Ed White, Senior Pastor
Lea Griffith, Associate Pastor
The Congregation, Ministers
It’s now official: our nation is 241 years old...or is it? It has been 241 years since our nation’s founders signed the Declaration of Independence but that wasn’t when we actually became a nation. July 4th 1776 was simply when we declared we’d no longer be subjects of a King 6,000 miles away.
In a recent trip to Philadelphia, I stood in the room where those founders penned their very legible signatures on this Declaration, and realized that, at that point in time, they were united primarily in who we stood against: England’s Royal Crown. Not until seven years after Yorktown, twelve years after the Declaration, did the nation begin to truly unite at the Constitutional Convention. That’s when our nation began to declare more clearly what we stood for than what we stood against . Although mistakes have been made and leadership has at times gone astray, that Constitution and its underlying values have generated very much good for the nation, for its people and for the world.
Now let’s fast forward 230+ years to today, where few would argue that our nation is as united as we were in 1776 or 1788. Most of us don’t agree on what we stand for and very few agree on what we stand against. It’s not only “We the people of the United States,” who disagree; all too often, it’s we the people of the global Church and we the people of the United Methodist Church. Regardless of Jesus’ prayer for us to “be one,” or Paul’s pleas that churches from Corinth to Philippi be united, we simply are not.
But there is a solution. For today, we can try two things. First, we should continue doing some things. We should continue unity - focused ministries like our Men’s Prayer Breakfast (62 years & counting), our hosting of Rust College Choir in January and partnerships from Mission Blitz to Upward Basketball. Those not only unite the people involved, but they give a picture of unity for everyone to see.
Second, we should transform our conversations and our tools. For our conversations, we must move from criticizing “broken things” to celebrating things that work. Rather than ignore the broken things, this means we never present a problem without seeing all the solutions already present. When someone starts complaining about something (such as “a broken tree limb”), you should convert the conversation to (1) celebrate the fact that we have trees, (2) give thanks that someone took of those limbs in the past, and (3) then join the solution by saying, “How about you and I go take care of that broken limb” (or kids program, or choir, or Sunday School, or...you get the point).
We should also transform our tools. We must remember that the Bell we rang in 1776 to signify our Liberty (freeing us from what we stood against), is the same bell we rang twelve years later to signify what we stood for. We too can convert tools, perhaps like our media, into something that unites rather than divides. Although media too often points at “bad things” for us to rally against (from criminals to political parties), we should turn toward and support media which points toward good things to rally around. Or instead of complaining about the lack of character in others, work with young people to build character in the next generation. We as the Church can use these, and similar ideas, to not only turn division into unity, but to show the uniting power of God’s love and grace to others. Come join us Sunday and unite your heart, soul, mind and strength with what God is doing in and thru the uniting Body of Christ’s Church.
Gladly serving Christ beside you, Lea and our whole First UMC Family: Kristen, Larry, Ed & your FUMC Staff Parish Team