News for the Church, 6/16/22

Good Day to you Church,

It’s shaping up to be a hot one today. For saying we’ve been having such cool and rainy weather the last couple of weeks, it looks like summer is now upon us! A few days of this and the river will be warm enough for swimming! 

Here’s the news for the week: 

The Rummage Sale is On! 

Friends, the rummage sale is shaping up to be a success, but we still need help with set up and clean up. If you have an hour or two in the next couple of days to help out, it would be much appreciated. Just drop in and ask Beth Grace what you can do to help out. She’ll put you to work! 

And don’t forget to tell your friends about the sale itself. We’ve got a lot of items to sell, but now we need people to come and buy them! 

Rummage Sale:

Saturday, 8:30am-3:30pm


Juneteenth Celebration!

This Saturday is shaping up to be a busy day. After the rummage sale is over, make your way over for one of the best community events in Potsdam at Ives Park! The whole town will be celebrating Juneteenth from 4pm-9pm, with free food, singing and dancing, storytelling, a fashion show, merch and craft tables, and more! Bring a picnic blanket or a lawn chair for the festivities. 

Marty Weitz to Preach, June 26th

Marty will be preaching and leading worship next Sunday, the 26th. After pastoring churches in the Caribbean, Oman, India, and Scotland, Rev. Weitz is now back in the North Country for retirement. He’s a dynamic preacher and you’ll enjoy this Sunday with him. 

Special Offering June 26th

As a way of acknowledging the racism involved in the tragic mass shooting in Buffalo last month, we will be collecting a special offering to support the work and mission of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Buffalo, NY as they work to support the grief stricken, carve out economic improvements in their city, and work for racial reconciliation. Please pray about what God might be asking you to give. 

Invasive Species Awareness

A big shout out of thanks to all who came and participated in our invasive species awareness events last week. We learned a lot and had fun doing it! 

Also: Renee is still missing some of her books that were on display. If you took them home to read, please just let her know that you have them. 

Rock Charitable Grant

Have you noticed that the turrets on the front of the sanctuary are missing roofing tiles? Dave Wells will be collecting estimates on the work in the next few weeks, for us to be able to write up our application for the Rock Charitable Grant, which offers $100,000 every year to churches and cemeteries for the upkeep of their buildings and land, and for veterans organizations. We’re hoping we have a chance of being selected this year! (Grantees will be named on 12/31/2022.) 

Prayers for Julie Miller

We offer up prayers for Julie Miller, who is undergoing surgery today for her 3rd port for chemo. If you’d like to send her a card in the mail, email me and I’ll send along her address. 

National Gun Violence in Perspective

Friends, I’m still thinking about gun violence in America. Are you? This morning, the New York Times posted an article that helps shine a light on an ignored and overlooked issue around gun violence in America– something white, middle-class Americans are often uncomfortable with acknowledging or addressing because of how it focuses on our systemic racism. If we’re serious about loving Jesus and following his Way, this is something we need to start addressing in ourselves as a culture and as a society.

Here are excerpts from the article entitled Highly Concentrated, by German Lopez in today’s NYT’s. I’m including them to get us thinking and talking together.

“Thirty-five people were killed in mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde and Tulsa over the past few weeks, focusing national attention on America’s unique gun problem.

In that same time, around 1,800 people were killed and almost 500 wounded in nearly 1,600 other shootings in the U.S…. 

Mass shootings account for less than 4 percent of gun homicides in a typical year, and most gun violence in the U.S. takes a different form. So I went to Chicago, where shootings are a daily occurrence in some areas, to see what more-typical gun violence looks like.

There, I met 24-year-old Jomarria Vaughn. After spending time in jail on domestic violence and weapon charges, he has tried to rebuild his life. But his past haunts him.

The last time he was on Facebook, he found out his best friend had been shot to death. He now tries to stay off the site, out of fear that posting the wrong thing could anger the wrong people — and make him a target.

In his neighborhood, he tries to avoid spending too much time “out on the block,” he said. Even if he is not a target, violence is so common there that Vaughn worries he could be hit by a stray bullet.

“I’m scared,” Vaughn told me. “I have my guard up all day.”

This is what daily life looks like for many Black Chicagoans. Across the city, the murder rate for Black people is higher than it was from the 1980s through the 1990s — a violent period that drove a nationwide push for mass incarceration. Black Chicagoans are nearly 40 times more likely to be shot to death than their white peers, according to an analysis by the University of Chicago Crime Lab.

….Similar disparities exist across America. Black and brown neighborhoods suffer higher rates of poverty, and violence concentrates around poverty. The violence is so intensive that a few neighborhoods, blocks or people often drive most of the shootings and murders in a city or county. And this is true in both urban and rural areas, said Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at Princeton.

The disparities have held up as murders have spiked across the country since 2020. So while the numbers are typically reported through a national lens, the reality on the ground is that a small slice of the population — disproportionately poor, Black and brown — suffers the most from it.

The concentration of violence has another effect: It pushes violence out of sight for most people.

In Chicago, 51 people were shot in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend — a five-year high. Almost all of the victims were on the city’s South and West Sides, which are mostly Black and brown.

Only when violence hits closer to home does it typically grab more people’s attention. That happened nationwide this year after mass shootings in schools and grocery stores, where Americans can imagine themselves or loved ones falling victim. In Chicago, public outrage over a shooting last month that killed a 16-year-old boy downtown — a richer, whiter area — prompted the mayor to impose a curfew for minors.

But that is the kind of violence that poorer, minority communities deal with daily, with little to no public attention. The vast majority of shootings never make national headlines.

Speaking to Black activists and residents in Chicago, I was struck by how they spoke almost dispassionately about the violence around them. They all had stories of dead friends and family members killed in gang shootings, episodes of domestic violence or road rage, or during petty conflicts over women — the shootings sometimes just days or weeks apart. Outside their homes, the sound of gunshots is common.

As I traveled around Chicago, the two worlds were clearly visible. Wealthier parts looked like a modern, rich city — parking meters and payment terminals built for smartphones, bustle around packed businesses, and residents on electric bikes and scooters. Poor areas were marked by disinvestment: homes in disrepair, boarded-up buildings and few to no stores.

What I saw exemplifies a vicious cycle that causes the concentration of violence in an area, experts said. Poverty leads to violence, which leads to disinvestment, which leads to more poverty and violence. Coupled with a police force that fails to solve most murders and shootings, the cycle becomes difficult to break.”

By contrast, other communities have a host of social supports keeping violence at bay, including good jobs, better schools, well-kept parks and recreation centers, and responsive police.

For most Americans, violence is something they may hear about on the news but do not deal with on a regular basis. But for people in the hardest-hit communities, violence is a fact of daily life. Like Vaughn, they come to expect it — and worry that they could be the next victim.”

Friends, as a predominately white, middle class church, it is not our place to solve what has often been referred to as “black-on-black” crime. The actual violence taking place in places like Chicago, Rochester, LA, and Buffalo is for those communities to work on healing. What is our responsibility, however, is to address how our accumulated white affluence has created the circumstances for such violence to take shape in poor Black and Brown communities. 

On average, a white American holds 13 times more wealth than a Black American. That doesn’t happen by chance. And the ripple effects are real. 

Jesus made it clear to his followers that we are to take care of one another– not just through charity, but through justice; through shifting our systems of economic and social engagement with one another. 

The racial and economic injustices that live in our country are easy for us to ignore when we stay in our regular ol’ patterns of community engagement, but what if we stepped out past the comfortable boundary lines we make for ourselves? How can we do this in our current situation? How can we address systemic poverty and racism here in Potsdam, NY? We are not immune to poverty or racism where we live. 

My prayer is that as a church, we might find ways of living deeper into God’s call to follow Jesus– even when it takes us into uncomfortable territory. Because when we do, we find ourselves living in the Kingdom of God. 

God, be with us and lead us, I pray!
Pastor Katrina