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Relationships bring power to change the world

Fall Gathering participants form a human chain from lodge reaching into N-Sid-Sen parking lot.

Preaching Saturday after her installation as minister of church vitality for the PNC, Courtney Stange Tregear began by telling of two boys being caught in a rip tide on a Florida beach. The mother, grandmother and other family try to help are also caught. 

A woman hearing their cries called people on the beach to form a human chain, holding hands, to reach them.  About 80 joined in.  All were rescued.  Some on the chain could not swim, but risked, trusting and holding on tight so the family’s lives did not end in tragedy.

Kaye Hult, Judith Reinhart Nelson and Jan Marquis interact.

Courtney invited people form a human chain out the door into the parking lot.

Next she told of her clinical pastoral education in the Westboro State Mental Hospital on a locked ward for severely mentally ill.  Mental health workers had been attacked.  She had no safety training.  She was pregnant.  She was there to meet one-to-one with patients.

Some had not spoken for decades, but started a Psalm reading group.  Psalm 139 was a favorite. “Lord you have searched me and known me…you are behind me and before me and lay your hand on me.”

“They wanted to be reminded that God knows and loves them completely.  To be known is the greatest desire and greatest fear.  Often we sabotage it, pulling back when we feel intimacy grow,” she said.  “People in that hospital deserved to be known.  All of  us want to be known and to know one another, but we sometimes sabotage it.”

Larger group synthesizes ideas shared on sticky notes.

Courtney said people may fail to know each other.  After a tornado in Oklahoma, a church group sent 12 handmade quilts to another church.  The Oklahoma church gave them to Goodwill, because they could not use the quilts.  “They did not think to ask what we needed.”

In the great commandment “to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves,” she pointed out that “first, we need to love ourselves.  Then, we need to know our neighbor to love our neighbor, the inner life of who they are, their hopes and dreams, so we love them as they need to be loved, not just do nice things,” she said.

Small groups share lives and visions.           This photo courtesy of Gen Heywood.

Participants then met in small groups to share a significant story of a moment in their lives and share a time they felt hurt, betrayed or afraid, and something changed.

“Through relationships we bring power.  We think of power as power over, but building relationships in small groups builds power within the conference, power that can change the world, power of loving neighbors and saving a drowning family,” Courtney said.

Relationships can help the PNC feel good so it can do good, Courtney said.

“The power of relationships, truth telling, vulnerability is how we bring God’s will on earth.  We do it with our bodies making a human chain, symbolizing our connection and reaching out,” she said.

“Strong community knows who we are, so we build a sense of mission, learn about culture, are in partnership, know needs, reflect and are flexible, not going out to fix problems in a way that drains resources, but establishing long term relationships and working in partnership.”

For information, call 206-725-8383.


Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ News © November-December 2017


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