Last Sunday

Today we said a reluctant goodbye to our church family. This community has been so important to us the last 9 months and has helped us grow and heal in ways we did not expect.

I could go on and on, but there are a a few things I want to share. When we finally decided to land at RUMC at the end of our church tour, it was in large part because it met some significant criteria. 1) Women were welcome as equal pastoral leaders; 2) The majority of the congregants were not white; 3) The style/theology/music/teaching were something we could both wholeheartedly agree on. This is by no means a perfect place, but it was perfect of us in this season.

When we first visited RUMC last summer, the pastor, a wonderful woman whose sermon made me cry, was preparing for a new position at a different church. I was really bummed b/c I really connected with her, but Rev. G., who took her place, has been amazing. One great thing about the Methodist church in general is that it's really hard for the church to become all about the senior pastor, b/c that position rotates. There is a lot of focus on lay involvement and leadership.

Anyway, Rev. G. has been a great example of humility, grace, and gifted speaking. My favorite sermon he gave recounted his childhood experience as the son of agricultural workers. He recalled attending church as a child where women were expected to stay in their "place." Even as a child, he could not understand why these church men, who received such racist treatment at their jobs, turned around to extend sexist treatment to the women in their community. He went on to highlight the reasons why women and men should serve and lead together, and how God has entrusted all with gifts.

What's perhaps most amazing to me is that this is really normal in our church. In other words, it's not weird for the associate minister and pastoral intern to both be women. It's not weird for women (myself included) to serve communion or read Scripture or speak. It's not weird for the ten or so members who have been there 40 years, both black and white, to be truly good friends. In fact, all this is easy. No one has to explain it. No one has to say, "let's be intentional about including everyone and making sure both women and men are leading." It just is. If you're there, you're a part. Everyone gets an equal seat at the table, because it's God's table.

The other major way God used RUMC has been to expose our prejudices. One pitfall of educated white folks is that we like to assume we've learned not to be racist on some level. Or we think, "I'm not prejudiced like that person, I'm way better than that." But if I'm being really candid, probably each Sunday served to show me some ridiculous prejudice I hold. Like I would be surprised to hear an African American woman had a certain job. As much as it pains me to admit it, it's the truth. I want to be as unassuming as RUMC is.

I felt like God met me there, like the Spirit was ministering to me on multiple levels all the time. I believe I heard God's voice in both words and action. As Eric said, this church gives us hope. Hope for our own spiritual lives, hope for unity among all Christians, and hope for the world.

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