Reflections: A praying conference
A praying conference
(During) the first 100 days of Virginia Bishop Young Jin Cho's leadership, clergy and laity were challenged to engage in spiritual disciplines, including prayer for an hour a day. Many churches and individuals signed a covenant to that effect. I presented this challenge to my congregation and 17 people, including myself, took on the task. It has changed my life and ministry. I have heard testimony of the fruit it produced from people in my congregation. Bishop Cho continues encouraging us to follow his example to pray for an hour a day. He says that if we want to be a vital church again we must have vital prayer.
The Rev. Sarah Sealand, Richmond, Va., Christ United Methodist Church
I'm the editor of our district newsletter. I plan to highlight the ("Teach Us to Pray") articles (January/February) and trainings throughout the year. I like your focus and believe others will be encouraged as well.
Nancy Newton, Cincinnati, Ohio, Ohio River Valley District
A different perspective
In 1963, I started 8th grade at a church-based school where I would experience very serious and painful bullying—for which I am most sincerely grateful. Let me share the outcomes,
I have a heart for bullies and especially "bulliettes." I (believe) most bullying comes from a fear of invisibility. People whose pain and fear are not acknowledged by those around them, especially their "church family," become willing to be reviled rather than ignored.
The "bulliettes" were either similarly tempted or truly terrified of becoming the next target of the bully. I have had one of each seek me out to ask forgiveness.
As a result of my experience, I became the friendliest girl at the (larger) high school. I did not have any expectation of the behaviors to continue. I was far from perfect and have been horrified, on occasion, to find I have been less than vigilant to keep myself from mocking folks.
Another outcome has been a life-long commitment to inclusiveness and churches of which I am a member being places where NO ONE is scorned or treated as an inferior.
I am MOST concerned that all the responsibility for the situation is placed on the shoulders of the perceived bully. Domestic abuse, poverty, mental illness, non-popular/invisible illnesses of self or family members, all can be behind the bully's shell.
Folks who are participating or tolerating only become more fearful if angrily confronted.
Most of all, the target of the bullying needs support to develop their own strength and willingness to let God grow them through the experience.
I was SO blessed to have parents who, though very frustrated and angry, did neither "oh, you poor baby" me nor "what did you do to cause this" me. They loved me unconditionally; acknowledged that sometimes even adults don't have good answers to problems; (taught) that I could choose how I would view myself...either (as) so "not one of the in-crowd," or as God saw me: precious child of God created for purpose and with hope.
All of those were essential in defining who I am today. For that, I am grateful..
I am sorry that more of this perspective did not get included in your article (January/February).
Jann Coulson, Mary Esther (Fla.) United Methodist Church
Bullying limits church
There is too much bullying going on around our local United Methodist churches. This malignant epidemic continues to damage any potentially successful work of outreach by most congregations. After 40 years of pastoral leadership, I know that too many pastors are spending too much time dealing with lay bullies—especially adults in influential positions.
While our denomination holds clergy accountable for their behavior, we also need to hold our adult lay members responsible for their bullying misbehavior. Too many innocent people are being driven away from United Methodist churches and looking elsewhere for spiritual refreshment. We cannot afford to ignore the shameful damage being inflicted by these unhealthy bullies.
I appreciated Rev. Eric Alsgaard's article (January/February), which serves as a welcome invitation to discuss this cancerous disease. As we serve Christ, we need to spend more time PRAYING for those unhappy bullies who prefer PREYING on our Christian fellowship.
The Rev. Ben A. Lyttle (retired), Canal Winchester, Ohio, Asbury United Methodist Church