Annual Thanksgiving Audit

As you prepare for this time of Thanksgiving, please complete the following information in full. Read the full directions below before beginning.

"I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving. Reflect on your blessings and give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love." -Rev. Mark Westmoreland

The last name is important. It expresses your heritage. There are history and identity in that name. First and middle names are important. When you were baptized, those names were spoken. Were you named for someone? Is there a legacy attached to your name? What does your name say about you?
Where do you live? How are you shaped by the place you call home? Where else have you lived? List here all the places you are glad you've lived and the places you're glad you've left behind. Also add: "the embrace of a loving God." That's a pretty good place to live.
Not your phone number, but the people you are glad you can phone. Who are the ones you count on? Who are the ones you NEED to call before this year ends or maybe even before this day ends?
We'll answer this one for you, first write down "present." You live in the present age, not yesterday, not tomorrow, but now. Also write here the number of years you have been on the earth. Multiply that by the moments of awe and revelation, of beauty and love, of heartbreak, lessons, and joy. Multiply the years by your experiences of God's grace.
The people who make you who you are, the ones you live with either in your home or your heart. With some you share DNA; with others, you share memories, trust, and love.
God has chosen to affiliate with you in Jesus Christ, who shares your humanity, joy, and pain. Look into the depths of your soul and find the image of God. Consider the lightness of forgiveness, the weight of communion and the power of the Spirit to create you anew. Your church, by the way, should have been listed on line 5.
Using no numbers or dollar signs, record those things of value to you. Ex: smiling faces, your garden, a box of old photos, a joke a friend told you last week, the touch of a small hand in yours, etc.
How do you employ your time? With what do you fill your days? What gives your joy? How can you allow God to employ you for His kingdom?
From whom do all blessings flow? Also, who in your life has given you knowledge, joy, support, care or an ability you cherish?
Look at line 9. All those debts can only be repaid by sharing yourself with someone else, by giving of yourself from the one from whom all blessings flow.

The Hidden Costs of Cheap Clothes

Green Notes from the Environmental Committee


From fast food to “fast fashion,” we Americans are addicted to cheap prices and throw-away goods.

Apparel is the second largest consumer sector, after food, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average family spends $1700, or 3.5% of annual household income on clothes.  Costs have fallen, and consumer buying continues upward--we buy about 70 pounds of clothing a year, or the equivalent of 200 men’s T-shirts (and 94% are imported). Then, on average, we discard nearly 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles each year, according to the EPA.

Ten million tons of discarded clothes and textiles tossed in U.S. landfills every year damage the environment. Even more serious harm is done in fiber production, dyeing, and manufacturing processes.  Cotton growing in particular, uses astounding amounts of water, weed killer, and pesticides.

Cheap prices we pay for clothes do not reflect environmental costs of textile and apparel manufacturing, or health costs to workers in other countries. Groundwater for farming and drinking water are being polluted in many towns in southern India.  Significantly higher than normal occurrences of certain cancers in China appear to be caused by the harmful “micro-environments” ( factories) in which Chinese workers produce millions of cheap items Americans buy.

Unintended consequences

It’s hard for us as consumers to understand what harm we are doing when we take advantage of super buys from retailers in our country.  Most of us would not intentionally harm others. Yet the prices we pay for new cheap clothes do not provide a living wage for workers, many of whom are children, who labor long hours, in unsafe conditions.  The prices we pay do not provide for environmental clean-up of waters and soils polluted by textile production processes. Most importantly, the prices we pay do not provide for healthcare of overseas workers who get sick from unhealthy factory conditions and drinking water tainted by textile dyes from factories near their homes.

Global competition in the garment industry engenders poor working conditions for many laborers in developing nations.  In Bangladesh, a child laborer works for 10 hours a day to earn the equivalent of one U.S. dollar. Some Chinese workers make as little as 12-18 cents per hour.

What can we do?

Thrift stores are good for recycling clothing, but they represent a tiny fraction of total sales--less than five percent of the market for new goods.  Most donated clothes eventually are baled, shipped, and sold to impoverished countries. On Good Neighbor Day, we learned that stained and torn textiles can be taken to CHaRM, the Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials (

By some estimates, 60% of the energy used in the life cycle of a cotton T-shirt is consumed in our homes--washing and drying at high temperatures.  As consumers, we can “go green” by using detergents that work well at lower temperatures, air-drying instead of machine-drying, extending the usable life of clothes, buying fewer and more durable garments, and recycling into the used clothing market.

There are many organizations striving to improve conditions of workers and protect the environment.  Here are just a few:

  • The Clean Clothes Campaign

  • The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility

  • The Ethical Trading Initiative

  • The United Methodist Church: Social Principles, Rights of Workers, Para. 163B, C

This is an update to an article which appeared in The Change Agent, an adult education journal, Sept. 2010.  -Jan Lichtenwalter

What a Difference a Day Makes

Does it really matter? When we take a look at injustice, poverty, loneliness, homelessness, oppression, hunger, and other problems it can seem that they are insurmountable; that it would take too much time and more work than we are capable of to solve these problems. The idea of something like Good Neighbor Day, Glenn’s annual day of service, can seem like a raindrop on a forest fire. What difference can one day of service possibly make in the midst of such gargantuan issues?

The truth is — a lot!

At Action Ministries, 257 families will receive needed food boxes because of the work of children, youth and adults. An efficient assembly line of service kept things moving as volunteers from Glenn worked hard to make sure these boxes were filled and ready!

Food boxes1.jpeg

At Habitat for Humanity, a home was finished and one family will now have a secure place to live thanks to the time and effort of people from Glenn (as well as three other churches). Glenn has now been a part of creating a home for 28 families in Atlanta, making a difference in their lives for years to come.


The work of the environmental committee, scouts, and others at Peavine Creek made a difference in the health and usability of this beautiful area. By cleaning and working to restore the bank of the creek, they are making a difference in the ecosystem and the community.


At Intown Collaborative Ministries, a group of volunteers worked in the food pantry to sort food and serve those in need. Because of their work, ICM will be able to give assistance and hope to more people in our community.


At Clairmont Place, people ranging in age from 9 months into their 90s sang songs and brought joy into each others’ lives. They reminded each other of the important role all of us play and that we need each other to fully be the church.

Clairmont Place1.jpeg

Volunteers at the Women’s Community Kitchen cleaned ovens, scrubbed sinks, organized closets, and did the kind of behind-the-scenes work that is seldom recognized, but is crucial to the success of that ministry. Hundreds of women receive food and hope each week through the WCK, and the volunteers and staff showed up on Monday to a cleaner, easier-to-use facility as they continue the great work they are doing!


And last, but not least, Glenn members and Grady High School students brought joy and a little bit of competition to the bingo games at Branan Towers assisted living facility. They joined the residents to laugh, play, and learn from each other.


I don’t know if the world was changed on a global scale last Saturday, but I do know that people’s lives were changed, and organizations were better equipped to continue their work, because of the people of Glenn Church.

So a great big “THANKS” goes out to everyone who participated in Good Neighbor Day. And if you missed it, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of work to do!

Rev. Brent Huckaby
Minister for Worship and Missions

Good Neighbor Day 2018


It’s almost here!!! For quite a few years the first Saturday after Labor Day has been a special day at Glenn. While we are a church that seeks to serve our community year around, on this day, we make a concerted effort as a community to go outside the walls of Glenn to show love and care to people all over Atlanta. 

We call it Good Neighbor Day!                       

This year we have a number of opportunities to serve. No matter your skill level, ability, or talents, you can come and be a blessing to someone in our community. There are opportunities in the morning and afternoon, for kids and adults, from a one-hour commitment to all day! There’s only one thing missing: you!

Below are some detailed descriptions of each project. Find the one (or ones!) that fit you and your family best and sign up. Then invite friends to join you as we take God’s love into our community together.

This Year’s Projects:

7:00 a.m. - Habitat for Humanity Build

Join us on the last Saturday of our annual Habitat for Humanity Build. We’ll put finishing touches on the house and have a dedication ceremony around noon. Meet at Youth & Activities Bldg to ride church bus. This group will return late afternoon. Lunch provided. Age 16 & up. 

Leader: Jennifer Scott-Ward

9:00 a.m. - Peavine Creek Restoration (Helping clear and prepare bank for restoration)

Join Glenn Church's Good Neighbor Day volunteers as we inventory the native trees and bushes along Peavine Creek in Emory Village. Saturday, September 8, 2018 9 a.m. to noon, Panera Parking Lot. Please park in Emory lots or the Glenn Church YAAB on North Decatur Road. This long-neglected creek at the foot of the hill leading to Emory Village and Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church is overdue for some public love. The effort by Glenn's Environmental Committee, Emory Village Alliance, Druid Hills neighbors, elected officials and the South Fork Conservancy will begin to save the native trees and remove invasive vines smothering access to the creek. Bring gloves (clippers optional); wear closed-toe shoes that can get wet. Cub & Boy Scouts families encouraged. No age minimum. 

Leader: Michael Black

9:00 a.m. - BreakThru House Residential Recovery Program

As the first long-term residential recovery program for women in Georgia, Breakthru House is specially designed to meet the unique needs of women struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Since its founding in 1969, Breakthru House’s founding principle has remained constant: Physical, emotional and spiritual healing through recovery is possible when each woman’s treatment program is designed to meet her individual needs. Projects include painting and administrative tasks. Meet at BreakThru House (866 Eastfield St. Decatur, GA 30032). 

Leader: Nancy Reinhold

9:30 a.m. - Food Boxes packing at Action Ministries with SPARK Kids

Come to Action Ministries with us as we pack food boxes to be distributed to those in need. This is a great way to learn about food insecurity and help eradicate hunger in our area. Meet at Youth & Activities Bldg to carpool/ride church bus. Will return by 12:30pm. SPARK Kids (4th & 5th graders) and parents encouraged for this project but all are invited. Age 6 & up. 

Leader: Kevin Lazarus

10:00 a.m. - Field Day at The Lakes at Indian Creek

An annual tradition for our youth! This year we’ll be traveling to the Lakes at Indian Creek in Clarkston (an apartment complex we previously visited during Intown Mission Week). We’ll have a morning of fun with games, face paint, and snacks with the residents then head back to the YAAB for lunch. Meet at YAAB at 10 a.m. and come ready to have fun. 

Leader: Blair Setnor

10:00 a.m. - Intown Collaborative Ministries Food Pantry

ICM provides assistance in a variety of ways to those who are homeless or struggling to make ends meet. Glenn partners with their food pantry and in other ways throughout the year. On GND we’ll be helping with the weekly food pantry distribution. Meet at the ICM Food Pantry (Druid Hills Presbyterian Church, 1026 Ponce de Leon Ave, Atlanta). Ages 10 & up. Will finish by 1:30 p.m. 

Leader: Shelby Roberts

10:45 a.m. - Sing-a-long at Clairmont Place Retirement Community

Always a fun time of fellowship and music with the residents of Clairmont Place. Meet at Clairmont Place (2100 Clairmont Lake, Decatur) and we will finish by 12 p.m. Babies/children with adults most welcome! 

Leader: John Wiley

12:45-3:15 p.m. - Women's Community Kitchen

There are teams from Glenn that serve at the Women’s Community Kitchen throughout the year. This is a ministry that offers hot meals to those who need them throughout the week. On GND we will be helping to clean and organize the kitchen to help them better serve the 100’s of women each week. Meet at the YAAB to carpool and/or take church buses to Action Ministries.

Leader: Diane Bryant

1:30-3:30 p.m. - Crafts and Games at Branan Towers Retirement Community

Bring board games or decks of cards to engage and play with the residents of Branan Towers. We’ll be making crafts as well! Youth who want to meet at the church at 1pm (following field day) can rid the bus to Branan Towers and will return by 4 p.m. Everyone else meet at Branan Towers Retirement Community, 1200 Glenwood Ave, SE, Atlanta, GA 30316. No age minimum. 

Leader: Mary Carter Van Atta


Glenn Basketball


In 2010, I tentatively stepped onto the old, uneven floor of Glenn’s Youth and Activities Building. It was my first day coaching, and I was terrified. At the seasoned age of 29, I feared I was too old to relate; I’d be found an imposter. I was moments from judgment by the fiercest predators on the Earth: a group of sarcastic high school boys.

Thankfully, they showed me mercy and let me coach without much harassment. They’ve only (openly) laughed at me twice that I recall. Once for my out-of-date basketball shoes and the other for a sleeveless t-shirt that was now much too small as I was in denial about my post-college weight gain. 

I couldn’t have been happier with that group of young men. Now, eight years later, I’ve coached 12 teams both of middle school and high school players. I have coached both young men who were great at basketball and young men who just wanted to run up and down the court with their friends, cracking jokes. I have enjoyed all of it, and each year, I am amazed that they would again welcome me as their coach and let me share the game of basketball with them.

Some people see church family at worship services in the sanctuary -- I see God’s love in the perfectly executed outlet pass arcing through the air, the result of an unselfish decision from a teenager. I see church family in the community these players form and in their celebration and encouragement of one another. I see God’s love in the hard work they put in together. I see the church family in their learning, their respect for the referees, in their perseverance, and in their love of one another and the game.

I love coaching at Glenn because I get to work with some absolutely wonderful and talented youth who are kind enough to let me teach them about basketball. I love coaching at Glenn because I get to watch these young people mature into fine adults. I love coaching at Glenn because it is here where I see and experience God’s love.

Also, winning four championships in the past six years is pretty nice.

Are you interested in coaching Glenn basketball this year? If so, contact Rev. Blair Setnor. Registration for Glenn Hoops opens for Glenn members this coming Monday, August 28th. Community registration opens September 3rd! 

Shane Setnor
A Glenn Basketball Coach


"To Run Life's Race..."

Glenn Ponytail.jpg

Recently my 4-year-old began asking me to take her running in the mornings. I'm pretty positive this desire stemmed solely from the fact that she loves to wear her favorite purple "running" shorts. She certainly has never seen either of her parents go for a run! In fact, the last time I went running for exercise/"fun" was about five years ago when I promptly got sick and found out the next day I was pregnant. I took that as a sign that my love/hate relationship with running was finally over. Fast forward to my daughter's request, and of course I want to instill in her a healthy lifestyle and positive experience of exercise, so finally, I caved. We both changed into our "running" shorts, put our hair in ponytails, laced up our sneakers, stretched our muscles, and we were off! We barely made it around the corner of our next door neighbor's house when she promptly stopped, sat down on the curb, and declared dramatically, "Whew! Let's take a rest!" I don't see any cross country scholarships in our future, but you never know...

Back when I did actually run on the cross country team in high school, I memorized this poem that I would recite in my mind over and over again to get me through the long, hard practices. I am not sure of the author, as I clipped it from a magazine in those days when instead of googling quotes and inspiring poems, one would scour magazines and books to make collages and decorate your Trapper Keeper. I think this is how it went:

To run life's race for you is my desire,
to contend eagerly along the way.
I'll go the distance, heart and soul afire,
as unto You I dedicate each day.
There may be obstacles along my pathway,
but I will overcome them, stride by stride.
Nothing will deter me as a run, Lord,
as long as You are running by my side.

Maybe you are a runner and can use this poem in your running repertoire for inspiration. Or perhaps you're like me and only plan to run if being chased. But either way, I hope and pray that for ourselves and the children entrusted to our care, that we will each know that we do not run life's race alone. Together we can go the distance, overcoming every obstacle together, knowing that God our Creator, the Holy Spirit our Comforter, and Christ our Savior is with us every step of the way.

Rev. Susan Pinson

Shop Till Your Carbon Drops!


August – time for school shopping, time for ordering 2019 calendars. This means it’s a great time to green up the school backpack and the home and business offices for everyone! You’ll be a better United Methodist when you do!

How’s that? Well, there’s a lot you can learn online about “What We Believe” in the global United Methodist Church. In this case, the United Methodist Church’s Social Principle on The Natural World states, “[L]et us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.” God calls us to be honest and faithful with all the resources we are given –- and that includes the natural world. “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). We believe it, and we can do it, even as we shop for the small and everyday items that we may take for granted.

What’s the goal? Make your money talk and work for the Earth. Buy products that are made with a large quantity of recycled content and that can be recycled further. This will help reduce the size of landfill trash, where huge and harmful quantities of carbon and methane gases are produced and contribute to global warming. Buy products made of bamboo – it gobbles carbon gas at a phenomenal rate! Buy products that contain zero or at least fewer harsh chemicals that can end up in our water supplies or even our food supplies by way of the water and the soil.

What’s the strategy? Ideal practice: make your shopping list and first go "computer window-shopping" to find the most Earth-friendly products. Office Depot has a nice GreenerOffice webpage showcasing thousands of recycled-content or otherwise environmentally-friendly items, including 3-ring binders, Post-It notes, report covers, printer paper, recyclable ink cartridges, and organic coffee. But don’t search online for “green office” there or at Staples unless you want everything in the color green! Instead, try the “environmental” column on the Staples website, and search terms beginning with “eco.” Walmart online has more listings for “recycled” products, including cleaning and paper products that teachers will have on their wish lists. If you want professional guidance on home and office products, check out the expertise in the Environmental Working Group consumer guide. For tips on product usage and choosing between options (rechargeable or long-life batteries? gas or electric appliances?), you might want to Ask Mr. Green, or scroll through his clever Sierra Magazine column.

Fallback strategy. No time for online research? Read packaging and labels carefully as you shop. Look for items with (ideally) “100% recycled” content and a high percentage of “post-consumer” recycled content. Personally, I still feel secure with a paper calendar as well as the smart-phone version, and I’m quite fond of my At-A-Glance brand recycled calendar that’s available at stores and online. The “recycled” symbol on the front cover is easy to spot on the store’s shelves, and it gives me a smile.


If a paper product is not available with recycled content, try to find one with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) symbol, indicating that it’s made from sustainably resourced forests. Even greeting cards have notes on the back about sustainably sourced content. Other types of products have similar “sustainably resourced” labels as well. Cleaning products should be, at a minimum, without: sodium laurel/laureth sulfate (SLS), parabens, phthalates, butylene glycol, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and fragrance that is not labeled “natural fragrance.” They should also be free of animal testing. All products should have minimal packaging that is easily recycled and labeled as such.

What if you’re stumped? Your money talks, and so do you. Ask a store clerk for help, if necessary by searching the store’s computer. My recent Office Depot visit showed that some, but not all, of their staff were aware of the GreenerOffice products and computer inventory. If you have time, talk to a store manager and remind him or her that you have the option to shop online from other companies if the store doesn’t stock environmentally-friendly products. And be sure to thank them for selling whatever “green” products they do stock!

What’s the next step? Don’t forget to recycle packaging, containers, and products. Encourage your school and your offices and office buildings to buy Earth-friendly products and to recycle.

Reducing your carbon footprint by making “green” purchases helps keep you in harmony with the three simple principles taught by John Wesley himself, the founder of Methodism. We can be closer to God, he said, “First, By doing no harm,… Secondly, By doing good,… and Thirdly, By attending upon all the ordinances of God.” Read more about Wesley’s teachings here, and keep thinking of our God-given Earth as you shop “green” this fall!

Betty Bentley Watson
Glenn Environmental Committee


Photo from One Eleuthera Foundation

Photo from One Eleuthera Foundation

Each time I have visited the Bahamas I have been transformed by the love shown by the Bahamian people. This year I decided to sign up once again to join 45 other youth and adults on a mission trip to Eleuthera, Bahamas. Having been to the Bahamas two times before, I had an idea of what to expect. I knew I would spend the week in community with others, be surrounded by beautiful oceans and eat conch salad. However, I was once again surprised by the power of community in the Bahamian culture. I spent much of the trip reflecting on how I personally have changed in the past three years since returning to the island and the power “island time” has on creating deep meaningful connections with strangers. I saw the beauty of God in the surrounding landscape and the people I met.

Photo provide by Sarah Napier

Photo provide by Sarah Napier

This year, Glenn Youth partnered with Island Journeys, an organization that focuses on creating communities through projects that provide economic, environmental, and sustainable resources to the island. The first two days of mission work, I painted a local high school. The school systems in Eleuthera are highly underfunded and rely on volunteers. While at the school, we met a teacher and the principal who both had been working at the school for many years. Their warmth and welcoming spirit brought an immense amount of joy to the group. The last day of work, I participated at the children’s camp. I was surrounded by children of all different ages. I was reminded of the power of art as the children and I painted and shared about our lives. We laughed, joked, and played games.

The word Eleuthera itself means free. Through the process of the trip, I found myself feeling more free from the worries I find at home. I thought about the lessons I learned in the Bahamas that I want to share and incorporate in my life. One of those is the concept of time. As Americans, we are often so tied to our schedules. We are too focused on meeting deadlines and are distracted by phones and social media. With this, we lose a sense of community. When you lose track of time and simply follow “island time” you find yourself free from the stress of daily life and engaging in activities with others. We met and visited with many Bahamian people. We worshiped together and immersed ourselves in their culture. We shared food, laughter, and stories. Bahamians know their neighbors. They wave when they see someone across the street.

What would our country look like if we were more like the Bahamian people? If we paused and took the time to find and welcome strangers. As I embark on my new college adventure I will take with me the memories, the lessons, and the friendships that I have built over the course of three trips to the Bahamas.

Sarah Napier

Photo provided by Sarah Napier

Photo provided by Sarah Napier

Photo provided by Sarah Napier

Photo provided by Sarah Napier


I’m here. I can now say that with a little more confidence than I could two weeks ago. There are fewer boxes (though my office is still a work in progress). I had a very helpful on-boarding experience with the staff and Claire Bowen. I’ve sipped lemonade, eaten barbecue, and enjoyed cookies with some of you, and I’ve attended some helpful meetings and had some meaningful conversations. I kind of know how to find places in our buildings, and I now have my very own Emory Card, which makes me feel very official and slightly empowered.

I’m here. This is my place of service and ministry now. This is where my heart is. This is the place and you the people that occupy my thoughts and prayers and sometimes my dreams and nightmares. Here is where I will discover a new chapter in God’s call. Now, what story will that chapter tell? I know pieces of it, but there is still a lot of blank space to fill in. I’m having fun imagining.

Here, of course, is where you are, too, even though two out of three conversations seem to begin with, “We’re going to be out of town for a few weeks, but …” It’s that time of year when our paths cross and diverge, but I know you’re here, even when you aren’t. This is your church, your community; this is where you find the family of God for you or your family. Here is where you encounter God and find grace to move through your days. You were here before I ever came on the scene, and you are the life of this church. You are the body of Christ. And you are why I’m here. I have come to serve with you and move with you through life and its moments.

Which is to say: Here we are. Together we are Glenn Church, Glenn Memorial, Glenn Memorial UMC -- choose the appellation you prefer, because they’re all us. Together we will seek God’s blessings; together we will BE God’s blessings for each other, our neighbors, and the world. It all begins in our worship, in our singing, in our explorations of the Scriptures, in our prayers, and it moves from there to our homes and into our communities. We share a life, a calling, a faith that define us. This life we share is filled with the Holy Spirit and enveloped and defined by the love of Jesus Christ.

That life, strange and miraculous, ours, is here. It’s here in the amazing Little Chapel and the magnificent sanctuary. It’s here in the YAAB, all spruced up for new ministry; it’s here in our classrooms and gathering spaces; it’s here when we meet and share together.

But here’s the interesting thing about … here. Here is wherever you are right now as you read this. Here is in the Bahamas next week as 45 of us go to serve with and among the people there. Here is a remarkable place, really -- always right now in this moment, always a space of grace, always us, wherever we are. We are here, and here is us.

It’s a good place to be -- here -- a holy place. I thank God I am here with you.

Rev. Mark Westmoreland

The Tiniest Bit of Something Good

On the last Sunday in June I dropped my son off at Camp Glisson. Leaving Atlanta, I’d hoped for cooler, drier air in the mountains, but it was stubbornly hot and muggy, even north of Dahlonega. The thick woods did little to cool things off, and James and I sweated even after just one trip from the car to his cabin.

It was his first sleep-away camp experience, which concerned me a little. But what bothered me more was that I had registered him for the wrong program, the one his friend Sam was not registered for. I didn’t let on that I felt worried for him going into a cabin of 12 boys, many of whom were already paired up with buddies they’d known since they were little. But in so many ways, James is more mature than I am. Where did his social confidence come from? Certainly he didn’t inherit it from me or my husband.

I helped him make his bed, a top bunk over the counselor’s desk. He was wearing his "Free Hugs" t-shirt and what looked to me like some kind of 10-year-old’s game face. It's the face you put on when you’re girding yourself, when you don’t want to reveal any vulnerability. He sternly tucked in the corners of the fitted sheet and placed his pillow at one end. A kid across the cabin called over to James that he wanted a hug in a tone that sounded a bit derisive. James’s words were “Yeah, OK,” but his attitude was “you wanna piece of me?” I noticed another kid who also appeared to be alone and was taking solace in a book. I asked James if he wanted one of his books out of the car. “OK,” he said, “72-Story Tree House.”

After another sweaty walk out to the car, I returned with the book. James was sitting on a lower bunk with three other boys, including the hug requester, playing a game of cards. In minutes the boys had gone from being mildly contentious strangers to new friends. My heart swelled, but I kept my cool, trying not to embarrass anyone. I left the book on James’s bed and told him to have a good week without too much fanfare.

The whole drive home, Barbara Day Miller’s words played themselves in my mind. She had kicked off Glenn’s Summer Lecture Series a few weeks earlier with her talk "Prayers as a Part of Worship." There was a phrase she used that struck me as relevant to the way the boys had made friends: “the tiniest bit of something good.” She had had us close our eyes as she read Mark 4:26-34, the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Before beginning she had asked us to “see what you see, without question, without analysis, without trying to figure out what this means. Just see what you see and how that feels.”

Jesus also said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once the sower goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come." Jesus also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds in the earth; and yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

It was a different experience –- hearing the verse read versus reading it myself. Barbara’s reading was lovely, her voice swaying with the language and pausing now and again to let our mental images form more fully. She asked what we saw as she read and showed us how the images and feelings hinted at more. An audience member said that the place was “sunny and cool.”

“Isn’t this like the kingdom of God?” she asked in response. “Haven’t you encountered God’s kingdom like this? It doesn’t feel dry or hungry or wounded, but just takes the tiniest bit of something good and pretty soon it feels like this (spreading her arms). The sower in the verse doesn’t know how it happened, no clue, just a glimpse.”

She related the idea to her own experience of singing Psalm 23 and riding the soaring crescendo that peaks with “…and I will dwell in the house of the Lord…” …how the music and the meaning combine with something else to bring us to a place of fullness. But “just like that and then it’s gone,” she said. “You’ve seen the kingdom of the Lord like this.”

I definitely have: towering, joyous, ineffable and ephemeral, but somehow more real than anything else. “The tiniest bit of something good,” is the phrase, the words that came to me over and over on the drive home from Glisson. Barbara broke character to deliver the description with a southern intonation, an emphasis on the word “good” that somehow evoked intimacy and familiarity.

Why should such a small episode as my son making friends at camp make me so happy? I could explain it as just one of life’s opportune moments, the lucky coincidence of my having had this son and that he should be fortunate enough to go to this camp with these kids. Instead, I had the idea Barbara had given me -- that of the kingdom being the tiniest bit of something good, and that that bit can grow to become even bigger. Cruising down 400, it also occurred to me that I can help it grow, that I can shower my small bit of hopeful water and help sprout the seed.

Irene Hatchett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ginger Smith

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

Carolyn Gilbert

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

Carole Adams

Summer Reading Gone Green

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


by Carl Hiaasen

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




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Hospitable Planet
by Stephen Jurovics

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




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

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



Edited by Paul Hawken

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



The Lorax
by Dr. Seuss

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


What Will You Carry?

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

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

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

Kara Johnson photography

Kara Johnson photography

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


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


Kara Johnson photography

Kara Johnson photography

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

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

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

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


Meet the Newest GLENNterns

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

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

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Meet Elyse Cooke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Meet Kevin Lazarus

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

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

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

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

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

My Best Teacher

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

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

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

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

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

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


At the YAAB, Opportunities for Community Engagement

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

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

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

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

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

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EarthKeepers: Join with God's Spirit

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

Photo by Mel Caraway, GBGM

Photo by Mel Caraway, GBGM

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

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

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

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


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

An Unexpected Miracle

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

“I feel like Glenn chose me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Inconsistent Actions

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

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


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

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

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

This action is unexpected on so many levels. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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