go, seeking to discover what God is doing with us, as opposed to what we would do with ourselves.
Jesus invites us to love God with all our Mind, strength and will and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). It is pretty hard to do this if we continually focus mostly on ourselves and what we want. Learning to place ourselves in God’s hands is an essential activity in the journey of faith. Learning to celebrate God’s activity in our lives and respond to that Grace with Thanksgiving is also an essential movement in the journey of faith.
At Good Sam, each fall, we invite you to pick up your own progress and growth in these movements of faith and decide with God what steps you might take to grow in giving, letting go and trusting God will your whole life, and then turn to God with Thanksgiving.
When you start receiving information about this year’s Stewardship program at–called “Giving and Growing in Faith”–we hope you will stop to reflect on your own need or interest to grow in faith and invest yourself in this essential movement of growing in faith. As always, we will make good and faithful use of everything you share with us to support life and ministry at Good Sam and our work in the community of St. Mary’s County and beyond.
Peace and Faithful journeying,
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
“Operation No Starvation” is a program designed to foster volunteerism and instill a spirit of giving in kids ages 6 to 17. The program focuses on hunger prevention through fundraising and food drive campaigns for St. Mary’s Caring. The initiative is designed to inspire kids to engage in community service and begin building a volunteer portfolio, while working with a team of their peers to develop leadership skills. Participants are provided with resources they need to put together their own projects, in addition to group campaigns that target specific programs for the soup kitchen. The group meets the 3rd Saturday of each month during the school year. The 2018-19 School Year Kick-Off meeting will be Saturday, October, 20 at 2:00 P.M.
Check out St. Mary’s Caring website to find out more about Operation No Starvation. (And, see our very own Sydney & Savannah VanCamp featured on the home page. They participated in this program last year.)
Congregations are always trying to find out the rules of attraction. I don’t use the word “attractive” to indicate “hip,” “trendy” or even aesthetically pretty, but a cluttered building does create a chaotic message. I mean “attractive” as in people are attracted to them, attracted to join their God-given mission.
In my years as a parish pastor, I’ve come to believe that the most effective evangelism strategy is the personal invitation. “Come and see” is the line Philip uses on Nathanael in the Gospel of John (1:46), and it’s still the most attractive way to help people walk in the church doors and encounter the gospel.
But there are other ways, of course.
One we use in my community is what I call the “see and come” phenomenon. I refuse to call it a strategy because, when it’s authentic, the “see and come” phenomenon isn’t a tool or strategy for evangelism at all. It’s just the simple outpouring of a community that’s taking Jesus’ call to love the neighbor as the self seriously. It’s discipleship on display.
Where “come and see” evangelism relies on someone extending a personal invitation, the “see and come” phenomenon happens when people outside the church see faith in action and decide they want to be part of whatever God is doing there.
We give clues as to what our community is about by what we’re about. Here are some of my observations of what congregations embodying the “see and come” phenomenon are doing.
They use their space well. God calls us to be good stewards of the earth in the early chapters of Genesis, which includes whatever space your building inhabits. We’re trying to do this in my parish, though it’s always a work in progress. We recently put in two garden beds right by the building’s front entrance. In these beds, small vegetables and table flowers will grow, which means usable produce for our feeding programs and a veritable science lab for our preschool to use to learn about God’s creation.
Like many congregations that have the font at their sanctuary entrance to ensure you can’t enter or exit without thinking about your baptismal calling, we have these gardens at our church entrance, ensuring that you can’t enter or exit without thinking of the practical implications of that calling. In the sea of concrete that is our parking lot, we have a garden oasis, a visible sign of our mission to feed the poor and care for the earth. You can’t not see our mission when you pull into the parking lot.
Everything in and around the church should have a purpose that fits with the community’s current mission. And if it doesn’t, it should be rethought or discarded. Attractive congregations take their space seriously and use it to signal their mission.
They use their energy well. If your neighborhood has to come inside your doors or go to your website to know what you’re about, you’re not engaged enough in what’s going on in your community. Find the issues of need and concern in your small corner of existence and take public action to talk about it. Some congregations create mobile food pantries, march for justice and peace, or regularly and publicly volunteer to address local needs.
Perhaps you have the opposite problem: Your congregation has a finger in every pie and there are never enough volunteers to meet the needs you’ve committed yourself to, so no one knows what you’re about. This isn’t due to inactivity but because of too much activity.
Attractive congregations know what God is calling them to do with their lives and hearts (usually just one or two things), and they do it publicly and to the best of their ability. The community “sees how they love” through their actions and comes to join them in mission.
They use the gifts of others well. The best way to get a potential volunteer to pass on an opportunity is to tell them, “Oh, it’s so easy! Anyone can do it!” If anyone can do it, then they will assume anyone else can step up.
Different people have different gifts. Finding opportunities that highlight a person’s particular gifts engages them both in the church’s mission and in their personal skill set. People outside the church see this when they engage with these people, and the call to sacrifice is actually one that they will take when they see a community using it intentionally, for good.
Not everyone is suited for every role, and attractive churches match people up with their particular gifts so the congregation’s mission is furthered. More and more I’m finding that people want something asked of them in the community of faith. Sacrificial giving of time and talents is desired and, I think, can be required.
When I’ve worked with congregations and talked with colleagues about their particular faith communities, these three themes always come up: space, mission and gifts. The good news is being proclaimed faithfully in these places, but embodying the gospel takes some practice and intentionality.
When the neighborhood can see pieces of our mission before they ever walk through the door, when they can know our heart before we’ve ever said a word, and when they know how mindful we are in using our people’s gifts, they will experience the “see and come” phenomenon.
The life-changing message of Christ is very much alive today, but would anyone know it by looking at our churches? Make it known. Make it heard. When they see, they will come.
The Stitching Sisters group will begin their fall schedule on Wednesday, September 12 from Noon – 3:00 P.M. at Good Sam. Bring a sandwich to share on the luncheon platter. All are welcome to join us! We’ll also be meeting on Wednesday, September 26 for our second gathering of the month. Please let Edna A., Ginger L. if you have questions or would like to join in.