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Rev. Sarah Walker Cleaveland

It seems to me that one of the biggest downsides to no longer being able to worship in our sanctuary is the lack of communal sacred space. As a mom, in particular, I rely on that communal creation to help my children know what is expected of them (it is in seeing adults worship that children learn how to worship, and the same extends to sacred space—it is in seeing adults create, recognize and observe sacred space that children learn how to do the same).⁠[1]

It is so hard to create sacred space in our own homes and through screens. There are so many distractions and associations with things other than worship. And there is the physical barrier that screens create between ourselves and the service of worship. Zoom might be wonderful for allowing us to see one another and create a sense of being together, but it is not great at helping us to co-create the kind of sacred place that we are able to create when we are in the same physical location.

I was in the sanctuary last week to film a few things for Advent worship. There is something special about the space itself, something calming and familiar, something bigger and more spacious than other spaces, but (for me at least) so much of that is tied to memory—both of times spent in Covenant’s sanctuary with so many of you, but also of time spent in other sanctuaries.

In his book, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality, Presbyterian professor and author, Belden Lane writes, “talk about God cannot easily be separated from discussions of place.” We know God in and through particular places and spaces. So what do we do when we lose access to the place we associate with, and know, God?

First, of course, we grieve. It is right and appropriate to miss and lament the loss of space and the loss of the relationship we had with one another and with God in that space. While we haven’t really lost God and one another, it can feel as though we have, and that is a hard feeling to acknowledge and sit with.

But hopefully the second thing we do is recognize what that sacred place has taught us about God and one another. I spent two summers after college in the desert mountains of New Mexico—the most beautiful and restful place I have ever encountered; it is a landscape that speaks to, and soothes, my soul. It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve been there and I still miss it on a regular basis. And, at the same time, one of the greatest gifts that landscape, that place, gave me, was an ability to see God in new ways—in the vastness of open spaces, in the sound of wind, in the fierce heat of sun, in places and situations that have the potential to be a little dangerous if you’re not careful. Being in that place, even for two short summers, has changed how I see every other place. It has changed how I experience breezes and the wind from the lake; it has helped me learn that I like big spaces and so I appreciate more the fact that our backyard is backed by a field instead of other houses. It helped me learn that when I am bordering on frantic, I need the power of stormy waves or space to myself to remind me of my place in the nature of things.

When I think about the sanctuary at Covenant, the same thing is true. Though I haven’t spent nearly as much time in that place as many of you, it has nonetheless already taught me so many things about who God is—a God who laughs with us, holds hands with us (even if we’re not the “hand holding type”), a God who knows us by name, a God who delights in children, and more. (Just typing the list makes me miss being in the sanctuary with all of you on Sunday mornings.) There is a quality of light and sound that is different in that place and I know that I am not alone in looking forward to the day when we can inhabit that space with one another once more.

But I also hope that the third thing we do when we lose access to a sacred space is look for where God might be inhabiting our new spaces. I am here to tell you that Wisconsin summers bear little resemblance to New Mexican summers, but there is beauty here as well, and different things to learn about God in this place—that God is a God who delights in greenness and fecundity, who loves us enough to give us corn on the cob, who brings rain and sun in equal measure. Don’t get me wrong, I would still choose the New Mexican landscape over Wisconsin’s landscape every time, but I am grateful for the ways in which I experience God differently in this part of the country.

And so I wonder what you are learning about God in the places where you now worship—around the table, on the couch, through a screen, with other people or alone. As I reflect on that question, I realize that I am learning that God is flexible, gracious, and patient, that God has created a plethora of people and resources who can give voice to God’s words and God’s nature in ways I wouldn’t be able to—that God is a God of abundant resources. And yes, also that given the choice, I would choose to be with all of you rather than in Adam’s home office alone with multiple screens and a wifi signal.

I know we have learned so much about ourselves, about what it means to be church, and in particular what it means to be Covenant in this time apart, but I wonder what you have learned about God; and, in particular, what the places in which you now worship might be teaching you about God—because, as Belden Lane reminds us, “talk about God cannot be easily separated from discussions of place.” So what does your current place have to tell you about God?

Blessings,

Pastor Sarah
 
P.S. If you haven’t yet connected on Zoom but think you would like to, please let us know—it’s not too late. Whether you need some encouragement, help with technology, or the technology itself, we have help to give and we’d love to be able to connect with you during this time!
 
[1] I suspect Adam could tell you even more than I how hard it is for our children to worship without the communal “pressure” of other people doing it in the same space.

Covenant's New Website

Hopefully by now you’ve all seen our stunning new website! It is chock-full of information and gorgeous pictures. We hope it will be a place where you can find the most up-to-date information about what’s going on at Covenant as well as be a place you can share with community members and friends who might be looking for a place to worship and call home.

From book recommendations to a calendar of events to past issues of the Tidings, you could lose hours perusing the site and still not see all that it has to offer. One thing in particular that we want to draw your attention to is the Membership Directory on the website. Kathy Miller keeps it up-to-date (along with everything else on the site!) and you can find it here. You do need a password to access it, but it is the same password we use for Zoom, so hopefully it will be easy to remember. And, once you’ve opened it, you can save it or download it to your computer where you can access it without a password.

Little Free Library and Advent Devotionals

Many thanks to Bob Dean and Sue Gabbey (along with assistance from Greg and Zach Hanchon and input from many of you) for building Covenant’s Little Free Devotional Library. Located outside of the church building (right by the doors), the Little Free Library is open even though the church building itself is closed. Currently ensconced within the Little Free Library are a plethora of Advent Devotionals. Some are specifically made for this year, some are books that are meant to work for any years, and some are ones from past years that we thought were worth keeping (these won’t necessarily line up by date, but you can still use them and we still recommend them). We hope you find something there that inspires you in this season. (And, if you can’t get to the church or would prefer a digital devotional, check out this page on our website for digital devotional recommendations)

Advent Study

Join us Wednesday evenings in December (the 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 23rd) from 7:00-8:15 p.m. as together we Magnify the Light that comes to inform, warm, and show truth—the light that comes again and again. It’s that time of year when we remind one another that God is dwelling among us, and that there is no place we can go where God will not already be.

Moving towards God means making space in our hearts for everyday holiness. It means being willing to grow, bear and birth God’s movements of grace and caring into the world. Each week our time together will include a short video, questions for conversation, time for individual reflection and a new breath prayer that you can use throughout the week to create space in your life and in your heart for the Light of God.

Please RSVP with Kathy Miller if you would like to attend.

Click here for all our offerings during this Advent and Christmas season.

Christian Formation

Happy Advent!

All children and youth have received Advent boxes which include things like an advent wreath and candles, hot cocoa and candy canes and advent devotionals, plus more.

Sunday School in December

  • December 6 - After worship craft activity with the Fabric, Fiber and Fellowship group (craft supplies will be delivered) and Pageant rehearsal on Zoom from 2:00-3:30pm
  • December 13 - Pageant recording on Zoom from 2:00-4:00pm
  • December 24 - Pageant will be shown at the 5:00pm service


Youth Group in December

  • December 13 - 4:00pm on Zoom – High School youth group
  • December 20 - 4:00pm on Zoom – Middle School youth group


Save the Date for a Sunday School Family Night on Saturday January 23

Many Sunday School families have said they miss our potlucks.  On Saturday, Jan. 23 from 6:00-7:00pm, we will gather on Zoom together. We’ll create a breakout room for the kids where we will have some older youth organize some games and be there to supervise while the kids talk. Meanwhile, parents can catch up with one another with some good fellowship time. We hope you will join us!

New Intergenerational
Letter Writing Project

As we continue to gather virtually, the Christian Formation committee has come up with a new way for us to connect and get to know each other. We’d like to propose a chain letter project. We will create groups of 4-5 households. There will be a question each week that we send out in the mail to one of the households who will answer the question and mail it to the next person. Each household mails their letter to the next house, accumulating answers along the way, and the last person sends it back to the church. Questions will be things like: tell us about a memorable vacation you took or what is your favorite meal or holiday.  All ages can participate. If you’d like to join us in this fun activity, email Pastor Jenny during December.  We plan to start up in January.

Mission Outreach

Christmas Eve Offering Designated for the Women’s Resource Center
This year’s Christmas Eve offering will be donated to the Women’s Resource Center in Racine. The Women’s Resource Center’s provides immediate as well as long-term safety for victims of domestic violence along with activities that educate the community. WRC is the only domestic violence program serving the entire Racine County area. They provide safe and comfortable emergency shelter, prevention education and outreach, legal advocacy services, counseling, rural outreach programs as well as counseling and healing services for their clients. All of their services are provided at no cost to their clients. WRC empowers survivors of domestic violence and their children with the necessary tools to create a lifetime of safety and self-sufficiency. They have shelters on both the east and west ends of Racine County.

To give to this offering please mail a check made out to Covenant Presbyterian Church with “Christmas Offering” in the memo field or use the online giving program accessed from our website – covpres.org. and choose the “other donation” choice for your giving any time before Christmas.

All the Service Opportunities
Here are opportunities Covenant continues during the pandemic as well as some special ones for Advent. For more information on any of them please contact Kathy Miller and see regular updates in Monday's Covenant Connections.

  • Brown Bag Breakfasts - make 10 bags with breakfast items (list provided) - Wednesdays, December 2 and 9, pick up at your home around 11 or 11:30am Sign Up with Kathy Miller
  • Hospitality Monday Night Meal - make a casserole (pan and recipe provided) and drop it off or Kelly Miller will pick it up - December 14 Sign Up with Kelly Miller
  • Reverse Advent Food Collection - drop off at the church December 6, 13. and 20, 1-4pm
  • Food Pantry - pickups every week Inform Kathy Miller
  • Stockings for Soldiers - drop off at the church December 6, 1-4pm
  • Christmas Families - click here to see the SignUp Genius for Gifts - drop off at the church December 13, 1-4pm
Stockings for Soldiers - Drop off your stockings for soldiers at the church this Sunday, December 6, 1-4pm. Thank you all you stocking fillers! Soldiers and Veterans will appreciate it.

Presentation and Conversation with Presbyterian Missionaries to Zambia on Jan. 10

Following worship on Jan. 10, you are invited to join us on Zoom for a presentation by Melissa Johnson, a Presbyterian missionary in Zambia.  Covenant supports Mrs. Johnson in her ministry in Zambia as a Health Education Program Facilitator.  Her husband, Charles, recently retired from his work in teaching agriculture. This is a great opportunity to hear about the work the Presbyterian Church is doing in other places.  You can read more about Mrs. Johnson here.

 

Covenant Helps to Extinguish $1.9 Million in Medical Debt

In September, the Presbytery of Milwaukee invited all its churches to partner with them and an organization called Rest in Peace Medical Debt to help extinguish medical debt in our area. The Presbytery raised $19,000 which allows us to purchase and extinguish $1.9 million worth of debt. We may never know the families who we have helped, but we know for many, this will be an extra special Thanksgiving.  Read more here.

2020 Stewardship Campaign
Bloom Where We Are Planted

Our 2020 Stewardship Campaign officially ended with Commitment Sunday on October 25, though we have continued to receive pledges this month.
 
As of this writing we have received 111 pledge cards.  The Trustees are working hard to make sure our budget will reflect the pledges well. We are close to meeting that goal and hope to present a balanced budget at the annual meeting in January. A sincere thanks to all of you who have made your pledges, with 38% of our total in pledges representing increases and 5% representing new pledges.
 
If you have any suggestions or comments, we would love to hear from you. Again, thank you to everyone who contributes their time, talent and treasures in order to make Covenant Presbyterian the wonderful church community that it is.

December Game Night
December 8, 6-7pm

Join us on Zoom for a fun filled hour of Christmas Scattergories! Click here to sign up with Kathy Miller.

New Member Class
January 31, 3:30pm

There will be a class offered for those interested in membership at Covenant on Sunday, January 31, at 3:30pm with Pastors Sarah and Jenny.

Sharing Our Traditions

As a way to connect and learn more about each other during this Advent season while we are still gathering virtually, we’d like to invite all of you to send us a picture of yourself with your favorite Christmas ornament or nativity. We will compile all the photos to share.

If you have a story you’d like to tell us about your nativity or ornament, please record a video, send it to us, and we’ll share them in our Midweek Musings and Covenant’s YouTube Channel.

(See our Facebook page for more information about these two nativities and this special Christmas decoration.)

New Nativity Set for the Sanctuary

Last year, our nativity set suffered a fall and did not survive, so we needed a new nativity set. Our Music and Worship Committee researched different possibilities taking into account: size, diversity, style, and cost. After a lot of looking, we agreed on a new set which has been purchased with funds from the Memorials and Honoraria account.  We look forward to sharing this new nativity with all of you!

Worship Services and Sermons

If you weren't able to join us for Zoom Worship you can request the recording of the service from Kathy Miller here.

If you would like to read the Sunday sermon you can access them at our new website here.

Change for Children Giving

Thank you to everyone who brought their change (and paper) to our drive by Change for Children offering on November 22. You helped us raise $557!! And thanks to Sue Gabbey for the excellently designed change tunnel!

News of the Church Household

Congratulations to Erin Lewis and Matthew Paskiewicz on their marriage, on Saturday, October 31, 2020, in Muskego, Wisconsin. Rev. Jennifer Gleichauf officiated. Erin's parents are Pam and Mike Lewis, her aunt and uncle are Lisa and Mark Scholzen, and her grandparents are Howard and Mary Lou Short, all members of Covenant Presbyterian (along with several of their adult children).

Congratulations to Jason Kozlik and Casey Sanders on the birth of their son, Jasper Jonathan Kozlik on November 25, 2020, in Racine.

Congratulations to Andy and Annie Sireno on the baptism of their daughter, Sydney Anne Sireno, born December 18, 2019, on November 29, 2020, at Covenant Presbyterian Church, with Rev. Jennifer Gleichauf officiating.

Our Sympathy to Blaine and Mary Metzger on the death of Blaine’s father, Ronald L. “Ron” Metzger, of Warsaw, Indiana, on November 8, 2020.

Our sympathy to the friends and family of Jim Parrish who died November 4, 2020, in Racine. A Service of Worship in Witness to the Resurrection was held at Covenant Presbyterian Church on November 17, with Pastor Jennifer Gleichauf officiating. Click here to view Jim's Service.

Our sympathy to the friends and family of Margaret Adler who died November 23, 2020, in Racine. A Service of Worship in Witness to the Resurrection will be held at Covenant Presbyterian Church on December 4, at 2pm, with Pastor Sarah Walker Cleaveland officiating. Click here to watch the live stream which will also be available as a recording after the service has ended.

Session Highlights

The November Session meeting was a very busy one.  First, we would like to thank all of you who were willing to take the time to join the Elders for the small group discussions.  We are very grateful for the time that you took to spend with us, and for your comments on the impact of the Covid response.  It is hard to believe that our building has been closed since March.  We have learned much from you about the difference between a church building and a Church.  Your willingness to participate virtually, care for one another, participate in Mission, Youth, and Adult opportunities has been most gratifying.

We are at work to prepare for 2021.  The Nominating Committee has prepared a slate to be approved at the Annual Meeting of the Congregation in January.  The Trustees are at work on the budget.  The work to maintain the building continues, and we have approved the replacement of the flooring in the lower level hallway. 

We were all saddened at the deaths of Jim Parrish and Margaret Adler, and appreciate that even as we cannot fully gather that we have been able to offer the families ways to still hold memorial services.

And please, do thank the Communications Committee, Kathy, and Pastor Sarah for bringing our new website to life.  A special word of thanks for the many hours Pastor Sarah spent on the website. If you haven’t seen it, please go and look today!

Caring for Creation
Sandhill Crane Migration

by Linda Webster

Have you been to Richard Bong State Recreation Area lately?  Now is a great time because Sandhill Cranes are roosting there in great numbers as they prepare to migrate south for the winter. Will and I witnessed a flock of these huge, majestic birds flying into the marshlands at dusk.  We could hear them before we saw them.  We sat for a long time and watched and listened to them.  What a beautiful meditation!
We are blessed to have so many wonderful natural and educational resources in our beautiful state of Wisconsin that you may not be aware of. 
 
Richard Bong State Recreation Area
https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/richardbong
 
International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, WI
https://www.savingcranes.org/species-field-guide/sandhill-crane/
 
Aldo Leopold Center and Foundation
https://aldoleopoldnaturecenter.org/
https://www.aldoleopold.org/
 
(For a little escape from the comfort of your home, you might want to pull up this YouTube Video of Fendrick and Peck’s “Sandhill Crane”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9goipegp818.  Interestingly, they recorded this at the Aldo Leopold Center Shack)
 
More on Aldo Leopold: (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldo_Leopold)
 
Aldo Leopold was an American author, philosopher, naturalist, scientist, ecologist, forester, conservationist, and environmentalist. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and is best known for his book A Sand County Almanac (1949).  The Aldo Leopold Foundation of Baraboo, Wisconsin was founded in 1982 by Aldo and Estella Leopold's five children as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit conservation organization whose mission is "to foster the land ethic through the legacy of Aldo Leopold." [31] The Aldo Leopold Foundation owns and manages the original Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm and 300 surrounding acres, in addition to several other parcels. Its headquarters is at the green-built Leopold Center, where it conducts educational and land stewardship programs.
 
Here is an excerpt from the “Marshland Elegy” chapter in “A Sand County Almanac” where he tells the story of the noble Crane in a way that I could never do justice.  https://wsf-inc.org/sites/wsf-inc.org/files/sandhill_cranes_aldo_leopold.pdf
 
“A dawn wind stirs on the great marsh. With almost imperceptible slowness it rolls a bank of fog across the wide morass like the white ghost of a glacier the mists advance, riding over phalanxes of tamarack, sliding across bog meadows heavy with dew. A single silence hangs from horizon to horizon. Out of some far recess of the sky, a tinkling of little bells falls soft upon the listening land. Then again silence. Now comes a baying of some sweet-throated hound, soon the clamor of a responding back. Then a far clear blast of hunting horns, out of the sky into the fog. High horns, low horns, silence, and finally a pandemonium of trumpets, rattles, croaks, and cries that almost shakes the bog with its nearness, but without yet disclosing whence it comes. At last a glint of sun reveals the approach of a great echelon of birds. On the motionless wing, they emerge from the lifting mists, sweep a final arc of sky, and settle in clangorous descending spirals to their feeding grounds. A new day has begun on the crane marsh.”

Adult Spiritual Growth Book Discussion
January 20 - see info below

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