Belmont Blvd

It’s difficult to distill a story down to three minutes, but WSMV Channel 4’s Jennifer Johnson did her best today as she reported for the Nashville NBC affiliate. The story aired this evening: “Pastor suspended 90 days for marrying same-sex couple“.

There are two pieces “the husband” and I wish could have made it through the editorial process.

The first is how much we need people to know how supportive Belmont UMC has been to the two of us, not just in regard to our wedding, but also throughout these fifteen years of church membership.

Through the years we have taught children, youth, and adult Sunday school classes, Disciple Bible Study, served as youth group leaders, chaperoned youth trips, and sung in the choir.

We do not list our involvement at Belmont in a boastful way. Rather, we are grateful to our church for accepting us and loving us. And not only Frank and me, but our four children (now adults) aslo grew up learning about the limitless love of God from Belmont’s faithful members and staff.

God through Belmont has blessed us beyond measure, so yes, we wish that could have been communicated in the news segment.

The second thing we wish hadn’t been cut was when I turned to the camera during the interview and said, “Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.”

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Related links on icanhasgrace:
Extravagant Grace
Resolved: Pastor Charged for Officiating at Our Wedding
A Wedding and Two Sisters (video short by Anthony Scanio)
Just Married

Grace Upon Grace

Kairos Sunday School Class

Look closely at the faces in the picture above. Look at those smiles! These are the faces of people who have taken to heart the United Methodist tag line, “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” My Sunday school class, the Kairos Class at Belmont United Methodist Church, officially became a Reconciling Class and joined the Reconciling Ministries Network today.

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Youth Sunday 2010

Youth Sunday 2010

Blessed. Broken. Poured. That was the theme for youth-led worship today at Belmont United Methodist Church. Each year that I have been a part of Belmont, the youth who speak, sing, and led us in worship impress me with the their depth of faith, their energy for justice, and their embodiment of the resurrection.

This year’s worship service was marked by the recent floods that inundated Nashville and the surrounding area. Many of the youth involved in worship were involved in clean-up efforts the week before. Their words about being blessed, broken, and poured were given new meaning as they wrapped their faith in Christ around their experiences of being Christ’s hands and feet in water-soaked neighborhoods.

My God bless these youth, their families, and their church leaders. I am thankful that God has blessed me through them once more.

See more pictures from Youth Sunday here Watch and listen to a couple of videos here and here. (Sorry I missed the beginning of your solo, Ben. And sorry for the fuzzy focus. My camera can only do so much!)

Frank on Disciple Bible Study

My partner, Frank, recently spoke to the members of our church at Belmont UMC about his experience leading Disciple Bible Study. His words moved us all. Here is what he said:

My Journey Through Disciple 1
(September 2008 – June 2009)

Last September a small group of us got together for our first meeting of the Disciple I Bible Study. I remember being very nervous. My role was to make everyone feel comfortable in our study of the Bible and to facilitate conversation and learning. I’ve had Bible study with first graders and youth before, but never with other adults.

We began with Genesis and Exodus, reading those wonderful old stories. Then we moved on to Leviticus and Deuteronomy and I admit to sometimes feeling lost during my reading because the histories could be very dry. But then we would get together in class and share our thoughts and feelings and breathe life into the text.

As we moved through the Old Testament, I kept thinking “How do I create conversation on THIS?” “What is it about these Law or these Prophets or these Kings that I’m missing that leaves me feeling like I’m not getting it?” My friends and I met in class on Sunday evenings and we shared some of the same thoughts with each other, we discussed the context of the writings, the authors, the time periods. We attempted to discover what God would have us learn from these ancient writings. What we did learn was the value of perseverance. We learned that sometimes we must just hang on and be faithful.

We created a safe place to share our questions and not feel stupid. None of us felt out of place. Together, we made every question and concern valid. We lifted our hearts to God to bless us as we learned. We prayed that, like the Disciples, we would be filled with the Holy Spirit. And we were.

We found Jesus in the Word, right where he said he’d be, in the gospel, the New Testament. We found him in the nooks and crannies of our Bibles. We found him in the footnotes and the concordances, the commentaries, and even the atlases. Jesus was always there with us.

We read that we didn’t really need to do anything to be right with God, and it is true, we don’t have to do anything to obtain God’s grace. We found that to be of and with Christ, action is a personal imperative.

As we moved through the study, we found that we had become a small community that loved and shared and cared for one another, and we wanted to be a part of the larger church community and love and share and care.

We were needed and missed when one of us was gone. We prayed for each other and called and emailed often. We shared our concerns and prayed continually for our new family in Christ. I imagine we always will.

We made many realizations in our discussions of the scriptures. We found that it wasn’t all Eve’s fault, Adam could have said no, we saw that water is one of God’s favorite things, that fig trees are often abused, and that size really doesn’t matter, especially when it comes to mustard seeds and faith.

We were guided to consider our own spiritual gifts—things that would have never crossed our minds—and we helped each other to understand how they applied to our lives and how God could use us in our local and global communities.

We read, we prayed, we talked, we went down rabbit holes, we chatted, we hugged, we talked some more, we often got off topic and then amazingly got back on track. We cried, we laughed, and we grew into a family.

I would like to refer back to Hebrews 12:1-2. This verse was my epiphany moment when I first joined a Disciple Study five years ago. It reads:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

I stand here grateful and humbled for the opportunity to experience the love and grace of God with these amazing people. Thank you to Rebecca, Grace, Kimball, Laura, Mark, Jeff, and to my brother, Mike. May God bless each of you and all that you do.

Thank you to Lisa, and to you, the congregation of Belmont UMC for your support.

Let us always remember that God loves us. Now let us also love us.

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