Spiritual Disciplines, Sermons, and Seersucker: Notes on Annual Conference

 A handful of Glenn's lay delegates hard at work: Katrina Voegtlin, Carolyn Gilbert, Carole Adams, and Andrew Johnson

A handful of Glenn's lay delegates hard at work: Katrina Voegtlin, Carolyn Gilbert, Carole Adams, and Andrew Johnson

For a third year, it was my honor to represent Glenn as a lay member of the Annual Conference. From the first gathering at Opening Worship to communion at Closing Worship, from walking shoes every day to seersucker on Thursday, from handwritten seat labels to electronic voting devices, the three thousand North Georgia Methodists were connected and united in many ways as we took over the Classic Center in Athens, GA for nearly three days of reports and votes, prayers and praise, and songs and sermons.

A few months before conference, Glenn friends Donn Ann Weber and Robert Gilleo invited me to join the Planning and Logistics Team. Robert has previously managed much of this himself, but for 2018, he recruited a team that included Nate Abrams, whose wife Joya was ordained this year, and Glenn’s pastoral alumna, the Rev. Dr. Jessica Terrell, who now serves at Eatonton First UMC. We were ably assisted by Glenn members Carole Adams, Carolyn Gilbert, and Ken Weber. Our group did an incredible variety of things to facilitate the work of the conference, to support the other teams working at the conference, and to assist individuals and groups moving to and from the Grand Hall and Theater stages for reports, presentations, and worship. Even when seat cards stuck to the robes of the Bishop and Cabinet members, even when we were asked dozens of times if the unmovable lectern could be moved, even when the names and total numbers of those to be licensed, commissioned, and ordained kept changing, even when we were up late and then asked complicated questions at our 7:00 a.m. breakfast meeting, it was truly a joy to be among good people doing good work  and to be able to contribute to a successful annual conference.

The most meaningful time of conference for me came on Thursday morning when our outstanding bishop, Sue Haupert-Johnson, talked frankly and clearly about the work of the multinational Commission on the Way Forward and the called General Conference in 2019 that will take up matters relating to the way that human sexuality is dealt with in Methodism. Bishop Sue outlined the three models developed by the Commission and the intense meetings of the Council of Bishops as they considered these models. Two particular quotes from her presentation have stayed with me: "Distance yourself from those who love dispute" and “Do not rashly tear asunder.”

Those are good pieces of advice any time, especially in the months ahead, as these matters are discussed and debated with emotion, passion, and intensity. May we all pray with and for those who will attend the called General Conference and make crucial decisions for our denomination and its people.

Ginger Smith

Annual Conference was especially meaningful to me this year because of the serious forceful and direct content of the sermons. Bishop Sue and other leaders spoke of our responsibility to bring Jesus’ message to persons outside of our regular “in house” programs and to witness in love to all persons since we are all precious in God’s sight. This implies that we must make the changes in our social principles which are barriers to inclusion. Our congregation has a unique opportunity to increase our loving outreach ministries here at Emory and in the broader community. 

Carolyn Gilbert

I am so grateful to be a member of a democratic denomination. I am also grateful to represent Glenn as a delegate! I’m always proud to say that I’m a member of Glenn, but especially at Conference. Below were some of the stand out moments for me. 

I really enjoyed Bishop Sue starting with a call for repentance and humility. This was something I felt was missing from last year’s conference. Her opening sermon went on to call for us to love God, love our neighbor, and to not judge others. These days, it feels especially necessary for us as individuals and as a church to remember these core teachings of Jesus.

The presentations on spiritual disciplines were also enjoyable. My particular favorite was Dr. Ellen Shepard and Dr. Greg Ellison both quoting Howard Thurman, in helping us seek the “Sound of the Genuine” inside ourselves. As a huge fan of Howard Thurman, working in one of his quotes effectively, will almost always win you points with me! 

I don’t often want to be ordained, but if I could pick a preacher for my pretend ordination ceremony, I’d pick Rev. Byron Thomas. His sermon during this year’s ceremony was nothing short of inspirational: "You are not here by accident. You are here on business, and therefore your worth does not come from anyone outside yourself. You were born in this world with intrinsic worth or value. If you did not grow up in the best of circumstances, it's alright. God already incorporated into your very fiber worth and value." His words undoubtedly inspired the new pastors as well as those of us in the congregation to go do the Lord’s work. 

Finally, Bishop Sue addressed the big issue facing our church right now: Are we, as a church, able to LOVE LGBTQI people? The Bishop was very diplomatic, which was probably needed in a room so divided. She did a good job being diplomatic while still leading the church toward love and full acceptance of our LGBTQI siblings.

Andrew Johnson

This year at Annual Conference, the bishop and worship leaders spent considerable time focusing on “The Art of Spiritual Formation.” Bishop Sue feels strongly that each of us, clergy and laity alike, need to spend time away from the world - reflecting, meditating, and renewing our relationship with God - in order to “move toward Perfection in Love.” Our Methodist founder, John Wesley, was dedicated to spiritual practices and discipline.

We were encouraged to be like an athlete who works at a physical strength, employing exercises to strengthen our spirits as well. Our bishop referred to “your prayer closet” often, and throughout the “work elements of the conference” - hearing reports, reviewing budgets, and other administrative areas of church work -  we were given time to focus on several methods of aligning our spirits with God’s will for our lives. I was struck by the images of John Wesley’s fasting each week and a Candler School of Theology professor’s approach to understanding our own spiritual type (which explains why some of us focus on ritual and liturgy, for example, while others consider these ceremonies less important). Other disciplines included “Care for the Earth,” “The Examen” which is a prayer practice, “Fixed Hour of Prayer,” Lectio Divina” which focuses on reading scripture and reflection, “Visio Divina” a “holy seeing using a work of art in meditation," and “Spoken Word” using poetry and music. Our former minister of Glenn youth, Millie Kim, was a leader in one of these practices and gave us insights into her personal use of Lectio Divina.  All of these served as reminders to make time for connecting with God daily, and made me think of the work of Glenn congregant, Luther Lewis, whose Prayer Guides have aided us monthly in reading, reflection, and prayer. 

A Candler professor, Tavares Stephens, gave perhaps the most powerful image for me: he read a passage about his grandmother who took him on a “Summer Dark” where they went to an area away from city lights and sounds. She encouraged him to look and listen for the ways God related to him. He thought of sitting on her old porch, feeling the strength of her own faith, as he learned to seek God for himself. 

May we each set aside time to learn a new way of developing our spiritual lives and being open to God’s voice and spirit. Seek your own unique way to renew your spirit, and become more of the being the Great I Am called you to be.  

All shall be well, all shall be well...For there is a Force of Love moving through the universe that holds us fast, and will never let us go. Julian of Norwich, 1342-1416

Carole Adams

Summer Reading Gone Green

Looking for some summer reading while traveling or just relaxing at home? The Environmental Committee suggests several books that are sure to provoke discussion and provide enlightenment for all ages. Then plan to gather with them in October to discuss some of the issues raised in the books. Dates and times to be announced later. 


by Carl Hiaasen

You'll find in this young adult novel a hilarious mystery of a brother and sister going after a ruthless casino boat owner who is busy making big bucks and polluting the coastline of the Florida Keys. Hiaasen is a prolific and engaging writer, known for his love of the Florida Everglades and environmental advocacy.




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Hospitable Planet
by Stephen Jurovics

Jurovics is an engineer who has studied climate change mitigation aspects for 20 years. Caring for creation is discussed from both a religious and a scientific perspective in this 155-page book. He provides ways for people of faith to act together to develop strategies to assist in the efforts to mitigate global warming. Available in the church library.




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Wake Up and Smell The Planet
edited by Brangien Davis with Katharine Wroth

This easy to-read pocket-size book takes a look at most of the environmental issues that we face today. Written in a humorous format, this is a great book for a road trip with the kids and includes lots of questions for discussion with the family.



Edited by Paul Hawken

If you wonder whether your recycling makes a difference, check out Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. Hawken's world-wide team of experts prioritized and ranked 100 solutions to global warming. Each solution gets a reader-friendly two-page write-up. Available in the church library. Visit drawdown.org



The Lorax
by Dr. Seuss

For young children, The Lorax is a fable about the plight of the environment and the Lorax, who is the voice for the trees. This book was a favorite of the author who felt that he was able to write a story for children about environmental and economic issues, including corporate greed. Published in 1971, this book is still quite relevant today.


What Will You Carry?

In Alice's final week at Glenn, the clergy staff reflect on what they will remember from their time in ministry together. Ways she has taught and guided them, how she has shaped and inspired them, and the memories and moments they will carry with them.

And this Sunday, as a congregation, we too will remember Alice's ministry and the moments that were meaningful to us. 

As you reflect on the past 5 years, what will you carry? 

 Kara Johnson photography

Kara Johnson photography

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Alice has been both my mentor and friend over these past 5 years. She has (quite literally with preaching exercises) helped me find my voice, supported me through my transition to balancing motherhood and ministry, guided me in where to lean into my passions, and pushed me to see my own potential. I am most grateful for time spent together: meals, tears, and so much laughter. Alice baptized my children, stood beside me at my ordination, has loved on my family, and has helped me experience, understand, and love God in new ways. I thank her for making me who I am today, and I will miss her dearly.


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These pictures remind me how incredibly thankful I am for the joy and laughter that Alice brings to her ministry. On two separate occasions this past week I have had people remark about how much they are going to miss Alice’s boisterous laugh. I must say that I am also going to miss the ways she made me laugh. From well-timed jokes in a team meeting to perfectly delivered sermon illustrations, she reminded us to smile. Ministry can be hard, both on a personal and professional level, and the church is not always the peaceful place we desire it to be. In the midst of the good and the bad, we as a congregation and we as a staff have laughed with joy during our time with Alice. Watching her minister has reminded me to take this calling very seriously, but not so seriously that there isn’t time for friendship and a little frivolity. Thank you, Alice, for showing us that a life connected to God is a life of joy.


 Kara Johnson photography

Kara Johnson photography

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I’m more of a words person than a numbers person. But in these bittersweet days of bidding farewell to Pastor Alice, I think I will stick with numbers in effort to salvage my emotional composure. So how do you measure 5 years of the Reverend Dr. P. Alice Rogers serving as Senior Pastor of Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church?

Well, that’s approximately 1,825 days (Leap years notwithstanding!). Around 260 Sundays. Given guest preachers and associate pastors sharing the pulpit (as Alice is not what we clergy affectionately call a “pulpit hog”), I would estimate around 225 sermons. Through her Dancing with the Stars: Clergy Edition stage debut (and People’s Choice victory!), her recent birthday Facebook fundraiser, and her culinary skills hosting the annual Dinner at the Parsonage for the Arts & Eats fundraiser, Alice has personally raised OVER $20,000 for homeless/hunger and children’s ministries! She brought together and led worship on the historic Glenn-Emory Day as 1 of the 5 remarkable women serving as Glenn’s Senior Pastor, Bishop of the North Georgia Conference, President of Emory University, Dean of Religious Life, and Dean of Candler School of Theology. I don’t think I will attempt to count the number of prayers prayed, calls made to check in with parishioners, hospitals visited, long meetings attended, Wednesday Night Suppers consumed, children & youth choir songs applauded, or hours of lost sleep when she was praying, writing sermons, or worrying about us, her flock. 

Then there are the innumerable quippy jokes, belly laughs, and walks down North Decatur Road to Zoe’s Kitchen that kept us all encouraged week after week. 5 of us associate pastors have had the honor to serve alongside her – a beloved mentor and friend to each of us. Speaking of associate pastors, we’ve added 7 new preacher’s kids to the church family in these 5 years that know they can always stop by Pastor Alice’s office and she will stop whatever she is doing to spend time with them (and to give their parents unsolicited, but usually correct, parenting advice. Alice – I promise to do better at keeping socks on my baby’s feet!).

Speaking of adding to the church family, 5 years under Alice’s pastoral leadership has grown our Glenn Church family by 119 baptisms, 229 professions of faith, and 170 transfers of membership into the Glenn Church family! I may not be a metrics expert, but as each of these children, youth, and adults – and ALL of us touched by Alice’s ministry – grow in our faith, I think it’s safe to conclude that the output measurements of these 5 years will continue to grow exponentially for years to come. Thank you, Pastor Alice. It’s been quite the 5 years.


Meet the Newest GLENNterns

Join us in welcoming Elyse and Kevin, our newest Candler School of Theology interns, to the Glenn ministerial team. You might spot them reading prayers or scripture in worship, playing in the The Gathering band, and leading Sunday School lessons. 

Here's a little bit about them, but when you see them around this summer, be sure to take a moment and introduce yourself, too!

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Meet Elyse Cooke

What led you to seminary, and why Candler?
Before seminary, I was an elementary school teacher for four years in both Florida and Ohio. Although teaching is a gift of mine and something I love, my heart yearned for something else I had thought about for a long time: full-time parish ministry. Following many months of discernment through conversations and prayer, I finally decided to pursue my call to ministry, specifically as an Elder in the Florida conference. 

All three of my pastors from my home congregation (First UMC Orlando) attended Candler (Tom McCloskey, Shelly Denmark, and Emily Edwards) and had nothing but positive things to say about it. Once I stepped foot on campus, I felt at ease and at home, knowing instantly that Candler was where I wanted to be and receive my education for the next three years. What stood out to me and solidified my decision was how Candler so seamlessly weaves rigorous academics with contextual education, and the overall community engagement it emphasizes. I loved everything I saw and felt I would be best prepared for my future by learning at Candler. 

Most engaging class so far, and that one class you can’t wait to take:

Most engaging class: “Old Testament” with Dr. Joel LeMon
Can’t wait to take: “Teaching the Bible” with Dr. Susan Hylen

Favorite book you’ve read recently…
Beloved by Henri Nouwen

Fill in the blank - We will most likely find you at Glenn ______________.  
Playing the piano, drinking coffee, and talking with everyone (but not necessarily at the same time)

What are your goals for your time with us?
I hope to create and utilize curriculum that targets the whole family and preaches authentically. 

I hope to continue the building and strengthening of family engagement at Glenn through community events, service projects, and genuine conversations. 

I hope to continue working to bridge the gap between Glenn and the surrounding community. 

I hope to create safe and sacred space where all children and families feel welcomed, challenged to grow deeper in faith, valued, and loved.

I hope to gain leadership experience and grow in faith and healthy ministerial practices as I prepare for commissioning and future ministry. 

I hope to forge and foster relationships at Glenn, enabling me to be a witness to God’s work in this community. 


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Meet Kevin Lazarus

What led you to seminary, and why Candler?
I began my undergraduate career at Auburn University with hopes of going to medical school. However, after quickly getting involved with the Wesley Foundation and taking on several leadership roles in ministry, by my junior year, I knew I was called to ministry. After graduating in 2016 and interning full-time for a year at the Auburn Wesley Foundation, I found myself at Candler. I chose Candler because of its commitment to contextual education, which thus far, has been a highlight of my time here.

Most engaging class so far, and that one class you can’t wait to take: 
This is a lot harder. I’d have to say Old Testament with Dr. Joel LeMon, but I can’t mention OT without mentioning Biblical Hebrew I and II. Being able to take a year-long introduction to the Old Testament while also learning how to read those same texts in Hebrew was phenomenal. Along the same lines, I am excited to continue my studies of the Old Testament next semester as I take Exile and Restoration with Dr. Carol Newsom alongside a third semester of Hebrew.

Favorite book you’ve read recently…
Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman. We read this as part of our reflection for Con Ed I at the Metro Regional Youth Detention Center. This is a great read for anyone, but reflecting on our experiences in prison chaplaincy with this book was incredible.

Fill in the blank - We will most likely find you at Glenn ______________.  
Speaking or studying another language (when I'm not working of course!)

What are your goals for your time with us?
My main goal during my time at Glenn is to build relationships and community here. During my time at Auburn, because I was heavily involved in a campus ministry, I was not very connected to a local church. I am so excited to finally be part of an intergenerational community and to fully invest here.

My Best Teacher

One of our ministry interns from Candler School of Theology, Tiffania Willetts, looks back on her formative experiences at Glenn now that she has that MDiv diploma in her hands!

On Monday, May 14, I graduated from Candler School of Theology with my Master of Divinity. Over the past three years (2.5 to be exact), I have taken classes in Old Testament, New Testament, Church History, Methodist History, Theology, and Polity, Pastoral Care, Systematic Theology, Preaching, Ethics, Evangelism, Mission, and Worship. I wrote papers and took tests, read books and essays. But my most valuable teacher was not in the classroom. My most valuable teacher was Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church.

I learned more from Worship committee meetings, Church Council meetings, Stewardship committee meetings, Church and Society meetings, youth retreats, SPARK 4th and 5th grade outings, children’s Sunday School, serving (and eating) Wednesday Night Dinner, Good Neighbor Day, Egg-cellent Saturday, Back to School Splash, unloading pumpkins, Pumpkin Party, serving homebound communion, teaching Bible study, sitting in a small group, going to Thursday night trivia, and watching the Braves play in Turner Field than I could ever learn in the classroom. Each and every one of you taught me what it means to be the church, how to organize for ministry, how to extend grace when things don’t go according to plan, how to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

At the end of my time filling in for Rev. Susan during her family leave last year, Pastor Alice asked me what kind of church appointment I was planning to take back home in Florida after I graduated. I told her that I wanted to be in an Associate Pastor position to keep learning as I had done the past three years at Glenn. She told me, “You don’t need it. You could be a lead pastor.” I know that the only reason she could say that with confidence and the only reason I can confidently move into my new appointment as the pastor at Seminole Heights United Methodist Church in Tampa on July 1 is because of the great experience I have had at Glenn.

The experience has not always been easy. We have cried together over friends and family we have lost along the way, we have commiserated over screaming toddler temper tantrums, we have patiently – and not so patiently – waited for construction to FINALLY finish. But through it all, we have been in this together, and I have felt like part of the Glenn Church family since day one.

I am so thankful for each of you, and I thank God that I have been able to call Glenn my home away from home over the past three years. I will miss you so much, but I am so thankful that my first experience working at a church was here, getting to know you and doing ministry and life together.


At the YAAB, Opportunities for Community Engagement

Did you know that Rev. Blair Setnor has a new title? She is now Glenn's Minister for Youth and Recreation, and is not only responsible for stewarding our rec programs but also the use and rental of our buildings. This week, she gives an update on the recent renovations at the Youth and Activities Building and how she envisions the space being used in the future.

With gratitude to generous donors from our Capital Campaign Foundations for Generations, and after months upon months of renovations, our Youth and Activities Building is closing in on final construction!

The YAAB will not only be well-utilized by our congregation, but we envision it as a safe space to be fully utilized by the surrounding community, too. By promoting mission work in intown Atlanta, sportsmanship, healthy living, fun, and environmental awareness, we hope this building will become a resource and place of connection for community members, groups, and organizations. 

We look forward to hosting camps, youth events, sports teams, exercise classes, and even mission groups very soon, but in the meantime, we have a jam packed summer! Check out our summer opportunities in the YAAB.

The upgrades make the building more welcoming, hospitable, and functional, and will serve our church and community well in the decades to come!

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EarthKeepers: Join with God's Spirit

Rev. Jenny Phillips, the guest preacher for 8:30 & 11:00 a.m. worship this Sunday and the Creation Care Program Manager for Global Ministries, writes about her work with EarthKeepers and our own upcoming Earth Day celebrations. She and her family attend Glenn and are grateful for the warm welcome they have received since they moved from Seattle to the Atlanta area last year.

 Photo by Mel Caraway, GBGM

Photo by Mel Caraway, GBGM

Global Ministries’ creation care program equips United Methodists to participate in the church’s work of healing creation. When extreme weather events and other disasters disrupt life, UMCOR provides humanitarian relief. But it is not enough to respond to crises; we must do all we can to prevent them. This means addressing the modes of living that cause climate change and environmental degradation, including overconsumption, deforestation, poor water management and agricultural practices that diminish the land. People of faith should be at the forefront of the transformation of the world that includes clean energy and stable access to healthy food and water for all, and that protects creatures and sacred spaces.

Easter and the season following it bring the promise of abundant life for all people and all of God’s creation. In its 2009 pastoral letter on caring for creation, the United Methodist Council of Bishops states, “Christ’s resurrection assures us that death and destruction do not have the last word. Paul taught that through Jesus Christ, God offers redemption to all of creation...God’s Spirit is always and everywhere at work in the world, fighting poverty, restoring health, renewing creation, and reconciling peoples.”

As we live into the season of Eastertide, let us open ourselves to new opportunities to join with God’s spirit in this work. I hope you will join us this Sunday, April 22, as well celebrate Earth Day in worship, enjoy Sunday School led by Stephen Jurovics, author of Hospitable Planet, and offer resource tables to help you engage in creation care. If you’re interested in developing a creation care project or initiative, consider attending the Global Ministries EarthKeepers training May 17 - 20 at our headquarters at Grace UMC. More information is available at

And please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be a resource to you at jphillips@


Watch this Global Ministries video to learn more about Jenny's work with EarthKeepers: 

An Unexpected Miracle

This Spring, we have featured stories on surprising ways people have discovered this community of faith. The series is written by Elena Kefalogianni, an Emory University senior. This is the third in the series. Click here to read the first, and here for the second. 

“I feel like Glenn chose me.”

Sonia Tyler’s story is one of courage, hope, and strength. Despite her faith and love of God, she did not grow up in a church nor was she looking for one. Born in Paris, France, raised in Saudi Arabia, and identifies as a Congolese American, Sonia had been disappointed with churches in America because she couldn’t find one to satisfy her free spirit and acknowledge her international background. She never expected in the darkest moment of her life that “Glenn would show up.”

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Sonia was pregnant with her first child, Alaric, when her fourteen-year-old brother, Jason, suffered a spontaneous brain hemorrhage that left him in a coma for 65 days. Even though Sonia was a popular Atlanta personality prior to this incident, she felt abandoned by many of her friends and colleagues when seeking support. But a young middle schooler with a big heart began visiting Jason regularly in the hospital and lifted their spirits. Spencer Wilson, a classmate of Jason’s, read to him and told him about what was happening at school. Spencer and his parents, Amy and Mark Wilson, were members of Glenn. It was through the Wilson family that the Glenn community found out about Jason’s condition and wanted to help. Carole Adams, aunt of Amy Wilson, began visiting the family; Carolyn Gilbert took Jason a prayer shawl from the knitters circle. When Jason finally recovered, he was left physically handicapped and, as a result, the family was in need of a van for his transportation. Spencer mobilized his friends from school and fundraised to help the family buy a van. A true friendship between Jason and Spencer brought their two families together. Sonia describes the people who were there for her and Jason as “angels.” She says “God always had a plan and brought these angels in our life that showed us much more than support, but a model of how I wanted to be: kind, mindful, gracious, open-minded, intelligent, and fighters for social justice and love. Little did I know their whole church family practiced these principles and mirrored their ability to love and embrace strangers.” As a result of the kindness and compassion that Sonia received from members of the Glenn community, she began driving twenty minutes on Sunday mornings to attend Glenn regularly.

But Sonia’s story does not end there. It was not always easy to attend. At first, she attended sporadically, and every time tried to soak up as much as possible from Pastor Alice’s words. She slowly got engaged with the community by joining different activities, but it was hard to keep up with her responsibilities as a mother and caretaker of her brother. Then, Glenn gave her a unique opportunity: to attend the Women’s Retreat. And it was a transformative experience: “I felt like I had a true support system.” Sonia shortly thereafter moved from being part of the Glenn community to also working for the Glenn community on the childcare staff. This helped her financially but also spiritually. She felt more connected to God: “Although I missed going to church and listening to Alice’s sermons, being around Rev. Susan and Glenn’s wonderful childcare staff truly opened me up to a world I didn’t know. I was learning the Bible through Sunday school lessons and my values as a mother were sharpening and I felt a support that I needed raising these kids by myself with a family in survival mode each day. I discovered that I love it and am not so bad at it.” By working at Glenn, Sonia has learned kindness and open-mindedness. “We all are here to make a better world and that is as simple as easing a baby’s cry, allowing a tired mommy to have much needed ‘me’ time, or helping a volunteer Sunday school teacher create magic for the kids.”

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Sonia considers the people at Glenn to be activists fighting for social justice, the environment, and a better world to live in. “These are the people I want to be around and for my children to mirror,” she says.  Sonia calls Carole Adams her auntie and considers Amy Wilson a role model. She sees fellow childcare staff Adrielle Gray and Kadesta Malcom as her teachers in childcare and all the Glenn moms as people who help raise her children. Some special memories that reinforce this include Rev. Susan holding her children, Alaric and Asilia, in the hospital when they were born; Sonia, Jason, and Alaric being shepherds in the Christmas Nativity pageant; and singing “We Shall Overcome” with her church family on the recent Civil Rights Heritage tour. These experiences have not only touched Sonia but her kids as well; they have become more rooted and grounded. At Glenn, they have found their friends and family.

Most importantly, Sonia is excited to develop one of her biggest passions: “to initiate change through the racial reconciliation discussions at Glenn. As a biracial child and 3rd culture kid, I feel that it is my duty to fight for us all to have better communication and understanding with one another.” She hopes to offer her own experiences to the dialogue and contribute in creating a more diverse community. 

For Sonia, the people of Glenn were a miracle: they gave the Tyler family hope for Jason’s recovery and, in the process, gave Sonia and her children hope for a brighter future. 

Being the Hands and Feet of Christ: How do you serve?

A quick google search for “non-profits in Atlanta” provides you with hundreds of organizations in our area that are working to improve not only metro Atlanta but also the world. There is no shortage of opportunities to give of resources, financial and otherwise, to a company that is doing great work. Glenn partners with many of these non-profits through the work of our Church and Society Committee. We give of our time and money to help serve those in need through organizations like Action Ministries, Habitat for Humanity, Intown Collaborative Ministries, and many others.

As a committee, and as a church, we want to be good stewards of the resources that we use in local missions. Our desire is to match our two biggest resources, money and people, together. We want to hone in on the passions of our congregation, give our financial resources to the organizations that match those passions, and provide service opportunities for our congregation.

In order to achieve that goal and be most effective in serving our marginalized neighbors, we need your help! We have developed a survey that invites you to communicate what areas of mission you are passionate about and how we can better structure opportunities to inspire your involvement in service opportunities. You can also notate if you’d like to be a part of the process of determining our strategic partners moving forward. The Church and Society committee will use this information to select Glenn's partners in local missions.

This process doesn’t mean that we are necessarily ending any of our current partnerships, only that we are looking for ways to increase engagement with the organizations that receive monetary support from Glenn. In this way we feel we can be more effective in transforming our community and providing opportunities for everyone at Glenn to be in service with others.

You can fill out the survey here thru Tuesday, April 17. Paper copies will also be made available. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me at bhuckaby@glennumc.org or Church and Society Chair Susan Anne MacKenna at sasmack@gmail.com. (Special thanks to Susan Anne for her time spent drafting the survey and generous access to top-of-the-line data collection software, Qualtrics.) 


Inconsistent Actions

Many of us have heard the phrase “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” This phrase is credited to Anne Herbert who wrote it on a placemat in Sausalito, California in 1982 in an attempt to provide intentional reflection on the very opposite of the phrase popular at the time that lamented, "Random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty.” 

Anne's phrase has become quite popular and has sparked a desire within many to do something completely out of the normal routine for someone they’ve never met.  Maybe you’ve been the recipient of one of these random acts of kindness: someone paid for your coffee at Starbucks, or you arrived at the drive up window to find that the person in the car in front of you paid for your meal. My nephew says that one of the best birthdays he had was going to Costco (where they sell hotdogs for $1.50) and giving the clerk at the hotdog counter $150, telling him to use the money for people coming through the line until it ran out. Jonathan sat over in the corner and watched people light up in smiles and laughter when they found out their meal had been paid for in full. 


The definition of random act of kindness is: “an inconsistent action designed to offer kindness towards the outside world.” An inconsistent action, designed to offer kindness. I think that is exactly what Jesus is guilty of when he washes the disciples feet on Maundy Thursday.

Jesus and the disciples are settled in for the evening meal on the night before the eve of Passover. I imagine that after all of the excitement of the previous days—the raising of Lazarus from the dead and Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem to shouts of Hosanna—they were ready for an evening of a familiar, routine meal. One with no surprises or lurking danger. They would simply eat together.

But, no. As is coming to be expected with Jesus, the unexpected happens. The disciples are fundamentally surprised. The writer of John says, “And during supper (in the middle of the meal) Jesus gets up from the table, takes off his outer robe, ties an towel around himself, pours water into a basin and begins to wash the disciples' feet.”

This action is unexpected on so many levels. 

This was an act of hospitality that, traditionally, happened when one first entered the house. One’s feet would be cleansed from the dirt and dust accumulated from the day of walking and traveling. This action would certainly happen before the meal, not during it.

This action was a task almost exclusively performed by a slave or a servant. The servant would draw the water, wash the feet, and then dispose of the water. A servant could never refuse to render this service no matter how old he or she might be. Those whose feet were washed by another were considered the social superiors of the one washing the feet. And, again, the action was never performed in the middle of a meal.

But Jesus unexpectedly gets up, takes off his outer robe, ties a towel around himself, pours water and begins to wash the disciples’ feet. Peter, of course, objects precisely because of the reasons listed above: you aren’t a servant, Jesus; we aren’t your superiors; and, he was probably thinking, and we are in the middle of the meal!

When Jesus is finished with this humble task he asks them, “Do you know what I have done to you? I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.” Serve others with humility. Engage in inconsistent actions designed to show kindness to others.  

The same evening, Jesus also says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”  Engage in inconsistent actions designed to show love to others. 

I think it is significant that Jesus performed this unexpected, random act of love for the disciples in the middle of the meal. Because the Christian life is lived in the midst of The Meal. We remember how Jesus took the bread and the cup and told us to “do this”—to eat the bread and drink from the cup—in remembrance of him. We live in the perpetual remembrance and celebration of that meal, that Last Supper. So, as we go about our daily lives, we are to remember and live the example he set for us by engaging in inconsistent actions designed to show love to others.

The Maundy Thursday charge to show love to others is a theme that will carry throughout Holy Week and into Easter Sunday, as Christ will embody an ultimate form of love by dying so that we might experience new life. Let us consider the ways that we, as Jesus' disciples, will follow his example of interrupting the routine, the traditional, the familiar with inconsistent actions designed to show love to others. 

And why should we do this? Because, Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


"Speaking of Sin" with Glenn

With Holy Week right around the corner, we checked in with one of our study groups to see what has been fruitful and challenging in their discussions this Lent. Our Candler interns, Kristen Wright and Connor Bell, offer this reflection on their group: 


For the past four weeks, we have co-led a Lenten Bible study based on the book "Speaking of Sin" by Barbara Brown Taylor. The book guides you to consider why the language of sin is necessary to understand and appreciate salvation. Lent has been a great time to reflect on what is means to be sinful and in need of a Savior. Often times it is easier to put aside the language of sin and talk only about grace that God so freely gives. However, our conversations have led us to believe there is a deep need for a healthy understanding of sin as well as salvation.

During our first week of discussion, we talked about the ways in which we understood sin as children and youth. Images of debt, dirty laundry, and distance resonated with many in the room, and many laughed as we talked about how much their understanding of sin had grown since we were younger. Most topics from the book resonated deeply with those in the study, who found parallels in Taylor’s two “extreme” explanations of sin (“sin as crime” and “sin as sickness”) and our sometimes-polarized religious climate. Overall, the group found that Taylor gives voice to a lot of religious tensions that don’t often get voiced directly in church discourse, although this discussion is vital for a proper understanding of sin and repentance.

One of the largest takeaways from the study is that sin is highly contextual. It doesn’t seem like there is or ever will be one definition that works fully for all people because we all experience God and the world differently. The definition that Taylor offers in the book is a ruptured relationship with God and others. We came to understand repentance as the gate of salvation (Thanks John Wesley!) and the first step in moving towards salvation.

During the season of Lent, the church encourages its members to repent, which is a process that involves (in the words of Rev. Brent Huckaby) (re)turning toward God. God’s salvific power is on the forefront of congregants’ minds as we approach Easter Sunday, but to understand the full power of salvation, we must once again remind ourselves what we are being saved from. To this end, "Speaking of Sin" has sparked wonderful discussion surrounding our human shortcomings, the deep nature of sinful power in our lives and social structures, and the striking transformation that God invites us to take part in as an answer to both.  


Musical "Notes"

This May, Glenn's beloved youth choir director and assistant music director, Wes Griffin, will retire after 34 years. He has written a tribute to his time at Glenn: 

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It was the fall of 1983. I had just moved back to Atlanta from Florida and was wanting to join a church. At the invitation and urging of my good friends, Carolyn Knight and Wade Watson, I came to worship at Glenn. I received handshakes and greetings from folk when I walked in the door (probably including Joe Pugh). Larry Bauman preached a stirring sermon. The organist was magnificent, and the choir, fantastic. I was home. The rest, as we say, is history.

I joined the music staff at Glenn in 1984. The legendary Wayne Wyatt preceded me, acting as both youth minister and youth choir director (while still a full-time Candler student – amazing). Since then, through these 34 years as both Youth Choir Director and then Associate Music Director, it has been my privilege to sing with and direct not only some of the greatest musicians anywhere, but also some of the finest, most loving and kind people in the world.



It has always been my firm belief and desire that our musical offerings be made in honor and to the glory of God. I also believe that when people gather together in worship, there are opportunities for the Holy Spirit to move in our hearts in ways not found elsewhere. There is no greater joy for me than our youth singing and participating in worship. When they sing the great music of the church, not just well, but joyfully and with their hearts, I know it can be transformative for them and for all of us. We can feel the presence of and grow closer to God – experiencing the grace of Jesus Christ. God is at work!

In addition, there is an inherently strong communal and connectional aspect among choir members when making music together. We strive toward (but never quite achieve) the perfection of our music, but there are rich and potent spiritual forces that we feel in the PROCESS of making music. And it is in that process of making music as one body (all those rehearsals!) that certainly, musical skills are developed and learned, but there is rich fellowship in our gathering and friendships are formed and nurtured. And, when our efforts begin to bear musical fruit, the melodies and harmonies speak to our hearts. We know and feel it, often without having to say it. For some, it is what keeps them singing year after year.


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If I have learned anything in my many years of directing, it is that God has an amazing sense of humor and that reality has always been funnier and more humbling than anything I could make up. Here are just a few (from many) of my experiences:

·         Calling upon my extensive knowledge regarding behavioral conditioning from my BS degree in psychology and wanting to decrease distractions in choir practice, I once used a handbell as an auditory cue to my youth choir to stop talking. That lasted one rehearsal.

·         At a previous church, I made a vain attempt to compliment an older woman in my choir on the nice tan she had acquired on her legs. Embarrassed, she told me she had run out of hosiery, and had instead put make-up on her legs to darken them up. I then joined the embarrassment.

·         At Glenn, I once stood up in the choir loft in the middle of a sermon (I think John Simmons?) to try to get the attention of a youth choir girl talking and giggling. It took a minute or so of standing until she saw me (and stopped). One congregant thought my standing was part of the sermon message.

·         Selected by me and sung by the youth choir only once, the anthem, “Upon the Body of our Blessed Lord, Naked and Bloody” by Daniel Pinkham is NOT on the top-10 list of most loved youth choir songs.

·         At 11:00 a.m. worship at Glenn, I sang with and accompanied on guitar a young missionary woman dressed in a short grass skirt dancing a Hawaiian Hula. Reviews from the congregation were, shall we say, “mixed”.

·         Once, a youth, robed and sitting in the choir loft during worship, fell asleep with his face under a portion of a white sheet covering the back of risers. From the congregation, he appeared headless. 



My memory (never good to being with) fades, but I can now bask in the warm glow of some the most wonderful musical memories here at Glenn. Here are just a few:

·         Honored for years of opportunities to direct the Chancel Choir, 8:30 a.m. Primi Cantores Choir, and Women’s Chorus. 

·         Spring and Little Chapel Concerts.

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·         Choir Tours and mission trips to New York, Washington D.C., New Orleans, Toronto, Canada, and Eleuthera, Bahamas, singing at great monuments, on the streets, in homes, hotel lobbies, cathedrals, and tiny chapels.

·         Musicals, including “Narnia”, “Fiddler on the Roof”, “Godspell”, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, “Guys and Dolls”, “Sound of Music” “Music Man” and “Peter Pan”.

·         Youth Choirs invited to and singing at North Georgia Annual Conference (thanks, Donn Ann Weber).

·         Benefit concert in honor of Charlie Hoff, raising over $10,000 toward expenses incurred for his heart transplant.

·         Participants at the Emory “Open Streets” Festival for the past 3 years.

And, I also look forward to our exciting spring concert this April 14, in which youth choir alumni have been invited back for reunion and singing. 



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Through the years, I have felt the encouragement and support of so many wonderful staff – all the senior, associate and youth ministers, the amazing office support, accompanists, musical directors, and finally, our amazing children’s choir directors, whose skillful and loving preparations nurtured our children until they reached youth. 

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Steve Darsey has been not only the best Director of Music I could have hoped for, but also my good friend, offering sound advice and steadfast support. Likewise, Blair Setnor has been the best of colleagues in youth ministry, always understanding and collaborative. Alice Rogers wins the “prize” of being the only senior pastor to go on a youth choir tour at Glenn. Then, as now, I have always felt her undying support for me and commitment to our church. You shall be missed, my friend.

Yet with all that said, ultimately, it has been the Glenn community – my great friends in the Chancel Choir, the wonderful youth, and the many loving and understanding parents through these many years – that have made this journey not only possible, but rich and fulfilling.



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But my wife, Cheryl, has been and is my rock and fortress, always there for encouragement and support. Through the years of countless rehearsals, performances, letter writing campaigns, choir tour manager, musical productions, you name it – she did it. I could not have accomplished anything without her. Our son, Mason, a youth choir “captive” to his father for 7 years, not only sang, but assisted and helped when needed. My love, thanks, and appreciation to my wonderful family.



And so, it comes full-circle. “Youth” from my first Glenn youth choir are grown and some have kids that are now in my current youth choir. Yet through the years, the kids really haven’t changed, and neither has the love and support of my family and the many friends in the Glenn congregation and community. I have been and remain eternally grateful and blessed.



I officially retire from Glenn in May, looking forward to some long weekends and a few more wet fishing lines. Our own Cynthia Shepherd assumes the role of Youth Choir Director, and in her capable hands, I know that the youth choir program will thrive. Yet, Glenn is our church home. Cheryl and I are not going anywhere! 

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How Glenn Made the Bond Between Two High School Friends Stronger

This Spring, we are featuring a new series on interesting, funny, and round-a-bout ways people have discovered this community of faith called "Finding Our Way: Stories of Discovering Glenn." Read the first one here.

How did you come to call Glenn home? Tell us your story!

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Rachael Allen knew of Glenn while she was a graduate student at Emory, but that’s not how her story started. She recently reconnected with Susan Pinson through a Decatur moms’ group, DAMES, on Facebook. All it took was one message and the two of them went out for lunch. Could a Facebook group reunite high school friends? Most certainly. But what Rachael did not expect was that this coincidence would lead to more than just finding a friend. It would lead to her finding a church.

Rachael did not have good experiences from previous churches, so finding a new church was not easy. She and her husband, Zack, had to overcome one challenge: putting their faith in a new church, one that hopefully would not disappoint. As a college student, Rachael stopped going to church. She said: “I knew that I loved God, and I missed the fellowship of going to church, but I just couldn’t believe there were Christians out there who believed the way I believed about women and science and inclusiveness.” Zack shared the same feeling. It was only when a friend in Washington D.C. motivated them to start looking for a church by telling them that “there are churches like that up here. There HAVE to be some in Atlanta, too” that they began the search. This also happened to be the time that Rachael reconnected with Susan.

Rachael’s story reveals that friendship is not just about two people spending time together, but also about understanding each other’s needs. There are many ways to connect with a friend and for Rachael this was to share love for God and worship together. However, Glenn is not just a place to worship God, it’s a place to build strong connections with members of the community and a place to give and receive compassion. As Rachael says: “I could tell from our very first Sunday that Glenn was something special. By coincidence, our first Sunday happened to be my birthday, and I was so surprised to see Susan up front, and she came over and gave me a hug and remembered that it was my birthday!” At Glenn, Rachael saw people sharing important moments in their life, in a community of genuine care. Something as simple as receiving a hug brightened her day and the Glenn community made her feel a sense of acceptance.

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Rachael has also appreciated Pastor Alice’s teaching and comforting nature. She specifically remembers her sermon the Sunday after the tragedy in Charlottesville. It seems as if Rachael has found a church that represents her beliefs, her values, and the way she views the world. She and her family have embraced their values by also becoming active members in the community. Rachael and Zack have been able to engage their children in the Glenn community by packing sack lunches with their 7-year-old at Snack in a Backpack. These experiences have inspired her and her family to become better people. They are now part of an active group that seeks to improve the life of others. They are now teaching their children how to come together as a community and help those in need. But most importantly, Rachael feels that “We’ve found the people we’re going to change the world with.”

Elena Kefalogianni

Member AND Ministry Spotlight: Jess Barber on The Chancel Choir

This Friday night at 8:00 p.m., the Chancel Choir will present their annual spring concert. It will have a special focus on the evils of war and the search for peace, displayed mainly through Ralph Vaughan Williams' work, Dona Nobis Pacem. 

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A more recent member of both Glenn and the Chancel Choir, Jess Barber talks about her love of learning music and singing, how these practices connect to her faith, and what we can expect at Friday's performance. 


How did you first discover a love for music in the church? And for singing in worship?

I've been a church music maker and appreciator for as long as I can remember. I grew up singing in church - my dad played piano and sang in the choir. My younger sister and I got involved at a very early age, starting out in children and family choirs and chime choir, and later joining our parents in the adult choir. I think the fact that I experienced worship through music from such an early age explains why the two are nearly inseparable for me as an adult. I find that music speaks to parts of my spiritual self that other aspects of traditional worship don't always reach with the same depth or intensity. Singing sacred choral works makes me feel embedded in a current faith community as well as tied to generations past; it also affords me a deep personal connection with God and grounding in my faith.

What drew you to join the Chancel Choir at Glenn?

When I moved to Atlanta, I was "church-less" for several years. I came to worship at Glenn sporadically, and the experience always felt comfortable, inviting, and familiar. In addition to the warm welcome I received from fellow congregants, I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the choral music. It was clear right away that the Chancel Choir was comprised of a dedicated group of talented musicians. I've since learned a bit more about the strong tradition of, dedication to, and support for music (both choral and orchestral) in the Glenn community. Having grown up singing in church choirs, I was excited to see and hear that.

In getting to know my fellow choir members over the past several months, it's abundantly clear that those wonderful voices I'd heard years ago emanate from wonderful human beings. They have been an invaluable source of support for me, particularly in the weeks and months following the birth of my son. Being so far away from family, it's reassuring to know there are folks close by who truly care about and are there for you.

The pieces performed at this year’s Chancel Choir concert will draw on themes of peace, specifically Vaughan Williams’ cantata, Dona Nobis Pacem. How has rehearsing such pieces shaped or reshaped your understanding of peace?

I think the big message to me is that the Lord offers the only kind of peace that can bring meaningful comfort to a messy, suffering world. Life, even at its fullest and most beautiful, is not devoid of strife, loss, or pain. To be truly alive involves opening oneself up to intense feeling and experience - which means we'll inevitably be vulnerable to sadness, pain, and heartache. That's a sobering thought, but great comfort comes in knowing that God meets us here, in the midst of our weakness and suffering, and walks with us. That God is present in those most trying moments makes His gift of peace all the more real.

What has been the most rewarding piece you have learned for this performance? Why?

Dona Nobis Pacem is certainly challenging in terms of vocal expression and stamina - it's a work that demands attention and engagement every step of the way in order to do Vaughan Williams justice! I have sung the work before, but a) quite a while ago and b) on a different voice part...so re-discovering it from a different vocal vantage point has been exciting. Vaughan Williams demands a lot of the singers as individuals and as a collective - there are many tricky spots and challenging sections that present the danger of things "coming unglued". It's precisely these sections, however, that provide the greatest reward for the singer (and hopefully the audience, too!) when everything comes together.

The Purcell motet Hear My Prayer is absolutely stunning. Clear, pure tones and intense dissonances paint a haunting, deeply personal picture of a people pleading for their Lord to hear and understand their plight. The choir will be situated around the perimeter of the sanctuary, so the audience can sit back, close their eyes, and let the music wash over them from all sides.

What do you hope the audience feels and learns through the pieces you will perform?

Stylistically, I hope they really feel the drama that Vaughan Williams imbues throughout the Dona Nobis Pacem. Much of the piece details (both in word and musical expression) the disruptive, all-penetrating force of war, which leaves no aspect of normal life intact. If done right, the listener should get a real sense of the pervasive tumult of war. Expect to be jolted by the wind-whipping call of the bugles and to shudder at the roar of terrible drums! Juxtaposed against this onslaught are passages of stunning beauty: The rising of a "sorrowful vast phantom" moon, the incessant washing of this soiled world by the "sisters, Death and Night"...and a final call for a world in which "nation shall not lift up a sword against nation" and peace, truth, and righteousness reign. The artistry with which Vaughan Williams melds word and music has the power to transport both the singer and the hearer. 

More broadly, I hope those in attendance come away with the sense that, although the realities of war and loss are never far from our human condition, the peace of God is ever near as well.

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It's Showtime!

The youth performance of Shakespearean comedy Twelfth Night is now only days away, and the cast are getting excited to invite the audience into the world they have immersed themselves in for months. A zany world of mistaken identities, romance, and revenge.

Two of the cast members, Ted Shepherd and Sara Kathryn Wierwille, tell us why they love Glenn youth productions and why Twelfth Night is not to be missed! 

 Ted as Orsino and Sara Kathryn as Viola practicing lines during rehearsal. 

Ted as Orsino and Sara Kathryn as Viola practicing lines during rehearsal. 

Twelfth Night makes how many Glenn productions for you? If it is not your first, what keeps you coming back, doing them year after year?
Ted - Twelfth Night is my fifth Glenn production. I look forward to participating every year because of the community of friends that I get to spend time with and the challenge of developing a great show with them.

Sara Kathryn - Twelfth Night is my fifth production as well. I keep coming back to preform because I am guaranteed a spot to be able to participate and I get to act and sing with people I enjoy doing it with, It’s so much fun to be able to act and sing with your friends. 

What character do you play in Twelfth Night? Tell us about him/her.
Ted - My character is Orsino. He is a charming magician that has trouble concealing his true feelings. During the play, he is madly in love, but his love is not reciprocated.

Sara Kathryn - I play the character Viola. She is not from Ilyria, the town where the circus is, but she and her brother are in a shipwreck and wash up on its shore. She’s witty and funny and an all around lovable person...and also falls in love with Orsino. 

Describe the preparations involved in putting on a show. What do you personally do to learn your lines and get in character?
Ted - Practice, practice, practice. We usually have about 3 rehearsals a week, but this last week we have practiced every day. To learn my lines, I record them and then listen to them over and over until I have them memorized. To get into character, I think about Orsino’s backstory and this helps me understand his feelings and reactions in each scene. 

Sara Kathryn - To prepare for the play, I read the whole unabridged version of Twelfth Night and a translation. I also saw a version of it at the Shakespeare Tavern. Since Shakespeare is especially tricky to learn, I went through all my lines to understand the meaning. I also enlisted a bunch of friends who were willing to patiently run lines with me and help me get my exact wording right. In my acting class in school, we are told to answer Uta Hagen’s Nine Questions to get into character. These questions involve getting to know your character and understanding it and I used the answers to those questions to help me understand my character. 

What has performing in front of an audience taught you about yourself? About Glenn Youth?
Ted - Performing in front of an audience has taught me the importance of oral communication. There are so many different ways to say the same lines, and my body language, tone, facial expressions, and rate of speaking determine how the audience will perceive what I’m saying. I’ve also learned that, with dedication, cooperation, and hard work, a bunch of goofy teenagers can make a great show that even non-family members want to come see.

Sara Kathryn - Preforming in front of an audience has taught me a number of things. First, always know your cues. Our director Sims says “Your cues are as important as your lines.” This way you know when to be on stage and when to talk. It has also taught me that as long as you can play off your mistake the audience will never know it happened. They don’t know what is supposed to happen so if you make it look like it was supposed to be that way they’ll never know. I have also learned that Glenn Youth is a great place to get experience in front of an audience. Everyone in the cast is there to support you and have fun with you even if you make a mistake. 

Why should everyone make sure to see Twelfth Night?
Ted - Everyone should see this show because it is a fun, modern take on a classic Shakespearean comedy.

Sara Kathryn - Everyone should come see Twelfth Night because not only will you be able to see a great group of people preform but you will also be able to see amazing circus acts. There are acrobats, stilt walkers, and magic tricks. Everyone has worked so hard to make this play enjoyable for everyone. 

Thank you, Ted and Sara Kathryn! Best of luck this weekend! 


Friday, February 23, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, February 24, 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, February 25, 2:00 p.m. (childcare provided for the Sunday matinee)

Tickets are $5 for children under 10 and $10 for adults. Reserve your tickets here, and pay online or at the door. Advanced online ticket reservation and sales will close on Thursday, February 22 at 5:00 p.m. Tickets will still be available at the door, but there are limited seats for each showing.  


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.

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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.

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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?

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

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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?

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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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


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.
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