Aug. 20, 2016

What I miss about being Methodist...

 

At age 52, I took a leap of faith producing a wonderful spiritual experience. After being Southern Baptist my entire life and after meeting a down-to-earth Methodist pastor, I made the move from being Baptist to Methodism.

I went through the United Methodist Church’s Candidacy Process truly believing that being Methodist would open the doors ending gender-bias allowing me to step into a pulpit and preach. I was right. However, through a series of circumstances that felt all too familiar as to the outcome of some Baptist attempts at pastoring, I ran. To put it bluntly, I felt overlooked and I behaved like a baby and ran.

My husband followed me around for 13 years in search for peace and happiness within a church family. We made the decision to live out the remainder of our lives on earth as Southern Baptists; a place he truly feels is “home” and a place that served as a refuge for my splintered spirit.

There are very distinct differences between the Baptist and Methodist denominations. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t merely an issue of wine.

I love my current Southern Baptist church. I am loved, accepted, valued, respected, affirmed, and embraced. Still there are moments when I miss the UMC ways. Here is what I miss most about being Methodist:

Women have broader opportunities for service. I assisted in baptisms, communion, decision-making and communication within the Methodist church. Fasten your seatbelts, I was allowed to step into the pulpit and preach. Guess what? God didn’t strike me down or destroy the church building with fire from Heaven.

The UMC follows liturgy in worship. Being brought up Baptist, I was led to believe that any type of ritualistic worship is shallow and fake. I have to tell you this is so far from the truth it borders on being an out-and-out lie. The UMC still does “responsive readings” as a way to get the entire congregation on the same page in preparation for worship. Whether or not the person is sincere in their reading is really more about the person than it is about the practice. It is interesting to me that many of the Christian denominations follow liturgical reading during their formal worship time together. It is exciting to know that what your pastor is preaching on today is very similar to what a Catholic priest may be teaching across the world. I found it exciting that God’s children study similar passages on the same Sunday. I believe it promotes unity.

In addition, the UMC celebrates a liturgical year. Six distinct periods of Christian observances focus on a different aspect of the Christian experience and tradition. Each period honors and coincides with a remarkable part of Christ’s life, death, resurrection and arrival of His Holy Spirit allowing Christians to understand more about what we believe as followers of Christ. We took time to celebrate each milestone reaping the benefits of Christ’s love and sacrifice.

The UMC is less likely to tell you what you are doing wrong and more likely to tell you how to make things right with God. This is the biggest difference I noticed from the moment I visited my first service. Methodist sermons are built more along the lines of how we can become stronger as individuals so that we are stronger as a church family in order for us to have a greater impact on our communities. They really aren’t shouting from the pulpit how sinful our world is because, well….we already know that.

I will end today’s blog with a joke. A man died and went to Heaven. St. Peter met him at the gates of Heaven and offered him a tour of the grounds. They stepped into a gorgeous, beautifully-designed worship center. There was a long hallway in the middle of the building with many doors leading off the main corridor. As they walked down the hallway, the man heard a lot of shouting. The man glanced at St. Peter with a concerned and confused look. St. Peter calmed the man saying, “Don’t worry. That’s our Charismatics.  They are simply a little more lively than the rest of us.”

As the continued down the hall, the man heard singing but no instruments. St. Peter slowly opened the door allowing the man to peek in. There was a beautiful chorus of acapella voices. St. Peter whispered, “These are your Church of Christ brothers and sisters. They serenade us each day with beautiful songs of simplicity.”

They stopped at the next door to take a look. As St. Peter pushed the door open, the man saw smiling faces, hugs, handshakes, and the room was filled with peace. St. Peter pointed out, “These are our Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians. They actually get along and wanted to stay together.”

A little farther up the hallway, the man heard drums, tambourines, and instruments of all kinds. St. Peter explained, “These are our Pentecostals. They are dancing in the aisles.”

The farther they traveled down the hallway, the quieter it became.  Soon they came to a single door at the end of the hall. There was total and complete silence. St. Peter nudged the door open and the man saw people standing solemnly staring straight ahead, in total stillness. St. Peter put a finger up to his mouth and whispered to the man, “Shhhhh….These are the Baptists. They think they are the only ones here.”

NOTE: I am sharing based on my own personal experience. I am very aware that not all denominations fall into any of these generalizations. The joke serves to make a point and all denominations can be inserted into any category. In other words, it’s a joke that forces us to ask, “Do we understand Christ, not religion or tradition, offers us eternal life?”