New Year’s Promises
When I was a social worker, most of the agencies where I worked received an annual audit. As hard as we tried, it was rare to get a “100” on the review. Whatever deficiency was found, no matter how small or how minor, required a “CAP”, a corrective action plan. I think New Year’s resolutions are often our own personal corrective action plans. We’ve identified what we don’t like about ourselves or our lives, and we are ready to make changes. As a very wise friend of mine recently posted, whether or not you need resolutions, whether or not you keep them, whether or not you stay exactly the same this year as last, it doesn’t matter because you are enough and God loves you just the way you are. She posted that because New Year’s resolutions are usually made out of our perceived deficiencies and ignores what we do well.
If I were to make New Year’s resolutions for Trinity, there are things on which we need to work. But there are so many places where I see God doing new things. And so much of that, God is doing out of our abundance, not our deficiencies. As I quietly sit and reflect on the abundance with which God has blessed Trinity, I say a prayer of gratitude and praise for 2018 at Trinity UMC.
Trinity is filled with people who love God and, though imperfect, seek to do God’s perfect will in loving God and neighbor. We don’t always get it right, but we’re always trying to move to perfection in love. I couldn’t possibly list all the amazing things that happen in the name of God from the people of Trinity because I would just list all the members of our community. However, here are some examples that show the strengths of Trinity and give some of the highlights of our ministry in 2018.
This year, the people of Trinity were generous with their resources. They began the year by helping to fund my pilgrimage to the Holy Land in February so that I could grow spiritually and as a pastor. Throughout the year, they have opened their wallets to support the special ministries of the North Georgia Conference, like Action Ministries, Aldersgate/Collinswood ministries for people with disabilities, the United Methodist Children’s Home, and the United Methodist Committee on Relief. On a more individual level, the people of Trinity have shared their resources with each other so that folks could get bus passes, a place to stay, a winter coat, a light bill paid off, or a prescription filled. And again, the people of Trinity make sure that we can keep the church going through their inspired giving.
This year, the people of Trinity were generous with their time. Through the church, members have served on boards of various agencies that work to provide housing, healing, and support for those pushed to the margins. Members of Trinity impact their community by volunteering and being involved in work that aims for the fulfillment of God’s kingdom on earth. Individual members have given countless hours to visit each other in hospitals, jails, hospice, and homes. Individual members have given hours of their time providing transportation to and from church, to and from appointments, to and from classes.
This year, the people of Trinity got out of their comfort zones. I’ve seen folks who don’t necessarily like change (I mean, who does?), embrace new things in attempt to deepen their spiritual lives and bring new people into the fold. We started our fifth Sunday Brunch Church. We’ve had several sermon series. This Christmas/Advent season we’ve gotten a little more adventurous in our musical repertoire.
This year, the people of Trinity sought to deepen their spirituality and embrace scripture. We have a thriving adult Sunday school class that tackles thought-provoking books with spiritual themes. We had a thriving Sunday evening Bible study the second half of the year, along with special classes for Lent and Advent.
This year, the people of Trinity (mostly) embraced technology and took the time to help spread the word of what God is up to on this corner of the city in Atlanta. Many of us participated in our Trinity Stories videos that are becoming a part of our monthly newsletter. The newsletter itself was revamped and is published monthly for the first time in a while. Our website was redone as a digital witness. We stream our sermons each week on Facebook, along with selected musical pieces, and have made them available via podcast. People have taken pictures and published them online, and other folks have shared them with their friends online.
This year, the people of Trinity celebrated together and grieved together. We celebrated weddings, births, graduations, and other achievements. We grieved the loss of family and dear friends. We did this together as a community.
This year, the people of Trinity have grown. I have seen the folks grow in grace and seen us grow in numbers. We’ve had baptisms and people join us in membership.
I am grateful for all that has happened in 2018, for all the ways the church has been the church.
That is not to say that we don’t have growing edges. Everyone and every group does. However, I think these highlights are a great springboard into our ministry for 2019. One of the biggest things to happen in 2018 was our official designation as a missional congregation. We have the opportunity build relationships, work in partnerships, and devote more resources to being a witness of God’s love and light. So, again, if I were to make New Year’s resolutions for Trinity for 2019, I think I’d like to call them New Year’s promises. We have the promise to make an impact in our neighborhood in new ways. We have the promise of reaching more people in a loving, non-judgmental way. We have the promise of bringing more people into the community. And these promises are promises God has placed on Trinity. God has begun a good work in us, and I know that God will be faithful to complete it. And that work continues in 2019. May your New Year be filled with blessings, gratitude, and the knowledge of God’s love and care.
Lavonia & Jarrod
Chad & Enoch
2018 New MemberS
Trinity has had a number of people join its congregation in the last year. Chad and Enoch joined back in May. Lavonia and her son Jarrod joined in July and Gavin became a member in November. We are so grateful for their gifts, their presence and the new spirit that they bring to our congregation.
2018 Weddings & Babies
Lochlan George Tasioudis
Denise Shaw - Beloved Friend of Tim and Mary Yoder
Eric Rohleder - Brother/Brother-in-law of Dan Rohleder and Joanna Harbin
Willimina Bright - Sister of Geri Harris
Olivia Jefferies - Friend of Geri Harris
Jean Alley - Longtime member of Trinity UMC
Wally Zimmerman - Friend of Bruce Wynn
Sandra Zinamon - Aunt of Tony Curtis
Pat Kaney - Brother of Rex Kaney
Mildred Berry - Mother of Gifford Berry
Zenta Riesksts Benner - Sister of Riki Bolster
Edvin Rieksts - Brother of Riki Bolster
Grandson of Muriel Race
Relative of Chad and Enoch
General Conference 2019
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.
Jean Pittman - Masters
Murl Blackman - Apprenticeship Training
Tim Pritchett - Masters
Our Trinity Stories
In a less than two months, a called special session of the General Conference will convene in St. Louis, MO. In United Methodist polity, the General Conference is the denomination’s top legislative body. It generally meets every four years (coinciding with presidential election years), but it can meet in specially called sessions. This special session will meet February 23rd – 26th with the theme of “God Is Able.”
This General Conference was called by the Council of Bishops to receive and act on the report of the Commission on the Way Forward, which the 2016 General Conference called for to give options on a way forward for the denomination on policies and practices surrounding human sexuality. Specifically, it wanted the Commission to give recommendations on how the church can maintain unity when there are so many different convictions around how, and if, the church will fully include the LGBTQI community in the life of the church through ordination and same-sex weddings. The Commission provided three plans. After prayerful and difficult discussion, the Council of Bishops recommended the adoption of the “One Church Plan” that would remove harmful language from our Book of Discipline and allow conferences, pastors, and churches more self-discernment and self-determination in their practices of inclusion. As umc.org explains of the One Church Plan:
“Guided by the mission, vision and scope document, the bishops agreed to recommend the One Church Plan. This plan provides conferences, churches, and pastors the flexibility to uniquely reach their missional context while retaining the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church.
The One Church Plan allows for contextualization of language about human sexuality in support of the mission; and allows for central conferences, especially those in Africa, to retain their disciplinary authority to adapt the Book of Discipline and continue to include traditional language and values while fulfilling the vision of a global and multicultural church.
This plan also encourages a generous unity by giving United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions. The One Church Plan removes the restrictive language of the Book of Discipline and adds assurances to pastors and Conferences who due to their theological convictions cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”
Despite this contextual approach, there are criticisms of the bishops’ recommendation. Several groups, including the Wesleyan Covenant Association, claim that they cannot abide in a denomination that allows gay clergy and same-sex weddings and have threatened to leave if their preferred plan, in which punishments for being gay clergy and performing same-sex weddings would be increased. Those who favor a more inclusive church worry that the One Church Plan still allows for discrimination based on sexual orientation in some areas and abandons our LBGTQI kin in more conservative areas like the African continent and the Southern US.
The outcome of this Special Session will determine the future of The United Methodist Church. Many of us here at Trinity pray for a more inclusive church. We long for the day that no one is considered outside the fold or less-than because of their God-given expression of sexuality. Some of us aren’t sure what we believe. Some of us agree with the current practices and policy. We are very diverse.
Many of us have been hurt by the rhetoric and practices of the church. Many of us have been pained by the hurt that the rhetoric and practices have caused for people that we love dearly…family members, dear friends, members of own community. It is an anxious time for many of us.
I invite all of us to be in prayer for the delegates and the bishops as the session approaches. Personally, I am praying that the outcome will make room for the full diversity of the Kingdom of God to be made manifest in our denomination. I am praying that the Holy Spirit will be heard clearly by the delegates. I am praying that love will prevail. I can’t tell you how to pray. That is between you and God. However, I hope that part of your prayers will include a plea that whatever happens in St. Louis that it will be done with gentleness and without further harm.
If you would like more information about the Commission on the Way Forward, the Council of Bishops, the One Church Plan and the other two plans, our North Georgia delegation, and the special session in general, please see the links below:
https://www.ngumc.org/One (This link includes a video message about the conference from North Georgia’s Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson.)
https://www.ngumc.org/gc2019 (This link includes the names of the people in the North Georgia delegation to General Conference. I invite you to pray for them.)
Bishop Pastoral Letter to LGBTQI Community
In December, the Council of Bishops released a pastoral letter to members of the LGBTQI community. In the letter, the bishops acknowledge the pain that past debates on human sexuality have been hurtful and dehumanizing. They acknowledge that past General Conferences have talked about real people as “an issue” and not fully human and created in the image of God. They repent of this sin and pledge to do all in their power to prevent a repeat of this at the called General Conference next month. Here is a copy of the letter with an introduction from the Council of Bishops President Bishop Ken Carter of the Florida Annual Conference:
December 28, 2018
To the People of the United Methodist Church:
Grace and Peace to you in these days of Christmas, and at the conclusion of a calendar year.
At the fall meeting of the Council of Bishops at St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, bishops approved a motion to send a pastoral letter to the Global LGBTQ community. A writing team, composed of a bishop from each central conference and jurisdiction, completed this task, on behalf of the Council. The letter follows.
We share this letter with you as an expression of our desire to strengthen the body of Christ. We confess our participation in the harm we have done to one another and to the LGBTQ community. In offering this letter we bear witness to the light of Jesus Christ, which enlightens everyone and is coming into the world (John 1: 9). And we pray that in the days ahead we will, with him, grow and become strong, that we will be filled with wisdom, and that the favor of God will rest upon us (Luke 2: 40).
The peace of the Lord,
Resident Bishop, Florida Conference President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
Friday, December 28, 2018
To our Global LGBTQ Kin in Christ,
The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church recognizes the ways in which the convening of the Special Session of General Conference creates a time and space of harm for you and members of your family. To be the focus of attention, discussion and debate is hurtful.
Demeaning and dehumanizing comments and attacks on LGBTQ persons in conversations related to the upcoming February Conference are a great tragedy and do violence to hearts, minds, and spirits. When you suffer, the whole body of Christ suffers. Together, we need to work to resist hate, violence, and oppression of persons. In these attitudes and actions, great harm is done throughout the community, to the offended and the offender.
As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12: We cannot say to a part of the body, “I have no need of you.” We belong to each other. In our Baptism, we are incorporated into the Church, the body of Christ, and made one in Christ. The Church pledges to every baptized member: ‘“Your joy, your pain, your gain, your loss, are ours, for you are one of us.”’ (The UMC Book of Worship, pg. 83). Our Book of Discipline clearly states that all people are of sacred worth.
As leaders of the church, we are brokenhearted by conversations that dishonor, objectify and dehumanize. We confess, as Bishops of The United Methodist Church and as we attempt to honor our convictions, that our actions and words have not always been life-giving or honoring of the LGBTQ community. Amid our sorrow, we seek to learn and grow in grace. To that end, we commit ourselves to helping people who disagree with each other to have conversations that include, honor, and respect people with different convictions. We are a diverse group of leaders—conservative, centrist, progressive—however, we are unified in our commitment to work together in ways that will give you and all God’s children strength, comfort and hope for better and more merciful tomorrows.
As the Special Session of General Conference approaches, we pray that the Holy Spirit will draw us together. May we see the image of God in one another, treat one another with tenderness, and love one another fiercely. Bearing Christ’s love in these ways, we pray to be God’s faithful witnesses.
The Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
265 Washington St. SW
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Trinity United Methodist Church
Atlanta, GA 30303