Old Text – Still Relevant

Pastor’s Column for February 2020 Epistle

Dear Friends in Christ,

I said, in my sermon January 19, that I have never before so appreciated the readings from First Corinthians during the Season after Epiphany as I have this year. I want to unpack that a little in my February column. First Corinthians is a letter written by Paul to the Church in Corinth, a church he founded that needs help. First Corinthians offers a window on a congregation and preacher trying to sort out the real-life implications of the gospel. Does that sound familiar? It should, because that is the work we go about day in and day out at Trinity Lutheran in Nampa, Idaho. Like those early Christians, we ask questions like, how should Christians live in a culture at odds with their confession of faith? What commitments and practices enable Christians to honor one another (and their neighbors) in the midst of differences of opinion? The letter explores themes of Christian unity, ethics, and hope. Those are themes we wrestle with today. Yes, there are parts of Paul’s letters that are certainly specific to his context, but it is remarkable how relevant his words still are today. I told our new member inquiry class, as we set out to read parts of the Augsburg Confession, that I believe that 500-year-old document penned by Martin Luther’s friend Philip Melanchthon is still incredibly relevant as well. I am thankful for all of the new writers and thinkers I encounter in a year as your pastor, people whose contexts are similar to my own, but I also give thanks for old and ancient writings which connect us to the saints who have died. Please join me in reading and studying First Corinthians. Themes like the Body of Christ, Christian community, former life contrasted with the new, love, the resurrection, and spiritual gifts are part of your individual lives as followers of Jesus and part of our life as the congregation that is Trinity Lutheran, Nampa.

Peace,

Pastor Meggan

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Trinity New Hope Stories – Four

Trinity New Hope stories for 2019 Avenues for Hope

Written by Trinity New Hope Property Manager Tami Romine

Family 4 (also featured in 2018)

Finally, the last family was a single mom with five children: One teenage boy and all others under the age of 8.

The mom had always been required by her husband to stay home and take care of the children, not allowed to work outside the home. Additionally, he never put her name on any mortgage contract or anything else to allow her to build any type of good credit. Conversely though, the credit that was connected to her was the bad credit choices he made by putting the utilities in her name and not making the payments. On top of all of this, she was a victim of domestic violence. Besides the oppression, the abuse was significant. In this case though, she had been homeless for a year and had been trying to break away from him for four years. But he had been tying her hands on everything in legal battles. Even her ability to work was and is affected because she had crazy restrictions from a judge that prevented her from being away from the children longer than two hours at any given time, on any day of the week, unless they were in his care.

Finally, CATCH activated her on their waiting list and called us. CATCH got her started. Even though she is STILL plagued by insane restrictions with her divorce and custody battle, she has been doing well in the last 9 months she has been with us. She says she has not felt this safe in a very long time. She still has a long way to go on her journey, but there is no doubt she will get there.

This family is doing very well. The single mom has finally been able to seek employment outside of the home and has a full-time job. She is proud of and grateful for who she works for and that they seem to really like and appreciate her. She volunteers for every extra opportunity for more hours and has been promised the chance to move up in the company in the future if she continues to be an exemplary employee.

With this new income, she has been consistently able to pay her monthly rent and keep a roof over their heads. Even more important, she is happy. That has been something she has not known (according to what she has shared) in a very long time. We expect good things from this family. They have come a very long way since the day they moved in.

 

 

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Trinity New Hope Stories – Three

Trinity New Hope stories for 2019 Avenues for Hope

Written by Trinity New Hope Property Manager Tami Romine

Family 3 (also featured in 2018)

This family came to us in late 2015. They were a homeless family of seven made up of Mom, Dad, and five teenage girls. Everyone was living in two different vehicles. Four of the five children had disabilities and required a significant amount of assistance that was, and still is, quite costly. Mom literally had to stay home to take care of the family. Therefore, they were a one income home. The father had many challenges, because of the medical needs of his family, in trying to manage all of the expenses. Consequently, they lost their home two years prior. Yes, they had been homeless for two years prior to coming to Trinity New Hope!

As a result of losing their home, the stability of having a home did not help his ability to maintain a job. At the time we met them, the father was working every temp to hire job he could get. But it was never enough to get started on getting into a home. That is where CATCH came in. Finally, someone was willing to help them get into a home. They just needed a housing provider to be a bit more flexible with their criteria and give them a chance. So, CATCH called us.

Three years ago, we started out with this family who was very broken, lacked confidence, and always lived in constant fear of losing their home. The heart was there, but that fear made communication difficult for them. It also made it very difficult for housing providers to qualify them. However, as the property manager, I had a significant amount of experience working with individuals and families in a fragile state and I was willing to help them. What I saw from the father was a sincere heart and willingness to do what it took to make sure his family was in a safe place. I also saw someone who had heard “no” so many times, that he did not feel worthy of anything or anyone. My goal, was to change that.

Now, after three years, the father has finally been given a full-time job that he has held for quite a long time now. He is trusted with a company truck because he lives in Canyon County and works in Boise. The eldest daughter is going to CWI; the second eldest daughter got married and has a home with her new husband; the mom has confidence in spades now and she partners with the property manager in doing whatever is required to maintain their housing. The girls have all learned, with some extra coaching from the property manager, how to help their mom keep their rooms clean, keep the laundry up, cook, and clean. These were all skills that they lacked because they had not had anything to take care of before. Ultimately, every month, every year, the family shows great progress and pride in what they have achieved. They have been able to consistently pay their rent and other bills, follow through with all of the annual paperwork for housing, and even buy a new-to-them 2010 car for her. She’s never had a car of her own and she is so proud of it.

This family still has more goals they would like to accomplish and I am confident, that they will.

We are now past year number four with this family and they are still going strong. They have become even more stable with less and less late rent notices, have truly made progress in the goals they set for themselves. The goals have included improved self-care and care for the home. Significantly reduced late rent payments and much improved communication with Trinity New Hope and others. They have long-term goals of owning a home someday, but right now they are just making sure the other adult daughter gets through college at CWI and the other two daughters at home, graduated from high school. This family is very grateful for the affordable housing program we offer and always take any opportunity to let me know that they appreciate the chance we have given them.

 

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Collaboration All. Year. Long.

This December, Trinity New Hope, the affordable housing nonprofit affiliated with my congregation, is participating for the third time in a row in the Home Partnership Foundation’s online fundraiser Avenues for Hope. For small younger nonprofits like ours, this is an amazing fundraiser because the Foundation goes out and gathers all of the matching funds from businesses and then finds fun interactive ways for us to earn those funds–get so many donations by noon the first day, get more donations than last year, get donations from 12 states. There are big prizes for the people who get the most dollars or have the most donations in the state and in each of three regions. Since Trinity New Hope is small and in the region with the most other nonprofits, our board and staff do not even attempt to win those awards.

However, there was one prize that piqued my interest: Nonprofit Collaboration Cheer on/recognize [on social media] fellow participants to broaden campaign visibility.

I love the spirit of this prize because I am competitive and this is a reminder that we all have similar goals and are in this work together. However, this is what I know about nonprofit collaboration: it does not happen during the last two weeks of every December. Instead, as the title of this blog post states, collaboration happens all year long. Nonprofit collaboration is all about relationships with the people who work in those nonprofits, and there is nothing immediate or quick about building authentic trusting relationships that lead to real collaboration.

This is what nonprofit collaboration looks like to me:

Getting up early and driving to Caldwell for the Region 3 Housing Coalition Meeting and listening carefully as people introduce themselves. Friends from Nampa Housing Authority and WICAP ask about my sabbatical and reentry and I learn about what is new in their lives and at their agencies.

Hosting the Healthy Nampa Food Meeting at Trinity Lutheran Church one afternoon, again listening carefully as people introduce themselves. After serving food alongside people via Nampa’s Traveling Table for the past few months, someone representing AARP asks if I can give a quick history of Trinity Community Gardens and I happily oblige. Also, the printing of our simple recipe book has been turned over to another agency so I check, at the end of the meeting, on that project’s status.

Attending the Nampa Chamber of Commerce event every few months so that I do not get siloed in the nonprofit world. A Chamber event for women business leaders a few years ago included a bright and passionate local bank manager (Deb Harris) on its panel. Last winter I invited her to give to Trinity New Hope during Avenues for Hope. That led to a phone call which led to a lunch which led to her sitting on the Trinity New Hope board.

Listening when a friend says, “I want you to meet this guy from a nonprofit that’s dealing with housing in Boise.” I met Bart Cochran for coffee in Boise a few years ago and now we reconnect every six months or so. Shortly after he told me Leap Charities was considering partnering with a church in Boise, I saw the Religion News Service article about churches turning the slogan “Not In My Back Yard” into “Yes in God’s Back Yard.” His staff has now adopted the slogan as their own.

Driving over to St Alphonsus Hospital off Garrity every month to be with the small but faithful group of pastors and chaplains who form the Nampa Ministerial Association. Every month during the school year we gather for lunch and hear from a different nonprofit or government agency working in Nampa. This month I dragged my feet, making a list of other things to do with my time, but when I arrived I was excited to see my friend Mari Ramos, who runs the Community Resource Centers for the Nampa School District, and to finally meet Natalie Sandoval, the new McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act Coordinator. They were our monthly presenters.

Attending another nonprofit’s fundraiser. Monday night I headed to Payette Brewing in Boise for their weekly Kegs 4 Kause, featuring CATCH. I planned to do some research and figure out what Trinity New Hope would need to do to be a Kegs 4 Kause recipient. I ended up talking with Executive Director Stephanie Day for a long time, which was pure gift. But other gifts at Payette were meeting the executive director of another nonprofit (Jesse Tree) and the pastor of a Boise church which is, like Trinity Lutheran, committed to helping the marginalized.

Working hard. Collaboration can feel like a slog. Why? Because it means working with people and sometimes people are beautiful and amazing and are able to bring their best selves to the collaboration table. And sometimes people are irritating and are having a bad day and are doing their best to just show up. And sometimes that irritating person is me! But when the hard work of continually showing up pays off, there is simply, in my humble opinion, nothing sweeter.

Saying thank you. At the Chamber of Commerce luncheon this week I took materials on Avenues for Hope and gave them to several people who have donated in the past. But I also made sure, during our networking time, to seek out the elected officials who had Trinity New Hope’s back in early July. I also thanked the employees of the local title company for the donation their business is making to Trinity New Hope this December.

Now, you might be asking if this is what a pastor is supposed to be doing with her time in 2019. Believe me, the question of what exactly I am supposed to do after preparing a sermon, leading worship, and providing pastoral care, is one that keeps me up at night. For now, I simply want to show that nonprofit collaboration is a year-round endeavor. It is one that has amazing payoffs, but it is also takes time and patience. I will never stop being a collaborator because I am forever curious about the community I live in and because I think there is so much more we can accomplish when we collaborate.

Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids would never have happened without networking and then collaboration.

The Traveling Table would never have been started without a foundation of trusting relationships on which collaboration is built.

In Ada County, years of networking followed by relationship building followed by collaboration can be seen first in Our Path Home and then to the recent announcement of the goal to truly end homelessness.

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Trinity New Hope Stories – Two

Trinity New Hope stories for 2019 Avenues for Hope

Written by Trinity New Hope Property Manager Tami Romine

Family 2

This new family is a small one, but a good one. Another referral from SICHA with a voucher, she is a grandma who was unexpectedly tasked with raising her grandson alone. In her mind she had a challenging past wore that way of thinking on her sleeve. Like many who come through my door, she did not realize she did not need to lead every conversation and opportunity for housing, with her past explained first. She lacked confidence in herself on a very high level because she believed herself unworthy at a second chance. After much encouragement and a willingness to take a leap of faith on Trinity New Hope, she learned that her past did not even show up on any reports anywhere and was long gone from view. Where it should be. I was able to expedite everything very quickly as she was extremely motivated and willing to get whatever was needed to make housing possible. She is now settled with her grandson who is an extremely sweet young man. They are happy to be right across from his school and able to afford to live in a nice, safe home without the worry of losing her home again.

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Trinity New Hope Stories – One

Trinity New Hope Stories for 2019 Avenues for Hope Housing Challenge

Written by Trinity New Hope Property Manager Tami Romine

Family 1

This family is a household of seven with a mom, dad, and five little one’s all under the age of six. They come to us from the Hawaiian Islands because they were no longer able to afford basic living expenses in Hawaii and the homeless population is ever increasing there. They did not want to be homeless in a place they believed they would never be able to afford. When they were introduced to Trinity New Hope (TNH), they were a Southwestern Idaho Cooperative Housing Authority (SICHA) referral. They were homeless and did not have much to their name. He worked a full time job, but did not earn enough to be able to get themselves into a house until they met us. Their credit was a little challenging, but not too bad. Mostly, they just needed someone to give them a chance. Now, the family has a SICHA voucher and is becoming more and more stable with each passing month. They are slowly obtaining the basic household items they need. Regardless, they remain one of the happiest and most patient couple I have met in my career. They are kind and generous and their children are truly lovely. We are blessed to have them as part of the TNH family.

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Worship Stuff – Intro

During my sabbatical I decided that worship would be something both helpful and fun to write about. Trinity Lutheran, Nampa is a bit more intentionally liturgical than the vast majority of worshiping communities in Nampa. That is neither good or bad, it is simply the truth. It is good for me because that intentionality is my comfort-zone. But sometimes I worry about  our guests who have questions about liturgy, our furniture, other props that take up space, our language, or the way the leadership dresses in robes. I will always remember the time I showed our sanctuary to someone who had come in to ask about using our fellowship hall, “Why do you have so many candles?” Wow! I had never thought about how many candles we have.

Of course, it is not only strangers who have questions about worship itself or the worship space. One of the best Sunday Adult Forum series we did at Trinity was when the group made a list on the white board of all the stuff they had questions about and we simply took on one topic each Sunday morning during class. Our most excellent Worship, Music and Altar Guild (WAGM) team made a similar list, though it was limited to worship space, and I wrote a newsletter column on each topic. (Truth be told, I mostly took the information, with citations, from the ELCA Worship FAQ page). We have a guiding principle, in our WAGM meetings, that if our group does not know the purpose of a part of the liturgy or something in our worship space, it is time to either explain it again to the entire congregation or think about discarding it. This principle has helped us explain so many aspects of worship.

So, while my head was just a litter freer on sabbatical, I think when Joy and I were doing all that hiking across Connemara, I came up with a list of Worship Stuff that I hope to write about. Some of the topics are strictly related to Sunday worship and some are related to other worship services or taking Sunday worship beyond the sanctuary. Here is my beginning list (topics and questions): Why do the colors of church paraments change, why/how do we take Communion to people in hospitals and their homes, all the different prayers Sunday morning, personal prayers, why have a Christian funeral, exchanging the peace, silence, what is essential, and yes, what about all of those candles. Stay tuned for me to take on some of these subjects and please suggest other topics in the comments to this post.

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