I am a preacher’s kid from another denomination. I grew up living in fear of the end of the world, a fiery hell for eternity, the ultimate condemnation of Jesus, being able to enter the kingdom only through an extremely narrow gate, and was told that this particular denomination had the only answers, the only WAY to salvation. Even in my childhood and early teen years I felt unsettled by this certainty of eternal damnation. And I saw deep discrimination and bigotry that, to me, had no place in God’s world.

How refreshing, joyful, affirming, dare I say heavenly, it was to discover the UMC and hearing for the first time of God’s amazing grace and love. I learned that if fear is the motivating factor for following Jesus, it is ineffectual in the long run, and serves no purpose except a self-centered, judgmental one. And so I fell in love with Jesus again, fell captured by grace, and became a United Methodist, and eventually an ordained Elder. “I love to tell the story of Jesus and his love…”

I cherish the UMC, it’s profound missions throughout the world that unite us in purpose and spirit. I cherish an empowering theology of living in the light, not the dark, and walking in the way of Jesus as the via salutis, sanctifying grace. And I honor bringing the kingdom now, on earth as it is in heaven.

I find this to be a theology I can proclaim without hesitation; I can live this through example of welcoming ALL people without hesitation or condition; and I can live in grace upon grace, being drawn to the God who loves me more than I can ever comprehend. “O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee. I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer fuller be.”

I pastored a church of folks who often felt excluded by society and even by the church. Being able to proclaim with joy the unending love and grace of God in the name of Jesus was one of the greatest privileges of my life. The UMC with all its flaws is a light in the darkness to a world living in the shadows. I am deeply grateful to have found it, where God’s love met me and never let me go.