On the Road Again

By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

The Virginia Conference lists 1,025 clergy under appointment full and part time. Together we serve the 1,200 churches throughout the state. On Wednesday, June 26, 57 clergy and their families will load all their personal belongings into a moving van and travel to their next pastoral appointment. Some will travel to large multi-staff church communities, others to rural congregations; all go in hopes of joining Christ in faithful ministry. Thirty-three of our clergy will try to adjust to being retired and will feel a bit strange when Sunday rolls around and they find out what life is like in the pews … again.

A typical year in the Virginia Conference sees from 25% to 30% of our clergy relocate to new assignments. This year only 5% of our clergy will take a new posting. On the average, congregations in our conference adjust to new clergy in the pulpit every three years. National studies compiled by various church institutes assert that the most effective years of pastoral leadership occur after year ten. Sadly, the marriage of most clergy and their congregations doesn’t last long enough to experience the benefits of long-term committed relationship and shared ministry through discipleship.

On Sunday, July 7, ten new pastors to the Arlington District will arrive in their churches prepared to work at making disciples for Jesus Christ. Those ten churches will swell in attendance as active and inactive members turn out to check out the new pastor. The Rev. Cathy Abbott will retire as District Superintendent of the Arlington District. Our new superintendent of Arlington will be the Rev. Sarah Calvert.

Trinity is proud to announce that Nila Curry graduated from Wesley Theological Seminary in May and will be living in Maryland. Nila has lived at Trinity House while at WTS.

On another joyous note: Keith Lee, Eileen Gilmer and I return to Trinity as your pastors. I am very glad that Keith and Eileen are my colleagues in pastoral ministry at Trinity, along with Michelle, Jerry, Harriet, Jose, our lay leader Peggy Fox, and of course, all of you. We make a great team. All of us are here to make disciples for Jesus Christ.

Shalom, Jim

 

Mid-Year Resolutions

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Maybe you resolved to work out more, read more or cut down on screen time. How’s that going? I think we should start a new trend: a mid-year’s resolution. What’s the point of rushing into things? Give yourself a good six months to see where the year takes you. I invite you to make a resolution centered on prayer.

O Lord, help me not to despise or oppose what I do not understand. -William Penn

Pray for discernment. Pray that God will open our eyes to see the other side. Pray for the wisdom to keep our mouths shut until we understand why the other person acts/speaks/thinks a certain way.

 God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. -C.S. Lewis

Pray for the ability to hear that small (and sometimes not so small) voice. Pray that God’s sensibility will rise above the din of our cries for help or attention. Pray for the confidence to know that we succeed because of God’s grace and power, and not because of our own race to selfish gain.

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.  –John 20:29

Pray that God will empower you to have so much faith that you are fearless. Pray for the courage to trust God fully and completely, at all times and in all situations. Pray that God will enable us to willingly give up the need to be in control.

How about if we make a pledge? I’ll pray for you, and you pray for the clergy and lay leaders here at Trinity. Please pray for our greater United Methodist Church, and all the Methodist churches around the world. We need it.

Prayer works. Prayer strengthens. Prayer is how we talk with God. If you need help in finding ways to pray, just let Jim, Keith or me know.

I’ll see you in church!

 

Twenty Something Spirituality

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor

How many of us faithfully attended church when we were in our late teens and early twenties? I reckon not many. I was that age during the eighties and nineties, which was a far different context from where we are as a church today. Young adults weren’t in the church back then. And they’re not in the church today. But here’s what I remember: even though I wasn’t in church or active in my faith or anything remotely resembling traditional faith activities at that time, I remember God was always in the picture.

God’s presence was nothing overtly religious but the wondering about God or thoughts about the afterlife were always hovering in my conscience. But anyone or anything that reminded me of organized religion, I impulsively rejected. These were emotional reactions, as if organized religion were parts from the past, forgotten and should be rejected. The irony is, although I ran from any form of religiosity, I still yearned for God, wondering silently if I was a spiritual orphan.

In looking back at those times, I struggled with these two opposing tensions because humans are intrinsically spiritual. We long for meaning beyond the physical and empirical. But at that age we don’t have the language or the tools to explain our inner world except for whatever was handed down to us from our parents or from Sunday School or from popular media.

In my mid-twenties, I wanted to come back to the church because I was down and felt that I’d lost control of my life. Salvation for me was not only about attaining eternal life but also gaining control and purpose. At that time, everything seemed topsy-turvy like Friday afternoon traffic in Tyson’s Corner; I felt like I was trapped and had no sense of direction or momentum. I was STUCK.

Then I got involved with various Christian faith communities many years later. Here I am, a pastor at a United Methodist Church and am grateful to be part of our faith community. There are some spiritual experiences I wish I never had. But as I reflect on this journey, I see that the thing that I needed most was God, in the most compassionate and loving way possible. God who is love not rules, tradition or dogma. God in the most universal and down to earth way. God without Calvinism or Arminianism or Reformed or fundamentalism or liberalism but just God.

There are many who are graduating from college at this time of the year and/or who are in their twenties wanting something spiritual or religious again. I believe we should be that community to welcome them. I encourage you to continue to journey with God and share that genuine experience in an honest and vulnerable way. They will see God in-and-through you.

 

Celtic Worship at Trinity

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

Welcome to May. The flowers are starting to bloom, the temperature is going up and we have more hours of daylight. It’s a beautiful time of the year in Northern Virginia.

It’s also a great time to seek out the beauty in worship. If you’ve never experienced our Celtic worship service, I invite you to come join us. We meet on the last Sunday of every month at 5 p.m. in the Chapel. We offer times of quiet, hear lovely prayers, and listen to inspiring music played on the hammered dulcimer. Think of it as an antidote to the stress and tension of our daily lives.

Here’s the type of prayer we might read during a Celtic worship. It’s from Saint Patrick, the fifth-century missionary and bishop in Ireland.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,

Christ in the eye that sees me,

Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,

Through a belief in the Threeness,

Through a confession of the Oneness

Of the Creator of creation.

I hope to see you at our next Celtic worship!

 

Shavuot

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor

I was a bit nervous that night because I’ve never experienced Shavuot in a synagogue and didn’t know what to expect. I’ve known the holiday as Pentecost but had no idea about its Jewish significance. On one hand, I was grateful to be with a group of students from Hebrew U. participating at Bet Kinneset Moreshet Ysrael Synagogue. On the other hand, I was uncomfortable facing my own ignorance. What I call the Old Testament is not old to many, and especially to Jews, it’s an important document that carries deep and sacred traditions totally different from mine.

Traditional rabbinic calculation places the holiday near the same time as the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. Many customs and practices have taken root in the last two and a half thousand years, but the main practice and the reason why I was there that night was studying the Torah all night! There were multiple speakers and sessions and the most memorable one was when everyone was divided into small groups to read the book of Ruth. All major Jewish holidays have a book of OT assigned to them. For Shavuot, the book of Ruth is read for a variety of reasons, but the number one being that at the end of chapter one, there’s a mention of a barley harvest which usually falls around March-April.

In my small group instead just reading it, we were instructed to enact roleplay reading. I was not assigned a role (thank goodness because I felt awkward enough). The other members did a splendid job. The impressionable part was when it came to Ruth reciting the lines, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

Not only the person playing Naomi (the mother-in-law of Ruth who is the recipient of the heartfelt pledge) but practically everyone in the room (except, me, of course) was desperately convincing Ruth to not become Jewish. Emotions ran high. It was real and not roleplay anymore. Something deep within their psyche and soul fluttered out. Their main reason was that being Jewish is not only difficult and painful, but dangerous as proven by their history. At the time, I was thinking this is completely opposite to Christianity where everyone urges you to join the faith. I found out later that in Jewish tradition, you’re supposed to discourage a potential convert at least three times. Maybe that was it, but at that time, the emotion was too strong for me to ignore. I walked out of that session a bit perplexed.

I share this story for Pentecost and for confirmands preparing for the Confirmation Service. Life in Christ is not easy. We have a cross on top of the roof and as the most prominent symbol in the Sanctuary. We celebrate Communion with the words “This is His body given and blood shed for you.” I sincerely hope our journey with Christ has been arduous and strenuous and will continue to be that. Because Jesus said, “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

 

Leadership in the 21st Century

By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

Keith, Eileen and I over the last 3 months have been attending leadership seminars training us for the church of the 21st century. You and I are part of the first generation of North Americans to live in a society that no longer appreciates the presence of Christianity. Many are hostile toward the church. The early church shared the gospel of Jesus in a religiously plural, but hostile world. The 21st century has brought Christianity full circle.

Early Christians came together to celebrate their life together with God through prayer, table fellowship, and teaching about the Way. They also went out from the Temple and into the streets to be witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Their message asked persons to embrace the Way of life and the rule of God in their hearts but it was not about joining a particular church. They established small groups that met in homes for nurture and fellowship. It was through these small groups that a larger sense of community developed. Finally, they experienced persecution and arrest from religious authorities and non-religious people because the Way they chose affected the economic practices of society and challenged established religious traditions.

Based on these essential concerns of the early church and what is becoming obvious to us by now of the emerging world, we can conclude a few ideas about the church in the 21st century.

      1. Our primary mission will be to establish Christian communities in the midst of a hostile and violent world.
      2. The mission of these communities will be to proclaim the rule of God to all people.
      3. Existing and emerging Christian communities will need to nurture this new life in the Way and to bring new life to others.
      4. Our mission’s dominant theme will be the Way of life prefigured in the life and ministry of Jesus.
      5. The life of prayer will be necessary to keep our Christian communities focused on our mission as witnesses to the Way.
      6. And finally, all church and community leadership will be based on faithful service to the Way of Christ.

The excellent leadership of Trinity Church believes that, based on the life of the early church, the only way to move forward together in our time is for our congregation to turn outward to the world. All our new and existing buildings, ministries, and missions need to shout to the entire world that Jesus is the Way without being judgmental or forming value judgments on the worth of others with regard to their religious beliefs or their nationality. Our mission involves not losing our passion for social justice and the demand Christ makes on us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive sins, and love the enemy.

To move forward together as followers of the Way of Christ, all our missions and ministries must be willing to exist for the sole purpose of bringing this new life to others who are not yet experiencing it. We must be willing to invest our time, our talents, our treasures, and our very lives in order to turn society upside down so that, from time to time, those who are usually last can be first at the table of the world’s bounty. You and I need to discover as we move forward together the courage needed for embracing and offering this new life in Jesus as the Way. We are fellow pilgrims along the Way that leads us more fully and deeply into the wonder of God’s love, presence in the world, and mission.

 

Spending Holy Week at Trinity

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

It’s hard to believe that Easter is almost here. I know I say this every year. It seems like we just celebrated Christmas and now it’s April. We certainly hope you’ll spend Easter Sunday with us but that’s not the only day we hope you’ll join us. In order to get to Easter, it’s important we walk through Holy Week. Here’s a quick look at all the days of Holy Week and why they matter in the lives of followers of Christ.

Palm Sunday, April 14, 8:30 and 10:30 a.m.: We celebrate the day that Jesus made a triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The crowds cheered him as he humbly entered the city riding on a donkey. In a sign of respect, the people threw their cloaks and leafy branches on the road in front of him. We will wave the palm fronds during worship to mark this first day of Holy Week.

Maundy Thursday, April 18, 7:30 p.m., Chapel: The English word for Maundy comes from the Latin mandatum, which means commandment. John’s gospel tells us that on his last night on earth (before his betrayal and arrest), Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and then gave them a new commandment to love one another as Jesus had loved them. John’s gospel does not record the institution of the Lord’s Supper among the events of this night, but the other gospels do. That’s why we mark this night with celebrations both at the basin (foot washing) and at the Lord’s Table (Holy Communion). Those who attend our service can choose whether to participate in one or both celebrations.

Good Friday, April 19, 7:30 p.m., Sanctuary: We will remember the crucifixion of Jesus at Calvary. We’ll mark this reverent evening in our dimmed Sanctuary, hearing scripture readings of the powerful story of the last hours of Jesus’ life. If you have never attended a Good Friday service, I encourage you to come this year. Experiencing Good Friday will make Easter Sunday even more meaningful.

Easter Sunday, April 21, 6:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.: Christ the Lord is risen today! We will celebrate bright and early at our sunrise service in the memorial garden, right outside the Fellowship Building. We will also be celebrating in our Sanctuary at our regular worship times. It is a day of celebration and joy, and we look forward to having you join us.

I’ll see you in church!