Saturday, March 4, 2017


It was never my intention to work in the city of Plymouth. I have never experienced a sense of “calling” to the West suburbs of Minneapolis. It was not until speaking at Plymouth Creek Christian Church this last Summer that I learned that the Disciples of Christ even existed as a denomination. So, I am surprised to find myself as the lead pastor of a Disciples of Christ church in Plymouth, Minnesota. I am sure many of my new friends at PCCC might be surprised too.

But for me it has become more and more clear, while I may have had my own plans for 2017, the Lord has had something else in mind. In my arrogance when Deb Knight spoke with my wife, Kelly, about needing someone to speak at PCCC I thought I was doing a favor for my wife’s coworker. I was oblivious to the Lord’s orchestration of these events. Maybe Deb or Kelly had a sense of what God’s spirit was doing in this whole process, but I was in the dark.

Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)
In their hearts, humans plan their course,
     but the Lord establishes their steps.

I have always prepared sermons hoping God will speak to people’s hearts through the thoughts that I share. Now I believe God was trying to speak to my heart by having me share at PCCC. God was doing a work in me when I hoped God would do a work through me. Funny how that works.

Six months ago I thought 2017 was going to be a year of testing my resolve, but March is here and 2017 appears to be a year that is going to test my ability to adapt.

Adaptation is an important trait of anything that wants to survive into the next season of life. As our oceans warm around the world, coral reefs are dying at an incredible rate. Some corals have proven resilient though as others die around them. They continue to multiply despite the new warm conditions. Scientists have even begun transplanting resilient corals to other reefs hoping to combat the large scale loss of life as these habitats die. Some corals have adapted, and many have not.

Plymouth Creek Christian Church wasn’t planning for a lot of the struggle it has faced in the past years. But look how much has happened. For over a year without a pastor, the church held services, celebrated communion weekly, visited and prayed for those in need, cleaned and remodeled a building facing so many problems, hired a new pastor, and many more great things I’m sure I don’t know about. This resiliency, this ability to adapt, is what kept PCCC healthy.

I need to adapt by learning all about Plymouth Creek Christian Church. I need to learn the history, values, leadership structure, denominational structure, and most importantly the names and stories of every person who calls Plymouth Creek their church. I need to learn about the city of Plymouth and find out what God is already doing there.

The Lord has been with each of us on our journeys, and now the Lord has brought us together. It has come as a surprise to me, but I am so pleased with the work we have ahead of us as a church.

Mark Keeler
Plymouth Creek Christian Church Pastor
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Friday, February 3, 2017

Financial ministries affirm commitment to socially responsible investing

Disciples News Service

The boards of the three major financial ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have unanimously endorsed a proposed General Assembly resolution that acknowledges and affirms the Disciples’ historic commitment to socially responsible investing. 

The resolution, approved by the boards of  Christian Church Foundation Disciples Church Extension Fund and  Pension Fund of the Christian Church, calls attention to the use of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) as a major influence in determining investing practices. ICCR, co-founded by Disciples, researches and directs investing practices for organizations concerned about a “double-bottom line,” which Pension Fund President Todd Adams describes as “investing with an eye on doing good in the community, while doing well by our members.”

Foundation President Gary Kidwell said, “When so much is changing in our world and challenging us as church, it is good for us to reclaim and recognize the vital role Disciples have played and will continue to play in seeking justice through our economic power while maintaining our fiduciary responsibilities to our members, donors and investors.”
Disciples Church Extension Fund President Rick Reisinger noted, “As part of the resolution, in 2019, the three ministries look forward to collaborating on a General Assembly workshop centered on investing practices and policies.”
 Division of Overseas Ministries President Julia Brown Karimu appreciates the public position the financial ministries are taking. She has witnessed injustice, hunger, poverty, neglect of the earth and more, both nationally and around the globe. She recognizes that Disciples are called to bring wholeness to a fragmented world by acting upon these injustices.
We celebrate this effort to work together for peace with justice alongside the financial ministries of the church,” Brown Karimu said, “and we rejoice in their response to God’s call in the book of I Corinthians 12:26: ‘If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.’”
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Friday, January 27, 2017

What do you KNOW?

What do you KNOW?

Bill Spangler-Dunning 
Regional Minister

Published in Jan-Feb 2017 Disciples Together Express

When I was a child I never knew about classism until I overheard people talking about “how sad it was that nothing good would ever come from my family because my parents were too poor.” 

Now, I cannot un-know that! 

When I was a child I never knew about sexism until I overheard a clergy say to my wife that she was not allowed to preach at the community thanksgiving service because “God does not call Women to be ministers.” 
Now, I cannot un-know that! 

When I was a child I never knew about racism until I overheard one of my teachers say, “Black kids are just not as smart.” 
Now, I cannot un-know that! 

Up until last week when I visited Standing Rock Reservation I never knew how much hatred people can have for others who have a different story.  That is until I received a note on facebook telling me how deceitful and selfish those “Indian people” can be and I should not “Waste my time with them.” 
Now I cannot un-know that!

Dear Church we are a people who say we are A MOVEMENT FOR WHOLENESS IN A FRAGMENTED WORLD.  We say we are a people who know the stories of Jesus who always stood with the poor, the outcasts, the women, the gentiles, the blind, the lepers, the sick and all others who were vulnerable and excluded by the bullies of life.   
 We cannot UNKNOW these stories!  

O people of the Church,
let ‘what we KNOW’
effect deeply our
actions in this world!

Bill Spangler-Dunning, Standing Rock, ND

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Justice Devotional - The Persistent Call to Justice

Devotion to Justice
A series of devotions from the Justice table on the topics of
  • Women and children
  • Hunger and poverty
  • Creation care
  • Immigration
The Persistent Call to Justice
The picture of the young Hispanic boy sitting on a prison bed dressed in a uniform that was obviously too large made it impossible to fight back tears. The symbolism is most disturbing. Here in this photograph is an eight year old child remanded to life in prison without the possibility of parole — a life that he is not “big” enough to navigate emotionally or physically. It does not matter which side we fall on when it comes to crime and punishment, we are all diminished when we lose our concern for humanity and the human condition. Who will advocate on his behalf?

I saw this photograph at one of five sites I visited with an ecumenical group of participants on an immersion experience focusing on human and civil rights. Indeed it was painful. At the end we shared an unintended collective lament.

We cried because of the impact of brokenness and sin on our lives. We also cried because of the persistence of God’s love through Jesus Christ for us to be our gracious and merciful judge. Our scripture reminds us that God beckons us each day through prayer and action to advocate for justice on behalf of hurting members of the human family. Jesus is teaching the disciples through this parable the importance of prayer in action. We, too, are invited to “weary” God with our prayers for justice in our daily witness on behalf of Christ.

Rev. April G. Johnson, Minister of Reconciliation CC (DOC) Women and Children
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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Justice Devotional - Equality and Need

Devotion to Justice
A series of devotions from the Justice table on the topics of
  • Women and children
  • Hunger and poverty
  • Creation care
  • Immigration
Equality and Need
2 Corinthians 8: 13-14

"We don’t want others to have it easy at your expense. We want things to be equal. Right now you have plenty in order to take care of what they need. Then they will have plenty to take care of what you need. That will make things equal. "

I work in a middle-class job and observe a lot of discussions in the church and in government about poverty. People talk about anecdotes and theories. A lot of proof-texting is done with scripture and political ideology, both on the left and the right. Some of it inspires me, but more leaves me cold.

Poverty in the United States and across the globe often seems overwhelming and too big to do anything about. Then I go to church and there is an offering every Sunday, every Sunday of the year. Part of the offering will go to outreach — wells for drinking water in poor nations, disaster relief in developed and developing countries, urban food pantries, a variety of reconciliation ministries — and part necessarily goes to paying the church building's electric bill and the preacher's salary.

Occasionally around offering time my mind is drawn to Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 8, to remember people who gave when they might have been on the poorer side of the middle class to encourage generosity. Paul realized that there are differences in resources among communities, yet he wanted those resources to move so that there would be equality. Need mattered. Resources should move from those who have to those in need and later resources would move from those who received to take care of the need of those who have given.

The goal is that kind of equality, an equality that flows from generosity, almost in a circle. Our lives are not static and we receive generous gifts in order to be generous because we have been and will be in need. So we write checks and volunteer time and talent to keep the flow moving. We are part of the flow toward equality, even though often we are not as much a part as we need to be. Love and justice are like that because they move to meet a need and we are all part of their movement.

Prayer: O God, help me to be a part of making things equal, in the Name of Jesus, Your Gift to make things equal. Amen.

Jess Hale, Legislative Attorney with the Tennessee General Assembly Hunger and Poverty
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Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Year’s greetings from Sharon Watkins

January 2017
Dearest Friends in Christ –
“Hope is a star that shines in the night, leading us on till the morning is bright.” [1]
From the Advent promise of Emmanuel: God with us; to the Epiphany revelation: God-with-us-now, we hope.
And yet, I confess, as 2017 begins, my heart is bruised by the pain and division the United States and Canada have experienced which have filtered into our communities and congregations. Antagonistic elections in the United States have upended civil discourse. Repeated public incidents of both individual and institutional racism have fractured relationships in communities. And beyond our borders, civil wars in places like South Sudan and Syria, as well as natural disasters in long-suffering Haiti, only increase the need for healing of all kinds.
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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Justice Devotional - Lessons on Hunger, Poverty in America’s Breadbasket

Devotion to Justice
A series of devotions from the Justice table on the topics of
  • Women and children
  • Hunger and poverty
  • Creation care
  • Immigration
Lessons on Hunger, Poverty in America’s Breadbasket
Luke 11:11

I grew up on the outskirts of a little Oklahoma town. A barbed-wire fence separated two sides of our lawn from a wheat field. A Jersey cow stretched her heavy head through the fence on the third side, to reach our greener grass.

In short, we knew from whence came our food — the miracle that transformed dirt into diet.

I lived in cities most of the rest of my life but engaged, with celebration, the urban gardening movement that converts asphalt parking lots into raised- bed gardens. These oases bring the wonder of homegrown food — and education about food, food security, and nutrition — into the heart of metro areas. Farm-to-table programs let children tend school gardens — then eat the produce in the cafeteria.

Thus, our children also learn from whence comes their food — the miracle that transformed dirt into diet.

Our family recently moved to rural Lebanon, IN — a county-seat town surrounded by crops like government-subsidized corn and soybeans. But where was fresh, healthy food for human consumption?

Oddly, I found Lebanon’s fast food joints outnumber fresh food stands 13 to one. Ironically, the County Health Department pays close attention to the one, noting that unprocessed foods — like fresh lettuce or homegrown tomatoes — are suspect.

At Zionsville Farmers’ Market, vendors label their fresh gazpacho soup as “not intended for human consumption,” to sidestep “ridiculous regulations.” Inspectors “don’t know the difference between head lettuce and leaf lettuce,” one vendor complained.

At the Boone County July 4 parade in Lebanon, dozens of children delighted in the display of everything from teen twirlers to rear-steering tractors. Both could turn on a dime. Yet many of these children (to say nothing of the adults) were obese — many of them morbidly so.

Turns out, the only thing growing in some rural backyards is food insecurity.

According to Feeding America, about 3 million rural households — yes, those that share fences with farmland — in this nation are food insecure. And: “among all people in female-headed families with related children under 18 years, 50.7 percent were poor in rural areas compared to 35 percent in the suburbs.”

So, you go on, urban farmers. Help keep the gardening knowledge alive. Too many of our rural neighbors are up a row without a hoe.

Rev. Patricia R. Case, Boone County, IN Works on young adult and mission renewal efforts for CC (DOC) Hunger and Poverty
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