This blog by Pastor Dana first appeared in "Pretty Southern" where she was a guest blogger this last week.
I was about 20 years old. I had been out of church for a long time. I had grown up in a Southern Baptist church whose founding members included my ancestors. However, as the church began to drift further and further towards fundamentalism, my family left. So from about the age of 10 to 20, my family didn’t go to church. They remained deeply spiritual, reading the bible daily, watching preachers on television, and instilling in my sister and me a deep ethic of love of neighbor.
As a senior at LSU, I found myself living in a tiny apartment behind University United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge. One Sunday morning, I got up and decided to walk across the street. I can only describe that experience as feeling like I was finally home. The pastor talked about grace and loving others. I was not told once that I was going to hell. I could breathe.
A few months after I began attending regularly, we had a special service. I cannot remember what the occasion was, but folks were standing up sharing. What I do remember as clearly as the screen in front of my face was an older woman standing up to share. I thought she was a little grumpy, but I knew she walked the walk of loving others, even if she didn’t always sound like it in her tone of voice. I can still hear her gravelly voice declare, “I’m thankful for this church. Because if it accepts me, it’ll accept anyone.”
Laughter filled the sanctuary. And I remember thinking to myself, “Yes! Yes! That’s the kind of church I want to be a part of!” So started my 25+ year relationship with The United Methodist Church. It began on Dalrympe Drive in Baton Rouge in that wonderful nurturing congregation. It remained with me as I moved to Seattle to pursue a PhD. It was a source of strength and comfort as I moved back across the country to answer my call to ministry and seminary in Atlanta. And it has been my life since I began serving churches as pastor. It culminated in my ordination in 2017. The church has been a constant companion. The church has supported me and loved me through some of the most difficult times in my life. The church has been my life.
This week, I’ve been hearing the grumpy old lady’s declaration echoing in my head.
“I’m thankful for this church. Because if it accepts me, it’ll accept anyone.”
Some of you may have heard about the “Methodist Mess” (as called by retired Bishop William Willimon) in St. Louis this week. Our worldwide legislative body decided that not all United Methodist churches would accept everybody. The church’s legislative body decided that our LGBTQ+ siblings cannot be ordained as clergy, and UM clergy, myself included, could lose our credentials and jobs if we perform same-sex ceremonies. I didn’t hear much grace in the plans that narrowly passed.
I have grieved this week. I may not have been surprised, but I grieve that this legislative body that sets official policy for the church decided that some people don’t count in the church.
Turns out the grumpy old lady was wrong. The United Methodist Church doesn’t accept anyone and everyone.
I have had a lot of thoughts on this…too many to include here. My church, Trinity United Methodist Church in Atlanta, has been open and affirming since 1992 and has been so longer than any other church in the North Georgia conference. We’ll keep loving as we always have.
But the damage has been done.
Because all of the news coverage, local and national, had headlines like, “United Methodist Church Votes to Maintain Its Opposition to Same-sex Weddings, Gay Clergy” (Washington Post) or “Methodists Reject a Proposal to Allow Openly Gay Clergy and Same-Sex Marriage” (CNN International). We are not the church that accepts everyone…at least not as seen by others. I know that our legislative body is not the church, especially the local church. Just like Congress and its actions are not the country and does things with which people disagree. But our witness has been greatly damaged, and I am pretty sure that witness right now is making God cry.
You may think, “So what if a bunch of religious people are fighting? Organized religion is and has always been the problem.” Well, this is where I see how it matters and why I grieve so.
First, it’s not a reflection of the risen Christ that we serve and claim to emulate. Jesus brought in those who were marginalized and oppressed. In other words, Jesus showed preference for those who have been beat down by society. We are not living out our calling by excluding.
Secondly, this decision reflects a long-standing pattern of abuse and rejection that our LGBTQ+ siblings have endured. I grieve and worry about the gay youth in a church youth group who is struggling to come out and feels like he can’t. I grieve for and worry about the transgender woman who lives in fear already and can’t even find safe space in the place that is supposed to reflect the loving, accepting arms of God. To say not everyone is accepted isn’t just a “Methodist Mess”; it has real life consequences. And our legislative body seemed more interested in driving out progressives and strengthening the white patriarchal grip on the legislative body, even though 70% of US delegates voted for inclusion.
So you might wonder what I’m going to do in this relationship that began almost 30 years ago…my love affair with The United Methodist Church. I’m staying. I was run out of one denomination once for their fundamentalist shift. I’m not letting it happen again. And I’m not abandoning that gay youth or that transgender woman. God loves them and accepts them just as they are…just the way God made them. I will too.
And I will fight. Fight to make The United Methodist Church look more like the Kingdom of God.
I’ve been finding life in all the places I can during this period. I’ve found life this week in “Hamilton.” And the lyric that’s been living in my head since Tuesday is from “My Shot”:
If you livin' on your knees, you rise up
Tell your brother that he's gotta rise up
Tell your sister that she's gotta rise up
When are folks like me and you gonna rise up?”
Because God accepts everyone…all of God’s children created in God’s image. Regardless of how some folks interpret the Bible, it really is a story of how the Creator desperately seeks to be in relationship with the Creator’s beloved creations. The church is supposed to be a vessel of that. This week The United Methodist Church failed in that mission. But I’m going to rise up and keep fighting so that my beloved church will accept anyone and everyone, just like God calls us.
On January 27, several Trinity members spent the afternoon supporting our partners in ministry, Action Ministries, at their #WeServe Service Bowl. We helped pack food boxes and snack bags and got some cool Action Ministry swag. If you're looking for volunteer opportunities check out Action Ministries' volunteer page here.
Message From Bishop Sue At the Close of the Special General Conference
Action Ministries #WeServe Service Bowl
Dear siblings in Christ:
the early Christians observed with great devotion
the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection,
and it became the custom of the Church that before the Easter celebration
there should be a forty–day season of spiritual preparation.
During this season converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism.
It was also a time when persons who had committed serious sins
and had separated themselves from the community of faith
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness,
and restored to participation in the life of the Church.
In this way the whole congregation was reminded
of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ
and the need we all have to renew our faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church,
to observe a holy Lent:
by self–examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self–denial;
and by reading and meditating on God's Holy Word.
To make a right beginning of repentance,
and as a mark of our mortal nature,
let us bow before our Creator and Redeemer.
Black History Month
This year black history month at Trinity UMC focused on African American women past and present. The billboard put together by Geri Harris and Betty Pritchett focused on Olympians: Simone Biles, Wilma Rudolph and Alice Coachman; Writers: Toni Morrison, Phillis Wheatley and Zora Neale Hurston; Servicewoman: U.S. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard, Cathay Williams and Charity Adams Earley; Lawyers: Loretta Lynch, Constance Baker Motley and Jane Bolin and finally women who worked for NASA: Dr. Jeanette Epps, Katherine Johnson and Dr. Mae Jeminson.
The African-American women of Trinity were also highlighted throughout the month including Doris Pittman, Jean Pittman, Betty Pritchett, Ruby Champion, Sakinah Davis, Cheryl McAfee and concluded with a beautiful tribute to Geri Harris from one of our youth, Stevie Amthor.
We were also blessed to have a presentation from Toni Curtis about Medgar Evers & Claudette Colvin.
They were all wonderful presentations and the editor wishes she could tell you more about each women's achievements but then this newsletter would be 20 pages long so I encourage you to use "the google".
Thank you again to Stevie, Geri, Betty and Toni for all their wonderful work.
“Entering into the Passion of Jesus” by Amy Jill Levine
An invitation to Lenten Disciplines
We will be studying Amy Jill Levine's "Entering the Passion of Jesus." We will meet on Sunday evenings at 5pm in homes beginning on March 10th. Weekly locations will vary. You can purchase the book on Amazon or Cokesbury, but it is not necessary to buy the book to participate. As Levine writes in her introduction to the book, "During Lent you have the opportunity to think about your life alongside the life of Jesus, inviting inward transformation and then outward action." Hopefully this study will help us all along this Lenten journey. If you would like to participate, please contact Dana at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holy Week at Trinity
Trinity Service Work Day
March 23, 2019 at 9am
Our first Brunch Church of the year is coming up soon! We'll begin gathering and eating around 10:30am and church will start about 11am. We’ll eat, sing, hear stories from the bible, and learn from a short message. Bring your appetite, bring your friends and please, if you are able, bring a potluck brunch dish to share.
Trinity will be having a Service Work Day on March 23, 2019 starting at 9am.
We'll be working to:
- Spruce up the outside landscaping
-Clean up & organize the kitchen
-Clean up the library
-Some light cleaning
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday (April 14, 2019) ends on the Saturday before Easter. It is the last week of Lent. During the week, Christians remember the events at the end of Jesus’ last week before crucifixion. Palm Sunday marks his triumphal entry into Jerusalem right before his crucifixion. Maundy Thursday commemorates the institution of the Lord’s Supper and Jesus’ giving the commandment to his disciples to love one another. Good Friday marks the crucifixion of Jesus while Holy Saturday marks the time Jesus spent in the tomb before resurrection.
During Holy Week, Trinity UMC will provide various opportunities to observe and reflect on this sacred time. We hope that you can participate in all or some of these opportunities to observe this week:
Daily Devotions: Pastor Dana will be providing daily devotions for Holy Week by email (and a few hard copies available at the church). If you would like to receive them by email or hard copy, email her at email@example.com. We will also be posting them on Facebook.
Palm Sunday: We will mark Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem with our traditional parade with palms with our friends from Central Presbyterian Church and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Stay tuned for the exact details.
Maundy Thursday: As mentioned above, Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus giving his disciples the command to love one another. This year we will worship with our actions. We will be providing a TEAM dinner for residents at our ministry partner TCM that evening around 5:45. We will need folks willing to help cook and serve. After dinner, we will have a short service of communion at TCM.
Good Friday: On Friday at noon, we will have a service to remember the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus.
Easter Sunday: Our Easter service will be on Sunday, April 21st at 10am. Following the service, we will go to Trinity Table to serve the Easter meal and pass out to-go meals.
March 31, 2019
265 Washington St. SW
One of our regular members, Kenneth Holland was featured in a book called "Down and Out in the South" by Jan Banning. Here is the photo that is featured in that book which Kenneth was very excited to share with everyone. For more information about the book click here.
Our story is one of the most important things we can share with each other. For it is through our stories that we can share our joys and our pains, our triumphs, our struggles and our humanity. In this series we wanted to explore the different paths our members took in coming to Trinity, what inspired them to stay, what they love about the church and what frustrates them about the church. We will be sharing our stories in the next few months -- maybe you'll find a bit of your story too.
Our Sunday sermon is streamed on Facebook at 11:15am and can also be found as a podcast on Apple podcasts and Google Play.
Trinity United Methodist Church
Atlanta, GA 30303
The Harbin-Worrall Family
Our Own Kenneth
Our Trinity Stories