Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Gun Violence Prevention Group (GVP)

...they shall beat their swords into plowshares - Micah 4: 3

Rev. Lucas and the "plowshare"
On December 14, the 4th anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Kent and Lois Weaver attended the National Vigil for all Victims of Gun Violence at St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill. Rev. Jeremy Lucas, Rector, Christ Church, Lake Oswego Oregon presented a powerful, personal story.

While on the Internet, Rev. Lucas came across a fund raiser being sponsored by a student sports team to raise money for a trip to a tournament. The prize being raffled off was an AR-15 rifle! Rev. Lucas called the team sponsor and offered to fully fund their trip if they would shut down the raffle. He was told that once a raffle has been initiated it cannot be halted. SO.... Rev. Lucas bought $3,000 worth of tickets and guess what? He won the raffle! He then found a company that would melt down the rifle and convert it into a gardening Tool...which he proudly held high for all of us at the vigil to see. Rev. Lucas then presented the "plowshare" to  Ms. Po Murray, the Chairwoman, Newtown Action Alliance & The Newtown Foundation. What a moment! What a roar of clapping!  

The 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church Resolution #3428 "Our Call to End Gun Violence" cites Micah 4:1-4. I challenge our congregations to offer ideas for ways to recover swords and beat them into plowshares. If Rev. Lucas can do this, so can Metropolitan Church!
If you are concerned with gun Violence and want to make a Difference, join our Gun Violence Prevention Group as we explore actionable steps to address the complicated problem of gun violence. We need many voices....young and old, gun owners and non-gun owners, victims and survivors. If interested, contact pastorsoffice@nationalchurch.org.

Blessings,
Lois Weaver

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Faithful, Faithless, and Everyone in Between – Faith on Campus

“Missing Faith” By Angela Pupino

A lot of fuss is made about the “lack” of religion on college campuses.

College campuses are stereotypically thought of as hotbeds for atheism, doubting, and just about every vice imaginable. And while there’s some truth to this, this is definitely not the full picture.

Before I went to college for my freshman year, members of my home church in Ohio begged me not to lose my faith along the way. What they didn’t understand was that I was already struggling with my identity as a Christian.

I was already reeling from a year of family losses and a particularly nasty pastoral transition at my home church. I was uncomfortable with dry platitudes that my pastor preached every Sunday. I was uncertain of my place in a church that felt old and where members made racist jokes during choir practice. In short, I had already lost a lot of my faith.

But when I least expected it, God and campus ministry pulled me back in.

I feel like many older Christians misunderstand religion’s role on a college campus. Most students, at least those I’ve met, are hungry for greater meaning in their lives. They are looking for a community where they feel safe and loved. But they have been hurt by the faith they grew up with. They have been hurt by their interactions with Christians. And they have been hurt by sermons promising hellfire, hurt by pastors and congregations who turned them away, hurt by parents and relatives who refused to let them ask questions about faith.

My home church has a very small population under the age of 65, so campus ministry was the first time I interacted with a large group of Christians my own age. It was the first time I saw Christianity as a religion of social justice and public service. It was also the first time I was able to see Christianity as a kaleidoscope of different beliefs and practices. I learned that I could pray on a labyrinth and not just in a pew. I learned that there are different translations of the Bible.

Campus ministry offered me healing and reconciliation with my faith. It offered me a place to belong at a time in my life when I desperately needed one. And it offers that space for any student who wants it.

Blessings,
Angela Pupino

Friday, January 06, 2017

When Gun Violence Spawns a Church Partnership



by Rev. Dr. Charles A. Parker and Rev. Ernest D. Lyles, Sr. on December 08, 2016

If you look at a map of our nation’s capital, you will see that the distance between one multisite United Methodist Church in Northwest Washington and another multisite United Methodist Church in Southeast Washington is about 10 miles, and if you drove through the areas around those churches, you would think that they are in different worlds: one affluent, largely white, and largely free of violence; the other economically struggling, largely African American, and caught in the cross-hairs of ongoing violence, much of it gun violence. 

As it considered the issue of gun violence, the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church invited “congregations that have not experienced gun violence to form ecumenical and interfaith partnerships with faith communities that have experienced gun violence in order to support them and learn from their experiences,” and the wisdom of that call can be seen in the transformative partnership that has been forged between Brighter Day UMC in Southeast DC and Metropolitan UMC in Northwest DC.

The partnership was born on a Sunday in July 2011 when the Metropolitan parish declared itself “Closed for Service,” foregoing its normal Sunday morning schedule to spend the day in worship, fellowship, and service with brothers and sisters at Brighter Day UMC.  Over the following five years, we have continued to build relationships, worshipped, and worked together on issues where we share a passion and a commitment to making a difference. 

Parkway Overlook -- an abandoned public housing development in Southeast DC – is a good example of that work.  The 266 units had been closed for many years and its redevelopment had been stalled in endless haggling between DC and Federal agencies.  Brighter Day was adjacent to the property and had parishioners who had lived there and were committed to its reopening.  Metropolitan brought its history and passion on homelessness issues to the battle, and the ability to make the project a cross-city effort, opening up access to key city officials. 

Congregational partnerships lead to community presence 

On June 30, 2013, both congregations gathered for a joint worship service at Brighter Day.  We were joined by many community leaders, as well as then-DC Mayor Vincent Gray.  The service had powerful music from both church’s choirs and moving testimony from former residents who are now advocates for Parkway Overlook.  After the benediction, we walked as one congregation to the site of Parkway Overlook around the corner, joined hands in a circle on the street, and prayed for the future of this site.  Over the last three years, we have worked together and with the Washington Interfaith Network to get the land released by HUD to the city and $16 million in city money pledged to begin Parkway Overlook’s redevelopment.  

Over the years, the congregations have worked together on a variety of projects, including a Summer Academic Camp in the Brighter Day neighborhood, with a STEM curriculum from a NASA grant and youth and adults from both parishes volunteering.  We worked together on putting together Thanksgiving baskets for the community; we did pulpit exchanges; we held another joint affordable housing worship and rally on September 20, 2015; we provided backpacks and coats to neighborhood children; Brighter Day’s after-school program and Metropolitan’s Campus Kitchen ministry have joined to provide tutoring and meals to many at-risk children; and we have had wonderful social and community building events at all of the sites in our multisite churches.

Preventing gun violence as one body

All of this work has deeply informed our understanding of gun violence.  For Metropolitan members, gun violence was primarily an advocacy issue: passing legislation to reduce the number of guns on the streets and address sensible policies for gun ownership.  For Brighter Day members -- living in the midst of almost daily gun violence – the issues involve supporting better education, housing, and employment opportunities.  We have come to understand that meaningfully addressing gun violence prevention issues requires both perspectives, and a willingness to work jointly for the wholeness (and holiness) of our communities.

The partnership that has been formed has created a strong bridge across those ten miles in Washington, DC, and has been life-changing for our communities of faith and transformative for the neighborhoods that we serve.  We have come to trust and rely on each other – we have become family.  We feel God’s call to us to minister to those who are most vulnerable, and we work together to be God’s hands and feet in a city in desperate need.  The gun violence statistics in DC are indeed daunting, but with God’s help, transformation will happen.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

After the Fear … the Hope and Joy of Christmas

to feel a full and untrammeled joy is to have become fully generous;
to allow ourselves to be joyful is to have walked through the doorway of fear…

- Consolations — The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words by David Whyte

Throughout Advent we have heard messages about fear; from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words, “we have nothing to fear, but fear itself;” to the more than 400 entries of the word fear in the Bible… "fear not, do not be afraid, do not fear.” In Drema McAllister-Wilson’s sermon on the first Sunday in Advent, she shared words from Peter Gomes’ sermon “When Life Begins.” He wrote, “everybody is fearful, terrified of some public or private demon, some terrible unnamed fear that gnaws away even in the midst of our joy."  He continues with “every one of us is a hostage to fear.”

If Advent is a time of searching and facing our fears; this Advent, in particular, we are being bombarded daily, even hourly, with news and fake news, with tweets and posts, and endless conversations post election, of so many things we have fear about (health care, immigration, racism, sexism, climate change). Drema challenged us in her sermon, “What will we do with the fear?”

In David Whyte’s essay on “Joy,” quoted above, he continues with, “Joy can be made by practiced, hard-won achievement as much as by an unlooked for, passing act of grace arrived out of nowhere; joy is a measure of our relationship to death and our living with death, joy is the act of giving ourselves away before we need to or are asked to, joy is practiced generosity. If joy is a deep form of love, it is also the raw engagement with the passing seasonality of existence, the fleeting presence of those we love understood as gift …”

As we travel through this Advent of Fear, we have the opportunity to practice joy, to face our fears, to give of ourselves before we are asked. In our search for joy in the place of fear, we may find ourselves kneeling at the manger, filled with hope, looking into the face of love and there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18).

May this season of Advent draw us together, to strengthen each other as we face our fears, to give of ourselves just a little bit more, and to be open to love.

Blessings,
Patrisha S. House

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.

Blessings,
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.

Blessings,
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.