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Webster Hills

698 West Lockwood Ave

Webster Groves, MO 63119

Office Phone: 314-961-3164

Office Email:office@websterhillsumc.org

Martha's Minute

Be Ye Glad

November: On Saturday, November 2, Be Ye Glad, a developing Webster Hills UMC group devoted to good conversation, good food, and delighting in one another’s company, carried in supper to families of patients and to staff members at Evelyn’s House, BJC in-patient hospice in Creve Coeur. Menu: chili, cornbread, fruit salad, chocolate/peanut butter bars.To help families of terminally ill persons to encounter one another and share experiences over a hot meal was powerful.

 

December: Join Be Ye Glad for egg nog and fellowship in Hudspeth Hall Sunday afternoon, December 15, 3-4:30 pm. Please bring a couple of dozen Christmas cookies – some to be eaten while drinking the egg nog, and some to be stuffed into cellophane sleeves and tied with ribbon – Christmas gifts to be given to folks who attend WHUMC’s ‘Blue Christmas’ service Wednesday, December 18, 7 pm. We’ll also have stations for preparing Christmas cards and notes for homebound folks. Contact Martha Robertson at mrobertson@websterhillsumc.org with any questions.

Munch Lunch Bunch - December 19

 

Long-time WHUMC member Barbara Matt writes of a recent encounter that touched her. She shared it recently with the Contemporary Class.

 

After two weeks of being sick and under the weather, all of my ‘sick foods’ were used up such as soups, puddings and clear soda, as well as many staples. I made a shopping trip to Walmart grocery and filled my cart. The checkout lines were long with heavily loaded carts. A woman three persons ahead of me dropped an item which shattered and scattered some sort of dark granules all over, which necessitated a call for “clean up at register 16.” Feeling tired and a bit impatient, I left my place in line and went looking for another checkout with a shorter line. Number 13 had only one person being checked out and a second lady with only one small boxed item, perhaps something from the pharmacy department such as a painkiller medication. She gestured that I should unload my cart while she held her item in her hand. I began to unload when all of a sudden, she was at my side helping me and making very fast work of it, although not all of the items would fit.

 

It was her turn now to check out and she gestured did I need any further help? I tried to assure that I could manage with the rest of the items. Although I had a strong urge to reach out and hug her for her kindness, I simply put my hand on her shoulder and told her I had greatly appreciated her help. She smiled mutely at me and it was obvious that she did not understand the words of my language. She was dressed in a honey mustard colored garment from head to toe with large voluminous sleeves and a head covering that allowed only the features of her brown colored face to be visible. The fabric of her garment was the softest material I have ever felt. She paid for her item and turned to leave and seemed to float, rippling toward the exit. A strange feeling came over me and I felt that I had just been touched by an angel – or by God herself.

 

Barbara coordinates the monthly meetings of Munch Lunch Bunch: finger food lunches, education and conversation for folks who consider themselves to be ‘mid-life and beyond.’ Join Munch Lunch Bunch for a Christmas season gathering in the Great Hall in the Christian Life Center on Thursday, Dec. 19, 11 am to 1 pm. For details, contact Barbara Matt 314-968-1465.

November 2019

One of my favorite parts of Sanctuary Worship at 10:30 on Sunday morning at Webster Hills is not really a ‘part’ at all.  

 

It’s the “Sermon Notes” page in the worship bulletin.

 

In my old age, I find that my listening is greatly improved by my having a pen in my hand. I don’t completely summarize the sermon or anything as systematic as that. I just let some of the thoughts that occur to me as I’m listening to the sermon run down my arm from my brain to my ballpoint in a random kind of way. Phrases and ideas from the sermon, sure, but also other subjects, other stuff my spirit is at work on, that I may not have known my spirit was at work on until I settled in my pew for worship. I utilize this method in other settings as well, and both my domestic and work environments are characterized by piles and files with scribbled-on pieces of paper sticking out of them. If such notes have borne no fruit in three or four years, I toss them.

 

So I have in front of me some notes from a sermon Rev. Paul Stroble preached from our pulpit in the summer of 2017. The sermon series was titled “The Bible Doesn’t Say That!!” Paul’s particular theme was ‘love the sinner, hate the sin.’ Or, as he said more directly in the sermon, “loving is not judging.”

 

I recently returned to the practice of yoga after a long hiatus. In North America I think, yoga is a kind of filter for an American interpretation of Zen Buddhism, a practice which is not incompatible with Christianity or any religion and which can be I find a helpful lens. In yoga class last week an instructor encouraged us to notice without judging,’ and that phrase has stuck with me.

 

To notice without judging. On my yoga mat I couldn’t do it … couldn’t notice a thought or a feeling or a twinge in my elbow without an accompanying opinion about it, a judgment. When I continued thinking about noticing without judging off my mat, the results were the same. I could not, I cannot … notice the color of the sky or the score of a game (sob) or a sound bite or a snippet of audio without making a judgment about it.

 

Perhaps judgments about the weather or sports can escape categorization as unloving. But judgments about people cannot. I have opinions about everybody, based on my noticing their garments, their cars, their vocabularies, their FaceBook posts….

 

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get ….” So began the Scripture lesson from Matthew 7 on that summer day in 2017 and ‘loving is not judging,’ the preacher said. Intellectually, and in faith, I can argue that our oneness in Jesus Christ – wherein we are neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female – takes away all the criteria and the categories we use to judge one another. This fall I am newly convicted of the rightness and the necessity of this Gospel teaching and more committed to its fuller practice on and off the mat in my life.

 

God keep us as we practice our faith together. See you in church.

October 2019

MLB - Munch Lunch Bunch and pastoral care

 

MUNCH LUNCH BUNCH FALL DATES: OCTOBER 17, NOVEMBER 21, DECEMBER 19

 

Munch Lunch Bunch (MLB) is a loosely organized group of WHUMC members and friends who identify themselves as ‘mid-life and beyond.’ They meet monthly for lunch and fellowship 11 am to 1 pm in the CLC. MLB met September 19; conversation topics included a couple of members’ favorites – poetry and ‘what am I going to do with all my stuff?’

 

See the MLB fall meeting dates above and put them on your calendar now!

 

The November Munch Lunch Bunch gathering on November 21, the week before Thanksgiving, will feature local Lewis and Clark expert Jerry Garrett recounting his experiences following the trail the explorers traveled in search of the headwaters of the Missouri and a water passage to the Pacific. Jerry is a member of Affton Christian Church and an individual bursting with energy and interests. You’ll enjoy meeting Jerry and hearing his tales of an important part of our region’s history.

 

PASTORAL CARE

 

Staff and Congregational Care Team members continued in September their work of regular calling on Webster Hills UMC members who are no longer able to worship with us regularly. The ministry of the Congregational Care Team is a ministry that could use you. If you’d like to reach out to others in this way, by calling on homebound folks either systematically or occasionally, let’s get together. Be in touch: Martha Robertson, 314-629-7738, mrobertson@websterhillsumc.org.

September 2019

LOOK WHAT GOD IS DOING -- A NEW GROUP AT WHUMC: BE YE GLAD

 

The “snapshot” of the very early church in Acts 2 describes how its members spent time together, shared meals, praised God, and did it all with ‘glad and generous hearts.’

 

Inspired by this image of folks who delight in one another’s company, we are a group of planners who hope to do the same! We value spending time with persons whom we are coming to know well and who share our Christian convictions, and we believe that deeper relationships and sustained conversations (and fun!) grow out of shared experiences. We understand this work to be an extension of WHUMC’s care for its members, and we have felt ourselves guided by God’s Holy Spirit in our planning: our laughter seems to us a sign of this!

 

With these things in mind, we are planning a series of events and activities we’re calling BE YE GLAD. Here they are:

 

Thursday, September 12, 7 pm. St. Louis Symphony annual free concert on Art Hill in Forest Park, with fireworks to follow. Potluck picnic, blankets, lawn chairs, bring your own beverages. Be Ye Glad will have a team on site early to hold a prime picnic spot.

 

Tuesday, October 1, time and location TBD. Casual meal + mini-lecture and discussion of Repertory Theater of St. Louis production of “Angels in America: Parts One and Two” by Tony Kushner. Discussion led by Gary Barker, professor of theatre, Department of Fine and Performing Arts, SLU. The play runs September 4 thru October 6 – see Repertory Theatre of St. Louis website for ticket information. Some WHUMC theatre-goers may already have tickets; others may want to get them now.

 

November, date and time TBD. We’re seeking a hands-on, face-to-face project with Home Sweet Home or LifeWise (formerly Kingdom House). Stay tuned (see below for how).

 

Sunday, December 15, 3 to 4:30 pm. In between the Blue Christmas service, 2 pm, Lewis Chapel, and Parkway South HS Holiday Concert in the Sanctuary at 4:30 pm, we’ll enjoy an appetizers/cookies/egg nog reception in Hudspeth Hall.

 

If you’re interested in deepening relationships with your sisters and brothers in Christ at Webster Hills UMC … and if you’re interested in taking part in some or all of the Be Ye Glad events and activities outlined above and receiving, by email in a timely manner, details about attendance at each (where to go, what to bring, etc), please add your name to the mailing list by clicking this link, or by emailing Pastor of Visitation Martha Robertson, mrobertson@websterhillsumc.org.

 

If prayerful thought indicates to you that Be Ye Glad is not the group for you in your current life situation, please pray for us as we plan and grow, asking God to bless us all to grow in love for one another and to delight in one another’s company.

 

For Be Ye Glad,

Penny Bari, Gary Barker, Beth Herreid, Martha Robertson

PASTORAL CARE AT WHUMC THIS MONTH

 

Staff and members of the Congregational Care Team regularly visit the homes of members no longer able to worship with us in person. Pastor Linda Gastreich and Pastor Martha Robertson have been sharing home communions on Thursdays during August and will continue to do so on the 3rd Thursday of each month through the end of the year.

 

In addition, Sarah Colony, Margaret Dygard and Frank Sanford are all recuperating at home. Both homebound members and those with health concerns are prayed for by members of the Prayer Team.

 

The Prayer Team could use you and your prayers, too. Their ministry is simply to pray regularly for members of the congregation and their concerns, joys and sorrows. Contact Pastor Martha to enlist -- 314-629-7738, or mrobertson@websterhillsumc.org

 

ON THE WAY TO PREACHING

 

I’ve enjoyed the “Faces of Our Faith” sermon series in worship at Webster Hills this summer, especially the ‘faces’ drawn from the Old or Hebrew Testament. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace; like the midwives Puah and Shiphrah.

 

I get to preach the last of the series on Labor Day weekend, Deborah the judge being the face under consideration. I’ve done a little bit of advance work – there’s a ton of possibilities to talk about, a dozen directions a preacher might go. Mostly I’ve just thought about that little bit of push back to the Old Testament that biblical preachers and teachers sometimes experience, from others and from inside themselves.

 

Folks wonder why the OT is authorized as Scripture when it’s so bloody and violent and they (we) want to exorcise it from their (our) personal Bibles. It just doesn’t seem, you know, sufficiently Christian. The OT offends our sensibilities by not rewarding virtue, not indeed seeming to value virtue very much at all.

 

Yet, “all scripture is useful for teaching,” says the writer of Second Timothy. And for preaching, the preacher in me wants to believe, although I’ve never trusted the writer of Second Timothy much further than I can throw him. What IS the connection between our faith tradition and Christian virtue as we define it? We’ll see where these ruminations take us – see you in church.

August 2019

Webster Hills United Methodist Church’s special worship service honoring long-time members was headlined “Age to Age: Going the Distance,” and took place on Sunday, June 9.

 

During this service Frances Compton was honored as the oldest living WHUMC member, and Arleen Ulz, who joined WHUMC in March, 1942, was recognized as the one who has been a member for the longest period of time.

 

The names of ten other ‘saints’ completed the list of ‘members the longest,’ with joining dates ranging from 1951 to 1958. And in addition to that, the names of forty-two (42!) additional 50-year members were listed in the worship materials prepared for the day.

 

Have you been keeping score? All that data totals up to fifty-four living Christians, followers of Jesus with at least fifty years of WHUMC church membership in their portfolios! Cumulatively speaking, that’s upwards of twenty-seven hundred (2700) YEARS of Christian service, fellowship, worship and work for justice! What a blessing this heritage is to all of us. Recognizing it and reflecting upon it has offered me a sort of window back in time. Our “Age to Age” honorees testified as to how this congregation’s routine of worship, education and weekly fellowship activities kept them grounded and centered as they raised and supported families and made homes for them in the post-war years. Their steadiness, their faithfulness in attending worship and church activities and in financial support – these are enormously important foundational contributions to our congregational life today. They made Webster Hills UMC what it is … and – this is important – they are still doing so today. The large number of active, participating long-term members in our congregation is not just a demographic quirk; it is a strength of our congregation, a unique quality that gives our congregational life a special tang.

 

“Age to Age” was a fun project to be part of. I think the number of folks honored was more than matched by the number of folks who played a part in its planning and presentation. Thanks to Robin Tellor and the members of the Congregational Care Team who gathered information and photographs; to Director of Discipleship and Service Leslie Chalupny for commemorative booklet and bulletin production; and to the whole staff for pulling together on a busy Sunday with Pastor Linda away.

 

Just for fun, here are some additional 50-year member pictures.

 

Helen Oursler – Helen reflects that her long life has taught her to trust in God no matter what. She grew up

Baptist and went to Sunday school “all her life.” Her husband’s father was a Methodist minister so Helen

“became Methodist” and she and her young husband became active members at Webster Hills. Its activities

were the center of their lives; they appreciated making friends with folks whose beliefs and values matched

theirs. Helen says her church friends were especially helpful when she went back to work, eventually

becoming Chief Clinical Dietitian at St. Louis University Hospital. At church, Helen especially enjoyed UMW

and “Wednesday Night Dinners.”

 

Life changed for Helen when her husband died, when she was faced with learning the lesson that control over one’s life is an illusion. “You really do not have control,” says Helen. “Only God has control.” In addition to widowhood, Helen has faced challenges to her vision. She goes on, “People wonder why with all my health issues I have accepted them. That is what I have learned – that I am not in control. People tell me I am always smiling.”

 

Helen lives in Webster Groves and Deanna Nelson is her regular Congregational Care Team visitor.

 

Helen Vaden – “God is good,” says Helen, aged ninety-seven. “It’s a blessing to be alive.” Helen lives near her son and his

family in a nursing facility in South County. She’s been a Webster Hills UMC member since 1965, when she lived in Crestwood

with her husband Al and their two sons.

 

Helen is a US Army veteran. Before her marriage she worked in Army Intelligence Service and also worked at the Pentagon.

She misses her Webster Hills UMC church family and looks forward to her regular visits with Peggy Greene and Robin Tellor

of the Congregational Care Team, especially when they take time for a game of Scrabble.

 

Art Emanuel – Art and his wife Vaudene, who died in 2017, joined Webster Hills UMC in 1963 and became active members

and leaders. Together they led the congregation’s Boy Scout troop and Vaudene helped train Cub Scout Den Mothers. A

woman of legendary energy, Vaudene also chaired the Worship Committee, sewed banners for the sanctuary, and served

two terms as a Trustee.

 

Today Art continues his family’s devotion. He finds worship here “particularly meaningful” and he’s in his pew with his son

Duane almost every Sunday.

 

THANK YOU!

 

Pentecost, Sunday, June 9, the day of the “Age to Age” service was also the fortieth anniversary of my ordination to Christian ministry. My career path mostly prevented me from getting to share significant anniversaries with a loving congregation, so I relished the opportunity to share this one with my Webster Hills UMC family.

 

I talked about my call and my ordination in Chapel Worship that day and enjoyed the beautiful (and big!) anniversary cake “between services.” It was a happy morning for me. I am blessed to be among you, doing work that matters to me and nourished, supported and encouraged by my relationships with staff and members.

 

Thanks to Amanda Hancock for cake wrangling and to members of the Contemporary Class and Kristin Lamprecht for hospitality help.

June 2019

Here are some images from Sanctuary Worship on Sunday, May 19. It was the day after a futuring/planning conversation attended by many WHUMC members, and the buzz of energy from that event lingered. There was a baptism, and worshipers heard Pastor Linda reflecting, in a powerful sermon, on biblical texts often used to justify exclusion of LGBGT+ persons from full participation in Christian churches.

 

When you miss worship at WHUMC, you miss a lot.

 

From my seat at the back of the sanctuary, I watched a father holding his infant. When the offering and the bread and cup were brought forward, we all stood and sang as usual, including this dad. He held the child gently in front of him and, looking deeply into his eyes, sang the traditional words of praise to God, “the source of all our gifts.” He sang gently to the baby. The child watched solemnly, attention fastened on his singing daddy. I prayed for every child the opportunity to praise God with their parents.

 

During communion, we sang “They’ll Know We Are Christians by our Love,” with a line that seemed especially poignant in these times: “…we pray that our unity may one day be restored.” As Pastor of Visitation here, I occupy a place outside of but in proximity to the denomination called United Methodist. From this perspective, the end – or at least the interruption – of United Methodists’ understanding of their sense of unity as organic connectedness seems a particularly painful result of General Conference 2019. Something is lost, something folks were proud of. No doubt, sometime in the future, some treasure will be unearthed out of these troubles, but that does not lessen, nor should it, our grief now.

 

The sermon: Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, Corinthians. Someone said to me afterward, “I’ve never heard a sermon like that. It was so SPECIFIC.” Yes, it was. Specifically, what we do to/with the bodies of our sisters and brothers and to/with our own bodies … matters. Bodies matter.

 

If we expect following Jesus to be easy, we are misled. There are resources here for the journey – following Jesus in our time and in our context. There are resources aplenty here in this quirky, stubborn, abundantly blessed community. And when you miss worship at WHUMC, you miss a lot.

May 2019

I attended a memorial service recently for my elementary school music teacher. No, really. She and her husband were also friends of my parents and our families have been blessed to keep in touch over the years. It becomes rare… and precious … , doesn’t it, to interact with people who know/knew one’s parents.

 

My sister went with me to the memorial service. We had plenty of tissues and we needed them because the unfolding memorial – in a beautiful setting with beautiful music – developed into an experience not uncommon to me, that is, the funeral or memorial service that is at once particular to the person being so honored and also wholly universal.

 

It is as if there is just one funeral and we go to it (a little like Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day) over and over again. We go to a memorial service for one irreplaceable and delightful person and we mourn her, AND we mourn all our losses of delightful and irreplaceable persons through the mourning of this particular one. There’s no remedy for this, yet I find it helpful to bring what it happening to consciousness, to pay attention and to feel what I’m feeling.

 

Continuing in this general line of thinking over the Palm Sunday weekend, I also brought to consciousness that my FB feed has been including posts from Bellefontaine Cemetery; you know, the historic one, ‘beer barons and suffragettes,’ as their website says proudly.

 

The posts include mention of something called ‘green burial.’ And just the tiniest bit of research led me to alarming information about the negative impact of cremation – a means of body disposal I have been regarding approvingly as more environmentally friendly – on earth and atmosphere.

 

I intend to seek more information about green burial from Bellefontaine and other sources. But I also think this is the spring to do something else I’ve wanted to do for a while, and that is to visit and tour Bellefontaine while I’m alive. There are free walking tours and others on a trolley of some sort. Have some of you who are reading visited there? Would you like to go back again, or join me in a first time visit? Maybe this could be a MLB (Mid Life and Beyond) outing. Let me know if you’d like to search for a date and help plan. mrobertson@websterhillsumc.org 314-629-7738.

April 2019

 Dinner at the home of the Rev. Musa Maina and his family, Eldoret, Kenya.  Rev. Maina is an Eden alumnus (MTS, 2005) and Moderator (Bishop) of the Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA).

Jambo.  I had the great good fortune to spend the first two weeks in March in Kenya. Dr. Deborah Krause, an Eden Theological Seminary colleague, and I were guests of the Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA), a Kenyan Protestant denomination that has long been an Eden Seminary partner. 

Both Dr. Krause and I have traveled to Kenya before in this partnership, both with and without seminary students.  The RCEA’s 2017 decision to accept qualified women as candidates for ordination and to ordain them if found worthy was the occasion for this trip:  we were honored to preach and take part in ordination services for two new RCEA pastors who are women, on Sunday, March 3, and Sunday, March 10.   

During the week in between these two ordination services, we traveled with Kenyan friends to Amboseli National Park, located on the border with Tanzania.  From our lodgings at Amboseli Eco Camp, we had beautiful morning views of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  We spent an afternoon inside the park, in the company of our Maasai guide and driver, and saw hundreds of elephants, zebra, birds, wildebeest, gazelles, hippos and hyena.  Amboseli is a unique environment, a desert valley with springs on its floor, making slow rivers of fresh water and grass for the wildlife.   

 

Kenyan food and hospitality are world class, and Deb and I were happy to be reunited with students and colleagues from previous visits.  My own observations, experiences, and reflections on this epic trip were enhanced by the reading I did last year while auditing a class at Eden on the post-colonial interpretation of the Gospels.  It was taught by a visiting professor, Dr. Julius Kithinji, who is on the faculty of St. Paul Theological School in Limuru, Kenya, just outside Nairobi.  We were delighted to see Dr. Kithinji and meet his wife and son at the March 10 ordination. 

 

If you’re interested, you can find my trip pictures on Facebook.  It was a great trip, AND I’m glad to be home and back at WHUMC.

March 2019

“THAT WAS EXHILARATING!!!”  

CONGREGATIONAL CARE TEAM PREPS FOR WORSHIP WITH BIBLE STUDY

 

Webster Hills UMC’s Congregational Care Team is a group of trained volunteers who call on members who are no longer able to attend worship regularly.  Robin Tellor coordinates the team.

 

A special worship service called “Age to Age” is one of the Congregational Care Team’s projects for this year.  This service, planned for June 2019, will focus on long-term members, their life experiences, faith and discipleship.  

 

On Thursday, Feb. 14, members of the Team met for a first step in planning the “Age to Age” service, a special Bible study on the texts selected for that service, Deuteronomy 6: 20-25 and the words to the familiar hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is our God.”  In this Old Testament lesson from Deuteronomy, the speaker asks why the people of Israel follow all these rules, these “statutes and ordinances.” 

 

First, participants shared their own contexts, how they were introduced to Scripture, the Church and the life of faith.  Turning then to Deuteronomy, participants encountered God, the originator – via Moses and the Ten Commandments – of the “rules, statutes, and ordinances” mentioned above.  God promises God’s people good and peaceful lives in return for obedience.  Yet all around the table knew good ‘rule-following people’ whose lives have been anything but good or peaceful.  And what about grace, that watchword of United Methodists?  Lively discussion ensued around the tension between obedience and grace, with many ideas and images for worship and liturgy surfacing.  

 

Next steps in prep for “Age to Age:” engaging our homebound and other long-term members in conversation about their own lives of faith and their successful and unsuccessful ways of seeking to balance obedience and grace.  The Congregational Care Team also hopes to enlist families and friends to invite and transport to this worship service many folks who haven’t been able to be present for a while.

The Congregational Care Team would welcome additional volunteers to help in planning and executing the “Age to Age” worship service.  Interested?  Please contact Pastor of Visitation Martha 

Robertson, mrobertson@websterhillsumc.org, 314-629-7738.

February 2019

One of the most characteristic things about Jesus was his healing ministry.

 

In the Gospels, we see Jesus responding to hurting, sick, injured, dying, hopeless people by simply healing them. A woman who has been hemorrhaging for twelve years is healed when she touches Jesus’ cloak (Matthew 9: 20-22). A man who can’t walk is able to do so when Jesus offers him forgiveness for his sins (Mark 2: 9-5), and lepers and a blind man are made well (Luke 17: 12-16, John 9: 6-7). Even more astonishing, Jesus shares with his followers the power to heal that comes to him from God through the Holy Spirit (Mt. 10:1).

 

No wonder then that, for these two thousand years, the Church has gathered in worship to avail itself of God’s healing power in Christ Jesus. Christians have always prayed for healing for themselves and for those they love. Christians have always offered healing to others in Christ’s name.

 

In keeping with this sacred tradition, the Worship Team has scheduled two healing services for the first quarter of 2019, with the hope and expectation that these two will be followed by others.

 

Where? Lewis Chapel

 

When? Sunday, February 17 and Sunday, March 24

 

What time? 6:30 pm

 

For whom? Those who seek healing for themselves or loved ones; anyone hungry for a quiet, contemplative service of worship focused on the needs of self, other and the world; Prayer Team members.

 

What to expect? Candles and music, scripture and prayer, singing and anointing, informality and flexibility – you may keep silent or engage with others who seek God’s healing power.

 

Worship and Pastoral Care in the New Year

 

Webster Hills UMC has an abundance of long-time members, and that is a blessing!

 

You may know that age and ill-health prevent some of these good folks from attending worship regularly. Even so, in very many ways, theirs are the shoulders upon which all WHUMC members stand.

 

This year the Worship Team and the Congregational Care Team will be working together to plan and carry out a service of worship highlighting the gifts of our long-time members. It’s called “Age to Age,” and it will take place on Pentecost, Sunday, June 9, 2019. We hope to work with families and caregivers of our homebound members so that some of them can be present in Sanctuary Worship (10:30 am) that day. Save the date!

You may also know that Congregational Care Team members regularly call on WHUMC members no longer able to attend worship regularly. This group, plus staff and the Worship Team, will be planning the “Age to Age” service, beginning with Bible study of Deuteronomy 6: 20-25 (“When your children ask you in time to come….”) and study of the text of the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is our God,” from which the phrase “Age to Age” is taken. Attention will also be given to hymns beloved by our oldest members.

 

The “Age to Age” worship service is a fun project, and one worthy of your prayers, which I and the members of the Congregational Care Team covet.

 

See you in church.

January 2019
January 2019

The ADVENT CONSPIRACY has added to the richness of my Advent practice, and I hope that is true for you as well. 

Advent Conspiracy is Webster Hills UMC’s theme for this Advent. The phrase draws its energy from the unexpected joining of ‘Advent,’ an unapologetically church-y word we typically only hear from the pew, and another word may never have heard from the pew before, ‘Conspiracy’ carries, in our culture, some connotations of clandestine activity and plotting. When the Advent Conspiracy “plot” is revealed to be the committed Christian community’s effort to worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all in the community’s preparation for Christmas, …well, that’s energizing and intriguing, a new lens for looking at the coming of the Christ child into OUR hearts and lives.

The Scripture reading for Advent Conspiracy 2 on Sunday, December 8, was dramatic, too: Malachi 3: 1-14, with all that ‘refiner’s fire’ imagery. But I confess my attention was more arrested by the text Pastor Linda read as she began her sermon that day, the Song of Zechariah from the first chapter of Luke. Zechariah sings his song as part of his response to the birth of son John, born long after his aged parents had given up all hope of offspring.

As I heard that reading from where I sat in my pew, my thoughts flew to a family of my acquaintance, a former seminary student who is now a pastor and teacher, and her husband and their new baby; like Zechariah and his wife Anna, they were a couple also surprised by the reality of new birth in their lives long after they thought such a thing possible.

During her pregnancy, this young woman (though older than the typical first-time mom, she is, and will always be, a young woman to me) posted occasionally on Facebook. She felt well throughout; she worked and stayed active and thoroughly enjoyed being pregnant. She seemed to have fully inhabited every moment of it and relished, I think, experiencing it and thinking about it through the lens of her theological education. Further, this new mother seems to be approaching parenting a newborn in that same way, bringing to it all the gifts of her particularity, and open to everything.

If we believe – as we say we do -- that we are created in God’s image, then it seems to be possible that the Babe of Bethlehem is not the only child in which God has become incarnate. What if God comes into the world in every child that is born? What if the Incarnation extends to the birth of my former student’s baby and everybody’s babies? What if, in welcoming the children, we welcome God’s own self?

Advent Conspiracy... The root of ‘conspiracy’ is the verb “to conspire,” from the Latin spirare, breath, and the prefix con or ‘with.’ So, to conspire is ‘to breathe together with.’ In the birth of the Christ child, the event for which our Advent activities and reflections intend to prepare us, God carries out God’s strategy for being present to ‘breathe together with’ us … to be with us in a relationship so close and so loving and so intimate that God’s being ‘with us’ comes with a strong element of God’s being ‘IN us.’ God’s commitment to being in relationship with us is so persistent, so insistent, that ordinary language feels inadequate. Regular Advent and Christmas language somehow fails to bear the weight of it, sending us on our search for better, clearer, more galvanizing language to make it crystal-clear: God wants to breathe together with us and conspires with heaven and earth to do so. That’s why angels sing and babies are born and seasons turn. Welcome, sisters and brothers, to a new year ‘fresh from the Word.’ You are well conspired with.

The ADVENT CONSPIRACY has added to the richness of my Advent practice, and I hope that is true for you as well. 

Advent Conspiracy is Webster Hills UMC’s theme for this Advent. The phrase draws its energy from the unexpected joining of ‘Advent,’ an unapologetically church-y word we typically only hear from the pew, and another word may never have heard from the pew before, ‘Conspiracy’ carries, in our culture, some connotations of clandestine activity and plotting. When the Advent Conspiracy “plot” is revealed to be the committed Christian community’s effort to worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all in the community’s preparation for Christmas, …well, that’s energizing and intriguing, a new lens for looking at the coming of the Christ child into OUR hearts and lives.

The Scripture reading for Advent Conspiracy 2 on Sunday, December 8, was dramatic, too: Malachi 3: 1-14, with all that ‘refiner’s fire’ imagery. But I confess my attention was more arrested by the text Pastor Linda read as she began her sermon that day, the Song of Zechariah from the first chapter of Luke. Zechariah sings his song as part of his response to the birth of son John, born long after his aged parents had given up all hope of offspring.

As I heard that reading from where I sat in my pew, my thoughts flew to a family of my acquaintance, a former seminary student who is now a pastor and teacher, and her husband and their new baby; like Zechariah and his wife Anna, they were a couple also surprised by the reality of new birth in their lives long after they thought such a thing possible.

During her pregnancy, this young woman (though older than the typical first-time mom, she is, and will always be, a young woman to me) posted occasionally on Facebook. She felt well throughout; she worked and stayed active and thoroughly enjoyed being pregnant. She seemed to have fully inhabited every moment of it and relished, I think, experiencing it and thinking about it through the lens of her theological education. Further, this new mother seems to be approaching parenting a newborn in that same way, bringing to it all the gifts of her particularity, and open to everything.

If we believe – as we say we do -- that we are created in God’s image, then it seems to be possible that the Babe of Bethlehem is not the only child in which God has become incarnate. What if God comes into the world in every child that is born? What if the Incarnation extends to the birth of my former student’s baby and everybody’s babies? What if, in welcoming the children, we welcome God’s own self?

Advent Conspiracy... The root of ‘conspiracy’ is the verb “to conspire,” from the Latin spirare, breath, and the prefix con or ‘with.’ So, to conspire is ‘to breathe together with.’ In the birth of the Christ child, the event for which our Advent activities and reflections intend to prepare us, God carries out God’s strategy for being present to ‘breathe together with’ us … to be with us in a relationship so close and so loving and so intimate that God’s being ‘with us’ comes with a strong element of God’s being ‘IN us.’ God’s commitment to being in relationship with us is so persistent, so insistent, that ordinary language feels inadequate. Regular Advent and Christmas language somehow fails to bear the weight of it, sending us on our search for better, clearer, more galvanizing language to make it crystal-clear: God wants to breathe together with us and conspires with heaven and earth to do so. That’s why angels sing and babies are born and seasons turn. Welcome, sisters and brothers, to a new year ‘fresh from the Word.’ You are well conspired with.

How is it with the children?

WEBSTER GROVES REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. COMMUNITY CELEBRATION. SUNDAY, JANUARY 20, 2019

Mark your brand new calendars now for the 24th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration on Sunday, January 20, at Steger Sixth Grade Center in Webster Groves. The celebration includes a march, casual meal, and celebratory service. Pastor Martha Robertson has represented Webster Hills UMC on the planning team and is coordinating a small group of volunteers to help with hospitality.

The Webster Groves Community Celebration begins at 4:30 pm with a march from Webster Groves City Hall to Steger Sixth Grade Center, 701 N. Rock Hill Rd. Walkers are asked to bring flashlights and dress warmly. A casual supper will be held at Steger at 5 pm, followed by the celebration and community service also held at Steger.

The celebration service includes local musicians and singers and keynote speaker Rev. Traci Blackmon, Executive Minister for Justice and Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ and Senior Pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant. Rev Blackmon was initially ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and served in that denomination for nine years. As pastor at Christ the King UCC, she has shown remarkable leadership in matters of social justice since the killing of Michael Brown in 2014. Rev. Blackmon represented the public interest locally and nationwide by organizing or helping to organize events and groups in and around St. Louis for the purpose of raising awareness around issues of community policing and public health. She was a member of the Ferguson Commission and the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships. Rev Blackmon is a powerful speaker. Her theme for this event is drawn from a traditional greeting of the Maasai people.

Join the community and celebrate the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 20. And feel free to contact Pastor Martha (mrobertson@websterhillsumc.org) if you’d like to join WHUMC’s volunteer hospitality team for this event.