Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Real Alaskan United Methodist Story

Yesterday I met a legend of a man. His name is Jim Hitchcock, a seasoned builder of log buildings. Shane Inch called me to see if I could give Jim a hand at Birchwood Camp. Steve Sweezey, camp manager, and Charley Brower, our AUMC Native MInistry Committee chairperson, and I spent a gorgeous afternoon working with Jim. Our task was to help Jim build a log cross on the inside of the new building that would give support for the wall.

Jim has been building log buildings for 50 years in Alaska. He mills his own logs and has tons of experience and wisdom. It was a joy to just watch him work and talk. Jim has built most of the log buildings at Birchwood Camp.

Between whaling stories from Charley, wilderness first aid stories from Steve, and log stories from Jim I counted that opportunity to get out of the office a joy.

Grace and peace,

Monday, April 19, 2010

What Your Church Can Do for People Without Homes

Last Sunday I attended a Homeless Forum designed to educate faith communities about the complexities of homelessness. Pastors and staff from St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Anchorage have been ministering to and with homeless persons for 20 years. They visit the homeless camps and listen to their stories.

They have a creative and simple ministry that I want to pass on for your consideration. It is called "Helping Hands." People bring in items like granola bars, toothpaste, hair brush, etc. Then a group assembles them in clear plastic bags which are distributed to families in the church. They keep them in their cars and offer them to people asking for help on street corners.

I would ask you to add that you invite your people to look them in the eye and ask them their name. As God's people we can be the body of Christ offering a kindness and a look into their soul to remind them that God knows their name and loves them very much.

Issues of homelessness may be different in each of our Alaskan communities. Some are visible. Others are invisible. But they are there and this is a small action we all can do to break down the walls of fear that keep us from responding to people who have no home.

If you would like to see the power point presentation which Rev. Michael Burke, pastor of St. Mary's, make on Sunday please let me know and I'll try to get it for you.

Grace and peace,

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Immigration Reform

Yesterday I attended an event in Anchorage sponsored by the nonprofit group Reform Immigration for America. Molly Haigh, their Alaska director, met with me last week to tell me about this bi-partisan effort to enact humane immigration laws.

At the event at St. Mary's Episcopal Church I met Maria, a Filipino woman whose family has been in Anchorage 7 years. Due to the economic downturn her husband's company was quitting business. It was his business that provided the visas for their family to be here. Through tears she shared that they have been told that they will be deported.

There were many people who have similar stories, stories of separation and fear. I was asked to speak and offer a prayer. Because we United Methodists have already declared a position on this issue in our Social Principles I was able to stand up and speak for our church. What a marvelous gift to witness moments when the desires of Church and society come together in a common purpose.

Everyone is saying that our immigration system is broken. With health care reform accomplished many are hoping that the nation's attention will focus on immigration reform. The time has come. As people of faith we can raise this banner as we join to give those who live in the shadows a chance to come into the light.

Grace and peace,

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Moment at St. John

One of the gifts of my new role as superintendent was to sit with my wife, Kim, our two sons, and friend during Easter worship at St. John UMC, Anchorage. Rose McLean, was the preacher. She delivered a remarkable message that included the intriguing thought that Mary was committed to her grief. So much so that she was not able at first to hear the good news that he had risen. She helped me think about the ways I fail to see Christ's resurrection in the world around me because I cannot let go of my grief. I take this to mean my desire for sympathy, my anger, my attachments and addictions. To hear Rose's sermon click on http://stjohneagle.org/audiosermons.htm.

Pastor John Dodson gave the children's sermon. I just happened to record this video clip of a funny kid's moment.

I trust the joy of Easter will grace your moments to come.