BY SR. NOREEN STEVENS
At a recent walk through of an installation service, Bishop Girlinghouse (Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod of the ELCA) motioned to his side saying, “Stand by me, here.”  While I continued to listen to the instructions, there was a cacophony of sounds and images moving through my head as the phrase, “Stand by Me,” caught my heart.  John Lennon’s version of the 1961 song by Ben E. King was playing loud in my ear. Visions of the 1986 coming of age movie, Stand by Me played out before me. Images of Timon and Pumbaa (The Lion King) popped in with their comedic, yet intense portrayal of relationship.  With the tune continuing in my head, Sr. Joy Hovis’ words from her installation the week before, “Stand by me, up here,” rolled around with the Bishop’s words.

“Any questions?”  The Bishop’s question stopped the images and quieted the music, but the Spirit was moving and Psalm 46 began weaving with King’s song:

Oh stand by me, stand by me…(Stand by Me)
…though the earth should change,
    though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult…

…The Lord of hosts is with us;  (Psalm 46)
Oh stand by me, stand by me…

Two months later, as the Mission Support Committee gathered to prayerfully consider grant proposals, the psalm, song, and images came flooding back and settled again in my heart. While the words at the installations were a joy-filled invitation, the proposals demonstrated an intensity in relationship as fear, basic needs, and unhindered welcomes were described in the invitation we read in the proposals, “Stand by me, here.”

A quick read demonstrates the organizations’ and congregations’ celebration of diakonia and invitation to Stand together in ministry. The shared fear and doubt of the participants, clients, and leaders is a direct reflection of the divisions, hatred, and fear in today’s culture. Stand by me? was heard in a child’s voice who shared the fear of a parent not picking her up at the end of the day because of deportation. It was heard in a community’s fear of the growing number of suicides and the barriers created in an immigrant’s welcome. There was an urgency in the invitation as the committee prayed through the proposals.

Oh stand by me, stand by me…

Called to impact a broken world this is what we do as Community. In those moments of joy and in times of profound fear, we boldly step forward to Stand by another. Through advocacy and ministry in schools, hospitals, non-profits, prisons and congregations our Community has been boldly Standing with God’s people for over a century.  The love of Christ continues to motivate our response to God’s call as a Community and our confidence in the presence of the sustaining Spirit brings the psalm of our ancestors into our ministry of diakonia today. The fear of the psalmist is heard in the news today, seen on the faces of the homeless and witnessed in the shadows where the immigrant is hiding.
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam…(Psalm 46)

Our Community stands in the midst of the fear, divisions, and uncertainty with radical hospitality and through partnerships to impact the broken world.  We do this as we form, equip and resource diaconal leaders and communities. We are always centering in Christ, discernment, education, grants, strategic partnerships and intentional relationship with our denominational and ecumenical partners.
God is in the midst of the city;[b] it shall not be moved;
    God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us; (Psalm 46)

In June, our Community will gather in Assembly and dwell in our Call to impact the broken world. Join us in prayer during this time. We will listen more intently to today’s invitation to Stand with me, here as a Community of resources in voice, partnerships, gifts and talents, finances and call to diakonia.
Please click here for more information on our Mission Support Grants.