A Word from Laura: A New Kind of Sabbath

Dear Western Church Family,

Greetings from my makeshift desk (aka a table in our basement) where I’ll be doing most of my work for the next several few weeks.  If you are teleworking, chances are you’re exhausted from teleconferencing. If you’re trying to play the equivalent of an eight-week quiet game (where you see how long you can remain still), I hope you’re not too restless.  Wherever you are, I hope you are safe and well.  I miss each of you; may you know God’s presence with you in these days.

You should know that we remain committed to paying our employees as they work remotely and reduced hours in the days and weeks ahead.  We hope that you can sustain your financial support of our church.  You may give using on-line giving, text your gift using your mobile phone (Text WESTERNPC to 77977), or send a check by snail mail.  We also understand potential financial constraints on you at this time; know that grace abounds!

At Western we’ve closed everything in the building, except for the Miriam’s Kitchen staff members who continue to serve outside twice a day (the Post’s food critic Tom Sietsema wrote about this yesterday).  Church staff members will be checking their voice mail periodically; the postal mail will be collected each day.  The best ways to reach us will be by email – our first names@westernpresbyterian.org (see the Staff page for exact addresses). We want to remain in touch; please contact us as necessary.

In terms of upcoming, in-the-moment decisions about the life of the church during this epidemic period, following the guidance of our denomination the Session has approved a response team/task force to address administrative decisions.  Rebecca Jackson (clerk of session), Paul Fiddick (Building and Finances), Mimi Scotchmer (Personnel) and Susanne Ward (adhoc Operations) will function in this capacity, meeting by zoom chat as necessary.  The Session will also meet by zoom sometime next week.

Worship will continue to be streamed each Sunday for the foreseeable future – most likely through the month of April.  We’ve worked on adjusting the music settings on zoom and will continue using a similar order of worship.  The one exception will be that I’m inviting partners in Western’s mission and ministry to serve as guest “panelists.”  This Sunday you’ll hear from Lena Derhally, the counselor who sees clients in our building on weekdays, regarding some best practices for relieving anxiety in crisis.  Next Sunday, Scott Schenkelberg will say a few words regarding what’s happening with Miriam’s Kitchen.

Know that Revs. Phil and Irene Bennett, the deacons, and a few others will be launching “Connect Groups,” an additional effort to remain in touch, on a one-to-one basis. We’re also exploring other options to gather virtually. If you are interested in a prayer group, conversation about the sermon, or just a virtual coffee or happy hour, please let us know.

In terms of pastoral concerns, I’ve been in conversations with John Goto’s son Jerry.  John had emergency surgery last week, and has been in the ICU ever since.  Jerry originally hoped for a slow but full recovery; however, his father was moved to life support.  Yesterday Jerry let me know that the decision has been made to take his father off life support, a difficult decision any time, but especially in these days.  We give thanks for John’s 90 years with us and lift up in prayer John, Jerry, and John’s sister Mickey Voigt.  Know that we will wait until we can gather together in person for a memorial service.

These days are not easy, dear friends, and yet they come with words of inspiration.  I had already seen this when two of you forwarded it to me to share with the congregation.

Blessings for your health and well-being, and for us all,



What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath–
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those 
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still, 
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You can hardly deny it now).
Know that our lives are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, this has come clear).
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health, 
so long as we all shall live.

Lynn Ungar  03-2020