The Least of These

“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

Many Ways to Say Love

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

BMUMC Survey

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.

Peace,
Jim


Our Leadership

Rev. Sam McGlothlin

Rev. Sam McGlothlin

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.

Rev. Gracie Dugan

Rev. Gracie Dugan

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

Steve Stone

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.

Peace,

Jim

Start Close In

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.

Peace,
Jim


You are Not Alone

On Sunday, Pastor Jim had a line in his sermon that I have been ruminating on ever since. When talking about this season of Lent, which requires us to embrace the wilderness of life instead of run from it, he said: “what happens if you remove your painkillers?” Specifically, he was talking about taking away whatever we use to distract us from our feelings of pain, grief, anger — the emotions we have learned are “bad”, or not worth encountering, or are too hard to truly embrace.

I decided to get off of social media and one of the reasons is precisely what Jim named. I have been distracting myself, telling myself I do not have time to feel because there is too much to get done. In our society, it is incredibly easy to allow ourselves to be occupied every second of every day. But the kingdom way is different. Jesus teaches us by example that solitude and stillness lead to greater relationship with God, self and others. 

Like me, you may avoid the silence because of the demons that come out to play when you are quiet. Sometimes I am afraid I do not have the power to defeat them — they are too loud, too strong. But as we saw on Sunday in Luke 4:1-13, no matter what the tempter threw at Jesus in the wild, he refused to bow down to the desires of the earthly kingdom. And the truth is Jesus was never alone in this battle. Dripping from baptism, he was driven into the wilderness by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was upheld by his community — the oneness of his union with the Father and Holy Spirit. Mark even says, “He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him” (1:14). There was a heavenly, wild host indeed.

Our challenge is to stop letting the fear of utter loneliness, anger, or grief keep us from stopping. We need seasons where we practice setting aside what helps us go numb — tv, computers, phones, food, taking care of everyone else, work — so we can feel deeply and actually encounter the living God. The good news is that God does not look away from our cries, our lament. The good news is that we walk the hard path together. We are fellow travelers, a band of angels — or wild animals if you prefer.

I hope and anticipate that this season will birth something new in your life as you tend to the hard-to-look-at ways you have been hurt and have hurt others. Remember: the journey is worth it, and we are here to listen, to offer care, to speak words of encouragement. If you need an objective third party, don’t forget about our wonderful Counseling Center. You are not alone.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Sam