Back to (Sunday) School

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

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

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

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

Dena Mellick
Communications Team

 

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

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

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

 

The Roominess of God's Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Glimpse into Sunday

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

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

Photo credit: Elizabeth Stevens

Photo credit: Elizabeth Stevens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Blessed Assurance"
Reflection by Susan Pinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Middle School Musings on Missions

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

 

Sunday - “Rush it, or don't?"

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

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

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

 

Monday - The Innocence of Children

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

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

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

 

Tuesday - The Ability We are Given

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

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

Well, enough about me.

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

 

Wednesday - A Living Sacrifice

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

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

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

 

Thursday - The Little Things

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

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

 

Friday - Sunrise

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

Until next year.

 

Thomas Horton

Theology of Hymns: Songs that Shape Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Irene Hatchett

Member Spotlight - Anne Michael and Edward Sustman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Riddikulus!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alice

Annual Conference through Laity Eyes

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

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

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

Ginger Smith

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

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


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

Carolyn Gilbert

Alice and Deb at the Laity Dinner.

Alice and Deb at the Laity Dinner.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Johnson

Andrew and young adult delegate, Ellie McQuaig.

Andrew and young adult delegate, Ellie McQuaig.


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

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

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

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

Carole Adams

Donn Ann helping each session run smoothly.

Donn Ann helping each session run smoothly.

Summer Reading Picks

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

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

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

 

Adam Hamilton's "Making Sense of the Bible"

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


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

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

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


Marilyn Robinson's "Gilead"

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

 

 

 


Rowan Williams's "Being Christian"

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

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


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

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


Richard Foster's "Celebration of Discipline"

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

 

Tune In

“George Gershwin is a jerk!”

I first said these words in the summer of 2003. Having graduated from college one year earlier, I was hitting my first real summer as a working adult. Sure, I had held jobs when I was out of school other summers, but they had been easy employment that I did because I wanted to have money to spend during the school year. And in 2002 I had just graduated and spent that summer excited to be in a job that was using my degree and pursuing a vocation.

But the summer of 2003 was different. When Memorial Day rolled around my life did not change. There was no celebration of the end of school. There was no change of location. There was no mindless job that let my brain rest. Everything. Stayed. The. Same. I continued working at the same job doing the same things in the same place. The only thing that changed was that the temperature in Orlando, Florida grew progressively, and oppressively, hotter. So when someone first sang out that beautiful Porgy and Bess ballad, “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy,” I channeled all my frustration at adult life squarely onto Mr. Gershwin. While my living was not really that hard, it was not the easy summer living I had experienced in the past.

The truth is, summers haven’t gotten any easier since then. With the addition of kids, summer becomes a time of arranging childcare, vacations, camps, and too much free time for the little ones. While I cherish the time I get to spend with my three boys for a week or two of vacation, summer doesn’t always seem to offer more time to breathe and relax than the rest of the year.

Brent pictured with his three sons and brother.

Brent pictured with his three sons and brother.

This past Sunday, we celebrated Pentecost at The Gathering. Instead of focusing on Acts 2, however, we looked at the other lectionary reading from John 20: 19-23, when Jesus appears to the disciples and breathes the Holy Spirit onto them following the resurrection. In scripture, the Holy Spirit often is described as breath, wind, or the air around us. Even Yahweh, the name of God given to Moses, is meant to imitate the sound of breathing. God’s presence is in and around all things; it is the life force that is found in everything.

However, the busyness of life can keep us from being aware of the presence of God. Even though “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19) and there is nowhere we can go from God’s presence (Psalm 139), it is easy to get lost in our day-to-day lives and not take the time to cultivate connection with God. Just like it is important for us to take vacations that remind us that our work is not all we are about, it is important to set aside time to breathe and allow ourselves to tune into God’s presence around us. It could be as simple as taking a walk to look in wonder at creation, making a point to worship together each week, or setting aside a few minutes each day to still ourselves, clear our minds and breathe the very name of God.

This summer many of us will get to take vacations, most of us will keep on working, some of us will arrange and rearrange childcare and children, but very few of us would say that the living is “easy.” I hope you can find time to relax and enjoy the summer, and also find time to breathe, to connect, and recognize and become more aware of the presence of God all around you. That is something that will make all the seasons more enjoyable.

Brent

Climate: A Brief Conversation

Interested in climate justice? And how The United Methodist Church is engaged in that work?

Then you might have a friend in Jan Lichtenwalter.

Keep reading for her conversation with Michael Black, a member of our Environmental Committee and faculty lecturer in the Neuroscience Institute at Georgia State University, on some national and local events aimed at tackling issues surrounding climate change.

 

Jan Lichtenwalter: The Glenn Environmental Committee, as you know, recently sponsored a trip to Costa Rica, a small Central American nation, but a world giant in its sustainability efforts. Soon after those 21 participants returned, deeply impressed by the commitment of the Costa Rican people to protect their world, United Methodists held a Climate Justice Conference on April 28 in the Washington D.C. area, addressing many facets of the environmental crisis of climate change, preceding the national People’s Climate March the next day.

Please tell us about your role in planning the UM gathering in the Washington area, and similar events held here in Atlanta the same weekend.
 

Michael Black: The Climate Justice Conference on Friday, April 28 was the 10th annual national Caretakers of God’s Creation Caring for Creation Conference that was started at Lake Junaluska in 2008. Next year’s conference will be in Minnesota. I’ve helped in planning the Caring for Creation conference for several years.

On the same Friday as the conference, Atlanta had a rally and sendoff for activists to DC. Ahead of the sendoff, I helped a coalition of groups organize the low-cost buses through Atlanta and Athens to Washington, DC, recruit riders, and arrange bus scholarships for low-income minority Atlanta community members.

On Saturday, conference attendees met in the morning at the United Methodist Building near the Supreme Court to hear from speakers of different faiths on the ethical importance of climate justice. We then marched to join the Keepers of Faith contingent of the People’s Climate March. At the head of the People’s Climate March were people bearing the brunt of climate and environmental injustice - the indigenous, frontline environmental, and climate justice communities. These included water protectors from Standing Rock and frontline community members from Atlanta. We peacefully marched from the US Capitol to surround the White House and then came together at the Washington Monument to call for action and better policies to address the climate crisis.

On Saturday in Atlanta, supporters gathered in Decatur for a sister march to those marching in DC and globally and in solidarity with those suffering from the effects of climate change.

 

JL: Soon after the Climate Justice Conference and the Climate Change March, a resolution advocating for 100% renewable energy use by the City of Atlanta passed unanimously. How were you involved in supporting the proposal? What do we need to watch for, going forward in our commitment to advocate for responsible environmentalism?
 

MB: I announced at the Caretakers of God’s Creation that the Atlanta resolution for 100% clean energy was coming up for a vote, and we prayed about it. The following Monday, ahead of the city council vote, I spoke as a citizen before the Atlanta City Council in favor of the resolution advocating for 100% clean energy by City of Atlanta.

The Atlanta City Council unanimously passed the resolution and committed Atlanta to the goal. Now we need to follow through on that commitment.

There’s a Southface Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable this Friday, June 2, at 7:30 a.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church (next to the North Avenue MARTA station) to talk about City of Atlanta plans to achieve its 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2035. This is the first in a series of steps to get us there, and I encourage anyone interested to join me there this Friday.

 

JL: Speakers at Mt. Olivet UMC in the DC area, the site of the conference, spoke to United Methodists from across the country. Worship included leadership by Native American members of the UMC, who historically have led us in reverence for God's creation. John Venzia, an expert on climate change, explained shocking statistics as part of his report on the Paris Accord. Jenny Phillips, founder of "Fossil Free UMC," explained the work of that group, and the political complications of passing resolutions at General Conference. A panel of leaders in divestment strategies, both within the UMC and among professional investment managers, gave reasons for hope as more and more investors demand divestment from fossil fuels. Pat Watkins, from the General Board of Global Ministries, presented a workshop on "The Bible and Creation."  He also explained "Earthkeepers," a new opportunity for UM persons keenly aware of current ecological challenges, who volunteer to work in congregations and communities as advocates for sustainability.  (Contact Susan Mullin, susan.mullin@comcast.net, for more information and an application.)  And late in the day, Michele Roberts urged pursuit of environmental justice, and United Methodist Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, spoke with passion and a sense of alarm about the enormity of the climate crisis.

There is so much to understand! How would you advise us to begin or continue as individual Christians and as Glenn members, to focus our efforts?
 

MB: Focus your efforts on what matters. I think Jim Hartzfeld said it well when he said “change the design question to: how do we create conditions for thriving lives?”

We certainly need to draw down the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere below 350 ppm CO2 equivalents and get there soon for the health of all people on our planet. For those interested in how best to do that, there is a new edited book, Drawdown, by Paul Hawken and others. Decatur First UMC is hosting an event on Thursday, June 8 from 7 - 8:30 p.m. (318 Sycamore Street) featuring Drawdown author Katharine Wilkinson, Sustainability Advisor Jim Hartzfeld, and Drawdown Board Member and Ray C. Anderson Foundation Executive Director John Lanier. To reach the safe levels we want, we need to employ all of the ways listed in the book. The strategy on the top of the list is one I bet even the most educated at Glenn would not guess. Write down what you think are the top five ways, and you can see if you’re right. You can find the answers online, find out in the book or at the event, or email me for them (seawater@gsu.edu). Explanations can also be found at any of those places. Strategy number six in the Drawdown ranking to reach a safer level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is to educate girls globally, something that Glenn already does through its support of students' tuition and school building projects for over 100 children in Zimbabwe, Cambodia, and Honduras.

We are making a difference by loving our neighbor, and we can amplify the difference we make.


New Faces

We are excited to welcome two new interns and one new staff member to Glenn. Connor and Kristen have jumped in head first already and Jad will begin later this summer. Get to know them a bit better through these questions and answers, and say hello next time you see them at Glenn!

 

Meet Connor Bell, Candler School of Theology intern

On a mission trip in Guatemala

On a mission trip in Guatemala

Dancing at his wedding with his parents...to a Journey song?

Dancing at his wedding with his parents...to a Journey song?

Best book you’ve read recently…
The Bible, of course! Is that a trick question!? Trying to make us look bad? Nice try. Also, The Little Prince. If you've got 15 minutes of free time and you've never read it, do yourself a favor and grab a copy. Or I'll loan anybody mine!

Favorite local restaurant…
When my wife says that we have enough money, I love to go to Brick Store Pub in downtown Decatur. However, Slice & Pint is a more frequent favorite.

Most engaging class in seminary…
Believe it or not, my Old Testament class was the most engaging for me. I, like many others, did not feel like I had a rock-solid understanding of the Old Testament narrative before this class. I still don't, but it was very enlightening anyway.

A moving moment in ministry…
There are a few that come to mind. Right now, since I am about to go to worship practice, the opportunity to lead others in worship is always particularly moving for me. I connect with God during worship in a way that is life-giving for me, and I pray that I will continue to be in awe of the God who creates, forgives, sanctifies, and sustains.

Your goals for your time with us…
I am hoping that my time here will help me to discern in what capacities I am best suited to serve the church in expanding God's kingdom in the future.

 

Meet Kristen Wright, Candler School of Theology intern

Singing and playing guitar at this year's Easter sunrise service

Singing and playing guitar at this year's Easter sunrise service

Brushing up on her photography skills

Brushing up on her photography skills

Best book you’ve read recently…
Executing Grace by Shane Claiborne. It is an eye opening book about justice, redemption, and the need for Christians to be active in abolishing the death penalty. Claiborne uses real stories from families of victims and the accused to show that forgiveness and grace is possible for all people. it is a must read!

Favorite local restaurant…
I'm not going to lie...there aren't many restaurants/food items that I don't like. But some of the top favorites are Antico Pizza, Community BBQ, Rise and Dine, La Parilla...oh, and Chick FIl A. :)

Most engaging class in seminary…
Old Testament with Dr. LeMon takes the cake! He made the Old Testament come alive in a way I had never experienced before. We also sang a lot of songs in Hebrew, which I loved.

A moving moment in ministry…
The first time I served communion was moving and equally emotional. I had just finished preaching and my mentor/pastor came forward to bless the elements. We then served the congregation. Looking each member in the eyes and reminding them that "this is the body broken for YOU" was indescribable. It further affirmed in me a call to ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church.

Your goals for your time with us…
My goal is to form meaningful relationships with the youth and to help grow the Gathering service! I am also excited to learn and grow from the amazing pastors at Glenn.

 

Meet Jad Taylor, Assistant Youth Director

Posing with Mr. Claus and his sister and brother-in-law

Posing with Mr. Claus and his sister and brother-in-law

A silly protest of the required church directory photo by including his pastor's dog

A silly protest of the required church directory photo by including his pastor's dog

The best book you've read recently...
The Pacific and Other Stories
by Mark Helprin. I would recommend the book to every human being ever.

Favorite local restaurant…
Since I don't yet live in Atlanta, I have a limited selection of favorite local restaurants from which to choose. Still, one of my favorite restaurants in the area-ish is Hankook Taqueria. Hankook is on the other side of town but well worth the trip. You want to go there; I promise.

Most engaging class in seminary…
Choosing the most engaging class in seminary is also challenging as I have yet to begin seminary (but will enroll this fall). However, I sat in on Rev. Dr. Fry Brown's "Contemporary Black Preaching" class during my visit to Candler. I would have gladly stayed in her class all day and very likely a good chunk of the afternoon, evening, and night.

A moving moment in ministry…
A moving moment in ministry involved a young woman who came to the previous church I served after being excluded from numerous other churches due to her sexual orientation. She quickly found a home and began to flourish as the church's inclusive embrace affirmed her as a beautiful child of God.

Your goals for your time with us…
My goals for my time with Glenn are to come alongside the amazing youth, families, and congregation to grow in love of God and neighbor. Glenn has a reputation far beyond its walls as welcome and affirming church. I am excited to be part of the amazing work God is doing in and through the people of Glenn!

Above the Brim

I knew there was no real danger: I had two large packs of cheese crackers, four bottles of water, my low-top hiking boots, two powerful flashlights, a Buck knife, and my tried and strong walking stick—I could walk out, even if it took all night.

After major events, I have to get away. The spiritual momentum of major services and concerts well up and chase me out of my commonplace. On a Friday afternoon, I headed to Jeep OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) trails just northeast of Chatsworth. Though I have had my Wrangler for a couple of years now, I have done little off roading. Apart from my profession, I am loath to take lessons on anything. Thus, I have no training in the subtleties of four-wheel driving or negotiating rough terrain. I have observed over the years, that when friends have bought four-wheelers, very soon thereafter, they have to call a tow truck to get them out of some field, ditch, or swamp where their false sense of invincibility has entrapped them. Rather than take a class, my strategy on rough roads has been to drive so far as I felt I could without getting stuck, or worse, and then turn back.

Having left Atlanta at 2:30, I arrived at the trail head at 4:30. After 11 years of camping, backpacking, and now Jeeping, I have learned that written directions are not an exact science. They are written from the perspective of the writer, and often subject to misunderstanding, perhaps especially by this left-handed, right brained, mentally peripatetic musician. They should be written so as to be impossible to misunderstand, but seldom are. Thus, I try to have the latest of navigational tools with me: electronic GPS and maps and printed maps and trail guides as well—all of which I check and recheck before each possible turn, and even when there are no turns, to confirm I am on the correct trail. This trip, like many others, nevertheless required making decisions seemingly unsupported by any of these. My Microsoft Band 2 was tracking my path with my phone via Bluetooth, so I knew I could retrace my course should I get lost.

The first leg was an ordinary forest service road, manageable with most street cars. Soon, I turned into a true OHV trail. This was the roughest road I had ever driven. It was narrow, room for only one vehicle, with frequent ridges, stones, and gullies that an ordinary vehicle would have bottomed out and gotten stuck on. I was a bit surprised at how easily the Wrangler drove over these and negotiated the many rocks on the trail. As I drove, my confidence and pleasure in the power and dexterity of the vehicle grew. There is a rhythm, even a sentience among the vehicle, driver and the obstacles—how they relate to and move with each other. These matters I am striving to learn through gradual, considered experience.

There are other dangers. A small partially fallen tree, with a jagged end was sticking into the trail at the height of my Jeep cab. I could have driven past, but it would likely have cut into my soft top, ruining it. Fortunately, as I had brought no cutting tools, I was able to manually pull and break it back, out of the way. Riding with the windows down, one must watch for brush and particularly sharp limbs protruding into the trail at driver height, for one catching the windshield and snapping into the cab as I passed could spear me. I raised the window for one such.

While driving, I wondered in the wilderness, surrounded by trees, with the bright sun still streaming through their limbs and leaves, illumining the prophetic, soul-healing propinquity of limb, leaf and light. Rarely, the wind blew, and the trees responded in their ancient-tuned intimacy.

I came to a small stream and crossed it. Then I came to a larger stream that would require some negotiation. I stopped to consider tactics. Across the stream was a young man with bleached hair and an unusually large dirt bike. He seemed to be relaxing by the beautiful stream, which broke into several branches below the road crossing. I waved at him. Of course, whenever I meet someone in the wilderness, I consider the possibility of ill intent. I have learned, however, that a friendly gesture and smile virtually always inspires an in-kind response, and so it was here; he waved back. I returned to the Jeep, and approached the stream. As I entered it, rocks stopped me. This, of course, was embarrassing in front my new friend. I put it into four-wheel drive and pulled through securely. As he saw me coming, he moved his bike further out of the way. When I pulled up beside him, I asked him where he was from. “California, but I’ve been here for three years.” I said, “I’m from Atlanta, welcome to Georgia.” After a pause, he said, “You might run up on a couple of fallen trees down the trail. I only brought my machete, but I’ve cleared some brush along the way.” Realizing that I too should be clearing trails as I went, and feeling guilty, I said, “we appreciate it,” and drove on, worrying about the fallen trees I might encounter. Next time, I’ll bring a chainsaw.

Further on, I encountered a couple of bikers coming toward me. I stopped, pulled over as best I could and let them pass. I was ready to speak to them, but they didn’t seem interested and moved on past. They seemed like kids renting bikes who weren’t real off-roaders. (As if I were one.) Then, further on, one of them, or possibly a different solo biker, came up behind me. I pulled over and let him pass.

I came to a high place where I had cell coverage, and wrote two friends of my whereabouts in case I got stranded; but I had no fears of that, I was feeling intrepid and having a wonderful time.

About five minutes later, I came to a convergence of trails. This did not correspond to my maps, internet or paper. There was a trail to the left that ascended precipitously, appearing to be virtually solid rock, and no longer in use. The others looked more promising, but didn’t appear to be heading in my chosen direction. I drove a short distance down a couple of them to see how their course tracked on my GPS map, and both were taking me in wrong directions. So, I headed up the steep rocky trail and was surprised at my dexterity in climbing the hill—I didn’t even think about the challenge, I just drove. It seemed the correct direction, but after some 50 yards I came to a fallen tree. I stopped, got out and walked up to the tree. It was fairly high off the ground but too low to squeeze under. Without the means to cut it down, I had no choice but to turn around and retreat. Easy enough, I thought.

There was a clearing off the left side of the road. Confident of the clearance of the Jeep, I backed to the left into the clearing, turned hard to my right and moved forward to make the turn around. As my front wheels hit the tire gulley on the opposite side of the trail, I hit a rock underneath the Jeep. I paused, but pressed on again, spinning. I put it into four-wheel drive and spun again. I put it in reverse and spun some more. I knew better than to spin until I had dug an inescapable hole, so I turned the engine off and got out. I was now frightened, for getting stuck in this remote area was serious. As I said at the outset, I was not worried for my life, but it would nevertheless be terrible to be stranded up there. My heart began to race.

I surveyed the situation. Just inside, and forward of my right rear wheel, the frame had run on a large rock, pulled it up and stopping the Jeep. It had the wheels lifted up so that they had little traction. There was another smaller looking rock a little further back that the frame had dug into as well. I didn’t see an easy, quick way out of this, or actually any way at all. However, I had learned as a youth, that if I studied a situation long enough, even if I had no knowledge or skills requisite to the problem, I often could see a solution. A skilled four-wheel driver would likely have known how to drive out with little effort, but not me.

I could pry the rock out if I had a crow bar. With no crow bar, I thought, perhaps, I could push it out from the back with my walking stick. Tried. Impossible. Handle from the jack? I found the jack under the passenger seat but it was so tightly engineered into its brackets it took be some ten minutes to get it out. I tried the little tire tool on the rock, but it was like David and Goliath, without David’s skill. Sigh. Then I thought of jacking the jeep above the rock. I set the jack under the left rear bumper. The jack is so short, and the Jeep so high, it would not be effective, so I found and moved a couple of large rocks, chosen to fit the ground so as to provide a flat surface for the jack. Fortunately, I keep work gloves in the Jeep.

I placed the jack on the rocks and hand turned the crank gear until the jack was secure under the bumper frame. Then I put the handle to the jack, but it was not engineered to fit the hole in the gear crank. I had the wrong part. I walked around cursing the dealer for not giving me the right equipment, and myself for not testing it after two years. After a while, I realized it was improbable they had sold me a Jeep without the requisite tools and went back to look below the passenger seat. I was baffled, for I saw nothing else. I widened my search and felt under the carpet to the right of the passenger seat and found a long tool for use in tandem with the jack handle. I jacked it up. This did indeed lift the jeep off the rocks. But the jack was leaning forward and I feared it would collapse, so I lowered it, repositioned the rocks and raised it again. This was more secure and allowed me to survey the underside of the Jeep free of the rocks. It occurred to me to close the passenger side door, in case the Jeep fell on me, and also to put the emergency brake on. Getting into the jeep to do so was delicate for it was rather high off the ground and I didn’t want to knock it off the jack.

I made an attempt to move the big rock from under the jeep. It moved a little, but I surmised this wouldn’t be successful without my getting under the jeep and doing a lot of digging. Was there an easier way? I thought, perhaps I could drive it over the rocks, with the jack keeping it high enough to clear. So, I got in, started the engine, made sure the four-wheel was engaged, turned the wheels all the way to the right and drove forward. It immediately ran on the rocks again. Despair. However, when I surveyed the underside, I saw that it had moved forward some, and that I could now put the jack under the frame in front of the right rear wheel. I did so, and raised it again above the rocks. Now I had better access to the big rock and was able to maneuver it a little. I decided to go for it. I began to wrestle it, and the more I wrestled, the more my body began to learn how to relate to it, and it began to come out more easily, until, finally, I got it clear. This was a lot of strenuous activity for this ageing road warrior and I was breathing heavily.

Now I studied the other rock. I cleared some dirt away and I saw that it was actually much larger and longer that the other, mostly out of sight underground. With much long effort I could possibly dig it out, but I would have to work right under the jeep, which was unsafe. Then it occurred to me, that as this rock was much lower than the other, my driving with the jack up gambit might work this time. Then I also remembered that I had failed to take the hand break off on my previous attempt. (Brilliant Darsey.)

I got in the jeep, powered up and drove clear right down the trail. Hallelujah. This was two hours later. I walked back to the site, gave thanks to God for leading me clear, collected my equipment, went back to the jeep and began the drive out. As night fell, I heard the first animal sounds of the day: three Bard Owls calling from the wilderness, thanking me for coming, saluting me on overcoming the challenge, and inviting me to continue searching for God in the wilderness.

While I would never have wished for this challenge, it is this crisis that made this adventure most memorable, and worth writing up.

Prophecy in worship involves a similar adventure, a quest to reach previously unknown theological ground, overcoming the pitfalls and the challenges along the way, and when stymied with no path forward, looking to God. This requires a degree of risk, filling the cup above the brim as we press toward the awe-striking, transfiguring presence and knowledge of God.

Steve Darsey

Boundary Crossing: Leadership and Relationship at Glenn and Emory

It is difficult to find adequate words to describe the past 11 years that I and my family have been honored to serve, learn, grow, and be in ministry with the Emory and Glenn Memorial community. It has been so very good - from walking and biking the back roads of Oakdale, The By Way, and Lullwater to traversing the labyrinth of sidewalks, stairs, and green spaces of Emory’s campus to sitting in the sacred spaces of Cannon Chapel, the Glenn Sanctuary, and the Little Chapel to serving in the wider Atlanta community alongside some of the most remarkable, learned, humble, and faithful people.

My journey in ministry has been one that demonstrates God’s faithfulness through the mentorship and guidance of so many who have helped me to progress from a worship attendee to Candler Intern to Associate Pastor to The Gathering's Music Coordinator to Wesley Fellowship Director. I have cherished working with and learning alongside the leaders of these communities and the opportunities for ministry together with students, children, senior adults, and everyone in between.

The connections between local churches and young adults in general, and college students specifically, has never been more important than now - a time where the United Methodist Church has so much to offer in the world in regard to how to live into the tension between ideas - after all, we are “both-and” people who are trained to resist the false dichotomies of dualistic thinking. We are called to listen for and envision a third way. Intergenerational ministry opportunities like the ones Emory Wesley and Glenn Memorial have shared over the past decade of my time and the many years before that offer so much to the students and Glenn members and the wider community. There is a mutualistic giving and receiving present in the act of working alongside one another - whether that be bagging food at Intown Food Pantry, packing meals into backpacks together on Thursday nights, reading Dr. King’s Dream Speech at Branan Towers, sharing lunch on the grounds on a sunny afternoon following Glenn-Emory Day worship, or simply walking alongside one another through the highs and lows of community life.

Emory Wesley students gathering for fellowship.

Emory Wesley students gathering for fellowship.

Glenn Church and Emory Wesley visit Branan Towers together.

Glenn Church and Emory Wesley visit Branan Towers together.

Emory Wesley in Selma, AL.

Emory Wesley in Selma, AL.

In the past three years of my Doctor of Ministry research and coursework, it has been further made clear to me that relationships are what ground us in God’s love. (Read more on my Doctoral work at Candler here). The divine dance of the Trinity demonstrates God’s self-giving and mutualistic model of relationships. These important, boundary crossing relationships are what help us to build places of belonging, community, and, ultimately, transformation. We carry what we learn from these relationships as they continue to shape us into the people we are today.

In June I will begin a new season of ministry as I will be appointed to serve as Associate Pastor at Oak Grove UMC. At Emory Wesley, we have a relational leadership development model, which I share often (perhaps ad nauseam), called the “Rainbow Model[1]:”

1) I do this and you enjoy it,
2) I do this and you help,
3) You do this and I help, and
4) You do this (inviting others), and I move on.

And so we now enter the 4th step of this leadership model as my time comes to a close at Emory Wesley Fellowship. I have full confidence in our student leaders, our Advisory Board, and the newly named Emory Wesley Director, Mr. Jason Grubbs.

Frances, Ali, and I will cherish the relationships formed with the people and staff of Glenn, the students of Emory Wesley, and the wider Emory University community. Thank you for your continued support of Emory Wesley and our ministry together in the Emory Community.

Grace and peace,

Rev. Dr. Joseph McBrayer

 

[1] L. David Stone, ed., Catching the Rainbow: A Total Concept Youth Ministry (Nashville: Abingdon, 1981).

More Than Just Mother's Day

For many, Mother’s Day is a day of joy, thanksgiving, and honoring special women in our lives.  For still many others, Mother’s Day brings forth waves of emotions on the other end of the spectrum – ranging from grief and disappointment to even guilt and shame. As a pastor, I have heard how those who find themselves in the latter category usually skip going to church on Mother’s Day each May. After all, why submit oneself to a day of heartache when even the smiles of children and lovely flower corsages trigger pain and sadness?

While the history of Mother’s Day has both ancient mystical origins and a winding path through British and American history, from our perspective in the life of the church family, we acknowledge that mothering takes many different forms. And we humbly recognize that not all who fit the category of “mother” do so in ways that would make a nice greeting card to celebrate each May.

And so on Sunday, May 14 at Glenn, we will celebrate The Festival of the Christian Home. We will honor and celebrate the new babies born or adopted into our church family within the last year or so and we will honor and celebrate the men and women of our congregation who are 90-years-old and older. We will give thanks for the lives and examples of faith and love these remarkable nonagenarians have given and continue to give to our community. We will give thanks for the lives and hopes for the future these adorable babies already give to our community. We will celebrate that our Christian homes come in all shapes and sizes…and that God, as our Heavenly Parent, nurtures us and protects us like the wings of a mother bird covering her young. We will celebrate with those who celebrate their mothers. We will grieve with those who grieve for their mothers. We will lament with those who grieve infertility; we will join in sadness with those who remember a child or a mother once held in our hearts or our arms.

We will come together to worship – celebrating and giving thanks for milestones in our families and in our church. We will give thanks for the beauty and wonder of all stages of life – for newborn babies and young children, for teenagers and young adults celebrating graduations, for adults caring for both young and old alike, and for older adults sharing their lives of love and wisdom through the years. We will praise God for the gift of motherly love, both gentle and fierce, both strong and humble, both kind and true. We will remember and give thanks for all of those who have nurtured us with the love of a mother – our parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, teachers and caregivers, neighbors, friends, and even strangers. 

No matter how long the waits are for Sunday Brunch after church and no matter if we forgot to send a card or not, we will celebrate and give thanks with those whom this Mother’s Day brings joy and thankfulness – and pray for blessings of love between the generations – from the youngest to the oldest. We will grieve and pray for comfort with those whom this day brings sadness, regret, or hopelessness – and pray for the Lord’s peace to abound for all ages, for all stages, no matter what our homes or families or hearts may look like. 

So no matter what emotions this interesting “holiday” bubbles up in your heart, we hope you won’t skip church on May 14. Join us in celebrating arguably the most adorable members of our church family – the youngest and the oldest! And come early to sneak in a few baby snuggles or to be regaled with a story from decades ago from one of our seniors!

Grace and Peace,

Susan
Minister for Children and Older Adults

 

In the community:

"Hannah Service: an ecumenical service of lament, grief, and hope for those who have experienced infertility, pregnancy loss, and/or infant loss"

While any day can be difficult for those who are struggling, or who have struggled, with the grief associated with infertility, miscarriage, or infant loss, the season of Mother’s Day can be particularly trying. Join us for a time of prayer and reflection as we name and honor that grief, while striving toward hope.

When: Thursday, May 11, 7:00 p.m.
Where: The Parlor Room at First Baptist Church of Decatur (308 Clairemont Ave, Decatur, GA 30030)

Contact: Shelley Woodruff shwoodruff@gmail.com 

Member Spotlight: Youth Senior Sam McKlin

Six high school seniors will anchor our 11:00 a.m. Youth Sunday service this weekend as they deliver reflections on their time at Glenn. These rite of passage moments are often packed full of both comedic and pull-at-your-heartstring memories. It gives them a chance to say farewell (for now) to a congregation that has nurtured them, and a chance for the congregation to be reminded of the authenticity and vibrancy Glenn Youth bring to our life together.

One of those seniors - Sam McKlin - who grew up at Glenn and is heading to Davidson College this fall, reflects below on his years with this community of faith:

 

1. Looking back on your time at Glenn, tell us about an experience that shaped who you are today.

In my sophomore year of high school I played the lead role, Harold Hill, in the Music Man. Prior to that performance, I had been in smaller roles in two of the previous youth productions. Since I only had the onstage experience consisting of about 20 different lines and some group musical numbers, I didn't know if I'd be able to handle the responsibility and commitment that comes with playing a lead part. In the months leading up to the musical I put a lot of time into learning the flow of my lines, understanding my character, and memorizing "Ya Got Trouble." Looking back on that experience, I can recognize how much it changed me. It taught me to be more confident not only in acting and singing but also to be more confident in school and in my own personality. I also learned that I can accomplish something difficult even if I've never had experience with it before, and that sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to learn something new.

 

2. Glenn Youth is such a tightly knit community of friends that feel like family. Was there ever a moment when you felt particularly upheld and supported?

Glenn Youth has been the best environment for me to grow up in. I feel constantly accepted and supported by the entire group. A few years ago at a senior high retreat, we decided to try a new way to bond with each other. We sat in a circle and people who wanted to share anything that was causing them pain or grief or stress from their personal lives could say it confidentially. You never know what even some of your best friends might be going through, and listening to each other and empathizing with one another drew our group even closer together. I felt most upheld and supported myself in that moment, and I know I was upholding and supporting my friends just the same.

 

3. You are musically talented and have graciously shared those gifts with the congregation. How has music enriched your life of faith?

Music has given me so much in and outside of Glenn. I joined the cherub choir when I was 4, and I've been singing in the church choirs ever since. Music is something that grounds me to my faith, and it helps bring people together. Whenever we hear "Amen," everyone in the congregation can hear Bill Mallard's voice and life living on in the song. Personally, music gives me a similar connection to God and to others by letting me express my emotions in a way that I find difficult to accomplish with words.

 

4. When you move away to college, a lot of stuff will get packed up with you. What “stuff” will you pack up from Glenn to take with you? What lessons and values will you carry from Glenn?

Glenn has taught me to be a kind, accepting person. Perhaps the best lesson I have learned from Glenn is how to listen to other people and acknowledge opinions other than my own. I know that trying to understand other people is the first step in making progress. My generation has to learn how to listen and understand before shutting down new ideas so that we can build a future focused on peace and empathy. I will need to enter college and the rest of my life with that knowledge in mind, and I credit Glenn and my parents for teaching me how to listen and understand.

Exploring God's Creation in Costa Rica

Twenty-one Glenn folks ventured to Monteverde, Costa Rica to the UGA Ecolodge in a trip sponsored by Glenn's Environmental Committee. They have returned inspired and awed by so many things:

 

We had such an amazing trip and will forever be thankful to Glenn for the opportunity and the fellowship. In Costa Rica there was always something amazing to see, on the ground, in the trees or in the air. We found ourselves taking the time to observe our surroundings and to appreciate he natural beauty around us. We are going to try to do this more in our lives back in Atlanta. We often miss so much racing from one appointment to the next forgetting to notice the people and the things around us.

The Rollins family


I remain intrigued by the full extent of the sustainability of the farm. Our guide advised that other ecolodges grow mint in the kitchen garden and call themselves sustainable. Not here! Our shower water was wonderfully hot, much to my relief after hearing it was heated by the sun in our rainforest. They cooked with methane gas, produced in the biodigestor from animal waste. The cows were milked twice a day, and large pitchers of steaming hot chocolate were served to use the milk. We were hesitant to use the morning butter as it had the consistency of mayonnaise, but it turned out to be the best butter I have ever tasted, especially when served on the homemade bread. As Alice observed, it brings a whole new meaning to "made from scratch" when you make your butter and cheese from the morning's fresh cow milk. This was a trip I will never forget. 

Susan Peterson


As magnificent as the country was, and as educational as the trip was in many ways, my "ah-ha" moment came several days later, as I sat on my own deck in the middle of the Fernbank/North Georgia Piedmont Forest. How fortunate we all were to be able to go to Costa Rica AND how fortunate we are to live here in Atlanta, Georgia! Maybe we will all appreciate our forest, trees, beautiful birds, mammals (ex., squirrels), plants, insects in the same way as we did last week in Costa Rica. We need to steward them as well as the Costa Ricans are trying to do in their home country!

Who is ready to go back? There are more lessons to learn...:)

Dell MacGregor


I totally loved the trip. The best part was getting to know other members of Glenn better. The mix of ages, minds and talents was wonderful. It was great to have little girls on the trip. They put a different perspective on everything. We were their age once!

Donna Burbank


Wonderful experience! I admire the mission of reforestation & reduction of pesticide/herbicide use in production of agricultural products we consume daily. What are small steps towards this way of business and changing values that we can implement in our own goals of sustainability here?

Gardner Neely


What a wonderful group. And the children! Lecturers were informed and prepared. Concern for the environment outstanding. The coffee farm was responsible.

Wesley Stephens


The Eco Lodge's Vision and Mission statement - photo by Jan Lichtenwalter.

The Eco Lodge's Vision and Mission statement - photo by Jan Lichtenwalter.


The stunning beauty and diversity of the environment and God's creatures was surprising. I was not prepared for the variety of mammals - agoutis and coatis, as well as two species of monkeys that we saw. And the birds were unbelievable - some with stunning brilliant colors and exotic tails.

Lynn Speno


The trip surpassed any expectation I had, and most of that had to do with getting to know our Glenn members better! I didn’t fully fathom how enriching the experience would be for Charlotte —not only from the lectures and knowledge gained from the UGA-CR staff and tours but the interactions she enjoyed with her fellow Glenn travelers. The multi-generational aspect of the trip made it very special. Like Lynn, I am missing the sounds of birds and the quiet, serenity of being in nature. How cool was it to look for and appreciate the birds, monkeys, coatis, etc. along our path everyday. I also learned how unique it is for a church to have an environmental committee, and am proud of Glenn for being such a trendsetter. 

From Charlotte: "Definitely surprised to have rice and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And, you need to enjoy life’s small moments because you only get one life. So you should take risks and have fun.” (referencing the trip overall and the zip lining/vertical drop specifically).

Colleen Golden


Please join the team in the Ward Fellowship Hall after 11:00 a.m. worship on Sunday, April 30 for a slideshow of pictures, the sharing of stories, and a sampling of Costa Rican food. All are welcome.

Refugees: Who, What, and Why

“Refugees”: the very word likely evokes a variety of emotions for many, including our own congregation. There is much anxiety, confusion, and controversy in the air today about immigration in general, with the unfortunate result that the specific immigration category of refugees sometimes gets unfairly mixed in with other, separate concerns.

Our hope with this piece is to shed more light on the subject of refugees and to reduce some of the misunderstanding, as well as to remind ourselves and others about what Glenn has been doing and what we can still do to support the large refugee community in Atlanta. And perhaps most importantly, to remember the theological reasons that prompt us to commit to this work.

A refugee is a special category of immigrant who has undergone a lengthy and multi-step process in order to be admitted into the U.S. or other country. First, the status of “refugee” must be determined by the United Nations, based on well-founded reasons for fleeing the person’s native country because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or their political opinion. The U.S. hand-selects every person who is admitted into our country as a refugee and gives priority to refugees who have been targeted by violence. Second, for entry into the U.S. the person must be referred to the U.S. refugee admissions program by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, or by a U.S. embassy or approved humanitarian aid organization. Fewer than 1% of the nearly 20 million refugees in the world are considered for resettlement worldwide. Third, refugees undergo the most intensive vetting process of any other type of immigrant seeking to enter the U.S. Refugees seeking entry into the U.S. undergo security screenings by multiple agencies, including the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security. The total vetting process typically takes up to 36 months.

Once a refugee has been cleared for resettlement into the U.S., the U.S. government works with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and eight other national resettlement agencies to help them make a new start in America. In metro Atlanta, IRC is one of five resettlement agencies supporting our very large refugee community, many of whom have settled in the Clarkston area. Newly arrived refugees receive stipends to cover their first few months in the U.S., but they must be self-supporting after that. Many successfully assimilate into American culture, become U.S. citizens, and contribute to their communities.

Churches and other organizations and individuals assist agencies like IRC by providing funding for refugee family sponsorship, which offsets the federal funding those agencies receive and enables the federal funds to go farther in assisting the refugee community. Family sponsorship also enables a church to develop a relationship with the sponsored family, in many cases a relationship that persists long after the sponsorship period has officially ended. Glenn had been planning to undertake such a sponsorship this year, but the recent changes in U.S. policy on refugees (placing a 120-day hold on admitting any more refugees and reducing the total number of refugees for 2017 from 110,000 to 50,000) have made it impossible for IRC and other resettlement agencies to offer a family sponsorship program for the rest of this year.

Glenn has been involved with support of refugees through IRC for the past several years through the work of two of our service committees: Environmental and Missions. For our 2017 monthly day of service initiative, the service opportunity for the last two months has been focused on Atlanta's refugee population. On Saturday February 25, a group of Glenn folks spent the morning at the IRC community garden near North DeKalb Mall. We weeded, spread mulch, and climbed a mountain (of mulch)! In the process, we forged new friendships, sweated a bit, and cleared a path between garden plots. It might not seem like much, but to those who garden there, it means a lot that people are willing to come out and spend a Saturday morning to help them as they adjust to their new life in Atlanta. The garden is appropriately named the "New Roots Community Garden", a fitting name for a place for new growth. This was the Glenn Environmental Committee's third year assisting with the garden.

On Saturday March 25, a group of about 15 Glenn folks gathered at IRC’s Resettlement Store near Northlake Mall. This continued a tradition that the Missions Committee has followed for the last three years of spending a couple of hours on a Saturday morning working as “stock clerks”, sorting donated items that are in large plastic bags or cardboard boxes in the storeroom and placing them in the appropriate racks or shelves in the store itself. By the time our volunteers leave, the racks and shelves are packed full. But, we are told, by the following Tuesday the racks and shelves will all be empty as the refugee families come in and take all the items they need, free of charge. IRC depends strictly on volunteers to help keep the store stocked each week, so this remains a wonderful opportunity for Glenn to be involved in a meaningful way in helping our refugee neighbors.

We believe that when we choose to help refugees, we are engaging in Jesus’ work of being in relationship with and being of service to the least, the last, and the lost. We live into our congregation's desire to "Love God, Love Neighbor" more fully and embody Jesus' teaching of welcoming the stranger.

If you can't join us in these “hands-on” volunteer activities, but are interested in learning or doing more, here are other ways you can help (information provided by IRC). Some of these are political advocacy steps, others are for becoming better informed, others are for providing financial help. Whatever your preference, we hope you will consider becoming involved.

 

Albert Sheffer, Missions Chair
Lynn Speno, Environmental Chair

 

 

WAYS TO HELP REFUGEES IN GEORGIA

Act

1.  Sign up and participate in once per day advocacy action alerts.

2. Sign up and participate in the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies action alerts.

4. Call and email Senator Isakson (770.661.0999), Senator Perdue (404.865. 0087), Governor Deal (404.656.1776), and your specific Congressman every day and let them know: “I support refugee resettlement in the U.S. and in my community. I oppose limiting entry for any person based on where he or she is from or based on religion.”

Stay Informed

1. Like and follow the IRC in Atlanta on Facebook. Share posted stories often and openly. Please also share this email on your personal Facebook page.

2. Sign up to receive the IRC in Atlanta’s monthly newsletter, action alerts and more. You must enter your Georgia zip code to ensure you receive the Atlanta office’s newsletter.

3. Like and follow the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies on Facebook. Share posted stories often and openly.  

4. Follow the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies on Twitter and retweet often.

5. Send your name and mailing address to Ariana to be added to our mailing list.

Support

1. Make a donation to the International Rescue Committee in Atlanta. Follow this link specifically to ensure your gift stays in Georgia where it is needed most. 

2. Mail a donation directly to: International Rescue Committee, 2305 Parklake Drive, Suite 100 Atlanta, GA 30345

3. Hold your own fundraiser in person or online for the IRC in Atlanta. Contact Ariana for help with materials and assistance.

4. Many companies have programs in place where they provide matching gifts to nonprofits that an employee volunteers with or donates to. You may be able to double or even triple your donation if your company offers a matching gift program.

5. Volunteer with us. Contact our volunteer coordinator at volunteeratl@rescue.org or 678-636-8928 and view our volunteer opportunities on our web page.

 

The Talk

The Talk. We are all familiar with the many variations of the Talk with our kids, from THE Talk (sex) to Talks about alcohol, drugs, not following the crowd, and the list goes on. And I had all those Talks with my children. But there is one variation of the Talk I never had to give: the Talk warning them about how people will perceive and react to them based solely on the color of their skin.

Members of Glenn recently participated in an afternoon of conversation with members of Ben Hill UMC, a predominantly black congregation. Over the course of the afternoon, Byron Thomas, the senior pastor of Ben Hill, shared several readings from the book America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis. After each reading, we broke into small groups to discuss our response to what we had heard. The conversations we had were not always easy or comfortable, but they were all honest, based on each of our personal experiences.

In all of the small groups I participated in and in the discussions of the larger group, I heard member after member of Ben Hill refer to the Talk. The women spoke about having the Talk with their sons and the men remembered hearing the Talk from their parents. And when they mentioned the Talk they all meant the same thing - a discussion of how they would be perceived and treated throughout the course of their lives based solely on the color of their skin. As a parent, I cannot imagine how it would feel to deliver that same message to my children.

These conversations with Ben Hill grew, in part, out of questioning what Glenn’s response should be to racial injustice. Our afternoon spent with members of Ben Hill confirmed that the white church has to play a role in creating a world where the version of the Talk they heard growing up and give to their kids today is no longer necessary. 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.

If you are interested in being a part of ongoing conversations between members of Glenn and Ben Hill, please let me know. I particularly encourage men to consider participating. The folks from Ben Hill pointed out that most of the people from Glenn were women, a fact that we had not noticed. Ben Hill members explained that because white men tend to possess unquestioned privilege in our society, their support, understanding, and action are all vital to dismantling the institutions that keep systemic racism in place.

We hope you will join us next time in this authentic space driven by a desire for understanding and relationship. Listening to each other’s experiences is necessary to enable every person to live a life that is in no way dictated by the color of their skin.

Carol Allums


If you are interested in further reading on the topic of racial justice, here are some books I have read, or am planning to read, as I have continued to think about the issue of white privilege and my obligation, as a Christian, to work towards racial justice.

Recently Read:
"Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates
"The Souls of Black Folk" by W.E.B. Du Bois
"White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity" by James W. Perkinson

Currently Reading:
"America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America" by Jim Wallis
"Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?" by Martin Luther King Jr. (this book was referenced by Rev. Dr. Dwight Andrews when he preached at Glenn on MLK Sunday)
"Counting Descent" by Clint Smith

On my reading list:
"Racism Without Racists" by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (this book was referenced in a recent address by Dr. William Barber during his keynote address as a part of Candler's Bandy Preaching Conference)

If you have any questions about any of these books, or suggestions for books I should add to my reading list - or if you just want to talk - please reach out at theallums5@gmail.com.

Glenn Family Flashback

In anticipation of our new directory being printed (coming soon, so stay tuned!), we flipped through a directory from the 1970's - back when Larry Bauman was Larry Bauman, Senior Pastor - to see what families are still active at Glenn. And to our surprise, there are quite a few.

These pictures reinforce what many have said about Glenn over the years: that it is a generational church. Many parents have raised their kids at Glenn, and then their kids have stuck around to raise their own kids at Glenn. Some families go back three, even four, generations. Their knowledge of this congregation is deep, and what a gift it is to have that collective memory in our midst.

Whether you have been at Glenn for decades or have only just arrived, we hope that this is a place you can truly come to know and be known by.

 

 
 
 
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