Martha’s Minute (July 12, 2018)

Praying in Summer

I enjoyed a lively and engaged session on PRAYER with the Contemporary Class (Sunday School, 9 am Sundays) on July 8.  It was a happy way to come back to WHUMC after a few days off.  And it seemed pertinent to goings on in folks’ lives and in the world.  Prayer knows no season, huh?!

In keeping with our recent theme of books and resources for summer reading, here are some of the works cited in Sunday’s class (in random order):

  • John Wesley’s Message Today, Lovett H. Weems, Jr., Abingdon, Nashville, 1991.
  • There Is Nothing Wrong with You, Cheri Huber, Keep It Simple Books, USA, 2006.
  • Prayer and Modern Man, Jacques Ellul, Seabury, New York, 1970.
  • Ordinary People, Judith Guest, Penguin, New York, 1976.  See also the Academy Award-winning 1980 film starring Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland and Timothy Hutton.
  • Night, Elie Wiesel, Hill and Wang, New York, 1972, 1985, 2006.

Blessings – see you in church.


Martha’s Minute (June 28, 2018)

So. Much. Laughter.
That’s my observation of the first meeting of the Munch Lunch Bunch (MLBs) on June 21 last week.
And I think it’s something to celebrate.
As you may know, MLB is our Webster Hills UMC shorthand for Mid-Life and Beyond, an affectionate way we designate folks who identify with that ‘mid-life’ stage in life, and we acknowledge and accept that MLB is a fluid category.  If you THINK you’re an MLB, you ARE an MLB!

The new Munch Lunch Bunch plays on the same initials.  Its formula is simple … and emphasizes sharing.  First, a shared conversation or informal presentation, followed by an easy and informal lunch:  potluck, finger food.  Then games and more talk.

Munch Lunch Bunch is unabashedly social, but with a loving twist:  MLBs at Webster Hills UMC are at the heart of everything.  Steady and reliable, they lead AND follow and their corporate and personal lives are aimed at our congregation’s mission:  connect, grow, serve.  The more they (we) know and love one another, the more they (we) can continue to deepen their (our) lives of discipleship.

The laughter started when Barbara Matt led an acquaintance-expanding activity around the traditional St. Louis question, “Where did you go to high school?”  The thing is, of course, that this question can’t just be answered.  Every response requires a story.  Lunch was ample and yummy and punctuated by more conversation and more laughter.  And, as advertised, games and more talk followed that.  Is there any better way to really get to know a person – even a person you may have known for multiples of years – than by sitting down to play a board game with her or him?!  Everything is funny when you’re trying to sort out the rules to a game you’ve never played before.

Munch Lunch Bunch meets on the third Thursday of the month thru November (July 19, August 16, September 20, October 18, November 15).  11 am to 1 pm in the Great Hall, Christian Life Center.  Make room on your calendar and join the laughter next month.


A couple of your WHUMC friends replied to our request in last week’s Messenger:  “What are you reading this summer?”

.  THE GOSPEL OF INCLUSION by Bishop Carlton Pearson

Thanks to those of you who shared your summer reading list! Happy reading!



Martha’s Minute (June 21st, 2018)

What are you reading this summer?
I just finished The Inextinguishable Symphony:  A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany, Martin Goldsmith’s memoir about how his parents were in effect saved by the music they made together in the Jewish Kulturbund.  In 1941, they were among the very last German Jews to gain the visas necessary to immigrate to the US.  The author is one of the Symphony Hall hosts on Sirius XM Radio, and he and his parents have a St. Louis connection, his mother having played viola in the St. Louis Symphony under the baton of Leonard Slatkin.

Now I’m on to Elizabeth Strout.  Holy cow, what a writer.  I’ve started with Strout’s latest, Anything Is Possible, but you may know her from earlier works (which I plan to read as soon as possible) The Burgess Boys, My Name Is Lucy Barton, and Olive Kitteridge, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.

Amazon’s blurb on Anything Is Possible starts out:  “An unforgettable cast of small-town characters copes with love and loss in this new work…”  Love and loss.  What else IS there to “cope” with, I wonder — what besides love and loss?  In the book various things happens to members of that small-town cast, things ranging from surprising to truly horrible, usually while they’re driving or negotiating some sticky social situation while simultaneously trying to remember why some tree or road sign or turn of phrase strikes a chord and seems important.  That’s the loss.

Then there’ll be some flash of love or lightning or insight that’s just so blinding it has to be the love.  There’s more loss than love I guess – I haven’t finished the book yet – but the love is the more compelling.  This depiction of life seems authentic to me: no matter how fervently we believe it, we cannot see, despite our piety or learning, exactly HOW God is working God’s purpose out in the history of creation.  We muddle along.  But once in a while, we get a flash of energy that feeds our faith and keeps us going, and we dare to think it’s a flash of Divine love.

I’m not a book group kind of person but I dearly love to talk books one on one, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer afternoon than doing so with you.  Call or e-mail and let’s make a date for a cool drink and a cooler conversation.  See you in church.

CLICK HERE and let me know what you are reading! If you respond I’ll share the list in an upcoming Messenger.

Rev. Dr. Martha Robertson


Martha’s Minute (May 31st, 2018)

I see that last week Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, was replaced by the Board of Directors of that institution.  Patterson has recently been at the center of a controversy surrounding allegations about advice he gave to women concerning marital abuse and rape.  (See Patterson’s removal from the position he had held since 2003 came “after an open letter signed by more than 2,000 Southern Baptist women expressed shock over Patterson’s statements and warned Southern Baptist Convention leaders not to allow ‘the biblical view of leadership to be misused in such a way that a leader with an unbiblical view of authority, womanhood, and sexuality be allowed to continue in leadership.’”

Also last week, my own denomination, the United Church of Christ – somewhat more progressive than the Southern Baptists – announced the attainment of a milestone of sorts with regard to women.  “It’s official!  There are now more ordained clergywomen than men (51%) in the United Church of Christ.” ( The Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization Team (MESA) of the UCC and United Church Funds (UCF), acknowledging that women clergy still face a significant gender pay gap, marked the occasion by inviting them to take part in a webinar titled “Women Investing Today – Seeking Justice in Our Financial Lives.”

Let me hasten to make clear that both these denominations – the Southern Baptists and the United Church of Christ – are on record as opposing the abuse of women in all its forms and support ministries working to improve women’s lot. I believe this to be true of the United Methodist Church as well and, further, I have found UMW resources on women’s issues to be many and helpful.

Still, I found in these two news stories a reflection of the mixture of respect and obstacle which characterizes the lives of women in our country.  It is a mixture that can be deadly. So I’ll continue to follow and pray for the work of Dawn Wilcox, a former RN who began in 2017 to document the deaths of US women and girls at the hands of men.  Wilcox accounted for the deaths of one thousand seven hundred twenty women and girls in 2017; her FaceBook page is Women Count USA.

The issues touched upon by these reflections are sobering and several — misogyny, gender inequality, domestic violence, gun violence, for starters.  As a pastoral caregiver, I am open to conversation about any of them.  And I’d also like to speak clearly to you if you are a woman involved in an abusive relationship:  get help; start here.

May God keep us all.

Update:  Paige Patterson, referenced in this article, was fired after it was written, the Board of Directors of Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary having received ‘additional information’ about his handling of an allegation of abuse while he was president.

Rev. Dr. Martha Robertson



Martha’s Minute

Sunday, April 22, was a day with a powerful 1-2-3 punch for members and friends at Webster Hills UMC, including those regular readers of this column who understand themselves to be experience ‘Mid-Life and Beyond.’

No. 2 on that list of three was the Sunday afternoon ‘meal packing event’ that crammed the CLC gym with hairnet-wearing persons of all ages doing hands on mission.  Our Easter offering purchased food and packaging materials for hundreds and folks came in droves to measure, package, seal and wrap meals to be picked up by local feeding programs the following week.  Imagine assembly lines of kids, parents and grandparents; music to sing along to; and ice cream to share when the work was done.

And No. 3 was an amazingly beautiful evening concert that filled our beautiful sanctuary space with the music of the Webster University orchestra and the 442s.  Breathtaking.

Surely it was No. 1 that laid the foundation for the day:  worship services at 9 am and 10:30 am that helped attendees with the important inner work of spiritual assessment.  Important work – yes, but burdensome?  Far from it.  After spending a few minutes completing and scoring a brief survey, worshipers were invited to move in the worship space for conversation and sharing with others who identified in themselves the same spiritual gifts, gifts including but not limited to giving, administration, teaching, exhortation, mercy, prophecy, serving, hospitality, and leadership.  I love that lovely buzz in the congregation when folks engage one another like this!

During Sanctuary worship at 10:30, Pastor Linda asked me to be alert to seeking out conversation with folks who chose to remain in the pews instead of moving to an appointed spot relative to ‘their’ spiritual gift.  So I moved around the Sanctuary a little, doing that, and the conversations I had were instructive and moving.  One congregant spoke to me of pain, and how its presence in one’s life opens one to empathy for others who are also in pain.  This conversation suggested to me that a person who has known pain may be uniquely gifted to be present to others who are in pain.

I went on to wonder whether pain might be, in some circumstances, considered itself a spiritual gift; while never a blessing to the one who suffers it, pain may be turned – transformed – even resurrected — in faith and by faith, to bless those who can talk about it and pray about it together.
It’s a life rich in spirit and faith we’re making together here in community at WHUMC, whatever our age or stage in life.

Thanks be to God.  See you in church.