Come On In I’ve Got You Covered

http://butterflywings.life/

Fridays are usually long days at Butterfly Wings but today was especially long. I had helped almost ten clients in four hours and had just one left to go. My final client of the day didn’t get around very well so I was standing in the door of the church where we are located so that he would not have to wait for me to answer the bell. It was raining like crazy out when a young man wearing a backpack looking like a college student from the university nearby walked up the ramp to me and said “Do you have any diapers in there? I heard you had diapers?”

My heart immediately broke for him. Yes I had diapers I told him. “Come on in out of the rain I’ve got you covered.”  We waited for my other client before going into the basement where our offices are located. He told me that he had been working construction but that a coworker had fed some lies to the boss about him and he wasn’t getting called for many jobs anymore. He and his girlfriend had two kids under the age of two both in diapers. He hadn’t applied for food stamps yet because he had been scraping by on the construction money.

Once we were in the office I explained to him how to apply for food stamps and reassured him, that from what I knew, that with the income he was getting by on, he would likely qualify. When we went into the storeroom to fill a bag for him of the products we supply he was overwhelmed. I was able to give him enough diapers to last him about a week; and cleaning supplies, and personal hygiene items to last about a month. It truly broke my heart that I could not give him enough diapers for a month but we have so many families in need of diapers that we have to ration the amount that we give out.

While I filled his bag I also filled a smaller bag for my client upstairs who was unable to get down the stairs into the basement. The young man joyfully took both bags upstairs and reassured me that he would help my other client get his bag safely to his car. He left with a smile on his face and wishing me multiple God Bless Yous.

So when someone asks me if I get paid to do what I do I say yes, not in cash, but in blessings, because each client today left with a smile on their face, warmth in their heart, and a hug for me. Thanking me not so much for what I had put in their bag or box but for what I had been able to put in their heart. Love, kindness, and dignity go a long way at Butterfly Wings.

 

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“We Are Singing For Our Lives”

Set to Holly Near’s We Are Singing For Our Lives are the sights of my experience at General Conference.  Holly’s song became a balm for our souls as we marched across the Convention Center floor.

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The Reconciling Sermon

It was April of 2013 and I was finishing my first year of Seminary and my fiancee, Don and I were going to church with a friend about a half hour south of my school. None of us knew what the sermon was going to be about that day. I invited friends from school to come along with us, a couple from Tanzania and a young lady who had emigrated to the United States from Mexico with her family when she was in middle school. So there we were the five of us in the third pew, or essentially the front row because no one ever sits in the front two pews in church, five unfamiliar faces to the pastor. She was passionate and energetic, she prayed with the fire of the Holy Spirit in her heart right up until it was time for the sermon and then she looked nervous. I thought to myself that seems strange that a pastor who was so confident and passionate just a few minutes ago would be nervous and then she looked over at the five of us and said;

“It is always on the day that God gives you the hardest sermon that God fills the pews.”

Then she began to give the reconciling sermon. I had heard reconciling sermons before, my fiancee and I were Reconciling United Methodists but what I did not know was that he had never really heard a reconciling sermon given by a Pastor on a Sunday morning before. My fiancee had been baptized and confirmed in the United Methodist Church and had been an active member of several United Methodist Congregations near our home in Upstate New York. I did not know however that during the majority of his adult years he had attended a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church with his family. It was not his first choice of where to worship but he did not change churches until he became a widower soon before he met me, in my United Methodist Church.

So while I sat there listening to a very impassioned and well laid out argument for full inclusion of all people in the church, my fiancee was hearing for the very first time that God loved every member of his family just as much as God loved everyone else. Having left the United Methodist Church before the Reconciling Movement began he had followed all of the changes in our Book Of Discipline through the printed subscription he had to United Methodist Reporter and through other media sources but he had never experienced in a worship setting the personal feeling of being told by an ordained clergyperson that God loved everyone, not just heterosexuals.

When the sermon was over we sang “Christ Has Broken Down The Walls” a Hymn by Mark Miller who is the music director at Drew Theological School where I was attending Seminary. I had sung the words many times in my first year there and so that too was familiar and not unusual for me to hear, but Don had never heard the hymn before and his experience was very different. We finished singing and the service was over and so I turned to my right to hug my friend before turning to Don and that is when I saw the tears just running down his face and as I embraced him I could feel him shaking and he said to me;

This is how Church is supposed to be!”

2014-01-12 10.41.43
Foundry United Methodist Church , January 12, 2014 Washington DC

In that moment I said what has become a vow for me, I told him; “Honey, I will do everything within my power to make sure that this is how church will be!” From that Sunday forward we visited a different Reconciling Congregation each Sunday. Traveling to places like Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington DC, and Church of The Village in Greenwich Village, and Tabernacle UMC in Binghamton, NY, and to the church that I just became a member of this month Christ Church UMC in Troy NY.

The Pastor wearing the Reconciling Ministries Network Stole as he blesses our hands on our wedding day.
The Pastor wearing the Reconciling Ministries Network Stole as he blesses our hands on our wedding day.

 

In posts to come you will hear more about my commitment to help make church what it should be; a place of welcome and love for all persons regardless of their race, age, gender, ability, or sexual orientation. For now I will let you know that I have signed the Altar for All agreement put forth by the Love Your Neighbor Coalition of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, and I have agreed to volunteer ten days of my time to help the LYN Coalition do the work it needs to do in Portland, OR for General Conference 2016.

I will never know what the impact of the pastor’s sermon was on her own congregation. I am not a member of that church and not long after that time the friend who had invited us to visit moved on herself so I don’t have ties to the small congregation. If there were any hearts or minds that were opened to seeing God in a new dimension by the pastor’s words the effect of those changes might not be visible for quite some time, but what I do know is this; a heart was healed that Sunday morning. It was a heart that had been broken by the church many times before and the healing of that one heart is something any pastor can rejoice about, and that is when God’s people can say; Amen!

 

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Make Me Understand

Make Me Understand is a poem I wrote in honor of Bishop Yvette Flunder’s visit to our Drew Theological School Campus today. I share it with you in the hope that one day we can all freely preach of the Radical Hospitality that Bishop Flunder speaks of with such passion and grace.

Make Me Understand

Christine J Baxter

How many more?

Not one more!

Not one more child, not one more woman, not one more man.

You say incompatible, I say that is unfathomable

You say open doors, I see closed minds

How many have to die I say

Before you open your heart and pray

A young man comes to his church to seek a loving God

You turn him away because of who God designed him to be

You don’t speak to him about a loving God

You tell him he has to change who God created him to be

A woman chooses to finally follow her call

You tell her the pulpit was not created for all

She struggled to make the hard choice to follow

But you say she had a choice in the core of her marrow

You tell her she is welcome to worship inside

But if she is called to lead she must step aside

A couple comes to you with love in their hearts

You tell them their love was wrong from the start

They look to you in confusion because you see

When they took communion you blessed them individually

How many more I ask you?

Not one more I demand

There is nothing here that is incompatible

You’ll never make me understand.

 

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"We BECAME a Church; without walls, without a steeple!"

When a huge tree fell in his yard, Pastor Don Richards had a vision. Instead of chopping it into firewood, he had the tree made into a giant cross. And on Good Friday, hundreds of his neighbors made a very public belief statement by carrying the 14-ft., 425-lb. reminder of Christ’s suffering through the streets.

The Story

The Rev. Don Richards, Grace United Methodist Church: “The cross becomes more than just a furnishing on the altar, when the people bring the witness of Jesus Christ into the community. I’m Don Richards. I’m a pastor at Grace United Methodist Church. And we’re carrying a 425- pound cross 14.5 miles from my home in Alliance, Ohio to Grace United Methodist Church in North Canton, Ohio. We’re doing this to make a public witness that Easter is about something more than chocolate bunnies and colored eggs, and the cross is more than a piece of jewelry.”

Singing: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.”

Don Richards: “I was out in my woods last fall. There was this tree &ellipsis; it was just so straight and beautiful, and I was thinking, ‘We need a cross in our church, in our family life center,’ and then the idea of carrying the cross on Good Friday began to emerge.”

Matt Brown: “It’s raining, it’s about 45 degrees out, we have constant wind from the southeast. What we’re putting up with today is really nothing.It’s a pittance compared to what Christ had to put up with.”

Rebecca Evanoff: “I think this is a once-in-a-life time opportunity. It’s something really close to my heart. I would walk the whole day.”

Don Richards: “No one was complaining. No one was griping. And we became a church without walls. We became a church without a steeple, without any furnishings.”

Participants read: “Those who had placed their cloaks and palm branches along the way and praised Jesus, now were hurling insults at the innocent victim of human cruelty.”

Don Richards: “We became a church that was centered around this cross of Jesus Christ.”

The participants prayed as they walked: “Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Blake Fogle: “This day has changed my life because it’s really helped me embrace the true meaning of what Jesus went through when he died on the cross.”

Rebecca Evanoff: “After this day, the cross will mean so much more to me because I’ve carried it. It’s an amazing thing that I will never forget.”

Paul Olson: “Being out here in the cold and carrying this cross, and actually seeing a cross that’s fourteen feet high, and I could visualize him dying on the cross, and it really just makes me stop and think.”

“Watch the pole. We’re going to park it right here.”

Don Richards: “We couldn’t get the cross through the door. But they weren’t willing to leave it parked outside on the lawn, and they tilted that thing up and picked that 400-pound cross up, and brought it through the doors. And there were so many people in there waiting to see it. Everybody broke it to a cheer. I think this event will change the way I look at the cross. I think I will look at the cross and see the power it has to bring unity. God brought 260 people together today just with a wooden cross. It was a phenomenal, spiritual, Christ-centered experience.”

For More information:

The cross walk participants raised money and made donations to some local programs that help the homeless. They also picked up trash along the route.

“That’s what Jesus did for us,” Richards said. “He took our trash and filth and sin with him to the cross.” For more information, contact Grace United Methodist Church at 330-499-2330 or visit their website at www.Northcantongrace.org. This video and Story are courtesy of the People of The United Methodist Church, Through donations with World Service. Please visit www.UMC.org

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I Haven't Missed My Calling; Ministry of the Laity

 

UMNS photo Kathleen Barry You don’t have to be ordained to feed hungry people as Jesus instructed. Here Ana Zele, 18, a sophomore at Florida Southern University and a member of First United Methodist Church of Bradenton (Fla.), repackages cucumbers that have been gleaned and will be distributed to local food ministries by the Society of St. Andrew. This event took place at the 2012 General Conference in Tampa, Fla. 

The call to ministry can take many forms.

I became a Certified Lay Speaker over ten years ago. I have led groups for more than fifteen years. The call to Ordained Ministry is only one of the ways in which we are called as Christians and Disciples. In churches all over the world and in communities all over the world there are Disciples transforming the lives of individuals, families, and the communities in which they live.

The title of lay speaker was changed in 2012 to more accurately reflect the variety of ministries that lay servants contribute. For more information from the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship about the lay servant and lay ministry program click here.

To find a catalog of resources available to equip laity into ministry click here.

Please follow the link below to read the story of one lay person who knows that all are called to ministry wherever they are, whatever their occupation or even vocation, we are all called.

I Haven’t Missed My Calling.”

 

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Why I am a Reconciling United Methodist

Given the rare gift of a snow day I have more time to reflect than I have had of late and I want to affirm something that many people have asked me over the last ten years or so.

I was not born into a family of United Methodist’s. The person who influenced me the most in my spiritual walk was my Grandmother Sadie Ellen Colvin Morrow.

Sadie Ellen Colvin Morrow 1897-1992

Sadie Ellen Colvin Morrow (1897-1992) My grandmother didn’t know about drawing wide circles or rainbows, she never used the words, open and affirming, or reconciling. She didn’t need to. The gospel that she instilled in me, is what gave me the conviction that there has only been one man that had ever walked the face of this earth that was worthy of being a judge of any other. Additionally, that Man is no longer here, He is seated at the Right Hand of our Creator God and it is only because of His sacrifice that we are saved by Grace, and that we can not earn it , nor can we deny it to any one, in as much as He has done this for one, it was done for all. 

I was raised in a grace filled home but my Grandmother attended a church where righteous indignation reigned supreme and where there was no room for Grace. It was exactly that juxtaposition between what I heard at home and what I heard in the pulpit that instilled in me a desire to reconcile the two.

What did I hear God calling me to preach, when I made the decision to actually follow up on this calling ten years ago? I had a lot of education in front of me at that point and not very much under my belt but I knew then, just as surely as I do today that I have been called to preach Wesleyan Grace.  It was not only Wesleyan Grace that convinced me that I needed to be United Methodist however, it was also John Wesley’s Holy Temper. A Holy Temper is not righteous indignation, a Holy Temper, is a Christ like temperament. These are described by Paul in the Galatians 5 ” the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

When it comes down to preaching the Gospel however the denomination of the ordination that I will seek matters less than the message of Jesus Christ. In fact most the differences in theology matter much much less than we sometimes think they do.

What matters is what we are called to do, and that call is not from a Theologian, it is from God. It is in the Gospel message of Christ over and over, that we are called to love one another, we are given the ability to do this not because of anything that we can do alone, but Because GOD loved us, we can therefore love each other.

From 1 John 4 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”  “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

God is made complete in us!

That is our highest ideal, that is what perfection means. Can we obtain perfection while here in our earthly bodies? We are called upon to try.

I want to say that while I continue to work for change within a system that does not always live up to its highest ideals of “Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors” That I do recognize that those ARE our highest ideals!

It will be those ideals that I have in mind when I am asked before God if I will work to move on toward perfection in THIS lifetime;  and when I reply “YES, with the HELP OF GOD”  I will remember that I choose to follow this path and I choose to preach from this tradition and it is because of God’s Grace ALONE, that I can do anything that I do.

So, yes I will continue to be a United Methodist, a Reconciling United Methodist, and I will not allow those who can speak louder than I can be the only voices that represent a Church, and a tradition that I have grown to love and has taught me what love is.

I will not forget that while we may be working for change within a tradition that shares love, grace and mercy, that there are those who haven’t known any at all, and it is for them that the risk is greatest and the cost is highest. Yes I am an ally, and I will be not be silent.

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Insight from One who has done the job well !

Rev. Mark Conard share some thoughts on what it takes to be a good District Superintendent ! He should know !

Once know as GC Duck, Frequently known as Brilliant Communicator, Winner of A very famous Westie Award, Re. Mark Conard, Kansas West Conference of the United Methodist Church, Retired and loving it!
Once know as GC Duck, Frequently known as Brilliant Communicator, Winner of A very famous Westie Award, Rev. Mark Conard, Kansas West Conference of the United Methodist Church, Retired and loving it!

Not that anyone asked (actually, someone from another jurisdiction did),  but here are a few things I think that I have learned along the years about the United Methodist superintendency:
1. Act like you know what you’re doing. You are the superintendent from the first moment that the appointment is effective. When the clock strikes midnight, awake or asleep, you are the superintendent. The first step is to look like you know what you’re doing, whether you do or not.
2. Celebrate your appointment as Superintendent (note: not your installation!). Among other things, it will most likely be the most affirmation you ever receive as a D.S.
3. You are never not the superintendent. Though you may take a day off (or even days off!), you are never not the D.S. Among other things, you are an extension of the episcopal leadership, and confidentiality has different implications than ever before.
4. Watch, listen, and learn. Watch what you see (and notice what you don’t see); listen for what others say (and what they don’t say). This is applicable in every situation, including cabinet meetings. Learn from it all, but keep your knowledge low key. Nobody likes a show-off.
5. Colleagues. You now have (or should have) colleagues who understand you better than any colleagues ever have. They will (or should) pray with you, pray for you, stand with you, and support you in times of difficulty and challenge.
6. Prayer. If you have never learned to pray with passion and conviction, serving as a superintendent will deepen and broaden your prayer life immeasurably. One of my prayers was that clergy wouldn’t do anything stupid and churches wouldn’t do anything mean.
7. End Game. In the appointive process, always remember that every appointive run needs to have an ending. Try and make sure it is someone else’s district or else you will be chasing your own tail for weeks on end.
8. Center and Edge. Be alert for those who approach you quickly and eagerly; they may have an agenda they are wanting you to implement. Be attentive to the people at the edge; they have more to offer than you can imagine.
9. Buckling knees. There will come a point where your knees buckle, no matter how well prepared that you are and how faithfully you serve. When your knees buckle, try to make it look like a planned time for prayer.
10. D.S. Emblem. Remember that the unofficial logo for a District Superintendent is (or should be) a fire hydrant being struck by a lightning bolt. You will often be the focal point of people who think that passive aggression is a spiritual gift.

Published with Permission 2-1-2014

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How long do we wait God ?

How long do we wait God ? Click the picture for the Stream of the Panel Conversation that took place this morning at Foundry United Methodist Church with Jimmy Creech, Beth Stroud and Frank Schaefer. Bishop Gene Robinson was in attendance. Thank you to Matthew Berryman and Reconciling Ministries Network for providing this link and thank you to Rev. Seve Clunn and family for hosting Don and I when we were able to visit Foundry two weeks ago.

The link will also take you to the other recordings of Foundry’s Worship Services this morning.

Photo taken on Jan 12, 2014 During a personal visit to Foundry.
Photo taken on Jan 12, 2014 During a personal visit to Foundry.

Panel Discussion at Foundry UMC

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MSNBC: Methodist pastor refuses to voluntarily surrender credentials

http://on.msnbc.com/198STgJ

The Rev. Frank Schaefer, center, of Lebanon Pa., is surrounded by the media as he exits the gymnasium for a lunch break from a penalty hearing, at Camp Innabah, a United Methodist retreat, in Spring City Pa., Nov. 19, 2013. CHRIS KNIGHT/AP

 

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