“Rooted in Relationships”

I got an invitation from the Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church to participate in an event in Orlando, Florida, called “Rooted in Relationships.” It is geared for those working in justice and compassion ministries. My first reaction to the invitation was I don’t want to spend that kind of money and then I read further and found that the Board of Church and Society was offering to cover all my expenses. They have chosen about 16 people from around the country to get together for 3 days to discuss our ministries and share ideas around fund raising, volunteer recruitment, leadership development, and community organizing. So I will be gone from February 25 to 28.
After saying yes to this invitation, I realized that I would be gone on Ash Wednesday, which falls on Feb. 26 this year. Ash Wednesday begins the 40 day season of Lent which leads up to Easter. It is a day rich in meaning, a day of fasting and prayer. So, I have asked my friend, the Rev. Cynthia Montague to lead an Ash Wednesday service at 12 noon that day. Sister Barbara from our clothes closet will assist Cynthia. For those who can’t get away from work or other obligations at noon, Sister Barbara will lead an abbreviated Ash Wednesday service at 7 PM that evening. I hope that you will take advantage of one of these opportunities. The season of Lent can be a very meaningful season for spiritual growth.
“As United Methodists, we acknowledge that love requires responsible political action and engagement aimed at the betterment of society and the promotion of the common good.” –from the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church  

Jim’s Speech

As some of you remember, back in January, on Friday night the 10th, we had a neighborhood meeting at the YMCA. The focus was on neighborhood safety but there were clearly those present who wanted to shut down our church. After the meeting, a homeless man who uses our services named Jim, came to me with a speech that he had written and had hoped to share at this meeting. He did not have that opportunity, so he gave me the speech and said I could use it, if it was helpful. It is beautifully written and I share it with you here.
“Good evening, My name is Jim. I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak here tonight. I would like to start with what the First United Methodist Church means to me.
   On many occasions the church has provided me with my only meal of the day. It has been a warm, dry haven for me on inclement days when I have nowhere else to go.
   The church not only provides meals for needy individuals, but also clothing, hygiene kits, vitamins, cold medication when needed, and essential baby needs such as bottles, formula, wipes, and as every parent knows, the most important thing; DIAPERS.
   I myself have lived an incredibly productive and successful adult life up until the past couple of years when personal and emotional problems have gotten the best of me. I always say to anyone who will listen, if it can happen to me it can happen to anyone. There is a concept that most people living in this country today are only two paychecks away from homelessness. It really can happen to anyone.
   I understand that those two horrific crimes that have taken place near the church and were perpetrated by homeless individuals has brought a spotlight onto the churches effort and how SOME individuals may impact the community here. I would also like to point out that many terrible crimes happen every day in all different neighborhoods from people of all walks of life. To say that it is because the Methodist Church is attracting some questionable characters is really narrow minded.
   The church also attracts many good people. These people are for whatever reason down on their luck. There are families with children that especially need the comfort that the church provides. There is also an outpouring of good people from other churches and organizations that come to serve food and give support to what they consider to be a noble cause.
   For some of this community to be so very willing to turn their backs on the downtrodden, I find truly disheartening. It is always easier to point out and remember the bad things that happen. It’s because they sting. We must always strive to focus on the good, positive moments and events that we experience in life.
   I humbly request that the caring people of this community take a good look at the big picture of HOPE AND COMFORT that the church brings to so many. They are doing God’s work and that is what they are here for. They deserve a pat on the back and additional support with this endeavor. We need to work on solutions rather than mustering accusations. We are all members of this community and want nothing but the best for it.
   I thank you for your time and I hope I was able to convince at least a few of you to look into your hearts and start thinking.”  

Pastor Steve Lundin