‘Hope Still Rises’ — Daoud Nassar, Tent of Nations

Friday, May 7th at 9:00 a.m. on “Bridges”

By Beth Moore

Those of you who read our virtual Order of Sunday Service may notice in the weekly prayer list the name of the Nassar family. If you did not meet and listen to the story of Daoud Nassar when he visited us in person in 2018, this is an opportunity to be with him virtually on “Bridges”: to learn of his witness and work, and to offer your encouragement for him and the family.

The Nassars are Palestinian Christians farming their family’s ancestral lands — a 100-acre hilltop site situated between Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank. The Nassar family land, purchased in 1916 by Daoud Nassar’s grandfather, is surrounded by Jewish settlements on three sides and the Palestinian village of Nahalin on the fourth. It is on the site of the family farm, called Daher’s Vineyard (named for Daoud’s grandfather), that the family decided to establish The Tent of Nations in 2001: an international center for peace and for building bridges between people and the land.

The farm, located in the West Bank in what is called Area C, (and under Israeli Military control) has no access to running water or electricity. Permits to build on or develop the land in area C are seldom, if ever, granted by the Israeli military authorities. The family has been in the Israeli courts since 1991, resisting attempts by the Israeli government to take their land for which they have documents from the Ottoman period proving their ownership.

Approximately 10,000 international visitors come to the Tent of Nations annually, often as part of a Holy Land Pilgrimage. They listen to the witness of this family, their non-violent resistance to the Occupation, and observe their hope in actions which steward their land in sustainable and life giving ways. Longer term volunteers are also welcomed throughout the year to participate in tree planting, harvest camps, a children’s summer camp, and ongoing farm maintenance activities.

Volunteers and visitors to the Tent of Nations have been a strong support for the family’s work and spiritual sustenance. Since the pandemic, these sources of support are no longer present, and physical attacks on the land have been increasing. Whether you have heard the story before, or are not familiar with the journey of this family, we hope you will join us. We will share a brief video visit to the farm, after which Daoud will share a few remarks. The remainder of the time will be an opportunity for you to voice your questions. Sign in by going to “Bridges” here on our website, and scroll down to the area where the classes are listed with their date and time, and then click on the link.

Solar Panels and Beyond

Members of the Church of the Palms have expressed their love of Creation through their generous support for the plans to reduce our carbon footprint by adding solar panels to our facility. After receiving an anonymous $50,000 matching grant, members of our wonderful church family have matched and surpassed the required matching amount, donating to date $80,000 for a total of $130,000. What a wonder that the church can continue with our eco-friendly pursuit!

Solar panels are just the beginning on this marvelous journey. Solar panels up high, visible for all to see, is a statement from the church body. This commitment expands to the other areas of need, with a building approaching 55 years young. In a recent, expansive APS energy assessment of our facility, several items were identified that could improve our energy efficiency and save funds. Among the items recommended were the replacement of several outdated inefficient HVAC heat pumps, changing out worn and damaged door seals, replacing exterior single-pane windows with high-performance windows, and conversion to LED lighting.

The Board of Trustees and the Creation Justice Team have a responsibility to research the needs of the church, for now and in the future. Additional donations to support Church of the Palms “going green” are gratefully appreciated! Thank you and God bless you.

—Ronn Enzweiler (Trustees) and Beth Moore (Creation Justice)

Mass Incarceration — What Can We Do?

Learn about potential solutions at Breakfast in Your PJs on Tuesday, May 25th at 8:30 am

By Nancy Nonini
Social Justice Action Team—Criminal Justice

Did you know that Arizona has the fifth highest imprisonment rate in the U.S., but is only 15th highest in population? This incarceration costs AZ taxpayers over one billion dollars per year. From 2000 to 2018, our state population grew 33%, but our incarcerated population grew 60 percent. While in recent years, most of the United States’ top incarcerating states have passed meaningful criminal-justice reforms focused on reducing prison populations, Arizona struggles to get any Criminal Justice Reform bills through our legislature.

So what can be done to change Arizona’s mass incarceration rate? According to a UCC resolution, “As believers in Christ, we must abhor and actively battle against any individual or industry which derives profit from human misery.”

Join us to hear John Dacey and Robert Craig of Abolish Private Prisons describe how they propose to create change in our overactive justice system during Breakfast in Your PJs on Tuesday, May 25, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. in a Zoom event accessed on Bridges. Select Bridges in the navigation pane and click on the Breakfast in Your PJs link.

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness month and Sunday, May 16th is Mental Health Sunday. The worship service for that Sunday will encourage us to learn all we can and do all we can in the area of mental health.

As a WISE Congregation for Mental Wellness, we will be observing Mental Health Awareness Month, beginning with the Tools2Thrive found in this article, in conjunction with the Tools2Thrive page of our website, and the Orders of Worship for each week in May.

Through these tools, we trust that you will find support and assistance regarding the mental health challenges you may face. If you have family members or friends who may benefit from the Tools2Thrive or the support you can give, please make sure you share the information.

Mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are disorders of the brain. These illnesses are medical conditions that result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life when left untreated.

Anyone can have a mental illness. One in four adults experiences a mental-health disorder in a given year. One in 17 lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, major depression, anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder. About one in 10 children live with a serious mental or emotional disorder.

Most mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan, which may include medication, individual or group therapy and activities, and other support services.

Mental illness can disrupt a person’s ability to work, care for himself/herself, and carry on relationships. It affects every aspect of life. However, because mental illness may not be immediately visible to others, the person can be negatively judged as being weak, lazy or uncooperative. This lack of understanding can lead to the stigma of people with mental illness.

Friends and family members feel the impact of mental illness experienced by their loved one. Those feelings can be varied, and family members, friends and caregivers need to be supported amid their experiences.

Some might feel protective of their loved one. Others may feel embarrassed by the social stigma associated with mental health challenges. Still others may feel angry. All may feel helpless to provide support and encouragement. This range of feelings is common, and friends and family members may feel all of these at different points and should be encouraged to seek professional counseling as needed.

You may have heard the phrase, “If you can’t take care of yourself, how are you going to care for someone else?” It is important that you become aware of signs that indicate your need for self-care by engaging in a support group or speaking with clergy or a counselor. This video and the following list may help you recognize those possible signs in yourself or others.

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or don’t grasp what changes others are describing)
  • Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are not alone. If you or someone you know is in need of support, feel free to reach out to The WISE Steering Committee: Pastor Jim, Vickie Ashenbrenner, Mike Astle, Judy Jondahl, Kay Klinkenborg, Phil Ladd, Nancy Nonini, Andrea Stefanov, or Pastor Paul.

You can also utilize any of the phone numbers or services listed below. Keep this handy “Taking Charge of Your Mental Health” guide at your fingertips and watch for more information in the weeks to come.

National Alliance on Mental Illness Help Line 1-800-950-6264 https://www.nami.org/help

Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800.273.TALK

Veteran’s Crisis Line 800.273.8255 press 1

Pastoral Care—Pastor Jim Alexander 623.792.5295 https://thepalms.org/Tools2Thrive

Continuing our journey with the Nassar family and their work at the Tent of Nations

by Beth Moore

Gather with us at 9:00 a.m. on May 7th “on the Bridge” as we reconnect with Daoud Nassar, Palestinian Christian farmer. Daoud and his family farm their ancestral lands — a 100-acre hilltop site situated between Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank — and there began the Tent of Nations, an international peace center. Their non-violent resistance to the attempts of the Israeli military to take their land, and the decision to live from their faith stance of “refusing to be enemies” is inspiring.

For those who are new to the Tent of Nations, there will be a brief overview of the work. Daoud will also bring an update to us regarding the escalating pressures they are facing under COVID and the increasing physical attacks on their farm and its facilities. If you are not familiar with the Tent of Nations, please learn more here. Questions can be directed to Beth Moore, COTP member, at ebmoore1@live.com.

Love of Creation Sunday

This coming Sunday is special. We have many lay leaders participating in the design and leadership of worship – the Creation Justice Team will be leading our Love of Creation Sunday as we begin the week of Earth Day celebrations.
Rev. Doug Bland, a long-time friend, will be our speaker. Doug is a gifted storyteller who is known for blending humor and insight into his sermons. It’s a “Can’t Miss” kind of Sunday.
Speaking of love of creation, now is the time to get your gift in for our solar panel / greening the church capital campaign. We will complete this campaign this April. The overage will go to other green projects at The Palms to reduce our carbon footprint.
Shalom, Paul

Dispatches from ‘FEET-N-MORE’ Shower Ministry

By Max Klinkenborg
Shower Trailer Ministry

The shower trailer of “FEET-N-MORE” of Church of the Palms has been in the city of Surprise on 2/23 and 3/9, providing hot showers for the homeless. On our first outing, we provided 9 showers, and it grew to 12 our second time. In addition to the showers, we are giving guests a bag of toiletries and a hand towel. We are also providing a charging station for cell phones, tablets, etc. Each time, we have had 8 volunteers who are friends or members of COTP.

We are hosted by the Salvation Army Church on Avenue of the Arts in Surprise. They provide lunches for our volunteers and guests in addition to offering clean clothes. We will be at this location on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month in 2021, sponsored by the City of Surprise.

Joining us each time has been Circle the City, providing a portable doctor’s office. On the fourth Tuesday of each month, we will be joined by Chance Shelter, which provides pet care. The City of Surprise is present, offering the services of the city to the homeless, including a city police officer dedicated to serving the homeless population. The Phoenix Rescue Mission is also present, as well as Lutheran Social Services.

If you are interested in volunteering with the shower trailer, contact John Durbin at 623.693.8866 or Max Klinkenborg at 816.377.4618.

Prison Ministry Introduces Pen Pal Program

By Nancy Nonini
Social Justice Action Team-Prison Ministry

Do you know why 4:15 p.m. is the most exciting time of day at Perryville Prison for Women (ASPC – Perryville)? It’s Mail Call. Women rush to see if they get a letter. Others never come out because they don’t want to face yet another day without a letter. A letter in prison is an “envelope of hope,” according to Sue Ellen Allen in her book, The Slumber Party from Hell.

Women who have pen pals are less likely to go back to prison after re-entering society. Matthew 25 Prison Ministry (originated through Red Mountain United Methodist Church in Mesa) has provided pen pals for 264 inmates at Perryville; 128 have become “returning citizens” and only four have returned to prison, giving Matthew 25 a return rate of 3.1%, as opposed to the national recidivism rate of over 50%.

Since our Arouet Foundation Storytellers Breakfast in Your PJs, we have filled 5 Starter Kits for women being released from Perryville, and at least 2 people have expressed interest in becoming pen pals. Luckily for us, Matthew 25 Prison Ministry will provide a Zoom Pen Pal training on Friday, April 9 at 10:00 a.m. You can access this presentation on the Bridges page under Social Justice Action Team/Prison Ministry. This event will be recorded if you want to view it but are not available at the scheduled time. Please email Nancy Nonini at nnonini19@gmail.com with any questions or for a Zoom invitation.

This list is astounding

It is not when it is smooth sailing that our merit is tested, but rather when things are falling apart. We are approaching the one-year mark of the quarantine and no in-person worship at The Palms. And this anniversary I give thanks for you and the ministry you have done, are doing, and will do!

A colleague recently asked me what The Palms had done during quarantine, adding they felt their church hadn’t done much. As I look back, I was astounded at all that God has done through us at The Palms this past year…

  • Installed camera equipment for videoing worship
  • Added a third screen in the sanctuary – one dedicated for those leading worship
  • Produced Social Justice videos on BLM
  • Bought a sanitizing machine for when we return
  • Purchased a shower trailer and contracted with multiple municipalities for its use to help the homeless
  • Installed a new organ
  • Expanded our prison ministry
  • Install new doors on both sides of the narthex
  • Redid the storage doors in King Hall
  • Adapted our in-person Thanksgiving feast to $4600 in feeding the hungry of our community
  • Fortified our electronic giving
  • Installed new doors for the office / King Hall entrance
  • Became a Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, Engaged (W.I.S.E.) Congregation for Mental Wellness
  • Added new members
  • Installed a new security system
  • Ordained Debby Stinton
  • Secured a gift to reduce our carbon footprint by adding solar panels
  • Held more Life-Long Learning classes than ever
  • Installed a washer/dryer at the church
  • Gave more money to charity than recent years
  • Maintain our I-Help ministry
  • Help register people for their Covid-19 shots
  • Supported Shea Darian towards her ordination
  • Built our website up to allow winter friends and others to watch our worship and attend our meetings and learning opportunities in a safe environment no matter where they reside
  • Plus a whole lot more!

Wow! Review that list. I’m sure I forgot something! It’s been an amazing spirit-filled year of being The Palms of Jesus! I would have been thrilled in a non-pandemic year to have the church do those things. We did them in a pandemic. When things fell apart, you were The Palms. Thank you for your ministry (your gifts of time, talent, and treasure) which makes it all possible.

Shalom, Paul

How we express our love of creation

Love of creation is part of the “3 Great Loves” that our denomination is focusing upon. Can you name the other two? Right: neighbor and children. Much of our efforts these last couple of years has focused on love of neighbor. We are to love thy black, poor, differently-abled, immigrant, Islamic, and atheist neighbor. Much of our social justice ministry has been designated to loving the diverse people around our church and in the surrounding metropolitan area. That love includes children with our ministry with the Hart Pantry and others. We hope to continue with our involvement in these important ministries.

This year, we’ll be paying attention to our love of creation. How can we be better stewards of our natural resources on our journey through life? That takes many forms—from recycling to walking the labyrinth to putting solar panels on our roof. If you’re interested in creation justice, we have a group that is challenging us to new and exciting ministry opportunities: Our Creation Justice Task Force. They’re always looking for new people to help turn dreams into action and honor creation.

Shalom, Paul