July 2020

Well, if you’ve been on Facebook lately, you’ve seen it – a couple of weeks ago I took a Motorcycle Safety Course in Mentor, and then last week I went with a friend up to Michigan to purchase my very own motorcycle – a used Harley Davidson Street 500.

That is a short sentence that doesn’t fully capture the feelings I have experienced during the past couple of weeks. I have wanted to drive a motorcycle since I was 16 years old. The summer before my senior year of high school I snuck down to the end of my street to meet a friend from work who let me ride on the back of his bike to our weekly work softball game. That ride was the beginning of my love affair with bikes.

The first day of class I woke up about two hours early. I was afraid that I was going to make a fool of myself, although I had practiced a fair bit on a friend’s bike. What if I dropped the bike? What if I couldn’t even get it going? What if I forgot how to slow down and went careening around the course?

None of those things happened. Our three instructors were wonderful. There were only four of us in the class, and at the beginning of the second day the class size was cut in half – the other two just weren’t ready to ride. So Ray – a paratrooper and Vietnam vet who was just there to get a refresher after a few years off, and I completed the class together.

Test day was a little scary. I started praying as soon as I woke up. We did a couple of practice runs first thing, and then we had a break. I sat off by myself and tried to breathe and pray. I looked up and saw a hawk, soaring high above, passing overhead. That hawk was somehow a cue to me that I’d do ok.

And I did. I passed the test and am a fully endorsed motorcycle driver – at the age of 54, 36 years after my first ride.

What have you always wanted to do, but have told yourself you can’t? What have you always wanted to learn, but have told yourself you weren’t good enough, or coordinated enough, or smart enough to do? Maybe it’s learning a new language, or taking up a sport, or learning how to knit or sew or crochet.

Learning something new is really the best way for me to celebrate the Sabbath – a time of rest when we allow ourselves to take our focus away from the troubles of the world and the demands on our time. For some of us, our days are empty and we look for ways and mundane distractions to fill them. For some of us, our days are so full we feel as though we don’t have time to sit down. But for all of us, sabbath is a requirement. A day or a time when we stop trying to distract ourselves and instead look for peace. A day or time when we intentionally force ourselves to stop, and to rest.

When I am on my bike, I cannot think about anything else. I have to concentrate fully on being where I am. And when I get off, my mind is refreshed and I am ready to enter the world again and to be fully committed to doing the work I am called to do. That’s what Sabbath rest is all about.

I hope you make time for Sabbath rest this summer, and remember to
Fear Not

June 2020

I am the church! You are the church! We are the church together!

All who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we’re the church together!
The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is a people.

Do you know that song? It’s actually in our hymnal, number 558. When I sing it, I always picture a bunch of children singing along, using the hand motions where you build a church with your folded hands and open them up to show all the “people” (your fingers) inside. You just tried that didn’t you?

Right now, we are living the truth of that song every day. Since March 15, we have not gathered together in our sanctuary for worship. The building continues to be closed, and will be at least until mid-summer, when we will be prepared to open safely. When we are finally able to gather, we will need to keep in mind safety protocols around hand washing, social distancing, and wearing masks.

But we have not, and we will not, stop being the church. I gathered with church leaders on a Zoom videoconference call last week, and we discussed how we can keep reaching out to our community during this time. Our worship services, thanks to Rob and John and our wonderful musicians including Roy and Jiří, are wonderfully produced and have been watched by many more people than those who attend in person! What else can we be doing, to keep answering the call to make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?

Jill and our education team sent out a packet of Sunday school lessons in early April to each of our children and youth. The team will be assembling a Summer Box for each family with activities and ideas to help our younger members know that Christ UMC Cares. Our outreach team, headed by John, is planning on a surprise for church members as well. And as of mid-May, our wonderful administrator Jo and other volunteers including Phil have been ringing our bell every day at noon to proclaim our message to the world that we have joy in Christ!

Our Care Circle volunteers continue to make regular calls to each church member to check in and offer prayer. I give thanks for each one of them!

If you have other ideas about how to keep being the church for one another, our neighborhood, and the world, please let me know. I miss all of you so very much, and am resting in the joy of knowing that in Christ we are always part of one another!

Fear Not
Pastor Dianne

May 2020

When I wrote my last letter to you, I did not expect that we would still be here. I did not think we would still be isolating in our homes, and I definitely did not consider that we would not really have any idea when we could gather together again as a community of faith and worship together in our beautiful sanctuary.

Not knowing is hard. Admitting we have no control is hard. Realizing that even though we are doing all that we can, staying at home, wearing face masks in public, washing our hands so many times that they are dry and cracked and painful – that we still don’t know if we will catch the coronavirus, and if we do, whether our case will be mild or severe.

How do you handle the not knowing? How do you handle the day to day in your life right now – in a world where the things that you didn’t even think about have become threats – like grocery shopping – and where the idea of going to a movie or out to dinner or a baseball game seems like a dream?

There is a word for what many of us are feeling, a word that is not usually associated with day to day living. That word is grief. We are grieving the loss of human interaction, the loss of normalcy, the loss of dinners out and gatherings with friends and yes, the loss of the ability to worship with each other and to serve the community around us. For some of us, the losses are more painful and more immediately relevant – perhaps the loss of a job or the ability to support ourselves.

So what can we do?

As anyone who has been through our GriefShare class can tell you, acknowledging that we are grieving can be a first step. It’s ok to be sad or angry or disappointed. It’s ok to cry or to throw up your hands or even to yell (just make sure your neighbors don’t get scared!).

Where is God in all of this? You might be asking that question. And my only answer, after walking my own paths of grief, is that God is right here, in the middle of it all. God is walking with us. God is crying with us. God is holding us in the palm of God’s hand.

In these next weeks, I hope to find more ways to reach out to you and to the neighborhood with signs of hope. I know for me, every time I can make a connection, every time I hear from a friend, it makes me feel a little less afraid and a little more ready to get through another day of this pandemic. If you have ideas, please let me know.

And remember, always, always, and especially now
Fear Not

April 2020

Fear Not!

You’re probably tired of hearing it from me now. I know I’ve preached on it more than once, and of course it is at the bottom of every email I send. “Fear Not!” It’s my catchphrase, one my previous church even had silkscreened onto a rally towel with a photo of my face. Yikes!

Fear Not has taken on a whole new meaning these days, though, hasn’t it? We are faced with an invisible enemy, a virus that has killed a large number of people and has hospitalized many more. Our whole lives have been changed – we have been ordered to stay at home, to limit shopping to once a week for food, to go outside for walks but stay at least 6 feet from anyone besides the people with whom we live.

What does it mean to Fear Not in these circumstances? It would not be prudent or safe for us to ignore the warnings and the orders that we have been given, and just go about our lives as normal. That is not, in fact, what I think God is telling us when God tells us not to be afraid. Rather, God is calling us to trust.

We can trust that when we do the things we are being asked to do, we have done all we can to be safe. We can trust that the ones around us are as fearful as we are. We can trust that we have not been told to stop greeting our neighbors, looking for ways to serve, enjoying our families. We can trust that by following the rules, we are making a difference. That we are protecting those who are older, more at risk, more in danger than we are.

And we can trust that by doing that, we are showing in a very real way that our God is a God who loves everyone in the whole world. By doing that, we are proclaiming that Christ is Risen over and over and over again to a world that needs to hear that message of love.

When we do finally get to gather together again as a community in real life, we will celebrate that message, we will celebrate the Resurrection, we will celebrate the church as the body of Christ, and we will know in a very real way that God’s love has led us through this wilderness that none of us has ever experienced before.

And that is why we can Fear Not. Because there is no where we can go where Jesus has not been and where Jesus will not be with us. Jesus has walked every lonesome valley before us. Jesus has endured and enjoyed every emotion we will experience. That is the wonder and the mystery of the incarnation. That is the wondrous love that God offers us through his Son.

So my friends,
Fear Not,
for together,
we will always be the body of Christ,
the beloved of God.

Covid-19 Update

PLEASE CONTINUE GIVING! You can give online at our website www.ChristUMC.com, mail in your pledge to the church office, use PayPal at PayPal.me/ChristUMC, or pay through your bank (one time or recurring payment to the church). If you need help with these, please contact the church office. Our ministries remain important and vital in this community and around the world.

Our mailing address is :
Christ United Methodist Church
3625 West 138th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44111

Until it is safe for us to worship in community on Sunday mornings, please connect to join us online via :

LIVESTREAMING worship at 10:30AM
• www.ChristUMC.com
• www.Facebook.com/ChristUMC1938
• Zoom: 1.929.436.2866; Meeting ID 844 5388 1648; Password 1381938

Or, listen to our new dial-in ministry at 216-400-5600 to hear the service, sermon or special message each week.

Click here to read more information about the Covid-19 virus and the Methodist Church’s response from Bishop Tracey Malone: www.eocumc.com/coronavirus/index.html

March 2020

Do you know what our goals are as a church for 2020? Are we focusing on the right areas of ministry? Are we using the gifts God has given us, individually and as a congregation, to make a difference in our community, our city, the world?

We have not had an intentional goal setting process since I first started serving the church in July of 2017. I think it is time for us to look ahead, with as much 20/20 vision as we can muster, and to ask God who we are, and who God wants us to be. Especially because of the upheaval in the larger denomination, it is important for us to have a strong sense of God’s call on our lives as we move forward.

I will freely admit to you that, because this is the first congregation I have served as a solo pastor, I have not led a vision and goal setting process before. So I am going to need your help! Look for more information in the coming weeks as we learn how we can, together, find ways to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

And of course
Fear Not

February 2020

Most of you know that Corbin, who sang here at the church with our daughters Estelle and Glennis and Glennis’ boyfriend Sammy on Christmas Eve, and I have not been together for quite some time. In fact, he moved out of our home in August of 2013. In January of 2014, surrounded by my closest friends, my brother in Christ Erik led us in a service of dissolution of marriage. Erik and I had created the ceremony, in which I removed my wedding ring and left it on the altar, as a way for me to acknowledge that the covenant Corbin and I had made together in May of 1989 was no longer – and that I could not force it to be.

I wrote about this event in an essay for Christian Century that was published in July of last year. You can find it here: https://www.christiancentury.org/article/readers-write/promise-essays-readers?reload=1579540977876

As I wrote, this was one of the hardest periods of my life. It is not something I had ever wanted or envisioned. But it was something that happened. Corbin and I never stopped being friends through this ordeal, and I still enjoy hearing about his physics research and his trips to play games with our friends from college. We continue to co-parent our three children and trust one another’s opinions and instincts. But we do not live together, and I don’t believe we ever will again.

The news headlines about the United Methodist Church in the past few weeks have talked about the inevitability that the church will split over differing beliefs around homosexuality. Many of these headlines have called the split a difficult, but necessary divorce. It is hard for me to see these words in print. Divorce is painful. There are never “winners” in a divorce. Both parties are hurt, both parties are “less than” in some ways without the other.

But divorce is sometimes necessary for future growth. Our United Methodist Social Principles put it this way:
when a married couple is estranged beyond reconciliation, even after thoughtful consideration and counsel, divorce is a regrettable alternative in the midst of brokenness. We grieve over the devastating emotional, spiritual, and economic consequences of divorce for all involved,… We encourage an intentional commitment of the Church and society to minister compassionately to those in the process of divorce, as well as
members of divorced and remarried families, in a community of faith where God’s grace is shared by all.

The Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation, (https://ntcumc.org/signed_umc_mediation_protocoal_statement_-2020.pdf)
was developed over the past six months by a group of clergy and lay United Methodists from different cultures, backgrounds, and viewpoints. This protocol provides a way forward for the church, but it does not come without cost. It allows for the separation of those who believe in a “traditionalist” viewpoint from those who have a more “progressive” understanding of the role of LGBTQ people in our churches.

This protocol is not approved, and cannot be approved, until it is brought before the General Conference in May of this year. If it is approved, there will be more steps required before the separation of the church will be finalized. As your pastor, I will do my best to keep you informed as to the latest information on this and other legislation brought before the General Conference. To that end, I plan to host open discussions in the parapet after worship on February 23, more dates in coming months. If you have any questions about the protocol, what it means for Christ UMC, or any other matters, please feel free to come to those open meetings or contact me at any time.

Communication is the key in any relationship. It is the key here in the church as well. I hope no matter what your opinion or convictions, we can continue to live as Christ’s followers and continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. And of course, always remember to
Fear Not

December 2019

This is not an easy or fun article for me to write. I’d love to talk to you about the wonder of the Incarnation, the message of Advent, the beautiful concerts we have been enjoying, our many outreach activities.

But the truth is, things are about to change. And I want you all to know what is at stake.

January 1, 2020 On January 1, 2020, the changes to the Book of Discipline made at the 2019 Special General Conference are going to take effect. You can find these changes at https://www.umofficialresources.com/updates/15/book-of-discipline-addendumand-errata-may-17-20191

Most of these changes have to do with adding punitive measures to the charge of being found a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” and/or clergy performing same gender weddings. In specific, a footnote has been added to paragraph 304.3 which reads:

1.“Self-avowed practicing homosexual” is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, Board of Ordained Ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual; or is living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual.

As before, LGBTQ folks are prohibited from entering the ordination process or serving as ordained elders and deacons in the church. However, language has now been added which states that bishops are prohibited from ordaining self-avowed practicing homosexuals even if they have been recommended by the Board of Ministry and approved by the clergy session of general conference. In the past, a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has often been used when a person suspected of being LGBT has come forth for ordination. This will no longer be a possibility. If a clergy performs a same gender wedding or blessing of a same gender marriage, the punishment is now more severe than for breaking any other rule set forth in the Discipline. The first offense requires that the clergy be placed on leave without pay for one year. Subsequent offenses call for immediate removal of ordination credentials.

So what does this mean for Christ UMC? Why should we be concerned? It is quite feasible that a long-time member of the church, or a child or grandchild of a member, would wish to have a same-gender marriage performed at CUMC by me or even a former pastor of the church. With this ruling, if I perform this ceremony, I will be removed, and no longer able to pastor. To me, to have to refuse to perform a same gender ceremony for a congregant or the child or grandchild of a congregant, or one of our neighbors in West Park is a violation of my call to serve this congregation and this community and our commitment to welcome and hospitality.

Is this the church that we want? Do we want to close our doors to those who wish to celebrate their covenant with one another before God? It is also feasible that a member of this church would sense a call to ordained ministry. It has happened before – ask Ruby Cunningham! We have always encouraged and delighted in those who are called by God to serve the church. However, we would now have to ascertain whether a candidate is LGBTQ before we could recommend them for ministry.

Back when I was in high school in the early 1980s, I felt a call to ministry. I told the intern at my church, who was a student at a seminary not affiliated with the UMC. He told me that I could serve God in other ways, but not as a pastor. I believe he said this because I am a woman. It took me 14 more years to finally have the courage to answer my call, in a denomination that has ordained women since 1956. Is this the kind of church we want? Do we have the right to tell people that God’s call on their life is not legitimate because of their identity?

These are the things we need to decide as we move forward. We have options. This congregation can decide to accept the Traditional Plan and the measures outlined above. Or, we can make a statement about our resistance to the Traditional Plan, and put that statement on our website and Facebook page and make it clear to our neighborhood that our doors are open to all.

Or, the congregation can decide to do nothing right now, but as early as May of 2020, we may be required to take a vote on what “version” of the UMC we wish to be part of (see my article next month for more information).

Friends, this church is God’s church. You are God’s people. These are decisions we need to make, together.

In my next article, next month, I will tell you about the petitions coming to General Conference 2020, and how they might affect this church. What we need to understand is that each of us as individuals is going to need to decide where we stand. And this congregation is going to need to decide where it stands. We can no longer be “in the middle”.

I do not like having to bring up these contentious topics, but I do want you to be aware, and of course to always remember to

Fear Not