WISE Moment for Mental Health

As The Palms focuses on LGBTQ Pride and National Hunger Awareness Month, it is a blessing that our church is a safe place to speak openly, advocate fully, and remain present with our LGBTQ Community. There is still much to do to ensure that our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer brothers and sisters experience rights and freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. Thank you for your commitment to be the church!

The coronavirus pandemic has put the LGBTQ community, particularly those aged 50 and up, at increased risk in several ways. A history of systemic discrimination and poorer health outcomes is part of the reason. Coupled with the fact that many LGBTQ individuals do not feel comfortable coming out to their health care providers and other possible resources, these precious souls are not receiving the help they need. Loneliness is another big concern. Many live alone and don’t have people to check on them to help ensure that regular medical appointments and that proper access to food and household necessities is available to them. Lack of companionship leads to additional stress, increased depression and may lead to the use of alcohol or other substances.

How can we help? First, reach out to your friends. Stay connected! If you know people who are particularly vulnerable, offer what you can: resources, phone numbers, companionship. Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of those who may be at risk. Check out the links provided below. Lets keep working on ways to be Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive & Engaged for the mental health of everyone in our community!

After the Rain

by Pastor Jim Alexander

There’s always a rainbow after the rain.

The Church of the Palms has been encouraged to focus on some aspect of mental health each month for the past several months. Our areas of focus have been: Self Esteem (February), Developmental Disabilities Awareness (March), The Warning Signs of Mental Illness (April), and Mental Health Awareness Month/WISE Congregation for Mental Health Survey (May). We have provided tips and tools along with hotlines and websites to support our community along the way.

As we continue on our quest to become a WISE Congregation for Mental Health, our WISE Steering Committee has been very busy developing their plans and drafting the WISE Covenant that will be presented to the Church for adoption. The results from the congregational survey and input from across the membership of The Palms as we develop the content of The WISE Covenant. Please continue to pray that we may draw the circle wider as a welcoming, inclusive, supportive and engaged congregation for all people. Our Mental Health Focus for the month of June is twofold. June is LGBTQ Pride Month and it is also National Hunger Awareness Month. These two go very well together and here’s why.

The coronavirus pandemic has had unexpected effects for LGBTQ people around the world: forcing some LGBTQ citizens who may not be accepted by their family and friends to face hostile living environments. The pandemic is also placing vulnerable people of all walks of life at risk of homelessness and employment insecurity. It has also become very apparent with the financial and social destruction being leveled by the pandemic, that certain government agencies are stalling progress on potential legal changes that could grant LGBTQ and other marginalized people greater rights.

In an ordinary year, Pride celebrations would offer a chance to gather together, celebrate the achievements of the community and reflect on the future for social change.

But four months ago, more than 220 Pride celebrations scheduled worldwide were cancelled or delayed, including Phoenix Pride. The Palms has participated in this event for the past three years.

“LGBT people around the world are insanely resilient, but they face isolation every day in their life,” says J. Andrew Baker, co-President of Interpride, the international association of Pride organizers. “One of the challenges we find today is that LGBT people are even more isolated.” To overcome that isolation, the world’s biggest international Pride networks, Interpride and the European Pride Organizers Association, are organizing a “Global Pride” to be celebrated online on June 27. Global Pride organizers are planning a 24-hour live streamed event, including remote contributions from international Prides, speeches from human-rights activists, workshops with activists and high-profile performers yet to be confirmed.

Be sure to check out the Interpride website and make your plans to participate! The Palms will provide reminders and additional information about this event.

As a church, let us look for ways to make The Palms a safe place for those who may be experiencing abuse in their homes and communities due to their sexual orientation. Whether you are a part of the LGBTQ community or not, if you feel that you are not safe in your home, remember: you are not alone, you are loved and we will provide help to you. Call Pastor Jim or Pastor Paul at 623.977.8359.

Because there are so many people unemployed/underemployed, homeless, or displaced due to the pandemic, we also want to focus on the ways in which we might address the issue of hunger during this month. The People of The Palms have been consistently generous in providing food for I-Help, HART Pantry, and various food banks within the Sun City area. We are meeting the urgent needs of those who would otherwise be going without.

There are mental health concerns associated with food deprivation. Nearly 15 % of all households in the United States did not have enough to eat daily and suffered from recurring hunger before the pandemic, and that percentage has increased dramatically. The emotional and psychological tension associated with hunger can be devastating to individuals and whole families. Here are some ways to ensure that we are doing our part.

Donate
Donating, whether money or food, is a great way to help local food banks. Most donations to food banks are made between Thanksgiving and Christmas — which is great — but donations are needed year-round. Monetary donations allow the food banks to buy food during the less popular months for giving. You can drop your donation off in the church office. Make sure you mark it HUNGER RELIEF.

Volunteer with a Food Bank
It doesn’t always take a big financial investment to make a big impact. Volunteering is a great way to spend your time making a difference. By volunteering, you give families the opportunity to use the money they have towards bills and other living expenses while being able to have food on the table. In addition, volunteering can be a great family gathering, team bonding or employee engagement event. Witness firsthand how your presence and support are affecting those in your community!

To find a food bank in Arizona, visit the website of the Arizona Food Bank Network.

Continue to Bring Food and Fill the Shopping Cart
Food drives help stock shelves and play a vital role in encouraging community participation. Continue bringing your non-perishable food items to the church and fill the shopping cart. If you are not able to bring it yourself, please call the church office at 623.977.8359 and we will arrange to have your items picked up.

Raising the Rainbow Flag Ceremony Photos

Church of the PALMS Social Justice Team:
Seeking justice through Prayer, Action, Love, Ministry & Support

The rainbow flag represents affirmation of our Church’s commitment to be Open and Affirming and to show our support for the LGBTQ community.

The flag is commonly flown with the red stripe on top, as the colors appear in a natural rainbow. The colors were determined to symbolize: life (red), healing (orange), sunlight (yellow), nature (green), harmony/peace (blue), and spirit (purple/violet).

This flag is a statement of welcome. We welcome the LGBTQ community, friends, and family.  But it is more than just that – it is a symbol of welcome to one and all.

Pastor Paul’s statement in worship:

The Social Justice Team raised a rainbow flag this morning. While some rejoiced with the raising of the flag, others raised a voice of worry and concern. I want you to know, I have heard both voices. No matter your opinion, I will listen.

A rainbow is a symbol that makes a powerful statement about who we are. Some, I am sure, will reject that openness and that affirming approach. Our own experience in hanging our rainbow banner, last summer, has been extremely well-received. The rainbow flowers around the fountain, while battered by the monsoon winds, remain spinning and showing all who enter of our extravagant welcome. Please know that the Social Justice Team and I are not naïve.

When considering this step in faith, we contacted other congregations to get their real life experiences. I contacted several clergy friends within the UCC and the Disciples. Most said, they have only received good comments.  The worst that was reported was from our friend and former Interim Pastor, Jim Meadows.  I had lunch with him this very week. While supporting our move, he reminded me of his experience:  In 15 months, Shepherd of the Hills UCC has had three flags stolen.  Each time Jim just put up a new one. We are not naïve. I expect ours, one day, to be stolen. And if that day happens, (maybe I should say, when that day happens), we will follow Jim’s lead, and put up a new one, again and again.

That fear that some have over this, is just a glimpse, a sliver, of what some people deal with 24/7, 365 days a year.

Because, I also know to be faithful to our call from God, we must have a heart, use our brains, and we must muster up some courage.  Rather than living as though we are untouched by faith, let us be the citadel against bigotry. Let us be bold examples for our neighbors of what faithful living looks like.  And let us not shrink and hide from our responsibility to be God’s palms reaching out with love and acceptance. Let us not let fear mongers frame the moment, but rather let us live these days and let us define the moment as an expression of what it is – the rainbow is God’s promise to one and all of love, grace, and acceptance.

PHOTOS FROM OUR CELEBRATION on August 6, 2017:

Thank you Dott M for sharing these photos with us!

Thank you Nancy T for sharing these photos with us!


Photos submitted by Janet H.

                    

 

Social Justice Team

  

Photos contributed by Linda Rouches and Jan Hutchins

CHURCH OF THE PALMS
SOCIAL JUSTICE TEAM:
MOVING FORWARD

Working for JUSTICE through Prayer, Action, Love, Ministry & Support

The Church of the Palms Social Justice Team (CoPSJT) is moving forward by addressing two immediate issues of concern and three important issues to be addressed in the future.

The CoPSJT, consisting of 19 members, is zeroing in on LGBTQ Equality and Immigration/Refugee Assistance. Future issues to be addressed include: Religious / Racial Discrimination, Protecting the Environment, and Criminal Justice Reform.

The team has embraced the “Open and Affirming Congregation” statement adopted in 2015 which reads as follows:

The Church of the Palms, United Church of Christ, welcomes all people into the full life and ministry of our church, regardless of age, race, or gender; personal, mental or physical ability; gender identity or expression; sexual orientation; ethnic, cultural or religious background; marital, social, or economic status; or life history.  We believe that God loves all people and offers us gifts in our diversity.  We affirm families and relationships built on love, respect, responsibility, and trust. You are welcome here!”

In addition, the team has developed and will recommend to the Church Council an “Immigrant / Refugee Welcoming Congregation” statement which reads as follows:

We are followers of Jesus, who welcomed everyone and excluded no one. As members and friends of Church of the Palms, we are called to take action whenever lives are made vulnerable and whenever injustice occurs.  We are moved to stand together with our immigrant/refugee brothers & sisters and their families. Therefore, we declare ourselves an Immigrant/Refugee Welcoming Congregation.”

Specific action steps will be developed for each of the statements listed above in order to move the church and community forward in these issues. Watch for these action steps to be posted on the web page and included in the Palm Leaf.

Calendar of upcoming events:

ICE BREAKER

Thursday, August 17, 2017, 11 AM

2035 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85004

Social Justice Team Meeting

Saturday September 9, 2017, 9:30 AM

Schulz’s

 

These links may also be of interest to you:

The Church of the Palms Open and Affirming Statement ,

UCC.org advocate for justice page

The Church of the Palms Social Justice Team Report