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Goodbye Greetings

Goodbye Greetings. How is that for an oxymoronic opening? This is my last week at Fairview UMC and it reminds of a fairly common funeral situation. How do you commend and celebrate (and grieve) several years when the focus is still on current events and prior months, a spell of hard decisions, rapid changes, and wide a variety of emotions?

As my last official Fairview Weekly email, simple will probably be best.

I am remembering with joy. (not in order of importance)

  • a new three year old twirling in front of a communion table
  • an assortment of mission adventures-cleaning the park, Renaissance, Serve, local road clean up (poor Scott Blvd could use us now),
  • Loaves and Fishes (from the tiny kitchen to now)
  • Room at the Inn these last two years.
  • five incarnations of Little Bethlehem
  • singing in the choir
  • studies and flames
  • Five years of watching a group of children and youth evolve and grow.
  • The wide variety of people (animals) that consider Fairview a place in their life:

(As pastor I did have contact with most folks that lurk around, use, and love Fairview)

  •  worshipping with you, from regulars to transients, past and present
  • the things we got repaired, improved, or sold.
  • the laughter, love, and sharing the heart ache of life.
  • I hope you add something joyful here.

I ask forgiveness for my mistakes, missteps, and mayhem. No need to itemize. I am grateful for the faithfulness witnessed, the grace experienced, the new things learned.

Thank you for all the ways you showed up in these past five years. Thank you for all the ways you supported Fairview. I commend and ask your prayers for the leaders who showed up most every month, and the visitors who were always welcomed, who sat in the Leadership Council, it has not been easy.

Our bible study this Wednesday morning is in Judges, the story of Samson (check it out, Judges 13-16, he is a mess.) Oddly enough, or something, I just heard a sermon about Samson at annual conference. Lynn Dyke, our previous District Superintendent, talked about the honey inside the lion carcass, the sweetness that can even come from difficult times and experiences. Another redemptive story waiting for us in a most unlikely place and that is the way God seems to work, redemption beyond expectation.

On that note I say goodbye, effective next week. I know you will welcome Rev Sandy Schaller and do all in your power to support the continued mission and ministry of Fairview. God will be with you. My appointment to Midway-Locus Grove UMC means I will not be relocating to another community, a first for me to go to a new church without moving a household. This means I am more likely to run into members of my former church around town at which time I will look forward to greeting you as friend and not pastor. I trust God will be with you, in your heart, in your home, and in your church community.

Kind and generous blessings, Kate

Welcome to Lent

Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday. Carnival. Shrove Tuesday. Doughnut Day. Pancake Day. The day before Ash Wednesday, today! Tonight the youth will cook and serve us pancakes for supper and Wednesday we break day on the threshold of a journey that begins in the ashes of yesterday.

Welcome to Lent, a forty-day invitation of return, renewal, and remembering. Engaging in a season of Lent can lead us into the heart of God.

As a season of faith, especially in the worshipping life, Lent is an ancient tradition with ever relevant implications. In Lent, we can the weak and the worst of our human selves. New possibilities for how we live easily are crushed under the mark missing of sin. In addition, we miss God’s mark often to protect status, power, and the control of ideals. When we follow Christ all the way to the cross, we confront a littered path of brokenness and a persistent God always seeking new inroads into our lives.

Lent takes us into the “passion narrative” of Jesus.” For six weeks, we are challenged to keep our eyes focused on Jesus and how humans respond to him. It does not get more honest and accepting than Lent, all you need is a humble heart to join the pilgrimage. “God’s purposes will be fulfilled even if it means using human failure and sin; but human failure and sin are not excused, because God uses them in the fulfillment of divine purpose.” Ponder this thought from Fred Craddock, a wise teacher and preacher.

Our forty days of Lent Observance begins tomorrow, Wednesday night at 7:00 in the sanctuary for Ash Wednesday worship.

Fairview will observe a Lenten season focused on the Way of the Cross. Following this way is not a “ten point plan to become a better person.” It is a journey of our crucifixion story is a story of violence and non-violence, the violent response of humans and the steadfast non-
violent, courageous response of Jesus to misunderstanding, fear, power, betrayal, denial, injustice, torture, and the violence of the cross.

The Jesus way of the cross can be called a third way through the struggle toward peace and justice in the hearts, homes, and the communal life of humanity. On Easter Sunday, we will celebrate God’s redemption and resurrection, until then you are invited on a Lenten pilgrimage, a journey of honesty, reflection, repentance, forgiveness, grace, and love in the midst of violence. God wins but it is a hard fought victory.

Each Sunday we will meet at a station along the way to the cross. Fourteen traditional “Stations of the Cross” have been used in Roman Catholic churches for centuries to teach people about the events in Jerusalem that end with Jesus dead on the cross. Our worship will be based on the Scriptural Way of the cross, which follows the scripture account in our four gospels.

Three different resources are available for a Violence/Non-Violence all church emphasis. You are invited to read a book, form or join a study or discussion group. Open yourself to God’s challenge of an abundance life in a time of troubles.

Resources for In-Depth Study:

  • Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence; Karen Armstrong (Religious Scholar) – Anchor Books, 2014-2015

Rev Kate will lead a discussion at Hy Vee (West Broadway) on these Thursday evenings:
February 18th, 25th and March 10, 17th. Come for supper and discussion or just discussion at 6:30p.

  • Love Beyond Measure: Spirituality of Non-Violence; Mary Lou Knownacki, OSB

Essay and Session Guide,
PDF available at no charge from church office.
Joy Group will be studying the spirituality of non-violence using the resource. It is a study guide with group session outlines. Gather up some church folk or friends for this accessible study.

  • Jesus and Non-Violence: A Third Way; Walter Wink (UMC clergy, Theology Professor) – Fortress Press, Facets Book Series, 2003; Six chapters with discussion questions

*Rev Kate has ten copies available at no charge for anyone wanting to engage with this short, readable book. There will be a discussion gathering in the narthex between the worship services starting at 9:45 on Feb 21 for those not currently involved in a Sunday study.

Thanksgiving Message

Sunday night Fairview and friends will sit down for a thanksgiving dinner. If past experience is an indicator there will be plenty of food, a true abundance, hopefully including large amounts of fellowship for all who come. Fellowship is the catchword for intentional church gatherings to draw the family circle wider. When we fellowship we mix up our socializing to include strangers and new folk so they can experience a place in the family.

Having attended many church dinners in a variety of places, I often have an outsider perspective. It has been interesting to see the chosen seating arrangements at these dinners, it is also very telling. Most church dinners resemble the lunchrooms of my child hood, some people have a seat saved for them, some people go straight for the empty table to avoid being rejected, and some people eat with the same people they might go out to dinner with, their friends. As the new kid in school or a visitor, I am always grateful for the person that helps me navigate the social order of the lunchroom or the fellowship hall.

At church dinners, my standing thanksgiving is for the people who help newcomers navigate and make room at their table for a stranger. This Sunday as we gather I hope there will be many navigators and people willing to make room, to include or visit a stranger. Last year we attempted assigned seating in order to mix it up; some people met new folks or learned more about each other and some people complained about the imposition. I get it, I like to visit with folks I know, and have fun with friends or gather with family but I also get that a church dinner needs to make everyone feel welcome.

This Sunday as we carry in our turkey, pies, and stuffing, et al, I urge everyone to carry in a large dish of gratitude for having an extended family called to supper by Jesus Christ and the opportunity to extend the family circle.

God bless all your thanksgivings.

 

 

 

S-T-R-E-T-C-H

Now, it looks sunny and bright with layers of green visible through the windows looking into the back yard. Earlier, without the sun fully up, it came across as dim and drab. Of course, the morning news reports and some stale, mediocre coffee could have affected that visual. It was one of those mornings when nobody in my house appeared to wake up in a good mood, unfortunately there is only one human in residency, me.

It is brighter outside but the news is still relating troubles around the globe. The death toll mounts in Nepal as the earth continues to shake and it sounds like the city of Baltimore has been shut down due to outrage and senseless destruction, a back lash long in the making. It was easy to follow a thought path that focused on how we humans create situations that eventually go horribly wrong. We build in the wrong places and we pretend that poverty is a state easily escaped without lasting consequences. Before coffee, and sun, it was easy to constrict the state of the world into a picture of gloom without much hope on the horizon. The coffee was not the daily outlook game changer; it was something bigger, something better.

Some days, most all some days, the only solution is a healthy dose of stretching and making sure that is accomplished before passing judgment on the a whole day. After so many hours in a bed a body/soul needs to stretch out, warm up, to get the energy flowing and stretching is a necessary spiritual exercise. This morning was a reminder it is best to have a stretch toward God before ingesting the news, a calendar, and a to do list. Without the stretch, the day ahead can look dim and a dose of morning news can cause a constriction that yearns to crawl back into bed.

The stretch is a reaching out beyond self; it is a prayer and plea for both the comfort and will to live the news and the challenges of daily life. Taking the time to stretch toward God is not an instant fix for a better day. All I really know is that a few stretches later, even after the bad coffee, it is sunny in the backyard and I know the mystery of faith still reigns.

Family Matters

The word family is a loaded word. It has emotional, spiritual, legal and biologically meanings. For several years I have been haunted by a little phrase and its implications for what it means to be a church; “we draw the family circle wide.” This phrase came to live in my head as I considered what it means to be a church, especially what it means to be Fairview United Methodist Church. How do we draw our family circle? With a narrow or an expansive understanding of who makes up a family. Do we draw the circle to keep people out or let people inside?

The word family is loaded with layers of meaning. Family is where we came from and where we currently live. ‘Family matters’ influence the people that we are and the people we long to be. We get shaped by our birth families and formed in our many families of work, interests, and friends.

Issues of family are a very important part of our inherited faith. What a person believes or doesn’t believe is often dependent on family ties and relationships. The language of faith is infused with family images and expectations. God is known as father, abba, and Jesus is our brother and we live amongst our brothers and sisters in the faith. Both biblically and in our lives, family matters can bring out the very best in us, and at times the worse.

There is a lot of talk about family matters and family values. There are assumptions made about family that are often not the norm or come out of a mythical understanding of family. There are all kinds of issues surrounding what it means to be a family.

Jesus takes on the definition of family in the early days of his ministry. All of his teachings, parables, and questions related to family tell us something about God and ourselves. Spring is a growing time of year so it seems like a good time to see how we can grow our understanding of family through the eyes of faith.

Let’s Get Centered!

Much to my surprise I realized that this coming Sunday was March 1. Whoa Nelly, that snuck up on me when I should have seen it coming. Another case of too much Martha time, distracted by many things, it’s been like the flu this year. (see Luke 10:38-42) (Whoa Nelly is not a biblical reference, 60’s TV I believe) Thankfully, it wasn’t a situation where the milk ends up next to flour and rice for a few days, or worse. Whatever happens, and the range is large, it seems to be a call to mindfulness which can be tough with so many distractions. No wonder we have a season that summons us to pay attention and Lent is that season. It comes at a good time as we are well into the seasonal slog of winter and we live rapidly changing, busy lives. This makes it so easy to get distracted, worried, or harried. Lent, on the other hand, begs us to take time, take a breath, and get centered on Jesus Christ. Lent reminds us that our horses don’t need to gallop around at full speed and it really does make a difference to sit at Jesus’ feet long enough to recover our balance and put distractions into perspective.

Problem is, sometimes our distractions are urgent or need a high priority in our schedules. Once again Lent can help by reminding us that ours is a faith of forgiveness, including forgiving ourselves and then making a few changes. Traditions sustained over many centuries are often layered with wisdom that we humans always seem to need. We have a few more weeks of winter slog but it can be a good time to prepare ourselves for new growth and possibilities. Our Lenten theme this year is “A Time for….” which is a good time to ask yourself what you need to make time for to feed your soul. May the peace of Christ come upon you this Tuesday as we enter the first full week of Lent.

Pudgy Sunday

Laissez les bons temps rouler! That’s what they are saying today 790 miles south of here in New Orleans on this “Mardi Gras” day. Unfortunately, for the revelers and parade attenders, the weather isn’t predicted to be that great and therein lays one of two commonalities we have with them today. Both “Mardi Gras” and “Shrove Tuesday” are days marking the end of a season and the anticipation of one beginning. This particular Tuesday is the final indulgence before the Lenten season begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. (Worship service at 7:00 pm.)

In the “Big Easy” parades, revelry, and King’s Cake rule the day. At Fairview we indulge in a Pancake Supper served by our youth. (Serving starts at 5:30pm) Pre-Lent Tuesday is commemorated globally in many Christian communities or at least those that carry on the food and party traditions but ignore the religious implications. Yummy foods, especially pastries, are consumed in preparation for the austere season of Lent with its long standing emphasis on fasting.

At its core, Lent calls us to change our behavior and create more space in our lives for God. It is meant to be a soul cleaning season of self-examination, learning and a renewed or new commitment to following the way of Christ.

The frigid weather may keep some folks home on both Pancake Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Not very much we can do about the weather, but please make an effort to be present if you can. The Pancake Supper is a fun Fairview tradition and the Ash Wednesday worship can be a very meaningful service. These events mark our changing seasons and remind us that there is a time to both indulge our appetites and a time to remember our mortality as we remember the gospel call for a time of repentance (change), all in the grace of Jesus Christ.

Local Mission Trip

Having Room at the Inn at Fairview has been like being on a mission trip but getting to sleep in our own beds each night. It certainly feels like being on a mission trip. A wide variety of people support the mission without getting on the bus by sharing resources and prayers. People step up to leadership, oversight, and responsibility. Working side by side with other missioners forges new relationships or rekindles connections. Invariably there are unexpected happenings, moments of yucky, and a few meltdowns. Getting to know those who we are currently serving is a joy, a concern, a surprise, an irritation at times and cause for lots of reflection and prayer. The trip is hard work at times, inconvenient, and satisfying. Our Room at the Inn guests will leave for the next location but the impact of hosting them will be with us for a long time.

In summary it has been an interesting February to date. Something else happened in my life last week that will also have a lasting impact. Someone I have known for many years, the spouse of a colleague died much unexpected at age 56. I received a text message that caught me so off guard it was hard to comprehend. Most of us have this sort of news at different points in our life. When I spoke to my friend not long after, he found his wife dead the first words out of my mouth were “I’m speechless.” I was taken aback by my own words until I truly considered their raw  honesty; there are no words for the first encounter of someone’s tragedy. My second words were better, you won’t take this journey alone, and I think this is the best we can offer to close friends and our guests at Room at the Inn.

Follow Me

“I have to be at the hospital at 8:00, they may operate on my knee.” “Is there any Cinnamon Toast left?” “May we turn on the news?” “I can’t sleep very well in a new location.” “I was a little cold last night.” “I hope this isn’t decaf.” “I’d be looking for a new coach if it was my team.” I heard these things Monday morning at Fairview in the multi-purpose room, fairly typical morning stuff except for the post Super Bowl chatter.

Our Room at the Inn guests made their beds, did morning bathroom business, had breakfast, caught the bus, and got on with their day. It had been a very cold night and they were grateful there would be a cot for them at the end of the day.

They are young and old, male and female, single and married, quiet or chatty, each with their own story. They aren’t so different from us except for the wide variety of reasons they have slipped through the cracks of typical living arrangements or the social safety net. Sleeping on a cot with 47 other people in a big room is the best option they have at the moment. These are folks that don’t ”live” at an address, who at best are lucky to have a place to stay, even for a night.

Thank God for people who care and are willing to share, their church, their time, their money, their things. Thank God there are people willing to suspend (or suppress) judgment and convictions long enough to help meet someone’s basic needs. It is extra work for some and an inconvenience for others, which is exactly the point Jesus made on several occasions. Follow me, he said, but don’t expect it to be an easy street. I could spend a little time verifying the scripture verses to back this up but, today, it seems more important to see how some people slept last night.

Human Relations

The United Methodist Church determined the Sunday before the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr national holiday would be an official special Sunday in our denomination.  It is designated as a special Sunday “with offering” which means that a special offering could be taken to support specific United Methodist ministries that focus on creating better human relations.  As the church that emphasizes that we live both a personal and a social faith, Human Relations Sunday makes perfect sense.  I support both the holiday and the special Sunday. Most years this means that the work and words of Dr. King are lifted up and there is some focus on racism, all with the best intentions and faithfulness.

This year something different happened.  I got smitten with an ironic giggle about the special Sunday.  We need a special Sunday to focus on Human Relations?  Didn’t God take care of that with the incarnation? That big event we just celebrated for several weeks.  God took human form in Jesus Christ who was very specific about how we relate to each other, love one another.  His passion for that point, led him right to the cross and my ironic giggle led me to a deeper reflection.

Have I been using this designated Sunday as an excuse to focus on how racism is manifest in our world?  Has this been an attempt to make preaching about race relations more palatable to the average worshipper?  This is no giggling matter.  Our human relations are fraught with racism and we white folks have let it simmer below the surface until events in Ferguson turned up the heat.  Very hard to ignore a boiling pot on the human relations stove top.

So I’m trying a new recipe come Sunday by focusing on a basic, scriptural, tenet of faith, hospitality.  These days we are more likely to hear about hospitality as an industry instead of an issue of faith.  Biblical hospitality has been around a lot longer than Marriot or Holiday Inn.  Dwelling on hospitality is not only a worthy worship theme it is a fine way to honor Dr. King and give glory to God’s great work on human relationships.  If this sparks your interest you may want to show up at church