REMEMBER TOILET PAPER? In July, 2018, the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Long Island, New York, tried (and failed, but so what?) to build the World’s Largest Toilet Paper Pyramid at a street festival called Alive After Five that lasted between 5 and 9pm. We received no help from the makers of Scotts TP, even though we used only their product (septic-safe and we needed uniformity of size and density of rolls). But all together with volunteers, solicitors of TP at shopping centers by the Girl Scouts, etc. we had over 1,400 people involved. We had an engineer working on the project as well. Yes. an engineer. We built it; unbuilt it; and gave it all away in 4 hours to a homeless veteran home, a domestic violence shelter and various food pantries. We did this, in part, because toilet paper is classified as a “luxury” and cannot be written into grant requests. We will try to build it again this coming summer with the remnants of what people are now hoarding and will, by then, donate-it-forward. Peace, Dwight Lee Wolter
“IS IT OKAY TO GIVE YOU SOME MONEY RIGHT NOW?” the woman in the distance shouted to me from across a parking lot. Well, that was a first. As I got closer, I recognized her. We have a mutual friend. She runs a cleaning business and was entering a club that is one of her customers. She wanted to help our “Soup Kitchen To-Go” program since the dining room is closed during the pandemic. She has difficulty getting cleaning supplies; people are cutting back on house cleaning; and still she reached into her pocket to help others. As we parted, I reminded her that our food pantry is available to her (as well as to you) ~ as things may (as always) get worse before they get better.
A former legislator who was decidedly against “gay marriage” and accused of looting taxpayers by lavish spending to make his office look like Downton Abbey has now come out as gay and is thanking LGBTQ activists for their good work but his family didn’t invite him home for Easter. Here comes responses like anger, scorn, retribution and forgiveness.
People are complicated. People have mixed emotions and irrational thoughts. People in recovery from addictions often hate themselves for what they have done, even more, sometimes, than the people they have wronged. Jews can be anti-Semitic. People of color can be racist. Survivors of abuse often internalize the aggressor, taking their side. The will to live coexists with self-destructive tendencies. Survivors experience guilt concurrent with gratitude. People often find it harder to forgive themselves than to forgive others ~ while others condemn people for things they do and have done themselves. The “devil” sits on one shoulder whispering sweet and assuring words in one ear while the “angel” does the same in the other.What do you think?
Dwight Lee Wolter
We want you to know that the deacons preparing the elements for communion this Sunday will be doing so under very hygienic conditions. The knives, bread, wine and juice will be handled with care and cleanliness.
Also, as people come forward to receive communion; the servers will have clean hands, and will be wearing plastic gloves, and the servers themselves will take a piece of bread and place it in your hand ~ thus avoiding your hand accidentally touching other pieces of bread.
This all comes under the “better safe than sorry” precaution AND out of an abundance of love and concern for our church members and guests.
Finally, if you are sick with fever or coughing; please stay home and get well. If you need food or medicine pick-up ~ call me on my cell at 631-891-9908 and we will see if we may be of assistance.
Bless, Pastor Dwight.
I DROVE TO MT. SINAI, NEW YORK, after being home with a cold & a bad case of cabin fever for a few days and went to a favorite place to stroll silently, peacefully and gratefully and I came across this. Perhaps it was because I was physically weak and drained by illness that this made me feel even sicker. But then, in my spiritual health, I saw the poison power of the word “VERSUS” and in my mind I changed it to ” AND” as in “USA AND EVERYBODY.” Hope is eternal. Peace is possible. Let’s realize it together. Love, Dwight Lee Wolter
LEGENDARY BLUESMAN, Kerry Kearney, once said from the stage of the Congregational Church of Patchogue, “When you get to heaven, they hand you a harp; when you get to hell, they hand you an accordion.” This Sunday, January 19th at 10am, we explore: Is “heaven” merely a myth to control behavior? Who is (and isn’t) in heaven? Is heaven here on earth? Why do so few people believe in heaven, but so many believe in hell? Special music is “When I Get Where I’m Going” by Brad Paisley, sung by Kathy Maguire Ljungqvist. See you Sunday for a bit of heaven! Peace, Dwight Lee Wolter
I know clergy persons who carry licensed pistols into the pulpit and several houses of faith that have armed, licensed people carrying pistols during services. When Dylann Roof killed eleven people at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston ~ many people from many faith traditions attended a meeting called by the Suffolk County Police Department and Homeland Security and openly questioned whether they should have armed people in their houses of worship. Many people were aghast at the question, but no longer.
In 2019 alone, we have seen the Easter morning terrorist attack of a church in Sri Lanka that killed 300; attacks at synagogues in San Diego, Pittsburg and elsewhere; attacks at two mosques in New Zealand that were live-streamed on social media; the recent machete attack at a rabbi’s home during a Hanukkah celebration; and the murder of two congregants of a church in Texas before the assailant was himself killed by Jack Wilson, a licensed, pistol-wielding church member who is now being declared a hero for stopping additional carnage. Wilson’s Facebook post stated, “The events at West Freeway Church of Christ put me in a position that I would hope no one would have to be in, but evil exists and I had to take out an active shooter in church.”
The killing spree lasted only six seconds. The police arrived within two minutes. Three people were already dead.
In a clergy Facebook group, in response to my post, someone suggested, in seriousness, that congregants should turn to the active shooter and throw their hymnals at him and that will disorient him enough to allow people to escape. Does that make you feel safe in the sanctuary or that your kids are safe in the Sunday school? Although I provided a link to a free, national webinar I conducted titled, “An Ounce of Prevention” and even though many other resources are available elsewhere ~ many people choose to make up methodology on the spot to address a potential murderer with a concealed weapon. You don’t have to be an addict to act like one, full of denial, unrealistic expectations, pretending to be in control of things you are powerless over, and a willingness to place others in danger.
This begs many questions, including one posed today in a Religion News Service (RNS) article, “Where is the line between loving people and protecting the flock?” It also poses questions of how prepared houses of faith are for such incidences; what effective measures are in place with congregations that cannot afford or refuse security teams; can we have non-partisan, civil discussion of the pros and cons of armed persons in church. It also begs questions such as: how many open entrances does your building have? Who is authorized to issue evacuate, fight or shelter-in-place orders and upon what criteria? Where would you evacuate or shelter-in-place? Do you have a plan for children and those with physical or mental challenges? Who is authorized to issue an “all clear” bulletin? What about non-active-shooter situations such as a fire, weather event or possible community disaster a such as a gas main break that may require sheltering or evacuating? Should your building blueprints be on file with your local police department?
I and many others have been trained by the Suffolk County Police Department (Long Island, New York) Police-Clergy Council and Homeland Security for “Safety in the Sanctuary.” Handouts from a webinar I conducted, and from similar workshops I presented at the New York Conference of the United Church of Christ will be available at the “Ounce of Prevention” event on January 14th at 7pm at the Congregational Church of Patchogue (Long Island) where I am the pastor. I do not believe I am being overly dramatic when I say that, as houses of faith, it is time for us to get our heads out of the sand, before our bodies are in the dirt.
The photo here is of a “panic button” issued by the police department to our church. It sat for a year on the pulpit where I stand each Sunday and it has been used once during that time. It resulted in an arrest of someone trying to enter the sanctuary, and an evacuation of the Sunday School children to a shelter-in-place room in the basement.
I am certain that you readers, as well as those who will attend this event or access the free webinar “An Ounce of Prevention” offered through the Practical Resources for Churches (PRC) of Long Island, New York, have much insight to gain from each other. Printed material, questions and insights will be distributed at this event that others may care to share. Please join us, if possible, for this timely event; contact me at dwightleewolter.com, or post your opinions, questions, suggestions and concerns here.
Peace Whenever Possible,
Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter
INDULGE ME, PLEASE, AS I PUT A FACE ON homelessness, food, housing & health insecurity. This is one of many fine people with whom I dine, laugh, fear and hope at our soup kitchen, barber shop, food pantry and other places. With sincerity, I proclaim that I am a better person for having known and interacted with persons such as this man.
FORGIVE ME, PLEASE, AS I STRUGGLE with resentment at the many people who call and write to me at the Congregational Church of Patchogue ~ demanding that I remove the “homeless, drug-addicted, dirtbag creatures” that we feed, shower, clothe and offer free haircuts to on a regular basis. Such comments, calls and letters are not surprising.
Housing, health, love, and food-insecure people ~ I have witnessed for years ~ are apparently not even worthy of a smile or utterance of a “Good morning.” They simply do not even exist in the mind and eyes of many. When I recently petitioned leaders to place a portable toilet near our mobile shower unit; I was told that to do so “would encourage them to move to our town when we already have too many.” Can you imagine being “encouraged” to move to a community because it provided a good place to pee? How, then, do we interpret the outrage that someone is seen peeing in a bush? Last time I checked, peeing was not optional.
If we want to figure-out how we will be remembered ~ I bet a dirty dollar that it will not be by our cocktail parties and wit. It will not be by our illustrious watering holes. We will be remembered, as persons, community and country ~ by how we treated those among us who are in distress.
FINALLY ~ INDULGE ME, PLEASE, AS I THANK many of you for your small, large and in-between offerings to help us help others, year round, for 30 years and counting. While our efforts are certainly not “fun” or “profitable” ~ they are absolutely, profoundly and deeply rewarding.
May peace and other blessings be upon you,
SOMETIMES, EVEN A 20 MINUTE BREAK MAKES A DIFFERENCE between being busy but feeling empty ~ and being busy but feeling fulfilled. If my cellphone needs and deserves to be recharged ~ so too do I. I wish to thank the chattering birds; the whistling wind; the sloshing waves; the soon-to-set sun; and the gift of silence for their part in my spiritual restoration. Peace & Happy Thanksgiving Season, Dwight Lee Wolter
IT IS WITH DEEP SADNESS & JOY THAT I ANNOUNCE that my grandson, Oliver, lost the election. SADNESS in that, well, he lost. Darn! JOY in that he congratulated the winner; did not blame anyone; and still holds hands with those who did not vote for him while they cross dangerous intersections on field trips. He has chosen to learn & become stronger in defeat. He is my role model.
The Russians didn’t meddle. The voting box wasn’t rigged. The polling places did not have hours that rendered persons of certain ethnicities and socioeconomic status from getting to vote. There was no Supreme Court-style of teacher and administrator override to call the election. There were no hanging chads. No Electoral College. Leave all that to the grownups.
After the election it was time for lunch. Everyone sat together. After that was recess. Everyone played together.
Hard to imagine, isn’t it? Well, imagine it. It happened. Civility isn’t dead. Just napping.