Tag Archives: Great Plains Annual Conference

LifeCycling of Giving: Harvesting the Fruit

Today was “consecration” Sunday. Some churches call it “stewardship” Sunday but whatever it is called this Sunday invites us to think about our money and giving for the next year. “Let’s talk about money!” said no on EVER!!!

Still, we are stewards of what God has given us. Money is only part of it: our time, our talents and prayers are also part of what we have to offer. The truth is, the church needs money, it has bills to pay just like everyone else, but it is more than that. I believe deeply in the ministry of First church and I am grateful and excited for the year ahead.

We affirmed the UMC Next’s four commitments in October alongside the Great Plains Annual Conference of adoption of them last June. In my sermon I shared an abbreviated version, you can find the full text here

I am also excited about the welcoming statement we adopted. It is minimally adapted from one our youth wrote for themselves. When it was shared with church council there was some discussion about writing and then it was like a light bulb went off….why don’t we just adapt this one! So we did adn here it is:

First United Methodist Church will live out the love of Jesus Christ by including everyone, accepting others for who they are, treating others the way we would want to be treated, respect all, love all, and affirm the full participation of all regardless of nationality, race, class, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, and age.

I understand that there is some fear for the denomination and anxiety about what comes next. I have no fear about First Church. I absolutely believe we are continuing the ministry that was begun 149 years ago at 3rd and Broadway and I know God has plans for us.

If you would like to watch the service or the sermon only, you can find it here.

I continue to be grateful and humbled to be one of the pastors at this wonderful community of faith.

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Jesus on the Move: Witnesses

What a week it has been filled with experiences and joy! It feels like a long time since I have come to blog. I tried to blog toward the end of the week, but the internet at the hotel was intermittent and I couldn’t pull up my site. Soooo, I waited to share all the wonderful joys of the week.

This week was the Great Plains Annual Conference. For United Methodists, this annual meeting is part business and part family reunion. Both the business and the family part is filled with smiles and snark, laughter and tears, anxiety and contentment and the push and pull of different understandings. This was the year we elected General and Jurisdiction delegates for 2020. Elections add a layer of tensions because these are the persons that will help make decisions about the future of our denomination.

Annual Conference is also a time of worship. This year, Rebecca Goltry Mohr was approved as a full member and ordained as an elder. On Thursday, she was introduced to both clergy session and the full annual conference.

 

On Friday was her ordination! What a joy it was to have 50 people from First UMC there to celebrate with her as well as family, friends and the whole of the Great Plains Conference.

Saturday began with a 5K

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Then, after difficult conversations and debates, the annual conference voted to stand opposed to the traditional plan passed at General Conference. I do not know what that means in the long run, but I am hopeful for the work of being an open and inclusive church has truly begun.

The bishop “fixed” our appointments so Pastor Rebecca and I will return for another year of ministry.

Which brings us to worship today. This is the last Sunday in Easter and we remembered the Ascension of Jesus. This moment of Jesus’ departure reminds us we are called to continue to be on the move with Jesus and to be witness to all! In the service we celebrated Pastor Rebecca’s ordination and commissioned a mission as well has celebrated the Sacrament of Holy Communion. You can find the worship service in its entirety here.

I am grateful to continue to serve and to share God’s love with all.

 

 

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Year of Gratitude

Last week, I didn’t get a prompt posted for our year of gratitude. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful or that I didn’t send a thank you note, I just didn’t get the blog written. Some of that had to do with the life of the global United Methodist Church. While I have tried not to be anxious, I have been.

As I write, General Conference has not yet concluded, but the One Church Plan which I supported and many of my colleagues and friends supported was defeated twice. I am heartbroken. Sunday, I preached a sermon about why I was going to continue to be on the side of love and acceptance of all. You can find both the worship service or the sermon by itself here.

Today I was attending a Sunday School lunch which was called  “picnic.” There was napkin that looked like this:

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Honestly, I have probably felt more like the cat than the girl! And yet being sad and angry and grieving does not mean I am not thankful. Many of my collegagues and friends from the Great Plains Conference have represented the church I love well. In the four short days, these persons have found themselves at the microphone using the legislative process to do what is right and just. The have diligently worked for good for the greatest amount of people. I am grateful for their passion, their faithfulness and willingness to serve in such a difficult time.

I can not say thank you enough to Amy Lippoldt, Adam Hamiliton, Cheryl Jefferson Bell, David Livingston, Mark Holland, Shayla Jordan (one of the youngest elected to the General Conference), Stephanie Ahlschwede among others. I know I missed some, but still I am deeply grateful for their commitment to living out God’s love for all people. I don’t know what the future holds. For so long, 35 plus years as a clergy in the United Methodist Church I have supported and worked for full inclusion of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters and friends. I don’t intend to stop.

I want to tell those who feel most bruised and broken by what is occuring that you are not alone, there are many allies who will continue to work for justice, for love, for grace, for everyone to be part of the community of faith. We do not lose hope, we cling to faith, we remember that nothing, NOT ONE THING can separate us from the love of God in Christ. I am grateful for the reminder of that promise and that somehow, in someway, we will go forward.

Years ago, a wonderful song was penned that has been sung for several decades: the story and sharing of that song is one that I pray brings hope and promise to those of us who continue to sing for our lives and the lives of the church together you. You will find that story and song here.

 

 

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Vacation for the Soul: Confession

We continue in our sermon series, “Vacation for the Soul.”

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The last couple of weeks have been incredibly full. Last week, I was grateful to assist in worship and listen to Leslie Coates preach. Leslie is a talented preacher and I am always blessed to hear him deliver the word. That week had been filled with the Great Plains Annual Conference. Even though it was in Wichita, I think I am more tired than if I had traveled to a different city.

This last week was spent catching up, presiding at a funeral, (with two more funerals in our church). Too many meetings and honestly, trying to stay away from social media and the news. The reports of children being separated from their parents who crossed the border looking for safety was more than my heart could take.

Instead of filling my social media posts with pictures or articles or memes (which I do not believe changes one persons mind or makes a difference) I have been uncharacteristically quiet. I would not want my silence in public places to be seen as approval. It is not. I feel like I have no voice to change policies that paint refugees fleeing from horrible violence as criminal, as other, as less than human. I still do not have any words to give voice to my grief and pain over this unjust and inhuman policy. By the end of the week, a bit had changed as now children won’t be taken from their parents, but it is still unclear what that will do to the over 2000 children that are in facilities across this country.

Today in worship I spoke of confession as that spiritual/prayer practice that helps deepen our relationship with God. It reminds me, it reminds us all that God is God and that our traditional prayer of confession says it all:

Merciful God,
we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have failed to be an obedient church.
We have not done your will,
we have broken your law,
we have rebelled against your love,
we have not loved our neighbors,
and we have not heard the cry of the needy.
Forgive us, we pray.
Free us for joyful obedience,
      through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

You can find the full worship service here.

Here is my confession: I confess I feel powerless in the midst of the storm of hate and bigotry I see in so many places. I confess I feel voiceless in all the loud clamoring and shouting between the opposite points of view. I confess I do not know how to affect real change in local, state and national governmental policies. I confess I feel like a very small boat in a very big sea filled with giant waves and gale force winds. I confess that it is sometimes easier for me to just do what is in front of me rather than do what needs to be done for justice, for righteousness and for the kingdom of God that is promised in Christ.

Tish Harrison Warren in her book Liturgy of the Ordinary writes: “Repantence is not usually a moment wrought in high drama. It is the steady drumbeat of a life in Christ and, therefore, a day in Christ.” So I confess and repent and know that is part and parcel of a life in Jesus.

When I was growing up there were two women I read everything I could get my hands on in the library. One was Harriet Tubman and the other was Sojourner Truth. I was in awe of their strength, their willingness to do whatever it took to work against the institution of slavery and later for full rights for women.

Sojourner Truth, particularly had a “way with words.” She worked long and hard for the abolition of slavery. Often she was heckled as an illiterate African American woman. None of this stopped her. In fact, as one story goes, a proslavery Northerner asked her what did she think she would accomplish being a black woman calling for the end of slavery. He said something like, “I don’t care any more of your talk, than I do for the bite of a flea.” “Perhaps not,” she replied, “but the good Lord willing I will keep you scratching.”

So, I guess, I keep writing. I keep speaking. I have not the presence or perhaps even the same amount of strength and faith of Sojourner Truth. I have the same God. I have the same Christ who is still calling me to confess and to do what I can do to work for what is good, what is right and what is just.

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Some Reflections on the the Great Plains Annual Conference

For United Methodists, Annual Conference rolls around every year. It is “non-negotiable” if you are clergy you are required to show up. If you are a lay member, it is expected you show up, but not required. Annual Conference in the best of all worlds part revival, part business session and part family reunion. I both love it and dislike it (the loathe and hate words being too strong.)

I’m an extrovert, so having a chance to catch up with folks I only see once a year it wonderful and exciting. Mostly I enjoy the worship if done well, some of the business and the visiting. I do dislike, no I actually loathe the horrible chairs that are uncomfortable and actually are a pain in the “back” and backside!

Four years ago, three annual conferences (Nebraska, Kansas East and Kansas West) became one conference. I won’t go into the myriad of reasons, but suddenly finding venues large enough to hold that many clergy and laity became more difficult. No longer can we have chairs around tables, which makes it easier to do the work of the conference, now we are in long rows with uncomfortable chairs hooked together. We juggle our laptops or tablets or workbooks on our laps and heaven help anyone who needs to get to a microphone quickly or let alone the bathroom!

The sessions planning committee works hard in those large arenas to make the stage worshipfull and beautiful for our various services. There is nothing easy about trying to get that many people together and have all the various functions go smoothly. I miss the smaller conferences partly because of the ease of knowing most everyone and for the ability to make space more intimate. I, also, was one who voted for the one conference, because I had served a three point charge and I am well aware of the toll on the leader trying to do three of everything. That is not good use of resources, not of time, not of finances and certainly not of human beings.

This year’s conference was our new bishop, Ruben Saenz, Jr.’s first with us. I have been a pastor a long time, but had few bishops. Bishop Scott Jones was my bishop for twelve years, Bishop Fritz Mutti was my bishop for twelve years before that, Bishop Ken Hicks was my bishop for eights years before that and I begin my ministry under the leadership of Bishop Ben Oliphint. Each bishop brings their unique and unrepeatable spirit and their gifts to the area in which they serve. 

Bishop Saenz led with humor, humility, honesty and  a good deal of laughter. He noted again and again that the United Methodist Church is in a time of discernment, and honestly a time of difficulty. There is much about the future that is uncertain, but what is certain, Bishop Saenz stated again and again, is that “Jesus is the foundation and it will be alright.” 

When things got tense, or there were strong feelings running deep, Bishop Saenz’s would stop and lead us in prayer. To some that might some manipulative or shallow, but for me it never felt that way. The times of prayers felt genuine and deep. The prayers were not directed to one viewpoint or another, just that we might discern God’s path for us and to love one another.

Anyone can go to the conference website to see the pictures and videos and updates. My take away said are pretty basic, we are in changing times. Pastor’s and lay leaders need ot be discerning where God is leading using Jesus’ prayer, “not will by thine” and “let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The people of God need each other. 

Personally, I am delighted to return as senior pastor at First UMC, downtown Wichita and to begin work with my new associate Rebecca Goltry Mohr. As part of the Transition into Ministry program, I am honored that First will be a teaching/mentoring congregation and that I have the honor to be a mentoring senior pastor. 

During the opening worship service, we were given small silk flowers to remember those members of the annual conference, both lay and clergy who had died in the prior year. During holy communion we were invited to drop those flowers into a bowl in honor and rememberance. Then someone created this with those flowers:


Stunningly beautiful, during ordination we were reminded we are surround by such a great cloud of witnesses. We were commissioning and ordaining our new leaders and being blessed and reminded to continue to run the race set before us. Pastor Rebecca’s was commissioned as a provisional elder during that service.


The theme for this years conference is a good one: Know God, Proclaim Christ, Serve Others, Seek Justice. May it be so. 

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