Friday, November 18, 2016

Faith as an Anchor

Every year, the members of The Metropolitan Church reflect on the fact that what we do with our time and our money is a profound reflection of what we value, and has a profound impact on what we become. With remarkable generosity, year after year, the Metropolitan congregation makes the work possible to fulfill our vision of extending radical hospitality, transforming lives, and pursuing justice.

It is God who has chosen to give us the gifts and graces to undertake the work we have been given to do. Each year, when you entrust the church with your hard-earned treasure, it is an act of faith in that when we give sacrificially God provides us with what we need to accomplish God’s work. It is through this and our other spiritual disciplines that we come to see faith as an anchor, both for our lives and for our community.

Healthy giving is an expression of healthy faith. God provides us with generous abundance and teaches us – through the discipline of stewardship – the gift of generosity. The work we do as a church is vital to our city, the church itself is vital to us, and the work God is doing in each of us is an anchor for our life.

Our beautiful buildings host vital and transformative worship every week, as well as making so many of our ministries possible: storage and cooking facilities for the many tons of food donated and the hundreds of volunteer hours donated for Campus Kitchen, the hundreds of volunteer hours of Christian education, training for the transformative work of the volunteers who visit people in hospitals and providing emotional and spiritual support, the two year-round transitional housing shelters, the welcome provided to our American University students, the relationships built between churches separated by economics, race, and a river. It is through these critical programs and infrastructure that Metropolitan has become an anchor in the city.

One of the most profound ways in which we live out our faith is through our giving. Stewardship is the way that we free ourselves from the bondage of our possessions and demonstrate in tangible ways what our faith means to us. So, during this stewardship season, let me invite you – prayerfully – to do the following:

  • If you are a pledger: thank you! You are part of the financial backbone of our church. I want to invite you to explore a pledge this year that represents a percentage of your income. 10 percent is the Biblical standard of healthy giving; but wherever you are in working towards that, think in percentages and pray about how you might grow this percentage giving over the years.
  • If you are a giver, but not a pledger: thank you! Your gifts help sustain the important work our church does.  I want to invite you this year to move from simply giving to making a pledge. The pledge is the fundamental tool of a healthy giving discipline. In music, in sports, in finances – in every area of our lives – we only grow when we engage in a structured, disciplined way. While any discipline can initially feel foreign and constraining, as you live into it, you will see it begin to produce fruits. Even if you do not plan on increasing what you are giving, just put that number down as a pledge and trust that this act of faith will change you.
  • If you don’t give money, we are grateful for the gift of your presence. Let me encourage you to take the step of giving something. Giving, by its very nature, changes us. Study after study shows that giving makes us more happy, more generous, more healthy (physically, emotionally, and spiritually!). Your giving to our church will not only give you a greater sense of ownership in what happens here, but it will help touch countless lives within and beyond our community. So, give giving a try; your life will never be the same.
As always, I am deeply grateful to all of you for your commitment to our community and our vision of extending radical hospitality, transforming lives, and pursuing justice. I pray that your faith will be more and more an anchor in your own life, and that the power of God’s Holy Spirit might be a source of abundant life for you.

Charlie Parker

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Twenty-Five Years of Service to the Homeless

On Sunday October 23, we will observe Homeless Awareness Sunday, an opportunity to pause and reflect on the ongoing needs of our homeless neighbors, lift up our call to serve, and recommit ourselves to this important work. 

When the St. Luke’s Shelter opened in December 1991, followed by the opening of Metropolitan House just two months later, our congregation became the first institution, public or private, to shelter the homeless in Upper Northwest DC. In the coming year, as we mark twenty-five years of continuous service to the homeless, we give thanks to God for the many volunteers and supporters who have made this ministry possible and for the ways our lives have been touched by the hundreds of men and women who have been our guests.

We are proud of the longevity of this service, but equally proud of the ways this work has expanded and evolved in light of changing needs and standards of care. Both shelters now operate year-round, providing 24-hour access and a less-structured environment that encourages independent living skills, with Metropolitan House serving women and St. Luke’s House serving men. Through our partnership with Friendship Place, residents receive intensive job and housing placement assistance. And through the generosity of donors to our Residents Assistance Fund, we can provide help with security deposits and other up-front costs that can be barriers to those otherwise able to transition into rental housing. With these changes, the average shelter stay has been reduced to 6 months or less, allowing us to serve many more individuals. And our success rate in transitioning residents into jobs and permanent housing is more than ninety percent. 

We invite you to join us on October 23 – to participate in our annual Help the Homeless Walk (see below), which will be conducted after both services of worship, and to take the opportunity to learn more about the work of Metropolitan House and St. Luke’s House as well as our advocacy for affordable housing, the Campus Kitchen food recovery program, and the Grate Patrol which aids individuals living on the streets of DC.

Ann Michel

Monday, September 12, 2016

Red Tent Revival

The United Methodist Women (UMW) of Metropolitan are reviving the Red Tent Project this month to collect pads and tampons to support homeless women. Known euphemistically as "feminine protection products," pads and tampons are a basic necessity, though for women living in poverty, often too expensive to buy. Look for the red tent in our church foyer to drop off your donations.

The UMW started the Red Tent Project in 2015 when it learned that organizers of a free meal program at Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church in NE DC discovered that the homeless and poor women eating at the twice-weekly program were reusing their feminine protection. The UMW decided to collect tampons and pads for the women and a carload of products were given to the meal program last fall.

The title of the 1997 book by Anita Diamant, The Red Tent, refers to Old Testament times in which the women of the tribe of Jacob retreated to a red tent during their menstrual cycle where they found the support of sisters, mothers, and friends. 

The UMW will collect pads and tampons for the next several weeks, including Sunday, September 25, UMW Sunday. The donations will be shared with Mt. Vernon and the DC Diaper Bank, which distributes feminine protection products to their partner organizations such as Bread for the City, Bright Beginnings, Community of Hope and many others.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

We Welcome Bishop LeTrelle Miller Easterling

We are delighted to welcome our new Bishop, LaTrelle Miller Easterling, to our Baltimore-Washington Conference (BWC)!  Her appointment breaks exciting new ground: she is the first female bishop in the 232-year history of the BWC. In addition, Bishop Easterling and the BWC’s own Cynthia Moore-Koikoi were elected as bishops together, and it was the first time in the history of The United Methodist Church (UMC) that two African American females were elected at the same Jurisdictional Conference.

Bishop Easterling’s own words speak volumes to the kind of ministry that she will bring to her leadership, “I always, always, always stand on the side of justice, but I draw the circle wide enough for all of us to be there – and when I say all, I mean all.” 

In addition to the obvious heart that Bishop Easterling brings, she also has a very distinguished background, graduating from Boston University School of Theology summa cum laude in 2004; prior to that, Bishop Easterling earned her bachelor’s degree at Indiana University and her law degree from the university’s School of Law. Before entering full-time ministry, she worked as a mediator and as a Human Resources Manager and Director.  After being ordained, Bishop Easterling served as pastor of several churches in the New England Annual Conference, including Union United Methodist Church in Boston before becoming the superintendent of the Metro Boston Hope District. She was named dean of the cabinet in June. She was also elected a delegate to the UMC General Conference in 2012 and 2016, as well as serving on the UMC Northeast Jurisdictional Multi-Ethnic Board and the conference board of ordained ministry. 

Bishop Easterling is married to Rev. Marion Easterling, Jr., the pastor of Parkway United Methodist Church in Milton, Massachusetts. They are the parents of two sons, Garrett Walter and Miles Teronza.

When asked during interviews about inclusivity, Easterling said, “I know what it feels like to be excluded. I know what it feels like to be present but ignored.” But getting to know one another can change that, she said. “Once we get to know each other, it’s almost impossible to hate, it’s almost impossible to continue excluding, it’s almost impossible to remain where you were.  We are changed when we hear one another’s story.”

We look forward to being in ministry with Bishop Easterling and getting to share our stories.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

71st Anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki

Peace Statue, Nagasaki Peace Park
71 years ago today, at 11:02 in the morning, the US detonated a nuclear bomb called the Fat Man over the Japanese city of Nagasaki.  Over 70,000 people were killed in that explosion, and another 75,000 injured.  It was the second and last time a nuclear device was used in combat. 

Nagasaki Peace Park
Today, in the rebuilt city of Nagasaki, there is a beautiful Peace Park, littered with statues and monuments from all over the world – including the United States -- that all represent the prayers of people that such an event never happens again.  A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of playing in a concert of traditional Japanese music in the Peace Park, in honor of those who have lost their lives in war.

Dr. Parker plays the Shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese Bamboo flute,in
honor of those who have lost their lives in war
It is hard to conceive of the level of devastation that this weapon caused.  The photographs of the aftermath look like something out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.  And what is, perhaps, more troubling is that it seems to have been unnecessary.  In his memoirs, Dwight Eisenhower noted that he felt that there was no need for either atomic bombing. Japan was already defeated and “was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face  Many other military leaders at the time concurred with Eisenhower’s concern.’.”

Given that situation, it is a little unclear why we dropped the bomb. There is speculation that it was deemed necessary to justify the cost of the Manhattan Project, or to demonstrate to the Russians the power of our arsenal; in other words, political – rather than military -- considerations. What is crystal clear, however, is that such an act must never happen again.


Charlie Parker

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

August Sermon Series: "I Can't Find it" ("Not in the Bible")

August Sermon Series - “I Can’t Find It” (“Not in the Bible”)
Last August, we engaged in a sermon series that received a great deal of positive feedback called, “I do not think that means what you think it means” (you can’t go wrong with a good “Princess Bride” quote!), focusing on often misused Biblical passages. This year, we’re complementing that series with one on lines that people often quote as being from the Bible, but which really aren’t. This should
be an entertaining and enjoyable way to dig into some important Biblical and theological concepts.

 Join us for these informative sermons in August!
Sunday, August 7 - “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves”
Scriptures: Psalm 121:1-2, I John 3: 16-18

According to a recent survey, over 8 in 10 Christians believe that this is a Biblical verse; many cite it as one of the 10 commandments. Originally, it is found in Aesop’s fables, and makes its way through history (particularly in Benjamin Franklin) as an example of pithy common sense. While there is a kernel of truth in it, it is also a dangerous bit of extremely bad theology.

Sunday, August 14 - “Everything Happens for a Reason”
Scriptures: Deuteronomy 30: 15-20; Matthew 10:29-31

The implication of this truism is that God somehow pre-ordains everything; and therefore even tragic events have some greater purpose. This is not only bad theology (i.e., says something about God that is not true), but fosters a sense of apathy about the state of the world, and allows us to not take responsibility for our own destructive actions. As in other areas, good theology will foster strong discipleship.

Sunday, August 21 - “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner”
Scriptures: Matthew 7: 1-5; James 4: 11-12

This commonly used phrase often crops up in the LGBTQ debate.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

When a straight guy got saved by a LGBTQ church

One of the realities and gifts of performing music or theatre or dance is that you may never know how you will affect someone with your performance. It will give some people something to think about for the rest of the week. For others the reaction is more immediate. Many never say anything to the performer but still are appreciative. I'm sure this is true for preachers as well. Being a Reconciling Congregation allows us to share God's love in some unexpected ways and in some ways we will never know.

In a shoe-on-the-other-foot blog the author talks about how a United Methodist Church full of LGBTQ people helped a heterosexual man steeped in evangelicalism see his own worth and save him from a spiraling path of self-destructive behavior, because they modeled for him the concept that God loves us, just as we are, right now. Click the link above to read the article. - Kerm Towler