Watch today’s update to hear a financial update from Pastor David!
This has been one of those weeks when I could point to God’s fingerprints every hour, all throughout it. When I am open to listening and slow myself down long enough, I am constantly amazed by how God shows up and what I learn in the process. Since this time last week, I have flown to Tennessee where I watched my middle sister become a mommy for the first time and overcome every new parent obstacle with such grace. After coming home last Thursday, I reunited with my big kids and husband, who I missed terribly and then I had the chance to be back in worship with all of you. And then, on Sunday evening, I had the rare opportunity to sit at the feet of some amazing theologians who were here in Orlando at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church for THeoEd, where 6 presenters gave the talk of their lives for 20 minutes about the Christian faith and life.
As I continue to reflect on what I learned, the notes I took and what was stirred up for me, I wish to offer this from my time there learning from author and pastor, Brian McLaren. He started and ended his talk in the same way…”Include…Expand….Include…Expand”.
Brian McLaren shared how he had grown up Fundamentalist and how it wasn’t until he was in High School that he began to develop a Framework around how he understood faith and how it is lived out. My ears perked up because all throughout this sermon series on James, we have been talking about how faith is lived out in our head, heart and hands. Last week, you will recall that we prayed, sang and learned about Wisdom and Godly wisdom that is possessed, not just professed. And so as McLaren shared his story, I heard Wisdom whisper again.
What is Godly wisdom around including and expanding? What do we, as followers of Jesus include in our lives and expand upon? In order to do more expanding and more including, I would argue that some parts of our thought process must be revamped. Like spring cleaning, before I put anything new into closets, I have to take the old items that no longer fit, are no longer comfortable or have been stained and destroyed out and donate them. In much the same way, every year, wisdom whispers to us that which should be revamped or gotten rid of.
McLaren gives us this framework to measure how we are moving along on this journey of faith.
He says it is like the truck of a tree that starts with one ring, and then expands and includes the first ring but grows another ring outward and so on and so forth. There are four stages to this framework which I outlined below:
- Inner Ring of Simplicity- value and benefit (us or them, friend or enemy, black or white)
- Next Ring of Complexity- there is some validity to each approach, and these are different ways of approaching the world make us more flexible and curious. But the problem is that if you ask a lot of questions, your friends will say…why don’t you just shut up and stop asking so many questions and doubts
- Next Ring of Perplexity- critical thinking and relativism, feels like the floor is falling out from under you because you are questioning everything, and it is also referred to as the dark night of the soul.
- Last Ring Harmony- when I am able to look inside myself and accept all that I see as legitimate parts of myself, and this ring gives you permission that you can be right where you are now
As you read through the order of this framework, where would you find your faith at this current moment? Where would you say that the majority of the people of our church are located? And where would you like to be?
I loved that he used the image of the tree, because just like wisdom, it takes time to develop and grow. Trees also have deep roots and I hope we are developing followers of Jesus with deep roots whose tree stump is sturdy and serves as a safe place for the world to sit and contemplate.
This framework also helped me process why I struggle with the ways that some people talk about the Bible, faith, Christianity and social ethics. It could be that they are in a completely different ring than I find myself in and that’s okay. As long as I am finding a way to include and expand, not to cut off, cut down or avoid.
I pray that the words of Brian McLaren and my meditations from this week will challenge and encourage you as you look for which ring you may be living in during this season and how you might, with God’s help, grow towards including and expanding more.
Lauren Berlin, our US Program Director for Inua Partners in Hope, recently traveled to Naivasha, Kenya, where she was able to visit the Inua youth and attend their graduation. Check out the article below to hear more about the impact of her trip.
“Have you ever had a mentor? Someone who has invested in your life and for whom you are grateful? I was reminded of how important that type of relationship is as I spent time in Naivasha, Kenya with Inua Partners in Hope. If you are not familiar with Inua, it is a transformational ministry that works with orphans and vulnerable youth (17-23 years old) in Naivasha. Each two-year cycle, about 160-200 youth go through a 2-year training program that provides life skills training, social services, business training, and hands-on vocational training, among other areas of focus. FUMCWP has been in partnership ministry with Inua for over a decade, and this September was the graduation of the Cycle-5 youth. My mom and I flew over to attend the graduation specifically, and during the two-week period what continued to strike me was the involvement of the mentors. These women had such love and care for the youth, and the youth were incredibly grateful for their involvement in their lives.
How the mentors work:
At the beginning of the program, each new cycle of youth within their zones selects a person who will serve as a mentor. One non-negotiable is that the mentor is someone who lives within the neighborhoods (zones usually comprise two neighborhoods). The reason why this is so important is that the Inua staff can only be present in the neighborhoods for a limited amount of time. They multiply their efforts by having someone serve the youth who lives near them. These mentors attend three months of Life Skills training in the first year of the program, which happens daily. For the remainder of the first year, they continue to meet weekly with the youth, and then in the 2nd year of the program, they meet bi-weekly with the youth. In addition to the weekly/bi-weekly meetings, they also check in on the youth and report back to the staff if anyone has any additional needs. For many of the Inua youth, these mentors are the responsible adults in their lives who show them love and care.
During my time in Naivasha, I wanted to visit and spend time in each neighborhood. In each group, the youth would share how Inua has helped them and how their lives have been empowered and filled with hope. The mentor, who provided guidance and demonstrated God’s love, was the first person the youth would express gratitude towards. We encountered many youths from previous cycles, and when I inquired about their experience with Inua, they would also mention their mentor first.
After spending time with each group, some of them wanted to show us their new businesses or take us to visit them at their workplaces. That afternoon, we went in and out of their businesses with Mentor Margaret and the other Kenyan staff. Mentor Margaret was clearly proud during each visit. On another day, I asked if we could drive through two neighborhoods that I hadn’t been to yet. Florence called Mentor Nancy and told her that they were taking me around her area. Mentor Nancy immediately joined us and pointed out various places where current and former Inua youth were located. When I was involved in youth ministry, I did contact work, but this level of involvement and genuine care left me in awe.
The mentors exemplify Servant Leadership. They engage in relational ministry with young Kenyans, cultivating an encouraging and loving atmosphere to support their success. These mentors are highly involved because they recognize that these once vulnerable youth are now contributing members of society, benefiting the community as a whole. Their relationships with the Inua youth extend beyond the training program, as they continue to be present in their neighborhoods, checking in on them, celebrating their achievements, showing a random American around, and spreading the gospel through their actions. These mentors reminded me of the powerful role mentors can play. It made me appreciate the mentors I have had in my own life and the importance of checking in on the girls I have mentored in the past.
I am always reminded, no matter where I travel, that even though we may live differently in terms of aesthetics, language, and air conditioning, we are all human beings. We are created in God’s image and called to love our neighbors. During this trip, I quickly realized that one simple way I could show love was by appreciating and encouraging the Mentors, who are often unsung heroes. My time in Kenya was filled with countless beautiful stories of transformational leadership and how the organization Inua is making a positive impact in a city 8,000 miles away. I am excited to share more of these stories.”
With much love and joy,
US Program Director, Inua Partners in Hope
View the photo gallery below to see more photos from Lauren’s trip!
Do you ever have one of those weeks when your heart breaks over and over again? Over the last 7 days this has happened more than once for me. I have found myself in situations where I sit in the holy discontent of the world and say, “this is just not right!”
Last Thursday, another staff member and I toured the Orlando Rescue Mission, which has been serving homeless and vulnerable families since 1948. I started to cry when I learned that once a month, the children who have had birthdays that month get a group birthday party and get to share a cake that has their name on it and for maybe the first time in their lives, they see their name on the top of a cake. Then I went to Warren Willis Camp over the weekend and remembered with joy how many youth find their faith story here. And while it didn’t break my heart in the same way, my heart ached for the youth that have not yet experienced the power and presence of Jesus in their own lives and are left trying to piece together an empty and unfulfilling identity that the world tells them they are. And then I finished my week sitting on the Board of Directors meeting at the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home and listening to stories of abandoned, trafficked and abused children and how the Home has transformed their lives and given them a new family.
All of this to say, it has been a heavy week. Maybe you can relate.
While I am blessed to be a part of the faith journey in the lives of this church, I also carry the burden of the hurt I hear and the brokenness I see. This is part of my call. And as I was processing this with my Spiritual Director on Monday morning, she helped change my perspective and shone light in a place I hadn’t seen before. It could be, that the things that break our heart about the injustices of the world, the things that keep us up at night, the lumps in our throats, are actually Holy Spirit moments that are spurring us into action. Maybe the things that feel burdensome are actually gifts in disguise that help us figure out what we were uniquely made to transform or make whole.
It could be, that the Scripture from James 2 that we studied on Sunday is really about holy discontent.
The Message version of James 2:14 says,
“Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?”
I read that in light of the week I have just had, as an validation to sit in the sadness of the brokenness, but not an excuse to wallow. I read this modern version of the text to say, whatever it is that breaks your heart, God is giving you a task to fix, or an injustice to make right, or a brokenness to heal.And so I invite you to consider your own holy discontent and how your own heart breaks. Maybe the Holy Spirit is whispering to you about the gifts you have to help address that particular issue. It could be that God made you for such a time as this.
I close with Richard Rohr’s words from his devotion in Center for Action and Contemplation that says this:
“Religion is no longer a spectator sport, an observing of some distant, far-off truth, but it’s an observing of what is true in me, and what is true in me is true of the cosmos. It’s all one reality. Frankly this makes the job of evangelization—if we want to use that Christian word—much easier because we’re not bringing in an extraneous message. We’re simply naming what is.”
And so church, let’s name what is; the hurt, the sin, the brokenness and put our broke hearts into action together.
Thank you for joining this Serve Season. We hope you will consider stretching outside your comfort zone this fall. Talk to our ministry leaders about trying something new! For each opportunity below, please reach out to email@example.com or 407-644-2906 x269 to connect to a ministry leader to learn more and sign up.
Jobs Partnership (JP)
Serve with Our Childcare Team
Join one of our childcare staff to care for 5 children ages 4-10 years old, while their parents attend the Jobs Partnership Class. Dinner is provided.
When: Thursday evenings from 5:45-9pm through Thursday, November 9
Where: Reeves Center, TCA Preschool Classroom 5
Requirements: Current FUMCWP background check and 1 hour Child Youth Protection Training for adults. Children & youth 15 and younger are invited to serve with a parent present.
Family Promise of Greater Orlando
Provide a hot dinner for 12-14 people or welcome families as an evening or overnight host. All ages invited to serve.
Day Center Opportunity
When: October 8-15
Where: Family Promise Day Center and Offices at 1000 Clay Street, Winter Park
Requirements: Current FUMCWP background check and online training through Family Promise of Greater Orlando.
FUMCWP Host Week
When: November 12-19
Where: FUMCWP Matthias Family Life Center 3rd Floor Spaces
Requirements: Current FUMCWP background check and online training through Family Promise of Greater Orlando.
Killarney Elementary School
Killarney Campus Beautification & Gardening Day
When: Saturday, November 4, 9am-2pm
Where: Killarney Elementary School Grounds, 2401 Wellington Blvd, Winter Park
Requirements: Current OCPS Background Check and willingness to dig in the dirt; all ages invited to serve.
Killarney Family Math Night
Serve pizza and lemonade and assist in facilitating math games for students.
When: November 29, 4:30-7:30pm
Where: Killarney Elementary School Cafeteria, 2401 Wellington Blvd, Winter Park
Requirements: Current OCPS Background Check for adults; youth 16 and older invited to serve with a supervising adult.
Mentor a 2nd or 3rd grader for 30 minutes each week during the school year.
When: Tuesdays or Thursdays; Times vary during school hours
Where: Killarney Elementary School Front Office, 2401 Wellington Blvd, Winter Park
Requirements: Current OCPS Background Check and 1.5 hour mentor training at FUMCWP; All adults invited to serve.
Give here or donate a $25 gas card to support our church’s benevolence program. Please select the ‘Community Benevolence’ fund.
This program offers an invitation to connect with our congregation, short term financial support and connection to community resources to individuals who contact our church for assistance. Contributions during Serve Season will be used for gas cards and public transportation tickets.
United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)
UMCOR is the organization through which the church works to support disaster relief and recovery throughout the world. Give here to support disaster relief and recovery work throughout the United States including current relief for those impacted by Hurricane Idalia and recover for those impacted by Hurricane Ian.