I handed out a bunch of business cards tonight to some of my friends from karate. They all say "Oglethorpe County Circuit, Burts UMC and Glade UMC." I've never given it a thought until one person said, "What's a UMC? Is that like a EMC?" (Well, sorta!)
First, I am SO HAPPY to be a part of a community where it's just so 'not church.' Church is such a part of my personal context -- but I think I am richer by my involvement with this community and my ministry will have more depth I just didn't realize that people don't know what the UMC is ... Wow.
This world always have so many people who are in pain -- and so many seem so alone. There was one young man tonight at dinner tonight who needed some affirmation about how to handle some pretty serious family difficulties. It just struck me how alone he was. Without his karate 'family,' I think he would be adrift. He has little real family; his girlfriend doesn't have the maturity; he has no faith community (apparently, I've actually never asked).
And I'll never forget the woman who had no one in this world; who I prayed with as her child lay dying in the hospital. For various and sundry reasons, she had no support network and I was the chaplain on call that night. I did all that I could for her, helping her with telephone numbers for funeral homes, the endless paperwork around a death, a telephone calling card, a "memory box" and I made sure she didn't have to pay parking. But it seemed so paltry with the support I would receive under the same circumstance -- I would have friends, family and my faith family. I helped her get into her car and watched as she drove off alone into the night and my heart bled a little for her. Every time I think of her, my heart bleeds a little. I know where my support comes from -- and I know its source. I want people to know about my Source of strength about my support network. I want people to join me in my community. Now I know that the UMC isn't the only flavor of 'church' but it's what I know; it's my context.
So when these business cards are all gone, I'll spell it out all the way -- "United Methodist Church" and let them know about the Source of my power.