The United Methodist Church is where the words “Grace and Peace of Christ” took on true meaning for me. I was raised in a Christian home in a different faith tradition. I don’t recall a time when I did not believe in the Triune God, but for many years I viewed myself as a child of God who would never quite measure up, never quite be good “enough”, never quite meet whatever unreasonable standard I thought was expected. I became disillusioned with my perception of the church as an exclusive club in which some would never truly belong. I walked away from organized religion for a while, and for several years became a person who called herself “spiritual but not religious”. But the truth is that I hungered for, and needed, a Christian community.
God truly meets us where we are, and through my law practice I had the opportunity to represent the Tennessee Conference in, of all things, an employment lawsuit. I knew nothing about United Methodist polity at the time, but I learned a lot through that experience. We won the case, which was nice, but the legacy of that case in my personal life goes much deeper than that. Because of that work, I had occasion to read our Social Principles, and then more of our polity, and then more writings of Wesley, and I felt like I was coming home. Through what was clearly not a coincidence, I walked into the Church of the Wayfarer (a United Methodist Church in Carmel, California) while on vacation – just to look at the architecture – and read what the person prior to me had written in the guest book – “The most selfish thing I ever thought was that I didn’t matter.” It struck me in that moment that this is how grace works – all of us are flawed, all of us broken, and through God’s grace every single one of us has something to contribute to God’s kingdom. A friend from work invited me to attend Franklin First United Methodist Church with her within a month of that experience, and my husband and I have been there ever since. Our new church family welcomed us and quickly helped us find ways to connect and serve that fit our particular gifts and personalities. My mother later joined Franklin First as well, and she too felt she had come home.
Like we humans, our beloved UMC is flawed, sometimes conflicted, constantly challenged. It is also a place where I have seen people of all political, philosophical, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds come together to do the work our Lord put us to – caring for his lambs. United Methodists call out racism as the sin that it is, take seriously the protection of children and vulnerable persons, know all persons are of sacred worth, and vow at our baptisms to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Our home church, Franklin First, has been intentional about a stated mission of seeking first the Kingdom of God. Everything else is noise and distraction. I have faith in a coming season in which we who call ourselves United Methodist put aside distractions and return our full focus to reaching out to a world that desperately needs the love of Christ, proving out Wesley’s belief that God’s sanctifying grace is more powerful than our sin. This is why I am staying in the UMC.