Pastor Dave's Blog

The Rev. Dave Buerstetta started serving as one of the pastors at Woodridge United Methodist Church in 1995 and is currently our Koinonia Pastor. Learn more here.

You can follow Dave on Twitter @davebuer or read his personal blog here.

Bishop Dyck's Prayer Request for Chicago

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OP12er @ 12:46 PM

In worship this past Sunday, we shared part of a prayer request from our Bishop, the Rev. Sally Dyck, for Chicago as police officer Jason Van Dyke is on trial for the murder of Laquan McDonald. But I want you to have the full text of the Bishop's request, so it is below.

If you prefer to read the request in its original form, click here.


"I am asking all United Methodist churches in Northern Illinois to pray for the city of Chicago!

In October 2014, Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old African American, was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke as the officer arrived on the scene. Police dash cam video caught the shooting, showing McDonald with a knife in hand walking away from Officer Van Dyke. The video was withheld from the public for about a year during the election campaign for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Upon seeing the video, discrepancies arose about the police reports, resulting in charges being brought against Officer Van Dyke. Now almost four years later, the trial has begun. The city is on edge as it awaits the outcome of this trial; a city that already reels from multiple gun shootings each week.

I urge prayers for the city of Chicago during and after the trial. This is a defining moment for Chicago. This is an effort to address what we're for as United Methodists, not what we're against. We're not against police officers; like all professions, including clergy, there are moments of accountability for those who abuse their office. We don't wish revenge on Officer Van Dyke; we pray for a fair and just trial and outcome.

While this is a trial about one individual who is being held accountable for his actions, it is also about accountability in all police shootings. Our concern is underscored by the 2016 U.S. Justice Department's 14-point report calling for the need for reform of the Chicago Police Department.

I call upon United Methodists to pray, to become aware of the particulars regarding this case and as you are able to take an active role in peaceful public actions to restore the shalom of God to the city. A good resource is the WBEZ podcast: 16 Shots (click here to listen). It gives the backstory and the day-by-day report of what is happening in the trial, examining all the parties involved in the courtroom. Also, the podcast makes Laquan a real human being, not just a name in the news, as his friends and family talk about him.

And as we pray, yard signs will be made available to churches (and members) to display. The signs will read:



Other displayed messages that read "we are praying for the city of Chicago and justice" are also encouraged. You can request a yard sign via an email to Include your church name, church address, contact phone number and contact person.

Every day during the trial there will be gatherings in front of the courthouse (2650 S. California, Chicago). On September 24 at 10 a.m. United Methodists will be leading a worship service of prayer, singing, scripture, and sign-acts. All United Methodists and friends are invited to join me and others as we share our message and practice our open table of communion.

For those in the suburbs of Chicago and beyond, I would also encourage you to hold the city of Chicago up in your prayers throughout this trial and the announcement of its verdict. As the scriptures say, the welfare of the city is everyone's welfare or future well-being. This trial in Chicago will impact people far beyond the city limits. Furthermore, where one suffers, we all suffer. Let us pray together as one body.

For churches within Chicago, the trial is a significant moment for Chicago and will have national implications. As one of our clergy said, "We're irrelevant in Chicago if we have nothing to say or do about this trial."

Thank you for your prayers in advance. ~Sally Dyck"

What's going on?

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OA10er @ 10:07 AM

Over the last four weeks or so, we've talked with some frequency about the deliberations, statements, and counter-statements stemming from the United Methodist Church's 2016 General Conference. That General Conference appointed a Commission on the Way Forward. After two years of work, that Commission sent proposals to the Council of Bishops. That Council made a statement about its report. Then came the counter-statements, clarifying statements, and a Judicial Council ruling. 

If you're not even a little confused by all that...I applaud you. Because I have trouble following it all. In case you do too, I'm attempting to put the original documents here for you.

Here's part of that first statement after the Council of Bishops concluded their work on the proposals:

"Having received and considered the extensive work of the Commission on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops will submit a report to the Special Session of the General Conference in 2019 that includes:

  • All three plans (The Traditionalist Plan, The One Church Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan) for a way forward considered by the Commission and the Council.
  • The Council’s recommendation of the One Church Plan.
  • An historical narrative of the Council’s discernment process regarding all three plans.

 Rationale:  In order to invite the church to go deeper into the journey the Council and Commission have been on, the Council will make all the information considered by the Commission and the Council of Bishops available to the delegates of the General Conference and acknowledges there is support for each of the three plans within the Council.  The values of our global church are reflected in all three plans.  The majority of the Council recommends the One Church Plan as the best way forward for The United Methodist Church."

In summary: the bishops agreed to recommend the One Church Plan. Read the full statement here

Here's the United Methodist News Service article on that statement.

A couple days later, our Northern Illinois Conference Bishop, the Rev. Dr. Sally Dyck, released a statement:

"The Council received the report from the Commission on the Way Forward (COTWF) and discerned our recommendation to the called session of the General Conference in February 2019 (GC19). For 4 days we discerned what our recommendation would be. We reviewed all three plans given to us by the COTWF, discussed them, provided pros and cons to each of them, and finally discerned our decision.

We recommended to the GC19 one plan: The One Church Plan. There was substantial support for it" (emphasis hers).

Read Bishop Dyck's full statement here.


But, as Bishop Dyck wrote, "some have been confused by the [Council of Bishop's] press release." So the Council offered this clarifying statement

Finally, about a week later, Judicial Council released its ruling on whether or not petitions other than that from the Council of Bishops will be allowed: "The United Methodist Church’s top court has ruled that other petitions — in addition to legislation from the Council of Bishops — can be submitted for the 2019 special session of General Conference."

Read that statement here.

So, all caught up?

What questions do you have about all this?

Leave them in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer them. Or find someone else who can.

In a future post, we'll look at some of the reactions to all this from around the denomination. 

Hear AND See

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OP4er @ 4:49 PM

By now I hope you've discovered and enjoyed that the audio from each week's sermon is posted on our homepage. Since yesterday's sermon included a couple of visual aid slides, I thought I would try to post those here. Thanks to Kevin, Reid, and Becky for making the audio magic happen each week. Special thanks to pastor and illustrator Steve Thomason for sharing his amazing art with the world. 

First, the book of Acts of the Apostles offered in the visual metaphor of a tree.



Next, two maps of the areas mentioned in the text for the week. An overview of the Roman Empire, allowing us to see Saul's hometown of Tarsus. Then a closer look at the sections of Israel: Judea, Samaria, Galilee, and the road to Damascus.






Finally, my favorite: Thomason's visual of the story of Acts chapters 8-9, that is also set up (loosely) as a map. So many intriguing stories here!

Celebrating Students

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OP4er @ 4:39 PM

I am so incredibly impressed with the Parkland, Florida students' response to last week's horrific gun violence at their school.

Check that. It is not the response that is incredibly impressive; it is the students. They are immensely impressive. Their responses to the murders around them are a manifestation -- a demonstration -- of the impressiveness of their character.

Here's hoping and praying those students continue to speak, march, organize, and vote until all our schools are safe. Until all assault rifles are banned. Until all politicians who put guns ahead of students -- ahead of people -- lose their seats. Because hopes and prayers are necessary, but they are also insufficient. Action is needed too. 

Our Youth Ministry leaders and I will of course do everything we can to encourage and support the ways our students choose to engage in these actions. Such as the March for Our Lives on March 24th. Or the National School Walkout on March 14th and April 20th.

As our General Board of Church & Society (the advocacy arm of The United Methodist Church) reminds us:

The United Methodist Church urges “congregations to advocate at the local and national level for laws that prevent or reduce gun violence.”

However, I don't want to just lift up our students' possible future actions. I want to celebrate who our students are right now, today. Recently we asked them to anonymously write down something they are good at. (We then used their responses as part of a game wherein each person had to either act out or draw that written response for the rest of the group to guess. Because of course we did.)

I'm sharing their answers with you because I think it provides yet another glimpse into our students lives. We as a congregation claim to highly value our children, and we actively strive to bring that value to life. Knowing our students helps us do that. 

What are you good at?


Watching TV :)
Talking to friends
Math [Note: x2]
Playing my flute
Eating food and playing piano [Note: probably not at the same time]
Doing Yoda impressions
Finding synonyms
Video games
Speaking for a group
Being lazy

Finally, let me celebrate student insight. At this week's youth group gathering, engaging with the Lenten Study book, Embracing the Uncertain, our students offered this understanding of the material:

Faith is to doubt as bravery is to fear. 

Yep, they named their takeaway in the form of a standardized ELA comparisons test.

Translated: Bravery isn't the absence of fear; bravery is action in the midst of fear, in spite of the fear. Similarly, faith isn't the absence of doubt; faith is action in the midst of doubt, in spite of all the doubts we feel.

Hey, our kids are pretty great...wouldn't you say?

It is now December, which means...

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OP12er @ 12:46 PM

I'm back!

I look forward to seeing all of you in worship this Sunday, December 3rd at 9:00 and 10:30 a.m.


Beauty and Pain in Pine Ridge

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OA8er @ 8:44 AM

If you chose to be in worship this past Sunday, you already know you had a group of tremendous teenagers representing you in mission on the Pine Ridge Reservation last week. If you missed our presentation, do yourself a favor: find one or two of our students and ask them about their experiences. I promise you will be glad you did.

In the meantime, here is an edited version of a glimpse into two of our evening activities (originally posted on our private trip blog). 


Monday night we drove to a ranch off the reservation where the husband and wife who live there created a 38 foot cross out of scrap metal found on their ranch. Which, I admit, I thought sounded rather, well, dumb. 

But I was wrong. 

Turns out the cross is on a hill with a gorgeous view. And the cross has a rough beauty that really surprised me. Here's all of us at its foot:


The couple also has a small shop on their ranch to sell other art they created from scrap metal.

Being there was more moving than I ever could have imagined. I've rarely been more glad to be wrong.  


Tuesday night we had the privilege of meeting Jerome High Horse. He came to the school where we are staying to speak about his experiences growing up on Pine Ridge, leaving it for education and a career as a civil engineer, and returning here in his retirement to directly help his people. Who are also our people. 

He reminds me quite a bit of Robert White Mountain, our friend from Standing Rock. Jerome, like Robert, is a kind, gentle soul, who is also a fierce advocate for his people. He is a great storyteller. And he tells the truth, which means sharing some of the people's pain. After his talk, our group said they were moved and impressed.  



I gave Jerome my contact info and I already have an email from him. I sense, again similar to Robert, we may have begun a new friendship. I certainly hope so.


Finally, I want to say this in as many places and spaces as possible: Our mission trips would literally be impossible without the incredible dedication of our volunteer adult leaders. They give up vacation days, family time, and comfort because they love God and love our students so much. I'm eternally grateful to all of them. THANK YOU Kathy Falout, Heather Kostov, Glenn Nelson, and Kevin Read!! You are awesome!

Church, they serve on your behalf, so please extend your heartfelt thanks whenever you see them next.


Mission trip to Pine Ridge Reservation

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OA11er @ 11:40 AM

This weekend, 20 youth and 6 adults will travel to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for a week of service. Painting, home repair, and providing children a VBS-like experience are some of the ways we will meet and serve with the community there.

Please pray for our group to be good and effective servants as the hands, feet, and ears of Jesus so that we might work hard with, and listen well to, the people of Pine Ridge. 

So that you may pray for us by name, our students are: Erik, Karl, Margot, Andy, Brandon, Mylene, Rachel, Sarah, Gavin, Gillian, Jake, Lia, Marisa, Madi, Ian, Ryan, Amanda, Kayleigh, Jaidyn, and Krista

Our leaders are: Alma, Kathy, Heather, Glenn, Kevin, and me, Dave

Please also pray for the people of Pine Ridge, where about 97% of the population lives below the federal poverty line. In the entire Western Hemisphere, only Haiti has a shorter life expectancy than Pine Ridge. Pray that we will honor and learn from a people who have weathered so much. 


Fun with Trinity Sunday

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OP5er @ 5:59 PM

This past Sunday, June 11th, was Trinity Sunday. While many complex and profound words have been written about the idea of God as Trinity, it seems to me that, at its core, it is a fairly simple -- though still profound -- idea: God, as God is in God's self, is relational, communal. Because humanity is made in God's image, we are ultimately relational too. 

Bruce Sanguin put it like this in his book, If Darwin Prayed:

The Trinitarian intuition is that Ultimate Reality constitutes a community and not an individual being… A healthy self comes into being in and through relationships… Quantum science shows everything exists in relation to everything else…the universe is radically relational. Greeks used a playful word for the communitarian nature of Trinity: perichoresis, meaning “to dance around.” Each member of the Trinity is encircling the others in ecstatic dance. Celebrating Trinity is celebrating that the entire universe, including humans, emerges out of a relational matrix.

Or, as I put it on Sunday, we are created for community because we are created by community. 

I also tried to have a little fun with images of Trinity in popular culture, such as these:



Sometimes good sermon material gets left on the proverbial cutting room floor. This week was no exception, but I did tell those present about this video and encouraged them to find it. Too often in Christianity's history, we've used doctrine of Trinity as club with which to beat each other up. Or as a fence to mark our territory and declare one another anathema.

I think the video below does a good job of poking fun at that tendency while also managing to teach a thing or two. At the very least, it made me laugh. I hope you enjoy it too. Let me know what you think in the comments! 

Dave said...

Posted on OP12er @ 11:41 AM -
Thank you very much for the kind words, Nancy. I'm glad I'm not the only one who found the video funny and entertaining.

Nancy E said...

Posted on OP2er @ 1:30 PM -
Dave - You always find a good way to encourage us to think outside of one's "normal" so we may try to understand one another. The Irish Twins presentation was a blast. Thank you for sharing.
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Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OP5er @ 5:56 PM

It is 2016, going on 2017

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OP12er @ 12:16 PM

I am often asked about that weird word in my title. Koinonia is a Greek word used in the New Testament. I’m not a Greek language scholar, but those that are write that koinonia means community. The way the term is used in the New Testament (e.g. Acts 2:42-47) suggests community that is formed through worship, fellowship, and living together justly. It seems to fit as my title, as my main areas of responsibility are youth ministry, outreach and justice projects, and worship.

Of course each of those areas also have a full committee working on them. I encourage reading their reports in order to gain a fuller sense of all happened in 2016. I will not try to duplicate their excellent efforts here. Instead I will focus on an event that brought all three areas together in a vital, beautiful, inspiring, Spirit-filled way — creating community, or, if I may dare to say it, creating koinonia.

With input from Youth Council and our youth themselves, we decided to go to Birmingham, Alabama for our summer youth mission trip. Immediately, our leadership team knew we needed to spend as much time as we could learning about the civil rights movement before our trip and as much time as we could visiting the movement’s special sites once we were in Alabama. Studying The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was a key component of our preparations.

But first we read the letter to Dr. King which prompted his now-famous epistle. Most of our group was surprised and disappointed to learn that two Methodist bishops were among the eight signatories of the letter accusing Dr. King of being an outside agitator who had no business being in Birmingham. With the context set, we dove into the letter itself.

I am fond of quoting the portion of King’s letter that reads, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

While that first sentence is oft-quoted, the final two sentences seem to me even more vital. For they remind us that no matter how independent we think we may become, each of us is dependent upon others. We need each other and so we need to look out for each other, help each other, speak up for each other. Reading through Dr. King’s letter together transported us back those 60 years, evoked questions and concerns, and helped us consider our present time: In what ways is our society better? How can we better live into the ideals of the letter? What is the role of the Christian community in this? What is WUMC’s role?

The letter and all it provoked made us uncomfortable. Which is probably why it is so powerful and still relevant.

Jane provided another milestone in our preparations. Thanks to her connections, the mission trip group was blessed with an evening with two leaders in the civil rights movement: the Rev. Dr. Stanley L. Davis, Jr. and the Rev. Dr. B. Herbert Martin, Sr. The duo shared stories of their experiences, suggested some sites to be sure to visit in Birmingham, and encouraged us to be faithful witnesses of God’s love for all people. Then Dr. Martin offered a closing thought that transfixed us and became our prayer for our time in Alabama:

“Hate no one no matter how they have wronged you. Live humbly no matter how wealthy and privileged you become. Think positively no matter how hard life gets. Give much even if you have been given little. Forgive all, especially yourself. Never stop praying for the best for everyone. Always forgive. Forgiveness upsets, interrupts, and distorts the plan of Satan to defeat you. Always be forgiving. Love is of God and God is love. Love is bigger than the past, our pain, our anger, fear, our scars, and yes, bigger than this whole world with devils filled. There is somebody bigger than you and I. Behold the universe — the only thing bigger than you — walk there, live there in. Do not worry about thinking outside the box — there is no box!!! There is no fence! There is no border! Live free in God.”

Thanks to the Cash family, each member of the mission trip had those beautiful words laminated on a card along with Dr. King’s words that I quoted above. Our trip included meaningful work with community organizations, fun conversations on the road, vehicle mishaps, moving worship, laughs, tears, and lots of pictures. The attending youth were fantastic: Sarah, Erik, Karl, Ellie, Olivia, Patrick, Andy, Brandon, Rachel, Gavin, Marisa, Madi, Meaghan, Cassie, Amanda, and Kayleigh: THANK YOU! You are why we do this!

I can never say this too much: our mission trips would literally be impossible without the dedication of and sacrifices made by our volunteer adult leaders. THANK YOU Lorie, Alma, Glenn, and Kevin!

As amazing as all that was, our time at the Civil Rights Museum was, at least for me, the most moving experience of any of my 20 mission trips. God’s Holy Spirit is in that place. God’s Spirit is at work in the people who are continuing the story of Exodus, the prophets, and Jesus by working tirelessly for all people to be truly free. I want to be part of that story.

So that is on my mind as I consider plans taking shape and ways we might show better hospitality in our church and our community in 2017. For some time now, our lighted sign reads, “We stand with Standing Rock.” I hope we will further our lines in God’s ongoing story of freedom by renewing and increasing our connection to the Standing Rock reservation, and finding ways to support their efforts to protect their water supply against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Our young people return to South Dakota in June 2017 for mission in Martin, South Dakota.

We look forward to confirming into full membership 15 young people in May, should the whole Confirmation class choose that path. Regardless of the final outcome, the families in that class are already deepening their connections with each other, with the congregation, and with the community — and, ultimately, that is why we have the program.

One way I hope we will expand koinonia in 2017 is through fuller participation with Northern Illinois Justice For Our Neighbors. If even some of the president-elect’s campaign promises are fulfilled, our neighbors who are recent immigrants could be extremely vulnerable. We can help JFON care for them. That is a way to love our neighbors we have left largely unexplored. I hope we begin to correct that in 2017.

To paraphrase the great Maya Angelou: As we work for justice for all God’s children, whatever challenges and roadblocks 2017 brings, I know that with God’s Spirit, like a song, still WUMC will rise.

Finally, on behalf of my spouse and kids, Joann, Joshua, and Jacqueline, and my mom, Esther, thank you so much for the outpouring of love, care, and support this community offered us when my dad died in July. The depth of that love and support is what truly makes WUMC the best place to be on Sunday…and any other day. It is an ongoing privilege and pleasure to be one of your pastors.

[This post originally appeared in the 2016 Church Conference Report]

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