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.

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.

Social Justice Action Team—Criminal Justice hosts Breakfast in Your PJs

Tuesday, June 15, 8:30–9:30 am

Arizonans serve 40-percent longer sentences for drug crimes and twice the national average for nonviolent property crimes. These long sentences are not making Arizona any safer. Please join us for some of these Arizona stories and ideas on what we can do to decrease the Injustice In Our Justice System: The Stories of Mass Incarceration.

Breakfast in Your PJs is a Zoom-based presentation and can be accessed online HERE.

Update from the MOD(erator) Squad

You may recall that in our first Mod Squad Palm Leaf article, we promised to use this space to keep you posted on our church leadership priorities for the year. They are:

  • Planning and implementing in-person worship services.
  • Fully implementing the WISE Congregation for Mental Wellness Program.
  • Supporting and expanding the work of the Social Justice Action Team.
  • Finishing a complete rewrite of the Church Constitution and Bylaws.

Praise God, priority number one has been accomplished! Thanks again to our pastors and the team that planned and prepared for that glorious day with our safety and well-being foremost in their minds. See article on IN-PERSON WORSHIP Next Steps.

Our WISE Congregation for Mental Wellness Program is building momentum. We are sure you’ve seen our Tools2Thrive for Mental Wellness section in the Sunday bulletins.

Our WISE team is meeting and planning programs to provide support for those of us impacted directly or indirectly with mental wellness challenges.

The Social Justice Action Team continues to grow and do amazing work, including Feet-N-More, the Solar Panel/Going Green project, and the launching of the Matthew 25 Prison Ministry Pen Pal program. Watch the Palm Leaf and Sunday Bulletins for more.

Our church constitution and bylaws are under revision. The team on this project will make its recommendations to the Church Council in the Fall and present them to our congregation at the January 2022 annual meeting. Our constitution will have a whole new look! It will be streamlined and provide more flexibility to meet the changing needs of members and the community. With technology and the never-ending stream of social and environmental crises, churches are challenged to stay relevant and to be the hands and feet of Jesus to bring love, justice and welcome to the marginalized, the mainstream and beyond. Our church constitution — the way we organize our ministerial functions and operational structure — will help us set a clear path to be the church we want to become.

Our goal is to make our constitution and bylaws more simplified and strategic. We have been discussing how we can best use the talents of our members: Is it serving as an elected board member or working as part of project team? Is it committing to a 3-year responsibility or a shorter opportunity for service? How do we best tap into the talents and interests of our members? Is it the operational/governance side (finances, buildings, personnel) of “church work”? Or is it the ministerial functions (worship, evangelism, ministry) of our church that captures members’ hearts and desire to get involved? We have some exciting ideas on these questions and will be talking to board members and gladly welcome your input as we continue to move forward. Stay tuned!

With love,
Jerry, Suzanne, John

Meet the 2020 Church of the Palms Social Justice Champions: Max and Kay Klinkenborg

By John Durbin

Each year, the Social Justice Action Team selects an individual or individuals to receive the Social Justice Champion Award. The person(s) chosen best exemplifies our guiding scripture: “And what does the LORD require of us but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” Micah 6:8. The criteria for the award include: being a member or friend of The Church of the Palms, being active in church leadership roles, a history of being active in social justice ministries, personal actions challenging injustices and affecting change through education, advocacy, activism, and demonstrating the belief that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities. Max and Kay meet all of these criteria and then some.

Rev. Max Klinkenborg (Retired)
Max was born on a farm in central Missouri and walked to a one-room schoolhouse. He graduated from the University of MO and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Here are a few of his social-justice efforts spanning his life so far:

  • Led church members of a small town church to establish a “Clothes Closet” to recycle used clothes for children and adults;
  • served free food along with Kay and son Erik in a small soup kitchen to poor and homeless in Columbia, MO;
  • made two work trips to Baton Rouge with Habitat for Humanity, post Katrina, for those displaced from their homes;
  • participated in the renovation of a church in Turrialba, Costa Rica sponsored by American Baptists;
  • organized and led 10 youth mission trips to Bacone College in Muskogee, OK, learning the true story of the relocation of the five civilized tribes along the Trail of Tears; worked monthly at the Micah Ministry of Independence Blvd. Christian Church to provide meals to the homeless and food insecure in the northeast area of Kansas City, MO;
  • worked weekly at Harvesters Food Bank in Kansas City that served 26 counties in Missouri and Kansas;
  • and shed blood for the sick, donating 320 pints of blood and counting.

And of course, since joining Church of the Palms, Max has launched two programs for the homeless: I-HELP and the Shower Trailer “Feet and More” ministry.

Kay Klinkenborg
Kay was born in Missouri as the oldest of three children. She worked as a nurse and hospital administrator prior to returning to school to obtain a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy. She has done training in the fields of domestic violence, sexual abuse and women’s counseling.

The following are some of Kay’s social-justice activities:

  • along with Max and son Erik, served monthly meals to the homeless in Columbia, MO;
  • co-led with Max “Clergy Response to Domestic Violence” and “Spouses Support Group” for men whose wives were victims of childhood or adult sexual-assault;
  • founded “Women of the Corn” in Jacksonville, IL (support group for building positive self-esteem and psychological development);
  • pro-bono counseling for Women’s Shelter in Jacksonville, IL.;
  • wrote and produced the video: “ACT: Communication Steps & Tools for Advocates Working with Elder Abuse”;
  • volunteered for PORA (Positive Options, Referrals and Alternatives) remodeling old houses for transitional housing to non-street living in Springfield, IL;
  • served as chair of “’VOICES in Action” (International Conference for Survivors of Sexual Assault); coordinated “Senior Tuesday Lunches” for Ray and Clay Counties (education, meal, B/P and foot care clinic) in Lawson, MO;
  • coordinated “Dresses for Africa” (dresses and boys shorts shipped to Africa, Haiti, Kenya);
  • volunteered for Project Linus (made over 280 blankets for children in hospitals, shelters or homeless), KC, MO;
  • coordinated public seminar (LGBTQ Issues & Faith”);
  • volunteered monthly at Harvester’s Food Bank and Micah Ministry, KC, MO. (prepared and served meals for 600- 800 people).

And since Kay has joined Church of the Palms, she has provided spiritual counseling to several church members, has led groups and taught marvelous education programs spanning a wide variety of social-justice topics.

Wow, we are blessed to have the Klinkenborgs as members of Church of the Palms.

Seeing the face of God

My favorite quote is, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” ―Victor Hugo, Les Misérables. I mentioned this fact at our annual meeting last week. My prayer this year in 2021 is for us to see the face of God in neighbor, children, and creation.

This coming year we’ll be doing some significant ministry. Among that list, here’s part of what’s going to happen in 2021:

  1. A return to in-person worship: It’s not going to be the same; it’s going to feel different. I’m not Nostradamus, but I know it’s not going to happen until at least Easter, and for it to happen, we need to love each other more than our own personal wants and needs. Be patient, as we want it to be safe for all. To love others and see the face of God, we’re going to need to be patient.
  2. Expansion of our Social Justice Ministry including our Feet-n-More Shower Trailer ministry: That will require our loving others. We need volunteers. Here’s an opportunity to donate time. If you volunteer for this, I-Help, or any other helping ministry, you will see the face of God.
  3. Improved security: We need to protect the people who come to our buildings – staff, members, and community. Soon, we will have cameras and the face of God will be seen as people enter.
  4. Being affirmed as a WISE congregation: A Welcoming, Including, Supporting, and Engaging congregation. As difficult as that paperwork was, that was the easy part. Now we have to do it. That process is an evolving process. It’s not stagnant. It’s a living breathing covenant where the face of God will be seen.
  5. Hearing the phrase “Creation Justice” a lot in 2021: Part of our Three Great Loves is our love of creation. And let me announce that we’ve received a significant challenge gift towards this endeavor. An anonymous donor has given $50,000 to The Palms for Creation Justice, for reducing our carbon footprint, which will be dedicated towards solar panels. A challenge gift means it is up to us – the rest of us – to match it. Think of it this way, you donate a dollar, it is matched. You donate $1,000, it is matched. It’s probably going to take around $100,000 to do this project. Why do this? Because it is the right thing to do. And if any group needs to be the model, needs to do the right thing and lead by example it is the church. A side benefit is the money that it can save off of our electric bill. But that’s not the impetus; Loving neighbor, children, and creation is the driving force behind it.

Finally, MLK, Jr., talks about a staircase and that faith is taking that step even when we can’t see the top of the stairs. 2021 stands before us as a staircase. We can see some marvelous things. Let me be so bold as to say, there are even greater things that God is holding out for us than what we can see.

Amanda Gorman would tell us:

For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. 
If only we’re brave enough to be it. 


Shalom, Paul

Kairos Call to Action: The Fierce Urgency of Now

The Kairos Call to Action recently issued by the United Church of Christ’s Council for Climate Justice builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the fierce urgency of now,” and an understanding of Kairos time as time that is ripe, pregnant, and urgent time. The call to action urges congregations to begin a decade of focus on one of the UCC’s “3 Great Loves”: Care for Creation.

We, as the church, have the opportunity to assert that we are fully committed to our first calling as caretakers of God’s creation. In contrast to destructive theologies of dominion/domination over the Earth, we have the opportunity to manifest a theology of kinship with creation and a spiritual connection to Mother Nature.

As Pope Francis put it in his encyclical, Laudato Si’: On the Care for our Common Home, earth and human ecology are inextricably intertwined. That means that as we care for creation, we also care for the other two great loves to which we in the UCC are committed: neighbor and children. Climate science tells us that the next decade will be decisive if we are to interrupt the dangerous course of planetary warming that we are on. Now is the time.

In response to this call, the Social Justice Action Team at The Church of the Palms has initiated a Creation Justice task force which will build on the steps taken by COTP in the past, and intensify these efforts. We have shared our mission and goals with you on our page on the church website.

Over the next year and more we will be offering opportunities for learning and actions that you can take as households, and we will work with the trustees to examine and take action on ways that the church itself can reduce its carbon footprint. We will update you quarterly on our work together. If care for creation is something for which you have a passion, please consider joining the taskforce. You may contact Terry Starr at rstarr9982@aol.com to indicate your interest.

Let us covenant with one another to seize this moment and commit ourselves to this Kairos Call to Action, as a congregations as households, and as individuals; joining in the healing of our sacred earthly home.

—Beth Moore, Creation Justice Task Force

Note: I am indebted to the UCC’s national website and a speech by Rev. John Helt at the Wisconsin UCC’s annual conference gathering in June 2020 for much of this content.

Quarantine, Schmorentine, Church of the Palms is Not Closed…We Are Deployed

Do you do any of these things: pray, take action, love, tend to others’ needs, support the work of our church? If you do, you are part of our church’s Social Justice Action Team, seeking justice through Prayer, Action, Love, Ministry & Support (PALMS). Using Micah 6:8,And what does the LORD require of us but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” as our inspiration, our team is working hard in these challenging times to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community and beyond. Thank you for being an important part of the team. We appreciate and need your involvement. Here is what you are helping to accomplish as reported at our most recent meeting:

Homelessness

  • Jan Eckstein expressed the gratitude of the HART / Helping At Risk Teen’s Pantry for our church’s donation to the Back to School Drive. 275 backpacks were filled and 150 have been delivered.
  • Max Klinkenborg reported that through our Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program (IHELP) over 20 individuals are off the street and in a home. A shower trailer for individuals not yet in housing has been ordered from the manufacturer and will be arriving soon. The Sun City Rotary Club and the City of Surprise have expressed interest in being partners in this project.

Immigration/Refugee

Suzanne Boisclair reported we have provided $450 to support food needs of the African Refugee Solutions Church members suffering from Covid 19. This will be combined with a donation from Shadow Rock UCC to purchase food in bulk to be distributed to those in need. Pastor Paul reported that our church made a $1,500 donation earlier in the year for the same cause.

Creation Justice

  • Terry Starr reported on the goal of Arizona Power and Light to have 3,000 Faith Climate Voter Campaign Pledges before the November election. The Faith Climate Voter Campaign Pledge can be found HERE.
  • Equally important is the distribution of the Faith Values Voters Guide.  The voters’ guide covers important issues besides the climate crisis, including income inequality, health care, immigration, LGBTQ rights, restorative justice and more.  The guide can be found HERE.
  • Andrea Stefanov reported on the work being done by her and Beth Moore to create a check sheet that individuals could use to help determine their carbon footprint.
  • Nancy Tsuchiya reported on changes being made in recycling efforts and a new aluminum can recycling project being launched with the help from IHELP guests.

Antiracism & Anti-Religious Intolerance

Debby Stinton reported on her partnership with the Southwest Conference on racism. She is currently in the “Sacred Conversations to End Racism Institute.” Debby will be trained as a trainer of trainers on racial justice issues. Debby and partners from the Southwest Conference will take an in-depth look at the subject of racial conciliation as a precursor to racial reconciliation. Debby is preparing a list of resources on this topic to be distributed to those interested in this timely topic.

Neighbors in Need

  • Suzanne Boisclair reported that because of Covid 19, operations at the Dysart Community Center have been limited. They are, however, providing 2 meals per day to the community. In April, our church brought clothes left for the asylum seekers to the Center.
  • John reported on the work of Kay Klinkenborg to provide water to either the White Mountain Apache or Navajo nations based on recent media coverage of the lack of drinking water for these tribes.

Palestinian-Israeli Issue

Beth Moore reported that the challenges for the Tent of Nations (TON) continue to grow. Three factors are contributing to the continuing struggle: Obtaining volunteers because of Covid 19, increasing tension in Bethlehem between Palestinian and Israeli citizens, continuing annexation of territory in the region and difficulty in obtaining supplies for the farm.

Criminal Justice and Prison Reform

  • Jane Zukowski requested assistance with the “Women of Perryville” Project. Each day women leave Perryville Prison after having served their time, often without clothes to reenter society. There is an urgent need for clothing of all sizes: shorts, pants, tops, and business attire for job interviews. No undergarments, sleepwear or shoes, please. Donations can be boxed or bagged (no hangers) and dropped off at church. For more information, leave a message for Jane Zukowski at the church office.
  • Nancy Nonini reported on the “Inside Out Network” led by Fred Nelson, a Lutheran pastor. The Inside Out Network is dedicated to crafting innovative solutions to connect returning citizens with service providers, churches, and ministries, as well as to connect those serving on the inside in prison ministry with those outside who are working on re-entry challenges. Inmates receive tablets to begin the process of re-entry while incarcerated and use their smartphones to continue the relationship when in the community. The Inside Out Network is always free for returning citizens.

LGBTQ Equity

Vickie Ashenbrenner reported on the Pride Parade in the church parking lot in June, the three-year anniversary of the ONA covenant celebrated during a Sunday worship service, and the anniversary of raising the rainbow flag.