Living in Bethlehem

Our blog this week comes from J.R. Atkins, Glenn member and Candler School of Theology student. He spent his summer in Bethlehem and we have been excited to hear more about his experience!


During the summer of 2017, I had the privilege to live in Bethlehem, Palestine and work through the Methodist Liaison Office. I am grateful for the funding I received from the Candler Advantage Program and the support that made my experience possible, as well as those of 13 of my fellow students.

My work consisted of three main projects but also included several other ongoing assignments, creating a dynamic experience.

Rev. Kristen Brown, J.R. Atkins, & Rev. John Howard at the Church of Scotland, Jerusalem

Rev. Kristen Brown, J.R. Atkins, & Rev. John Howard at the Church of Scotland, Jerusalem

Project 1 – Methodist Liaison Office, Tantur Ecumenical Institute, Jerusalem, Israel
Methodists have had an official presence in Jerusalem since the late 1800s. We don’t have a church building, as the Lutherans, Catholics, Presbyterians and Orthodox do, but instead we invest our time and funds in a multitude of projects. I was able to visit many of these projects and contribute, as volunteers from all over the world have the opportunity to do. Through the relationship with Tantur Ecumenical Institute, I engaged with interfaith dialog between Christians, Jews and Muslims. One of my favorite assignments was serving as driver and tour host for seven seminary students and faculty from Queens College in Birmingham, England. The days were long and filled with sharing the experience of social injustice in Palestine, and the joy of God’s healing grace. United Methodist preachers serve at St. Andrews Church of Scotland, and over the summer I was invited to preach there. I also worked on the website and social media for the Liaison Office.

J.R. preaching at the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, Palestine.

J.R. preaching at the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, Palestine.

Project 2 – Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem, Palestine
The Christmas Lutheran Church and the Methodist Liaison Office have been close partners for many years. As a result of this relationship, I was invited to participate in worship, offer pastoral care, and build a new website in English and Arabic with Christmas Lutheran Church. Thy also gave me the opportunity to preach on my last Sunday in Palestine and I received a warm welcome from the congregation. For me, the highlight of this portion of my summer was working side by side with Arabic Christians and gaining an appreciation for their culture. I learned that having coffee is an invitation to be in relationship, not simply a hot cup of java. I found the Arabic culture to be extremely hospitable, the people easy to talk with and eager to engage with. One afternoon, I had lunch with a member of the congregation that lasted three hours. With my American concept of time, I was ready to leave at the midpoint. Yet, it was in the second half of our visit that the man opened up to me and shared what was on his heart and mind. It was one of the most heartfelt conversations I had all summer and we created a friendship that will last a lifetime.

Project 3 – The Tent of Nations, outside the town of Bethlehem, Palestine
The Nassar family has owned their farm since 1916, when their grandfather purchased it from the Ottoman Turks. They possess documents of ownership from each ruling power: the Turks, the British, the Jordanians and are now are struggling to maintain their ownership under Israeli rule. Their land is in Area C, which was created by the Oslo Accords in 1995. The Israeli Military is now in control of all aspects of society. Only through international support has the Nassar family been able to hold on to their land and continue to farm it. They insist on peaceful means of resistance to occupation.

At the entrance to the Tent of Nation. The stone says, "We refuse to be enemies’" in Hebrew, English, and Arabic.

At the entrance to the Tent of Nation. The stone says, "We refuse to be enemies’" in Hebrew, English, and Arabic.

My role was to create a self-guided walking tour of their family farm that created a connected between the land, with scripture and the visitors. Each of the 10 stations, such as a cave (for living), cistern (for water) and carob tree (for food) related to a Bible verse and was written on the tour guide sheet along with an exercise, aiming to create a personal experience. Each station was marked with a stack of rocks containing a number. Perhaps you or someone you know will visit the Tent of Nations and participate in the self-guided tour.

J.R., Daoud Nassar, and Rev. Kristen Brown at the Tent of Nations

J.R., Daoud Nassar, and Rev. Kristen Brown at the Tent of Nations

Through my work on the farm, I befriended the Nassar family and international visitors. The Tent of Nations hosts thousands of visitors each year. Some come to work on the harvest of grapes, almonds and olives. Others come to work on the two-week summer camp held for local children. And still others come just to work and connect to the earth in a spiritual way. They live in a cave or tent, drink the cool water from the cistern and eat family style with the other volunteers and Nassar family. This experience provided me some understanding of farm life Palestine and what is like to live under occupation.

J.R. with the Mayor of Bethlehem, Anton Salaman.

J.R. with the Mayor of Bethlehem, Anton Salaman.

Other Projects
In addition to the three main projects, I met new friends and identified more ways to interact with the people of Palestine. For example, I held a communication workshop with the staff of the Bethlehem Museum of Natural History, provided insight on how to develop markets in the US for the Bethlehem Free Trade Association, delivered a talk about online marketing for Palestinians starting a business at the Bethlehem Business Incubator, consulted on the “Green and Clean Campaign” for the City of Bethlehem, delivered a best practices workshop with the communications department at Bethlehem Bible College, served as an unofficial “ambassador,” encouraging visitors to the Walled Off Hotel.

My work supporting and encouraging the people of Palestine continues today through Skype, email and social media. My goals before, during and after my summer are to (1) pray for peace in Israel and Palestine (2) help the people of Palestine through listening, visiting, developing business skills and by going there and (3) encourage others to visit the Holy Land and meet the people of Palestine.

Since my initial trip to Israel and Palestine in 2011, I have actively encouraging others to go to the Holy Land and meet fellow Christians. Stacey and I have made 4 trips so far and have 2 planned for 2018. If you are interested in visiting Israel and Palestine, the tour in May 2018 will be following the footsteps of Jesus and attending the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference. Then in June, I plan to guide a group of business professionals on a Bethlehem Business Exploration trip, touring holy sites as well as meeting with local business owners. Please contact me if I can answer any questions, or share a presentation on my summer experience with your class, group, or association.

Stacey and J.R. in Tel Aviv, Israel

Stacey and J.R. in Tel Aviv, Israel

Notes:
1. A more complete display of pictures can be seen at SlideShare.net.
2. The 2 trips mentioned above are not indorsed by Glenn Memorial UMC.

My Most Remarkable Discovery

Our writer this week is Bruce Cauthen, son of one of our older adults Melvin Cauthen. Bruce is a part of our book study and discussion group this fall on Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race.


I was delighted to learn from the August issue of Glenn Notes of the upcoming study group, co-chaired by Carol Allums and Pastor Alice, examining Debby Irving’s book, Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race. I knew that I had to be a part of what promised to be – and, which, has certainly proven to be - a very worthwhile exchange. My eagerness to participate stemmed from the fact that I have been totally immersed in an extensive research project which analyzes the social construction of race in colonial South Carolina. The study is historical, biographical, socio-cultural, and…at its heart…genealogical.

Indeed! Three years ago I made the most remarkable discovery that I am descended from a woman of color who occupied a unique – and seemingly incongruous - niche in 18th century society. Mary Ann Pendarvis Rumph (c.1732-1794), my 6th great grandmother, was the biracial daughter of an aristocratic Charleston planter, Joseph Pendarvis (1699-1735), and his enslaved African mistress, Parthena (c.1702-1734). Joseph never married and left his considerable fortune to Mary Ann and her six siblings whom he had with Parthena. (And, to make a long, complex, and, utterly astounding story short): due to their large inheritance, Mary Ann and her five surviving brothers were able to transition into relatively high-status white society; and, they were socio-legally identified as white. Her elder brother, James Pendarvis (c.1723-1796), would become, perhaps, the wealthiest person of color in British North America. A concurrence of political, economic and social interests actively promoted their inclusion into the colonial establishment. And, as the Pendarvises became increasingly entrenched into affluent white society, powerful forces converged to conceal their African ancestry.

Suffice it to say that the conspiracy to camouflage the racial past of my Pendarvis forebears has, sadly, been one of the more effective cover-ups in American history. And, it was due, in no small way, to the unsavory “success” of this cover-up, that I only disentangled my own descent from the Pendarvises three years ago. And, this exciting discovery has prompted a nearly compulsive sense of mission to unearth all I can about the captivating saga of the children of Joseph Pendarvis and Parthena. It has been an exhilarating, fascinating, and – considering the fact that so many of the elements of the subject have been obscured by time, anachronistic perspectives, and instrumental revision – an infinitely challenging undertaking. I initially intended to draft a brief research note (in advance of an anticipated monograph)…however, the preliminary overview (which I recently completed as a synopsis for prospective publishers) is already in excess of 70, 000 words and I have only scratched the surface.

Agostino Brunias, “Free Women of Color with Their Children and Servants in a Landscape”, ca. 1770-1794, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Carll H. de Silver, in memory of her husband, by exchange gift of George S. Hellman, by exchange. Digital photo courtesy of Brooklyn Museum.            

Agostino Brunias, “Free Women of Color with Their Children and Servants in a Landscape”, ca. 1770-1794, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Carll H. de Silver, in memory of her husband, by exchange gift of George S. Hellman, by exchange. Digital photo courtesy of Brooklyn Museum.            

Yet as intriguing as the historical and sociological aspects of the Pendarvis narrative are from an academic perspective, I have found the personal dimension of the realization equally compelling. For a (then) 51 year old white man, born and raised in South Carolina - whose interest in genealogy has always been most acute, but, who had never detected even the most remote cue as to question that he was the product of anything other than European ancestry - the revelation, admittedly, came as something of a shock. Yet, any surprise I may have initially experienced was very quickly… within about ten minutes… eclipsed by an intense sense of pride to be descended from such extraordinary antecedents. However, this exuberant reaction was inevitably augmented by an ongoing process of introspection. The recognition that I descend from enslaved African ancestors has prompted me to critically reassess so many of my own preconceptions regarding the divisive deliberations about “race” which roil America today… the issues of white and black, privilege and vulnerability, and complacency and disparity.

Although the trajectory of the Pendarvis siblings was exceptional and hardly representative of the contemporary norm, it cannot be dismissed as an anomaly. Parthena’s progeny penetrated a racial borderline – ostensibly formidable in theory, and yet, evidently porous in practice. The social construction of “whiteness” in colonial South Carolina was selective and not always exclusively determined by skin color; wealth was a decisive factor as well. At least in this particular instance, the very concept of race appeared to be situational. And even though there are aspects of the Pendarvis “pathway” which are distinctive, if not patently unprecedented, the biracial heirs were not the only persons of color who underwent similar processes of amalgamation into the white community during various periods of American history.

In any event, the Pendarvis experience inevitably attests that history did not always unfold in the manner in which we envision it today. Our past is complicated; riven with contradictions; and is, undoubtedly, more accurately understood when viewed through a kaleidoscopic lens rather than a Manichean filter. And, it is in this context that I think we can all learn a valuable lesson from the Pendarvis saga: regardless of how militantly defined, exclusively drawn, and immovably fixed the battle-lines in the rancorous debate over race may seem, the actual boundary between white and black in the United States cannot be so easily established. Ours is a shared heritage which must supersede color, class, and conflict; and, we have only to look back into our collective experience to reflect upon certain nuances and particular dynamics which might have foretold a different outcome than the one we presently confront. Although the historical record on race relations has been admittedly bleak, we need not be held hostage to the fatalism of prior centuries. No, we must rediscover an older and more authentic past in which, far from being sequestered on opposite sides of an unbridgeable chasm, white and black in America were far more intimately and inextricably entwined than we could possibly imagine today. It is this basic reality which we must contemplate, cultivate and articulate to remedy our present and shape our future.  

My most remarkable discovery has exerted a truly transformative influence – intellectually, morally, and, spiritually – on my being. Although my African ancestry is admittedly distant, the impact of this awareness is palpable and profound. It is a constant counsel which admonishes me that the most indispensable of all virtues is empathy; and, it reminds me that kinship transcends the familiar and encompasses humanity itself. Moreover, it reveals to me that we interact against the backdrop of an intricate tapestry – meticulously woven of various and diverse threads – and, as we are also part of this splendid textile, it is only when we step back and afford ourselves a broader vantage that we can fully appreciate the aesthetic unity of its design and the vibrancy of its myriad hues. And, my most remarkable discovery also inspires me to vigorously look for the hidden springs of edification, empowerment, and redemption which lie buried beneath the surface of our routine. Indeed, how tragically incomplete my life would have been had I not excavated this enlightening font of consciousness three years ago.

Bruce Cauthen

A Mother's Kiss

Hawthorne wrote that every striking incident has its moral. One recent Sunday evening, I was walking down the back Church School Building stairs, and, approaching the 2nd floor, noticed a youth and his mother walking toward the choir room and realized it was time for one of Wes’s choirs to begin. I smiled at the thought of Wes raising our youth into God’s songs. The youth was walking hurriedly as his mother followed closely. He was turning the corner toward the choir room when she reached ahead, pulled him back, and kissed him on the cheek. He offered no resistance and, receiving her kiss philosophically, went on to choir. The mother turned back and walked toward the door. I, just reaching the floor, was two steps behind her. I said, “A boy needs a kiss from his mother before going into choir, or before anything else he does.” She replied, smiling, “Yes, he does.” 

Memory is often a blessed gift. This lovely incident revived one from my boyhood—when I was in sixth grade, now that I think of it—about the age of our angel-kissed youth. I was leaving our house for school one morning—the school was nearby, so I walked—when I realized that my mother was not home. She worked, but was always there when my brothers, sister and I left for school. This morning, I was alone.  Where my siblings were is lost to my memory, perhaps they had walked on ahead. I must have realized that she had driven off for an errand, for I paced back and forth in the carport, waiting for her return. Fearing I would be late for school, I left a time or two, walking a few yards away, but, each time, returning, refusing to submit to circumstance, for, you see, I had not kissed my mother goodbye.  

Though not occurring to me before, it suddenly dawned on me that this would be the first time I had left without having done so. Amid my consternation in this drama, I recognized that going late to school in order to kiss one’s mother would not be considered a manly act, and I was embarrassed at the thought of having to explain myself. Thankfully, she finally pulled into the carport and I ran up and kissed her. Then she committed a cardinal parental offense: “why are you still here”?….and then, realizing why, joyfully exclaimed, “You waited to kiss me goodbye!” And my filial offense, “No, I didn’t!” and I ran off to school. A boy needs his mother’s kiss.

I am grateful for the touching scene I observed outside Wes’s choir room, for it resurrected these memories of affection and innocence. Perhaps it’s a small window into the profound love among mother and child, and a foretaste of the child’s journey alone into the vast of God.

Steve Darsey

Member Spotlight: Yoran Grant-Greene

How did you first learn of Glenn? Which of our worship services is home to you and why?

I actually began attending Glenn in 2000, during my junior year of college right here at Emory. I was born and raised as a Methodist so it has become my habit to seek out a Methodist church home wherever I live. I attend the 11:00am service because there is a sense of security for me that comes from the traditional service...and the hymns! I just love them :)
 

You are one of many Glenn congregants with Emory ties. Do you think the relationship Glenn shares with the university is an asset to our community of faith?

Absolutely! Many students come to Emory for the Methodist affiliation....I came all the way from Jamaica! So I understand the need for comfort or something from home. I also think our fundamental philosophies in the Christian faith casts a wide net that many students find accepting...quite a few continue at Glenn long after graduation. I think that's a testament to the impact Glenn has on the wider Emory community...and vice versa. The constant flow of Emory throughout the years has established a bond and a familiarity with Glenn that facilitates acts of service and comfort in times of need.
 

Emory recently awarded you one of the spots in their inaugural Top 40 Under 40 list of outstanding alumni. Congratulations! Tell us about your degrees and vocational accomplishments. In the work you’ve done, what are you most proud of?

Thank you for the kind sentiments! I'm actually an Emory triple eagle. I graduated from Oxford College with an associates degree, Emory College with my bachelors of science in human biology & anthropology with a minor in dance and movement studies, and from Rollins School of Public Health with a Masters in Global Epidemiology. From there I went to University of Miami's (Go 'Canes) Miller School of Medicine for a research doctorate in clinical epidemiology. After finishing my studies (read 8 years and few student loans later), I entered into CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) for a two year post-doctoral fellowship. Thereafter I served as a county director in Guyana (South America) for one of CDC's overseas offices and returned at the end of my two year tour to assume my current position as the Associate Director for our West Africa region's programs. For my current post, I had to learn French - a language I've neither studied nor practiced. Needless to say I am now quite familiar with the intricacies of adult learning (yikes)!

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I try to stay away from pride lest it precede my fall, but if I have to choose, I'm most proud of being a service member. It is an honor to serve as a Commissioned Corps Officer in the US Public Health Service (USPHS). The Corps has a strong history of service from its founding in 1798 with a mission of quarantine and disease control. Now we serve in all agencies within the Department of Health and Human services as well as Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Defense. We respond to natural disasters and public health threats all over the world - think Ebola! I'm humbled to count myself among these tireless, fearless souls who aren't afraid to jump into the unknown.
 

Career-wise, or in your personal life, what are you looking forward to? What’s next?

Well, I would say in the long term future I would love to serve overseas again. I deeply enjoy travel, cultural immersion and exchange. But for now, I'd like to focus on my family - being present with them, building memories and hopefully adding a member or two (God-willing; Winston and I are accepting prayers in that department!). And hopefully, we'll get to continue growing and serving our Glenn family.

 

Thank you, Yoran, for sharing your story!

Running Toward God

Running has been a theme in many areas of my life the past couple of weeks. My kids have started their cross country season, so our schedule is filled with practices, meets, and lots of conversation about running and running techniques. Then this past Sunday evening we started a new series at The Gathering on Jonah, a prophet who begins his story by running as fast and as far away from God as he can. In contrast to Jonah, this got me thinking about all the ways that our church “runs” towards God in our ministries and actions.

Last Saturday, our church community ran towards God by serving our neighbors on Good Neighbor Day. The people of Glenn spread out all over Atlanta to share love in many different ways. One group went to the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM) and learned how to care for God’s creation better and helped that organization do the good work of recycling items that many of us wouldn’t even know were able to be recycled. Two other groups went to sing and play games with some of the seniors in our community. Some of our youngest Glenn members had the chance to sing “We Are The Church” with some of our oldest Glenn members as a wonderful reminder that we are all the people of God.

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Since most of us don’t have the capability to run to Texas and Florida to help with the hurricane recoveries, we also had a group of people get together to pack Flood Buckets for the United Methodist Committee on Relief to take as they do the work of cleaning up in the aftermath of Harvey and Irma. This was not the original plan for Good Neighbor Day, but Glenn people saw a need and restructured to make sure we could meet it. In a short amount of time they were able to collect items to fill 57 complete buckets. Add this to the money collected during the communion offering on September 3 and Glenn really stepped up in response to these hurricanes (you can still donate at umcor.org).

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Add to these those that served refugees, worked at food pantries, sorted medical supplies, cleaned up creeks, and held a field day for our friends from Action Ministries and you get a picture of the heart and soul of Glenn, a people who are committed to running into our community to serve where God is calling us. Thanks to all who participated in Good Neighbor Day and to this church for its continued work in sharing the love of Christ with all who need it.

Brent


 

My Summer Reading - Where's the Beef?

It all began innocently enough. Someone at the Lydia Circle knitting group in May asked me what she could do to help with climate change. I thought for a minute and then responded “eat less meat.” 

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I was already familiar with Forks Over Knives, a cookbook and documentary about the benefits of plant-based eating and Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemna. A member of the Lydia Circle who was present that night later dropped by my house with one of her books, 4Leaf Guide to Vibrant Health, about food choices in today’s world. Then I attended a lecture about a new book called Drawdown - The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. And so rather than the usual summer “beach” reads, I spent my summer reading about food choices. What you might ask does this have to do with Glenn? The Bible asks us to protect the earth beginning in Genesis 2:15 with the call to care for the garden and ending with a passage in Revelation 11:18 that references the destroyers of the earth. 

As I read through Drawdown, which is divided into sections on Energy, Food, Women and Girls, Buildings and Cities, Land Use, Transport, and Materials, I was trying to figure out what I, as one person, could do to help in this climate change reduction effort. Most of what we read in the national news about global warming is not anything that one person can really make a difference in and so I was drawn to the chapters on food. Everyone eats and that seemed a good place for me to start to get a handle on this comprehensive book that is full of solutions that one by one can help us solve the global problem. 

Did you know that animals such as cattle are the most prolific offenders of generating methane, the greenhouse gas? Also, the energy consumption to grow livestock feed produces carbon dioxide, and manure and fertilizers emit nitrous oxide. “If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases” according to the book. Wow! And so, for health and environmental reasons, we have basically stopped eating beef. My husband Dave and I had been on this journey before I read the book, but the environmental benefits really hit home with me this summer and I have recommitted to not eating beef.

Another solution that is discussed in Drawdown is one that most of us can participate in - composting. At our house and at Glenn we already compost our organic food waste and recycle almost everything, but I did not realize how important this was to helping with the climate change effort. When organic waste ends up in landfills, it produces methane gas. Even though some landfills capture methane, it is more effective to divert this waste and compost it for the garden.

These are just two of the solutions presented in Drawdown. I challenge each of us and the church as a whole to embrace as many of these solutions as we can. Visit the Ventures in Faith Sunday school class on September 17 and 24 for more discussion on the issue and/or visit the Drawdown website. Look for more information and challenges in a new segment called “Green Notes” that will appear in various Glenn communications throughout the year.

Lynn Speno

Environmental Committee Chair

Reach Out

I had a good reminder that little ears are always listening this weekend. Early on Saturday morning, when all I could think about was trying to go back to sleep for a few more minutes, my preschooler piped up with this:

"Let's make crafts to send to the people in Texas we are praying for to be safe in the volcano!" (Of course, I presumed that she meant hurricane!)

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So as we broke out the craft supplies as the sun was rising, I was humbly reminded that even in times of natural (or human-made!) disasters, we do not have to be hopeless or helpless - or even "only" offer our thoughts and prayers.  As people of faith - both heart and action - we can reach out to our brothers and sisters in need. 

I invite you to join me in making a donation UMCOR - United Methodist Committee On Relief.  If you'd rather give through Glenn Church, just mark your donation for "UMCOR Hurricane Harvey - Advance #901670. If you are like my little one and want a more tangible response, we are also collecting donations for Relief Kits (cleaning kits, hygiene kits, and school kits) to be shared through UMCOR's Disaster Response teams. Details are found here and donations can be dropped off by the collection bins near the Little Chapel in the Church School Building between now and Good Neighbor Day on Saturday, September 9. 

Speaking of Good Neighbor Day, another simple way for children of all ages and adults to reach out to our brothers and sisters near and far is to sign up now to be a part of this special day - sign up for a project now!

Susan


One Family, Three Generations of Glenn School-ers

As August winds down, the school year is ramping up. The youngest children of the Glenn family will be experiencing the excitement, anticipation, and sometimes trepidation that accompanies the first day as Glenn School begins this week. Eager and nervous parents hold the hands of eager and nervous preschoolers and toddlers as they walk into the building. For many, this is their first encounter of the beloved place we call Glenn. We have a lot of ways that our church serves the community, and one of the biggest and most important of these is through the ministry of The Glenn School for Young Children. While there are many wonderful programs that the church offers for family and children - and I am a big supporter of each of them - Glenn School holds a special place in my heart.

As a child, I was nurtured by loving teachers like Mudie Weber as my family was going through a difficult transition. Her constant love and extra attention offered me stability that eased my anxieties - I think she literally rocked with me in the rocking chair every day until I no longer needed it. Glenn School and Glenn Church offered our family a home when we no longer felt welcome at the previous church and preschool where we had been. I have many good memories of preschool and Kindergarten at Glenn and I still have my journals filled with drawings as I began to explore expressing my thoughts and ideas.

As a teenager, I again encountered Glenn School as my mom returned to teach in the Kindergarten. I loved helping in her classroom, which was much more fun than my high school classes.

As a new parent, I couldn’t wait for my daughter to start at Glenn School. Her first experience was in the baby room with Glenn Church member and baby whisperer Nancy Asbury. Her years at Glenn School provided a wonderful foundation she will continue to build upon all her life. Her Kindergarten year at Glenn School was the icing on the cake and truly launched her as person who loves to learn. There was no question that my son would also attend Glenn School, and he is excited to start PreK this week, his fourth year at Glenn School. The talented and caring teachers and staff have supported our family in more ways than I can count, in ways they may never know, and we are forever grateful for their impact on our family.

Bethany's son, Adam, feeling brave on the big yellow bug.

Bethany's son, Adam, feeling brave on the big yellow bug.

Jeff, Bethany's husband, and their daughter Madison learning and building together.

Jeff, Bethany's husband, and their daughter Madison learning and building together.

My story is unique and it is universal. The specifics belong to my family, but the experiences are shared by so many, both church members and members of the community. One thing that I often hear is how at home parents feel at Glenn, both in the school and the church. They know their children are loved and nurtured, encouraged to grow and play and learn. The parents also find a community to share their joys and their fears, their challenges and their triumphs. Words of encouragement or helpful suggestions from other parents going through similar situations can counter discouraging and frustrating feelings. We often only see celebrations shared publicly, contributing to feelings of isolation when things are not going well. A supportive network of parents is crucial to navigate the difficult waters of parenting.

One important aspect of Glenn School is that it is open to families and children of all shapes, sizes, and faiths. Families are embraced, period. There are Christian families, Jewish families, Muslim families, families from different countries and backgrounds, and all are welcome at Glenn. Recently, Glenn School and Glenn Church worked together to provide a place for the child of a refugee family new to the area. What better way to love our neighbor? Glenn School has served to open the door to new families getting connected at Glenn Church. Families who might never have made their way to Glenn Church, have found a home at Glenn School first and felt welcomed as a part of the church also.

I could go on and on about Glenn School, but I want to share one last thing that is so special about Glenn. At Glenn School, play is paramount. Structured and unstructured, children spend their days playing - and learning about life and themselves in the process. They learn how to fill their time with their imagination, settle disagreements between friends, and simply practice everyday skills they need in life. Teachers create and facilitate situations that allow children to learn to be kind, make good choices, and respect others - things we could all use reminders of in these polarizing and contentious times. Academic learning comes through play - and the skills and concepts learned are better retained because they are gained through creativity and experience. Children leave Glenn School prepared for whatever learning situation they will experience next - and they had fun in the process. The playground is an excellent facilitator of that imaginative and physically-challenging play - for children at both Glenn School and Glenn Church. As we look to the exciting new plans for our playground, we hope that everyone in the Glenn Church and Glenn School community will support the effort to bring that dream to life through donations to the playground fund. The new playground will serve not only the children of today, but hopefully their children as well.

Our Glenn Church mission statement proclaims that we are “committed to loving God and loving neighbor….” Whether being loved in the nursery, experiencing thought-provoking lessons in Sunday School, raising their voices in song in choir, relaxing with friends each day in After School, playing basketball, skating, participating in service projects, or learning each day at Glenn School, children are active participants in that mission, both as givers and receivers. Glenn School is only one of the ways in which Glenn Church shares the love of God with the community, but it is a powerful one in terms of the impact on the lives of the families who walk through our doors, year after year. I know our family has felt God’s loving presence through the ministry of the Glenn School, both when I was a child as well as now when I am a parent. I hope and pray that this amazing ministry can impact the lives of families in our community for countless years to come.

Bethany Eyrich

Back to (Sunday) School

When I first started attending Glenn, I began by checking out the Sunday School classes. While you can definitely learn a lot about a church by attending its worship services, in my mind, Sunday School offers a unique view into what a church truly values and thinks.

After graduating from the Candler School of Theology, I struggled to find a community where I could continue the deep theological studies and debates I had experienced while at Emory. So I was ecstatic when my husband and I attended Glenn’s New Class, led by the Runyons, and found it teeming with sharp Glenn members that included former ministers, professors, and world-renowned guest speakers – all willing to listen, learn, and share. I had found the smart, thoughtful, and gracious theological discussions I had always desired to find in a Sunday School class, and I was hooked. It was as if part two of my theological studies education had picked back up, and it was available to me every Sunday. I realized fairly quickly that one of the things that makes Glenn Memorial so special is that it highly values education of all types.

Fast forward a few years, and I now have the opportunity to help organize the Glenn Next Community Sunday School class, bringing in Glenn members, interns, ministers, and Emory professors to continue those enriching discussions. We’ve taken a close look at Genesis, the Psalms, Romans, Methodism, the psychology of religious leaders, and disability in the Christian tradition, just to name a few topics over the years.

20th century theologian Karl Barth called for us all to be theologians, saying, “In the Church of Jesus Christ there can and should be no non-theologians.” Barth also calls on the church to continuously grapple with church doctrine. I’m grateful that Glenn’s Sunday School classes allow for both.

Dena Mellick
Communications Team

 

Glenn’s Adult Sunday School classes resume September 10 – visit this page for the full list. Glenn’s 2017 Summer Lecture Series wraps up on August 27.

Dena (second from left) and her Sunday School class (from a few years ago) being led by professor Joel LeMon.

Dena (second from left) and her Sunday School class (from a few years ago) being led by professor Joel LeMon.

 

The Roominess of God's Grace

Missed our Hymn Sing and reflections this past Sunday? Here's what Rev. Blair Setnor had to say about her favorite hymn, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing."

"I have two children. Geoffrey, 3 years old and Wes, 3 months old. Every night our bedtime routine includes singing.  

When Geoffrey was an infant, before he could request his own songs, I would sing the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” to him. I now sing it to baby Wes. Wes usually smiles at me and tries to stick his hands in my mouth as I sing. I’m not sure what that says about my singing, but I love this hymn, and I’ll continue to sing it...at least until he can request otherwise.

"Come, Thou Fount" is a hymn about grace. And grace is the reason I ascribe to Methodist theology. Grace above all things. Grace, as Pastor Alice describes to our confirmands each year, is God’s unconditional love for us. God’s grace, God’s unconditional love, relentlessly pursues us. We can do nothing to earn it. We can do nothing to make it go away.  

If there ever was a season of life that I needed grace, it is now in this season of parenting young children. I find that my emotions can range from boiling rage, to hysterical laughter, to overwhelming joy and love within seconds. I am constantly fighting feelings of inadequacy and guilt. From food choices to schools, bedtimes to screen time…am I ruining my child?

When I am at my best, I am patient and kind with my children, I prepare well balanced meals, and get them enough sleep to make them pleasant and relatively compliant… (ha!) But I rarely get the sleep I need or the countless other things that would make me a better parent. So...grace.

I need God’s grace to wrap me up when life seems overwhelming.  

I need to extend God's grace to my screaming child.

And I need to give myself a little grace, too.

The overarching theme of this hymn is recognizing a God who was and will be present in all things, especially in times of despair.  

In the first stanza we sing, “tune my heart to sing thy grace.” I love this image of God “tuning” our hearts. To tune means to adjust to the correct pitch, so in “tuning” our hearts, we adjust ourselves to God. When our hearts are in tune with God, we more readily recognize and experience God’s grace, God’s streams of mercy, that never cease...God’s redeeming love.

The second stanza begins, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’m come.” This is inspired by the story of Samuel. Samuel builds an altar or Ebenezer because he has seen God at work. He uses this stone to literally mark and commemorate all that God has done. It is a physical reminder that our God is a sure source of help, safety, and security.  

“Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God.” This theme of wandering continues in the final stanza and in my favorite line, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” 

Robert Robinson, the author of this hymn, lived a debaucherous life in the mid 1700s. He is said to have been convicted of his sinful ways when he and his young friends were mocking a fortune teller. As they poured her drinks they demanded their fortunes. She pointed at him and said, “You will live to see your children and your grandchildren.” This touched a tender spot in his heart and he decided that if he was going to live long enough to see his grandchildren, he should maybe start living differently.  

Immediately after, under the guise of heckling the pastor, Robinson convinced his friends to join him watch George Whitefield preach. He “wandered” for three years after hearing this sermon before he accepted God’s gift of grace. Then at the age of 20 he changed his life to pursue a call to preach.

Whatever stage and season of life you are in…whether you are grieving, resentful, or overwhelmed; whether you are a stranger, or wandering, God’s grace is reaching out to you. And it creates room for you to give yourself, and others grace, too."

A Glimpse into Sunday

Our summer lecture series has brought thought-provoking reflections from Candler School of Theology professors on some of the well-worn and familiar hymns of our faith, including "How Great Thou Art" and "Be Thou My Vision."

This Sunday, about two-thirds of the way through our series, we'll have a Hymn Sing in worship. Our pastors will also have the chance to weigh in and give reflections on some of their favorite songs of our faith. For example, Rev. Susan is planning to share some thoughts on "Blessed Assurance" as she has found that hymn to be a soothing salve at funerals, for the words bring comfort of God's presence with us. Rev. Blair will reflect on the theme of grace in "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing", a hymn you've heard at countless weddings, but ever taken the time to apply to your own life? And "I Love to Tell the Story" has been one of Rev. Alice's most beloved hymns throughout her ministry, and was sung immediately following her very first sermon at Glenn back in 2013.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Stevens

Photo credit: Elizabeth Stevens

Take a few minutes to sit with the words and themes found in the hymns below as we prepare to sing in worship together this Sunday. And no matter your level of singing ability, come and make "a joyful noise to the Lord!"
 

"Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing"
Reflection by Blair Setnor

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I'm come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.
 

"Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown"
Reflection by Wes Griffin

Come, O thou Traveller unknown,
whom still I hold, but cannot see;
my company before is gone,
and I am left alone with thee;
with thee all night I mean to stay,
and wrestle till the break of day.

I need not tell thee who I am,
my misery or sin declare;
thyself hast called me by my name;
look on thy hands, and read it there!
But who, I ask thee, who art thou?
Tell me thy name, and tell me now.

In vain thou strugglest to get free;
I never will unloose my hold.
Art thou the man that died for me?
The secret of thy love unfold:
wrestling, I will not let thee go,
till I thy name, thy nature know.

Yield to me now, for I am weak,
but confident in self-despair;
speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
be conquered by my instant prayer.
Speak, or thou never hence shalt move,
and tell me if thy name is Love!

'Tis Love!'tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear thy whisper in my heart!
The morning breaks, the shadows flee;
pure universal Love thou art:
to me, to all, thy mercies move;
thy nature and thy name is Love.
 

"Blessed Assurance"
Reflection by Susan Pinson

Blessed assurance; Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
angels descending bring from above
echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
watching and waiting, looking above,
filled with his goodness, lost in his love.
 

"I Love to Tell the Story"
Reflection by Alice Rogers

I love to tell the story
of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory,
of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story,
because I know 'tis true;
it satisfies my longings
as nothing else could do.

I love to tell the story;
'twill be my theme in glory
to tell the old, old story
of Jesus and his love.

I love to tell the story;
'tis pleasant to repeat
what seems, each time I tell it,
more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story,
for some have never heard
the message of salvation
from God’s own holy Word.

I love to tell the story,
for those who know it best
seem hungering and thirsting
to hear it, like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory,
I sing the new, new song,
'twill be the old, old story
that I have loved so long.

Middle School Musings on Missions

The youth summer mission trip to St. Simon's Island last week was packed full of service and fun, and 8th grader Thomas Horton invites us in to some of his day-by-day thoughts and reflections from the trip:

 

Sunday - “Rush it, or don't?"

The trip started on the buses, and since I wasn’t on the bus with the rest of the boys, I was able to sleep on the way there. Mostly I listened to music though, so we didn't really talk until close to the end of the ride. We talked about random things and what made us excited about the week to come.

When we got there, we unpacked our bags and headed to the chapel, where we found fog machines, strobe lights and not a single Acoustic instrument. In my opinion, it wasn't the best way to praise God and this will sound very millennial, but everything was so over-hyped. I’m not saying this way of praising God was bad, but I'm pretty sure fog machines and strobe lights weren't what He was thinking. Hey, I could be wrong. Whatever floats your boat. 

Then came the preacher, who was a comedian of sorts. He went through a lot of different Tarzan and Fruit analogies, but his main theme was "Taking Baby Steps." After the message, he asked the audience to come up and pray, so some of the group decided to go up, including me, Mathew Jackson, Graham, and Bo. Then they took us into a side room and gave us different pamphlets and calendars and books, and told us they'd call us every Friday for a year. Now this confused me, because just a minute ago, we were talking about baby steps, and this seemed like a big step for me. So that left me wondering how they really wanted us to live out our Christian faith as I climbed into my bunk bed at night.

 

Monday - The Innocence of Children

Monday was chalked full of stuff to do. It was our first day of work, and our first day at the beach (I'll get to that later). We spent our work hours at the Boys and Girls Club. I was with Connor (one of the interns), Kevin, Chapman, and Bo, and we went and played games with 10 year olds. First we played a game of Pulse, a team game. Then we rotated to other groups, and played in the game room, the gym, and outside.

Afterwards we went to the Shark Beach (I don’t know the real name so we’ll call it that for now). The weather wasn't really beach worthy, but that didn't stop anyone. We ran down to the beach and kept running until we finally got to the sandbar, where we hung out for a little bit until we got back into the water later. The most memorable part of our time at the beach that day was when we found a shark. Well, it was a dead baby shark, but we still took about a hundred pictures with it before we went back into the water to play some games of Mr. President.

We then headed to Dairy Queen, where Campbell got her first Dairy Queen ice cream ever, and then went back to our base at Epworth. We met at our own smaller chapel where we sang songs (this time with acoustic guitars) and then talked about our day and how it related to God. We talked a lot about the kids, and their innocence. We went around telling stories about how one kid would be mad at another kid, and then the next moment they would be best friends. This, we all decided, was why we should all strive to be more like children. As S.E. Hinton wrote in The Outsiders, "Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf's a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day, nothing gold can stay."

 

Tuesday - The Ability We are Given

The next day, we went to help out a veteran in need. He was in Operation Desert Storm and lost a leg during his time there. This affected him and his ability to clean his house, which was not in good shape. We did what good we could, which included mowing his lawn, chipping off old paint, clearing out all of the trash that he couldn't pick up, and demolishing his kitchen to be rebuilt by another youth group later in the week. All of these things were things he couldn't do, but the smile on his face and the help we were giving him lifted our spirits.

Later that day we went to a different beach, which, since I also forget the name of that beach, we'll call Jellyfish Beach. It was a nice beach, and everyone was having a good time. Remember how there was a shark at Shark Beach though? Well, if there was a Shark at Shark Beach, there must have been a Jellyfish at Jellyfish Beach, right? Well it wouldn’t have been named Jellyfish Beach if I hadn’t gotten stung by a Jellyfish. Henry was the first to react, and he carried me to the shore. Jad scraped out the stingers, and Kevin even gave me Benadrill to help me sleep.

Well, enough about me.

Afterwards we went to Chic-fil-a, and then later we met at the same little chapel where we sang some more and then split up into groups. My group included Connor, Chapman, Kevin and Mathew Jackson, and Graham. We talked a lot about how we had the ability to do things that others couldn’t, and we each shared about what we did to help the veteran. I think that we should all use our abilities God has given us to help those in need.

 

Wednesday - A Living Sacrifice

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” - Romans 12. These were the Bible verses we read every day that week. Mostly though, we talked about what it meant to be a living sacrifice. It is, after all, an odd choice of words, as most sacrifices tend to not be living.

That day, we worked at the Safe Harbor Children’s Shelter for runaway kids. It wasn’t backbreaking work, but it was long and painstaking and full of painting. If I had a penny for every time I had to rush to the bathroom to clean off some paint, I’d... have at least a quarter. Maybe 50 cents. But that’s besides the point. Lunch was probably my favorite part, where we all sat around the kitchen table and shouted the lyrics to old songs, and I noticed the surprised look on one of the Safe Harbor Supervisor’s face when he saw us having such a good time doing all of the volunteer work. However, there was one part of our time that caught mine and a couple of other people's attention: we barely saw the kids.

After we had worked at the Children’s Shelter for the day, we hung out around our cabins or played games until we went to the chapel. We talked about what it meant to be a living sacrifice, and came to the conclusion that being a living sacrifice was being in complete service to God, and going out to do God’s will, whether it meant spreading the Christian faith, or to help those in need. Kristin, another one of our interns, explained why we saw so little of the kids. First, they weren’t really little kids like we expected them to be; they were our age, and listening to us talk about things they didn’t have could affect them in a negative way. This reminded us that we had so much to be thankful for.

 

Thursday - The Little Things

We all went to sleep tired that night after a long night of bowling, (or watching Spiderman Homecoming if you are Eli, Nate, or Bo) and the almost midnight pit stop at McDonald's. The next day was the last day we did mission work. It was also probably the most underwhelming work days of them all because all we did was clean up a park. This consisted of scraping paint off of and painting the benches, which wasn’t the easiest thing to do. The reason I called the work underwhelming was because we weren't really making a direct impact on anyone. On Monday, we hung out with the kids at the Boys and Girls Club, which directly impacted the kids because they got a better day out of it. On Tuesday, we directly helped a war veteran in need by working on his house and cleaning it up, and on Wednesday, we cleaned up the Safe Harbor children’s shelter and that directly helped the children by giving them a better place to live. So what was the big deal with cleaning the park, and why did it feel like there was no direction in our work?

Later in the day we went to a new beach, and that day the beach was a stereotypical summer beach: cloudless sky, semi-mild water, and lots of people. Surprisingly enough, it was a very normal trip to the beach compared to the other two trips. We had a lot of fun at the beach, and after we went back to Epworth and hung out for a while until our time had come to watch the sunset. We went out by the pier and sang songs as the sun dipped below the horizon. We ended our singing with prayer, and headed off with our little groups to discuss the day. Jad talked to us about how our work on the benches impacted people, and his main point was the people you don’t see, the ones who sleep on the benches we painted because they don’t have a place of their own. This gave us a whole new perspective of what we did that day. As Eli put it, “This was one of those jobs where a job well done isn’t noticed.” Sometimes the little things do matter. So, after a long game of capture the flag that Augie and I could have won for our team if Reid Mallard hadn’t pulled the plug, we went to bed that night, our time at Epworth drawing to a close.

 

Friday - Sunrise

We woke up early on Friday to watch the sunrise, which was kind of symbolic for our lesson of the day, which was mostly about how we would carry our experience with us. In this perspective, the trip wasn’t really over. In fact, it really is just a new beginning isn’t it? But it still was sad to watch my home for the week get smaller and smaller in the distance. On the way back we played a lot of games and did riddles, but I knew I would miss these guys for a while, even those who I would see in the following weeks, because the mission trip brought the group together in ways other things couldn’t.

Until next year.

 

Thomas Horton

Theology of Hymns: Songs that Shape Us

For as long as I can remember, music has dislodged in me emotion that’s hard to describe. A certain series of chords or lyrics with power beyond their words will spark an odd mingling of both joy and loneliness. Goosebumps may be involved. The guitar duet between Dicky Betts and Duane Allman in “Blue Sky,” by the Allman Brothers, the way Miles Davis’s trumpet glides in over minor piano chords on “Blue in Green,” the jangly guitar and loping piano on “Range Life” by Pavement – I have a long list of songs that count as proof in my book that music is a gift from God.

But as much as I love music, my least favorite part of church has been having to haul my lazy butt up out of the pew to sing the hymns. With my utterly untrained voice, I run out of breath and my throat tightens. Occasionally I hit a note so pitiful it almost makes me laugh. And since I can’t read music, hitting upon the melody takes a few bars. If I’m lucky, George Shepherd is in the pew behind me, and his strong voice helps me find the way.

With adult Sunday school taking a break for the summer, the Glenn lecture series has me thinking more about hymns. [Get details about the program here.] Worshipful singing has been part of Methodism since its inception. When John and Charles Wesley voyaged to Georgia, they sailed with a group of Moravians, a protestant sect descended from followers of Czech church reformer Jan Hus. During the trip, a violent storm beset their ship, terrifying everyone onboard, except apparently, the Moravians (John referred to them as “Germans” in his diary):

In the midst of the psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the main-sail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterwards, “Were you not afraid?” He answered, “I thank God, no.” I asked, “But were not your women and children afraid?” He replied, mildly, “No; our women and children are not afraid to die.”

At a time when singing by common people was not allowed in the Church of England, this experience also made an impression on Charles. He went on to write over 6,000 hymns in his lifetime.

The Moravians’ willingness to utterly submit to God’s will, whether it meant drowning or surviving the storm, is an attitude not commonly seen today (and I suppose it was unusual in the 1700s as well). It doesn’t come naturally to us humans. We have goals and plans, and with all the earthly demands of human existence in the day-to-day it’s easy to forget.

On July 9, Khalia Williams, Candler's Assistant Dean of Worship and Music, gave her talk on the hymn “How Great Thou Art,” as part of the summer lecture series, and it reminded me of the Moravians’ pure faith, their willingness to assume their subordinate relationship as creature to God the creator.  The lyrics practically force you there:

                O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
                Consider all the works Thy hand hath made.
                 I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
                Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

We see that what God has done, we can never do. As an audience member pointed out, even down to the verbs employed (almost entirely passive), to inhabit this hymn is to subordinate oneself to God. And after each of the four verses, we’re exhorted in the refrain to praise:

               Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
               How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
               Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
               How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

The hymn closes with verses three and four, which express awe and gratitude that God sent his Son, who “bled and died to take away my sin,” and look forward to the time when Christ will “take me home,” and to the joy that “shall fill my heart.” We’re presented with the beauty and massive grandeur of God’s creation, and reminded of our profound gratitude for the Savior and for the forgiveness of our sin, experiences that can lull us into a place of comfort and inaction. In short, Williams warns, the hymn taken at face value can leave us with an awe-inspired appreciation for the Creator, creation and redemption, an escapist theology that has us taking passivity into our day-to-day. 

She posed the question, “What does this hymn have for the people of Flint, Michigan, whose water is poisoned with lead or the parents of students attending schools contaminated by asbestos?” In short, where human sin has stained creation, what hope is offered in this hymn?

And to be honest, I never found the hope for those people in this hymn – except I did detect an inkling of something like hope in the observation of an audience member who pointed out that like Job, who recognized that God was sovereign in his blessed times and his trials, we can continue to praise God.

As she closed, Williams posed another tough question, one that I’ve continued to mull: “How Great Thou Art” gives us Creator, Redeemer, but not Sustainer. What are we to conclude from that?

For more thought-provoking hymns and questions, join Glenn for the upcoming lectures in the summer series, “Theology of Hymns: Songs that Shape Us” in the Ward Hall on Sunday mornings at 9:45a.m., through August 27.

 

Irene Hatchett

Member Spotlight - Anne Michael and Edward Sustman

Glenn members Anne Michael and Edward Sustman are part of a small, but mighty and growing group - the Glenn Next Community. Our member spotlight today profiles them and their commitment to this young adult ministry at Glenn. As well as some little known facts about them - did you know they are both architects and have quite a few impressive international and local Atlanta landmarks on their resumes?
 

What attracted you to Glenn and its community? How long have you been members?

Edward – Well, for the first 18 years or so, I didn’t really have much choice since my family came regularly to Glenn since before I was born. But after returning to Atlanta following graduate school there was really one choice in my mind for where I would attend church...luckily Anne Michael liked it as much as I do!
 

Out of our three worship services, which one is home to you and why?

Anne Michael – Edward and I both really enjoy the 11 o’clock service. It is the service Edward attended with his family when he was growing up, and having grown up in a Presbyterian church myself, we like the Christian traditions that we learned as children that continue to be a part of this service. As a child, I was very involved with music, so the traditional hymns are important to me and are now the only time of the week that I get to sing.
 

You both are very involved in the Glenn Next Community of Young Adults. How did that group begin? In what ways does it foster your spiritual growth?

About 8 years ago we had a large contingent of recent graduates, Candler graduate students, Emory Med students, young couples/professionals who did not yet have children and didn’t feel like there was a Sunday School class that was geared toward fellowship in that demographic (which was then under 35 and went by the name “35 Below”). Since then, some original members graduated and moved elsewhere, some have started families, but we have gained greater and greater participation and ultimately expanded and rebranded as the Glenn Next Community. You will find members of our group at any of the 3 services and we have our own Sunday School class, but since not everyone can always attend, we have rounded out our group fellowship with social gatherings & service events. For Edward and I it has been a community with a diverse group of people who genuinely care for one another, learning about the Christian faith, and about helping others. 
 

Anne Michael and Edward (right) with Charla and Joel Howard at this year's Post Jingle Mingle

Anne Michael and Edward (right) with Charla and Joel Howard at this year's Post Jingle Mingle

Glenn’s congregation ranges from babies and young families to empty nesters to members in their 90’s. It is an intergenerational church, and it is beautiful to see connections formed across those life stages. Have either of you had a surprising or unexpected relationship form with someone(s) not in your life stage or age range?

Well there is really nothing quite as humbling as someone reminding you that she took care of you in the nursery before you could even walk. No matter where I think I might be headed in life Glenn is always there to remind me where I came from. Having spent so much of my childhood at Glenn, it is really rewarding to give back as an adult through things like the board of Trustees, Good Neighbor Day, Snack in a Backpack or ushering on Sunday mornings.
 

Tell us about your career life – you both are architects, correct? How did you choose that field and what kind of projects have you worked on in Atlanta?

Edward - Yes, we are both architects, but from the start we have worked on very different project types. I work for a global firm, called Gensler and manage retail projects both abroad and across the US for national and international retailers. I’ve done close to a dozen stores in China as well as stores in Japan, Kuwait, and across the UK in addition to projects in 13 states. Recently I have started working with Jeni’s Ice Cream. I have been looking at a few new locations in Atlanta with them and have their first store in Washington DC opening later this year.

Anne Michael - I am a Project Manager for a local firm, called Smith Dalia Architects that does a variety of projects in Atlanta and across the Southeast. In Atlanta, I worked on Inman Quarter in Inman Park, and will be working on the renovation of the Candler Mansion on Briarcliff. I’m currently renovating the historic Excelsior Mill (formerly the Masquerade), across from Ponce City Market, which will become office and retail space.  

 

Thanks, Anne Michael and Edward, for sharing a little about yourselves and what makes Glenn home for you.

Riddikulus!

I came to the Harry Potter craze late. My nieces and nephews read each book as soon as it was published. They were the ones standing in line at midnight waiting for the bookstore to open so they could be among the first to purchase the latest volume. At the time, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, but I was delighted to see so many children and teenagers engaged in such voracious reading.

Last year, I finally read the entire series. And I couldn’t put it down. As soon as I finished one volume, I began the next. I became friends with Harry, Hermione and Ron, and I was quite sad when I finished the very last page. But, there are some things from the books that I still think about almost daily; especially, the charms. Charms are spells that can be cast when one is in a difficult situation, and there are hundreds throughout the seven volumes.

I believe I think of these charms so often because I can see how the author, J. K. Rowling has given millions of children (and adults) techniques for facing tough situations in life. For instance, the children at Hogwarts learn the Riddikulus charm as a defense against Boggarts. Boggarts are non-beings that take on the form of a person’s worst fear. So, if one fears spiders, when she comes upon a boggart, it turns into a giant spider that can only be destroyed if the person points her wand at the Spider/Boggart and shouts Riddikulus! The spell turns the fear into something ridiculous that makes the caster laugh (a spider trying to stand on eight roller skates) and upon hearing the laughter the boggart disappears. The students at Hogwarts line up shouting Riddikulus as they practice standing up to and banishing their deepest fears.

What a gift J. K. Rowling has given to all who read her books! A practice with which to face their fears by shouting Riddikulus! 

How do you face your fears? What practices have you cultivated? As a person raised in the Christian faith, I am grateful that through Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, attendance at worship services, I was given the gift of memorizing scripture verses that still arise in my heart, soul and mind when I am faced with challenging situations:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. (Psalm 23:4)

Surely, it is God who saves me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. (Isaiah 12:2)

Such verses provide me with the assurance that I am not alone. God is with me and will never leave me to face my fears alone. They are Riddikulus!

What are your favorite verses? What verses are you teaching your children to hold in their heart, soul and mind? Scripture is filled not with charms, but with promises! While I highly recommend the Harry Potter books to you, I especially recommend our sacred scriptures which are filled with the promises of a God who will never leave us to face our troubles alone. 

Alice

Annual Conference through Laity Eyes

As I prepared to attend my second annual conference on behalf of Glenn, Donn Ann Weber and Robert Gilleo invited me to step behind the curtain – not the curtain hiding Professor Marvel posing as the Wizard of Oz, but the curtain behind which the logistical and organizational work of the conference takes place. I was honored to be invited and delighted to serve as a marshal, helping check in and organize the more than 300 clergy registered to march in the procession at Wednesday evening’s Service of Licensing, Commissioning, and Ordination.

Working with the other marshals, including our own Senior Pastor Alice Rogers, gave me a chance to meet clergy and laity from other churches. I especially enjoyed getting to know Terri Lemons, Senior Pastor of Newnan Chapel United Methodist Church, who served as one of the conference’s worship service coordinators. I also bonded immediately with the lay leader from her church – we are both retired women who loved our work, love the positive changes retirement has brought to our lives, and love using our gifts as volunteers for our respective churches. A fine and fun friendship was formed.

As we assisted the clergy, I enjoyed asking about the red stoles they wore. Many were ordination gifts, others were made from stoles handed down from family members. One was a gift to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the ordination of women and its design incorporated the name of every woman mentioned in the Bible. Another was decorated with crocheted crosses handmade by women in her church to adorn the stole for her ordination. Each clergy had a different stole and every stole had a story. The next morning, the conference’s collection of stole stories added another chapter as Bishop Sue accepted the gift of two seersucker stoles in celebration of her first time participating in North Georgia’s traditional Seersucker Thursday.  

Ginger Smith

Bishop Sue's new stoles, and the infamous bobbleheads.

Bishop Sue's new stoles, and the infamous bobbleheads.


Glenn folks were energized by many opportunities to concretely support Bishop Sue’s “Show Your Work” theme at last week’s annual conference in Athens. Pastor Alice introduced professor Deb MacFarland who spoke about global health at the (huge) laity dinner. Reverend Jimmy Moor preached at the retirement service. Matthew Pinson (outgoing conference lay leader) reported from General Conference that we will meet in 2019 in a special session to discuss “The Way Forward.” Reverend Donn Ann Weber was our conference secretary. Robert Gilleo had major logistical duties making sure that every meeting and worship service functioned smoothly. Our voting representatives - Andrew Johnson, Ginger Smith,  Carolyn Gilbert, Carole Adams (district delegate) Ellie McQuaig (young adult) and Steve Napier (Action Ministries) - attended the Reconciling Ministries luncheon. Reverends Susan, Blair, and Brent were present, along with many former Glenn pastoral staff members. Stewart Voegtlin represented Candler and Joseph McBrayer was the conference photographer. Diane Bryant and Yvette Weatherly were shown in a missions video report. Winnie Hoover and Annette Stephens were honored at the memorial service. Glenn’s nineteen (altar guild) needlepoint Stations of the Cross were a special display in the prayer room.

Carolyn Gilbert

Alice and Deb at the Laity Dinner.

Alice and Deb at the Laity Dinner.


Last week I was honored to attend the North Georgia Annual Conference as a delegate for our great church! I had never been to Annual Conference, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. One of the first things I noticed right away was how connected the United Methodist Church is. I could have a conversation with someone from almost any church in the conference and we would inevitably share a connection, be it having had the same pastor, knowing some of the same people or both having gone to Methodist colleges.

Almost immediately I realized that four major stages of my life were represented in this one place. There were clergy and lay persons from my home church of Carrollton First UMC; there were dozens of friends and teachers from LaGrange College; Candler School of Theology also had a strong presence in both clergy and lay delegates; and finally the clergy and laity from Glenn Memorial. The convergence of all of these parts of my life impressed upon me that much of my faith formation has been influenced by the North Georgia Conference (NGC).

The NGC highlighted some awesome individuals who are serving God in a multitude of ways throughout North Georgia. This was my first opportunity to hear our new Bishop, Bishop Sue, speak. She proved to be a dynamic speaker and offered pointed and prophetic messages. I was excited to see Gerald Ricks leading an amazing choir that rocked the ordination service! I was moved by Rev. Cynthia Vaughan’s retirement speech, where she succinctly recapped her ministry, but also called the church to be accountable for the people on the margins (all in the allotted two minutes). And of course, our own Robert Gilleo, serving The Church behind the scenes as the great organizer of all things! 

Though the people and groups who had helped form my faith were present, along with many others, I was surprised at some of the things that weren’t present. I did not feel a sense of a vision for the future of our conference, only a recognition of what has and is being done. There was no sense of repentance of where we have failed as a church. There were very few discussions on issues of justice, other than from some of the organizations that we support (i.e. UMC Children’s Home, Action Ministries, Murphy Harpst, etc.). No mention of the 9 executions last year and the one so far this year. No mention of the legislation being passed or not passed in our state. No mention of issues of refugees and immigrants. No mention of the profound amount of racism that is prevalent in our community nor of the institutions/systems that support it.

As someone who holds social justice at the center of my personal faith, I think I had hoped and perhaps falsely expected to see something different last week at Annual Conference. I had hoped and expected to see a Church acknowledging it flaws, working to create equity and justice in the world and having conversations around important issues. Instead, it felt at times as if this is an institution that is content where it is and not eager to discuss divisive topics.

I know that the United Methodist Church – from local churches to the North GA Conference, up to General Conference is a church that is made of individuals. Almost every conversation I had with the many people that I knew at NGC last week pointed to the fact that many of us want change, greater strides towards inclusion and more work towards universal justice. I’m sure there were just as many people present last week who felt contrary to me. Though it can be frustrating, I know that our diversity of ideals and ideas is part of what I value about a church community. I’m hopeful that we will continue to foster discussions about growth, about a vision for the future and to define our mission as a church united to follow God’s work in the world.

Andrew Johnson

Andrew and young adult delegate, Ellie McQuaig.

Andrew and young adult delegate, Ellie McQuaig.


Annual Conference was most definitely a different time of meeting together! It was energized by our new Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, who has claimed us as her own already. By the time of conference, she had visited every district, and many churches within North Georgia. She wants congregations to find ways to use young persons to be active in the life of the church, and so, the official meeting started with young fresh faces and voices who introduced“Bishop Sue” with a jazzy rap version of a song taken from “Hamilton”, the Broadway hit. The crowd really loved this innovative,  exciting way to start the conference. I immediately thought of Charlotte Golden’s sermon on Children’s Sabbath this year, and wished Charlotte and other Glenn youngsters had been there to hear it!

Our new bishop is not a lady expecting fanfare and grand entrances, but rather a down-to-earth preacher who immediately shared with us her focus for every church: “to see that the Holy Spirit has a place in every heart in every church.” Her text for her first sermon was taken from Ephesians 4:1-6. I encourage you to read it, looking at each section Paul shared with the church at Ephesus. If you love those who love you, big deal (“whoop”) but true Christians love even when they don’t love us back.  In the church there is NO THEM, it is all US. That is God’s call on our lives. Christ is our cornerstone and disciples are built together and held together by the Holy Spirit. 

Bishop Sue called this conference SHOW YOUR WORK with images relating to WORSHIP THAT INSPIRES ACTION. Prayer and scripture plus preparation equals excellent worship. In each session, the worship services had been carefully planned for months. Our own Robert Gilleo, Dr. Don Saliers, and Donn Ann Weber were part of each plan and the services were inspiring. That, for me, was the biggest difference in this year’s conference. We had reports, often in new, inventive ways, and heard how the church is solvent and ready to move forward in every area. But the “show your work” part of the conference gave us insights into the care and planning for each phase of worship. For example, there was a replica of a flowing fountain, Fount of Ebeneezer, with beautiful silk cloths flowing down like the river. Professional artist’s banners were displayed. Lights and visual images enhanced our learning about conference business. Our Jimmy Moor preached a loving and personal message relating to those who have now joined the Church Triumphant. Specially prepared stones with the names of the beloved departed ones were placed within the flowing water in the fount. We were honored to remember Winnie Hoover and Annette Stephens this year.

There were a variety of musical forms used in the worship services and it was fun to hear the praise band from Oak Grove UMC and the thrilling new music of Impact UMC. But the music which was the most inspiring and uplifting to me was in the Service of Ordination. Gerald Ricks brought his choir, plus brass and percussion. Hearing Gerald and his team explain their reasons behind choosing certain pieces was illuminating. The crowd was on their feet early in the service as Gerald’s group led us in uplifting, exciting song! Bishop Sue’s message to the young ordinands was very real, yet inspiring. She spoke about hardships they would face, and frankly, as a laity member, it made me sad to hear her talk of issues we church people present to our pastors which can sometimes make their jobs personally painful and difficult. She reminded them that they would serve in far off places, but they would grow to love each church family. I do pray that is so. I pray we, too, can provide the innovation and energy our pastors need to bring vibrant worship and active participation by our church family. 

Carole Adams

Donn Ann helping each session run smoothly.

Donn Ann helping each session run smoothly.

Summer Reading Picks

If you are thinking about grabbing a couple new books to read over the summer, our library has some great ones to consider. Plus, they're free.

We've picked six from the shelves that might pique your interest, ranging from Christian ethics to fiction to theology. The library also holds many memoirs on faith, collections of poetry, Bible commentaries, as well as books for children and youth.

Come on over and check them out. No, literally, check them out.

 

Adam Hamilton's "Making Sense of the Bible"

"I love the Bible...and I wrestle with it. There are portions, if I'm honest, that I have questions about. There are statements on its pages that I don't believe capture the character and will of God. I'm guessing, if you're honest, you have questions, too. We're not alone. As a pastor I regularly hear from people who are perplexed, confused, or disturbed by something they've read in the Bible. This book is an attempt to honestly wrestle with the difficult questions often raised by thoughtful Christians and non-Christians concerning things taught in the Bible."


Ted Weber's "War, Peace, and Reconciliation"

This book invites Christians and churches into a conversation over how to think about war from the standpoint of faith. It asks how reconciliation, which is central to Christian life and doctrine, can engage the realities of war without surrendering its fundamental affirmations.

"Weber has done the Church an invaluable service in providing a distinctly Christian approach to the understanding of the ties of power among nations, often resulting in war...Weber's acute analysis and theocentric emphasis offer a much needed corrective to an unengaged pacifism or an engaged but graceless realism." James Laney


Marilyn Robinson's "Gilead"

Good novels on the spiritual life are hard to come by. This is one of the best. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this book tells the story of fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage in America's heart. It is told in the voice of small town Congregationalist minister John Ames, who writes to his son from his death bed. The prose is simple, but the wisdom in the words profound.

 

 

 


Rowan Williams's "Being Christian"

What are the essential elements of the Christian life? Not in terms of individuals leading wonderful lives, but just in terms of those simple and recognizable things that make you realize you are a part of a Christian community. This little book (only 82 pages!) is designed to help you think about four of the most obvious of these things: baptism, Bible, Eucharist, and prayer.

"For Christians, to share in the Eucharist, the Holy Communion, means to live as people who know that they are always guests - that they have been welcomed and that they are wanted. It is, perhaps, the most simple thing we can say about Holy Communion, yet it is still supremely worth saying. In Holy Communion, Jesus Christ tells us that he wants our company."


Roberta Bondi's "Night on the Flint River: An Accidental Journey in Knowing God"

"...Pam, Jeff, and I had gone out intending to take a short, simple, and relaxing Sunday afternoon canoe trip on the Flint River not very far from Atlanta. Nothing turned out as we expected, however, and before long we were in trouble. During the long hours till dawn I truly believed that I was living out the last night of my life. This book recounts not just what happened on that October 18, but also something of my interior reflections as I stumbled along in the wet blackness with my two friends, expecting to die."


Richard Foster's "Celebration of Discipline"

Dividing the Disciplines into three movements of the Spirit, Foster shows how each of these areas contribute to a balanced spiritual life. The inward Disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, and study offer avenues of personal examination and change. The outward Disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission, and service help prepare us to make the world a better place. The corporate Disciplines of confession, worship, guidance, and celebration bring us nearer to one another and God.