I'm still having fun working on details for the new service. Maybe tomorrow I'll get around to posting my thoughts about how the Zacchaeus sermon would have been different for the evening crowd. My grand banner plan has suffered a setback; I'd hoped it would be an easy matter to hang banners from the ceiling but apparently we can't, so I'll have to be thinking about how banners on stands might work. My senior pastor had come up with the idea on hanging long narrow banners from the ceiling to set the stage area off, and I'd been really excited about the possibilities. What I need to do is recruit a team to help me think some of this through.
Today we have kicked around the idea of how to allow church members who might not attend this type of service to support it in other ways, and I'm going to have to really continue to ponder that.
This morning's adventure was a discussion of a publication by 2 Methodist pastors of the NC Conference on framing the dialogue over homosexuality in the church. I have to say that I really wish we'd addressed the specific arguments a bit more; instead we talked about how we have conversations about the Church and what's wrong with the UMC (people, mostly, just like anywhere else). What I'd really like to see, and frankly I think the most responsible and Christian response, would be for parties on all sides of the discussion to covenant together to NOT discuss the church's position on homosexuality at this year's Annual Conference meetings and particular, next year's General Conference.
For 40 years, people of honor, courage, and faith in the UMC have argued at each General Conference that scripture definitively names homosexuality a sin. People of honor, courage and faith have argued in response that Jesus' compassion for the outsider (and one could argue easily that gays and lesbians are clearly outsiders as far as most churches are concerned) as expressed in our culture have mitigated the sometimes-disputed verses cited against homosexulaity as a practice....particularly in the absence of a definitive word from Christ himself in the Bible.
If we can do this in faith and spend more time on what is more clear and I would argue more urgent (for example, almost any social justice issue you could name: AIDS, hunger, stewardship of the earth/environment, health care) and take a break from thinking so much and concentrate and being the Body of Christ, we might see things a little more clearly, and then, in charity with one another, we might speak a little more kindly and understand one another better. That's my prayer and practice, anyway.
Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self...We affirm that God's grace is available to all, and we will seek to live together in Christian community. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons. (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2004)