Mission 2017 Day 4, Part 1: The Poetry of Community

Let’s wrap up Day 4 with a few poems and a walk – and bike ride – around the National Mall. Justice with Enjambment Our seminar concluded with a poetry workshop led by R. Kayeen Thomas. Yes, you read that right, Dear Reader, a poetry workshop. To wrap up our time together, this Washington, D.C. … Read more Mission 2017 Day 4, Part 1: The Poetry of Community

Mission 2017 Day 4, Part 1: The Poetry of Repentance

On our last full day in Washington, D.C., we explored anti-racism attitude and tactics, considered ideas of equity, wrote poems, and split into groups on the National Mall for a night of fun. Like yesterday’s update, today was chock-full and will need to come in two parts. So here is Day 4, Part 1: The … Read more Mission 2017 Day 4, Part 1: The Poetry of Repentance

Mission 2017 Day 3, Part 2: The American Art of Militarism

Day Three continued with a story about running for your life, story in the form of many mediums of art, and a story of how to balance faith, power, and allegiance. In other words, a refugee, an artist, and a chaplain walk into a bar…
“What did I do to deserve this?”
Our final speaker for our first day of seminars at the United Methodist Building was a young man named Engoma Fataki, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo who has spent a majority of his life living in various refugee camps. For those keeping track at home, Engoma first entered a refugee camp at age 5. He’s 19 now. Engoma is working with GBCS as a student in the Ethnic Young Adult Intern Cohort, a ministry designed for young people to explore their faith while they work with an organization focused on social justice. What we heard today was his personal witness.
In his story, there are many tents, many pieces of trash, and not much else. That’s the

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Mission 2017 Day 3, Part 1: The American Art of Migration

It was a packed first full day in Washington, D.C., Dear Reader, so packed today’s post comes in two parts. In Part 1, you’ll learn about our first seminars, guest speakers, and impromptu worship services. In Part 2, you’ll hear about our trip to an art gallery and our conversation with a chaplain. But for now, let’s start with a little something called The Social Principles…
“Social” Before “Social Media”
United Methodists have long taken a stand on issues impacting real people around the world. Through our Book of Discipline, we lay out all the rules and policies for our denomination: how we organize our structure (polity), what parameters there are for ordination (plenty), and there’s a place for taking a stand on justice (policy). That place is the Social Principles, a series of statements the UMC has made over the years addressing topics from war to hunger, from human rights to agriculture, from media violence to racism. Each statement names the challenge to society and goes on to offer a denominational opinion or position.
Now, not every United Methodist agrees with every word of the Social Principles. But that’s not the point. Rather, this is a series of statements we point to as a means of saying that, by and large, our church stands for these sorts of ways of God’s loving justice to enter the world and we believe it is in these particular ways. These statements belong to the church, so much like a creed, we can trust that at any given point, there are people in the church who believe in them and will go to bat for them. It’s the most malleable piece of the Discipline we have (it’s also the least binding) and if ever there was a “living document” portion to how we come together this is

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A Song for My Ordination.


Someone wrote me a song as a gift for my ordination.
Two songs.
Best. Gift. Ever.
You can hear the songs and the sermon / call story that inspired them via the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church podcast ministry.
On Sunday morning at Hennepin Avenue, in anticipation of being ordained a full elder in the United Methodist Church this Wednesday evening (livestream link), I preached about my call story. I offered highlights of my life from childhood to adulthood when I was open to God and when I was closed to God. If you didn’t know, I have had times in my life when I was a strong atheist, wanting nothing to do with God and definitely not the church. I am not ashamed of that, nor do I condemn atheists because while there are many reasons people are atheist I have certainly been there. It was a sermon of vulnerability and I knew I could trust my congregation with my story.

Ken Medema

Ken Medema is a superb musical artist. He’s written many inspiring pieces and even a children’s musical based on the Book of Jonah (my first sermon at Hennepin Avenue – filled with a metaphor of vomit! – was in response to the children performing Medema’s The Big Fish in worship, so we have come full circle). His live concerts often consist of him asking someone from the audience to tell him a brief story from their life and he responds with an original song, writing the music and lyrics on the spot. One of the first things Ken will tell you about himself is he is blind, so he’s taking notes in his mind as he listens to you. It is truly amazing.
Before worship, he and I spoke and I knew that everything he’d offer today would be in response to what came before, including my sermon. In that sense, I knew the song he crafted would be about servanthood and walking the journey. What I didn’t understand is he would truly put my life to music.
Ken made my life a song. There’s no other way to put it.
First, I was moved to tears as I listened to my life as a song. It was unexpected and such a gift. I sat in the preacher’s chair, up on the chancel and behind Ken while he was at the grand piano on the floor. After worship, the only comment I received more about the song’s beautiful content was

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Mission 2016: Stockton Day 5 – Gimme Shelter

Wednesday is a unique day for us at SSP and it was a great day, Dear Reader. Rather than work in our regular work teams comprised of people from several churches and at our regular work sites, we took on special projects as church groups. Later, we ended up at the beach for a swim and a cookout. Here’s the scoop:
The Breakfast Club
SSP Site Director, Megan, and SSP staffer, Kelsey, joined our team from Hennepin Avenue UMC to serve the breakfast meal at St. Mary’s Dining Room, the next building over from the homeless shelter some of us are working at and across the street from a tent town tragically filled with those who have no home. We could tell right away we were in for an experience that many of us had never had.
Once we were inside, we broke up into teams. One team got ready in the kitchen to get food out to serve while the other team wrapped silverware in napkins for future meals until it was time to serve the meal for the morning. See, St. Mary’s doesn’t just do breakfast, and they don’t just do it on weekdays. Rather, they do breakfast, lunch, and dinner, three meals a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, including holidays. That’s over 1000 meals per year, relying on volunteers, donations, and kindness. So yeah, they needed a few hundred extra forks wrapped in napkins today!
When 8:30am hit, the doors opened for breakfast. It was slow at first and then boom, the rush came inside. While almost the entire group has experience with the Community Meals ministry at Hennepin, one discernable difference is that many of the people who enjoy that meal are employed or at least in some form of housing. However, those who ate this meal were very likely homeless, perhaps even from the tents across the street. I don’t think it

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Mission 2016: Stockton Day 4 – 104 Ain't Nothin' But a Number

It was a hot one, Dear Reader, I won’t lie. It wasn’t quite hot enough to call off work, but it sure felt close. For our team, I can tell you we were very grateful we got some shade today, even though standing in the shade was hot, too. We had cookies, primer, and poetry, oh my! Here’s the scoop:
A Variety of Mornings, a Variety of Delays
Our first update is with Morghan and my work team, The Wildcats, working on repainting Jenny’s house (Sam, Erica, and Kemi are on the other side of the house in their work team, too). We’d reached the point where scraping was done and now we needed the power washer. Thing is, we didn’t have a hose. The hose the work team at the front of the house used wouldn’t come off the spigot and we had to wait for a longer hose to arrive. Before then, SSP staff Natalie and CIT Sam stopped by with homemade cookies and a discussion topic. Later, Tony showed up with the hose and

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