There have been protests, prayers, petitions and lots and lots of pain. To be perfectly honest, some of what I have heard has brought tears to my eyes, as I heard about proposals of a potential split between conservatives and liberals. All of this is because of a heartfelt desire on all sides to to fulfill our mission to "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." Each and every delegate there wants to ensure that vital congregations continue.
We are just one of many congregations in this vast United Methodist history. And yet, I look at what is going on right here at Walnut Hill UMC and I see so much that is filled with a vitality focusing on what unity, rather than what divides. Just last week, this is what I experienced:
On Thursday night, we welcomed 200 athletes, teachers and their families from Thomas Jefferson High School for a banquet celebrating their achievements this past year. The welcome and hospitality they experienced by our church allowed them to know that the church was a place that cared about each of them individually.
On Friday night, we gathered with moms in the neighborhood for a time of fellowship and friendship. We circled in prayer for one another and our families, lifting up our lives to God in a way that brought us closer to God and one another as the church.
On Saturday morning, church members walked at Fair Park in the annual NAMI walk to raise awareness and over $2,000 for research to the National Alliance for Mental Illness. In gathering as a church, praying and blessing our time together, other walkers wanted to know more about our church that would intentionally make the time to stand up in solidarity to break the stigma of a mental illness.
On Sunday morning we worshipped hearing 8 different languages spoken, many in the native tongue of our members. As I looked around amidst the banners and bubbles and candles on Pentecost Sunday, I saw a diversity of age, culture, socio-economics and lifestyles, all coming together to give thanks for the presence of the Holy Spirit.
On Sunday evening, we gathered with parents from all over the neighborhood to play "Jeopardy" as part of the conclusion of a 6 week series on human sexuality. This program taught our 5th and 6th graders to "think about it, talk about it, pray about it" when it comes to issues of sexuality with confidence that they have been "Created by God."
On Monday we worked with a partner church, Christ Foundry, to register 60 elementary school children for the Project Transformation summer program housed at Walnut Hill UMC that will teach students about leadership, character, healthy habits and grow their literacy skills.
On Tuesday we celebrated the conclusion of a 5 month training for Stephen ministers that will reach out to members of our local neighborhood who are struggling with illness, job loss, divorce, grief or other life altering issues. This joint ministry with Holy Cross Lutheran Church just down the street from us is allowing us to be better together as the larger body of Christ.
This was the just the last 6 days of ministry at Walnut Hill UMC. And to be honest, this is a pretty typical week, of what we do to live out our mission statement to "Nurture Community through Loving God and Serving Neighbor." Every time we open our doors in hospitality we share the love of Christ with someone who may have never felt welcomed by God before. Every time we bond together in a ministry with other denominations, we strengthen the body of Christ to be a true reflection of what the church is meant to be. Every time we reach out in love and service to the children in our community to give them opportunities to thrive beyond what life circumstances have offered them, we provide the liberating spirit that Christ proclaimed in the resurrection. Every time we create spaces of justice and advocacy for those who are marginalized or silenced, we speak on behalf of the Christ who included all. Every time we gather in prayer with those whom we find fellowship and connection, we find ourselves deepened in understanding God's love. And every time we encourage healthy conversation with our children, whether about human sexuality or any other topic, we establish a strong foundation for the future.
All of what has happened this past week at Walnut Hill UMC is a glimpse into what the kingdom of God can look like. Right here, in this little corner of the world. We are seeing people coming together, not dividing. We are focusing on our common mission, not our difference of opinion. We are seeing how God is doing amazing work bringing so many different people together and uniting them in the body of Christ.
And so the future of the United Methodist Church is now. It isn't a matter of waiting around for decisions to be made or petitions to be passed. Our faithful witness is to live out what we have been called to do, here and now.
Let's be the church that has a future.
Let's be the future of the church.
Let's keep doing what God is calling us to do.
In Christ's love,