Welcome the Stranger

On Sunday June 11th we participated in a TrueCity project called “Welcome the Stranger.” The idea was to get churches in the TrueCity network to talk/think/pray on the same day about welcoming and supporting Newcomers into our city. There is something profound to everyone tackling the same topic at the same time. It is an act of solidarity not just with the other TrueCity churches but also with newcomers in Hamilton and refugees around the world still waiting for a safe place to live.

Here are some of the resources The Commons used:

We opened our Gathering with a video from the Hamilton Immigrants Working Centre (IWC):

Susan Neudorf shared some stories of volunteering at Prince of Wales School in a class with a number of Newcomer students. She talked about how these kids are the first Muslims that she has had a relationship with. She tries to help them with their English and is very thankful for Google Translate.  As they get closer to the end of the school year Susan has been teaching the kids some board games and card games. Some of the kids have talked about their parents having a hard time learning English because they don’t get to spend all day at school.

As I was researching for our Welcome the Stranger gathering, most of the information I found focused on the Refugee Highway, facts and figures and reasons people have become Refugees. It seemed like a lot of the info was focused on convincing people that this is an important Justice issue. As a church that is in the middle of a Refugee Sponsorship we thought that most of our people were already convinced of the importance of getting involved, so we focused our time differently.

We named that the biblical story is a Story of Refugees & Newcomers. The Jewish people were told by God in Deuteronomy 10:19 to “…love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Jesus and his parents were also refugees, fleeing for their lives back to Egypt. God’s story is tied to the story of those who have no home.

We gave an update on where our own refugee sponsorship was at. We were happy to announce that we are now at the minimum amount of money needed for our sponsorship to happen. We emphasized that this number was very low and just covered the bare necessities (of things like housing) and that we would continue to fund raise to off set other costs that will most definitely come up along the way. We then watched a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) video of another group’s sponsorship journey to help us start to get a picture of what our own future might look like.

Because we are in the waiting period of our sponsorship project, there isn’t a lot that can be done right now. That can sometimes feel frustrating but there is at least one thing that we can do, and that is to be praying. We spent the majority of our time praying for Newcomers and Refugees. We started praying for our smaller local circles and then moved outwards to more global circles.

We prayed for:

  • People we know who are supporting Newcomers in Hamilton.
  • Newcomers we have met in Hamilton.
  • The specific family we are sponsoring that is waiting in a refugee camp in Jordan.
  • People waiting in Refugee Camps around the world.
  • Workers and Volunteers helping in Refugee Camps.
  • People who are still in the countries others are fleeing (both those who stay by choice and those who are forced to stay)
  • Aid workers and organizations working in countries that are unsafe and unstable.
  • The Leaders and people with power who are causing this refugee crisis. We prayed that these people who have abused their power would change their ways or that they would lose their power to hurt others.

After we prayed we sang a song called All Ye Refugees by Sandra McCracken. This song has become an important one for us as Commoners (we have even added it to our Hymn-o-tangs). We are very thankful that Sandra has posted the sheet music (for free!) on her website.

We ended our gathering by watching a fun video I got to be part of Last Christmas. The video was an IWC commercial for their Beard Balm fundraiser with 4 guys talking/bragging about their beards. 2 of us were born in Canada, 2 of us were born in Syria, and all of us now live in Hamilton. Not only did I get to live out my dream of being a beard model, I also got to find out how much I had in common with these other beautiful bearded fellows.

Pentecost Table Liturgy

June 4th, 2017 was Pentecost Sunday. We celebrated this day on the church calendar with a table liturgy. You can listen in below.

For those of you looking for ideas for your own Pentecost Gathering, here are the words we used.

Pentecost Table Liturgy – June 4th, 2017
by Randell Neudorf
Quotes taken from Acts 2, The Message Translation (unless otherwise noted)

(Ask people to Close their eyes)

When the Feast of Pentecost came, all of Jesus’ followers, all of Jesus’ friends were together in one place.

(Start wind sound using White Noise Synth or turn on a Fan)

Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, like a gale force wind—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks,

Some people have said  “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them…” (Acts 2:3 NIV)

 (Use a Mic with Delay for Mark 1:8)

I can only imagine that the words of John the Baptizer were ringing in their ears: “ I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8 NIV)

(Ask people to open their eyes)

This is the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit of the Trinity of God. Today is the day of Pentecost. The day when we remember and celebrate the amazing gift, the very spirit of God poured out on her Church.

The story goes on to say that all these Jesus Followers who just received the Holy Spirit start speaking in other tongues, other languages. People from many different lands were in Jerusalem at that time and they couldn’t believe that these uneducated fishermen and vagabonds were talking to them about the Kingdom of God in their own language.

They were seeing the spirit in action. But even in the middle of this some people were missing it. They decided that the Disciples, these followers of Jesus were all just drunk. They were quick to give an excuse to explain away the Holy Spirit.

People often say that they want to experience the Spirit of God, they want to feel and know that God is real. But the problem is that we are very gifted at explaining away any encounter we’ve actually had with God.

I really believe that everything is spiritual. God did not create us to separate our bodies, our minds and our spirits. We are physical/spiritual creatures (not one or the other).

We are like fish and the Holy Spirit is like the water all around us.
This is why I think we have such a hard time recognizing the Holy Spirit, because in reality the Holy Spirit touches so much of our lives.

Before we eat out meal, I want to give you an opportunity to reflect on this idea and to be prayed for, but you are going to have to take a step out of your comfort zone.

Tongues of Fire Communion & Anointing

  • Use Water (instead of juice or wine) to remind people of John the Baptizer’s words in Mark 1:8
  • Use Nachos & Salsa (instead of bread) with there being Mild, Medium and Hot salsa to choose from. Ask people to go one higher in heat than they normally would as a way of stepping out of their comfort zones.
  • Invite people to be prayed for and Anointed with Oil. Pray that they would recognize the Holy Spirit somewhere in their life this next week. You can also pray that this would be a teaching moment so they can learn to be more attuned to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Feel free to follow your liturgy with a meal. We had Taco Salad to tie into the Salsa & Nachos used for communion. Our hope is that through being playful with communion that the next time people have salsa or taste something spicy that they will remember what we were talking about and think of the Holy Spirit.