Update from the MOD(erator) Squad

Greetings from the Moderator Team.

We are rounding the corner of the calendar year and sending you an August Palm Leaf. We don’t normally send a Palm Leaf in August, but we are in unprecedented times and facing unprecedented issues, challenges, and opportunities to show who we are as followers of Jesus and members of Church of the Palms. So, here is our August Palm Leaf question:

Considering the increasing number of hate crimes, divisive rhetoric about racial justice, political polarization, voter rights questions, and disparity of opportunity between people of color and us white folk, what is our role as mostly retirees living in Sun City, a predominantly white community? Our Social Justice Action Team has embraced the 15 action steps approved and recommended to us by the UCC Southwest Conference. But before we list the action steps, let’s look at some terms important to this topic, some are familiar, some may be new:

Prejudice — A pre-judgment or unjustifiable and usually negative attitude of one type of individual or groups toward another group and its members. Such negative attitudes deny the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with individual characteristics.

Bigotry — Intolerant prejudice that glorifies one’s own group and denigrates members of other groups.

Racism — A system in which one race maintains supremacy over another race through a set of attitudes, behaviors, social structures, and institutional power.

Microaggressions — The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate dismissive, hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their affiliation with a marginalized group. Microaggressions can be committed against any such group marginalized in our society – People of Color, LGBTQ people, women, people with disabilities, people from other faiths traditions.

White fragility — A state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable (for white people), triggering a range of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation.

White privilege — Refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally, white people who experience such privilege do so without even knowing it.

Complicity – any direct or indirect action that perpetuates a system of racism, privileging Whites above others.

OK, having reviewed some old familiar terms and looked at a few new ones, what can we do to help bridge the racial divide that exists in our country. Here are those action steps from the Southwest Conference that the Social Justice Action Team is embracing:

  • Speaking up whenever you hear a comment or joke that marginalizes Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color.
  • Asking Black, Indigenous, and People of Color what their needs are.
  • Using your money to support businesses and ministries of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
  • Forming partnerships with congregations of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
  • Reading books, watching performing arts events, and drawing on theological resources featuring Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to deepen understanding and appreciation of the history, contributions, and culture of these groups of people.
  • Learning with white friends and family about white privilege, white fragility, and white supremacy.
  • Preparing church newsletter articles featuring the contributions of, and/or discriminatory practices against, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
  • Telling and hearing the stories of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and their rich and diverse heritage in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas.
  • Including elements in worship services that reflect the needs and experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color present in your congregation and in your community.
  • Inviting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color into leadership roles and explore governance structures that reflect their experience.
  • Learning about and supporting organizations in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas that make it a mission to be advocates for racial equality and work against racial injustice.
  • Writing op-eds or letters to the editor about issues of bigotry, white supremacy, or racism in your communities.
  • Assessing your congregation’s racial diversity, equity and inclusion. Participate in the UCC’s racial diversity, equity, and inclusion assessment of the National setting of the United Church of Christ.
  • Inviting a Sacred Conversations to End Racism facilitator of the Southwest Conference to present a program in your congregation. (Please consider attending the Sept. 7 Ecumenical Retreat in Prescott: Solidarity—Anti-Racism Training—Rev. Joan Crawford)
  • Making a public witness like putting a Black Lives Matter sign at your church or on your lawn and prepare yourselves to welcome Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who may come to our churches, and for conversations with people who demonstrate white fragility because you take this step.

Some of these action steps we are already taking. Others will require more work. But what the Mod(erator) Squad and Social Justice Action Team loves about Church of the Palms is that we “Share God’s Unconditional Love, (Racial) Justice and Extravagant Welcome.” May it be so in increasing measure!

From the Prison Ministry/Criminal Justice Reform Action Team

By Nancy Nonini, Social Justice Action Team-Criminal Justice

Did you know? According to the Death Penalty Information Center:

Arizona reportedly has “refurbished” its gas chamber and has spent more than $2,000 to acquire ingredients to execute prisoners with cyanide gas, the same gas used by the Nazis to murder more than one million men, women, and children during the Holocaust. Christoph Heubner, executive vice president of the International Auschwitz Committee, told the New York Times, “For Auschwitz survivors, the world will finally come apart at the seams, if in any place on this earth the use of Zyklon B in the killing of human beings is considered again.”

Executions in Arizona have been on hold since 2014, when the state botched the lethal -injection execution of Joseph Wood. As Arizona officials attempt to restart executions, they spent $1.5 million to obtain lethal injection drugs, even as the Department of Corrections faces a budget crisis. On April 6, 2021, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced that he is asking the Arizona Supreme Court to set a briefing schedule and issue execution warrants for Frank Atwood and Clarence Dixon. The Arizona Supreme Court granted Brnovich’s motion on May 21. The Court has set dates for Mr. Atwood and Mr. Dixon to respond to the request.

In the US since 1973, more than 180 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. A 2009 poll commissioned by DPIC (Death Penalty Information Center) found police chiefs ranked the death penalty last among ways to reduce violent crime. The police chiefs also considered the death penalty the least efficient use of taxpayers’ money.

Sources: deathpenaltyinfo.org, umcjustice.org:

  • 140 countries have abolished the death penalty, including nearly all of Europe, Central and South America, and numerous countries in Africa. China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the US are among the 10 countries that annually execute the most people. (Wouldn’t we rather the US be grouped with the former rather than the latter countries in how it treats its citizens?)
  • The death penalty does not mean that we will be executing monsters. We will be executing men and women. As Jesus said, “Let any of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone…” John 8:7. “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take not pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” Ezekiel 33:11

So what can we do as Christians? We can contact Governor Ducey and Director David Shinn and ask them to stop the executions that are being planned. Emails are easy; phone calls have more impact; but any communication is valuable. Governor Ducey: 602-542-4331, engage@az.gov; Director Shinn of AZ Dept of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Re-entry: 602-542-5497, media@azcorrections.gov.

Help HART Pantry fill Backpacks for Teens in Need

HART Pantry is holding a Back-to-School Drive for At-Risk Teens.

Needed items include:

  • Adult size backpacks
  • 3 ring binders
  • Filler paper (college rule)
  • Subject dividers
  • One-subject spiral notebook (college rule)
  • 2-pocket folders
  • Composition books
  • Calculators
  • Erasers (Dollar Tree has multiple packs)
  • Highlighters
  • Pencils/Mechanical Pencils
  • Glue sticks
  • Pencil Case (cloth mesh) Dollar Tree
  • Pens
  • Earbuds, Dollar Tree
  • Rulers
  • Pencil Sharpener
  • Journal
  • Microfiber screen cleaning cloth
  • Calendar
  • Hand sanitizer/disposable wipes
  • Index cards
  • Geometry kits (protractor, compass, ruler) Dollar Tree

Perryville Women Appreciate Clothing Donations

A big THANK YOU to all who have donated clothing to help women exiting Perryville Prison reenter society.

Here’s a little peek from beyond your donations:

  • While waiting their turns to leave, the women select their outfits and love to model them for each other and make comments. “You look beautiful.” “That color is just right for you.” “That looks perfect.”
  • “I haven’t worn anything but orange in 25 years.”
  • “Please thank the ladies at church for this. We are so happy to have it.”
  • “Oh, this is better than Christmas.”

The need for clothing donations of tops, blouses and pants of all sizes is ongoing. Please no scarves or belts. No underwear, no outerwear, no nightclothes, no shoes, no see-through items, hats, or jewelry please.

Ecumenical/Interreligious Retreat

The 17th Annual Church of the Palms Marshall Esty Ecumenical/Interreligious Retreat: September 7 – 10, 2021 at Chapel Rock Conference Center, Prescott, Arizona

Solidarity — Antiracism Training with Rev. Joan Crawford

African-American culture is distinctively different from European American culture. This reality, along with a truncated version of American history, as well as a lack of truth-telling, has led to varying perspectives on race and racism among Black and White people in this country. In this workshop, participants will learn the “truths” that highlight these differences and, as such, help White folk avoid making false assumptions and unintentional microaggressions towards African Americans – especially when both communities come together to address racial injustice.

Central to the discussion is the spiritual call to be in right-relationship with God and all of God’s creation. Thus, guided by faith and framed by personal experience, participants will be encouraged to engage spiritually and emotionally as they connect newly informed historical and cultural insights to anti-racism efforts.

The Retreat includes 3 nights lodging, 3 dinners, 3 breakfasts, and 2 lunches in the cool pines of Prescott. The surroundings are beautiful, and the food is fantastic!

The Reverend Joan Crawford is a Spiritual Director, Deacon and Benedictine Oblate. Joan has an ecumenical background and inclusive vision. She received a Master of Theology from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois and a Certificate in Spiritual Guidance from the Siena Dominican Center in Racine, Wisconsin. Her ministry now includes workshops to promote interracial healing and dialogue. Joan brings spiritual awareness, insightful humor, and tender seriousness to her presentation. Her candor, sensitivity, and deep listening will help instill the building blocks for better understanding between the African-American and Anglo-American communities.

Cost of the Retreat is $295 per person (double occupancy). Single occupancy rooms are available at $385 (limited availability). Additional information, including the retreat schedule, is available in the church office. You may also request this information be emailed to you. Ask the pastoral staff about scholarships.

For more information contact John Durbin at jst4us21@cox.net.

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

Brought to you by Church of the Palms’ CARE Team!

Community Action Programs (CAPs) and other designated local providers offer several programs to assist with energy assistance. The Division contracts with local CAPs for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP is a federally-funded program that helps low-income households pay their heating/cooling bills, minimize crises, and make energy costs more affordable.

Eligible energy customers may receive help in three ways:

  1. Help to pay current and past due energy bills
  2. Help with utility deposits
  3. Help with energy efficiency measures to reduce future energy costs

Who is eligible?
To qualify for LIHEAP, the applicant must have an income that falls within the program guidelines. Priority for service assistance is determined at the local Community Action Agency level. Higher priority may be granted if someone in your home is a senior citizen (60 years of age & older), a person with disabilities or a young child under six years old.

How often can someone receive assistance?
The availability of LIHEAP assistance is not guaranteed and is available on a first-come first-serve basis. LIHEAP eligibility is limited to once in a 12-month period. Remember to contact your utility company as soon as possible when you realize you might have trouble paying your bill.

To apply for LIHEAP, you need the following documents:

  1. State Driver’s License or Identification Card
  2. Proof of permanent residence, such as a lease, deed or property tax bill
  3. Social Security cards or numbers, birth certificates or school records for any household members (including children) who are LIHEAP-eligible and being included on the application
  4. Income verification of all household members 18 years of age and older for the last 30 days (paystubs, social security, award notices, unemployment insurance, pension funds or disability, etc.)
  5. Copies of all current utility bills.
  6. Utility Termination Notice (if you have received a shut-off notice or delinquent notice from your energy company)
  7. Statement showing utility allowance if you are living in subsidized housing, such as Section 8.

To apply for the LIHEAP program, contact the local Community Action Program in your area. An appointment is needed to obtain utility assistance services. Please note that there is high demand for assistance from Community Action Agencies, and their phone lines get very busy. It may take you some time to get through.

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Office Locations

Maricopa County Human Services
234 N. Central Ave., Suite 3000
Phoenix, AZ 85009
602-506-5911

City of Glendale Community Action Programs
5850 W. Glendale Ave., Suite B-51
Glendale, AZ 85301
623-930-2854

City of Phoenix Human Services
200 W. Washington St., 18th Floor
Phoenix, AZ 85003
602-534-2433 – Main
602-262-6631 – Senior Services intake line

July update from the MOD(erator) Squad

Church of the Palms is a giving church!

Have you been wondering about the organizations our church gives in kind donations to? Have you seen the boxes in the narthex and wondered about the programs they represent? Did you know that we have members who have it in their hearts to gather items for those in need and have created their own giving ministries? We hope this article will provide you with all the information you need to make your donations, or direct you to the appropriate people should you have any questions.

HART Pantry — The basic mission of the HART (Helping At Risk Teens) Pantry is to provide weekend food bags to teens who may be homeless or living in a situation with no adult support. But they also provide so much more. They strive to keep at-risk teens in school through providing basic clothing, toiletries, school supplies and refurbished bikes. Shelf stable, nutritious, single-serve packaged food items such as ramen noodles, protein bars and pudding/fruit cups are always needed. Financial donations are welcome. See page 15 for a special donation drive for Back to School supplies and backpacks. The Board of Mission and Outreach spearheads our work with HART Pantry. For more, contact Jan Eckstein at 623-875-7015 or jandce@cox.net or see the website www.hartpantry.org.

Arouet Foundation — This non-profit organization empowers women and families impacted by the justice system. Arouet helps participants prepare for re-entry into society and assists these women with gaining meaningful employment and life skills following release from incarceration. At The Palms, through the efforts of the Social Justice Action Team’s Prison Ministry, we are helping by providing “starter kits” for women that are being released from Perryville Prison, as they are typically released with very little and often have no family in the area to support them. Backpacks or large tote bags, full-size hygiene items, blank journals with pens and Walmart gift cards (which allow them to purchase food, clothing and cell phones) are critical to making a fresh start. Bus passes, which can be purchased online, provide the means to get to required appointments and job interviews. For more information on the Church of the Palms Prison Ministry, contact Nancy Nonini at 612-751-4193 or nnonini19@gmail.com. For more information on the Arouet Foundation visit www.arouetempowers.org.

Deep Within Rehab Center — Laurie Cathey started this donation program to support this non-profit men’s drug/alcohol recovery program based in Peoria. The program seeks to extend a helping hand, helping men whose lives have been impacted by addiction to rebuild and flourish. Men’s clothing of all types, hygiene items and laundry detergent would be welcomed. For more details about giving contact Laurie Cathey at 623-238-3826 or spkplg1941@hotmail.com. To learn more about Deep Within Rehab Center, go to deepwithinrehab.com.

Asylum Seekers and Refugees — The Social Justice Action Team has a committee that works in cooperation with Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest (LSS-SW) to support those coming into our country in search of a better way of life. They are in need of socks and underwear for males and females of all ages, as well as baby blankets. Please contact Larry Cornelius from the Immigration and Refugees Committee at 602-402-6501 or az.cornelius@yahoo.com for more information. If you’d like to see the other programs offered by LSS-SW, they can be found at www.lss-sw.org.

Clothing for women leaving Perryville Prison — Steve and Jane Zukowski started this donation opportunity to provide clothing for women at Perryville who are being released from incarceration. Often women are released with very little in the way of appropriate street clothing needed to make a fresh start. Shirts/tops and pants of all sizes are welcome, but please no undergarments, shoes or outerwear. If you would like to donate, please contact Jane Zukowski at 928-587-1574 or janezuk@hotmail.com.

Valley View Food Bank — The Palms has a long history of supporting this local food bank with donations of non-perishable food, personal hygiene items and cleaning supplies. If you would like more information about the Food Bank, please see their website www.feedingaz.org or call 623-583-3663.

So, as you can see, The Palms is very much a giving church, with many opportunities to share God’s unconditional love! If you would like to support these programs, you may bring your items to the narthex on Sundays during worship time, or they may be brought to the church office during regular office hours, Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 pm. We would ask that you please identify which program your donation is for so we can make sure it goes to the right place. Thank you and God bless!

Second Shower Trailer Site Begins in June

by Max Klinkenborg, Feet-N-More Shower Ministry

Beginning Wednesday, June 16th, FEET-N-MORE, the shower trailer ministry of Church of the Palms, will be providing showers at Santa Teresita Catholic Church in El Mirage. At the invitation of St. Vincent de Paul’s food distribution and feeding program at Santa Teresita, we will be there from 9:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of each month.

In addition to the feeding program, Circle the City, a mobile provider of healthcare, will also be at Santa Teresita on Wednesdays. The multiple offering of services to the homeless and poor will complement each other, as we all reach out to the community. With this location in El Mirage, in addition to Surprise on the second and fourth Tuesdays, we will be able to offer a shower to the homeless every week.

To launch FEET-N-MORE in El Mirage, the Christian Restoration Center in El Mirage with Pastor Larry Quilon will be helping with the expenses of the trailer. Pastor Larry has been a faithful volunteer at the Salvation Army Church when the shower trailer is there.

We are delighted to be entering into new ministry relationships with St. Vincent de Paul, Santa Teresita Catholic Church and Christian Restoration Center to serve needs within the City of El Mirage.

FEET-N-MORE to Serve June 19th at ‘Day of Freedom’ in Tempe

Day of Freedom is an annual event in the Valley on “Juneteenth,” celebrating the end of slavery in the United States and commemorating African-American freedom. Juneteenth is a state holiday in several states and is also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day.

The event will be held at the Tempe Corps Salvation Army and is to be a celebration with our neighbors in need. In addition to our shower trailer, there will be haircuts, COVID vaccinations, food, clothes, HIV testing, Hepatitis C testing, hygiene packs and entertainment.

The event will be on Saturday, June 19th from 7:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. at the Tempe Corps Salvation Army, 40 E. University Drive in Tempe.

Injustice In Our Justice System: The Stories of Mass Incarceration

by Nancy Nonini, Social Justice Action Team—Criminal Justice

Following Pastor Jim’s sermon on “The Facts vs. The Stories” about Jesus’ Resurrection, we’d like to follow up on our presentation on the facts of Mass Incarceration with some stories. One story is about someone who was wrongly convicted, but served over 14 years in prison. One story is about someone who served an inordinately long sentence for a relatively minor case of shoplifting. One story is about how incredibly young we start the School-to-Prison Pipeline. These are all Arizona stories.

As Christians, we are called to right these injustices. According to the UCC: “In the lives and faces of those who fall into the criminal justice system, we encounter Christ, even in the midst of profound brokenness. We are challenged to seek out the image of God in this complex and challenging context… Because we are followers of Jesus, we are called to be present as ambassadors of healing, restoration and justice in jail cells, courtrooms, booking rooms, prison yards and detention centers.”

Please join us for these stories and what we can do to decrease the Injustice In Our Justice System at Breakfast in Your PJs on Tuesday, June 15, from 8:30-9:30 a.m. This event is online at our Bridges page.

Awakening Racial Injustice: Arizona Indigenous Tribes

By Nancee Noel

Having lived in Arizona for 16 years, I am surprised how little acknowledgement and attention is given to the many indigenous people who also inhabit our state. There are actually 22 federally recognized tribes in Arizona. That’s a lot of people!

I won’t try to name the tribes, as anyone interested can Google that.

With the media emphasizing systemic white privilege and racial biases, indigenous people are gaining more political power necessary to deal with their issues. Many rural homes on the Navajo reservation do not have running water due to the difficulties and expenses of getting water to them in the desert area they inhabit. Not only is it a physical desert, but also a food desert with most people having access only to the gas station groceries. This means limited availability of fresh produce.

There is a great need for attention to infrastructure, including internet which is unavailable to many. Cases regarding the disappearance of indigenous women and girls often go unsolved. Still, the nations are making progress.

When the 116th Congress convened, it had four Native Americans which, from what I was able to find, is the largest number of native peoples ever in the U.S. Congress. For the first time in our history, a native person, Deb Haaland, is head of the Department of Interior. Arizona native peoples’ votes in the 2020 election were instrumental in turning AZ blue. Some had to drive 100 miles to cast their vote. Now, Arizona voter repression bills are making it even harder for them to vote. When COVID-19 struck, the native population was hard hit. However, according to the Navajo Nation President, Jonathan Nez, lockdown and mandated mask wearing stopped it in its tracks.

Native Peoples need all of us to get behind them. As Billie Fidlin, founder and president of Whisper N’ Thunder states, “To be the best ally, we take our lead from Indigenous elders.”

In October of 2020, the Southwest Conference passed a resolution to create an “Awakening of Racial Injustice” on the part of member congregations and individuals of our respective congregations. Soon thereafter the Church of the Palms Church Council adopted the 15 steps to increase the awakening of racial injustice. One of those steps is to “Provide information about, and the impact of racism on Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, through newsletter articles.” The article above was written by Nancee Noel, a part of our Social Justice Action Team and member of West Valley Center for Spiritual Living. Look for more articles addressing this topic in future Palm Leaf editions.