Ferguson: What does the Lord Require?

Like many of us this week, my soul has been “disquieted within me” after hearing the decision of the Ferguson, Missouri Grand Jury and the aftermath. As I write this, I must confess I’m struggling to make sense of it all. I’m trying to make sense of the loss of life, a young African-American man whose life has been cut short. I’m trying to make sense of a police officer’s action and the consequences of those actions he must live with the rest of his life. I’m trying to make sense of how a police officer can fire his weapon 12 times. I’m trying to make sense of the militarization of our police forces as we respond to unrest. I’m trying to make sense of protests that destroy personal and public property. I’m trying to make sense of this and much, much more.

I’m trying to make sense of it all and my guess is I’m not alone. However, as I try to make sense of it all, the voice of the prophet Micah speaks to me: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

We’ve heard a lot about justice. There’s justice for Michael Brown and justice for officer Wilson. We’ve heard about our broken justice system. However, I fear that in each case we’ve been talking about retributive justice which is different than the type of justice Micah is talking about.

Micah is clear: we need to do justice! Micah is not talking about retributive justice, but systemic justice. What does the Lord require of us? Do be a part of systemic justice! This kind of justice is not something that someone else implements and carries out; it is something that is required of me. Marcus Borg writes in his book, The Heart of Christianity, “If we ask why the God of the Bible cares about politics, about systemic justice, the answer is disarmingly simple. God cares about justice because the God of the Bible cares about suffering. And the single biggest cause of unnecessary human suffering throughout history has been and is unjust social systems.” (P.139)

I struggle with making sense of the events of Ferguson, Missouri, but I do not struggle with the fact that we need to do something about the systemic injustice in our society. From Moses to Micah systemic injustice is what broke the heart of God. Jesus devoted his life to transforming systemic injustice.Therefore, to this end I invite all who desire to make a difference, all who desire to: “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God”, to join in the conversation, but more than conversation, let us come together and do justice!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Ministering with State Ave UMC

State Avenue UMC in Lower Price Hill is one of our church’s community ministry partners. Our partnership with them offers many ways to serve others and connect through service. Because State Avenue UMC serves and ministers to families in a socio-economically challenged area, finding ways to provide food assistance and other support is vitally important. As ministry partners with State Avenue UMC, we currently help them financially and with food donations.

Another opportunity to partner with State Avenue UMC is helping with their children’s Sunday School program on Sunday mornings. State Avenue UMC needs volunteers to invest in the lives of the kids attending State Avenue. There are many possibilities in serving the children at State Avenue UMC. Along with sharing a Bible story, you can share your own story about God’s working in your life. You can bring a special activity to do with the kids or share a hobby. You can bring a healthy snack, or a special treat, or you can help provide for other needs at the church. The best part of this partnership is building relationships with the people at State Avenue UMC. You might find a child in this socio-economically challenged area, who needs someone strong, someone encouraging, or someone who simply understand and listens. The kids at State Avenue need people willing to invest in their lives and share the love and character of Jesus with them.

We are currently in need of people who feel called to minister specifically to children in need, physically and spiritually, at State Avenue UMC. If you would like to help with this ministry, the need for programming is every 4th Sunday of the month. The time commitment is about two hours each month, from 10:30-12:30, which includes travel time to State Avenue UMC. The Children’s Ministry at HPCUMC can help provide lessons, craft ideas, and activities to help you serve the children. If you have any questions, or would like to volunteer to partner in this way with State Avenue, please contact Sara O’Connor at soconnor@hpcumc.org.

Sara O’Connor

Give Thanks!

Thanksgiving begins a season of celebration with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. From Thanksgiving, through Advent and Christmas, to the New Year, we will spend time counting our blessings, expressing our gratitude, and sharing God’s love. As you give thanks this season, my hope is that you can pray this simple prayer: “O Lord, thank you Jesus”!

Pastor H.B. Charles tells the following story about a woman he knew who showed up at church and prayed the same simple prayer. “O Lord, thank you Jesus,” she prayed week after week. Finally somebody asked her, “Why do you pray the same little prayer?” She said, “Well, I’m just combining the two prayers that I know. We live in a bad neighborhood and some nights there are bullets flying and I have to grab my daughter and hide on the floor, and in that desperate state all I know how to cry out is, ‘O Lord.’ But when I wake up in the morning and see that we’re okay I say, ‘Thank you Jesus.’ When I got to take my baby to the bus stop and she gets on that bus and I don’t know what’s going to happen to her while she’s away, I cry, ‘O Lord.’ And then when 3:00 P.M. comes and that bus arrives and my baby is safe, I say, ‘Thank you Jesus.'” She said, “Those are the only two prayers I know and when I get to church God has been so good I just put my two prayers together, “O Lord, thank you Jesus.”

As you gather around table this Thanksgiving weekend, give God thanks for the many ways in which you have been blessed. Give God thanks for the many ways in which God has led you through times of danger, discouragement, and disappointment this past year: “O Lord, thank you Jesus”!

I look forward to seeing you in church this Advent and Christmas season as we embrace the lessons of the manger, with this simple prayer on our lips: “O Lord, thank you Jesus”!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Prayer Walking

Prayer Walking is for everyone. We all do it. If you walk to your car and ask God for protection on your ride home you were prayer walking. If you prayed for inner peace as you walked to your work place, you were prayer walking.

I began praying the pews several years ago at 7:00 am on Sunday mornings and as others joined we walked throughout the building praying for our ministers, choir, teachers, ushers, hospitality and greeters. After reading Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson we circled the Sanctuary every Sunday 7 times. We continue to bless and pray over the pews, classrooms and doors. What joy we have experienced praying for our clergy, congregation and each other.

We are expanding Prayer Walking to the interval between services at 10:30 am, beginning at the Prayer Wall across from the Welcome Center. We will Prayer Walk throughout HPCUMC, for the various ministries, and weather permitting around the building.

There will be prayer suggestions, but we will rely on the promptings of the Holy Spirit to lead us individually in our prayers for HPCUMC, our congregation, and community. We may walk as a group or on your own as you go to worship, classes or meetings.

Prayer Walking unites us for a common purpose, on a common route, toward a common destination. Join Prayer Walkers each Sunday at 7:00 am or 10:30 am at the Prayer Wall. Praying to see you there.

For more information contact Rev. Dr. Sue Lee Jin, sjin@hpcumc.org, 979-8186 or Sharon Michaelson.

Sharon Michaelson

A Future With Hope

Church Conference Report:

The prophet Jeremiah spoke God’s reassuring words to the people during a season of rebuilding:

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

On Sunday, November 16, Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church voted to accept the invitation of the Ohio River Valley district for Nast Trinity to become a new church start in partnership with Hyde Park Community UMC. The vote, 73 in favor, 0 against with 0 abstentions, will allow a full-time pastor to begin on March 1, serving the community in Over-the-Rhine.

The Nast Trinity Task Force, chaired by Pastor Doug Johns, will be happy to respond to your questions.

Black: The Color of Strength

In the Navajo culture the color black is a symbol of physical strength. As the Body of Christ we can finish 2014 with strength, “in the black!”

As of this writing we are $183,565 in the red.

Thank you to all who have given generously all year. Thank you, too, for those who can help our church finish 2014 with strength through your faithful end-of-the-year giving.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

A Future with Hope

Church Conference Report:

The prophet Jeremiah spoke God’s reassuring words to the people during a season of rebuilding:

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

On Sunday, November 16, Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church voted to accept the invitation of the Ohio River Valley district for Nast Trinity to become a new church start in partnership with Hyde Park Community UMC. The vote, 73 in favor, 0 against with 0 abstentions, will allow a full-time pastor to begin on March 1, serving the community in Over-the-Rhine.

The Nast Trinity Task Force, chaired by Pastor Doug Johns, will be happy to respond to your questions.

Black: The Color of Strength

In the Navajo culture the color black is a symbol of physical strength. As the Body of Christ we can finish 2014 with strength, “in the black!”

As of this writing we are $183,565 in the red.

Thank you to all who have given generously all year. Thank you, too, for those who can help our church finish 2014 with strength through your faithful end-of-the-year giving.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

The Truth About The Pilgrims

The winters in New England can be brutal.

The truth about the experience of the first Pilgrims is captured by H.W. Westermeyer below:

The pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts…nevertheless, [they] set aside a day of thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is more than one day!  Giving thanks to God brought joy to those first pilgrims and it can bring deep, abiding joy to us.  We experience Thanksgiving when we….

  • Pray daily to God, thanking God for all our blessings.
  • Commit a financial tithe to the Church, acknowledging that everything we have is from our generous God.
  • Attend worship weekly to draw closer to God.

Stewardship Campaign Update:

As the pilgrims brought their food to the table with thankful hearts, people in our faithful community are bringing in their pledges for the healing, transforming work of God through Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church for 2015.

Here is the latest update:
Pledges Received through 11/12: 247
Income Pledged for 2105 through 11/12:  $1,157,462

To those of you who have stepped forward with your commitments to God’s work among us, thank you!

May God continue to move among us, stirring us to give thanks as the pilgrims did – with glad and generous hearts.

Peace,
Pastor Cathy Johns

Tuesday Evening Worship

The Prayer Ministries of HPCUMC have been in existence from the beginning of our founding members’ plans to build this church.  They prayed about every aspect of our building, windows, architecture, and ministries.

When I was approached to be a part of a prayer ministry team, my first thought was the same as a statement I read about prayer in church.  “I don’t feel adequate to pray”.  HPCUMC along with nine other churches participated in The Breakthrough Prayer Lab initiated by The West Ohio Conference to brainstorm and share about being praying congregations, and I became part of that team.

As a result, the Prayer Ministry team at HPCUMC has facilitated the forty day prayer challenge during Lent, two prayer classes, re-instituted the prayer wall across from the Welcome Center, and a prayer worship opportunity every Tuesday evening.  Our goal is to be a House of Prayer, moving toward a prayer-saturated congregation.

Every Tuesday our church has a prayer service:

The first Tuesday of the month at 6:30 pm is Prayer Walking to unite in intentional conversation with God for our church, community, neighborhood and ministries.   Prayer Walking isn’t just good for your heart, it’s good for your soul.

The second Tuesday at 7:30 pm we continue the tradition of Taizé worship.

The third Tuesday is prayer through worship in song and scripture at 6:30 pm.

The fourth Tuesday is contemporary worship and praise presented by the Healing Team at 6:30 pm.

The fifth Tuesday is contemplative worship and prayer at 6:30 pm.

While I still feel inadequate about my prayer life, I continue to pray, worship, and “practice”.  Please join us on Tuesdays to “practice” praying and becoming a House of Prayer.  For more information contact Rev. Dr. Sue Lee Jin, sjin@hpcumc.org, 513/979-8186, Diane Weaver or Sharon Michaelson.

Sharon Michaelson

Prayer Shawl Ministry

Gloria, an 84-year old loving wife and mother, was a resident in a dementia unit.  Her devoted husband visited her daily as she slipped further away from reality.  Gloria and her husband, Tom, had been members of Southminster Presbyterian Church for over 50 years.  One day when both Tom and their daughter were visiting Gloria, a member of the church who was part of the Prayer Shawl Ministry Team, brought a prayer shawl for Gloria.  This prayer shawl was filled with prayers from the congregation and was a symbol of God’s steadfast love and presence.  Though Gloria was unable to appreciate the intention of the prayer shawl, it brought great comfort to Tom and their daughter.

Seven months after Gloria died, Tom was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Southminister again surrounded the family with love and support.  Tom also received a prayer shawl that he wore on days when he was chilled or not feeling well from the radiation treatments.  The prayer shawl was covering him when he passed away.

Gloria and Tom were my parents and I am now the owner of these two beautiful prayer shawls.

The Prayer Shawl Ministry at Hyde Park Community UMC was started in September, 2006.  A prayer shawl is a symbol of God’s unconditional embracing love and a physical sign of community presence and support.  Prayer shawls are given not only to those facing life challenges, but also to those celebrating life joys, and to those serving God’s Kingdom.  As we knit or crochet a prayer shawl, we ask God’s blessings on our hearts and hands and on the heart of the recipient.  We use patterns of three to represent the Trinity and attach a cross and prayer cards on each shawl.  Once a prayer shawl is completed, the prayer shawl team has a blessing of the shawls celebration during which each team member lays hands on the shawl and offers a prayer asking for God’s blessing upon the recipient.  Thus each prayer shawl is bathed in prayer and blessing.  As of November, 2014, over 500 prayer shawls have been presented including those sent to our sister ministries in Germany and Russia. It is a great joy and blessing to be a part of this ministry that brings such comfort, support, affirmation, and joy to others.

The Prayer Shawl Team meets the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month from 6:00 – 7:30 pm in the library.  If you are a knitter or a crocheter, please join us on a Tuesday evening.  You also may participate by completing a shawl at home and dropping it off at the church office.  If you don’t knit or crochet but would like to support this ministry, donations of yarn are greatly appreciated.   For questions or if you know someone you would like to receive a prayer shawl, email clm2804@gmail.com.

Christine McHenry

Free at Last!

If we are to be a people who indeed live free, it will involve a change of attitude in how we approach life; it will involve making the shift from an attitude of “scarcity” to one of “abundance”. The problem with living life bound by an attitude of “scarcity” is that it shackles our perspective on all of life. Thus, we are imprisoned by fear; bound by fear, trust deteriorates; lack of trust diminishes our ability to step out in faith and embrace God’s blessings.

On the other hand, when we are able to see and claim that we are a people of “abundance” we find “freedom”! Thus, we live by faith not fear; faith and hope go together, and we possess a hope that, as Paul proclaims: “will not disappoint us”; and free to trust in God’s promises, an attitude of “abundance” moves us to invest in God’s kingdom: Loving God, and those God loves!

Commitment Sunday on October 26 was a day of celebration. Celebrating who we are: Beloved children of God, we committed ourselves to helping others embrace a new identity as a beloved child of God as well!

To date we have received 229 commitments, which represents an increase in average commitment, from 2013, of about 35%. The people of God have spoken. No longer will we live imprisoned by a mentality of “scarcity”, but in Jesus Christ, we are a people of “abundance”!

Thank you to all who have made a commitment to the vision, mission, ministry, and outreach of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church. You’ve chosen to invest in changed lives and transformed communities. The dividend is priceless!

If you have not yet made a financial commitment, I encourage you to join those who call Hyde Park Community home: Invest in her vision, mission, ministry, and outreach!

God is “doing a new thing” at Hyde Park Community, “don’t you perceive it?” I look forward to serving in ministry with you in the months and years ahead. Together, Loving God, and those God loves, we are free at last to live a life of abundance. See you in church!

In Christ,
Doug