Christmas 2020

Dear family and friends,

We’re being lazy this year and sending our Christmas letter and pictures to most folks electronically. But we still wish you very blessed Christmas and New Year’s, and a much better year in 2021.

Our immediate family has thankfully avoided COVID, although a grandniece, brother-in-law, close friends, co-workers and fellow church members have had it, none fatally. We even managed to take a June vacation week in Williamsburg, VA, wearing masks everywhere, eating only at restaurants with outdoor seating, but enjoying our get-away. We’ve both been working from home and go out as little as possible. I [Diana] take hour-long walks each morning; while I [Marty] struggle to be consistent with 30 minutes on our exercycle, while finding it invigorating simply to sit outside for a prayer time. 

Our son Justin and daughter Sarah are living mostly in Justin’s apartment, though sometimes with us. Justin, who as most of you know, struggles with serious mental illness, has been stable most of the time, for which we’re grateful. Sarah’s supportive relationship with Justin helps make that possible. Her caring nature extends to others as well, in spite of her own struggles.

Our household has expanded. Since July we have a young family living with us, Aaron, Karen and now 6-months old baby Abel. Aaron has been our sons’ closest friend for almost 25 years and himself lived with us for several years when he was younger. It’s very refreshing to have little Abel smiling and bringing joy during this pandemic.

Some other positive highlights from 2020: 

  • My [Diana’s] niece Hannah and husband Logan had a baby boy Mitchell.
  • My [Diana’s] niece Lizzie was married to Patrick.
  • Our friend Esam became a U.S. citizen. He and his wife Emma live in Connecticut where Esam is pursuing a PhD and Emma works as a news producer for a television station.
  • Our friends Vern and Ron published books on “radical faith” and Christian anti-Semitism, respectively, and Vern his 100th poem (and more). 
  • Our pastor Kirk’s global network of (primarily Spanish-speaking) churches developed and expanded in spite of COVID.

But sad news as well. Both my [Diana’s] sister Sue and mother Barbara passed away. Sarah’s long-time boyfriend Chris died, as did our son Josh’s close friend Jessica. Just this month my [Marty’s] sister Diane’s friend and long-time business partner Karen and Karen’s husband Ted both died. Our friends Jim, Donna and Tommy passed away. As most of you know, our son Josh passed in 2019, as did Diana’s sister Bobbe’s husband Mike.

Our church, New Hope Fellowship, has been meeting virtually since early this year. It’s working out OK, though it can’t replace the uplifting sense of community in-person worship brings. A perhaps surprising plus is that some folks who’ve never attended in person have been joining virtually. Small group Bible studies and weekly prayer meetings also meet virtually. 

I [Marty] am planning to retire at the end of June 2021. Not entirely sure what I’ll do after that. I’m an elder in our church, give the sermon once a month, and occasionally post “thoughts” on Christian faith, so those things will presumably continue. After a decade of pastoring, an interlude for law school, service work abroad, and 26 years of faith-based policy advocacy in Washington, I feel like I have one more ministry incarnation in me, but don’t know what that will look like. Your prayers are appreciated.

I [Diana], 5 years younger than Marty, plan to keep working for 3 more years. As a public health nurse I’ll start to give the COVID vaccine to the first wave of recipients next week. I’ll get my own shot next Tuesday, but Marty’s is probably months away.

Finally, [Marty] by personality I’m a moderate (a “both-and”/see both sides kind of guy). While I don’t agree with them, I can understand why some religious and political conservatives would hold their nose and support Trump because they favor his policies. But look at the cost – the debasing of Christian faith and alienation of countless young people from Christ, the radical undermining of trust in American electoral democracy, the legitimation of overt racism, the lies, cruelty, denial of reality, the cult of personality. This is a sickness, madness. Now with the end of Trump’s presidency, may we emerge as an America of purer hearts, clearer minds, and renewed commitment to the common good and to be the best America we can be.

With love and hope for many blessings ahead,

Diana and Marty