I was not born into the United Methodist faith. My grandma took me every Sunday to a tiny urban non-denominational church until my mom married a Roman Catholic with extreme church trauma and that is when my church exposure ended except for visits with friends and cousins. As an adult at 23 I made the decision that I wanted to be a part of a church community, I didn’t know what that looked like, but I knew that I wanted to be a part. We lived in a small town in Oklahoma where I was a brand new teacher. All the churches were literally lined down one street and I started at the top of the hill and each Sunday I visited a different church and after worship, asked the pastor if we could meet to learn about that church. All in all, I attended 9 churches of different protestant denominations. The last church I visited was Pawnee United Methodist Church. It was at the end of the street. There were four things I learned that day that made me want to return to that church, become a member in that church, become a teacher in that church, and to be a leader, and eventually an ordained elder.
The four things that were important in that search to me about the UMC, and still are:
- My meeting with the pastor. He was willing to set aside a meeting for me, even though my husband couldn’t attend. In other words, me as a woman was seen as an individual by that pastor. That was not the case, in all but one of the other churches I had visited. They required the “head of the household” to be present in order to meet with me. In the UMC I felt valued.
- An informational book was given to me. When I read about John Wesley, our desire to do justice and love and mercy for our neighbors, yet grow spiritually through prayer, study and relationship I knew I was in the right place. The UMC promoted my growth and the growth of others in Christ.
- Grace was preached often. It was just a short time when I began to learn about grace. Prevenient, Justifying, and Sanctifying grace, and how that was something that was offered to all freely as a gift from God. My limited experience with church had been high control and laden with rules and educations that permitted you to hopefully obtain eternal life. The UMC made me see myself as a child of God.
- The confidence and faith in the theology and doctrine offered while respecting other’s beliefs was inspiring. The first day I visited, the pastor announced a Sunday night study where many pastors from the other churches in the community, would share about their doctrine and their polity and their stance on theology. I felt that a church that would encourage their people to hear about other denominational thought showed a willingness to work with others. They showed me a level of confidence in what they believed, and that they probably would not use fear to keep me there. It demonstrated what I now know as ecumenicalism. I value the UMC for the willingness to serve well with others.
From that time on I always went to United Methodist Church as we moved to new communities, our family never waivered and I will always be UMC. It was in the United Methodist Church that I heard my call to pastoral ministry; I have been supported and encouraged.
“The United Methodist Church believes God’s love for the world is an active and engaged love, a love seeking justice and liberty. We cannot just be observers. So we care enough about people’s lives to risk interpreting God’s love, to take a stand, to call each of us into a response, no matter how controversial or complex. The church helps us think and act out a faith perspective, not just responding to all the other ‘mind-makers-up’ that exist in our society.” (From the 2016 United Methodist Book of Resolutions. )