Friday, July 31, 2015

Something to Think About

As St. Stephen UMC continues on its journey with the Small Church Initiative, here is something to consider about the nature of church from a recent blog by the Rev. Dan R. Dick, director of connectional ministries for the Wisconsin Annual Conference. Rev. Dick is an expert in church leadership and discipleship who blogs at United Methodeviations. You can read his entire post by clicking on the title link.

Who Are We Again?

 "At a recent event, I made the statement that today’s United Methodist Church exists because our predecessor denominations held three critically important functions in common: missional service, evangelism and social justice. In other words, we hold core values of caring for others, inviting all people into a life-changing, life-fulfilling relationship with God in Jesus Christ, and improving the conditions for all people wherever and whenever we can. A gentleman come up to me at the conclusion of the event and asked, 'Why are you promoting this Socialist bullshit? The only thing that matters is personal salvation!' My knee-jerk response was anything but patient or helpful — I spluttered, 'What Bible are you reading?'

"A similar thing happened to me when I preached a sermon on Christian disciples transforming the world.  I quoted part of a paragraph of our Book of Discipline which states, 'Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit, the church exists for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers, and the redemption of the world.' (2012 Book of Discipline, Paragraph 201). I said that we shouldn’t view these as three distinct activities, but as three aspects of a single purpose. I used the analogy of juggling, saying you cannot just juggle two balls and ignore the third, but all must be in motion in relationship to the others. There is no 'two out of three ain’t bad' thinking allowed.  We engage all three or we fail to fulfill our purpose."

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Scenes from 'Jerusalem Marketplace' VBS

Even in the summer heat, outside games are a hit.
Cynthia and John Astle prepare for a drama.

Grandpa Tom Council and grandson Mason.
Lola walks through the marketplace.
Busy marketplace.

Weaver Karel Holloway shows one of the "tribes" how to make cloth.

All photos by L'Norah Clarke

Friday, June 26, 2015

Marriage Equality Is the Law of the Land

As a Reconciling Congregation, St. Stephen United Methodist Church rejoices in the June 26 U.S. Supreme Court decision that rules marriage as a civil right open to all people including same-gender couples. At the same time, we await instruction on how The United Methodist Church, which officially opposes same-sex marriage, will respond to this legal development. Here is a letter from our pastor, the Rev. Nancy DeStefano, on today's events.

A Letter From The Pastor

Dear Church Family,

Today is indeed an historic day and a day in which we can celebrate and affirm once again that equality, justice, freedom and integrity is God's wish for ALL people and All truly does mean ALL!!

As the pastor of a Reconciling Congregation this is an especially happy day!  The work that we have done and the stand that St. Stephen has taken over  our entire history is once again affirmed!

This is a day to celebrate and this Sunday we will certainly gather to give God thanks for the blessing of being in a church that seeks to include ALL people, no exceptions.

We also recognize that our work is not finished.  Just as the Supreme Court decision years ago making it illegal to ban inter-racial marriage did not end racism, we know this decision will not end the opposition to the rights of the LGBT community.  In fact, it may intensify the efforts on the part of some to find ways around the ruling and ways to continue discrimination. Now we must be diligent and courageous in our work to assure that justice for all is realized everywhere for everyone.

Also we know that many in our families, our neighborhoods, our jobs and our faith will be saddened, even outraged, by this ruling.  They sincerely believe that this decision is wrong. In their pain and fear, there will be backlash. There will be hateful and mean words. This is not a time for us to gloat but to continue to love All, even those who do not return the love.  If love is truly to win in each of our hearts we must refrain from striking back.  Rather we must proceed in confidence that God is working for the good for all people, pray that hearts will be changed, and stay focused on the goal.

Isaiah 43:19   "See,I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."

The work of God in building the kingdom continues.  We are blessed to be co-builders with God.  May we perceive the new thing God is doing, persevere in our commitment and rejoice in this step forward in total confidence that with God love wins!!