It has been one heck of a week. I have been trying to follow the contentious happenings at General Conference as my denomination figures out its future together. While that has been happening I have been working with leadership at Centenary United Methodist Church to prepare for some big decisions regarding obtaining plans for some renovation work at the church. Figuring out how to communicate so everyone is operating with accurate information and is on the same page is hard work in large organizations. In the midst of this large scale work swirling around me something tiny but powerful happened t to remind me where I am and where I belong.
Friday night as I was walking up the one block to pick up dinner from my favorite pizza joint I looked up to see one of the Bike Patrol police waving me down. I recognized him as the officer that a couple of my church members and I had met a week earlier over coffee to talk about all that is happening in downtown Winston Salem and how our downtown church could be a helpful partner. He saw me coming and recognized me and we chatted about changes in a business that is right across from where I live. When I walked away I had the biggest grin on my face. I realized that in that moment, for probably the first time in the 10 months since my husband and I moved in to our downtown condo, I felt “home”.
I had connected in a way that made me realize this IS my neighborhood and I am an active and vital member of it. I’m not just someone walking up the street to arrive at a destination. This is where I live. This is were I spend my time. And then I was overwhelmed with this feeling. I may not be able to control the decisions that take place at the global church’s level. I’m probably not able to make everyone happy in the large membership church I am serving (and actually that’s true no matter what size church!). But I do have control over how I live in the space I occupy and the people I interact with. I can have high impact with the people right around me in my day to day living. That I care mightily about this place and we tend to put energy into that which we care about.
This is not a new revelation and certainly something I knew in my head. But now I felt it in my heart. I saw it in motion as I talked with Officer Kevin. And it helped me take a step back from feeling like the world was looming awfully large before me. It was a prompting for me to focus on my neighborhood. Let me focus on loving my neighbors to the best of my ability. That includes all of my neighbors. Even the ones who drive through 4th Street with their music playing deafening loud. Even the neighbors who double park. Or the neighbors who fuss about the talented buskers playing music on the street corner. Or the neighbors who ask me for money.
It also includes those neighbors who recognize me and Greg when we enter the restaurant now and welcome us warmly. And the neighbors who leave a surprise at our door. And the neighbor who lets me in my building when I’ve locked myself out. And the neighbor who generously gives money to those who ask for it or buys them a sandwhich.
Yes, all of this bubbled up from a 5 minute conversation with a police officer. But there is great power in recognizing your “home”. It is the difference between existing and belonging. And although my neighborhood might not look very much like yours it is mine. And I’m going to do my very best to infuse it with God’s love. Because that is something I indeed have the power to do.
Grace and Peace,
It’s been a very interesting 6 weeks. We at Centenary have spent some time exploring the Social Principles found in our guiding document- The Book of Discipline in the United Methodist Church. I chose to focus on this during worship because quite frankly, that’s when the most people are engaging the church. And some people really enjoyed the fact that their church was engaging these real life issues that swirl around us outside the church walls. Some people were surprised that our church actually talks about a wide array of issues both theological in nature and secular. Other people felt like the series could not end soon enough. That worship might not have been the best place to focus on the Social Principles.
I completely respect the wide range of opinions and experiences. But as the United Methodist Church begins its global work together that opened on Tuesday, I hope my church folks are prepared to better understand what they will start hearing in the news and seeing on Facebook. General Conference, something that happens every 4 years, began in Portland, OR with opening worship Tuesday. 864 delegates from the United States, Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia will gather to do the business of the church for the next 10 days. And I have no reason to believe differently, but like in years past, this will be challenging, at times faithful and at other times heartbreaking work.
Someone asked me how these delegates are selected. Each Annual and Central Conference elects a certain number of delegates based on the number of United Methodist members in the churches within their Conference. Western North Carolina elected 10 clergy delegates and 10 laity delegates. When I first entered ministry we elected a total of 28 delegates so we have lost 8 delegates in 18 years due to a decrease in membership. There are an equal number of clergy and laity (non-clergy) delegates at the Conference. We elected our delegates last summer at Annual Conference that met at Lake Junaluska. Centenary had 4 clergy and 4 delegates from the church present. We actually supplied a few District delegates as well so our church had a total of 10 voting delegates.
This week the delegates will spend most of their time in legislative session dealing with the over 1000 petitions that have been submitted so they will spend a week considering, consolidating, and deciding which petitions will make it to the floor for action.
I invite my fellow United Methodists to be in prayer for the work that is taking place in Portland. I remind those of us that are going about our regular lives seemingly unaffected by this General Conference that this is the opportunity for our Church to speak into the world a theological voice. And I pray that the Church will model for the world how we talk about sensitive and emotionally charged topics from very different perspectives. What an opportunity we have to show a more excellent way.
And I happen to believe that authentic worship of God includes bringing our whole lives and offering them to God. It also involves finding the intersections in our lives with God in the world we live in. I hope worship can be a place where our life and God intersect. Right now that intersection involves 800 voices from around the world coming together to shape the voice of the United Methodist Church for the next 4 years. And that is something I care very much about.
Feel free to follow along with what happens in Portland using the link below. And may we truly model a more excellent way.
.General Conference 2016
Grace and Peace,
I participated in my first competitive obstacle course a week ago. I have been wanting to do one of these things for 3 years and finally found some folks interested in doing it with me! We chose what is called a Battlefrog. It’s an 8K course with 25 obstacles designed and built by Navy Seals. It was a serious challenge. And we learned a lot as we made our way through hurdling ourselves over walls, climbing over monkey bars and massive structures rising high in the air and of course trouncing through mud carrying a 25-45 pound water jug. Here’s a few Battlefrog lessons.
Lesson 1 – Scout out the obstacle – when you approach a new obstacle that you have never done before, take a moment and look on the other side of the wall. When you climb up the wall and are climbing over the top, when you don’t know what’s on the other side you can get yourself in trouble quickly. Sometimes the walls had a platform on the other side with a slide down into muddy water. Other times it was a straight drop to the ground. One time it was a 20 foot rope climb up to the top of the wall and then a rope climb down the other side with no platform to transition. Look at the obstacle from several angles and strategize so that you know what you are getting into and choose the right strategy for completing it.
Lesson 2– Tackle the obstacle course with a team! When you are facing a challenge that you can’t do by yourself, figure out how to help each other through it. We were not very good at this because it was new to all of us. There were 4 obstacles out of 25 that I failed and the penalty was doing 10 burpees each time. I failed all of the ones that involved being able to do a pull up or cross monkey bars. I just didn’t have the upper body strength this time. It wasn’t until I failed the fourth obstacle for the same reason that it occurred to me to get one of my teammates to assist me through the monkey bars by asking them to use their hands to assist me. We’ll do better next time and stop and help each other out. I’ll do a better job of asking for help.
Lesson 3 – Train, train train! Preparation makes all the difference in creating a positive experience. All of the training and all of the miles ran and all of the time spent rolling out sore muscles helped make the experience a blast. Doing the hard preparation work directly affects how successful you will be on the field. And part of the fun is having a goal and working towards it.
Lesson 4– Just try it! You look at some of the obstacles and think “I can’t do that”. Maybe you can. Maybe you can’t. But testing your limits is part of the fun of this challenge. Each obstacle had varying levels of difficulty so you could adjust to your capability. Next time, I’ll choose a few intermediate levels now that I understand how they work. And I will have trained better and maybe I’ll succeed on some of those challenges that got the best of me.
What’s the next challenge in your life? What’s the next opportunity you have to push yourself to the limit and see what you are capable of doing? It may be a mental or creative challenge and not physical. But don’t just cruise through life. Every once in a while you need to test your limits. God has created you in some amazing ways and given you this great big life to live- I bet you don’t even know all that you are capable of doing and being.
Grace and Peace,