I don’t know what to say, but I am so, so, so sorry! I was putting Oonii to bed when Mum told me, which means I had a lot of space to think. All I could recount in my mind was everything you and John did for us, with my siblings, since the moment I met you all. I have so, so many memories, and I am ever so grateful for them.
I remember the first smells as you guys welcomed us into your home. I have memories of us kids raking the leaves on your large lawn and eventually jumping into the heaping piles. Your dogs, your kitchen, Thanksgiving dinners, your forested playground… and the smell of the motorcycle engine—these are just a few memories. I have so many more.
I am so grateful for you and John being a part of my life. I love you. I am here for you.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
I Thessalonians 5: 11
As we continue our MennoExpressions theme of Running the Race this year, we also recognize the importance of those who encourage and cheer for the racers. Weary souls may be energized when inspired by a friendly face or a shout of “You can do it!” In this year of emerging from our collective pandemic isolation, the comfort of gathering, singing, working and eating together seems especially reassuring. We hope the collected articles console and brighten as we move forward in our daily life treks.
We start with reflections from Pastor Monica Miller who has been sidelined by the hurdle of long COVID. We rejoice that she is improving, and celebrated recently with Pie Sunday, giving thanks for healing and her one-year anniversary as pastor at FMC.
The Hood family collaborated to write On Loss and Living. They openly share their continuing pain and grief from the loss of their son and brother Scott, while also moving forward and treasuring ways to celebrate life and the importance of being together with family and friends.
We also grieve the unexpected passing of long-time member John Boyce, and include several reflections that highlight just a bit of the influence he had on family, friends and even strangers. Several poems seem especially appropriate to consider for encouragement in light of these losses and others experienced in our church families.
Be sure to explore the overview of the work trip taken by the MYF, and then no doubt smile when you read the responses of our youngest elementary students sharing their favorite things. Several aspirations for super powers are especially unique!
If you have wondered about the epic task of compiling and introducing a new hymnal for the broader Mennonite and Anabaptist churches, Jana Miller shares the winding path, as well as her personal joy and inspiration in the process of “drawing the circle wider.”
Another saga of training and persistence in the running group is shared by Joe Longenecker as he highlights the transition from indifference to enjoyment, camaraderie and success as he has completed his first mini marathon.
If creating paintings seems beyond your reach, consider the encouraging saga that Laurel Gerbrandt shares. A passionate artist herself, Laurel decided to lead aspiring groups who wanted to pick up paint brushes and try creating their own art. Lovely paintings and caring friendships are the happy result!
Finally, we continue Milestones, our recurring feature to share news and important life events.
As the year draws to a close, sometimes the seasons overlap, leaving the exuberant red leaves of autumn unexpectedly covered with a blanket of snow before we are prepared for cold winter days. Perhaps untimely events may suddenly force us to adjust plans and look at new options.
But whatever the weather—or the situation—let’s give thanks for the warm, encouraging presence of family and friends, and the promise that the Lord will be with us as we run or walk the race set before us.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.
When our First Mennonite youth met at the church at 6:30 one morning back in June, there was excitement—and wondering—about the four-hour trek to Hungry World Farm in Tiskilwa, Illinois. This three-day excursion was the first MYF service trip in several years—and for a few of the youth, their first group trip ever. The teens and sponsors were able to stay in several apartments on the farm, so they were close at hand to the chores and experiences planned for this group of “city kids” learning about the hard work involved in growing food. Polled to share trip highlights, the youth came up with the following list—in no particular order. You should ask them about personal favorite memories.
Bonfire, hot dog roast, homemade ice cream with baked apples
Scott, our son and brother, died at age 31, on March 23, 2020. The pandemic had just begun and we were all facing an unknown future. But our future has forever been altered—unrelated to Covid 19.
What has changed over the past two and a half years? Despite seeing our tears at church, we do not cry as frequently. We are able to appreciate time with family and friends. We treasure our small immediate family more than ever.
What hasn’t changed? I can say for all three of us that we think of Scott multiple times in a day (and night) and miss him more deeply than we can express. There should be four of us, but there are only three. Scott was a man of compassion—his many “best” friends can attest to this. Scott always looked out for those in need and had high respect for their dignity. Scott was intelligent and intuitive. His sensitivity toward and respect for humanity and ecology was deep. Scott made everyone laugh. Scott had lots of fun in life, and we had fun with Scott. Scott knew lots about a lot. He graduated from Kelley School of Business but was better known for his knowledge of music and all things wise. So many things remind us of Scotty. Memories bring longing to be with him, and sometimes laughter.
Sometimes people want to know what they can talk about with someone who has a loss. We can only speak for our situation. Each of us fears saying something unintentionally not helpful for persons in grief. It’s okay to get past that and just let people know you care. We feel cared for at FMC. We also don’t expect people to understand or make it better. We prefer that people just understand it won’t be better— or maybe it will—but not yet. We have not found a “purpose” or “meaning” for Scott’s death. Our faith has been both strengthened and challenged. We struggle with the idea of the faithful being “blessed.” However, many are faithful and suffer worse than we have suffered. It’s hard to pray for the protection and well-being of our loved ones. We believe in prayer, but aren’t sure about outcomes. We are learning to embrace mystery and God’s wideness. We do not want people to feel sorry for us. We know that everyone fears losing a loved one too soon, and many have experienced the same.
Scott was confident, independent and would not have wanted to be judged. He embraced the values of peace, justice and love. We wonder what he would want us to say about his struggle. Since we don’t know, we simply try to learn from our life with Scott and honor his life with love.
Thanks for caring and wondering. It’s okay to ask—and if we don’t know how to answer, we will say that. We will all leave this life at some point. Together, we can get better at bridging this world and the next. Let’s say the important things now. Tomorrow is not promised.
I have run on and off for many years, though never liking it. First, it was a college PE credit. Later in life, a friend wanted to run the Indy Mini race and wanted a training partner (I dropped out after three sessions). More recently, I have been running as a form of exercise. Even though I had already been running a little, when the pandemic hit in March of 2020, I was forced to run for exercise since most, if not all, other options were closed at that time. Interestingly, after running for an entire summer and well into the fall, I began to enjoy running for the experience, not just the health benefits.
At one point, I mentioned my new-found form of exercise to Kevin Rosner. He has encouraged me to keep running and to take on events like the Great North Run (a local fundraiser for Washington Township Schools). Once that was under my belt, Kevin turned his motivation to running the Mini—something he has done for years. I have also had encouragement along the way from fellow FMC runners Erin Rodman and Heidi Boschmann.
In the last couple of years, running has become a time to find inner silence, to think and reflect, to create intentional separation from the invasive information age that surrounds us. It is often a spiritual experience, especially when running for extended periods along the river or canal and witnessing God’s world at work. Running has also become a self-discipline, allowing me to work toward self-improvement where the results are literally measurable in both time and distance. The simple goal is doing better, if only slightly, than the time before… knowing that I will never be one of the best—at the same time being OK with that. Chasing the gains in pace and mileage is a mental goal that drives me as I run. However, remembering to accept the days when I fall short is just as important.
Over the last year or so, I have started encouraging others to run. My advice to those who ask is to remember there are no winners or losers, just doers. While running definitely helps with physical health, it is also great for many other reasons. Last spring, on a beautiful fresh morning, I completed my first official Mini Marathon…The event asked for social media posts with the hashtag #whyImini. On that spring day, I was joined by Heidi and Kevin. Hopefully, some day, I will be the reason why somebody else “Mini’d.”
Though I had made a small amount of progress since getting a seemingly mild case of COVID-19 in January 2021, this June my long-covid recovery suddenly went a million miles backwards with no explanation. Here are some reflections from a pastor sidelined by significant, chronic health issues.
It takes a village to pastor a church.
The church and the Church are bigger than the pastor.
It’s easier to connect the dots of big picture patterns from the sidelines. It’s a space to regroup and study.
Being on the sidelines means letting go of control. A LOT of control.
The life of the community doesn’t pause while the pastor is on the sidelines– for better or for worse. Not being able to simply be present as a pastor is something I grieve.
Blessed are the flexible for they shall not get bent out of shape.
The pastor getting sidelined is an opportunity for the rest of the congregation to step up and contribute according to their many spiritual gifts.
That said, a long season of absent pastors gets old after a while and can feel like just treading water. The church should not revolve around the pastor, yet they’re still an important center of gravity—helping to hold the community in a coherent orbit.
Sometimes being on the sidelines just plain sucks. It’s ok to feel that sometimes.
In the already murky personal/professional boundaries of pastoring, getting sidelined in this way can muddy the water even more. That’s probably easier for the congregation to navigate than the pastor.
As a COVID long-hauler who used to be able to pass as able-bodied in many situations, in some respects it’s a relief to be so publicly sidelined, even if it’s difficult.
On my list of “things I didn’t learn in seminary” and “what my mentors and internships couldn’t prepare me for,” this takes the cake, hands down.
It’s incredibly humbling to feel so loved and accepted as post-covid Monica, by people who didn’t have the chance to meet pre-COVID Monica. Thank you!
Christopher (Chris) Walson passed away on July 5th. Chris’s father and stepmother, Bob andEmilie Walson, planned the memorial service at FMC on August 27.
John Jay Boyce passed away on September 10th after a brief illness. John’s wife, Jeanne, and their son Solomon and family arranged the memorial service at FMC on September 17th.
Sam Carpenter has been named to head the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC). Sam will move to full-time work leading the group on December 1, 2022
Nathan and Alicia Kurtz welcomed their new son, Theodore (Theo) Ray Kurtz, born June 22. He joins big brother Harrison in the family.
Nolan Schloneger and Caitlyn Zegiestowsky were married on July 23rd at the Sweeney Chapel on the campus of Butler University. They are living in Broad Ripple. Caitlyn is a graphic designer working for Salesforce. Nolan is in his last year of law school and will be working for the Barnes and Thornburg law firm after graduation. Nolan is the son of Kevin and LisaSchloneger.
David and Maria Gress Stoesz were married on October 15th. They live in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. David is a fire specialist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on the Mississippi Sand Hill Crane Refuge. Maria has an in-your-home pet care business. David is the son of Randy and Ellen Stoesz.
Heidi Boschmann Amstutz had a milestone occasion when she completed her first full marathon, running the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on a windy, rainy November 5th and achieving a long-time goal.
The fall work day at FMC was perhaps a milestone event as ten hardy workers braved snow and cold winds while cleaning up fallen branches and leaves.
Life is hard. The path is never easy and our journeys are so often full of obstacles along the path. There is an overabundance of things to keep track of and far too many reasons to be anxious and afraid. We all need ways to stay calm and keep moving forward. We need ways to express our uniqueness and ways to divert the stress that inevitably builds up along the way.
Making art is one of the best ways I know to calm the mind and lift the heart. Thomas Merton said it best when he said, “The Purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”
The weather has begun to get cold and crisp and, once again, I am in awe of the colors outside my window. I have a craving to participate in the beauty around me. I can relate to Robert Henri when he said, “The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.” Fall beauty puts me there. I find joy in playing with color even if it does not live up to the images outside the glass door. In fact, there are so many positive things that happen in the process of making art, many of which I witnessed in the acrylic painting classes I taught this spring at the FMC. Hopefully, it is just the beginning of many such art adventures.
Starting in February, each month I set up a simple painting in the fellowship hall for a multi-aged group of adults who gathered, talked and laughed while I led them through a step-by-step process to complete their own paintings. The group, some from the church, some invited by members in the class, congratulated each other on their successes and encouraged those who felt uncertain. It was an atmosphere of positivity and, at times, pure childlike joy and wonder. I heard one woman proclaim in delight, “This is so much fun; I had no idea how much I would enjoy this!” Others talked about how relaxing it was as the room was enveloped in silent concentration. One person said the class was a reminder to her of how important it is to take a few hours out of her schedule to make art. Art is a wonderful source of self-expression. “Art is coming face to face with ourselves,” according to Jackson Pollock. Louise Bourgeois said, “Art is a way of recognizing ourselves.” In my own life, art helped me find myself. It gave me a feeling of pride and a sense of identity when I was in high school and in college. This is why I am very excited about possibly starting classes for kids some time this year. I am preparing to lead a paint party for an 11-year-old girl’s birthday. I hope it is the first of many!
In encouraging me to do the spring class, a friend said that painting “lifts the soul” and I agree. Art can be a spiritual experience that is difficult to express in words. Many people, like myself, use art to transcend their circumstances, to heal and relieve anxiety. Art can take us to a place of “flow,” a term used to explain the phenomenon where a person becomes so involved in what they are doing they become unaware of the passage of time. It’s a lot like meditation.
In the spring classes, there was definitely a “flow,” as evidenced by the artists’ surprise when they realized our two hours had quickly passed. Each month, class was always over too soon, but people seemed to enjoy their finished art and expressed an eagerness to do more. After all, “The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before,” noted Neil Gaiman.