From Kathy

As we approach the holiday season, I invite you to be mindful for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. As most of us know this can be a particularly difficult time. As friends it is important to invite those who are grieving to have dinner, go to a movie, to share moments together but to understand that those who are grieving may not feel like joining us but the fact that we invited them helps them to know we love and care for them.

It’s important to invite those who are grieving to share their thoughts and memories of their loved one—not bringing up the name of the one who died often makes family and friends even lonelier. Going through grief experiences myself, I have learned that the second year of the loss is at times more difficult to cope with than the first year. I think we expect the first year to be difficult, we prepare for that and we are sometimes still in shock and a bit of a fog. We often expect the second year to be a bit easier and when it’s not it may be very depressing. Many, including myself, have found that by the third year of a loss we begin to find a new normal and renewed joy and happiness—so for those who are grieving be kind to yourselves; for those who are friends of grieving person, please frequently and gently reach out to those who are going through the grief process.

For those who are grieving, it is important to allow yourself to grieve in ways that work for you and to celebrate holidays as you wish. It is important for families in grief to talk openly about what to do on Thanksgiving and Christmas and to make allowances for all family members to celebrate or not celebrate according to their needs. You may want to keep with old traditions or add some new ones such as lighting a candle in memory of your loved one at a holiday dinner. Maybe this is the year for pizza instead of turkey. Most importantly when those days arrive, give yourself and your family members the grace to be sad or happy; to be with a big group or not. It is a difficult time for everyone so being flexible and kind are important qualities to incorporate at this time of year.

Also, you might not be grieving the loss of a loved one but a change in circumstance. These might include but are not limited to job change, job loss, re-location, ending of a significant relationship, health issue, a new baby in the family, infertility issues, major income change, etc. Again, it is important to be gentle with oneself in these changes and to reach out with compassion and love to those going through life changes. Pastor Chelsea and I are available to counsel with any who might want to talk about this more in-depth.

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A number of people have asked me why I often include a pew buddy question when I am preaching so I thought I might discuss that here. As you may know, the American church is in decline. Religious changes are sweeping western society in the kind of depth that the Reformation brought to the church in the 16th century. For the last several years I have attended workshops, classes and done a great deal of reading about how to re-vitalize and/or strengthen existing mainline congregations. One of the clear issues that non-churched people have with worship is that except for music it is fairly one directional (the pastor and worship leaders doing all the talking). As we learned in the Mission Insight work that the Church Council and 5-year Leadership Team have engaged in, there are significant groups of non-churched people who want to worship in an environment in which they also have an opportunity to share their thinking and ask questions. The pew buddy question is an attempt to meet this need. As I have used this in the past, I get mixed reviews. Some people really enjoy and appreciate it and it adds to their worship experience. Others don’t like it.   This is also true with many other elements in worship. As a congregation we come to worship with different needs and preferences so some parts of the worship service are going to be more meaningful to each one of us than other parts. As a congregation who has celebrating community as a core value, the pew buddy question is one way to help people connect to each other in worship. I will not use the pew buddy question on communion Sundays. If you do not want to engage in the pew buddy question, please feel free to shut your eyes or be in prayer—it’s only 90 or so of the worship service!!

As Always, I am happy to talk with you about anything I have written or any other matters.

Blessings, Pastor Kathy

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