Shine On

In his breakout role, Charlie Mallard, senior at Chamblee Charter High School, played Chief Carson in last year’s youth performance of The Potato Play. Chief Carson is a no-nonsense, dedicated police chief who has a hard time keeping his facts straight. The volume of his voice is never below a 10 and while he is usually confused, he never lets that stop his enthusiasm to get to the bottom of business.

Charlie Mallard absolutely nailed this performance. In previous years Charlie had stayed behind the scenes helping backstage or to the side of the stage in the orchestra. Charlie, and so many others in our youth program, embody this gradual blossoming. It is my absolute favorite thing to witness and it could not happen without an incredible village to support our amazing youth. Glenn Youth musicals and plays give each youth the space, encouragement, and direction to shine.

At the end of last year’s play weekend I congratulated Charlie on his performance.  He responded, “I only wish I had done this sooner.”

Come see Charlie as Captain Hook alongside our amazing senior class - Greer Moore as Peter Pan, Sam McKin as Smee, Duncan Horton as Mr. Darling, and Mary Grace Lesesne as Wendy Darling in our upcoming performance of Peter Pan.

This is sure to be a show all ages and stages will enjoy! The performances are Friday, February 24, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2:00 p.m. Purchase your tickets here.

Blair

Village credits -
Directors: Rev. Taylor Pafford and Sims Lamason
Associate Music Director and Director of Youth Choirs: Wes Griffin
Producer: Sara McKlin
AND our incredible team of parents, grandparents, youth alumni, and friends who have dedicated countless hours to making this production possible!

Use Your Words

What? Me? Write a prayer? Of course I was familiar with the concept, having said blessings before meals in my family and sung a different grace for each meal of the day for ten years at summer camp. I had memorized the Lord’s Prayer and the St. Mary’s School prayer from an early age. I regularly read and re-read the prayers in our worship bulletins each week, and found some of them speaking to me more deeply and directly than others. I had offered impromptu opening and closing prayers at various gatherings. And I had prayed informally and individually for as far back as I can remember, asking for God’s help in the face of illness and death and for guidance in everything from making personal decisions to weighing professional options.

But write a prayer? For the congregation to pray? Out loud? That seemed to be work for someone with more education and experience than I had. Yet, there I was on an October evening in the second session of Glenn’s inaugural prayer-writing workshop, thankful for handouts which gave me some security, and for a straightforward outline to follow -- address to God, attribute, petition, result, final doxology. Our group of aspiring prayer writers shared in the realization that writing prayers for a worship service was a special opportunity as well as a discipline that required thought and concentration. An example of a prayer written for worship on one of the handouts reminded us that God exists beyond our words, and that our task in crafting prayers was to point to a Truth larger and grander than the words themselves:

May the church at prayer recall
that no single, holy name
but the truth that feeds them all
is the God whom we proclaim

(written by Thomas H. Troeger)

Not long after the workshops, Pastor Alice charged a group of us (Tiffania Willets, Sara Maughan, Sara Logeman, and me) to write new liturgies for the lighting of the Advent wreath for each of the four weeks in Advent as well as for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Our working group started with the idea that we would include both the meaning of the candles and the characters of Christmas featured in the season’s sermon series. We agreed that we would write in a responsive reading format to engage the congregation and that we would close each week’s reading with a similar prayer to connect the liturgies over the weeks. Each of us took one of the four weeks in Advent and started writing. We shared ideas and encouragement in person and via e-mail, then turned our drafts over to Pastor Alice for review to ensure faithfulness to scripture and connection to the other elements of each worship service.

There was something special about hearing a liturgy you had helped create spoken aloud by the congregation. It wasn’t because it was our work individually or even collectively. It was because we had worked together prayerfully and unselfishly to contribute to the congregation’s worship of God and to their anticipation of Jesus’s birth.

Now there is a new opportunity to learn as Glenn hosts another prayer writing workshop led by Rev. Barbara Day Miller. This one will focus on Lenten texts and themes. (Learn more here.) My prayer for this group of prayer writers is that they will share meaningful experiences that will be of benefit to their spiritual growth as well as to our church community and its shared worship experiences.

Ginger Smith

Children's Sabbath

What do Hamilton, the Musical, the Apostle Paul, an 11-year-old girl, and the Glenn Church family have in common?

Why do I have a bucket overflowing with colorful pom-poms all over my office (and glitter, but that was an accident...)?

How many children are working hard to memorize the words to "I Will Praise You, O Lord" before Sunday?

What are the odds that at least one of the preachers' kids will run across the chancel area on Sunday?

Which children are practicing reciting the Apostles' Creed?

Do we think any of the Joyful Noise music class toddlers will actually sing "Jesus Loves Me" with the "big kids"?

How early do grandparents need to arrive to get a seat in the front pews?

How many pancakes can your child consume in one sitting?

These questions and many more will be answered THIS SUNDAY, for MY FAVORITE SUNDAY OF THE YEAR: CHILDREN'S SABBATH & SCOUT SUNDAY!

Bring the family! Invite your neighbors and friends-you've-been-meaning-to-invite-to-Glenn!  Wear your Glenn t-shirts, Girl or Boy Scout Uniforms, or even your Falcons gear (and don't forget a canned good donation for SOUP-er Bowl of Caring!)

It's not even here yet and I am already so proud of these remarkable and inspiring children in our midst. And if you're like me, we are all in need of a vision of hope for the present and the future. By God's amazing grace, I believe we will receive that gift this Sunday morning.

Susan

Taking a Journey Flat on Your Back

To my surprise my hematologist of 13 years felt something that didn’t feel quite right. I told her, “But I just had a mammogram 2 weeks ago, and the results were normal”. She wanted me to get it checked out anyway. How inconvenient that this would happen at the end of the school year, one of teachers’ busiest times. But being the obedient patient that I am, I went to get it checked out. Low and behold, it was cancer.

I thought, so maybe I won’t join my sister hiking Machu Picchu this year, but there’ll be other times to go on this journey. I talked with God, “Okay. I am not too happy about this. Where are you taking me? I have a family who is dependent on me, students who are dependent on me.”  God didn’t answer, I was a little annoyed. I did trust wherever we (God and I) went--it would be all right. But I was still worried about my family. “Worry” is my middle name. My husband, Chuck, says that I wouldn’t be happy unless I was worrying. I tell him, “I’m just planning for what could lay ahead.” I’m sure God smiles upon me.

I rolled up my sleeves. I’m productive and happy when I have a task at hand and set out to accomplish my mission. I thought, I can handle a little pain: I’ve birthed two boys, I’m tough, and I come from a German background. And God smiled. I had two surgeries, one to remove the lump, and the other to remove the Mamosite, as we switched course of treatment from local radiation to 8 rounds of chemotherapy and 36 radiation treatments. With the surgeries came fear. “God I love my life, I am sorry I have been ungrateful, always wanting more tasks to check off to feel accomplished. I don’t want to leave my family, I’m not ready.” It was the end of May, beginning of June. All the clergy were off at conferences. Who was going to pray with me?

And then a wonderful group of Christ followers from my Glenn Church family came and prayed with me and Chuck. And through these prayers, I heard God say, “Fear not, for I am with you.” Looking back, the surgeries were a “piece of cake,” but I was so proud of myself. I was an embattled warrior, but still strong. I thought I would be able to keep our family’s normal routine going, especially since I would get a two-month break from school. I talked with women from church who had had breast cancer. They gave me emotional support and led me to a wealth of sound information. Praise God they didn’t tell be how bad I would feel once the effects of chemo set in. The “Marthas” of the church set out to make sure my family would be cared for with good meals. 

And then the chemo set in. Chemo for me felt like the worst hangover I’ve ever had combined with the bird flu; yes I’ve had both. Weakness set in. I laid on my back on the sofa. I still wanted to be in the middle of things with my family, but I wasn’t anymore. The boys brought me things to drink and kissed me on the cheek. I’m not sure they knew what else to do. Slowly, I became less and less a part of their world. I tried to be there with them, but was too weak. This is when my real journey began, flat on my back, me and God. At first I was angry, not because I had gotten cancer but because I wasn’t part of my family’s everyday life. I was weak, and up until that moment I had always thought “weak” was a dirty, four-letter word.

But in that weakness, I was more open to receiving the healing balm of Jesus’ grace. I tried to come to church every Sunday for the simple comfort of hearing my church family lift me up in prayer. Up until that point in my life, I had been better at praying for others than myself. Oh how the prayers, and the meals brought in for my family filled me with God’s love and healing grace. I was especially reassured by those who visited a little and offered words of encouragement.

What gifts I had overlooked in my “get-the-task-done” life. God’s love had been there for the taking but I was too busy being strong to accept it. Lying flat on my back, I saw the beauty of the earth, the trees and the birds, and found my way back to accepting God’s love.


Suzanne Horton

Gradus ad Parnassum: Steps Toward Perfection

Gradus ad Parnassum, “Steps to Perfection,” is a 17th century manual on musical composition by German composer Johann Fux. It was used by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn, and is still used today. The Wesleyan concept of Sanctifying Grace includes the biblical idea of “moving on to perfection.” This past fall, during our worship emphasis on grace, the Chancel Choir and I discussed Gradus ad Parnassum in this context. 

We know of the Logos from the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the Word was God.” The Logos is Christ, the Word, present at creation and omni present as creation expands through time. Fux, in Gradus ad Parnassum, whether he realized it or not, discerned this in the music composed prior to his time, and provided guidance for subsequent composers to give the Logos in music further voice. In choir rehearsals, we look for this manifestation of Christ in the music we sing, and strive to bring it to life for ourselves and our congregation.

From Pope Benedict the 16th:

"Faith becoming music is part of the process of the word becoming flesh…When the word becomes music, there is involved [on the one hand] perceptible illustration, incarnation or taking on flesh, attraction of pre-rational powers, a drawing upon the hidden resonance of creation, a discovery of the song which lies at the basis of all things. And so this becoming music is itself the very turning point in the movement: it involves not only the word becoming flesh, but simultaneously the flesh becoming spirit."

Our anthems may or may not include the actual word “grace,” yet, if we rehearse properly and sing as Paul directs, with “heart and mind,” they will nevertheless manifest sanctifying grace for all present. Thus, we strive to realize God’s Logos in music for worship, with the aim of drawing us all closer to God.

Though yet unreached, we nevertheless strive toward this perfection in the service of the worship of God. May we all together climb these “Gradus ad Parnassum.”

Steven Darsey

A Year to Serve

The greatest among you will be your servant. Matthew 23:12

Now that 2017 is in full swing, if you are like me you have already forgotten that pesky New Year’s resolution list and have plowed into the new year full steam ahead (don’t worry, Lent is only a few weeks away…). Or better yet, maybe you never even made a list to begin with. Either way, consider this a last minute addition to your resolution list, a late Christmas present, and a heartfelt call to action all rolled into one.

A quick bit of background on me. I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a town that takes great pride in its blue collar work ethic. My parents embodied that to a great extent, my mother a night nurse and my father a social worker for inner city youth. Perhaps you grew up in a similar environment, where your own physical labor meant pride, respect, a sincere service provided. In communities like these, serving others is often just a part of daily life, whether it was part of your paycheck or not. In my family’s case, serving as local missionaries became our summer vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware through the Children’s Sand and Surf Mission (CSSM) where we provided “on the beach” vacation bible school to vacationing families.

Serving others is a part of Glenn’s daily life as well. It’s part of our DNA. This past year alone, we built our 25th Habitat house, saw over 150 people serve throughout Atlanta on Good Neighbor Day, and provided scholarships to over 100 children in Zimbabwe, Cambodia, and Honduras. And those are the big headlines! Quietly in the background Glenn members also spent hundreds of hours packing snacks for local needy children, sorting clothes for refugees, and serving food to the homeless. Cold, dark, rainy days included. Because this is what Christ calls us to do: to serve the least of these, with humble hearts, with little fanfare. 

To kickoff 2017, the three Service teams at Glenn (Church and Society, Environmental, Missions) gathered on January 3 to discuss our wishes, hopes, and dreams. This year we are excited to roll out a monthly service activity for Glenn members to participate in, with the hope of giving everyone a chance to be the hands and feet of Christ every month. The activities will showcase the diverse relationships we have with local, global, and environmental causes here in Atlanta and abroad. From tilling the North Dekalb Mall Community Garden in February to serving at the International Rescue Committee refugee store in March, there will be great opportunities for all ages and skill sets to continue Glenn’s tradition of humble service. And this weekend you can get your year of service started with our MLK Service Day.

Aaron volunteering at the IRC refugee store.

Aaron volunteering at the IRC refugee store.

As your humble brother and friend (and Service Chair), I ask you to thoughtfully consider putting Service on this year’s resolution list. Because when we serve together, we witness together, we get to know each other better, and we grow the Kingdom just a little bit more.

Aaron Hurst

2016: A Year in 12 Photos

So many wonderful and life-giving things happened at Glenn in 2016! Here are a few highlights to reflect upon as we start a new year and anticipate what 2017 has in store for us...

 

January - Women's Retreat

The Women's Retreat brought 2016 in with a bang! Such a close-knit and caring community of inter-generational women. And the tradition continues: this year's retreat already has over 75 women signed-up.

The Women's Retreat brought 2016 in with a bang! Such a close-knit and caring community of inter-generational women. And the tradition continues: this year's retreat already has over 75 women signed-up.

 

February - Children's Sabbath and Scout Sunday

Children's Sabbath and Scout Sunday is one of our most well-attended services of the year. This past February proved no different: our congregation was led by children in song, scripture, and even the message - 5th grader Carter Hales delivered a beautiful sermon.

Children's Sabbath and Scout Sunday is one of our most well-attended services of the year. This past February proved no different: our congregation was led by children in song, scripture, and even the message - 5th grader Carter Hales delivered a beautiful sermon.

 

March - Dancing with the Clergy Stars

Alice was one of the contestants in this conference benefit for The Matthew Initiative. And with her natural talent, weeks of practice, and support from the Glenn community, she WON!

Alice was one of the contestants in this conference benefit for The Matthew Initiative. And with her natural talent, weeks of practice, and support from the Glenn community, she WON!

 

April - Confirmation

Our community grew by 16 in one day - these youth were confirmed as members of Glenn Church!

Our community grew by 16 in one day - these youth were confirmed as members of Glenn Church!

 

May - The Return of the Family Retreat

A long-time Glenn tradition was resurrected. Over 30 families spent the weekend together in the mountains of North Carolina, enjoying nature and fellowship.

A long-time Glenn tradition was resurrected. Over 30 families spent the weekend together in the mountains of North Carolina, enjoying nature and fellowship.

 

June - Scaffolding Galore

Our buildings had significant work done during the summer: interior work on the sanctuary, roofing and siding on the Church School Building, and the stunning dome in the Little Chapel was restored. Up next in 2017 - THE YAAB!

Our buildings had significant work done during the summer: interior work on the sanctuary, roofing and siding on the Church School Building, and the stunning dome in the Little Chapel was restored. Up next in 2017 - THE YAAB!

 

July - Rev. Blair's Ordination

Many Glenn youth, congregants, and staff headed over to Athens, GA in support of Blair's gifts of ministry and calling as an ordained minister. The youth also pooled their money and gifted Blair her red ordination stole.

Many Glenn youth, congregants, and staff headed over to Athens, GA in support of Blair's gifts of ministry and calling as an ordained minister. The youth also pooled their money and gifted Blair her red ordination stole.

 

August - 25 years of Habitat

This year was our 25th Habitat Build! Our devoted project liaison, Jennifer Scott-Ward, hugs home owner Regina Holloway after a busy build day.

This year was our 25th Habitat Build! Our devoted project liaison, Jennifer Scott-Ward, hugs home owner Regina Holloway after a busy build day.

 

September - Glenn-Emory Day

We once again celebrated our connections with Emory, and were honored to be led in worship by these strong leaders in the church and the academy: Dr. Claire Sterk, Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson, Rev. Dr. Alice Rogers, Dr. Jan Love, and Rev. Bridgette Young Ross.

We once again celebrated our connections with Emory, and were honored to be led in worship by these strong leaders in the church and the academy: Dr. Claire Sterk, Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson, Rev. Dr. Alice Rogers, Dr. Jan Love, and Rev. Bridgette Young Ross.

 

October - The Return of The Gathering

Our casual and alternative evening service returned, but under the leadership of our newest clergy member - Rev. Brent Huckaby! We look forward to The Gathering offering weekly worship in 2017 and pray for the growth of this community.

Our casual and alternative evening service returned, but under the leadership of our newest clergy member - Rev. Brent Huckaby! We look forward to The Gathering offering weekly worship in 2017 and pray for the growth of this community.

 

November - Post-election dialogue and prayer

After a long and contentious election season, we gathered together for an evening of prayer, sharing, and support.

After a long and contentious election season, we gathered together for an evening of prayer, sharing, and support.

 

December - 3 Christmas Services in 2 Days

Christmas weekend was a whirlwind around here! Especially for our clergy who might as well of brought sleeping bags to their offices. But we loved seeing our sanctuary so full - so full of joy, of light, and of hope.

Christmas weekend was a whirlwind around here! Especially for our clergy who might as well of brought sleeping bags to their offices. But we loved seeing our sanctuary so full - so full of joy, of light, and of hope.

 

January 1, 2017 - Family Ties

To start off this year, Rev. Susan Pinson celebrated communion with her father-in-law, Rev. John Pinson. They modeled for us the importance of family, relationship, and connectedness. May Glenn Church be those things for you in 2017!

To start off this year, Rev. Susan Pinson celebrated communion with her father-in-law, Rev. John Pinson. They modeled for us the importance of family, relationship, and connectedness. May Glenn Church be those things for you in 2017!

Stories of Waiting: The Waiting Is Over

As an adoptive parent, I am drawn to Joseph in the biblical story of Jesus’s birth. He is asked to raise a child who is not biologically his own in a kind of open adoption where the biological father, God, will continue to have great influence. I can vouch for the influence of biology on children as both a welcome and puzzling feature of adoptive parenting!

Waiting for a child to be born is very different for a prospective adoptive parent than it is for a biological parent who plans to raise her/his child. Although both kinds of waiting include concerns about the baby’s and mother’s health and wellbeing, the biological parents rest assured that the baby is theirs to raise if they so choose. Adoptive parents can never be completely sure that the baby (or child) is theirs until all the legalities are in place days, months, or sometimes years after the child is born. But detachment from the process is not an option for prospective adoptive parents. A child deserves to be loved, claimed, and nurtured from the moment s/he is born – if not earlier. Still, the loving, claiming, and nurturing pre-birth comes with risks of loss and heartbreak because the biological parents can change their minds.

Back in 1999, my husband John and I decided to pursue another adoption – our 4th. We posted a letter to potential birthmothers online. We followed leads that did not pan out, including a young brother and sister of an unemployed couple in Idaho, a pregnant homeless woman who decided to keep her baby, and an older, professional woman who wanted too much money. It was confusing and emotionally draining. But, as John said, “The worst thing that can happen is that we raise three great kids.” We persisted.

Then, in mid-December, we received a call from Stacy, a 23-year-old, college educated, former Marine, and professional horseback rider who chose us to adopt her baby boy due to be born in February. Our relationship to her is a long complicated story that includes flying her to Atlanta from Texas to meet our family, an emergency trip to the ER when she started having contractions, hiring lawyers and social workers in both states, costly living expenses, and drama related to the baby’s alleged father. But we liked Stacy. She was direct, not afraid to voice her opinions, worldly, bright, and articulate. Together, we agreed to name the baby Luke, and we talked or emailed daily with Stacy while we waited for his birth. We planned what would happen in the hospital, including a ritual presided over by the chaplain, transferring the baby from Stacy to us.

In early February, two things happened. I cancelled our online adoption letter to potential birthmothers and our adoption plan with Stacy began to unravel. The latter was not clear to us until weeks later when she left us depleted of all our savings and wondering what we had done wrong. In mid-March, I wrote an email to Stacy:

I’ve been unpacking the suitcase that was packed for two months and putting away the little baby things. That’s hard. But what is harder is seeing the children struggle with the loss of ‘Luke.’ Last night I was helping K.J. undress and get ready for bed. His shirt was a little snug so I suggested it might be time to give it to someone smaller. K.J. said, “How about Luke?” I said, “K.J., do you remember that I told you Stacy has decided to keep her baby? He won’t be coming to live with us.” K.J. hung his head and said, “Then I won’t have a little brother.” That was tough to hear.

…But do know this: If, after some time passes, you begin to think you’ve made the wrong decision–we are still here. The Falcos will not pursue another adoption. This is the end of the line for us. For financial and emotional reasons we can’t start over again. But we are here for your child. Remember that if you ever need us.

Surprising us, Stacy changed her mind again, and we took another roller coaster ride up toward adoption and then down into despair. I know you will understand what I mean when I say: There are times when the darkness seems to engulf you. Hopes and dreams are shattered. It is the blackest of blacks… But then you look up and see the stars and remember that there is something more, something greater than the darkness. Although the starlight does not obliterate the darkness, it offers a different perspective on it.

And so it was that in the midst of this last chaotic ride with Stacy, I got a voicemail from a pregnant woman in North Carolina named Teri who said she had seen our adoption letter on the Internet. This seemed strange to me because it had been over a month since our letter had been posted. Nonetheless, I called Teri the next day.

Teri told me that she was 32-years-old and having a baby due on May 12th. She found out she was pregnant five months earlier, but had been afraid of adoption because she thought the homes were unsafe - until she read our letter. She loved our letter and had been carrying it around in her car for a couple of months (which explained why she had a letter that was no longer online.) Her friends had encouraged her to call us.

How was I feeling? How could I consider making a new adoption plan with someone else so soon after Luke was gone, before I was done grieving? We didn’t have the money to start over. We were not sure we had the emotional strength to trust again.

But there was Teri, innocent and unknowing of all we had been through, telling me the Falcos were the family she wanted, sharing details that demonstrated how much attention she paid to our relationships to each of our children.

I went to Cannon Chapel, where John and I had been married, thinking I needed to fall apart enough to make room for a new spirit to enter. It didn’t happen exactly as I’d imagined, but I did hear two things that stayed with me: To love God, we have to love our brothers and sisters… God does not leave broken what God has made.

We took a leap of faith. Longer story short - baby Journey Leigh Falco was born on May 18, 2000 in Wilmington, NC and returned home with me to Atlanta on May 30th. The waiting was over.

Rebecca, Teri, and Journey

Rebecca, Teri, and Journey

John and Journey

John and Journey

I think about how Joseph might have felt while waiting for Jesus’s birth. He told God he would accept the role of father, but the days preceding the Son’s birth were bleak. He must have been feeling the shame of marrying a woman who was pregnant by another. He was poor. It was cold. And he couldn’t even find a decent room for his laboring wife to give birth. Nothing was going right… And then it did. God’s child was born. The star shone in the darkness. The whole of the circumstances – angels, shepherds, wise persons – let Joseph know it would be alright.

Sometimes things don’t work out the way we envision or plan, and it feels very, very dark. But what I think I’ve learned – and continue to learn again and again – is that if we allow ourselves to see the light in the darkness and trust the waiting, miracles can happen.

Before Journey was born, when I asked Teri about her reasons for making an adoption plan, she said this: “So that my baby can have the most healthy, balanced, and unconditional loving home possible. So he/she has the chance to know how to make it in this world. Every child deserves and has the right to be safe and feel safe and have unconditional love.”

Now that the miracle of God’s son has arrived, all that God asks from each of us, every day, is unconditional love. It is both the challenge and the promise of all that is yet to come.

Rebecca Patton Falco

Stories of Waiting: One Door for Each Day

Waiting can be hard, it can be long, it can be exciting. Every year, my kids excitedly await their Advent calendars. The calendars always appear at their respective places at the dining room table on the morning of December 1. I make each calendar by hand. Working with Photoshop, I arrange 25 pictures on an 11x17 page. Then I create a Christmas themed cover page with the numbers 1-25 that align to the photos. I cut 25 doors using a ruler and an X-Acto knife and then glue the 2 layers together.  This is not something that can easily be whipped out on November 30, although that has happened more than once.  

The three calendars are uniquely crafted as a chronicle of each child’s year, starting from the previous December. Each of the 25 doors open to reveal a picture of something special that occurred during the year, like a ride on a rollercoaster, running through a sprinkler with your two best friends or playing a concert at the Schwartz Center. Many times when I take a photo, I’ll think, “This would make a great Advent calendar shot.” I also include photos of things the kids enjoy, like homemade pancakes and strawberries doused in thick syrup. There are also Christmassy pictures; one morning, you might discover images of Santa, or a regal Glenn pageant, Jesus in a manger, or reindeer flying through the night. The last image is always about the birth of Jesus.  

Ian's Advent calendar.

Ian's Advent calendar.

The kids are on the honor system. The rule is you only open the door for that day.  This rule has been broken by at least two of the three children. Personally, I think that sort of ruins the surprise when you have all your surprises in one day while nobody is looking.

About three years ago, I decided the calendars were becoming too predictable. They needed to be enhanced. I initiated a star reward system. Each calendar would have four images with stars. When one of the kids opens a door revealing an image with a star, they get some sort of reward. Each calendar has one image of a candy cane with a star; on that morning that child receives a candy cane. There is an image of a gift-wrapped present with a star, so that morning they receive a small gift. There could be an image of a favorite restaurant with a star. That’s where we will be having breakfast that morning. The last star is on a mystery image.

The mystery image is usually a hyper close-up photo of some obscure place around the house. The photos are typically challenging to decipher. Some of the shots I’ve taken include a photo of the space between a seat cushion and a chair, a shot of the inside of a glasses case, and a windowsill. You can see the kids searching the house; all three of them huddled up trying to guess what the image is and where the next clue is hidden. Once they find the mystery location, there is another mystery image, and the search continues until they find the third location where their prize is hidden.

The calendars are highly anticipated each year. Some favorite images from this year: a perfect dive into the Emory pool, our dog Otis giving wet licks to the ear, and shooting a bb gun at Girl Scout camp. The calendars give us a view on all the gifts God has given us in the past year. Such great memories are just waiting to be revealed, loved and shared again. Now we await a new year, a new reminder of God’s love and the promise of tomorrow as we celebrate the birth of Christ.

Karen Kersting
 

Stories of Waiting: Life is Full of Waiting

Growing up on a farm in east middle Georgia during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s did not offer a lot of entertainment alternatives for a child. My family were members of a small Methodist church in a small town. The church had a tradition of the members drawing names in early January and you became the “secret pal” of the person whose name you drew. "Secret pal” then would give small gifts at various times during the year such as birthdays, holidays, or special occasions. As a young child, one looked forward to Christmas each year as a Christmas party was held the last Sunday before Christmas Day. Under the Christmas tree would be the final gift from your “secret pal” and with their name on the gift. I can remember the excitement of waiting for the Christmas party to find out who my “secret pal” was.

In my senior year in high school, one day in the spring -  I don’t remember the exact month -  my math teacher, who was very strict, stopped me on the way out of her class and told me to have my father come see her on Saturday. That is all she said. I was almost shaking in my shoes trying to figure out why she wanted to see my father. I told my father and was a nervous wreck waiting for Saturday morning. When the time arrived my father took me to see her, and she looked at him and said “Luther, this boy needs to go to college.” Nothing had been said about college in my family, and I was shocked. Well, I did go to the University of Georgia that fall.

The Saturday before Easter, 1965, I was sitting in a small room on the lower level of the First Methodist Church in Newnan, Georgia, waiting to go up to the sanctuary. You talk about being nervous, I was. My bride-to-be was somewhere getting ready to walk down the aisle, and we were to start our new life together. My cousin, who was to be best man, was sick and his brother was standing in for him. He was not much help. I will not forget that time.

A snowy night in January, 1968, I was at Emory University Hospital sitting in a room all by myself waiting for our first child to come into the world. What do you do for several hours but think of all the things that can go wrong? Finally I got up and walked out into the hall and saw our doctor come down the hall holding a bundle in his arms. He stopped and said “Do you want to see your daughter?” That is excitement.

One Saturday morning, I was at home when the telephone rang. I answered and a voice said “The Governor wants to talk to you.” I knew something was not right when the Governor called on Saturday morning. Waiting for him to come on the line was heart stopping. I had been named “Acting Director” of the Georgia Building Authority at the end of the previous Governor’s term, and the current Governor, after about two years, still had not had me confirmed as Director. The Governor came on the line and told me that he had just walked around the Governor’s Mansion grounds and they were in terrible shape. There was to be a birthday party that afternoon for a previous Governor. He wanted the grounds cleaned up. I called the Grounds Supervisor and we got a crew out there right away. We picked up the limbs and leaves from a storm the night before and planted all the flower beds that were at the end of the winter season. On the way to work Monday morning, I got a call telling me that the Governor wanted to see me in his office. I went straight there and sat in his reception room waiting for the news that I was out of a job - I just knew it. When I was finally invited into his office, he was smiling and told me the grounds were beautiful for the party. Then he told me that he had been derelict in not making me Director and he planned to at the next Authority meeting.

In 2000, I attended the Prayer and Bible Conference at Lake Junaluska and went to a workshop on Centering Prayer. This was my first time hearing the term. The speaker told of her practice and how it had impacted her life. She pointed to a friend in the back of the room and asked her to tell what changes she had seen in the speaker’s life. The friend told us that there had been a significant change in her friend’s life after she started practicing Centering Prayer. I learned that there was a group at a local Episcopal church and went to join them. So, what does this have to do with waiting? The prayer practice calls for one to sit in silence for twenty minutes, to give your intent and your consent for God to work within, to wait as thoughts come and go without becoming involved. It is a practice of letting go and letting God that will carry over into your daily life. And then you wait for the changes that will come by letting God become part of your life.

So Advent is a period of waiting. Waiting for what? It depends on whether one is Mary, Joseph, the babe in the womb (Elizabeth’s), an angel, a shepherd, a Magi, a king, or one waiting to be part of the mystery.

 

Luther Lewis

Stories of Waiting: Waiting to Be Prepared

I have heard this saying countless times: “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” I hear it most when churches are looking for volunteers and want to battle against the "I don’t feel capable/suitable/prepared do to that” excuse. And I have to say I don’t disagree. If God calls you to do something, get going. But what if the thing you are called to do takes a lot of preparation?     

My husband, Joel, and I feel called to serve God abroad. While we were in college, we had the opportunity to travel to Ghana for two months with 13 friends and get a feel for what that would be like. We have wanted to get back ever since. We have friends who since finishing college live all over the world serving God in various ways. And while they didn’t just pack up and go, they got prepared a lot quicker than us. I have to admit that we feel a sense of jealousy as we get their post cards and read their blogs highlighting the things they are doing. We are so proud of their work, but have that itch of wishing we were there, too.

But Joel and I are waiting, waiting because the service that God has called us to takes a lot of preparation. Joel is preparing to be a Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician; that takes 10 years! 10 years of waiting to be prepared! I am working on my PhD in bioengineering with an emphasis in prosthetics so I can teach others how to best use these restorative devices. As anyone who has chased getting to add those fancy letters after their name can tell you, it takes a long time, too.

It is easy to feel unfulfilled during the waiting, to feel a sense of inaction when the days and weeks don’t feel like they are getting you closer to your ultimate goal. It is easy to focus on the end of the tunnel and all the waiting left to get there and forget to appreciate the preparation. But the waiting serves a purpose. We need to be prepared.

I think Advent serves as a great reminder to appreciate and even enjoy the preparation. I love preparing for Christmas, getting out the tree, buying presents, placing the Christmas cards on the fridge. We are waiting for this big day to celebrate and rejoice but everything we do to prepare can make that day a little better, a little brighter, and a little more joyous.  

But Advent isn’t just a time to prepare our homes for friends and family but to also prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord. Christmas Day can be a whirlwind of family and food; it can come and go without recognizing the birth of Christ. If we don’t use the time of waiting Advent brings to prepare our hearts, it is hard to expect to be ready to remember Him come Christmas Day. The waiting gives us time to prepare and the preparation makes the end result better.

I try to remember that as we continue to wait to be prepared. Every day that we study and learn something new is one more problem we will be better able to solve when the time comes. The only way for us to serve God well in our calling is to be prepared, so we should find the joy in the waiting, knowing that someone’s life will be all the more blessed because we made sure to be prepared.

We have all had a time of waiting to be prepared...to finish school, to learn a skill, to prepare our hearts. Let's not get dragged down in the waiting but find joy in the preparation. God has called us all to prepare and we and those we serve will be all the more blessed because of it.

Charla Howard

Joel and Charla celebrating a big milestone in their time of waiting to be prepared.

Joel and Charla celebrating a big milestone in their time of waiting to be prepared.

Stories of Waiting: Waiting for Inspiration

Coffee cup.jpg

I’m a writer and I do quite well with topics I can research, explorations that require interviews, reading and studying. Topics that require introspection wig me out. That’s something I can do for myself but hell no, not for an audience. And so I sit here and wait to be inspired with a waiting story I can share.

So stage fright is one hurdle. Another is the fact that I seriously doubt I have anything helpful to say about Advent, nothing worthy of the Glenn blog. Until I started working on this, I only knew Advent as a religious abstraction, something to do with the days before Christmas. I can offer only naive and immature observations to this audience of theologians and life-long church-goers. My experience of the days before Christmas is always just wanting things to slow down. Waiting for Christmas is a new concept for me – it implies an abundance of time between the present and the impending event. The simile “slow as Christmas” is a quaint notion from childhood. Christmas seems to come more quickly every year. I do appreciate the slowing down that must happen for me to shift to the notion of waiting, to consider what that means. 

So I’ve been waiting for inspiration for a week now, and the deadline cometh. One small thing about waiting: it keeps you vigilant, open and aware. The notion of “waiting”, even just use of the word by writers of the things I’ve read in the last week jumps out at me as I wait for inspiration. I notice the word in an article about neuroscience and the default network, a region of the brain that lights up on the MRI as research subjects wait for the experiment to begin. It activates when people are daydreaming, woolgathering, recollecting and imaging the future and is a critical element in our ability to put together old ideas in new ways and find creative solutions.

C.S. Lewis remarks in Mere Christianity about the importance of waiting and not camping in the central hall of Christianity, his metaphor for the place one waits between the time he or she has come to Christian faith and when this person finds the church that’s right for them:

“It is in the rooms [or denominations], not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think preferable. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into the room you will find that the long wait has done some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping.”

Waiting…my own waiting? I do remember a horrendous thirty minutes spent waiting in the fetal position on the floor of the Piedmont Hospital ER as a jagged kidney stone clawed at my insides. And there was the time I waited – a long time – years and years without knowing what I was waiting for, without any faith that there was something in my future worth waiting for.

Finding a mate and having a child has put much of that lost feeling to rest. That waiting probably prepared me to appreciate what I have now, quiet and common as it is, to be a wife and mother.  

As I drifted off to sleep last night, I clearly heard an old man’s voice, “Why do you make me wait?” It’s the line cried out by Loretta’s grandfather in the movie Moonstruck as he waits for the small pack of domesticated dogs he walks every night to howl at the full moon. The movie takes place in the weeks before Christmas.

So the inspiration, or at least what I thought it would look like - or wanted it to look like - has yet to come, but Advent means more to me now – and we still have weeks until Christmas!

I’ll keep waiting.

 

Irene Hatchett

Stories of Waiting: No Room in the Inn

No Room in the Inn.jpg

Our second week of "Stories of Waiting" brings us another poem, written by congregant Jan Lichtenwalter.

 

Unsung Carol

No room in the inn in Bethlehem:
No room in the houses of all of them,
for a worn, weary woman, bearing her child.

The man standing close, bearing pain of her sorrow,
longing for warmth of the dawn of the morrow.

Will there be room? Our cares set apart,
Will we make room each in our own heart?

Mary, you're sobbing your fearful tears,
for your son, manger laid, pain of his coming years.

Joseph, you tremble a father's despairing,
a world full of troubled people uncaring.

Have we prepared a worthy dwelling?
Have we made room, our own hearts swelling?

No room in the inn in Bethlehem:
No room in the houses of all of them,
for a worn, weary woman, bearing her child.

Will we like the others, that long ago day,
Witness the mother and turn her away?

 

This Advent, may we all ponder the poem's gentle question: how long will you wait to create room for this family to dwell in your own heart, and others like them today?

Advent Series: Stories of Waiting

As Christians, the liturgical season leading up to Christmas is defined by anticipation. We eagerly await the arrival of Jesus, our savior's birth into the world once again. We wait for his divine presence to meet our humanness. God incarnate. Emmanuel. God with us.

This Advent, we will share stories written by congregants on what it means to wait. Both in the season of Advent, and in normal, sometimes mundane, everyday life.

Waiting looks different for everyone. Some busy themselves with preparation; some welcome a moment of stillness; some become filled with anxiety, others excitement. We can also wait for many things – a birth, a job, a relationship, a sense of purpose, a fresh start, an answer from God, the end of a hard season. And the truth is, that something we wait for may come and it may not. Or, even, a combination of the two. We see this on Christmas Day: Christ has come, but we continue to wait for the full, final expression of God's Kingdom on earth.

To begin the series, we first offer a poem that illuminates the many faces of waiting, rooting it in our everyday experiences. And reminds us that waiting can be a time of blessing if we embrace it.

 

Blessing for Waiting
by Jan Richardson

Who wait
for the night
to end

bless them.

Who wait
for the night
to begin

bless them.

Who wait
in the hospital room
who wait
in the cell
who wait
in prayer

bless them.

Who wait
for news
who wait
for the phone call
who wait
for a word

who wait
for a job
a house
a child

bless them.

Who wait
for one who
will come home

who wait
for one who
will not come home

bless them.

Who wait with fear
who wait with joy
who wait with peace
who wait with rage

who wait for the end
who wait for the beginning
who wait alone
who wait together

bless them.

Who wait
without knowing
what they wait for
or why

bless them.

Who wait
when they
should not wait
who wait
when they should be
in motion
who wait
when they need
to rise
who wait
when they need
to set out

bless them.

Who wait
for the end
of waiting
who wait
for the fullness
of time
who wait
emptied and
open and
ready

who wait
for you

o bless.

 

Love God and Love Neighbor

To my beloved community of faith, Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church,

When I arrived at Glenn in June of 2013, I found a community of faith dedicated to following the Great Commandment as taught by Jesus: to love God and love neighbor. This commitment was not just a slogan; it was not just a tag line to the church logo. I found in the people of this church a genuine desire to follow Jesus whom Scripture reveals shared the love of God with lepers, women, children, the lame, the poor, the rich, the empty, the full, the despised, the outcast, the Pharisee, the Samaritan, sinners, the righteous . . . the whole world.

This commitment to love God and neighbor has been evident in both word and deed. I have witnessed this church craft a statement and take an intentional stand for inclusivity of all who want to worship God; I have witnessed deep commitment to the care and protection of children in a world that seeks to ignore, exploit and abuse them; I have seen members stand up and stand in the rain to express deep belief in the sixth commandment; I have witnessed members wrapping their hearts and their arms around those grieving deep loss. This list of evidence could go on and on of the ways this community of faith has expressed its love of God and neighbor in a world that desperately needs to know and receive that love.

Regardless of how anyone voted yesterday, we woke up this morning in a world that still desperately needs to know and receive the love of God. There are those who will continue to be pushed to the margins; there are those who will continue to be singled out for their difference; there are those who will continue to face deep discrimination because of their skin color, their disability, their sexual orientation; there are those who will continue to need food, clothing, water, medical care; there are those who will still need words of hope and encouragement; there are those who will still need to know that they are not alone in this world; there are those who will still need the witness of God’s love.

I know that we will continue to be a community of faith loving God and loving neighbor. We need the church and the church needs us to do what we have been called to do—intentionally follow Jesus whom Scripture reveals shared the love of God with lepers, women, children, the lame, the poor, the rich, the empty, the full, the despised, the outcast, the Pharisee, the Samaritan, sinners, the righteous . . . the whole world.

Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to God in heaven.” Matthew 5: 14-16

How grateful I am to know that today and tomorrow and the day after, I serve with a community of faith who has such deep commitments.

Peace and grace,  

Alice

A Conversion and an Unexpected Vocation

If there is such a thing as a theology of surprise, the life of Sara Miles is a perfect illustration.

In her book "Take this Bread," Miles writes of her conversion to Christianity. It is not a slow awakening, or a gradual giving in. Her conversion sneaks up on her. She simply wanders into a beautiful building on a reporter's curiosity, takes part in what is happening inside, namely communion, and is transformed. She writes that "Jesus happened to me."

In preparation for her visit to Glenn on November 3, take a moment to read this short excerpt from her book. It details her conversion moment and sets the stage for what she feels compelled to do vocationally after having this experience...much of which she will speak about during her time with us.

      The rotunda was flooded with slanted morning light. A table in the center of the open, empty space was ringed high above by a huge neo-Byzantine mural of unlikely saint figures with gold halos, dancing; outside, in the back, water trickled from a huge slab of rock set against the hillside. Past the rotunda, and a forest of standing silver crosses, there was a spare, spacious area with chairs instead of pews, where about twenty people were sitting.
      I walked in, took a chair, and tried not to catch anyone’s eye. There were windows looking out on a hillside covered in geraniums, and I could hear birds squabbling outside. Then a man and a woman in long tie-dye robes stood and began chanting in harmony. There was no organ, no choir, no pulpit; just the unadorned voices of the people, and long silences framed by the ringing of deep Tibetan bowls. I sang, too. It crossed my mind that this was ridiculous.
      We sat down and stood up, sang and sat down, waited and listened and stood up and sang, and it was all pretty peaceful and sort of interesting. “Jesus invites everyone to his table,” the woman announced, and we started moving up in a stately dance to the table in the rotunda. It had some dishes on it, and a pottery goblet.

      And then we gathered around that table. And there was more singing and standing, and someone was putting a piece of fresh, crumbly bread in my hands, saying “the body of Christ,” and handing me the goblet of sweet wine, saying “the blood of Christ,” and then something outrageous and terrifying happened. Jesus happened to me.
      I still can’t explain my first communion. It made no sense. I was in tears and physically unbalanced: I felt as if I had just stepped off a curb or been knocked over, painlessly, from behind. The disconnect between what I thought was happening – I was eating a piece of bread; what I heard someone else say was happening – the piece of bread was the “body” of “Christ,” a patently untrue or at best metaphorical statement; and what I knew was happening – God, named “Christ” or “Jesus,” was real, and in my mouth – utterly short-circuited my ability to do anything but cry.
      All the way home, shocked, I scrambled for explanations. Maybe I was hypersuggestible, and being surrounded by believers had been enough to push me, momentarily, into accepting their superstitions: What I’d felt was a sort of contact high. Possibly my tears were just pent-up sadness, accumulated over a long, hard decade, and spilling out, unsurprisingly, because I was in a place where I could cry anonymously. Really, the whole thing, in fact, must have been about emotion: the music, the movement, and the light in the room had evoked feelings, much as if I’d been uplifted by a particularly glorious concert or seen a natural wonder.
      Yet that impossible word, Jesus, lodged in me like a crumb. I said it over and over to myself, as if repetition would help me understand. I had no idea what it meant; I didn’t know what to do with it. But it was realer than any thought of mine, or even any subjective emotion: It was real as the acute taste of the bread and the wine. And the word was indisputably in my body now, as if I’d swallowed a radioactive pellet that would outlive my own flesh.
      I couldn’t reconcile the experience with anything I knew or had been told. But neither could I go away; for some inexplicable reason, I wanted that bread again. I wanted it all the next day after my first communion, and the next week, and the next. It was a sensation as urgent as physical hunger, pulling me back to the table at St. Gregory’s through my fear and confusion.

A Pumpkin is More than a Pumpkin

Glenn Youth helping to unload the pumpkins and beautify the patch.

Glenn Youth helping to unload the pumpkins and beautify the patch.

The tradition of the Glenn Pumpkin Patch brings so much more than the seasonally festive orange vegetables to the front yard of the Youth & Activities Building (and hopefully to your home!). The thousands of dollars worth of proceeds support youth mission trips - locally and abroad - where our teenagers engage in service and learning together. These youth ministry traditions help our teens experience life outside our little corner of the world - where differences in culture, socioeconomic status, and more help Glenn youth grow in their relationships with one another, in their faith development, and in their Christian understanding of God's creation and care for all peoples. But that's all AFTER the last pumpkin is sold, the sticker-covered-money-box is emptied, and the tent and lights come down in November. 

In the meantime, we have pumpkins to sell! We have visitors to the pumpkin patch to meet and share about the Glenn community - our wonderful church, the amazing Glenn School for Young Children, our fabulous Glenn After School Program, and all of the missions and ministries that make us the Glenn family. Folks who pull into the YAAB beckoned by the sea of orange, thinking they will be leaving only with a gourd or two, but instead leave with a story about what Glenn means to the volunteer taking their cash/check/card. 

Cynthia Shepherd with baby Bess in 2015 & 2016.

Cynthia Shepherd with baby Bess in 2015 & 2016.

There are photo sessions to be had - where individuals, couples, and families return year after year -  noting how the size of children grows in comparison from the smallest pumpkins to the largest. Parents sign up for a shift with their child along to help - from toddlers learning to pull up on the pumpkin stems to stand for the first time to high schoolers sitting under the tent working on calculus homework on the cash box calculator! Parent/child quality time together in the pumpkin patch where we are able to enjoy beautiful Fall weather in the "great outdoors" (even on the side of North Decatur Road!). First-time and longtime volunteers who return year after year each meet customers from the community and the church family whom they would have never otherwise met. Mysteriously, community life happens in the pumpkin patch so much more than on Facebook or e-mail!

Every hour volunteered in the patch...every dollar spent...a pumpkin is more than a pumpkin. One might just say that as we explore our Wesleyan/Methodist heritage of prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace during this stewardship season here at Glenn Church, perhaps a pumpkin is itself a gift of grace.

Susan & Blair

Come on over and buy your pumpkins, cornstalks & gourds!
Mon-Fri: 12-2pm and 4-8pm
Saturday: 10am-8pm
Sunday: 12-8pm

Sign up for a shift in the patch here.
 

In "The Gathering" Relaunch, a Chance to Refocus

What do we want it to be? 

This was the question we posed to one another at the very first meeting of The Gathering’s core leadership team. We had been tasked with re-launching Glenn’s Sunday afternoon alternative worship service and now we needed to figure out what it would become. What were the core values that would drive the vision and mission of this particular worship experience? As we talked and dreamed together, a few things kept coming up that would drive our planning: The Gathering would be a worship service that would focus on excellence with authenticity, relevance with timelessness, and community with vulnerability.

Rev. Brent Huckaby leading a planning session on hospitality. Photo credit: Kara Johnson.

Rev. Brent Huckaby leading a planning session on hospitality. Photo credit: Kara Johnson.

If our worship is an offering to God, to each other, and to the larger community, then it needs to be done with excellence. The band should practice and be prepared, the worship space should be warm and inviting (if you haven’t seen what our environment team has done with the Fellowship Hall, make sure to come check it out!), and the hospitality team should work to make sure everyone feels welcomed when they arrive, loved while they are here, and cared for after they leave. We also began working on upgrades to the sound system that would make the service sound as good as possible.

But we want to be careful. In seeking for excellence we are not seeking to be “slick” and certainly not “perfect.” That’s why we desire to be authentic. The Gathering should represent Glenn and the people who worship together. So our band will rehearse but be made up of volunteers who give of their time and talents to serve. Those who are a part of our community will write the liturgy and prayers in-house. We’ll try things that seem really right but go very wrong, and then we’ll laugh about it and try something else the next time. We’ll always offer our best, and that might not be “the best,” but it will be real and it will be fun and it will be us. 

Worship should also be relevant to a person’s life. It should speak to them, through all aspects of the service, in a way that is understandable and relate-able. The message at each service should be “good news” for each person exactly where they are and apply to their daily lives. But sometimes a focus on relevance can lose sight of the fact that we are not the first people to worship together. The Gathering will stay connected to the traditions of those who have gone before. The liturgy will be tied to the church universal and presented in ways that are not threatening or confusing. The music will be progressive, eclectic, and modern while also representing the hymns and songs of our tradition (view the video clip below for a worship preview). The timeless message of Christ is one of radical grace, love, and acceptance that speaks to everyone. We’ll seek to bring that timeless message in the most understandable way.

We also believe that church should be a place of true community. We want people to come to church not just because the music is great or the preaching speaks to them, but because church is where their people are, where their life is. The church community should feel like family…like home. Your church family should be a place where you are cared for, and they should be the first people you call when you experience tragedy as well as when you have cause to celebrate. Walking into worship should feel like walking into the house of a close friend, comfortable and safe. And community happens only in spaces where we’re willing to work towards being open and honest about who we are and where we’ve come from. Where we’re willing to talk about our struggles, pains, joys, and concerns.

The Gathering will not be a perfect community. And that’s for the best. It’s only when we realize that we’re not perfect, that we are, in fact, powerless over most things in our lives and we’re all in the same boat, that we fully understand Paul’s statement that “it is when I am weak that I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9). And that’s why we’ll come to the communion table each week. Because we all know that what we really need is to be loved, to fall into the arms of a God who is only beauty, mercy, and total embrace. We’ll come exactly as we are, knowing that God will meet us, no matter where we are on the journey. When we are vulnerable and open and honest about life, then we let go of all pretenses and are truly in community together. 

Rev. Dave Speno and Charla Howard serving communion. Photo credit: Kara Johnson

Rev. Dave Speno and Charla Howard serving communion. Photo credit: Kara Johnson

This Sunday, October 16, at 5:00 p.m., we’ll gather in the Ward Fellowship Hall to worship together. We’ll begin this journey and see what happens. We’ll have a lot of fun as we seek to find what kind of community The Gathering will become. I hope you’ll join us and become a part of what God is doing through The Gathering. All are welcome.

The Gathering will worship monthly for the rest of 2016 (October 16, November 6, December 11) at 5:00 p.m. in the Ward Fellowship Hall. Weekly worship will begin in January 2017.

 

Brent

From the Archives: More from 1955 & 1956

We are diving into the archives again. And are once more reminded how cyclical time is. Even the first article about Glenn Youth growing and needing more space will resonate in 2016 - our Youth and Activities Building will soon see construction and renovation!

Enjoy these snippets from copies of The Spire, Glenn's original newsletter.
 

"Seniors Expanding Work, Need More Facilities"
The Senior Department of the Youth Division composed of three classes and having an enrollment of 103 members is currently engaged in a campaign to bring more young people into active participation in the group. A Sunday in January is the date set for a department-wide visitation program which will have as its objective the renewed attendance of members and former members whose recent attendance has been somewhat irregular. In Christian faith the senior department has been very active. It has sent representatives to the National Conference, organized and conducted prayer cells, been on retreats, and attended rallies. Nor has Fellowship been neglected. The members of the department have engaged in camping, swimming parties, wiener roasts, and frequent "chat and snack" sessions following the Sunday evening service. At Sunday School the Junior class, taught by Mr. James Mackay and Mr. Ed Vinson, is now embarked on a series of panel discussions on such topics as "Following the Crowd", "Drinking", "Language", "Cheating", and "Gossip".

 

"Young Couples Showing Interest in New Christian Homes Class"
Convincing proof that the continued growth of Glenn's Church School is limited only by available building accommodations is offered by the newly-established
"Christian Homes" class of young couples. Organized about three months ago to provide a great opportunity of Christian fellowship and study for parents of young children, the new class has become so popular that it has almost outgrown Room 141. Sparked by enthusiastic leadership of Roscoe Harris, Don Wynne and Betty Asbury, the group listed twenty-four members at a recent count. Class meetings have been marked by lively discussions which quickly reduce abstract issues to practical family problems and thoughtful analyses. A sincere invitation is extended to all couples who are young of mind to help the new class produce significant contribution to Glenn's program of vital Christian family life.

 

"Financial Pledge to Your Glenn Investment of Great Proportions"
 Your Pledge to support the financial program of your Glenn Memorial Methodist Church for the fiscal year 1956-1957 is an investment of great proportions. It will pay dividends, now and in the future, in the Advancement of the Kingdom locally, nationally, and across the seas. It is the belief of your Commission on Finance that the new budget of $114,500 will be subscribed by the membership because a good Christian does all that he can for others. Glenn is known as a Church that does for others. What you give is a matter for you, and you alone, to decide. The Methodist Church has set a general goal of a tenth of one's income for the Advancement of God's Kingdom on earth. Give this matter your earnest, prayerful consideration in advance of Loyalty Sunday and on Victory Sunday, you will glow with an inner satisfaction that knows no bounds.

 

"A Salute to a Valiant Member - Mrs. Benjamin H. Smith"
During a recent conference at Lake Junaluska, a member of Glenn Memorial was speaking to Mrs. Smith. "You mean Glenn Memorial to me," she said quietly and sincerely. And to many people Mrs. Smith does represent all that is best and most Christian at Glenn. Mrs. Smith became a member in 1935 and has been an active one in the finest since of the word ever since. The Woman's Society of Christian Service owes much of its strength and its high standing in the conference to her leadership, first as its president and later as treasurer and now as secretary of Literature and Publications. Pearl, as her friends call her, has the rare gift of presenting every opportunity of service as a special privilege. When she asks someone to do a service for the Church, she is not asking a personal favor but offering an opportunity on a much higher level. In this ability to make an individual who declines some task in the church feel that she is disappointing not Mrs. Smith personally but herself and the Christian church lies much of her strength.

 

Once again, our deepest gratitude to the late Bob Gerwig for gifting us his copies of The Spire, ensuring that Glenn remembers and continues to tell its story.

The Communications Team

Friendship and Worship, Side by Side at the Organ

Glenn member Dr. Timothy Albrecht is professor of church music at Candler, professor of music and organist at Emory, and a close friend of Kenny Gilbert’s, an 11-year-old who regularly attends Glenn. You can see the two of them sitting at the organ in the Sanctuary most Sundays.

I emailed Dr. Albrecht (and Kenny’s father, Ken, and grandmother, Carolyn) to set up an interview with him and Kenny. I wanted to find out the story behind their partnership at the organ, write it up, and share it as a blog post. Dr. Albrecht’s decline of my request (below) includes a perfect example of the faith stories Glenn’s blog was launched to share. Thank you, Dr. Albrecht, for sending your regrets in the form of this thoughtful and insightful piece. (The following has been posted with  permission.) 

Dear Irene,

Thank you for your kind request for an interview together this Sunday after church. I don’t believe we know each other, but I am very touched by your invitation and hope you will come up and introduce yourself some Sunday.

I would like to share with you, however, my own red flag about the idea of your including the results of such an interview in a Glenn blog. (Also, very far behind on so many things, I am hearing about our congregational blog now for the first time). Although such interviews could possibly be intriguing, there is another side of me that shies away from doing this, as I want to continue to respect the beautiful mystery of what transpires each and every week that Kenny is at my side at the organ for the 11 AM Glenn church service.

Kenny Gilbert is one of the brightest boys I have ever met… Although I don’t know all that much about some of his background, there are aspects I do know that make my heart go out to him.  I am so very grateful to his totally dedicated grandmother, Carolyn Gilbert and to his equally totally loving dad, Ken (often a Glenn usher) for allowing Kenny to be with me during church.

Each time Kenny is present (he is now 11 and I believe this has been occurring for over three years already!), there is an unfolding of special and inspiring worship interaction we have together up at the Glenn Casavant organ console. Unspoken and indicated mostly by nonverbal cues, the interaction is so much more than Kenny involved in all the musical things that occur. These include turning pages for the organ music and accompaniments I play, giving pitches for a capella choir anthems, preparing organ registrations for upcoming hymns and vocal solos, adding the Cymbelstern bells or organ stops at certain times that verbalize in congregational hymn singing to the Trinity/Jesus as Lord/Gloria in excelsis Deo, or even actually playing trills or other things with me during the hymns according to my “on the spot” (i.e., no preparation ever!) tutelage at the organ.

More importantly, I am attempting through this and other things to help Kenny grow in what it means to actively worship the Lord during church services, rather than simply “doing a gig” as an organist having a “church job.”

For example, early in the service, during scripture reading, we follow together, each with one hand on the same Bible. Even this is an attempt to help Kenny (and me) grow in what it means to actively worship the Lord during church. Kenny always respectfully stands next to me during the reading of the Gospel, rather than our using that occasion to simply “get the next piece of music ready.” When I go up with the Communion servers to receive the Eucharist, Kenny always goes with me.

These are just a few examples of my attempt to model what it means to really worship, rather than simply perform before an audience (Incidentally, the latter he did, too, at the final Scary Ride concert almost two years ago, where he appeared to the delight of the Schwartz audience as Count Dracula’s “Mini-Me.”)

Kenny and Timothy pictured with Glenn member Barbara McClure at Scary Ride.

Kenny and Timothy pictured with Glenn member Barbara McClure at Scary Ride.

Such instruction in worship decorum also includes my own grousing under my breath to Kenny during many of the opening organ voluntaries of how loud some Glenn parishioners are during my own initial opening voluntary playing, something I consider my own music prayer (“praying through the pipes.”). This opening prayer is offered amidst a din of what others entering the sanctuary perhaps simply consider (mistakenly, in my view) as “Christian fellowship” time.

Thus, a Glenn blog on this topic, while perhaps a potentially good idea, would not have a good result, if it were ultimately emphasizing the human rather than being something Christ-directed. I simply do not want to shine a much too bright spotlight on some of the magical aspects that take place spontaneously and effortlessly between Kenny and me in our being side by side during our 11 AM worship hour.

Thank you for allowing me to express my thoughts on why I would “rather not.” I have not discussed any of this with Kenny. (Actually, our Sunday morning church-hour communication consists of very, very few words together. In fact, when he sees me at Holy Grounds coffee hour before church or anywhere else during the week, one might think he does not even know me!). Therefore, it is my suspicion that were you to set up an interview time together with Kenny Gilbert, you might not find him extremely loquacious!

Blessings from Timothy

 

P.S. A final vignette, showing how close I feel to Kenny, occurred now almost three years ago on that Advent 2013 Sunday morning when I (finally!) joined the Glenn congregation. As I moved from the organ bench to Alice awaiting me at the front altar rail, I simply told Kenny to come with me (and he did, silently, like a little shadow). I wouldn’t have had it any other way, although the thought of my inviting this little wisp of an 8-year-old to stand beside me as I became a Glenn member had not occurred to me until the instant I began moving from my perch as seated at the organ bench. Surely there was something present here of those blessed words of Jesus in one of my favorite Bible passages, “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them.”