Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pentecost Celebration - Sunday, May 24 - One Service at 10am



Dear Friends,

Pentecost is one of the most important events in the life of the church, and Metropolitan has a rich history of observing Pentecost with a wonderful celebration. I want to encourage you all to be with us on May 24 – this Sunday -- at 10am as we worship and picnic together at our Wesley UMC site (5312 Connecticut Avenue, NW). I hope that you will be there not just because it will be great fun (it doesn’t get much better than grilled burgers and a United Methodist pot luck!), but because it is an important way that we build our Metropolitan community. 

Having our celebration at our Wesley site has special significance this year. When we set our church goals at the all-church retreat in February, one of the three goals was to “complete the process of unifying the congregation as a multisite church.” A key way we do that is by building community, and breaking bread around a Communion table and breaking bread around a picnic table are powerful ways that we will build and strengthen our three-site Metropolitan community of faith.
So, bring a salad to share, wear red, and come ready to praise God in worship and enjoy a time of fellowship. 
Remember:  May 24, one service at 10am, at Metropolitan’s Wesley UMC (5312 Connecticut Avenue NW).

Blessings,
Charlie Parker
Senior Pastor

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Pentecost 2015

Lord, make us one with you, one with one another, 
and one in ministry to all the world.

This year two of our three church goals are oriented toward building unity, internally within our multi-site, multi-ethnic parish, and externally in terms of partnerships that address the social inequalities in our city and foster sustainability and reconciliation. In light of this, Judy Edstrom, Patrick Landau, David Hackney, Pam Rogers, and Pastor Kate Payton, traveled to Memphis, TN for a multi-ethnic church conference.

We came back to riots in Baltimore. The 6 miles between Roland Park and Hollins Market in Baltimore come with a difference of 20 years in life expectancy, a household income difference of $67,000, and in Baltimore black infants are almost 9 times more likely to die before age 1 than white infants. In DC, there are unemployment rates that differ by 11.1% east and west of the river. Intentionally or not, we are a part of systems of injustice and inequality.

Dr. Michael Emerson, a leading scholar on race and religion with books United by Faith, Divided by Faith, Against All Odds, shared some of his statistical findings at the conference. In 1998, 7% of churches in the US were multi-ethnic, meaning there was at least 20% of one ethnic group in the community as that is the tipping point of moving from tokenism to inclusion in power structures. Upon further research, he and his team found that churches were on average 10 times more segregated than their communities, and 20 times more segregated than the public schools.1
What does this kind of segregation do? It reproduces inequality. Think of how as the church we care for one another—helping each other find jobs, for instance—yet some communities have access to a history of wealth slanted in their direction and others do not. Yet—thanks be to God—the opposite is also true. Multi-ethnic churches in simply being the church and caring for one another across boundaries of race and ethnicity can reduce inequality in our cities.

In the months ahead we will be initiating studies to bring awareness to our own bias, dinner gatherings, times of prayerful listening, and joint service projects as a way to intentionally build unity within our own multi-site, multi-ethnic parish and within our city. If you are interested in learning more or participating in/leading this work, please see Pastors Kate Payton or Dottie Yunger.

For all of us, on Sunday May 24th at 10am, we will be celebrating Pentecost in a joint service at Wesley. We will celebrate the miracle of Pentecost that did not have the crowds all understanding the language of the disciples but the disciples speaking in the many languages of the crowds. As the body of Christ, we will celebrate in worship and in communion the unity of our diversity, committing ourselves to our common baptism and common call to live the future reality of the kingdom of God here and now. It is a journey of not only sharing our story but hearing others, partnering with one another, fostering equality, and altering racial attitudes. Just as the early church overcame the divisions of Jew and Gentile, so may we re-build our cities and communities so that racism does not undo the equality, love, freedom, mutual submission, and radical grace of the gospel.

1 Diamond, D. (2015, April 28). Why Baltimore Burned. Retrieved May 6, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2015/04/28/why-baltimore-burned

Metro House Summer Residence Program for Women

Following a successful pilot last summer, Metropolitan House will provide up to four women a residence beginning late May through mid-September. Partnering with Friendship Place and AimHire who will identify candidates and oversee residents’ needs and services, Metro House will target individuals who are likely to have the ability to move to independent housing after their summer stay. Unlike the winter program that provides access during the hours from 7 pm to 7 am, the summer program will offer 24-hour residency. Residents will be free to come and go during the day, and will be responsible for their own meals and other living needs.

Several candidates have already been identified. These are women who are currently working or close to finding employment, for whom a few months of Metro House residence will permit them to attain some stability and build resources to become independent.

Metro House is excited to be able to use our facilities year around and to offer this program to a new segment of the homeless community, for whom transition to housing stability will contribute to the vibrancy of our city.

Postscript on one of Metro House 2014-2015 residents: Many of you will remember Ibrahim, a sight-impaired gentleman who resided at Metro House and who regularly attended both Sunday services this past winter. Ibrahim had been scheduled for cataract surgery during his Metro House stay, but it had to be postponed pending stabilization of some other health indicators. Ibrahim is now under the care of Christ House; they will be working with him in the hope of getting these stabilized and finding a longer-term residency plan for him.

Learn more about Metropolitan House and how you can get involved in all of our service projects here.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Ministries for Life Transitions



Life transitions are inevitable; everyone goes through them. They can function as an equalizer across races, classes, nationalities and other divisions. People can be at their most vulnerable and confused when they go through transitions. Loneliness, a sense of isolation, and vulnerability are common. However, people bond strongly when support is offered. - See more at: http://www.nationalchurch.org/Caring/Ministries_for_Life_Transitions#sthash.O80ruvTN.dpuf

Life transitions are inevitable; everyone goes through them. They can function as an equalizer across races, classes, nationalities and other divisions. People can be at their most vulnerable and confused when they go through transitions. Loneliness, a sense of isolation, and vulnerability are common. However, people bond strongly when support is offered. That is what our Ministries for Life Transitions groups are all about. Below is a testimony from William A. Holmes discussing his recent transition to Homewood. Lear more about our Ministries for Life Transitions here. 

“Community” at Homewood 
I thought I knew what the word “community” meant until I was in one.
 
Six months ago, my wife, Nancy, and I moved to Homewood, a retirement facility in Frederick Maryland founded and supported by the United Church of Christ – a home which provides life-time care for approximately 400 residents. A recent article in the November 26 issue of the Christian Century, entitled “Bonds of Affection,” gave a new perspective to what we’ve been experiencing since arriving.

The article, by Scott Bader-Saye, refers frequently to C. S. Lewis’ thoughtful study, The Four Loves, where Lewis parses varieties of love by exploring four Greek terms: eros, philia, agape, and storge. Most of us are familiar with the first three expressions depicting love as desire, friendship and gift.  But what of storge? I learned it is the Greek equivalent of  “affection.”, and although not as robust or as intense as the other three expressions, it is storge, or “affection,” which the author finds especially suited to community.

For instance, affection can grow readily in short conversations and shared routines. Of all the loves, it is the most linked to place – arising among those who find themselves sharing a common life not because they have chosen one another but because they find themselves thrown together. Lewis observes that affection is “the least discriminating of loves....Almost anyone can become an object of Affection....There need be no apparent fitness between those whom it unites.”

Furthermore, affection makes possible the largest number of interactions with the most people. As Aristotle observed, it is hard to have to many true friends. It’s just not likely we will find a large number of people with whom we share a great deal, even if we had the time to develop myriads of such friendships. It is affection which makes possible a wide swath of contacts with people whom we can know on a less personal, less intimate basis – persons who can still be the occasion of our appreciation.

One of the less obvious gifts of affection is its tolerance for people who rub us the wrong way. Whether we are attracted to a person or offended by them is really beside the point if, over time, circumstances require our interaction. The author of the article writes: “Gathering becomes the critical practice through which one learns to love those we thought we couldn’t love, those who are not like us, those who will never be more than acquaintances.”

Where do I find such community at Homewood? I was in it the day I arrived, and I’ve been a contributor to it ever since. Community happens every time we go to the Dining Room and visit with whomever may join us at our table. It’s in the Exercise Room where people are working out on a variety of machines, and where my wife and I attend several exercise classes. It’s on the Homewood bus we take to attend plays in Baltimore. It’s in the scores of volunteer opportunities which surround us, from pushing wheelchairs to assisting in the feeding of persons with dementia. Some of us are healthy and mobile, some of us use canes, walkers, rollaters or wheelchairs, and some of us are bedridden. Whether we play golf, bridge or dominos; find our selves with or without a spouse; hear readily the sounds around us or are “deaf as a post” – this is where life is for all who occupy this space.

The cultivation of our affection for one another only requires a serious commitment to presence. Toward the end of the article, the author observes: “Physical presence, bodily quirks, and simply brushing up against one another all contribute to affection. Affection grows from the soil of time and space, from commitment to place and community. Gathering becomes the critical practice through which one learns to love those we thought we couldn’t love, those who are not like us, those who will never be more than acquaintances.” 

Addendum 

To the above description of  “community,” I would further add the imperative of a “social conscience.”  I’m referring to an informed commitment to the “common good” and a sense of responsibility for the relief of human suffering and deprivation wherever they occur. I’m not proposing that we become advocates of a Utopian world, or that we feel obligated to address and solve all the problems of humankind. But our affection for each other as residents of Homewood, pleasant as it may be, isn’t the same as a caring advocacy for those in need outside our “circle.” We are not a “gated community.”

On the whole, we who are Homewood residents are a privileged people. Our retirement incomes are above average, and we pay for services and amenities many people cannot afford. What keeps us from becoming a parochial enclave is that, in addition to providing for fellow residents who have outlived their funds, most of us are involved in a variety of services addressing the needs of persons in the larger Frederick area, the nation and the world.

"Community,” in the deepest sense, is an affection which not only includes learning to care for persons with whom we share a local space, but also caring for persons with whom we share a common humanity. From the moment we are born, we are inextricably connected to those persons – here and everywhere.

May Homewood always be this kind of community. 

 - William A. Holmes

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

An Appeal for Baltimore



Dear Friends,

We have all been deeply shocked and saddened by events in Baltimore over the past several weeks, and by the violence and destruction of recent days.  United Methodists are people of care and action.  I have been in touch with Rev. Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, the District Superintendent of the Baltimore Metropolitan District, who oversees the churches at the heart of the areas affected by the riots.  In checking to see how we could be most helpful in tangible ways, she said that a critical need right now is for toiletries.  A CVS was burned to the ground and buses are not running for folks to get to other drug stores. 

So, beginning immediately, we are going to collect toiletries for people in Baltimore.  We will partner with a congregation in the heart of the riot area to distribute what we collect.  This is a tangible way that we can help our brothers and sisters in Baltimore whose everyday lives have been disrupted.  How can you help?  Bring toiletries of any kind to the church and put them in the collection bin in the foyer at Metropolitan or the back of the sanctuary at Wesley.  If you want to contribute funds, we have folks who will purchase supplies in bulk at Costco.  Please make your check out to Metropolitan Church and put Baltimore Aid in the memo line, and our Costco shoppers will turn your financial gifts into life-enhancing toiletries. 
 
Please give generously as we continue our efforts to build bridges between people and across our conference.  And please continue to hold the people of Baltimore in your thoughts and prayers.
 
Blessings, 
 

Charlie Parker
Senior Pastor

Statement from Bishop Marcus Matthews on a City in Crisis


Friends:

This morning, I prayed with all my soul at St. Nicholas Lutheran Church in Leipzig, Germany, founded in 1165. It breaks my heart that I am not home, near Baltimore. I am currently in Germany for the Council of Bishop's meeting. The images unfolding on social media and from the news media that have come out of Baltimore are nothing short of heart-breaking. I saw photos of young children throwing rocks at police officers, cars being set on fire, indiscriminate looting, and hatred and hopelessness being played out on the city streets.

I don't know how to respond. I do know my prayers are fervent, and reach into the core of my being.

I continue to call on the people of Baltimore and all United Methodists to stand up for the values that endow all of the city's residents with dignity, pride and wholeness. I know in my heart that justice will prevail. I also know in my heart that God watches over the Gray family, Baltimore's leaders and police, and all people trying to make sense of the death of Freddy Gray and the violence perpetrated by people taking selfish and senseless advantage of events that have unfolded in the city.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she will deploy every resource possible to ensure that Baltimore is not destroyed. As people of faith, we know one of our greatest resources is our belief in and reliance on God. Let us come together in prayer; let us come together in action; let us come together in unity to ensure that peace, justice and hope comes to and prevails in Baltimore.

In the United Methodist community, we often cite Jeremiah 29 in which God tells God's people to "seek the peace and prosperity of the city." In the wake of the riots in Baltimore, I would like you to re-look at these words and, with new eyes, claim God's promise: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

This is our intention for Baltimore. In this ancient church in Leipzig, I think of all the world has endured. This is an historic moment of recovery and of the creation of justice. Today, we are called to be the church, for one another and the community. May it be so.

Grace and Peace,

Bishop Marcus Matthews
Baltimore-Washington Conference

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Summer Time is Children’s Time

School’s out, but fun and learning don’t stop! Summertime is a wonderful time for children at Metropolitan. Check out these opportunities for children to learn and grow, and for adults to serve our children (and maybe learn and grow too!):

Summer Sundays of Service. Beginning May 31, our children will meet in the Vestry during the 10:10am - 11am study hour for a chance to live out their faith through service. Past service projects have included making meals for the shelter, preparing sandwiches for Grate Patrol, creating dog toys for the animal shelter, writing letters to the troops, and drawing birthday cards for Metropolitan’s birthday card ministry.

What this means for adults: Summer Sundays of Service are also a perfect chance for adults to volunteer with our kids. If you could offer one Sunday morning this summer, you would give our Sunday school teachers a much-needed vacation, show our children that the adults of this community love and support them, and get to spend time with some amazing, funny, caring kids. Volunteer to help online at nationalchurch.org/children_service or contact Rev. Janet Craswell.

Vacation Bible School: Splash! What could be more fun than a VBS camp all about water? Join us for Vacation Bible School as we “Splash in God’s Word” with faith-filled games, science activities, skits, stories, crafts, songs and more. This year, our VBS will meet July 13-17 from 9 am until noon.  All children from age 4 through rising 5th graders are welcome; students from grades 6 and up are welcome to participate as helpers. Many people have asked if their visiting grandchildren, neighbor children, and friends of children may participate. The answer is always YES! Just please register so we can plan properly. Registration for the morning VBS is $60.

This year we are also experimenting with an extended day program from noon to 3pm for a limited number of children (register early!). For the extended day option, learning and play related to the VBS theme of the day will continue. Children will bring their own lunch, watch a video related to the Splash program, do a service project at the church, and have free time for crafts and games. The extended day option is an additional $100 ($160 total). To register for VBS, go on-line to nationalchurch.org/vbs. You may also register for the extended day program at that address.

What this means for adults: Adults, we need your help to make VBS a success!  Whether your interest is science, food, art, drama, Bible, music, sports, decorating, or just helping out, we can use your talents. You do not need to volunteer the entire week (although if you want to, we won’t say no!); many people volunteer a single morning, and some work can be done before VBS begins or from home. To volunteer, contact Courtney Leatherman.

Don’t let the summer go by without participating in one of these wonderful opportunities for growth, service, learning and fun!

Blessings,
Rev. Janet Craswell

Monday, April 06, 2015

100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide - April 24, 1915 to April 24, 2015

by Joan Topalian
In 1915, leaders of the Turkish government set in motion a plan to expel and massacre Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. There were about 2 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at the time of the massacre. By the early 1920s, when the massacres and deportations finally ended, some 1.5 million of Turkey’s Armenians were dead, with many more forcibly removed from the country. Today, most historians call this event a genocide—a premeditated and systematic campaign to exterminate an entire people. However, the Turkish Government does not acknowledge the enormity or scope of these events (My mother was a survivor of the 1915 genocide living in Adana, Turkey with her mother).

The Armenian people have made their home in the Caucasus region of Eurasia for some 3,000 years. For some of that time, the Kingdom of Armenia was an independent entity—at the beginning of the 4th century ad, Armenia became the first nation in the world to make Christianity its official Religion. During the 15th century, Armenia was absorbed into the mighty Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman rulers, like most of their subjects, were Muslim. They permitted religious minorities like the Armenians to maintain some autonomy, but they also subjected Armenians, who they viewed as “infidels,” to unequal and unjust treatment. Christians had to pay higher taxes than Muslims, for example, and they had very few political and legal rights.

In spite of these obstacles, the Armenian community thrived under Ottoman rule. They tended to be better educated and wealthier than their Turkish neighbors, who in turn tended to resent their success. This resentment was compounded by suspicions that the Christian Armenians would be more loyal to Christian governments (that of the Russians, for example, who shared an unstable border with Turkey) than they were to the Ottoman Caliphate.

These suspicions grew more acute as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. At the end of the 19th Century, the despotic Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II –obsessed with loyalty above all, and infuriated by the nascent Armenian campaign to win basic civil rights—declared that he would solve the “Armenian Question” once and for all. “I will soon settle those Armenians. I will give them a box on the ear which will make them…Relinquish their revolutionary ambitions.”

Between 1894 and 1896, this “box on the ear” took the form of a state-sanctioned program. In response to large scale protests by Armenians, Turkish military officials, Soldiers and ordinary men sacked Armenian villages and cities and massacred their citizens. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were murdered.

In 1908, a new government came to power in Turkey. A group of reformers who called themselves the “Young Turks” overthrew Sultan Abdul Hamid and established a more modern constitutional government. According to them, non-Turks—and especially Christian non-Turks—were a grave threat to the new State.

In 1914, the Turks entered World War I on the side of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (at the same time, Ottoman religious authorities declared Jihad, or Holy War, against all Christians except their allies). Military leaders began to argue that the Armenians were traitors: If they thought they could win independence if the Allies were victorious, this argument went, the Armenians would be eager to fight for the enemy.

On April 24, 1915, the Armenian Genocide began. That day, the Turkish government arrested and executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals. After that, ordinary Armenians were turned out of their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water. Frequently, the marchers were stripped naked and forced to walk under the scorching sun until they dropped dead. People who stopped to rest were shot.

At the same time, the young Turks created a “special organization,” which in turn organized “killing squads” or “butcher battalions” to carry out “the liquidation of the Christian elements.” 
Records show that during this, “Turkification” campaign government squads also kidnapped children, converted them to Islam and gave them to Turkish families. In some places, they raped women and forced them to join Turkish “harems” or serve as slaves. Muslim families moved into the homes of deported Armenians and seized their property. 

In 1922, when the genocide was over, there were just 388,000 Armenians remaining in the Ottoman Empire.

After the Ottomans surrendered in 1918, the leaders of the young Turks fled to Germany, which promised not to prosecute them for the genocide. The Turkish government has denied that Genocide took place. Today, Turkey is an important ally of the US and other western nations, and so their governments have likewise been reluctant to condemn the long-ago killings. In March 2010, a US Congressional Panel at last voted to recognize the Genocide.

The American Ambassador, Henry Morganthau, Sr, was outspoken about what was happening during the genocide.  In his memoirs, the Ambassador would write: “When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact.” A telegram sent by Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr., to the State Department on 16 July 1915 describes the Massacres as a “Campaign of Race Extermination.”

We will remember the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide during the “Joys and Concerns” on Sunday, April 19, 2015.

Sources: 
Relatives
The New York Times “Armenian Genocide of 1915: An overview” by John Kifner
Armenian Genocide – Facts & Summary – History.com
Armenian Genocide – Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

Monday, March 23, 2015

Holy Week, Holy Time

As March draws to a close, so will our Lenten journey. We mark the end of Lent with Holy Week – the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.

Holy Week Worship Schedule

Holy Week is a beautiful time of mystery and awe. It is a time to relive the final moments of Christ’s human experience. Christmas is usually the time when we talk about incarnation – how God became human in Jesus Christ. But Christmas is just one bookend to the incarnation story. The other bookend is Holy Week. It isn’t something we just tolerate to get to the good stuff of Easter. Holy Week represents intentional time in our calendars to remember that God loves enough to live our lives, suffer our suffering, and die our death.

Palm Sunday marks Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, with the crowd waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna!” The entry into Jerusalem was a political act: the donkey contrasted with Roman chariots, but was also a symbol of the Davidic king prophesied in Zechariah 9. Palm branches were a traditional way of celebrating Judean kings, much like we wave American flags for our parades today. “Hosanna” literally means “save us,” but when the crowds shouted it they were implying that they believed Jesus was capable of saving them. When we cry “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday, we assert the same thing – Jesus can and does save us.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week do not have any special worship services attached to them in Methodism. Orthodox churches have special Christ the Bridegroom liturgies for these days that combine the parable of the ten bridesmaids from Matthew 25 with the image of a bloodied Jesus, wrapped in a purple robe, being mocked by the Roman soldiers. Christ the Bridegroom dons this humiliating garb to claim his bride, the Church.

Maundy Thursday marks Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. The word “maundy” comes from a misunderstanding of the Latin mandatum, or commandment.  “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another” (John 13: 34). We mark Maundy Thursday with Holy Communion and foot washing, experiencing and remembering Jesus’ final actions with his gathered friends.

What is good about Good Friday? Linguistically, nothing: the “Good” in Good Friday is a corruption of “God” (just as Good-bye is a corruption of the phrase “God be with ye”). But the resurrection follows the horror of Good Friday; the ultimate example of how God can use a bad situation to bring about something good. We mark Good Friday with worship centered on Jesus’ last words from the cross, words of pain and abandonment, but also words of forgiveness and love.

I invite you to take time during Holy Week to worship, pray and contemplate the final week of Christ’s human life. (Worship times at Metropolitan are listed in the sidebar.) Allow the mystery and awe of Holy Week to bring you closer to the God who loves you.

Blessings,
Rev. Janet Craswell