Happy Wednesday, friends!

This coming Sunday (6/21), I will have preached as many sermons online than I have in person here at The Church in Aurora. I have literally spent 50% of my time, virtually pastoring the church.

I have to tell you, in a million years, that?s not how I would have expected to begin just three months into my tenure. I think when we all come back, I am going to have to relearn all the names of folks in our church!

What?s been particularly challenging is that with all of us encouraged to stay home and be safe, we have lost a sense of community. We?ve missed out on seeing our friends & family. We?ve missed out on seeing familiar faces in familiar places. We?ve missed out on getting to know folks. I know I have.

This time ? as a new pastor ? is supposed to be filled with getting to know folks; building relationships, earning trust/respect. Instead, we?ve been spending time alone at home or with just a few folks outside of our family circles.

Our news cycles have been filled with updated number and new information or new data about this global health crisis. If it?s not the global health crisis, then it?s been a national (and now international) movement protesting racial injustice in our country and across the world. And, let?s not forget that we are in the middle of an election year!

There is so much stuff creating so much anxiety. I have found that when we are anxious, we are primed to be less willing to seek understanding and way too willing to seek to be understood. We are living in some of the most anxious and divisive times in history.

Everything these days is politicized, demonized, and scrutinized. Most folks in our time have created an identity around what they stand against?that is to say, we form our identities based on polarizing issues.

Even the Church is guilty of this. We divide over theology, politics, or what color of carpet to choose!

Jesus knew this would happen. I have a hunch that is why he prayed this: ?Protect them, Father, by the power of your name ? the name you gave me ? so that they may be one as we are one?I pray?that all may be one?that they may be one as we are one?so that they may be brought to complete unity.? (vv 12, 20,21, 22, 23).

Because unity is the Christian witness?not division.

Most churches around are mostly homogeneous in theology. They all believe the same thing. They are unified by their doctrine.

Our church is unique. We are not homogeneous in theology. We have a diversity of theology at The Church in Aurora. You would think that this would make the work of unity challenging?and I?m sure it does at times.

The thing that unites us here transcends political parties or theological positions. The unifying factor at The Church in Aurora is grace. It?s literally written into our code: ?the members of this church shall have the undisturbed right to follow the word of God according to the dictates of their own consciences.?

This means that we give space for disagreements. It means that we practice grace.

We understand that we don?t have to agree on all things. We don?t have to vote the same or interpret the bible the same. And, we understand that we don?t have to divorce over our differences. We can celebrate them.

During these divided times, The Church in Aurora is uniquely positioned to witness to the community and the world that there is a divine presence equipping and empowering all Christ followers to rise above partisan politics and dogmatic doctrine, in order to live together in peace ? united by our collective desire to practice grace toward all people.

As we seek to live united, let me encourage us with the words of St. Paul from his letter to the Ephesian Church: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:2-6)

In Christ, 
Pastor Derek

We wanted to share something that we are super excited about – a church-wide How Can We Help? Campaign.
 
Through this time of the public health crisis created by the Coronavirus, many folks have lost jobs and have seen a reduction in income. Our church has stepped up, and we will continue to step up to the challenge of meeting needs and helping people in our communities.
We’re asking for your help:
 
Help us get the word out. We have these simple yard signs with our church name, phone number, and one question: How Can We Help? For a $10 donation (which helps cover the cost of the sign), you can place one of these signs in your yard and let folks know we’re here to help! SIGN UP HERE TO GET A SIGN!Do you have a special skill or interest you?re willing to share with folks in need? Can you act as a financial coach? Or, maybe you can offer yourself to repair a vehicle or a home. Perhaps you are an attorney who can help somebody navigate the estate process of their loved one who recently passed. Or, maybe, you’re a good listener, and you’d be willing to sit and listen to folks who want to tell their story. Let us know if you?d be willing to lend us your skill, talent, or interest. Volunteer. Contact Liz Sutter and offer yourself to pack bags, distribute food, or make deliveries.Donate to the Community Relief Fund. You can send a check in or donate online. Just write a memo, letting us know you?re donating to the Community Relief Fund. 
Friends, The Church in Aurora is a strong church with great people; and one of the things I have loved most about this faith community is that even though we may have differences in our politics or theology, we all have united around helping our community. We don’t let our differences hinder our mission, so, let’s lock arms and continue to stand strong as we commit to serving those who have needs in our community and in the surrounding area.
 
Because, here at The Church in Aurora, we?re here to help.
OUTREACH UPDATE
 FOR OUR SENIOR-AGE FRIENDS:
The Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) has launched a no-cost phone check-in program for seniors in the state to ensure their well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. The free service, called Staying Connected, allows Ohio residents aged 60 or older to register to receive a call from a representative at the ODA every day during an hour of their choosing. To register, seniors must have a landline or mobile phone.
Those registered can provide the phone number of an alternate contact, as well, in case they do not answer. If both the registered senior and the alternate contact fail to answer the call, ODA will work with local, non-emergency officials, primarily Sheriff?s offices, to ensure the senior?s safety.
The service is available from 7 AM to 6 PM seven days a week. Those interested in registering can do so by calling 1-833-ODA-CHAT, or 1-833-632-2428 or by visiting the ODA?s website here.

AND Officer Vickie at the Aurora Police Department asks that we share the following information with you regarding Aurora’s Residential Lock Box Program….

As of today, the Community Relief Fund has provided over 1350 bags of food and supplies to local households! Last Friday we served 149 people from 43 households.


FROM THE CHRISTIAN EDUCATION COMMITTEE…

Rebecca Bliss – Kyla Errington – Reed Fuller
Audrey Gray – Kathleen Horak – Kim Jones – Daryl Koning
Justine Kwaszek – June Lucal – Laura Monroe
April Nenadal – Brent Nenadal – Lisa Perez – Mindy Rogge
Amy Rumskey – Bethany Schmittal – Kelly Sedlak
Mike Sedlak – Dana Shively – Danielle Sprague
Rita Suchanek – Josh Sutter – Alyssa Swiatek
Katie Trook – Josh Williams – Kimberly Williams
Audrey Winkler – Carrie Yasenosky