Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell
Ministry Associate for Social Media
There is a scam that is targeting churches across the country that our Evergreen congregations need to be aware of, in that people are impersonating the pastor of a church and sending emails to request money. An email is sent presuming to be from the pastor asking for support for an immediate emergency need. The “pastor” requests that donations be made in the form of gift cards. The email address may appear as the pastor’s correct email, masked by the scammer. Often, you can click on the sender’s name in the email to see the full email address. However, some scammers are able to mask the entire email address, or the address will be off by one letter or number, easily missed by someone not carefully reading.
The best way to make sure a request is real is to contact the pastor by phone or to send a new email (do not reply, as that will go back to the scammer). Also, churches should have policies in place about collecting money online and how they would collect donations, and whether or not they would ever accept gift cards. See my previous article on Online Giving for safe ways for churches to collect funds.
Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchel
Sharing responses from our Evergreen Association churches to the terrorist attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand:
First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City: Our hearts are breaking for our Muslim brothers and sisters in the wake of the massacre in New Zealand. We stand together, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist Etc. against this hate.
Queen Anne Baptist Church, Seattle: We grieve with our Muslim neighbors and are in solidarity with the Muslim community after the horrific terrorist attack at mosques in New Zealand. As people of faith, we pray for all to have freedom, peace, and safety in their place of worship.
Fairview Community Church, Costa Mesa, CA: Rev. Sarah Halverson-Cano represented us today in sharing flowers, condolences and love with our Muslim brothers and sisters. We join with them in prayer and grief.
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA shares these words: Join us in prayer for the families and communities of the victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings. We pray for Muslims all over the world, that they feel the love of others on this tragic day and know they do not stand alone.
Seattle First Baptist Church: We love and support our Muslim neighbors. As a community of people striving to follow the way of Jesus, we condemn the tragic violence against the Muslim community in New Zealand. We mourn with our Muslim siblings. As a community in the Christian tradition, we recognize the long history of violence against Muslims in our God's name, and we condemn it. Let us rededicate ourselves each day to working together towards a world where all are free from fear and characterized by justice and celebration of all people and all religious traditions.
Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, CA: On Thursday many of us from the faith communities of Alameda County gathered for a a meal and discussion of important topics of at the Muslim Community Center in Pleasanton. It was a beautiful time of unity and hope. Last night the news came of the attacks on the mosques in New Zealand.
Psalm 56:1 Be merciful to me, O God,
because I am under attack; my enemies persecute me all the time.
As witnessed by these acts of terror, the attacks do come. As we pray for the grieving let us also work for the day when we lay our hate aside, put weapons down and the fear of attack becomes unfounded.
Shell Ridge Community Church, Walnut Creek, CA: In response to the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday, March 15, we offer our deepest sorrow and personal horror. At least 49 people were murdered in the shooting with dozens more hospitalized.
We also express our condemnation of violent and destructive actions motivated by racism and religious bigotry. We stand in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers in the face of this tragedy, as we continue to stand with our Jewish sisters and brothers following the murders in Pittsburgh less than six months ago, and our African-American sisters and brothers murdered while praying in church in South Carolina before that. This is a time to be bold witnesses.
We recognize and respond to God's call in the gospel of Jesus to explicitly and unequivocally speak against the irrational fear-mongering and hate campaigns leveled against ethnic and religious minorities. Such perspectives are irreconcilable with fostering a just and sustainable humanity. We understand and believe that our human differences and diversity are a source of great strength and potential. May this violence elicit our peaceful protest and solidarity.
Morgan Valley Christian Church, UT: Let us pray for all of those mourning losses and survivors who will be healing for the rest of their lives. We stand against radicalism and terrorism on display today against Muslim people peacefully worshiping. It is our responsibility to see the face of God in every person we meet and love them.
First Baptist Church, Denver, CO: Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Colorado Muslim Society: Please know that the members and friends of the First Baptist Church of Denver offer you our deepest condolences and love during this time of great grief, pain, fear and what we can imagine might be anger.
In November of 2017, many within your community reached out to our faith family after a mass-shooting took place at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. We were grateful for your love and care and offers of support.
Heinous acts such as took place in Christchurch, New Zealand, remind us always of the human capacity for evil. When these horrific events take place, they also remind us of our human need to stand in solidarity with each other.
First Baptist Church of Denver is grateful for your witness to our world and for your commitment to peace for all people. We have shared meals and events with you in our facility and have been enriched by the relationships this has fostered.
If we can offer any tangible support during the days and seasons ahead, know that we will stand at the ready to serve you as we can.
In the spirt of love and inter-faith support, your faith friends at the First Baptist Church of Denver.
Burien Community Church, Burien, WA: We are broken hearted to hear about the terrible shootings at the Al Noor and Linwood Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. As American Baptists, we strongly believe in the freedom of safe worship for all people of all faith traditions. Our siblings of all religions, including Islam, deserve to be able to pray in peace and safety in their houses of worship. An attack on any house of worship is an attack on all houses of worship. We believe that God loves everyone, and that freedom from persecution because of religious belief, or lack of religious belief, is a right of every person born. We are praying for the now fifty lives lost and their families from this terrorist act, and we grieve with the people of New Zealand and particularly the Muslim community there.
To our local Muslim community we want to say that we see you, we stand with you, and what hurts you, also hurts us. We have more similarities than differences between us, and we are praying for you in this terrible time. In this terrorist incident in New Zealand, and in similar actions here in United States, such as at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, at the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, and others in Canada and other countries, there has been a terrible unifying thread of white nationalism. We know that thoughts and prayers must be backed by actions (James 2:26), so we gird ourselves against institutionalized racism, and the fear and hate that it engenders. We are just one congregation, but we know that small actions of justice and hope disrupt the surface of societal detachment, and will create ripples of love and solidarity through our shared community.
Your fellow children of God, Burien Community Church
First Baptist Church, Berkeley, CA: At First Baptist Church of Berkeley this Sunday, we will pray with our Muslim sisters and brothers: "Khudaya, rahem kar" (Have mercy on us, Lord)
Rev. Douglas Avilesbernal
Glad for the end of this year
Hopeful for the beginning of 2019
I wanted to thank you all for the amazing work you have done in 2018 with your churches and communities. We are living in very difficult times for the church yet you have all contributed to Evergreen being an oasis of church hope in our world. I did mean to write church since currently it seems like the church is often as much a barrier to the Gospel as secularism. So thank you for working hard to help our churches be seen as welcoming places of hope and support by doing your best to follow the Gospel.
We are a diverse community. We are diverse because we’ve opened our arms and hearts. We are diverse because the “other” feels welcomed among us. We are diverse because we do our best to keep from falling for the fear of the other so prevalent in our time. We are diverse because for many of us the fear is not of the other and what they will take from us. Instead our fear is of what we would become if we come to hate the other. I am glad we are not diverse because it is fashionable or politically correct.
We are an active community locally and regionally. I have noticed as I visited about half of you how we all seem to be trying very hard to do what we preach. I am thankful for the blessings that brings to your communities and honored to witness all that wonderful work. I commend you on your ministries.
We participate in just practices. It would take pages and pages to enumerate the many ways our churches advocate for justice in our communities. I’d just like to remind us of our communal participation at our annual gathering. A little over a week before we were to gather in San Jose we received a message letting us know the workers at the hotel we had chosen to book our rooms were on strike. We had booked over a dozen rooms in that hotel. Yet, you all responded in support of the hourly wage workers on strike and all reservations were withdrawn! Then, when the pastor of our host church, Liliana Davalle suggested we walk over to the picket lines and join the workers many of you joined that as well! We also sent a letter to the hotel’s corporate office in support of those striking and stating that we as a region were watching this strike and will share with our entire denomination the outcome of those negotiations. Keep being a voice for justice wherever you are!
2019 Will be a busy year
Blessings on 2019,
Rev. Douglas Avilesbernal
Evergreen Baptist Association
By Rev. Doug Avilesbernal
NIV “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
When I was too young to know better January was a big letdown for me. All the excitement was over and there were no big days to celebrate. In fact, the only thing that happened was going back to school!
As I grow older and my vision broadens I am beginning to be thankful for the “break” we have in this month. There is not a whole lot happening so we’re free to recover as we rest.
However, I do wonder if I have missed a very important aspect of this season my whole life. I think I have let the celebration of the birth on Christmas be the only and most important aspect of the season.
But, looking at Mary and the Shepherds in the Luke passage we get a look at what can be a wonderful addition to our Christmas season. We can see how they all experienced the excitement of receiving the news of the birth before hand and celebrating it when it happened. What I find interesting is what they do after that. Mary “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” and the shepherds “returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen”.
The birth of a baby changes the life of everyone around her. But this change was different, they all knew something extraordinary had happened and it changed how they looked at life. The shepherds became evangelists! Mary explored deep within.
In this post-Christmas glimpse we get through the Gospel of Luke we see some signs of what happens when one encounters Jesus in a meaningful way. It might be a good idea to add January to our season life.
When I was too young to know better January was a disappointment. As I grow older and have less energy to spare January is a time of rest. In both of those I have missed the fact that January can also be a time to meditate on what happened as well as to share the wonder of the gift we have received with the world! I pray you take the freedom of January to meditate on what has occurred and be energized by that wonderful gift.
By Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell
Ministry Associate for Social Media
You may have heard of GDPR: General Data Protection Regulation. This is a regulation in the European Union that regards how personal information is collected online for citizens of the EU. This regulation most likely doesn’t apply to your congregation, unless you have members who are from the EU—either people who still claim their citizenship in the EU or who were part of your church and moved to the EU. What this means is that you need their permission to be on your email list, your newsletter list, or even to receive your boosted Facebook advertisements. The GDPR is to protect people from having their information sold to another party or shared without their permission.
Even without the GDPR, it is a good idea to make sure you have people’s permission to send them your church newsletter or to print their information in a church directory. A simple permission form for members or regular attendees is easy to create, something that says, “I give my permission for this church’s name to reprint my contact information in the church directory,” or newsletter, etc.
It is also a good idea to have some sort of permission form for people to use or share their photos online—and especially, always, with children’s photos. You can do this either as a permission form, or an opt-out. A simple note at events where photos may be taken that “photos taken at this event may be posted online; if you do not wish to have your photo or your child’s photo posted, please fill out this form” or “please let name of person in charge of event know.”
There are reasons that people may not want to share their personal information, or they may be willing for the pastor to have it, but not for the rest of the congregation. It is always a good idea to ask first.
by Rev. Douglas Avilesbernal
Adventus. [Latin] - arrival, approach.
Advent. [Middle English] - a coming into place, being, arrival
Early Church- A season of preparation for coming into the church as it prepared for the second coming of Christ.
Middle Ages-when Advent changed from expectation of Jesus' second coming to a season of preparation for the celebration of Jesus' birth.
21st C-a chance to recapture the meaning and value of intentional and sustained spiritual preparation for the celebration of Jesus' arrival into our world.
Adventus has had a long journey in the life of the greater church. Through it all the season has always been about the faithful answering, “yes we will!” To Jesus’ call.
Originally it was the time of preparation for new converts to the faith. During those times becoming a Christian meant a radical life change. This change was not a spiritual choice alone. Becoming a Christian meant societal change as well. Which is probably why there were very few upper class converts for centuries.
Once the church came to power the nature of Advent changed, it became more of an inward journey. It was then that it also begun its journey toward what we know now, a loosely held tradition that reminds us that Christmas is coming.
Advent has lost nearly all of its significance in its journey from adventus to advent, from an intentional process of preparation for a different life as a follower of Christ to little more than the season when we begin to hear Christmas carols and decorate our homes.
It makes sense, we live in a world where there are no consequences from becoming a Christian. It is illegal for us to be fired because of our faith. We aren't necessarily disowned by our families or ostracized by our friends. We can be or become Christians while being no different from any non Christian around us. In fact, we are free to be less loving, less caring and all around a worse person than any non Christian person around and still call ourselves Christians.
Perhaps it is time for a new understanding of the season. Perhaps we need to recapture the yes we will of Adventus. An intentional Season of preparation that can help us deepen our faith and relationship with Jesus. A season long enough to create changes in how we live our lives. Interestingly, science has discovered how doing something for around 40 days is a good way to create a habit one is more likely to Keep.
Will you be intentional about adding your yes we will to your Advent season this year?
By Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell
Ministry Associate for Social Media
Google Calendar is a great way to keep track of events in the life of your church. Google Calendar is an online calendar that you can use for personal and church use, and has an easy-to-use mobile app. You can set up different accounts and choose whether they are public or private. For example, at Queen Anne Baptist Church, we have a QABC General Calendar that is public, but then we also have a Staff calendar that only staff members to add their vacation days or any other pertinent information. You can also put in location information for scheduling meetings or for building use, so if you are renting out your space, this is a great way to see what group is using what space at what time.
Google Calendars are easy to embed on your website. To get the HTML code, simply click on Settings, then click on the name of your calendar, click on “make available to public” and then scroll down to “integrate calendar” and copy the HTML embed code. You can also add email accounts to make them administrators of the calendar to edit or change events.
We have an Evergreen Association Google Calendar that is public! You can visit our website at www.ea-abc.org and click on Calendar to view, but you can also go directly to the calendar here: https://email@example.com If you use Google calendars, you can add the calendar to yours, and choose what color you’d like it to show up as. This is a great way to know when events are coming up so that you don’t schedule something at the same time as another event. Currently there are not many events on our shared calendar. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with information such as location, date, time, and details of your event. If your church uses Google Calendar, you can share that calendar with me at the same email address.
Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell
Ministry Associate for Social Media
There are unwritten rules for social interaction in our society, and they vary from culture to culture. The same can be said for Facebook, and sometimes it may take a while to learn what those unwritten rules are, just as they take a while to learn when you encounter a new culture. At times, we break one of these unwritten social rules and do not realize we have done so, or do not understand why someone may react to what we post or how we share information.
First, we need to understand how Facebook works:
--Your News Feed is where you can see everyone else posting. However, Facebook does not always show you every one of your friends; Facebook tends to show you your friends who post more often. If you don’t see someone’s post, you may have to look them up by searching for them.
--Your News Feed is not your personal page. People posting things in your News Feed are not necessarily posting them specifically for you to see. They are posting them for all of their Facebook friends to see. For example, when a friend shares a link to an article, most likely they are not posting that specifically for you to see. They are posting that to share with all of their friends.
--Your Personal Page (also known as your Profile or Wall) is where only your posts (and ones you are tagged in) will show up. Click on your name to see your personal page.
--If someone tags you on Facebook, that means they want you to see that post (and it will show up on your personal page).
--If you are part of a group, such as the Evergreen Facebook Group, sometimes those posts will show up in your News Feed. Again, when someone posts in a group, it is not necessarily a personal post to you, but a post shared to that group.
--Facebook Pages belong to organizations where they can share news and events. These are not the same as groups. Evergreen has a Facebook Page, but also has a group. In a group, anyone can post. On the page, only the organization can post (note that there are some exceptions to these rules—some groups change their settings to allow only posts that are approved by a moderator, and some pages allow others to post on the page).
--Some groups are closed groups like our Evergreen Association group. This way people who are not part of the group cannot see what is posted there, so we can share information only for Evergreen (this also cuts down on spam). It also means you cannot share a post from the group on your own page. For us in Evergreen, if it is information we want shared, we will also post it to our Evergreen Facebook page.
Secondly, here are some of the unwritten “Facebook Etiquette” guidelines that might be helpful for you as you use social media:
--Do not share someone else’s private information.
This sometimes happens in the life of the church when someone has gone to the hospital, or if a death has occurred. Not all family members may have been notified yet and someone from the church shares the information on Facebook. Sometimes this happens in family situations where someone announces their family member is expecting a child, but they weren’t sharing that information yet. Do not share information unless you have been given permission to do so.
--Do not respond to someone’s post with a comment or question that is not relevant to their post.
For example, if someone posts about something they are thinking about, or shares a picture of their child, don’t reply with, “Hey, are you coming over on Sunday?” That’s not relevant to that conversation.
--Do not post on someone’s page something that should be part of a private conversation.
That information will be available for all of their Facebook friends to see. For example, don’t post on someone’s wall, “Hey, are you coming over on Sunday?” A message (also known as Private Message or PM) is more appropriate.
--Do not share pictures of children without permission!
This one is very, very important, and sometimes well-meaning family members and friends will share photos without asking permission.
A final thought on etiquette and political conversations on Facebook:
In these days, political conversations can often become heated on social media. Sometimes they happen with people we know, and sometimes we become engaged in a conversation on one of our friend’s wall with one of their friends, and we may not know them. Sometimes people share articles or posts that are meant to spark conversation and it does not mean they agree with everything in that article. It’s hard to know intent or to convey tone at times in social media. It’s always good to remember that social media does not take the place of interactions such as meeting in person or speaking on the phone.