This Week At The Church

Sunday, March 1st

Worship Service @ 10am

Monday, March 2nd

YA Bible Study @ 7:30pm

Tuesday, March 3rd

Board & Care Bible Study @ 11am

City of Rosemead Election  (Polling  Station in Lounge)

Wednesday, March 4th 

Home Bible Study @ 10am (Alhambra)

Friday, March 6th

NEXTGEN Youth Field Trip to LA Opera’s Noah’s Flood @ 7:30pm

Saturday, March 7th

Praise Team Rehearsal @ 10am

 

 


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CELEBRATING NINETY YEARS

mcumc anniv copy

Come and worship with us at the 90th Church Anniversary Celebration!

Come join us as we thank God for all of His provisions to us for the last 89 years

and for new visions for the future.

DATE:  Sunday, September 20, 2014

TIME:  TBA

Followed by fellowship dinner.

PLACE:

Mission Community UMC Sanctuary

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Psalm 122

mc

Psalm 122

A song of ascents. Of David.

1 I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
2 Our feet are standing
in your gates, Jerusalem.

3 Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
4 That is where the tribes go up—
the tribes of the Lord—
to praise the name of the Lord
according to the statute given to Israel.
5 There stand the thrones for judgment,
the thrones of the house of David.

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
7 May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
8 For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity.

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An Opportunity to Serve

by Pastor Rei Eusebio

Yes, God is in the business of restoring people and many times he uses people like us to be agents of his healing presence.

wpid-IMG_20130510_115232.jpgHundreds of former cancer patients gathered at the grounds of City of Hope last May 10, 2013 to share their stories of healing and restoration. On their chests are extra large pin buttons with numbers indicating how many years they have been FORMER cancer victim. Now they are healed. Among them is Arnold. He was introduced to me (or I was introduced to him) by Qwan, a new acquaintance who I met at the Food Distribution program at MCUMC. Arnold is a musician and composer. He is among the hundreds former cancer patients who attended the reunion. He shared with me how God touched him when he had cancer. He told me about a dream he had about a man in white gown who would not let him get in a hospital room. Each time he would attempt to enter the room, the man prevented him. That dream puzzled him for a while. His sister who was his bone marrow donor suggested that it could be a vision of Jesus Christ telling Arnold that it was not his time yet. He completely recovered and he is cancer-free for nineteen years now. He acknowledges that his calling is to help others though he didn’t realize it in the beginning. His sense of purpose became more apparent as time went by.

Qwan, Arnold and Pastor Rei at BMT reunion at City of Hope.

Arnold accepted my invitation to attend Mission Community UMC. He came to church on Easter Sunday where I got to meet him in person for the first time.  His first visit left a lasting mark in his heart. He now shares that he is experiencing a spiritual awakening and is learning to trust Jesus in everything he does. On Mother’s Day, Arnold became a member of MCUMC. He attends the discipleship Bible study class held every Friday night and is now part of the praise band.

My encounter with Arnold confirms my longtime desire and prayer to organize a cancer spiritual support group as a regular ministry of encouragement of the church.  For more than almost two years now, every Sunday afternoon, my wife and I meet with Josie and her siblings’ families for prayer, sharing and Bible study. The Friday night Bible study is also becoming a time to pray for friends and relatives who have cancer. In my prayer list are names of others whom I have not yet met personally but are being prayed for.

Support groups are proven to be very helpful in uplifting those who are battling cancer or other illnesses. Faith-based support ministries offer  not only education and encouragement to patients and their families but also renewal and personal relationship with God.

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Easter 2013

Photo courtesy of Michele Quizon

Matthew 28:8-10  So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

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Ordination, Orders and Rule of Life

United Church of Canada ordination. (CC 2.0)

Though the denomination and the country is different, the scene at the right may be a familiar one for many United Methodists. It is from an ordination service in the Maritime Conference of The United Church of Canada, just a few weeks ago.

Beginning in 1996, United Methodists added an element to the whole process of ordination and life as ordained persons when it created “orders” of deacon and elder through which persons in the respective offices were to relate to and support one another.

It seemed a very new idea at the time.

But for Methodists in particular, this 1996 “innovation” was really a kind of “double recovery” within both the Methodist and the larger Christian tradition.

A Methodist Recovery

The Methodist side of the recovery was that to a certain degree, the annual conference itself had originally been a kind of “order” for elders. Elders were the only ones who were full members of those earliest conferences after 1784, and so the only ones with full voice and vote. But more importantly, especially early on, these conferences were really like a gathering of a chapter of a religious order to a large degree– times for the elders to get together to discuss with one another how it was with their souls and how they could support one another in their common ministry.

Certainly, it has been a good thing for Methodists since that time that Annual Conference is no longer an “elders only” club, that we now regularly have more laypersons present than clergy, and that we also treat both deacons and local pastors as clergy, even if the latter may not yet have the same voice and vote in the clergy session that persons in full connection may have. We didn’t and don’t need to go back to a less representative Annual Conference!

Yet, what that has meant is that in effect the only time all the clergy are together, much less all the clergy of a particular kind of ministry, may be the few hours of a clergy session spent largely on dealing with issues brought by the Board of Ordained Ministry, or perhaps a “pastor’s school” where, once a year, those who can afford it may come for fellowship or learning. While it’s good we still do these things– we do need to!– that the clergy session itself may have become our most  regular contact with each other was not ideal, to say the least.


So we began to correct that in 1996, creating through the orders and fellowship of local pastors a structure and leadership intended to help deacons, elders, and local pastors support each other in the forms of ministry they share, thus recovering in spirit, if not exactly in form, something of what the earlier Methodist annual conferences themselves had provided for those who attended them.

A Christian Recovery
The creation of the orders was more than a Methodist recovery. It has had at least the potential for to be a more deeply historical Christian recovery in our denomination, restoring a practice of gathering and set of relationships much older than Methodism, Anglicanism, Protestantism or even the Roman Catholic Church.

Generally speaking, at least the Western Christian tradition has typically understood that persons ordained to an office were thus also ordered into a relationship with all others in their diocese or region sharing that office. Ordination was “ordering”– not only of the life of the church, by providing Spirit-empowered leaders, but also of the life of those who would lead and their life as a community of leaders in our midst.

We see examples of this throughout Syria, North Africa (including Egypt), and Turkey, at least, in the early centuries of the church. A composite of these practices looks something like this. A bishop or presiding elder (there were a variety of titles and roles this person might have) would regularly gather all the elders in a particular region for a spiritual strengthening, study, and strategic support about how best to lead in the situations they faced in the particular contexts they had been sent to serve.

In the earlier periods, when the dioceses (regions watched over by a given leader) were smaller, and the number of presbyters involved was fewer, it may be these gatherings, while intentional, were a bit more grounded in the bonds of mutual affection each had for each than any clearly formal agenda. (I suggest this on the basis that we don’t have evidence from earliest periods what sort of agenda, if any, there may have been). But as the church expanded rapidly, beginning in the fourth century and especially after becoming the legal religion of the Roman Empire in 375,  so did the size of dioceses and the number of presbyters per bishop in many areas. And as that happened, we do know that the nature of these gatherings shifted from a focus on face to face relationships (which were now harder to sustain) and more on a renewal of living out the vows– the Rule of Life– of their office.

That practice continues in Anglican, Roman Catholic, and some Protestant bodies to this day– at least ritually– through annual services of renewal of ordination vows, often held on Maundy Thursday in the Roman and Anglican traditions, and through “Ember Days” in the Anglican tradition in particular– times when all clergy and all clergy candidates (for all orders) are to check in with their bishop, in writing or in person, to discuss how they’re fulfilling their vows of office and where they may need additional guidance or support to do so better. This practice is, to be sure, in many ways vestigial. And it could be much more. But at least the vestiges remain.

How “Recovered” Are Our Orders?

From my angle and experience, it seems to me United Methodists haven’t quite figured out what to do with our “recovered” structure of ministry orders. We may use them for gathering folks in the orders for continuing education, or retreats. We may use them to seek to know each other better. We may use them to commiserate.

But to be honest, in talking with clergy colleagues from around the connection, many are not really sure why we’re doing this, or what difference it is making in our lives or ministries. Since we’re unclear about the purpose, while some time away from the parish or other settings with colleagues may be welcome, sometimes it may feel more like one more meeting we’re supposed to show up for. Or worse, it may feel like a division among our body as clergy based more on status than necessarily on who we are or what we do or the life we have vowed and been empowered to live.

And so I offer this as a modest, but serious proposal.

Ordination Vows as a Rule of Life for the Ordained and Template for the Work of the Orders and Fellowship

What if  we take the step many of our colleagues and spiritual ancestors in other traditions have done, and order the work of our orders (and our association of local pastors!) explicitly around the vows of office we take?

What would it look like for deacons, elders, and local pastors every year, to gather with the agenda of helping each other live out these vows, common to both orders and the fellowship of local pastors?


Imagine, if you will, a two-day quarterly gathering of all clergy leaders in a conference.  The first day might involve conversations and equipping for all present around these vows, common to both orders and, in effect, to the fellowship as well:

  and to the bishop and those who are appointed to supervise your ministry?

Now, for Day 2 of the quarterly meeting, the orders and fellowship divide into their separate groups to report, support, and learn better how to live out the vows of their particular order.

For the deacons in their particular gatherings, this:

Likewise for elders and the fellowship, what is it like to help each other live out these vows:

 

Might an agenda for quarterly gatherings built around concrete ways we can help each other, in our orders or fellowship, live the life we vowed to live be a source of wisdom, courage and strength, as well as accountability, now and for the foreseeable future? 

Not that I have any particular authority to ask this, but as a member of the Order of Elders in this church, and as the Convener of the Ordinal Task Force, I do have a genuine passion and interest for this:

Perhaps it’s time for a few of our orders or fellowships to order their orders and fellowship around our actual vows– for at least a few years– and see what you discover about the nature of your life as an order and the strength of your vocation within your order when you do.

Peace in Christ,
The Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards

The United Methodist Church

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When Everything Suddenly Goes "Captcha"

Regular readers of this blog will know that my posts are generally more topical than personal in nature. I tend to reflect primarily on issues related to missional Christianity, early Methodism and our life as United Methodists seeking to embody both, and hardly at all on personal matters.


This post will be a bit different.


Three weeks ago, on two consecutive days, my field of vision suddenly, with no warning, began to “go Captcha.” Things were distorted. Text appeared to have parts blocked out. And I was much more sensitive to light than usual. It was sort of like trying to look at the world after looking at the sun or a bright light, and having a blind spot interfere with interpreting what I was seeing. Only this blind spot wasn’t a spot– it was more like a jagged line in my right eye. But since the brain interprets inputs from both eyes, all the time, closing my right eye didn’t fix the disturbance of my visual field. 


When this didn’t go away after 10 minutes, I called my eye doctor and got an appointment. I had no other symptoms (numbness, tingling sensations, headache, loss of motor coordination, etc.), just this new “Captcha vision.” Within 30 minutes, it was better. After an hour or so, things were mostly back to normal, though it seemed I now had more “floaters” than usual in my right eye.


Testing at the eye doctor’s office showed no damage to the retina and no sign of stroke. The diagnosis: ocular migraine. Treatment: none. Prognosis: this can happen again. If other symptoms start to accompany it, especially any motor disturbance or significant numbness or pain, go to the ER. Otherwise, learn to deal with it. 

It did happen again the next night. Once again, no warning. Well, actually, this time I did notice an increase in photo-sensitivity (perhaps because it was dark and so the contrasts were clearer) about a minute or two before “Captcha world” re-appeared.  But otherwise, again, it just happened. I was at home, safe, not needing to drive anywhere or read anything, so I just turned out all the lights and waited the 30 minutes or so for the most pronounced symptom (“Captcha vision”) to pass.

So far, this hasn’t happened again. I hope it doesn’t. Based on what my eye doctor told me, however, I would not be surprised if it does. I’m glad I know what to do should it return.

But it’s gotten me to thinking about how we see the world in the weeks since. 

How do we make sense of things that come with such distortions built into them? 

Our brains are apparently built to be extraordinarily powerful and rapid image processors. Neuroscientists would remind us that we do not process text as text per se (as a computer typically would, via the zeros and ones that make it up), but as images. Every letter is its own image. When we “read,” our brains compare the image of each letter to other images like it so we can decode what we see into some kind of meaning (one hopes that intended by the original author!) When the images are all fairly similar in size and form to each other (all the same font, for example), we can learn to decode meaning fairly rapidly. But when the images vary widely in size, color and shape (aS In tHis PhraSe), the whole process slows down considerably. Words dissolve into mere letters, each of which has to be compared with every other image we have of that letter to recognize what the letter is in relationship to the others around it. Only then can they be reassembled into words and given meaning. Add distortion of the letters to the mix, as Captcha does, and things slow down even more. 

That’s exactly what the makers and users of Captcha technologies want to happen, of course. Captcha is all about slowing us down, taxing our brains. The makers and users of Captcha technologies want to create a means to ensure that computers aren’t responding (most would take far longer to respond that we would, since they’re not nearly as good at image processing as our brains are). They also want us to be sure we really want to say and include the content we have, and are serious enough about sending it on that we’ll take the time to decode and correctly reproduce the distorted words, some of which aren’t even words. 


But Captcha gives us two things the world at large does not necessarily give us– immediate feedback and a second chance. If you enter the letters and number wrong, you know it right away. It tells you. You can then try again. Or you can even request another Captcha image or even an audio Captcha (though it is often garbled as well) if you don’t think you can make out the one before you. 


While trying and retrying to decode the Captcha may be frustrating, it truly will not let you proceed until you do decode it correctly. Though you may be completely sure that your reading of a particular letter or number is correct, you do not get the luxury of imposing your system of interpretation, however helpful it may have been for you in the past. Captcha knows what it has distorted. You may or may not. 

What if We always Live in Captcha World?

What if the world is not what it seems to our usual means of perception, the usual stories we tell about ourselves, our default assumptions about reality? What if what we see and respond to truly is distorted reality that should cause us to pause and reconsider rather than plow ahead based on our received assumptions and meta-narratives?

It seems to me that we have ample warning and invitation from Jesus to consider that the world as we see it, even in the church, is just such a set of distorted images.
 

Consider his usual teaching method– parables. 

Last week we were reminded in the gospel reading from Mark that Jesus taught in parables precisely to make it hard for people to see, hard for people to understand, hard for people to decode what he was saying if they tried to apply their usual ways of thinking and seeing and loving God and neighbor to his words. He taught in Captcha, we might say, presenting a “slant” view of reality that causes any with ears to hear and eyes to see to have to stop, think, and try again and again if they expect to align the world to what Jesus presented them. 


Many of Jesus’s parables were almost insanely distorted. A sower gaining a miraculous harvest, though apparently wasting seed on all sorts of soils where it “obviously” could not possibly grow? Someone intentionally planting mustard weed (something as crazy as intentionally planting kudzu in most places in the American South these days!). A gardener telling a land owner to wait another year for a harvest while he invests even more time on caring for a fig tree that has yet to bear fruit? 

If the kingdom of God is ultimate reality, and if the kingdom of God seems as weird as this– “Captcha weird”– what are the implications for us as denizens and citizens of that kingdom?

And what are the implications for how we interpret the world around us? Can some of our usual meta-narratives (such as, “the measure of success for the church is how many people attend worship or participate in its programs or give money through it” or “The UMC is in decline in the US so must act right now to fix it or we’ll die”) help us?

If there were something like a “kingdom of God Captcha” in place that wouldn’t let us proceed with our plans to propagate either a teaching, a program, or a church-wide initiative, would that Captcha let us interpret the distorted signs of our times according to such dominant meta-narratives?

Or might it say, “Try again”?

Or might it even refer us to a kind of  “audio Captcha”– the Word of God– the old-school Captcha of Jesus, and particularly his parables– for cues about how to look at things? Might we then be captured by the Captcha-weird kingdom of God that seems to value tiny mustard seeds, small bits of starter, and a single pearl above the mythos of “bigger is always better and more is always needed?”

And what might we learn, specifically about the prospects of “denominational death,” from what was just about the only parable recorded in John’s gospel– “Unless the seed of grain, having fallen to the earth, actually dies, it abides alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit”? 


Perhaps we do live in a Captcha world– and a world captured by all sorts of distortions of the image of God and the transforming love and power of God’s kingdom. 



Perhaps it is time we let Captcha do its work among us ecclesially– slowing us down, making us think and rethink, even stopping us where we’re not on track.

Perhaps the one thing most needful for us to move forward is not to rush headlong getting busy about  the fixes for the problems we think we have based on our usual meta-narratives… but to stop, captured by the “Captcha wisdom” of Jesus whose crazy-making parables and bizarre pattern of life, driven by the Spirit whose comings and goings we cannot begin to know, may just be the key we need to hear, see, decode and then live reality aright.






Peace in Christ,


Taylor Burton-Edwards





 






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What Brings People to Church? The Survey Says…


“Personal invitation from someone you know” is by far the most cited reason people first heard about and then started attending a United Methodist Church, according to findings about the United Methodist Sample in the latest US Congregational Life Survey. **

Here are two charts, courtesy of GCFA,  that tell the story about what does, and does not so much, influence the decisions people make to start attending one of our congregations.




How did you learn about this congregation?

2. Really a corollary of #1, but an important one. Constantly work at increasing the number of people you know! Build your social networks. I don’t mean add more Facebook friends. I mean be diligent about getting to know more people in each place you find yourself during the week than you do now. Maybe even plan to start going to places you haven’t gone before from time to time to begin to build relationships there.

Why do I say this? Some years ago, C. Kirk Hadaway and Penny Marler did some research on the “unchurched” that revealed that, for the most part, churched people know churched people and unchurched people know unchurched people. And the longer people are churched, the fewer unchurched people they know. Since we know from the US Congregational Life Survey just how important personal relationships are in moving people to attend the first time, it is essential that we be intentional about constantly increasing our social networks, especially to include unchurched people, else chances are good our social networks will contract and so will our church attendance!

4. Realistically, the more effective audience for your advertising and internet presence may be your own congregation. This doesn’t mean you don’t communicate your events through advertising and stories in the media (including social media!). It also doesn’t mean you don’t invest in having a working website that doesn’t look like it was created in 1996 (you know what I mean!). Of course you do advertising and get yourself an attractive website.  But it does mean that you should focus your energies and expectations about advertising and internet presence primarily on being effective and useful for your existing constituency, while also accessible (and attractively so!) for first time receivers of your ads or visitors to your sites.

The top two takeaways here are not rocket science. They’re not even sophisticated sociology. And they don’t require your congregation to hire a consultant to develop a “growth strategy.” Go talk to people and make new friends. And make sure your building is visible and somewhere folks can easily find it. If you’re doing these things, you’re doing the most important things by far to increase the likelihood that you may see more first time visitors over time.

**The
GCFA Office of Analysis Research asked churches to distribute a survey questionnaire to each worshipper in
the pews on April 26 or May 3, 2009.

Participating
churches were randomly selected from a list of congregational leaders who
indicated an interested in the project on their 2008 Congregational Leadership
Survey.  Additional
racial/ethnic
churches were recruited with the help of several UM caucus leaders.  Nearly
200 churches
registered to participate in the survey, with over 70% returning their
completed materials. 
The
final data represents
141 churches with individual 8,622 worshippers.

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Differences Congregations Don’t Make… and What to Do about It

As the
Wesleys might have put it, congregations can help people encounter Christ and maybe even begin to believe they want to follow him (prevenient and justifying grace). Congregations may provide that kind of foundation for people– and people do value that.  We can see this in Barna’s data, too– as fairly sizable percentages in every size, generation, and tradition reported  that congregations help them have a feeling of connection with God, even if they also report those feelings are infrequent.

But congregations across the board
do little to help people learn actually how to follow Christ or come to
“have the mind of Christ” (sanctification, moving on to
perfection/maturity). That’s because congregations are not, at their core, discipling communities. That’s what discipling communities are for!

And that’s why Methodism came to exist in the 18th century– to provide a venue and formats of Christian community, in addition to (and not in competition with!) congregations, where people could far more regularly experience and grow in sanctifying grace, by attending to all the ordinances of God, making use of all the ordinary means of grace, living out the vows of the baptismal covenant by following the General Rules, and watching over one another in supportive and challenging love as they did so.

This is also at the heartbeat of the emerging missional movements and many organic church movements today. It’s also at the heart of what a lot of campus ministries and some Emmaus 4th Day groups (to name just two among many others!) have done brilliantly for decades.

Congregations alone aren’t doing this work effectively, haven’t done this work effectively, — and generally speaking, for most people, it appears, just plain can’t.

Perhaps the wake up call here is to tell us it’s time to quit expecting congregations (and their pastors!) to do things they so clearly don’t do and maybe can’t do well!

Perhaps it’s time instead to remember our own roots as missional Methodists.

As United Methodists, we are calling each other to invest in increasing the number of vital congregations. This is a fine thing to do. GBOD is here to help with that– and we do it every day.  But also, perhaps it’s time to start investing just as heavily in leaders who will generate forms of Christian community like Methodist Societies across the US, at least– even as they already are and have been for decades in places like Zimbabwe! And yes, GBOD is here to help you with that, too– whenever you are ready.

Shock and Horror? No. Panic moves to “kick-start” congregations into discipling? Not likely to do much but damage a lot of congregations. 

Sobriety is what these data point us to. Congregations are invited to look in the mirror, and realize what they are and are not, what they can do well, and what others can do better. Congregations are invited not to think of themselves more highly than they ought, but rather to regard other forms of Christian community that can do some tasks better than they can as their equal partners in fulfilling Christ’s commission.

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What Discipling Communities Can Do…

Simple network drawing. Public domain.
This post is a companion to the previous one– The 4 Core Competencies of Christian Congregations (Plus 1 More for Methodist/Missional Congregations. It is meant to be read and used as a tool for assessment and planning  alongside it. The connecting links between the two are Competency 5 for Methodist/Missional Congregations and Competency 4 here– as one of the “nodes” discipling communities seek to connect persons with is a local congregation.

Why separate “competency charts” for congregations and Discipling Communities? Because these two different kinds of Christian community

Article source: http://emergingumc.blogspot.com/2012/01/what-discipling-communities-can-do.html
Automatic Feed from California-Pacific Annual Conference.

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