Tom Mitchell's God Sighting : Stewardship of the Earth

On Sunday, September 1st, UUMC acknowledged #FoodWasteSunday. Tom Mitchell shared the following remarks.

God created all things, and when finished, proclaimed it was very good. Then God gave humanity dominion (more properly translated as “stewardship”) over the earth.

Since then some problems have arisen.

Last Spring, we had a UUMC study group on the book Active Hope. This changed my life. Active Hope presents a model for sustainably doing fruitful social justice work. It uses Climate Change as an example.

The model doesn’t require optimism but relies on developing a clear vision of what is sought and working backward to “What do we do now?” 

We can think of the vision part as figuring out what the Realm of God would look like in the matter considered. It relies on a faith (or evidence) that efforts will make a difference. In the Active Hope view, what is to be avoided is despair to the point of giving up on action.

Here are some insights we gained… 

1.    We became acutely aware of the intergenerational social injustice of climate change, where the deteriorating trend bears more heavily on each succeeding generation, our youth and children and those yet unborn. (This is in accord with Greta Thunberg’s message.)
2.   The inequalities where the rich and poor alike pollute, but the rich more than the poor, and the poor suffering more than the rich.

We are in big trouble [as to Climate Change]. 

There are no quick fixes. What we have already emitted into the atmosphere will be up there for quite some time and continue to warm the Earth. But this is not like a battle or war, to be won or lost. We are destined to have continuing effects. The question is “How much and when?” The good news is both small and large efforts will have an impact.

We are called to action as persons and as a church to make personal lifestyle adjustments, many easy, some not. We must advocate for change in discussions with others in daily life and work with organizations influencing government, corporations and institutions for change.

A change for me is mindfulness for my food.

A book entitled Drawdown studied 70 major opportunities to improve our atmosphere. Number 5 on the list was “Food Waste.”  40% of all food is wasted. Part of  the 40% food waste is what’s on your plate that you don’t eat.

I’ve changed my attitude to be accountable for my decisions regarding what is on my plate. I think of three things:

1.   A healthier, balanced diet than I had before.
2.   Anticipating and planning to match the food I have to what I can and do eat.
3.   Considering the amount of carbon dioxide created by what I eat.

Happily, these 3 changes work in the same direction.

I have a one page graphic that helps me with this last step. It ranks major foods by how much carbon dioxide is needed to produce, transport, process, and market the food. Beef is next to the bottom, pork better, chicken better still, beans better than that, and fruit requiring very little. I still eat beef, but not as much.  I ask for ½ portions when available.  I am thoughtful about preparing my own breakfasts and most lunches.

Sometimes, excessive portions are forced on one.  In that case, I am not a member of the clean plate club.  I eat what is appropriate, leave the rest., or get a take-home box. And, sometimes, I can advocate for correction of excessive serving (or change where I eat!)  

Finally, I can talk to others about this, which I have just done.

Thank you for listening.


         Active Hope, How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy

              Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, 2012

         Carbon Footprint of What You Eat

                  Simple Happy Kitchen,, August 6, 2018

Rev. Diane Speaks at Candlelight Vigil to Condemn Terrorist Attacks in New Zealand

On Sunday, March 17th, Rev. Diane spoke at an interfaith Candlelight Vigil in the University City Loop to condemn the horrific terrorist attacks at two New Zealand mosques and to show solidarity with our Muslim siblings. You can read her remarks below.

Thank you for the invitation to address you today. I am Rev. Diane Kenaston, pastor right here in the Delmar Loop of University United Methodist Church in St. Louis, where we invite people of all ages, cultures, races, gender identities, and sexual orientations to be you, be loved, and belong.

I am here as a representative of the Christian community.

To our Muslim siblings: We, fellow children of Abraham, mourn the bloodshed this week. We mourn the lives lost in New Zealand. And we especially mourn the anti-Muslim bigotry that appears throughout the world, not least here in the United States and in St. Louis.

Our Judeo-Christian Scriptures tell us that the blood cries out from the ground, that we are our brother’s keeper — meaning that the blood crying out from the ground was our responsibility. We have failed you, our siblings. and for that, I am deeply sorry.

As a Christian, I call on other Christians present to serious self-examination. This is our season of Lent, a forty day period of fasting when we commit ourselves to confession and repentance — to acknowledging our wrong-doing and changing our ways.

We confess that Christians, particularly when we have been in the majority, have failed to safeguard the rights of religious minorities, or value the gifts that each religious community brings to our common life.

Just this past week, the Missouri legislature authorized the Christian Bible to be taught in schools. This is only one recent example of structural inequities and Christian privilege in our local culture. As Christians who claim to follow the example of Christ, we must do as Jesus did, and lay aside our own power for the sake of those to suffer.

As a white Christian, I further acknowledge that Islamophobia is a manifestation of white supremacy. As white people, we need to do the hard work of identifying and dismantling white supremacy. In the church, we call this “renouncing evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”

Each person here will have ways that we can commit to fighting Islamophobia, white supremacy, and bigotry in our own contexts. We can have the tough conversations, calling out the rhetoric that leads to violence. We can advocate for local, state, and national policies that support Muslims and the Islamic community. We can give financially to organizations that fight hate. We can dedicate ourselves to learning and building relationships.

But don’t take it from me. As we confess our own sin and seek to do better, we must learn to be good allies. Therefore: 
May we non-Muslims take our lead from Muslim women and men. 
May we listen to what is needed and DO THAT. 
May we elevate the voices of those most directly affected.

The blood of our brothers and sisters and siblings is crying out from the ground. May we listen, and respond.

And may the God of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, 
the God of Ishmael and Isaac, 
be with us all, 
and grant us peace. 

Ruby Rae's God Sighting

My name is Ruby Rae. I am 11 years old. I am in 5th grade.

I am going to tell you what I know about feelings.

I am named after Ruby Bridges. She was an African American girl who went to an all-white school in first grade.

She was probably scared, brave, sometimes worried, sometimes confident.

Your feelings are yours, you get to have them all.

I ride the bus to or from school, which sometimes makes me feel good and sometimes makes me feel bad. One afternoon the bus driver put me behind him with a Kindergartener. After a while, she got tired, and I was wondering if I should let her lay on my shoulder. Eventually I said, you can lay on my shoulder if you want. It made me feel super happy because my little brother Blaise doesn’t lay on my shoulder as much as he used to. I found out she was a big sister and that made me feel good, because when you’re the oldest sibling you don’t have an older sibling to comfort you.

Your feelings are yours, you get to have them all.

My bus driver is over-protective and scared, and I feel bored and frustrated. Your feelings are yours. You get to have them all.

I like to listen to JOY FM, but it makes me feel left out because most listeners are adults. They can go to the concerts and I can’t because I’m a kid. Your feelings are yours. You get to have them all.

JOY FM makes me feel like you always have to be happy and can’t have sad feelings. BUT!! Your feelings are yours. You get to have them all.

I know that there are a lot of different emotions.

Sometimes we feel strongly, and sometimes we don’t. It’s ok to have all of our emotions, but it’s good to have a plan when our emotions get big.

Your feelings are yours. You get to have them all.

God Sighting: St. Louis College of Pharmacy and HPES

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University UMC celebrates the mission work that our members do in every context in which we find ourselves. Member John Pieper is doing through his vocation as a pharmacist and president of the St. Louis College of Pharmacy.    

This "God Sighting" comes from Diane Berry, director of Health Protection and Education Services (HPES), which is one of UUMC's mission partners:    

"The Roman poet Virgil once declared that "the greatest wealth is health." In turn, the greatest poverty often results in poor health, with families unable to pay for medical care.  HPES seeks to make healthcare more accessible for the diverse populations in the St. Louis region.

 The St. Louis College of Pharmacy (STLCOP) is excited to partner with HPES in our efforts to increase health promotion and prevent disease.  STLCOP aims to increase public awareness that pharmacists are accessible and knowledgeable.  Every third Saturday of the month, student pharmacists play a vital role in answering drug information questions, promoting health care access and increasing medication adherence.

Bone density is an issue with our aging population.  As we all age, our bones can become more brittle; and the risk of breaks and fractures increases.  With the financial assistance of STLCOP --- under the leadership of Dr. John A. Pieper, President --- HPES obtained a new GE Achilles EXP bone densitometer."

From Jimmy Pace: Letter from a 16 Year Old Migrant

Hello, all!

I intended to pass ahead an excellent, well-written biographical essay contributed by my father James Pace, Jr., an eighty-seven years young former Methodist missionary from Bolivia, South America, now living in Brownsville, the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. The Paces hold an important part of the history of South Texas as early settlers to the Rio Grande Valley in the 1920's.

Brownsville borders with the Mexican city of Matamoros just across the Rio Grande, twenty miles west of the Gulf of Mexico. I made Brownsville my temporary home in the late seventies to the early to mid eighties. Many retirees from northern parts of USA spend their Golden Years in Brownsville attending as Winter Texans the First United Methodist Church of Brownsville.  Brownsville is a haven for bird watchers as the "Crossroads of the Hemisphere" witnessing the seasonal mass migration of fowl.

The FUMC-BRO is raises helpful funds the buttress Good Neighbor Settlement House (GNSH) assisting the immigrants as the immigrants are released in Brownsville from the detention camps in the Rio Grande Valley taking buses and airplanes to points north of the US border.

God is love.  Dios es amor.

Much love,

Jimmy W. Pace, III.                   


Hello, my good Christian friends. I am a 16 year old Guatemalan male just released from the Port Isabel, Texas refugee detention center.  My refugee friends and I refer to it as the 'detention center';  the center's director calls it a prison. We were treated like prisoners..... surrounded by two very high cyclone fences topped by razor sharp triple strings of wire, confined for periods in a very cold chamber [for] violating rules of conduct, enduring a sleepless night without even a cup of coffee or cold tortilla before being dropped off at the Brownsville bus station, being manacled and leg chained on the trip from the detention center to the bus station.

Yet, I am so happy, despite having been jailed for two years and four months, I am free, among new friends who tell me, “Welcome,” with smiles, “We are here to help you: we can provide you with a back-pack filled with food and hygiene items, clothes and a blanket for the cold of the bus, help in taking the necessary steps to obtain your bus ticket, free use of our personal cell phones to call your relatives at your destination, and a refuge where you can rest, eat, shower for a few hours, or remain overnight to travel tomorrow.”

I am so happy....I'm free.....I'm smiling and laughing constantly.....I want to sing and dance.....I'm going to live with my brother in New York whom I haven't seen in four years......I know I have to improve my English, which I began to learn these past two years, but I'm good at languages, fluent in Spanish, and two indigenous languages I learned in my beloved Guatemala. I want to become a U.S. citizen; I can't go back to Guatemala, where there's so much corruption and the threat of death if you don't join a gang.

You asked me, friend, what my dreams are. Some day I'm going to have a wife and children; they'll be proud of their papi; I'm going to be a social worker, specializing with working with children.

Irma's God Sighting

You can read Irma's God Sighting below or listen to it online. 

As you know, we have been serving increasing numbers of neighbors at the Open Door Pantry. Last July we served 22 neighbors; this year in July we served 44, and because of the holiday, we were open only 3 Wednesdays.   

We have been considering ways to add to our service work through advocacy. Adding the voting table seemed to be one thing we could do. This would provide opportunities, if needed. Guests could register to vote and discuss the importance of voting and the issues on the ballot and pending in the state legislature and Congress. Such discussion possibly would enhance motivation to get out and vote.

We had voting conversations with about 35 of those who came in last month. All stated they were registered voters and their address was current. The was no need for registrations. Even though several individuals had previously mentioned that they did not vote because they felt it didn’t make any difference, these folks were interested in learning more about issues so they could be more informed voters.

The issues we were highlighting were Mo. Prop A and the Congressional SNAP revision currently under consideration. They were given a half page with a non-partisan, very succinct description and pro and con comments. For the ballot issue, MO Prop A, the discussion was about what a yes or no vote meant and what they felt about union membership versus participation in paying the cost of wage negotiation or not.   

SNAP is a part of the Farm Bill about to be considered by a conference committee to resolve differences in a House and Senate version, primarily differences in the SNAP.  UMC has position for defeating any changes in SNAP that will create additional barriers for obtaining food assistance for those in need. Those neighbors who agreed were given a card to sign for Senators Blunt and McCaskill which represented the neighbor’s view on this issue.

In one situation a woman who at first said she wasn’t interested in talking about voting, heard the conversation with other neighbors and came over, pulled up a chair, and said “Let me see that paper. I want to sign the letter.”

On another occasion, a woman said, “Do you have any more of this description on Prop A. I live in a Senior Building. There are 40 apartments, and I will put one of these on each door.”

All expressed a commitment to go to polls to vote.

God Sighting: Our neighbors are very grateful for the items they take with them from the Open Door Food Pantry. They also desire to be part of solution to these social concerns, want to be informed voters, and are grateful for the opportunity to discuss their experiences and learn.

I am very encouraged by the advocacy commitment of this congregation – to provide service and to advocate for changes for a system that improves lives.

Thank you very much.

Savannah's God Sighting

My God Sighting this week is about my gratitude for you all, for UUMC. I came to UUMC with the blessing of my previous church to seek healing from the spiritual desert I was in. Between the Be You, Be Loved, Belong class, Rev. Diane's sermons, the spiritual gifts interview, the classes on The Mystical Way of Evangelism and Mercy and Justice, and LOGOS, I have been challenged to regularly engage in spiritual practices, like centering prayer, and to reflect on my own capacity for light and darkness. I have shadow sides I never knew about, but I also have an abundant pool of grade and love to draw from.

I've been finding myself talking to and about Jesus even more than I did before-- which poor Jessie can attest to! I feel so grateful to each of you, through the potlucks, the Dinners for 8, the Young Adult lunches and events, the NAMI walk, and our regular welcome snacks, for the love and care you have modeled.

I hope I have reflected back to you at least a portion of the light you have shown me. On behalf of Jessie, I also want to thank you for welcoming her, a pagan Jew, to this congregation! We will miss you and are not apposed to prayers and positive energy for the move. 

Charlotte Ellis' God Sighting at Annual Conference

I had the pleasure of serving as your representative to the Missouri Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. This year the theme was "Freed to Lead." We learned that we all can lead; we just don't all lead in the same way.

Friday morning opened with a rousing sermon by Rev. Dr. Antonio Settles from Kansas City. That was followed by Bishop Farr's welcome address and then various business reports. Because of a language change, there was a revote on the constitutional amendment about the treatment of women and girls which had passed in our conference last year but failed when all conferences were tallied.

Next was an address by Bishop Farr about what he called "the elephant in the room," i.e. the LGBT issue. He had just been to a Council of Bishops meeting where they discussed various outcomes of the Way Forward event to be held in St. Louis next February. Information from the Bishops' meeting explaining 3 possible outcomes will come out in July.  Of course he didn't say what his preferred outcome would be, but he said he had changed his mind on some things, which made it sound like he might be supportive of LGBT issues.

One of the things emphasized during the conference was "New Places for New People," with a goal to attract people we don't normally attract. Another goal is "Pathway out of Poverty," and they would like every church to partner with a school for a literacy program.

This was the 20th anniversary of the Mozambique Project, and so Friday evening we were treated to a Mozambique-style dinner. They have churches in Mozambique looking for partner churches and young people looking for scholarship support.

Saturday started with various reports: United Methodist Women, United Methodist Men, Central Methodist University, etc.

We then met Pastor Alex Garena from an island off of Puerto Rico. His church was badly damaged by the hurricane. Because of the location, it will probably take 5 years for full recovery, especially electricity. There was an offering taken for Puerto Rico, and we are urged to help if we can. Groups are going down there to work, including one from our district this summer.

Saturday afternoon we had workshops, and I was pleased to serve on the panel of the one called "LGBTQ+ - How to Lead your Church Through the Difficult Decision." We had at least 150 attendees, and everyone seemed positive and asked good questions. I talked a little about how we had conversations over several years before we voted to become reconciling. We had no detractors, so I feel it was well-received.

That day also included memorial services, a retirement ceremony, and ordinations.

Sunday morning there was a worship service, more business, appointments of pastors to new assignments, and it was concluded with communion.

All in all it was a very meaningful experience and a God sighting to be among so many United Methodists.

Jim Pace: Walking for NAMI

I am walking in Chesterfield, Missouri on May 5, 2018 to raise awareness and funding for NAMI-Saint Louis for five kilometers with approximately thirteen other mental health activists.

I renamed my one man walk team to "Flecha Verde" from last year's "Follow the Yellow Brick Road."  The Yellow Brick Road team raised seventeen thousand dollars last year at the annual NAMIWalks in Saint Louis County.  NAMI-Saint Louis raised a total of one hundred fifty thousand dollars in 2017.

I pray the Walk goes well this May of 2018.

I continue to voluntarily attend Independence Center for work, a meal, and interaction with fellow members and professional staff/administration social workers.  I am going out on a limb to promote recovery from mental illness.

The United Methodist Church provides the foot soldiers to rally, to fight, and to recover from mental illness.  I am aware of the strength of the church guiding the fight to tackle difficult mental health problems. 

I give my support network all the credit for my recovery and the struggle with the misperceptions of mental illness which are flawed in my experience. 

I feel like I have grown this year as I am reasonably able stand up for myself in adversarial encounters like an intention to attack me in the east end of the Delmar Loop on a Sunday afternoon by a young man asking for bus fare with the intention of robbing and beating me. 

I continue to teach police officers through the Crisis Intervention Team training, a NAMI program with great possibilities and results.

Remembering the Paines, by Brad Hershey

Last week University Church received a gift of $67,000 from the estate of Bob and Jane Paine.  Our church is so grateful for endowment gifts like this one and it will be added to our current endowment funds which are approaching a total of one million dollars. Our church uses earnings from this endowment to help with our expenses, to expand our mission outreach, and to maintain and improve our church home.

But this financial gift is only a small part of the legacy left behind by this wonderful couple who dearly loved being part of this congregation. Bob and Jane were married 64 years and they, their three children and later three of their grandchildren, sat right over there nearly every Sunday.

Bob was a doctor. The kind of doctor that goes to Harvard when he was 16 years old, graduates with a Bachelor degree in 1942 and receives his MD 2 years later. Bob served in World War II and then returned to St.Louis with a fellowship in Cardiology at Washington University. He joined the staff of St. Lukes Hospital in 1951 and eventually became head of Cardiology at St. Lukes. He was our church doctor. He was always interested in how you were doing. He could help you with the most complex of heart problems. Or, he could carefully remove a splinter from our little girl's finger and then call her the next day to check up on his patient. He was a lifelong educator, a researcher, a scientist, and a doctor who truly cared for his patients. But, most importantly to me, Bob was an absolutely wonderful human being. When you talked to Bob, he looked directly at you and listened to every word you said as if it was the most important thing he was likely to hear. 

Bob’s concern for others led him to establish the Health Protection and Education Services organization that was initially run out of our church. We still support this organization with volunteer financing and person power. Bob, along with Martin Braeske, ran a class called Crosstalk for over a decade which probed many of the perplexing issues of our time. 

And then there was Jane. Jane was passionate about Social Justice, supporting families and advocating for children. Her early work in childhood programs led to the model for Head Start.  She helped build the Parents as Teachers Program. She was the executive director of the Conference on Education and served as an education consultant to the Danforth Foundation.  She started the preschool right here in our own church. Jane weaved people and their talents together and made good things happen. Jane made a difference in countless children’s lives.  But Jane must have been proudest of her “Bob” and her own children. She gave them all a passion for loving, learning and doing. 

If you want to set some really tough goals for your life, hopefully you can find a Bob and Jane to set an example for you. If you want to make a real difference in this world, become a Bob and Jane and carry their passion for Social Justice into our world so that someday we can truly call it the Kingdom of God.

Sam's God Sighting

Over the past two years, I’ve had the joy of being a part of the UUMC Community. I moved to St. Louis in August of 2015 to continue my studies at Wash U and after a couple months of school, I started looking for a new church home. I grew up Methodist and spent a lot of weekends singing in the youth choir and going to youth group events. My home church has thousands of members, and while that allowed lots of programs to thrive, I didn’t really feel like part of a larger community. There were simply too many people to feel like I knew everybody. I took a couple years off from church at my first college back in Memphis which was good for me, but when I moved here, I knew that I needed to find somewhere smaller where I could really feel at home. That place was University United Methodist.

From the first time I met Reverend Diane, I knew I had found the community for me. Here is a leader who is both unwavering in her faith and willing to speak up for what she believes in. At my home church, certain topics are considered off limits. I guess that comes with the territory of having so many people in the congregation. To me though, that also leads to having a weaker church. Here at UUMC, I look out and see a strong congregation, a people who recognize inequality in their society and want to do something about it. Whether it be feeding the poor, doctoring the sick, housing the elderly, or simply having difficult conversations with each other and those around us, UUMC is actively trying to make St. Louis a better place. With all that’s happened in the city over the past 3 years in particular, people like y’all are needed more than ever. People who don’t hide from the calling of their faith and who don’t shy away from action. This church is dedicated to the fight, every single member is committed to leaving this world better than they found it, and that inspires me every day.

As I prepare to move back to Houston for my next stage in life, I will always keep this community in my heart, both as a reminder and example of what Methodism and Christianity is really about. Y’all have pushed me to be better in many facets of life, and have allowed me to grow alongside you during my time here. When I get home, I’ll probably go to my old church for a while, but I’ll certainly be on the lookout for other communities just like this one. While having lots of butts in pews for Sunday morning service is good and should be celebrated, it’s become apparent to me that having boots on the ground helping others in any way possible is what we are all called to do. My God Sighting today is all of you, for the work you put in daily to seeing God’s Kingdom on Earth. Thank you for all you do, and thank you for allowing me to join y’all for the last couple of years.

Dan Barrett's God Sighting: My Inclusive Church

My Church … is inclusive.  Not just with age, race, what high school you went to, or where you live today, but also sexual orientation.

My Church … for many years, far before I became a member 14 years ago, has welcomed and continues to welcome the whole LGBTQIA community: that’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, plus questioning, intersex, and asexual.  Thus, people with non-mainstream sexual orientation or gender identity, including me.  

My Church… had very open discussions this past year on sexual orientation in UUMC.  There were “What does the bible say about homosexuality?” discussions, a blog on our website, plus a full church meeting.

My Church … Next Sunday, will vote on joining the “Reconciling Ministries Network” in the United Methodist Church.  Thus, a majority of those members present at the meeting will decide if UUMC “wants to mobilize United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love." All Reconciling churches must have a Welcome Statement that openly shows this inclusion and thus….  

My Church … will first vote next Sunday on whether to adopt a UUMC-specific, welcome statement:  

We invite people of all ages, races, cultures, gender identities, and sexual orientations to be you, be loved, and belong.

My Church … will be voting without me present because I will be on a long-scheduled trip.  But, I am sure that you will attend the church meeting after next Sunday’s worship and cast a resounding “Yes” and hopefully a unanimous approval for me and many others that are in the LGBTQIA community and your UUMC community.  

My Church … would again be a true God sighting.  

Rich Wymore's God Sighting

My God Sighting is the 39 persons, most of them from my church, who have contributed $5,300 to the U-City Microcredit Club. I wish Tom Mitchell could have been here this morning because he is the person who organized this club in 2009. He patterned after a club started by Jaimie Wagner from our church at John Burrough School.

For those of you who don’t know, we make small loan to persons around the world who have no, or limited access to, credit. We do that through KIVA, which is computerized system that finds persons with credit needs and makes them available to persons with money to lend. So, we have taken that $5,300 fund and, as of our last meeting, made slightly more than $40,000 in loans, which means that, for every dollar contributed, we have loaned $7.25.

How do we do that? As loans are paid off, the money flows back into our KIVA account and we loan it right back out again.

This morning I want to tell you about Akbari. Akbari is 47 years old, married with 4 children, and she lives in Multan, Pakistan. I just want to point out here that the average annual income in Pakistan is $4,300. Her husband works as a driver but is not able to make enough money to support the family. So 15 years ago, Akbari turned her skills in making papar (a dessert similar to a crepe) into a business. She makes the papar in her home and sells it fresh right there. But she was never able to make much money at it because she could not afford to buy the materials in large enough quantities to make enough papar to satisfy her customers’ needs.

And then she discovered Brac, which is a non-government agency that loans money to small businesses that have no other access to it. They are able to do that because of KIVA, who will offer the loan to anyone with an account. So Brac made her the loan and then offered it on KIVA. We liked the loan and loaned $100 toward it.

So she was able to borrow 432 rupees ($400), so she could buy the white flour, salt, and oil that she needs to produce enough papar to fill the demands of her customers every day. She will pay that back in 12 monthly installments, beginning in September. This is the 4th time she has done this, and she now has a very successful business.

Now this loan is no different from any other loan that we have made from any other loan that we have made in 77 countries around the world except for one thing: this is loan number 500.

We think this is a real milestone and just want to thank all of you who have participated in this mission. And for those of you who have not but would like to donate, our minimum contribution is $25. It is a donation and so is tax deductible. It gives you the opportunity to attend our meetings and participate in the loan-making process. And you also get reports of the loans we have made. If you think that is a worthy cause, contact me and I will tell you how to make it happen. Thank you.

What does it mean to be a Follower of Jesus? by Tom Mitchell

Submitted by Tom Mitchell for the Discipleship Team

Short answer: Paying attention to Jesus and living our lives in accordance with Jesus.

This will mean different things to different people, but there are some commonalities the Christian tradition has found over the centuries.

First, Jesus calls us, not vice versa.  Jesus offered a challenge to nearly everyone he met. Following Jesus is far from being without cost.  Jesus’ call does not presuppose one holds to a creed or “right doctrine.”

Our opportunity is to respond and to consider the cost

Second, to follow Jesus today, we need to know about Jesus.   Examination of the Gospels (and to see them in context and with the rest of the Bible) is essential.

Third, Jesus journeyed about and engaged with both insiders and outsiders in society.   We are called to love our neighbor, and draw a very wide circle to comprise our neighbors.  We are called out into our community and the world, to engage, and serve.

Fourth, Jesus challenged the inequities and hypocrisy in society.  Likewise we are called to work for justice.

Fifth, Jesus did not propose to do this alone, but gathered a loving fellowship, for mutual support and for instruction.  We are called to do likewise.  Often our loving fellowship is called “church.”

Sixth, following Jesus is a life journey, not a goal to be attained.  We will not all follow the same paths, though there will be some commonality in our journeys.   

Nevertheless, the process is one of growth.  There will always be Next Steps.

Discipleship Paths at University UMC

We endeavor to grow in following Jesus through various opportunities:

  •     Education and learning
  •     Listening / spiritual development / prayer and meditation
  •     Service in the local community and wider and within the church
  •     Fellowship and mutual support
  •     Generosity

The Discipleship Team supports these endeavors through

  •     The LOGOS Class on Sunday mornings at 9:30 AM
  •     Offering small discussion group opportunities
  •     Offering a guided Path to begin Next Steps in spiritual growth

The Path a process of individual and corporate growth.  We will not accomplish all things at all times; nor will we all follow the same paths.

The ideas of a “path” and “next steps” are concepts that help us always grow in our following, but in a way that focuses us in a fruitful and realistic manner.  We work intentionally on developing in one or two ways at a time.

Our paths will vary; our paths may often cross.  Following Jesus is a journey, not a destination.

A Discipleship Path of Next Steps at University UMC

You may engage in from various starting points.  This includes participating in a Be You. Be Loved. Belong class, a small group experience, or directly enter into it.

We each have various talents: something we are good at. We have various interests: things we enjoy and desire to do.  We also are given gifts by God, to be employed in God’s and Jesus’s work here and now on earth.

Following Jesus entails paying close attention to our gifts.  Perhaps those follow our interests and talents but sometimes not.

On the Path, you will work on recognizing your gifts.

You then consider what it means to continue to grow in relationship to the UUMC community, and you meet with a coach who is familiar with paths to following Jesus and in particular with the opportunities particular to UUMC and our time and place.

You will discuss your gifts and passions for growth with the coach and select next steps for yourself.  You will be given a personal introduction to the appropriate person at UUMC who can help you move forward with your choices.

For many, this will mean Next Steps commitments to

  • Actively attend worship
  • Connect with others in a group for friendship and support
  • Serve in a UUMC ministry, an outside volunteering opportunity, or within the church
  • Pay attention to God and Jesus through prayer, other spiritual work, and/or learning opportunities

In some cases you can combine two or more of these things in one activity.

A fun part of the process in the coaching interview is creation of a small poster for each participant, sharing about themselves and their spiritual growth steps, with a picture.

These will get displayed in Fellowship Hall, as a way of sharing ourselves and connecting with one another.

Want to participate in the Path,? Contact Tom Mitchell, 314-858-1020

Cindy Finkenkeller's Godsighting

Good morning!

I would like to tell you about my Godsighting, which is about gratitude and has two parts.

The first part is the many consistent supporters and the devoted volunteers from UUMC who staff the expanded Open Door Ministry on Wednesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. People in need each can take two full bags of groceries per month, toiletries, up to four bus passes per adult, socks, gloves, hats and personal hygiene kits. The church buys the bus passes, but everything else is donated. On Dec. 21st, we had nine adults and five children come through the building. All of the adults shopped carefully and filled their bags to overflowing with food. The need is great and ongoing. I find it inspiring that UUMC is trying to work on complicated issues like hunger and poverty, week in and week out.

In case you have not seen one, this is a personal hygiene kit. This Ziploc gallon bag has a bar of soap, a tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, a sturdy comb, a small bottle of shampoo, a deodorant stick and a packet of tissue. These items are not covered by foot stamps and are prized. It costs between 12 and 15 dollars to make one personal hygiene kit, depending on the size of the items. On average, UUMC gives out about 25 personal hygiene kits per month, which costs about $300 to $375 per month. That is a big financial commitment for this church, and I appreciate every donation.

The second part of my Godsighting is about the gratitude of small children. In October, a family came to the Open Door ministry shortly before 4 p.m. The extended family had three children, 5 and under. The children played quietly with toys in a corner of the Fellowship Hall near the back entrance to Rev. Diane’s office while their parents thoughtfully made food choices to stretch the donations as far as possible. When the parents were finished and told the children that it was time to go, the 5-year-old knocked on Rev. Diane’s door and asked where she should put the toys away! I was impressed that a 5-year old would be this responsible and considerate, especially in a new environment.

Please continue to donate to our food pantry and its many parts, especially in the winter months. It makes a difference to many. Thank you.

Witnessing Whiteness: Joyce King

White privilege? Not me – I grew up in rural poverty, the child of a parent with an eighth grade education. No way am I privileged. Racist? Not me – I had a black fiancé in St. Louis in the 1980’s and have several mixed race great nieces and nephews today. How wrong this perspective was. Through Witnessing Whiteness I learned that we ALL are part of the problem of race in this country and we all CAN be part of the solution.

Witnessing Whiteness is a YWCA led workshop. Approximately six UUM folks joined a large group of our neighbors at Bais Abraham, meeting on Sunday evenings for ten weeks beginning last fall. I was particularly struck by how many older Jewish congregants participated, some in their seventies or eighties, and how they were still committed to learning and making a difference in our local community. One particularly bitterly cold, snowy evening, one of the eldest among us asked if anyone who lived west of 270 could take her home because her husband had refused to return to U-City in the elements to fetch her. Her dedication to these at times, difficult conversations and self-reflection really spoke to me.

Next, I’d like to read an excerpt from Shelly Tochluk’s book Witnessing Whiteness, to help you understand what this is really all about. "White people in general are not known for questioning (1) how we receive unearned privilege in our daily lives and (2) how whiteness marks our environments…people need to be clear that when we can witness the whiteness present in our surroundings, we let people know that we can be part of conversations that most white people generally avoid, defend against, or deny. In some ways, our ability to witness white privilege may offer validation for the experiences of the people of color in our lives. At other times, our increased vision may help to build trust, connection, and mutual sharing. In either case, when white privilege can be named and discussed as a real factor affecting people’s lives, the doorway opens for an entirely new ability to relate."

For a revealing glimpse of white privilege in St. Louis, please see Amy Hunter’s Ted Talk, Lucky Zip Codes.


Witnessing Whiteness: Tom Mitchell's Journey

This post is written by Tom Mitchell, the Discipleship Ministry Team Leader.

Racism is a giant issue for the United States.  I have known that for a very long time, with a heart yearning for movement forward, with volunteering in many capacities of assistance to its victims, and always with the comfort of being able to pull back into my nice, almost all white neighborhood and circles.  And occasionally participating in well-intentioned inter-racial dialog that seemed to create more heat than light.
So, why plunge into Witnessing Whiteness, nine challenging sessions with a small, all-white group, facilitated by white leaders trained through the YWCA?   I knew this would be a time of deep inward looking at our country, our community and myself.  It would not be, and was not comfortable.  But, it was a safe space in which to learn, share and support one another.
Why an all-white group?  It seemed as if this was backwards.  I see two very good reasons for doing it this way:
1.    It is a simple justice matter that white people would do their own home work -- to dig into the dung heaps of racism and come to new insights, rather than the usual asking of those who are oppressed to do the work of educating us.
2.   To penetrate deeply into the realities of our country, community and our own lives and inner feelings is difficult, and is best done in a safe, confidential environment in the beginning.
This initial process will be in vain unless there are further steps, which will demand interaction with people of color.

It was difficult to want to attend and do the reading, as most of us felt as if we were being beat up on, session after session.  Not by the facilitators, who were skilled and  delightful, but by the subject matter and getting rubbed in the face with the dreadful realities of racism in our country.
So, my issue is whether I came out of it not just wiser, but in a better position to be a positive force.  Session 7 finally began to feel partially helpful in building up my strength and drive to move forward personally.  Sessions 8 and 9 fortunately turned toward how to proceed further in this journey, with practical suggestions, and an orderly process for development of personal social justice ministry.
The title of the book implies a hope that we will become better witnesses of our white culture, our racism, and be ready to verbalize this actively in appropriate situations.  I have felt some progress on this already.  However, this class, by itself, did not get us to the point of being well prepared for activism, though it helped.

My first steps:
1. I was referred to A People's History of the United States, and Birth of a White Nation for further reading. Witnessing Whiteness training focused mostly at a psychological level, and is lighter on learning about our history than makes me comfortable in discussing the issues beyond our safe space.  
Birth of a White Nation, a concise book, covers racial developments from early colonial times through the end of the 19th century, focusing on how and why oppressive systems were set up.

I highly reccommend Howard Zinn's Peoples History of the United States.  It is long, but lively, presenting what has been left out of our history books. He covers from Columbus through the middle of the 20th century in detail. Not pretty, but very important to know.
2. Using Witnessing Whiteness as a jumping off point for more justice involvement.  First, a new practice of responding firmly, calmly and knowledgable to racist remarks (be they explicit or implied).  Not ducking it.  

3. Next this needs to go beyond talk. I do not have discernment presently as to what that would be.  Witnessing Whiteness does offer a structured suggested path for moving on. 
Our interchange with Bais Abraham and All Saints people in our group was very positive.  Bats Abraham has come alive for me as real people well engaged in faith and justice work.
YWCA is planning new rounds of Witnessing Whiteness groups.  I encourage you to take the plunge!

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