Posts Tagged ‘community’

 

 

People have different ways of approaching reality. Some are analytical, reasoned, logical, etc. That’s not me. Not that I can’t be analytical, reasoned and logical. But those are deliberate disciplines that I practice; in contrast to my instinctive way of approaching the world which is through my feelings. I’m just a feeling kind of person.

Maybe too much sometimes. When people talk about having certain spiritual gifts I always say I have the spiritual gift of weeping – I cry at weddings and baptisms and movies. I can’t sing Charles Wesley’s And Can It Be without getting choked up. There’s just something about the words, “Amazing love! How can it be, that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” I’m not a very good singer, but I love to belt those words out. And then toward the end of the song when it says, “My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee.” I usually have to keep myself from jumping up and down during that verse.

Jumping up and down to Charles Wesley – go figure.

Not surprisingly, I resonate with Scriptures like Paul’s word in Romans 8 that God’s Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children; and with John Wesley’s experience of having his heart “strangely warmed.” That kind of gut oriented experience of the faith is foundational for me.

So one of the most disorienting moments of my ministry happened when I was approached by a young woman toward the end of a weekend of preaching who earnestly asked how she could really know that God loved her if she couldn’t feel it.

This was a Cornerstone Celebration weekend so she had heard me preach three times already and had been involved in my three-hour teaching session on sharing our faith. Now it was about 5 minutes before the last service was to start and she was desperate to know if what I’d been talking about all weekend long was really true.

Was it really true that God loved her enough to become human in Jesus; was it really true that God’s love for her was radical enough to involve passionate sacrifice. She was sure it was true for everyone else since they could feel it; but it couldn’t possibly be true for her because she couldn’t.

You’ve probably already guessed that I was getting all misty as my mind raced, searching for some way to respond. She continued that it wasn’t just about feeling God’s love. She couldn’t feel anything. Things had happened in her past and she had dealt with them by repressing, pushing down and blocking out any and all feeling within her. I have no feelings, she said and as I looked into her eyes, I believed her.

How is it that we come to know God’s love? Is it only when we feel God’s Spirit “bearing witness” with our spirit? Is it only when our hearts are “strangely warmed?” Is there more to it than that? If we’re not a “feeling kind of person,” does God not work in us and through us anyway?

I was really struggling as the woman patiently waited for my response. My heart was breaking and I was petrified that somehow I would compound her pain. That in my bumbling I would somehow contribute to her certainty that God couldn’t possibly love her since she wasn’t able to feel it.

Way back in the mid-400′s Patrick began preaching in Ireland. He traveled from settlement to settlement, staying with the people, loving them and working among them. Through his ministry, monastic communities sprang up. These communities were different from what we normally think of when we think of monastic communities where monks separated themselves from the rest of society for a life of solitude and prayer. These were communities of committed Christ followers who lived and worked together, sharing resources, love and life together. There were men and women, adults and kids; some were single, some were married, some had families – some were priests but most weren’t, and they were all together in community.

One of the things that made these communities so cool was the way they treated outsiders. There was always a gatekeeper – not to keep anybody out – but to be on duty all the time so that anyone who wanted to come in could come in – no matter what time of the day or night it was. If you visited the community the gate keeper would welcome you first and then call everyone to come greet you. The abbot or abbess (head of the community) would immediately come out to make sure you felt at home. It wouldn’t matter what people were doing, they would stop because making guests feel welcome was more important than anything else. Then they’d show you to the guest house – the best accommodations in the whole place. When it was time to eat, you’d eat at the head table with the abbot/abbess. It would be clear that you could stay as long as you wanted, but you were also free to leave at any time. You could eat with the community, work with the community, worship with the community – always welcome to share in everything about the community. If you stayed for a while they’d assign you a ‘soul friend’ to talk to – no agenda – just about whatever was on your mind. Eventually, if you continued to stay they’d talk to you about God’s love and offer you the opportunity to become more than a guest.

It was a slow process of revealing God’s love; a process that started with the concept of belonging and acceptance and moved only gradually toward commitment. It was a process that took time because it was about providing evidence of God’s love. Not evidence in the form of skilled argument or tight logic; not even the evidence of any specific feeling even though that was probably part of it for most people. It was the evidence of action – consistent actions of love, continued day in and day out – actions that made God’s love visible and tangible and real through the welcoming, caring, support and nurture of people. Evidence through action that people have value simply because they are.

The minutes were passing faster than I wanted them to. I could tell the worship leaders were ready to get started but couldn’t since the woman and I were standing front and center in the sanctuary. I asked her why she came to this particular church. She said that the people were kind to her and took her in when she returned to town after a long absence. In the few years since she’d been back, they’d consistently helped her and her children. Over and over they had been there for her even in really difficult times. It was kind of like they had made space – just for her.

That’s how you know.

Vital: Churches Changing Communities and the World

 

Jorge Acevedo

 

Lead Pastor ~ Grace Church in Southwest Florida

 

A Seminar for Laity and Clergy

 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Mt. Comfort United Methodist Church

3179 North 600 West (Mt. Comfort Rd) ~ Greenfield, IN 46140 ~ 317.894.8965

1/2 mile north of I-70 (Exit 96) on Mt. Comfort Road (600W) 

 

Jorge Acevedo

Jorge Acevedo

Have you heard of Jorge Acevedo? His multi-cultural, multi-site, mega-church in southwest Florida has done what the United Methodist Church has struggled to do: reach people. His book, Vital, was a suggested text before the 2012 General Conference, and is a pretty good read.

In just a couple of weeks, he’ll be coming to Indiana to lead a day-long seminar you don’t want to miss! The location is Mt. Comfort UMC, which is near Indianapolis.

The event is sponsored by the Indiana Conference Confessing Movement. For details and registration information, click here.

 

There are a lot of challenging things happening in the UMC right now; but there remains one thing I believe we can still all agree on – the importance of reaching out to others with the love of Jesus Christ. That’s exactly what Jorge Acevedo is doing in Southwest Florida. If you’re anywhere close, I hope you’ll make an effort to attend.

 

 

 

Register Now for LCI 2013!

 

Calling all clergy, church staff and lay leaders! Ready to set your congregation on fire for God? Register now for “Ignite: Growing Disciples to Transform the World,” the 2013 Large Church Initiative of the United Methodist Church.

LCI 2013 will feature more than 50 workshops on growing disciples focused on:

    • Stewardship
    • Congregational Care
    • Education
    • Children
    • Youth
    • Serving
    • Worship
    • Communications

 … and more.

 

Hosted by Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa, FL

April 22-24

 

Early bird registration rates and workshop selections are now available!

Registration Fee

On or Before Feb. 1, 2013 – Early Bird Rate

$299 individual

$279 group (four or more people)

After Feb. 1, 2013

$349 individual

$329 group (four or more people)

 Register online at www.lci2013.com

 

MLM-splash-3

Making Life Matter

 

Making Life Matter is a weekly 30 minute Christian inspirational and teaching program hosted by Maxie Dunnam and Shane Stanford. Next Step partners with Kingdom Catalysts to bring you MLM, which tackles issues of faith and life to deepen discipleship and encourage strong connections between following Jesus and living in today’s world. Mark your calendars to visit Next Step and listen regularly. Click below to hear today’s program.

 

MLM-splash-3

Making Life Matter

Making Life Matter is a weekly 30 minute Christian inspirational and teaching program hosted by Maxie Dunnam and Shane Stanford. Next Step partners with Kingdom Catalysts to bring you MLM, which tackles issues of faith and life in order to deepen discipleship and encourage strong connections between following Jesus and living in today’s world. Mark your calendars to visit Next Step and listen regularly. Click below to hear today’s program.

 

 

 

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

An Unbroken Line

In May I traveled to Durham, England to defend my thesis for my PhD, what the British call a ‘viva.’ It was a nerve-wracking several hours spent fielding what seemed like endless questions from two examiners and a (basically) silent moderator. Neither of them had ever seen my work before and my supervisor, David Wilkinson, was not allowed to be present. Quite a solitary experience, but at the same time, in an intriguing kind of way, not.

Immediately before the time of reckoning, David and I shared a coffee and then

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

headed over to the Cathedral for a short time of quiet and prayer. As we sat in that amazing environment, David began casually, but eloquently, to remind me of the history of Durham University.

Venerable Bede

The Venerable Bede

Durham has been a seat of learning for over 1000 years beginning with the Venerable Bede, whose shrine was right behind us as we sat. The tradition of scholarship has continued in an unbroken line ever since, with each new scholar meeting with more experienced scholars to discuss their work. Even though he knew I was nervous and just a bit intimidated by the process, David emphasized that I should enjoy the viva, recognizing that what I was going to experience was much bigger than my thesis. The viva, as stressful as it may feel, was the entrance into a long tradition of scholarship, the doorway into a community stretching back over 1000 years.

After a brief time of prayer, we parted ways and I walked to Abbey House to meet my examiners. During the hours that followed, though I knew it was up to me alone to defend my work, I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t such a solitary experience. Even more to my surprise was the realization, about midway through, that I was actually enjoying myself; it was invigorating.

The memory of that experience, and more specifically of my conversation with David beforehand, has returned to me frequently as I reflect on the difficulties facing the United Methodist Church. As Methodist Christians, we draw upon the insights of John Wesley (and Charles too), which is a wonderful thing. But that’s not who we follow. We follow Jesus Christ. Our tradition didn’t begin in the 18th century; it began in the first. Our creed isn’t the misnamed ‘Wesleyan Quadrilateral,’ it’s the Nicene.

Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

Just as my viva experience was bigger than my own thesis, we Methodist Christians are part of something much larger than our own history, much more foundational than any structure we might devise for our denomination, and deeper, more steadfast and enduring than any passing cultural norm could ever be. We are part of a magnificent Christian tapestry, woven from the threads of Scripture and a tradition stretching back over 2000 years. Our Methodist strands augment that tapestry, but not in the sense of adding something new or different. Those threads augment the tapestry by adding complementary colors to the already existing pattern. Some people describe it as following Jesus in the spirit of the Wesleys. In my family we call it being a Christian with a Wesleyan accent.

I have no doubt that as people who follow Jesus in the spirit of the Wesleys, we will survive our current challenges. But it will not be because we have created something new, but because we have rediscovered the rich tapestry of Christian faith that is richer and more vibrant than our few threads alone.

 

MLM-splash-3

Making Life Matter

 

Making Life Matter is a weekly 30 minute Christian inspirational and teaching program hosted by Maxie Dunnam and Shane Stanford. Next Step partners with Kingdom Catalysts to bring you MLM, which tackles issues of faith and life in order to deepen discipleship and encourage strong connections between following Jesus and living in today’s world. Mark your calendars to visit Next Step and listen regularly. Click below to hear today’s program.

 

The View from Here

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012 | By Joy Moore
Filed in: Joy Moore, The View from Here

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GC 2012 Has a long way to goJoy Moore

The opportunity to gather every four years with those who fellowship as United Methodists is a great privilege. I am reminded of our vibrant connectionalism as I reconnect with friends and colleagues I have met over the past years at various denominational events. During the morning break, I was able to greet again Bishop Judith Craig, who ordained me in the West Michigan Conference in 1991. The day before I saw one of my former students and learned he has been appointed to be a superintendent. My current students have been surprised to see former pastors from their Field Education placements, or international delegates they met on mission opportunities. It doesn’t take long to meet many within the Methodist family, and the reunion is a glimpse of the reconciliation Jesus offers us.

The opening service of worship illuminated our diversity through its style, participation, and language. From the opening hymn written by Charles Wesley, to new choruses written especially for this gathering, our music ranges from traditional to contemporary. Whether drawn together by a Native American ritual or an African drum, the sounds of United Methodism move across time and continent.

Nevertheless, we still have a long way to go to demonstrate to the world how we love one another. Immediately after Bishop Larry Goodpastor’s sermon about following Jesus, the voting members of General Conference, in tweaking and failed votes to adopt the Rules of Order for these proceedings, exposed our deep mistrust and misgivings about how we will work together. Much of our deliberations quickly move to debate.

So much of the activity at General Conference is reworking, rewriting, and restating the language exchanged among and by United Methodists. As careful as we are to set the rules, we seem careless in our willingness to follow the guidelines once they exist. This is evident in more than ordering our process. The extravagant worship experience bears little resemblance to a service moving from gathering the dispersed members of our community together into the presence of the God who scatters us in service. Very few of our words serve as a reminder of our shared heritage as the people of the God revealed in Jesus Christ empowered by the Spirit. Very little of the time set aside for corporate worship of God, rehearses the story of God’s faithful activity to reconcile the world as demonstrated in the life and ministry of Jesus. Mirroring the culture at large, the service highlights our race, gender, age, ethnicity and culture. We are indeed a diverse assembly. But what is it we share that testifies to our unity, saying the Lord’s prayer notwithstanding.

Unlike the multinational multicultural gathering described as Pentecost in Christian Scripture, our diverse tongues fail to declare the works of God. We express pain, brokenness, and desire. We pledge to be different, we long to be better, but God rarely gets a sentence with a strong verb describing divine justice reconciling the world. If God shows up at all in our litany of prayers and songs, rarely is there a rehearsal of God’s action in a dramatic way that would cause someone to pause in reverence and gratitude. The biblical narrative is insignificant; ancient Israel absent; our hope in what God is doing in Christ to reconcile the world abandoned for Pelagian promises.

Evidently designed by committee, the ordering of worship has the feel of hearing an iPod playlist randomly shuffle from Bach to Beyonce by way of a Burger King commercial. While our efforts to include as many cultural and ethnic expressions is admirable, what is extraordinary about gathering as a community is the common unity of a shared testimony. Our shared testimony seems to be a litany of lament and longing . Where is the Christian witness to the Triune God that testifies to a hope that God transforms us and the world? Where is the testimony to the presence of God’s reconciling power that convinces a watching world that said God still intends justice and truth to prevail? Where is the good news that God’s faithful activity in the world is trust-worthy because of what God has done in the past?

We know so little of the biblical witness to God, most do not recognize that this testimony is even absent in our worship. We speak of the effects of encountering God rather than of God reconciling creation. We ignore the words of Scripture which challenge the people of faith to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly before God. God is not sought for being God, but for what we demand be done in the name of God.

In these quadrennial gatherings, much is revealed in the ways we worship. Our words name who and what is important for us; what drives our lives; what we seek and long for. Would that first we humbly seek God. If we believe Jesus promise to be with us always, maybe we can trust the Holy Spirit continues to sustain even the United Methodist Church. That would be a first step toward transformation in the world. Then all these other things will be added. Written by Joy Moore

UMC General Conference website

 

Matrix Mentor, Maxie D. Dunnam

Maxie D. Dunnam - Kingdom Catalysts

A while back I visited the Lewis Grizzard museum in Moreland, Georgia. Lewis died in 1994, and I miss him. He was a writer and humorist. He communicated helpful wisdom with humor and a proud redneck.

He also wrote books. One of his book titles says a lot about him: IF LOVE WERE OIL, I’D BE A QUART LOW.

That’s our problem, isn’t it? As individuals and in our community life. We are a couple of quarts low of the oil of love.

Every great religion teaches it. Love is our deepest human need. Love begets compassion. Compassion acted out is essential for healthy living.

Love is essential for reconciliation. Reconciliation is essential for community. Creating and claiming community is the core need of every city. I live in Memphis. There’s plenty of love in here. We simply need to find ways to express it. I imagine that’s true of where you live too. How are you expressing love in your community? How might you better express it? Find those ways and claim this word of HOPE.

 

 

PostSecret Monday

 

There’s been discussion recently in the blogosphere about why young adults are exiting the church. That discussion came to my mind yesterday during my Sunday ritual of reading PostSecret. Of all people, Christians should understand what it means to be in community. Having a sense of belongingness, realizing that you are of immense value, being supported, empowered and strengthened. All of those things and more are part of the fabric of the community of faith. But could it be that there are places and times where we’re no longer consistently embodying those simple characteristics? Could it be that there’s a disconnect with our DNA and young adults (and people of all generations really) are noticing?

 

PostSecret survivor

www.postsecret.com

Hey Frank,

 It’s days like today that I sincerely miss the PostSecret App. Early on I posted a secret about being scared to go to court and received nothing but inspirational and encouraging words from the other users.

Then I posted the secret above and again, I received all encouraging and inspirational words, and I wanted to thank you for giving me a sense of strength and sense of being to know I am not alone, and even if they are strangers, they believe in me, which made me believe in me.

I am currently awaiting the second part of trial, and have no doubt in my mind that I’m going to go in there with this strength and the spirit of the PostSecret community within me. I want to thank you for bringing this to me and am sorry that others had to ruin such a beautiful thing.

 

That’s a great description of community – having ‘the spirit of the PostSecret community within me.’ How is that working out in your community? Are you and your church in touch with your ‘communal DNA’? What kind of inspirational and encouraging words are you offering to others – even strangers? How are you contributing to someone’s sense of strength and knowledge that they aren’t alone? What’s actually happening in the lives of the people in your community (not just your church)? What’s your next step?

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