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Archive for the ‘ELUMC’ Category

Pedestrian matters

For the past 2 months, I’ve walked the parishes of the Tacoma Connection: The United Methodist churches of Bethany, The Bridge, Fern Hill, First, Grace, Kalevaria, Parkland (not in that order). I walked the parish of Epworth LeSourd last.

What I’ve learned can’t be distilled into a single article, but here are some points:

Sometimes I walked alone; sometimes with other pastors, including the pastor of the parish we were walking.

Alone, the walks gave me a prayerful sense of the presence of God in the city: God’s love flowing for each neighborhood, blessing each act of community-building, grieving each sign of brokenness.

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Lent. Lento. Lentissimo.

Lengthening days.

The world’s long-dormant life unfolding around us and within us, worthy of our full attention.

Lento. Lentissimo.

Taking things slowly, letting the music unfold with all deliberateness, savoring each note.

Lentils.

A centuries-long tradition of fasting, and abstaining from meat. Also, an invitation to simplify diet and lifestyle.

Lens.

Putting our lives under the lens of self-examination. Putting the world under the lens of careful and reverent observation. A time for study and reflection, for prayer and silence, for worship and dedication.

The season of Lent began Ash Wednesday, March 9,  and continues forty days (plus Sundays) until Easter, April 24.

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At a meeting the other night, Stacy spoke up with concern for the people of the Epworth LeSourd neighborhood who are alienated from the love and grace of God, and from healthy family or community. She asked that we the committee members commit to praying daily for the neighborhood. We made that commitment.

I tend to forget things when not prompted. So now, in my calendar and Blackberry, a reminder comes once a day: “Pray for the Neighborhood!” I can postpone the prayer, but I won’t neglect it.

Each person’s prayer should be different. Some of us are formal and wordy, others informal and wordy, others contemplative — less with the words, more just being still in the Presence. I tend to move between these modes, usually starting off informal and wordy, then wanting some attentive stillness. If it feels fruitful, I may want to write things down, use the written word as a cue for prayer in another time (formal and wordy). (more…)

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Living Like Owls

Monday I walked my 5-mile route in the early morning. I think I got to the Puget Park ravine around 6:30. It was dim light. About halfway up the trail from Ruston Way to Proctor, there on a branch right over the trail, no farther than the basketball hoop is from the free-throw line, was an owl.

An owl. An Owl! I’m not a great birder, but I could see the field marks well enough: facial disk, black eyes, streaked chest. This was a Barred Owl. Beautiful! A wonder! It sat there, tipping its head to look at me from many angles. We examined each other for maybe fifteen minutes. I took pictures with my phone. In the depth of the forest, with my little lens, the owl looked like this:

A far, far better look at a barred owl is this: (more…)

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Some of you — okay, one — was asking where the “From Above” contest had gone. I’m taking a break in it. Sorry. We may continue one of these times.

One option for you diehards would be to join in the “Birds Eye View Contest” at http://www.horsesass.org. [NOT .com — that’s a bad place]. The contest is posted on Sundays at noon, Pacific time. (an example contest is HERE. Each week’s contest shows a location related to a story in the previous week’s news — northwest, national, international.

By the way: the last From Above contest was an aerial view of S. 11th & Pine St., Tacoma (or thereabouts), the original 1889 building for Epworth Methodist Episcopal Church.

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Behind the walls & doors of the building we call the “church”, it’s sometimes harder to find church, than it is out there.

Walking to church this wet Wednesday morning, church happened. Three times.

First, I met up with Trevor, a dog-walking acquaintance. He and his various dogs have been part of my life for the past fifteen years; we had dog-walking in common, as I walked Pepper from youth to old age. A couple years ago, I walked Pepper a lot less, but we still talked about how he was doing. Today, Trevor sympathized with me when I told him of putting Pepper to sleep last month. It was a godly meeting. He ministered to me. Church happened.

Then it was Paula, in front of her group home. I hadn’t seen Paula for quite a while, or the fellow she’s usually with. Turns out he’s in a nursing home; he was hit by a car and very seriously injured, around Christmas. We talked about arranging a ride for her to get out to see him. Church happened.

As I walked onto the church parking lot, I greeted a guy with a teardrop tattoo as he cut across the lot in the other direction. When he saw I was heading for the church door, he asked “You work here?”  Okay, he took the conversation to the next level, I didn’t … but it developed as it needed to. I now know his name and something of his difficult story. He knows my name, and something of this church’s character of  being real, and that we’d welcome him, and that the Friday night BBQ is a good gathering. When I see him next, I think I’ll be able to call him by name. Church happened.

Inside the building, church happens too. Sunday mornings, it should go without saying. But let me tell you about last Saturday morning!

  • Last Saturday morning, the four or five families of Phoenix Housing and their overnight hosts woke up, had breakfast, and set out for the rest of their day. Church happened.
  • Last Saturday morning, like every morning of the week, the Sunrise A.A. fellowship met for the mutual encouragement that makes a life of sobriety more possible and more graceful. They met in Wilbur Hall. They’re back to meeting in the Library now; they had relinquished that friendlier space to one of the Phoenix Housing families for the week. Church happened.
  • Last Saturday morning, like every Saturday morning for the time being, the worshipping community of  the Covenant in Light Fellowship brought in their instruments & speakers, and thirty or forty members gathered for worship in Wesley Hall. They’re the worshipping community of Agapé Homes, whose gathering space on N. Fife is damaged by a bad roofing job, and will be under construction for a few months. Church happened.
  • Last Saturday morning, ninety or so community volunteers — including the UPS football team, students & teachers from Grant Elementary, and teams from 6th Avenue businesses — gathered in Wilbur Hall to be organized for the annual Neighborhood Cleanup. Afterward, a celebration with pizza & awards (most unusual junk found, etc.), back in Wilbur Hall. Church happened.

Last Saturday morning was far busier than most … but close to two hundred people gave and received gifts of grace in this place. Lives, and our community, were transformed. Service was performed. Relationships were built. Christ’s love was shared. Every element of Epworth LeSourd’s mission was engaged: “We boldly transform lives and our community through service, building relationships, and sharing Christ’s love.” Church happened.

The crazy thing, the crazy wonderful thing, is that most of the people involved in every one of these events were NOT members of Epworth LeSourd. Even though part of me wants to bemoan the fact that none of these missional events happening here in this place were programs of Epworth LeSourd, sponsored by and controlled by our Church Council and various committees, supervised by church members. I’m guessing that on Saturday morning, there wouldn’t have been more than two or three ELUMC members involved, even as ELUMC’s mission was fully engaged, and Church happened.

I wrote that last paragraph, then went back to the mission statement: “We boldly … “ and realized that “We” weren’t doing any of those great things on Saturday morning, if by “We” we mean folks on our membership & constituency rolls. But one of the things a traditional church learns as we become a missional church, is that what we mean by “we” changes. The question of who belongs, who’s part of our mission, who’s on our team, who’s “with us”, shifts.  Who we mean, when we say “us”, shifts. If we’re on God’s mission, then anyone doing the work of God is part of “us”.

It blows me away that it’s only as I wrote that last paragraph, that I remembered the scripture, and it all fell into place. Jesus’ family-of-origin came to find him, thinking he was getting a little out of hand. “Your mother and your brothers are here,” they told him. “Who’s my mother? Who are my brothers?” Jesus asked. He continued, gesturing to those with him: “Here they are! Whoever is doing God’s will is my mother, and brother, and sister.”

Church happens when God’s work is engaged, no matter who’s doing it. Our mission isn’t to do it all, but to be united with all who are doing it.

(And you thought this post was going to be just another one about walking!)

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Easter Letter, 2010

To the People of the Resurrection, Greetings!

On this day, Life tricked Death. Love outsmarted Indifference. Hope completely flummoxed Despair. The Light came out and frightened away Darkness. Heaven stumped Hell. Spring had Winter in stitches. Laughter, sheer joy, came to stay, came to rule. And even though we were in on the jest, it still took us utterly by surprise. April fool!

Like a really great joke, we forget its essentials over and over; thus we can be swept up with delight and surprise over and over. For all that we fear death and avoid the negative, for all our defenses and depressions and denials, the joke is this: death has no power! The last word, the punch line, is still the empty grave, the risen Christ, and hilarious, unbounded joy. (more…)

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A place of beauty and peace

This is Epworth LeSourd’s half-block, from above. Our church lawn is a postage-stamp. One change since this 2007 image: The Kiki McBride Memorial Court is a basketball half-court painted on the left half of the parking lot; one very good basketball hoop is installed at the edge of the lawn. A bright red graffiti-style mural remembering Kiki is installed on the blank north wall. (See hoop & mural HERE)

Epworth LeSourd UMC from the north (before 2007 & Kiki's Court)

ELUMC from the north

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Liturgically speaking

Carl complained to me once that his pastor, “only preaches about the lethargy.” That startled me. Were the sermons really about drowsiness? No, Carl had a tendency for the oddly apt malapropism. The pastor’s preaching was largely about liturgy. But “lethargy” was a regular part of the experience.

I believe liturgy is important – but I understand Carl’s frustration: liturgy’s not good as a constant topic of preaching. Liturgy isn’t so much something to talk about or to explain, as something to do. Still, now and then, it’s good to talk about it.

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Hello!

Grace comes before we even know we want it.

Grace makes it possible for us to be reconciled with God.

Grace allows us to keep growing in love.

This threefold arena of God’s activity in our lives is sometimes called “prevenient” (coming before), “justifying”, and “sanctifying” grace. There is never a time in the life of a person when God is not available or working for wholeness. This all-inclusive sense of God’s grace is one of the distinctives of the theology of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement.

Thus, the name I’ve chosen for a blog, Wesleyan Grace.

I’m pastor of Epworth LeSourd United Methodist Church in Tacoma, Washington. As you’ll see if you visit the website, we’re a smallish, diverse, gentle-spirited, enthusiastic neighborhood congregation in a diverse and vibrant older neighborhood. The 1925 building with a memorial mural in brilliant red graffiti style on the north wall is a hint at the mix of generations and styles of the people we are becoming.

I look forward to making this a place of useful reflection on the Spirited and Graceful life we’re given to live in 21st-century Tacoma.

Peace,

Wes

p.s. - Header image: orca southbound in the sunset, Alaska's inside passage

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