Friday, December 06, 2013
By: Deborah Carey
“You should go!” exclaimed Gordon as he placed the sign-up sheet in front of me. That was all I needed. As a freshman desperate for a Christian community, I was immediately working my homework assignments around our weekend away. I am so glad that I went—it was a weekend of valuable service, community, and time with God.
When we first arrived in at Bethany St. John’s in Pleasantville, New Jersey, I learned a very important lesson about the Methodists—they take “daily bread” very seriously. As we unloaded the entirety of Cosco from the van, we realized the church members had supplied us with a full fridge of homemade meals and snacks! (Culture shock for a Presbyterian—not only do we demand donations for the weekly donuts at my home church, we also cut them in half.) In all seriousness, though, the hospitality Bethany St. John’s reminded me of the amazing common thread we have in Jesus, that complete strangers would extend their resources in the way Bethany St. John’s did.
On Saturday, our workday, we were assigned to a house right on the water that had been gutted after holding four feet of water during Hurricane Sandy. Its owner was rebuilding the entire thing by hand—we were there to do whatever he needed. By the end of the day we had painted his future guest room, assisted him in putting up drywall, and eaten a lot of his homemade meatballs. The most poignant memory I think we all share of that day, though, is lunch. We walked down to the beach, and he met us there. On the walk back he shook hands with neighbors, told us the story of his town, and gave life-advice to us students in need of a perspective, as finals emerge. When a passerby asked who we were, he answered “friends of the family.” While many of us in the afternoon wanted to go to a different site, (since only a few of us were needed) God used our resident’s interactions with his neighbors to remind us to be less like Martha and more like Mary. Instead of being focused on doing FOR our resident, he reminded us of the importance of simply being WITH him during this tiring process of rebuilding.
I knew Pleasantville, New Jersey, would leave an impact on me greater than I could possibly return, just as every service project does. But I could not have imagined the extent to which it did so. That is a funny paradox—we always go in wanting to be His hands and feet, and end up realizing that God completely blessed every aspect of the project. Thank you, Metropolitan Methodist Church, for supporting this trip in prayer, partnership, and finances. I can say with confidence that everyone involved was truly blessed.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
In a sermon I preached at Wesley Church back in September, I said: “We have a straightforward way of discerning God’s truth—if there’s hate, it’s not of God. Our God is love. Period.”
Yesterday my clergy colleague Rev. Frank Schaefer, on trial in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference for officiating the same-sex marriage of his son in 2006, was given a 30-day suspension. During that time he was instructed to reflect on his ministry with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community and report if he can follow the denomination’s Book of Discipline in its entirety (i.e., he must promise not to officiate at any more same-sex weddings). If not, he must surrender his clergy credentials.
This event follows on the heels of the same-sex wedding presided over by Bishop Talbert (who preached at our church in September at the Reconciling Ministries Convocation worship service), a "crime" for which our Council of Bishops has called for a formal complaint to be filed, thus beginning our denomination's procedure for punishing violations of church law.
Rev. Schaefer and Bishop Talbert face charges and church trials for being in ministry with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters -- for extending to them the same grace, care, and pastoral leadership we give our heterosexual brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, the period of time when there were no church trials going on -- when we seemed to be settling into some sort of "don't ask, don't tell" de-facto policy -- has ended. There are currently five clergy trials under way across the country involving same sex marriage. This saddens me on many levels:
· That our denomination, which has been at the forefront of so much positive social change, is now obstructing the current movement toward justice; and rather than leading society, we are getting dragged into the future by society.
· That we continue to project an image of anger and judgmentalism to those outside our church and to our own children.
· That our Bishops, who so often voice their support for same-sex unions in private, struggle with how to provide a more prophetic witness to the church in public (until they reach the relative safety of retirement).
· That clergy are unwilling to let one another act out of good conscience but instead -- in the words of Rev. Schaefer’s prosecution -- seek to “make the penalty severe enough so that other clergy fear breaking the covenant.”
· That we can't just let people love one another as they feel called by God.
Dear friends, Jesus’ entire ministry was focused on reaching out to the marginalized and disenfranchised. Over and over again, his inclusive love invited in those whom the religious authorities excluded and persecuted. Likewise, John Wesley’s ministry was primarily focused on those that the church of his day didn’t think were worth the trouble. At our core, what we are about is sharing the good news of God’s redemptive love; we are about extending the table of God’s grace. As your pastor, I cannot, and will not, treat our LGBTQ parishioners differently than our heterosexual parishioners.
I don't know what is before us as a church. I fear that our ability to speak to the cause of justice will continue to erode. I fear that we become more irrelevant to our communities and nation by the day. I fear that the possibility of a schism looms ever closer. As we struggle together through this difficult period, I want us to consider the following:
· That we—as our denomination's "national church”—have an opportunity and responsibility to provide some more active leadership on this issue. Simply “being” reconciling is too passive a stance right now.
· How do we build a broader coalition around this issue and bring our enormous creativity and strategic thinking to looking at “outside the box” options?
· How we will respond if one of our own clergy (myself included) get charged with the complaint for officiating at a same-sex marriage?
Lastly, I would like us all to commit to praying together about this. I do not see the way forward on this issue, but I trust that if we invite the participation of the Holy Spirit, God will make a way for us.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Sunday, November 3, 9am and 11:15am Worship
All Saints Day is a universal festival of the church that directs our attention to the richness of Christian history through the faith and lives of the saints. On this day, we celebrate not only the martyrs and saints, but all the people of God, living and dead, who together form the Body of Christ.
During the worship services, the names of Metropolitan members who have died since the last All Saints Day will be read, remembered, and lifted in prayer and thanksgiving. Also, the “Book of the Departed Saints” (located in the side Phillips Chapel) will be placed on the altar and those names will be symbolically lifted to God as well. You are welcome to write in names of persons you knew who have died, so they can be remembered. Candles in thePhillips Chapel will also be available to light in memory of loved ones.
Friday, October 25, 2013
In light of Dr. Parker's sermon on Sunday, October 20, we are presented with an opportunity that covers two outreach ministries of our parish.
The governments of both Russia and Uganda have widely publicized policies about GLBT folks. In Uganda, the death penalty is allowed. In addition, the leaders of both governments are on record as being very outspokenly homophobic. The two individuals in the post below are applying for asylum under recently changed State Department procedures.
If you can provide assistance, know of someone who might be able to help or need information below, please contact Eric Scharf directly. Information is in the announcement below.
Center Global is issuing an urgent request for hosts who can provide ongoing housing for two separate LGBT individuals who are here in the DC area seeking asylum. One is a male from Russia, other is a female from Uganda.
Ideally as a host you can provide a private bedroom at a location close to public transportation within the DC area.
The individual from Russia is self-sufficient and the host is not expected to provide food or other assistance. The individual from Uganda may need some food assistance. It would be best if the host can commit to provide housing for a minimum of three months; housing is needed as soon as possible.
Please feel free to contact Eric Scharfm. Also, your help in spreading the word is most appreciated.
- Kerm Towler, Reconciling Co-chair
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Sort spuds with your buds!
Saturday, November 2, 9am - 5pm, St. Luke’s Mission Center*Join us for a potato drop at St Luke's Mission Center on November 2. A tractor trailer will dump thousands of pounds of free potatoes in the parking lot, potatoes that have otherwise been rejected by commercial markets and would be discarded in land fills. Instead, these potatoes will be sorted and bagged and distributed to local food banks. We will partner with Foundry UMC to sort and bag potatoes. For more information or to volunteer to help, contact Rev. Dottie Yunger. *3655 Calvert St., NW.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
The Many Faces of Homelessness, Our Multi-faceted ResponseEach October, our congregation recommits itself to serving the homeless. On October 15, Metropolitan House reopened its doors and on Sunday, October 20, we will observe Homeless Awareness Sunday and members of our community – young and old – will take part in the Tyler Rusch Homeless Walk to raise both funds and awareness. It is a familiar ritual as both Metropolitan House and our St. Luke’s Shelter have been serving the homeless for twenty-two years!
Yet in recent years, we have become increasingly aware of the complexity of the nature of homelessness and our congregation’s response has become more robust and multi-faceted. Three shelters now operate in our buildings – the low-barrier, life-saving Hypothermia Shelter that operates at St. Luke’s when temperatures fall below freezing; Metropolitan House serving men seeking a more stable and secure shelter setting; and St. Luke’s Shelter which now focuses exclusively on moving homeless men into employment and permanent housing. It is, in essence, a continuum of care addressing a range of different needs. Our Grate Patrol team, launched in 2011, now works the frontline of homeless outreach, delivering meals to those living on the streets. It recently celebrated two years of service and 25,000 meals served. And this year, together with several other local congregations, we sponsored the second annual Winter Warmth event at the St. Luke’s Mission Center to provide warm clothing and a warm meal to those in need.
While our primary mission has been serving homeless men, who constitute the overwhelming majority of the homeless in our part of the city, we are also increasingly aware that homelessness has many faces – veterans, immigrants, families, women, children, and youth. Through our mutual connection as members of the Washington Interfaith Network, Metropolitan advocated successfully for the restoration of funding for the Sasha Bruce Youthworks and other programs serving homeless teens. And with our partners at Brighter Day, we are pressing city and federal officials to renovate 266 units of affordable housing at the abandoned Parkway Overlook complex.
This expanding matrix of activities provides a multitude of ways that each of us can engage in efforts to serve the homeless and work toward the elimination of homelessness – whether it is making sandwiches for the Grate Patrol, bringing a meal to St. Luke’s or Metro House, serving as an overnight volunteer at Metro House, or joining our advocacy efforts. You can learn more about these activities at nationalchurch.org/Serving. As we enter this season of renewed awareness and commitment, please give some time to support this critical aspect of our mission.
- Ann Michel, Serving Chair
Discover more about Serving at the Metropolitan Church!