On February 3 Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey will be at Northville UMC for the final stop on her winter road trip. Join the conversation about one annual conference in Michigan, 6:30-8:00 pm. Share your hopes, concerns, and values ... be heard! read more>>
MIconnect January Digest is ready for you to download and print for your readers who prefer their news on paper rather than computer screen
What do you get when you put an opera star and homeless singers on stage? You get, "Street Requim," a new gig for a music minister in Dallas, Texas read more>>
Bishop Donald Ott says of the Rev. Laurie Haller's writing ... “Call it a book if you must, but for me Recess reads like a deeply revealing diary.". read more>>
|Kobi Maxwell (left) and Steven Bryant were in good spirits before joining other members of the Dallas Street Choir in a performance of "Street Requiem." The choir was part of the team of musicians pulled together by Jonathan Palant, music minister of Kessler Park United Methodist Church, for the Jan. 26, 2015 benefit concert in Dallas. ~umns photo/Sam Hodges|
But on Sunday night he donned a tuxedo and conducted a stage full of instrumentalists and singers, ranging from a choir of homeless people to opera star Frederica von Stade, at Dallas City Performance Hall.
Much could have gone wrong, especially since they were doing the U.S. premier of a challenging new choral work on homelessness. But apart from a few members of Dallas Street Choir making a premature stage exit—and having to be summoned back by Palant—the program came off fine.
Indeed, the packed house gave a prolonged standing ovation.
Even a few hours before the show, with performance details still being worked out, Palant seemed at peace.
Right place, right cause
|Jonathan Palant, music minister at Kessler United Methodist Church, leads rehearsal for a performance of "Street Requiem." ~umns photo/Sam Hodges|
“Everybody has come together at the right time, in the right place, for the right message and the right cause,” he said.
The Sunday night concert, a benefit for a longtime Dallas homeless ministry called The Stewpot, represented the highest profile event yet in Palant’s quest to make choral music more socially relevant.
From his base at Kessler Park United Methodist, Palant started CREDO, an ecumenical choir with an emphasis on community service. The choir draws from churches around Dallas. Its Latin name translates to “I believe.”
CREDO has toured in Cuba, and does Christmas concerts at The Stewpot. The 2013 concert became a giant sing-along with homeless people and other clients there.
Brian Knopp was a new member of CREDO then, and remembers the thrill of that event.
“I’m 50 years old, and I’ve never had a Christmas like that,” said Knopp, who also sings with the Northaven United Methodist Church choir. “At that point I was hooked.”
Palant, 40, has more recently turned what had been the decidedly informal choir at The Stewpot into Dallas Street Choir, which rehearses regularly and offers incentives—such as bus passes—to those who show up and work hard.
“It’s not easy to get street folks to commit to something,” Palant said. “It’s become easier because they see what it feels like being in a choir community.”
Among the Dallas Street Choir members is Steven Bryant, who spends his nights at Union Gospel Mission.
Bryant, who has battled alcohol addiction, sang in his high school choir in Louisiana, but believes he’s singing better than ever thanks to Palant.
“He’s an overall good guy, and on technical stuff he’s awesome,” Bryant said. “He lets us know the importance of singing soft or when to be loud. He tells us to push out from the stomach, so it sounds better, fuller.”
'We will remember'
For Sunday’s concert, Palant combined CREDO with Dallas Street Choir to perform “Street Requiem,” a 40-minute work by three composers from Australia who share his commitment to socially relevant music.
Andy Payne, one of the composers, said the piece was inspired by the deaths of people living on the streets in Melbourne, Australia.
“Often their names were unknown,” Payne said. “We wanted to write a piece for them, to say, `We will remember.’”
Palant summoned his nerve and asked von Stade — a mezzo-soprano known as “Flicka” to her many fans — if she would sing solos in the Dallas production of “Street Requiem.”
“I just loved the idea of it,” she said after Saturday’s rehearsal. “And once Jonathan sent me the piece, I thought it was beautiful. I work with a lot of kids in Oakland, and lot of them have been homeless at times, or slept in cars. There’s just a huge place in my heart for people who have so much to deal with every day.”
The Sunday night program included a video about The Stewpot, followed by a song medley by Dallas Street Choir, whose members wore bright orange t-shirts saying “Believe.”
Von Stade, wearing one of those shirts herself, joined the choir onstage, taking the lead in “Somewhere” from “West Side Story.”
After a brief intermission, the 80-plus members of CREDO came out. Von Stade reappared, wearing a long dress. Palant conducted the orchestra as she and CREDO sang through the early movements of “Street Requiem.”
Later the Dallas Street Choir members, by now dressed in donated tuxedos and long dresses, came back on stage and joined in the final movements. They drew applause not just from the audience but from their fellow musicians.
A day later, Dallas Street Choir member Kobi Maxwell was still glowing.
“It was awesome to see the finished product,” said Maxwell, who has found fulltime work and recently moved into an apartment. “It was inspiring to me to see the thing through to completion.”
Palant said he’s received strong support from Kessler Park United Methodist Church for his work with CREDO and Dallas Street Choir.
He’s all for choirs with a community service mission. But the focus must be right.
“It’s not the kind of community service where we do something to you or for you,” Palant said. “We are building bridges, and there are lessons to be learned all over the place.”
We are glad many of you have been following and participating in Bishop Deb's "Conversations on a Journey." As we have traveled from Cadillac to Escanaba, from Midland to Grand Rapids, listening to your thoughts on creating a new conference in Michigan, we have frequently heard, "How can we learn more about the other conference?"
We currently publish two editions of MIconnect, one for each annual conference. Most of the information we include each week is identical. We know many of you subscribe to both editions so that you can keep up with all the news and information in our state.
For these reasons, we are pleased to launch the Michigan Area edition of MIconnect this week. This new edition will be a comprehensive source for United Methodist news and information in Michigan. With this new format, you will see new sections that feature conference specific information and stories that click back to one or both conference websites.
We hope you enjoy this new format of MIconnect. Please share it widely. We also encourage you to print our monthly PDF summary of MIconnect for those who do not have email.
If you get two MIconnects this week, please unsubscribe at the bottom of the email issued from the Conference of which you are not a member.
And, let us know what you think! Your comments and suggestions are always appreciated. Happy reading!
Mark A. Doyal
Director of Communications
United Methodist News Service
As a young person in Greece, Elsa Stamatopoulou didn’t see much evidence of church support for human dignity in the struggle against dictatorship.
But after she joined the U.N. human rights office in 1980, she became familiar with religious groups who were doing “amazing work” to promote human rights.
|Elsa Stamatopoulou offers ways faith-based groups can be "duty-bearers" for human rights. ~umns photo/Linda Bloom|
Stamatopoulou, now a professor at Columbia University, cited the U.N.’s voluntary fund for victims of torture as an example. “In many countries, we cannot even channel the money easily to NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) who can help victims of torture,” she explained.
“So faith-based organizations become vehicles through which the United Nations is able to channel this particular humanitarian aid.”
As a church youth leader, student activist and then a staff member of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines during the last brutal years of the Marcos military dictatorship, the Rev. Liberato “Levi” Bautista learned that restoring human dignity to the poor, deprived and marginalized was an important task for the church.
Today, in his 18th year as the main U.N. representative of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, Bautista continually witnesses the intersection of faith-based groups and the secular and political world on issues of human dignity and human rights.
“At the core of religious understandings and beliefs are precepts that enlarge freedoms, secure rights, promote development and sustain peace,” he noted.
Both Bautista and Stamatopoulou were among the speakers on “The Role of Religion and Faith-based Organizations in International Affairs” during a Jan. 21 symposium at the United Methodist-owned Church Center for the United Nations.
With a focus on human dignity and human rights, the event was designed to provoke conversation and build engagement among diverse partners on the international level.
From both religious and secular perspectives, noted the Rev. Ganoune Diop, permanent representative for United Nations of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, human dignity “is accepted as a foundation” for life.
Within the People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning, said Robert Kesten, executive director, the belief is that all are born with dignity, even though that dignity has to be continually reclaimed.
Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, pointed to the first words of the declaration’s preamble: “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family...”
Such recognition “is not the result of a negotiation process,” he said in a pre-recorded video presentation from Germany, where he is teaching. Instead, that recognition is a more profound insight that is the precondition of any negotiations.
“That’s why the human rights which institutionalize your recognition of everyone’s human dignity are necessarily everyone’s rights, everyone’s equal rights,” Bielefeldt said.
To be “duty-bearers” for human rights, Stamatopoulou said, faith-based groups need to:
“I also believe that faith-based organizations have to go on that path… of bringing people together, with modesty, integrity, consistency and determination,” she said.
The common setting of the U.N. has allowed faith and cultural groups to examine “shared burdens, vulnerabilities and aspirations” even as they and the international community are sometimes challenged by fanaticism, adherence to ideology, oppression and exploitation, Bautista said.
Despite those pitfalls, “the quest for sustainable peace and justice and the need to overcome violence binds religions, governments and the U.N. together,” he wrote in a paper for the symposium.
“The engagement (with the U.N.) has changed the ecumenical and church community itself,” he told the participants.
Ecumenical work in international affairs is an “inseparable dimension” of the World Council of Churches and its members, said Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, the WCC’s U.N. representative.
When churches become engaged together in human problems and issues “they find themselves in a form of unity that transcends conventional backgrounds, ecclesiastical barriers and national boundaries,” he added.
Faith-based groups can bring assets to the international arena that are not financial but are tied to the grass-roots quality of such organizations, said Bishop Stacy Sauls, chief operating officer for The Episcopal Church.
“We derive our real potential from how deeply we are connected with people,” he explained. “For one thing, what the church does that no other organization can do as well is to reach into the nooks and crannies of humanity, wherever it is found.”
Faith groups also use that connection with people for disaster relief and development work. Pauliina Parhiala, director and chief operating officer of ACT Alliance, a coalition of more than 140 church and affiliated relief organizations, can attest to that.
“Religious institutions may lack technical solutions or even skill or knowledge to address some of those problems they would be highlighting, but they can be offering a perspective of hope beyond business as usual,” she said.
“They can bridge divides in societies and among communities and they can speak truth even if it’s difficult and hold governments accountable to the commitments they have made.”
But the Rev. Kathleen Stone, U.N. representative for United Methodist Women, said she found herself concerned over how faith groups can ensure human dignity or even, in some cases, survival.
“I’m thinking right now of women and men with their arms up in the air either surrendering or standing with firm resolute against all risk to life and limb, stating that they have a right to breathe and live and love,” she said as the symposium concluded. “And wondering what the place of our churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, shrines... is in all of this.”
A Pentecost Journey Workshop is scheduled for Saturday, April 18, 2015 at Central United Methodist Church, 222 Cass Street, Traverse City, 9:00 am to 3:30 pm. While hosted by the Grand Traverse District, the experience is open to all who wish to develop new Hispanic Ministries in their communities.
The purpose of this event is to help a congregation fulfill Christ’s mandate of making disciples for the transformation of the world. The goal is to develop a comprehensive ministry plan for the local congregation in which effective programs are planned and carried out by taking into account the intercultural context of Hispanic/Latino ministries in the United States.
The Internet is an ocean of information. We often focus on how to reach more people by being heard over competing waves of noise, but what if we flip the script? How do we find what we need in the swirling digital sea? How do we sift through all those crashing waves to pluck the few relevant and significant items from a sea of distracting content?
Feedly and Buffer are the apps that answer such questions; a one-two punch for finding and sharing all the relevant web content you care about in the cluttered Internet ecosystem.
We'll cover both so you can find all the content you want without missing important updates and then share your findings for more effective audience engagement. First let's look at Feedly.
What is Feedly?
A lot of people think of RSS as Really Simple Syndication. The basic idea is to get content you want sorted and delivered in a neatly organized and customized way. Desktop users can use a good RSS reader to replace bulky browser bookmark lists and a bunch of open tabs sitting there until you get around to reading those articles. Smartphone and tablet users can avoid using a web browser altogether with Feedly's slick app.
You've probably seen the RSS symbol around the web.
Consider it a shortcut for subscribing to a site's content. When a new article or blog update is posted, subscribers to that site's RSS feed will be updated by their reader. This simple technology is key for the vast majority of people who don't have time to visit their favorite websites many times a day.
Is Feedly the only option?
No, other reader services exist. For a long time, Google Reader seemed the most popular, but when Google announced it was retiring the popular aggregator, many of us panicked. Why did we have to find a new reader? Which one should we choose? Would we lose all our saved sites?
In that time, Feedly emerged as a strong alternate candidate. After reviewing many options and asking fellow Internet dwellers about their experiences, we prefer
Feedly for three main reasons.
Integration with Buffer awesome
One of Feedly's greatest integrations is with Buffer, a powerful tool for sharing content effectively on the web. Few people have time to sit at a computer all day. Like Hootsuite, Buffer gives you control over what, where and when you share content. Link your various profiles to this app, and it will follow your direction.
With Buffer, you can spend a couple minutes setting up what you want to share in coming days or weeks, during the best times to engage people on social media networks. You can also use FollowerWonk or SocialBro to analyze Twitter for the best time to tweet. These tools help you pinpoint when your followers are most active so you can schedule accordingly.
You can share any update to all or some of your social media profiles. The Buffer icon also appears in your message composition boxes for Facebook and Twitter, so you can use a custom schedule right from there.
Setting, modifying, and pausing your posting schedule is easy, and you can shuffle the order of queued posts with drag and drop functionality.
One downside is that personal Google+ accounts cannot be linked. So far, Google has only allowed apps to connect with public pages, which might be great if you have such a page for your church or ministry.
Buffer or Hootsuite?
Buffer and Hootsuite are both great tools, and your choice comes down to personal preference. You may find that Hootsuite is better for consuming social media and Buffer is better at sharing it. In regard to Feedly, Buffer holds one key advantage for desktop users: You'll have to upgrade to Feedly Pro to use Hootsuite on your desktop.
Here are a few other great features offered by Buffer:
With limited time and a seemingly infinite Internet, keeping up with important, useful information is challenging enough. Effectively sharing great content to engage and grow your audience is even harder if you still prefer to actually get sleep at night.
With Feedly and Buffer, you can seem to be everywhere at once and with your finger on the pulse of what your friends and followers care most deeply about. With a minimum investment of time, use these tools to go from sinking in an ocean of noise to practically walking on digital water.
United Methodist News Service
Being good to the planet and its people ultimately will be good for United Methodist workers’ bottom line. That’s the principle behind two changes to the investment policy of the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits.
In November, the board’s directors voted to exclude certain investments in coal and avoid investing in companies meeting certain thresholds that operate in countries with “a prolonged and systematic pattern of human rights violations.” These changes are just starting to take effect.
The changes — part of an investment policy called the management of excessive sustainability risk — come with an eye toward both church values and the long-term financial returns of United Methodist beneficiaries, say board staff.
“What this means is that we feel that the companies that we identify (for possible exclusion) have policies and practices that are not sustainable and will ultimately result in losses in value for the companies,” said Dave Zellner, the board’s chief investment officer.
For example, Zellner and other board staff foresee only diminishing returns from companies that extract the thermal coal used to generate electricity. With the increased international focus on climate change and the attendant regulation, coal — the most carbon-intensive fuel — is losing steam as people turn to other energy sources.
Human rights violations pose a similar problem for investors, board staff say. A country that abuses its people isn’t just immoral — it’s bad for business.
The pension board manages retirement plans for more than 91,000 participants, including United Methodist clergy and lay employees. Through its Wespath Investment Management division, the board also manages the assets of United Methodist-affiliated endowments, foundations and other institutions.
Altogether, the board oversees $21 billion in assets, including the largest church pension fund in the United States.
What the new guidelines do
The board still does not know how many of its current investments the new criteria will affect.
Kirsty Jenkinson, the board’s managing director of sustainable investment strategies, said the board is working with the research firm Sustainalytics to determine which companies it will exclude from its funds.
Specifically, the new coal guideline may result in the board excluding:
Any company deriving at least 50 percent of revenues from the extraction and/or mining of thermal coal.
Electric utilities deriving at least 75 percent of overall fuel mix from coal. The exception is a company that has demonstrated its intent to transition from coal to getting at least 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources.
In developing countries, the guideline will factor in the importance of access to energy in economic development.
The new human rights guidelines may exclude any company that provides significant financial services to or derives more than 10 percent of its revenues or raw materials from:
Countries demonstrating a prolonged and systematic pattern of human rights violations.
Conflict-affected areas where significant human rights violations have been widely documented or significant breaches of international law have occurred.
The board especially will scrutinize companies that operate in nations with the worst ranking in Freedom House's annual “Freedom in the World” report. In its 2014 report, the worst rankings went to the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
“We’re not planning to specifically release the (names of) companies that will be excluded from our portfolio,” Jenkinson said. “Successful engagement relies on a level of trust between ourselves and the companies we engage. Naming companies that we determine represent excessive sustainable investment risk would likely impair this trust and thus our ability to positively influence change.”
Instead, the board will continue to publicize the companies where it has investments. Lists of the board’s holdings are updated quarterly on its website.
Zellner added that the board’s new rules are highly unlikely to lead to the exclusion of Motorola, Hewlett-Packard or Caterpillar. Those companies have been the targets of widespread divestment campaigns because the Israeli military uses their products in the occupied Palestinian territories. General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking body, in 2012 voted against a proposal to divest from the three companies.
Some companies may be excluded because of their connection to the settlements, Zellner said.
“But those three companies would not meet the criteria that would exclude them,” he added.
To exclude or not to exclude?
The pension board increasingly faces pressure to exclude other kinds of businesses as well. The Fossil Free UMC movement is urging that coal, petroleum and natural gas be added to the denomination’s investment exclusions.
The Baltimore-Washington, California-Nevada, Pacific Northwest, and Virginia conferences have approved resolutions to study the issue. The movement cites the Book of Discipline, which speaks of the dangers greenhouse gases pose to the overall climate and the economically vulnerable. The church’s Social Principles urge world governments and United Methodists to work toward the reduction of such emissions.
The Rev. Jenny Phillips is the coordinator of the Fossil Free Movement and minister for environmental stewardship and advocacy in the Pacific Northwest Conference.
“The task at hand isn’t like asking Nike to stop making shoes in sweatshops,” she told the board in November. “It’s like asking Nike to stop making shoes.”
But Zellner and others at the pension board are quick to point out the board can have more influence in encouraging sustainable corporate decisions if it has a seat at the table.
The Rev. Ed Tomlinson, a board director and pastor in the North Georgia Conference, puts it this way. If a parishioner decides to leave his congregation for good, “I am not going to listen to their opinions any further.” The church will likewise be ignored if it abandons some investments altogether, he said.
The pension board’s engagement has had some success in the fossil-fuel industry. The board recently led an investor coalition to get ConocoPhillips to set a public goal for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. The company is aiming for a 3 to 5 percent reduction in emissions this year, said Anita Green, the board’s manager of sustainable investment strategies.
Even with the current volatility in the oil and gas markets, neither fossil fuel is going away anytime soon. The board has a fiduciary duty to its beneficiaries to stay involved, board staff say. It also helps that some oil and gas companies are working to develop more renewable sources of energy.
Timothy Smith, a pension board member, works as a senior vice president of Walden Asset Management where he spends a great deal of his time advocating on environmental issues. He said it’s a “moral mirage” to think that if the denomination abandoned all fossil fuel investments it would directly affect global energy consumption.
At the same time, he said divesting from coal can make a substantial difference in an investment portfolio’s climate picture. When Stanford University decided to purge its coal stocks last year, it discovered that the move would cut the carbon footprint of its investment portfolio by half.
Determining when it’s best to remain engaged and when it’s best simply to walk away will remain a challenge for the pension board and other church-related investors. But staff are hopeful the new guidelines will help.
“There is so much that goes on behind the scenes that the average United Methodist member or pastor has no idea,” said Missouri Area Bishop Robert Schnase, vice chair of the pension board. He joined the board in 2012, and as a clergy member, he is also a beneficiary of its investments.
“I’ve known all along that they make good decisions related to their fiduciary responsibilities. But the new door that has been opened for me is seeing how conscientious they are in working with companies around environmental, social and governance issues.”
See Link below for Flier
We ask that you confirm your attendance to the showcase so we may plan accordingly and also so we have contact information in case of inclement weather so we can contact you (by email) in case the event has to be cancelled.
Feb 6-8, 2014
Flier has been emailed to churches and youth leaders. Flier at link below.
What a great time we have had traveling across Michigan. The weather was not always the best, but the people who came out to each of the first four events made the Bishop’s Conversations on a Journey truly exciting.
It was great to hear people’s questions and comments about the possibility of creating a new conference for Michigan. It was especially exciting to be part of the “live” webcast from Cornerstone Church in Grand Rapids.
If you go to either conference website, you will find the notes which were taken at each on the events and you can even find an archived copy of the webcast. They will give you a much better sense of what we heard than I can in these few lines.
However, there were some Burning Questions which came my way during our time on the road which I would like to try and answer here for the benefit of everyone.
The first question came from a clergy person: “Does everyone who is appointed in the Detroit Conference have to go to the city of Detroit or the Upper Peninsula at least once? That’s what I heard last week at our clergy forum.” The second question, this time from a lay person, was actually heard in several variations: I know we are talking about Annual Conference, but that is way “down there” and I never see any of that at my local church. What’s a good reason for me and our church to support this idea? How will this change affect us?” And finally, at every session: “What would be a missional reason for doing this?”
I should start off by saying that neither the Bishop nor Mark Doyal nor I ever heard anything that could be characterized as negative about the “other” conference. Questions, to be sure, but nothing from either side which would lead anyone to believe that we were anything but sisters and brothers in the faith. Separated by miles and isolated by years of little or no communication, people were still not hateful or unkind. Even my clergy colleague was not being deliberately unkind. He just didn’t know enough about the Detroit Conference or the ministry locations mentioned in the question.
And my answer to this question is relatively easy: First of all, appointments in the Detroit Conference are made just like the appointments in West Michigan; by a bishop and cabinet who are committed to making disciples for Jesus Christ and transforming the world. They understand that their critical part of that process is the appointing of clergy who will do everything in their power to accomplish the same goal in the place where they are appointed. There are no pre-determined rules about where one must be appointed in either conference. The bishop and cabinet do not sit down and say to themselves, “Who hasn’t been to the UP yet? or “Who hasn’t done time in Detroit yet?” any more than they say “Who hasn’t been to a two-point charge or a really small town yet?”
Appointments are discerned on the basis of the gifts of the pastor and the needs of the congregation. There are some tethers attached to some pastors, but most of those are related to spouse or family concerns and are most often expressed as places we want to stay near rather than places we don’t want to go. And I can tell any pastor who asks that every church is unique and all people are similar in regard to their faith needs, regardless of where they live. There are some fantastic ministries happening in the cities of Detroit and Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo and Flint and there are equally fantastic ministries going on in the small congregations of the Heartland or Blue Water districts and across the Upper Peninsula.
Not every pastor will have an opportunity to reap where another has sown, but every pastor will have the opportunity to bloom where they are appointed. It’s true that some of us do not have the same gifts or skills and so we may not be equally effective in every location. But based on my personal life experience, I will say that we should not assume that there are only certain places where we can serve. I’ve been in open country and inner city and county seat settings and have found opportunities to do ministry in each place where I’ve been appointed. That is less a reflection on my gifts and more on my willingness to love the people wherever I get the opportunity to serve. And I can truthfully say that I have found people to love in every area of this state – regardless of the conference or district boundaries.
Secondly, the “will” in the second question is easier to speak to than the “how.” I can say with confidence that, if this creation of a new conference is done right, it will affect everyone. If we become more fruitful and dynamic as a conference and begin to support the work of local congregations with excellence in leadership and a shared expectation of effective missional congregations that are making disciples for Jesus Christ who are transforming the world, then every local church member will see and experience the kind of life-changing movement of the Holy Spirit which cannot help but change us.
But “how” we are going to do that and what that new conference will look like is impossible to say at this point. It is too early to speak with any certainty about retiree health care or the place of campus ministry in the life of the conference. We are a little like the Israelites who must have asked Moses exactly where they were going and how long it would take before they would set one foot in the wilderness. The biblical record seems clear. There were many who were very uncomfortable with the lack of certainty. They were, I think, good people who simply preferred the certainty of the way they had always done things to the uncertainty of an unclear destination or an unknown path, even though they had be praying for just such a “next step” in their nation’s future.
Like the children of Israel, we are at a stepping-off point on our life’s journey. We are poised at the precipice of an unseen future and we are about to decide if we will step out in faith or not. The good news in all of this is that we will get to decide what our next destination, our new conference will look like. The outcome is not pre-determined and it will not be decided by the infamous “them.” It will be all of us – clergy and lay alike – who will pool our resources and talents to create something uniquely able to respond to the circumstances we will face in the days and weeks and years to come!
Well, friends, we are deep into the Christmas rush.
Have you ever been an actor or actress in stage theatre productions? Or perhaps you love reading a novel and imagining yourself into one or more of the characters within the story. For me, to do so can be a great adventure, or an expanding awareness of self and of the other. It can be especially challenging if I choose to try to enter into the life experience and understanding of someone of a different gender, culture, ethnicity or time and place. From the time I was a young child and first learned to read I used my inner imagination to try to understand, appreciate and empathize with people and cultures that I was not yet familiar with.
While this imaginative process can be entertaining when playing in fictional worlds, it is much harder when we engage real life situations and relationships. Imagining ourselves into the life experience of someone else can take us to deep and sometimes uncomfortable places within ourselves. On several occasions during my adult life when the news media has covered the beating or killing of African-American men by White men I have tried to force myself into that interior journey.
Each time I have asked myself, “If I were Black, would I still be alive?” This past week, when a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri did not find any reason to at least examine through trial the role of a White police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed Black young man (youth), I asked that question again: “If I were Black, would I still be alive?”
Given my propensity to confront injustice, my distrust and resistance to unchecked use of authority, and my commitment to standing up to bullying behaviors, my answer to my question most often disturbs me. It was made even more poignant for me as my family prepared to gather for a harvest festival celebration last week.
My wife and I have three young adult sons. As the announcement came out from Ferguson I made myself go deeper and ask, “What if our three sons were Black? What would we have to have taught them about surviving in this country? What worries would we have to hold in our hearts every time they went out with friends?” As one Twitter posting said, “The conversations in White households this Thanksgiving will be quite different than the conversations in Black households.” I cannot truly or fully know what it is like to be a Black male in the United States, yet I know I need to continue to be uncomfortable as a White male when something of this nature seems all too common to the general public and to our systems of power and control.
Some of you reading this are now ready to exit, while others may just now be getting interested. That is one of the tensions of having honest conversations on race in the United States. People in a dominant culture place of relative comfort can quite easily escape having to go to deep places of examination around systemic and/or hidden biases. A Facebook posting this week by Bill Moyers (billmoyers.com) invited readers to consider those hidden, often unintentional, biases. It leads us to take the Implicit Association Test on the UnderstandingPrejudice.org link. I strongly encourage all of us to risk entering into a greater self-awareness. I won’t tell you what my results were, but the test was a healthy journey. (Click here to find the test.)
As the announcement in Ferguson approached I followed young adults on Twitter and Facebook for the days preceding the announcement. The yearning and hope for justice and transformation were palpable, as was the pain and disillusionment following the grand jury announcement. Many then looked to the Advent season as a hope that Light will again shine in the midst of darkness. Most of those young adults are asking all of us in the Church to risk building the relationships necessary to have honest conversations around race, White privilege, and White oppression, and to allow the recent and ongoing tragedies to be the catalyst for a new tomorrow.
I invite you to consider what such conversations might look like here in the Michigan Area of The United Methodist Church, especially as we take this Advent journey. Remember, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
By now, I hope you have all heard about the “Conversations on a Journey” which Bishop Deb is hosting around the Area over the next three months.
Bishop Deb will be in Cadillac, Escanaba and Midland during the week this blog is published, and later in Grand Rapids and Northville. (see details below)
She is hoping to hear from as many area United Methodists as possible during these five events and she is happy to be sharing her vision and dreams as well. These should be wonderful conversations.
This month’s Burning Question, voiced by a clergy person, came to our office in advance of the first conversation, but was born out of concerns for both the process and any possible outcomes. “I hear the Bishop say she is coming to listen to us, but the last time we had “listening sessions” they were anything but. How can we be sure that this time is different? Why would we want to make the effort to encourage our laity to be there?”
I understand the concern. The last time we talked about listening sessions on an area-wide level, we were operating out of a different set of assumptions and understandings. The people who planned and conducted those “listening” sessions had been given an assignment and thought that the best way to carry out their assignment would be to take a proposed plan to the people and allow them to ask questions about the proposal. Not a bad idea, and well-executed by the members of the MATT team.
But many of us came away feeling like we had different ideas we hoped to share and it seemed that there just wasn’t time or any opportunity to give input. The end result was that some of us were frustrated by the process, and the frustration has not gone away. As I have traveled around the area, I have heard very little resistance to the idea of becoming one conference for the Michigan Area. But I have heard lingering skepticism about how this process will move forward and many questions about timelines and possible input from persons in the pew and behind the pulpit.
So please let me share with you what I think, based on what I have heard to date from Bishop Deb and conference leaders from both Detroit and West Michigan. First, and foremost, I have heard a desire and commitment to learn from the mistakes we have made in the past. Bishop Deb has come to this place after listening to people from across the area, and she is determined to continue to seek input from lay and clergy alike as we go forward. She is coming to these conversations with an open mind and deep trust in the wisdom resident in the people of the Church. She is clear that she wants to give the people of the Area opportunities to weigh-in with their thoughts and ideas, both in these initial stages and throughout the process.
Second, I believe that we will learn from the experiences of others. In the past, we were moving into areas of conversation where few other Annual Conferences had gone, and we did not have many other examples to draw from. But today, many annual conferences have experienced these vital mergers and the creation of a singular new conference where there had been two or more predecessor conferences. They have had successes and bumps along the way and we can learn from them. I know that Bishop Deb and her conference leaders from both West Michigan and Detroit have already been to Indiana to hear about their experiences of moving from two conferences to one new conference, and I am confident that there will be many more such conversations and fact-finding trips in the future.
Third, I am convinced, from what I have heard so far, that we are not in a rush to get to the end of the journey. I believe that the people and conversations I have heard are prepared to take their time in order to get it right the first time. By that I mean that, if the two conferences decide that they would like to become one new conference for the Michigan Area, then the becoming will be stretched out over enough time to allow this new thing to grow and develop, with a variety of inputs through many different means. The new conference, if it is to happen, will not be dropped out of the sky full-grown and fully developed in a matter of weeks. It will emerge from weeks and months of input gathering and idea-testing across the entire area. And I do not believe that this input gathering and idea-testing process will be conducted by the same persons who have brought us to these decision points in the past. We will certainly want to hear their voices and learn from their experiences. But if we are to have a “new” thing, then we must have new leaders with fresh ideas and fewer ties to the ways we have always done things in the past. What excites me is that I believe there are just such persons willing and eager to lead us in these new directions. I also believe that those who have been in leadership roles are prepared to hand off the baton.
However, before any of this can happen, Bishop Deb would like to hear from you and have you hear from her. There are several ways this can happen. You can attend a conversation event. You may participate in the planned “web” event in January. You can speak with a conference or district lay leader. You can email the bishop’s office or join the social media dialogue which has already begun. But mostly, you can prayerfully prepare for the opportunity will be given to each annual conference to let the Bishop and conference leaders know, by means of the ballot, whether you agree with their vision for the area.
There will come a moment when our votes will be each be counted and we will be given our opportunity to say “yes, we agree” or “no, we do not.” In the end, the choice will be ours. I know that Bishop Deb is prepared to trust the wisdom of the two conferences and their members on this. She really wants to hear from you!
This week's schedule:
The year: 1952. The place: Hornick, a small town on the very western edge of Iowa. A bubbly, blonde, curly headed little girl had just celebrated her first birthday, and was just beginning to pull herself to a standing position in preparation for her first steps. She, her parents, and her older brother and sister were looking forward to the relaxing, slower paced days of summer in Iowa.
The Tree of Life Ministries, an ecumenical relief agency associated with the Dakotas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, is seeking an Executive Director. The ministry works to address the basic human needs of individuals and families living on the Rosebud Reservation.
This is done through mobilizing volunteers from around the country to offer services that provide food, clothing and home repairs.
The ideal candidate will have:
The position is salaried (commensurate with skills/experience) and includes benefits as well as housing in Mission, SD. A detailed job description can be found on the Dakotas Conference website: http://www.dakotasumc.org/mission-advocacy/tree-of-life/
For more information about the ministry, visit our website: www.treeofliferelief.org. Questions and Resumes/Cover Letters/References may be submitted to
Dr. Tom Gilmore, 605.665.8303, Tojan41@yahoo.com.
Closing date for prospective candidates is March 1, 2015. Start date will be June 1, 2015.
STATUS: Full-time, Salaried, HOURS: 40 Hours per week
GENERAL PURPOSE OF POSITION: To work in concert with the senior pastor and staff in order to make disciples for Christ for the transformation of the world.
SUPERVISION: Reports to the Senior Pastor. The Staff Parish Relations Committee provides an annual evaluation of the Pastoral Assistant’s performance as required by the United Methodist Discipline. Operates with considerable independence within areas of responsibility described below subject to the United Methodist Discipline and local church policy as determined by the church committee(s) with authority over the ministry area involved.
Organizational Relationship and Ministry Supervision:
· The Pastoral Assistant reports to the Senior Pastor for spiritual and ministry guidance.
· Following the strategic guidance of the Senior Pastor; works with ministry leaders to ensure they receive appropriate development and training, provides necessary support to leaders so that they can foster and nurture their volunteers, connects leaders throughout the church.
· Following the strategic guidance of the Senior Pastor, manages the ministry and directs the employees and volunteers dedicated to serving the various ministries for which the Pastoral Assistant carries primary responsibility.
· At the direction of the Senior Pastor, provides spiritual leadership and subject matter expertise to other staff members. Develops strategic guidance, project plans, and intermediate steps necessary to facilitate spiritual and numerical growth for the Calvary UMC.
· Networks with community and local churches to develop partnerships.
· The Staff Parish provides an annual evaluation of the Pastoral Assistant’s performance.
· The Pastoral Assistant will be responsible and subject to core United Methodist polity and doctrine, informed by the United Methodist local church policy as determined by the Charge Conference, Senior Pastor, and Staff Parish Relations Committee.
· Responsible for the creation, direction, and oversight of a comprehensive outreach and spiritual formation ministry to children, youth, and young families.
· In consultation with the pastor form, direct and oversee a Children’s Ministry Development Team as instructed in VCI prescription.
· In consultation with the pastor form, direct and oversee a Youth Ministry Development Team as instructed in the VCI prescription.
· To understand and assist implementation of the multi-cultural vision as listed in the VCI prescriptions.
· Assist in developing and maintaining multi-cultural discipleship pathway as laid out in VCI prescriptions.
· Assist in the development of a Dream Day as laid out in the VCI prescriptions.
Qualifications and Aptitudes:
1. Must embrace Christian discipline and core United Methodist doctrine and theology.
2. Must have vision and a demonstrated ability to plan, develop, coordinate, manage and implement ministry within the parameters of the United Methodist Church.
3. Must have excellent written and verbal communication skills, conflict management skills, and computer skills.
4. Must possess a proven ability to work effectively with congregation, diverse individuals, and teams of volunteers.
5. Must be an effective communicator who supports and embraces the new vision of CUMC.
6. Must have a complete commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord, a love for His Word, His Spirit, and prayer.
7. Must have a tenacious passion for ministry to children, youth and their families with a desire for God’s Church to reflect His multi-cultural kingdom.
8. Must be willing to receive and be available for additional training and education through the direction of the Senior Pastor and the SPRC.
Hazel Park - First U.M.C. is looking to hire a part-time experienced Worship & Song Leader to assist the Music Director with weekly music/song selections, planning music for ordinary and special worship services, including serving as the primary Song Leader. Interested candidates should be able to read music, possess the ability to direct a small praise team, lead songs during service, including attend weekly choir rehearsal meeting and Sunday Worship Service.
Lake Louise is a non-profit organization providing retreats, events, service projects, Christian camping and other year around opportunities along with services to a community of Lake Louise residents. We seek a devoted and inspiring leader of personnel, recruiting, financial and spiritual development, budgeting, community networking and interaction, connection with the United Methodist Church, internet utilization, and land use and preservation.
Community Outreach Coordinator
Fenton United Methodist Church
January 21, 2015
Fenton United Methodist Church is seeking experienced applicants for the position of Community Outreach Coordinator. Qualified applicants will be able to develop and deliver an exciting, creative, dynamic and coordinated year-around program to promote and connect the ministries of FUMC to Fenton and the surrounding communities which:
- Spreads the love and grace of God through a relevant and fun-filled community outreach ministry experience and challenges the church family to respond to Gods call to serve in their communities.
- Creates an exciting and welcoming environment to draw in new people from the surrounding community, and to bring joy and peace to others.
- Provides an avenue through which community outreach team members may share their gifts of talent and time, be an integral part of the outreach ministry, and encourages fellowship and spiritual growth within the team.
- Encourages children and youth in developing their relationship to God, and involves and supports families and parents.
The Community Outreach Coordinator will:
- Provide vision, direction, leadership and oversight for all community outreach programming in a fun, open and inviting setting.
- Plan, create, communicate, prepare, implement and continuously evaluate a comprehensive program of community outreach ministries for FUMC, and promote member and community attendance and participation.
- Represent FUMC at community meetings and local schools and early childhood programs.
- Communicate with the FUMC church family through publications, mailings, newsletters, social media, etc.
- Recruit, train, coach, equip, monitor and support the FUMC church family volunteers.
- Monitor and provide an environment that is safe for children and youth to gather, grow and serve, and is welcoming and supportive for parents and families.
Qualified applicants will have demonstrated experience and involvement in leading and participating in community outreach ministries. They will also have an ability to plan, organize, lead, and guide complex projects and activities related to community outreach ministries, and a rapport and a passion for working with children, youth and their families. Additional qualifications include excellent interpersonal and communication skills, experience in building successful teams, and the ability to handle sensitive and confidential information.
Qualified applicants will have a strong and personal commitment to Jesus Christ and be supportive of the polity, theology and practice of the United Methodist Church. Fenton United Methodist Church is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We reserve the right to consider the religious faith of applicants for positions directly involved in the Christian programs and ministries of the Church.
This is a part-time salaried non-exempt position. The salary for this position is $4,000 commensurate with experience.
The Employment Application form and Community Outreach Coordinator job description are available by contacting the church office at email@example.com or 810-629-2132. Email a completed Application Form, along with a resume and cover letter marked "Community Outreach Coordinator Position" to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Fenton United Methodist Church, 119 S. Leroy Street, Fenton, MI 48430.
Contemporary Worship Leader
Fenton United Methodist Church
January 21, 2015
Fenton United Methodist Church is seeking experienced applicants for the position of Contemporary Worship Leader. Qualified applicants will be able to develop and lead a spiritual, creative, dynamic and coordinated contemporary worship service which:
The Contemporary Worship Leader will:
Qualified applicants will have demonstrated experience in leading a contemporary worship service, including prayer, scripture, praise and continuity of the worship service. They will also have the ability to sing and lead others in song, and to use technology in worship including sound, lighting, computers, worship software and video projection. Additional qualifications include excellent interpersonal and communication skills, experience in building successful teams, and the ability to handle sensitive and confidential information.
Qualified applicants will have a strong and personal commitment to Jesus Christ and be supportive of the polity, theology and practice of the United Methodist Church. Fenton United Methodist Church is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We reserve the right to consider the religious faith of applicants for positions directly involved in the Christian programs and ministries of the Church.
This is a part-time salaried non-exempt position. The salary range for this position is $7,000 - $9,000 commensurate with experience.
The Employment Application form and Contemporary Worship Leader job description are available by contacting the church office at email@example.com or 810-629-2132. Email a completed Application Form, along with a resume and cover letter marked "Contemporary Worship Leader Position" to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Fenton United Methodist Church, 119 S. Leroy Street, Fenton, MI 48430.
The application deadline is February 23, 2015.
Mrs. Grace Moore, surviving spouse of Rev. John T. Moore [Retired Detroit Annual Conference Clergy], died Monday, January 19, 2015.
Funeral Service was held Thursday, January 22, 2015 at Roscoe UMC located at 10816 Main Street; Roscoe, Illinois 61073 [815-623-2292].
CONDOLENCES MAY BE SENT TO [Son]:The Moore Family
GIFTS IN MEMORY MAY BE GIVEN TO:
The American Heart Association
Rec’d 1/28/2015 cb
Rev. George W. Dunstan [Retired Detroit Annual Conference Clergy], died Saturday, January 3, 2015.
Mr. Jack Gotham, father of Rev. Donald D. Gotham [Detroit Annual Conference Clergy], died Thursday, January 1, 2015.
Visitation will be held at the Deisler Funeral Home Sunday, January 4, 2015 from 1:00pm until 7:00pm. Deisler is located at 2233 Hemmeter Road; Saginaw, MI 48603 [989-799-1151989-799-1151].
Funeral Service will be held Monday, January 5, 2015 at 11am at Deisler Funeral Home. An additional time of Visitation will take place from 10am to 11am prior to the service.
CONDOLENCES MAY BE SENT TO:
Rev. and Mrs. Donald Gotham
8506 Clinton River Road
Sterling Heights, MI 48314
GIFTS IN MEMORY MAY BE GIVEN TO:
Imagine No Malaria
Rev. Allen J. Lewis [Retired Detroit Annual Conference Clergy], died Thursday, January 1, 2015.
A Memorial Service will be held at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, January 10, 2015 at the Chelsea Retirement Community Chapel. Chelsea is located at 805 W. Middle Street; Chelsea, MI 48118 (734-433-1000).
CONDOLENCES MAY BE SENT TO [Daughter]:
Mrs. Naomi Carpenter, mother-in-law of Rev. Wayne N. Thomas [Retired Detroit Annual Conference Clergy], died Wednesday, December 31, 2014.