I have friends in the Bahamas. At a former church, we developed a relationship with an organization called Methodist Bahamas Habitat. It was led, at the time, by a young man I had known since he was a 7th grader, Abraham McIntire. Their mission was to help rebuild homes that had sustained storm damage—and in the Bahamas such damage was frequent. One of the lessons we learned there was that the roof we were repairing might not last a year. But what we were mostly doing was building relationships…Read More
This was sent to me not long ago—I share it with a smile:
“A visiting priest was attending a men’s breakfast in Ohio farm country. He asked one of the impressive older farmers in attendance to say “grace” that morning. After all were seated, the old farmer began--
‘Lord, I hate buttermilk.” The priest opened one eye and wondered to himself where this prayer was going.Read More
September 1 marked the second year of the Counseling Center at Belle Meade United Methodist Church... Since September 1, 2017, with the support and encouragement of BMUMC, the Counseling Center has grown rapidly and accomplished much.Read More
I am thrilled to tell you about a very special treat we have in store for you. A few months ago I received a message from the folks at Vanderbilt Divinity School. We have a special relationship with the Div School as five of us on the church staff graduated from there (Sam, Gracie, Steve, Greg and myself). They were letting us know that the Div School was looking for ways to better connect with the churches in the area, and offered to have a faculty member come and teach a Sunday School class or perhaps to preach.Read More
“There are no passengers on this ship—only crew members.” You’ve heard me say this before. Every church depends on its membership to step up and give leadership in various ways. As the Apostle Paul told us, some are teachers, some are evangelists, some are prophets.Read More
We are only “news” when one of us does the wrong thing. That may be an unfair, high bar to set for all believers, but it is what it is… We who believe in the Lordship of Jesus proudly wear that title, but it comes with a price tag—”to whom much is given, much will be expected.”Read More
Two more mass shootings occurred this past weekend. 9 dead in Dayton, Ohio. 20 more dead in El Paso, Texas. 67 others injured… I would hope that it would surprise and appall you to hear that these were the 20th and 21st mass shootings just this year—and we just entered August. But I fear we are becoming numb to such news.Read More
Recently I stumbled over the obit for a man from Hendersonville whom I did not know—but I was intrigued by his obit. His name was James Howell. The obit didn’t list a church connection so I don’t know if he was a “believer” or not. What struck me was a “lifetime” project he undertook.Read More
Do you know the name José Andrés? I didn’t until I ran across an article on him while flying home from Portugal. Andrés is one of the world’s finest chefs. He has won numerous national and world-wide awards for his work and he currently owns twenty restaurants around the world.
He is best known for bringing the Spanish concept of “small plates” or tapas to the United States.
But not many people know what he should truly be known for.Read More
Allow me to introduce Naomi Hackman to you. Naomi is an 88-year-old great-grandmother who lives in Greenville, South Carolina. She turns 89 in September and for an early birthday gift, her family checked off a “bucket list” item for her—they arranged for her to skydive…Read More
The 2019 Tennessee Annual Conference met recently at Brentwood UMC. Approximately 750 lay and clergy delegates representing every church in Middle Tennessee were present. The theme for the conference was “WORD, WATER, & WITNESS.” We were all called to remember that our identities were formed at our baptisms. Here are some of the highlights:
We elected 20 persons to serve as delegates to the 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Sam McGlothlin was one of those elected to represent our conference.
We voted to merge with the Memphis Annual Conference. This conversation has been ongoing for many years. The actual merger will not begin until 2021. We will report to you on the ramifications of this merger at a later date.
The Board of Ordained Ministry recommended 28 persons for Ordination and Commissioning and another 19 persons to be licensed to preach. This is an unusually large class and represents a genuine hope for our future. The Service of Ordination took place on Wednesday, June 12th. Many of you were part of the packed church to witness Sam’s final ordination.
The Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A) presented 7 action items to the conference. Most importantly for our local churches was the recommendation and approval for a change in our apportionment system. Up to now, clergy health insurance and pensions have been an apportioned item. Beginning in 2021 or 2022, churches will now be directly billed for these two items. And with this “direct bill” system will come a significant decrease in the amount apportioned. When the new system goes into effect, the new apportionment amount—based on a churches reported revenue from the previous year—will be 11% and then graduated downward by a quarter of a percent for the next four years until we arrive at a flat 10% apportionment. For frame of reference, most churches are currently apportioned anywhere between 16 and 20%. Is the new system awash (for Belle Meade will the amount saved in apportionments be equal to the amount we pay in direct billing)? The short answer is no. Under the new system, Belle Meade will benefit financially from this system because larger churches have been “subsidizing” other churches for a long time. Again, we will bring more information about this change later.
The Conference passed an “Inclusion Resolution” that reads as follows:
It Is Resolved That - “The Tennessee Conference apologizes for the harm that actions at the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference has caused LGBTQIA+ persons, their families, their friends, and the body of Christ. We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God, and urge all in ministry, whether lay or clergy, to affirm that no human being is incompatible with Christian teaching. Be It Further Resolved that we urge all lay and clergy in the Tennessee Conference to make all reasonable efforts to address issues of LGBTQIA+ ordination and marriage in a manner so as to treat church trials and judicial processes as a last resort.”
There was debate around this resolution. A written ballot was taken and the Resolution passed with a 62% vote in favor.
There were numerous luncheons and dinners held by various organizations and seminary alumni groups. One of these gatherings was The Golden Cross dinner which recognizes and honors outstanding efforts by Sr. Adult ministries in local churches. This year our own MOSAICS group received one of only five such awards given for 2019. Congratulations to our Mosaics!
Belle Meade was represented very well by the following persons: Martha Brooke Martin and Marshall Brown, who are two of our elected lay delegates, and by Ashley Terrell and Kristy Westover, who were elected as Red River District at-large delegates, and by our three clergy delegates Sam McGlothlin, Gracie Dugan and Jim Hughes.
In early June, our Be45 Ministry students took a trip to the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas for 3 days of experiential learning about the reality of global poverty and hunger. We learned about food waste, sustainable agriculture, global hunger, refugees and the causes and effects of poverty. During our three days together, we pondered this question: if there is enough food for everyone in the world to have 2 meals a day, why doesn’t everyone have enough?Read More
“When did we see you in prison and not visit you? Inasmuch as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it unto me.” That’s what Jesus says in the powerful 25th chapter of Matthew. These words from Jesus have always carried extra weight because they came near the end of his life.Read More
In her book, The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd tells of a teenaged character named Lily. One day her mother figure in the story asks Lily what she loves in this world. The young girl says she loves Coca-Cola and salted peanuts, the color blue, bees and honey. Her mother asks, “Did you know there are 32 names for love in one of the Eskimo languages? And we have just the one. We are so limited, we have to use the same word for loving each other as we do for loving a Coke with peanuts. Isn’t it a shame we don’t have more ways to say it?”Read More
As you read this, several members of our congregation—along with your three, appointed clergy—will be involved in the Tennessee Annual Conference meeting at Brentwood UMC. …Read More
Stuck in the Mud
Rev. Jim Hughes
It happened a couple of weeks ago. At about three o’clock in the afternoon, having been pretty much confined to my office for several hours, I ventured to the front lobby to find a woman sitting in one of the comfortable chairs. I asked her if I could help her and she began to explain her plight.
Her name was Donna. She was visiting Nashville from Florida. Seems her husband was in town on business and Donna came along for the ride—ostensibly to see what the “IT” city was all about. She said she was waiting for a tow truck to help pull her car out of what she overstated as a mud pit. Just east of the Post Road and Davidson Road 4-Way Stop, she had had a flat tire and pulled the car off the road. The car was a rental and so she called the rental company who promptly came out and put the spare on—one of those temporary “donut” spares that look like they are better suited for a bicycle than a car.
The rental car folks drove away leaving Donna just off the side of the road. As she began to try and reverse her car from off the road, the donut tire began to spin. It couldn’t get any traction. Pretty soon she had spun a solid track of mud and the car was immobile. There was simply no way that car was ever going to back out of that spot.
So Donna made her way across the street to us. She was warmly greeted and welcomed, I later learned, which came as no surprise at all. What I didn’t realize when I made my way to the lobby at 3:00 was that Donna had been sitting in the lobby for nearly three hours waiting for help. Robert came out of his office and we offered to walk down with her and assess her situation. Her car was, indeed, just a few feet off the road and pointing mostly toward the white fence out in front of her. That little stretch of land is basically flat with just a gentle slope from the road.
Donna was clearly frazzled by having to wait for so long. I asked her if I could borrow her keys. She responded, “Trust me, there is no way you can back that car out of there—I tried many times.” I said, “I’m going to try going forward.” Now, if you had seen her situation, you would know there was nothing “zen-like” in my response to her. I simply put the car in drive, rolled forward a few feet and then turned the car back up onto the street. It took all of 15 seconds.
The look on her face was a mixture of joy, surprise, and embarrassment. She was so very grateful and also dreading to explain to her husband what had happened. I suggested maybe that could just be our secret.
Afterward upon reflection, this was something of a living parable for me. Here was a person who found themselves in a situation for which they could only imagine one solution. When that solution failed, they became paralyzed. I’ve known countless people in my life who have been in that same boat (or car). I’ve been there, too. Maybe the “moral” of this parable is that when you feel paralyzed by your situation because the only solution you can muster has failed, maybe you reach out to someone else who has a very different perspective—someone who isn’t already frazzled by the circumstances.
The next day, Donna appeared at our door again carrying a large goodie basket for the staff as a sign of her appreciation. That, of course, wasn’t necessary, but then again it served to close the episode in a positive way for her. She needed to say “thank you” whether or not we needed her to say it.
Her last word to us before she left was, “your church saved me”.
There MUST be a parable in there somewhere, too.
Many of you are keeping up with the most recent ruling of our General Conference regarding LGBTQ+ persons and their full inclusion in the life of the church. By now you are aware that the General Conference meeting in February voted to retain the traditional language of the Discipline and to continue the limited inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons (i.e. ban on performing same sex weddings and ban on ordination for gay persons). Later, in May, the Judicial Council of the church was asked to hear arguments on the constitutionality of these rulings. The Council upheld the February rulings.
This has led to a genuine crisis within our denomination. The overwhelming majority of voters in the American Methodist church (2/3rds to 1/3rd) voted for what was known as the “One Church Plan, which would have opened the door for every local church to consider its own context and decide for themselves how to move forward as United Methodists. But because the General Conference also includes the global Methodists (like Africa, Asia, etc.) those voting blocs helped to defeat the One Church Plan by a 53 to 47% vote.
As a result, many are beginning to question how we can move forward as a global church. The African influence proved to be the most powerful. Homosexuality is not just taboo in most African areas - it is criminal and sometimes even punishable by death. At the same time, polygamy is widely practiced in African nations. Many found it difficult to reconcile the hard stance against LGBTQ+ persons while allowing polygamy.
The latest piece to all this is that a gathering of some 600 clergy and lay persons from every annual conference in the nation (a total of ten from each conference) met at Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City. This is the largest UMC in our connection and led by Adam Hamilton who is well-known among most us. This gathering was the first to try and determine how “centrist” and “progressive”- minded churches might forge a new future together - maintaining our Methodist heritage. We can discuss their initial findings at a later date.
For now it is becoming increasingly clear that we need to know where we stand as a church. Your Church Council will be shortly sending you a very simple survey which will give you a chance to weigh in on this conversation. One of the four questions asks simply, “Do you agree with the decisions made at the recent General Conference? And you may answer simply yes, no, or not sure. You may also expound on your answer if you wish. This survey will be done anonymously. Our goal is to learn, as the leadership of the church, how we can proceed together as a congregation.
Let me be clear - we are not at any kind of “decision point”. That may very well come later, but for now we are simply doing our best to know the mind and heart of our congregation. The survey will be self-explanatory when it arrives and how you can return it. The quickest, easiest way will be online. For now, I wanted to alert you that the survey is coming and how important it is to all of us that every member and regular participant in the life of our church take a few minutes to fill this survey out.
And finally please hear this - our ultimate goal is the same as it has always been: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As always, if you would like to speak directly with either Sam or myself about this, we invite you into conversation.
On Wednesday, June 12th, Sam McGlothlin will receive her ordination as an Elder in The United Methodist Church. This is the culmination of a long process in which the church examines a candidate to ensure that he or she has the gifts and graces required to serve as a pastor. This process is about ten years long beginning with undergraduate school, seminary and then a period of “residency” under supervision.
We are all thrilled for Sam and I hope you will do your best to attend the service of ordination at Brentwood United Methodist Church the evening of Wednesday, June 12th at 7pm.
This is a good opportunity to teach about our pastors and other leaders. Sam is to be ordained as an Elder, whose primary tasks are to Word, Sacrament, Service and Order of the Church. Elders are primarily responsible for preaching, administering the sacraments, and maintaining the general order of the church. The church has multiple ministry positions and various ways that people fulfill these roles.
Gracie Dugan, our Pastor of Children and Families, is ordained as a Deacon in the United Methodist Church. A Deacon goes through the same level of training and process as an Elder. However, the “calling” of a Deacon differs from an Elder in that they are called to ministries of Word and Service along with those of Compassion and Justice. A Deacon—whose name is derived from the Greek word “diakonia” meaning service—takes on the responsibility of serving the church and Christ in the world in particular ways. Gracie’s call is to serve and nurture children and their families. Deacons may serve the church in many ways including with children, youth, senior adults, music or missions. Some Deacons also live into their call to connect the church to the world as they lead outside the walls of the church in non-profits. Gracie can preach, which she did excellently last week, but that is not her primary call. Her passion is to introduce the faith to our children in ways that they can grasp - so that they continue to learn of the love God has for them and the whole world. She also works to partner with and empower families to bring spiritual formation and faith practices into the home.
Steve Stone is our Pastor of Youth and Families. Steve is also seminary trained, but did not pursue an ordination path. In fact, most people who choose a career in youth ministry are not seminary trained or ordained in any way. Steve’s task is to walk with our youth and their families through their important adolescent years and help them with their faith development. As our children mature and become teenagers, that period of time in their lives is critical as they form their faith. Steve is responsible to teach and to lead the youth to ask important questions and to provide missions and activities that will help form faith.
Our church is very fortunate to have these two additional seminary trained persons on our staff. The value of that seminary training, I believe, is a depth that others don’t possess. A more complete understanding of the Bible and Church produces a better equipped disciple. Gracie and Steve bring that level of expertise to the children and youth ministries of our church.
Maybe you can make the time to sit with Gracie and Steve over a cup of coffee/tea to get better acquainted and let them explain in more depth about their ministries.
Good People Are Built
Rev. Jim Hughes
I stumbled over a story this week--one that I had never heard. It came from the era of World War II. It takes place in a small village in the remote mountains of Central France--Le Chambon sur Lignon.
Between the years of 1942 and 1944, the 300 farmers who lived around this village organized a sort of underground railroad for families of Jews who were trying to avoid getting caught up in the vast machinery of the Holocaust. The villagers put out the word: come here and you will be safe.
The farmers hid the Jews in their barns, forged papers on their behalf, and helped them make their way across the Alps into Switzerland or over the Pyrenees into Spain. All in all in that three year period, they saved over 5000 lives.
When I first read this story I was filled with admiration--these farmers must have known that if the Gestapo ever caught them, they’d be executed. But they did it anyway.
There was more to this story, I discovered. It turns out these 300 farmers didn’t just decide one day to do this. They had quietly been preparing themselves to do it long before the war started. The catalyst was a Protestant pastor named Andre Trocme. He came to Le Chambon in 1932 and in his sermons, Sunday after Sunday, he taught these villagers that the way of Jesus was nonviolence. Week after week this community made themselves the kind of people who could rise to the occasion if the need ever came. They intentionally made themselves into a unique kind of moral actor.
I am aware of all the graduations taking place around us. I’ve been asked to speak at a few of these types of occasions. It isn’t easy--you want to tell young people everything they need to know to be happy and successful and difference-makers. And you quickly realize you just don’t have enough time to do all that. So if you could tell a graduating class one thing to help them along their journey, what would you say?
If you are like me, that “one thing” might change from week to week, but this lesson from those farmers might be a good place to start. You don’t just wake up one day and decide to be a good person--at least most of us don’t. Good people are built--they are trained by people who love them to become loving people themselves--they are trained by their parents, their teachers, other significant adults, and each other. AND they commit themselves to BE trained.
The next time you have a debate within yourself whether to allow your child to commit every Sunday to the travel team or some other activity rather than attend church, don’t forget to ask yourself what kind of person am I trying to help build? If you believe the travel team can produce a better person, then that’s what you should do.
For the building of moral people, my money is on the church.
I know we most of us don’t think like this, but there is a part of me that considers Easter like New Year’s Day - when we turn the page and make decisions to be better selves in some way.
For me, Easter is the celebration of starting over again - fresh from the knowledge that the God of Everything is truly on our side.
I came across the following poem this week written by David Whyte. In it, he suggests that our renewed journey through our lives should “start close in” - hence the name of his poem:
START CLOSE IN
Start close in. Don’t take the second step or the third.
Start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take.
Start with the ground you know, the pale ground beneath your feet,
Your own way to begin the conversation.
Start with your own question, give up on other people’s questions,
Don’t let them smother something simple.
To hear another’s voice, follow your own voice,
Wait until that voice becomes an intimate private ear that can really listen to another.
Start right now, take a small step you can call your own.
Don’t follow someone else’s heroics, be humble and focused.
Start close in, don’t mistake that other for your own.
Start close in, don’t take the second step or the third,
Start with the first thing, close in. The step you don’t want to take.