Downtown Senior Clergy Statement: April 14, 2021

The world is watching to see if justice will be done in Minneapolis.

As the murder trial continues for the police killing of George Floyd, we, the Minneapolis Downtown Interfaith Senior Clergy, now also mourn the police killing of Daunte Wright. We underline our cry for justice and our condemnation of racism and white supremacy culture in the strongest terms. We call for transparency and accountability in the handling of the facts of both of these cases, and we stand in solidarity with those actively and peacefully working to dismantle the racial injustice that continues to permeate our communities.

We just celebrated Passover and Easter, and are observing Ramadan. Our traditions call us to move from degradation to dignity, death to life, and sin to mercy. Our religious teachings are clear on this point: all human beings are siblings. Every person has a spark of the divine. Every life is precious. All must breathe free. We invite our neighbors to join us in prayer for hearts and lives broken by violent systems.

Firmly rooted in our faith traditions, we stand united in our call for love and justice because, as Black theologian Cornel West phrases it, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” We know that a just society is always a work in progress – but helping create a society where all may live, grow, and flourish is our calling.

We are committed to finding hope in even the most hopeless of circumstances. We know that many people, especially people of color, are traumatized and hurting. We are committed to healing in our congregations, our community, our nation, and our world.

Together, we echo the words of Isaiah,

You will rebuild the ancient ruins,

raise foundations from ages past,

and be called “Repairer of broken walls,

Restorer of streets to live in.” (58:12)

 

In solidarity and in faith,

  • Rev. Elijah McDavid III, Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church
  • Imam Makram Nu’Man El-Amin, Masjid An-Nur
  • Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, Temple Israel
  • Rev. Dr. DeWayne Davis, Plymouth Congregational Church
  • Rev. Dr. Tim Hart-Andersen, Westminster Presbyterian Church
  • Rev. Jia Starr Brown, First Covenant Church
  • Rev. Dr. David Breeden, First Unitarian Society
  • Rev. Kevin Kenney, Saint Olaf Catholic Church
  • Rev. Judy Zabel, Hennepin Avenue United Methodist
  • Imam Dr. Hamdy El-Sawaf Islamic Community Center of Minnesota/Masjid Al-Imin
  • Rev. Dr. Laurie Pound Feille, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Rev. Peter Nycklemoe, Central Lutheran Church
  • Rev. Jen Crow, First Universalist Church
  • Rev. Justin Schroeder, First Universalist Church
  • The Very Rev. Paul J. Lebens-Englund, Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral

 

Rev. Dr. Tony Tian-Ren Lin to Speak at Men’s Retreat

Westminster is excited to welcome the Rev. Dr. Tony Tian-Ren Lin for the Spring Men’s Retreat this month. Tian-Ren Lin is the Program Director for the Leadership Development Initiative at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City and also a Research Professor at New York Theological Seminary. He is a cultural sociologist whose scholarship focuses on the intersection of religion, immigration, race, and ethnicity.

During the Men’s Retreat, Tian-Ren Lin will share about the role of Mainline Churches in modern America. Together, the group of Westminster members will explore with Tian-Ren Lin the modern culture and how people at the margins experience change the first and worst while people in the center usually experience change last. They will also examine how the people in the center are also often the ones in power, so how can the church help move people to action? Finally, the group will discuss “meritocratic Christianity,” or the idea that our faith should “pay off” in some way. This thinking can lead to a graceless Christianity.

Tian-Ren Lin will challenge attendees to examine in what ways they have been graceless. The Men’s Retreat will be held on Zoom, Saturday, April 17, from 8:45 am-noon. Contact Deb Wagner by Friday, April 16, to register.

 

Macalester College President to Preach at WPC

On Macalester Sunday, April 11, Westminster will welcome Dr. Suzanne Rivera as our guest preacher. Dr. Rivera became the 17th president of Macalester College in June 2020. She has worked in higher education for 25 years and is an accomplished leader, instructor, researcher, and scholar. She is an advocate for social justice and brings a strong commitment to inclusion and equity to her role. Prior to her appointment at Macalester, Dr. Rivera was the Vice President for Research and Technology Management at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Rivera is Macalester College’s first female President and first Latinx President.

Westminster celebrates Macalester Sunday the week following Easter each year as a way to highlight the historic ties between the College and the Presbyterian Church. Presbyterians began Macalester College – and dozens of similar educational institutions across the land – in the late 19th century in order to teach the values of critical thinking, excellence in education, and service to the broader society. Those values continue to inspire Macalester today.

Westminster’s senior pastor and church members have historically served as members of the Macalester Board of Trustees as a mark of the close relationship between this historic congregation and the College. Westminster has had Macalester student interns each summer for many years. The recent Open Doors Open Futures campaign include support for a Westminster scholarship.

If you would like to hear Dr. Rivera in person, register online to attend the 10:30 am Worship in the sanctuary. Worship services will also be streamed on our Livestream channel at 10:30 am and at 5 pm for Gathered at Five.

Expanding Phase 2.5 and Moving to Phase 3.5 in the Re-opening the Building Plan

On March 18, 2021, members of the Responsible Building Use Task Force met to discuss expanding the current allowances in our re-opening the building plan. In March we entered Phase 2.5 of our re-opening the building plan, which allows for 15 people to attend worship in person in Westminster Hall on Sundays. After a few weeks, the re-opening phase continues to go well and those attending have reported feeling safe with the Covid protocols we have put into place. Therefore, beginning immediately we will expand the allowances in our re-opening the building plan under Phase 2.5 and on Easter Sunday we will move into Phase 3.5.

Additional allowances under Phase 2.5:

  • Allow access to the sanctuary from 10 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday, for personal prayer. To arrange an individual prayer time in the sanctuary, please contact Vanessa Uzong at the front desk (612-332-3421).
  • Allow opportunities for Westminster small groups of up to 15 people to meet at the church between 9 am and 4 pm, Monday through Friday. This would be arranged ahead of time with only one group at a time. To arrange a small group meeting in the church, please contact Deb Wagner. If groups would like to meet at other times, they would need to make special arrangements with a staff person.
  • Continue to allow 15 people to attend worship in person in Westminster Hall.

Allowances under Phase 3.5, beginning Sunday, April 4:

  • Move morning worship attendance to the sanctuary and increase attendance allowance to 100 people (including clergy and staff).
  • Continue Gathered at Five worship in Westminster Hall and increase attendance allowance to 35 people (including clergy and staff).
  • Allow groups of up to 50 people to gather outside on-site and off-site.
  • Continue to allow Westminster groups of 15 or less to meet inside the building as well as individuals for personal prayer.

For all of the above, Covid protocols would remain, which include preregistration for events and worship, answering the Covid screening questions, wearing a mask, and staying six-feet apart from others in the building who are not in your immediate household. In addition, there will be no congregational singing during the in-person services.

Finally, we want to remind the community that should circumstances warrant, we may need to scale back our re-opening plan to an earlier phase.

Below is a list of questions and answers related to this update that we hope will provide more information.

Q&A

Can you tell me what the most up-to-date allowances are in Westminster’s re-opening the building?

Beginning Monday, March 22, during the work week we will open the sanctuary for personal prayer and allow Westminster groups of up to 15 people to meet in the building, all with preregistration and following our Covid protocols. We will also allow groups of up to 15 people to meet at other times, with special arrangement from a staff member.

Beginning Easter Sunday, April 4, we will open the sanctuary for morning worship and allow up to 100 people to meet in the space. We will increase the number in Westminster Hall to 35 people total for Gathered at Five, and allow groups of 50 to gather outside on-site and off-site. Again, all gatherings will require preregistration and those attending will need to answer the Covid screening questions, wear a mask, and stay six-feet apart from others in the building who are not in their immediate household. In addition, there will be no congregational singing during the services.

What does this mean for Easter Sunday services?

We will have multiple in-person worship options for Easter Sunday this year, including one service in the sanctuary, but none with congregational singing. To see a complete of Holy Week and Easter service options, visit the holiday worship page of our website.

My small group would love to meet together in person at the church. How can we get on the schedule?

Please contact Deb Wagner and she will help with the arrangements.

I would like to stop by the church and visit the sanctuary to pray. How do I schedule that?

Please contact Vanessa Uzong at the front desk (612-332-3421) and she will help with the arrangements.

Do you have to be vaccinated to attend worship or events at Westminster?

No, we are not requiring those attending worship to be vaccinated. However, we do acknowledge that there is some level of risk involved for attending in-person worship and events. Therefore, we leave it up to individuals and families to decide if this level of risk is something they are comfortable with or not. Both decisions are fine and expected.

If someone is vaccinated, do they get preference to attend worship?

We will not be asking if someone is vaccinated as part of our preregistration process so vaccinations will not have a role in deciding who attends worship and events.

Are you continuing with the re-opening volunteers?

For the first weeks of re-opening the building, we asked for volunteers to attend and provide feedback to help us learn and then to teach others about the protocols for future in-person services and events at Westminster. Those individuals will be encouraged to volunteer at upcoming gatherings inside the building, but in Phase 3.5 we are no longer asking those attending worship and events to agree to be a re-opening volunteer.

How are you monitoring this re-opening the building plan?

We have a small group of staff who meet weekly to review feedback from those who attended in-person worship and to make any necessary adjustments to our procedures. In addition, the Responsible Building Use Task Force is meeting regularly to review what we are learning, make any necessary adjustments to protocols, and expand the allowances.

Is there a chance you could move back to online-only worship?

Although we hope we continue to move forward through this pandemic, we also recognize the possibility that the conditions in the larger community might decline again. Therefore, there is always a chance that, should circumstances warrant, we will scale back to an earlier re-opening phase.

What if someone attending worship or another event is diagnosed with COVID-19?

Westminster’s established Covid protocols state that if there is a confirmed case reported, Westminster will:

  • Disinfect and close any impacted spaces for an appropriate period.
  • Inform proper authorities, such as local and state health officials.
  • Assist authorities with contact tracing.

In addition, those involved with worship will get tested and quarantine, if necessary.

Barbara Coombs Lee: End of Life, with Compassion and Choice

by Tane Danger, Director, Westminster Town Hall Forum

Few topics are more universal and simultaneously more ethically complex than how we approach end of life. Death and dying invites us each to grapple with our own faith, identity, and values. At the same time, it raises profound questions about our relationship with the healthcare system and our agency as patients and human beings.

With all that in mind, we are humbled and excited to welcome Barbara Coombs Lee to the Forum this March. For more than 25 years, Barbara Coombs Lee has been organizing and advocating for everyone to have more choices and better care at the end of their lives. She is president emerita/senior adviser of Compassion & Choices, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit focused on those issues.

Before becoming an advocate, Lee spent a quarter century as a nurse and physician’s assistant, often at the bedside of terminally-ill patients. That experience drove her to co-author the Oregon Death with Dignity Act and serve as spokesperson through two statewide campaigns to get it passed. Oregon approved the measure in 2008, making it only the second state to permit aid in dying. She kept working, including defending legal challenges against aid in dying in Montana, and helping pass the California End of Life Option Act in 2015.

In her most recent book, Finish Strong: Putting YOUR Priorities First at Life’s End, Lee offers a guide for a more patient-driven healthcare system, particularly at end of life. Barbara Coombs Lee speaks at the Westminster Town Hall Forum with moderator Tim Hart-Andersen on Tuesday, March 23, at noon. Plan to join us and listen on Minnesota Public Radio, WestminsterForum.org, or the Forum’s Facebook page.

A New Podcast: “For Pod So Loved the World”

During these challenging and disorienting days, it can be difficult to glimpse moments of grace occurring around us. We aren’t always sure if our pursuits are adding up to meaningful activity. Meeting interesting people may be harder than it used to be. For many of us, our sense of our spirituality and our connections to others are changing.

To help us—all of us, including our friends and neighbors—navigate our circumstances with attentiveness to the new life and hope God provides, Westminster has launched a new podcast. In each episode of For Pod So Loved the World, the hosts, Rev. Alanna Simone Tyler (or, in some episodes, Rev. Sarah Brouwer) and Rev. Dr. Matt Skinner, engage in thoughtful and friendly conversation with a guest about their experiences of faith, beauty, struggle, and our common life during this time of disconnection.

Some of the guests may be familiar to you, while others will be strangers we think you’ll enjoy meeting. Feed your heart and mind by listening, and spread the word about this new resource!

For Pod So Loved the World is available through most major podcast directories. If you’re new to using podcasts, you can also simply go online and visit Buzzsprout to hear it.

This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Westminster News.

Faith Nixon Symposium: Listening with Hope

By Margaret McVay, Westminster member

Please join us for the annual Faith Nixon Symposium on Saturday, March 20, from 10 am to noon. This event will be held on Zoom. The theme for this year’s event is “Listening with Hope.” The Rev. Julie Neraas will be our speaker, and there will be an opportunity for small group discussions. Julie is a longtime Presbyterian Pastor, spiritual director, retreat leader, author, and teacher at Hamline University. She has been apprenticed to hope through her decades with a chronic illness, and with her hope for all God’s people. She writes, “In this tumultuous time in our world, the viability of hope may be our biggest question. So many forces threaten to send hope to the sidelines. With it so much is possible. Without it, so little is. In this Faith Nixon Symposium, we’ll consider the nature of hope, its sources, and the habits and practices that encourage hope.”

Since this is Westminster’s Year of Listening, Listening with Hope in the midst of this pandemic year might be just what we are all craving. This event is open to both men and women, and we would love to have high school students join us as well. We will also offer a yoga/gentle movement session from 8:30-9:30 am.

This symposium is made possible each year by the Faith Nixon Endowment Fund, which honors the memory of Faith Nixon, one of the first women elders at Westminster, who paved the way for others to follow in her footsteps. Her energy, humor, and open-mindedness were an inspiration to many.

For more information, including how to register, visit the event calendar listing.

Moving into Phase 2.5 in the Re-opening the Building Plan

On February 23, 2021, members of the Responsible Building Use Task Force met to discuss the threshold indicators in Westminster’s Re-opening the Building Plan to determine if we could move from Phase 2 to Phase 3. Although we have met the threshold indicators, we recognize that opening the building after nearly a year will take some planning and preparedness. Therefore, we have decided to enter a Phase 2.5.

For the month of March, we will begin to allow groups of 15 people to meet for worship on Sundays. Limiting the number to 15 will ensure that the total number of the people in Westminster Hall will not exceed 25 with clergy and musicians. We would like to use these groups of 15 people as “pilot” groups to help us learn and adjust, and eventually to prepare for more people returning to the Westminster building.

This means that beginning Sunday, March 7, we will have a small group of people attend the 10:30 am Worship and the Gathered at Five worship in person. They will need to register ahead of time, answer the Covid screening questions, wear a double or an N95 mask, and stay six-feet apart from others in the building who are not in their immediate household.

If you would like to sign up to be one of our Re-opening Volunteers, please first read more about the responsibilities. If you are still interested, contact Deb Wagner to attend worship in person.

Below is a list of questions and answers related to this update that we hope will provide more information. A final note: should circumstances warrant, we will scale back to Phase 2.

Q&A

Has Westminster entered Phase 3 in the re-opening the building plan?

We are entering Phase 2.5, which will be a pilot project for the month of March. For the four Sundays in March, we will allow groups of 15 people attend worship in person. Groups of 15 plus clergy, musicians, and our tech team will mean that no one group will exceed 25. These groups will be known as re-opening volunteers, and their role is to help us learn how to re-open the church building responsibly and to adjust along, and then help prepare others to return to the Westminster building.

Can you tell me more about what Phase 2.5 will involve?

Beginning Sunday, March 7, we will have a small group of people attend the 10:30 am Worship and the Gathered at Five worship in person. They will need to register ahead of time, answer the Covid screening questions, wear a double or N95 mask, and stay six-feet apart from others in the building who are not in their immediate household.

Do you have to be vaccinated to attend worship?

No, we are not requiring the re-opening volunteers to be vaccinated. However, we do acknowledge that there is some level of risk involved for these volunteers. Therefore, we leave it up to individuals and families to decide if this level of risk is something they are comfortable with or not. Both decisions are fine and expected.

If someone is vaccinated, do they get preference to become a re-opening volunteer?

We will not be asking if someone is vaccinated or not as part of our procedure so vaccinations will not have a role in the selection of re-opening volunteers.

What will be the responsibilities of the re-opening volunteers?

First and foremost, learn and adhere to the safety protocols, which include registering in advance, answering the Covid screening questions, wearing a double or N95 mask, staying six-feet apart from others in the building who are not in their immediate household, and staying home if they are not feeling well. We will also ask re-opening volunteers to arrive 30 minutes early for worship and offer feedback about their experience through a survey afterwards. We hope some of these volunteers will also be willing to help teach others about protocols for future in-person services and events at Westminster.

How can I sign up to be a re-opening volunteer?

We ask anyone interested in being a re-opening volunteer to first read and understand the role. If you are still interested, you can email Deb Wagner to register, including the service date and time you would like to attend along with the names of everyone attending together (including children). Registration closes at noon the Friday before the Sunday service. Through March there will be 120 different volunteer slots for 10:30 Worship and Gathered at Five. If we have more than 120 volunteers, we will randomly select people to narrow the group down to 120.

When will the volunteer program start?

This will begin on Sunday, March 7, with the 10:30 am Worship and Gathered at Five services. Volunteers will be asked to arrive 30 minutes early to worship.

Will this be all events?

We are only allowing people for Sunday worship. As that expands we will announce it on our website..

Will you be open for more people to attend by Easter on April 4?

We will have more information later in the month about Easter.

When will you consider adding other events or to move into a complete Phase 3?

A small group of staff and lay leaders from the Responsible Building Use Task Force is meeting regularly to review what we are learning, make any necessary adjustments to protocols, and expand the list of in-person events. We will continue to update the Westminster community through the Friday all-church emails, on the website, and in worship, when appropriate.

Is there a chance you could stop Phase 2.5 and move back to online-only worship?

Although we hope we continue to move forward through this pandemic, we also recognize the possibility that the conditions in the larger community might decline again. Therefore, there is always a chance that, should circumstances warrant, we will scale back to Phase 2.

How will I know if an event will be online or in person?

We will make sure the online calendar listing is clear about which events are meeting in-person, online, or both.

What if a re-opening volunteer or someone else involved with worship is diagnosed with COVID-19?

Westminster’s already established Covid protocols state that if there is a confirmed case reported, Westminster will:

  • Disinfect and close any impacted spaces for an appropriate period.
  • Inform proper authorities, such as local and state health officials.
  • Assist authorities with contact tracing.

In addition, those involved with worship will get tested and quarantine, if necessary.

What if I have more questions or want more information about the re-opening phases for Westminster?

We have arranged Listening Sessions to be held at 9 am on March 6, 13, and 20, through Zoom. You can find these events on the calendar. Visit Westminster’s Covid webpage for updates and more information. You can read more about the re-opening plan online as well.

Beyond Sunday Connections: Rachel Sheild Gustafson

Beyond Sunday Connections held on Westminster’s livestream channel for all Westminster women on Monday, February 8, at 6:30 pm. Rani Murdoch Zappa emcees the program and Rachel Sheild Gustafson, Westminster’s Director of Congregational and Community Engagement, is the featured speaker.  At the end of the program, church women are invited to participate in small group discussion on Zoom.

Rachel joined Westminster’s staff this past summer and looks forward to the time when we can gather in person for greater involvement in church and community efforts. Her professional experience spans grassroots community organizing to federal policymaking, particularly around public health, child welfare, and the arts. She has an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University and an MPH in maternal and child health from the University of Minnesota. On a personal note, Rachel says she has three strong-willed daughters. In her free time, she enjoys writing essays, getting outdoors, and gathering people in her home for food and connection. Rachel titled her talk “Eager with My Meager: Learning to Step Out with Imperfect Offerings.” Tune in to her talk to find out just what she means and her ideas for strengthening Westminster’s connections to our community.

To sign up for Beyond Sunday Connections, contact Deb Wagner. She will provide a handout and link for the Zoom conversations.

Social Justice Forum Tackles Climate and Racial Justice

Westminster welcomes Sam Grant, PhD, the Executive Director of MN350, to the Social Justice Forum, on Sunday, January 24. He will discuss MN350’s work at the intersection of climate and racial justice.

MN350 is part of the global organization 350—the first worldwide grassroots climate movement. Last fall the Eco-Justice Ministry Team co-sponsored Bill McKibben, cofounder of the global organization 350 to speak at the Westminster Town Hall Forum. Grant’s presentation is the first of two January Social Justice Forums focused on environmental justice. On Sunday, January 31 the forum will welcome Julia Nerbonne from Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light.

Sandy Wolfe Wood, Eco-Justice Ministry Team chair, shared, “Personally I am looking forward to Sam’s talk because the environmental movement has not done a good job of addressing the impact of climate change, sea-level rise, species extinction and toxic waste dumps on communities of color and those without money or a dominant voice.”

Hear Grant speak during the Social Justice Forum at 9:15 am on Sunday, January 24, on Westminster’s livestream channel.