Sisters and Brothers,
Today, the sun is shining. The air is warm. You can go outside with only a jacket, or maybe a warm sweater. There will be more and more days like this in the next month. But there will also be days with clouds, and cold, and snow. We’re in the in-between time, in-between winter and spring.
The Covid-19 vaccine continues to be manufactured and distributed to more and more people in the community. Our numbers of active cases in Custer County have dropped way, way down into the single digits – thanks be to God! The worst of the pandemic is passed. Yet many are still unvaccinated and susceptible. We still need to be wearing our masks and washing our hands and avoiding unnecessary travel, at least for a while longer. We’re in the in-between time, in-between a pandemic and a return to normal.
Today is the first day after Custer Community Church’s officially designated “season of discernment.” I’m back from leave. The church will return to in-person worship, with me in the pulpit. But there are still more conversations to be had, and one hopes that the work of discernment is ongoing. As the early Protestant reformers have said, ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda – the church reformed, always reforming! We know that we are entering a new season in the life of the Custer Community Church, even if we don’t yet know what that looks like. We’re in the in-between time, in-between what was and what will be.
There’s a word for these in-between times – liminal. To be in a liminal space is to be on the threshold, standing in the doorway. One thing is being left behind. A new thing is ahead. But, while we have already left the old behind, we aren’t yet in the new.
Being in a liminal space is often uncomfortable. It’s not unlike being the trapeze artist who has let go of one bar but who hasn’t yet grabbed hold of the next bar. There’s no going back, now. The only way forward is forward, to finally reach that next trapeze bar.
It can feel like falling. Of course, it can also feel like flying.
I don’t think our future is fully formed or determined yet. At least, it doesn’t feel that way to me. But I have trust… faith… hope. I know who holds the future. So I choose to feel this in-between time as flying, not falling.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t discomfort in the liminal season. Who wouldn’t prefer the security of certainty? But I know this – in trapeze, the only way to reach the next bar is to completely let go of the last. And I know this – for all the uneasiness I may have about letting go, every time I have ever let go of what was and soared towards what might be, I have always made it safely to the other side.
Rev. Dustin Bartlett
Last week, I was made aware of an email scam that’s being carried out in my name.
The way the scam works is that an email will be sent, which claims to be from me or from another pastor you know. The email will look like it came from me, but if you look carefully at the email address, you’ll see that it’s off by one letter.
The email will say something to the effect of, “I need your help with an urgent matter that I need you to handle discreetly. Email me as soon as you can.” If you reply to the email and indicate you can help, the scammer (who is posing as a pastor) will then say that they are trying to help someone who’s having a financial emergency but don’t have money immediately available, so they’ll ask you to go and purchase some kind of gift card and then email the card numbers to them and promise to pay you back.
Of course, it’s a scam, so the “pastor” simply uses the gift card to buy things for himself, and doesn’t pay you back.
This is actually a fairly common scam, and many of my colleagues have been impersonated over the last couple of years. Pastor Peary Wilson, of Pringle, was impersonated just a few months ago. I guess it’s my turn.
So, first of all, I will never email you and ask you to send money or gift cards directly to me. The ministerial alliance has money to help people in financial emergencies and has systems for distributing that money. In the event that I do ask you to donate money in order to help others, I would always have you make your donations to the church or to the ministerial alliance, never to me directly.
Second, if you have any reason to suspect that a message that appears to be from me isn’t real, verify it first. One easy way to catch these email scams is to send a new email as a follow, rather than hitting “reply.” That’s because these impersonators use an email address that is very similar to the real one, but which is off by a single letter or number somewhere. If you hit “reply,” then your email will go to the scammer’s fake, almost-identical email address. But if you start a new email using the address you already have, it will go to the person being impersonated instead of the scammer, and they can quickly confirm that they didn’t send the fake email.
Finally, be very skeptical of anyone asking you to send money or gift cards online. Even if it looks legitimate and from someone you know, don’t trust it. Verify it. Call the person in question and speak to them directly. This email scam in which pastors are impersonated is one of many, many scams out there. So be as innocent as doves, but be as wise as serpents!
Copyright © 2018 Custer Community Church - All Rights Reserved.