D.C.-Bound

washington light on hillThis week, I am heading for Washington, D.C., to the United Methodist Building. Did you know that The United Methodist Church owns a building next door to the Supreme Court? We do, and it’s pretty amazing. It’s the home of The UMC’s General Board of Church and Society, and there I will be receiving some training for my role as the Chairperson of the Annual (regional) Conference version of that same body, and then attending a Consultation on the Social Principles.

It’s that latter part of the trip that has me very excited.

The UMC’s Social Principles are not church law, but rather the denomination’s statements of reflection and position on issues of social justice or concern in the world. The United Methodist Church, a global denomination, struggles to agree upon and live out such important statements in a widely diverse and multi-cultural global context. Recognizing this, the 2012 General Conference entrusted the Board of Church and Society to develop a process and a set of recommendations for reimagining the Social Principles in a 21st-century, global context. These consultations, held all over the world, are bringing together members of The UMC to pray, discern, reflect, and dialogue together about how we might live into that calling in this time.

I’m excited and honored to be a part of this conversation. I think it is a hopeful and necessary step in our denomination’s role as a vital and relevant denomination today. If we are to continue as a church, we must be connected to the justice concerns of our time, in a way that is sustainable, contextually relevant, and grounded in our heritage and theology as United Methodists.

But it’s more than that. I believe that conversations along these lines hold some of the answers to the debates within the denomination. My experience at the 2012 General Conference on the reproductive rights subcommittee taught me something amazing: when people of diverse opinions gather, hear one another, share deeply, and then turn their hearts to what they can agree upon on a very controversial issue, God’s work is done. We found, every time we tried to proscribe local, contextual action about abortion, that we were unable to agree. But every time we articulated what we values and believed about human life, parents, babies, families, and so on, we could agree. Around the world, across the political divides, we were united in our convictions and principles, but divided on how those played out. And if our polity (church governance) structure allowed us to live in this way, I believe we could be both more united as a body, and more contextually nimble and relevant to carry out ministry in all times and places.

This week, I am praying for vision for The United Methodist Church, and for new hope and connection as we gather and dream and discuss and discern. In invite you to join in that prayer.

Why I Blog

04-cafe-2-cAll the world is my parish. 

That’s what Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, said. Ironically, I think he said it to clarify his commitment to itinerant ministry, to his particular sort of traveling, voyaging, never-rooted-for-too-long preaching of salvation in every place he could reach.

I might be tempted to say I blog for that reason– to spread personal and social holiness through all the land and all the regions where my pixilated pastoring can reach. But that would not be honest of me.

For a long time I thought maybe I blogged because I’m an extrovert, and I wanted more places to talk and think and emote “out loud,” more people with whom to share and converse and dialogue and process. I’ll admit that blogging is good for that. I treasure the conversations I have had through my blog(s) and facebook and other online communities.

I admit at least in part that I blog because I hope that it matters, that my thoughts matter, that something I write might be read or shared and might change something or someone, no matter how minutely. I hope this isn’t too selfish a thought. Or too navel-gazing (unlike this post).

I know that I *do* think out loud, and that processing through writing helps me clarify my thoughts and ideas. I know that I’m a better preacher, conversationalist, speaker, and a better listener, thinker, silent presence, when I have taken time in writing.

And I get better with practice. I can feel that I’m rusty, that this post is hard.

But mostly, what I’m noticing about myself, now in my third appointment as a pastor, is that I blog and maintain an online presence (as best I can), and see the world as my parish, as a reaction to, rather than a justification of, the itinerant ministry that John Wesley and the Methodist clergy riding in his horseshoe tracks embrace. That is to say: I don’t blog to reach out, but rather to have a place to touch back. No matter how far I move, or where I go, or how different a local church or conference might be, I am still Becca, or Pastor Becca, or  @pastorbecca. I have some continuity in this space, some carry-over readers and listeners, some people who read and remember my posts from ten years ago (and some new congregants who scroll back and read up on me when I arrive, I hear!). That means I have some authenticity, and some accountability here. I have to be the same, evolving, work-in-progress ME I have always been, or y’all would call shenanigans. And I also have a touchstone, a rootedness in my root-less ministry journey. I have people I don’t have to leave and lose, a home church not confined by membership or appointment. A community and– what’s the word– that I can find myself in again and again. Not only as the preacher or pastor, but sometimes, maybe often, as a member and participant.

Ah, yes. A parish. A parish I can find in all the world.

Sermon Potluck: Post-Christmas Potluck

christmas fireplace“Post Christmas Potluck”

(December 28, 2014) We tell some stories and read some poems and articles and reflections of Christmas. Thanks to the small group who joined in on the Sunday after Christmas!

Sermon: Not the Time or Place

Advent wreath“Not the Time or Place”

(Christmas Eve 2014) Jesus is born in a time and place that seem utterly strange to us– not calm and beautiful, not ready for the peace and joy of God’s presence. But isn’t that exactly where God shows up? (Luke 2:1-22)

Sermon: Breath of Comfort

candles votives blowout“Breath of Comfort”

(December 7, 2014) The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God speaks comfort to us first and foremost, while we wait for justice to unfold. In a time when we see much need for justice and healing around us, let us not rush to DO something to try to fix it, but hear and give comfort as we can, so we can better face the darkness around us. (Isaiah 40:1-11)

At the conclusion of the sermon, I played Mark Miller’s new song, “How Long?

Sermon: Hope and Longing

candle hand blue“Hope and Longing”

(November 30, 2014 – First Sunday of Advent) In the wake of more racial injustice, and in the face of pandemic illnesses, what does it mean to hold out hope? Can we hear the sacred longing in our own cries of “how long?”, and cling to the Advent promise that Christ is and will be present with us? (Isaiah 64:1-9, Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19)

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