I once Googled ‘what’s a Methodist believe?’ This was last week

Next month, I’ll be a Methodist.

I’m not really sure what it means, either, but we’re becoming members at the church we’ve attended since July, and cementing our intentions to stay has given me peace and hope that the relationships we have will grow. Being a stranger in a new place is sometimes brutally lonely.  

Wikipedia My extensive, deep Internet research and our membership meetings have revealed the John Wesley behind all this Methodist stuff had a lot to say about the ideas we’re pursuing.

“One great reason why the rich in general have so little sympathy for the poor is because they so seldom visit them. Hence it is that … one part of the world does not know what the other suffers. Many of them do not know, because they do not care to know: they keep out of the way of knowing it — and then plead their voluntary ignorance as an excuse for their hardness of heart.”

— John Wesley, as quoted in “Making Room.”

Stumbling into this truth is like bumping into a new friend in a new place.

The Christianity I grew up with blessed me in so many ways. I’m here now, as a testament to what I learned when I was young. I heard God speak to me as a child, and I feel the Spirit in my life, and I learned to call it the Spirit in Catholic school.

But what I learned and what I saw around me were sometimes too far apart, and that’s not unique to Catholicism or Christianity … it’s just us all being humans, broken, bent.

Some offenses are part of Catholicism to me — that women can’t teach or lead anything but Sunday school; that missionary work is great only if you’re Mother Teresa or a youth group; that a divorced woman and her three kids should feel lonely and judged in the very place God welcomes us for community.

So I guess, in the Methodists, we’re seeking a new beginning. Methodists aren’t special; they struggle, they mess up, too. We’re at a young church — it’s 13. I’m insulated there from the similar liturgical feel of a traditional UMC church. Being a Methodist is something that, because I’m new, doesn’t include all that history. {And sometimes, I do really miss the liturgy. I’ve visited a traditional UMC church in Lansing anonymously and, from a pew in the back, I let it fill me up. But then I return to my plant church and embrace the guitars and the drums.}

But in this church, here, we’re seeking the intentional; we want relationships that don’t look perfect. We want a group of people who are fired up about the idea that we are all strangers here. We are.

When I think about the best hospitality I’ve witnessed — given or received — it wasn’t over a fancy table. It was authentic, and it acknowledged that we’re all sometimes wandering; we’re all sometimes in need.

Visits from friends while I was on rest during my pregnancy — sometimes we cried. Sometimes we ate lava cake. One of my friends cleaned my bathroom — she cleaned my bathroom. Later, it was a hug and tissues when I stopped in to say goodbye again, one last time, to my best friend in my old city.

It was a towel and washcloth folded, a futon made up for me in Wisconsin, on a drive from Minnesota to Michigan. It was two bedrooms at my mom’s house, during a three-month stay between homes during our move.

It was dinner we’d made on Christmas for our three older neighbors whose family live far away, followed by my kids singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

It was not one but two warm smoothies made from yogurt and fruit, sipped then gulped down, offered by the family we’d welcomed from Burma through our refugee resettlement team. They’d made them as a thank-you for me and my daughter for driving the mom to language lessons, and my 4-year-old wasn’t having any.

I am addicted to that stuff — that’s rich, abundant. And, truthfully, too far apart in occurrences.

It’s that — that’s what we’re pursuing. More. Committing to a church is a faithful step toward that.




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