A PAUSE TO CONSIDER METHOD
Earlier this month I chose the word “method” for the letter “M”‘s pause. This week I jump ahead of myself in the alphabet (You’re getting “M” before “F”!) as I struggle with what my word choice brings to my world. Why? Because I have strong feelings about what is going on in the (United)Methodist Church: The Methodist church that generations of my family have supported, loved, and served for as long as I can remember. My experience of that church this day is discordant. The current conditions of the UMC have inspired in my soul a longing for transformation, a new method of looking at organized religion, especially within the Methodist paradigm. United, I might add, is merely a label—Individual churches remain affiliated with the edicts of the “Mother Church”; however, individually they negate the methods dictated by asserting, “We’re welcoming, but we’re not leaving the UMC (because our salaries and buildings will go away without them). We’ll (slide under the radar and) figure out a way for same sex marriage and ordination for all—someday. Just not this year.” A church, probably not hopeless or faithless; however, bound tightly in tradition, incongruent and out of integrity with today’s attitudes, acceptances, and actions that I hold dear. Today (which is the day before this essay is published) I let go of what no longer serves the methodology in which I choose to operate. I choose spirituality over religion. Thank you, God.
This week’s focus is on the word, “Method.” Method is defined as a procedure, technique or way of doing something, especially when its way is in accordance with a definite plan. A method is a manner or mode of operating, usually in an orderly, logical, systematic instruction, inquiry, investigation, etc. A method is an order or system by which someone arranges, does, or organizes anything—their way of being and doing sequenced in a planned agenda.
The word “Method” is used in “the Method”, a theorized technique of acting in which the performer identifies with the character to be portrayed in an individual, natural manner, becoming the character. In Earth school, we share different methods of being, becoming, and doing—infinite methodologies, all of them chosen, bestowed, adapted, or inculcated to grow our longings into visions. The methods we choose work for us when they do. When they don’t, we usually choose another mode of operation for our methodology. Methods come and go—working when they do, transforming even when they don’t. All structure and organization emanate in some form from a chosen method, varying in how methodical or how attached to method the program/concept/structure is.
I can operate in excellence with methods that serve my creation of the highest good. When a chosen method gifts me joy and blessing, my heart sings with praise and thanksgiving. I walk in grace and I live with gratitude.
One of the things I’ve loved most about being part of the Methodist Church for 60 years is the music. Honestly, our hymnal is filled with the songs that have colored and consoled my life, many written by Charles Wesley. After sampling other faiths’ songs and different denominations’ music within the Christian Church, my faith history is best expressed through the wonderful Methodist hymns. I have loved pieces of John Wesley’s theology, especially his strangely warmed heart, his focus on love, his coined expression, “agree to disagree,” his concern for care of the physical body as well as the spiritual body, and the way he questioned and struggled with his faith in God. Methodism was first called, “the holy club”—a name I love because holy means sacred, belonging to God—All/Everything is sacred and holy, and whether we’re Methodist, Hindu, or Agnostic—We are holy.
Wesley taught that we know our faith by scripture, reason, tradition and experience. Methodists are taught to use logic and reason in all matters of faith. In the early days, they did so in a very methodical manner and became known as the “Methodists”. Evangelism and mission, charity and service within community are ideals with emphasis on serving the poor and average persons. Annual covenant services and an original covenant prayer used by John Wesley are still traditions in many if not most Methodist Churches.
The INCLUSIVENESS OF GOD’S LOVE is a hallmark of Methodism. In the Methodist theology book, EVERYONE is entitled to God’s grace and protection. And, the music!!! Thank you, God, for the great music of the United Methodist Church! Thank you, God, for the intention to include everyone, blessing all creation, in every variety of the rainbow, all shapes, sizes, and presentations, with the freedom to heed God’s calling to and for him or her—no matter what!
Over 60 years ago, I was baptized as an infant in the Methodist Church. I was confirmed in that same church 13 years later. I was married in the church 9 years after my confirmation, and our sons were baptized 2 and 5 years after our marriage, confirmed 13 years after their baptisms. Everywhere we moved in our adult lives, I found a Methodist Church to attend/affiliate with/join and serve. When family members died, when we renewed our wedding vows, our pastors, fellow members, and friends were there, at a Methodist Church. The traditions and my experience of the Methodist Church inspired me to go to seminary in 2002. Although my Christology and Theology separated from the teachings of the United Methodist Church, I was grateful for the support and guidance I received while briefly attending seminary. We left our home church where we had shared our time, talents, and treasures to move to northern Indiana where Gerry had bought a business that needed our attention. We affiliated with a Methodist Church while we lived there. When we moved back to Indianapolis and our former church home, the church had changed, becoming much less progressive, and no longer reflective of the way I choose to worship and serve. We chose to relocate our church membership to a non-denominational church pastored by a very dear friend, someone I consider my forever pastor, no matter what. That church later became a United Methodist Church.
The Methodist General Conference meets yearly to vote on rules and regulations for the Church worldwide. Over the years, Methodism has shrunk in the United States and Great Britain, but it has grown in Africa, Korea, and South America. A membership must attain a majority vote to implement new acceptances/ practices in the church. For more than a few years, any voting for inclusiveness in regard to other than heterosexual sexuality for marriage and ordination issues has been defeated, amidst fears and cheers. A divided denomination. Wars have been fought in the name of religion throughout history. Need we war within our own denomination? A sad day for those of us teetering on the edge of the questions: Do we need organized religion? Where do we go to find open hearts, open minds, and open doors? Is our church utilizing “the method”? What would Jesus do?
My search for a community of “like-minded people sharing a spiritual experience” is ongoing. I’ve found it at The Garden, Unity Christian, Unitarian Universalist, a Hindu Temple, in shared Buddhist meditation, hiking with friends, and on my yoga mat. I know I’ll find community for worship and service wherever I look for it with an open heart. open mind, and an open door. I will keep wondering and wandering with God, longing for peace and love, full inclusiveness and welcome intended by and for all.
And on Easter morning this year, I will gather with all the saints, departed loved ones, and my highest and best self to greet the rising sun, singing in full voice, with all who are with me and those who came before me, the Methodist version of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”
Prayers for us all,