When Pain and Promise Meet

Today is Ash Wednesday, and it’s also Valentine’s day. It’s an interesting combo – penance and death amid the candy hearts and roses. I also happen to be reading My Bright Abyss right now, a memoir by Christian Wiman, a poet and divinity school professor, who, judging by his poetry and prose, is consistently aware of the strange combinations and paradoxes Christianity and life continually present us.

My Bright Abyss.jpg

The memoir grew out of an essay he wrote, “God 101: Love Bade Me Welcome,” in which Wiman tells about a period in his life in which experiences of love and despair over a few short years catalyzed his faith. He says that, “losing the ability to write, falling in love, receiving a diagnosis of incurable cancer, having my heart ripped apart by what, slowly and in spite of all my modern secular instincts, I learned to call God.”

Those secular instincts only came to him in adulthood, while his childhood was decidedly unsecular. He spent it in a West Texas town that he describes as “a flat little sandblasted” place, featuring “pump jacks and pickup trucks, . . . a dying strip, a lively dump, and above it all a huge blue and boundless void.” The town so immersed him in Christianity that he never met a non-believer until he moved to Virginia to attend Washington & Lee University.

Wiman’s book is partly a meditation on death, his experience of coming up against the real thing, the oblivion that can’t be truly felt or comprehended until one is in its grasp. His diagnosis didn’t spark a connection with the vividness of life, didn’t make life more joyful or immediate. Instead he says he had the sense of being removed from life, being further separated from the world as if his fate enveloped him in a bubble.

And yet, grappling with a premature proximity to his end, he opened onto a new experience of life. Considering the anxiety of modern existence, he asks, "“How does one remember God, reach for God, realize God in the midst of one’s life if one is constantly being overwhelmed by that life?” Thinking about those questions reminds me of a blissful few days I once spent when some strange coincidence of small epiphanies thrust me into similar questions. The only responses I could begin to formulate all became paradoxical but there was a truth in them and they fascinated me the same way quantum physics does. I felt the same ineptitude and wonder as I pondered those paradoxes that do when I attempt to understand some lay person’s article about string theory and the behavior of particles."

Wiman considers another angle on the question(s): 

"The last words of Gerard Manley Hopkins, a poet and priest who died of typhoid at the age of forty-five, are striking: 'I am so happy. I am so happy. I loved my life.' How desperately we, the living, want to believe in this possibility: that death could be filled with promise, that the pain of leaving and separation could be, if not a foretaste of joy, then at least not meaningless…To die well, even for the religious, is to accept not only our own terror and sadness but the terrible holes we leave in the lives of others; at the same time, to die well, even for the atheist, is to believe that there is some way of dying into life rather than simply away for it, some form of survival that love makes possible. I don’t mean by survival merely persisting in the memory of others. I mean something deeper and more durable. If quantum entanglement is true, if related particles react in similar or opposite ways even when separated by tremendous distances, then it is obvious that the whole world is alive and communicating in ways we do not fully understand. And we are part of that life, part of that communication—even as, maybe even especially as, our atoms begin the long dispersal we call death."

We are dust and to dust we will return.

My neighbor died in the wee hours of the day before Christmas Eve. Sweet guy, father of three, in his 40s, left behind a wife who called him her best friend and favorite person, and parents so devoted to him that they left their home in Florida to come take care of the kids while he and his wife battled the cancer. Neighbors kept the family’s house fed with hot meals for five months. Friends and family flew in from all corners of the country to support them. The couple’s co-workers delivered groceries and arranged yard care. Glenn brought him a prayer shawl. We all prayed he could recover and raise his children.

It’s pat to say God was in all the love and support that surrounded him, and because it’s pat doesn’t makes it any less true. Even so I’m sure his children would gladly return all that love and support with interest to get their father back. And not just today, but for the rest of their lives. I began to feel like his children were sacrificial lambs, their childhood slaughtered Christmas 2017 so that God might show his love.

I can’t say that my spiritual temper tantrum has entirely abated. My intellect is all on board with chalking it up to the chasm between God’s perspective and ours, but the rest of me inwardly shivers at the chill in that distance.

Calling Christ “a shard of glass in your gut,” Wiman offers an odd salve: "Christ is God crying, ‘I am here,’ and here not only in what exalts and completes and uplifts you, but here in what appalls, offends and degrades you, here in what activates and exacerbates all that you would call not-God. To walk through the fog of God toward the clarity of Christ is difficult because of how unlovely, how ‘ungodly’ that clarity often turns out to be."

Being clear about all this is a life-long travail. Paraphrasing Simone Weil, Wiman observes that “devotion to God involves learning to inhabit—rather than simply trumping with dogma or literal scripture—those elements of our existence that seem inimical to his: limitedness, contingency, suffering, death.”

One review says the book unsettles more than it soothes, but something in his focus on death, the experience of reading his observations opens up in me a strange form of joy. I don’t quite understand my reaction but probably reading the account of a person who’s spent years pondering God, I feel like I’m getting to know God better. And maybe that’s one thing Ash Wednesday does for us – provides a gentle nudge toward the concept of death, which for all its obvious negative associations is still part of our life in God, something we’ll never understand but nevertheless need to remember and live with.

Irene Hatchett 

The Right Environment for Lent

As a Baptist child, I was baffled when my schoolmates pestered me with questions about what I was “giving up for Lent.” What was Lent and why would people give up something for it? Many years and lessons later, Lent in the United Methodist Church prompts me to consider my relationship to other people, to the physical world, and especially to God. What might I do to strengthen relationships? Environmental practices simultaneously shape relationships with others, with the world, and with God, and Lent is a good time to start improving.

The global United Methodist Church’s Social Principle on "The Natural World" says that United Methodists believe in the “responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.” Wow. What can my 2-person household do toward that enormous mission? The Social Principle, read together with the book and website Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, gives us a roadmap.   

United Methodists should consider what they eat. Apparently this means a lot more than preparing fabulous recipes for covered dish gatherings on the lawn! Drawdown’s concrete solutions to global warming harmonize with the broader United Methodist Social Principles. For instance, Drawdown says, “If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases,” so we can reverse global warming significantly by eating less beef. Wow, again! Here are some more Lenten possibilities:

-  Compost food waste.
-  Choose foods that are labeled “non-GMO”.
-  Shop at local farmer’s markets or join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

My husband, Wade, built and planted a raised herb bed outside our kitchen window. Memories of picking vegetables with the family on my grandfather’s farm warm me, along with the morning sun on our herbs, when I harvest seasonings for the next vegetarian recipe I’m attempting. Thank God for the beauty of living and growing things that delight our senses and warm our insides as they nourish us just as God intended.

The Social Principle says that United Methodists believe in saving energy, encouraging development of renewable energies, and working on an individual level to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. Drawdown agrees. During Lent, we could begin to:

-  Plant a vegetable or herb garden.
-  Replace all lightbulbs with LED lightbulbs.
-  Use mass transit (MARTA rail, buses, streetcars), telework, carpool. Walk instead of driving, when we can.

Recently, I noticed that a local Kroger store is adding new shelving - and lighting on every shelf! Is this really necessary? On my inquiry, the manager said that the extra lighting will not be on every aisle, and the new lighting is in fact LED lighting. Whew, at least it’s LED! The customer service staff wrote down my suggestion that the store put up signage to inform customers that they are being green and using LED lighting. We are in community and helping everyone when we talk the talk AND walk the walk!

The Social Principle says that United Methodists believe in conserving and protecting our water, and not selling it for profit. Drawdown has suggestions here, too:

-  Reduce use of water (fewer/shorter showers, re-use water, etc.)
-  Use a fillable and reusable bottle for water, and look for bottle-filler fountains, rather than purchasing single-use bottles of water. 
-  Because production of paper uses large amounts of water, use recycled paper whenever possible (stationery, greeting cards, unbleached paper towels, etc.).

Recycling everything that we can is rewarding. We recently recycled a mattress. We learned that the Atlanta Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (Atlanta CHaRM) sends old mattresses to a partner that breaks them down and re-uses old parts, adding new textiles for sanitary concerns, and issues them for re-use by people of lesser means than ours, such as through the Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta. Now we can say a prayer for a restful night of sleep for someone using our reconstituted mattress, instead of envisioning it adding to an ever-growing landfill.

Enviro blog.jpg
Enviro blog 2.jpg

How exciting, we can do this! We can be grateful that there are so many things we can give up or change for active daily devotion to our relationships with others, with the world, and with God. Getting closer to the natural world means getting closer to God, and also strengthens just and fair use of natural resources. This year, making a positive impact on our environment will infuse my Lenten acts and omissions with special meaning, purpose, and gratitude for our world. Thanks be to God. 

Betty Bentley Watson
for the Glenn Environmental Committee (GEC)

For more information on GEC, see our webpage or contact Chairperson Lynn Speno.  

 

Where Else?

Where else do teenage boys willfully get up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning to make dozens and dozens of pancakes to share?

FR 4.jpg

Where else does a competitive game of Bible Pictionary evolve into laughter and playful arguments as the kids’ team outscores the adult team?

FR 5.jpg

Where else can you sit on the porch in a rocking chair with a beautiful view of a mountain lake while the delightful squeals of children playing on the playground across the street fill the air?

FR 2.jpg

Where else can families take time to just be together – spending time in nature and without screens?

FR 7.jpg

Where else can retirees, overworked professionals, bedraggled parents of young children, sassy teenagers and sassy toddlers, all come together for a weekend of rest, fun, and connecting with God and one another?

fr 8.jpg

Like the disciples who were curious as to where Jesus was staying, the answer is the same, “Come and see!”

It feels like a big family gathering - but without the family tension. While I’m not always able to relax on the porch as long as I’d like, I get to play with my kids, go canoeing, and just enjoy the beauty of the place and each other’s company. I have so many wonderful memories of this trip growing up, and now my kids are making their own memories and treasuring the time we spend together at Junaluska.
—  Bethany Eyrich, Children’s Committee Chair

Glenn Family Retreat 
April 20-22, Lake Junaluska, NC (registration & deposit due by Feb 15)

Be a part of the Glenn Church tradition of the “Junaluska Jaunt” to the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. 

The weekend will be low-key, relaxing, and fun. We are within steps of the beautiful mountain lake, 2.5 mile walking path, a brand-new playground, tennis and shuffleboard courts, and more! Bring your bikes, balls, kites, Frisbees, musical instruments and board games. Enjoy family time, get to know other Glenn families, and explore the quaint mountain town of Waynesville, North Carolina.

Recommended donation is $100 per adult and $50 per child (max $275 per family) – includes two nights, all meals on Saturday, and breakfast on Sunday. Scholarship subsidies available – just ask. (And let us know if you have other accommodations, but want to join us for activities/meals, etc. More accommodations available at Lake Junaluska.) For more information, contact Rev. Susan Pinson

Register through our Upcoming Events page and pay online here or by check – memo: Family Retreat.

How I Found My Second Family 5,000 Miles Away

It was one of those sad days that I had as a freshman at Emory (and unfortunately I had a lot them) when all I wanted was to go back home to Greece. All I could think about that morning as I walked to my class was my mom and how I wished that I could be a kid again and let her take care of me. I was not surprised by the beautiful flowers that bloom in the spring, or by the morning breeze. I desperately looked for something to remind me of home, something to grasp upon and never let go.

And that “something” appeared, unfolding like a miracle in front of me. Two strollers filled with beautiful babies were enough to put a smile on my face. I wanted to run up to them and feel the joy of holding one. But I couldn’t find the strength or courage to go up to the two women who were pushing the strollers and ask. Instead, I watched them walk away until they disappeared.

I kept asking myself why? Why couldn’t I do something as simple as go talk to them? It went on for a week. I would see them, smile, almost say something but then hesitate and watch them walk away. The more I observed them, the more I thought about them. I drew the conclusion that they were orphans since they were all so different and could not be children of either of the women. After this realization, I went to the Emory volunteer office and asked about opportunities with infants but they had no information for me. I wondered how they couldn’t know the two women taking orphan babies on walks around campus. I almost gave up my search. However, when I am passionate about something (I have always been passionate about kids), there is a power inside me that won’t let me give up.

So, it was one of those sad days when I walked up to the two women and asked to volunteer. To my surprise they told me that the babies are not orphans. They attend the Glenn School right next to Emory’s campus. As I expressed my interest and passion to help in any way, they got me in contact with Rev. Susan. This was how my journey at Glenn began. Rev. Susan proposed that I help in the nursery every Sunday at the beginning of my sophomore year. When I found out that I could not legally work as an International student in the USA, I decided to volunteer. All I wanted was to be surrounded by babies, to give and take love so I could console my feelings of loneliness. I was looking for a family and little did I know that I was about to find one.

When I walked in to the nursery on my first Sunday at Glenn, I sat in the middle of the colorful rug and looked around at Adrielle and Natalie. I slowly started to feel more comfortable as the days went by, and even though at first I had not formed any strong bonds with anyone in the nursery, every Sunday morning I felt at peace. There was something about the room, the nursery rhymes and holding babies that made me forget that I was far away from home. It became my favorite day of the week. I have such special memories from the nursery getting to know Adrielle, Natalie, and Ana. Together we shared precious moments: playing with balls with Geoffrey, watching Geoffrey and Elizabeth graduate to the toddler room, saying goodbye to Stella who recently moved, and witnessing Bess’s first steps.

Elena K..jpg

I came to love all the babies in the nursery as if they were my siblings. One Sunday, I attended the eleven o’clock service for Bess’s baptism. I have known Bess since she was a newborn and the bond I have with her and her sisters is unbreakable. I cannot believe how many things I have learned from the babies, toddlers, and now older children, since I started coming on Wednesdays nights, too, and at the same time how many things I have taught them. It’s funny how from making up fairytales to narrate to children you end up writing your own book, which I did this summer.

It was one of those sad days that I had as a freshman that led to the best decision of my college life: to speak to the women with the strollers. Volunteering at Glenn has been an incredible journey filled with laughs, cries, dirty diapers, walking babies, choreographies to church songs, dancing, playing, reading, feeding, rocking to sleep, potty training and sharing my worries, my happiness, my successes, and my college life with the Glenn community.

Elena K. 3.jpg

This May I am graduating. I cannot imagine my weekends without the nursery and the babies. Even though I am devastated for the closure of this chapter of my life, the Glenn nursery has given me the strength to follow my dreams and passions and to allow myself to find love 5,000 miles away from home.

My friendships and all the babies gave me the strength every time that I had to leave home in Athens and return to Atlanta. I will always know that there is someone waiting for me in Atlanta: it’s Glenn, my church, my friends, my second family!
 

Elena Kefalogianni


CALL FOR STORIES!

How did you find your way to Glenn? Do you have an interesting, funny, or round-a-bout way you discovered this community of faith?

This spring, we will begin a new series titled "Finding Our Way: Stories of Discovering Glenn". And we want to know your story! Tell us how you came to call Glenn home.

Send your story to Sara Logeman.

 

Too Busy to Hate

Quickly on the heels of Christmas and New Year's, our nation celebrates another holiday: the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. Being in Atlanta, the city of his birth and the self-professed "city too busy to hate", Glenn celebrates this holiday each year with a Sunday worship service focused on justice & peace and an MLK Day service project.

This Sunday, January 14, we are honored to welcome Rev. Brian Tillman to 11:00 a.m. worship to deliver the sermon. Rev. Tillman is an Associate Pastor at Ben Hill UMC and the Chair of the Commission on Religion and Race for the North Georgia Conference. Glenn, a predominately white congregation, and Ben Hill, a predominately black congregation, have fostered a relationship in the past year that centers upon race relations in America. Small groups from both churches have gathered for honest dialogue and genuine listening, and are traveling together to Alabama this Spring on a Civil Rights Heritage Tour. Lay leader Carol Allums offers this on the background of the relationship: "These conversations with Ben Hill grew, in part, out of questioning what Glenn’s response should be to racial injustice. Our afternoons spent with members of Ben Hill confirmed that the white church has to play a role in creating a justice-filled world for all peoples. To live out our belief that we are all children of God, the church needs to participate in the work needed to undo the effect of centuries of unequal treatment and laws. These discussions with Ben Hill may be just a small step towards that end, but they are a step."

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
— MLK, Jr.

 

In recent years, MLK Day has come to be known as A Day On (rather than a day off) and folks across the nation engage in acts of service in memory and honor of King's life and legacy. King, both a pastor and activist, equated a life of faith with persistently working on behalf of the oppressed and sought to lead a life that reflected God's care for the marginalized. In that spirit, Glenn will head over to Branan Towers, a senior living facility in East Atlanta on Monday, January 15, to enjoy fellowship, crafts, and refreshments with the residents. All are welcome to join. 

Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
— MLK, Jr.
MLK sculpture.jpg

A Year to Serve? Mission Accomplished.

In January 2017, Service Team Chair Aaron Hurst wrote a blog post titled "A Year to Serve". He urged the Glenn community 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."

Well, serve we did! Over the past year, look at just a sampling of the many ways Glenn congregants of all ages helped to grow the Kingdom just a little bit more...

 

Marching for Social Justice

Members of Glenn and Emory Wesley Fellowship took to the streets in support of our refugee brothers and sisters. 

Members of Glenn and Emory Wesley Fellowship took to the streets in support of our refugee brothers and sisters. 

 

Organizing donations at the International Rescue Committee Resettlement Store

We helped to organize and manage donations in the resettlement store, a place where refugee families can shop for needed items for free.

We helped to organize and manage donations in the resettlement store, a place where refugee families can shop for needed items for free.

 

Celebrating & Supporting Africa University's 25th Anniversary

A United Methodist-related institution in Zimbabwe, Africa University offers higher education within a Pan-African context to over 1,500 students. For their Silver Anniversary, we hosted a Lunch & Learn and raised funds in support of their work. 

A United Methodist-related institution in Zimbabwe, Africa University offers higher education within a Pan-African context to over 1,500 students. For their Silver Anniversary, we hosted a Lunch & Learn and raised funds in support of their work. 

 

Tilling Soil at the Clarkston Community Garden

The 2017 Confirmation class headed to Clarkston - Atlanta's neighborhood with the highest refugee population - to help till the soil and plant vegetables in a community garden. 

The 2017 Confirmation class headed to Clarkston - Atlanta's neighborhood with the highest refugee population - to help till the soil and plant vegetables in a community garden. 

 

Pulling Weeds at the New Roots Community Garden Garden

We got our hands dirty again on behalf to refugee families, preparing small plots to grow fruits & vegetables. 

We got our hands dirty again on behalf to refugee families, preparing small plots to grow fruits & vegetables. 

 

Caring for Creation in Costa Rica

Over Spring Break, more than 25 folks headed down to UGA's Eco Lodge in Costa Rica to learn about environmental sustainability and climate change...and how to put in to practice some of what they learned back home. 

Over Spring Break, more than 25 folks headed down to UGA's Eco Lodge in Costa Rica to learn about environmental sustainability and climate change...and how to put in to practice some of what they learned back home. 

 

Youth Summer Service Projects

Sure, Glenn Youth had some fun on the beach this summer in St. Simon's, but they also spent time at the Boys & Girls Club, did house repairs for elderly residents, and cleaned up local parks. 

Sure, Glenn Youth had some fun on the beach this summer in St. Simon's, but they also spent time at the Boys & Girls Club, did house repairs for elderly residents, and cleaned up local parks. 

 

Collecting Books for Action Ministries' Women's Community Kitchen

Once per month, volunteers from Glenn serve lunch for 85 women and children who visit the Women’s Community Kitchen. You all took our plea to clean out your attics and playrooms to heart! We restocked their book shelves with new and gently used children’s books of all reading levels.

Once per month, volunteers from Glenn serve lunch for 85 women and children who visit the Women’s Community Kitchen. You all took our plea to clean out your attics and playrooms to heart! We restocked their book shelves with new and gently used children’s books of all reading levels.

 

Helping Hurricane Victims on Good Neighbor Day

Good Neighbor Day is our annual day of service, and this year, one project responded to the devastation of Hurricane Matthew and Irma. With your generous donations and extra hands, we packed over 50 flood buckets for UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). 

Good Neighbor Day is our annual day of service, and this year, one project responded to the devastation of Hurricane Matthew and Irma. With your generous donations and extra hands, we packed over 50 flood buckets for UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). 

 

Showing Our Pride

We joined thousands of fellow Atlantans in the Pride Parade to show support for our city's LGBTQ community. 

We joined thousands of fellow Atlantans in the Pride Parade to show support for our city's LGBTQ community. 

Let's make the same resolution in 2018: to seek out ways to actively Love God and Love Neighbor in our church, community, and world. 

Keeping Advent: Practicing Worship

Worship_Banner edit.jpg

Worship as a spiritual practice is a collective experience. It is the work of the church community and involves participation of the entire congregation. Worship is the coming together of people and pastors to sing, to pray, to hear scripture readings, to hear preaching that interprets scripture, and to affirm our faith together. John Wesley spoke directly to the communal nature of singing in worship when he wrote his “Directions for Singing,” instructing us to “see that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can.”

When we come together for worship, we praise God through Jesus Christ and receive God’s grace to strengthen and guide us. The parts of the service that make me feel truly in community with the rest of the congregation are praying the Lord’s Prayer, affirming our faith with the Apostles’ Creed, and singing praise and thanks with the Doxology. The familiarity of these rituals and the combined effect of voices all around me saying and singing those same words feel warm and wonderful. It is much more meaningful to me than my saying or singing them on my own. Every Sunday, each of these also takes me right back to the sanctuary at the Church of the Holy Communion in my hometown of Memphis. St. Mary’s Episcopal School for Girls, where my sister and I attended K-12, was connected to the church and we went to chapel every single morning of our school lives. That’s a lot of chapel – somewhere near 2500 services over thirteen years. We memorized and studied the parts of the service beginning at age five, so they have represented essential aspects of worship to me for nearly all of my life.

For me, worshipping with others strengthens my own faith, increases my feeling of connectedness to those around me, and gives me courage, reassurance, hope, and peace. As we approach the beginning of a new year, may the collective spirit of worship inspire in us, both individually and collectively, with the possibility of peace and the confidence to pursue that peace within ourselves, in our relationships with others, throughout our community, and indeed across the world.

Ginger Smith 

Keeping Advent: Practicing Generosity

The first time stepping into Metro Regional Youth Detention Center was intimidating. The layers of barbed wire, the tall fences, the double gates, and the metal detector operated by a stern-faced security guard were the welcome mat. As prison chaplains through Emory's Candler School of Theology, what we found in this place forgotten by society surprised us all.

photo-1480092061363-43e3c0c94afb.jpg

We encountered inmates...no, children and youth really...with hopes and frustrations, dreams and failures, joys and challenges like the “rest of us.” But what does Metro RYDC have to do with the season of Advent and, even further, acts of generous service? Like the season of Advent, Metro is defined by waiting. Each week, the youth ask us to pray for their upcoming court dates and the accompanying hope of leaving prison. Each day is an exercise in patiently waiting with the hope of future freedom. In the weekly support group, we witness youth share their heartbreaking stories to create a community of honest support and vulnerable solidarity. They respond with words of encouragement and care, offering one another emotional, mental, and spiritual healing.

During this season of Advent, may we remember the many ways this season of anxious waiting affects many in our society. May we remember Christ’s call to come alongside the “least of these” and embody generosity in our words and actions. We follow Christ’s call not for our own personal gratification but for a reminder of what Christ looks like: Christ is vulnerable, honest, and loving on the edges of society.

May Advent draw us closer to the edges so we may draw closer to Christ.

Jad Taylor
Assistant Youth Director


Through the annual Alternative Giving Catalog, we are given the opportunity to extend generosity to those in our community and even around the world that are "on the edges". A tangible way to practice generosity this season is to consider a gift to one or a few of these organizations:

Intown Food Pantry                                      
Branan Towers Senior Living
Action Ministries                              
Children’s Education in Zimbabwe, Honduras and Cambodia             
UMCOR Hurricane Relief for US and Caribbean
UMCOR Rohingya Refugee Crisis  
Support UMC Churches and Pastors in Cuba
Refugee Support through IRC
UMCOR Solar Oven Partners 

Browse the catalog here. 

Keeping Advent: Practicing Prayer

As a child, Advent was frothy, overflowing with cookies and wreaths. We sang: Advent is the time to wait, not quite time to celebrate. We waited for school to end, waited for Christmas morning, waited to rip open presents.

As an adult, I still cherish the froth, but I also chase transformation. I sing: Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'til He appeared and the soul felt its worth. I wait to understand, I long to see clearly, I yearn to strike the light.

So this year, I added a new Advent practice: praying the hours.

I first prayed the hours this past Lent, using Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours. As Advent approached, I knew that I wanted to do it again, and so I ordered Tickle’s Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours. The book contains guided liturgy, Scripture, and prayer for morning, midday, and evening. It’s a mini-worship service—not even 10 minutes—three times a day. You can even chant or sing the passages if you like (I’m sure my dog really appreciates this in the mornings). 

Praying the Hours.jpg

I’ll be honest: I’m one of those stereotypical progressive Christians who doesn’t read her Bible on a regular basis. It’s just never become part of my daily or weekly practice (save for Sunday mornings), even though my red third-grade Bible from Glenn sits loyally on my bedside table. Part of that, I think, is the overwhelmed feeling I get when I try to think of where or how or when to start reading the Bible regularly. Yes, I’ve taken Disciple, and yes, I know I could very well begin at “In the beginning…” but in the midst of the chaos of life, it’s felt hard to establish, or—dare I admit it—to want to establish a routine in this way. That might be a whole other blog post.

For now, I’ll say that praying the hours during these sacred seasons has meant that I more purposefully make time for this quiet prayer, praise, and supplication. I sing the morning prayers out loud at the breakfast table, alone in the house with the obliging dog. I close my office door at lunch, turn away from the computer, and speak them to myself. On the bus home surrounded by other humans, I chant them in my head.  

Here’s an excerpt from Tickle’s introduction to what she calls “this manual”:

For me, and based on my own years of “praying the hours,” fixed-hour prayer is best understood as a kind of free, widely windowed, and open passageway between two places—one very physical and the other very virtual. Put more concretely, observing the divine hours allows our human awareness or mental focus to move back and forth on a daily basis and in a disciplined way from attending to the necessary bustle of each day of our lives to attending to the eternal timelessness and magnificence of divine life.

This moving back and forth is truly a gift, in a myriad of ways. I have the liturgy and Scripture laid out before me, so I don’t have to “think” in terms of getting to this point—but then I do find myself able to think and reflect on what I’m reading and singing and praying. The passages are peppered from throughout the Bible—Psalms, prophets, epistolary, Gospels—and together they create a sense of holiness and hope within me. Even if sometimes I’m tired and just feel like I’m reciting the words, not really feeling them or understanding what they mean for me in the moment, that’s okay too; if nothing else, I’m making the space for God to enter my heart. Maybe the words will connect with me at midday, or evening, or tomorrow.

What if I lapse and forget a lunch hour here or there? It’s a good reminder that I need to slow down my multitasking mind. And there’s always another chance. As Tickle writes further on in her introduction,

If this is your first attempt to return to this most ancient of Christian practices, it is wise to remember that you are entering into a discipline and, like all disciplines, this one sits hard and heavy upon one at times. There are hours you will miss and/or some that you can’t even begin to figure out how to observe. That is all right, but either the joy will carry you into greater joy and transmute the discipline into privilege, or you will find yourself simply the wiser and the richer for such experience as you have had.

I so deeply value this sentiment of abundance: I don’t have to reprimand myself for missing an hour, for no matter what, I am enriched by the hours I do pray. Because regardless of my emotional state, these Advent prayers, songs, and readings instill in me peace—maybe not the peace that passes all understanding, since I’m still constantly, as Tickle puts it, “attending to the necessary bustle.” But peace in the growing knowledge that God is present with me at every hour. Peace through acknowledging that truth out loud, or in my head as I ride the bus, in lyrical age-old praises that have comforted and refreshed countless humans long before me.

And in this season of darkness and light, when the days are shorter and we race from work to mall to party, when God not only is present with us but came down to dwell among us, I can’t think of anything else that I need more. 

Claire Asbury Lennox 

Keeping Advent: Practicing Stillness

nicolas-picard-241864.jpg

Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

In the cacophony of our current world, waking up every day to newly fomented strife, how can we claim for ourselves moments of silence?

Shall we turn off and tune out the news for one small part of each day, to revel in silence as the the winter days of Advent descend upon us?

Shall we carve from our 24 hours a few moments to remember and recall lessons past from our spiritual teachers, brothers and sisters of many traditions? (Richard Foster, a Quaker, wrote three decades ago Celebration of Discipline, The Path to Spiritual Growth. He is only one such teacher. There is a treasure house of surprises in spiritual traditions waiting for us to claim our quiet spaces.)

Shall we still our own voices to hear the young Benedictines who pray for the world through Gregorian chanting, echoing across the fields of eastern Nebraska, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary? 

Might there be time in our travels to tamp down the usual noise and savor the joys of daily vespers at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers?

Can we put down our phones and walk in the woods?

Can you give yourself the gift waiting for you, a small space in each day to delight in stillness?

Jan Lichtenwalter 

Keeping Advent: Spiritual Practices for the Season

Mail the Christmas cards. Untangle the lights and decorate the tree. Buy gifts. Wrap the gifts. Buy more wrapping paper to finish wrapping the gifts. Find that cookie recipe and make a grocery list. Clean the house for the holiday party. Clean the house after the party. Pack your bags, hop in the car, catch a flight…over the hills and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go!

Sound familiar?

'Tis the season to give, and Christmas sure can give us a rather long and overwhelming to-do list. Although most items bring cheer into our lives and allow us to reconnect with those we love, and many are rooted in dear traditions and memories, it is easy to get trapped in the go-go-go of Christmas. Often unintentionally, we leave little extra space for things that help us have an attentive, nourishing, and reflective season. 

joanna-kosinska-52536.jpg

In conjunction with our sermon series on “Advent and the Prince of Peace” beginning this Sunday, the blog posts during December will focus on spiritual practices that encourage us to keep space for peace as we anticipate the birth of Christ. The reflections and practical tips on Stillness, Prayer, Generosity, and Worship will help us discover and cultivate peace within ourselves, our relationships, our community, and our world.

May this prayer written by Monica Wiederkehr ready our hearts for the Advent season:

Sacred is the pause that draws us into stillness.
Nourishing are the moments when we step away from busyness.
Teach us the wisdom of pausing.
Reveal to us the goodness of stopping to breathe.
Bring to our memory the truth that we are the temple
out of which you pour your gifts into the world.
We are the temple from which you sing your songs.
We are the temple out of which you bless.
Enable us to listen to the renewal you are trying to bring about in us and through us.
Amen.

Glenn Doing Good

It’s heartening to see the good that blooms when people share their gifts. If you were at the 11:00 service on Sunday, you may have seen the beautiful knit scarves, sweet Christmas tree ornaments, yummy baked goods and colorful pins available at the United Methodist Women’s Holiday Fair. Clearly created with love and great talent, these items inspired a shameful level of covetousness in me but also a great appreciation for the skill required to make them.

Based on my son’s recommendation, we purchased a felt snowman ornament with a sequined blue scarf. He was made by Renata and Leah Dickerson and I’m looking forward to remembering the Dickersons each Christmas when we hang it on our tree. Less immediately visible than the effort and artistry that went into making these items was the generous spirit of their makers, who donated proceeds to the benefit the UMW World Thank Offering.

Glenn’s generous spirit has also shown up in other ways in the last few weeks. If you get Atlanta Magazine, you may have seen the Give Atlanta circular that arrived with the November issue. In it, the editors showcase their Giving All-Stars. Headlining the list is our own Andy Rogers, for his contributions to the Decatur-based non-profit Day League.  As the article notes, Andy has served on the Day League’s board since 2000 and “he’s chaired its Take Back the Night race committee many times, trained volunteers who work to support survivors of sexual assault, and helped guide a team that changed the organization’s name from the DeKalb County Rape Crisis Center to its current one. His work as a prosecutor in DeKalb County drew him to volunteer with the organization.”

Andy Rogers.jpg

But Day League is just one way Andy works to support victims of sexual assault. He founded law firm Deitch & Rogers in 1998 for the sole purpose of filing lawsuits against negligent third parties whose actions create conditions that allow criminals to victimize innocent people. In this way the firm seeks to help assault victims recover from feelings of helplessness, giving them hope that these conditions will be changed so that no one else endures the same crime.

Glenn congregant Reverend Wesley Stephens has also been applying his gifts to making the world a better place, and was honored for his efforts by LeadingAge Georgia, the Georgia Institute on Aging, at a November 5th gala at the Atlanta History Center. Surrounded by his family, he received a Positive Aging Award. The presenter noted his role as primary care giver to his wife Annette while she was living with dementia and how he continued serving Glenn and the community at Wesley Woods Towers after she became ill.

Wesley Stephens.jpg

At Wesley Woods, LeadingAge Georgia notes, “he has been a source of much encouragement to other care partners, often counseling and offering support. He is often a resource for staff members and spends much of his day checking on staff, offering assistance in any way he can.” Around the Towers, he’s regularly brightening days with his jokes and stories, and is known as the go-to guy when anything needs to be fixed, having repaired everything from file cabinets to wheel barrows.

In spite of a recent neck fracture, Wesley remains active (he insists on being called “Wesley”), and has accepted with grace the news that he will have to wear a neck brace for the rest of his life. He gave his car to his granddaughter, always makes an effort to get to know and encourage those assisting him with his care, and is adapting to the physical changes he faces every day, including learning how to puree food and becoming an expert at eating various things with a straw. And there’s this anecdote, which puts my minor aches and pains into better perspective: He recently joined his family on a week-long camping trip, neck brace and all.

LeadingAge Georgia’s appreciation closes with a telling quote from Wesley. "When reminded of how many people he has helped in his career, some of whom he has not even known he has helped, Reverend Stephens simply states: 'Let’s not forget those that I could have helped and didn't.’” 

Irene Hatchett

5 Things I Learned from My Sunday School Class

Opposite of Spoiled.jpg

A group of parents have gathered on Sunday mornings since September 10.  Together we not only read and discussed the book, The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money, but we also shared best practices, parenting fails, and pondered together if what we were doing would have a lasting impact on our children.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned from our time together:

1. It’s important to talk about money. Silence and even lies around it do no one any good. Embrace the tough questions by encouraging an inquisitive mind. “Have you asked a good question today?” When questions around money arise respond first with your own question to determine an appropriate response, “Why do you ask?”

2. Allowance. 3 Jars: Give, Save, Spend. Lieber argues that making allowance dependent upon chores makes work the primary focus. By all means, give kids chores! But there are several other means to instill a good work ethic; allowance, he says, should be the tool that helps children learn to save, spend, and give money.  

3. Family rituals around spending are the perfect way to instill family values. One Glenn mom, Mindy McGarrah Sharp, shared this family tradition:

When Tommy and I were Peace Corps volunteers in Suriname, South America, we lived in a small village in the Amazon rainforest and were entrusted with friendships and knowledge about cultural practices. One practice we decided to honor if and when we had children was the "bigi yari," which means the big year. This is the name for birthdays ending in 5 and celebrated when one turns 5, 10, 15....80, 85, 90, every five years. Families don't celebrate every bigi yari because in the traditional bigi yari celebration, the person with the birthday gives a big party and gives gifts to all the guests instead of receiving gifts from all the guests. We've adapted a version of this practice in our family now. In the US, many people have or would like to have birthday parties for every birthday. We try to have small birthday celebrations for most years, but on bigi yaris, we celebrate in this way: we give little to no presents on Christmas or birthdays and have no birthday parties for anyone the year someone has a bigi yari and instead the person with the bigi yari plans a trip for our family. For example, when our son James Henry had his first bigi yari, when he turned 5, he requested going sledding as a family. Since his birthday is in March, we planned a trip where we might be able to find snow in early spring. Instead of Christmas presents or birthday presents that year, we traveled to Colorado and went sledding as a family. When Lucy Claire turned 10, she planned a trip for us to see the friends and places she had lived from Nashville to Tulsa to her friend who moved to Dallas and our families here in Atlanta. We are enjoying honoring our friends from Suriname with a practice that makes birthdays in the US less about material gifts and more about the gift of relationships.

4. Talk about giving. You want your children to be generous? Talk about how and why you give. Lieber writes three reasons to give, 1) it’s a duty; “families who have more than they need ought to give something so that families who have very little can have more of the things that they need but can’t afford.”  2) “Research shows that the amount we give away is a great predictor of how happy we are.” And finally, 3) “Communities are stronger when people know they can rely on one another. We would all feel better knowing we live in a neighborhood, city, country, and world where we will help others when they’re having a hard time and they will help us if we need it…giving generously helps reinforce our common bonds.” What are other reasons you give? 

5. Ron Lieber concludes his first chapter with these words: “…every conversation about money is also about values. Allowance is also about patience. Giving is about generosity. Work is about perseverance. Negotiating their wants and needs and the difference between the two has a lot to do with thrift and prudence. And running through all of these conversations is a desire for kids to have perspective – to know why they may have more than most people in the world but will probably never have more than every one of their peers. And why there’s no shame in having more or having less, as long as you’re grateful for what you have, share it generously with others, and spend it wisely on the things that make you happiest. It’s for our kids, but it’s true for us, too.”  

Our study and conversation is timely in light of our upcoming Commitment Sunday - November 12 - where I hope that you’ll prayerfully consider pledging to Glenn. How we view and spend money is a reflection of our values. What does your spending say about your values? As a parent I often feel like I have a mirror held up in front of me. So, I challenge you - and myself - to consider how and why we can give generously this stewardship season.  

Blair 

What Kind of Magic Will You Help Create?

Adam Eyrich glenn school.jpg

Each August, the youngest children of the Glenn family experience the excitement, anticipation, and sometimes trepidation that accompanies the first day of school. Eager and nervous parents hold the hands of eager and nervous preschoolers and toddlers as they walk into the building. You can almost see the fears and shyness melt away, however, when the children behold the playground. They step onto that hallowed ground and are instantly drawn to the physical and imaginative play that awaits them. I wonder how the playground has become a part of their vast and creative imaginations over these last couple of months since school started? There is something magical about the playground.
 
From an adult’s point of view, we’re extremely fortunate to have such a large space for children of all ages (yes, teenagers still play on the playground), shaded by the trees and protected from the street. From a child’s point of view, we have castles, a drawbridge, sandy beaches, an Olympic track, horses, and launchpads to outer space. Just listen to the magic our children create on the playground. Then take it a step further - join their trip to the moon or their perilous climb up the mountain. Make some new memories and just have fun. There is something magical about the playground.
 
Some of my favorite memories involve the “old” Glenn playground, before the current structures were put in around 25 years ago. I reveled in being old enough to go up “the big hill,” pretended to drive the train to far off places, and swung on the swings high enough to touch the leaves in the trees. My kids have their own memories of the current playground structures. It was the site of a third generation wedding at Glenn - my then-5-year-old-daughter pretend-married her Glenn Kindergarten classmate there one spring day. It was also where she lost her first tooth. My kids have played hour upon hour on the playground and have relished milestones - learning to pump on the swings, conquering the fire pole, playing soccer with the big kids, running races on the track. Feelings of frustration turn to elation when a new skill is mastered; their proud, beaming smiles broadcasting their joy. There is something magical about the playground.
 
But equipment wears down. Beloved parts of the playground break and need repair more frequently. Updated safety standards teach us ways that we can improve our playgrounds so that our children can continue to experience the joys of play without fear of getting hurt on aging equipment. What a blessing that our playground has had so many children on it for so long!
 
Now it is time to envision and facilitate play with a new playground. As the playground committee is hard at work getting the logistics in place, we can do our part to help create the magic by donating to the Playground Makeover Fund. Your donation will ensure that children will be enjoying our playground for another 25 years and beyond. Will your children or grandchildren be making new memories and creating their own magic for years to come on the new Glenn playground because you helped fund it? There is something magical about the playground. What kind of magic will you help create?

Bethany Eyrich

 

Help us meet our fundraising goals to renovate the Glenn Playground! Pledges welcome and of course cash, checks & online donations. Follow us on Facebook or click here for more info.

Buried Treasures

George & Jayne.jpg

Hard to believe it has been 4½ years since Jayne’s diagnosis of Glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer. While it has changed each one of us in the family, we sometimes have a problem articulating how. Jayne has mentioned she would never wish this experience on anyone but that it has brought us several unexpected treasures. Before we speak about these, we do want to say when you go through something like this, you learn quickly that there are so many people around you that also have life changing events and never speak about them or complain. While we have a hard time understanding what empathy really means, we more deeply understand how brave and courageous people are and how rarely we think about their challenges.

We speak about these gifts as buried treasures because they are present, but it took a serious event for them to be unearthed. Our experience has shown us that we can better handle a difficult situation - no matter the outcome - by having faith in both God and ourselves. We also realize we don’t have all the answers. The church and teachings of Christ shine a light and path to grace and help us realize it’s often the struggle that is the real treasure, not the outcome. Glenn continues to help us each week by reminding us that these teachings, while difficult, can be transformative.

Another buried treasure that we experienced is the gift of intimacy. Innately, we understand how important personal connections are. We have always treasured our friendships, but now we treasure them even more. We don’t know if we would have gotten where we are without their support. Glenn has been such a fertile ground for many of our close friendships. Sitting around the kitchen table with friends listening to music and just talking is still our best medicine. We also see Glenn’s Gathering service as an extension of our kitchen table: intimate, wonderful music, and a very thoughtful message. We love Brent and how he cares for each person and is always interested in making meaningful connections. We also have a chance to experience Holy Communion with Alice. Attending this service helps us start and center our week.

Katie & Anna.jpg

As a family we were pretty lost when Jayne was diagnosed. The doctors said Jayne probably only had about a year to live. Our daughters, Katie and Anna, wanted to stay home and take a break from college. That was quickly resolved when Jayne said “I need to take you both off my worry list.” And I said, somewhat jokingly, “What are we going to do? Sit around the kitchen table and look at each other?” The girls were incredibly brave to continue their lives and we received the gift of seeing them truly engaged with their education. Our Glenn friends also helped the girls find their way through these uncharted waters. Early on, there were many nights with our friends where laughter would turn into tears and back to laughter again, reinforcing that they would always be there for us.

When Jesus spoke about how you should love your neighbor as yourself, we took it to mean not only how we love and care for others, but how we love and accept ourselves. The way we understand loving yourself is not about being selfish – it’s about getting out into life, challenging yourself, surprising yourself and, most importantly, learning how to forgive yourself when you screw up. We have learned that when you go through a tough event, it props the door open to talk about things you might have held back before. When Jayne and I learned how to better love and forgive ourselves, our relationship grew. I guess just more unearthing of those buried treasures…

Jayne_1479.jpg

Sometimes people mention to us that the diagnosis must have made us cherish each day. It has. But the true treasure we have received is a better understanding of what’s important in our lives. Connecting with people in all its forms is what we value the most. Because of Glenn and the treasures we experience here, we better understand that God’s love is far reaching and ever present. The financial gifts of all of us help Glenn thrive and be a vital source of connection with and for others.  Stewardship is a time for us to give thanks and prayerfully consider how we can give back to a place that has given us so much.


Share the Treasures of your Heart - FB.jpg

Thank you, George & Jayne, for sharing the treasures of your heart with us this Stewardship season!

Ministry Spotlight: Boy Scouts

Did you know that Glenn's Boy Scout Troop 18 is one of the longest running troops in the whole state of Georgia?

In this Ministry Spotlight, Glenn member Chuck Horton (dad to scouts Duncan and Thomas) reminds us how interwoven the scout troop is within our church congregation and community.


On behalf of the Scouts and adult leadership of Glenn Church’s Boy Scout Troop 18, I want to take a moment to thank the Church for its nearly 100 years of sponsorship and for giving the Troop and its Scouts the many opportunities they have had to do good works in the community and on behalf of the Church itself.

History
Recent research has revealed that the charter given to Troop 18 started in 1920, not 1925, as was long held. This means that very soon our troop will be celebrating our centennial anniversary as one of the oldest continuously operating troops in Georgia. The sponsorship of Troop 18 by Glenn Church has been an integral part of the history and tradition of the local community, one that has been mutually beneficial in many ways.

Good Turns
When you come into contact with scouts during pancake breakfasts and popcorn sales or on Scout Sunday, consider the dozens of other activities in which this troop is involved (many of them directly and positively impacting Glenn Church, its immediate community, and beyond): Good Neighbor Day, Habitat for Humanity, pumpkin patch unloading and wood chip spreading, Action Ministries Women’s Community Kitchen, Trinity House dinners, the Otto Froehlich Memorial Garden, and the outdoor classroom near the Fellowship Hall. These are simply a few of the Glenn activities the troop supports. The Scouts also work in the community by doing service projects (Eagle projects and others), the list and descriptions of which would be too long to enumerate here, but it is impressive.

Ministry and Mentorship
Glenn's scouting programs (Cubs, Boy Scouts, and Venture Scouts), is an important and impactful ministry. Scouting takes our i-Generation youth out of the house, into the woods and the world, and gives them a place to play, achieve, grow and learn about conservation, citizenship, service, and leadership. Renowned therapist and best-selling author Michael Gurian writes about how our society is failing our boys. They need a “tribe” of same age boys, older boys, and men to learn how do the healthy things necessary to become good citizens. Scouting provides this solid and stable bridge to a ethical and productive adulthood. And, scouting is inclusive. A child does not have to be a great athlete or know anything about camping or outdoor skills to be involved. No one is turned away because of financial hardship. They just have to show up and participate.

Scouting.jpg

Thank you, Glenn, for your sponsorship of this great ministry. We also thank you in advance for your continued financial and spiritual support of our efforts.

Chuck Horton
Charter Organization Representative
BSA Troop 18

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)!

2017-yoran-grant-greene.jpg

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!