Foundry United Methodist Church

Rev. Dean Snyder, Senior Minister

 

 

 

The State of the Church: Jesus’ Bottom Line

Sunday, November 12, 2006

 

 

Luke 10: 25-37

Rev. Dean Snyder

 

“A lawyer stood up to test Jesus.” Wouldn’t you know it?

 

The question the lawyer asked was one lawyers often ask, Jesus, what’s the bottom line? What must we do to inherit eternal life? The lawyer already knew the answer:

 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10: 28)

 

Love of God and love of neighbor…it is Jesus’ bottom line. It was John Wesley’s bottom line when he founded the Methodist movement…his golden text.

 

Love of God and neighbor.

 

This morning I want to take a look at the state of Foundry Church in light of Jesus’ bottom line. I want to lift up just a few examples of ways I believe we have been faithful to Jesus’ bottom line in 2006. Then I want to lift up a few of the things I believe we need to do to be faithful in 2007. Next Sunday, and throughout the following weeks, we are going to ask you to support this vision with your financial pledges for 2007.

 

Here are a few celebrations:

 

First: Love of God. In 2006 we have beautified our sanctuary and made Foundry a more worshipful, a healthier and safer place.

 

There is a historic tension in the life of this congregation which pits the building and mission against each other. Eileen Guenther tells me that the two most conflicted decisions made at Foundry during her 30 years here were the decision to become a Reconciling Congregation in 1995 and the decision to redo the front of the sanctuary and to buy a new organ in 1984.

 

Luise Gray, who died just a week and a half ago, was chair of the church board in 1984, and the meetings were, I understand, stormy. The argument was that we should not be spending money on our building which benefits ourselves but on mission which benefits others.

 

This tension has been part of our life ever since, and, as Charlie Berardesco, our Council Chair, says, “It is a good tension, part of what makes Foundry unique.”

 

But we have not spent the money we needed to spend to take care of our building. Alan Zabel tells me, for example, that all the heating/air conditioning valves in this building, when they broke over the years, not one was replaced, but they were simply frozen in the open position. Not a single one was ever replaced. It is one reason the heating and cooling in this building is so difficult to control and so very inefficient, Alan tells me. And this is only the tip of all the things we’ve chosen not to fix since 1984. 

 

I relish this church’s commitment to mission. I relish it. But, of course, we should not have been paying for mission by deferring the maintenance of our building.

 

So I am greatly appreciative for all of those who participated in the capital campaign 5 or 6 years ago that paid for some of the work we have done on the building this year. I am grateful to the Trustees, Building Committee, Finance Committee, and Church Council who made very difficult decisions this year to spend money we needed to spend to make our building more accessible and safer.

 

And I am grateful that our proposed 2007 budget includes more resources for building maintenance. I am grateful that our leaders are facing all the additional work that will need to be done in this building to make and keep it a safe, healthful, and beautiful place to work, study, worship and serve.

 

I was appointed to my first church as pastor 38 years ago, and in those 38 years I have learned this about church buildings – pay now or pay later. Pay now or pay MORE later. So it is good we are paying now.

 

Second: Love of God and neighbor. We are planning. This is very exciting. We are in the second phase of a three-phase planning/self-study process asking three questions: Who are we? Who is our neighbor? And what is God calling us to do? And then we will address a fourth question: How do we need to be organized to do what God is calling us to do.

I am grateful for the various study groups who have done this work so far, and to all of you who have participated in study/listening sessions.

 

Loving God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind includes being intentional in our planning for ministry.

 

I believe we will need to be open to new structures and new ways of organizing ourselves. Each year the Lay Leadership Committee nominates 200 people to fill 200 offices. They do a great job but I believe we need to figure out how we can free you up, support you, and empower you to do the ministry and mission God is leading you to do rather than recruit you to fill offices. So I am excited about Dee Lowman’s work on spiritual gift discernment and helping us become a church with a greater focus on deploying your gifts and helping you fulfill your calling. I am grateful to Robert McDonald who is organizing our new Webview database that will help you identify for us your interests and talents. These are the beginnings of fundamental shifts in the way we do ministry.

 

Thirdly: Love of neighbor. What you – Foundry Church – have been doing in mission to our community and world is astounding. Our walk-in mission – done by a committed group of volunteers who give hours every week to make it happen – cares for those who have been beaten on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Our Volunteer In Mission program is dynamic and powerful, as are so many of our mission groups and activities.

 

This past year and a half has seen the birth of a new ministry with our neighbors that is as exciting as any ministry any church is doing anywhere.

 

It started with our minister of mission Jana Meyer and a few others like Yadira Almodovar and Janis Bowdler taking sandwiches, hot chocolate, and bottled water on Thursday mornings to the Hispanic day-laborers who gather at 15th and P Streets looking for work. This was a simple act of hospitality and kindness that continues still today on Thursday mornings. But let me tell you what has evolved from this.

 

Eventually some of the day-laborers began meeting with some of our volunteers here in Helen Harris Parlor on Thursday evenings to ask how their lives might become better. Eventually they invited others, like the Mayor’s Office for Latino Affairs, the Employment Justice Center, the Columbia Heights Shaw Collaborative to meet with them, and the Union de Trabajadores of Washington DC was born in Helen Harris parlor, under the watchful eyes of Helen Harris’ and Lucy Hayes’ portraits. The workers have now incorporated, held a membership drive, and have registered over 100 workers. 

 

Our relationship with the day laborers at 15th and P brought us into relationship with the day laborers at Home Depot. Jana and our volunteers have done great work facilitating dialog between the workers, business owners, and the community.

 

The ministry has also developed health and legal components. Yadira has helped workers sign up for the Alliance health insurance program, and the Washington Lawyers Committee provides legal assistance for workers who are cheated by employers. 

 

Our relationship with the day laborers at 15th and P then led to us becoming involved in efforts in seeking justice for immigrants.  It was wonderful to see members of Foundry, like Jane Northern and TC Morrow, walking alongside our worker friends in immigration marches this year.  

 

All this also led to the rebirth of our English-As-A-Second Language mission.  Michael Szpak started teaching English on the streets at 15th and P. Amy-Ellen Duke, our Deacon for social justice, initiated Tuesday evening classes.  We now have a dedicated group of 10 ESL teachers, like Lynn Kim, Elizabeth McKee, and Dave Allen, who give 3 hours a week every Tuesday evening to tutor workers in English. 

 

Jana asked me to be sure to tell you that the ministry is not perfect. It is a ministry of building the bridge while you walk on it. I am grateful to everyone who has pioneered this ministry. It is an amazing example of love for God and love for neighbor. It is as exciting as any ministry any church is doing anywhere.

 

***

 

There is much more I could say about 2006. In 2006, after months of study, our Council made a very difficult and painful decision to discontinue our Child Development Center. It is a sign of maturity for a congregation’s leaders to be able to make difficult decisions knowing that not everyone will agree. Ministry and mission have seasons. Wise leadership knows this. For everything there is a time and a season.

 

I am very grateful that our CDC cots and other materials have been shipped to a United Methodist-related day care center in Liberia, thanks to Dolly Barnes and Jane Ross. We continue in a time of discernment as to how we can best serve the children of our community.

 

We have continued to wrestle with our denomination, and to pull our hair out about denominational policies that discriminate against gay and lesbian people. I am appreciative of the leadership that Foundry continues to provide in this area. We are committed to the full and equal inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the church, not just at Foundry, but throughout United Methodism. 

 

I am grateful for the growing presence of children and youth in our church’s life and for all those who work with children and youth. I am grateful for those who sing, for those who teach, for those who serve on committees, for those who evangelize, for those who lead fellowship groups, and for our competent, caring and committed staff.

 

I want to say a word about three specific ways I believe we are being led to love God and neighbor in 2007.

 

First: Love of God and neighbor: I am asking our Church Council to lead us in a process of addressing the question of same-sex unions here at Foundry. We are part of a denomination I love, but which has been wrong in the past –wrong on race and wrong on the ordination of women, and it is wrong again. Currently our denomination has a rule which says: “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”[i]

 

A study group has been considering options about the next steps of how to handle this prohibition. While the decision to do a wedding or not is ultimately the decision of clergy, Dee and I do not want to move without a sense of your support.

 

So we are asking the Council and the entire congregation to deliberate with us about this issue. I do want to say this: My conscience will not allow me to continue indefinitely to not celebrate the love of gay and lesbian partners who want their church’s blessing. Something has to happen.

 

Second: Love of God and neighbor: We need to reflect more of the glory of the diversity of the humanity God has created. We need to become more global.

 

We’d like our worship to become more global. Eileen is committed to this. One of her goals is to include music from non-European cultures in almost every worship service in 2007. I’ve said to her, why not every worship service? Why not?

 

We want everyone who walks through these days to see some of their culture in our shared worship. No one does global music better than Eileen, and I hope we all support her as she leads us even more deeply into a multi-cultural experience of worship and music. 

 

Our staff needs to be more global and diverse. Our Staff Parish Relations Committee is determined to create and fill a new Racial-Ethnic Minority Fellowship and we are asking council to create an issues working group to help us build a staff and congregation that reflects the cultural and racial richness of God’s good creation.

 

The third big way of loving God and neighbor in 2007 is this:

 

We used our new ramp that we are going to dedicate today for the first time this past Friday for the Concert for Life. Nancy Blasdel, who has been attending Foundry Church for 19 years, entered this building through the front door for the very first time Friday. She told me that it is different coming to church through the front door. It is different in ways she would have not imagined.

 

Nancy persisted with us for 19 years and her presence and witness helped bring us to the place where we have pew cuts and a front-door ramp. We are a spiritually richer congregational because of it.

 

But let me say this: There are barriers of all kinds that the church of Jesus Christ has put between people and Christ. And not everybody is Nancy Blasdel who will persist in pushing past those barriers for 19 years.

 

We can be the church that breaks down every barrier between people and Christ.

 

I am convinced that we are living in a time of America’s fourth great awakening.[ii]  People are searching and open spiritually today more than at any other time in my life, but the church puts barriers between people and Christ – physical, spiritual, theological, political. People today have a longing to go deeper spiritually than I have ever experienced before. Let’s get everything out of the way that is stopping them.

 

Our staff is working hard to develop plans and goals to strengthen our making and growing disciples of Jesus Christ. We want to increase our worship attendance by 5 percent in 2007, to increase the number of new members by 5 percent in 2007, and to increase the numbers of those of us actively engaged in ministry and mission by 5 percent in 2007. Each staff member has developed 4 to 6 goals that will help accomplish this.

 

We want to help you go deeper spiritually. We want to invite others into the adventure of being disciples of Jesus Christ.

 

We can’t love neighbors we exclude or ignore or don’t make feel welcomed or open our hearts to. We can’t love neighbors when we walk by on the other side of the street.

 

Let’s let God break every barrier down in our hearts, in our church, in our world. Let’s go deeper, let’s build ramps in our souls in 2007.  

 

 

 

 

 

www.foundryumc.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[i] United Methodist Book of Discipline, Paragraph 341.6.

[ii] See http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/256626.html