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Dear Friends,

 

Recently, I saw Kent Haruf’s “Benediction” as a staged production in Denver. The finale of his Plainsong trilogy of novels, it depicts life in a fictional town “west of Last Chance”. For those of you who knew Kent as he was growing up in United Methodist parsonages across the Plains and Sunshine areas, it will come as no surprise that his depiction of us (community, congregation and individuals alike) was spot on.

 

On the one hand, it was a real gift to see familiar people and places so well represented. It’s always fun to be on the in-side of jokes… like about how all the traffic goes “toward the mountains.” Amen to that, right?! But there was also something oddly dislocating about suddenly becoming a spectator to one’s own life… to understand that you had been observed so keenly and described so well.

 

This experience has caused me to reflect on this business of being an actor vs. an audience member. The truth is, we shift between these roles all the time. We are naturally more active in some aspects of life than others: work, parenting, leisure, household chores, etc.

 

I invite you to consider that church is one of those places where the division between participant and spectator is blurry. Many of our sanctuaries have pews or rows of chairs set out to face a pulpit; this would seem to indicate an actor/audience dynamic! But did you know that the word liturgy (the fancy church word describing the prayers, music and other elements of worship) actually translates to “work of the people”?!? If we take this seriously, then that seems to call for a deeper level of participation from those we might mistakenly perceive as “audience” members than we’re accustomed to.

 

One of the ways that the life of faith is shifting in the 21st century is that it’s not only in the areas of our mission and service that church members are being called upon to increase their activity levels. Increasingly, we are being reminded that we are Disciples, not just members. And as followers of Jesus, we are called upon to “get in the game” across the board. Church members are the players. Congregations are the actors. If anyone is the audience, it is God… and frankly, our Creator much prefers audience-participation than sit-back-and-watch theater.

 

As we travel through Lent this year, I invite you to engage more deeply with the life of faith. Enter into worship with the attitude of an active participant, rather than an observer and notice how this impacts your connection to God, your congregation and the world. May you be enriched and stretched by this experiment!

 

Blessings on the Journey from your District Superintendent,

 

 

 

Margaret Gillikin

Dear Friends,

Many of us learned about The Golden Rule as children. Perhaps you, like me, were raised to understand that treating others the way you’d like to be treated is the epitome of love and respect. So, it was something of a surprise to me to be introduced to a new rule a couple years ago… one that is even more valuable than gold: The Platinum Rule.

No, this is not a quirky ad for jewelers… they’re busy making sales this month without my assistance! But it is another way of understanding Jesus’ injunction to us to love our neighbors that can be very helpful. Instead of treating others the way we want to be treated, The Platinum Rule says to treat others the way THEY want to be treated. Pretty simple, right?! But adopting this as our rule of love requires some shifts in our thinking and behavior.

Early in my ministry I was called upon to do some counseling with a couple who was trying to figure out how to bolster their relationship and save their marriage. During our first conversation, he vented some frustration by exclaiming, “You think the way to show me you love me is by cooking a nice dinner!” Completely bewildered, she said, “It’s not????” “No! If you really wanted me to feel appreciated, you should take care of one of my chores that I don’t like to do.” “Such as???” “Well, it would mean a lot to me if you picked up the dog poop. Nothing would say “I love you” more than that, honey.”

Whoa. I don’t know about you, but a home cooked meal appears to me to be worlds apart from cleaning up the back yard. If the meal is The Golden Rule, then the poop is The Platinum Rule! Not very glamorous… but extremely informative… especially when we apply this wisdom to our efforts to be in ministry with our neighbors.

Perhaps the biggest shift is that when we’re guided by The Golden Rule and what we like / what works best for us, we can come up with ideas and programs and just go for it without consulting those whom we wish to bless. But when The Platinum Rule is at play, the first step absolutely must be to ASK folks “What do you need? What would be helpful? What would make a difference in your life?” Because there’s no way for us to know what the most meaningful way of showing love might be to them without asking them directly.

Who knows? You still might end up cooking dinner. But I guarantee you, that when you’re guided by The Platinum Rule, no matter what shape your ministry takes, the impact of your ministry will be significantly increased, because folks remember when you care enough to ask for their input.

Blessings on the Journey from your District Superintendent,

Margaret Gillikin

 

“Gift” and “Surprise”

I came across this scripture recently and it resonated with me.  The apostle Paul is talking about his lifework of including those who had been excluded from the faithful.  “It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details.”  (Ephesians 3:8, The Message)

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Where Will the Money Come From? - Part II

In my December article, I wrote about the Legacy Fund. It is a great resource for BIG ministry ideas!  Now let me tell you about the Pueblo St. Paul Memorial Endowment Fund. These funds are made available by the generous members of the Pueblo St. Paul UM Church who, when the church was discontinued, elected to put the proceeds from the sale of the church property into this Memorial Fund and use the investment growth in the fund to help Methodist youth throughout Southern Colorado.

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A few months back, I came across an article by Rev. Mark Rader.  He’s the pastor for Riverton UMC.  It’s entitled “What matters most?” It seemed like a good challenge for the New Year!  (And I have permission to share it.)

A few years back Cindy Gregorson was the Director of Congregational Development for the Minnesota Annual Conference where I was pastoring.

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