Thursday, July 02, 2015

Celluloid Redemption: July Film & Sermon Series

In July we will be exploring theological themes in the movies. The topic this month will be “redemption”: what it means and how we experience it. Each week, we will show the film on Friday evening (with popcorn!), with a sermon drawing on that film the following Sunday.

Film: July 3, 7 pm, Youth Room (206)
Sermon: July 5, Scriptures: Isaiah 43:1-7; 1 John 4:16b-19

Queen Elsa has power over ice and snow, but is trapped by her fear. Princess Anna is mortally injured by her sister’s action, and only an “act of true love” can save her life. Both sisters need and receive redemption in this modern fairy tale.
“Groundhog Day”
Film: July 10, 7 pm, Youth Room (206)

Sermon: July 12, Scriptures: Lamentations 3:22-24; Matthew 6:25-34
“Groundhog Day” explores the journey of a man trapped in an endlessly repeating day. It is a powerful invitation to step away from our endless planning and embrace the gift of living in the moment.
“Akeelah and the Bee”
Film: July 17, 7 pm, Youth Room (206)
Sermon: July 19, Scriptures: Judges 6:11-16; I Corinthians 15:9-11

“Akeelah and the Bee” tells the story of an eleven year old girl with a gift. But she resists claiming that gift until a mentor challenges her. As she receives the support of her struggling community, she finds that her gift transforms them as well.
“The King’s Speech”
Film: July 24, 7 pm, Youth Room (206)
Sermon: July 26, Scriptures: 2 Chronicles 34:1-3, 29-32; 2 Timothy 1:5-7

In an interesting contrast to Akeelah, “The King’s Speech” explores the struggle of King George VI – a man with every conceivable privilege -- as he seeks to fill a role that he feels inadequate for, as he prepares to lead his country into WWII.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Statement by Bishop Marcus Matthews on the Stabbing at our St. Luke's Mission Center


Even as we are still reeling from the violent killing of the pastor and eight member of Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina, I received news of the stabbing death of a homeless man in the portico of St. Luke's Mission Center in Washington, D.C.

St. Luke's, a mission site of Metropolitan Memorial UMC, is doing outstanding and innovative work serving the poor and homeless in their community and throughout the city. Joel Johnson, a former guest of their hypothermia shelter last winter, was stabbed in an altercation at the site around 10:30 on Friday. He died of his wounds.

The thought of one of our churches as a crime scene saddens me beyond measure. However, it also awakens my soul to call for justice for all people. In a letter Thursday morning, I asked our churches to light a candle in memory of the victims of the church shooting. This evening I broaden my call, inviting you to also remember Mr. Johnson and to pray for the men and women of our communities who need to experience God's saving love and grace.

The Rev. Charlie Parker, senior pastor at Metropolitan, wrote: this tragedy "is a sign of the brokenness of our society that men and women continue to sleep on the street without food or proper medical and psychological care. ... While this is a deeply sad and disturbing event, it reinforces our commitment to engage this issue as a church and to work unceasingly until every person has a home."

I echo his words and call each of you to prayer and action. God is with us. God is love. May we each make manifest that love as we worship, and as we move into our communities in the days ahead, serving at witnesses to God's grace and peace.

God Bless You,

Bishop Marcus Matthews
Baltimore-Washington Conference
The United Methodist Church

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Tragedy Close to Home

The St. Luke's Mission Center

Last Friday night, a man was fatally stabbed in the portico of the St. Luke’s Mission Center at 3655 Calvert Street, NW. I believe that the man – 53 year old Joel Johnson – was one of the homeless men who have continued to linger at St. Luke’s after the closing of the hypothermia shelter this spring. When the hypothermia shelter closed, we began our usual efforts with the case workers at Friendship Place to find other shelter resources for the men. And for the handful of men who resist other placement, we have worked with the local police to try to move them from the church.

None of the events of last night involved any of the seven residents of our St. Luke's Shelter, who are all safe; that shelter remains operating with its normal effectiveness. After a brief period of closure on Saturday morning, the Mission Center itself is open again, with shelter and campus kitchen programing occurring as scheduled.

This tragedy highlights the ongoing calamity of homelessness in our city. It is a sign of the brokenness of our society that men and women continue to sleep on the street without food or proper medical and psychological care. That so many of these women and men are veterans – to whom we owe such a deep debt of gratitude -- heightens the injustice of their circumstances. While this is a deeply sad and disturbing event, it reinforces our commitment to engage this issue as a church and to work unceasingly until every person has a home. We are working now to identify and contact Mr. Johnson's family and will partner with our friends at Mt. Zion UMC (where Mr. Johnson regularly went to eat) to provide a proper funeral and burial for him. In a culture that teaches us to avert our eyes from suffering, we as Christians know that to encounter Christ, we need look no further than our doorstep.

- Rev. Charlie Parker

Reflections on Charleston

Our prayer vigil outside Wesley UMC

From our District Superintendent, Joe Daniels

Reflections on Charleston, SC

These are yet again times where people of faith must exercise great faith, exorbitant faith, in the God who by the power at work within us is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever ask, think, or imagine. The incomprehensible and tragic massacre in Charleston, SC this past Wednesday night cause us to echo the more than 100 year old words of W.E.B duBois once again with even greater intensity. The problem of the (21st) century is the color line: race relations in America. Not only has the heinous activity of Wednesday evening escalated racial tensions in America, but the actions of Dylann Storm Roof in a bible study at the most historic black church in the state of South Carolina have shaken the very foundations of us all in multiple ways. And only the demonstration of a magnificent faith in God by the people of God through strong, mature, visionary spiritual leadership will take our country to the place and space of healing and wholeness we so desperately need.

For healing and wholeness to come to pass, we must confront the truth that America is suffering from serious illnesses, one being the major sin of racism. And, we must pursue a healthy path forward. First, we must not be quick to run to and hide behind the claim of mental illness in the SC case, or rush to make the memory of this heinous act disappear quickly. We must face the truth that once again we have a horrifying problem of race in our communities that unless dealt with head on, will not go away. In less than a year, we've had Ferguson, NYC, Cleveland, Charlottesville, VA, Charleston, SC, Jackson, MS, Baltimore, McKinney, TX, and now Charleston again. And let's not forget Trayvon and Jordan in Florida and so many other cases that didn't have cameras on them. And now we have a situation where a white young adult influenced by hate groups has gone into one of the most sacred, Divinely intimate places of black culture, let alone American culture --- the church sanctuary --- shared the Word of Life with congregants and then blew nine of them, including their highly esteemed pastor, away. As a clergy colleague was left to tell me via text Wednesday night, "Lord, have mercy."

The event at Mother Emmanuel AME Church cuts our hearts and drops us to our knees. As a black man and a pastor, it illicits all kinds of emotions within me. On Thursday, I was asked to be a part of a multi-ethnic, multi-faith clergy forum aired on WUSA-TV, Channel 9 at Metropolitan AME church in D.C., and I was greeted by a security guard who wanted to know who I was and what I was there for as he checked me out to make sure nothing suspicious was up -- in the church lobby! In the forum, a white female Jewish rabbi declared that it was clear that there is a war going on in this country against African-American males. I know that; I feel remnants of it everyday. But to hear her declare it was powerful and courageous. This is where we are.

But secondly, we will have to pursue a healthy path forward --- courageously. The renown theologian, Karl Barth, said once that "courage is fear that has said its prayers." Many are afraid, for many different reasons. But prayer pushes us forward by faith. People of faith must exercise great faith with phenomenal spiritual leadership, not with a fear that renders us silent. I thought some of the families of the slain church leaders at Roof's arraignment in the SC courtroom on Friday began doing this for us. They were already looking to forgive the perpetrator as a pathway for forward movement. What will the larger community of faith do? The temptation is to just talk about it, but dare I say, action is required now.

Five months before his assassination nearly 50 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. asked a poignant question, "Where do we go from here: chaos or community?" Almost 50 years later, the question still reverberates before us now. Where will we go from here? Chaos? Or community?

We have chaos now. Nine champions for the common good have lost their lives senselessly. One reporter said that in South Carolina alone, there are 19 hate groups. A flag bearing hate for many still flies in the state. Our political leaders in Congress still war, fight and remain divided over issues critical to our society and nothing substantive gets done. We have chaos now.

But instead of chaos, let's join together to build stronger community. Let's do so everywhere, particularly here where we live, in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area, one of the most diverse areas of the world. Over the summer, let's commit ourselves to:

* a time of deep introspection and heart searching, asking God how we might more deeply break down barriers and build bridges in our community.
* a serious attempt to develop new and strong relationships across all lines as the Holy Spirit leads us.
* connecting our congregations more intentionally to other congregations of all faiths in community building ministry and the establishment of multi-ethnic bible studies.
* look at how we can use our respective positions and professions to bring about racial, economic, and all types of justice.
* not be trapped by fear, but encouraged and energized by faith.
* come to forgive the Dylann Storm Roofs of the world. We all need forgiveness.
* engage in the Greater Washington District's racial justice and reconciliation initiative started last fall 2014 after the Michael Brown verdict. The next District gathering is Tuesday, October 20 from 7 to 9:30 pm at Silver Spring UMC. Check out the conference website at and go to the toolbox for more information on the initiative and conversations and action steps taken thus far.

In these moments, let us exercise great faith. Let us commit ourselves deeper to loving God, deeper to loving one another and deeper to loving ourselves. Stay encouraged!

--- Joe Daniels

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Response to Charleston, SC

All the words I normally have, even the prayers of lament, are not coming to me.  The cry How long, Oh Lord? doesn’t even seem strong enough. I don’t know where to find enough hope to rescue my prayers to pray them. 

When will enough be enough?  When will the outrage at lives obliterated move us to action?

Our annual conference prayers and re-building efforts with sister churches in Baltimore are still reverberating in Sandtown-Winchester.   Yet this morning I find out that 9 of our Wesleyan brothers and sisters are dead in Charleston.  Shot to death gathered at church in study and prayer, and we thought those things were buried in our history books or only happened in other countries like when Archbishop Oscar Romero was gunned down leading communion.

How many of us, God, all across the world are praying the prayer that you taught us?  That your kingdom come!  That your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

Your children at Mother Emmanuel AME, in the words of NPR’s Scott Simon, “… made a stranger welcome. They put him in their prayers & gave him their love. They are grace.”  They followed your kingdom call, and all hell broke loose.

God, for the powers of evil that plague Dylann; for the systemic powers of evil in racism and gun violence that we perpetrate, Lord, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.

Lord, make a way.  Make a way for healing and hope; make a way for breaking hearts of stone; make a way for seeing and understanding realities different from our own; make a way for us to deal with our fear and anger without ripping lives apart. 

Where there is soul-wrenching grief in Charleston, bring comfort.  Where there is oblivion in our nation, bring anger and dis-ease and CHANGE.  Open our eyes to our corporate need for confession—to own white privilege and pray for the forgiveness of our systemic trespasses in our collective misuse of power.  Open our minds, and break our 2nd Amendment obsession to see the destruction wreaking havoc on our families and communities. 

Lord, I don’t know how, but make the words of scripture come true—that
“Christ is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross.”  Eph 2:14-16a

 Metropolitan Call to Action

If we want to end inequality in our city, we can.  All the church has to do is be the church.  All we have to do is care for one another—sharing job connections, housing notices, taking the kids, building a reliable safety net of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical support.  What makes our work something that reproduces or ends inequality, though, is whether we do it only for our isolated groups of like-individuals or whether we include all our neighbors no matter what.

So, church, what’ll it be? I vote for putting shoe leather to our kingdom prayer.

Join us on July 1 at 7pm in Wesley’s library to talk about how to be more intentional in our multi-ethnic, multi-site parish, and how to witness and show a different way of living.  Please contact Pastor Kate Payton with any questions or reflections.

- Rev. Kate Payton

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Appalachia Service Project

This month we will be embarking on our 41st trip to Appalachia through the Appalachia Service Project (ASP).  ASP seeks to make homes warmer, safer, and drier for families in some of the poorest and most neglected counties in our country. Different teams of high school students head out each week to be part of a chain of teams that will complete complex home repair projects.  Our group of 7 teams will be arriving during week 3 in Sullivan County, TN. Our work can include removal of damaged materials, reinforcing foundations, framing walls, installing insulation, repairing roofs, replacing floors, or other construction projects.

ASP is not only transformative for the families who receive help with their homes but is transformative for the students who participate. As many of our schools no longer have shop class, ASP is often the first time young people learn to build or repair things, and the first time they use power tools. The trip provides an opportunity to learn about a different culture. Youth experience what it is like to provide significant help to a family in need and to move beyond thinking of poverty as an issue to meeting the people who are in need.

On my first trip to ASP, my team and I worked on a house for a man who was in his early twenties. Recently divorced and without a high school diploma, he was trying to take care of his three year old child. Work was scarce, and the home he lived in on his parents land had fallen into disrepair. He was unable to afford to fix the leaks in the roof, so over time the walls and floor had rotted out. There was not a dry spot in the home. That week, my crew of five teenagers and another adult reinforced the foundation to the house, replaced some of the rotten framing along the floor and walls, and began to put on a new roof.  

Unlike many other mission programs, the work we do on ASP is tangible and significant.  By the end of the summer, families whose houses could not resist the elements are made into livable homes. Our youth not only learn usable construction skills but also get a crash course in understanding the challenges facing families throughout Appalachia. Ultimately, ASP is about the relationships we build. We build relationships with each other, with the families we serve, with the ASP staff, and with a region in our country that is too often neglected and forgotten.  

Please join us on June 20 at 9am in the Vestry for our send off breakfast. This is a great opportunity to meet our youth and show our support as a congregation for this important work.

Director of Youth Ministries

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Sermon Series on The Lord's Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer is Jesus’ pre-eminent teaching on prayer, and contains some of the most familiar words in the Bible. Perhaps, because they are so familiar, we often gloss over them without much reflection. This series will be a time to dig deeply into those words and -- hopefully -- start to engage them differently.

We launched the series on May 31 with “Our Father,” a phrase that gave us the opportunity to explore the setting of the Lord’s Prayer, the nature of prayer itself and what it means to call God a parent. The word “our” immediately raises the communal nature of both God and prayer, and we also talked about the parenthood of God, as well as the difficulty in the exclusively male language.

On June 7, we focused on the phrase, “Thy Kingdom Come,” which looked at the promise of the kingdom, both in the present and yet to come. It is a beautiful petition that invites us to lay aside our own needs and agenda and to participate in the building of this kingdom. It was particularly appropriate that this sermon fell on Reconciling Sunday as it provided a great way for us to explore how we are working to build the kingdom with our LGBT brothers and sisters.

On June 14, the third phrase of the prayer, “Give Us this Day,” continues the theme of petition and reminds us of God’s word to the children of Israel in the desert: that bread sufficient for the day is all that is needed. That word contains both a promise from God to care for us and provide us with our essentials, as well as a warning to avoid the perils of hoarding the necessities of life.

On June 21, we will explore perhaps the most challenging phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive Us as We Forgive,” and the powerful message on the nature of forgiveness: that our own inability to offer forgiveness is often the greatest barrier we have to receiving God’s forgiveness.

On June 28, we will focus on the final phrase of the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver Us from Evil,” which may be the most confusing phrase of the prayer. Why would the Lord “lead us into temptation” to begin with? And what “evil” is Jesus referring to? We will close out our sermon series exploring these questions and looking at how the Lord’s Prayer can help us understand all of the praying that we do.

We hope that you will join us on this journey as we explore together this most familiar, but very challenging Prayer that is central to our faith.

Rev. Charlie Parker

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Creating a Stronger Baltimore

At the opening  night of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference, held in Baltimore, a prayer walk and vigil was held in Sandtown-Winchester, the scene of the recent protests and riot in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray. We walked from Ames Memorial UMC to the intersection of Pennsylvania and North, at the corner where the boarded up CVS stands. There, clergy and laity spread out to the four corners of the intersection, for time of prayer, song, and witness, with each other and folks in the neighborhood. We held in prayer all that this community has experienced in recent weeks and all it has experienced in the decades before it was thrust into the national spotlight. We heard from police, pastors, and residents of Sandtown-Winchester, and through our presence and prayers, shared with them the healing love of Jesus Christ. Standing on the four corners of the intersection, we experienced the intersection of hope and despair, joy and sorrow, healing and brokenness.

Lt. Col. Melvin Russell, the police department's point man for West Baltimore, spoke to us on the steps of Ames Memorial UMC. Speaking about the breakdown in trust between police and community members that has been in the spotlight since Freddie Grays death, he said, "Its no secret we werent doing the best job anyway. . .we really have to step up our game,Russell said. For years, we just werent listening. And I am including myself and the faith-based community in that also.

The Baltimore clergy who pastor or live in Sandtown-Winchester spoke to the entire Annual Conference Friday night, in an effort to share what was happening in the community the days and nights of the unrest, as they experienced it, and experienced it firsthand. They preached a powerful, convicting, and transforming word, sharing stories not told by the mainstream media, and putting a very real face on Sandtown-Winchester. You can hear them preach here. Trust me, you don't want to miss out.
What you can do:
Finally, in the wake of violence and community unrest, the people of The United Methodist Church are responding by helping to restore hope in Baltimore. The Baltimore-Washington Conference leaders have announced a missional response to the unrest affecting the residents of Baltimore. Donations are being collected immediately and will be distributed to those ministries that will help rebuild. If you would like to donate funds to the Stronger Baltimore Fundplease click here. The Baltimore Washington Annual Conference extends a special thank you for your care and support.

Also, with the help of church and community volunteers, the BWC will be transforming five churches in and around the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood into faith-based community centers beginning June 1 through the end of the year. In addition, camp will be held for community children this summer. Community members are needed to help create systemic changes that deliver justice, dignity and wholeness to all people. If you feel called to be part of this transformation, you can find mission sites to volunteer at here. If you would like to be part of a team of Metropolitan Church team that volunteers at one of these mission sites, contact Rev. Dottie Yunger to explore.


Rev. Dottie Yunger