Journal Article Reflections:
This week, I read two articles in Spanish about church planting in the UMC. The first article, “Los Muros Fueron Derribados,” was about a Hispanic faith community in Dallas, TX that has broken ground for their own church building. The article highlighted the difficulties in the neighborhood as well as the congregation’s hope for God’s work in the future of the community. This article about a Hispanic faith community breaking ground for a church caught my eye because typically the UMC has focused on fostering and supporting Hispanic faith communities, not standalone churches. These faith communities have typically been small groups meeting in established UM churches, and there has not typically been a stated goal of these faith communities becoming independent churches. While it is convenient to do Hispanic ministry this way, it leaves the Hispanic constituency of the UMC in a subordinate position to the dominant majority. This is especially the case in terms of the polity of the UMC, which grants power (through delegates, etc) to established churches. So, I am happy to see at least one faith community taking this step toward becoming an established United Methodist Church, with its own influence and power.
The second article, “‘Path 1’ Entrena Plantadores de Iglesias,” describes what seems to be the next step in the National Plan for Hispanic Ministry— “Path 1” programs to train leaders to plant Hispanic churches. It seems that the UMC is looking to expand its definition of Hispanic ministry to include church planting, not simply supporting faith communities. This is exciting, and it also explains the publicity about the faith community turned church in Dallas!
If there is anything I have discerned over the past couple weeks, it is this: I love preaching. There are few phrases that feel so uncomfortable and unlikely, but at the same time there are few phrases that feel so true. First, speaking in the C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest turned out to be a source of great joy in the midst of a stressful semester. While I was technically speaking and not preaching, the opportunity to proclaim the gospel especially in the context of contemporary peace & justice issues was exciting. My speech flowed naturally out of my engagement with the biblical text, and the entire process of writing and delivering the speech was in a very real way a process of discerning and moving along with the Spirit. As I was speaking, I felt myself settle into the task of proclamation and was keenly aware of God’s presence with and moving through me. This week, I gave a persuasive speech on nonviolence in my Public Speaking class, and one of my main points focused on Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. In the midst of a larger speech, when I arrived at the point of teaching and proclaiming the message of Scripture, I once again felt the feeling of sinking in to the place where I am called to be and where God is with me. While I do not feel called to the work of a pastor in a local church, these experiences confirm my call to engage and proclaim the message of Scripture. I look forward to seeing where these gifts take me, but in the meantime, I am grateful for this confirmation and the joy that comes with trusting in the creating and sustaining Spirit of God.