It was 2012 when Rev. Tim Johnson (Cherokee Park United Church, St. Paul) was approached by the editor of Seasons of the Spirit, a provider of lectionary resources for worship, faith formation and service. Rev. Johnson was asked if Cherokee Park would be interested in facilitating a writing team for an upcoming quarter of Seasons. A resounding “yes!” was the answer, and throughout 2013, a team of nine, five from Cherokee Park and four from other Minnesota Conference congregations, worked with the editorial staff from Seasons. The result is curriculum and worship material for this coming 2014/2015 Advent/Christmas/Epiphany season. The published materials include a summary of the host congregation, Cherokee Park United Church, and the collaboration team. That summary is included below. We are thrilled that the wonderful talents of this group of Minnesotans is going to be lifted up in such a special time of the church year. Seasons of the Spirit resources are widely used across many denominations in both the United States and Canada.
Above is the collaboration team including (L to R) Okogyeamon(Dr. Herbert Perkins) – Cherokee Park United Church; Rev. Doug Federhart – Living Table UCC, Minneapolis; Rev. Nancy Swanson – Cherokee Park United Church; Rev. Kay Welsch – New Brighton UCC; Rev. Tim Johnson – Cherokee Park United Church; Rev. Sandy Dodson – Cherokee Park United Church; Rev. Beth Donaldson – New Brighton UCC; Kay Myhrman-Toso – Cherokee Park United Church; (not pictured) Rev. Don Christensen – Macalester Plymouth United Church, St. Paul.
4 Seasons of the Spirit™ SeasonsFUSION Advent • Christmas • Epiphany 2014–2015 Copyright © Wood Lake Publishing Inc. 2014
The Development Community for Advent, Christmas, Epiphany 2014–15
Cherokee Park United Church is a progressive congregation affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Church of Christ, situated near the bluffs of the Mississippi in the urban core of St. Paul, Minnesota. In its mission statement, the congregation declares, “we seek to be an inclusive, multicultural, anti-racist, justice seeking, environmentally responsible community of faith. We seek a new humanity where sexual orientation, age, gender, culture, or differing abilities are no longer a barrier to our living in just relationship.” It is the values reflected in this mission that put the congregation on the radar as organizers for a potential writing team. The writing team assembled by Cherokee Park United Church included five members from Cherokee Park United and four colleagues from UCC congregations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area who also share these values and faith commitment. Among the growing edges for the congregation is its commitment to antiracism, seeking to more fully understand the ways white supremacy has embedded itself in our culture, institutions, and religious life. Because white supremacy opposes and undermines the Realm of God claims of Christian faith, the congregation takes as its responsibility to resist and dismantle racism. It is with this central claim of faith that the writing team began its study of scripture, with presentations on the theology of empire by a member of the writing team, Okogyeamon (Herbert A. Perkins). Okogyeamon is the director of a program called ASDIC Metamorphosis (Antiracism Study-Dialogue Circles) and an adjunct faculty at area universities, seminaries, and colleges.
Okogyeamon’s presentation on the role and theology of empire was formative in both the subsequent conversations and writings of the team working on this Advent – Epiphany unit. Two essays by Okogyeamon are included among these resources (pp. 8–11), and will deepen readers’ understanding of the text, the reflections, and the worship resources. In the essays, Okogyeamon states, “Empire is one of those relations of power, and empire ideology is the story the agents of empire concoct to legitimate the ways they use violence to further the interests of empire.” He goes on to state, “our scriptures are stories, testaments of resistance, supported by an anti-empire counter-frame… In this alternate frame, the Reign of God frame, we live according to a world view, values, and way of thinking consistent with the teaching of the Hebrew prophets and teaching and actions of Jesus.”
Cherokee Park United Church is located in a mixed income, ethnically diverse neighbourhood of St. Paul. While the congregation’s demographics do not yet reflect the diversity of the neighbourhood, there is ample evidence of its commitment to an anti-empire counter-frame in both faith and action. The congregation has developed a strong repertoire of global music, drawn upon each Sunday and woven throughout its worship. Themes of God’s justice are regularly encountered in worship. The worship space is commonly filled with art exhibited by area artists. The congregation has begun a conversation about its white stained glass Jesus and what that means for a congregation committed to antiracism. The antiracism work of the congregation is also reflected in its being the founding partners for an Overcoming Racism conference, now in its fifth year as a collaborative effort, drawing over 400 participants annually. The congregation has a growing relationship with and partnership with members of the Salvadoran community in St. Paul, and the Dakota who are the original people of Minnesota. Anti-empire counter-framing is reflected in a 25 plus year commitment to an after-school tutoring program, work for Habitat for Humanity, support of a meals program for the poor, legislative advocacy and participation in immigration justice work. The congregation is a strong supportive of marriage equality for LGBT brothers and sisters and worked to make marriage fully accessible in Minnesota. In 2012 Cherokee Park United Church became one of the first congregations in Minnesota to install solar energy, producing more electricity than is used. The writing team for this Advent, Christmas, Epiphany come from congregations all committed in their own ways to the Reign of God counter-frame and the Advent hope that it is through our faithfulness the empire resistant Reign of God comes to fruition.
You can meet the community and the writers for Advent, Christmas, Epiphany 2014–15 at www.seasonsonline.ca. Click on the “Explore Seasons” tab.