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The St. Francis Newsletter

St. Francis Times – September 2016

Remembering Hildegard of Bingen

I first encountered her through her music at a concert in Houston, Texas many years ago, but I still remember the event to this day. The space was nearly dark as a group of singers entered with brightly lit candles. They began to sing songs unlike anything I had heard before: monophonic melodies which just soared and soared. After a while, a strange instrument joined their voices. It looked like a fiddle with a crank and sounded like a bagpipe. Later I learned that it is called a hurdy-gurdy. The singers belonged to the British Group ‘Sinfonye’ and were joined that night by members of the Oxford Girls Choir. They sang songs composed by Hildegard of Bingen. The experience was so enthralling that it launched me on a journey of discovery.

Of course, I had heard about Hildegard of Bingen before. I knew that she had lived in the middle ages in Germany, not too far from my hometown. But now that I had heard her astounding music, I wanted to know more. Who was the woman behind this music?

Hildegard of Bingen lived from 1098-1179 in Southern Germany. She was born into a noble family. When she was very young, her family dedicated her to the church and she was raised in a convent. There she received an education in writing and prayer.

At the age of 38 she be came an abbess – the leader of a community of religious women. She was a writer, a poet, a composer, a painter, and a healer – as well as a livelong sufferer of migraine headaches. Everything interested her: animals, plants, herbs, stars, colors, sounds, philosophies.

As a child she had visions, but she kept them secret for many years. Finally she felt compelled to offer an account of her visions in a book called “Scivias” (Know the Ways). The book also includes beautiful illustrations (called illuminations) which are compelling in their own way.

Hildegard of Bingen also composed encyclopedias of natural science and medicine as well as works on spirituality and ethics. She carried on an extensive correspondence across Europe and was not afraid to speak her mind. She wrote beautiful liturgies which are still performed today.

The church remembers Hildegard of Bingen on September 17, the day of her death.

What insights might Hildegard of Bingen have to offer to our own times? Perhaps it was her ability to see the love of God in all things. The universe is filled with God’s love, she said, from the lowest depth to the highest star, everything is filled with love. This is a powerful message and helpful reminder for us who live in 21st century and who are often so anxious about economic and ecological troubles, and so worried about terror attacks. Hildegard’s world was no more peaceful than our own, but she was able to see God’s love in everything.

Perhaps this ability to see God’s love in everything is something we could learn from her.

Pastor Bea

How You Can Help Flood and Fire Victims

Gulf Flooding

Historic floodwaters have required tens of thousands of people to be rescued and even more have been evacuated as rain sweeps across southern Louisiana. Floodwaters have affected communication, overwhelmed streets and highways, and damaged or destroyed more than 40,000 homes. This flood comes on the heels of several other floods that have hit the Gulf Coast region, starting earlier this spring.

Entire neighborhoods and communities still remain under water, and the full extent of the damage has yet to be realized. We know that it will be a long road to recovery, and Lutheran Disaster Response will be there to assist through every phase of this disaster recovery process.

Your gifts are needed to help respond to the Gulf Coast flooding. Your gifts through Lutheran Disaster Response will bring God’s hope, healing and refuge to those who are affected by these devastating floods. Lutheran Disaster Response coordinators are actively present, collaborating with local community leaders and officials to begin planning the proper responses, particularly the long-term recovery efforts. We will respond and walk with survivors in the days, weeks, months and years ahead, for as long as we are needed.

Gifts designated for “Gulf Coast Flooding” will be used (100 percent) until the response is complete to help disaster survivors recover and rebuild their lives. Your generous offerings of prayer and financial support will help address the many needs, especially the long-term recovery efforts of those affected.

Lake County Fire

Less than a year after the fires in Lake and Calaveras Counties, on August 13th 2016, Lake County suffered the loss of 268 structures, including 175 homes, after a major fire tore through 4,000 acres. The number of damaged and destroyed structures may continue to rise as additional data is confirmed. This time, the fire was man-made. A man from Clearlake, CA, has been arrested and charged with 17 counts of arson.

We at LSS send our thoughts and prayers to the victims of the fires. We have been involved in the relief efforts for the September 2015 fires, and we know this is another devastating loss for Lake County. Lake County is predominantly rural and low-income, and they need support.

LSS of Northern California is part of the Lutheran Disaster Response Network. LSS responds to disasters by assisting in long term rebuilding efforts.

All proceeds go directly towards helping fire victims rebuild their homes. The Red Cross has been very clear that they do NOT want donations of food, clothing, or other household items. Please donate money or gift cards only.

Recognition of Ministries This Month: Senior Center Ministry

St. Francis is blessed with gifted and visionary leaders who give generously of their time and talents as they carry out various ministries in our congregation. Each month we recognize one of these ministries in worship. In September we are recognizing the members of the Senior Center Ministry.

The St. Francis Senior Center has been an integral part of the St. Francis Lutheran ministry for over 30 years. The typical Wednesday begins at 10:00 AM and consists of socializing, a facilitated discussion, a program, and a three-course nutritional lunch, all at the cost of $2.00 per senior.

The program might be a performance by a one or more persons, dance groups, instructional lecture, or a video  – either movies, old tv programs, or special interest topics.

On the last Wednesday of each month the birthdays of seniors are celebrated. Throughout the year cultural events and holidays are observed.

Beverly Hines, the Senior Center Director, plans much of the details of this ministry. The committee members provide guidance and support with the program. They also plan an annual fundraiser to subsidize the program costs. The members of the senior ministry committee are: Beverly Hines, chair, Iris Vaughan, secretary, Stephen Camarota, Stella Bielat, Chris Buchanan, Carmen Vargas,  Diane Marshall, Carl Tebell, and Tom Tragardh (council rep).

Thanks be to God for these faithful servants!

Meet the New Assistant Cook

With the help of a grant from the ELCA World Hunger Domestic Hunger Grant Program, St. Francis now has an assistant cook to help with the Senior Program meals.

Fortunately, it was not difficult to find a person willing to take this position. Stephen Camarota, Food Programs Administrator, and the St. Vincent dePaul Committee only had to look to one of their volunteers, Megan Sue Belefonte.

Megan Sue was homeless at the time she came to St. Francis in February this year. She started to volunteer and quickly earned a spot helping in the kitchen. And it helps that Megan Sue went to cooking school and has been a professional cook.

Besides assisting in the kitchen for the Senior Center, Megan Sue also volunteers her time with Carl Tebell in the kitchen for the Hospitality Program. She has  been instrumental in organizing the refrigerators and freezers. Nor is she at a loss to suggest ways to use food that is received at St. Francis.

Megan Sue is originally from the east. She and her husband traveled with carnivals and operated a food wagon. In late 2014 her father died of an aneurysm. About two weeks later her husband was diagnosed with cancer. He went into the hospital in February 2015 and died in April. Then her mother died in July.

Megan Sue decided to move to San Francisco. When she arrived in San Francisco with her car and some money, Megan Sue quickly learned that rents were more expensive than she thought. She lost her car and her money, and was down to one set of clothes. And she was on the street.

Megan Sue applied for San Francisco’s general assistance, but she didn’t qualify. Nor could she get anyone to give her any other information on where to go. She didn’t qualify at other non-profits. Megan Sue did find space at a shelter for 90 days near Bayshore Blvd. While at this shelter, she was robbed and raped.

“I’m a fighter,” Megan Sue told me, and she wanted to live in San Francisco. She got in another shelter and found her way to St. Francis where she started to volunteer. Megan Sue decided to help others. She started to take the leftovers to the street and hand out the food to those in need.

Eventually Megan Sue was able to get an apartment. From there she made meals with the food she could get, and took it to the homeless. Megan Sue realized she would need a permit to continue to provide meals on the street. But she could not afford the cost of a permit. It was at that point Megan Sue started a non-profit, Open Heart, Inc. This would be her third non-profit that she started. Because of this prior experience, Open Heart was given non-profit status within a day.

The purpose of Open Heart, Inc. is to help people who don’t qualify for other programs or assistance. Open Heart has obtained federal grants for its programs. The non-profit recently found a kitchen to use for preparing the meals that are given out. In addition to the food program, Open Heart helps clients get work experience so they can eventually get their own jobs.

Megan Sue is “hands on” with her clients rather than sit in an office. She will go out to help a client whenever asked. Sometimes Megan will get a call from the police or fire departments to meet with one of her clients who needs help. She has also been called to shelters to bring more food.

Currently, Open Heart is giving food at two locations, lower Polk Street and the Civic Center. Open Heart has been asked to start a third location at Church and Market by Supervisor Jane Kim.

Open Heart Inc. is holding a fundraiser on September 24th at St. Francis – 5PM to 7PM. It will be a spaghetti dinner and there will be entertainment by Stephen Camarota and Dustin Hart, both of whom performed at St. Francis for the Pink Pop-Up Pride Party in June. Megan Sue hopes to raise enough money so she can have some bigger fundraisers later.

Dave Walda, Senior Parish Administrator

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