Letter to the Congregation: Annual Conference Legislation

November 4, 2020

Dear Friends:

Please join us this Sunday, November 8, following worship at 11:30 a.m. to hear about and participate in a discussion about two new pieces of legislation that were passed by our GNJUMC Annual Conference in October.   This session will be via Zoom at: 

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/8536670465?pwd=ZkdtNGM5Mi9xaUk5ejZMWWF6aHZjQT09

Or dial in:  929 436 2866, Meeting ID: 853 667 0465, Passcode: 7862       

At this year’s virtual Annual Conference of the GNJUMC in October, a number of new pieces of legislation were discussed and approved.  We would like to provide an overview of the Conference and details on two specific pieces of legislation:  A Journey of Hope and A Resolution in Support of Black Lives Matter.

A Journey of Hope directly addresses the sin of racism and the oppression and enslavement of African Americans and Native Americans in the Greater New Jersey Area.  A Journey of Hope establishes financial resources and sets specific actions and goals for increasing leadership diversity, ministries, and policies and procedures within our Conference.  While having goals that go into future years, we at PUMC can begin our participation in this work now.  Here is a link to more information about A Journey of Hope:  https://www.gnjumc.org/2020annualconference/journey-of-hope/.

A Resolution in Support of Black Lives Matter calls us to recognize, engage in self-examination, engage in acts of mercy and justice, and to dismantle the sin of racism in GNJ.

Our Conference has taken a bold stand in passing legislation that affirms that racism is a sin and that, as Christians, we are called to dismantle it.  At the session on November 8, we will review the legislation and begin a dialogue on what this means to PUMC as we live this charge.

Please plan to join us.

Blessings,

Pastor Jenny Smith Walz

Pastor Skitch Matson

Edwin Francisco, Lay Member to Annual Conference

Iona Harding, Lay Member to Annual Conference

Emelia Timpo, Lay Member to Annual Conference

All Are Welcome

PrincetonUMC commissioned this banner to display on the lawn.

In the fall of 2018, the Relationships and Faith Team organized a program that included reading the book A Mile in My Shoes: Cultivating Compassion by Trevor Hudson. One of the topics Princeton UMC examined was social justice for the LGBTQIA+ community. In the spring of 2019, they invited a panel of three speakers to visit after the United Methodist Church announced its position on human sexuality. One of the questions put to the panel was, What is it like to be a queer Christian, and what advice do you have for people?” Below are their responses: 

First Panelist: “My advice would be to join us who are queer in the church as we open up this conversation. I think that as we begin to learn from one another and sit around the table more with one another, those spaces will be less hostile. For those who are experiencing hostility, if you are a queer, find a place where you’re neither under oppression nor where you’re always on a panel. I don’t sit on a panel at my church. I just sit in a pew and I’m taught by a wonderful, queer pastor every week. I get to be comfortable. Just create those safe spaces to just belong. That would be my advice to the queer community, and to the those who are identifying as queer in the churches. Just look around, because we’re here.” 

Second Panelist: “I think the first piece of advice I would say is to listen to people’s stories deeply. Hold them with some care. For someone to share their stories, even in a culture that’s moved in a lot of ways, it is a risky and courageous thing to do. So, if somebody shares their story with you, then hold it really tenderly and let that story drive you back to the Scriptures, drive you back to tradition, and drive you back to your own feelings about your own body. I think, for example in their conversations, we turn to people of color to solve things for us. Right? (For us) to be the authoritative speakers into this. But I wonder if among those of us who are straight, we can listen carefully to the stories of our queer neighbors, and don’t ask them to be in charge of our re-imagination of who they are and what their bodies are. So do the hard work of listening and then digging deep back into the scriptures.” 

Third Panelist: “Now as a person who is black, and female, and queer, and a Christian, it brings me great freedom in that I can exhale into who I am, and know that I am a called daughter, child beloved of God that’s fearfully and wonderfully made. It matters that I am embodied in this body. It matters that my identities are what they are across the board. And so the joy of resistance is showing up in a space. I’m showing up in spaces that I also feel that we asked queer people to “out” themselves in ways that we don’t ask cisgender and heterosexual people: “When you get up there, you have to tell people you’re divorced, or you’re having an affair and going through counseling.” All of the ways we are provocative around the LGBTQIA+ community, imagine if we did that to cisgender straight people?And so my resistance is showing up unapologetically, and that when I show up into space I don’t have to say first you must know that I’m black, then you must know I’m a woman, and then you must know that I am deeply in love and I’m queer. We don’t do that in society. The southern word I want to say is just “nosy”, but I also think that it’s a way of control. We like to control people’s narratives for them, and so if you are queer, if you are in an environment that’s not healthy for you, absolutely find your people in a space that is truly loving. They’re out there. And just because there’s a certain group that’s making the most noise. it does not mean that they’re the only group.” 

Princeton UMC’s Mission Statement is “We are a diverse community joyfully responding to God’s love and growing as Disciples of Christ by nurturing, teaching, reaching and serving all people.” Repeating and emphasizing reaching and serving all people. Our goal is to create an environment to make all feel welcome and loved. 

 

Resolving Conflict: Paul and Appiah Agree

Screenshot from The Bible Project’s animated video about Philippians

This week, the women in Monday Morning Group studied how Paul in chapter 4 of Philippians, advises how to resolve conflict.

  • get to a good emotional place yourself (i.e. gratitude, praise)
  • then focus ONLY on what’s good.

Recently the New York Times ethicist, Kwame Anthony Appiah, gave similar advice when he addressed the Friends of the Princeton University Library. To speak with someone with whom you disagree:  ‘first find what you agree on.’  It also helps, he added if you are engaged in some kind of community activity, like coaching a Little League team.

Details: Paul begins by pleading with two contentious women to “be of the same mind” and calls on others in the group to help them. He continues: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Steve Harper in the lectionary study of the Upper Room book,  Disciplines, explains: “Paul counsels the believers to work for emotional stability. He commends a renewal of gladness and gentleness and an elimination of anxiety brought about through earnest prayer. He knows that very little is changed when we live in the whirlwind of negativity. We don’t think straight. We don’t respond well when we are engulfed by deformative feelings. Paul points to the big Bible word ‘peace’ as the goal for which to aim in reconciliation.”

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Harper continues: “Second, he exhorts the Christians at Philippi to seek edifying soundness… to think of things that are excellent and admirable. Often, reconciliation occurs not by coming to complete agreement but by deciding that the things that unite us are more important than those that divide us. We come together along the lines of common commitments. When we get it wrong through disagreements, we are often reunited through our core convictions and common pursuits.”

DOES THIS MEAN we need more “common pursuits, sports teams, work teams, common projects” Maybe!

For a link to this very informative animated video about the book of Philippians, click here 

Children’s Book: “Someday is Now”

Pastor Jenny read aloud the children’s picture book “Someday is Now,” written by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Illustrated by Jade Johnson, at Children’s Time, on Sunday, August 30, 2020,

“Someday is Now,” a book on social justice in America, is about Clara Luper, a ‘superhero’ of the Civil Rights movement. It tells how Clara and her students led sit-ins in 1958, at the Katz lunch counters in Oklahoma City, to end racial segregation. The unjust laws at the time did not allow African Americans to eat at lunch counters inside the drugstore. They were forced to take their food outside. And so Clara and these children changed the laws!

Clara challenges young people to do what is right and stand up against something they know is wrong, even at a high cost, but without resorting to violence.

Pastor Jenny states, “Jesus taught us we are to follow him into hard places in this life and that we are to overcome evil with good all the time. In this story, we see real people who overcame evil with good. But it was hard!”

The lesson to be learned from this story is that young people must be prepared to make small sacrifices for justice and make changes in the world. Like speaking out and standing strong.

So, what now?

Says Pastor Jenny: “Carry this story with you into today, into the rest of the week, into the rest of our lives as you follow Jesus as well.”

To follow the worship service and listen to Pastor Jenny read, click here.

 

 

Study Together to End Racism

  • Sign up to participate in the PUMC small group “Vital Conversations on Christians and Racial Justice”. Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. starting September 24.  Sign up with the link.
  • Read How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi with me. You can join a zoom discussion about it in August.  (You can go to Labyrinth Books in Princeton, to acquire your copy. Or use your local library’s electronic offerings. Or use bookshop.org to order books, including e-books and audiobooks, online from independent booksellers.)

Children’s Book: “The Undefeated”

At Children’s Time, on Sunday, August 16, 2020, Pastor Jenny read aloud the children’s book “The Undefeated.” This poem by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson was published in 2019. It is an Ode to black American triumph and tribulation, peppered with great inspiring art and drawing attention to past and present people. At the end of the book, there are additional important historical and other details for those wishing to learn more.

Pastor Jenny stated, “These are all real people who were undefeated, and found the strength to find their place where so much was telling them they didn’t have a place.”

“The Undefeated” won the 2020 Caldecott Medal and a Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator AwardThe author and illustrator together created an inspiring story with stunning illustrations. You can feel admiration and joy as you go through this beautiful book. It will make an excellent gift for children of all ages.

To listen to Kwame Alexander read “The Undefeated,” Click Here.

To follow the worship service and listen to Pastor Jenny read, Click here.

Artist Kadir Nelson illustrates Kwame Alexander’s poem “The Undefeated” in a new picture book.

 

Sermon Response: “Even the Dogs”

I write this to my friends at Princeton United Methodist Church, as I wind and rewind the opening of today’s service. so that I can enjoy the soprano/alto duets for the pre-service hymns, “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” “To God be the Glory,” “How Can I Keep from Singing?”…..Barbara Fox 

What was your reaction to Pastor Jenny’s sermon today (’Even the Dogs” 8/16/20, available at on the facebook page or on that date at PrincetonUMC.org) about the Canaanite woman “Justa” pictured above? It was based on Matthew 15: 10-28 (video of the first part of that passage here).

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Admitting it was a difficult story (did we catch Jesus on a bad day?) Jenny reminds us that Jesus was not only divine, he was human, raised as a Jew to followed the “clean and unclean” laws. The Hebrews believed that only by following the purity codes could they survive as God’s people.

In the comments I connected Justa  –who persisted against all odds to get Jesus to heal her daughter – with Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action and author of Fight Like a Mother, showing how the skill sets mothers use to manage their families can empower them to help any cause ”Every mom is already an organizer, a multitasker, and a hero going into battle every day for the ones she loves. Learn how to use those skills to enact change, pass laws that save lives, and FIGHT LIKE A MOTHER”

Then – I regretted posting that in haste. Did I distract or irritate someone who (quietly, because it’s really unpopular in Princeton) supports gun ownership? I can understand both sides. My late husband was raised in a family of hunters but came to reject the unreasonable gun lobby. Some of my children and grandchildren own guns, practice at gun ranges, honor the animals they hunt and are nourished by them. Others of my children and grandchildren – opposing the misuse of guns – march to support Moms Demand Action.

What connects Justa with Shannon Watts? All the mothers everywhere who fight for their children. I thought of the wives and mothers in the civil rights movement who put themselves ‘in harm’s way’ because they were less likely to be harmed than their men. Of mothers of children with rare diseases who fight for cures for their children. Of Deborah and Sara Hicks, fighting today at CHOP for the health of Zion.

Which person in this story are you, Jenny challenged us to ponder?

  • the daughter, who needs healing?

  • the disciple, who rejects the outsider

  • the Son of God, who we might say is changed by Justa?

  • the mother who raises a ruckus to make change?

One way “to grow as disciples of Christ” is to be in conversation with each other about our beliefs. You could comment in the link under the Facebook post, or talk about it in your small group, or email the Communications Ministry Team (Communications@PrincetonUMC.org) to have your thoughts published, or for a more private dialogue, email me or Jenny. What was your response to this or any other aspect of this passage? Had you heard of the Justa Center? Does my response smack of politics and you think politics should be separate from religion? What challenged you?

“Everybody But Me” by Margaret Goss Burroughs

“Justa” the Syro Phoencian woman, or the Canaanite woman

What response can we have to this poem by by Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs, “an American visual artist, writer, poet, educator, and arts organizer.” 

On August 16, 2020, in a sermon entitled “Even the Dogs,” based on Matthew 15: 10-28, Pastor Jenny Smith Walz read the poem below.

Here is another source, telling about  the amazing life of Margaret Taylor Burroughs, founder of what is now the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago.

Haile Selassie’s address to the United Nations, 1963 …

Famous Words by Former Emperor of Ethiopia

Haile Selassie

“That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained” H.I.M Haile Selassie 1963.

To watch Bob Marley sing “War/No More Trouble” in 1977, click here: https://youtu.be/vPZydAotVOY

Sermon Response: July 19, 2020

At Duke University, the statue of a confederate general was removed from the chapel entrance

On July 19, 2020, Pastor Jenny Smith Walz addressed the conflict I have been holding in my heart — how to condemn the evil of white supremacy and still love those (in my family and elsewhere) who perpetrated it, those (including me) who benefit from it, and those (in the #endracism movement) who — as they try to eliminate symbols of injustice from public places — find it hard if not impossible to acknowledge that someone who did evil may also have done good.

Let’s admit that we ignore 98 percent of the information that we see or hear. Of the remaining two percent, we put half into a bucket, labeled “I like this,” and the other half into a bucket labeled “I dislike this.”

Don’t believe that the human race is so cruel and blind? Here’s what Pastor Jenny cited as historic examples.

Let’s send the convicts to Australia.
Let’s create an Aryan society.
Let’s eliminate the Tutsis.
Let’s create different sets of privileges for those with black and brown bodies.
Let’s block whatever the opposing party in Congress wants.
Let’s leave our church because someone I don’t approve of can belong.
Let’s put this person’s name in stone on the bad list, so no longer can I see them as a whole person.

It’s the last one that twangs my heart.

Click the arrow for “previous” to get the July 19 service and sermon.

For the middle of this post click here

In this sermon I think Pastor Jenny is trying to open a safe space for everyone, no matter where they are in their opinions.  She closed with this poem, ending… 

May my peace and acceptance
be the seeds I sow
for the next harvest. 

from Weeds and Wheat, by Steve Garnaas-Holmes