Monthly Archives: July 2016

Weeping Day and Night

My newsfeed has been filled with sadness, anger and grief this morning. Many have been more articulate than I can be over what has happened in the last few days, and when you add the last few weeks it is overwhelming. Yesterday, I was trying to make sense of two more police related shootings of African American men: Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and then Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

Since I know many police officers and retired officers, I also know they put their lives on the line every day and never know what each day will bring. I also know that African Americans live in deep fear everyday and in the last couple of years those fears have been made public. Reality isn’t just what the dominant culture says it is, because the dominant culture is protected. As a woman, I have different experiences and fears, but it isn’t that I will be shot because my skin is the wrong color. Or pulled over because I might look like I don’t belong.

As I went to bed last night, there was a news flash that there was a shooting at a peaceful protest in Dallas, Texas. I made a comment among some friends, but I didn’t stay up to find out what was going on. This morning the number of police officers that were killed staggered me. Five police officers were killed and seven were injured as well as two civilians. What little is known  at this time is that the shooter that is dead wanted to kill police officers, particularly white officers.

I am soul-sick. There have been so many posts, by so many people I know that give voice to this grief, and pain, and yes, anger. Fingers will be pointed, blame assigned and hours of talking heads will dissect what has happened and is happening. Those voices will feed our own sense of rightness and judgement as to why these things occur, but it won’t change anything.

No healing,
    only grief;
        my heart is broken.[e]
Listen to the weeping of my people
        all across the land:
    “Isn’t the Lord in Zion?
        Is her king no longer there?”

Is there no balm in Gilead?
    Is there no physician there?
Why then have my people
    not been restored to health?

If only my head were a spring of water,
    and my eyes a fountain of tears,
I would weep day and night
    for the wounds of my people.

These verses, from Jeremiah 8: 18-19 21-22; 9:1 come at a time of great unrest and grief and violence. Jeremiah had a way of speaking truth that made him terribly unpopular. He was clear what God required which was justice, love and righteousness. These words are so often used because they articulate a deep longing for that time when we are not bombarded and consumed by a world so filled with hatred, war, anger, injustice and violence. Where is the balm that will comfort us and the physician who will heal us?

Right now in our country, the hatred and the violence is welling up and destroying any sense of what is good and right and just. Our fears are causing us to be hateful and mean-spirited and cruel. We judge persons by the color the skin, their sexual orientation, their religious and ethnic affiliations, their age, their culture, their social class. Then we post ugly memes on social media, send out false and horrible e-mails with little truth attached and surround ourselves with people who agree with us so we do not have to confront our own demons and dare I say it, sins.

I am grieving. I am praying for our eyes to be opened to our own sin and brokenness and how complacent we are to those injustices given to those who are different from us. I am praying that our ears will be opened to the cry of those powerless and afraid that we might respond with love and compassion. I am praying that our hearts will be opened to the Love and Light of God, that it might root out the darkness and ugliness and hatefulness that resides there. I am praying that God’s grace will haunt me until I am unwilling to be silent when I need to speak words of hope and justice and that I am willing to love all people as I have been loved.

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Transitions, Part 2

On July 1, in my annual conference of the United Methodist Church, new appointments begin. I began ministry June 1, 1982 when appointments began June 1. Today, I officially begin my new appointment as senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas. I posted about this surprise move in an earlier blog, Transitions . I say “official” because I have spent this last week moving my office and preparing for Sunday morning.

I am aware that no transition is easy or clean. First Downtown is the church I grew up and so there is a familiarity to the building and the space. There are people from what I jokingly call “my former life” and others are new to me and I to them. So I am going home in some ways and in other ways this is all brand new.

In the midst of joy, excitement and a little fear in this new beginning, there is also a sense of awe, humbleness and gratitude. The pulpit ministry of First goes beyond the walls of the physical space through live television and online streaming. Ministers that have gone before me are some of the “best” preachers in the United Methodist Church. As a historic downtown “tall steeple” church, the expectations are real. In its 146 year history, I will be the first woman senior pastor. Other women broke the barrier as associates as far back as the 1970’s, but I am aware of how honored I am to be appointed to this church that has such  an important place in my heart and in the hearts of others.

I am grateful, because I am not here because of who I am, but because of the hard work of many other women before me. This year at General Conference they celebrated the 60th anniversary of women’s ordination.

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Now first of all, I need to note that this is INCORRECT!!!! This is the 60th anniversary of women in “full membership.” One might think that the question that those in process gets asked the most (what’s the difference between ordination and membership) might not be misrepresented at the top level of the church. Sigh. In my blog from a couple of years ago, I mentioned one of those wonderful foremothers who broke the ground for me and so many others Rev. Portteus Latimer. Portteus or “Preach” as she was known was ordained BEFORE she was a full member.

What that meant was that she had to “find” her own appointment and if a man was found to fill the pulpit she had to leave. What that meant was that when she attended annual conference with her lay member (who happened to be a woman) her lay member was allowed full voice and voting right and Preach was not. She was ordained, but NOT a member. Those membership rights 60 years ago MEANT that in theory at least, women could vote, could be elected to attend General and Jurisdictional Conference as clergy delegates and could even become a bishop! She shared about being a pastor without being recognized as fully equal. Without her mentoring me and caring for me in those first five years of ministry, I am sure I would not be the pastor I am today. I am so grateful for all those women who went before me that paved the way for me to serve God in so many ways.

On May 31, 1988 I was ordained an elder in the United Methodist Church. Preach laid hands on me in the moment that was so blessed. On that day I received two gifts, one a red stole placed around my neck after I was ordained and a small gold dove, engraved with my ordination date by my family.

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Each year at Annual Conference I wear the dove and if I participate in the ordination service I wear this stole. It is part and parcel of the history of those who went before me and I pray for the ministry in which I am now engaged.

So the new adventure begins. Downtown Wichita is part of who I am, from when I was a child, to the choice I made ten years ago to move back to the heart of Wichita, where I grew up and where I attended school and where I thrive. To be part of Life.Downtown. was a surprise blessing. I look forward to coming full circle and being in ministry at First.

I am graced to serve.

 

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