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The Link: January 2021

From Our Pastor

Dear Friends of Westminster,

The approach of the new year always prompts lists of various types. Most of them look back and do a “year in review” or the “most important moments.” My preferred list is President Obama’s favorite books of the year (Check it out. There are some really good ones on there!)

There were two lists this year that I decided to put side-by-side. The first was CNN’s “20 Things to Look Forward to in 2020”– a list published on January 2, 2020. And the second was “2020: Watch the Year in Review” in Time Magazine (more of a visual list). I had almost forgotten that 2020 was the start of a new decade and we began the year looking forward the summer Olympics in Tokyo, new movies debuting in theaters, and concerts by our favorite artists.

All this anticipation was met by the barely-on-our-radar-screen impact of a tiny virus spreading across the world. One year ago we had no idea how it would upend our daily lives and kill 1.6 million people worldwide (as of when this article was written; the number is certainly higher by the time you read this). We also had seen in years past the deaths of Black and Brown men and women at the hands of white police officers. The summer of 2020 would be a boiling-over point for those injustices as uprisings and protests blanketed the streets of our cities, including here in Ann Arbor. And our planet has been telling us for years that human impacts on the climate will have disastrous consequences. We saw that play out this year with wildfires in the west and hurricanes across the globe.

Before the birth of Jesus, the Gospel writer of Matthew made his own list. In chapter 1 we read a list of names, a genealogy of sorts, spanning the years, all the way back to Abraham. The actual birth of Jesus is barely a blip of a verse at the end of the chapter, before moving on to look toward the future. Even the gifts of the Magi, gold, frankincense and myrrh, foreshadow the future of Jesus death.

As the calendar turns to the New Year, I am making my own side-by-side mental list, as it relates to God’s call to us to be the church in the world. I wonder what we would include in our “2020 Year in Review” and “Thing to Look Forward To In 2021?” I expect it to be more than just a list of dates, names and events, it would include reflecting on what these mean for our life going forward.

  • How have these last ten months changed who we are as a church?
  • What was bubbling up that we weren’t paying attention to that is impossible to ignore now?
  • Where are we listening and holding space for the stories and pain of our collective experience through this pandemic?
  • How will engage with one another and our neighborhood when we are safely able to be in the same room and around tables together?

We still have challenging times ahead of us, before everyone is vaccinated. And the New Year promises an end to this insight. In the meantime, Westminster community, what New Year’s lists are you making?

Peace,

January 10 is Epiphany Sunday. In the same way as the Magi sought Jesus, we too seek to be closer to Christ. Our Epiphany journey isn’t a physical journey, but rather a spiritual seeking of new ways to see and live out our relationship with God. We at Westminster may each “follow” a word on a star, allowing that word to take our minds and prayers to an unknown place. Watch your mail this week for a card with a “star word” for this year. Ponder the word‘s significance in your life, and listen for God’s nudging. Be open to the Holy Spirit speaking to you in this new year through this star word!


Reflections on my 2020 Star Word

by Cathy Daniels

When I first read my “star word” at the start of the year, I was a bit bewildered, to be honest. Complete. 

What does that mean in the context of my faith journey? I obviously haven’t “completed” my journey. Does God make me a more “complete” person? Do I reflect on the word as an adjective, meaning “ to have all the necessary parts”, or as a noun, meaning “finish making”? Am I unfaithful to say that I don’t always feel “complete”?

“Completion” brings multiple emotions. “Completing” a big project brings satisfaction, relief, hope. The same is true for a woman in labor. The pregnancy and labor bring both pain and hope. The  woman’s labor is “completed” in a birth and motherhood, yet birth brings new pains, hopes, and joys. “Completion” can bring worry, too. What happens next?

Now, at the end of an unusual year, I reflect again. Many of us are anxious for the year 2020 to be over, “completed” – for the pandemic to finish, ”complete” its course. We are “completely” frustrated with all the changes and stress the pandemic has brought. “Completely” done with Zoom calls, wearing masks, and case counts on the news.

Yet the year 2021 begins with incompletion. We are not done wearing masks, not finished with Zoom calls, not “completed” hearing case counts on the news. But Jesus says, in John 15:11, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Multiple times  the phrases “our joy”, “my joy”, “your joy” appear in the Bible with the phrase, “may be complete.” So, though the pains, the worries, the stresses, of each year may never be “completed”, our joy may be “complete” in knowing that God is with us, providing strength, comfort, wisdom, and love.

Engaging Neighbors

Food Delivery to Cass Social Services in Detroit

Westminster – with particular help from Elizabeth Tidd – has been instrumental during the past several months facilitating food delivery to Cass Social Services, serving Detroit residents in need. The connections making this possible are many and far-ranging.

Skyline High School has been distributing 300–400 bags of food at lunch and dinnertimes, Mondays and Thursdays. Each bag has enough food for three meals a day for three or four days. A Skyline employee knew that her father, Gary Schoolmaster from Ypsilanti First Presbyterian Church, was connected through his church with Riverside Community Gathering. She asked if Riverside might be interested in Skyline’s occasional surplus food. Connections were subsequently also made with food production/distribution efforts at Pioneer High, with arrangements for pickup of their surplus.

Gary, with help from Don Redding of Ann Arbor First Presbyterian Church, began delivering that surplus to Riverside – and then expanded delivery to Hope Clinic and Salvation Army, since there was more than even Riverside could use./p>

Gary knew that Don, who also was delivering leftover food from University of Michigan athletic events, had connections to Cass Social Services – but refrigerators were needed to store the food until a weekly delivery day. They approached Westminster to see if they might use our refrigerators for such storage, and to see if anyone from Westminster might be interested in helping with the endeavor. As a church, we said yes to the use of our refrigerators, and Elizabeth Tidd stepped up to help with pick-up and delivery.

Before the start of the pandemic, Cass Social Services was serving 800–1000 people per day. They have welcomed the extra food from our three churches’ efforts, and have themselves been able to share some of that with other food distribution centers throughout Detroit.

It’s heartwarming to see what a few connections and a bit of organization can do to provide for the needs of so many. Thank you to all involved!

Delonis Rotating Shelter: Westminster will help with winter overflow housing in February; dates are likely February 22–28. Please save that week and watch for details on how you might – safely – help. Routines and locations are quite different this year, given the challenges of the COVID pandemic.

Our Life Together

Writers Welcome

Joe Neely’s contemplation of the Sunday morning Bible study group’s look at the book of Luke led him to write the following poem about the girl Jesus raised from the dead. Joe’s “pandemic project” of writing new and digging up old poems can inspire all of us to put our creative writing skills – time-tested or barely emergent – to use. Please send your writings to Marti Burbeck, for sharing, encouragement and inspiration for us all.

A Girl With No Name
Luke 8:49–56

Jesus raised her from dead
and we never hear of her again.
Her father was important
and she was 12 years old;
that’s all we know. Today
she might have braces,
wear a Red Wings jersey
and hang boy band posters
on her bedroom wall.

“Don‘t tell anyone,” Jesus asked,
but Peter, James and John,
the crowd, the pipe players,
kids climbing courtyard walls
for a better view: they all knew.
Death came sooner then,
death was more public and
they laughed Jesus to scorn
that she might live again.
But then he took her hand
and called to her spirit
and she returned.
He commanded she be fed,
and that’s all we'll ever know
of this girl without a name.

- Joseph Neely, December 2020

Worship Centers Continue Despite the Pandemic

The COVID pandemic has changed the worship experience for all of us, young and old. Westminster’s Worship Center teachers miss their in-person engagement with our elementary-age children. In more normal times, Sunday morning Worship Cneter time includes sharing and reflecting on Bible stories, singing songs, and sharing feasts. To maintain that connection and encourage continued growth in faith, each child received activity packets for Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas, with crafts and other materials recounting the birth of Jesus and the meaning of Christmas. In addition, three of our youngest  each received a Young Reader’s Bible.

In addition, a video series of The Road to Bethlehem was created and shared in Friday emails and made available on our website. This series, with more Worship Center stories yet to come, is for children of all ages to watch and reflect on.

An Anniversary Observed

Members and Friends of Westminster,

Westminster is blessed to have Marti Burbeck as our Director of Media and Communications. She is an accomplished graphic designer and brings color and beauty to all of Westminster’s publications. Newsletters, posters, bulletins, emails, podcasts, all depend on Marti’s skill and timeliness. In January of 2021, Marti will have been on Westminster’s staff for 20 years!

We, the Administration and Personnel Ministry team, feel that’s an important milestone. In any other time, we’d plan an all-church celebration so that everyone would have the opportunity to congratulate and thank Marti for her dedication. Unfortunately, that isn’t to be during pandemic restrictions. So we hope that you all will reach out to Marti in some way, big or small, to let her know how the publications she’s provided us with all these years have made a difference in your life. You can email her at msburbeck@gmail.com, or send a card to 3200 Tessmer Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48103. Please let Marti know she’s valued!

Administration and Personnel Ministry Team:
Douglas Northrop, Doug Franklin, Diane Imredy, Glen Anderson, Steve Angerman, Betty Chaffee

Session Meeting Highlights and More

For many years, Westminster has had a Member Health and Living Fund, supported by designated gifts from members and friends of Westminster. The fund is used to address specific needs that periodically arise for those in our church family. Please consider a gift of any size to support this fund. You can give online, using the “Other” category and noting the Member Health and Living Fund, or by sending a check to the church with the same notation. Requests for these funds can be made to Rev. DeRosia and are kept strictly confidential.

December 13, 2020 Session Meeting highlights:

Thanks were expressed for gifts of time, talent and treasure from many members, friends and neighbors:
  • to Ron and Jill Fairchild for recording the Advent videos, “The Road to Bethlehem,” created for our Worship Center (elementary age) children and a blessing to all who watched, both children and adults alike;
  • to the many people who so generously gave both gifts and money to support the Deacon’s Christmas Gift Basket program in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS);
  • to the Westminster family and neighbors of the church who provided 60+ bags of food and personal care items to Hope Clinic through the food drive in October and November;
  • and to elders Alison Collicott, Cathy Daniels, Jeff Flynn and Dave Gross for their service on Session for the last three years.

The light that beautifully lit the cross on the roof of the sanctuary was short-lived; the light quickly failed. The purchase and installation of a new fixture was approved by Session, funded through the Memorial Gifts fund. The cross will again soon be lit to reflect the light of Christ to neighbors and passers-by.

Session began discussing what worship may look like both in the short-term and long-term as we move into 2021, including podcasts, pre-recorded videos, and in-person worship when we can again safely meet together.

New elders and deacons will be ordained and installed during the Wednesday Zoom meeting on January 13, 2021.

A learning church is a growing church. Take advantage of these opportunities to grow in faith, service and friendship.

  • Monday Conversations are weekly at 1 pm on Zoom. Join the discussion about the week’s scripture and sermon. The Zoom meeting invitation arrives via email on Monday mornings.

  • Wednesday Dessert Conversations are at 7 pm on Zoom, providing time for us to connect, catch up with and encourage one another. The Zoom meeting invitation arrives via email on Wednesday mornings.

  • Walk and pray with us. We hope to resume walking together in the new year. Please contact Elizabeth Tidd for information.

  • Note that Monday and Wednesday get-togethers need not be your only “face-to-face” time with fellow church-goers. Several small groups at Westminster are meeting regularly online:

    • Reading Through the Bible Group meets virtually on Sundays at 9:30 am. Please contact Jun Zhang or Marcia Anderson to receive the meeting invitation and join the conversation. We are currently discussing 1 Corinthians. All are welcome!

    • The book of Romans is the subject for two groups, each meeting online on alternate Sundays at 7 pm:

    • Mary Martha Group meets the first and third Mondays of the month at 7 pm, currently via Zoom. Please contact Sharon Flynn to receive the meeting invitation. New members are welcome.

    • Thursday Book Club meets virtually at 1 pm weekly and welcomes newcomers. Please contact Jill Fairchild to receive the meeting invitation and join the conversation.

    • You are welcome to set up meetings with existing, new or ad hoc groups. Please contact Marti Burbeck for help with this (or simply use your own videoconference account if you have one).


We thank you for continuing to fulfill your pledges and financial commitments (online or by mailing checks) in support of the mission and ministry of Westminster Presbyterian Church.

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