August 20, 2020

He drew a circle that shut me out -
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him in!
― Edwin Markham

I taped this pithy little poem into the blank blue flowered “quote journal” that was given to me by a member of my congregation when I graduated from high school in 1979.

All these years later I still think on that little poem from time to time.  
Watching God draw big circles never gets old for me. The poem, like the stories in Genesis – and all throughout the Bible really – reminds me that given the freedom to do so, we humans are prone to drawing small circles. Tight-hearted, cramped circles; circles that cut off not only others, but even whole parts of our own selves. After all, there’s a bit of a heretic, rebel, and things to ‘flout” in each of us. But heretics and rebels and flouting things also have much to teach us. When we shut them out, we miss out on their lessons.

When I read a story like Joseph’s and his brothers, I for one am glad that it is God’s wit – God’s intellect, compassion, wisdom, and strong abiding love – that wins out. I’m glad God draws BIG circles. Circles that again and again draw all of me and all of you and creation with us, in. Spacious circles where love, joy, and freedom come to us anew.

Here’s to looking for God’s big circles, friends!
Cherrie
Westminster This Week - Quick Links 

Update on Regathering on Our Campus
From Kim Garcia, Russ Lange, and Sally Keener

Last month we communicated with you the results of the congregational survey on regathering on campus. Thank you all for participating in that survey and providing us your perspectives.  

Shortly after that, we informed the Session that due to health guideline changes from Durham and the State, we needed to invest significant time to build details for needed processes, and therefore, were delaying the start of people regathering on campus in small groups (less than 10 people inside and 25 outside) with face covering and social distancing requirements.

In the last month, Westminster School for Young Children conducted two small summer camp sessions. Each session had 11 campers and followed stringent guidelines and safety protocols set forth by the CDC and state of North Carolina for operating child care centers. The camp sessions, critical to the school’s continued financial viability, helped prepare our preschool staff for welcoming young students back for the fall semester in September. Everything went very well!

As we all know, the Governor has extended Phase Two into mid-September, which affects our timetable for regathering groups on our campus. Thanks to our dynamo business manager Sharon Morgan, we are pleased to share we have a process to support small groups that would like to regather outside in a limited way for now, on our campus. Any regathering activity on campus starts with submitting the newly created WPC Activity Request Form.

It’s critical to know this process has been designed to be extremely cautious for the health of each of us, including our staff. This means:
  • If you’re interested in hosting a small group on campus for a meaningful purpose, you must read and abide by the Regathering Operating Guidelines for hosts (see pages 9-10).
  • As a host, this also requires you to complete the WPC Activity Request Form for your request to gather on campus to be considered.
  • As a host, if you fail to follow the guidelines, you will not be allowed to apply again while COVID restrictions are in place.
  • Only those with an approved request can be on campus. For the sake of everyone, we’re asking all other members to not come to campus.
  • We began accepting applications for evaluation and potential acceptance on Monday, August 17. The first regatherings may take place beginning September 8.

We know these may seem like firm statements, and they are because we care deeply about everyone’s health, including that of our staff. Going forward, as we seek to balance our physical and spiritual health, we’ll provide more updates as/when health guidelines and overall conditions evolve. Thank you for your support, partnership, input, and prayers as we navigate this journey together.
WPC Prayers & Cares List  

What good is a prayer list? So glad you asked! Prayers come in many different forms. They can be said with heads bowed and hands folded. They can be sung (St. Augustine said that when we sing we pray twice!). They can be enacted through cards sent, food delivered, policies of justice advocated for, votes made, or a service rendered. 

As you read the WPC Prayers & Cares List, remember there are many ways to offer a prayer. This list provides a way for you to say, sing, or carry out a prayer for those in our congregation, our community, our world. It is an opportunity to spiritually grow your compassion and work to knit our community together in love. Our prayers are a way to be faithful disciples of Jesus by weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice. 

This week we added a new section to the Prayers & Cares list for schools, students, faculty, and staff. As the school year begins, it is time to remember in prayer those in such need as our communities attempt to maintain safety for students, teachers, and staff amidst this pandemic. If you would like to add a school or persons to this list, or have any other prayer needs to share (concerns, condolences, prayers for our times, or celebrations), please email them to prayersandcares@wpcdurham.org. Emails sent to this address will be automatically received by Westminster’s staff and Congregational Care Committee. To receive access to Westminster's Prayers & Cares List, please contact Cherrie.
News from Mission Stitches  

Mission Stitches sewists are continuing to stitch dresses to be sent to Haiti and pillowcases for the children’s hospitals at Duke and UNC. Kits are available and can be picked up from Helen Harrison’s porch. Please contact her first to let her know you’re coming. Online instructions are available.

Please complete and return finished projects to Helen’s porch by early September. A shipment of Mission Stitches’ clothes to Haiti and distribution of the pillowcases to the hospitals is planned for this fall. However, sewing continues year-round so you’re welcome to work when you can and return completed projects when it is convenient.

The Mission Stitches team will be making new kits soon and are requesting donations of:
  • Girl’s t-shirts or knit tops with sleeves (no tanks or spaghetti straps, please), new or gently used
  • Dress fabric, trim, and notions. Fabric should be at least 18”x40”
  • Sheets and pillowcases suitable for making dresses, new or gently used

Donations can be dropped off at Helen’s house. Please do not take donations or finished projects to the church while campus is closed. Interested in joining Mission Stitches or learning more about this ministry? Please contact Helen Harrison or Emily Strader.
Presbyterian Week Of Action, August 24-30

In "Responding to the Sin of Racism and a Call to Action," our denomination’s 2020 General Assembly declared, "Our country's most important institutions have been built to sustain white privilege, to protect white lives and white property at the expense of our siblings of color. The church, through ignorance, denial, and in some cases deliberate action, has participated in this injustice. We have been slow to face the reality of systemic racism. We have been slow to acknowledge the pain of our fellow Presbyterians, of our fellow Christians, of our fellow citizens, and of those who have come to America for a better life, whose value has been judged by the color of their skin." The Assembly called the Church to "actively confront and dismantle systemic racism in our church and in society at large, and to work for a more just, merciful, and peaceful country that allows all of God's children to flourish." PC(USA) has designated next week Presbyterian Week of Action to address these concerns and move us forward. Events include a town hall, film screening, a rally, a day of service, and more. Get the details and learn how you can participate.
Your Giving is Essential

Thank you for continuing to give your offering and make your pledge payments these last few months, even though we can’t gather in person. Our Business Manager, Sharon Morgan, has created easy, downloadable instructions on giving through your myWPC account. Visit https://bit.ly/WPCgiveonline for instructions for setting up a recurring or a one-time gift through myWPC. Please email Sharon with any questions.
PLEASE REMEMBER: Westminster’s campus is CLOSED. Only church staff and essential facilities personnel are permitted on campus and inside the buildings at this time. Utilize emails and phone calls to conduct any church business you may have. For safety reasons, please avoid “stopping by” and/or entering the buildings. Thanks for understanding, and stay safe!