Remember Your To Be List


By Eva Englert-Jessen

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes struggle to be present. With all the activities that life brings, and in a society that rewards efficiency, individual accomplishment, and achievement, it can become all too easy to slip into a pattern of crossing off checklists and pressing forward to the next task on the list. I notice this in myself especially during times of transition (which I’ve had a lot of recently, speaking personally), when there is a lot of change or ramping up happening in several different areas of my life. Perhaps some of you are experiencing this now, too, as the rhythms of a new school year get going, or as you tend to a grief or change in your family, or as you support or process all that the recent natural disasters have brought to our world. Sometimes I cope with lots of change and new activity by trying to get on top of it all-- to outsmart or out-strategize it with lots of action plans.

Don’t get me wrong: there are obvious times and places in our daily lives when focus, goal-setting, strategy and accomplishment are worthy and necessary. Indeed, part of what I think makes a church relevant and impactful is its action in the world, rooted in love of self and neighbor through Christ. But I think when we get so tunnel-visioned on life as a checklist, or a series of activities to get through, we forget so much of who we are at an even more elemental level.

We forget that we are human beings (not “human doings,” as I heard a seminary friend say), created out of holy dust and who breathe, move, who have eyes to see beyond our screens and our lists. We forget that we are part of God’s broader cosmic creation, which includes even the ants and mice and those critters we commonly view as pests--and by extension we forget our link with all human beings, including those we’d rather not associate with. We forget to be awake with our children's silliness and curiosity. We become numb to hard or seemingly inconvenient questions that our faith implores us to ask and respond to. And we forget to link the stories of our individual lives with the lives around us.

What reminds you to pause in the midst of frenzy? What reminds you that there is actually enough time, that it does not all have to get done today, that it’s even okay to say no sometimes- or to have our kids say no sometimes? What reminds you that you are a living, breathing body that can laugh, cry, and be creative? For me, it’s digging in the dirt and planting green things, for one. I pray that a moment of remembering might happen for you this week. Do that thing that reminds you of your belovedness, and your beloved, beautiful messy humanity.

Speaking of linking stories, I want to close with an idea. In my work and conversations with our KPUMC youth and the United Methodist Women group last week, I’ve been musing on the possibilities for KPUMC to create more intergenerational spaces beyond our existing Wednesday night dinner and Sunday morning worship. I hear our youth share about what life is like for them as young people seeking meaning and connection in the world, as students and athletes and dreamers. And I hear the stories of some of the backbones of our KPUMC community, like the UMW, share decades of church history. What would it look like to put these two communities together in an intentional way-- to share stories, questions, and even respond to each others’ generational misconceptions? I’d love to see something like this happen, perhaps even as early as this fall. Let me know if you’d like to be a part and put something together.

Prayers for wonder and connection in the midst of life.

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.

new members.jpg

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


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.