“Grace is messy” at the Mobile Food Pantry

By Anne Metcalf

The mobile food distribution at Silver Spring UMC/4 Corners (Marvin Memorial) is a cooperative effort in every sense. It began with the Capital Area Food Bank approaching the church, asking if we would participate in the mobile food program. They provide the food and we provide the volunteers. We have volunteers from Marvin and Woodside, as well as neighbors, parents from the Silver Spring Day School, and high school students from Blair. It’s a big effort, but it’s so rewarding to watch the mounds of food disappear as the people move through the distribution line and receive food. Kind of like loaves and fishes, but we have so much to share.

You and I probably don’t have to worry too much about food; the most difficult thing may be when can I get to the store, not can I afford to go to the store? But we have people in our neighborhood who need food badly enough that they will wait outside the church for hours in all weather to receive a number for a place in line to receive food. In the early days, when we opened the doors at 2:00, there would be a surge forward, everyone wanting to be first.

So we begin handing out numbers for a place in line at 8:00 in the morning. People take their number, answer a few questions that the food bank requires us to ask, and come back later in the afternoon to receive their food. We’ll give out about 250 numbers during the day, so we’re providing fresh produce and groceries to 250 families.

The truck from the food bank arrives about 2:00, and it’s impressive to see how much food they deliver. 10,000 pounds of food is a lot of food. The driver lines the pallets up in the driveway outside the front portico and we take stock of what we have. I always worry that we won’t be able to give all the food away, that we’ll have too much and some will be left over, but it always works out.

The volunteers arrive to help give out the food about 2:30. We decide how much of each item to give to each person, and at 3:00 we start calling out the numbers, ten at a time. Our clients, who’ve been waiting in the sanctuary, line up and move down the distribution line, receiving a share of each item.There is a certain amount of chaos in the process; once when things were really crazy, Rev. Kirkland reminded me that “grace is messy.”

By 4:30, things are winding down. The folks who want to go through the line a second time are waiting, the parking lot is emptying out, and we are beginning to take stock of how we have done. Clean up is on-going throughout the afternoon, but it really ramps up now. Rotten food is taken to the dumpster, boxes are broken down, pallets are stacked, the driveway and portico are swept. The sanctuary is empty, but we are full of the good feeling that we have done something special today. I can’t tell you the number of times a client will say “God bless you” to me, but for me it’s a blessing to be able to participate in this program.

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Letter from Rev. Rachel and Rev. Joey about Rev. Schaefer

Reconciling Ministries Network

Reconciling Ministries Network

Dear Silver Spring United Methodist Cooperative Parish,

It was just a little over a year that we gathered to vote to become a Reconciling Congregation. Just recently we voted to affirm our new vision of reaching out to all people and feeding everyone mind, body, and spirit. It is a part of who we are to be welcoming of all people. So it was disheartening when earlier this week our own beloved United Methodist Church was featured on the front page of the Washington Post for placing on trial Rev. Frank Schaefer, an elder in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference, for having officiated his gay son’s wedding. Sadly at trial he was found guilty and a penalty was set for a 30-day suspension during which he must discern if he can abide by the entirety of the Book of Discipline, in particular the passages about not performing any same-gender unions. If he decides that he cannot make that commitment, then he will be required to surrender his clergy credentials.

This trial comes right on the heels of the meeting of the Council of Bishops at which they voted to file a complaint against Bishop Melvin Talbert for having presided over a wedding ceremony for two men in Alabama. Rev. Schaefer’s trial also precedes the trial of two other clergy in New York who separately also have done same-gender weddings. To say we are a church in turmoil would be an understatement. These trials are the result of that turmoil, the result of faithful United Methodists who disagree on the issues of sexuality and identity and disagree on what it means to be in ministry to all people.

That being said, as a Reconciling people we believe that the decision to place a clergy person on trial for an act of grace is wrong. We believe to ask a father to choose between ministry to his son and faithfulness to the discriminatory policies of the Book of Discipline is wrong. We believe to deny LGBT persons full access to the life of the church is wrong. We believe that taking someone’s credentials and erasing a lifetime of faithful ministry of clergy for loving all God’s children is wrong.

As a Reconciling people, we stand in open disagreement with the trial of Rev. Schaefer and the resulting verdict and penalty. Rev. Schaefer acted out of his love for his son and his commitment to ministry and that is not something that should be punished. Jesus taught us in Matthew 22 that the greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbors and that by doing this we fulfill all the law. Jesus was trying to teach that when live by rules instead of grace, we are missing the point because our faith calls us to love and not law.  Jesus came to free us from oppressive law, not bind us in it.

For this reason we as a reconciling church reaffirm our commitment to be in ministry to and with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community and to all people. We stand firm and declare God’s love for all people and that our sexuality is not an obstacle to God, but a gift from God. We also remain committed to seeing the injustices of the discriminatory policies of the Book of Discipline that alienate and subject LGBT person persons to second-class membership come to an end.

We invite you to be in prayer. Pray for those who have felt hurt and rejected by this trial. Pray for Rev. Schaefer and his family as he looks toward an uncertain future. Pray for all the United Methodist bishops and especially ours, Bishop Marcus Matthews, as they seek to lead in the midst of this great turmoil. Finally pray for the United Methodist Church. Pray we would find a way to co-exist even in the midst of disagreement, to be a people of peace rather than strife, and to be a people refocused on our real mission to be God’s hands and feet for transformation.

Blessings, Rev. Rachel and Rev. Joey

The Good News at the Supreme Court

By Daniel Colbert

By eight am Tuesday, I had already seen a Lutheran pastor dancing with a Wiccan priestess to an African-American gospel song, so nothing the Justices of the Supreme Court could say at oral arguments could possibly surprise me. Before the Court’s historic hearings on two same-sex marriage laws, an interfaith coalition supporting marriage equality came together at a church on Capitol Hill to pray, sing and witness to God’s love for all people.

​Clergy from a number of faith traditions, including Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, and our conference’s own Rev. Mary Kay Totty, offered heartfelt prayers for justice and repentance. Rev. J. Bennett Guess’s reinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 13 was particularly moving, and I encourage you to read it.

​But the part of the day I will always remember came after the service. I was a half block away when the front of our procession turned the corner onto First Street to join the marriage equality rally in front of the courthouse. Still, I could hear the cheer from the gay and lesbian crowd as they saw a group of clergy coming not to condemn them, but to stand with them.

​People sometimes ask why I work for LGBT inclusion in the church. Why not just organize politically to try to change the law and leave church doctrine alone? Wouldn’t that be easier?

There are two reasons I can’t do that. The first is merely pragmatic: I don’t see things improving for LGBT people in our culture until things improve for them in the church.

​But the second reason is more fundamental. For the way it has treated LGBT people in the past, I believe the church needs to do penance (myself first and foremost). And those of us in the church who believe that Christ’s message is not about exclusion and hatred but about abundance and love have a duty to be louder than those who have used His gospel to hurt. It’s the only way to set the record straight.

​We walked into that crowd singing “This Little Light of Mine”, unashamed to proclaim God’s limitless love. We had arrived before the main group of anti-equality protestors. The gay and lesbian couples demanding justice in front of the courthouse would hear a lot of hate and abuse on God’s behalf that day. But the first message they heard from people of faith was that they are beloved children of God. Good news, indeed.

(Photo: Supporters of Believe Out Loud show their love of God and neighbor outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday, March 26, 2013.)

If you are interested in contributin to this blog, please contact us at blog@silverspringumcp.org.

You are not alone in working on your health and your faith


“Be not far from me,
For trouble is near
And there is none to help.”
-Psalms 22:11

The journey to good health is not a easy one. There are challenges along the way, and when we hit a bump in the road, it is so easy to think we are alone on the journey. We put so much pressure on ourselves to improve ourselves that we forget that other people are experiencing the same feelings and may be able to help us.

We are lucky enough to have each other on this journey, but the it is not limited just to people in our congregation or even our geographical community. In Memphis, the Methodist churches have founded the Center for Excellence in Faith and Health. The entire Arkansas United Methodist Conference has been working on its health. The NIH grants funds for thousands of studies on the role of faith in your health.

Many, many people are working on their health and their faith at the same time. You are not alone in these challenges, and if you need help, it is so important to reach out to those around you for support. God put those people near you for a reason. In addition to the Psalm above, The author of Psalms also wrote in chapter 69, verse 6: “God gives the desolate a home to dwell in,” or, according to another translation, “God puts the lonely in families.” You have a large extended family in your faith community, and we are here to support you, as you can support.

if you would like to contribute to this blog, please contact us at blog@silverspringumcp.org.

Reflections: Healthy Changes

By Gwen Fortune Blakely

My grandmother died of diabetes. I remember flying out with my parents to visit her while she laid on her deathbed. My mom openly shared that while my grandmother was slender and took the medication her doctors prescribed, she never modified her diet to accommodate her diabetes.

My mother is a survivor of colon cancer. My father is living with heart disease that before he was properly diagnosed terrified the family as he repeatedly collapsed with no discernable cause. If I recall correctly, at that time he was about the age that I am now.

As I listened to Rev Rachel’s sermon last week, I recognized my family as heart and hands in the body of Christ. Helping others with passion and vigor. My grandparents, parents and siblings were/are educators. Serving the public, especially disadvantaged children, has been their life mission.

Yet, we as a family don’t have a great history of taking care of ourselves. Certainly as illness and death has occurred, we’ve become more aware and done better but admittedly the change has not been rigorous enough to thwart the hand that heredity has dealt us.

Rev. Rachel’s sermon talked about accountability. As part of the body of Christ we have a responsibility to do all in our power to stay fit, strong and able for his work. I know I have a journey to take to become fully accountable for my health. Through the Silver Spring Cooperative Wellness team, I’m partnering with other church members to help educate all who are interested joining the journey.

As part of your journey, please join us at the Healthy Changes Fitness and Nutrition Expo on Sunday, February 24th immediately following service. We’ll have fun and interactive ways for you to learn how to eat right and get moving!

For more information, contact Gwen or see this week’s enews.

If you would like to contribute to this blog, please contact us at blog@silverspringumcp.org.



Epiphany: Finding God in Her Hospital Roommate

As part of our discussion of where we find God in the world, Shannon Parkin tells us how she sawthe Holy Spirit in the story of her hospital roommate fighting a cycle of violence.

By Shannon Parkin

She told her story haltingly. Her mother and grandmother had had bipolar disorder. She had the disease as had her daughter who had committed suicide the year before. Her mother had abused her by beating her with electrical cords when she was young. She had abused her own kids when they were young, because that was all she knew. But when her daughter had died the year before, she had realized she had to stop the cycle. She was now raising her 15 year old granddaughter on her own. She had gotten the teenager into therapy and the young woman was on medication to control her mood swings. My roommate was determined to beat the disease for the sake of her granddaughter. She had made plans to enter a 30 day drug treatment program as soon as she left the hospital. I told her that she was giving her granddaughter an incredible gift by providing her not only with the care and instruction so she could learn to control her disease before she reached adulthood, but also with a terrific model of how to care for oneself even while battling a horrendous mental illness. I shared the lesson that I have learned through the Silver Spring Cooperative Parish – mental illness should not be stigmatized. If someone had cancer they would not be blamed for their illness and so it should be that people with a mental illness should not be blamed. Mental illness is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors that are far beyond the control of the victim.

Where do you see God in the world? Let us know by emailing us at blog@silverspringumcp.org.

Epiphany: Where do you see God in the world?

Three Wise Men. Photo by Flickr user giopuo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/giopuo/)

Three Wise Men. Photo by Flickr user giopuo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/giopuo/)

May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him grace. – Psalms 72:11

The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek word epiphaneia, meaning “manifestation,” or “striking appearance.” Most Western Christians celebrate Epiphany as a feast day commemorating when the Magi visited Bethlehem. Epiphany also represents the end of the Christmas season.

The visit by the Wise Men is significant because it represents the first time God manifested himself to Gentiles. Western tradition tells us that these men were Arab, Persian, and Indian scholars. (Eastern Christians celebrate twelve, rather than three, Magi.) Matthew 2:1 simply refers to them as “Wise Men from the East.” We can infer though that they were non-Jews, and so when they arrived at Bethlehem and saw the baby Jesus, it was the first time that God had shown himself in this human form to a Gentile. As a result, when we celebrate Epiphany and the arrival of the Magi, we are celebrating God’s incarnation and his “striking appearance” in the world.

God still appears to us every day, though perhaps not as an in infant in a manger. In the weeks following Epiphany, we will post people’s stories of where they see God in the world. We want to include YOUR stories in those posts. Where do you find God in the world? How does he manifest himself to you? To contribute to the discussion, please post a comment below or email us at blog@silverspringumcp.org.

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