18th Sunday after Pentecost in Ordinary Time/World Communion Sunday/September 30, 2020
Just these lines, my friends …
… to say that I hope you saw my interview on Sunday with Suzanne Pugh (President/CEO of Aldersgate: A United Methodist Retirement Community) as a part of our worship service and the My 95 worship series. You can watch here. You’ll be glad you did. She speaks with such passion and advocacy for older adults.
Last week (September 20), my interview was with Richard Williams. Richard is the President/CEO of Lineage. C-12 is an organization that has been extremely helpful to Richard for his understanding of how his work matters to God. If you’d like to learn more about it, you can click here.
The Sun Does Shine
Sometimes what happens to you is not fair. It’s not fair that you got that diagnosis or that your mom isn’t here to show you the ropes or the insurance company refuses to cover that particular medicine you really need or you’re stuck between the impossible decision about whether or not to send your kid to school in a pandemic. Sometimes life just stacks against us.
Anthony Ray Hinton is someone who understands the cost of unfairness. He’s been living the nightmare of being unjustly accused and living with the consequences.
In 1985, Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two capital murders. Crimes he didn’t commit. The supposed murder weapon was his mother’s gun. But the evidence didn’t exist. He was at work miles away at the time of the crime. He passed a polygraph. The bullets were never proven to have come from that gun. But none of it mattered. He was a black man in Alabama. That was his only crime.
He was sentenced to death, and sat on death row for 28 years until Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative proved his innocence and pushed the case to the Supreme Court of the United States, where his conviction was finally overturned. And on April 3, 2015, Ray Hinton was set free. Today, as the Equal Justice Initiative community educator, Mr. Hinton is a tireless and powerful advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. He is also the author of a wonderful memoir, and our book pick for the MUMC Bridge Builders Conversations Book Group, The Sun Does Shine.
One of the powerful things about Ray’s commitment to justice is that it does two things at once. It condemns the unfair systems that distort the truth. He was innocent in a society that pronounced him guilty because of the color of his skin. But Ray also pronounced his own verdict on all humanity. We are all worthy. The good and the bad among us, the criminals and the saints, the deserving and the undeserving.
Even in the midst of the most profound kinds of unfairness, Ray never lost sight of something true about himself and other people. We all hunger and need to be loved. We need to be forgiven. We need to have those who show up every week to talk about everything and nothing. Our fundamental humanity is never in question. No matter what we’ve done.
Structurally, we must work towards systems which do the hard work of perfect justice, but personally, spiritually, individually, we must walk the path that Ray’s been walking. I love the words of Thomas Merton when he writes: “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business. And in fact, it’s nobody’s business. What we’re asked to do is love. And this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”
As I mentioned above, our Bridge Builders Conversations Book Group has been reading Hinton’s book, The Sun Does Shine, this past month. If you’d like to be in our discussion this month, click here to learn how you can connect to our Zoom discussion. We’d love for you to learn and grow with us.
Vision Team Report
Over the past year our MUMC Vision Team met with 30+ constituencies within the church, and conducted a congregational survey to hear what our church community feels are our next steps. After numerous hours of listening and collecting data, the Vision Team has completed and submitted its Vision Report to the Clergy and Lay Leadership. Leadership is now in the process of examining the recommendations and establishing an implementation process that gives a proper balance between the recommendations and our current reality. We will continue to keep the congregation abreast of our progress.
We are deeply grateful to the Vision Team who has led these efforts: Marianne Bowman, Kristi Byrum, Lee Goldstein, Carol Hatcher, Bob Healy, Eva Hernandez, Hampton Hopkins, Kaitlin Klotz, Scott Lyons, Neal Miller, Jon Pollack, Valarie Ross and Michelle Wright.
I want to keep you updated on the work of this unique ministry. Inclusive Grace is a Reconciling Ministry in our midst that supports and celebrates LGBTQIA+ persons, their families, and friends, both within and beyond the church community. Established following the 2019 General Conference, Inclusive Grace is welcome to all, provides small group community, offers lifelines to individuals seeking support from someone who has walked a similar journey, and hosts regular conversations. You can read about the ministry’s recent conversation on Race, Gender, and Sexuality and learn more about Inclusive Grace here.
This Sunday (October 4) in Worship
This week in our CCH community Pastor Roldan will be preaching from Philippians 3:7-11, and his message is “The Best Balance.” This is his first message in a series on stewardship and generosity titled Time of Gratitude. Pastor Roldan says, “I believe that even with all the challenges and losses that the world has suffered globally speaking, that there is much to thank the Lord.”
It is World Communion Sunday this week. You can prepare to receive the sacrament during one of the morning services at home or you can drive by the church sometime between 2 pm and 3 pm to receive the Sacrament. Please plan to ENTER off Country Place Drive and EXIT at Fullwood Lane to follow the flow of traffic. We will have three lanes established and ask that you watch for special directions from our parking lot ushers. This will be a wonderful time of reunion but please be mindful that there will be many to serve.
As well on Sunday we’ll conclude our study of Jacob in our My 95 worship services. My sermon is titled, “My 95 – My People” from Genesis 33:1-12.
And, as always, during these strange, uncertain and tumultuous days remember … God does God’s best work in moments like this.
Living intentionally in My 95,
Dr. Charles (Chuck) W. Wilson II
Did you know that John Healy, son of Bob & Cheryl Healy, married Caroline White on Saturday, September 26, in a ceremony at the home of Caroline’s parents? Congratulations, John & Caroline!
Did you know that Melba Westphal celebrated her 99th birthday on September 24? Happy Birthday, Melba!
Did you know that 480 of you have already logged onto our new Realm member portal? If you have not yet created a login, click here. You can use Realm to easily update your contact info & photo, register for events, make contributions to the church, see your events (with Zoom links) … all in one location!
Did you know that Roof Above (which hosts Room in the Inn) will have two or three sites in the Charlotte area, providing enough space for all the guests to stay (hosted by Staff members due to COVID concerns) every night? Our partnership with Room In the Inn (RITI) will look different this year, and will be a key to the success of sheltering our neighbors. Stay tuned for ways in which we can offer support such as in-person assistance with check-in, off-site meal preparation, toiletry/supply donations and financial support.
Did you know that 16 members of the New Directions Sunday School class met and socially distanced in the back yard of Earl & Jeannette Coggins this past Monday afternoon? The class members have been meeting virtually on a weekly basis for the past six months, but it was so good to see faces in person again — even though covered in masks. Brenda Hudson started us off with a beautiful devotion and prayer about the importance of using our words to encourage others.