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Lenten story sharing brings insights in PNC

The PNC Lenten Devotional Series was a successful means for people around the conference to share their stories and insights, said Courtney Stange-Tregear, minister for church vitality.

Courtney Stange-Tregear

For 2020, submissions have come from around the conference sharing stories, voices and perspectives under the theme, “This Is Me.”

Stories are being shared at

Snippets of seven of this year’s submissions give a taste of what is being shared there.

Dee Eisenhauer of Eagle Harbor Congregational Church on Bainbridge Island said a breast tumor the size of her pinky fingernail sent her on a “strange side trip,” of time, energy and money in health care.

She was fortunate: It was caught early and  non-aggressive. I have health insurance. It was relatively easily dealt with.

She gained from this “miserable unwanted” experience.  

“I believe in our God who makes art out of garbage.  I don’t think God gives us illness or misfortunes, but I think God can redeem any experience.  I God is eager to help us realize what is beautiful in every circumstance,” Dee wrote.

Mary Luti’s “Be a Burden,” inspired her to accept offers of help, be a “helpee rather than helper.”  Her communities offered food, gifts, rides, cards, messages and love, reminding her she is part of the Creator’s web of love.

Katy Lloyd of the Welcome Table Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in Seattle said, “being in a family with addiction taught me to behave contrary to my own wants and needs as a way to try to control the addiction.”

When she was eight, her mother went to a hospital and then to a treatment center pioneering in the 12-step approach and offering family therapy. Four years later, her father went into treatment, and they rebuilt their family. Today, her parents have 90 years of sobriety between them.

“It was rough at times, but it also miraculous,” she said. “They’re not perfect, neither am I, but by grace we were given tools to get better, love each other in healthier ways and deepen our daily relationships with God. My life is so much richer because of the help my family received long ago. This is why I can stand up on Easter morning and say I believe wholeheartedly in Resurrection.” 

Jess Peacock, pastor of Chewelah UCC, said Ash Wednesday symbolizes emotional barrenness for him, the ash representing “what is left of me after a season of emotional wildfires, infernos that often leave me feeling like a smoldering and empty landscape.”

For him, Lent represents a process of rebuilding, regeneration, understanding “that wildfires are important to the continued growth of an ecosystem and to enriching the soil.” They remind him how the Divine  “ushers us through the cycles of life.”

Easter is about renewal out of destruction—victory stolen from defeat, transition and moving forward to embrace the light of a new day, Jess said.

Jennifer Castle of Plymouth Church UCC, Seattle told of growing up in an Episcopal Church that was the center of her faith and social life, and being told in the 1970s by her priest that she’d be a good priest. Her parents divorced when she was 13. Her father left her mother for another church member, so she felt uncomfortable there. 

She never found a place with the same sense of belonging. In high school, a career aptitude test said “clergy.” She felt that door had closed.  She rarely attended a church for 20 years, but wanted her family to attend church.  Someone invited them to Plymouth, where she found “a place for us to grow in our faith.”  Her faith matured, deepened and become central to her life. She began working part-time, coordinating volunteers. Now she is full time director of faith formation.

Feeling most alive, connected to God when doing clergy tasks—serving communion, imposing ashes, offering written prayers and preaching, she embraced her childhood call and is in seminary training to be an ordained UCC pastor.

Nathaniel Mahlberg of First Congregational UCC in Walla Walla said on Ash Wednesday a few years ago he prayed about what practice to take on for Lent and chose “Jubilee.” Then he noticed ways he needed to forgive, “not only in moral terms, but also in terms of that nasty little four-letter word that biblical Jubilee is literally about: Debt.”

He said house mate owed him “a chunk of money” for the rent.  The house mate, who hid his struggle with addiction, owed many others money.

Over time, Nathaniel didn’t expect him to pay, but yas he prayed about Jubilee, that debt came to mind. He realized his bitterness about it, so he wrote the man and forgave the debt.  

“He responded with gratitude. It has been weighing on him, too. It felt good that we were both a little freer,” he said.

David Weasley of Bellingham First Congregational UCC told of being ordained in March 2010 at his little church, Peace Community Church, in a small town in Ohio. The tradition is for a few people to come up and pray for the person being ordained.  As music played, sojourners and troublemakers stood around him, put their hands on him and prayed. Half dozen more and a half dozen more—mentors, teachers, family, friends, hippies, academics, rabble-rousers, old people, babies and teenagers.

Asked a few weeks later if he felt different, he said, “there was something different.” He felt like he would be harder to knock down. “I felt more firmly rooted, more deeply connected to the earth, subway platform or church pew,” he said. “ It’s faded a bit, but I still feel it.

Ministry is hard sometimes, he said about sitting at the bedside of a dying child and talking to her parents about where they see God, or wrestling every day with the way patriarchy, racism and imperialism “have wormed their insidious ways into my heart, community and bones.”

Two constants are “the resurrecting love of God and the faithful presence of the church.”

Ron Patterson of Fox Island UCC spoke of a “cast of thousands in the cloud of witnesses” who have shown patience, witness and love, listened and forgiven, making his life and ministry possible.

They include a minister who watched and waited; an 80-year-old pastor’s widow who mentored him in college; a church secretary who made his fieldwork a ministry; a consistory of grandparent-aged leaders who loved him into leadership; a woman who told of life-transforming generosity; a conference staff person who checked so loneliness didn’t take over.

“Hundreds of people over the years affirmed my calling by just showing up and going way beyond my expectations ,because their ‘cloud of witnesses’ had transformed their lives, too,” Ron said.

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Copyright © March 2020 - Pacific NW United Church News




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