Monday, May 20, 2019

Francis Asbury and Harry Hosier

During the Revolutionary War all the preachers of the Church of England went back to England for safety. Methodists preachers were part of that group. Only one stuck it out, a man names Francis Asbury. He often had to hide during the war, so he wouldn’t get hurt. It was after the war was won that John Wesley realized if Methodism was going to continue in the USA, it would have to be separate from the Church of England. So it became the Methodist Church for the first time.
Francis was a leader and one of the first bishops in the Methodist Church in the United States. He oversaw the ministry of circuit riders. Circuit riders would be over a number of different churches, including an area that had no church in which they planted a church. Harry Hosier was a great preacher that rode alongside Asbury on many journeys.

The circuit riders would ride from church to church. Some churches were just a small group meeting in someone’s home. But when a circuit rider came to town to preach that small group would share the news and invite the whole community to come here their preaching. Circuit riders had to ride a horse from church to church and trust that someone would take them in at night. Sometimes they had to sleep out in the wild. They often were very young men and women.

Because the circuit rider wasn’t always there, a local leader would lead the church in their absence. That is why lay leaders are still an important part of our church. Also, some preachers decided to settle in one place. Now, these preachers are called Local Licensed Pastors. Our current-day circuit riders are called Elders. While many of them don’t serve a whole circuit, they still commit to being willing to move around to wherever they are needed. Just like Asbury did, bishops still appoint pastors (local licensed and Elders) to a church, rather than the church “calling” a pastor. Sometimes that is hard, like when the bishop decides a pastor we really like is needed elsewhere. However, it has benefits too like the local church doesn’t have to go through a long process to find a pastor. Many churches with a “calling” system will be without a church for years before they find the right person. Because it takes so long, often times they will stick with someone who is a bad match because they don’t want to do the process over again. In our appointment system, we often are only without a pastor for a couple weeks.

1.       Compare our system today with that of Asbury’s day. What are the pros and cons of the differences?
2.       The Circuit Riders made for a perfect event to invite friends to church for. What events do you think are the best ones to invite friends to?
3.       If you were going around to churches every week like Francis Asbury, who would you want to be your Harry Hosier?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Robert Strawbridge and Barbara Heck

In the 1760, lots of people were moving from England to the colonies in North America.
Robert Strawbridge was one of them. Robert was from Ireland and came to the colonies in 1760 to be a farmer in Maryland. He had been a leader of a Methodist class back in Ireland, and so he decided to start one here in America, too. He didnt actually tell John Wesley what he was up to, he just did it.

Barbara Heck moved to the colonies around the same time. She had attended a Methodist group before she moved. She traveled to the colonies with Philip Embury, who John Wesley had licensed to preach. She encouraged him to start a group, and rounded up five friends to be a part of it. Later, as the group grew to a church, she would help design John Street Chapel in NYC.

The Methodist movement grew because of people like Robert and Barbara, who were willing to take risks and begin new groups even if they might fail. They knew they needed to meet with other Christians. And as the colonies grew, and the frontier grew, Methodists groups grew. When a Methodist moved, they started a new group. Many of those groups grew into churches.

1.      Are there jobs in the church that only the pastor can do?
2.      What do people do at our church when they see a need?
3.      Do we try new things, even if they might fail?
4.      If you started a small group, who are the 5 people you would start it with?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Susanna Wesley

When John was starting small groups, the Church of England didn’t allow women to preach or lead. They were not allowed to be pastors, but they had a big part in Methodism from the start. A large part of that is because of John and Charles mom, Susanna. Susanna had a lot of kids, and she taught them all that day to day things made a big difference in their faith. She had her own small group that met at her house.
It is said, that one time John was frustrated because a woman had the nerve to preach at her class meeting. He complained to his mom about it. Susanna told him he better list to the woman preach before he decided she shouldn’t. John did just that, and realized women were as good at preaching as men. God seemed to be calling them to leadership and using them to reach new people with the gospel. Many women would feel God’s call to be leaders and follow those calls, even though it would take until 1956 until women could be fully ordained in Methodist Church.

Other remarkable women in the early Methodist movement (pulled from ) :

Barbara Heck, known as the mother of American Methodism, urges Philip Embury to start preaching in New York and designs John Street Chapel in New York City.
c. 1770 
Mary Evans Thorne is appointed class leader by Joseph Pilmore in Philadelphia; she is probably the first woman in America so appointed.
Despite objections of some male preachers, John Wesley authorizes Sarah Mallet to preach as long as “she proclaimed the doctrines and adhered to the disciplines that all Methodist preachers were expected to accept.”
Isabella Bomefree, a slave who later changes her name to Sojourner Truth, is emancipated when slavery is abolished in New York State. That same year, she co-founds Kingston Methodist Church. In 1843, she feels "called in the spirit" and begins to travel and preach. She becomes involved in the abolitionist movement, and her public speaking combines her religious faith with her experiences as a slave.
Helenor M. Davisson is ordained deacon by the North Indiana Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church, making her the 
first ordained woman in the Methodist tradition.

1.      Why do you think women were willing to break church rules?
2.      Do you think there are church rules today that need to be broken?
3.      How do you decide if a rule should be broken or kept?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley was John Wesley’s little brother. He was a pastor in the Church of England too. While John was really good at organizing people into groups, Charles had a different gift. He was a poet and song writer. He could take the stories from the Bible and theology (beliefs about God) and turn them into beautiful songs.

Charles published 4,500 songs and wrote at least 3,000 more. As Methodism grew, leaders relied heavily on his hymnal and the Bible, because they couldn’t take a lot of books on horseback. Charles wrote songs for lots of people who didn’t know church music…so he would take popular songs and change the words so people didn’t have to worry about knowing the melody.
We still sing a lot of his songs today!

1.      Look up Charles Wesley’s songs in the hymnal. Do you know any?
2.      Read John Wesley’s Directions for Singing in the hymnal. What would be your 7 rules for singing in church?
3.      Pick a favorite pop song. Using that tune, write words to make it into a church song. You can use Bible stories for inspiration or a theological idea. 

Thursday, April 4, 2019

UMC History: John Wesley

John Wesley is considered the founder of the United Methodist Church. John was a pastor in the Church of England.  John, like many other pastors of his time, didn’t have a crowded congregation to preach to on Sundays. So, like other pastors, he decided to go where the people were, and preach to them there. He would go out to the mines in the English countryside and preach about God’s love and how God wanted us to live. He wasn’t known for being an exciting preacher, but lots of people listened to him and decided to turn their life to Jesus. The only problem was that they kept all the same company and habits and by the time John came back the next week to preach, they needed to turn their life around again.
                John was worried about this. He wanted people to grow in their faith. He didn’t want them to feel like failures. So he tried something that had worked to help him grow when he was in college. He started having these people meet together in small groups each week. These groups were called classes and bands. A class would start with everyone answering the question: How is it with your soul? They would share how they saw God working in their lives. They would help each other to grow closer to God, so they wouldn’t need to turn their life around each week.
                The groups worked! People would invite their friends to come with them. They would pool money together to help the poor. People would get used to talking about God in front of people. God would even call some people to become pastors from the groups. Most importantly, people would grow in their faith together.

1.       How is our Junior Group like those first small groups?
2.       How could we be more like those groups?
3.       Why do you think it was easier for people to join a small group than come to Sunday worship?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Talents

The Parable of the Talents
Matthew 25:14-28

Quick Summary:
Jesus tells a story of a man trusting his servants with different amounts of talents (bags of gold). To one, he leaves 5, one gets 2, and one get 1. He comes back to find the one with 5 doubled it to 10, the one with 2 doubled it to 4. But the one with 1 buried it, and returned only what he had. The boss was mad that he didn’t even get interest and fired him.

The Point:
God trusts us to take what he has given us and to use it to make the world better.

Questions for Family Time:
1.Tell me the story you heard today.
        a. (see above)
2.  What are some things God has trusted you with?
            a. (this is a personal answer.)
3.How can you use them to make the world better?
        a. (similar answer to above)    


There is definitely a sense in this parable about the physical things God entrusts to us. It is after all followed by the parable in which we are told to feed the hungry, clothe the needy, care for the sick and imprisoned. There is definitely a sense of sharing what God has given us to make the whole world better. This idea is what we call stewardship. It is the idea that all we have his really God’s and we have a responsibility to use if for God’s purposes. We are stewards, managers if you would, of God’s stuff.

But, I think this parable goes beyond calling us to give material goods to God’s causes. I think our talents might actually refuse the giftedness and uniqueness that God has put in each of us. Perhaps it is because talents has changed in language from meaning money to mean abilities and gifts. God doesn’t just hold us to account for our money or material goods. He expects us to use who he made us to be for his kingdom.

This second understanding is what we are going to focus on during Junior Group. Each one of these kids is unique with unique gifts and talents that can use for God’s kingdom. I am going to be inviting them to think about who they are, and what natural “talents” they have and how they might use them to make God’s world better.

I also want to encourage you to reflect on your talents and how you are a steward of them. Also, I want to encourage you to think out of the box. God often views our weaknesses as talents. I think about Nick and one story time when I asked the kids to help him focus because he had ADHD and a young boy excitedly shared he did too, and sat down beside him. Nick was able to use what we often think of as a deficit to help a child experience God’s love.
There is a line from the old Spiderman movies that really is at the heart of our lesson this week: with great power comes great responsibility. We may not be able to climb walls or save the world from evil super villains, but God has entrusted with each of us power. And he calls us to use that power for his kingdom.

Personal Reflection:
What are your talents? How do you use them for God’s kingdom?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Sower


Mark 4:3-8

Quick Summary:

A farmer plants seeds on different soils with different results.

The Point:

When we share God with others, we will not always get the results we want...but we should still share with everyone.

Questions for Family Time:

1.  Why did the farmer waste seed on all those places?
        a. Because, maybe there was some good soil there. Maybe a plant would grow.

2. Who does the farmer represent?
        a. Me!

3. What does planting the seed represent?
     a. Sharing God’s word with others, that they could grow into a disciple of Jesus.

4. What do the different soils represent?
     a. The path is like people who don't even really listen. The rocky place are those who accept it for a minute and then go after the next thing. The thorns are like those who let the troubles of the world steal their hope. The good soil are those who accept God's word and live it, who grow to share God's word themselves. 

            I love the garden metaphor in this story…but not because I am a good gardener. Here is how I garden: Every winter, I start getting excited about what I will plant. I keep adding to my list until spring finally breaks, and I have listed way more than I can care for. I go to the store and get plants and seeds, trying hard to not pick more than I really can manage, always trying a couple new things I know nothing about but the kids like from the grocery store. One year I experimented with beets. One year it was kale. I plant my garden, and hope some things will take. Sure enough, with a little time, sprouts appear. Sometimes, things sprout I didn’t even mean to sprout, what my mom always called volunteers. These guys were from last year’s garden or seeds in the compost that somehow germinated. One year, I was so excited about some volunteer pumpkins; I let them take over the garden.

            The thing that I often seem to struggle with the most in getting things to grow is the balance of waiting and care. Too much attention and the plants die from being over-watered. Too little attention and they end up choked out by weeds. There is a balance between waiting and not forgetting that I often don’t strike just right. The other thing I have learned is that different plants like different soil. What made my beets grow in abundance may have very well been the reason my other plants refused to sprout.

            Jesus tells us this story about gardening right after sending out his disciples to share the word of God. I imagine they came back with mixed results. Jesus shared with them that people are like seeds in the garden. Their environment and experience makes a big difference in whether they are ready to do something with God’s word.
           You would think that at this point, it would be clear. He would tell his disciples to seek out those who have the best environment, the “good soil” and only plant there. Why waste the work in planting seeds among paths, rocks, and weeds?

But Jesus, he never tells a story like we are expecting. Instead, he tells us to plant everywhere. There will be people who we share God with that won’t even be listening. There will be people who will be excited, until the next thing strikes their fancy. There will be people who let the influence of others around them pull them away from God.  But there will also be people that hear the word of God, and are changed forever. These people will go on to plant more seeds than we did.

            We often make the mistake of thinking that we are the plant in this story, and somehow it is our job to make sure we are in good soil. But we are not the plant. We are the farmer, the gardener. We are the ones who are throwing God’s word into the word, sharing the love of Jesus with everyone. Even in places that seem like bad soil. Sometimes we have disappointing results. Sometimes we have great results. Whatever the results, we keep on planting.

            I think Jesus told this to his disciples to remind them that those moments when they felt they had failed, when their effort seemed fruitless, it’s not always the farmer’s fault. It’s not the seed. There are other things that we have no control over that keep people from God. Our job is to do the best we can on scattering the seed, and trust God to work on growing it. Just like I am learning with my garden, we are always balancing waiting with care. Jesus reminds us to not be so distracted with the ones who don’t allow God’s word to change them, that we forget to see those who do, who go on to plant their own seeds.

Personal Reflection:

How do you spread the seed of God’s word? Where do you spread it? How do you balance waiting and care?