How does a person define him or herself? Are we “what we do,” as in our occupations? Are we “male or female?” Am I defined by my role as “husband,” or Kathy as “wife?” Do you identify with where you reside, “Irwin County,” or “Southern?” In the world we live in there seems to be quite a lot of confusion about some of this.
Kathy and I have been invited to serve with a mission team in El Salvador from Saturday, June 2 through the following Saturday, June 9. Rev. Chris Calhoun, pastor of St. Mark’s and West Green UMCs in Douglas will lead again this year. The mission includes helping to build a church, Vacation Bible School, and local food distribution, among other projects.
We are excited! Kathy mentioned her desire to go a while back and we sought the right team for her first trip. I have participated in Mexico and several others all over Central America. Chris, along with others from the Douglas area, began going to El Salvador many years ago through the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM). An American Missionary lives in El Salvador and coordinates the trip down there.
What does it mean to have a strong church? Would good attendance be an indicator? How about a large Sunday School? Great Music program? Or perhaps, lots of new faces with many finding a home? Financial stability and outward generosity? Lots of children and youth? Everything in this list is good. No one would argue with having any of these! But something seems missing, doesn’t it?
What about spiritual things? We can assume the church is filled with spiritual people doing spiritual things, when in fact the assumption is weak. Buildings can be full of activity without anyone ever giving a moment’s notice to Christ. Even in community outreach to the poor and marginalized, the generosity often lacks any hint of invitation to join our fellowship. Much of what we do isn’t acknowledged in the Name of Christ or, strictly speaking, clearly given in His love. It is left to those receiving it to answer the question, “Why are these people helping us?”
We live in a very Protestant world. Growing up in Moultrie, then Tifton, finding a Roman Catholic proved itself challenging. Due to historical prejudice, many Roman Catholics kept their heads down, so to speak. Some of you will remember John F. Kennedy’s election to the nation’s highest office caused quite a stir, because of his affiliation with the Church of Rome. Nowadays it’s not that big a deal down here. In other parts of America, it would be hard to find someone who wasn’t a Roman Catholic.
One reason the Protestant world finds difficulty with the Roman Church concerns the part Mary plays in their theology. I don’t claim to understand all their theology, but I do know they maintained the evidence for all their mistakes. If not for the Roman Catholic Church preserving everything, we wouldn’t have our Bible and many other historical writings and artifacts.
In 1863, amid a war tearing America apart, President Abraham Lincoln gave us a new national holiday when he proclaimed the last Thursday in November, Thanksgiving Day. The very first thanksgiving feast was recorded in history by Edward Winslow. It was a feast which lasted 3 days and included 90 Native Americans and 63 Pilgrims. The occasion? The very first harvest in the New World! (Wikipedia)
We celebrated ours on Friday this year at the parsonage. We invited all of Kathy’s side of the family for brisket and lots of good things to go with it. (I’m writing this on the Saturday before, so I hope we pull it off!) My side is indeed welcome, but they travel to in-laws this year. It was good. Everybody got along. Even the dogs and the cats offered their thanks!