By Ruth Smith
Who are our neighbors? How do the words that we use affect how others live? What are the underlying assumptions that define our values and guide our lives? How do we create spaces of belonging? What do we do when we are challenged to change?
As Christians and community members, we are called towards peace, justice, and to improve the quality of life for all. This is what we will explore in the community gathering group that will meet on second Mondays. Each month we will discuss a different topic ranging from poverty to immigration, food insecurity to community building through roundtable discussion, interactive activities, short readings and videos, and of course sharing our stories and building connections with others and God. On September 11 at 7 pm in the parlor Conference Room we will start off this group by exploring the topic of neighbors.
This summer, many of us participated in the Garden and Grill meals or helped with the community garden. One of the goals of starting this particular initiative was to build relationships with our neighbors in Centennial Neighborhood. One of my closest friends in Lafayette lived just up the hill from Trinity. For years, I’d been climbing the stairs to her family’s second story apartment on 8th Street and heard stories about her neighbors. The mother and daughter who lived behind them, all the tenants coming and going from the apartments across the alley, and the downstairs neighbor who was a wizard with plants. When we started the garden, I had my friend introduce me to her green thumb neighbor. Lindy has single-handedly saved all my indoor plants. But more importantly, as soon as she heard what Trinity was doing with their garden, she was in! I don’t know that I would have gotten to know Lindy had it not been for the garden. And my plants certainly wouldn’t still be alive.
As you look around you, do you know your neighbors? Who do you consider to be your neighbor? I’ve thought a lot about this question, and this idea of neighbor has guided my interfaith work with Getting to Know Our Muslim Neighbors. From the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), we see Jesus expand the definition of neighbor. The lawyer wanted him to define “neighbor” and limit the field so to speak to who he should care about.
Jesus did not set boundaries. In fact, in the parable, it was a Samaritan, one of the most reviled groups at the time, who was the good neighbor. Jesus expands the definition of neighbor to include strangers, those disconnected and cast out from society. This parable has spoken to me about Muslims in our particular political climate. Who does this parable speak to for you? Who do you encounter throughout your day that you’ve overlooked? Who could you reach out to and get to know, really get to know?
Join us on Monday, September 11 at 7 pm, and invite a friend, co-worker, or neighbor to join you. There will be light refreshments.
Trinity’s 2016 annual Stewardship campaign included a blessing tree in our sanctuary. Each Sunday, members were encouraged to print on a “leaf” in their bulletin a way that God had blessed them in order to be a blessing to someone else during that past week. But the conclusion of our campaign, the tree was filled with leaves. Not all of the “blessings” could be easily categorized and some of the writing was difficult to read. But, below is just a sampling of some of the “categories of blessings” we were able to celebrate:
By Chris Lilly
As a teenager I started volunteering in our local hospital as a candy-striper doing whatever task the hospital needed me to attend to at the time. I found a good feeling come over me after being at the hospital helping people.
Shortly after Bob and I married I found myself in church agreeing to help assist with the third grade Sunday school class, after one year I was the sole teacher of the class. The children and I had so much fun together. Also around this time my husband and I became foster parents and over the next couple of years fostered two young boys.
Since coming to Lafayette in 2013 I have worked in the United Way program Read to Succeed, this will only take an hour a week of your time and is a huge help to the elementary schools. There is a background check but there is no training to go through other than meeting the principal and teacher whose class you are assigned to through the program. We all know how to read and you just listen to the child read and encourage them to read well, make sure they comprehend what is being read. The children for the most part are thrilled to have someone come just for them each week. Read to Succeed also holds a Kindergarden Camp which was at the school I read at. I volunteered for Camp for 3 weeks. At camp one of the students shared a personal story with me and I could not quit thinking about that child carrying that burden. Why such a young babe should need to deal with such adult issues and that lead me to my next volunteer role.
Becoming a CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate involves a lengthy set of classes to go through. There are entrance and exit interviews with the CASA staff. Afterwards you take your oath with the judge in the courtroom. Then you are assigned to your first abuse and/ or neglect case of a child. You have a choice of age groups and type of cases you are or are not willing to work with.
A CASA is the child’s voice in court. The judge may not actually visually see the child; only see the child on paper. Kids ten years and older are allowed to attend court hearings and with the approval of the judge. The DCS caseworkers have so many cases today that the role of the CASA has become extremely important to all in the courtroom. The CASA is consistent with the child, visiting often and calling to check in with the family or other sources. The judge relies on the case manager, CASA’s reports and verbal comments in the courtroom.
All CASA’s advocate for the best interest of the child. The CASA gives each child a chance for a safe and permanent home. Knowing that I can be a positive, make a difference in the life of a child is what it is about for me. To give a voice to those who may not even be able to speak: how could you not want to do this as a few of us at Trinity now do.