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Thoughts on Saint Patrick by Rev. Derrek Belase

Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day.  Folks will wear green to avoid being pinched.  Protestants don’t revere saints, but St. Patrick seems to be a different story.  Let’s explore why.

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We know something about St. Patrick.  He lived around the second half of the fifth century in Ireland.  His life in shorthand form is an interesting one.

At 16, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Britain and taken as a slave to Ireland, looking after animals; he lived there for six years before escaping and returning to his family.

After becoming a Roman Catholic priest and moving up through the ranks of the church hierarchy, he voluntarily returned to northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as a bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

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One of my good friends and colleague, Rev. Rod Newman, is a bit of an expert in Celtic Christianity and I recently asked him some questions about St. Patrick.

When I asked him about what we might learn from Patrick about our own discipleship, he suggested that it has to do with forgiveness.  “One of the most admirable aspects of Patrick is that fact that he … returned to Ireland to bring the Gospel to the very people who had enslaved him. This is putting Jesus’ command to love our enemies in action,” Newman said.

But he was also very outspoken in his condemnation of slavery and called out those in power who abused people and engaged in social reforms.

I also asked Newman about what he was thinking about these days regarding Celtic Christianity.  He said, “I’m very interested in how the Celts understood church. All their churches were small in number on purpose.  If it got too big, a few were sent out to start one somewhere else.

“This emphasis on small, vibrant communities of mutual care and outward mission offers inspiration for our current situation.  How can we see our smaller congregations as strengths,” he wonders. As a denominational executive who works with small membership churches, this has exciting possibilities for church planting and expansion.

Finally, I asked my friend about what drew him to the Celtic form of Christianity for which Patrick and others in Ireland are known.  He shared from his heart about a spiritual valley he was in and from which he wanted to be lifted.

“I was blown away when I learned that they understood sin not as a crime to be punished but a wound to be healed. Having been raised in a guilt and shamed-based version of Christianity this was life-giving. I could say it gave my faith back to me but it feels more like it allowed me to claim the faith I had all along,” he said.

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Patrick lived out the commission Jesus gave to his disciples.  Recorded in Mark 16:15, we read these instructions, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.”  That is exactly what the patron saint of Ireland did.

The United Methodist News Service did an article titled “What St. Patrick can teach United Methodists.”   I encourage you to read it:

https://www.umnews.org/en/news/what-st-patrick-can-teach-united-methodists


Derrek Belase is a husband to Rebekah, father to Madison and Elizabeth and a United Methodist pastor.  For 13 years he served local churches before being recently appointed to the Oklahoma Conference office as the director of discipleship.  He has a beard, but it’s turning more gray than he would like!
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An Open Letter from Lindsay McClanahan

An Open Letter from Lindsay McClanahan

I have struggled to put my thoughts into words on this one issue in my life.  See at the end of February the General Conference of the United Methodist Church is going to come together and vote to determine if LGBTQ people are worthy, they will decide if they will change The Book of Discipline (the UMC rule book) to allow LGBTQ individuals to be married and become ordained in the UMC. There are a lot of smart words being tossed around but this is the gist of the meeting.

 I am a United Methodist. I believe in this denomination.  A small, white, clapboard church in small town Oklahoma taught me to look deeper into my faith and investigate more! Probably because of that one time I gleefully grabbed mashed potatoes at the church potluck only to realize after one bite I was eating mashed turnips!! YUCK!!!  This denomination has instilled in me a servant’s heart. I could not tell you how many United Methodist Churches I have watched my dad help roof, or I helped paint, or whatever else they needed. The old hymns, apostle’s creed, and Lord’s Prayer are as much a part of me as the blood that pulses thru my veins

In my twenties this denomination welcomed a newly divorced mom with two little girls on as a Director of Children’s Ministries at an OKC metro church. That beautiful congregation baptized my daughters, loved us thru the hard stuff, let the girls come to work with me, but most importantly they grew my faith, and my leadership abilities. This denomination fostered my calling to serve God. Vacation Bible Schools, mission trips, church camps, and continuing education classes all made me a better Christian, a better mother, and a better human!

I met the love of my life at thirty-three and with that love I got to be a mom again and finally got my boys; beautiful sweet biracial boys! I honestly didn’t know what I was missing until we had these four beautiful children with three years between the oldest and the baby. During this time my focus shifted to just being a mom and we moved to the eastern part of Oklahoma and started to attend a beautiful United Methodist Church. This church automatically felt like home. This congregation loved our family and I like to think that we have contributed to the life of the church. I have been a Vacation Bible School Director multiple times, coordinated a camp for children that needed a place to go during the teacher strike in Oklahoma, helped with our youth group which my children attend, cooked numerous meals for our collegiate ministry, our children and I have attended numerous mission trips. We as a family have strived to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community and thru our local UMC.

 None of these things should be a big deal except for the fact we are not the normal family unit. I am in a same sex marriage, I am a member of the LGBTQ community, our children are being raised by two moms. We attend a local church that for the most part its not a big deal. BUT there is always a BUT! Our congregation IS AMAZING! I am also aware that we are incredibly blessed to have such a loving congregation BUT if we were not already married our pastors who we love could not marry us, we could not be married in our church, and I who have been called to serve God most of my life cannot be ordained in the denomination I love. My wife and I love our family, love God, and try to do the right thing. We are by no means perfect, but it is a hard thing to only be wanted halfway.

The United Methodist Church wants mine and my children’s time. However, the way The Book of Discipline is written and the fact that LGBTQ members cannot be married in our church or become elders is basically saying they want us ONLY IF… ONLY IF we keep it behind closed doors, only if we don’t flaunt our relationships, only if we keep the pride flags out of church life. How ludicrous is this? Imagine if you will that a heterosexual couple who served their local church faithfully was told “oh sorry you can’t be married in your church we don’t like the spouse you have chosen”. We still want your time, your gifts, your service but you cannot walk down the aisle and pledge before God to love your spouse forever in your home church… A heterosexual couple would probably take their gifts and go elsewhere. So why don’t LGBTQ United Methodist take their gifts and go elsewhere? Because this denomination is home and we want to be the change. Many of us have thought if we just gave more of ourselves members would see how great we are and want the change as much as we do. This is why we want the ONE CHURCH PLAN so badly those of us who are LGBTQ or those that love LGBTQ don’t want to lose the integrity of our denomination we just want our denomination to want ALL OF US!!


I am Lindsay McClanahan an Oklahoma girl who attended Oklahoma State University and majored in Agriculture Education/Animal Science. However as much as I loved the agriculture industry God had other plans for my life that I spent most of my teen years and very early twenties running from; as a life long United Methodist I knew I was called to serve God or at least make a difference in my community from a very early age, I have spent most of my adult life working with United Methodist Churches  with their children and family ministries in some capacity or another. I am a member of the LGBTQ community my wife and I live in Eastern Oklahoma. We are the proud parents of four teenagers (yes you are reading this correctly there are FOUR OF THEM). We have two boys and two girls ranging from sixteen to thirteen! Between livestock shows, sporting events and church activities we stay very busy! Our family strives to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our daily lives

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Never Too Young For Mission

This summer was a humbling one and one that opened my eyes to the important things in life. I was blessed with the opportunity to go to both Honduras and Guatemala. These trips were very different and yet they both humbled me. While on Honduras our team worked at a children’s home with orphans and helped with projects and a medical clinic on the property. We participated in a feeding program alongside a highway where children and families live in shanties. We were blessed to play with children, feed them, and show them love through our smiles and our presence.

In Guatemala, we stayed in host homes and were engaged in on going outreach programs I the community. This trip was extra special because I was able to have my husband and 10-year old son join me. This trip was focused on relationships and authentically engaging the community we were in along side the long term missionaries and local leaders. I learned to sew from the women who were learning the trade in hopes of making money for their families. My husband and son engaged the children of various communities in a new start up sports ministry visiting schools and local officials. We ate around the table with our host family every morning and night. Watching my son experience this cultural awakening and realize that the world is bigger and looks much different than his day to day life was the most humbling part of the entire summer. Watching him play soccer along side children who could not afford to go to school despite the language barrier and to learn enough Spanish to find out their name and age was a privilege I will never forget.

So often we in ministry and in our churches find it hard to find a place for children in our work and outreaches. They belong in their Sunday school classes, in the youth activities, in the children’s worship service, but having them in the larger church body seems like a burden. This could not be farther from the truth. Children have so many truths to remind us and to show us. Even Jesus said in Luke 18:16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. We wait until youth to engage children in mission trips and we divide families up by ages. This is not how we build up the mission of God, for even children have gifts that God can use. Family mission trips are a wonderful way to expose our children to missions while also modeling the importance of serving along side them. It doesn’t have to be an international trip but our children are not too young to start. Studies show that children in the pre teen years are making decisions for Christ and about the church. Waiting until youth or adulthood to engage them in missions is missing a critical time when their hearts are open.

I encourage families and churches alike to consider what it would look like to engage children of all ages in the mission of God that we are all called to be a part of regardless of age.

 


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Sara Lattimore is Serving as Director of Missions and Outreach at First United Methodist Church in Lubbock Texas. She has served in full-time ministry for the last 10 years in Children’s and Family Ministry, Camping Ministry, and now Missions and Outreach. She is currently also attending seminary at Iliff to obtain her MDiv. Sara is following her calling in full-time ministry building relationships and emphasizing the importance of family, but she also has another calling, her family. Sara has been married to Aaron for 12 years and together they have 2 children Carson 10 and Kennedy Grace who is 4.

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Friendly Church Bingo!

Welcoming Guests at Church – 4 Tips

Last weekend, I attended worship somewhere new and I played a game I like to call Friendly Church Bingo. Every time your church shows me how absolutely, fabulously welcoming you are, I give you 5 points. If your church gets 5 points 5 times in a row, you are officially friendly. Let’s play. I’ll be me. You be the church I went to on Sunday.

20987646_858212947784_1960950696_nThings started off well at your church. People smiled at me in the parking lot. I am giving your church 5 points for smiling people in the parking lot. I love seeing happy faces headed to worship.

 

20987646_858212947784_1960950696_nThere were no signs telling me where to go to find your sanctuary (or anything else by the way). I am afraid that’s going to cost you 5 points.

 

20987646_858212947784_1960950696_nI found your sanctuary without any helpful signs and I was pretty proud of myself for accomplishing that feat, especially since I wound up in the right place before worship started in your beautiful, 13th century inspired building. I will remember people hated signs in the 13th Another game I will have to tell you about later is Mystery Church Treasure Hunt, but I will do that on a different day. As I entered your sanctuary, the nice man standing at your door gave me a bulletin. He did not say hello. He did smile, however. I am going to give you 5 points for this, but I am doing so begrudgingly.

20987646_858212947784_1960950696_nWhen I sat down, the lady behind me smiled. Y’all sure do know how to smile. She did not talk to me. In fact, no one in your beautiful building did, even though I arrived early and I smiled back at all your smiling faces. Consequently, I busied myself by looking at the majesty of your architecture. Then I noticed someone else decided to sit down in the same pew. Things were about to get exciting; I could feel it and they did…for him. He sat as far away from me as he could and he engaged in a delightful conversation with other people he knew. Your church loses 5 points.

20987646_858212947784_1960950696_nWorship begins. You have excellent liturgy, good preaching, meaningful prayers, and heartfelt music. During Pass the Peace people come to talk to me. They quickly say, “Peace be with you.” You think I am going to give you 5 points for this, but I am not. If your church members are only going to talk to me when someone, who is standing on a 13th century inspired box in the front of the room, tells them to do so, it doesn’t count. That shows me your church members follow the rules; they are obedient. It does not show me they are friendly. I give you 0 points…Wait, I take that back. Since your Pass the Peace lasted ten minutes and all your church people moved to the front to say peace to one another, leaving the new people in the back standing around wondering what is happening, you lose another 5 points. This is not going well for you.

 20987646_858212947784_1960950696_nChurch is over now. I am getting up to leave. No one speaks to me. The man who sat as far away from me as possible, unfortunately, is blocking the only exit out of this pew. He is talking to one of his friends. They kept talking. I am clearly standing behind him. They kept talking anyway. No one speaks to me. I sat down. His conversation ended after 6 minutes and 11 seconds. I had the chance to time that conversation, you know since no one was talking to me and I was trapped in the pew. It was lovely. Your church loses ALL the points. Oh, but you didn’t have any more. Just subtract 5 points then. You are now at -10 points.

 20987646_858212947784_1960950696_nAs I leave, your nice pastor talks to me. She is warm and caring. It is too late. You lose Friendly Church Bingo. You do not pass go. You do not collect $200. Thank you for playing. Yes, I know that last bit is from Monopoly.

 

I really wish this example was not true. It is funny to read about, but it is not funny to experience. Last Sunday was one Sunday out of way too many I have spent in a church where no one except the pastor spoke to me. Church family, I love you and I say this with love. If you get everything in your service right, but you are only welcoming to the people who are already part of your congregation, you missed the mark. You are not showing God’s grace to those God has beckoned to you. If you believe the church belongs to God and not to you, you absolutely must embrace the people God sends to your doorstep with a welcome reflective of God’s love.

Why? Unfortunately, not everyone is as willing to experience unfriendly churches as often as I am. Years earlier, a dear friend of mine went to the same church I just described and had a similar experience. She is not going back. More importantly, this church is one of a handful of unfriendly churches she visited when she was seeking and she gave up entirely. She is not seeking you out anymore. She is not seeking God anymore, either. When we are so unfriendly seekers stop seeking the Creator of the universe, we must not only repent of this sin but we must also change behavior. We must embrace the beloved children God sends our way.

How?

  • Clear Information – People start to decide if you are friendly before they get to your sanctuary. Does your website have helpful information, like worship times and location? Do you have signs clearly posted to help people find Sunday school rooms, the fellowship hall, bathrooms, the sanctuary, etc.? If you do not, this is an important place to start.

 

  • Trained Greeters – Volunteers who serve in these roles can be the first contact for guests. They need to be prepared to give a warm welcome and even engage in a brief conversation with people they do not know, in addition to handing out bulletins.

 

  • Harness the Power of Extroverts – There are folks in your church who genuinely enjoy talking to new people. Ask them to serve your church. Place them in strategic locations, where guests typically sit, and ask them to strike up conversations. They can speak to guests before worship, during Pass the Peace, and after worship. They are free to talk about jobs, children, school, absolutely anything…

 

  • Make a Plan – Have a plan in place that your leadership takes seriously concerning welcoming guests. This plan should include: (a) evaluating your web presence and signage, updating them as necessary and keeping them up-to-date (b) recruiting volunteers tasked with welcoming new guests, job descriptions for those volunteers, and defining expectations for what welcoming looks like in your context (c) train your volunteers and congregation to be mindful of welcoming new people (d) have mystery worshippers give you feedback or invite guests to give you feedback and (e) evaluate your welcoming plan at least once annually.

Not sure this is enough to get you started? Head over to the Lewis Center for Church Leadership and learn 50 ways to welcome guests! https://www.churchleadership.com/50-ways/50-ways-to-welcome-new-people/

 

….And hurry. Y’all are terrible at Friendly Church Bingo.


leiawilliams

My name is Leia, which should tell you that my dad’s favorite movie is Star Wars and I have some very unfortunate nicknames. I studied International Relations in undergrad and couldn’t find a job to save my life, so I changed my plans and studied communications in graduate school. I served The United Methodist Church for 7 years in fundraising, discipleship, and communications. Currently, I am working as a consultant, but in November I will return to my work with The United Methodist Church.

 

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Speaking In Tongues: A Reflection on My First Experience.

 

This reflection came as follow-up to a recent sermon I preached about speaking in tongues.

Speaking in tongues isn’t a gift I have ever experienced personally. But I have been in services and groups where people were speaking in tongues. I’ll never forget my first experience of being in a worship service of speaking in tongues. In 1999, I was asked to be a music leader for a little congregation in a little building in backwoods east Texas.

I was new to leading music in worship so I jumped at the chance to serve to gain experience. I confidently began leading “Lord, I lift Your Name on High” (an easy go-to song for someone new like me).

As I began playing, people clapped along and called out to me to bring it loud and bring it faithful. The sounds of praise filled that tiny little building in a mighty way. But at the end of the first verse, I heard something different from the lyrics I was singing and leading. It was a sound I had never heard before.

one woman’s eyes were partway closed, her hands in the air, and was loudly singing something I cannot completely describe. I didn’t understand the language coming out of her mouth. I was so taken aback I didn’t realize I had stopped singing and was just standing there staring! Oops. I regained my composure and just focused inward on what I was doing so I wouldn’t get tripped up further.

Well, that voice started a chain reaction and by the end of the song I was about the only one of us who was singing lyrics. The same thing happened the next song. I went from shocked, to puzzled, to weirded out thinking in my immature mind “what did I get myself into?!” But by the end of the songs, I was the weird one out as I was about the only one not trying to speak in tongues. The pastor was engaged in tongues as well and encouraging others to experience that deep expression of the Holy Spirit. He told me after the service I shouldn’t be ashamed or worried I wasn’t speaking in tongues because it would come to me one day and I would know the Spirit in a much deeper way. It hasn’t happened (yet?) but I have gotten to know the Spirit much deeper than my 18 year old self did.

My Reflection and How I look at worship practice differently today

What do I make of that? Was I not being faithful? Were they not being faithful? Could I truly not experience the Spirit deeply without speaking in tongues? After this experience, I thought to myself “what a load of bologna.” And, I have to admit, in that instance, by biblical standards, I think things were a little off in that setting and it helped form an unhealthy assumption about tongues for me at the time. I didn’t understand it. Nobody interpreted; we just had to trust the Holy Spirit was present by way of “tongues.” Since then, much has transpired in my life through experience and through study that leads me to believe the Holy Spirit moves and lives and empowers people in many different ways.

I’ve learned in worship that as soon as we become gate-keepers to the power of the Spirit one way or another, we let way too much of our need for human power and human control (typically over others) take over. Whenever we condemn and judge another person’s faithful experiences as valid versus not valid—no matter how foreign they are to us—we become judge and jury about God’s work and revelations to this world. If God is going to work in us, and through us, we have to check our ego and anxiety at the door to the throne and humble ourselves in worship. It’s the only way we can see where we are united in Christ, not divided by how “we” or “they” think worship and faith is to be practiced.

Now, plenty of guiding and accountability is needed in the community about understanding how we worship and receive the Spirit, but not to where we tear down another’s—or an entire community’s—faithful expressions. We have to take our experiences personally and collectively, and reason them with Scripture and traditions, human faculties and discernment tools that are God-given in our lives.

When we truly try to see with eyes of grace, we can become more aware of what Paul the Apostle wrote about the subject of tongues and Spiritual gifts in his letter to the Corinthians (especially chapters 12, 13, and 14), that Spiritual gifts are of God and they are meant to build up the Body of Christ, not destroy. They are not meant to place us above or below another sister or brother (a problem Paul felt the Corinth community was having with a variety of practices). They are not meant to be taken in isolation, but collectively as the Body. They are to be tested and observed to discern God’s will through prayer and discussion, through study and more prayer. How do you experience the Holy Spirit?


final-bridges2Rev. Matt Bridges is an ordained elder in the United Methodist church and currently serves in New Mexico as the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lovington. Matt has served in ministry in one form or another for the last seventeen years. In particular, he has a passion for music ministry and other types of worship ministry. In all of the things he’s learned in ministry, if he were to write a book on worship right now it would most certainly be titled1001 Times (and counting)  I said “Well, I’ll Never Do It ThatWay Again” in Worship. He is joined in ministry by his wife, Corinne, and daughter Emilie. And they all love being the church together.