Of Hypocrites and Judges

Bill Maher makes a good case for the idea that Christians are judgmental hypocrites. I know it is a good case because so many people use it as the basis for their relationship to the church. It is the reason many people I know who used to go to church don’t anymore. The argument is plastered between the lines of Pew Research Polls, and even ordained Elders in the United Methodist Church find themselves on the ropes defending congregations whose attitudes towards the poor, the disreputable, and the criminal better line up with the attitudes of the Economy than they do with Paul (Romans 2).

On the one hand we Christians publicly denounce Muslims such as Malala Yousafzai and Eboo Patel as violent people who adhere to a violent religion, while on the other we are more supportive of torture as a tool of national security than non-religious people. We proclaim an ethic of life while supporting church policies that shame people into closets, prisons, and suicide because we can’t wrap our prudish minds around intimacies that are not our own.

Hypocrisy really is not too difficult to prove.

But what about the judgmental part?

Over the course of our history, The United Methodist Church has made headlines while wrangling whether we are guilty of heterosexism or guilty of failing to sanctify sexual sin. We have held trials, requested declaratory rulings from our Judicial Council, and processed a variety of complaints in attempts at what we call “just resolutions.” People in these processes are accompanied by counsel and, in the case of trials, there are even juries and rulings by precedent. While members of the church swing widely between those who want to see church law evenly applied and upheld and those who believe some laws are unjust and must be confronted with civil disobedience, the whole of the church seems to believe deeply in the rule of law.

Our whole method of accountability is built on judgment.

The Rev. Anna Blaedel here in Iowa is undergoing just such a process of official judgment. A few months ago, some people here in Iowa decided they had to “complain” about Reverend Blaedel, and our Bishop, Julius Trimble, decided that complaint had merit. I presume the complaint was made and received because there are a couple of sentences in our book of church law that say Anna Blaedel, an out, partnered, queer clergyperson, is incapable of bearing fruit, of shining Christ, of discipling others, or of being entrusted to care for the souls of those people the denomination appoints under their charge.

Which is all well in good, except that those statements are demonstrably false. Whether or not our book says they can, I have witnessed Anna Blaedel balming broken souls. Whether or not our book says they can, I have witnessed Anna Blaedel’s teaching inspire others to commit to a life in Christ. Whether or not our book says they can, I have experienced the passage of Grace through Anna Blaedel’s hands into my own flagging spirit and faith.

The Reverend Anna Blaedel is one of those rare, shining souls whose very presence breathes peace and wholeness. They live a life of faithful dedication and unwavering discipline. They exude Holy Spirit. I knew Anna by name before I ever met them. I knew they were brave, kind, compassionate, authentic, deliberate and special simply by the ripples they left in their wake; from their parents, from my husband, from the children at Collegiate United Methodist Church in Ames, from members of the Osage First United Methodist Church. Over and over and over again, Anna is described as a “beautiful” soul, and that soul ignites and rekindles faith, hope, love, joy, compassion, peacefulness, patience, generosity and kindness in others.

What is that if not fruit? What is that if not ministry? What is that if not a God-given Gift, and what does it mean that the United Methodist Church wants to cast that Giftedness out of its circles?

Bill Maher would say it means we are judgmental hypocrites.

But you know what? Finally, I don’t think it is that we are judgmental, even if we are hypocrites. I think it is that we fear Judgment. People who are filled with faith and the Holy Spirit shine on us, and in that shining, our own meannesses and cruelties become visible. What we thought was our loving is shown to be conditional contracts where we exchange power and control. What we thought was our generosity is shown to be mere grudging pity. What we thought was our hopefulness is a thin veneer of sentiment layered over fear.

It is their shining that exposes our nakedness and it is our own flawed relationship with Christ that has us cowering in fear. John said it,

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (NASB)

And later,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (NIV)

In many ways, the whole of John’s Gospel spins the story of how desperate people are to escape that Light, to stay out of its beam. So desperate they took their hammers and nails and saws and baseball bats to tear it down and smash it to bits. What makes us think we are any different than those people in John’s Gospel? What makes us think we are immune to the fear? That we are ready and able and happy to stand in Christ’s Shining?

I don’t think it is in judgment that we are casting out our Anna Blaedels. I do not think we are even doing it because we actually deem them unworthy. I think we are casting them out because we deem ourselves unworthy. We do not hate them because we see some kind of darkness in their living. We hate them because we cast shadows in their light.

Be Not Conformed. Be Transformed

Often, a church can think too small when it comes to music.  Unlike a community choir, the church  has to prepare lots of different music every week.  It doesn’t get months of practice with auditioned singers. It usually gets one too-short rehearsal on Wednesday night with a group of brave people willing to say, “I think I can.”  That makes the church musician get very practical.  Rather than having a library full of multicultural and historical literature from which to browse, the church musician is often given a Scripture reference and a hymn book or filing cabinet full of music that has been purchased by the church and performed by the choir (or bells or praise band) before.

Unfortunately, that rush to prepare and present music that works often leaves a church’s musical expression rather anemic and often dated.  At a recent conference, N. Graham Standish suggested that real Christianity happens when a church can shift from the functional to the formational.  I see this in the music of many churches.  We get so caught up in making sure worship will work (function), we never get around to making sure worship has an impact (formation).

As Christians, one of our central ideas is one of transformation.  We expect to encounter the Divine and we expect that encounter will change us in some fundamental way.  If you read an interview with any conductor or teacher of music, you will hear an echo of this idea: music has the ability to change us in fundamental ways. In other words, both Christianity and music cause change in form, appearance or structure (transformation).  Their very natures kind of contradict the idea of reproducibility.

Let me tell you the story of a piece of music and a small, Midwestern church.  I was working atFirst Christian Church (DOC) in Ames, IA as the choir director and music planner.   A common theological theme at that church is environmentalism. Weekly worship planning often included some lament that there weren’t a wide variety of songs about creation care in our hymnal, and in scouring the internet and other resources, I began to think that the only Christians to have ever responded to our complex human relationships with the planet were Maltbie Babcock and Eleanor Farjeon.

Enter Paul Winter.  In my time there, several people had pointed me toward a hymn called “The Blue Green Hills of Earth.”  A musician tracked down a Unitarian Universalist hymnal and we added this song to our repertoire of congregation music.  Then a member of my choir gave me a cd of Missa Gaia(Earth Mass), compiled by Paul Winter from work he did at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York with his group the Winter Consort.  I took it home and listened.  I was struck by a few things:  1).  The choir parts were very singable-they were the kind of four part harmony that my choir was capable of producing.  2) The music was modern.  It used a lot of jazz harmony and technique as well as some interesting global rhythms. 3) It was a sacred piece of music with a message that matched my church’s concern.  4) There were not enough singers in my choir to sing all of the parts.

I began to plot and ponder, and a concert was born.  We worked for months to gather enough musicians and singers.  We invited Mary Swander, Poet Laureate of Iowa, to present readings.  We included a local children’s chorus under the direction of Dr. Sylvia Munson.  We pushed ourselves to advertise the concert as widely as we could-beyond the bulletin and word of mouth within the church community.  We even went so far as to purchase a large yard sign so drivers going by the church could see what we were doing.  The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill happened, and we had a real reason to respond.   We decided to make this a free concert to the community and to gather donations for Gulf Coast clean up efforts.

In a church with a rudimentary sound system, basic lighting and no screen, we were able to pull together a visual presentation, record a DVD and provide visual interest using levels, plants, and baskets.  We had no funding from the church budget, so we paid for this concert through support of community members, calling in favors from friends, and the amazing generosity of top-notch presenters and technicians who offered their services free or at a ridiculously low rate.  We worked our church connections to recruit singers from other choirs, and we asked people from the community, Christian or not, to come and sing.

We performed our concert, and it was a great success.  The turnout was large, the music went well, and people donated generously to the Audubon Society.  I would have been pleased if that were all we saw from that project, but there was and is more.  The music we strove so passionately to hammer out, entered us.  Every time someone mentions St. Francis of Assisi, I begin to hum “All praise be yours through brother sun.”  Whenever I participate in an act of repentance, I hear the tritone intervals of wolves howling as children sing “Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.”  Whenever Christ is called the Lamb, I hear the harp seals singing the “Agnus Dei” movement, animals as helpless and white as newborn sheep.

I remember the faith my church had: to do something it had never done before; to learn music that is not in its Chalice Hymnal; to express its belief not just within its own walls but outside on the streets of its town.

I remember the growth my singers had: giving more than a Wednesday night to rehearsals; trying out rhythms and harmonies that were HARD; learning to rely on themselves individually to carry difficult parts and to take leadership.  I remember the fruit that bore in worship: as songs that used to be hard became easier and as a new engagement with the meanings of lyrics and musical expression started to show up.

I remember love.  It is hard not to find common ground with people beside whom you have struggled and accomplished.  We cancelled and rescheduled.  We used carpentry skills we didn’t know we had.  We cared for babies and singers who became ill.  We bore with one another’s crazy schedules and the toll that took on rehearsal numbers, and when it came right down to it, everyone involved stepped up and offered themselves to the possibility of criticism and ridicule.

We worked together and we relied on one another and in the end, we spoke truth and love to the community.  Despite emails that called us Marxists, Communists, Anti-Christian, and Evil;  despite a perception from some church-goers that we weren’t singing Christian ideas; despite a discomfort with music that was untried and new, we finally expressed the church’s understanding of Christ to a world that needed to hear.

If you find that your church’s music is somehow lacking in Spiritual vitality, I suggest thinking bigger.  Think past Sunday morning.  Think outside the size of your praise band or budget.  Think around the limitations imposed by words like “appropriate,” “well-known,” and “easy to sing.”  Think across and into another denomination’s hymnody.  Dare I suggest thinking yourself into another faith’s literature?  Think about including secular music in the process of developing worship opportunities.  Not every week, and not all the time.  Just sometimes, try to “let” something happen in your music ministry, rather than “making” it happen, and see what transformations might be born.

Be Reconciled to One Another

"Hands across the divide statues - Derry' reconciliation monument" by FABIO CASADEI  Some rights reserved
“Hands across the divide statues – Derry’ reconciliation monument” by FABIO CASADEI Some rights reserved Creative Commons License

In two separate entries for the definition of the word “reconciliation,” I think I see the seeds of one of the biggest issues facing American Christians today. There is an entry which says that reconciliation is the “restoration of friendly relations,” and the next entry says “reconciliation is the action of making one belief or view compatible with another.”

Interestingly, when looking up the word irreconcilable, I found a similar set of definitions, but in reverse order. The first entry says that irreconcilable indicates “ideas, facts, and beliefs representing findings or points of view that are so different from each other that they cannot be made compatible” while the second entry reads that irreconcilable, when used to describe relationships between people, means “implacably hostile to each other.”

As I read blog articles, eavesdrop on conversations in the diner, and engage in pretty intense one-on-one conversations with people about topics like abortion, contraception, sexuality, gender, war, gun control, foreign aid, environment, labor, or incarceration, what I find is people who have somehow made the two definitions of reconciliation (or irreconcilable) the same.

Yet one definition is a definition of subjects. It is a description of relationships between people: people who have successfully re-established friendliness, and people who cannot and will not decide to get along.

The other definition is a definition of objects. It is a description of relationships between things: ideas, beliefs, and facts. Some ideas can be made compatible with one another: I am a Christian and I am a United Methodist, for example. Other facts cannot be made compatible with one another: hot and cold, for example.

It seems, as I read, listen, argue, converse and engage, that we all too often fuse the two.  “I hold ideas or beliefs that cannot be reconciled (made compatible) with your ideas or beliefs, so that means you and I must be implacably hostile to one another.”  Or, more commonly, “Because you and I cannot find agreement on this issue, one of us has to leave, or both of us have to stop talking about these ideas and beliefs, and not just with one another, but at all.”

This confusion-that the full compatibility of ideas is necessary in order for our relationships to be friendly, for you and I to be reconciled to one another, is not only ridiculous, it is also dangerous.  What’s more, it casts doubt on Christ’s ability to have reconciled the world-because Christ’s primary work of reconciliation was a work of subjects: God with people, people with God, people with people, people with creation, creation with heaven, the living with the dead, men with women, Muslims with Christians, deviant with conformist.

In John Wesley’s sermon The Character of a Methodist he opens with this phrase: “The distinguishing marks of a Methodist are not his [sic] opinions of any sort.” The Methodist is “a Christian, not in name only, but in heart and in life. He [sic] is inwardly and outwardly conformed to the will of God, as revealed in the written word. He [sic] thinks, speaks, and lives, according to the method laid down in the revelation of Jesus Christ. His [sic] soul is renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and in all true holiness. And having the mind that was in Christ, he [sic] so walks as Christ also walked.”

Apostle Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.

 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As we humans continue to argue the compatibility of ideas, beliefs and facts, I think it is imperative that we Christians live seriously into this other ministry with which we have been entrusted: the ministry of restoring  friendly relationships between all God’s children on this Earth.

Creative Commons License [Some Rights Reserved] © Copyright Roger Davies and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License:
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

 

 

 

On Earth As It Is in Heaven

250px-The_Civil_Rights_Memorial,_Montgomery,_ALI was recently asked, “What on earth or in heaven does ‘Climate Justice’ have to do with winning souls for Christ?”

This question has been sticking with me, mostly because the connection seems obvious to me yet clearly was not to the person who asked. I think the question also points to some of the other responses that come my way: suggestions that advocacy, mission, social witness, and civic activism are politically motivated rather than that they are rooted in a commission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

In searching for a response to this question, I googled social justice and evangelism to see what other people had to offer. There are a lot of perspectives out there, and a great deal of intellectual and theological debate. Not surprisingly, most of the articles I found suggest that social justice and evangelism are either/or forms of discipleship, and that to be for one kind of discipleship is to be against the other. But I think that assumption is a false one.

Maybe, then, I  need to turn the original question on its side. Maybe it is not so much a “what” question, as it is a “how” question. So how do I answer Jesus’ command to go and make disciples, and why does writing about [Climate] Justice matter?

My first motivation to do as Jesus asks is that I love God. That love was born at the bottom of a hill in my home town, from a completely irrational and altogether mind-shattering revelation of God’s prevenient grace. Even before I knew God, I heard the call to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. That call has only gotten stronger and more life-giving as I have pursued Christ.

As I look at the world I live in, I see not only that there are  poor, imprisoned, blind and oppressed souls that have not yet heard the good news, but also that  there are pervasive diseases and afflictions that continue to impoverish, torture, maim, and burden human beings and beloved creatures all across the planet.  Diseases and afflictions, evils, injustices and oppression, which would make a liar of God and a mockery of salvation.  So, while it is true that Jesus tells us to go and baptize, he also gives us power and authority to heal every kind of disease and illness.

That is why, for me, the commission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is a call to systemic, social transformation, “to build a world where love can grow and hope can enter in,” as one of my favorite songs puts it. [Welcome (Let’s Walk Together)]

And I do not think we are left alone to do this. The Holy Spirit and God’s grace not only make us right for this work, but also make us holy to do it. And by actually living into Christ’s call on our souls-a plea to go to the prisoners, the sick and dying, the broken and demon-ridden among us and to love neighbors, strangers, enemies, and creation itself so much that we would give our only child simply to set it right-we might actually see the Reign of God.

So, to offer an answer to the question as to what on earth or in heaven  ‘Climate Justice’ has to do with winning souls for Christ, I want to answer that for myself, I see the connection most strongly every time I pray the prayer we have been taught:

Our Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

B & A

Among the many assets the United Methodist Church has are a number of what we like to call Boards and Agencies. Yet, often, the conversation is not one about how the Boards and Agencies are assets, but how they are unnecessary baggage.

Image

I think one of the ways we can turn that perception is to stop thinking that our Boards and Agencies are objects, and start acknowledging that they are actually groups of people.  They are laypersons and clergy.  They are, for the most part, volunteers, and they are fellow United Methodists. They are nominated to serve out of every district in the state, and they come with a variety of gifts and passions. They step up and give from their own unique faith journeys, and they act out of their own expressions of the deep love they have for God, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, the church, humanity, and the world.

This weekend, I had the opportunity to spend time with one of those groups of people: the Iowa Board of Church and Society. This group of people has been asked by you and me, members of the Iowa Annual Conference, to hold us accountable to the resolutions we pass at Annual Conference.They are also responsible to help educate, support and develop United Methodist ministries and disciples through the lens of the United Methodist Social Principles.

Their names are Brian Carter, Cherie Miner, Jim Posz, Taylor Gould, Mark Young, Paul Linn, Sarah Rohret, and Jane Edwards. They are a small, but dedicated group of folks and bring diverse skills to their work. Here are a few of the skills they bring:

  • freelance writer
  • school board member
  • church trustee
  • clinical psychologist
  • seminary degrees
  • Mobile United Methodist Missionaries director
  • artist
  • former Peace Corps volunteer
  • international education services program coordination, Iowa State University
  • years of cumulative parish ministry experience in Iowa
  • years of peace advocacy
  • University student heading into seminary
  • social media marketing
  • minor graphic arts design
  • teaching
  • facilitating
  • ability to build agendas
  • team coordination
  • blogging
  • local political organizing
  • news journalism
  • preaching
  • certification as a lay minister
  • grant writing

I think I am going to stop there, not because I have run out of skills, but because I have not scratched the surface; and aside from the people resources,the Board also stewards money which is given out in grants and scholarships to fund, support, educate and develop ministries rooted in the Social Principles, or targeted toward meeting the goals our Conference sets via its resolutions.

This group is one of several groups of volunteers who do their best to grow our connection-to provide support, companionship, direction and aid when it comes to pursuing the ministries and spiritual goals which we have set for ourselves.

As you start looking at the ministries of social transformation which are calling you out of your pews, I hope you will keep in mind this rich resource, this dedicated team of people who are no farther away than an email or phone call; and if you have gifts, skills and passions which align with theirs, I hope you would consider offering yourself to work with them at the local, district or conference level.

Of Love Feasts and Resurrection

Last Tuesday, I visited a bible study at Plymouth First UMC in Plymouth, Iowa.  It was dark by the time, I arrived, and I could barely see the little United Methodist Church sign with its arrow assuring me that, yes, my directions did say to take a right two blocks north of the stop sign.  I drove up to a large, rectangular brick building on a quiet, dark street corner.

I could see lights on in the basement of the church, and I knew I was going to be meeting people downstairs, so I felt confident I had found the right place.  There was caution tape and recent excavation telling me that the church is undergoing some sort of improvement.  Before I had gotten around the corner, a man in a Mustang rolled down his window and said, “Colleen.”  I had just met Jerry Avise-Rouse, pastor of the Shell Rock Valley Parish. Plymouth First UMC is one of the four churches he serves in the parish.

We walked in to the church together, but I entered the fellowship hall alone.  There were 8 people seated at a round table in the middle of the room.  As I came in, someone caught my eye, and I was invited over.  The group broke open, grabbed a chair, and made room for me.  It was done with such ease,  I assumed they were expecting me.  As I sat down, the woman to my left introduced herself and the naming worked its way clockwise around the table.

Meanwhile, there was a bustle of activity in the kitchen as the group welcomed Jerry, refilled coffee cups, made sure everyone was comfortable and continued with catching up on the events of their lives since Sunday.  I was at the church’s weekly Bible Study.  Suddenly, Bibles came out of bags, flew open on the table, the attention of the group turned to Jerry and it became clear that the time had come to get to the business of studying Scripture.  And that was when I discovered that the group had not been expecting me at all.  Pastor Avise-Rouse said something to the effect: “You can listen to me ramble on about Isaiah, or you could listen to what Colleen McRoberts, the Leadership Development Minister of Social Justice and Mission, has to say.”

And, all eyes in the room were on me.  Luckily, the group had already made me feel like I was one of them, so I jumped right in.  “Tell me about justice and mission,” I said.  They did.

Ingathering, Hawkeye Harvest Food Pantry, service at the North Iowa Community Kitchen, visits to the ill and isolated with Communion and devotions, the planting of a community garden with produce being given to those without food, and being sold to those with a little bit of extra cash to help raise funds for mission trips.

Sock It to You Sunday, where socks gathered for the Salvation Army are launched at the pastor as part of worship, bell ringing for the Salvation Army, and the Soup Supper Auction held on the first Sunday of December.  Mission trips to Women at the Well UMC and Minot, North Dakota, Christmas Eve in the Barn, and this year’s first time attempt at a community-wide Thanksgiving Dinner.

They said some of this ministry got started after a group study of the book Simple Abundance.

thanksgiving 011

Jerry shared that after first arriving at Plymouth UMC, he and Wendy (Wendy Johannesen, Associate Pastor of the Shell Rock Valley Parish) heard the mantra “We are dying!” so much, they decided to preach about it.  They launched a series of sermons: “So you’re dying.  Now what?”

A woman named Deb said, “This is what changed us from the dying to the living: there is a positive support group.There used to be a negative support group.  Now there is a positive support group.”

The members started sharing stories about how isolated and small they felt while they continued to worship in the upstairs Sanctuary.  They were afraid to try too much change because people had left the church when the pews were shifted so that they faced inward and people could see one another’s faces.  Now, the church meets in the Fellowship Hall every Sunday, around tables like the one we were seated around that night.

Something that was done out of necessity in the winter months to keep heating bills manageable has become the way that Plymouth First UMC worships.  Apparently, the fellowship goodies are set up before church starts and people eat before, during, and after worship.  There was lots of laughter and teasing back and forth about the noisy, clamorous, extended fellowship time that has become worship.  Perhaps seeing the questions in my eyes, I was assured that when people got up for coffee during “the sermon” that the atmosphere is actually quite subdued and respectful.

“So, weekly worship here is something like a Love Feast, then? “ I ventured.  There were nods and smiles all around.

Occasionally, the pianist, a Seventh Day Adventist, cannot make it to lead music, so the church is learning how to sing songs unaccompanied.  There is no elevator to the fellowship hall, so they are limited as to who can come, but they have decided that they are not going to spend their “dying” breaths trying to get an old building up to code. Instead, they wear t-shirts which say “The church has left the building,” as they place flyers inviting people to the community-wide Thanksgiving dinner in doorjambs around Plymouth.
Plymouth, Iowa
“Obviously, you see a need for food in your community.  What drives that need?”  I asked.

“Inequity.” “Transportation.” “Quality employment.” “Childcare.” “Being a bedroom community.”

ME: “What are the barriers, for the church, and for the wider community, to really addressing some of these larger issues?”

-We don’t know people because they work and play elsewhere.  They only come to Plymouth to sleep.  You don’t even see children playing or adults out working on their yards during the day.

-Labeling and Association (people have reputations to protect)

-Apathy

-Reprisals: local employers will push back on people who “make noise.”

-What difference can I make?  It is too big.

-Too many different issues in the United Methodist Church.  I wish we could all get behind something together.

ME: “How do the mission trips and ministries you have all shared connect to your faith?”

-Taking action helps strengthen faith when talking about it gets one down.

-Real connection to one another  is built around projects and trips together.

I wish I could share the laughter and play that were alive in that room.  By the end of the evening, there were about 12 of us around the table.  The conversation had moved from the ministries the church was doing to ministries it was thinking about beginning, as people discussed the closing of local restaurants, schools,and post offices.  How they could fill the gaps by providing breakfast one Saturday a month or by opening a local restaurant of their own.  One woman shared that they just try things, and if they don’t work, that’s OK.  They will just try something different.  They “fail forward,” and they are loving it.

Plymouth First United Methodist Church has a weekly attendance around 23 people, and they would love it if you would stop by some Sunday morning.  I guarantee that if you do so, you won’t feel like a stranger or an alien.  You will feel like a long-time friend.