"Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and call upon his Name. "
As I have been preparing my sermon for Sunday, I became moved by emotion. I am
truly grateful for all of you. As Adam Hamilton puts it, pastor of the Church of the
Resurrection in Kansas City, Kansas, "I'm thankful for the willing and the unwilling." I
have learned so much from everyone one of you.
We have grown together as a community and a neighborhood; however, we're just
beginning. God, using that famous Isaiah passage, "I am doing a new thing". God has
done a new thing on this corner of Sycamore and Garland in and through us, and, in
fact, even moving us in our unwillingness and fear, including me.
As I have said several times and will continue to say, like a broken record: "We are to
be a people, a "church" that would be missed if we vanished from this corner of
Sycamore and Garland."
The beautiful thing is we are not an island. We are living out the gospel and not
membership. Yes, we are thankful for our community that we stood in front of 60, 50,
40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 1 year(s) and even weeks for some of us, committing to prayers,
presence, financial gifts, service, and witness. The thing is we committed to living it out
beyond these walls. As John Wesley has taught us, "we are to watch over each other in
love." As a community we are to encourage one another to live up to all those
One of the most meaningful phrases I have heard about the role of the"church" is we
are to "widen the circle of God's love." I am so, so proud of all of you that have been
doing this work. We are now more than "members" taking care of "members" , we are
widening the circle of God's love to our neighbors and partners in ministry. Our
community is not just the " membership"; it's the countless people that come through
our community and helping us strengthen our presence on this corner.
There were so many from our worshipping community and wider community that
came out, clearing "our" lot; we could not have done it without them. Two of so many,
Joe and John, have spent hours and hours working on the property to truly make it
better. Today, our lay leader, David Walton, and Larry Cleavland, along with his service
dog, Hersey, did even more work on this soon to be park/parking lot. They uprooted
tree stumps and packed layers and layers of dirt on the drain so that we can drive over
it! We will be able to save over $900 on taxes because all the lots are connected and
being used by us and so many. We could have up to thirty more parking places
because this lot has been cleared and joined with our current parking lot. I give thanks
I give thanks for all that God has been up to in and through us! There are so many
more I wish I could name, but there are too many for this On the Corner. The point is
that we are not alone and we don't live out our faith alone. I thank God for our worshipping community and our wider community that gather around gardens and
tables and just showing up just as we are.
Thanks be to God for you!!!
Advent is coming soon! In the Christian community of believers this is our New Year! It's amazing that our beginning is always the apocalypse or text that deal with the second Coming which is definitely a beginning. Advent is a time of "expecting" and "waiting" for something new to come about in our lives and in our community. This year Advent comes November 30! On that morning before we worship, we will have an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the scriptures. At 9:30a we will have Sunday School in the sanctuary like we've done in the past. You are invited to purchase Adam Hamilton's, Making Sense of the Bible, Rediscovering the power of scripture today.
It is a six week study, so we study all through Advent (4 weeks); then will take a little
Christmas break and resume another two weeks. We will start back January 4, 2015.
As Adam describes in his preface he says this:
"I love the Bible...and I wrestle with it. There are portions, if l'm honest, that I have
questions about. There are statements on its pages that I don't believe capture the
character and will of God. I'm guessing, if you're honest, you have questions too. We're
not alone. As a pastor, I regularly hear from people who are perplexed, confused, or
disturbed by something they've read in the Bible....This book is an attempt to honestly
wrestle with the difficult questions often raised by thoughtful Christians and non-
Christians concerning things taught by the Bible."
The book begins with foundational questions such as, How and when was the Bible
written? Who decided which books made it into the scriptures and why? How literally
must we read it? And, Is the Bible ever wrong?
From there, Hamilton considers the real questions people frequently ask that continue
to divide Christians and denominations alike, including:
We're Adam and Eve real people?
Why is God so violent in the Old Testament?
Why would Paul command women to "keep silent in the church"?
Is Jesus the only way to salvation?
How does God view homosexual people?
Is the Book of Revelation a guide to the End Times?
There will be six videos to go with each week:
Making sense of the Old Testament
Making sense of the New Testament
Questions about the nature of scripture
The Bible and science
Violence, suffering, and other troubling issues
Wrestling with issues of sexuality and relationships.
Come join us for this important study and discussion as we give birth to the new things
God continues to give to us!
Let's have fun and see you Sunday!
This week I received a provocative yet helpful article from a friend. The author was J. Barrett Lee. I have asked the author permission to share this with you today. The following is from Rev. J. Barrett Lee in the Presbyterian Church (USA):
Whenever a congregation goes looking for a new pastor, the first question on their minds when the committee interviews a new candidate is: Will this pastor grow the church?
I'm going to go ahead and answer that question: No, she will not.
No amount of pastoral eloquence, organization, insightfulness, amiability, or charisma will take your congregation back to its glory days.
What then your pastor do? She can make your board meetings longer with prayer and Bible study. She can mess with your sense of familiarity by changing the order of worship and the arrangement of the sanctuary. She can play those strange new songs and forget about your favorite old hymns. She can keep on playing those old hymns instead of that new contemporary praise music. She can bug you incessantly about more frequent celebration of Communion. She can ignore your phone call because she's too busy praying. She can ruin your perfectly balanced budget with appeals for more funds to be allocated toward mission and outreach. She can take up your precious evenings with kooky new book studies and meditation groups. She can take up your precious weekends with exhausting volunteer projects. She can open your church building to the ugliest and meanest freaks in town, who show up at odd hours, beg for handouts, track muddy snow into the building, leave their cigarette butts in the parking lot, and spill their coffee on the carpet during their junkies Anonymous meetings.
She can come off sounding like a Jesus freak evangelical, gushing on and on about the Bible and your personal relationship with God. She can come off sounding like a smells n' bells catholic, pontificating on and on about tradition and sacraments. She can come off sounding like a bleeding- heart liberal, prattling on and on about social justice and the need to constantly question old interpretations.
What can she do to grow the church? Nothing. There's nothing your pastor can do to make your church grow. She can't save your church. Your church already has a Savior and it's not her. She can push you. She can open doors. She can present you with opportunities. It's up to you to take advantage of them. She can plant seeds ad water them. It's up to God to make them grow.
And what if that happens? What will growth look like? Will all those old, inactive members suddenly return? Will the pews be packed again? Will you need to start a second service and buy the lot next door in order to expand the parking lot? No. You might see a few new faces in the crowd. There won't be many of them. Some might stick around but most won't. Those who stay won't fit in the old guard. They won't know about how you've always done it. They'll want to make changes of their own. Their new ideas will make you uncomfortable. Your church won't look or feel like it used to. You'll feel like your losing control of this place that you've worked so hard to preserve. It will feel like your church is dying.
And that's just the thing. A growing church is a dying church. It has to be. It cannot be otherwise. The way to Easter Sunday goes through Good Friday. The way to the empty tomb goes through Golgotha. The way to resurrection goes through crucifixion. When Jesus told you to take up your cross and follow, did you expect it to lead anywhere else? What Jesus told us about himself is also true of churches: Unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it bears no fruit.
But what if it doesn't work? What if you let your pastor do all that crazy stuff and nobody new shows up? What if the church still goes under? What if all that time you spend studying the Bible, expanding your horizons, deepening your spiritual life, and serving your community turns out to be time wasted? What if it does?
Tell you what: if that happens, if you commit yourself to all this and still feel like it was a waste of time in the end, then maybe your church really needed to die.
With those with ears listen!
Let's have fun and see you Sunday!!! Peace Terry
Every year at Charge Conference I submit a Pastor's Report; the following is said report. Charge Conference will be October 19 at 5pm. Next week, On the Corner, I will be giving a report on the transformative conference five of us attended last week at the Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, Kansas. Let's have fun and see you Sunday!
In the spirit of Paul’s letters, I give thanks for serving on the corner of Sycamore and Garland and beyond, as your pastor, for almost seven years. I am grateful for those in this community past and present who have shared their love for Christ with me and our neighborhood. It is a privilege to serve and grow with this missional community.
Years ago a preacher told me to always “brag on Jesus”. Christ is alive everywhere, yet I am seeing Christ specifically move through the people called Methodist at 1021 Sycamore! I want to brag on all the people who come together to share Christ on this corner and beyond. Recently, one of our partners in ministry called us the “little church that could”. There are so many in this community, because of their walk with Christ, pour everything into building up the ministries within these walls and out! It’s amazing! Thank you!
Sunday Supper continues to grow in number and in a deeper sense of community. It is not a soup kitchen. It is a time in which rich and poor, black and white, young and old, and whatever separates us come together as a community.
We are excited to broaden our partnership with Tri-Cycle Farms! We have two long- time members of this community living in the Rock House across the street as we grow deeper connections in our surrounding neighborhood, which 43% ,within a one mile radius, are below the poverty level. Our Sunday Supper meals are strengthened by produce from the stated community as well as some leftovers from the Farmer’s Market on the Square.
We will be partnering with Tri-Cycle starting a Farmer’s Market here on this corner, the Cross Roads Market. We are growing as a church from the inside out to be deeply connected to the people in our surrounding neighborhood.
We are also excited to start a New Monastic Community in the Garland House. We are the anchor church for this developing community. We will be starting the pilot year after the six week study, Longing for Spring by Dr.Elaine Heath. It will begin in mid November. This community will be significant as we continue to not only be a presence in our neighborhood but also connecting more deeply with our neighbors through conversation, meals, prayers, and even a worship service that we are planning to develop through this community.
Even in the excitement of broadening our presence in our neighborhood, there are always challenges. We are reaching out to our neighborhood and will grow in that spirit more and more, yet our mission field is extremely hostile, in some respects, to organized religion. It is a young, progressive, diverse neighborhood of people from all over the world, all walks of life.
We are strengthening our relationship with the Korean Mission as well. We join one another in mission at Sunday Supper once a month. We are having children’s Sunday School together as well. We plan on having a joint worship service together in December.
We are changing the culture of this Christian community to continue to grow in the inclusivity of Christ for all people. All means all. All are welcome to this community to join us in worship and mission.
The other challenge is living in a world where there are limited resources more and more, being creative with what we have. Our mission field is predominantly poor. Since last Charge Conference, we have taken in 17 new members (one profession of faith and two infant baptisms), but finances are still limited, including our shared ministry dollars (apportionments). This will be a challenge for this community for quite some time, especially in our mission field.
At the end of the day, Christ meets us where we are no matter what! We give thanks for that and so much more! We are growing in that understanding that we are bound by the unity of Christ. We all are sinners and saints. We are all standing at the foot of the cross both those here and not here. We are called to be reconciled with a world that is broken and may not want us around, but we continue to do the ministry of Christ through the Holy Table and create relationship where there has been none. That is the work of forgiveness and reconciliation we have been given as the Bride of Christ. We continue to grow through that tension and embrace that love and share it with the world!
Several years ago a conversation was taking place all over the United Methodist Church, especially in this country, about the need for revival and renewal in a church that was declining and in crisis. In Arkansas that conversation took place in our district then spread throughout the Conference.
The following is how our Conference described what became "Imagine Ministry":
"When the Arkansas Annual Conference began the Imagine Ministry journey, you were reacting to a projected future characterized by financial unsustainability, decreasing membership and more and more churches focused primarily on survival instead of faithfulness. Thankfully, Phase One was short-lived as Imagine Ministry quickly moved into its next two phases."
Then in 2012 we adopted structural changes and reduced Districts from nine to five. We also changed our focus as a "church" and as a Conference. We adopted the following vision, mission, and core measures:
Vision: Congregations and surrounding communities transformed by the Holy Spirit to demonstrate love of God and neighbor, holy living, and justice.
Mission: To make disciples of Jesus Christ equipped to transform the world with excellence and passion.
Core Measures used to evaluate the deep change necessary to make disciples of Jesus Christ and transform the local church:
Core Measure 1:We will be enriched by our wesleyan heritage of scriptural holiness so that we are connected by our mission of making disciples instead of being connected by our apportionments, appointments, and benefits
This means going back to our roots of small groups, "watching over one another with love". We would ask each other, "How is it with your soul?" and "Are you keeping the ordinances of God? (fasting, acts of mercy, prayer, study of the scriptures). Our main focus will not be "upkeep" of the institution but going out and being apart of people's lives, transforming our communities and neighborhoods. It's not all about getting the best appointment or paying all your apportionments to get the best appointment; it is about getting to know our mission field and serving.
Core Measure 2: We will establish the mission field as the primary focus of our attention and resources instead of directing the majority of our attention and resources to mere maintenance of congregation and clergy.
This is one of the hard ones. We have been very inward over the past one hundred and fifty years. While the neighborhoods changed all around us, a lot or most of our churches didn't change with it. The pastor's focus was to keep people "happy" and not "rock the boat", not lead but maintain. The focus was to keep people happy and take care of the clergy. Now we are shifting the focus back to the gospel. We are creating communities based in Jesus' fulfillment of the law, "to love your neighbor as yourself."
Core Measure 3: We will equip laity and clergy to transform individuals, communities and the world instead of trying to satisfy the personal preferences of current members and ensure congregational preservation.
In Core 3 the church is shifting from communities driven by likes or dislikes to being focused on being sent out and being involved in people's lives outside the doors of the church building, making a difference with the people all around us. I commend this community of faith! We are growing in this core measurement. We are doing it through Sunday Supper, Tri- Cycle Farms, Potter's House, Food Pantry, and the soon to be New Monastic Community.
Core Measure 4: We will address the unique context of each mission field instead of depending on standardized programs and structures.
A good example of Core 4 is partnering with the Korean Mission. The UofA is at our door step. Most of the Korean Mission is made up of young Korean students. It made perfect sense that Trinity would be a strong partner because our proximity with the campus and this vibrant ministry.
Also, this core measurement is saying the mission field of Nashville or Prescott will be different from ours. Not every mission field is to be handled with a "cookie cutter" approach.
Bishop Mueller directs us to this last component: Our Trajectory for the coming years:
Creating vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world.
Let's have fun and see you in worship Sunday!
The Spring of 2001 I was so excited to receive my first appointment as a full fledge pastor, or almost! I was a young seminarian in the process of ordination; I was graduating from Emory University that May. I had just been appointed to the first church I would serve, First United Methodist Church, Fort Smith, as an associate pastor. I was ready to serve and lead or at least I thought I was!:)
I started that appointment in July. Two months later my life along with everyone in our nation would and did change drastically, 9/11 happened. It has been thirteen years since 9/11 and thirteen years of ministry for me! I have been reflecting on this thirteenth anniversary of the attack on the United States and my ministry in said country.
In Fort Smith, just like many or even most faith communities on September 11, 2001, we had worship together. The Senior Pastor, Rev. David Orr, preached a hopeful sermon. The scripture was Romans 8:37-39, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
On that day, with collapsing towers in New York City, a burning Pentagon, and a plane going down in ruin in PA, heroes on a plane preventing another attack on the U.S., that scripture made sense to me maybe for the first time.
No matter what happens to us. No matter if the institutions we put our trust and hopes in collapse and cease to be no more; we have the love and promise of Christ with us. Our hopes are fleeting if they are primarily in governments or even the leadership of the church.
I have been serving and leading churches in an era of fear that is unmatched, especially in this country. The words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “all we have to fear is fear itself”, are a faint memory. We have been in war since 2001, and we will broaden that war with the rise to power of another terror group, ISIS. We are gripped by fear both in this country and in the church.
Since that day of fire and pillar of smoke took over a major U.S. city, I started relating it to the ancient Israelite people in Exodus. I Pose these questions: Where have we seen the power of God at work, as the Israelites did in a very different pillar of fire and cloud by the sea (Exodus 14:19-31)? What are the signs that we are learning to do the work of forgiveness and reconciliation (Matthew 18:21-35)? How has 9-11 changed us, for better or for worse?
I can't answer that for everyone. The tension that we all hold is living in a country waging war and a faith that teaches war no more. How do we respond faithfully in the face of another war? No matter what our country does; we can be people who are doing and living out the work of forgiveness and reconciliation. We can be a people embodying the presence of God in the midst of fear.
Phillip Yancy, author of Where Is God When It Hurts? , was asked after the terrorist attacks, "Where is God at a time like this?" He answered with a question of his own, "Where is the church when it hurts? If the church is doing its job -- binding wounds, comforting the grieving, offering food to the hungry -- I don't think people will wonder
Last week, On the Corner:), a new word was thrown out, "attractional". Dr. Elaine Heath has described the "Church" very well, especially the past 150 years. It's been very inward. She believes the "Church" of tomorrow will look more like the church in the first century, small missional communities, living by a way of life. Hold that phrase. We will come back to that.
She believes that the "big" churches will be less "program" oriented and much more missional, directly involved in people's lives. Actually, that's happening already up the road from us, Central UMC. Wiggins UMC closed; Central took it on as a satellite campus. Now it is Genesis Church, a Central United Methodist Community. It is located in south Fayetteville; this community will be very missional; it will function as a mission outpost with the people and the resources of Central behind it.
This model is being replicated all over the country. Another model is what we are developing right here at Trinity UMC. As I quoted Dr. Heath in the last letter I wrote to you, she said there is nothing wrong with "attractional church" if we are attracting people to Jesus, not just a building or more church programs. It can be both/ and.
Alexander Ross, who has been faithful to Christ, us, and believes the world is his parish has been among us for over four years. He, some church leaders, and I have had many conversations and much prayer about a missional "intentional" community on the grounds of Trinity UMC.
This is exciting! Recently, the Vision Team, the governing board of this Christian community, has given its full support and prayers. We will be the anchor church for the first New Monastic Mainline Community in the United Methodist Church in Arkansas.
This year will be the pilot year for this new missional community. At the end of the year we will evaluate the ministry in the Parish House and beyond. The process will start soon. We will invite everyone who will come and invest in one of Dr. Heath’s books, Longing for Spring. This will be a six week study. At the end of the six week study and prayer; we will create a Lead Team that will have 5-7 people who will be an extension and support for this intentional community. Decisions will be made together by the Lead Team and the people living in community in the Parish House on Garland.
Within the house itself, Alexander Ross and two other guys will live in Christian community together. These guys will hold prayer, eat meals together, and reach out to our neighborhood in new and exciting ways. People, especially in the neighborhood, will be invited to meals, prayer, and even worship. Also, these guys will have cleaning responsibilities in and outside the church building. They will also get others in the congregation to help them in stewardship of the building and grounds.
The way of life that I alluded to earlier is just an extension of the prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. The Lead Team, that means those who live in the house and those who don’t live in the house, will give deeper attention on a weekly basis to growing in this way of life. This community has the potential to be transformative for us and our neighborhood. This is just the beginning. There will be a lot more opportunities to learn more about this exciting ministry among us! Hope all can come to Longing for Spring! We will announce the time and place vey soon!
As we enter the weekend and pray for our time together for worship, I have some final thoughts that are meaningful and soon to come to the corner of Sycamore and Garland. These thoughts come from Dr. Heath’s book, Missional, Monastic, Mainline :
“One of the best gifts of healthy new monastic and missional communities is their ability to serve as a leavening agent in the anchor church. As persons living and
serving in a missional community include members of the anchor church in community meals, prayer, and outreach in the neighborhood, the anchor church’s understanding of discipleship deepens, and many others begin to live a more committed, vital spiritual life in their own homes and neighborhoods. A wonderful gift of the anchor church to the missional community is just that- an ANCHOR of stability, love, prayer, and encouragement to its own missionaries (Heath 97).
Have fun and see you in worship! Peace
Matthew 28:19 New International Version (NIV)
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...
Almost seven years ago, I was appointed to Trinity United Methodist Church. I am grateful! That is true; however, according to the Discipline our pastors are appointed to communities. One of the pastor’s roles is to take the people with him or her into said community.
I love this language! Rev. John Wesley was chastised for leading the Anglican Church to the people and outside the stained glass masterpieces. They were in decline and in trouble. He encountered great ridicule and resistance from people who wanted to stay in the walls. One priest actually asked Mr. Wesley, “where is your parish?” Wesley responded, “the world is my parish!”
One of the first sermons I shared was growing into the Christian community that would be missed if we or the building “vanished” over night. That is the vision God has made possible through YOU! I give thanks for each of you! Yes, we have stumbled and failed, but stumbling and failure are gifts! It’s how we learn and grow! They are our FRIENDS!
Friends, we are going to fail. Out of that failure will come strength that gives birth to a new reality and even a new vibrant, missional community. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your courage embracing the ministry of Jesus Christ. It is something that is not only in a book and in the protection of stained glass windows but also living out Jesus’ ministry here and now, facing our fears. I believe in you, but the most important thing is
that God believes in each of you!
Robert Frost said it all in his poem, The Road Not Taken:
TWO roads diverged
in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could
not travel both
And be one traveler,
long I stood
And looked down
one as far as I could
To where it bent in
Then took the other,
as just as fair,
And having perhaps
the better claim,
Because it was
grassy and wanted
Though as for that
the passing there
Had worn them
really about the
And both that
morning equally lay
In leaves no step had
Oh, I kept the first
for another day!
Yet knowing how
way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should
ever come back.
I shall be telling this
with a sigh
Somewhere ages and
Two roads diverged
in a wood, and I--
I took the one less
And that has made
all the difference.
The gospel makes all the difference! Thank you for going beyond your preferences and following Jesus! Keep up the good work and have fun doing it!