May 31, 2013

Reflections on Manners at the End of School

In the olden days, tradition taught children to respect certain persons and professions even before we learned by experience that they were trustworthy. As many of you may remember, respect was automatically allocated to the elderly. We never called an elder by his or her first name unless we used the prefix “Mr.,” “Miss,” or “Mrs.”

I observed from time to time that age does not necessarily bestow wisdom, but my parents required universal respect for the elderly without regard for wisdom, race, or station in life. We always spoke courteously to older people, and we were careful to respond with “yes ma’am” and “no sir.”

School teachers were highly respected persons. If a school teacher decided that a student required some punishment at school, this decision was never questioned at home; in fact, it was reinforced by being repeated at home. I always feared the embarrassment of getting a whipping at school, but I also feared the certain whipping I would get at home for having gotten a whipping at school. No one spoke ill of school teachers. We believed that these people were the link to a better future for our children.

We also respected doctors, lawyers, dentists, veterinarians, law enforcement folks, and even those who governed us by being duly elected by our parents. In other words we respected just about everyone—not a bad policy by which to live.

I am certain that having respect for clergy, teachers, doctors, and the elderly would not solve all of the problems in our complicated society, but certainly couldn’t hurt either. I am not naive enough to think that a return to the good old days is moreover possible or preferable, but learning and teaching respect would help in any age.

Wouldn’t it be great if over the summer all our students grew a major appendage called good manners? Mignon McLaughlin, has said: “As a car is useless in New York, essential everywhere else; the same with good manners.”

Or perhaps you better like this quotation from H. Jackson Brown, Jr., “Good manners sometimes means simply putting up with other people’s bad manners.”


May 24, 2013

A Day for Remembrance: Revisiting Memorial Day

A thoughtful reader asked me a few weeks ago if I would re-run this article I wrote a couple of years ago about Memorial Day. He said it discussed the origin of the day. I hope this is the right blog post.

I know it is a few days before we get to Memorial Day, but I want to suggest a few ideas as we run up on an important day. Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer holidays in the United States. These kinds of three-day weekends traditionally are times for celebration and family outings. Celebrated in most states on the last Monday in May, Memorial Day is a time to remember the U.S. men and woman who lost their lives serving their country. Originally known as Decoration Day, the “powers that be” established the day in 1868 to commemorate Civil War dead. Over the years, it came to serve as a day to remember all U.S. men and women killed or missing in action in all wars.

In truth, Memorial Day is not a church holiday—the church has its own day to remember the memorialized dead which we call “All Saints Day.” Yet, Memorial Day is a way our nation remembers those who gave their lives in service to our country. Other countries also have their equivalents of Memorial Day. In a way, it is too bad that we have to have days like this, but war seems to be an inevitable part of being a country. Remembering the war dead remains about the only way we have to celebrate the gift of life those people have given for the ideals, we as a nation, have identified to lift up and commemorate.

“Wars are not acts of God. They are caused by man, by man-made institutions, by the way in which man has organized his society. What man has made, man can change” [from a Speech at Arlington National Cemetery (Memorial Day, 1945) by Frederick Moore Vinson (1890-1953)].

No matter what your stance is on “war or peace” remember that when we remember the war dead we remember someone’s husband or wife, mother or father, uncle or aunt, or simply friend.

May God continue to bless all of us as we struggle to be what God want us to be.


May 17, 2013

Confirmation and the Pentecostal Spirit of the Body of Christ

This next Sunday we will acknowledge our Confirmation Service, which occurs on Saturday evening, and our young folks will formally join as full members of FUMC of Arlington. We also remember the Holy Spirit, which arrived on the day of Pentecost.

Paul writes, “Just as the body is one and has many members, so it is with Christ.” Paul so naturally links believers to the crucified and risen Christ that he almost writes of them as one in the same. Here is a story about a person who, at the time of her service, was hardly recognized as someone noteworthy, yet from hindsight, became important to many:
On the tidy, graceful campus of Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina, there is a handsome colonial brick building named “Martha Dendy Hall.” Two generations earlier, when there were only a couple of hundred students there, a black laundress could be seen two or three times a day crossing the campus in the shadows of towering oak and elm trees, silent witnesses to years of slavery. She walked alone in quiet contemplation, with a large straw basket skillfully balanced on her head crowning her clean, dark face ridged firmly and deeply with resolution and determination.

I heard that she not only laundered the student’s clothes but also counseled them on matters of dress, drinking, personal salvation, sex, politeness, and respect for others. She was a campus conscience. When the young white men whose clothes she once laundered became trustees, they remembered her. Consequently, in the atmosphere of South Carolina politics in the sixties, when there were heated debates on school integration, these white college trustees named this handsome new building in the sacred memory of their black laundry lady (Samuel Proctor, How Shall They Hear: Effective Preaching for Vital Faith, Judson Press, Valley Forge PA, 1992, p. 67-68).

Whether an old time faithful member of our church, or a confirmand in 2013, we all have a role to play in the Body of Christ. May God’s Spirit continue to bless our ministry together as God’s people—both young and not so young.


May 10, 2013

Coming Attractions—Mother’s Day

This Sunday is Mother’s Day or, in the official church, “Festival of the Christian Home.” Thus, almost everyone I know, (with a few clergy exceptions) will celebrate Mother’s Day!

Do you remember Bill Cosby’s comments about the difference between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? Mothers are organized. They give their children a list of what they want, and then say, “Now go get the money from your father and you surprise me on Mother’s Day. You do that for me.”

As Cosby tells it, “On Father's Day, I give each of my five children $20 to go out and buy me a present. They buy two packages of under-shorts for $5 each—and each package has three shorts. They unwrap the packages, wrap each pair of shorts separately.” Cosby concludes, “On Father’s Day, I am walking around in new underwear and my kids are walking around with $90 in change in their pockets.”

On a more serious note than Mr. Cosby provided, (regardless of his accuracy) we as a culture observe the second Sunday in May as a day that honors mothers. It began in its present form with a special service in May 1907 at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Thus, from the start, we Methodists have been advocates for remembering the great gifts our mothers have provided for us.


May 3, 2013

Supervised Ministry Students (aka “Interns” Guided by Lay Teaching Committees)

During the 2012–2013 school year, Rezolia Johnson and Amanda Bresciani have fulfilled the requirements for Perkins School of Theology’s Supervised Ministry Intern Year. Each has been supervised by her Lay Training Committees. Requirements have included the ministry areas of preaching, teaching, evangelism, pastoral care, church administration, and communication. Amanda Bresciani’s committee included Chair Royleen Cooper and committee members: Suzanne Carmichael, Rosine Barnett, Ken Farr, Jared Jones, Julio Casablanca, and Bill Smith (former Aldersgate LTC, Chair). Rev. Brian A. Young served as Amanda’s mentor during her time with us.

Those who served on Rezolia Johnson’s committee were Chair Carole Hoyer and committee members: Bob Fairbanks, Sonjia Fields, Kyle Givens, Aaron Hill, Chris Houston, Mark Pierce, David Weldon, and Joy Wells. The Central Texas Annual Conference will address each of these folks as they respond to the call to ministry in the United Methodist Church as time progresses.

I know that both Amanda and Rezolia are grateful for the support of their Lay Training Committees and our congregation’s encouragement. We will recognize both candidates and their committees Sunday, 19 May 2013, in worship.

We appreciate the investment our congregation has made in the teaching and formation of ministers—a task FUMC of Arlington has done with distinction for many years. Please share your words of thanks to each of these ministerial candidates and to their committee members for their exceptional work.


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