Seaside United Methodist Church in Sunset Beach received a $2,750 grant from The Dollar General Literacy Foundation.
The Center for Leadership Excellence, in partnership with COSROW, is pleased to lift up the voices of women in ministry encouraging fellow women in ministry. Please enjoy this month’s Encouragement from Jaye White, Director of Outreach Ministries for the NC Conference. Anyone can sign up to receive these monthly emails here.
I’ve said it before. God has a great sense of humor. The Holy Spirit keeps grabbing my attention even when I’m busy doing the work of ministry. And while I sometimes resist reading yet another inspiring devotion, blog, or book, the reality of God’s love in Christ interrupts unexpectedly.
Read John 20:30-31 (NRSVue):
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Reflect and Take Action:
Have you watched “The Chosen”? This show about Jesus’s life has really captured my imagination. Something about it brings to life the humanity of the people in the scriptures. They laugh and tease and argue. Like us, they’re sometimes quirky, impulsive, or thoughtful. Their lives are vibrant and challenging. They are not just “characters” confined to familiar stories. The writers and actors make them come alive while remaining faithful to the holy texts.
Of course, they took some creative license. I’m only into season two, but why wouldn’t Matthew be dressed in fine clothes and display some mild autistic tendencies? Why couldn’t the people who lowered their sick friend through the roof for healing be from Ethiopia? It all seems completely plausible.
I especially love the scenes where the crowds are from “every tribe and language and people and nation,” and the women’s voices are valued. The actor who plays Jesus has really perfected “the look of love.” I can just imagine the Savior gazing at me like that. Not the actor, but truly the One who made such a difference in the world that we’re still making every attempt to follow him. It’s kind of silly to me that a video series has drawn me in, not as an escape from reality, but as a reminder of who I’m actually working for.
What about you? While the country is a hot mess of division and our denomination is stumbling through disaffiliation, where do you go to reconnect? When there’s yet another mass shooting and the climate crisis looms large, how are you finding hope and experiencing the love of Christ that permeates all of creation?
My challenge is to find your retreat. Prayerfully meditate. Read the things that inspire. And join me and watch “The Chosen.”
Center for Leadership Excellence and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women
The Center for Leadership Excellence, in partnership with COSROW, is pleased to lift up the voices of women in ministry encouraging fellow women in ministry. Please enjoy this month’s Encouragement from Jessie Larkins, ordained elder in the NC Conference and founder of Emergent Therapeutic Services. Anyone can sign up to receive these monthly emails here.
As my kids push fully into their teenage years, I’m getting (*painful*) daily lessons in learning how to let go. Growing into independence, they no longer want my daily inquiries into their lives, my hugs, my
wisdom advice, or even my presence on many days. Knowing that their days living in our home are numbered, I find myself desperate to hold on to every moment with them. Watching them fumble through their first independent choices, it is hard to not control or criticize. Loosing my grip on their lives is a daily spiritual practice. And if my kids were the assessors, I assure you that my grades would look a lot like their report cards–all over the map! We’re all learning how to do this work of growing up.
My struggle in parenting teenagers is just a microcosm of a more significant spiritual struggle that most of us engage throughout our lives: the desire to have control over everything. In our attempts to stave off fear of uncertainty about the future, the destabilization of constant change, or to avoid the free-fall feeling that comes when we feel out of control, we exert a vice-like grip over anything that looks manageable: liturgies, policies, others’ behavior, our diet and exercise routines, our schedules, and even at times our spiritual disciplines. The more we fear, the more we grasp. The more tightly we hold on to rules, to certainty, to expectations, to others, the less likely we are to have open palms for the gifts of connection, laughter, joy, delight, and the messy growth of new life. I have so much sympathy for post-Resurrection Mary when she is admonished by Jesus not to cling. In her disorientation and fear of the future, she is just like me: holding on tightly to the thing in front of her that feels controllable. If she doesn’t let go, he can’t leave again, right? If she doesn’t let go, her heart won’t break again, will it?
Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and sisters and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
~ John 20:17
Reflect and Take Action:
Mary’s clinging in this story comes from standing at the same myopic vantage point at which I’m often tempted to stand in moments of change and destabilization: one that makes judgments about the entirety of a situation based on a few known facts (and a whole lot of feelings). Jesus recognizes his coming departure as a necessary part of God’s unfolding plan to redeem all creation. Jesus understands that new birth comes through labor pain and tears; that life comes through death; that he will not return in glory unless he departs in peace. If Mary can let go, then Jesus can do what only Jesus can do.
Learning how to live with open palms, to gently touch rather than strangle new growth, is a spiritual practice that I am learning by praying with open palms, a prayer posture I adopted when learning and teaching the Daily Examen. I’ve had to physically train my body to engage the posture that I desire for my spirit: one that is open, even in the face of fear and uncertainty, to receive each day in all of its mess and beauty. In doing so, I have opened a channel of Resurrection life into my own: authentic connections with individuals whose bodies defy the “rules” I was taught as a child; the pure delight of enjoying an (entire) slice of cheesecake offered by a widowed neighbor despite the fact that is is 70 bajillion calories more than I’m “supposed” to eat in a day; setting aside the carefully scripted sermon in order to attend the child that wandered into the pulpit; letting the chores go because the teenagers took us up on the suggestion for a post-dinner family walk today. The ability to live with open palms, I’m realizing, is not the ability to live without fear. It’s the ability to live bravely in the face of fear and uncertainty (and yes, sometimes in the face of heartbreak and rejection) because we have trust in the One who has already written the end of this story and is daily pouring that promise of new life into this world if we only stopped clinging and opened our hands to receive it.
Center for Leadership Excellence and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women
The North Carolina Conference Board of Church and Society is a group of committed clergy and laity who seek to relate the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ministry and mission of our churches and communities. One role of the Board is to help churches have an awareness and understanding of the UMC’s Social Principles. Each quarter, the Board will highlight an issue of justice, share a story of good work happening in our communities, or let you know how you can get involved in advocacy as a United Methodist. All are welcome to sign up to receive these quarterly emails here.
Militarization at the Border
In November 2022, Hope 4 Humanity (H4H) participated in a direct action at the Washington DC headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security/Customs Border Patrol and in legislative advocacy urging our legislators to defund federal support of Operation Lone Star, a program that escalates militarization of the border and is fueled by white supremist rhetoric.
Why should we be concerned?
- Border communities are mini-war zones where the basic rights of citizens and migrants are violated every day.
- Militarization increases exponentially with National Guard troops, Border Patrol agents and the Texas Department of Public Safety officers carrying assault weapons, wearing tactical gear and using racial profiling.
- Migrants, treated like criminals, are being detained in substandard detention centers.
- Quiet, residential border communities are bombarded with overhead surveillance, low level traffic citations, high speed police car chases and extremist policies that harm public safety.
- Inhumane policies of prevention through deterrence do not work and only strengthen cartels and coyotes who prey on innocent and desperate migrants.
As followers of Christ, we are called to love and welcome our neighbors unconditionally. H4H is working to highlight this alarming trend with webinars and pilgrimages to the border. Follow us on our website and Facebook page.
Lisa Bachman, Deaconess
Team Lead, Hope 4 Humanity
God of all creation and all peoples, you command us to love the alien as ourselves for our ancestors were aliens in the land of Egypt. You call us to be with the immigrant in gracious welcome and steadfast protection. Raise up your people to be strong advocates for those who flee unimaginable violence, threats of murder, rape, and human trafficking. Give us eyes to see them as our own children, our siblings, and your people. Lord, embolden our voices to speak your truth till the policies of our nation reflect your will for those who seek asylum or a better life. Let peace and justice for immigrants flow down from your Church upon this nation like a mighty rolling stream till everyone can find rest in green pastures and safety beside still waters. In the name of the Good Shepherd, Lord of all, Amen.
What does the UMC Say….
Our United Methodist Social Principles affirm that “human values must outweigh military claims” and “the militarization of society must be challenged and stopped” (¶ 165). Moreover, in the Book of Resolutions, the UMC urges United Methodists in the United States and Mexico to “seek ways to network on fair trade, labor and human rights, agricultural, and environmental concerns.” Read More
Hear how White Plains UMC (Capital District) became a Lighthouse Congregation.
To learn more about Lighthouse Congregations, visit nccumc.org/lighthouse.
In 2018, the XRoads Planning team launched its first XRoads event at Franklinton Center at Bricks with the vision of inspiring and equipping clergy and laity in the work of prophetic teaching, preaching, and living. Each event has provided that opportunity, and this year’s event, “XRoads 2023: Practicing Resurrection,” did not disappoint! As several participants said, “it felt like a glimpse of God’s kingdom on earth.”
Led by Rev. Janet Wolf, Mr. Eric Alexander, and Mr. Rahim Buford, participants from a variety of cultures and social locations came together to form an interactive learning community focused on scripture and prophetic living in a broken world. We wrestled with how to put flesh on faith and how to practice resurrection together.
XRoads featured worship music with three musicians from Juarez, Mexico, Raquel Vega, Berenice Belmontes, and Lawrence Edwards. We sang hymns together, took Communion together, and shared meals together of delicious Southern food cooked by the staff at the Franklinton Center at Bricks. Rev. Ellie Mendez educated us about the history of the land where we sat. What was once a breaking plantation where enslaved people were sent to be “broken,” Franklinton Center at Bricks became a school to educate people freed from slavery. The site continues to liberate through education today. In addition to hosting events like XRoads that educate about a Biblical faith that liberates, they also provided a space for public school children to access the Internet while the schools were closed during the COVID quarantine.
During our Bible studies, we engaged in Biblical animation that placed us inside the Scripture from our own social location. We studied the story of the Canaanite women in Matthew 15 and considered how the church ignores the pleas of cultures we believe to be unfamiliar outsiders. We studied the story of the healing of the demon-possessed man in Mark 5 and wondered if the church is willing to listen to those who have been liberated. We studied the story of the rich man in Mark 10 through the lens of Sabbath economics and imagined what it would look like to exchange an economy that thrives on power for one based on love.
We engaged in an exercise where various participants had to fill a jar of water using increasingly disadvantaged tools and resources. How long did it take before others stepped in to help those with fewer resources? What were their motivations? What enabled or prevented them from changing the system?
We were inspired and challenged by our retreat leaders. Toward the end of our time together, we dreamed about putting what we had learned about our faith and injustice into action. We left more equipped and inspired for the work before us. We left with full hearts. And we left committed to holding each other accountable and holding each other in support and love.
Story by XRoads participants Laura Dallas, Marketing & Resource Coordinator for the NC Conference, and Rev. Tuck Taylor, Pastor of Louisburg United Methodist Church and Member of the XRoads Planning Team.
Connect Your Story
What is your church doing to put prophetic faith into action? How is your church working to address injustice in our world? We want to hear your story and connect with you so that we can continue this kin-dom work together.