Good News ONLY

Would you like some good news? Yeah, so would I.

So I’d like to announce that this edition of the Kessler Park UMC Newsletter will be entirely full of good news only. Seriously. For a few minutes, at least, ignore the headlines and turn away from the TV.

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Here’s some exciting news — the last two weeks, a total of 12 people have joined the church! And I hear a rumor that we will have even more joining this coming Sunday! I’m not sure exactly what has caused this mini-surge, but obviously we’re experiencing some energy and excitement. I think it’s related to the fact that people are discovering that KPUMC is an authentic community of faith, where you can be yourself and yet also grow into the likeness of Christ.

Speaking of this Sunday morning, we’ll also celebrate the baptism of Preston Lynndon West, son of Chad West and Brad Bleeker. Baptisms always fill me with hope, because they remind me that God has claimed each of us; God has marked us with a symbol that transcends race, gender, culture, language, and nationality.

Unfortunately, this Sunday we’ll also be saying farewell to Norlynn Price … wait, wait! This edition is supposed to be good news only, so — never mind! Forget what I just wrote there.

I’m also excited these days about a new adult Sunday School class that has started in the chapel. John Ogren is leading this group, which last week, had an inaugural class of nine people. Some of the couples came because there is now a Sunday School program for pre-kindergarten kids in the nursery, led by Wendy Ogren. Thanks to the Ogren’s for helping facilitate expanded ministries in the church!

Last week, we launched our fall Wednesday Night Live programming with a delicious fried chicken meal. Two adult groups meet after that —  one is a new lay pastoral care group, headed up by Mike Smith and Ken Kelley; the other is a new Social Justice team, led by Susan Baxley. Two more ways in which KPUMC will be making a difference in our community in the future!

After last night’s Wednesday Night dinner, children and youth assembled the flood buckets gathered and donated by church members over the last few weeks. These buckets will be packaged and sent to UMCOR’s depot in Louisiana for use in the flood-affected areas of south Texas, as disaster recovery efforts unfold … oh wait, sorry — I’m veering toward bad news again …

OK then, can I also mention that it was great having a contingent of KPUMC members at the Dallas Pride Parade last Sunday? It was an extremely warm and muggy afternoon, and the parade started late, BUT regardless, it was inspiring to walk with the members of the other Reconciling churches in Dallas as one group together, committed in our affirmation of our LGBTQ neighbors. People along the parade route were truly encouraged and excited to see Christians walking to show their support.

Oh, and I just learned today that the Reconciling churches received the 2017 Dallas Pride Parade Category Award for “Best Social Commentary”! See, isn’t that good news?!

May the rest of your day — and week — be filled with news that is hopeful, life-affirming, positive, and optimistic.

Goin' to the Chapel

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KPUMC is currently undergoing an internal conversation about what to do about the chapel.

Wait … did you even know that we have a chapel?

On the second floor of the education building, down the hall from the choir room and sanctuary entrance, is a large room with twelve pews and a stage with an altar and lectern. An upright piano sits in the corner next to the stage.

In times past, this chapel has served as a place for (very) small weddings and funerals, as well as occasional special worship services, like Blue Christmas or Ash Wednesday. But these days, the only ones using the space consistently are The Kessler School students, who use the chapel to gather in the morning before class.

To be honest, the chapel is not currently in very good shape. The pews are uncomfortable, and beginning to get a little wobbly. The chandelier lights are the same as we used to have in the old fellowship hall, and just as unattractive. It’s not a very sacred space at the moment.

It’s time to address this space, and ask the important theological question, “What does God want us to do in this place?”

In my opinion, there are three other questions to answer first before we can discern the way forward. Let’s spend a little time reflecting on these.

We should begin by asking the question, “How can we love our neighbors better with this space?” Last Sunday, I preached about our neighbors, and I pointed out that, though we understand that everyone could be defined as our “neighbor,” we certainly have to begin by loving the neighbors who live closest to us. So it doesn’t hurt to ask how our chapel space could best benefit the people in our neighborhood. Is there a service or program that we could be offering in that space which we currently aren’t offering? Is there a need that exists in the community which we could meet by using the chapel differently?

A second helpful question to ask is, “What could happen here, in this space, that couldn’t happen elsewhere?” This question helps us identify what is unique about a particular space, in order to take advantage of its particular qualities. For example, one helpful feature of our chapel space is that it is on the same floor as the sanctuary. Members of staff have been musing about the possibility of turning the chapel into a Sunday morning welcome and fellowship space, where people could more easily mingle, converse, and have coffee. Some staff have also pointed out that it might be helpful to have a nursery on the same level as the sanctuary; thus, the idea of converting the space into a new nursery has also been broached.

Perhaps most importantly, however, I recommend we also ask the third question: “How can this space be used to be a catalyst for creative change in north Oak Cliff?” This question emerged from our Holy Conversations process three years ago, and I find it extremely helpful as we pray and plan for the church’s future. I would encourage us to be creative when we think about this space and its potential. This requires outside-the-box thinking. Could we turn it into a TV studio, where services are regularly broadcast or streamed live? Or a goat yoga studio? Or a coffee shop?

Yes, these are crazy ideas … or are they? The point is to spend some time dreaming about what God might be up to in our midst. Why not dream a little, throw some oddball ideas out there? You never know what might stick and catch hold of our imagination.

The world is in need of some shalom right now, and we’ve got a big empty space where we might be able to make it happen. The only thing we’ve got to figure out is what and how.

Come, dream with us, and let your imagination loose.

For Such a Time as This

There is no better time than now to be a member of a church, to be part of a faith community.

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Because the times in which we live … frankly, they suck.  We live in a time of perpetual crisis — hurricanes, fire, threat of war, mass migration, and political instability. We careen between chaos and insecurity. We are finding it harder and harder to feel optimistic about the future.

I believe that the Church exists for such times as these. The People of God are uniquely equipped to endure, persist, and remain filled with hope, even in times of distress.

This Sunday, we celebrate Back to School/Church Sunday, and I hope you will indeed come back to church, if you have been missing lately. I think you know that being with other people of faith makes you stronger and wiser. If these days and months have been troubling to your soul, then come back to church and follow the way of Jesus with us.

The people of Kessler Park UMC are not escapists; we don’t retreat into our sanctuary in order to hide from the world’s realities. No, we gather to be reminded of the reality of the Kingdom of God, which surrounds us. We come to be reoriented to the truth that God is at work in our world, despite all appearances. And we are challenged to join God in this work — a work that increasingly demands our active participation.

Our schedule of programming this fall is also meant to encourage involvement — not just in the church, but in our world. Here’s what it looks like:

Sunday schedule
9:30 am   Chancel Choir rehearsal
9:45 am   Sunday School for all ages: Beginning this fall, children in the nursery will also be following Sunday School curriculum. Plus we are launching a brand-new adult Sunday School class, led by John Ogren.
11:00 am   Worship
4:00 pm   Methodist Youth Fellowship, Youth Room
4:00 pm   Worship at The Meridian: Weekly half-hour worship with Holy Communion at The Meridian at Kessler Park, 2522 Fort Worth Ave. If you are interested in being a volunteer, contact the church office.
5:00 pm   Pastor’s Bible Study, Conference Room: A freewheeling, loosely-organized conversation about the Scripture text which Wes will be preaching about the following Sunday. Bring your own Bible and lots of questions!
6:00 pm   Fellowship in the Chapel
6:30 pm   Real Life Faith with Rev. Magruder, Chapel: This class will investigate the intersection of faith and community, and take a hard look at the issues which confront us in the light of Scripture, faith tradition, reason, and experience. Topics will change each month: September — Islam; October — Immigration; November — Race and Religion; December — Israel and Palestine.

Wednesday schedule
5:00 pm   Children’s Choir rehearsal
5:45 pm   Dinner served, Fellowship Hall: If you or your group would like to prepare dinner as a fundraiser, please contact the church office.
6:30 pm   Kids of Character
                 Youth Time, Youth Room
                 Lay Christian Pastoral Care Giving, Fellowship Hall: New class led by Mike Smith and Ken Kelley on pastoral caregiving for the layperson, defined as “the mutual concern of Christians for each other and for those persons in the world for whom God loves.”
                 Social Justice Team, Chapel: New class led by Susan Baxley and Rev. Wes Magruder, which will lead to the formation of a Social Justice team at the church. Learn the difference between mercy and advocacy as we address injustice and inequality.
                  Kessler Ringers rehearsal, Sanctuary