As I write this article, I am aware that Rosh Hashanah begins with sun down this evening, September 24. Jews are called to the festival with one hundred blasts of the shofar, a hollowed out ram’s horn. A Jewish website writes, “The instrument looks like an oversized pipe, plays the most annoying sound you’ve ever heard, and is a call to awakening and repentance. If [the sound of the shofar] doesn’t wake you up, nothing will!”
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year festival, begins a ten-day period known as the Days of Awe. It ends on October 4 with the celebration of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. During this ten day period Jews have the chance to acknowledge their false steps of the preceding year, steps that make them vulnerable for having their names written in the book of death. Jews have a ten-day window to return to the Lord, to make amends, to perform deeds of righteousness and to give alms so that their names will be recorded in the book of the living. The books are closed on the Day of Atonement.
Bishop Young Jin Cho was with us at Wellspring last Saturday morning, September 20, as we began our Spiritual Renewal Retreat. He didn’t come sounding a shofar, but he might as well have. He began our revival by offering us an honest assessment of the situation in the Methodist Church in America, and a fervent call to repentance, prayer, and restored vitality! His words were loud, annoying to some, but a clear call to awakening!
And awakening to the Word and will of God was the purpose of the Spiritual Renewal Retreat.
Of course I was anxious about the event because worrying is what I do best. I was afraid that no one would want to come to church for a day of fasting, prayer, confession, and witness. I was afraid that those who came would not find the event meaningful or useful because we had not planned it well enough, or had not thought it through enough, or had not executed our plans as well as we could have or someone else probably would have. I was afraid….
May the grace and peace of our risen Lord be with you!
It is a beautiful season! Someone said that May is the “queen of the seasons.” I fully agree. Trees are getting greener, and we are experiencing the vitality of life. We cannot but give thanks and praises to God who has created this world and given us this beautiful gift.
The 2nd Bishop’s Convocation on Prayer went very well. Almost 400 people gathered and learned about prayer and spiritual disciplines. Dr. Tom Albin, the keynote speaker, did a great job, and many participants expressed their appreciations for his leadership. I am also deeply grateful to all the workshop leaders and to the members of the Planning Team. All of them prayerfully prepared for this convocation and worked very hard. (to continue, click "Read More")
In a recent radio sermon, the Right Reverend Michael Curry, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, recalls that when he was a boy in Sunday school, he was asked to memorize a poem written by noted 20th century poet, Langston Hughes. The poem had a profound effect on his life. Hold fast to dreams For life without dreams Is like a bird with a broken wing That cannot fly.
Bishop Curry writes, “Hold fast to dreams. Hold fast... because God has a dream. God has a dream...a vision...a plan...a sublime purpose for this world. From day one, God has had a dream for his creation which encompasses every man, woman, and child,...all who walk upon the face of the God’s earthly creation.”
will not rest” he adds, “until the nightmares
of all people are ended and God’s dream is realized. That’s where Jesus came in.” I get this!
This makes sense to me and sums up the mission and ministry of every Christian congregation: Jesus is the Word of God become flesh. Jesus is the Dream
of God made flesh and sent to overcome the Nightmares
of all humanity! The Church exists to be “for the world the Body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.” God shares with every Christian His Dream and then calls each of us to act without weariness to end humanity’s Nightmares. “Let us not grow weary in well-doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart (Galatians 6:9).”
Moreover, God compels the Church to share His restlessness for humanity by making human beings restless for Himself. In a little book called, Confessions
, St. Augustine of Hippo concurs, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Bishop Curry continues, “Jesus came to share the ways in which we might live out God’s dream...a way to be authentically human as God intended. Jesus came to lead us beyond self-interests... and into self-sacrifice. He came to make certain that we would provide all people with the food, housing, and care they require...just as if we were providing it all for Jesus himself. He came to show us how to become the human family of God (Michael Curry, ‘God Has a Dream,’ October 2012. Retrieved, October 23, 2013 from http://day1.org/5105-god_has_a_dream).
I think it is wrong-headed to measure the success of the Church on the volume of its in-gathering, the depth of its offerings, the height of its steeples, the clarity of its sound system, the number of folks on the roll, or the square footage of its sanctuary. The only measurement that matters, it seems to me, is the congregation’s restlessness to hold fast to the dream of God.
In what way does every Wellspring activity and ministry promote God’s Dream and mitigate the human nightmare? -Pastor Edward
A Wellspring Family Mission Trip
Pending the approval of the Risk-Taking Mission Committee and to the Administrative Council, I would like to propose a Wellspring UMC Family Mission trip set for the late winter or early spring, 2014. The trip will encompass a Friday to Sunday.
Furthermore, I suggest that we travel to Petersburg, Virginia, and work with Pathways Ministries, directed by two United Methodist Pastors, Dwala Ferrell and Mike Watts. Dwala and Mike have ridden the Holy Rollers bicycle tour for the past five years on an awesome tandem bicycle. I have heard them speak passionately on many occasions about the desperate needs in their community.
Pathways was begun in 1995 as an inter-faith community development corporation and is now an incorporated, 501(c)3 institution serving human needs in Petersburg.Reality in Petersburg
- has the highest child poverty rate of any city in Virginia with 41.4% of its children living below the poverty level
- 25.2% of all residents in Petersburg, or 8,015 people live in poverty, which is up a startling 37.6% from 2000
- The median household income is $32,435, only 54% of the state median, and down 9% from the 2000 census
- 31% of households in Petersburg are single-parent families [children in married-couple households are far less likely to experience poverty (5%) than children in single-parent households (25%)]
- 79% of the residents of Petersburg are African American (33% of black children in America live in poverty, as compared to 10% for white children)
- Poverty impacts crime: In 2008, the crime rate in Petersburg was three times that of the national average
- Poverty impacts nutrition: 34% of adults and 17% of preschool aged children in Petersburg are obese
Petersburg is only 50 miles from Wellspring. I would like our mission trip to be a multi-faceted experience with activities for people of all ages. I am going to invite students from the Wesley Foundation to participate as well.
We might work with our hands to repair buildings and serve food, and then hold hands and build relationships with people who have lost hope. We might assist in the Health Clinic, mentor children, work in a garden, teach the Bible or sing songs.
Please consider my proposal and whether this would be a meaningful weekend for you. Watch for details as we get closer.