"I am Yours and with You I want not.
You throw out to me a rope and
the name of the rope is Love and
You draw me to where the grass is green
and the water not dangerous,
and I eat and lie down and am satisfied.
Sometimes my heart is very weak and falls down but,
You lift me up gain and draw me into a good road.
Your name is WONDERFUL."
Call to Worship "God Is My Shepherd" (insert hymn)
Tiffany talked about different images for God and said that God is like a mother for example, because God is "kind and loving and strong and smart."
Lesson from the Psalms Psalm 23
Tiffany read the text while the BeliefNet video played (muted) on a projector. I liked the morphing from desert to lily at "restores my soul."
Contemporary Lesson Psalm 23 by Bobby McFerrin
The choir sang this. In her intro, Tallesyn said that it was dedicated to his mother -- hence the feminine language.
Tiffany said the 23rd Psalm can be problematic for some people -- because it's so commercialized, for one, and because it's often read at funerals and so has bad associations.
She commented that Israel means "the people who struggled with God." What would their self-identity be without that struggle? This somehow tied in to her broader discussion of the context in which the 23rd Psalm was written and the tension of believing in a God who is both omnipotent and omni-benevolent, but I was struck by thinking about self-identity and parsing that with contemporary Jewish experiences and Zionism and suchlike.
I knew from the times we've discussed it at CAUMC small group that the solution to that tension is to adjust your understanding of "power." She said that a shepherd gently guides sheep through rocky paths -- often from behind. She said God's power is not a power over and against but rather a power with and through -- not coercion but persuasion.
She said that when sheep get lost, they panic and run fast -- often in the opposite direction from the shepherd. And of course we humans often do the same.
Prayers of the People
I felt like just about everyone present had multiple Joys and Concerns to lift up.
Call to Prayer "Joy Comes With the Dawn" refrain
Offertory Hymn "Christ Is Alive" v. 4
Passing of the Peace
Bobby shook my hand -- as he did before service. I was comforted that he did not ask to give me a kiss.
Closing Hymn "Thou Leadeth Me" (a slightly rewritten version of "He Leadeth Me")
Benediction and Grace
Over dinner, Jeremy told us that he'd reached a new level in masculinity -- he stared down a guy who was bigger than him who wanted to punch him in the face. During one of the quiet moments, Chelsea informed us that it was a middle schooler. It was a legit story, though -- eighth grade dance at Jeremy's church, a boy and his girlfriend get in a fight and the boy throws the girl against the wall, Jeremy's like "Yeah no" and starts coming down the stairs to where they are, the boy's all "I'm gonna break you" and even two steps below Jeremy he was taller than Jeremy. After Jeremy finished his story, Sean talked about him and Will. I turned to Carolyn and said, "I have the best church."
I'm stoked that Carolyn (and her partner) is likely moving to the Davis Square area for next year -- she's doing her field whatever at Harvard-Epworth, CWM is in Davis Square, and her partner's big into comics and gaming ... so she'll just commute to BU and they'll have their lives based here.
After dinner was "General What?" -- a PowerPoint presentation thanks I think to Karen Oliveto.
I hadn't realized how much legislation gets processed at General Conference.
It's gotten compressed from two weeks to 9 days (due to rising costs) and Tiffany said this time there's no Sunday Sabbath -- said it's interesting to see the witness of the church at GC.
Apparently The (with a capital "T") United Methodist Church only exists at/during General Conference.
Methodism started as a revival movement in the Church of England, so after the American Revolution, Methodism in the USA grew from a movement into a church as the USA was growing up, so the two cultures are very intertwined.
The different Conferences get different amounts of delegates -- like the House of Representatives. American conservatives have made alliances with, for example, African churches, to get votes for legislation, but they don't like giving up their own delegates to make room for delegates from outside the USA, so there's this tension of how does one be a global church.
Also, the Book of Discipline is only binding on USA churches -- churches outside the USA can make changes to anything in it except the Constitution to better fit their own culture and context and we don't get to vote to approve those changes ... but these global churches have delegates at GC and get to vote on changes to the Book of Discipline which are binding on us. This is somewhat bizarre to me.
Tiffany said that the way GC works with majority rule, unity is uniformity. I said, "But there's no better system than majority rule." Tiffany suggested consensus (not necessarily as "I, personally, think this would be a better system" -- though maybe she does think so -- but just as an alternative to majority rule vote). I sort of sputtered, "But consensus is crazy-making ... it's like ultra-majority ... I mean, it means nothing happens unless everybody agrees, so it only works if everyone's mostly in agreement to begin with." I said this issue of how the legislation should work is like states rights vs. federalism (though I'm not sure I was using the term "federalism" correctly) in secular politics.
[Edit: She mentioned Robert's Rules of Order early in the discussion, and I had a quiet geek out moment-- even though I've never actually read the book. Rules of order making me squee? Yeah, we are wholly unsurprised. I know that actually poring over all this legislation would probably make my eyes fall out of my head and I'm just not committed enough to United Methodism for it to feel worth all the effort, but yeah, law and economics are so appealing to me on like a gut level -- my father's daughter, what? -- even though I am also in love with stories.]
[I think I'm recalling all this correctly, but apologies if I'm misrepresenting anything. I know the flow of this is choppy and some things are unclear because my own understanding is limited -- I grew up nondenominational, so while I've had a year of UMC osmosis, tonight was still a lot of new information which I didn't necessarily have enough background information to fully process.]
The United Methodist Church is a merger of Methodist Episcopal Church and the Evangelical United Brethren, and apparently the Articles of Religion (Methodist Church) and Confession of Faith (Evangelical United Brethren Church) are not entirely consistent with each other even though the UMC says they are (oh legality... like how a resolution to say that the church is not of one mind on an issue can be voted down, so you can say "We are of one mind" -- having had a 55:45 vote). I'm now very curious to read these two documents.
Tiffany said that originally there were just Wesley's General Rules (I think that was the term she used -- I probably should have been taking notes, but I hadn't realized in advance how complicated this all was) and asked if we had guesses as to how many of those there were. I guessed six, said it would be some obscenely small number like that (but actually thought the answer would be like twenty). She said it was three.
Will rattled them off in a contemporary phrasing, ending with "stay in love with God."
I think Tiffany listed them as: "Do no harm, do all the good that you can, and attend upon the ordinances of God."
Mark M. from Lynnfield asked about how many UMC churchs are Reconciling, People said about 1%. He said the percentage of ONA in the UCC is about 10%. The UCC was largely a trickle-down thing with the top of the pyramid saying "We think this is a good thing, though we'll leave it up to the individual congregations what they want to do," whereas Reconciling in the UMC is very much a grassroots movement.