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Did you know? Life Together

Posted: March 15 2023 at 02:33 PM
Author: Arlene Christopherson, Director of Connectional Ministries


Christopherson Arlene

Rev. Arlene Christopherson

When I was first introduced to the United Methodist Church following college, I was drawn in by John Wesley’s balance of personal and social holiness. In our Wesleyan tradition, it is not enough to read the scriptures, pray and worship – we are called to live out our faith in witness to Christ’s love through acts of mercy and justice. It has always been difficult to walk this fine line of spirituality and engagement, but today it has become even more precarious. Our world is polarized, and suspicion and incivility are all too common.
 
It would be safe to turn inward and go deeper into our own spirituality, but John Wesley reminds us to bring our faith into society, into the world. Living out our faith can put us at odds with others.
 
The president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, Bishop Tom Bickerton, delivered a State of the Church address on March 2. In his address, the bishop set forth some old wisdom for a new age. He shared a section from the 1850 Methodist Book of Discipline calling believers not to laws and rules but to a lifestyle. The question posed was, "What can be done in order to achieve a closer union with each other?" The responses given were:
 
1.     Convince yourself of the absolute need for unity.
2.     Pray for one another.
3.     Talk to, not at, one another.
4.     Pray before you leave.
5.     Don’t despise one another,
6.     Don’t speak lightly of one another.
7.     Defend one another’s character.
8.     Work hard so that you value someone else before yourself.
 
These are the directives shared almost 175 years ago to a people who suffered divisions. They are still a strong guidepost for today.
 
I am intrigued by the guidance of “talking to, not at, one another”. Talking to one another requires that we also listen. How often have you formulated your response even before the person talking to you has finished their comments? To talk to one another means “to listen.” Listening requires patience, an open mind and heart and the space for others to speak.
 
I am particularly stuck by the admonishment to pray before you leave. I attend a lot of church meetings. We are good at beginning our gatherings in prayer. I cannot say that we are always as good at praying for and with one another after we have waded through our business. How important it is to close in Christ at the end of our encounters. To bless each other even when we do not always agree.
 
Finally, this lesson from the Methodist Discipline of 1850 reminds us of our basic commitment to be with and for each other. How do we live out our unity in friendships, families and even church committee meetings? Can we be listeners, defending one another, supporting each other and praying when we depart?

To watch the full video, click here.

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