The following is my article from the Holiday Partner Newsletter, being mailed this week.
Normally our Christmas newsletter is filled with stories and images of the amazing things happening at All Peoples Church. We like to tell the stories of children being welcomed, youth being nurtured, and families growing in faith. We tell of the hungry being fed and the grieving being comforted. I love telling those stories because they reflect the best of our community, the amazing work God does in the midst of All Peoples.
There is another story that I don’t like to tell. I don’t like to talk about the violence in our community. I don’t like to talk about the gunfire shot from our parking lot into a nearby building. I don’t like to talk about friends and members being hurt and robbed. And I certainly do not like to tell the story of All Peoples being the victim of crime. I don’t like saying that copper wires were stolen from the church, live wires cut endangering the thief and others.
And I don’t like saying this is the third time it has happened.
In the last 6 months.
I don’t like to tell those stories because they have a way of defining us – reinforcing all of the negative images associated with the Harambee neighborhood and the city of Milwaukee. They become signs of brokenness. Those stories entrench notions of race and class, of urban vs. suburban, of fear and separation.
And yet, we worship a God who was not afraid of the pain and the suffering of the world. We are united in the belief that our God chose not to avoid the brokenness of the world but was born into, endured it, and suffered for and from it. Christmas is the reminder that God is present in our good times and in our struggles.
God becomes present in our struggles – not to condone them or to have us endure them for some greater lesson. God in Christ is simply with us in our struggle.
Because of God’s presence in all of our struggles, because God has delivered all of us from pain and heartache, our eyes are opened to the pain of others.
As partners of All Peoples Church, God has inviting you into the pain of crime and violence. Jesus is showing that news reports of violence and crime, poverty and fear are not stories about “some people” or “those people;” it is stories about your sisters and brothers. It is really about you. Our lives are intertwined. God’s hope for justice and Jesus establishment of the kin-dom draws us together. We bear one another burdens.
So, my friends, I share with you the pain of All Peoples. I show the pictures of damage from the theft. I let you know the $15,000+ lost from these robberies. And I’m trusting that we will not be defined by this but instead enter into the ways the Holy Spirit empowers us to rise above these challenges.
I share this pain because I know you feel it, too. I know you share the sense of hurt and violation when this happens to us. I know that you do bear our burdens with us. I see it in the notes and emails sent to encourage us in these struggles. I hear it in the prayers offered on our behalf. We feel it with the extra donations made to help us overcome the financial burdens that go along with the emotional and spiritual stress of these matters. Time and time again we are encouraged by our friends and partners. God continues to show us – through your love and support – that we are not alone.
In spite of the brokenness and crime and violence, the good news is still being preached. The hungry are still being fed. Families are growing in faith. A beloved community gathers to praise. Your prayers and financial support are necessary for this to happen and reveal, again, we are… Better Together,
So, what does all this mean? Every time we are a victim of a crime it takes a toll on our community. It also costs time and money. Our first theft we claimed through insurance. After much deliberation the leadership of the congregation chose not to file our second theft, with the realization that we would likely be dropped by our insurance company. We covered the expense with our savings and through a loan from the synod which will need to be paid back. We are still determining estimates for this event, and will likely file this with our insurance. Even so, we have a high deductable to cover. Between theft 2 and 3 we installed security cameras. This was damaged by the thieves and will need to be repaired or replaced. In the spirit of #GivingTuesday, this is an important time to support the ministry of All Peoples with a donation. Donate online here: https://allpeoplesgathering.cloverdonations.com/glory-rising/ or send a check to the office. Peace, ps