Monday June 29th, 2020 marked the 50th anniversary of the ELCA allowing the ordination of women.  That moment forever changed my life, even before I was born, because just nine years later my mother would be ordained.  As a result, I grew up with female pastors being the norm; something that I took for granted.  That being said, I know that it was not an easy path.  Talk to any female pastor, of any age, and they will have some stories for you.  Of the discrimination they have faced, the subtle and sometimes blatant sexism they have endured, and the ways that they had to fight to be recognized and heard.  Moments like this anniversary give us a tremendous opportunity, almost as if we are perched on a precipice.  We can look back and see how far we have come.  See the progress that has been made.  Honor and celebrate the witness and sacrifice of so many people who worked to make change possible; who sacrificed far more than we will ever know in the pursuit of justice, freedom, and living into who God created them to be.  While at the same time we look towards the future, towards the work that remains, towards where we are being called to go, as the people of God.

June seems to have been the month of such moments.  The devastating effect of racism on our society, known all too well by our siblings of color, has been brought to the forefront of the national conversation.  Our LGBTQ siblings were forced to find new ways to celebrate Pride month and support one another in love, while showing us how far we have to go before acceptance and equality will be the norm.  New data suggesting that the wearing of masks, practice of social distancing, and partial shutdown of businesses will continue for quite some time.

In all of these cases it may seem like we have an insurmountable uphill climb ahead of us.  Which is why it is important to stop, take a breath, and marvel at how far we have come.  To see that progress is possible when we believe in one another.  When we support one another, and lift one another up.  When we care for our neighbor, and we seek that which is right and just in the world.  When our actions and thoughts are all filtered through the lens of grace and love that Jesus saw this world through.  And take heart, dear people, especially if you are feeling as weary as I am these days.  Take heart as we shift our eyes from where we have come to where we are headed; for there is a great deal of work still left to be done.  But we are a people who have great resilience, great determination, and I believe that all of this and more is possible, especially when we place our trust in God.  When we realize that we do not have to do it alone.  That God will be there to guide us when the road ahead is unclear, to strengthen us when we feel faint and weary, and to call us back when we have wandered from the path.

Thank you for making it this far into what is a much longer newsletter article than the one I sat down to write!  I want to end it by telling you about our plans for reopening for in-person worship.  The worship services will be held on the lawn in the middle of our campus, with social distancing circles marked out for you and your household to sit in.  We do ask that you bring blankets and chairs to sit on, something to keep you safe from the sun, bring your own communion supplies (prizes for best, and most out-of-the-box may be awarded), and please wear masks for the safety of all of those around you.  We are planning to open in early August, and have you sign up for two of four possible Sundays (1st and 3rd, or 2nd and 4th).  We plan to reopen gradually, so that we can better respond to unforeseen hiccups, so we appreciate your patience as we ramp things up.  There will be much more in the way of instructions as we get closer, but know that no matter what you decide, online worship will be available to you.

Thank you all, for being who you are, dear people of Bethlehem.  You have been a consistent source of joy and hope for me over the past few months, and I am thankful every day for the witness, spirit, and love that this community shares with one another.

Pastor Sam