(November 14, 2018)
Over dinner on election night, my daughter shared early memories of “voting” alongside her dad. She recalled watching her father fill out a punch card ballot. She remembered that voting day was always a big deal. She remembered how pleased she was to be offered the chance to vote—Mickey or Pluto for President—and taking her ballot to show at preschool that day.
Her earliest experiences taught her that voting was good and special and something to be treasured. Earlier that day I sat across the table from a six-year old. He was prompted to share what he knew about God. He told me that God created us, loved us, sent Jesus to be with us and that Jesus was our Lord. And then he showed me how he has learned to pray, complete with clapping and hand motions.
Sometimes, what children remember best is not only what they have been told, but what they have been shown. What we show the children in our lives about faith matters. Webster Hills UMC has invested in children and youth ministry and will continue to do so. We want to show our children how important it is to have a relationship with God and how we are all made better when we are part of a faith community.
We work to provide the places and the tools that allow our children and students to explore faith. We want them to be assured that God loves them and cares for them. We want them to be able to share that love. We are working to partner with parents and others to show our children that Sunday School, worship and church events are good and special and something to be treasured.
This Sunday is an especially important day for the church and for all of us. We are putting the wraps on our generosity campaign. We will give thanks for the commitments that have been made and provide time for new commitments to be offered. Perhaps most importantly, Sunday will have many opportunities for all of us to show our children and youth that sharing our time, prayers and resources within our church family is a really, really big deal.
You can help the children in your lives prepare for Sunday by talking about what it means to make a promise. You can help them understand how we grow when we set aside money and time to help care for our church. You can invite them to join you in making such a promise and help them make good on those promises in the year ahead.
On Sunday we will, of course, talk about what is important. By joining in worship and the lunchtime celebration afterward, we will also be able to show what is important. Sunday is going to be another really good day to be in worship! I look forward to seeing you at 9 or 10:30 and to sharing lunch with you at 11:45.
(November 7, 2018)
I’m writing this note on Election Day. Throughout the day and in the days leading up to November 6, my social media feed has been full of reminders of what a privilege it is to vote. The images and comments have spoken of the work and sacrifices made by many. I did not earn the right to vote. Others, in different times and places, did legacy work. Many of them did not get to see their work produce what we have today.
Legacy work calls for us to set our sights on the future. It asks us to imagine what we want to see happen somewhere down the road and to consider how we will get there. Nearly 90 years ago, some people decided to do some legacy work and plant a brand new church in our community. Throughout the years, others have made commitments to continue the work, bringing us through the years, the challenges and the ups and downs of ministry and church life to today.
I believe there is a need for legacy work to continue at Webster Hills UMC. I believe we are in a time and place where we can speak into the lives of the people in and around our community and offer hope and healing. I believe we can equip and empower people to bring justice and peace to their neighborhoods, our city and the world. I believe we can raise up the next generations of young people who will be committed to learning about and living in the way of Jesus and who will be able to be agents of change for the good of all.
I have learned that the act of making a commitment to something in which I believe is an act that empowers me and the people who share that commitment to grow in faith and understanding. I hope you are joining me in committing to pray for our church. I also hope you are joining me in making a financial commitment to our congregation’s ministries. By doing so, you will help us continue a legacy of ministry and care that can stretch far into the years ahead.
If you have already made your commitment for 2019, thank you! As you consider the gift that you will share next year, remember that it will make possible the continuation of a vision that was imagined long ago. Not only that, but it will make possible for us to put in place new visions to equip and prepare our community for all that God is setting before us. As you consider your gift and as you pray for our church remember these words from scripture:
Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness. (2 Cor 3:12)
I look forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday and next. On November 18th, we will express our gratitude for your commitments and celebrate with a community meal at 11:45 a.m.
(October 31, 2018)
“Don’t worry. We won’t sell the house to that couple.” Several years ago, the owner of a home for sale on our block in the city of St. Louis was going door-to-door. He wanted to assure us that the African-American family who had just toured the house would not be able to buy it. I gave him a piece of my mind and indignantly slammed the door with a healthy sense of righteousness. And that was it.
There is a certain amount of anger and grief that wells up within us whenever a tragedy unfolds. When we learn of the tragic events at Tree of Life Temple in Pittsburgh or some other act of violence, we feel a deep range of emotion. It’s normal, sourced in our humanity. What matters more, though, is what happens after the initial wave of emotion. Will we remain as bystanders or step out as people who respond to evil with good? Will we choose to observe from the sidelines or act on the promise made at our baptisms?
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
Evil continues to be part of our world. We can choose to do our best to isolate ourselves from it or we can choose to act against it. As Christians, our choice should be clear. Like Jesus, we are called to resist evil. A group has formed at Webster Hills UMC that is working to better understand and respond to racism. The next event for “On the Way” is November 6th from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm in the McKelvey Room. If you are wondering what you can do to stand against hate, this is a good place to start.
On Sunday I confessed that the events in Pittsburgh had rattled me. If you are feeling the same, let’s talk. Let’s see if we can open some pathways to be faithful to our calling as Christians and respond to evil, injustice, and oppression in bold ways.
BOLD is the theme of our current season at Webster Hills UMC. We are challenging ourselves to be bold in prayer, worship, service, and generosity. You should have received a packet of information about our church’s plans for the year ahead in the mail. If not, let us know. There are many ways we can express our faith and many ways to grow in faith. Taking a step forward in our financial support for our church can help in both ways. Your gifts matter and we promise to use them wisely and boldly. You may return your commitment cards at any time now through November 18. Mark your calendars for the 18th at noon when we will host a community meal at noon and will celebrate those commitments.
All Saints’ Sunday
This Sunday is All Saints’ Sunday. We will remember the people in our church who have died over the past year and are now part of the “great cloud of witnesses.” We will also give you a chance to remember the lives of those especially dear to you who are also resting with God and walking boldly among the saints and angels.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday at 9 or 10:30 and remind you again that I welcome the opportunities to meet with you and talk about whatever may be on your hearts.
Peace, Pastor Linda
(October 24th/25th, 2018)
Big. Outlandish. Life-giving. Decisive.
Each year since becoming your pastor, Kent and I have talked about our plans for supporting the ministries at Webster Hills. Each year we have chosen to increase our financial commitment. Together we have learned that generosity is a faith practice that not only helps the church but also helps us be even more committed followers of Jesus.
He and I share a belief that Webster Hills is called to be a church that does ministry boldly. We are glad to be part of this church family and also feeling some restlessness in wanting to see the church step out in faith in some Big, Outlandish, Life-Giving and Decisive ways. We hope you share that desire to be a church that is BOLD in the ways it worships, prays, serves and reaches out.
Webster Hills UMC has created materials that describe ways we have been bold over the past year. We’ve also outlined the ways we want to continue to grow boldly. Please take some time to review the materials. If you have not yet received them, look for a packet at church or let us know and we will send one your way. You can also find the information on our website.
Along with members of our Leadership Board and staff, Kent and I have made an early commitment to the 2019 budget. As I write, that group of commitments represents an 11% increase in planned giving. That is an exciting way to begin this season of the year! You see, each fall our church asks those who are committed to the congregation and want to see it continue to develop as a community of faith to share their plans for giving in the year ahead. I hope you will join Kent, me and others in making a 2019 commitment. By doing so you are also making a commitment to help our church be a church that does ministry in the name of Jesus in ways that are BOLD!
Wrapped In Prayer
I’m still looking back on the pix from last Sunday when we wrapped our church in love and prayer. The prayer experience played out as I had hoped. It was a morning of coming together as a community, taking our faith beyond our doors and sharing in something that included all generations. Prayer can be physical, full of movement and color. Prayer can be more than quiet words spoken between one person and God. Prayer can also be something done in a group. I hope you found the morning meaningful and I hope it created a stronger connection between you and God and between you and your church.
Be sure to pick up your prayer card this Sunday or find it on our website and social media. As we look toward the future at Webster Hills UMC, prayer is the best way step we can take to recognize what steps God is asking us to take. Our church needs to be wrapped in our prayers each and every day.
On Sunday we prayed boldly. In the weeks ahead, “BOLD” will be our theme. We are drawing on a passage from 2 Corinthians that says, “Since we have such a hope, we act with great boldness.” (3:12) Over the past few weeks, we explored some of the ways that Jesus calls us to be followers who believe boldly, serve boldly, worship boldly, and share boldly. Our worship will be filled with bold celebrations of all that God has done for us and within us. The series opens Sunday as we “Look at What God Has Done!”
Pray boldly and pray often! See you on Sunday!
(October 17, 2018)
Our focus in worship has been “Beyond These Doors: Living Your Faith.” Even as I write this first sentence I’m aware of what is making me restless. It’s “our focus in worship.” Worship can be something that happens well beyond the Sunday morning schedule. Worship can be infused into every waking moment.
This Sunday, we will be taking our worship beyond our doors. We are inviting everyone connected to our church join us outside our building at 9:30 this Sunday, October 21. We are going to wrap our church in prayer. We are taking a band of cloth and physically wrapping it around the exterior of our chapel, sanctuary and education wing. Once that is done, we will all take hold of the ribbon of cloth and offer prayer for our church.
In Sunday’s sermon I talked about the gift Jesus gave us when he said to his disciples that they would go on to do even greater things than he had done. This community prayer will a way for us to ask God to help us put in motion those greater things. We will pray with these passages in mind:
Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20)
Therefore I say to you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you will receive it, and it will be so for you. (Mark 11:24)
I see our prayer experience this Sunday as an opportunity for us to join in a great moment of prayer that is physical, visible and powerful. We will make this an event for all ages. Make plans to be there. Take lots of pictures and video and be sure to tag the church on social media.
(October 10th, 2018)
Sometimes buildings are more than buildings, they are pieces of ministry. Last Friday our Christian Life Center (CLC) welcomed the Rotary Club for an all-day pancake breakfast/lunch/dinner. On Saturday it served as the staging area for the “Hands on Kirkwood” food drive. In November we will welcome Webster Groves-Rock Hill Ministries’ “Empty Bowls” Soup Supper. Shepherd’s Center and Annie’s Hope work from our building to provide services to our community throughout the year. The CLC allows us to host scout troops, athletic teams, Alcoholics Anonymous, all kinds of community groups. The United Methodist Women and a support group for those who care for people with mental illness gather in the CLC. It is the place where our youth meet to grow in faith together and to strengthen their relationships with one another. This list doesn’t even begin to cover all the other ministries, classes and groups that meet in the CLC.
It’s easy to focus on what it takes to keep a building running and wonder about the investments of time and finances. Last week I met with some of our church leaders to make plans for tending to some of our building needs. The 20-year-old CLC is (over) due for parking lot repairs, HVAC replacements and roof maintenance. The amount of money that needs to be invested in the building is significant.
When I see our building used by our community for ministry, those maintenance challenges are less daunting. I left the meeting with a sense of relief and gratitude. What a gift when people invest time, energy and finances so that ministry can happen in so many unique ways. Read on to learn more about the steps that your church has taken to care for the properties entrusted to us as tools for ministries.
To the people of Webster Hills UMC, thank you! To those who come to the corner of Berry and Lockwood to offer care to others, thank you!
(October 3rd, 2018)
Last week, one could hardly escape the national conversations around the impact of sexual assault and the reasons for its prevalence. Calls to assault and abuse hotlines around the country leapt to record levels. The resulting emotional turmoil around stories of experiences, values, and politics was, for many, overwhelming. Many people shared painful stories of the aftermath of victimization. Others shared equally painful accounts of the pain of being falsely accused.
It is clear that all around us there are people who are hurting. It is hurt that comes from choosing to remain silent and from the pain that can come from speaking. It is also clear that we struggle to know how to respond when we learn of another’s trauma. For that reason, I want to let you know, you have a safe place.
If you need to speak, I will listen. If you need to rant, weep or to sit silently, you may do so honestly and without judgement. If you are carrying anger and need to rant, you may do so honestly. If you want to seek out the help of a mental health professional or consider your options when it comes to reporting or seeking a path toward healing, I will support you and offer guidance as I am able.
If you are a parent wondering how to have an important conversation with your children, my staff and I will offer all the wisdom we can muster. If you come to me or any member of our staff with a story of having been threatened, harmed or shamed, we will listen to you with respect and take steps to understand and surround you with care and support. We will treat you and your story with the utmost respect and confidentiality.
Webster Hills UMC, like all United Methodist churches in Missouri, follows a strict “Safe Sanctuaries” policy. The policy provides the framework for our staff and volunteers to relate to children, youth and vulnerable adults in a variety of settings. As a pastor, I am held to a covenant of behavior that provides boundary lines for myself as well as our entire congregation. If you have any questions about our policies, please let me know.
Even after the outcome of current events is decided it is unlikely our shared emotions will easily fade away. For now, perhaps we can all simply promise to treat the people we meet each day with respect. These are times for us to walk softly and carefully. It is quite possible that the person standing next to you at any moment is holding on to something painful. Let’s help carry one another’s burdens, even if that burden is invisible to us.
I’m looking forward to our next worship series: Beyond These Doors: Living Our Faith. For many of us, “church” is something that happens at a set time and place. What would it be like if we took our worship outside the walls of our building? What if “church” happened no matter where we find ourselves or what are doing? From October 7-21 we will open a conversation about how we can live an energetic faith that goes “Beyond These Doors”
(September 28, 2018)
“Something like this requires a commitment from the craftsman; to do the planning and take the extra steps.”
Joel Emery said this as he was working on our chapel communion table. Joel is repairing and refinishing the tabletop and was pointing out the craftsmanship that resulted in a “bookended” piece of wood. This is wood that is carefully cut into two thinner pieces and positioned so that the pieces match. Joel said, “The practice isn’t unusual, but is definitely associated with higher quality craftsmanship.”
My friend, Basil Kincaid is a rising young artist. He recently shared that he is dedicated to bringing “unrelenting drive, strategy, passion, and talent” to his work. Those elements are what make it possible for him to create art, not luck as some would suggest.
The work we do because of our faith deserves commitment. You are often asked to come to an extra rehearsal, do some training, arrive early, do some study, or be present for prayer and a before-worship meeting. We don’t ask this lightly. We ask this because we want the work we do in and through the church to be infused with a passionate commitment to excellence.
Each week, I will be looking at that tabletop as a reminder of how important extra steps can be. I hope that whenever you serve, whether down the hall, around the corner or across the globe, that you are doing so with an unrelenting passion to serve God and care for others. Whether you are making coffee early on a Sunday morning, preparing the Communion table, taking part in a class, or simply showing up for worship, may you do so with commitment, care, and love.
For many of us, “church” is something that happens at a set time and place. What would it be like if we took our worship outside the walls of our building? What if “church” happened no matter where we find ourselves or what are doing? Join us October 7-21 as we look at living an energetic faith that goes “Beyond These Doors.” We’ll wrap up the series with a wild prayer experience that will take us beyond our doors in a meaningful way!
September 20, 2018
I mentioned in worship on Sunday that the past week had been a time of reviewing life at Webster Hills so far this year. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all the ways we are growing. We are being shaped by our faith and good things are happening. A new season of ministry is underway and we are fully staffed. (Praise God!) I’m more aware than ever that being part of a faith community means always celebrating the good things and always preparing for what is next. God relentlessly loves us and relentlessly invites us to do new things.
I’ve been able to witness people accepting invitations to serve in ways that are new to our church or new to them. They may not always seem like it, but those “yeses” are huge steps in faith.
Here are some opportunities for you to offer a bold “Yes.”
This Sunday, you are invited to learn more about a late January mission trip to Puerto Rico. We are sending a team to Vieques, a small island off the coast to help build a health clinic in the town of Esperanza. An informational meeting will happen at 10 a.m. in our chapel. If you are planning on attending the meeting, please RSVP here. Check out the Puerto Rico Mission Trip website here.
An event in October is significant for our congregation in many ways. We connect with our community, welcome pre-school children for a fun morning and raise a significant amount to support our church’s ministries. Of course, I’m talking about Pumpkin Patch. It’s time to put a new team into place to manage the patch next fall. This would be a good time to shadow some of this year’s leaders to learn more about how it all comes together. If you would like to learn some Pumpkin Patch 101, just let me know.
I’ll be signing up for my shifts at the patch this week. I hope you are doing the same. (Sign up Here.) Save Thursday, September 27 from 5 p.m. until finished to assist with set-up. I hear the set-up team moves to J.Greene’s when the work is over. Saturday, September 29 is pumpkin unloading day. It’s an all-hands event that includes local students and scout troops.
Leslie Chalupny and I are organizing a special prayer event for late October. We’re planning for a number of ways to take part. We’ll share more soon but in the meantime would love to know if you are interested.
I look forward to seeing you in church this Sunday for part two of “When You Just Can’t:
September 12, 2018
I spent most of Monday with the people who are preparing for the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. A General Conference is a worldwide gathering of clergy and laity who make decisions on behalf of our denomination. St. Louis will host this session in February.
I woke up Tuesday to images of people along our coasts preparing for the arrival of a hurricane. While I watched the morning news, I was also making some notes in preparation for the monthly meeting of our church’s Leadership Board.
We all spend a good deal of time preparing for events that we know are coming our way. That’s a good thing. I woke up wondering, though, how we go about preparing for those things for which we cannot plan. We know that life will always bring challenges and opportunities. This week in worship I made a bold invitation to our congregation. I asked everyone to find a way to take part in Starting Point. Starting Point is an 8-week exploration of our faith. It’s a way to start, renew and revive the basics of our faith and consider fresh ways in which we can practice our faith. Doing this work together will help us prepare for our future, individually and as a community.
Doing work like this can be a way of preparation. We can be more ready when those opportunities and challenges come along. We can be guided by our beliefs and our relationships with God to respond boldly. We can prepare ourselves to respond to all that life brings by remembering what was written to Timothy, an early church leader. “God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
For whatever you find yourself preparing this week, I pray for your courage, comfort, and peace.
September 5th, 2018
I was once invited to officiate at a wedding. The bride said she wanted to meet with me to see if I would fit her vision for the ceremony. I told her that I probably did not and declined. “Vision” is a word that gets tossed around a lot. It can become just a word, with very little power behind it.
Vision, however, is a word that carries a great deal of meaning. Even so, nailing down a vision for a church can be a challenge. We are a church with five demographic generations in attendance. The vision we have for our children may be different from the vision we have for our most senior members.
One aspect of the vision that I carry for Webster Hills is that we be a people whose faith pushes us to act. At Webster Hills, we invite everyone to Follow Jesus. Change the World. I admit, the idea of world-changing action can be overwhelming. What if we started small and grew from there? What are the places you go every day? There is your home, school, our church, a variety of businesses. What are the small things that you have learned from the life of Jesus that can shape what you do and say in those places?
There is, of course, a much wider world around us. One day you may find yourself called to a bigger and more life-changing project than you have ever imagined. But if you don’t feel like a world-changer today, what if you committed yourself to live as someone who makes change happen where you live, work and play?
I believe we can express our faith when we serve with a non-profit organization, volunteer at a school, help plan a community event, even by running for school board or city council. This week, I invite you to consider how you are following Jesus and changing the world. The world you want to reach may be close by or across the globe. What matters is that as a follower of Jesus, you are committed to looking for a need and acting to make a difference.
August 30th, 2018
As summer gives way to fall, I know my schedule will be more crowded. There will be more tasks to complete and more challenges to face. I’m okay with that. I love the work to which God has called me and while a lighter schedule for a time is a gift, so are the seasons that await all of us.
This has also been a summer marked by many conversations with colleagues and friends about things like mission, vision, and values. I’ve named them in the past but I’ve found it helpful to return to them from time-to-time. A check-in helps me understand what if anything has changed and to ask God to help me consider whether I’m letting such things be my priorities and guideposts for my life and work.
A question I was recently asked in connection to my ministry was this: “What is you want for the people of your congregation?” The emphasis was on “for” instead of “from.” As your pastor, I ask a lot from you. I love the ministries that our congregation makes happen and I can see the good that is emerging from those ministries. I’m also able to see the immense possibilities that exist within our community of faith. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing and they will do even greater things than these (John 14:12a NIV). I believe these words from Jesus. I believe that Webster Hills is capable, with God’s help, to accomplish more of what God desires for us and asks of us. Because of that belief, I know that I ask a lot of you.
The question of what I want for you is also important. I want for you what Jesus wants for all of us, to have lives that are full and abundant (John 10:10b). An abundant life is one in which our bodies, minds and spirits are filled with joy and strength. A full life is expressed through generosity, openness and a particular desire; a desire to truly know God and to know others; to love God and to love others; to serve God and to serve others.
What I want for each of you and for us as a congregation is a deepening. By that, I mean a faith that is growing deeper and stronger within us. I hope for us a deepening sense of curiosity as we consider how we do life together and how we go about our lives as individuals. I dream for us a deeper sense of boldness and a readiness to step onto paths that will take us closer to the heart of God as we respond more clearly to the needs of our community and our world.
Earlier this summer we shared a worship series, “Word,” that was an exploration of our Bible. We talked about what we can gain in our Bible reading when we approach scripture with a sense of expectation. In other words, when we go to scripture knowing that it has something to show us, but we won’t know what that is until we open the page.
As you read this edition of The Messenger, you will discover the many plans that have been made for us to engage in our faith life together. You will find many opportunities to respond to invitations to become involved now and throughout the year ahead. Whatever your passion, whether it is to learn, serve, lead, worship or pray, what I want for you and our entire community is to enter the season ahead with expectation, curiosity and a desire to claim the abundant life that Jesus has set before you.
Peace be with you,
P.S. Here’s what is ahead in worship
September 2: Think Orange
September 9: Stepping out: Following the Path of Jesus
September 16-30: When You Just.Can.Not: A Story About Running Away
October 7-21: Beyond These Doors: Living Faith in the Every Day
October 28-November 18: Gotta Celebrate: Look What God Has Done!