October brings us into the heart of Fall, with World Communion Sunday at the beginning of the month, and Reformation Sunday/All-Hallow’s Eve at the end of the month. This year we also have our All-Church Conference October 6, beginning with a potluck (appropriately Methodist!) at 6:30 PM. The early morning air is brisk to walk in, and the afternoon sun warms the air, providing beautiful Fall sunsets.
The smell of Concord grapes waft across the vineyards, and around Welch’s and Milne’s. There are more semis on the interstate, carrying heavy loads of apples and grapes, and we learn to be a little more patient going up the hills, because this is the livelihood of the valley we are following. The chalk art is still visible on 6th Street at the beginning of the month, until the rains finally wash away their last traces. All month long we can get lost in corn mazes, get our hands sticky making apple cider, and eat pumpkin doughnuts at Bill’s Berry Farm.
The people of Israel celebrated this time of year, when the final harvests were brought in, and the outdoor work was completed. The Festival of Booths, or Sukkoth, is the time when thanks were given to God for the abundance that had been received from the earth that God created. Certainly, we can give thanks to God at
any time, and for any reason, but Fall is an especially appropriate time to do so. One of the things I like most
about Fall (besides football) is that the grass finally slows its growth, so I don’t have to mow every week. I
enjoy the winter’s respite from outdoor work, and move to the indoor projects for which I’ve not had time during the summer. October is a good time to remember to thank God, not only for the sights, smells, and feel of the cool air, not only for the abundance of life we have experienced in the spring and summer, but also for the change it inaugurates as we prepare for the season of indoor hibernation. God created the earth, and the fullness thereof. God created the seasons of the earth, and the seasons of our lives. Thanks be to God! Shalom,
I was recently given a copy of an article entitled “Why Our Service Organizations are Dying: (and 6 ways to fix them)” that was published about 3 years ago (Thank you Alys Means!). While the article is about organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis, Masons, Shriners, Elks, and others, it sound-ed similar to other articles I’ve read about the decline of the church (mainline and independent). It seems we aren’t the only community category losing members!
One reason for the decline, this author states, is a shift in our culture away from communities built on impersonal characteristics, such as geographical location or altruistic concepts, toward communities built on personal affinities, such as a social issue that affects us, or a favorite football team. In our digital age, a large number of people are finding their community, or place where they feel like they be-long, on-line. The author says they have reverted to an older form of community—a tribal community.
In many ways this makes sense. A young couple who’ve just had their first baby can find a whole new community of “friends and family” on the internet—other young couples with whom they can share the ups and downs, trials and joys, of this most wonderful journey they have begun. That “tribe” can give them the support, and perhaps even guidance, they need.
However, if we limit ourselves only to our collection of “tribes,” if we interact and participate only with other “like-minded” people, we then isolate ourselves from so many other people, and it becomes easy to assert that we have truth, and others do not (or perhaps that all truth is relative, and my truth is as good as yours). We can lose sight of the impersonal fact that there is truth beyond our personal experience, or our “tribe’s” experience. Service groups know that serving others is important, not because they know those they serve, but because those people are in need.
Yes, it can be helpful to be part of a group of people whose experiences resonate with ours, But we are also called to go beyond ourselves. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and that truth, and the way and life to which he calls us is God. Jesus called his disciples to spread the good news, not just within the tribes of Israel, but to all people, to the ends of the earth. We, like the disciples, are called to go beyond our tribes, to all in need of life in God.
Thanks to all of you who listened to the reports Donna Barr and I shared during the July 14 worship service, and for your discussions and questions during and after worship. There was a great deal of information, and your conversations showed you were very thoughtful about it. For those who were not able to attend, copies of the information presented are available in the Fellowship Hall, on the table with the birthday cards and sign-up board.
One thing we did not talk about that Sunday, and which was a question in my mind after our Annual Conference (AC), was what other ACs did in response to the changes the General Conference (GC) made in February. Was our conference’s reaction, through the legislation it passed, an over-reaction compared to others? Or did others have similar responses?
The answer, as would be expected in a denomination as diverse as ours, is yes, and no. In the 7 ACs in the west, there was strong reaction against the action of the GC, with 3 conferences investigating ways of separating from the UMC, and 4 asking the bishops of the Western Jurisdictional Conference to call a special session to develop a plan of separation for the whole jurisdiction (i.e., all 7 ACs separating from the UMC together). All 7 also reiterated their support for the inclusive ministry they have already been doing, pledging to continue it, which means they will not abide by the new changes.
In other parts of the country, 2 ACs in Texas and Georgia had no legislation at all related to this year’s GC. One in Alabama voted down an apology for the harm done through GC. Missouri is starting up new ministries to/with LGBTQIA+. The Virginia AC is also delaying action on the new changes, at least until after the next GC in May of 2020, while Minnesota and New England are rejecting the changes altogether, continuing their practices of full inclusion. Minnesota is also monitoring what other ACs are doing as they explore leaving the UMC, while New England formed a task force to look at developing a new church body in the Methodist tradition.
This is only a small sampling from other AC websites. I encourage you, if you are interested in what other ACs are doing, to check out more AC websites. All this information does not tell us what we as a congregation are to do. It does, however, confirm that change is likely on its way.
It is good to be back! It is good to see you all on Sunday mornings again and at evening meetings. It is good to be out and about in the community, and in the office during the week.
Donna Barr has done an excellent job in the office while I was gone, keeping the administration of this church going. Damage from water leaking through a roof, and ice pulling off a gutter, is in the process of being re-paired, with the first insurance check already in our account. People have been settling into the new space downstairs, and figuring out what it needs to complete the look, and the sound, of it. Sunday morning attendance was up for March and April, as was income. As I’ve joked with some of you, perhaps I should stay away more often. I greatly appreciate Rev. Mark Williams filling the pulpit, and providing pastoral care and administrative guidance while I was on leave. I’m glad that you all have had the chance to get to know him, and his wife Lisa. They are friends as well as colleagues, and good people. I knew the church was in good, and very capable, hands during my absence.
Those were not the only capable hands either. Many others stepped up and pitched in as well to meet the needs of our church, newcomers and long-term members alike. While some people (particularly pastors) feel that the pastor is the most important person in the church, the past few months at Prosser UMC show that it is the energized and active lay people in the pews who are most important to the vitality and life of a faith community. This life and vitality have been evident even before these past few months. Over the past 2 years you have raised more than twice your annual budget so that you could pay for most of the remodel work downstairs as well as the programs and operation of the church. And while the conference statistician notes in this year’s pre-Annual Conference Handbook that an average weekly attendance of 100 or more “is generally accepted as the attendance level [necessary] to sustain a full time or-dained pastor,” you all have been doing that for the last 25 years with an average worship attendance of 40. There are no more capable hands than the faithful hands of God’s people. It is good to be back amongst you.
A Word from Pastor
Mark WilliamsIt was a privilege to worship and pray with you these past weeks while Pastor Bo was on leave. You made Lisa and me feel most welcome in the house of worship at Prosser United Methodist Church. Your ability to make us feel at home is one of the great gifts you have to offer as
the people of God. In celebration of our time together, I want to share three words regarding house and home. The first I share is an illuminated prayer which hung in my parent’s home. It read: “God Bless this house and all who go in and out.” That prayer remains engraved in my memory. It has always shaped my life and my understanding of ministry. I almost always pray those words when visit someone in their home. I fervently pray these words in a hospital room when I pray with a patient. I pray these words on a Sunday as I enter the church. And for four weeks as your pastor and preacher I prayed God’s blessing on the Prosser United Methodist Church and all who came and went. It is my hope that you will continue offering up such a prayer. Not because it’s your house, but because it is God’s house. And in God’s house everyone who enters
deserves such a blessing.
Lisa often reminds me to think of the church as God’s house. She quotes a member of a church in Africa who welcomed her with the word, “Please feel most welcome in your Father’s house.” Lisa was deeply moved by that word and the thought that such a welcome applied (or should apply) to every house of worship. I am confident that if every visitor at Prosser is made to feel welcome and at home in the house of worship, then they will be greatly blessed, and you will be blessed to be part of a growing family of faith.
A final word comes from a family whom I once stayed. I was expressing my gratitude for their hospitality when the hostess interrupted me. “ We want to thank you because you have made our house a good home. A house with not vistors is a bad home. By visiting us you have made you house a good home.” Since that conversation with a humble homeowner who provided generous hospitality, I have always sought to invite others to my home and into God’s house. I hope you will always do the same. The church, God’s house, the place that welcomes visitors and gives them a blessing, is truly the church only when we invite others to come in. Only then does our Father’s house become a good home. God has given you a good and blessed church home. I invite you to be generous in sharing it with others. And may God richly bless you to be a blessing.
Grace and Peace,
The General Conference of 2019 is completed. The Conference met to try to change the deadlock we seem to be in around the topic of human sexuality. For decades we have had heated debates at General Conferences on this issue. I attended the 1984 Bicentennial General Conference in Baltimore where there were protests, many petitions, and ultimately, little change in policy about the participation of homosexual persons in the life of The United Methodist Church.
35 years later, we have much the same story. The Conference voted to approve what is called the “Traditional” plan. In this plan there are no changes in what the Book of Discipline says about people who participate in same-gender relationships. The plan does, however, attempt to change the process by which United Methodists hold each other responsible for “breaking the rules.”
I use the word “attempt” because many parts of the changes proposed were deemed unconstitutional by the United Methodist Judicial Council, both prior to, and at, the General Conference. Some fixes were voted on at the Conference, but we won’t know if they are constitutional until the
Judicial Council meets again in April. So it appears, after all that, we could be right where we were 3 years ago. In our relationships with other people, when we keep having the same argument with them over and over, it’s a sign that we are not truly listening to each other. Unless we learn to stop, take a breath, let go of whatever we’re holding onto so tightly, and really listen to the other person, so that we understand them, we will never be able to respond in a way that provides the other with the opportunity to stop, take a breath, let go of whatever they’re holding onto so tightly, and really listen to us.
I wonder if General Conference is structured to do this kind of relationship work. Perhaps that’s why they haven’t been able to resolve this issue, even after more than 35 years.
It will take each of us having conversations with other United Methodists, building relationships within churches, districts, conferences, and jurisdictions, and across churches, districts, conferences, and jurisdictions, before we can come to agreement on a solution. The answer will not come from legislation, but from conversation. Holy conversation. Conversation in which we speak from our heart and listen with our heart. Conversation in which we can hear God in the other, and they can hear God in us.
Western Jurisdiction UMC Bishops video statement script (Feb 28, 2019)
From our District Superintendent
From our District Superintendent
I keep hearing people talk about the big decisions to be made next month at General Conference. Well, I want to invite you to join with me in praying that what we do there is not decision-making but is instead discernment, real discernment, because those are different things.
To come together in an attitude of decision-making, we would surface and share information, we would apply our best thinking and we would wrangle with one another until together we figured out for ourselves the best way to move ahead. A very human approach, when it could be, and should be, and can be so much more for people of faith.
See, anytime the question on the table is: “Is God trying to bring something new into the world? Is God trying to lead us into new understandings of ourselves and one another and what it means to be a faithful follower of
Jesus Christ?” Well, then that’s a moment for discernment and of listening to God as well as to ourselves and one another. It’s a time to surface and share information, to bring our best thinking and then for all of us to set our egos aside with everything else on the table and say, “God what could you create in the midst of this?” And then listen.
My prayer for General Conference is that the Holy Spirit breaks in and that those of us present are open and present enough that we notice—and that we collaborate with it for what God could do in our midst.
My hoped-for outcome of General Conference is that we could increase the United Methodist way of bringing lifegiving, life-saving, life-transforming love into this world; that love that we know through Jesus Christ.
I invite you to be with me as I and the rest of the delegation prepare ourselves for work in St. Louis. And please be in prayer for us, and with us, in St. Louis that we might not just be doing the work of Church but that we might be Church and bring and embody the best of what it means to be the body of Christ.
Rev. Mary K. Huycke is the first-elected clergy delegate from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference to the 2019 General Conference, meeting in St. Louis in February. She also serves as district superintendent for the
Seven Rivers Missional District.
By Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
A Bright Star in the Night Sky
By Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
A baby was born who turned the world on its head. Lives are changed by Jesus, who opens our eyes to God’s transforming love and justice. We celebrate his birth extravagantly, because we understand that his life, death and resurrection are awesome in their creative power—maybe even awe-ful in their disruptive power. They show us that life is not in vain, that the most violent powers of sin and death cannot snuff out the hope that burns in our hearts, even at times like a small, flickering flame.
The story of Jesus turns us inside out as we sing, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” I pray that your very personal hopes and fears are met by Jesus in the New Year.
United Methodists will carry our very public hopes and fears from 2018 into 2019. A special session of General Conference in February will seek a way forward out of decades of strife over whether and how the Church will welcome and include, or reject and exclude, people based upon their sexual identities and orientations.
What are the hopes that delegates will bring to the Conference?
•Full Inclusion. The Simple Plan would remove of restrictive language in the Book of Discipline to enact full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life and ministry of the Church. Sexual identity and orientation would not be a standard for ordination. Same sex weddings would be allowed.
•Obedience to scripture and discipline. The Traditional Plan reaffirms the traditional teaching that marriage between one man and one woman is the norm. “Self-avowed practicing homosexuals” would be prohibited from ordination and samesex weddings would be prohibited, with stricter enforcement of each. [Learn More | Proposed Legislation]
•Redefining the Connection. The Connectional Conference Plan is the most complicated of the three proposed by the Commission on a Way Forward providing for three overlapping conferences which share some services but have more theological autonomy. Of the major plans, if provides the most space for theological differences but probably has the least support due to the number, and difficulty, of the changes proposed. [Learn More | Proposed Legislation]
•Room for contextual adaptation. The One Church Plan offers less legislated uniformity and allows clergy, local churches and annual conferences to set standards and practices appropriate to their ministry context and exercise of conscience.
I have publicly joined other bishops and leaders of the Western Jurisdiction in
support of the One Church Plan.
Bo’s Blog, “Wait. . . . . . .Wait. . . . . .”
“Wait. . . . . . .Wait. . . . . .”
I remember being startled the first time a crosswalk button talked to me. Well, yeah, I thought, I am going to wait until the crosswalk signal changes. But I sure wish it would change soon.
Waiting is a part of life. We have to wait for the results of the test we took at school. We have to wait to find out if we got the job for which we interviewed. We wait for food to cook. We wait until we’ve saved enough to buy the car, or boat, or house, we want. We wait for the “right person” to come into our lives. We wait for months for a child to be born. We wait for that raise or promotion.
We wait for our kids to come home after school, or our spouse to come home after work. We wait for the kids to move out, get jobs, begin families of their own. We wait to go on vacations, for retirement to arrive. We wait for many things to happen in our lives. But many of us are not good waiters. Our culture, for
decades, has been one of instant gratification, about making the waiting less, and the goal sooner. We can see our test result as soon as the grading is done by checking our student account on-line. No need to “Wait. . . .Wait. . . .” until the next class to get your score. We have more credit cards now, so we don’t have to save up (“Wait. . . .Wait. . . .”) to buy what we want. We can call long distance at no extra cost, get up-to-the-minute news, and “chat” with a group of friends, all through our phones, without having to “Wait. . . .Wait. . . .”. In many ways waiting is a thing of the past.
We lose much, though, when we don’t have to “Wait. .. .Wait. . . .”. When we’re busy rushing from one thing to the next, we don’t have time to relax in between, to notice life going on around us, to have a sense of anticipation for what’s coming next. We don’t have time to think, to process, to imagine, to feel our emotions.
As human beings, we need time and space to wait. Advent is such a place. It is God’s season of “Wait. . .
.Wait. . . .”. I invite you to join me at the crosswalk. Intentionally lengthen the space between your pro-
jects, your shopping, and your other lists. Take time to reflect, to remember, to look around and enjoy the sights and sounds of waiting. Resist the urge to rush towards Christmas until it actually is Christmas. Take the time to feel your true self in this season, as we await the celebration of the birth of the One who calls us to be those true selves.
At a gathering of the pastors of our conference at Wenatchee First UMC last month, the Rev. Larry Peacock, a retired UM pastor from the Cal-Pacific Annual Conference, who is now the Executive Director of the Franciscan Spiritual Center in Portland, led a workshop on spiritual disciplines. Of the three disciplines he highlighted, one was gratitude. “Practicing gratitude,” he said, “turns scarcity and fear into abundance and hope. ”I always give thanks as part of the prayers I say, but I hadn’t really thought much about gratitude as a life practice, as an attitude toward life. But the practices
Larry lifted up in that workshop were about doing things in everyday life to reinforce a feeling of gratitude within. One was saying grace. Very simple, very basic, but what saying grace does is remind us
of the good gifts we have in life, beginning with food to eat. Having food is not a given in many parts of the world, nor even in our country, and community. It is a blessing to have food, and to share food with others around a table. Saying grace reminds us of this simple, basic truth.
Another practice of gratitude he shared (my mom’s going to love this) is writing thank you notes. In writing these notes, we acknowledge that we are not Lone Rangers, that we are not “all alone,” as King
Aurthur sings in “Spamalot.” Instead, we receive gifts from God and others, and the gift-giving, and the acknowledgement of gift-receiving enriches and deepens the relationships we have in life. I had no idea that my thank you notes were anything more than a chore I had to do as a kid until last year, when my brother sent me those very notes I had written to my grandfather. My grandfather had kept them in a drawer beside his bed. When he passed away, my father found them, and kept them. Those small notes held more meaning for those two men than my very basic “thank you,” and the notes about the weather I included. In saying “thank you,” we bind ourselves to others in relationships of goodwill.
Another practice is to simply review our day, as it closes, and remind ourselves of the good things that happened for which we are grateful. This helps build a habit within us of expecting good to be there, even if it seems to be carefully hidden.
Through these practices our perception of life can move from negative to positive, from isolation to belonging, from “scarcity and fear” to “abundance and hope.” Happy Thanks-giving!