January 10, 2021
I have spent the last 4 days trying to write something about the white terrorism act of sedition that was an attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government in the United States. At first, I wrote about how these 4 years have shown us that even white Americans can be radicalized, regardless of how smart and too rational to be radicalized we might think we are.
Then I wrote about how a radicalized minority could turn a country upside down. I mentioned the Iranian revolution, how Lebanon devolved into sectarian war, and how Yugoslavia was destroyed. I skipped Germany because of how easy it is for many to say they are not Nazis. I also wrote about how nearly all of the first attempts in these countries failed and the way the countries reacted helped the second attempts be successful.
Still unhappy, I wrote about how our prejudices have made it easier for many of us to believe the President’s lies about electoral fraud. How he and his enablers brilliantly kept their concerns and accusations exclusively to urban areas. Highlighting how they skillfully avoided talking about all the suburbs they lost decisively. Using our own racism to make their claims more believable has been a brilliant strategy. Sadly many white people are more likely to believe there was fraud committed in places they already think are riddled with criminal activity. Which would have not been the case if the suburbs had been part of the accusation as “we live there” and there is no way WE could have committed large scale election fraud.
Still, pages after pages, I was unhappy about what I had written. I think my dissatisfaction came from being unable to write a hopeful message that does not sound like the usual bashing of racism that tends to turn away the very people who need to hear the message most. But why should our public messages always attempt to avoid offending people who should, but cannot face, the unthinkable thought that they might be bad too?
We cannot escape the fact that racism has been an integral part of the radicalization process Trump and his principal racist, Stephen Miller, have craftily carried out. To which they have added Cold War fears to alienate their followers from the only people they would have listened to, other whites. Those two together have put our democracy in very real peril.
In the world they have created, only whites who are their type of conservative and are willing to follow Trump even against their own interests and never question him are real patriots. Anyone else is either a traitor who demands equal rights from a country that has been more than generous and given them too much. Or a white traitor who is a socialist communist.
Trump successfully radicalized thousands into an all or nothing world where winning means exclusively getting what Trump wants and losing is going against his will. He was also able to make millions believe that the only way whites will not be trampled and abused is to keep him in power. Millions voted in fear of losing their privileges, knowing and unknowingly. Many unknowingly because they cannot face the fact that their actions do support a “benevolent” white supremacy. So instead, they convinced themselves they voted against unfair and illegal immigration, against our suburbs being taken over by housing projects, against socialism giving their hard-earned money freely to poor people who are poor because they are too lazy to work.
But that might just be my anger speaking. So, I own these thoughts and comments aware that we do not all see the world in the same way. But I needed to tell you all that to tell you the following.
What we have seen these past four years is that hate gave its best shot to rule our country and it wasn’t enough. (Proverbs 10:12)
They thought taking the US Capitol would surely intimidate Congress into illegally installing Trump as the next President. It did not.
They thought taking our country’s seat of Government would free millions of American whites to join the revolution and shout for the installation the one white leader who will keep us in charge. It did not.
They thought appointing underserving and unqualified judges would guarantee their full loyalty. It did not.
They thought an ambitious and enabling sycophant would ignore the Constitution and go beyond his authority to ignore the will of the people and states and install a dictator. He did not.
Hate gave its best shot while in power for four too long years but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough because hate is not life giving. Hate only destroys and once it’s done destroying something it needs to find something else to destroy.
Hate is still strong in our Country; it always has been. However, when people in key places saw that their choice was either to destroy all for one man or to preserve that which they love, they chose the latter. Some did it for love of self. Others did it for love of country and Constitution. It does not seem like anyone stopped this out of hate. Conservative leaders in GA, AZ, NV, PA and more were clear they supported and voted for Trump. But their love of country and the resulting respect for its laws kept them from installing a dictator who does not care for either (1 John 4:18).
Love stopped the most serious threat to democracy our country has faced in its entire history. It did so while disorganized, always a step behind, and out of official power.
Where do we go from here?
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
We must love in the hardest way possible. We must love those who are convinced we are weak, traitors to our own race. We must love those who think we are communist socialists who want to give it all away to lazy people. We must love those whose fear of no longer being on top shows up as anger. We must love.
But this is no adolescent misunderstanding of love that is so weak rejection ends it.
“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:1).
This is an in-your-face type of love. One that stands firm when evil comes. A love that is unshakable in its no to evil, facing the worst hate can send it. This love takes strength because when hating evil, one must hold fast to what is good, lest one become what is being opposed.
We now face as tough a call as we have ever had. We must rebuild for all while the lines have been drawn. We must come together when many think we are at war and only the destruction of the other will ensure their safety. We must hate what is evil and fight hard, while never ever allowing hate to guide us.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all” (Romans 12:14-17).
Then, when the struggle is at its worst remember to,
“never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ’Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21).
We have a fight ahead of us that will challenge us on many fronts. The immediate future remains dark and the forces of hate are strong. Nonetheless, always remember that a disorganized and unprepared love stopped the best hate could throw at it. Imagine how much better the love of God poured into the world in an organized way could do!
Let us do love this time.
Repeat as necessary.
Rev. Douglas Avilesbernal
May The Spirit of The Lord Be Upon Us all
Next week’s election day will be consequential in ways we have not seen in a very long time. We come to it during such extraordinary circumstances that only those from the Greatest Generation who are still alive might have experienced something similar. I pray the Spirit of the Lord be upon us all in the coming days.
Obviously we could not have predicted a world pandemic. But we could and still can face it in a much more smart and loving way. We can make choices on behalf of the other we might never meet, but that Jesus has told us is equal and family to us, so much so that the Scriptures remind us we are not just family but co-heirs as God’s children.
What we could have predicted and stopped was the self-inflicted acrimony and division with which we come to this momentous election in our country. A large part of the source of that division is that there are many sowing conflict because it suits them to gain or retain power. But the power this division has is because so many of us have decided to believe them and follow into hate. Sadly, we also find many in our faith family neck deep in the cajoling for political and temporal power to be able to rule and control others. There is still time to say no. It is never too late to leave hate behind and begin the journey to love.
It is with the above and more in mind that I share this with you less than a week before that momentous day. I know we Americans are prone to hyperbole, but this one case does offer us a chance to use momentous day in a very appropriate way. So I share this with you to encourage us all to hold fast to Scripture, surrender to Christ, and hold on to each other in love regardless of opinions.
So what does the Lord require of us all in these historic times?
To do justice- to look beyond ourselves and ask, is what they are going through just? Is their pain caused by injustice? Is my fear, worry, desire to keep my position causing injustice elsewhere? Then do something about it.
To love mercy and kindness- not to use kindness to get along or to get what I want. But to love it, to share it with the passion only those who love deeply can muster. To share mercy so freely and actively that those around us cannot help but see and feel it pouring out of us. Love mercy and kindness so much people might dislike our position but cannot doubt our love for them.
To walk humbly- the only way justice and mercy can flow into the world is to do so humbly. To surrender enough to know that I alone am not a good judge of what is just for all. To face that often I do not know better than those seeking and crying out for justice. To know that to extend mercy is much more than a gift given to those below me or those I love. To surrender to the fact that to love mercy is to share it regardless of my own discomfort and prejudices.
Therefore, as we prepare to face this election under the call of Scripture, as Micah 6:8 rings in our souls we must ask: who should we have in mind as we do justice and love mercy? Who do we see in our mind and heart as we walk humbly and vote? Another way of saying this would be-
who should we have in mind as the Spirit of the Lord descends upon us all?
The poor, the captives, the blind, the oppressed.
Is the justice we do because of our love of mercy bringing good news to the poor? Are we humbly and justly proclaiming release to captives? Can sight be recovered in this just and merciful answer to Jesus’ call?
Is bringing freedom to the captives a goal as we answer the call to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God?
Will Jesus’ call in Luke 4:18 be in your mind and heart as you exercise you freedom to vote?
Let’s hear that call again,
Luke 4:18-19 (NRSV) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
We do not know what the outcome of the election will be. But we do know that in order to answer Micah and Jesus’ call we must be present. Whatever happens, always remember-
show up, stand firm, love deeply and repeat as necessary
You are not alone. We are not alone. Jesus and the Spirit walk ahead and with us.
Rev. Douglas Avilesbernal
April 22, 2020
To Euro Caucus Churches in our Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches USA
Dear sisters and brothers,
We, a handful of Euro Caucus church members, with growing awareness of our privilege as white people, have been meeting and working together for a while. We are trying to understand, confront, and undo the effects of white dominance, a system that unconsciously, but persistently, exerts great control over our individual lives, our culture and so many of our congregations. We have worked with – and been inspired and challenged by – our Executive Minister Doug Avilesbernal.
In times like these, when anxiety runs high, racism surfaces in explicit and undeniable ways, affecting public discourse and response to the COVID-19 crisis. In this letter we want to share our thoughts and concerns about how race and racism are meeting the world-wide outbreak of COVID-19, and about how our churches can help address the challenges of this moment across our region.
We notice, and are concerned about, these things: Our nation’s President, against the counsel of his advisors, continues to speak of the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.” A Seattle teacher stops class when he hears a white child call an Asian American child “corona.” Chinese Americans – reporting that they are yelled at, chased, spit upon, kicked and punched – are afraid to go out in public, to go shopping, or to let their children play outside. Further, news outlets across the country report that black and brown persons suffer infection, hospitalization and even death at much higher rates than whites, and that access to COVID-19 testing depends greatly on who you are, where you live, and how much money you have.
Some in our churches may be less aware of anti-Asian laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese American citizens, or the history of racial oppression of black and brown people. But the level of anxiety that shaped those actions and institutions is giving impetus to these new expressions of racism in communities across our nation, and perhaps most strongly in the northwest United States.
We ask you, as we ask ourselves: Are there Chinese (or other Asian) people in your church? In your neighborhood? How are they engaged, treated, spoken of? Are there Asian, and black and brown, businesses in your community? When they open again, how can you support them?
Dear friends, we hold each other, you, your churches and your neighbors in prayer. May God’s compassion, and the courage we draw from it, move us all through these difficult days.
John Armagost firstname.lastname@example.org
Annette Mauldin email@example.com
Wim Mauldin firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Roberts email@example.com
Merletta Roberts firstname.lastname@example.org
Brooke Rolston email@example.com
Doug Avilesbernal firstname.lastname@example.org
By Rev. Douglas Avilesbernal
Executive Minister, Evergreen Association
"oh! How we have blemished and scarred
that body through social neglect and through fear
of being non-conformists."
Why we Can’t Wait, MLK
Nazis have vandalized another church. Sadly, this isn’t uncommon. They vandalized a Baptist church, Morning Star Baptist Church, in Spokane. You can look up what they did to the physical space easily enough. But can any of us comprehend the damage these misguided people did to the church members' soul space?
Now everyone in this African American church knows they are not safe in their worship space. They have now been brought back into 400 years of enslavement, lynching, intimidation and more. The congregation is violently back to the ever-present reminder that the white power ruling the country can, and often has, taken everything away if they forget their place. They now have to worship God in fear in their own spiritual home. Not only that, many people who look like them now know the specter of violent racism has come to their home.
For people in the unwanted minorities, this event has long lasting repercussions. We in the minorities in our country know that when white power rises, minority lives are lost. While for many people this is an upsetting event that makes us wonder how did we get here, for the intended victim group it is a physical safety event. Every interaction going forward is run through the memory of that event. In being cut off on the road, complaining at a store, speaking with authority figures, voting, and other activities, our physical safety is at risk. An angry white person is no longer some stranger who might be having a bad day--now that person is a potential danger to my safety; therefore, it is best to avoid doing anything that makes them angry. Or we try to continue with life as it is and pray that any white person one might anger is not one of the many “unseen racists,” for if they are, one may pay with one’s life.
White supremacy is on the rise. It is also clearly supported and encouraged by the highest levels of society. Therefore, many racists dream they are on the brink of coming back to being mainstream again. Nathan Larson, running for office in VA one year ago, felt safe enough to include in his platform that he wants to restore a benevolent white supremacy society in our country. Thankfully he is still a fringe candidate. Only four years ago he wouldn’t have made the news. Seems that being mainstream is so close white supremacists can taste it, so much so that people feel more comfortable going on racist rants in public, calling the police on minorities just because they are around. We are back to hearing from our elected officials that “immigrants are rapists and drug dealers.” Our government is once again treating non-white children as subhuman. Charles Lindberg's racist cry of America First is supported by the president! Racists are on the brink of being mainstream again.
These are the historic moments when the overwhelming desire to go along can lead entire nations to cruelty beyond belief. Germany, Rwanda, the Balkans--all these nations were mostly Christian when they perpetrated their genocides. We have already taken a grievous step in that direction by jailing toddlers without their parents! Yet, those officials creating and supporting those policies could very well be re-elected because of said policies.
This is an historic moment when going along with the mainstream will destroy our souls and the lives of many. The fear of being seen as a non-conformist could become the door through which the hateful cruelty of racism comes back into accepted mainstream. Unless non-conformists like you and I cast our fear aside and stand firm.
It is time for us to embrace our Baptist heritage of dissent for the sake of Justice. As Bonhoeffer said, “the time is late” for us to do justice to our non-conformist heritage and stand, sit, block, speak, and above all love with a love so firm, broad and clear that both the perpetrator and victim know they are loved.
I pray you all find or make spaces wherever you are to say No! We will not just go along anymore! If it is legal, we will ignore it. That you will find the courage to speak to your legislators and vote your conscience for justice. That you covenant to do the hard work of learning how to best walk with our friends and family away from the fear that has led them to think of this cruelty as a solution to their concerns.
I pray our fear of being non-conformists no longer stops us from waging the powerful, systematic and intentional campaigns for justice to which Jesus calls us to this day.
What is that call?
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Let us embrace our Baptist tradition so we can be the non-conformists Jesus calls us to be.
Rev. Douglas Avilesbernal
We will gather next month for our annual meeting. Our theme will be part of our on-going Yes We Will! call to follow Christ. This year we will discuss ways to free the captives still in Luke 4:18. Our workshops will help us gain tools to work to end various forms of captivity, human trafficking, incarceration pipeline, and more. We need the time together and the tools to answer Jesus’ call effectively.
In thinking of this problem, I cannot help but think that most of these are symptoms of the fear of the other prisons in which many of us live. Most worrying for me is how that fear shows up in hate much too often in our world. I have also spent months trying to figure out what our role is in all of this. Should we publish our concern and be a visible voice? How much authority do I have to speak on behalf of our churches? Should we encourage our churches to…something? I’m exhausted from worry about how bad things could get, but what can we do?
My strongest desire is to condemn. I want to condemn those in government spewing hate, those who remain silent because speaking out might mean they lose their seat and thus their power. But my strongest condemnation is reserved for all those who minimize our journey to radicalization. All the people who know someone and choose to unfriend them on Facebook. Those who remain silent when they spew the vitriol they learn. All the friends who say, so and so is crazy, just ignore him when he gets on his rants.
The parents and adults who have learned and taught their children to never talk politics with each other. That same community who cannot imagine that anyone who looks like us can be radicalized into unhinged zealotry that leads to murder.
I want to condemn all who want to convince themselves that racism is in the past and that these mass murderers are just sick individuals, that the racist comments coming from our government are not actually racist. All who want to embrace the comfortable blanket of accusing perpetrators of mental illness that frees us from communal responsibility and guilt.
I want to yell out how our casual toleration of racism in private and our silence in the face of it in public do contribute to mass murders, cruel and dehumanizing immigration policies and the flourishing and emboldening of hate.
In the end, I have come to the conviction that one way is to follow Christ into freeing the captives, including ourselves. The how is more difficult. Maybe it is time for organized love. We need systemic love. We need a structure that helps these men (mostly) come to terms with the fact that what they might experience as anger is in fact fear. Fear that is born from our society equating value with supremacy. Fear that if we are not on top they will treat us like we treat the bottom.
I want to condemn yet Jesus calls me to stand in the middle and love. However, I must admit I have not been very good at following Jesus. Perhaps together we can be better?
Join us this October so we may help each other to love all into freedom.
“Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Will you join us this October 11-12th?
Rev. Doug Avilesbernal
Rev. Douglas Avilesbernal
In John 8:1-8 we find Jesus at a courthouse teaching. While there they brought him a person condemned to death. It is clear her sentence was death by stoning according to the laws. It is also clear Jesus never disputes that the woman is guilty. He also stands between the executioners and the sentenced. He does not challenge her guilty verdict; he challenges her death sentence.
We can quarrel about the places where Jesus might not have been clear, or worse, those issues he did not speak on at all. However, in this case he is clear.
Sadly, our current government has chosen to reinstate the death penalty at the Federal level. They have made their choice.
As far as I have been able to find there is no evidence that the Death Penalty serves as a deterrent to terrible crimes. In our country carrying the sentence out is slow, costly and even then, we have killed innocent people. At the same time, there is no question that, aside from the innocent killed, those sentenced to death have committed heinous crimes. Is it justice to become what we are intending to punish?
We Americans do have a romanticized notion of swift justice. This lust has blinded us to the fact that we have often used the word justice as a façade for racial prejudice, hate, revenge, retribution, and more. We often escape in front of a screen for a couple of hours where justice is served swiftly and accurately. Always to the deserving, by mostly attractive men who are too honorable to wait for the corrupt and slow system. There is nothing swifter in our romanticized eye for an eye world than the death penalty. It is clear, quick, final and it feels good to make them pay. It does not matter that the death penalty does not deter crime. Many of us simply want to make THEM pay.
We have grown comfortable with seeking retribution or revenge and calling it justice.
This earthly sense of justice feels good and leaves us with a very satisfying sense of having received payback.
In response to my position I often hear the comment, “you’re only against it because it hasn’t been your daughter raped or your mother killed.” I do wonder how I would respond, and I don’t know. Is revenge the only response?
When Charles Roberts IV shot 10 girls and killed 5, the families of the girls and their Amish community found another way. The Amish outnumbered mourners at Robert’s funeral and they visited his family to share in their grief together. I have no reason to think that if Roberts had survived these same mourners would have asked for his death.
It makes sense to want strong deterrents to heinous crimes. We should have strong consequences for evil acts. Christ did come to end our eye for an eye sense of retribution.
Is Capital punishment really that bad? Yes, because it is the result of our “us vs. them” world of separation. Our history of humanity has taught us that this type of separation has always ended with the powerful doing its best to destroy the weaker side.
I believe that reinstituting the death penalty is yet another cruel step moving us closer to the Rome of Jesus’ time and away from our Christian principles.
Watching this journey closely is important because we are living historic times in our country and especially for Christians. Previously, Christians have allowed themselves to be carried by fear into a world of retribution, vengeance and hate. Germany, The Balkans, Rwanda and others were all mainly Christian countries who, step by step, followed the path of hate that led them from alienating the other to genocide. Am I comparing us to them? Yes. Will we end in the same place?
Will we be good, obedient citizens and go along? Or will we stand with Jesus against this practice that does not deter horrible crimes but does satisfy our darkest desires for revenge? Will be stand between the hate and the victim and firmly love both?
This is not an easy choice. We will pay a price for standing on the side of love for all, perpetrator and victim. But if we do not, this path leads to open hate and pain that lasts decades.
So, let us remind each other that we all have blame to carry as well as grace and the call to repent and sin no more.
In hope that Love does prevail when wielded firmly and generously,
Executive Minister, EBA
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.