On Monday, August 24, I had the honor of praying the invocation for the Board of Mayor & Aldermen Meeting at Collierville Town Hall. Below is the prayer that I offered for our leaders, our town, and for all those in attendance. Please join me in praying for all our elected officials, that God would give them the wisdom needed to navigate these trying times.
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God of Hagar and Ishmael, God of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus...
We pray to you this night seeking guidance and wisdom, asking for you to reveal your path, for our town, state, and nation.
We pray that you might direct the hearts of our Mayor and Aldermen, just as you channeled streams of living water within the hearts of your people.
As Israel’s kings sought out the wisdom and counsel of prophets, may our leaders attentively listen to the prophetic voices you lift up this evening.
Reveal to us brave visionaries who speak up and speak out on behalf of your people and draw our attention to the least of these, for we know that whatever we do for the least of these we in truth do for you, Lord.
Help us to hear the concern of parents as their children return to school, show us the faces of those who have struggled financially over the last five months, and offer us solace as we mourn for the lives of those lost to COVID-19 as well as systemic and institutional racism.
Remind us of this fact which theologian Tom Oden shares, “We do not live a solitary existence as if in an individualistic bubble, but in a community called to social accountability. The sin we knowingly do contributes to the burden of sin dispersed through the whole society.”
Almighty God, we repent of our sin and the sins of our fathers; may we seek out your preferred future, and may you flood our atmosphere with oceans of justice and rivers of righteousness.
You are a good and loving God, slow to anger and quick to love. Bless my neighbors and bless this meeting, so that right and equitable relationships might be built, that wisdom would be proclaimed as each tongue speaks justice and truth.
We pray for this and much more in the name of the one true God: Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. Amen.
Peace Tree is part of the United Methodist Church, and we are connected regionally to other UMC congregations in Middle Tennessee, West Tennessee, and Western Kentucky. Our area is being challenged by the planned gathering of white supremacists and associated hate groups in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville on October 28, 2017. The following is a letter written by Bishop Bill McAlilly to local churches. You can read the original post on Bishop McAlilly's blog HERE.
Dear United Methodist Family,
The same hate groups that devastated the Charlottesville, Virginia community just a few weeks ago are now targeting our Tennessee Conference by planning to gather in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville on October 28, 2017 to spread the vitriolic evil of racism. As United Methodists, we must remember and recommit ourselves to the ideals of our United Methodist social witness.
Within our Social Principles we understand racism as sin and contrary to the fundamental recognition that “our primary identity is as children of God.” “Racism … plagues and hinders our relationship with Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself.” I call on all of us to renew our personal and collective commitment to stand against racism and the violence born from it.
Some have inquired as to our possible response to the racist protests being planned. We are encouraging people to work within the interfaith partnerships already formed. The Shelbyville First United Methodist Church and the Shelbyville Church of the Nazarene will be sponsoring a prayer vigil on Thursday, October 26, 2017.
The Rutherford County Interfaith Council and the City of Murfreesboro encourage individuals to consult the #Murfreesboroloves Facebook community. Individuals who seek to publicly counter-protest in the Shelbyville area should consult the Shelbyville Times Gazette for information on where to legally gather. For more information, please feel free to call the Stones River District Superintendent, Rev. Max Mayo, at (615) 893-5886.
I call upon all United Methodists to join in praying for our communities as well as discovering creative ways to live our baptismal vow to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
Bishop Bill McAlilly
Also, I invite you to read and reflect on Reverend Paul Purdue’s sermon, Blessed Are the Peacemakers – Being Mistaken for the Children of God preached Sunday, October 8, 2017 in the aftermath of the shooting in Las Vegas. You will find a link to this message below:
Rev. Paul Purdue: Blessed are the peacemakers – Being mistaken for the Children of God
It’s 8 am on Monday morning, our team’s first day at Centenary United Methodist for programming. Most of us did not get enough sleep due to first day jitters. The start of the day did not go as planned at first. We arrived at the church to find that we were locked out and the alarm system was set off. At times, I felt like I was going to burst from the anticipation of meeting the kids. The community was ready to start camp as well with families arriving up to an hour early!
Our team and the volunteers began to see the impact of Project Transformation from the start. Project Transformation’s discipline policy includes a set of rules known as the "Five Be’s." Be a Leader. Be a Learner. Be a Listener. Be a Friend. Be Responsible. Though these rules were set for the kids to learn, I saw every team member embody them. Adara took initiative every minute of every day to meet the needs of Young Artists, always with a smile on her face . Tanner was our leader, friend, and listener when we felt overwhelmed, frustrated, or confused. He provided laughter and encouragement whenever the environment was tense. Jasmine brought fresh ideas for classroom management through "air fives" and the energy we needed for Harambe. Cameisha was a listener and friend not only to me but to every volunteer that came to help in the reading program. Jakeno embraced his responsibility and the impact he had on the kids from his own neighborhood. Shyquel displayed grace and humility to every child of her group, even when they did not listen. Regan lead her Red Rockets with a listening ear and showed them the importance of how they each could be individual leaders within the group.
We were all learners in some sort of way. We learned to find our "teacher voice" and to adapt our skills to meet the needs of our community. One big way we were learners is by implementing a new buddy system with our kids. To aid in developing our older kids into responsible leaders, we pair an older kid with a younger kid. The younger kid has someone to look up to while the older kid gains a sense of responsibility. They are able to be a friend, be responsible, and be a leader. Our team was beginning to form our unique community at Centenary United Methodist.
Project Transformation is bringing people from all different backgrounds with diverse gifts to learn how to serve and develop children to their best potential. Some volunteers come from the suburbs with teaching experience. Some come from the city who had experience with the kids prior to Project Transformation. Our team embodies diversity coming from the inner city, the suburbs, other states, different majors, different upbringings, and different strengths. Already I have been encouraged by the conversations I have had with each of my fellow interns, volunteers, and church members. We are learning what it means for the children to become first and how Project Transformation is at work for the Kingdom of God. Love is at the core of every interaction. Grace, patience, and laughter is an everyday necessity. Despite our differences and the challenges of the first week of programming, our team continues to celebrate our diversity, cultivate leadership, learn how to serve our community, and how developing literacy empowers the kids to be who they were created to be.
Rachel Younger is a member of Peace Tree's Loeb St. House Group and she also assists with worship at our Sunday morning Large Group gatherings. Last summer, Rachel served as an intern with Project Transformation following her graduation from Union University. This post originally appeared on the Project Transformation Tennessee blog on June 22, 2016 and is republished with Rachel's permission. Contact us today to learn more about Project Transformation and how you can attend a volunteer training meeting on May 1 at our mother church.
Last weekend, the Guatemalan Mobile Consulate returned to the Memphis area to assist Guatemalan citizens who are living and working in the United States. Consulate officials helped individuals process updates to their documentation including passport renewals, birth certificate applications for children who have dual-citizenship, marriage licenses, certificates of death for loved ones who had passed away, and government-issued identification cards.
Trinity United Methodist Church (Midtown) served as the host site for this event, with Iglesia Metodista Unida "El Redentor" acting as the liaison with the Consular General in Atlanta and Peace Tree UMC coordinating volunteers for the two-day event. Volunteers came from the three churches mentioned above as well as from the following groups & organizations: Collierville UMC, Emmanuel UMC (Memphis), St. Paul UMC (Lakeland), Trinity Baptist Church (Cordova), Teach for America, Latino Memphis, University of Memphis Spanish Department, Sigma Chi Fraternity (EK Chapter), and the Congregational Health Network from Methodist Healthcare. By the end of the weekend we had helped serve 929 neighbors, and Christians of all ages from varying socio-economic levels and different cultural backgrounds had come together to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.
The Guatemalan Consulate hopes to return to Memphis for another visit in 2017. So if you'd like to work alongside all these amazing people, then please Contact us today. Reverend Luz Campos is the pastor of El Redentor, and below you can read her letter to the volunteers. With her permission and with light editing, we share it with you now:
It was 5:30 p.m. on Friday, March 24th when we realized that there were already some cars in the parking lot with people waiting for the line to start. When we returned at 2:00 a.m. the line was very long; men and women with children in their arms prepared to spend the night waiting in line in order to receive assistance from the Guatemalan Mobile Consulate.
Unfortunately, during the early hours of Saturday the 24th, a storm with strong winds and heavy rain approached Midtown. But no one moved from their place in line. Thanks to the compassion of Rev. Jonathan Bratt Carle and for Rev. Goyo de la Cruz who coordinated the details of opening the Education Center at Trinity UMC, at 4 o'clock in the morning we were able to allow people to enter. Everyone was obviously soaked but thankful for the shelter.
The church housed between 400 to 500 adults plus children that Saturday morning. And at 8:00 a.m. the officials from the consulate arrived to assist the Guatemalan community. Everyone was very grateful because the volunteers from Trinity UMC had shared water, fruit, and cookies. There was even a group of volunteers who took care of the children. We are also very grateful to our neighbors from the Vollintine Evergreen Community Association for their support in allowing us to park along the streets of their neighborhood throughout the weekend.
There is a Latino saying that says “Union Makes Force" (La Unión hace la Fuerza). It is true! The union of three churches (Trinity UMC, Peace Tree, and Iglesia Metodista Unida “El Redentor”) and many volunteers made it possible for us to be the hands and feet of God in this journey.
Thank you brothers and sisters! And to all the volunteers, thank you for working so hard to serve our neighbors. They were very satisfied, not only because they were able to carry out their official consulate business, but also because they met people who truly love God. They encountered people who exemplify the love of God burning in their hearts by serving others. So once again, "Thank You."
Rev. Luz Campos
Iglesia Metodista Unida "El Redentor"
Every year, the Guatemalan Consulate in Atlanta sends a mobile unit to Memphis to assist Guatemalans living and working in the United States with updates to their documents as well as applications for birth certificates, wedding licenses, and other important papers. 1,665 people from across Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri were assisted this year, but more than 500 people were not seen due to time constraints. Peace Tree’s Susan Lawhon and Jennie Dickerson organized and led the many volunteers needed to make this event possible. In our latest blog post, Jennie shares what this event means to her and why she signs up every year to volunteer.
One of the things I love about Peace Tree is that we are a “doing” church. We meet people where they are, whether it's the Blessing of the Animals at Suggs Park, a neighborhood event on the Collierville Town Square, or the annual Guatemalan Consulate Visit to Memphis.
Last weekend, Peace Tree joined our United Methodist family at Asbury UMC and Iglesia Metodista Unida El Redentor to assist the local Guatemalan population file some tedious government paperwork. More than 1,600 people stood in line for hours to get updated government identification cards, birth certificates, passports and more. Volunteers (Spanish-speaking or not) helped make the process as smooth as possible by directing traffic, making copies of documents, answering questions, and keeping children entertained while parents spoke to consulate officials.
The Guatemalan Consulate Visit is my favorite volunteer event of the year. To me, it epitomizes how we ought to live as Christians. We don't have to speak the same language or be from the same place to walk alongside each other and make this life a little easier. It’s faith in action and an opportunity to show grace and love to each other. This is what it means to “love thy neighbor,” and every year I'm grateful for this opportunity to do so.
The following press release was written by Compassion International, an organization which exists as an advocate for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults. Peace Tree is providing volunteers and working alongside Collierville UMC to help host Compassion International's upcoming event.
More than 1.4 billion people in developing countries live on less than $1.25 per day, facing challenges most Americans never will. Compassion International’s The Compassion Experience is making a four-day stop in the Collierville area February 19-22 and will bring visitors on a journey into the lives of two Compassion-sponsored children living in the Philippines and the Dominican Republic. The event will be hosted by Collierville United Methodist Church at 454 West Poplar Avenue in Collierville
A self-guided tour will immerse visitors in the lives of the children. Through the use of an iPod, a headset and 1,700 square feet of interactive space, visitors will see the children’s homes, walk through schools and markets, and hear life-changing stories of hope—all from the perspective of a child whose life began in poverty. This free event is appropriate for all ages and is an excellent opportunity for anyone who has never had the chance to travel outside the U.S. to get a small glimpse of what life can be like in developing countries.
Visitors are encouraged to make a reservation, however walk-ins are welcome. Groups of 20 or more should email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve their space. For more information about “The Compassion Experience”, visit www.compassionexperience.com, @compassion_exp on Twitter, and www.facebook.com/compassionexperience on Facebook.
Collierville and Memphis-area residents — all ages welcome
An interactive tour through the life of a child living in a developing country
WHEN / WHERE:
February 19-22, 2016
Collierville United Methodist Church
454 West Poplar Avenue
Collierville, TN 38017
The following is a blog post from a fellow church planter, Rev. Travis Garner. With permission, we share Travis's thoughts on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage:
Unless you’ve not been paying attention to anything going on in the world, you know that this week was a landmark week in the United States, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could no longer ban marriage between same-sex couples. In many ways, the way the decision was reached and the response on social media are more indicative of the current state of our culture than the decision itself. It was a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court, and the justices were very divided in their writings on the decision. If you’ve been reading social media (and who hasn’t?), you’ve seen incredibly divided responses as well. I have good friends, people of faith, who fall across the spectrum on their response to this ruling.
The question I’m pondering this morning as I prepare to head to church is this: How do you pastor a congregation in a 5-4 world?
The fact of the matter is that we are a divided nation, a divided people. In today’s culture, every possible division between people is emphasized and expanded and exaggerated and exploited. Everything is turned into an “either/or” scenario. Either you agree with me, or you’re a bigot. Either you agree with me, or you’re completely immoral.
This week, there are people who, in the midst of their story and their struggle are celebrating equality. But this week, there are also people who disagree, people who have a different story and a different experience. The reality is that there are not “two sides” on this issue. There’s not a singular gay experience or a singular straight experience. Each of us has a different story, unique experiences, particular struggles, and when we make anything a simple “either/or,” we greatly miss the mark. When we proclaim from our soapboxes that you’re either in favor of this decision or you’re a hateful bigot, we’re being shortsighted. When we say you’re either against this decision or you’re championing immorality, we’re failing to understand the complex reality in which we find ourselves.
What I’m feeling this morning as I prepare to head to worship in such a divided time and cultural landscape, is a deep sense of gratefulness that I believe in a God who loves all people. I’m thankful to be part of a church that has an open table: all people are invited to sit at God’s table. Which means, by the way, that people with whom I strongly disagree are loved by God and invited to sit at God’s table. People who are and have been hurtful to me are loved by God and invited to sit at God’s table. After all, Jesus died for bigots. Jesus died for the immoral. Jesus died for all of us.
Every single one of us in the family of God are a mix of saint and sinner, of struggle and victory, of lost and found. None of us, singularly, have it all figured out. We need each other, the people who think and act like us, but maybe even more particularly the people who are different from us. For it is in our difference and diversity that the body of Christ finds its true strength.
As a pastor, I’m a pastor to both the 5 and to the 4. I’m a pastor to people who sharply disagree with one another. And the bottom line is this: all are welcomed in my church and loved unconditionally by God. And all are asked and enabled to become more than what they are when they walked in the door – a person who is continually growing and transforming into the likeness of Christ. I am grateful that this morning, at my church, there will be space for everyone; all are invited.
From Ephesians 4: May we all be rooted and established in love, completely humble and gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Remembering that there is one body and one Spirit, and one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
To read more of Travis's thoughts, visit his blog at www.travisgarner.net. To learn more about his new church plant in the Nashville-area, visit www.thevillagenashville.com.
Today, my heart is saddened as I think about my brothers and sisters living in the Palmetto State mourning the loss of nine South Carolinians who were killed while attending a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. In times of unspeakable tragedy, we ask the question, "Why?" Why did this happen, why were good people murdered, and why did God allow this to happen? While the stock answer is "Everything happens for a reason," I want to suggest that this answer is not fair to the families and community experiencing this great loss, and perhaps this answer is too quick and easy an explanation for such a complicated world created by such a mighty God.
Fellow pastor Adam Hamilton wrote a book in 2011 entitled Why? Making Sense of God's Will. In it, he shares, "The sweeping message of the Bible is not a promise that those who believe and do good will not suffer. Instead the Bible is largely a book about people who refused to let go of their faith in the face of suffering." Already, the people of Charleston have shown us that they refuse to let go of their faith in the midst of this tragedy. Christians, city leaders, and members of the community gathered this morning at Morris Brown AME Church for a prayer vigil. Others gather on the street in front of 'Mother Emanuel' to pray with one another and to comfort one another. The people of Charleston have rightly showed us that, while there may be no answer for these thoughtless killings, true comfort and hope is found in God. When you are asking the question "Why?," turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Even as we hold onto faith, we ask why tragedies occur in a world that was called "good" at its creation. For this, Hamilton supplies three foundational ideas:
I have often said that God's answer for the injustices of the world is humanity! Human beings are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. The Church serves as the Body of Christ. And the redemption of the world came in the Son of Man. We are responsible for this world, but at times we choose what is evil over what is good; we choose the wrong path as opposed to choosing God's path. But with God's help, we can choose what is just and good; we can right the wrongs of this world and help usher in a day when God's Will shall be realized on earth as it is in Heaven.
During the writing of this post, the suspected gunman, Dylann Roof, has been apprehended. Many will call for swift justice and will want to take his life for the lives of those he murdered. As a Christian, I first seek out Peace, and today I call for Peace with Justice. We have a responsibility to choose good over evil and to walk the Way that Jesus walked. How can we look upon Dylann the way that God sees him? How can we treat him as a Child of God who must now live with the consequences of his actions?
I challenge the stock answer "EVERYTHING happens for a reason." I see no reason in last night's mass murder. And I do not believe that God willed this event to happen. But I do know that God will never leave my side, and I do trust that God is with the members of Emanuel AME Church and the people of Charleston at this very moment. For those of you who do not know where to turn, I encourage you to look to God. Adam Hamilton writes, "Rejecting God doesn't change the situation that has caused our suffering; it only removes the greatest source of hope, help, comfort, and strength we have." Remember that evil and tragedy do not have the final word. God is Love, and Love Wins.
+Peace with Justice from Pastor Kris
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