#MeToo

I hate this, I really do. I hate that the hash tag #MeToo has taken over Facebook and Twitter. I hate the conversation around this hashtag has included people who I love dearly, who do not wish to be reminded of what they have lived through and those who act as if it is no big deal or that somehow women (in particular because it happens to men as well) should just get over it.

Hate is a strong word, but the word “dislike” isn’t strong enough for how this hashtag grieves me in so many ways. I can intellectually “get” that there will always be people who derive their power from harassing and bullying others. What strikes me to the core of my being is that it is still in so many ways accepted as normal rather than an unacceptable trait that will not be tolerated ever.

It has taken me decades to basically not be triggered any more from at date rate that happened when I was very young and very naive. As an underclasswoman at a Christian college I had a love of Coca-Colas and limeades. I was not adverse to alcohol, just wasn’t much of a drinker. An older upperclassman (he was 28) invited a friend and me over to his house with another friend to play cards. He served limeades with Bacardi 151. I had no idea what Bacardi 151 was other than rum. I wasn’t concerned, because he was my friend. I didn’t understand why they all thought it was funny that I didn’t know what it was. Of course, I am sure I do not have to paint a picture of what came next.

When I tried to confront him later, he laughed at me and I will not print what he said. I sought out a couple of people, but it became clear to me that there would be no  sympathy or understanding because I should have been more careful, or smarter or had a clue. It would be several years before I would talk to any one about this. I felt ashamed, embarrassed and guilty for not being in control of the situation.

Then when I attended License to Preach School in the summer of of 1982, I had an experience that was nasty to say the least. There are four parts (Christian Education, Administration, Pastoral Care and Worship) taught over a two week period. We were in Nebraska, where classes were held at the church and we slept at a motel at night. The Administration teacher demanded that our papers be type written (for you young ones that was before computers.) No one had brought typewriters because it was not on the list of things necessary. This man made each woman come to his hotel room by themselves to type the papers. He wore skin tight shorts and shirt and leered over me, breathing on neck, touching me. Even as I write this, I feel the hair raise on the back of my neck as I write these words.

There were not many women, but three of us on the drive back found out we all had the same experience. We decided to tell our respective District Superintendents so other women would not have the same thing happen to them. When I met with mine, the response was, “Well, he didn’t rape did he?” No, he didn’t rape me. It was shrugged off and the conversation was changed. After all, the administration teacher was an elder in full connection, I was just a 23 year old local pastor. I wanted more than anything to be a pastor and I wasn’t going to push that hard. It would be his word against mine.

Of course, I am old enough to have mores stories. There were times in my life I had far more triggers and was very uncomfortable in my own skin. It has long been a joke that I am not much of a “hugger.” I am quite comfortable shaking hands and hugging is fine, mostly. Years ago, when I was serving a three point charge, I was at the middle church on the circuit. I was shaking hands following worship and one of the men and his wife whom I adored came to shake my hand. I don’t know to this day what happened but I stiffened up, had trouble breathing and he slowly backed away. I apologized and then went to the next church.

The following morning Max called me and said could we have coffee? I drove over to the little cafe and sat down and he asked me, “What happened yesterday?” Max was old enough to be my grandfather and I honestly told him that I didn’t really know, but then I shared with him my history and that something had triggered me and I didn’t know what it was. I felt so embarrassed and I didn’t normally share my history with my parishioners. He looked at me and said, “I am so sorry. I am sorry that happened to you and I am sorry that some how I reminded you of it.” I was so blessed in that moment. The fact he took the time to find out what was happening with me spoke volumes of his willingness to listen and to hear and to be present. It gave me hope that I would not always have to hide my experiences.

When I chose yesterday to post the #MeToo I did so not for sympathy or to try and jump on some bandwagon. I shared it because I know there are many that still stay silent for fear of retribution or job loss or violence against themselves or someone they love. I know that not every woman experiences harassment or violence. I think I would be safe to say that most women have experienced fear. There are some who will never believe it is that bad, but it is.

I very rarely am troubled any more about those experiences. I am in most ways past it and it doesn’t effect me any more. I am who I am today, in part, because I have survived and more importantly chosen to thrive. Today, what pains me the most, is that there is even a hashtag that states MeToo. I don’t want anyone else to have to learn to thrive after harassment or rape or assault. I don’t want those experiences to be minimized or questioned. I don’t want other women (and men) to have to justify their feelings (oh it wasn’t that bad) or to defend their bodies from inappropriate touching or groping.

I believe that we can do better. I want any one who has been belittled, assaulted, touched, mocked or bullied to have safe places to be heard, to be believed, to heal. This is the time, this is the place to say #NoMore. I will be and provide a safe place for anyone who needs to share their story. I will believe you and support you. I will listen. I want to be a part of ending this ugly and perverse part of our culture. No More. No more harassment, rape, assault or bullying. No More. No more violence again women (men and children)  as workers, as wives, as lovers, as friends, as strangers. No More.

 

 

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World Communion Sunday and CROP Walk, the First Sunday of October

The first Sunday of October is traditionally for mainline churches World Communion Sunday. Begun in the 1930’s in the Presbyterian church, it is a time to remember that each church is not alone, we are part of something much bigger. Christians and churches are connected, not by denomination but by our love of Christ Jesus. Denominationally we don’t often agree, we have “issues” but Jesus prayed that we might be one and invited his followers to eat together regularly and remember him.

At First UMC we were honored to have the Episcopal Leader of the Great Plains Conference Bishop Ruben Saenz, Jr. preaching and presiding at the table for Holy Communion.

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The service is shared in this link and was for me a blessing to have Bishop Saenz preach and share with us today of all days. The United Methodist Church is a global/worldwide church and our bishops are “general” superintendents which mean they are not only assigned to a particular area, but are part of the leadership for the whole church.

Also, today was the CROP Walk. For around fifty years, Church World Service have hosted these walks to help raise awareness and money to combat hunger internationally and nationally. Twenty five percent of the money raised in Wichita stays local. The First UMC youth,  CORE Student Ministries participated raised over $400. I think that is great for the first time! It has been a day worth celebrating! God is good and calls me and all of us to be about the work of love and grace.

 

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Saying yes and following

Yesterday’s worship service was packed in terms of celebrations and liturgy. We brought in three new members, two by profession of faith. In the United Methodist Church, that means, in this case, they had been baptized but never had formally joined a church. I find it special when I can offer people the opportunity to publicly say “Yes” and follow Christ in a life of love and grace.

We also celebrated missions and after worship announced the 2018 work teams. There are several more yet to go in 2017, but what a joy it is to celebrate hands on ministry both here in the City of Wichita and throughout the nation and world.

Here is the link to Sunday’s worship service “Back to the Basics, Saying Yes and Following.”

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A wee little man

As a kid, I grew up singing the song “Zacchaeus” in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. I taught the song to my children and to children through the years as a pastor. The song itself is not offensive in any way, and it tells the basic story of Zacchaeus up in tree wanting to see Jesus and Jesus inviting himself over to Zacchaeus house.

What the song doesn’t do, it share the layers up layers of meaning. Zacchaeus or Jesus might have been short, but Zacchaeus and his profession come with a great deal of baggage. It’s no wonder the people “grumble” when Jesus chooses to spend time with a rascal like Zacchaeus.

For my “out” Sunday (which is a previously recorded video statement for the television and online congregation) I actually got up in a sycamore tree. Now I don’t like heights, so this was something to behold!

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It got me thinking about being “treed” and how often  I tree others or am treed myself and need so much for God in Christ to get me out of the tree or the corner and open my heart and spirit. Worship on Sunday focused on that encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus and the transformation that occurred for Zacchaeus and is possible for me as well.

The full worship service is available through this link and the sermon begins around 42: 45.

 

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Flood Bucket Celebration

Sunday, September 10th, many people from all over Wichita gathered to put together flood/cleaning buckets for United Methodist Committee on Relief to take to hurricane victims. People came with individual items, with full and partial buckets and with helping hands. By Wednesday morning 165 buckets were completed. You can read the full story in the FUMC Wichita Missions Blog.

Next month there will be another opportunity for the community to gather and to fill  more buckets. Thousands will be needed. The mission director and I created a thank you video to send our gratitude out to all those who put their heart and hands and spirits into making a difference for those so devastated by the storms.

I believe that “when the storms of life are raging” God is with us, but what we do for each other, makes God’s presence real. For all who brought items, sent money, gave of time and energy and those who surrounded this project with prayer. Thank you!

 

Yesterday we loaded 165 flood buckets into the church van, trailer and a SUV and took them to the Conference Offices in Wichita where they joined 1000 other flood buckets that will be heading to UMCOR! It could not have been done without your help! Sunday approximately 100 people came to the Wilke Family Life […]

via THANK YOU!!! — FUMC Wichita Missions

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Helping people devastated by Hurricanes

A couple of weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey did horrific damage to Houston and other communities in Texas and Louisiana. Hurricane Irma has already done catastrophic damage in the Caribbean, the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, and currently Cuba with Florida in it’s path by tomorrow (Sunday, September 10.) The United Methodist Committee on Relief had already issued a call for “flood/cleaning” buckets prior to Irma for those affected by Harvey.

In response to that call, Bishop Ruben Saenz, Jr, the bishop of the Great Plains conference issued a challenge for 5000 buckets to be brought to the conference to be sent out later next week. First United Methodist Church has created a Flood Bucket Assembly Event for tomorrow, Sunday, September 10 from 2:00-5:00 p.m. This event is a practical hands on way to respond to the great needs currently in Texas and Louisiana. This event will be only the first of several we intend to host. The Bishop’s challenge of 5000 is only a “drop” in the bucket of needs that will be arising over the next few weeks and months.

I encourage people to send money, particularly to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, as this independent ministry of the church has received an A+ rating from Charity Watch and a four start rating from Charity Navigator. There will be time for teams to go down and help in the future, but right now, money and flood/cleaning buckets are the first things we can do other than pray for those who are in the midst responding to all the people affected.

If you would like to know exactly how to create a bucket, this video that Annette Schmidt and I created shows how to fit everything in the bucket. There are been questions asked as to why certain items are not included and as to why only certain sizes are needed, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is very specific because this is what works and what fits into a five gallons bucket with a lid.

UMCOR and the Great Plains Conference will not accept partial flood/cleaning buckets, but we will. Tomorrow you are invited to come and help fill as many buckets as possible. If we run out of buckets, we will put things in trash bags to place in the buckets once we receive them (our plan is to finish completing buckets before Tuesday that are not completed tomorrow.) People are invited to bring individual items off the list, to bring full or partial buckets or money to buy items to complete the buckets. We have already received funds and used them for this event. In October there will be another event to fill more buckets.

Here is a complete list of what is needed for each bucket. I hope and pray that you can help us with this important ministry.

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Standing up, Speaking Out, Praying for Peace

Yesterday afternoon I posted this on Facebook:

I have no profound words in response to the violence and bigotry in Charlottesville. There can be no justification for hatred, for waving nazi flags and giving nazi salutes. No justification for punches thrown, kicks and pepper spray and a car used as a weapon. White nationalism is not Christian. I am stunned to have to write those words in 2017. I am horrified, saddened and I know that God weeps at bigotry and hatred and this kind of violence. Praying for peace and hope and equality for all.

Then I began the long and hard work of re-writing my sermon for today. Many people might be surprised to know I don’t like controversy. I don’t really want hate mail or texts or messages. The events of the last week have rattled me in so many ways. I am stunned and shocked and saddened by the rhetoric around the possibility of war with North Korea. I wrote about that on Friday.

Then Friday evening I stayed away from the news. On Saturday the pictures of the white men and torches in Charlottesville, Virginia began to fill my news feed. By afternoon the protesters and counter protesters begin to engage in a war of words, of actions and finally a state of emergency was declared. People died when a car…a CAR was driven into the counter protesters and many more were injured.

I continue to just be stunned by the actions of yesterday. I am shocked by Nazi flags and salutes and signs of hatred again my Jewish brothers and sisters and my brothers and sisters of color and so many others. So my sermon needed to be re-written to reflect on the need of a Christian voice, my voice to be raised against such hatred and bigotry.

So I preached. I preached against the powers of hatred and evil. I preached God’s call to justice. I know my words are inadequate to the task, but I believe God’s me to be a voice of reason, of hope, of faith, of equality and of grace for ALL people. As far as I am able, I will stand up and speak out against such atrocities.

Here is this morning’s worship service….if you want to skip the music (which is lovely)  and prayers (which Pastor Rebecca Goltry Mohr said so beautifully) the sermon begins at 34:15.

God in your mercy, hear my prayer for peace, for justice, for equality. Hear my prayer especially for your love and grace to shower your world with Shalom.

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